Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

ily were gone to bed, he thus delivered his opinion to Charles :

The case, my dear friend, is simply this. Something is hanging upon Louisa's mind, which keeps her in a constant state of internal struggle and excitement. The combat within is too much for her strength, and is evidently tearing her to pieces. There is, at the same time, a mental despondency, and universal sense of discouragement upon all subjects, which poison her whole being; these lively and feeling young creatures cannot resist this. You see how it is : sleep is no refreshment, food is taken without desire; while the spirits are never stirred by those alternations of better moments, which carry so many, with astonishing powers of resistance, through such grievous tortures, both of body and mind. There is no consumptive tendency in her family, nor in her, in spite of the extraordinary delicacy of her complexion, or her case would be hopeless indeed, but her nervous system is rather defective, and it is there where the mischief has fallen; and the consequences, if not averted, will as surely lead to ill as if a hectic were already upon her cheek. It will only be a longer process; but it affords us more time to interfere for her relief, and this is a great matter.”

Charles looked relieved by this speech; he took a long breath.

66 What must be done?" said he.

“Take the weight off her spirits as soon as possible, to be sure,” said Mr. Phillips.

“But how-how-how,” stammered Charles. “How, if it be-love?" in a tone so excessively strange and unnatural, that it made Mr. Phillips start.

“How if it be ? You need not speak so like a voice from the grave, Charles. Make her father arrange the difficulties, whatsoever they may be.”

“ 'How, if that be not possible ?" “ Make it possible.”

How, if I cannot ?" cried Charles, rising with a distress he could no longer conceal. “ Must she die ?"

Mr. Phillips shook his head.

“Oh!” cried Charles, wringing his hands, “what must be done? what can be done? Phillips, there is no chance of effecting what you propose. Believe me, I must not betray her secret ; but it is impossible. Find some palliative-arrange some plan--some system of treatment by which we may conquer this unhappy malady-and save her, for" He stopped, sorry at his own vehemence, and sat down, looking uncomfortable. “ For--what would become of her father?" at length he said.

“I am quite sure," said Mr. Phillips, resuming the conversation after a short pause, “ that an arrangement such as VOL. I.-C

5

I should desire is impossible, because you say so. I am confident no trifling or ridiculous obstaclesno, nor very reasonable objections would, in this instance, appear of weight in your eyes. I therefore waive that part of the subject. Variety, change of place and occupation, new faces, and so on, is the next chance. I will leave Mary with her a little longer; she is not in her confidence, therefore an excellent companion. I will then send Mary and the children to the sea, and she shall go with them; as to the expense, the generosity of my noble friend has made it a possible matter, and it shall be done immediately. You may contribute a pony-chaise if you like, without either of them being the wiser" Charles shook the good man by the hand.

Phillips,” said he, “ I am eternally obliged to you. You have removed a mountain from my heart."

'But mind," said his friend,“ we must not be too sanguine. Change of scene is nothing, if the heart remains unchanged. And, at all events, we must expect a very unpleasant derangement of the nerves and spirits. This is a most provoking business,” added he, in a tone of extreme vexation. “Such a fine creature spoiled !” And with a dissatisfied look he took his candle and went to bed.

Not so Charles.

The first bright flush of hope had been suddenly extinguished by Mr. Phillips's last remark; and, struck with the description he had received of the danger which impended over her he so fondly cherished, and melting with pity at the prospect of her sufferings, he remained till midnight pondering on the possibility of affording the only relief which would certainly terminate them. His indignation was excited at what, he feared, must have been idle gallantry on the part of Lord William, for he could not accuse her of too fond a credulity in giving credit to the sincerity of attentions which were considered serious by all the world. The man who could trifle wantonly with the feelings of so innocent a creature, he considered as unworthy of possessing her. Yet again he reflected, that though perhaps careless and unprincipled to a culpable degree with respect to the affections of a beautiful girl, Lord William bore a very high reputation in the world as a man of sense and honour; and farther, that he possibly might be entirely ignorant of the strength of the impression he had made.

He could see nothing in the affair to justify any one in desiring to terminate it by a final separation. And this being the case, he concluded by a resolution, should the means be ever presented, to forward it as far as lay in his power. But most especially he resolved to watch carefully the course things might take, and as a friend of her father's, to interpose in place of a brother, should he find cause to sus

pect any intention of rendering her the victim of injustice or caprice.

Those who know by experience the force and the weakness of a young man's love—its ardent wishes--its rankling jealousies—the bitterness, the distraction with which the idea of a loved object in the possession of another fills the breast, may appreciate the generosity of Charles—a generosity in which many will find it impossible to sympathize. But he, like the fond mother in the beautiful story of Scripture, preferred his own despair to the destruction of the darling of his affections. Shall we say, therefore, that he loved less ardently than many of his race?

The next day put all these good resolutions to the proof.

CHAPTER IX.

It was a soft warm day in the beginning of August, when the stillness of the air-where the lightest leaf had ceased to flutter; the heat rather enervating than oppressive ; and the perfect quiet in which the usually busy inhabitants of the woods and groves seem reposing, disposes the mind to tranquillity and tenderness.

