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“That I want you to be my wife," said Henry, hurriedly. "I have long loved you. In fact, I do not remember when my
love began, it is so long ago; and every dream I had about the future was associated with you. I would have spoken before, but I was not in a position to marry; and I thought I was so secure of your love, and you so assured of my affection, that the confession might be delayed till circumstances permitted me to take you to a home. These have now happily arrived. By the kindness of Mr Everly and Mr Gray, I am promoted to the situation of reader, and my wages are increased. It was only yesterday that I knew of it; and I seize the first opportunity to tell you of those bright visions which I have so long cherished. I need not say how warmly and devotedly I am attached to you. During the intercourse of the bygone years, you have experienced something of my feelings: you know exactly what I am, and how far you could be happy with me. Say, then, dear Diamond, do you respond to my avowal? will you bestow this fair band upon me? will you allow me to change the dear name of sister, for the dearer name of wife? will you cease to call me brother, and henceforth call me husband ?"
Daring the time that Henry was uttering these earnest words, his fair companion was mute and motionless; but could her face have been seen, even Henry would have been startled and appalled. Amazement and surprise were blended there, but not so prominently as an expression of distress, amounting to agony, which rested on her beautiful features. The playful serenity which she ever maintained in Henry's presence had vanished, and the appearance of sad melancholy, wbich we before noticed, took its place, but more intensified, more thrillingly apparent, more utterly and hopelessly revealed. For some moments after her lover had done speaking, she stood statue-like by his side; and he, wondering and anxious thereat, bent forward, and saw how deeply she was moved.
“What, О what, is the meaning of this, Diamond ?" he exclaimed, entreatingly. “Have I offended you have I been too bold, too presumptuous ? Speak, for Heaven's sake, speak and say." She drew a heavy sigh; and in a voice, inexpressibly mournful, murmured, “ Henry, you and I can never be man and wife.”
"Never! Diamond !” echoed Henry, staggering back, while a pang of despair shot across his heart,
Never; it is impossible," repeated the girl, who was as much agitated as himself.
Why impossible?" asked Henry, wildly. “Is your heart given to another? Is that treasure which I thought mine, securely mine, the property of a rival ? and am I indeed cast forth, rejected, des
“No, no," interrupted Diamond, with quick energy, "If I love any one with more than sisterly regard, it is you; and that I do so
the feeling of agony caused by your words only too well shows me. O, well did I think I had guarded against a deeper feeling, knowing how vain it was to cherish it; but I fear, I fear I have cherished the forbidden thing. And you, Henry, how my heart bleeds for you! I should have warned you, had I known earlier to what your wishes pointed. But we were so very happy with each other, and you never spoke otherwise than fraternally, that I did not see the danger which
words have now revealed. But hard as the task will prove to both of us, we must conquer the passion; for we can nover, never wed."
Again these cruel words,” cried Henry, passionately. "For mercy's sake, Diamond, torture me not by thus ringing the knell of all my hopes. If you love me, as you just now hinted, why may we not be united ? there is no barrier, no
“There is a barrier, Henry, an impassible barrier," said Diamond, in a mournful voice. · Listen, and I will tell you what it is. You know that I am a foundling ?”
“ Yes; but what of that?”
“Neither is it necessary. If your parents thought fit to cast you from their protection in infancy, they have no claim to be consulted
- But, I-1-Henry, I may be the child of shame.”
“ The child of shame?" echoed Henry, and remained speechless, while the poor girl bent her head upon her hand to hide her blushing, burning temples, as if in the darkness of the night, her mantling colour of shame could be discovered.
“ You will acknowledge now, that there is an impassible barrier?" said Diamond, looking up after a minute's painful pause.
Henry stept close up to her, and looking eagerly into her eyes, whispered, ri And is this the cause of your
hesitation?” " It is," answered the girl, sadly. • Is it not enough ?”
"It is the only cause: there is no other ?” continued Henry, breathlessly.
“ None.' This, and this alone, prevents me from becoming your wife."
“ Then you are my own Diamond still,” he exclaimed, snatching her to his breast, and kissing her impassionedly. “Ah, why," he added, in a tone of gentle reproach, " why did you frighten me so terribly, by such a frivolous imagination ? Really, I must scold you for being so cruel.”
Very grateful was this loving caress to the lonely girl, and delicious was the feeling of joy that filled her soul, as she lay upon bis manly breast; but she yielded to it only for a moment. Starting suddenly
. up, and drawing herself half away, she said firmly; « This may not be, Henry. We are only rendering the sacrifice
more bitter, by indulging in such endearments. Let us renounce such a hope at once, since renounce it we must."
“Renounce it ! you are dreaming again, Diamond. I tell you, this barrier, which your imagination has raised, is no barrier at all. In the first place, your supposition may be a false one; and in the second place, even were it true, it matters not, for it can in no way influence us.
• It is true, dear Henry, there is no proof to show that my parents were the outcasts of the earth; but every thing, alas! points to that conclusion. The fact of my being placed in tattered, filthly garments at the mercy of the world, and in the neighbourhood of profligacy, is only too clearly an evidence that I owe my birth to vice and sin."
Well, grant it true, dearest; what then ?” said Henry, soothingly. ** You are not to blame for the crime of your parents.”
"I may not be to blame, but I must suffer for it," answered Diamond, with a sigh.
Really, Diamond, you are most forgetful,” said Henry, with the least degree of fretfulness in his tone. “I have just said, that the circumstances of your birth cannot effect our union.”
