Mrs. Edward Leigh



It may seem strange that I engaged in so many flirtations, without becoming deeply involved myself. Woman's heart is naturally seeking a resting place, and it flies from one to another, until that goal is found. Once, twice, and even thrice, I fancied that happiness was mine that I had found that desideratum, a gentleman friend.
Doctors are singular pieces of perfection, and therefore I like them. Why? Because they like themselves so infinitely! A Doctor loved me once. I might say two or three did: but one of the class is enough. He was rather handsome, I thought. He differed from me, and thought himself very handsome. He had been visiting me for years, before I found out his real feelings for me. I was very ill. Every one thought I would not recover. Even the Doctor himself expected death, with his relentless hand, would claim me as his victim. And I expected and dreaded death, for I could not finish my flirtations. The Doctor was alone with me, and had just been administering opiates. My stupor had slightly worn off, and although my eyes were closed, I knew all that was passing around me. I felt warm lips upon my forehead, and a tear fell on my cheek. I opened my eyes. Dr. Gayle was weeping. He took my thin hand in his, and, clasped it to his breast. The ruling passion did not forsake me, even in death, for I was sure of dying.
Dr.,' I whispered, do you love me?'
My darling, yes,' he answered, and have done so for years, but my regard for your feelings, and public opinion, is so great that I would not have told you for worlds.'
Confound public opinion,' said I, if you are a slave to such a vacillating vapor as public opinion, you are not worth caring for.'
I commenced getting better from that time. Cannot Doctors always administer a dose of something like the above mentioned? It proved much more efficacious than medicine. Often afterwards he told me, if I would love him, he would not care one straw for public opinion, or even his fury of a wife, who was extremely jealous of him. I did like his wife, and, therefore, would not love him; and besides, I myself do fear public opinion just a little, as my actions show. Do they not?
Dear reader, my heart did become entangled, even before the death of Walter. How could I help it? My beau ideal was at last found among Walter's friends, was a rising man, a lawyer, celebrated justly for his eloquence and his high sense of honor. I loved him dearly as a friend. Tall, finely formed, and handsome. Every movement grace itself. He was unmarried, and the world said a woman-hater, though I believed it not. He visited our house often, for he was Walter's legal adviser and his conversations deeply interested me. Never once did he approach the subject of love. Walter was very fond of seeing me ride on horseback, and one day begged me to accompany his legal friend on a ride. I did so. There was quite a gay party of us, and we started at full gallop. Our horses were excellent, and we soon distanced the rest of the party. On turning a corner, my horse became very much frightened at something in the road, and before I was aware of the danger, I was upon the ground, and my friend standing over me.
Oh God,' said he, she is dead, she, the dearest object to my heart on earth! Would to God I could have taken her place. Life is no longer bright. Ella speak to me once, only once!' And he clasped me to his breast; passionately kissing me, as he removed my form to a soft grassy plat by the road side. I could not speak for very happiness. This cold stern man loved me. Then the reaction came; my soul shook; it was guilty love. I drew myself away from him, and tried to stand; it was impossible, and I sank into his arms. By this time the others of the party came up, and a part went back home, and sent a carriage for me. Every day he came to see how I was, and at last Walter begged that he should be admitted to my room. He was no stranger, my husband said, and I permitted him to come, delighted in my heart, yet dreading the consequences to myself and to Walter. But now I thank God. For weeks before my lame foot got well enough for me to leave the room, he would spend an hour and some times two, reading to me, from the English classics, with which he appeared intimately conversant. Oh, such delicious hours, with his musical voice breathing into my ear! Was Walter jealous? I knew not, if he was; never by word or deed, did he display such feeling.
I was well at last, and I saw with regret, that all intercourse between us must cease. The first day I descended to the parlor, he came and requested a private interview; I knew it would be our last. How sad he looked as he shook my hand. Ella,' said he, nothing would have tempted me to divulge the secret of my love. I thought you were dead; will you forgive me?'
There is nothing to forgive,' I answered, hiding my face in the sofa cushions.
Ella,' said he, starting to his feet, say that I am not alone in my sin, say that you, too, are guilty, if there be guilt in loving but too well.'
I am guilty,' I answered sadly, and may God forgive us both.'
