Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

with glistening eyes, and a more un- “Unhappy lady ! lay aside steady voice-for he had known Mil

Thy myrile crown, thy robes of pride;

A Cypress stole befits thee now, licent from her childhood, and felt for A willow garland for thy brow. her an almost paternal interest, which had not been diminished by certain

For thou art changed, and changed is he,

Who pledged thee love's first feally : lately held conferences with the in- A lover's pledge ! a lover's vow ! dignant Nora, whose tale, however And where is he? and what art thou ? exaggerated, tallied but too well with

At younger beauty's feet, with sighs his own preconceived suspicions—" to And silken oaths, thy false love lies :

add that l A thing forsaken !-that thou art,

With faded form, and broken heart. fear, I greatly fear Miss Aboyne's present malady proceeds as much from

And now, poor heart! be wise, and crave

Of earth no guerdon but a gravemoral as physical causes, and that And hark ! *ding! dong ! that timely bell, you will do well to shield her, with (Their wedding peal,) shall ring thy knell, the most watchful tenderness, from And lay thee by the church-path side, every disquietude it may be in your When forth he leads his bonny bride : power to avert. That gentle spirit of And then, perhaps, he'll cry-Adieu, hers, and that tender frame, were not My fond first love!--so passing true!'” made to bide all blasts,'Mr. Vernon ! Other drops had mingled with those Take care of her; she is well worth yet glistening on the lines of that old keeping ;'' and so saying, the old man song before Vernon, still holding the extricated the rein from Vernon's paper, let fall his arm upon the table, hold, by quickly spurring on his pony, and bowing down his head, concealed and was soon beyond the reach of his face within them. He had confurther questioning, leaving the ques- tinued thus for some time, and so deep tioner still rooted to the spot, with was his abstraction, that he was perfecta food enough for bitter reflection to ly unconscious of an approaching footkeep him there-how long he knew step, or that he was no longer alone, not-before he recovered himself suf- till a soft hand touched his, and lookficiently to enter the cottage.

ing up, he met the dewy eyes of his The porch door stood open, as did wronged Millicent fixed upon him with that of the little parlor; but the room an expression of angelic pity. That was empty. Millicent had been re- look set wide at once the floodgates cently there, however, for her hand- of his before almost uncontrollable kerchief lay on the table beside a port- emotion, and starting up, he caught folio and some loose sheets of music. her to his bosom with a passionate Throwing bimself into the chair she suddenness, that, accompanied by halfhad occupied, Vernon sat for some intelligible words of love and self-remoments, his eyes fixed with uncon- proach, almost overpowered her genscious gaze on the objects before him, tle and timid spirit. But soon recotill, half rousing himself from that ab- vering from the momentary agitation, straction, he began listlessly to turn she mildly soothed him to compothem over, and at last his attention sure ; and said, half smiling, as she was arrested by a half-torn sheet that softly drew the old song from his unlay apart, with Millicent's bandker- conscious hand-“ Dear Horace, I chief. The paper was wet. More never doubted your heart-I never than one drop-from wbat source he feared desertion.”-“Bless you for too well divined-had recently fallen that! Millicent, my beloved ! my on the words of a song which he well only love !—but can you—can you forremembered having formerly given to give ?"-" That you have sometimes Millicent, with a laughing injunction forgotten me of late, Horace ?" to make herself perfect in the old “No, not forgotten-not forgotten, as ditty against her day should come. Heaven shall judge me, Millicent !The words ran thus-a quaint “auld- but I have been bewildered-infatuwarld” conceit.

ated-mad-I know not what; and yet my heart was here; nay, nay, look not-Millicent! Millicent ! what mean incredulous, Milly !-here-here only, you ?-But I deserve this torture"as I hope for—and did you not say and grasping both her hands in his you never doubted that ?-Repeat it, with convulsive violence, he gazed in my beloved !-tell me again you ne- her face with such a look of fearful ver doubted me, my generous, noble- inquiry, as wellnigh unnerved the minded love !"-"I never doubted poor Millicent, and rendered her inyour affection for me, Horace !" re- capable of reply. But making a peated Millicent, with tender serious- strong effort for composure, she spoke ness ;- but now, dear friend ! sit again-at first only a few soothing down beside me, and let us both be and affectionate words to still the agicalm, and talk together quietly and tation that excited her tenderest comuureservedly, as it befits friends to" passion, and then, impressed with the

