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.