Page images
PDF
EPUB

prove"

-whenever displayed in the fine features of Lady Lester, and its baneful effects upon the immediate hopes and prospects of all who came within its influence.

Clara listened with a face expressive of the successive feelings of doubt, contempt, surprise, annoyance, until, as he concluded, her coun. tenance suddenly brightened, she burst into a merry laugh, and held out her "arrowy hand.”

“ I thank you, Victor. The omen is good, and the oracle beneficent ; nothing can be better. Wait-you'll see. ”

As she spoke, the door opened, and her mother reappeared, leaning on the arm of Colonel Forester. Clara rushed into his arms.

“My dear uncle !" “My sweet niece!"

“Ah, and Mr. Grey! You know all, then, my dear Alicia," turning to his sister. “ They have told you ?”

"They have,” returned Lady Lester, slightly colouring. “With some reluctance."

" And you make no objection ?"

“I-I have yielded my consent," said the lady, tracing the outline of a rose in the carpet with the point of her shoe.

“ Bravo! That's good. We were all more or less apprehensive that-Well, well, I am delighted to find that you have so wisely, and so generously, discarded your scruples.”

"I am not so certain as to the wisdom, brother," replied Lady Lester, with an arch look ; “but, at all events, I am glad that you ap

This was true enough, for, in reality, her ladyship stood in considerable awe of her brother,

"I dread the explanation," whispered Victor to his fair monitress; who simply responded,

"Hold your tongue.”

“ To show," resumed the colonel, “ how sincerely I do approve, I have actually brought the papers with me.”

“Papers !"
* Yes. The settlements."
“ Brother! Settlements !

Sister, yes. No harm, I thought, in being prepared. I am your trustee, you know, and authorised to act. Mr. Grey, I have the pleasure to assure you, has acted most generously. I need say no more. Let the settlements speak for themselves.”

“ That Mr. Grey is generous, I make no doubt,” said Lady Lester ; “but I must say, he seems to have made rather sure of success !".

“Love is sanguine, my sister. But, come, Filcox is in the library with all the papers. Let's have him up at once, sign and seal, and then give me some tes."

“But, brother, brother, this breathless haste--consider !” said Lady Lester.

“ Consider what, my dear? The deeds are all correct. Psha, you may trust med man of business—to have carefully perused every syllable."

“No doubt, Frank ; but I-I'm afraid that" " Eh ?"

“ That Mr. Grey may not be equally impatient.” " The deuce he isn't! How?"

“My dear madam," said Victor, in obedience to an encouraging glance from Clara, “ how can I be otherwise than impatient to see my happiness placed beyond question ?"

“Come, come,” said the impetuous colonel, “ truce to compliment, I want my tea. Grey, do me the favour to touch the bell.”

Victor obeyed ; and the servant was instructed to show up Mr. Filcox (the solicitor), who quickly made his appearance, bearing a portentous roll of parchment.

“Filcox," said Colonel Forester, “the parties—let me make you known to Mr. Grey—are perfectly satisfied with my dispositions in the settlements, and do not require to have them read.”

· Perhaps merely the heading," suggested the man of law, " as it is customary." “By all means.

Fire away." “Hem,” said Mr. Filcox, as he put on his glasses.

" " Whereas a marriage hath been contracted and agreed upon, and is intended shortly to be had and solemnised between

“No, no,” interrupted Lady Lester. Why this ceremony? Mr. Grey-Victor-will

, I am sure, like myself, trust everything to my brother. In gratitude and deference to him, I at once lay aside all reserve. Now, Mr. Filcox, I am ready to sign."

“I thank you, madam. No, not there," said the lawyer, politely arresting her hand. Here, if you please.”

He turned over the parchment and indicated the “place of execution.”

Lady Lester signed, then gracefully presented the pen to Victor, saying, “Come, Mr. Grey, sign, and—and consider that the year has elapsed.”

“ I am rejoiced and deeply grateful,” said Victor. And after a little rustling of the parchment he affixed his name.

“Now, my child,” said Lady Lester, smiling, "you shall sign.”

“With the greatest pleasure,” said the young lady, and instantly complied.

“You are right to do it with a good grace,” said her mother, fondly pinching her little white ear.

