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THE CURATE OF GLEN-BEV1LLE.
(Continued from page 63.,)
Rumours were spread abroad relating to his visits to Oakwood, and there were whisperings afloat that he went not so readily to hear the repinings of a misanthrophist solely from duty and disinterestedness. And many now thought the devout clergyman of Glen-Beville had fallen from his standard of excellence. Some who really loved him were slow in crediting these rumours, and attributed his visits there to good motives— to a wish to yield the old man counsel on his entrance upon that state to which he must be hastening. It even reached the ears of the Rector, who lived a few miles off at his other living: at least this was surmised, for he intimated his intention of preaching on a certain Sunday at Glen-Beville church; his text was on that occasion this, " An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning, but the end thereof shall not be blessed. Better is a little with righteousness, than great revenues without right." These verses from the book of Proverbs sounded mysteriously to the ears of the congregation. What a strange relation they bore to the subject in agitation! but again, they thought, the text might have been chosen without any reference to him who sat beneath the pulpit with piety and nobility written on his countenance. Besides, their old Rector was a quaint man; proverbial for his sententious expressions—they dare not suppose the text purposely selected. Time would prove him whose worthiness was for the first time called in question.
Beville Court was now a scene of gaiety; for Major Montgomery was there and had brought with him some friends: amongst these was Lord Aubrey, a young nobleman who at once appeared to be pre-possessed with Ethel. Gay and courtly in all his tastes and habits, he differed widely from Miss Montgomery. It was perhaps this very contrast to himself that charmed him. He had hitherto been himself sought and flattered, but Ethel's manner, in which, far from any desire to captivate, there was an agreeable repose of character, attracted him. Never excited by trivial matters, all the expression of which her features were capable was reserved for a sufficient cause, when the flushing of the cheek and the kindling of the eye proved that she wanted neither sympathy nor energy.
It was the anniversary of a birth-day—the occasion of unusual festivities at Beville Court. Brilliant and happy was the scene! Fairest among the fair stood Ethel and Clementine— the first was habited in white satin, with a skirt of Brussel's lace, looped up alternately with white and blush roses, relieved by the delicate bells of the lilies of the valley, whilst her hair dressed in the Grecian style was interwoven with pearls, of which her other ornaments were composed. Clementine was in a robe of lustrous blue, whose rich satin folds were contrasted by the beautiful blonde. A single camelia shone through her dark hair. The dancing began late, as the weather was becoming warm; and although it was not kept up with the spirit it would have been in the winter months, the votaries of Terpsichore did willing homage to the graceful goddess in every dance, whether new or old. It seemed an evening well calculated for the occurrence of tender incidents and to one or two was indeed an epoch of some importance.
The windows and doors being thrown open, many were invited out by the midnight fragrance into the refreshing air. Ethel with a cashmere over her shoulders had been conducted by her partner, Lord Aubrey, to the terrace, wondering inwardly why his Lordship had not heeded her intimation that she preferred a seat on the ottoman. They were now away from the others, which had been Aubrey's object. Her hand lay upon his arm and he clasped it, saying, "Dear Miss Montgomery, I fear you will regard me as very presumptuous and uncavalierlike in leading you here contrary to your inclination. I must apologize for my selfishness, for I cannot resist any longer expressing my great admiration of and interest in you."
"You do me much honor, my Lord , I am flattered that
the friend of my brother extends his cordiality of feeling to me," answered Ethel, in a tone that implied only the gratification of being in the good opinion of her companion.
"She has no soul, no passion in her after all!" thought Aubrey.
He added aloud, " Forgive me, dear Miss Montgomery, but my sentiments towards you differ from those of friendship."
"Brotherly love is equally appreciated by me," replied Ethel; endeavouring to ward off a more complete declaration.
His Lordship began to think his fair companion wilfully obstinate, and to infer from that, that she was not so well suited to him; but it was necessary to wind up this conversation by something, and he said rather impatiently.
"I perceive that you will not understand me, Miss Montgomery, and I will not be so discourteous as to force my addresses any farther. I pray you to forget the subject of this abrupt interruption of mine."
They returned to the room. Having placed Ethel, full of her own emotions, on a seat, he uttered a few polite words and sought Major Montgomery. Taking him aside, he told him of the events of the last ten minutes and concluded with, " Well, I Cecil, my wish of entering your family has failed. I am evidently displeasing to one of your sisters. I wonder if a second attempt would prove equally unfortunate with the other, it is worth the trial, for they are incomparable girls."
The first person he met after this communication was Clementine, looking all animation. She was going to her harp; he turned and courteously conducted her. She had hurried from Ravensworth, to whom she had been rather incoherent. Her eye had marked the exit of her sister and Aubrey, and her heart was fluttering with wonder and expectation—" What does he want with Ethel?" was her internal exclamation. Her harp was tuned—she played a beautiful air from "La Somnambula," when she was requested to sing. She adapted her own words to another air—
In every soul let feeling dwell,
For oh! it hath a power divine
Which makes the heart affection's shrine.