Thank God,' he said clasping me to his bosom, nothing would tempt me to take advantage of your love, or to betray the friendship or confidence of Walter. I glory to see you beloved and honored by all who know you. Farewell Ella, we may never meet again, but the thought that I am beloved by you, will brighten my pathway, and give to life at least one great charm.'
He was gone, and I was alone with my own troubled heart. We met again, reader, years afterwards, and you shall hear when, and how; and then I will tell you his honored and beloved name.
About this time a stranger came to our city; Thomas Vere. He was young, handsome, and wealthy. The girls were nearly all dying to captivate him, until they heard there was an obstacle in the way. I might say four of them; a wife and three children. His wife was jealous which made her equal to half a dozen. I pity a man with a jealous wife, or a woman with a jealous husband. The victimized party knows not what slight fancy or whim, in the most unexpected moment, may bring down on their devoted heads the most heartfelt misery. He flirted around first one, and then another, until at last, he singled me out, as the one upon whom to place, not his affections, as he said, because his wife had them, but his confidence; for he wanted some fun he said. The ladies were in the habit of slandering each other, and sometimes selecting an innocent person, and playing with her name, and character, until driven by such unjust calumny, she would fall into the snare, and in truth become ruined. Would I help him to rectify such a state of affairs? You are strong Mrs. King and able to endure, and finally roll back the malicious remarks of the world on the authors; or in truth you can soar above them, if you choose. Let us be the shooting mark for the season, and so conduct ourselves, as in the end to be able to commend the poisoned chalice to the lips of those who prepared it for us.' I consented; for any excitement was refreshing to me, even if it was not a flirtation. So the world thought it one, that was enough for me.
We prepared some three or four notes; two in his hand writing and two in mine. I took good care to show my notes, during the day, to two or three of my friends (Ladies,) under strict promise of secrecy. They affected to be shocked, although they knew at the time, much more criminal notes could be found in their possession had searches been made. They told the secret to others, and in less than a week, the whole town was aware that Mr. Vere and I were engaged in one grand flirtation.
Mr. Vere had showed my notes to some two or three of his gentlemen friends, but to the credit of the sex be it said, the secret spread no further, from that quarter.
But among my own gentle and amiable sex, (I declare I wish I was a man,) how the story was magnified! First I heard that he gave me the note secretly, which was not so. Then that it was very loving, and had no name signed to it. Next I was told by a lady, that she heard that it requested a private meeting, and had his name in full. Now, for the benefit of all, I give the note a showing.

Scarcely had my eyes beheld your lovely person, when my heart abdicated its former throne, and lowly bent at your shrine. Most beautiful vision! may I not hope for a return of my intense adoration? Pity my sorrow, pardon my presumption, and allow me the bliss of seeing your face in the gallery, above the assembled wisdom of the State of Georgia; where the rest of the fair daily place themselves on exhibition.
Yours with love,
T. V.'

My heart, if I have any, is yours; your admiration is returned. Your handsome whiskers and moustaches effectually won both, at the last party as they grow longer no doubt my affection will increase, as Sampson's physical power was stronger as his hair grew longer. I would ask you to call and see me, but my husband is not at home. I will be glad to see you upon his return.

These notes were written during a visit to the Capital of Georgia. And on my return home, each one of my friends knew that they had been written, and received. Can any one imagine in what manner the grand secret was transferred to Macon? The other notes were just as ridiculous, but I suppose, it is the common style of love notes in the fashionable world; for none seemed to think them strange, and some even thought Mr. Vere's note was beautiful.
Twice I heard that I was going to elope with Mr. Vere, when I declare to the world, that not one sentiment of love was felt, and not one word of love had ever passed between us.
One day after he left the city, I heard, and I was overjoyed to hear, that he had sent me his daguerreotype. I knew nothing about it, and enquired at the houses of some of his friends, to find out the truth, and found to my dismay that he had sent it to one of his lady friends, but not me! I will never place faith in a report again. So ended my sham flirtation; and for the benefit of all who feel interested, let me here declare, that it was too insipid; with not one particle of the spice contained in a real genuine flirtation, sweetened by a little real love. But I must add that two lady friends of mine, and the same number of gentlemen friends of Mr. Vere, to whom the plot had been revealed in the beginning, now disclosed the secret by our request; and the tattling tongues of the fashionable dames were sealed in shame, and the mortification of being entrapped in so simple a manner, I hope taught them a good lesson for the future.
I will present one or two other varieties of male flirts, and then bring my confessions to a close.
