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But, before opening Adelle's letter, it becomes imperiously necessary to tell who and what she
Adelle Eloise Huggins had been “ left an orphan at an early age,” in the vicinity of NewRochelle. Her parents were of French extraction: but, by what process of etymological cor ion her family name had become Huggins, or what it may originally have been, it is now impossible to conjecture. Twenty odd years before, Mr. Viellecour, and a few other benevolent spirits, had sent her to school, when she was twelve years old, to learn every thing, even the elementary principles of reading, writing, arithmetic, and plain-sewing. With more kindness than wisdom, they placed her under the care of a lady who had set up a new boarding-school, at a few miles distance, where she learnt to embroider, to make artificial flowers, and to read Charlotte Smith's novels, and Mrs. Radcliffe's
After edifying by this course of instruction for three years, it was distressing to Mr. Viellecour to find that she could neither spell correctly, nor cipher to any purpose. Her specimens of penmanship were truly horrible to the
eye lover of regularity and neatness; but to those of her patron, whose notions on the subject of calligraphy we have mentioned, the sight of them was absolutely an all-unutterable
torture; and when, with a view of ascertaining her progress in geography, he asked her where Paris was, she announced, without hesitation, that it was the capital of Rhode Island ;she was instantly taken from school, and consigned to the tutelage of a lady who presided over a millinery shop in William-street, then the fashionable promenade of the New-York fair. Not without many tears did Miss Huggins enter upon this unromantic course of instruction. But time, who dries up rivers, dried up her tears; and she found soon that she really had a liking for the business. Still, however, her early novel reading had impregnated her imagination with a thorough 'habit of castle-building and reverie; and the ample circulating library of the late Mr. Caritat, continued to feed her appetite for ideal tit-bits, and forbidden fruit. Like Miss Peck, though with far more romantic imaginings, the idea of matrimony was ever prominent in her waking dreams. By the force of this hallucination, she transformed every straggling male customer, who wanted to cheapen a pair of white gloves, or a watch-ribbon, into a Romeo or an Altamont. Time passed on; and her time with Mrs. Vandyke expired. Mr. Viellecour then enabled her to set up a little establishment for herself; and though she managed her business
in rather a crazy manner, and had no high reputation for taking care of her apprentices, or for punctuality in performing her promises to her customers, she had contrived, with the aid of her patrons, to live, and to live single, in the upper part of Pearl-street, near its intersection with Chatham, to the time when the occurrences I am recording took place.
The visions of her youthful fancy, pretty and pastoral, had vanished and were forgotten. Those of her earlier womanhood, of a more ambitious character, had faded gradually; though ever and anon they came thronging upon her in more extraordinary combinations, and with greater intensity. It was at half-past eleven o'clock, on a Saturday night, after her shop was shut up and her pupils dismissed, that she sat pensively reading, for the thirteenth time, a poetical contribution of her own, to the Weekly Museum, signed Ella, and entitled “ Moonlight on the Battery," which had that day seen the light in print. Perhaps it had lost its interest on the last repetition; or perhaps her mind was bewildered with thick-coming overflowings of the heart and imagination; or perhaps she was a little heavy with incipient somnolency. But she slowly laid down the precious periodical, and filled a small tea-cup from a flask which stood near. I have
no doubt the liquid was palatable; as it was quince liqueur, made under Mr. Viellecour's own directions, from the produce of his own orchard. When he gave it to her, he recommended it as an occasional cordial; adding, that it was quite strong. But at this moment, from the sublimed state of her intellectual system, she was led, by some mysterious impulse, again and again to replenish and exhaust her little chalice. And, though the fluid was such as might have been poured by Hebe into the celestial cups, and quaffed by the olympián senate, it began to send up a misty vapour into the cloudy tabernacle of the wits of Miss Huggins. There, while the ghosts of former phantasies flocked around her sensorium, and the pride of authorship, and the associations of moonshine and water, and the additional super-effervescences of fancy, and the tendency to somnium, and the fumes of the liqueur, were blending, overturning, confounding, and whirling about these apparitions, she fell into a crisis, such as the magnetic initiates call a
Such I think, at least, may be the best philosophical solution of her case ; but, at any rate,
“A change came o'er the spirit of her dreams."
It suddenly occurred to her, with the irresistible force of truth, when breaking on the mind, as a sun-burst into a dungeon, that, like Lady Arabella, in “ The Victim of Duty, or the Delicate Distress," she must sacrifice her mature charms, her splendid visions, her exquisite sensibility, her taste, her accomplishments, her health, nay, even life itself, upon the altar of GRATITUDE! It flashed upon her, in this paroxysm of inspiration, that all the tenderness shown to her by her early patron, his liberality in advancing her in life, his occasional visits to inquire so earnestly about her health, his recommending her to the custom of all his friends, his sending her à ticket to the Bachelor's Ball, were all tokens, strong as proofs from holy writ, that he had cherished for her, even from her infancy, a deep-seated, fervent, delicate, silent, corroding, and consuming passion, which was slowly drying up the fountains of his existence. The retiring modesty of his character, and his refined perception of the indelicacy of suffering her to suppose that he founded any claims to her personal affections on the past obligations he had laid her under, sufficiently accounted for his never having ventured to lisp the tender secret of his heart. The associations suggested by the liqueur, no doubt strengthened this conviction.