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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, " 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 your excellent parent, and the dispenser of blessings to all around you !”
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.
. CHAPTER V.
I RETURN TO OXFORD,MITS ALTERED ASPECT.
He's full of alteration and self-reproving.
SHAKSPEARE.—King Lear, 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 more.
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 stept into it with tolerable alacrity; and when it drove from the door, I seemed to turn my back upon all that was worth living for in the world.
Sad and serious were my reflections during my toolong journey ; for not foreseeing how necessary it was to get as quickly over the ground as possible, I had embarrassed myself with a horse at York, most mistakenly preferring solitary meditation in a slow journey back to Oxford, to the rapid mail-coach just then established, with the company of inquisitive strangers. Nevertheless, I behaved manfully, and did not scruple to look my position full in the face. What gave me most hope of myself was, that, however hurt and wounded in pride, I could not blame Bertha. I thought she had behaved with perfect propriety, and doing her this justice gave me consolation.
As I approached Oxford, however, and contemplated the new life I was evidently to lead there, never before or since did that interesting place appear so dismal. I perceived that my mind was jaundiced. Beautiful as Oxford still was, the associations which give to its beauty its principal charm were now wanting. I no longer thought of it as the abode of science, of genius, of an inexhaustible mine of learning, the haunt of cultivated spirits, holding their arms open to myself to become one of them ; but as a mere place of exile for a given time, though from what country I knew not, because to what country I myself be longed I could not tell. Even Maudlin Tower, once as I thought an emblem of tranquillity, no longer had