It was during a great Methodist revival, that I became deeply interested for the welfare of my soul. While kneeling at the altar, a distinguished minister, and eloquent revivalist besought me to lay my heart at Jesus' feet. An unmistakable something, in the manner of the man, made me know he would like much better, to have me lay it at his feet, and my religion vanished. I arose and left the altar, a skeptic, in the religion which grows out of the temporary enthusiasm of an hour.
The Rev. Mr. Wolffward did not relish the idea of losing so easily his neophyte, and soon visited me at my home, to reenlist my expiring penitence. At each visit my footsteps receded farther from the veil of the temple, and I progressed rapidly along the path of fashionable folly. Dr. Wolffward was a man of about thirty eight or forty, well preserved, with light curly hair, and a splendid suit of half red whiskers. He was decidedly handsome, in his own eyes; and had the air of a man who had been petted by the softer sex, and was vain enough to be a sinner, instead of being a true minister of the gospel, and an apostle of Godliness.
He would in his visits to me, roll his eyes, fold his hands, and say: Dear Mrs. King let me beseech you to flee from the wrath to come. Forsake your evil ways, and walk in the narrow path of the righteous.' As he became more interested in giving his good advice, he would become warmer in his manner towards me, and was sometimes completely carried away with his ardent feelings. Tears of pious regard would stream from his eyes, and he would clasp my hands, and utter the most passionate ejaculations, such as God forgive me for not being able to do my duty! And oh God aid thy servant! Lead me through this fiery trial unscathed! &c., &c.
I pretended not to understand him at first, quietly awaiting a denouement, which I foresaw; but at last he explained himself. From a child I was taught to have the most perfect confidence in a minister of the Gospel, no matter to what denomination he belonged, and I thought no messenger of God would do evil. But sad had been my awakening from my happy delusion, long before, when ordinary observation had taught me the truth.
Dr. Wolffward called one evening with the full determination of converting me. He was dressed in his neatest suit, and looked very handsome. How the girls liked him when his saintly self bestowed the father-like kiss upon their fresh, young lips! He was in a kissing mood that night, and would have willingly left one upon mine.
My dear do not be offended,' said he, I have felt such an overpowering anxiety for your eternal welfare, that my affections have become very much enlisted. You are wasting your intellect in a round of frivolities and follies. Change your course in life, and choose one warm, Christian heart, as a friend, upon which to lean in the time of trouble. Let me, my dear, be that friend. I will advise, counsel, protect and love you.' He gave his voice an artificial tremor, in pronouncing the word love, such as I had noticed he affected in the most pathetic parts of his prayers. Let me plant in that pure heart, where weeds are growing, flowers to bloom in life eternal.' His arm would have encircled my waist, but I arose from the sofa, and told him that I believed I would postpone seeking religion, until some other time, or, at least, until I thought he had gained the pearl of great price himself. I bowed politely, and left the room, leaving the man of God thunder-struck at my imprudence, perverseness, and gross irreligion. For as he knew I had the name of being fast', he certainly thought that such an opportunity of improving my flirting propensities, would never have been neglected, had I understood his object. Ministers of the holy religion, whose privilege it is to lead our thoughts heavenward, should never, in my humble opinion, interfere with such earthly things as other men's wives, or with politics. So ended my ministerial campaign.
A letter from Edward: Shall I read it to you? Ah yes, I know you would like to hear it.

The rain is falling gently, and with each drop comes memories of my loved ones far away. I have been trying to sleep, but dreams of you, my darling, in some distress, I knew not what, chased slumber from me, and I arise to converse with you. This afternoon, according to my promise, I started out to take my walk with Miss Dean. I was not forgetful of your request, and asked Miss Bella the name of her mother. You were right. It was Sarah Hughes. As we stood in front of the church beside the urn, containing the ashes of the beautiful, gay, the young and the old, whose fate the world knows, and regrets, in the solemn twilight hour, with none nearer, I told her Aunt Tabitha's flirtation, in your own sweet and touching words, as you wrote it to me.
She recognized it immediately, as a portion of her mother's life, and eagerly asked, where, and how I had learned it.
From the victim', I answered.
