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imagined) that some of her numerous adorers might turn their eyes and thoughts in that direction, but in vain, so absorbed were the crowd by the hope of possessing--what was more valuable in their eyes than youth, goodness and beauty-enormous wealth.
There was, however, one, and only one exception, and that was the young Earl of Stukely, who appeared soon to transfer his attentions from the more wealthy to the more youthful and lovely cousin.
His mother, it was reported, was highly indignant at this apparent defection from the heiress; though, indeed, he had never shown that lady marked attention, and what he did was more at the instigation of the dowager than from any wish of his own. It was soon remarked that the earl danced, rode, and walked more frequently with the lovely Ellen Osmond than with any one else, and that she was not insensible to his particular attentions. IIis mother, however, was so angry at the “artful girl” (as she called her) endeavouring to seduce her son from her cousin to herself, that she absolutely had the rudeness to omit inviting her to her house, and never spoke to the poor young creature when she met her in public. I pitied Miss Ellen very much ; she appeared so gentle, amiable, and lovely, and from what Lady Henry told me it was clear the tender attentions of Earl Stukely had made a lasting impression upon her. It was, however, supposed that he had made no proposal to her, either awed by his mother's commands, or hesitating himself upon the imprudence of marrying a penniless girl, when he was conscious his income was barely sufficient to support his own high rank. .
Matters continued in this uncertain state ; half the gossips of the place thinking the earl was only trifling with the poor girl, the other half fancying he really meant to marry her.
I had observed him several times walking alone with Miss Ellen Osmond, in the beautiful gardens of the Palazzo, (as some of our windows looked upon their grounds,) and knew, when he did so, that her aunt and cousin were from home, and therefore I could not help dreading that his fondness or attentions to her would end in air, as far as he was concerned, and, on her side, in a broken heart. But I did him injustice; the noble-hearted earl would not sacrifice himself and the girl he so truly loved to avarice; and it was soon announced that he had proposed, had been accepted, and was to be married to the beautiful Ellen in one fortnight from the time the affair was made public.
Miss Osmond generously announced her determination to give, on the morning of the wedding, the most splendid entertainment in honour of it that had yet been seen in Florence. Every body of distinction was invited, and refreshments were to be distributed in the street in which the Palazzo was situated, to all comers.
The whole place was in an uproar on the wedding morning, from the known splendour of the preparations, the rank of the bridegroom, and the beauty of the bride.
The dowager Lady Stukely had declined Miss Osmond's invitation to be present, so
mortified was her ladyship at her son's infatuation. Lord and Lady Henry were at the breakfast, and from the latter I heard all the particulars which took place.
The apartments were completely filled when the wedding party entered, after the ceremony had taken place which had converted the poor but lovely Ellen Osmond into a countess. All eyes were fixed for a moment on the modest bride, but it was but for a moment, for they remembered who was the real mistress of the feast, and Ellen soon retired unnoticed with her aunt, to change her dress for a travelling one, and she was followed in half an hour by the earl.
While they were absent, the gay heiress was beset by her adorers, beseeching her to follow the example of her cousin, and decide the fate of the hundreds languishing at her feet. She, laughingly desiring some of the most enthusiastic to rise from their lowly position, told them she was about to gratify their wishes and her own, by deciding, before her cousin left the house, upon the future partner of her life. In a moment the deepest stillness reigned in the before noisy assembly; when Miss Osmond, in a clear and decisive voice, addressed her guests nearly as follows:
“I cannot express the gratitude I feel, my dear friends, at the distinguished kindness you have shown me during my residence amongst you, and am grieved to say, that to-morrow I must quit enchanting Florence for ever. Before I go, however, it is necessary I should relieve from uncertainty those particular friends who have wished to unite my fate with theirs. I must, therefore, in the first place state my views, plans, and situation, and afterwards declare the name of him who has won my heart.”
A buzz of approbation, with various expressions of love, adoration, and devotedness, in English, French, Italian, broad Scotch, Irish, and Russ, interrupted for a few minutes the fair speaker. When silence was obtained she proceeded:
“ Now, when I am more than ever convinced that you love me for myself alone, I will hesitate no longer-I am no heiress! I am as