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tomed routine of duties, and her unoccupied time was devoted to the portrait.
A fortnight thus passed away, and the day was at length fixed for Lord Altamont's departure. He obtained leave to pay a visit at the residence of the Charity Sisters on the morning before. It was there he was to receive the portrait, and there to take leave, for the present, of the interesting and mysterious Louise. He had determined, in this last interview, to intreat for a return of the confidence he had placed in her, and to penetrate, if possible, the secret of the mask; not (at least so he assured himself) to gratify an idle curiosity, but to put it in his power to render her such lasting and essential services as her situation might admit of.
The morning arrived. William was appointed to distribute among the poorer cottagers very substantial marks of his lordship’s bounty. Of the rector and physician of the parish, both excellent men, who had shown him every attention, he took personal leave, assuring them that he should soon again visit their valley: he then proceeded to the residence of the Charity Sisters. Here he had never yet been, and was much struck by the quietness, neatness, and rural beauty, that were conspicuous in the dwelling of this useful association. He was received at the gate by sister Marie and Annette, and at the entrance door by the superior and several attendant sisters. They told him that Louise was in her studio, employed in the last finishing touches of a painting which she had promised him, and that she had begged them to amuse his lordship for half an hour, by showing him through their residence and its little domain. Lord Altamont accordingly accompanied the sisters through their luxuriant garden and orchard, dairy, poultry yard, &c.: all was shown with excusable pride, for all was in perfect order and good taste. The interior arrangements of the dwelling equally excited his interest: the chapel, (on whose altar his lordship took care to place a donation of considerable value,) the refectory, the small but neat and separate dormitories, and the apartments for invalids. The party having finished their circuit, assembled in the parlour, where a tempting collation was spread, mingled with the finest fruits, and decorated with the most beautiful flowers of the season. Lord Altamont expressed himself, as he really felt, most grateful for the kind attentions shown him: he ventured to hope that Sister Louise would join them at their repast, and Annette was dispatched to invite her. The little messenger returned to beg Lord Altamont would proceed to the studio, and that Sister Louise would accompany him back to the parlour. He immediately understood that he was summoned to receive the portrait; he apologized to the assembled sisters for detaining them for a few minutes, and taking Annette's hand, left the parlour ; but, as he did so, he could not avoid observing on every face à suppressed smile. “ These good ladies," thought he, as he proceeded, * fancy, I suppose, that Louise and I are in love." Annette pressed the hand she held in both her's, looked up in his face, and laughed, and jumped about in irrepressible glee.
“ And pray what amuses you, Annette, may I ask?” “ O, you will see !” replied the delighted child. They reached a door at the end of a gallery, which Annette opened with one hand, while she held Lord Altamont tightly with the other, as if she feared he would escape, and led him into the room. It was rather higher than the rest of the apartments, a moderate-sized square room, lighted only from the top, and had been formerly used as a penitentiary. Its walls were white-washed, and decorated with a few paintings on devotional subjects from the hands of the first masters; some busts and unfinished drawings, all the implements of drawing, and a few books, were carelessly scattered about ; towards the upper end a white muslin curtain was suspended in thick folds. Lord Altamont looked round for Louise, but she was not in the room.
“ Now,” said Annette, “ do you see this little circle of white chalk ? You are to stand here, exactly here, because it will give you the picture in the best light."
“ But where is the picture?"
“ Ah! said Annette, “ that is the secret I have kept so well all the way from the parlour here. Instead of a little bit of a picture as large as my hand, which you expected, sister Louise has painted for you a large, large picture in a beautiful frame, and it is behind that curtain ; but, she says, you must not move from this spot, and the curtain will be undrawn presently."
“ I will do whatever Louise desires," replied Lord Altamont, in a tone of disappointment, for he doubted the capacity of Louise to paint a good picture on a large scale; and even admitting her capacity, time had been wanting for such a work, as well as a sufficiently accurate knowledge of her subject. “ A miniature sketch, such as I could have worn in my bosom, would have been invaluable; but a full-length portrait, painted in a fortnight, of a person she knows only by description !” Lord Altamont shook his head and sighed. While these thoughts were passing in his mind, Annette had glided from the room; the muslin curtain began to wave; his lordship was all attention—it drew up.
Lord Altamont remained rooted within the little magic circle where Annette had placed him. The rising of the curtain did indeed display, set in a magnificent frame surmounted by a baronial coronet, a full-length portrait of his lost Rosabelle! The resemblance was perfect, that is to say, it was such as she might have now appeared ; the idea of her present melancholy state had, perhaps, pervaded too strongly the mind of the artist; she had represented Rosabelle as somewhat thin ana pale ; the smile, and the expression of the eyes, “ riding on the balls of his,” were true to the life, but both were deeply tinged with melancholy; she looked like one of Gessner's pensive shepherdesses : her dark hair, parted from the forehead, fell in luxuriant curls over her neck and shoulders; a broad straw hat, tied with blue ribbons, was placed very back on the head, having the ap. pearance of almost falling off; her black painted boddice was laced with crimson, over a white chemisette, with its short wide sleeves and light frilling shading the bosom; the full blue shirt curtailed just enough to display the snowy stocking and little black shoe, completed the dress. The back-ground of the picture was a draped crimson curtain; Rosabelle was represented as seated, and before her a small table, supporting a vase of flowers; one arm leant on this table, the hand holding a miniature, attached to a gold chain which hung round her neck. The execution of the painting produced the impression of nature itself, and, therefore, must have been the perfection of art.
For full five minutes Lord Altamont stood breathless and immoveable ; his eye wandered over the picture with eager delight, and a sort of incredulous astonishment: at length it settled on the chain which appeared to suspend the miniature; he suddenly recollected that he had never described this chain to Louise ; it was of rare and singular workmanship, yet there it was exactly imitated. He trembled—he grew pale—he moved from his position; the perspective of the picture appeared to deepen extraordinarily; he approached yet nearer-his heart beat audibly—the blood rushed back to his browhis eyes dilated—he gasped for breath—a moment's pause—a wild exclamation-and then one sudden spring, that carried him right through the picture-frame! The little table, with its vase of flowers, was dashed down in a way that left no doubt of its being a real and separate substance-and he has caught in his arms—what ? a piece of painted canvas ? no, a breathing form, trembling and glowing with life and love ! he feels the falling tears upon his cheek—he feels the arms timidly clasping round his neck- he feels through every throbbing nerve the warm and living lips that impress on him the kiss of peace, of forgiveness, of unchanged and unchangeable affection!
That moment-years of misery were repaid in that single moment! Unable even to speak from excess of joy and astonishment, he held her folded to his heart, and seemed almost fearful to move lest the charm might break, the illusion vanish, and he be left once more desolate and broken-hearted. Not even when his senses became somewhat composed, could he, without difficulty, comprehend the identity of Louise and Rosabelle, till extricating herself from him, she hastily threw over her dress her black gown and white collar, and donned her coif and mask:-“ It is Louise !” he exclaimed; “ the wise--the pious--the charitablemy watchful nurse—my gentle friend! And yet it cannot be-Louise has been ten years in this
She could scarcely get him to listen while striving to explain that she had arrived at this secluded spot, a disguised wanderer, just at the close of the virtuous and useful life of the real Sister Louise, who, in atonement for an early error, had condemned herself to the penance of a mask, concealing for ever a beauty which had once proved her bane. Rosabelle divulged her name, and related her story to the superior, earnestly beseeching her permission to assume the disguise of the departed sister; it was granted. The real Louise was privately buried, Rosabelle took her place, and so well did she fill it, that the inhabitants of the valley firmly believed her to be the same, attributing to her recent severe illness whatever alteration they found in her voice and appearance.
Merrily did the bells of the valley ring that day! young and old, rich and poor, dressed in their holiday suits, assembled to congratulate
the happy pair on this their second wedding day. Reports in every variety of shape were floating about; but, on one point, all were clear, that their beloved Sister Louise was happily reunited to a long absent husband; their curiosity to see her unmasked, and their astonishment at her youth and beauty were very amusing. When, at last, Lord and Lady Altamont, accompanied by the superior and several of the sisterhood, had arrived at the inn, they found their apartments decorated. The hostess had prepared her very best dinner, over which the good pastor said grace, and, at the same time, implored a blessing on the young couple thus providentially restored to each other. In the evening the villagers assembled on the lawn, and never did it witness a merrier dance.
Lord Altamont lost not an hour in dispatching the intelligence to his mother; and the following morning he and his Rosabelle, accompanied by little Annette, of whose fortunes they took charge, departed from the “ Happy Valley,” as they ever after named it, and which they frequently revisited. They took Clairville on their way home, and were just in time to present Fanchette with her wedding trousseau. At length, Rosabelle found herself once more at Moorlands, where happiness awaited her in every shape, saddened only by the recollection of her ill-fated cousin. Her beauty soon brightened even to beyond its former lustre, and if she could not be more virtuous, she was more wise, and therefore more happy.
Gentles, my tale is said.
To every lovely lady bright,
To my listeners all, a fair good night,
Rio de Janeiro,
DIARY OF A BLASÉ.
EXPEDITION TO BASSEIN CONTINUED.
Although on friendly terms with the chief of Naputah, he was a person of such weight in that part of the country, that it was advisable, if possible, to identify him with us, so that he should never again fall off, and oppose us, in the contingency of a reverse, on the Irrawaddy. The next day we sent for him, informing him that it was to make him a present in return for his civility the day before. The last and best piece of plate which my chest had contained was displayed; but before I presented it to him, I had a point to gain with him. I stated my intention of dropping down the river to reduce the two Gold Chatta chiefs who still held out; and that, as I did not exactly know where their towns were situated, I wished for some of his people to go with me. To this first proposition, after some hesitation, he consented. I then pointed out that my men were not accustomed to work in the sun, and were often ill; that, as we were now friends, I wished him to allow me some of his boats to assist the ship in the river. To this also he consented. In fine, I brought forward my last proposition, which was, that he should supply me with six or eight war-boats, well manned, and that I would pay the men and officers at the same rate per day as we paid our own men; stating the sum I would give, and that I expected if he was really sincere in his friendship and goodwill, that I should not be refused. Now, among the Burmahs who were with him, there were many whose relations were detained to join the army-a consultation ensued, the chief was pressed by his own people, and, at last, gave his consent. I then presented him with the piece of plate, upon which his eyes had constantly been turned, and he went away, promising me that the men and boats should be alongside by daylight the next morning.
This chief adhered to his promise, and we weighed anchor the next day, and made sail down with the war-boats, and three or four dispatch canoes, pulled by four or five men. These little canoes, when put to their speed, dashed through the water at such a rate, that they threw off from each bow one continued little fan-shaped jet d'eau, which
appearance, the sunbeams forming them into rainbows. As for our Burmah force, they were at one time pulling against the vessel sailing; at others, hanging on, and the people climbing about the rigging, and ascending the mast-head of the vessel; but they soon all congregated to the stand of muskets, for that was the great object of attraction. In the afternoon we had
had a very
Continued from vol. xv. p. 360.