« ПредишнаНапред »
said, in a manner which was meant to be careless, “I wish you joy, Ellen, of leaving London in this hot weather. The country will be delightful. I suppose it was at your desire that this arrangement was made ?”
“No," I answered; "it was an agreeable surprise to me. I was not aware till to-day that my uncle knew Mrs. Moore so well, nor that she had a villa at Hampstead, nor that I was likely to see Rosa again so soon; and delighted I shall be to see her again."
“Oh, she is charming," answered Henry, in the same indifferent manner; “I always told you so. I wonder if you will have anything of a party. You will meet Edward there, I suppose; I saw him for a moment this morning, and he said he was going to the play with the Moores to-night."
He turned away, and whispered something to Mrs. Middleton which made her smile and answer, “It would do very well.”
If there is in the varied range of human feelings one of pain, which in its mere sensation resembles joy, it is that of pouncing, if one may say 80, on something tangible when the mind has been racked by a vague jealousy. It is like the relief which we feel when, after anger and indignation have been for some time smouldering in our breasts, at length they burst all barriers and find vent in words. At once I remembered that Rosa as Henry had said, charming - that she had a good fortune – that she was the most likely person in the world for Edward to admire, and for my uncle to approve of; and that very evening he was with her, with them all; he had preferred their society to ours; it was sure - it was hopeless it was too late. Too late! that cry of bitter regret, or of agonized despair, whether it comes from the lips of those who lose all that makes to them life worth having, or from those from whose trembling grasp that same mysterious thing called life is escaping. It was too late to struggle too soon to submit. On, that I had run all hazards
accepted all chances — braved all dangers but the one of losing him! If I had ever told him of my love if I had revealed to him the
depths of passionate affection which those only feel who love in spite of all that should make them tremble and despair! If I had done this but once, he might have forsaken me, scorned me, abandoned me, but he never would have forgotten me. Other eyes would have seemed to him without light other smiles without brightness; in their tame affection, in their common-place regard, he would have missed what my proud heart and my eager spirit yielded him; all its prostrate enthusiasm its impassioned humility — its boundless devotion; abject as a slave's, exalted as a guardian angel's.
“How do you do, dearest Ellen? how glad I am to see you again! Will you let me introduce mama to you?”
The violent start that I gave as Rosa stood before me and addressed me in this manner, made her laugh, and the silvery tone of that little gay laugh grated upon my ear.
“Why, I have frightened you as much as the invisible men of Brandon frightened mel” she exclaimed. “What fun that was, Ellen! I am afraid we shall have no adventures at Hampstead, but I'm so glad you are coming there tomorrow.”
As Henry approached us she turned to him.
“How are you, Mr. Lovell? It is ages since we have seen you." “You come so late," said Henry; was the play so charm
you could not tear yourself away?”
friend Mr. Middleton had allowed it; but when papa and mama, with their undramatic, unexcitable spirits, were preparing to
he interfered so successfully that we carried our point, heard the very last words, saw the curtain drop_"
“And enjoyed it all very much?”
“Oh thoroughly - entirely! We cried at the tragedy and laughed at the farce, till I have no strength left for the dull bit of real life that's going on in the next room.'
“Come, Ellen, the carriage stops the way," cried Mr. Middleton; and in a moment we were down the stairs and in
the carriage. My aunt's first words as we drove home were, “How uncommonly pretty Rosa Moore is! There is something very attractive about her.”
“Very," I answered; and there was something in the manner in which I pronounced this single word that made her try to get a glimpse of my face as we went by the next lamppost. I threw my head back impatiently into the corner, and exclaimed, “Really, one does get tired to death with this going out night after night."
“Then I suppose you like the idea of our visit to Hampstead?” “Oh, particularly! Who shall we meet, do
think?” “Nobody but Edward, and one or two other men, Mrs. Moore told me to-night.”
The carriage stopped and I went to bed, but not to sleep; not at least till I had tossed about for some hours, with a feverish pulse and a perturbed spirit.