“Now for mine," said the colonel. “ There. Now, Filcox, you will not be sorry for some refreshment. I have ordered them to place it in the snuggest room in the house-the library—and there I trust you will consider yourself at home."

Mr. Filcox and his parchments withdrew.

“ You see,” continued Colonel Forester, “how rapidly I transact business-eh?”

“There was no great difficulty here," said her ladyship.

“Clara was always possessed with the fear that you would oppose her marriage, but I knew you better," said the colonel.

“Her marriage !"
“ Yes; I advised her to persevere.”
“ To persevere !"

“And I felt I had some little right to offer my counsel, inasmuch as it was my intention (now fulfilled) to make over to the young people my property of Courtland Grange, Dorset.”

mean?”

“ Brother, what on earth do

you “Simply, that in giving my sweet niece Clara to Mr. Victor" “ Her! Giving her!

“Come, this is capital. Why, have you not this instant witnessed her settlements ?”

“Hers! brother? No, mine," almost shrieked Lady Lester.
“ Yours!" ejaculated the equally astonished colonel.
“Of course. Undoubtedly.'

My dear Alicia, are you in your senses ?” “Explain this, girl," said Lady Lester, turning almost fiercely upon Clara. (A frigid nature, suddenly aroused, is as terrible as an insurgent Jacquerie!) Clara was a little daunted. She hesitated; then, going to her mother, who stood motionless, her queenly figure drawn to its full height-a glorious Medea-she knelt at her feet.

“My dearest mother, I am grieved and shocked at the success of my own selfish stratagem. I fancied myself compelled to deceive you.

I now understand, too late, that I ought to have rather trusted everything

fond affection. Chance has done much for us, and I own, with regret, that I was unable to resist the temptation of seeing all my doubts and anxieties so suddenly and effectually terminated. Forgive-forgive

to your

me !"

“I am betrayed—insulted," murmured poor Lady Lester, tears forcing themselves into her magnificent eyes, unaccustomed to such visitants. “ Away, sir !-away, both of you; let me never see you more."

“Mother!” said Clara, clinging to her, “I will never--never-never leave you. No union can bring happiness without your blessing. Go, Victor—and do you forgive me too. But I have wronged my mother most, and must atone my folly and regain her love before I can merit yours. Deception rarely prospers, even in this fraudful world, and at all events a deceitful daughter can make no honoured wife. I stay with my own mother. Uncle, take him away, but—but be kind to him, uncle. All the fault is mine."

Colonel Forester blew his nose.

The effect produced by that by no means uncommon operation was rather remarkable. It was like a climax—the turning-point of the whole affair. It seemed to cut some knot whose solution at once unravelled the tangled skein. Lady Lester looked down kindly upon her kneeling child, and stretched out her hand to her brother.

“ What shall I say ?” she began. The colonel cut her short. “Say nothing, my dear sister so young, so handsome yet," he whispered in her ear. “ Hem—there are more Victors—eh? And then, remember, should this joke—for so it is—éclater —Ah, you smile ! Sister, when you smile, I always declare you look

younger

than this chit!” “I heartily forgive you both. Take my child, Victor. Be happy. As for you,

brother -come to supper!” They quitted the room arm-in-arm. “The smile, then, has lost its sting ?” said Clara, with a happy laugh.

“ Not so,” said Victor, clinging, like a Brahmin, to his melancholy faith, but laughing too. “She smiled on what she thought my suit, and it failed!

“ Nonsense,” said Clara.

THANATOS ATHANATOS.

A MEDLEY.

XIV. DEATH INVOKED BY THE WOE-WORN:-THE MAN OF Uz–MOSES-ELIAS-JORAR

-AMORET IN THE CAVE-PHILTERA IN THE SEA-SHAKSPEARE's CONSTANCE-
HAMLET – MILTON'S ADAM-SAMSON AGONISTES-FRANKENSTEIN-WORDS-
WORTH'S MARGARET-The SOLITARY-TENNYSON'S ENONE-ALFIERI-NA-
POLEON-COWPER-NOVALIS–SPENSER'S PASTORELL-CHARLOTTE BRONTÉS
“SHIRLEY"_TENNYSON'S “Two VOICES."

Ne Death, alas ! ne will not have my life:
Thus walk 1, like a restéless caitiff,
And on the ground, which is my mother's gate,
I knocké with my staff early and late,
And say to her, “ Levé mother, let me in."