For God's sake tell me who she is, and how I can find her', said Miss Dean, excitedly, for I have a message for her from a dying parent, whose last cry was, an appeal for forgiveness to the woman she had injured so deeply.' About an hour before she died, she called me to her bed-side, and said, Bella, my child, as a warning, I wish to relate one passage of my life to you.' She then told me the circumstances, exactly as you have related them, and prayed me, never to follow her example. From the hour she had committed that great sin, she had never seen a truly happy moment; for remorse, with its poison fangs, was corroding her heart. Alas, I have no doubt, I shortened her few brief moments; for I did not promise; I was then wild, young and gay, a confirmed flirt. I asked her the name of the young lady she had injured; but she turned sadly from me unconscious. Suddenly she exclaimed, Oh God, Lewis dead! Tabbie forgive me!' and her spirit took its flight from its house of clay, to answer there at the throne of God, for its wrong to a mortal sister. As she ceased speaking, I could not refrain from administering a little wholesome advice, for all had made a deep, and lasting impression upon me, and I saw Miss Dean, though seemingly heartless, possessed strong womanly sensibilities.
Miss Bella', said I, how can you, after such an experience, related on the death bed of your mother, how can you, with such reckless heartlessness cast aside a devoted heart; one in whose power it is to make you happy; and one, I am sure, for which you now feel a more tender regard than friendship?' Her hand sought mine.
Edward, what do you mean?'
Why,' said I, my meaning is plan enough. When such a noble true-hearted man as Mr. Hunt offers himself, I pray you either to accept him, or tell him at once, that you do not love him.'
She withdrew her hand from mine, and drew up herself proudly.
Mr. Leigh, you have no right to be my reprover in such a matter as this.' Then her voice failed, and weeping bitterly, she rested her head upon my shoulder.
My child' whispered I, forgive me, for I felt exactly as if she was a child. Forgive me. I had no idea that you would take this matter so much to heart.'
Oh Edward', she sobbed, you should forgive me, for I too have caused you much misery.'
In what way, my dear?'
In forcing you, by unkindness, to marry a woman old enough to be your mother.'
I would not then divulge your secret Ella, for it would have been too laughable for such a solemn scene. So I only said,
Bella, shall I tell you the name of the woman whose happiness was blasted by your mother?'
Tabitha Leigh.'
Your wife! Oh God!' She stood for a moment in deep thought, and then said,
Edward, I will take your advice, and accept Mr. Hunt to-night; for I have promised to give him an answer.'
As Miss Dean wishes to make a visit to Macon, she will accompany Mr. Hunt and myself home next week. So dear, be prepared to receive her, for I shall invite her to spend the time at our house during her stay. Be sure and have Aunt Tabitha with you.
I have just this moment received my mail from home. There has been a fight at Macon, and I not there to protect you, Ella. Oh God, it would kill me should harm befall my jewel! I will try to procure permission to leave Richmond the day after to-morrow. I must see you soon. You need not write again. Love to all.
Your husband,
Edward Leigh.'

I must hurry to the end of my confessions, for I wish to finish them before Edward returns. I have but one more. A man of different stamp from the others, and as I consider it the cream of all, I have left it for the last.
An intellectual flirtation did you ever have one? They are the richest in the world; for when the topic of love is exhausted, you can find an inexhaustible store in learning. You can give a really well read man no greater pleasure, than by drawing on his vast store of knowledge for information.
He was a planter at the time I knew him, but had been educated for the bar, and I always firmly believed, although he denied it, for the ministry. He was handsome, and fascinating. He was not the man to excite the fancy of the young and gay, but the reader must remember, that I was at this time approaching the years of maturity; and he did suit my fancy. His extreme kindness soon won my gratitude, his deference my respect, his learning my admiration, and what I supposed, my pity. What else did I need to excite my love? He was a married man with one of the best wives in the world. She liked me, and I did not like to flirt with him, but I could not help it. Oh, what delightful strolls we would take in the suburbs of Macon! He would unfold the origin of each stone; tell the scientific name and history of every flower; and make it doubly interesting by the magic of a cultivated mind, and the use of the purest language.
He would lend me books, and beg me to cultivate my native genius. Aided by him, I made many attempts to give my thoughts to the world, and he was already known as my literary friend. His visits caused no suspicions to my own immediate family, but the world, ever ready to gossip, soon saw something besides friendship in our intercourse. This state of affairs continued for months, and I began to grow weary of the want of variety. What could his object be? He took the greatest interest in my health, my improvement in writing and composition, and even advised me in my selection of friends, and once showed the greatest anxiety on seeing me in conversation with a rather dissipated man, a gambler by profession. Still no word of love was uttered. I could stand it no longer. I must know, and at once, if the man had a heart.
