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The Beauty Of The Village   By: (1787-1855)

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By Mary Russell Mitford

Three years ago, Hannah Colson was, beyond all manner of dispute, the prettiest girl in Aberleigh. It was a rare union of face, form, complexion, and expression. Of that just height, which, although certainly tall, would yet hardly be called so, her figure united to its youthful roundness, and still more youthful lightness, an airy flexibility, a bounding grace, and when in repose, a gentle dignity, which alternately reminded one of a fawn bounding through the forest, or a swan at rest upon the lake. A sculptor would have modelled her for the youngest of the Graces; whilst a painter, caught by the bright colouring of that fair blooming face, the white forehead so vividly contrasted by the masses of dark curls, the jet black eyebrows, and long rich eyelashes, which shaded her finely cut grey eye, and the pearly teeth disclosed by the scarlet lips, whose every movement was an unconscious smile, would doubtless have selected her for the very goddess of youth. Beyond all question, Hannah Colson, at eighteen, was the beauty of Aberleigh, and, unfortunately, no inhabitant of that populous village was more thoroughly aware that she was so than the fair damsel herself.

Her late father, good Master Colson, had been all his life a respectable and flourishing master bricklayer in the place. Many a man with less pretensions to the title would call himself a builder now a days, or "by'r lady," an architect, and put forth a flaming card, vaunting his accomplishments in the mason's craft, his skill in plans and elevations, and his unparalleled dispatch and cheapness in carrying his designs into execution. But John Colson was no new fangled personage. A plain honest tradesman was our bricklayer, and thoroughly of the old school; one who did his duty to his employers with punctual industry, who was never above his calling, a good son, a good brother, a good husband, and an excellent father, who trained up a large family in the way they should go, and never entered a public house in his life.

The loss of this invaluable parent about three years before had been the only grief that Hannah Colson had known. But as her father, although loving her with the mixture of pride and fondness, which her remarkable beauty, her delightful gaiety, and the accident of her being by many years the youngest of his children, rendered natural, if not excusable, had yet been the only one about her, who had discernment to perceive, and authority to check her little ebullitions of vanity and self will; she felt, as soon as the first natural tears were wiped away, that a restraint had been removed, and, scarcely knowing why, was too soon consoled for the greatest misfortune that could possibly have befallen one so dangerously gifted. Her mother was a kind, good, gentle woman, who having by necessity worked hard in the early part of her life, still continued the practice, partly from inclination, partly from a sense of duty, and partly from mere habit, and amongst her many excellent qualities had the Ailie Dinmont propensity of giving all her children their own way, especially this the blooming cadette of the family: and her eldest brother, a bachelor, who, succeeding to his father's business, took his place as master of the house, retaining his surviving parent as its mistress, and his pretty sister as something between a plaything and a pet, both in their several ways seemed vying with each other as to which should most thoroughly humour and indulge the lovely creature whom nature had already done her best or her worst to spoil to their hands.

"Eh, poor things, what else have I to give them?" This reply of Ailie Dinmont, and indeed her whole sweet character, short though it be, has always seemed to me the finest female sketch in the Waverly Novels finer even, because so much tenderer, than the bold and honest Jeanie Deans... Continue reading book >>

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