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prompted serious reflection. It seems that my unfortunate wanderings were known to Mr. Hastings as well as to Bertha. O! these chambermaids! Mrs. Margaret could not retain such a remarkable secret, but told it to. Mr. Marvel, Mr. Hastings' butler, and he to Mr. Hastings himself, thinking it a mere amusing anecdote of a gentleman out of his mind. The minutiæ, indeed, were not stated, but merely how the young gentleman had run on about Miss Bertha; and when Mr. Hastings, with some displeasure, checked his servant, whom, not liking the subject, he accused of an exaggerated account, Mr. Marvel, in defence of his own and Mrs. Margaret's integrity, said it all passed before the doctor, who knew all the particulars.
Greatly annoyed, Mr. Hastings immediately assailed Sandford for the facts, who very frankly gave them, treating the whole affair as of no consequence, and as a common occurrence in deliriums, for which a patient was no more answerable than for a dream.
Mr. Hastings hoped it might be so, but the particular phrases, as well as ideas, struck him. In relating this, afterwards to Granville, he did not conceal the fears which the incident had prompted, pitying and speaking well of me, but no more.
“ By this," said Granville, “it should seem that his humility is on the wane, and his pride resuming the ascendant."
My suspicions, as to a change of manner both in father and daughter, were thus confirmed, and I was not the happier for it. My pride, however, saved me. I was resolved that, even if the supposed discovery
should amount to proof in their minds of a presumptuous attachment, not to be entertained, they should be under no necessity to take precautions against itin fact, that I would myself relieve them from their fears, and retire from their presence, never to return.
In this resolution I was confirmed by Granville, and only waited for a proper opportunity to take my leave in form. But to think that Bertha could slight me (she who had been so kind) was difficult.
Thanks, however, to that self-respect—in other words, pride—of which probably, by this, I have shewn I had a sufficient share, together with the few drops of Clifford and Bardolfe blood which still ran in my veins, my grief did not get the better of my courage. I was at least resolved not to be pitied, as Granville said I was, by Mr. Hastings; and if his daughter knew I loved her, I determined to shew that I could also leave her. I almost wished that she would use me ill, and, vile and ungrateful as I was, I began to accuse her of caprice, perhaps of coquetting ; such “confirmation strong” does the least change of manners towards a lover become, if once his jealousy is roused. Yet the pure and honourable Bertha knew nothing of caprice ; far from wounding a fellow-creature, she never harmed a fly, nor ever wished ill to the meanest wretch alive. I mention it, therefore, to shew the admirable justice, fairness, and reasonableness of a man in love.
My then temper, however, by no means stopt here, and while in the act of taking my wise resolutions, I happened to turn over Shakspeare, and fortuit
ously lighted upon the scene in Hamlet, where Ophelia seeks to return the gifts with which the prince had presented her. At that moment the little Gresset given me by Bertha two or three years before, and which I never was without, was lying by my side.
The feelings and language of Ophelia seemed apposite to my own case, and I read the passages more than once, as almost ominous-certainly I could not read them without emotion.
“ My lord, I have remembrances of yours,
That I have long’d to redeliver.
“ No! not T.
“ Indeed, my lord, you know right well you did;
Like Ophelia, I felt that Bertha's rich gift had now waxed poor, from what I supposed unkindness in the giver, and I resolved to return it. With Gresset, therefore, in my pocket, I determined to seek out Miss Hastings, in order to restore her book, and then to take my leave for ever of the persons whose consequence to me, even in the act of renouncing them, equalled the value of the world.
With this view, I anxiously watched the motions of Bertha. Could I but see her alone one little, little minute, I thought I should be satisfied. My wishes were so far crowned, that a very few
minutes afterwards I saw her from my windows, going towards her favourite summer-house. I immediately followed, and presented myself at the door. She seemed disconcerted at my approach, and was evidently embarrassed. A consciousness, as I thought, of something unusual gleamed over her features. Certainly, though there was still an expression of kindness, and even interest about my health, the enchanting frankness of manner, which had always so won me, was gone.
She of course inquired after my wound, and looking, as I construed it, as if she wished I would retire, asked, if it were quite prudent to leave the house so soon? I replied, it was so little otherwise, that I contemplated returning to Oxford the next day.
“ So soon," cried she, with surprise, but with nothing like opposition. “Can we hope, Mr. De Clifford, that you will be well enough to travel so far, after such a serious and shocking accident ?
"My accident,” said I, mournfully, “is the least evil I have to bear. It is already unfelt, and will soon be forgotten. Would to God I could say the same of its unhappy consequences.
A blush immediately suffused the cheek of Bertha, which shewed she must have suspected what I meant. Yet, she hesitatingly asked, “What can Mr. De Clifford mean?
“ More, perhaps," replied I, “than I am well able to explain; and yet the heavenly goodness and condescension I have ever found in Miss Hastings may
possibly forgive an offence, apparently most presumptuous, but, in reality, most unwittingly, nay, altogether unconsciously, committed.”
“Offence ! presumption !” exclaimed she; “surely those are terms that can never be applied to the conduct of Mr. De Clifford towards any one, much less to friends who respect him as we do.”
“ Alas ! ” said I, “though while in possession of reason, it requires no forecast, nay, it would demand a miracle, to transgress a respect which fills every thought of my brain, and every beat of my heart, yet when reason has strayed, who can answer for the abandoned citadel ? Believe me, lady, that the wound to the outward man, inflicted by the ruffian who felled me, was absolutely nothing to the internal horror, the alarm and misery I have felt, ever since I have learned how guiltily my imagination wandered.”
The conscious and ingenuous girl here shewed all her consciousness of what I meant, by a blush of rosy red, yet accompanied with an abashed, uneasy air, as if the allusion was irksome to her.
The thought hurt me, and I proceeded rather more boldly.
“ It is hence that I have sought this interview, which I grieve to think discomposes you; as, indeed, of what
consequence can any feeling of mine be to Miss Hastings? Be assured, however, that my only object is exculpation, which is due to the meanest, if they have suffered injustice; and I claim to say, that should Miss Hastings or her father for one moment suppose that such presumptuous, such audacious aspirations,