- Friends ! no more than friends, seriousness and solemnity of the task Milly ?-is it coine to this !” vehe- she had imposed upon herself, she mently exclaimed Horace, with a re- went on with quiet firmness to tell proachful look. “ And what name him of what had been so long upon more sacred, inore endearing ?" she her heart, though, till that moment, rejoined, in tones less faltering than she had not found courage to impart before. “ Friends here, and here- it to him-time or opportunity, she after, and forever in that better place, might have said-but that would have where, sooner or later, whatever is sounded accusingly, and Millicent reserved for us here, I trust we shall lived only to bless and to console. ineet again, and be as the angels in " My dear Horace !" she continued, heaven."" And here-here, Milli- «hear me patiently-hear me calmly cent! are we to be no more than for my sake do so. For some time friends ?-Have you forgotten, that past, I have felt a conviction that I within two little weeks you would should not live to be your wife-nay, have been my wife, if those fatal nay-start not so fearfully at these strangers !-but they will be gone be. words-look not so shocked, so selffore three weeks are over, and then” accusing, Horace !-But for you—but

" And then, dear Horace ! it for your care and kindness, I should will be time enough to talk of-of”- long ago have followed my dear faour marriage day, she would bave ther. But you kept me here; and I added, but her voice suddenly failed, thought then it was God's will that I and with a quivering lip she turned should live and become the companion her face away from him, till the ino- of your life. That thought was very mentary weakness was overcome. It sweet to me, dear Horace ! too sweet was soon mastered; and then, once perhaps, for it made life too dear to more raising to his her not unmoist- me. But since-of late, as I have ened eyes, she continued, “I have told you, I have had reason to believe been wishing, earnestly wishing, for that such was not God's pleasuresuch an opportunity such an open- nay, let me let me speak on now, ing as this, dear Horace !-to pour out Horace !--now that I am strengthened my whole heart to you to reconcile for the trial-and do not-do not think, you to your own, in case of an event, dearest !—for I interpret that lookfor which, I fear-I think you inay that he has stricken me by the hand I be entirely unprepared, and which I loved ; I was not made for duration, know you would feel too painfully, if Horace !-you know my mother died now, while we have time, we did not early of consumption—I was not well exchange mutual confidence and for- before my father's death; and that giveness for any wrongs fancied or” great shock !-80 sudden !-and”

- But she was passionately inter- " And I have done the rest !- rupted— Now! while we have time! wretch that I am -Tell me so, Milan event for which I am unprepared! ly !-tell me so at once, rather than

stab me with such mockery of com- your buoyant spirit and unsubdued fort;" and no longer able to restrain energies. But God's will be done! himself, even for her sake, he started He will order all as is best for us; from her side, and paced the room in and if I live, and you continue to wish agitation, that she wisely suffered to I should become your wife" "If subside before she attempted to re- I continue to wish it!-Oh, Millicent!” sume her affecting subject. “But it - Then, then, dear Horace ! I would is not too late ; Millicent! angel ! thou only say—May God bless our union ! wilt yet be spared that I may repay--but if it is not to be, I do not tell with life-long tenderness thy match- you to remember me; I know you will less excellence ;” and then, melted to do that ; but I would bid you, for my softer feelings, he Aung himself beside sake, torture not your own heart with her, and clasping her to his bosom, self-upbraiding. Assign all-the orgave way to a passion of womanish dering of all-as indeed is only fitting, tears. When both had in some mea- to the will of Providence ;-and-and sure recovered composure, Vernon if my poor Nora should be unjust was the first to speak again, though in and unreasonable in her grief, bear an agitated whisper :—" Tell me, my with her, dear Horace, and be kind to beloved ! oh tell me, you will try to her still, for my sake. This little live for my sake! I know--I see how dwelling !-I bave taken soine order blind I have been-how madly blind about it, and her. The long-expected to your increased indisposition; fool! living will be yours at last ;-and thus idiot ! that I was—I heard of it for the I have so arranged it-you will not first time this morning from Mr. Hen- disapprove it, Horace?-that this cotderson-but he told me-he said-in- tage may be let or sold, and so furdeed, indeed, Milly ! our good friend nish a provision for my faithful Nora. thinks that with care and watchfulness Forgive me, that I pain you thus, dear all will go well again-and such care! friend ! --and yet, a few words inore. -such watchfulness as I shall take Oh, my dear Horace! be watchful of now!”-And now their tears mingled; yourself. We have all much need to for Millicent's rolled fast down her pray against the deceitfulness of our pale cheeks, and it was many minutes own hearts. The world and its ways before she again found utterance, and would cheat you, Horace! for I know that her secret prayer for strength was your heart. Ob, I have longed thus answered, and she was able to speak to pour out the fulness of wine--my to him words of peace and comfort. whole spirit, if it might be-in one “I know-I know," she faltered out appeal to yours :" And, elevated by at last, « that I may yet recover, if the solemnity of that appeal, and by such be God's pleasure, my Horace! the fervor of her enthusiasm, Milli-for in His hands are life and death cent's voice became full and firm, —but, my beloved ! if you would en- though its tones were deep as if sent deavor to reconcile yourself to a con- up from the bosoin's inmost sanctuatrary event, I should be well content ry, and her countenance was irrato go, for methinks the bitterness of diated by more than earthly beauty, death is past--and do not call it un- as, clasping her pale thin hands tokind, Horace ! I doubt whether I gether, she looked up in Vernon's could ever again, under any circum- face, and slowly articulated, “ Above stances, be so happy in this world as all, my father's friend ! mine own I have been. I feel as if the capabi- dear friend ! so run the race that is lities of earthly happiness and useful- yet before you, that, though mine is ness were dead within me; as if I had first finished, we may meet at last in already left my youth and prime of the land where there shall be no more days at an immeasurable distance- separation.” The awful pathos of that and such a companion would ill suit affecting prayer, though it thrilled you, Horace !-would ill assort with through the heart of Vernon, subdued

bis impatient spirit and agitated nerves ance. But even these combined forces to solemn stillness. He attempted no bad wellnigh experienced signal deaudible answer - words would have feat, so entirely had Vernon's revived been powerless to express his feelings; affection and reawakened fears for Milbut Millicent felt and understood all the licent, and his bitterly compunctious assurance she desired to receive, in feelings, engrossed every faculty of his the tears that moistened her clasped soul, since that notable morning when hands, as, taking them between his, the trifling incident of Lady Octavia's he bent his face upon them in the long momentary incaution had been so inand profound silence that succeeded fluential in arousing him from his long to his violent emotion.

illusion. Influential as it had been, Horace Vernon laid his head that however, in the first instance, by sendnight upon the pillow by many de- ing him forth in that mood of mortigrees "a sadder and a wiser man” fied and bitter feeling, which, rather than he had arisen from it in the than any worthier cause, had impelled morning. But sleep came not to his his first hasty steps towards the longeyelids, nor rest to his spirit, till ut- deserted cottage ; the better thoughts ter exhaustion procured him towards that, in his way thither, had gradually morning a short interval of troubled superseded his previous irritationslumber. Lady Octavia was not long his short but startling conference with in perceiving the decline, or rather the good apothecary-and last, and cessation, of her influence over Ver- above all, that affecting interview with non. But attributing his defection to Millicent, had so effaced all recollecresentment at the unguarded sentence tion of the paltry annoyance which had which had escaped her in his presence originally disturbed him, that it was on the perusal of Lady Jane's letter, first called to his recollection by the she only read in it the indication of a almost deprecating tenderness of Lady more profound passion than she had Octavia's voice and looks, when she yet felt certain of having inspired him found an opportunity of addressing with. But after a few days of conde- him unobserved ; and that was not scending sweetness, fruitlessly ex- very speedily obtained, for, except at pended in manœuvres to lure back the the dinner hour, and some short porstartled quarry, she began to suspect tion of the after-evening conceded to that wbatever was the cause of Ver- Dr. Hartop's claims, Horace scarcely non's brusque retreat from her bou- absented himself from the cottage for doir, and of his subsequent refroidisse- many days, after that which had so ment, he was now detained from her effectually aroused him froin bis long by a return to his first allegiance, of and culpaple infatuation. Before the which her ladyship had by no means little casement of Millicent's chamber calculated the possibility, while the was unclosed, he was looking up tolight of her attractions still blazed in wards it as he paced the walk beneath competition with the pale star of Mil- with nervous impatience ; and even licent.

