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was enriched with diamonds; first-water gems, he knew, for he had lent gold upon them ; though his wife—at the time of the loan she was yet unmanacled—was unconscious of the ready money kindness. Her father had withered, died, in the clutch of the usurer; who still cherished the portrait of the dead man—it was so very dear to him. The picture had been a bridal present to Clarissa's mother ; it had lain warm in her wedded bosom ; though Snipeton, when he grasped the precious security, knew nothing of its history. Well, he would certainly delight Clarissa with this sweet remembrance of her father. She knew not of its existence, and would bless and love her husband for his sudden goodness. He would give the wife the miniature; it was settled: he would do it. “What! with the diamonds?” cried Snipeton's careful genius, twitching his heartstrings, to pull him up in his headlong course. “With the diamonds, Ebenezer Snipeton ? Are you grown lunatic—doting ? Diamonds, eternal diamonds, —diamonds everlasting as the sun–the spiritualised essence of Plutus — diamonds for one flickering look; for one sick smile from withering lips ? Have you forgotten the worth of wealth ? Lost man are you suddenly dead to arithmetic ; Give diamonds to your wife? Pooh! pooh! As women love any
thing that glitters—and as moreover they love Jack-o'-lanthorns just as well as heaven's own stars—don't throw away the real treasure; but mock it ; sham it; pass off a jeweller's lie, and let the picture blaze with the best and brightest paste. He's a fool who throws pearls to pigs, and thinks the pork will eat the richer for the treasure. He's no less a fool who showers diamonds upon his wife when, knowing no better, paste will make her just as grateful.” And Snipeton gave all his ears to this scoundrel genius, that lived in his heart like a maggot in a nut, consuming and rotting it. There were times, though, when the genius slept; and then Snipeton—ignorant, unadvised man—was determined to be honest, generous. He would not countenance the fraud of false setting. No ; his bird of Paradise; his lamb ; his darling Clarissa; the queen flower in his life's garden—for she was this and all of these—should have the diamonds. Besides, if given to her, they were still his own ; for according to the sweet rights of a husband, property so bestowed—with no parchment to bind it— might at any time be reclaimed by the lawful lord. After all, it was but lending his wife the diamonds; though—gentle simpleton |
—she might still be tickled with the thought that they were wholly hers.
It was the morning after the visit of Crossbone; and Snipeton seated betimes at his cottage window—his eye first wandering among some flowers—his wife's only children as he once bitterly called them—and at length fixed upon the labours of a bee that toiled among the blossoms, taking sweet per-centage for its honey bank: it was at such a time that Snipeton again pondered on the diamonds. Again he revolved the special pleading of his thrifty genius; again attended to the counter-reasoning of his affections; allowing that he had them, and again gllowing that affections do reason. He watched the bee—conscientious porter!—load itself to its utmost strength, and then buzz heavily through the casement. The insect had taken all it could carry. Wise, frugal, manteaching insect. No : Snipeton would not give the diamonds. He would keep all he could: in his own grasp. All. And the determination, like a cordial, mightily comforted him. At this moment Clarissa entered the room from her chamber. Snipeton suddenly rose as to an angelic visitor. His wife looked so beautiful—so very beautiful. With such new sweetness in her face; such beaming mildness in her eyes; there was such grace in her motion, that love and vanity swelled in the old man's heart; and his hand strangely trembled as it greeted her. His prudential genius was on the sudden paralysed and dumb. Clarissa looked at her husband, as he thought, never before so lovingly—and for the moment, the miser glowed with the prodigal. “Why, you are better, love; much better. Even Crossbone's talk has revived you. Ha! and we 'll have this horse, and straightway : and—and the rose of my life will bloom again. Look here, my love.” It was done : even at the last one spasm of the heart it cost, but it was over. The miniature—that diamond-circled piece of ivory and paint—was in Clarissa's hand. Astonished, happy, she said no word, but kissed the sudden gift; again and again kissed it, and her tears flowed. “I have often thought—indeed, have long determined to give it you,” cried Snipeton. * “Thank—thank you, dear sir. Indeed, you have made me very happy,” answered his wife. His wife I Did she answer like his wife 2 Was it the voice of his twin soul—did the flesh of his flesh move with her lips ? Was it his other incorporate self that spoke 2 Did he listen to the echoes of his own heart; or to the voice of an alien 2 When the devil jealousy begins to question, how rapid his interrogations ! “I tell you,” said Snipeton, “I repeat—I have all along determined that you should have it; in good season, have it. Your father's picture, who with so great a right to it? He told me 'twas once your mother's. She wore it, till her death. Poor thing ! He must have loved her very dearly. When he spoke of her, and never willingly, he would tremble as with the ague.” Clarissa bowed her head; was silent ; and again kissed the picture. “This fondness—these tears, Clarissa, must—if spirits know such matters—be precious to your father, now once more joined with your mother in heaven. Why, what's the matter? So pale—so lily white; what is it, love?” “Nothing, sir; nothing but the surprise—the joy at this gift,” faintly answered Clarissa. “Well, I see, it has delighted you. I hoped so. Much delighted you : very much. You have kissed the picture fifty times, Clarissa. Is it not fifty—or have I falsely counted? Tell me. Fifty—is it not ?” “I cannot tell, sir,”—replied the wife, timidly. “Can they— ought they to be counted ?” “Why—but then, I am a cold arithmetician—I can count them ; at least, all that fall to my lips. Can you not tell the number vouchsafed to the gift 2 Strangel I can count, ay, every one, bestowed upon the giver.” Mournfully, and with some bitterness did Snipeton speak. His wife, with a slight tremor— suppressed by strong, sudden will—approached him. Pale, shuddering victim! with mixed emotions fighting in her face, she bowed her head, and placing her cold arms about the old man's neck, she closed her eyes, and kissed his lips. “Indeed, sir, I thank you. Pardon me; indeed I thank you for this and all your goodness.” She felt relieved: she had paid the demanded debt. And Snipeton—poor old man!—was he made happy by that caress? How much real love was in it ! How much truth ? How much hypocrisy % Or at the best, enforced obedience? It came not from the heart: no ; it wanted blood and soul. It was not the fiery eloquence of love, telling a life's devotion with a touch. It was not that sweet communing of common thoughts, and common affections; that deep, that earnest, and yet placid interchange of wedded soul with soul. In his heart, as in a crucible, the old man sought to test that kiss. Was it truth, or falsehood 2 And as he pondered—how mysteriously are we fashioned —a thing of forty years ago rose freshly to his mind.
