Page images

'They are very kind,' I answered.


suppose they pity me.'

'Pity you? Dear child, it is more like idolatry. They are delighted with your loveliness, your bel esprit, your grace. Do you know I am actually jealous? I sometimes think,' he added with that minor chord in his voice, 'I sometimes think it righteous that you are blind, else you would exhale away Narcissus-like at a glimpse of your own beauty.'

What did I say? what could I say? It was all so like Elysium.

'We must really waltz again,' he cried at length.

we entered, 'dis-moi, Lenore, m'aimes-tu ?'

I answered as Peter answered our blessed LORD:

[ocr errors]

'Dis-moi,' he said before

Seigneur, tu sais que je t'aime.' And then he kissed my hand.

I sat with mamma and Clara the next day 'to receive.' Just then there seemed opening so many channels of enjoyment, that I thought my little bark would always flow smoothly on, but a sorrow soon came. Papa took me in his arms one day, and half-laughing at the oddity of the thing, told me that the artist and the poet had both written to ask permission to pay their addresses to me : it is pleasant to be loved, but it is painful to cause such sorrow. The poet wrote a little poem, and sent it to me: it half-broke my heart; but the artist came and painted me with my doves whirling and circling around, and afterterward as the heavenly Brahma. Artists pour out their hearts into their pictures; losing their own feelings, they become the slaves of color and form. How I wander!

We were all in mamma's room, one morning; Clara and mamma busy with sewing, while I tried to do some netting that the holy sisters taught me. Ernest was lightly reading scraps of poetry to us: at last, finding one of Goethe's, he read it all :

'A VIOLET blossomed on the green,
With lowly stem and bloom unseen:

It was a sweet wee flower.

A shepherd maiden came that way,

With lightsome step and aspect gay,

Came near, came near, came o'er the green with song.

'Ah!' thought the violet,' might I be

The fairest flower on all the lea,

Ah! but for one brief hour;

And might be plucked by that dear maid,

And gently on her bosom laid,

Ah! but, ah! but, a few dear moments long.'

Alas! the maiden, as she passed,

No eye upon the violet cast,

She crushed the poor wee flower;

It sank, and dying heaved no sigh.

'And if I die, at least I die

[ocr errors]

By her, by her, beneath her feet I die.''

It gave me a shuddering agony then, and I feel it now.

'How romantic!' laughed Clara. 'Poets incarnate such pretty, unreal ideas. Even yours, Lenore, writes some beautifully impossible things.'

'You should not judge,' I cried hotly. 'You know not what it is to

love in that way, but others may. I deem it possible for one to accept even

the death-blow when it comes from a loved one.'

Mamma whispered me to be calm.

Ernest and Clara laughed. 'What an enthusiast you are on the subject,' said Ernest. 'How can you know what love is? Did your doves tell you as they told Almud that it is the torment of one, the felicity of two, the strife and enmity of three?'

'No,' I answered, my pride kindling; 'but since you have read the story, you know that love comes whispered in the breeze and on the perfumed air.'

'But I should never have believed it,' he pursued cruelly; 'I should as soon have dreamed of the Parian marble angel as dreamt of such earthly things.'

[ocr errors][merged small]

Ernest,' said mamma, 'how did the young girl feel when she crushed the violet ?'

'You take it all figuratively!' he rejoined. The violet is lovely woman; the maiden, ruthless man. Doubtless its dying odor was very pleasant to the Crushed flowers are always sweetest; their fragrance gains a more divine quality.'


"Gay Lothario!'

Then he sang, 'Count me on the summer trees.'

I think it was then my heart's mimosa folded together its leaves.

'It is very well for you to sing that,' said Clara, 'after your flirting the other night. But what,' says Irving, 'is the love of ruthless, roving man? A vagrant stream that dallies for a time with each flower upon its banks, then passes on and leaves them all in tears.' '

I left them and went out upon the lawn. A dove came and nestled in my bosom. I wonder my heart's throbbing did not frighten it away. I tried to think, I tried to pray; but the battle was raging. Not then does one gather up the wounded and dying; but when a calm comes on, they seek them and bury them.

I did not go down that evening, but pleaded illness. Clara came to my room before retiring. 'Are you better, dear child?' she asked, kissing me. 'How lovely you are looking, with your burning lips and cheeks. I wish that I was half as beautiful. Yet, since Ernest loves me, why should I wish for more? If you could but see him, Lenore, he is so beautiful, so perfect.'

For the first time in my life I murmured, 'Thank God that I am blind! then rejoined playfully — for she must never know — 'Perhaps it is well I cannot. You remember the fable of Semele and Jupiter; like her, I might be bewildered and blinded.'

She went on half-timidly: 'We have been speaking of our marriage, dear. Please God, next mid-summer our wedding will come off.'

I lay down and tried to rest, but could not, so rose and paced the floor. She marry him! Even when I had been most happy in my love, I had never dreamed of marriage; my feelings were too child-like. But now, the thought of his wedding her brought a sense of desolation. The night wore away in

tumult. I knelt at my little altar and strove to raise my thoughts to heaven; but my words died away in shivering sighs. I was cold and trembling, yet the air seemed hot to suffocation, and running through the corridor, I gained the open space. Up and down the lawn I walked, all sense gone but that I was dying of misery. I crossed to the lake, thinking that the rocking of the waves would lull me. A verse from Shelley strayed waif-like through my mind:

A hand seized me.

'I COULD lie down like a tired child,

And weep away this life of 'care

That I have borne and yet must bear,

Till death, like sleep, should steal on me.'