Breath'd by the voice in softest tone.
Flashing from eyes in glorious gleams,
Stand there the dearest of our dreams.
Let feeling consecrate my soul,
My heart its silent language tell,
The voice will sometimes breathe it well.
Clementine ceased; her voice had been very expressive, but at the close of her song, it died gradually away, adding thus, although unintentionally, to the effect of the ballad. There was silence for a moment, broken only then by the warm praises of her delighted hearers.
"Pray who inspired your song ?" anxiously enquired Lord Aubrey.
"Oh, my Lord, do you think I was singing with any motive?" said Clementine, with a merry laugh, "I am no lovelorn nightingale left to my solitary complaint," she continued, seemingly much amused at his question.
"I did not dream it—you have but sung what your numerous admirers would express in addressing you, beautiful Clementine," replied Aubrey enraptured.
She turned on him an arch look of incredulity and accepted his invitation to waltz, the band having struck up a very marked and graceful one. Major Montgomery smiled, as he led out Charlotte Ravensworth to join in the gay whirl: Sydney was at the farther end of the room, but a close observer of the scene: he withdrew presently into an inner apartment.
He threw himself upon a sofa, for he was the sole inmate. He then rose and drew from a hiding-place a portfolio, in which were some engravings and original sketches; he turned them carelessly over: his eye was attracted by something very carefully enveloped—it was perhaps a choice drawing—curiosity prompted him to unfold it—to his astonishment it was an exact resemblance of himself, beautifully painted!" Who was the artist?—was it Clementine?" his heart expressed inwardly: hope fluttered back to him—he looked on the back of the picture and read these lines.
"Were mine the spell
His joy was not dissipated, for the handwriting was like that of Clementine. He fell into a reverie, still holding the picture, when Ethel entered. Her quick eye perceived at a glance the discovery he had made—a deep crimson suffused her face—she otherwise retained her self-possession and gaily charged him with unusual curiosity.
"This has been indeed an unmerited compliment—I owe incalculable obligations to the fair hand that has condescended to trace my features here," exclaimed Ravensworth, replacing the picture in its envelope.
Ethel saw from his manner that he imagined the portrait had been executed by her sister and felt thankful to be able to conceal the truth. At the moment she was regaining her composure the name of the owner of the portfolio appeared undisguised "Ethel" and not " Clementine" fixed the eyes of the astonished clergyman. They were bent downward gazing on the dissolution of the charm and when he raised them he was alone, Ethel had vanished from the room. She hastened to her own apartment, where throwing herself breathlessly on a seat, she tried to still her beating heart, to collect her wandering senses. Her secret was discovered, and by him from whom she would of all others have kept it: it had been buried in her young heart— cherished without hope—a dream never to be realized—for she knew another occupied his thoughts and inspired his course; she was dear to him for that other's sake—but how cold was the look of friendship, how painful its kindest attentions, when the eye marked the feverish anxiety, the unwearying interest which love gave elsewhere. Again and again she thought of her unreturned affection—so earnest and so joyless—
"I have no hope in loving thee,
She thought of her envied sister—how blessed, was her lot, possessing the love of the only man her own heart deemed worthy— and she had a great and exalted idea of moral and mental worth. She regarded it with a holy reverence; to her it was the true nobility—transcending every other qualification, it gave attraction to a humble exterior, and enhanced a brilliant one, and when, as with Ravensworth, it was united to personal advantages, which made his tall and well-proportioned figure look distinguished amongst his equals, no wonder that she saw so much to admire in that pale cheek and lofty forehead, shaded with its black curls, and looked so frequently at a face ever eloquent of truth and feeling, and heightened by the charm of high breeding and a voice as gentle in its tone as his mind was fertile in all resources for conversation.
But Ethel soon quelled—for the time at least—the varied emotions of her bosom, and remembering that courtesy required her presence amongst the guests, she rejoined her friends below. She dreaded the gaze of Ravensworth, but a furtive glance round the room soon informed her he had left the house. Thus passed a night away that had effected many changes.
Day succeeded day. Ravensworth merely sent polite enquiries to Beville Court, where Lord Aubrey was still a welcome and willing guest. Clementine no longer found leisure to teach the village girls or to furnish them with their usual work. Lord Aubrey must have his favorite songs sung, and it was but right to take him to see the most picturesque views; and then Major Montgomery was from home, and Ethel would not assist in entertaining his Lordship; her father too was busy in his way ; so the charge of Lord Aubrey naturally and properly fell to her.
The absence of the young clergyman at the house, with his evasive manner when they encountered him after the conclusion of the sermon on the subsequent Sundays, at last brought an exclamation of surprise from both Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery.