« PreviousContinue »
herself; as to the past or the future. All she would speak of -all she would refer to-was the PRESENT. This air of impenetrable mystery-this "absence of all authentic intelligence"-this dearth of information"-had cost Madame La Roche many a sleepless hour; had made her tremble many a night for the character of the establishment." If she used to say to herself, till her brains were almost addled-there SHOULD be any thing improper? If any unexpected disclosure SHOULD take place? If all should not be "quite correct ?"I'm ruined utterly and irretrievably ruined!--and her head grew dizzy at the bear idea of it.
Her day of trial was not far distant. Whether from intensc application or feelings which preyed upon themselves, Ellen Hamilton became suddenly and alarmingly ill. The stranger's bankers were immediately apprised of the circumstance, and he himself was entreated to appear: but before he arrived his ward was insensible. His agitation on learning the particulars bordered upon frenzy. The first medical practitioners which the metropolis could afford were ranged around her bed, but the disease bade defiance to their skill. Delirium came on; and she raved in tones that would have melted the hardest heart for her husband and her child-implored them to come to her: entreated him not to banish her from her boy—and assured him over and over again that she would be all and every thing he could wish.
Madame La Roche was half crazy. Her worst fears were confirmed. A mother, and perhaps not a wife, sheltered beneath her roof.-"Oh, if I keep my senses it's more than 1 anticipate." Meanwhile the unconscious Ellen, after a long and severe conflict with disease, slowly rallied; and as soon as she was pronounced out of danger, her guardian, at Madame's urgent and reiterated request, took his leave.
The first object which poor Ellen recognized, on the return of reason, was Madame La Roche musing by her side. "] fear I have given you all much trouble; and said many foolish things? Tell me-pray tell me-has-has any thing particular-that is--I mean--any thing very unaccountable-escaped me ?" "Oh, no, you have only raved incessantly for your husband and your child !" "How odd.-Mere delirium, my dear Madame La Roche, mere delirium. My husband and my child! Ha, ha, ha!" said she, with a faint laugh," how strange !" "It's all very strange," exclaimed Madame La Roche, and marched from the apartment.
It was about a fortnight after this conversation, that the little orphan, to whom Ellen was so attached, begged and obtained
leave to visit her "dear Mama." Half frantic with joy-for after all her caprice, and passion, and self-will the little Indian had a most affectionate heart—she clung round the neck of her pallid friend; laughed and talked, and cried all in a breath; kissed her again and again; and in the warmth of her caresses, disengaged a locket, which fell with some violence on the floor. I'll get it ;-I'll get it. Let me have it; let me have it ;" said the little wayward being, struggling with her governess; and in the contest the spring opened, and Madame beheld a portrait of the stranger and a wedding ring!
It is credibly affirmed that this paragon of French women neither scolded, nor screamed, nor fainted. She looked at the ring and said, "Thank God !" The next morning brought Ellen the following note: "I wish for no disclosures from YOU. I ask for none. But I can bear it no longer. This mystery--this concealment --this air of indiscretion----this perpetual double entendre---has all but worn me into my grave. I have sent for your guardian; I suppose some dreadful disclosure awaits me. May I be able to sustain it!
On the receipt of this alarming document, Ellen----it pains me to relate---laughed long and loudly. "Poor Madame ! she need be afraid of no dreadful disclosures !' 6
A rich treat is in store for her. Her appetite for the romantic is about to be gratified. To be sure her curiosity and impatience have some- = what accelerated matters;---but perhaps 'tis as well."
The stranger arrived, and Ellen saw him alone. Their conference was short, but apparently conclusive; for she entered the room leaning on her guardian's arm, in some little degree of agitation, though her face was radiant with smiles, and triumph beamed from her eye. "Madame La Roche," the stran
F ger began," you must not charge me with dissimulation, or accuse me of a want of candour, if I have hitherto delayed putting you in full possession of all the circumstances relative to my lovely Ellen." The governess started. Screwed up as she was for the worst," my lovely Ellen" came upon her ears like a thunderclap. Till now it has been impossible. Listen and acquit me. I met with this treasure in an obscure and humble cottage in the country; I obtained her affections and she blessed me with her hand. True, it was an unequal match. For my paltry acres, she had innocence and beauty; for my title she had sincerity and worth; instead of a long line of ancestry, she had a father who adored her- -a brother who would
have died for her; and in lieu of fashion and influence, a heart overflowing with the noblest feelings of our nature, and a character untainted even by the mildew of slander. I doubted not that the dutiful and devoted daughter-the self-denying and affectionate sister--would become the attached and invaluable wife. Nor have I been deceived. But my Ellen was not long in discovering that an education, carried on at intervals, and at best incongruous and incomplete, but ill qualified her for the station she now held in society, or for scenes and conversations in which she would be required, as my wife, to bear her part. She feared; such was the phantom that perpetually pursued her --that she should disgrace my choice. She importuned me for a while to conceal my marriage, and to allow her to complete her education. At her own request--mark me, Madame La Roche-at her own urgent and repeated request, 1 consented to the separation; and was silent on my happiness. Upon you little or no imposition has been practised. I declared myself her guardian? Am I not; and for life? It now remains for me to thank you for the manner in which you have fulfilled our wishes, and to present to you-THE COUNTESS OF IR
MORNING ON THE HIGHLANDS.-Walter Scott
I shall never forget the delightful sensation with which I exchanged the dark, smoky, smothering atmosphere of the Highland hut, in which we had passed the night so uncomfortably, for the refreshing fragrance of the morning air, and the glorious beams of the rising sun, which, from a tabernacle of purple and golden clouds, were darted full on such a scene of natural romance and beauty as had never before greeted my eyes. To the left lay the valley, down which the Forth wandered on its easterly course, surrounding the beautiful detached hill, with all its garland of woods. On the right, amid a profusion of thickets, knolls, and crags, lay the bed of a broad mountain lake, lightly curled into tiny waves by the breath of the morning breeze, each glittering in its course under the influence of the sun-beams. High hills, rocks, and banks, waving with natural forests of birch and oak, formed the borders of this enchanting sheet of water; and, as their leaves rustled to the wind and twinkled in the sun, gave to the depth of solitude a sort of life and vivacity. Man alone seemed to be placed in a state of inferiority, in a scene where all the ordinary features of
nature were raised and exalted. The miserable little bourocks, as the Baillie termed them, of which about a dozen formed the village called the Clachan of Aberfoil, were composed of loose stones, cemented by clay instead of mortar, and thatched by turfs, laid rudely upon rafters formed of native and unhewn birches and oaks from the woods around. The roofs approached the ground so nearly, that Andrew Fairservice observed we might have ridden over the village the night before, and never found out we were near it, unless our horses' feet had " gane thro' the riggin'."
THE TOURNAMENT.-Walter Scott.
At length, as the Saracenic music of the challengers concluded one of those long and high flourishes with which they had broken the silence of the lists, it was answered by a solitary trumpet, which breathed a note of defiance from the northern extremity. All eyes were turned to see the new champion which these sounds announced, and no sooner were the barriers opened than he paced into the lists. As far as could be judged of a man sheathed in armour, the new adventurer did not exceed the middle size, and seemed to be rather slender than strongly made. His suit of armour was formed of steel, richly inlaid with gold, and the device on his shield was a young oaktree pulled up by the roots, with the Spanish word Desdichado, signifying Disinherited. He was mounted on a gallant black horse, and as he passed through the lists he gracefully saluted the Prince and the ladies by lowering his lance. The dexterity with which he managed his horse, and something of youthful grace which he displayed, in his manner, won him the favour of the multitude, which some of the lower classes expressed by crying, "Touch Ralph de Vipont's shield-touch the Hospitaller's shield; he has the least sure seat; he is your cheapest bargain."
The champion, moving onward amid these well-meant hints, ascended the platform by the sloaping alley which led to it from the lists, and, to the astonishment of all present, riding straight up to the central pavilion, struck with the sharp end of his spear the shield of Brian de Bois-Guilbert until it rung again. All stood astonished at his presumption, but none more than the redoubted knight whom he had thus defied to mortal combat,
"Have you confessed yourself, brother," said the Templar, "and have you heard mass this morning, that you peril your life so frankly?"
"I am fitter to meet death than thou art," answered the Disinherited Knight, for by this name the stranger had recorded himself in the books of the tourney.
"Then take your place in the lists," said De Bois-Guilbert, " and look your last upon th sun; for this night thou shalt sleep in paradise."
"Gramercy for thy courtesy," replied the Disinherited Knight," and to requite it, I advise thee to take a fresh horse and a new lance, for by my honour you will need both."
Having expressed himself thus confidently, he reined his horse backwards down the slope which he had ascended, and compelled him in the same manner to move backwards through the lists, till he reached the northern extremity, where he remained stationary, in expectation of his antagonist. This feat of horsemanship again attracted the applause of the multitude.
However incensed at his adversary for the precautions which he recommended, Brian de Bois-Guilbert did not neglect his advice; for his honour was too nearly concerned to permit his neglecting any means which might ensure victory over his presumptuous opponent. He changed his horse for a fresh one of great strength and spirit. He chose a new and tough spear, least the wood of the former might have been strained in the previous encounters he had sustained. Lastly, he laid aside his shield, which had received some little damage, and received another from his squires. His first had only borne the general device of his rider, representing two knights riding upon one horse, an emblem expressive of the original humility and poverty of the Templar's qualities, which they had since exchanged for the arrogance and wealth that finally occasioned their suppression. Bois-Guilbert's new shield bore a raven in full flight, holding in its claws a skull, and bearing the motto Gare le Corbeau.
When the two champions stood opposed to each other at the two extremities of the lists, the public expectation was strained to the highest pitch. Few argued the possibility that the encounter could terminate well for the Disinherited Knight, yet his courage and gallantry secured the general good wishes of the spectators.
The trumpets had no sooner given the signal than the champions vanished from their posts with the speed of lightning, and closed in the centre of the lists with the shock of a thunderbolt. The lances burst into shivers up to the very grasp,