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efforts to win his heart from evil to good, before affairs were at the worst with us; I regret nothing else in my own conduct.”
The Earl was pleased to hear her say this, and his mind was considerably relieved. Coffee was brought in, and Mrs. Markham and the Governor were invited into the bourdoir to join the early repast. With her accustomed strength of mind, Lady Hester exerted herself to appear collected and composed, and only by the unusual paleness of her countenance could be known the pain she was enduring. The arrangements for the funeral, and for elegant mourning, were discussed and decided upon, and the Earl was gratified by hearing Lady Hester express with composure her wishes on
On the seventh day from that of the Colonel's death, he was interred in the burying-ground of the principal protestant church of Toronto. The archdeacon at first refused to admit the body, on the plea that the Colonel having committed self-destruction had no claim to Christian burial in holy ground. The Governor used all his interest to overcome the difficulty, and succeeding, many poor persons took offence at the transaction, not hesitating to assert that the rich had undue influence, and that the archdeacon was partial.
The funeral was one of pomp, suitable to the rank and wealth of the deceased and his relatives. The body was enclosed in two coffins, the inner one of lead, the outer of handsome wood, and elaborately ornamented. The hearse was adorned with the Colonel's family escutcheon and armorial bearings, and a train of mourning carriages, in which were the Earl, the Governor, and
their inale friends in Canada, mostly officers, followed. Military honours were paid to the deceased over the grave. At seven o'clock in the evening a large funeral party assembled to dinner in the Governor's house. Lady Hester did not appear, but Mrs. Markham presided at the table, the Earl and his youngest daughter sitting on her right.
The Colonel's first night in the grave was perhaps the most distressing to Lady Hester of any that she had yet endured. Unable to sleep, her imagination was wholly possessed with the astonishing change that had taken place. Where was he, whose erring conduct had filled her heart to overflowing with the very gall of bitterness, with scorn, contempt, and indignation ? He was lying in the grave! Mysterious truth! Her thoughts penetrated the dark earth in which he was lying. She seemed to feel its pressure upon the coffin, and to place herself beneath the lid in her husband's stead; the stillness, the cold, the deep rayless darkness, the airless narrowness of the coffin, she felt it all with horror! Then her mind strove to break from these dismal reflections, and to view the departeil Colonel's present condition by the cheering light of religion ; but alas ! the more she meditated, the more she found that religion shed no light on it at all, but rather a darkness, if possible deeper and more awful than that material one from which she shrank.
It was not to be expected that she should feel any very profound sorrow for the Colonel's death; the revengesul spirit which had principally prompted him to the act, and which he had so painfully manifested against her, even to his last moment, made her dwell with much
less tenderness upon his memory than she would othervise have done. He had made a grand mistake, too, in supposing that she would always look upon herself as the cause of his death and be wretched in consequence; at first she did so, but her strong mind quickly released her from the distressing idea ; she firmly examined the subject in all its hearings, and blamed herself only where blame was strictly her due.
Lady Hester in some respects was, as may have been already seen, a woman of no ordinary character; she was highly gifted, possessing a powerful mind, with its usual concomitants—strong passions. That trembling, enervating delicacy, which in some women is called a grace, in others a weakness, just as their situations in life may dispense or not with activity and fortitude, was not possessed by Lady Hester. She had an excellent constitution, had known little bodily pain, and no privations. These advantages partially account for the firm temper of her mind, as it is too true that corporeal weakness has a direct tendency to induce mental weakness of some sort or other. In society, Lady Hester Cleveland had been a pre-eminently brilliant woman; her words, looks, manners, her letters, even the smallest billet, her dress at all times, her sarcasms, her raillery, her music, her painting—all were brilliant: she was brilliant in every thing, and without the smallest appearance of pretension, without the least taint of affectation. By women of a softer, feebler mould, she had been feared for the poignancy of her wit and satire, her facility in which was certainly a snare to her; by those of quiet temperament and sickly nerves, she had been envied and disliked for the dazzling intellectual animation, which spread a sort
of magical fascination around her circle where ever she moved ; but all the time Lady Hester scarcely knew that she was witty or satirical, animated or fascinating; she well knew, howerer, that aipong her female circle of acquaintances she was not loved; her discerning eye, keen to discriminate between the false and the true, saw, with eagle glances, into the souls of the crowd of flatterers who ever gathered about her as the reigning star of fashion. But little was her heart satisfied with empty adulation; large in its cravings, it thirsted for love, disinterested, fervid, such as her warm feelings told her she could well return; unfortunately there was only one, of all who had sought and sued, in whom she perceived, or fancied she perceived, a realisation of her ideal picture; and to that one (Clinton !) she could not even dream of being united.
The lovely widow remained in the house of Mrs. Markham for two months after the Colonel's demise. The last two years had seen her lose much of her brilliancy; mortified feelings, arising from the Colonel's neglect and infidelity, had damped her wit, blunted the silver arrows of her satire, dulled the sparkling light which a glowing intellect had kindled in her eye, and sobered the captivating energy of her manners. The Colonel's awful death completely confirmed this alteration. A new world had opened before her, ETERNITY, seen through the shadowy and tremendous gates of DEATH. With her characteristic strength she surveyed the vast, the sublime region, with dauntless and scrutinising eye. She did not fly from the dread scene to society, but shunned society that she might contemplate it. The longer she dwelt upon it, the more she loved the mighty
images which it called around her, until this present mortal life—so brief, so petty, yet so painful-lost all its charms in her heart, and she dedicated all the choicest of her thoughts and feelings to a preparation for that grand futurity on which her imagination was now solely fixed. She was familiar with different ennobling systems of philosophy, but found no one of them noble enough, or solid enough, to suit her while death and eternity were the themes of her meditations. The Christian writers only suited her—they only completely triumphed over the gloom that obscured the borders of the everlasting world—they only gave it a tangible and positive shapethey only filled it with ecstasy and holiness, with joy and ineffable purity, with crystal rivers of life, and pleasant trees for the healing of all nations—they only set the glorious throne of a perfect Deity in the midst of it, and made it to have no need of the sun and the moon, but to be lighted only by His unclouded presence-a presence which is love everlasting.
The Earl of Wilton hoped once more to see his :laughter the admired of fashion's chief circles in England, and already his thoughts glanced around the peerage in search of a second distinguished individual on whom to bestow her hand. Eager to take her back to England, and to London, he lost no time in proposing their voyage, but Lady Hester declared her intention to remain in America until the following spring. “ I shall mix no more with the world of fashion,” said
“ I have entirely done with it.”
Lady Hester! my dear !” exclaimed the surprised Earl, “ surely I do not understand you! At your age! with your wealth and beauty! and talents! and wit!”