Some one said: 'Lenore, are you as rash as that?' and Ernest half carried me, half drew me into a summer-house. He thought I was going to drown myself, but no, Holy Mother, no! Such wickedness never came even in my bitterest sorrow.

[ocr errors][merged small]

'Poor child,' he said, drawing me toward him, 'are you suffering because you thought I did not love you?' He softly stroked my hair and kissed my brow. He talked long. I shall not tell you what he said; words of fire could

burn less.

The morning grew old. The warning bell rang loud and clear in the house. 'Go into the house, Lenore,' he then said. Compose yourself, and let Frederiga dress you for breakfast. Remember always that I love you, but fate separates us.'

A GOD-given power showed me his deceit, his selfishness. I left him, rushed into the house and gained mamma's dressing-room. Then I fell down helpless and almost senseless. Frederiga was dressing mamma. She lifted me and placed me in her arms. My life seemed to go out in heavy beats; a drowsy, stunning noise filled my ears, and convulsive shudders shook my frame. At last the terrible palpitation died away. I could feel the tender caresses, the soft kisses mamma bestowed upon me. The hot Italian passion in mamma's nature broke out again; she pressed me almost fiercely to her heart.

'It is Clara's work,' she cried, 'Clara whom I have always hated. She has caused you all your misery. O my precious blind one!'

Then in my trial to speak my suffering came on anew. There was a bustle, a stir; then weeks of pain, with no distinct reality, but full of restless fancies and visions, like confused pictures in a broken glass. When I sat up again, Ernest had gone. October had come, and I was burdened with a heart-disease, whose insidious power was to be my companion forever. It was hopelesscure was impossible.

Oh! those autumn days of black tempests, storm and wind; yet, when the equinoctial gales were over, how strangely beautiful they grew. The air was full of a pungent balm, the sun-shine gave me strength and life; my feelings lulled into apathy, and I sat all day long in the sun-light, noting the waiting stillness of the woods, the answering music of the shores to each wave's kiss, and the sound of distant bells that came muffled and softened from miles away.

All these I heard with a longing sadness, an almost pleasurable pain. But this was like a child's long sob between two bursts of grief, and in November the storms returned. O days of horror! days of gloom! O nights of still blackness and of tears! The wind whistled through the branches, playing a wild funereal air through their harp of bleak, bare boughs, making a doleful music, a solemn dirge, to which the dead leaves danced in dreary frolic. Supernatural tones seemed to fill the world; each rustling was a groan, each voice from the pine-grove a moan of anguish. I could think of nothing but a demon's merriment when I heard these sounds. Those days were the saddest of my life. They all sat with me, mamma holding my hand and papa reading or talking cheerily with Clara. Their pity was love's essence, but my innocent pleasures and thankfulness were over; an icy feeling of desolation was my lot.

Papa and Clara went to New-York for the winter in December, and mamma and I passed that happy season when we commemorate the birth of our Blessed LORD, alone together. We heard the bells ring out the old year and ring in the new. Then January snows came. Dull February days of mingled rain and sleet, and then that glad carnival time when mamma told me of its brilliancy and splendor in the Eternal City, its pomp and flashing brightness. Alas! even then my carnival was over, my light was blown out, my long Lent had begun. Easter will dawn soon.

It was then the poet came to see me, and held my hand as he told me of the beauties of this world, of its gladness to him, and of its inner court of heavenly glory where he had breathed celestial air. When he went away he leaned over and pressed his lips to my forehead.

'It is not a lover's kiss,' he said, half-sobbing, 'but as you kiss your Madonna's image.'

But those things are passed away. Summer is shedding its glories over all but me. Mamma's voice is full of tears, and papa cannot speak for sorrow. My sweet Clara holds me in long embraces, and weeps and prays that may forgive her. There is the same waiting stillness in the house that I noted in the woods last fall, when nature was expecting and listening for winter to come with his icy shroud; it will come soon for me. The wild impulses that have brought so much sorrow upon those I love, are gone now. I am fading — I am fading.

'Are you crying, Mary? I wonder will they miss me when I am gone; will they look toward my old resting-place- that sofa

'WHOSE Violet velvet lining, with the lamp-light gloating o'er,

She shall press, ah! nevermore.'

Dear Mary, before they come again, read me that poem of Tennyson's, 'The May Queen-that beautiful girl who, though beloved, faded away. To think, O Holy Mother!

I thought to pass away before, and yet alive I am. But my time is almost over; my soul seems to flutter here before spreading its wings and floating, as my doves used to fly toward heaven. Father Eustace has shriven me. I have received the sacrament. I am now at peace.

How sweet those flowers! I held them to my breast until I feared its heat would wither them. There is an intoxicating bliss in their scent. I could exhale away, Adonis like, in perfume as I hold them. What a death it would be to be stifled in those rich odors, fit for some Oriental princess or voluptuous queen — Cleopatra or Dido. Ernest sent them. They did not dare to tell me he had come, but I heard his step and voice. He was here to see me yesterday. He hardly spoke at first, but said finally: 'You will soon be well, Lenore. How is it that you have a power to grow more beautiful always?'

[ocr errors]

'Am I more beautiful, then?' I asked.

'You told me once that crushed flowers were always sweetest, that their fragrance gained a more divine quality.'

Heaven knows I meant not to wound him, but he kissed my hand and almost flew away.

There is a little fluttering at my heart. My senses seem to sink away in slumberous apathy. Ave Maria! is this death? I hold the cross to my lips. I dreamed last night the Madonna came in glory and told me I had borne my cross of agony almost to the end. I think my earthly pilgrimage is over. Holy Mother of JESUS


[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »