« PreviousContinue »
"By-the-by,” said Fanny, “this is the day we fixed to go and see the dungeons of the Inquisition, and read the names of the poor wretches on the walls, that Lord Byron spent two days in re-cutting; and if we mean to go we had better do so at once, as it is nearly three now."
"O hang the Inquisition,” cried Major Nonplus, pushing away the dish of empty oyster shells with a sigh, and leaning back in his chair somewhat exhausted from his late indefatigable exertions ; " though all the old rascally Inquisitors are now, thank heaven, dead and gone, yet I should be afraid to put my nose inside one of their infernal dens."
“A groundless fear that, my dear sir,” said Saville, looking full at the Major's rubicund nose, “for even long before the abolition of the Inquisition they had done away with the torture by fire, therefore could have no motive for detaining you, did the institution still exist. Besides,” added he, pointing to the mountain of empty shells, after having braved an ostracism with impunity, what other tribunal could you dread ?!
" Come, come, Master Saville,” said Nonplus, rising to leave the room, “I'll thank you to be more sparing in your jokes, for one's not always in the humour for them, do you see-and there's nothing so ruinous to the constitution as being agitated after eating. What's the meaning of understanding, sir?-why digestion; of honour, sir?-digestion (of cold lead ;) of conscience, sir?-digestion; of patriotism ?-digestion of foreign wines, calipash and calipee; of oratory, sir?--why, digestion of other men's speeches, however heavy they may be; of morality, sir? why, digestion of legs of mutton at home, instead of discussing ortalongs abroad; have a care then, sir, how, through the levity of an ill-timed jest, you at once endanger a man's health, understanding, honour, patriotism, and morals."
“Hear! 'hear! hear!” cried Saville, as the Major made his exit amid peals of laughter, and the rest of the party separated to get ready for the morning's excursion.
“Why give you me this shame?
Think you I can a resolution fetch
SIR THOMAS OVERBURY.
The broad lands of your banner-blazoned race?
A WEEK had elapsed since the occurrence of the incie dents recorded in the last chapter, during which time Lady de Clifford had kept her room, not so much from indisposition as from a dread of meeting Mowbray and a distaste to meeting others. She was at once happier and more wretched than she had ever yet been; happy, in spite of all things, at being loved. Oh, none but those that have been repulsed, neglected, and ill-treated, who have had every tie and relationship that nature intended for a blessing converted by circumstances into a curse, can know or imagine the resuscitation of heart that fol. lows when the sunlight of affection has pierced the rigid springs of icebound indifference. Every feeling seems to dissolve and merge in one; the heart flows calmly on to the murmuring music of its own thoughts; we are happy in the midst of misery ; nay, we become of sudden value to ourselves : for are we not the idol of another? Our whole being is like the poet's beautiful description of summer :
"The checkered earth seems restless as a flood
Brushed by the winds. So sportive is the light
Shadow and sunshine intermingling quick,
And darkening and enlightening (as the leaves
Play wooing) every part.” Again and again had Julia read Mowbray's letter, till she not only knew it by heart, but knew the identical place where every word was written and the exact form of every letter. It was her companion night and day, and was only removed from her eyes to be replaced in her bosom. Four days had she passed in this manner, and in repeating aloud, in a sort of delirium, “ Then he loves me !" to which the poor little starling that he had given her in the cathedral at Milan invariably answered, E vero, vero, and from that moment she loved it better than ever. But soon came the waking from this dream. She read the letter for the last time, and dwelt more upon the sort of half-prophecy contained in it about her child being taken from her, than on the words of love addressed to herself. A shudder came over her at the thought; but, drawing herself calmly up, “No,” said she, proudly, “they dare not do it! but---but if I have for a short time forgotten that I am his wife, Julia, I will no longer forget that I am your mother.” One burning spot glowed on her otherwise deathlike cheek, and her hand trembled slightly as she opened the little watch and took from it the withered leaf of the waterlily Mowbray had given her at Como. “I wish he had not seen you,'' said she, kissing it; “but, as he did, you must go too.” Here a violent flood of tears obliged her to replace the pen in the inkstand, which she had taken up to write a few lines to Mowbray in returning him his letter; for so she had resolved to do, as she felt she ought not to keep it. Exhausted with the conflict between love and duty, right and wrong, she sank back in her chair and remained motionless for nearly an hour; when, again rousing herself, she said calmly, “What must be, must be, and the sooner it is over the better;" and, not trusting herself to look again at Mowbray's letter, she wrote as steadily as she was able, with her left hand, the following lines:
“Do not suppose that in returning your letter I do so in anger; no, it contains nothing to warrant any feeling of displeasure on my part, beyond, perhaps, the abstract circumstance of its being addressed to me, for which, after all, I can only blame myself. On the contrary, your truth and candour deserve and demand a similar return from me, and they shall have it. Know, then, weak and culpable as the confession may be, that my utter inability to destroy it alone induces me to return it. Keep it I dare not; not because it would be imprudent, but because it would be sinful. Would that I could divest myself of all remembrance of you as easily as I resign these outward tokens. But alas! the very effort to forget only rivets afresh every link in the chain of memory, but all that rests with me to do shall be done. The little leaf which betrayed to you the secret with which it had been intrusted, I now return. Do not destroy it; to do so would be useless, for the inscription on it is but a copy; the original is engraven on my heart. I have not stooped to the subterfuge or affectation of denying what accident divulged to you; for I feel that, with a nature so generous, so honourable as yours, to show you all the frailty and weakness of my heart is the best way not only of securing your forbearance, but of obtaining your protection and assistance against myself. You talk of remaining with us during the rest of our journey; of being of use; of being a defence to me; alas! this would be cruel kindness and 'false reasoning all.' Now that the veil has been rent from our hearts, and the film has fallen from our eyes, what would become of our firmest resolves ? how would all our struggles end, were we eternally in each other's society ? Of what avail would it be to pray with our lips not to be lead into temptation, if we allow our free will to spur us into it on all occasions ? No, no, it cannot, must not be; we must part, and that immediately: after what I have written to you, how could I speak to you ? Paper does not blush, does not tremble, does not feel, Mowbray; spare all that does: tears that cannot efface guilt would not satisfy love, and they are all I could give you. Your friendship I accept and reciprocate with my whole heart; before you is a brilliant and honourable career. The Japanese have a tradition, that Birds of Paradise are transmigrated doves that have died for love; and though their mates never see them again in their transformed state, yet when they hear their note in the sky, it inspires the deserted dove with such delight as to make it unable to cease flying in circles through the air for several hours. So it will be with me. I may never see you again; but as your name soars, my spirit will hover round its fame with the only delight it is now capable of knowing. And now farewell. I do not ask you to burn this, I only wish that you would. That God may for ever bless you, will be the constant prayer of your sincere friend,
It was not till three days after Lady de Clifford had writ. ten the foregoing letter that she had courage to send it. She felt that, though she had not seen him, Mowbray was still under the same roof, and that the moment he got that letter it would be the knell for his departure; but Fanny having that morning returned “ Gicciola," which she had lent her, Julia had no longer any excuse for detaining it; so, accordingly, she enclosed her own and Mowbray's letter within its leaves, and sent it back to him. Oh, what a type of death is it to do anything for the last time, especially when the act includes a surrender of all that has constituted our “life of life.”) For some hours after Julia had sent back Mowbray's letter she appeared in a sort of stupor; she could not be said to be thinking even of him, for scarce
“Beat that bosoin where his visage dwelt
So full, that feeling seemed almost unfelt." Her head was leaning languidly on the arm of the sofa, and her hand hanging listlessly at her side when Fanny entered. “Do, love, try and get into the drawing-room to-day," said she, kissing her sister's cold pale forehead.
“I really feel unable,” said Julia,“ for I cannot dress."
“ There is no reason why you should dress, dear, for there is no one there; and you never look so well as in one of those very peignoirs which you have now on. I think cambric and Mecklin lace so exceedingly becoming, it gives such a delicacy to the complexion. To be sure your cap is a little crushed, so I'll ring for Beryl to get you that pretty ambassadrice of old point and blush ribands, in which I really think Oberon himself might fall in love with you.”
Fanny rang accordingly, and Beryl answered the summons, apparently much excited and big with some important intelligence.
“Get that pretty ambassadrice of Julia's first, Beryl, that I am so fond of,” said Fanny," and then, for Heayen's sake, tell us what is the matter. Has the larch foundation of Venice given way, and are we now all floating on the sea ? or, more wonderful still, has Lord de Clifford's mother given you a new silk dress ? for