Mr. Phillips was under the necessity of returning that day to his patients and to his home; and Mary, who, in her quiet, unobtrusive way, had made a very great sacri. fice, by consenting to remain at the vicarage, was gone with the children to accompany him a short way upon his journey.

Louisa, left to herself, and occupied by her own melancholy musings, had strolled into the little wood which terminated her father's garden.

This pleasant little copse was a tangled wilderness of hazles, mountain ash, holly, and oak, under which, in spring, the ground was absolutely enamelled with Aowers. The blue hyacinth forming, as it were, one sheet of lapis lazuli, teinted by the delicate pink of the lychnis, and relieved by the little white cockleshell of the stitchwort. Here the birds were wont to make the morning and evening vocal with their songs ; the thrush called to his mate from some golden-foilaged oak, while the blackbird's mellow tone burst from a thicket hard by.

Now, all this music was silent, all these flowers fadedsave now and then a flaunting honeysuckle, and a last, faint, fading rose. But the dark, deep green of summer was upon the trees, and its dull unvaried hues suited well with the sombre tone of mind, with which this once gay and lovely

creature-lovely still, but gay no more-pursued her solitary walk.

The little wood was situated on the side of a small glen, through which ran a bubbling brook; and a path, almost concealed by the thickets of hazlenut and woodbine that hung over it, wound in a pleasant sort of natural meander through it. This path led into the fields, and by them communicated with the neighbouring village. It was, as we have said, the favourite walk of Louisa, because it was so perfectly retired, that she could here indulge her melancholy without restraint; and here she would walk for hours, carrying Mary's baby in her arms.

Charles, likewise, usually passed through the copse on his way to his distant rambles; but he had learned to avoid disturbing Louisa, and had made himself a way through the thickets-not, it must be owned, very far from the path, and at various little accidental openings commanding a view of it. She was this day oppressed with more than usual languor.

“ And will he not come again?

And will he not come again?
No, he is false-he is false to his true love :-

He never will come again.”

These words haunted her mind, as, with a recklessness which she had accustomed herself to think wrong, she ran over in memory all those tender scenes which had passed between herself and her lover-gratifying her sick heart by picturing even the minutest peculiarities of tone and gesture, and the speaking expression of those eyes!-those ten. der, beautiful eyes, as they poured, what might well have been called, the very light of love upon her.

Lost in the fond recollection, she heard not the steps of one rapidly approaching.

The sound nears—the steps quicken-quicker and quick. er. A figure emerges from the closing trees. She hears him-she looks up. 'Tis he! 'Tis Lord William!

The anger of a moment swelled within her-one brief, short instant of woman's pride. The next, she was in his arms; her hands clasped round his neck, and a torrent of tears bedewing his breast.

Lord William had passed the time, since his separation with Louisa, in a succession of sensations which bore little comparison with the intensity of hers. A man of a fervid imagination, yet little capable of deep feeling, he had been captivated by the extreme beauty and sensibility of Miss Mildmay, enhanced, as all her charms had been, by the

peculiar nature of the circumstances under which he had found her.

Her departure had left him listless, spiritless, and unhappy. Yet, to pursue her, to take the downright and obvious step of presenting himself to her unknown father, and actually espousing this country young lady, would almost have been as repugnant to his feelings as to lose her altogether. A vague wish to possess, without all this fuss and trouble, rather than a deliberate plan to seduce to vice and infamy, was what may be said to have chiefly run in his heart, whenever he contemplated the future as connected with her.

But his views were all undefined. Time rolled on, and the impression she had made would have been gradually obliterated, had any new object arisen to occupy an imagination morbidly desirous of excitement.

But this not being the case, the fair image of Louisa, contrasted with the uncharactered groups of fine gentlemen and ladies surrounding him, haunted him with a tenacity which surprised himself.

He was tormented by recollections, and given to revery -his usual amusements became uninteresting and tasteless, and himself most particularly ill-disposed to acknowledge the various attentions of his fair friends and favourites, with even a decent show of gallantry and gratitude. He grew cross and whimsical, and did not very well know how or where to bestow his ill-humour. At length, one fine morning, he suddenly resolved to traverse the romantic country in which Mr. Mildmay's parsonage was situated, with the vague intention of seeing Louisa, in some manner or other, again.

He had set out on horseback, accompanied by a single groom, and had arrived at the village hard by the night before.

'There he had slept very comfortably in a bed of checked cotton, which filled the best half of his low whitewashed

And though his sentiment was not strong enough to raise him with the lark, he was up somewhat before his usual time the next morning; and having dawdled over his breakfast, and an old newspaper, for an hour or two, he had suddenly roused himself, taken his hat, and, strolling into the coppice which bounded the little domain of Mr. Mildmay, had met, as we have seen, Louisa.

He held her a moment, but one moment, in his arms. The next she disengaged herself, with a look of so much modesty, simplicity, and feeling, and stood before him with a grace, an expression, a loveliness so unrivalled, that his whole soul was moved, and his passion returned with a vehemence that astonished himself.

And with it returned the desire to carry off and possess, in solitudes charming as these, unshackled by the world,

room.

« AnteriorContinuar »