Page images
PDF
EPUB

sister. A heavier darkness suddenly fell on his spirit; if there had only been the least sadness in her voice he would have felt soothed, so he thought; but there was not; and he called himself by the hardest names for ever having fancied that she loved him.

She came up the ladder to the deck, preceded by her friends. Did she not purposely avoid his eye as she stepped past him, and while she smilingly waved her hand to the black who had assisted in saving her life, and to Haverstraw, who had restored her sister? Yes, she certainly did. She knew he was now standing within a yard of her-she saw the place of landing every moment coming nearer—she heard his painful sigh. She must be aware of what he was suffering at the near prospect of this third, hopeless parting. Yet not one kind glance did she deign to give him.

His eyes were fastened closely on her, in the forlorn hope that he should detect at least one side look-one stolen glance; but now the side, now the crown, of her crape bonnet, intervened ; and the ship's anchor was thrown and fastened, and the boat which was to convey the strangers to the shore was lowered upon the waters, and the last moment of Lady Hester's stay in the Fearless had arrived, and still nought of her features could

he see.

In that moment Lucy was avenged. His culpable trifling with her had never made her suffer more than Lady Hester's distance of manner now made him suffer. There was an age of misery for him in the few fleeting minutes that preceded Lady Hester's departure. The necessity for concealing his feelings only served to inflame them ; in spite of his efforts his eyes filled with

tears, and his face expressed a passionate melancholy; his right hand, which rested on a barrel-head, was tightly clenched. His sister, who now stood behind Lady Hester, touched it, he turned his head suddenly towards her; instead of speaking she gazed on his features with alarmed affection; he returned her kind look with one of eloquent meaning, and then sighing abruptly, again turned his head toward Lady Hester.

The Earl had shaken hands with the Pirate, the ladder had been let down to the boat, and he had descended with his youngest daughter and the governess. Lady Hester was the last to go down; her foot lingered on the deck ; Clinton stood still in mute agony.

“ I will speak to her!” he inwardly ejaculated. “I will be as firm as she is—I will bid her farewell calmly;" but, when he would have said the parting word, when he would have pronounced her name, his tongue clove to his mouth; and when he would have stepped forwards, as his father did, and have shaken hands with her, his feet seemed rooted to the floor, and his hand to the barrel-head. He saw her turn to his sister; their hands met; they drew back; they whispered together ; he could see "his sister weeping; she took something from Lady Hester and bid it in her breast. What could it be? Catching at the least shred of hope that offered itself, he fancied it must be some parting token of love for him; the idea electrified him; he could not hear what they said to each other, but he saw that both were much affected, and he supposed it related to him. There were no reasons for that supposition, but he clung to it pertinaciously.

The brief illusion passed in a moment. Lady Hester

stepped over the ship's edge on the ladder. Het briei “ Good bye, Mr. Clinton,” rung like a knell on his ear. She was now in the boat, and his heart sank as a stone in his breast.

“ Fool!” he ejaculated to himself, for the first time moving from his petrified position, and gazing after the boat. “Oh, fool, fool! I have lost my last opportunity! I shall see her no more !”

With this impression he rivetted his eyes on the fine outline of her tall figure, that he might fix it in his memory to feed upon afterwards.

The scene, also, in which he supposed himself to be viewing her for the last time, was an object of no slight interest, even at that agonising moment, to his highly wrought feelings.

The shore was distant from the Fearless about a hundred yards ; the last shades of twilight, before night set in, spread the water with a tranquil sombreness, that was not darkness, but had the solemn effect of darkness. To the right and to the left, the land jutted out into the water in pale white precipices of the grandest height, and the most romantic variety of forms; between them glimmered the red lights of a prosperous fishing station, sprinkling the rising ground beyond the low, flat beach ; and there, in the centre of the picture, close to the beach, two blazing torches now picturesquely showed the boat in which was the object of Clinton's idolatry.

The boat returned, and the figures of Lady Hester and her friends were lost in the deep shadowing of the beach, Clinton had rested both his elbows on the railing of the deck, and his face had sank into his hands, while his eye still turned on the spot where the strangers

had disappeared. He was first roused by Jane, whose arm he felt tenderly gliding round bis neck.

“ What is it Jane ?—what have you to say to me ?" be articulated, with something less than his usual softness.

“ Nicholas-dear Nicholas !” murinured Jane, beseechingly.

“ Go down to your cabin, I will come and talk to you presently-as soon as I am able ;” and he sighed,

“ Nicholas, I have something for you—something Lady Cleveland left with me for you,” Jane whispered, with much feeling.

“ For me!" exclaimed Clinton, turning short round, and speaking with vehemence and quickness. “What is it ?- where is it? Give it me--quick! Blessings on you, dear, kind girl! you have snatched me from the depths of despair !'' and having grasped in his hand a small square packet, which Jane put into it, he ran off to a private place below, where he might examine it undisturbed.

His father's sitting room, which he entered with a bounding step, looked somewhat melancholy without the company which had so lately occupied it; but he little heuded the change, only pressed closer in his hand the precious packet; the door was locked behind him, and he lighted a candle which stood on the table by thrusting the wick into the fire.

" Now!” he ejaculated, “ now for the secret on which my fate hangs! Does shemdoes she love me still ? Love me well enough to marry me? Well enough to trample on the expectations of her friends ?-on her pride of birth? Well enough to overpass the difference

which fortune has cast between us? Now I shall see !" He opened the packet; a small bit of paper dropped out on the carpet ; he hastily picked it up, and instead of unfolding it at once, tried to conjecture, by feeling it, what it contained.

“ It is hard-and round,” said he, with beaming eyes: “it is-yes, it certainly is--a ring! a gift of love, and she will yet be mine!” here he ended his suspense by opening the small folds of the bit of paper, but with strange inconsistency, paused at each fold, as if his death-warrant was within. A glittering ring did indeed present itself, one which Lady Hester had herself worn; it was of wrought gold, set with small diamonds around a motto, which he read over a hundred times; it was her family motto ; yet he could not persuade himself but that it was meant as an allusion to his passion.-“ Courage and constancy conquer fate.”

He repeated the words aloud, pacing the room; then put the ring on his little finger, and raised it passionately to his lips several times; now examining the envelope of the packet, he took froni within it a note, which le had not before observed.

Intensity of expectation by this time produced an artificial calm in his demeanour, and he sat down deliberately to the perusal, first snuffing the candle with remarkable nicety, and stirring the fire into a blaze. His eye flew with impatience along the lines, and when he had reached the bottom of the third page, where appeared the dear-loved signature, he returned to the commencement, and read the whole more slowly, as

follows:

• While your father's vessel approaches the place

« PreviousContinue »