Page images

She hears the sentence spoken

Oh! can such things be true? Would that her heart had broken

Ere she such anguish knew! But hark! her lips are sighing

“O Lord, the guilt is mine! For sinless he was dying

Whom my heart would not resign !”

A sound, as winds and thunder

Were battling in the sky,
As rocks were rent asunder,

And torrents rushing by.
That nameless sound, upon the ear

How terribly it broke!
And, with a start of pain and fear,

The weeping mother woke.

No longer by the dying

She kneels, for life is fled ; Yet softly she is sighing

As she kneels beside the dead“ Thou hast in mercy call’d away

The widow's only son ;
So be it mine to humbly say,

• O Lord, thy will be done.'”


And thou art now no longer near!

From me, O fairest, thou hast flown! Nor rings in my accustom'd ear

A single word-a single tone.

As when, at morn, the wanderer's eye

Pierces the air in vain to see Where, bidden in the deep-blue sky,

The lark pours forth its minstrelsy,

So wanders anxiously my gaze,

Piercing the field, the bush, the grove; On thee still call my frequent lays :

Oh! come to me again, dear love.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

In the splendid drawing-room of the Castle Roeben sat the Lady Gerveida and her infant child. The mother was a lovely woman, though care, not time (for probably she had not seen more than five-and-twenty summers), had dimmed the lustre of her dark eyes, and left her cheek as pale as marble. A smile of gratification now rested on her lip, for a bevy of visitors was but just departed, and all had been loud in praising the little Julia.

“I marvel not that they adınire you, my child,” she said, pressing the babe to her bosom. “May your heart be as good as your face is beautiful; and, oh! may you be happier than your mother!”

As the lady spoke she rose, rang the bell, and in a few moments the nurse entered the room. She was a respectable-looking woman, about the medium height, with dark hair braided quietly under a neat cap, a clear calm blue eye, and features regular and comely ; but, though far from being an elderly woman, her hair was streaked with grey, and there were some deep wrinkles on her brow and cheeks; and though the expression of the whole countenance was gentle and sweet, it was mingled with a strong degree of melancholy and subdued grief. It was said amongst her fellowdomestics that Mrs. Felton had suffered much; that herself, her husband, and four children had been shipwrecked; that she alone had escaped with life, and that some particular kindness or other had been shown her by the Lady St. Roeben. Something of this sort was whispered in the servants' hall, but as the widow herself never uttered a syllable on the subject no one was certain of its reality.

“ Felton,” said Lady Gerveida, as the former appeared, “Lady Brent has been saying she would give half her wealth for such a babe as mine," and the mother gazed proudly on the face of her smiling child.

“I am sure she speaks the truth, my lady,” replied the nurse; “it is a lonely thing to be a childless wife, but far worse to be a childless mother.''

Her eyes filled with tears. Lady St. Roeben perceived her emotion, and pointing to a chair she said

“ Sit down, Felton, and do not thus give way; cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee. I can feel for you,"

she added, " for I have known the pangs of losing those as dear oh! how far dearer unto me than life !"

"You have, lady,” said Mrs. Felton ; “but one child still is spared. May God in his mercy preserve her to be the comfort and support of your old age! I know it is sinful in me to repine at his holy will; I know I ought to be thankful for my own life being spared ; I know that, next to Heaven, my gratitude is owing to you, lady ; for what would have become of me, whither should I have gone had you not taken me in, perishing with cold and hunger? Oh! my dear mistress, I never can repay your kindness !"

“Hush! Felton ; do not speak of it,” replied the lady; "you have well repaid me by your watchful care of this dear child ; do but continue that attention, it is all that I wish, all that I requirc.

Take my little Julia out in the park,” she added, “the day is very fine, and the air will be beneficial to you both: wrap well her mantle around her, and when you return, Felton, I trust there will remain no traces of those tears."

But it may now be necessary to enter into some explanation relative to the inmates of the Castle of St. Roeben. The mansion was situated in one of the most beautiful parts of beautiful England : it was built with much taste, in a style of the greatest magnificence, and surrounded with trees as venerable and splendid as itself. The Lords of St. Roeben had been long remarkable for pride of birth and extensive possessions, and both had descended in undiminished abundance to their present representative. He was a cold, stern, supercilious character, moody and reserved, devoid of any warmth of feeling or tenderness of manner, and dreaded and disliked by his acquaintance and domestics. In the commencement of his career Lord St. Roeben had served in the army, and, whilst on leave of absence he was travelling through Spain, had contracted an intimacy with the family of his gentle and beautiful wife. She was a portionless orphan of noble Spanish descent, and won by the loveliness of the captivating donna, he had yielded her his heart and hand. For two or three years they resided in Spain, but after that time had elapsed the earl quitted the army and retired to his splendid seat of Castle Roeben in --- shire. Not long after their arrival Lady Gerveida lost her only child, a beautiful and dearly beloved boy, and two other babes, whom she fondly hoped might be spared to soothe her affliction, in a few years followed their brother to the grave. To add to those calamities the melancholy truth was daily forced upon her that her husband's affections were becoming estranged, and his naturally harsh and haughty temper beginning to gain the ascendency over whatever fondness he had entertained for her. Like a blight fell every cold, careless look and word on the heart of the tender wife, and it was in vain that she endeavoured by kind and constant attention to win from him a smile or expression of tenderness; he was totally changed-whether from being disappointed in an heir by the deaths of his children—whether he had lost all affection for herself, or whether this was his natural temperament, and that he had flung it off for the first few years of their union, she could not tell. It was about this period that the little Julia was born, and most ardently did the mother hope that the birth of this child might win back the estranged affections of her husband. Had it been a boy the circumstance might indeed have softened Lord St. Roeben's austerity ; but when it was brought to him and he was informed of its sex, he turned in anger and contempt away, refusing to look upon the innocent babe. It sent a bitter, bitter pang to the heart of Lady Gerveida, when, in reply to her anxious inquiries relative to her husband's conduct on this occasion, Mrs. Felton reluctantly told her the truth, and her life might have paid the forfeit of that intelligence had she not conquered, for the sake of her child, the emotion which it naturally caused. She named the infant “ Julia,” after her own mother, to whom she fancied it bore a strong resemblance. Twelve months had elapsed and still Lord St. Roeben, untouched by the beauty of his only babe, never showed those tokens of affection which a parent loves to lavish on his child; but so tenderly doated the mother on the little one that she imagined that its death would inevitably prove the cause of her own. Mrs. Felton's whole heart was centred in her little charge; all the widow's kindred were now dead, and the gratitude which she owed to Lady St. Roeben, her natural fondness for children, the remembrance of her own lost and beloved ones, and the beauty and gentleness of the babe, combined to render it the object of her sincerest attachment.

CHAPTER II. As Mrs. Felton with her little nursling walked through the spacious park of Castle Roeben, she bent her steps towards a large clump of trees now bronzed with the shades of autumn; but on entering the space of ground around which they grew, she started at sight of a strange woman sitting on one of the roots which nature had formed into a wide and mossy seat. The female wore a dark scarlet cloak, the hood of which was drawn closely round her countenance ; her elbows rested on her knees, and her hands were covering her face. At sound of a slight exclamation which escaped from the nurse in her surprise, she raised her head, and instantly started to her feet. She was a woman of remarkable height, apparently about forty years of age. By the suddenness of her movement the mantle's hood had fallen slightly back, and

Wow. Velykemeded on w

from beneath it streamed long locks of coal-black hair, streaked in many places with grey. The dark, deeply set eyes were large, wild, and exceedingly piercing; the nose arched and prominent; the lips thin and firmly compressed; the chin large, but yet finely rounded, and the complexion, whatever may have been its natural hue, was now deeply embrowned by exposure to the sun. She stood for a moment irresolute whether to remain or retreat, with her glittering eyes fixed on Mrs. Felton and the babe ; but a sudden thought seemed to strike her, and she advanced towards them.

“Lovely child !” she exclaimed, gazing on the little Julia; “ wouldst thou wish to have her fortunes told ? If so I can tell them; I am a gipsy,” she added, somewhat abruptly, addressing Mrs. Felton.

The latter was extremely superstitious, and on hearing that the stranger was a fortune-teller, she conceived for her a feeling partaking of dread and reverence, and hesitated not a moment in expressing her desire to have the future fortunes of her charge predicted. Taking in hers the little dimpled hand of the babe, the gipsy gazed intently for some time on the lines which were traced upon its rosy palm. With the most painful anxiety did Mrs. Felton regard her, and at length she perceived an expression of pity stealing across her countenance. Unable any longer to endure the suspense, she exclaimed

Tell me, for Heaven's sake, what do you see?"

The fortune-teller released the hand of the child, slowly raised her eyes to the speaker's face, and said in a deep thrilling tone

Dost thou love this babe ?”
“ Better,” replied the nurse, “than all on earth beside."

“A fearful fate awaits her," said the gipsy; "she is doomed to die by the hand of a fellow-creature.

A loud shriek burst from Mrs. Felton's lips, and she clasped the unconscious babe to her bosom.

Do not say so-oh, do not say so !” she cried.

“ What I have said I may not unsay,” replied the woman ; “ one mightier than I hath uttered the decree, and I, too, grieve that so beautiful a babe should meet with an end so horrible.”

“Now God be about my darling,” said the nurse, in a tone o the deepest sorrow : “her only one, too-her only one.”

“ Whose is the child ?” inquired the gipsy.

“ She is the only one,” replied Mrs. Felton, “ of Lord and Lady St. Roeben.”

“Of whomof whom?” screamed the woman, grasping tightly the speaker's arm, whilst her face grew lividly pale, and her features became convulsed with strong emotion.

Terrified by the singular conduct of the stranger; believing herself in the presence of a maniac, and trembling for the safety of her beloved charge, Mrs. Felton was unable to answer her

« PreviousContinue »