What brought it there?-yet, there it was. The figure, the face of one who with proved perjury at his lips kissed the book, swearing the oath was true.
Clarissa saw her husband suddenly dash with gloomy thoughts. They reproached her ; and, instinctively, she returned to the old man's side, and laying her hand upon his brow—had the hand been a sunbeam, it had not lighted the face more suddenly, brightly -she spoke to him very tenderly : “Are you not well, sir ?"
“ Quite well ; always well, Clarissa, with you at my side-with you as even now.” And she looked so cheerful, yes, so affectionate,-he had wronged her. He was a fool—an exacting fool—with no allowance for the natural reserve, the unconquerable timidity, of so gentle a creature. “And, as I was saying, you are better ; much better ; and we 'll have this horse ; and— but, Clary, love, we have forgotten breakfast.” Resolved upon a full meal, Snipeton moved to the table ; and whilst he strove to eat, he talked quite carelessly, and, by the way, of a matter that a little disturbed him. “And how do you find Mrs. Wilton, eh, dearest ?"
Clarissa, with troubled looks, answered— " Find her, sir? Is she not all we could wish ?”.
“Oh, honest, quiet, and an excellent housekeeper, no doubt. Do you know her story?”.
“Story, sir ?" and Clarissa trembled as she spoke. “What story ?”
“ Her story? Has she not one ? Everybody, it's my opinion, has ; but here's the rub : everybody won't tell it, can't tell it, mus'n't tell it. Is it not so ?”
“It is never my thought, sir ; my wish to question your experience. You know the world, you say. For my part, I never wish to know it. My hope is, to die in my ignorance.”
“ True ; you are right ; I would have it so. For it is a knowledge that—but no matter. My learning shall serve for both. Well, she never told you her story?” With this, Snipeton looked piercingly at his wife, who at first answered not. At length she asked, “ Do you know it, sir ?”
“ No: but it is plain she has a story. I am firm in the faith."
“Some grief-some sacred sorrow, perhaps,” said Clarissa. “ We should respect it : should we not ?"
“ Why, grief and sorrow are convenient words, and often do duty for sin and shame," cried Snipeton.
“Sin and shame are grief and sorrow, or should be so," replied Clarissa, mournfully.
“Humph! Well, perhaps they are. However, Mrs. Wilton's story is no affair of ours,” said Snipeton. - “Assuredly not,” cried Clarissa, quickly. . “But her melancholy is. 'Tis catching ; and infects you. Her bad spirits, her gloom, seem to touch all about her with mildew. A bad conscience-or a great grief-'tis no matter which, throws a black shadow about it; and to come at once to my meaning, Clarissa, I think Mrs. Wilton had better quit.”
“Oh, sir !” exclaimed Clarissa. “ 'Twould break her heart-it would indeed, sir.”
“It's wonderful how long people live, ay, and enjoy themselves, too, with broken hearts, Clarissa. I've often thought broken hearts were like broken china : to be put nicely together again, and—but for the look of the thing—to be quite as useful for all house-work as before. Now Mrs. Wilton's heart”
“Do not speak of it. If—if you have any love for me, sir"cried Clarissa.
“If I have love! Well, what think you? Have I not even a few minutes since--given good proof?” It was somewhat distasteful to the old man, that after the gift of such diamonds, his love could be doubted. He had better have listened to his good, his wise, his profitable genius, and presented paste. How many wives—however badly used and industriously neglected—would still bestow their love! Now he, even with diamonds, could not buy it. For his wife to doubt his love, was to refuse her own. This his philosophy made certain. And this, after the diamonds !
" Nay, I am sure of your love, sir ; certain ; most confident,” said Clarissa, very calm in such assurance. “And therefore know you will refuse me nothing. Eh, dear sir ?”
Again Snipeton's heartstrings relaxed ; again, listening to the music of the enchantress, his darker thoughts began to pass away, and his soul enjoyed new sunlight. “Nothing—nothing," he said, “ that is healthful.”
“ Then promise me that Mrs. Wilton shall remain. Indeed, you know not how much I have learned of her ; how much she loves me ; how much she respects you."
“ Respect is a cold virtue, I know, Clarissa ; very cold. Now, with her 'tis freezing. I sometimes think she looks at me, as though—but I 'll say no more. She blights your spirits; darkens
No. XX.-VOL. IV.