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The Fatal Error
by [?]

“CLINTON!” said Margaret Hubert, with a look of supreme contempt. Don’t speak of him to me, Lizzy. His very name is an offence to my ears!” and the lady’s whole manner became disturbed.

“He will be at the ball to-night, of course, and will renew his attentions,” said the friend, in an earnest, yet quiet voice. “Now, for all your expressions of dislike, I have thought that you were really far from being indifferent to Mr. Clinton, and affected a repugnance at variance with your true feelings.”

“Lizzy, you will offend me if you make use of such language. I tell you he is hateful to me,” replied Miss Hubert.

“Of course, you ought to know your own state of mind best,” said Lizzy Edgar. “If it is really as you say, I must confess that my observation has not been accurate. As to there being anything in Mr. Clinton to inspire an emotion of contempt, or create so strong a dislike as you express, I have yet to see it. To me he has ever appeared in the light of a gentleman.”

“Then suppose you make yourself agreeable to him, Lizzy,” said Miss Hubert.

“I try to make myself agreeable to every one,” replied the even-minded girl. “That is a duty I owe to those with whom I associate.”

“Whether you like them or not?”

“It doesn’t follow, because I do not happen to like a person, that I should render myself disagreeable to him.”

“I never tolerate people that I don’t like,” said Miss Hubert.

“We needn’t associate too intimately with those who are disagreeable to us,” returned her friend; “but when we are thrown together in society, the least we can do is to be civil.”

“You may be able to disguise your real feelings, but I cannot. Whatever emotion passes over my mind is seen in my face and discovered in my tone of voice. All who know me see me as I am.”

And yet, notwithstanding this affirmation, Margaret Hubert did not, at all times, display her real feelings. And her friend Lizzy Edgar was right in assuming that she was by no means indifferent to Mr. Clinton. The appearance of dislike was assumed as a mask, and the distance and reserve she displayed towards him were the offspring of a false pride and unwomanly self-esteem. The truth was, her heart had, almost unsought, been won. The manly bearing, personal grace and brilliant mind of Philip Clinton, had captivated her feelings and awakened an emotion of love ere she was conscious that her heart was in danger. And she had even leaned towards him instinctively, and so apparently that the young man observed it, and was attracted thereby. The moment, however, he became at all marked in his attentions, the whole manner of Margaret changed. She was then aware of the rashness she had displayed, and her pride instantly took the alarm. Reserve, dignity, and even hauteur, characterized her bearing towards Clinton; and to those who spoke of him as a lover, she replied in terms nearly similar to what she used to her friend Lizzy Edgar, on the occasion to which reference has just been made.

All this evidenced weakness of mind as well as pride. She wished to be sought before she was won–at least, that was the language she used to herself. Her lover must come, like a knight of old, and sue on bended knee for favor.

Clinton observed the marked change in her manner. Fortunately for his peace of mind, he was not so deeply in love as to be very seriously distressed. He had admired her beauty, her accomplishments, and the winning grace of her manners; and more, had felt his heart beginning to warm towards her. But the charm with which she had been invested, faded away the moment the change of which we have spoken became apparent. He was not a man of strong, ungovernable impulses; all his passions were under the control of right reason, and this gave him a clear judgment. Consequently, he was the last person in the world for an experiment such as Margaret Hubert was making. At first he thought there must be some mistake, and continued to offer the young lady polite attentions, coldly and distantly as they were received. He even went farther than his real feelings bore him out in going, and made particular advances, in order to be perfectly satisfied that there was no mistake about her dislike or repugnance.