Page images

already his, and on it he would engraft titles and honours. The possibility of failure never entered his mind. Confident in the strength of his own character, and ever mindful of what his determined will had already won, he regarded his plans as accomplished. It was, he thought, merely a matter of time. A few years hence, nay, perhaps, a few months, might find him possessed of the glittering prize. The stately tree, deep rooted in riches and loaded with dignity, already stood before him. It must be mine, said the proud man in his heart, it must be mine, what power on earth can prevent it? Mr. Littleton well knew, also, the great power of his daughter's beauty-a power which she in her simplicity had never learnt to know; and he fully appreciated the clear judgment of her instructress, and the wise and judicious education Alice had received. His own mind was, by nature, searching and critical, and the intercourse he had had with his fellow-men, from his earliest years, had made him a profound judge of character. He knew well the tendencies of mankind, and he knew that the personal attractions which Alice possessed, and the accomplishments she had stored up, and was daily maturing, would bend down to her the homage of all men. In fact, Mr. Littleton anticipated, and with reason, that Alice would


find no rival amongst her own sex; and he saw, therefore, in the beautiful creature before him, an apt instrument for his ambitious purpose. Hence Mr. Littleton loved his child, but his love was the love of a selfish heart. It was the love of the usurer for his gold, which he will readily part with to win more gold. For his daughter's beauty and virtues, as such, he cared little, but as so much valuable merchandize, which he would barter for a coronet for his children's children, he prized them highly. His child was to be the purchase-money for the title he coveted, and it had been his constant aim to give that child a greater worth by every care and attention. Whether she had inherited his own strong will he knew not, nor did he ever stop to inquire. She had always paid him submissive obedience, and to exact it now and at all future times he considered was his right. possibility of her thwarting his wishes had never crossed his mind, and he looked upon her as a passive instrument in his hands.


With pride and joy Mr. Littleton raised her, saying: "Come, Alice, we've had talk enough for one morning; now get to your studies, and don't go wool-gathering all day about coming out."

"Good-by, papa, you won't be late this afternoon, will you?” said she, kissing him affectionately.

"No, Alice."

She left the room.

"Oh, Alice," said her father, following her retreating figure with his eyes as she tripped lightly upstairs, "the portrait painter will come in a few days, I wrote to him yesterday."

"Very well, papa, I shall be ready to receive him."

Mr. Littleton closed the door, and walked thoughtfully up and down the room. Presently he stopped in a deep reverie before the window. I have wealth, thought he, and she beauty, virtues, and accomplishments, which are as much mine as my lands and money. A coronet and a name will place my posterity high amongst the peerage of England. Ambition is a noble virtue. If men had never striven to rise, the whole world would

have remained savages. I have often struggled against fearful odds, and always proved the conqueror. I have risen, and will rise higher still in my children, if not in myself. The mother of Alfred Littleton did not know the son she bore; and again the proud smile relaxed his features. He looked back with triumph at the thousands he had outstripped in the race of life, and then upward with eagerness at the heights he had yet to climb.

Presently he awoke from his musing, and, taking up his hat and stick, walked away towards the city, still pondering the favourite project of his heart.


IN the quiet of her own room, Alice gave herself up to the pleasure of anticipating her approaching introduction

to society. The grown-up world was to her a happy land, towards which she had travelled, through infancy and childhood, for sixteen years, and on that morning she had unexpectedly arrived in sight of it. Her ear seemed to have caught the first tempting tones of its music, and her little heart fluttered with excitement and impatience to mingle with its gay crowds. The eyesight of her imagination was strained with eagerness to overlook, in fancy, the sources of happiness in store for her. She saw herself happy, and making others so, whilst pleasure skipped lightly along by her side. Her inexperienced mind had not yet learnt the conviction that pleasure seldom stays long with any of its votaries, but vanishes, leaving satiety or blank disappointment behind. No, the pleasure she anticipated was, to

« PreviousContinue »