To improve my style of composing, and to give variety to my expressions, he would frequently write me specimen pieces, and ask me to answer them. The subject would as often be love, as anything else; and my answers would echo the same strain in which his was written. A plan suggested itself to my mind. I would write a piece myself, and express my regard, esteem, and love for an object, which I would not mention. I would write it in such a manner that he would take it to himself, and be surprised into a revelation or betrayal of his sentiments. My plan succeeded. He read the verses.
Madam', said he, I think your lines beautiful and touching. Are they addressed to any particular person, or to some imaginary character?'
I blushed, but answered, to a real individual.'
Might he be so bold as to ask who was the fortunate person?'
I did not answer, but looked killingly sweet at my literary friend. For the first time, I saw Capt. Radford look confused. He blushed, re-read the verses, twisted the paper, and, at last, seemed to make up his mind to speak if it killed him. Now, thought I, the confession is coming. He must love me, or he would not look so confused. My answer was all cut and dried. Would I not have fun? It came at last.
Would Mrs. King feel offended if he disclosed to her the workings of his mind?'
Certainly not,' I answered. Capt. Radford had been too kind a friend for me to feel hurt at anything he could say.'
Well, my child,' (I thought that a very fatherlike expression for a lover, but I said nothing.) I am worldly enough to know, that you have an object in writing this piece. You own it was addressed to no imaginary character, and yet will not tell who it is. You are wrong, my child; all wrong. Such sentiments from a wife should never be bestowed upon another. I am well aware that excitement of some kind is necessary to the unhappy, and that the human heart beats restlessly in the bosom, unless it has a heart thoroughly congenial and loving to lean upon. Your mind has been in a troubled state ever since I knew you, and I have tried to enlist your imagination to enter a literary career, which I hoped would prove a sedative to your excitable fancy, and that the rewards of fame would suffice your heart's yearnings for love. Lately, very lately, I have seen marks of restlessness and discontent in you, which really distressed me. Are you becoming tired of the noble path you have been trying to tread? or do you, too, my child, find that thorns are mingled with the flowers of literature? Tell me candidly, can I assist you in any way? What are your troubles? If those verses are written to any of your gentlemen friends, I would advise you never to show them, for they would excite hopes which you, as a married lady, could not gratify. Were they written for me, nothing could give me more pain, for I have always looked upon you as one of the purest, loveliest and most intellectual of your sex, and prized your friendship as of inestimable value. I would not lose it for priceless jewels.'
My brass' now came to the rescue; and I asked him if he had finished.
Yes,' he answered, and I fear, my child, I have offended you.'
No, sir,' I said. Indeed, you have not; but you have talked so fast, that I could not tell you those lines were written for my husband.'
You delight me beyond description,' he cried; that is as it should be. Send the lines to him as soon as possible, and I am sure they will enchant him, for they are beautiful. Have you, Mrs. K ever read Lamartine's "Raphael"? I am sure it would please you. I will send it to you to-morrow; and please always consider me such a friend as Raphael was to Julie.'
How completely taken down I was, but he never found it out, and I still consider that in him I have found my desideratum, a gentleman friend.
The lesson there learned by me, effectually eradicated from my mind the last lingering seed of evil planted in my early days; and I then made up my mind that my vow for revenge was too unworthy of me to be pursued any longer, and I would flirt no more.
To my gentlemen friends, (and I am sure I have quite a number of them,) let me say one word. If your wives are blest with flirting propensities, you cannot find a better method of casting them aside forever, than by giving her a literary friend. Let him be captivating and handsome, and, above all, let him have a wife to whom he is devoted.
Hoping that my words may chance to fall upon good ground, and on some future day bring forth good fruit, I will here close my confessions of the events of that career of feverish and heartless excitement, in which some of the best years of my life were wasted. Oh, thank God for his mercies, that they were not worse than wasted!
If these simple pages shall find favor in the eyes of an indulgent public, I have in my past experience a store of other materials, which, in the proper time, I may be tempted to lay before the world, in further atonement for my errors. Scorn not, ye wise, the simple story of woman's life. Cleopatra's goblet of wine held in solution the richness of the pearl.