“Ah! Henry, your goodness of heart, and your generous love for me, prompt you to take a step which your judgment and calm reflection would condemn. For this, I am very, very grateful; but, thank Heaven, I have studied the matter too deeply, to give way to the first crude impulse of nature. For long years, I have seen the matter in its true light; and while murmuring, perhaps sinfully, at my lot, yet have I learned to bow to my cruel fate.”
"You amaze me," replied Henry, gazing at her indistinct form, the dim outlines of which expressed the anguish she was at the moment enduring “ By some means or other, you have taken up a most false view, and under the idea that you saw the necessity laid upon you to carry out that view, you have been schooling yourself in a line of gloomy duty, as false as it is repugnant. Why did
you not advise with some one on the point, and then all the misery and wretchedness which you must have suffered would have been saved ?”
.“ It was a point on which I dared not ask counsel,” answered Diamond. “ I had to consult my own judgment alone; and, however diffident I may be in respect to its decisions, I know that, as regards this matter, it has led me to a right resolve."
“What I you still cling to the absurd notion ?” said Henry, with un measured surprise and alarm. “Alas! yes; it is the only true path," was the low, yet firm reply.
Diamond, I cannot understand this," added the distressed youth. “ You must observe things through a most peculiar medium. What are your reasons for entertaining this strange notion ?"
“I could never carry a stain into my husband's home,” said the girl.
“But there is no stain attaching to you," argued Henry. “ Whatever your parents may have been, your heart is pure, and your
character unimpeachable, and this is the limit of your responsibility.*
“Ah! but, Henry, the fact could not be forgotten. You might never hy word or look allude to it; but the consciousness of it could not be excluded from either of our hearts, and it would always rest upon me as a painful feeling, that in one great matter 1 was unequal to my husband.”
“ How very, very foolish this is!” remarked Henry, brightening. But a thought strikes me, which must set aside all your scruples. I am, as you know, placed in the very same position. I do not know who my parents were. It is likely, indeed, that they moved in the higher ranks of society; for Mrs Ford's description of my mother, and the history of her sad sojourn in the house, can only apply to a superior position; but they also appear to refer to the oft-told tale of seduction and desertion. In all likelihood, then, dearest Diamond, I am also a child of shame; and even in this painful point of view we are equal. Are you satisfied now? have your doubts vanished ? and do you consent to make me happy?"
“ To make you happy!” repeated the girl, in a tender tone. “Ah, yes; that is my chief desire--nay, the chief cause of my present hesitation."
“ Then it is all settled !” cried the youth, joyfully. “ You could not confer greater happiness on me than by giving me yourself, so you connot now draw back. When, 0 when, shall the happy day
Don't make it at a great distance, for
Henry, you are deceiving, you are deluding yourself,” said Diamond, with solemn earnestness. “ The laws of moral truth and moral feeling are very delicate in their fineness, and may violated with impunity. Even when distantly and relatively injured, the vibrations are felt, producing pain and unhappiness. You think now, that you would be happy were I to become your wife; but you are mistaken. For a time, we might indeed be under a cloudless sky; but the thought of my birth would intrude on both our hearts, causing clouds to hang over us. Ah, Henry! the marriage relation is too sacred a thing to be defiled by doubts such as ours
, and to those immaculate laws we must meekly bow. Let us still be brother and sister, since fate forbids us to enjoy a nearer and dearer relationship."
Henry, sorrowful, sad, despairing, and unconvinced, threw himself against a railing near which they stood, and gave way to uncontrollable agony A timid arm was twined slowly around him, and there came in soft, thrilling accents on the silent night air, the tender endearing word, Brother.
BROTHER AND SISTER (?). " WILL you not say, Sister ?” asked Diamond, herself now weeping, though she made many brave efforts to restrain her tears.
"I cannot, I feel I cannot,” was the passionate reply. “0, Diamond, why will you persist in this cruel course, and cause me so much misery?”
“Alas, Henry! do not think that you alone are miserable,” was the gentle answer. “Do not imagine that I suffer not in following this course. I feel it as the death-blow to my earthly happiness, the seal set upon hope's receptacle, the darkening for ever of the best light of my life. It is a high duty that calls me so to do; and, however painful, I dare not disobey."
"But you have not considered it sufficiently," suggested Henry. “ Take a little time to think, and to-morrow you will see the matter more clearly.”
“No, no," replied the girl, firmly. “Let us not part without understanding that the thing is impossible. This, be assured, Henry, is no hurried resolution on my part. I have seen the course before me for a long period. I have looked at it in all its bearings, and am only too certain that the sacrifice is demanded. I will not deny that I have grieved over my fate; nay, in this solemn hour, I may say that it has ever brooded over me, or rather that I have brooded over it, till I have shuddered at the prospect; for, O Henry, my nature is opposed to the duty. It was with a desire to lessen the trial that I clung to your friendship, and cherished your brotherly affection. I dreamed not then that you sought a more sacred union, or that I looked towards you with a more tender regard. But to-night's revelation has undeceived me,
and in your agon
my own wretchedness, I perceive how greatly I have been mistaken.”
“And is not this wretchedness a proof that the sacrifice is unnecessary
?" asked Henry, still striving to turn her from her purpose.
"Not so," replied Diamond, sadly, shaking her head. “It only shows how far I have yielded to my natural inclinations, in opposition to the perception I had of duty. I saw the barrier in the way of my being united to any man. I recognised the correctness of the law of moral purity which constituted that barrier, and ought to have banished from my heart the thoughts and