CHAUCER: Canterbury Tales.
Un malheureux appelait tous les jours

La Mort à son secours.
O Mort I lui disait-il, que tu me sembles belle !
Viens vitel viens finir ma fortune cruelle !

LA FONTAINB: Fables.
O poppy Death !_sweet poisoner of sleep;
Where shall I seek for thee, oblivious drug,
That I may steep thee in my drink, and creep
Out of life's coil? .
Thus far she pleads, but pleading nought avails her,
For Death, her sullen burthen, deigns no heed.

HOOD : Hero and Leander.
But many days, and many months,
And many years ensuing,
This wretched Knight did vainly seek
The death that he was wooing.

WORDSWORTH : Ellen Irroin.
Je ne veux pas mourir ! ... Tantôt j'eusse imploré la mort comme un
bienfait ... j'étais si malheureuse ! ... mais à présent je ne veux pas mourir." ...
-Adrienne Lecouvreur, Acte V., Scène 5.

O Life,
How oft we throw it off and think-"Enough,
Enough of life in so much !-here's a cause
For rupture;-herein we must break with Life.”

And so, as froward babes, we hide our eyes
And think all ended.—Then Life calls to us
In some transformed, apocryphal, new voice
. . . Still, life's voice !-and we make our peace with life.

E. B. BROWNING: Aurora Leigh

We have seen how death is regarded by various types of human character : how the sensitive are appalled by it; how the homely children of mother earth (that homely nurse, as Wordsworth calls her) shrink from the very thought of it ; how the stout-hearted profess to disdain it ; how the morbid love to brood over it; and how others of the most diverse temperament, age, faith, and practice, patiently await or calmly anticipate it. Let us now glance at another class—the unhappy who appeal to it unheard, the woe-worn who invoke it in vain,

There was a man in the land of Uz, who, in the speechless anguish of his soul, sat upon the ground seven days and seven nights, in the presence of friends who sat there beside him-none speaking a word unto him, for they saw that his grief was very great. And when he opened his mouth, it was to speak of the bitter in soul," which long for death but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures ; which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave.”

An overburdened Moses supplicates, “ Kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretched ness. An utterly despondent Elijah sits down under the juniper-tree, and requests for himself that he may die. A Jonah faints when the sun beats upon his head, and the vehement east wind of God's preparing smites him through and through, after the worm has fed upon his gourd, and that gourd has withered : fainting, he wishes in himself to die, and (not for the first time) says, “ It is better for me to die than to live."

Deathe is to him that wretched life doth lead,
Both grace and gaine ; but he in hell doth lié

That lives a loathèd life, and wishing cannot die. Thus Amoret's fellow-captive reminds her, in salvage forest cave. But Spenser knew human nature too well to make this doctrine uniform and exceptionless: in another canto, and dealing with other characters, be paints this reverse side of the picture :

The wretched maid, that erst desir'd to die,
Whenas the pain of death she tasted had,
And but half seene his ugly visnomie,
Gan to repent that she had beene so mad
For

any deathe to chaunge life, though most bad. Be that as it may, the sincerity of deep Misery's invocation of death, at the time it is uttered, who shall gainsay? Shakspeare gives expression to it, with that matchless force of his. “ Look who comes here !" whispers Philip of France, as the Lady Constance approaches

Look who comes here! a grave unto a soul;
Holding the eternal spirit, against her will,

In the vile prison of afflicted breath. The King commends patience, and preaches comfort to the bereaved mother-whose answer amply justifies his description of her as an unwilling denizen of earth:

K. Phil. Patience, good lady! comfort, gentle Constance !

Const. No, I defy all counsel, all redress,
But that which ends all counsel, true redress,
Deatlı, death :-0 amiable lovely death!
Thou odoriferous stench, sound rottenness!
Arise forth from the couch of lasting nigbt,
Thou hate and terror to prosperity,
And I will kiss thy détestable bones;
And put my eyeballs in thy vaulty brows;
And ring these fingers with thy household worms;
And stop this gap of breath with fulsome dust,
And be a carrion monster like thyself :
Come, grin on me; and I will think thou smilst,
And buss thee as thy wife! Misery's love,
O, come to me!

« PreviousContinue »