The next morning ushered in one of those broiling days which destroy all one's energies, and take away all wish for motion and exertion. The shutters of the drawing-room were partly closed to exclude the rays of the sun; the smell of the flowers in the jardinière was almost oppressive, and the very cries in the street seemed uttered languidly, and without their usual shrill spirit. After breakfast I sat down at my drawing. table, and tried to finish a sketch of the inside of Westminster Abbey, which I had begun the day before. As I was preparing my colours and arranging my brushes, the door opened and Henry walked in. “Your sister is in her room,” I immediately said; “I will tell her that you are here;” and I got up for the purpose.
Really, Ellen,” he said, “I suppose you are not going to behave to me now as you did last night. I protest to you that I cannot and will not bear it. I am come for the express purpose of seeking an explanation."
“Then go to Mr. Middleton, and ask him to give it you. After undergoing all that I suffered yesterday at your house; after leaving it with a throbbing head and an aching heart,
I had to go through a scene with my uncle, in which my feelings were wounded to the quick and my pride cruelly humbled. What is all this to lead to, Henry? What do you expect? What do you require? I am accused of thoughts, of designs, of conduct, which are as foreign to my mind as they are abhorrent to my feelings; but if this is nothing to you - if you care neither for what I may suffer, or for what others
may think of me, let me tell you that if at this moment Mr. Middleton knew that you were here — if last night he had seen me speak to you, or dance with you as usual, an order would be given at the door never to let you in again.”
- He would not dare to insult me in such a manner, claimed Henry with violence; "my sister would never endure it."
“He would do it," I repeated earnestly; "he is stern and uncompromising to a degree which, till latterly, I did not know myself; and if now
"He has hated and persecuted me from a boy; he is the original cause of all I suffer; he will drive me to some desperate act of guilt or folly before he has done; but, by God, if I am not revenged
“Hush, hush; you don't know what you are saying or doing,” I cried, as he walked about the room in the most vehement agitation. “Be calm, I implore you. We are going out of town now for a few days; soon after that, we return to Elmsley. We shall be separated for a long while, Henry, Why will you not strive to conquer this unhappy, this fatal fancy? That I should be forced to speak of it – to acknowledge its existence is dreadful enough; but do give me hopes, dear Henry, that you will try to overcome it; that you will endeavour to make Alice happy, and to find happiness yourself in your home, that when we all meet again, we may be happy together, and the miseries and agitations of this last terrible year may seem to us as a dream.”
He did not answer, but I fancied he was touched by this appeal, and I went on: “I owe you much gratitude; I feel it, I acknowledge it. Perhaps I was hard and ungracious yester
day, when I ought to have been softened by your kindness, but how can I feel towards you what I wish to feel, while you speak and act in a way which you know you would despise me yourself if I did not resent?”
He interrupted me by abruptly inquiring if we were indeed going to Elmsley soon.
“Almost immediately, my uncle said this morning.”
“There is truth in what you said just now. We ought al} to live happily together, and I have not taken the right means of promoting that end. I have been foolish, mad; I now see the consequences of it all. Ellen, speak to me often as you did just now; it soothes, it calms me. I see things in a different way from what I did a moment ago. 0, dearest, best beloved I say to me sometimes, dear Henry, as you said it just now, and I will try to be to you, and for you, all that you can wish and desire. Open your heart to me without reserve, Ellen; if new difficulties present themselves to you, perhaps I may be able to serve you in cases where it might seem hopeless to apply to me where you might suspect me of not even wishing to be of use to you. I cannot explain myself now, for you had better go and call my sister. After what you said had passed between you and Mr. Middleton yesterday, I feel that we must not remain here alone together. You see," he said, with a melancholy smile, “how reasonable I am grown. Go, dearest Ellen, but remember what I have said to you. For your sake I would make sacrifices, even, he added, in a low and tremulous voice-"even if your happiness required it, the greatest of all. Good-bye, dearest Ellen - God bless you!”
I left the room; and, was it strange that after this conversation, I left town for Hampstead, carrying away with me a better opinion of Henry than I had ever had before? Was it strange, too, that a vague hope arose in my heart, from the few words he had said, that my fate, with regard to Edward,