« AnteriorContinuar »
Well, miss, Sir Peter was so used to have her about him night and day, that he sent for her back. She wrote word she'd come when she was a little better — folk did say Sir Peter's letter found my lady at a ball. In a week he was on his death-bed; my lady came home post when she knew of it. Lor, miss! Sir Peter, in a wicious fit of the gout, had altered his will; and my lady, instead of three thousand a year, have got only two hundred. 'Twas her own fault, for 'customing him to be waited on by her. I wonder gentlefolks ever does it.”
“I saw my cousin move,” said Ellen, to whom, though Mrs. Job's first story had been interesting, nothing was so odious as gossip. “I think even your whispering disturbs him.”
“Not he, miss! poor dear soul! I haven't been used to sick rooms for forty years, not to know when I can be heard, and when I can't. None hears whispers, so soon as the dying, and not one of the hundreds I've ever ’tended could say, if they were to come to life this blessed minute, they'd ever heard a whisper of mine."
Ellen shuddered, and unconsciously drew nearer to De Villeneuve. In this coaxing canting woman, who had been for forty years so familiar with death, there was something awful to her excited fancy. She seemed in that dark and silent room, with her gigantic frame and black garments, like the Priestess of Death ; and Ellen shrank, as if the presence of the Priestess could summon the Spirit.
Julian drew aside his curtain, recognized Ellen and De Villeneuve, extended his hand, which both clasped, murmured, “ Augusta! where is she? not ill ?”
“Not very ill, dear Julian,” said Alphonse, for Ellen could not speak; “but her grief would make her presence dangerous for you and for herself. I believe she is in bed.”
“ Take her my fondest blessing, Ellen, and tell her for her sake I must be spared. Tell her she must not grieve; I cannot bear it."
Julian spoke no more; he closed his eyes, and seemed to sink into a troubled sleep.
“Ah, whose is the deepest grief !” thought Ellen. “ Because I have struggled with despair, he deems I do not feel, no, not so much as one who has yielded to an alarm—nay, a terrible shock; but, if she really loved him would she not have struggled too? Where could she exist but by his bed-side! Do I then love him? No, no, not meanly, not selfishly; let him recover, let me see him safe once more, and, if it were to lead Augusta to the altar, I could smile, and say, 'God bless them!'”
All was now silence in the room; there was no light, but from the fire, which, though the day was rather warm, Mrs. Job would keep up. Checked in her garrulous and coaxing narratives, and, finding nothing more to do, she had fallen asleep with her eyes open, a habit long practice had enabled her to acquire, and with a toady smile on her large and pliant features.
Ellen and De Villeneuve perceived the nurse's state, and smiled. Emboldened by that smile, he drew nearer to her, he aided her in every little attention, he soothed or chased away every fear; and it was rapture to him when Ellen turned her appealing eyes towards him, as if for protection and hope. He was almost alone with her, for Julian and the nurse slept; he was necessary to her. As he marked, by the flickering light of the fire, the disorder of her beautiful gold hair, the mournfulness of her tearful eyes, her pallid cheeks, and the quick heaving of a bosom laden with repressed sobs, he crushed the thought that she was mourning for another, to revel, as it were, in the beauty of her grief.
He was softened by love for a being so holy; and in that faint light nothing was to be seen but his Raphael-like masses of dark hair, his fine outline, and large eyes shining through tears (remember he was a Frenchman), which Ellen believed were shed for Julian. For the first time she smiled upon him with a faint smile of affection and admiration. He was patiently kneeling by the fire, to assist her with a beverage she was preparing. And there was so much graceful kindness in his manner, that she said, “How patient, how good you are ! bear with me; my hand trembles, else I should not detain you so long."
As she spoke, De Villeneuve ventured to take her hand, and she did not withdraw it. He did not raise it to his lips-in a moment he gently resigned it; but no joy of his wild pleasure-seeking life had equalled the joy of that moment. He who had revelled in all the world calls delight; he who had wooed and been loved by so many; who had known triumph in every shape; he felt his frame thrill, and the blood ebb and flow in his heart, when Ellen touched his hand!
Behold, weak woman! too ready to lavish all, to sacrifice all, to bless the thing you love! How often is the sacrifice a vain one! Behold, when the heart of man is full of a reverential love, (and such only should you glory to inspire) a word of kindness, a gentle look, a touch of the dear one's hand, can make his heart overflow with a joy, no sacrifice from one less sacred in his thoughts, whose virtues have not taught him respect, as well as love, could ever make him feel.