his conscience-struck reluctance to Piqued at this discovery, Lady confront Nora, was overcome by his Octavia's heart was forth with vehe- anxiety to obtain from her the first mently set on what would otherwise and most exact report of her gentle (in the near prospect of departure mistress. A painful surprise awaited from Sea Vale) have been a matter of Vernon the first morning he was thus comparative indifference to her-the early at the cottage. Long after the recovery of her former ascendency ; little casement above had been partly and nothing daunted by first failures, opened, and he had seen Nora pass she worked at her purpose with all and repass before it, as if preparing to the energies of those great coöperating assist Millicent at her toilet, he had powers-woman's will and woman's awaited for some time in the gardenwit, supported by woman's persever- in the dear old arbor, and, lastly, in the little sitting-room, in expecta- awakened. And indeed his now tention of Miss Aboyne coming down to derly unremitting watchfulness of the breakfast. But finding, at length, drooping Millicent was soon rewarded that there were not even any symptoms by such a reviving brightness of spiof preparation for the morning meal, rit in her, as in a manner reflected ithe was driven to inquire the reason self outwardly on the fair and fragile • of such unusual delay, and then learnt, frame, which at all times sympathised

with a pang that wrung him to the but too faithfully with the fine essence heart's core, (for Nora spared not to it enshrined. It is true, Millicent speak home,) that, for some time past, herself replied only by a grateful Millicent had been too much enfeebled smile, or an evasive word-not always to rise at her accustomed hour, and uttered with a steady voice-to Vernow habitually took her breakfast in non's fond entreaties that she would bed. The emotion with which Ver- acknowledge herself to be regaining non listened to this startling corrobo- strength-that she would bless him ration of his fears, still trembled in with some assurance that might conthe tone of his voice as he hurriedly firm his sanguine hopes. But Mr. remarked, "Why, Nora ! surely it Henderson's manner and replies were was not so long ago, that when I more decidedly encouraging. Even breakfasted here last”- " Oh, no! Nora began to look less coldly, and Mr. Horace; not so long to be sure,” by degrees more cheerfully, when he interrupted the faithful servant, with encountered her in his frequent visits ; a look that spoke, and was meant to and at last, one evening as he was speak, keenest reproach ; « not more leaving the cottage, she not only than a fortnight maybe, or perhaps vouchsafed to resume her old office of three weeks- no time at all-only peo- opening the garden gate for him, but ple may be dead and buried, and for- said, in a half cordial tone, as he was gotten too, you know, Mr. Horace, in passing, “ Good night, Mr. Horace ! less than that. The last time you Keep a good heart, and all may end were to have breakfasted here, you well yet."-" Bless you! thank you ! were so thoughtful as to tell Miss thank you ! dear, dear, sweet, lovely Aboyne over night that you would Nora !” was Vernon's rapturous excome next morning ; so the dear child clamation, as, dashing back the closing would rise, and make me dress her to gate, so as almost to upset his old friend, be ready for you—she was too ill he hugged her round the neck with then to dress herself, poor heart !- such schoolboy vehemence of delight, though I told her it was ill spending as left her wellnigh breathless and half her precious life upon one that little indignant, though not quite unaccusdeserved it of her.”-“Little indeed!” tomed in former days to such ebulligroaned Horace, as he turned abrupt- tions of his volatile spirits. ly from Nora and the cottage, to break- . Her rebuke if she uttered one) fast where and with what appetite he was, however, quite lost on the offendmight.

er. Before she had time to set her But Horace Vernon's versatile feel- cap straight, or smooth down her rufings and unstable nature, characteris- fled neck-kerchief, he was already tics often leading to results as fatal as balf way to the Rectory, which he rethose consequent on the indulgence of entered that night in a frame of mind violent and evil passions, were as ea- so overflowing with happiness, securisily elated as depressed; and, in truth, ty, self-reconcilement, and universal his mind was not so constituted as to benevolence, as reflected its own hues be long capable of enduring or re- on all surrounding objects, animate taining a deeply painful impression. and inanimate. Dr. Hartop was agreeBy degrees he deluded himself into able-Lady Octavia enchanting-all the belief that he had been too seri- but her charms and obligingness forously alarmed, though not too soon gotten or forgiven-(what was any

27 ATHENEUM, vol. 2, 3d series.

« AnteriorContinuar »