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you think we can see this with indifference, or let you part from us, as you say you think it right to do, for ever, with coldness ? No; as we never can forget whose friend you originally were in the family, or the sympathy you have shewn us on his loss, so we shall ever be interested in your prosperity, and ever happy to hear of it.
More I cannot say." At this she again took up the volume I had restored to her, looked at it with emotion, and turned from me, evidently to hide and recover from the effect of her feelings.
I was deeply affected; nevertheless, there were parts of this speech in which caution seemed so studiously united with kindness, that I was left without a hope to rest upon, that I ever had been or could be any thing to her, though she was still every thing to me. The little proofs of tenderness she shewed on taking back the book, proceeded evidently from her goodness, and the surprise occasioned by the sight and return of her present,—which, pleased as I was to observe her emotion, I did not fail to remark she accepted without remonstrance or opposition. Her reasoning, too, on the expression of my feelings, was cool and without any disturbance. She was sorry that in
weak state I should leave them, but took no pains, or, at least, was not desirous, to delay my departure. In fact, she took me at my word. Upon the whole, it was evident that I was nothing to her, and I felt accordingly.
I endeavoured to speak, but my heart was too full. Yet, after the interest she had expressed, I could not leave her coldly ; and I had no other opportunity to
bid her farewell as I wished. I was already on the threshold, and had begun to retreat in silence, but turned and perceived she had thrown herself into a chair, and was leaning her cheek on her hand, as if reflecting on every thing that had passed, certainly not as if it had been indifferent, but with most entire acquiescence, and with no expectancy that the conversation should be renewed.
Though much moved, I had no wish to interrupt this state. I saw that with whatever friendly feeling Bertha might have regarded me, she could part, at least, with all the demonstration of it the moment a suspicion arose that I loved her; and that suspicion, spite of the excuses made for delirium, had now got possession of her mind. Hence her cool decision of purpose, though at the expense of no inconsiderable degree of that exquisite feeling which, though always united with firmness, was her characteristic.
Thoroughly impressed with these truths, I governed myself accordingly in the farewell I still wished to take of her.
“ I cannot leave you, Miss Hastings,” said I, 6 after all the condescending things you have just uttered, without at least thanking you for them. Very sweet will their recollection be, whatever may become of me. In struggle, in misfortune, in poverty, in obscurity, or in a prosperous career, should Heaven so will it, the remembrance of your virtues, of your sweetness—and may I not add, the hope of your goodwill—will cheer me on my road through the world, though I may never see you again. Ought I ever
indeed to wish to do so, even could I suppose myself welcome, or return to a spot, where I am a supposed object of pity? No; the golden days of my life are over, never to return; nor would Miss Hastings herself wish me to regret leaving a place which, though I once thought it heaven, is heaven no longer. Alas! it is too clear that Foljambe Park is now no place for a comparative outcast.”
Bertha started at these words, and shewed evident distress in her countenance, waving her hand as if she wished me to desist from such a strain, so I only added, “ It is, however, to you, a place of happiness. May you ever be, as you are, its ornament and its pride, the solace and
support of rent, and the dispenser of blessings to all around
I could go no farther; my unfeigned and unbounded respect, as well as love for her, quite unmanned me, in thus hopelessly leaving her ; and I am ashamed to say, that while emulating the firmness of a philosopher, I shewed the weakness of a woman.
Bertha perceived it, though having covered her face with her hand, I had no power to observe what her own feelings were, except that a deep and hysterical sob, which fell on my ear as I left the summer-house, shewed that, though I was willingly allowed to depart, it was not without sympathy.
I RETURN TO OXFORD.-ITS ALTERED ASPECT.
He's full of alteration and self-reproving.
I HAVE so little pleasure in commemorating the remaining hours which I spent at Foljambe Park previous to returning to Oxford, that I hastily pass them over.
It is almost sufficient to say, that after my mournful parting with Bertha, I saw her no
When two persons lay themselves out to avoid one another, the chances are strong that they do not meet. Hence, Bertha remaining all the rest of the day in her chamber, and I either in the lower rooms or out of doors, we pretty well provided against encountering again till dinner. For my own part, I marked this as another proof of her newly-assumed distant behaviour ; and this was only confirmed when we assembled for dinner-I mean Granville and I, with Mr. Darling, the clergyman of the parish; for Mr. Hastings coming in, with an anxious countenance, and somewhat solemn step, observed, he was sorry we
must dine without his daughter, for she was far from well.
This cast a gloom upon us all; though I own, at first, I was by no means certain whether the illness was not assumed, in order to avoid the exhibition of a consciousness which might be unpleasant. But Bertha was no dissembler, and when Mrs. Margaret, in answer to inquiries as to what she would like sent her, brought down word that she declined eating any thing, and would only take some tea, I began not only to believe, but to be alarmed; nor was my anxiety diminished, when, after dinner, Mr. Hastings leaving the bottle, which was seldom his custom, for Granville to administer, passed up stairs and did not return.
A sort of gloomy abstraction ensued ; Granville was serious, I uneasy and involved in considerations of the future, and Mr. Darling, after being reduced to bestow himself upon the wine and fruit, thinking he was in the way, called for his horse, and jogged quietly home.
The evening passed off heavily, and I was any thing but cheerful. Indeed, the house was itself a house of mourning, and little able to bear any new uneasiness ; the night, therefore, was not happy.
The next morning, however, which I had fixed for my departure, gave better tidings of Bertha, though she still kept her chamber,--whether from design or inability to leave it, I could not tell; and I took leave of Mr. Hastings alone. He had graciously ordered his chariot and four to take me to York; I