« السابقةمتابعة »
"Tell me one, just one of them, Maurice; please, now"—drawing closer to him.
"Why do you want to know V drawing hia arm around my waist.
"Because—because I do."
"Most satisfactory reason for a woman, but you shall be gratified for this time. One of my faults is, Louise, that I'm naturally jealous —that is, if there be any cause for it. I've tried to curb and control this quality, and you will never experience any trouble from it, my little girl. Then, as I am exclusive in my fancies and affections, I am apt to be exacting."
My conversation with my aunt flashed at this moment across my memory. "Maurice, you must have perfect confidence in those whom you love!"
"Perfect; if that is once shaken, it is generally never restored. If I am once deceived there, it is not in my nature to trust again. I can forgive much, but I must have faith in which there is no change, no shaking."
A confession trembled on my lips; but the words of my aunt came back to me, and my heart played me traitor.
It was the first anniversary of our weddingday. Maurice and I had been ont to ride, for it was the time of the year's awakening, and her pulses were full of the youth and the joy of the spring. Maurice had set me down at the gate of our home, in the late afternoon, and driven on farther to see a patient of his. I had gone up stairs, and only removed my bonnet, when our solitary domestic put her head in at my door, saying there was a gentleman in the parlor who wished to see me.
I knew him with the first glance, and it was not strange that my heart gave a quick flutter, for the last time that I had looked on that face and listened to the bright tone I had been the betrothed wife of Heury Somers. He came forward, now, with all the old grace and assurance of manner, and gave me his hand. My greeting must have been awkward and constrained, for the thought of my husband made my guest an unwelcome one.
"I was within a half dozen miles of Woolcottville, and the longing to look on your face, Louise, had grown so strong that I could not go farther until I had been nearer it." And a shadow crept over the handsome face of Heury Somers; and, sitting in my own parlor and listening to his tones, my heart went back to the past for a moment, and I almost believed that I was a girl again. But only for a moment; that heart had given no disloyal throb; in its
depths was not one feeling of lurking tenderness for the man before me; and I said, with a calmness and dignity that Harry Somers could not have remembered: '' You forget, Mr. Somers, that our relations make a little less free- dom of manner more acceptable with me."
A shadow darkened his face; he looked a moment in mine. "Ah, Louise," he broke out, "have you no warmer welcome than this for the man who has come to entreat your pardon, and who must go mourning all his days for the wrong whioh he has done you?"
"Mr. Somers, you, the husband of another woman, I, the wife of another man, have no right to listen to words like these."
"No, Louise, I am not the husband of another woman!"
"Are you not married ?" I asked, bewildered and amazed.
"No; I was a fool and a scoundrel, Louise, and for a while I was fascinated, bewildered by the beauty and arts of one who penetrated my weakness too well, and took advantage of it. But she never superseded you in my affections, though I was too angry and too prond, when I got your letter and your aunt's, to tell you this. I lived on, after I awoke from that mad intoxication, for which I have cursed myself in bitterness of soul ever since, in the hope that all would yet be restored betwixt us, until, just as I had finished up my business, and was about starting for home, I heard—oh, Louise, have pity upon me for all that I have suffered!"
He came over to my side, and sat down by me, and grasped my hand. The handsome face was white with anguish, and, looking on it, I pitied Harry Somers for his folly and his weakness, and this feeling must have faltered through, my tones.
"It is sin for me to listen to such words from you, Harry Somers. What if my husband should hear, should know"—I caught and choked back the words, remembering.
"What, Louise, have you never told him of our engagement?"
I did not answer with my lips, but the pain and anguish in my face told Harry Somers what he asked. A look of gladness, triumph flashed over his face. I saw the hope which he had gathered from that knowledge, and it galled me as a great wrong done to my husband. But the next moment all other feelings were merged in the dread of his return. What would he think, what would he say, if he should return and find Harry there? Oh, I saw my mistake then, and all the misapprehension and misery to which it might lead, and I resolved that
I before I slept Maurice should know all that I had to tell him. But every moment that my guest remained was dangerous now. I rose up.
"Harry Somers, I forgive you for all that is past, and with these words I beseech you to leave me this moment. I am the wife of a good and noble man, and I love him too well to prolong our interview now. Forget me from this hour, and may the lesson which it teaches make you a wiser and a better man. You have all that my heart can give you—its best wishes. Now, go!"
He rose up with great reluctance and great pain in his face; he grasped both of my hands, and kissed them wildly.
"Oh, Louise, of whom I was not worthy, farewell I" And he was gone.
I drew a long breath of relief as the front gate opened and closed sharply. "Thank God, Maurice has not met him!" I murmured, and then I sank down into a chair, and great jets of tears poured over my cheeks; but the bitterness in them was the thought of my husband, not of Harry Somers. I did not weep there long; it would not do for Maurice to come in and find me thus, and I started to go up stairs.
My way crossed the sitting-room. The shadows had begun to steal into the corners ; but in one of them was a shadow darker than that of the early evening. It rose up and came forward.
"Oh, Maurice, is that you?"
"It is I, Louise."
He had heard all—the changed, strained voice told me that, without his uttering another word.
I grasped his arm. "Oh, Maurice, only hear me; I can satisfy you, I can explain all!"
He shook off my hand, and stood stern and still before me. His lips were white as the lips which never give forth sound or smile. "Louise Hastings, you were once the betrothed wife of that man who has just left you?"
I could not deny it; and before my lips could stammer out any words my face had given answer.
"And you have never told me this; and he has dared to come into my house and pour into your ear the old story of his passion; and you have listened to it, and only sent him away because of your fear that I, your miserable dupe, your wronged and wretched husband, should know the truth."
"Only hear me, Maurice; only let me explain."
He shook me off again, and the anger in his eyes was terrible enough to strike me to the
earth, if I had not the consciousness that I was far less guilty than he supposed. But the facts were against me, and Maurice was a jealous man.
"Out of your own mouth do I condemn you, Louise Hastings; my confidence in you is lost forever. The wife that I believed in and loved better than my life has gone out of my heart forever. It would have been better for us both if we had died before this hour."
I shivered and staggered under the terrible words, but there was no pity in Maurice's face. Then my pride roused itself.
"I shall not stand by and hear such words from your lips, Maurice Hastings, no matter how the facts may condemn me, so long as you will not listen to the explanation which I could make. And as you send me out of your heart forever, it is best that I should go out of your home, also, to-night."
"No, unless you insist upon it; you can stay here if you like, and what I have learned this night need never again be alluded to by either of us. Only remember my confidence in you has gone, and my love with it!"
I did not stay to hear another word. I went up stairs with a deep weight and pain in my heart. I was proud as well as Maurice, and I knew that he had been unjust to me. No matter how strong the facts were against me, an explanation of them was my right and his duty. But for once anger and jealousy had hardened the noble heart of Maurice Hastings, and his reproaches had stung me into silence and endurance. We were both in the wrong— God forgive us!
Of the week which followed I must write briefly. Its long, slow days went down into dark, slow nights, and brought neither rest nor peace to my spirit. Maurice and I preserved towards each other a grave reserve, which would not have attracted the notice of a stranger, and as we had company for three or four days at this time, we were left but little alone. I managed to preside at my table and supervise the household affairs in a way which elicited no observation, and I wondered often at my own self-control and at the calmness and ostensible interest with which I often found myself discussing indifferent matters with my friends, while I carried that pain in my heart which leaped into such vivid life and anguish when I was alone.
As for Maurice, I could see that he grew paler every day, and the grave, kindly mouth had a look of fixedness and pain which had never borne its witness there before.
Sometimes a thought flashed across me that I would leave my husband and go out from his home, as he said that I had done from his heart —forever; and then, looking off to my future, it rose before me so hard, and bare, and desolate that I had not the courage to set my feet on its way, and I put the thought back; I could not live without him! Sometimes, when I caught the glance of those stern, sad gray eyes ou my face, a great temptation would sweep over me to rush to his side and cling there fast, and compel him to hearken while I told him all the truth respecting my engagement with Harry Somers. But the harsh repulse, the bitter words which had once met me came back, and steeled my heart and silenced my lips. And I cried to God, and there came no answer, and I did not know that the sin of my pride lay darkening betwixt my soul and Him!
I had uttered the words with which my story commences half an hour after my guests of the three or four previous days had gone. I had been pacing the floor to and fro ever since I had smiled and waved my farewells to them. It was a beautiful day in the closing up of May, the winds came through the windows like the breath of sweet spices, the year was full of the strength and joy of her youth, and the trees stood up in their white fluting of blossoms, and the sunshine wrote on the earth the old, new prophecy that the summer was at hand. But for me this beauty had now neither voice nor meaning. The darkness in my heart lay like a shadow on the fair face of the day, and when the first words I have written crept out of my lips, my resolution was taken. Afterward I did not hesitate long in making up my mind what course I should pursue; I would go up stairs, write my last letter to my husband, pack up my trunk, take the afternoon train for my aunt's that very afternoon, and leave forever the house whose proud and happy mistress I had been for a year.
"Oh, Maurice, Maurice, my heart will break for leaving you!" I sat in my own room, before the open window, and the song of the spring birds, that had hung their nests on the green rafters of the old pear tree, surged sweetly in and out of the room. The pen was in my hand, and the cry was wrung from a heart too weak to write the words which were to part us forever.
"Oh, Mrs. Hastings, have you heard the news?"
I was quite startled at the abrupt entrance of my nearest neighbor, the wife of a lawyer, with
whom I had been on quite intimate :t'ial terms; but her white, shocked face fully apologized for her abrupt entrance.
"No; is it anything very bad, Mrs. Malthy?" as I rose up and offered my guest a seat.
"Michael, our gardener, just brought me the dreadful tidings, and as there was no one in the house I ran over here to share my horror with you I The cars ran off the track this morning, on the long bridge between Woolcottville and Glencove, and a large number of passengers were killed outright or shockingly mangled!"
"My husband was on the morning train to Glencove. He left about two hours ago to visit a patient there!"
I believe I spoke these words very calmly, but I felt a cold tremor stealing over me.
Mrs. Malthy's face grew whiter as she gasped out: "Oh, Mrs. Hastings, have I killed you too?"
"I guess you have," I said, as I passed my hand across my forehead; "but it's no matter; Maurice wouldn't care!"
She thought the sudden shock had driven me wild. She chafed my cold hands amid her great jets of tears, and begged me to grow calm, and not yield until I knew the worst.
And at last a great cry rushed up from my heart as the thought flashed across me that Maurice might be lying cold and stark on that fair spring day with the life suddenly choked out of him. And we had parted in silence and bitterness, and my last memory of him was not one of blessing and caress. And then the wrong and sin of my conduct for the last week rose up and reproached me. I did not excuse Maurice; I knew that before God he had somewhat to answer for his harshness when his young wife had hung upon his arm and pleaded to be heard, and he had repulsed her. But grief and despair had well nigh maddened me. I dashed Mrs. Malthy's arms furiously away, when they crept entreatingly about my neck. I stamped my feet at her when she implored me to be quiet, and at last I dashed out of the house, out of the front gate, and down the road, where her cries followed me for a while, and then grew faint, and were lost in the distance.
On, on I rushed, for a resolution possessed me to walk to the scene of the terrible disaster, five miles distant, and know for a certainty whether my husband was among the living or the dead. But in descending a steep hill on my way, I suddenly caught sight of the familiar ohaise approaching me. My heart stood still;
so aid my feet. The inmate of the carriage must have discovered me, for he suddenly spurred his horse, and a moment later I caught sight of the face of my husband I
"Why, Louise, are you gone wild?" And Maurice sprang from the carriage, his face white with wonder at the sight of me.
The great joy of my heart must have its way. I put my arms about Maurice's neck; I shouted, and laughed, and cried. "Oh, Maurice, I thought that you were lying there cold, and white, and dead!" And I shook him to and fro, as I held his shoulders, in my frantic joy.
"My dear child, what has happened to you?" And I felt the great tenderness and the great fear which surged through the tones of my husband; and a sudden faintness went all over me. He lifted me into the carriage as though I was a little child, and, drawing one arm tightly around me, urged the horse slowly homewards. And his words and his voice were after the manner of a mother soothing her frightened child: "There 1 don't be scared, darling. Nothing shall harm my little girl. Try and be quiet;" for he evidently thought that I was partially demented.
"How came you to be here, Maurice?" I gasped at last, as long shudders went over and shook me as winds do autumn leaves. "I thought that you took the train for Glencove."
"I intended to, but when I left the house I found a hasty messenger for a man who had broken his arm about three miles off. And so I delayed my trip to Glenoove for the afternoon."
"Thank God! thank God, Maurice!"
"What do you mean, my dear wife?"
"There was a terrible accident—the bridge broke down—the dead and the mangled lie heaped together. Oh, Maurice, I thought that you might be among them."
He understood all now, my frantic fears, my wild flight, and, drawing me closer to him, Maurice Hastings bowed his head, and reverently repeated my prayer—" Oh, thank God, Louise, thank God 1"
We Btopped at a tavern on the road home, where Maurice procured some cordial which restored me. And now all the barriers of my pride were broken down. I knew that the deep well in the heart of Maurice Hastings had not grown dry in the last dreadful weeks, and that its springs had barst and overflowed his soul like the freshets of April.
"Oh, Maurice, it shall not be as it has been
between us any more?" I whispered, in the old tavern parlor where we were left alone with the sunshine and the singing of the birds of May.
"Never, Louise, never!" for he knew now that my heart was his.
And laying my head down on his shoulder, I told Maurice the history of my engagement with Henry Somers, and all the weight and pain which the knowledge of that one secret hidden from him had caused me, until the day on which he presented himself in my parlor, and Maurice coming in to the sitting-room a moment later had heard nearly all that passed betwixt Henry and me. My disclosures set the whole matter in its true light. There was no need that I should say to Maurice—" You will forgive and forget it all?"
"All, Louise. It is I who have sinned more in my anger and harshness than you."
We drove home in the golden May noon, our hearts flooded with light and gratitude fairer than its sunshine. On the way we encountered Michael, Mrs. Maltby's gardener, whom she had dispatched in a fruitless search for me.
And so the only secret which my life had held from Maurice Hastings was revealed at last. It has its message and its warning. "Oh breathe," the ballad saith, "some sweetness out of each."
A GOLDEN HOPE.
BT J. BRAIKBRD MOBOAK.
When fragrant flowers shall stand again
How sweet and bright shall be the day
Oh may tho hours all swiftly fly.
The days in quick succession die,
Tho weeks and months, in rapid flight,
But kiss tho earth then fade from sight—
Until tho happy timo shall come
When I shall greet thee at my home,
While purest joys do live again
When blooming flowers stand o'er the plain
THE FIRST OP MAY IN ROME.
It is the First of May, and we are in the Campagna I To those who have been in Rome what a scene of beauty do I summon up with those words. The most exquisite wild flowers growing in varied and blithe profusion; foliage of the softest, freshest green, garlanding ruins, mounds, and walls; picturesque slopes stndded with white blossoms, and massive rocks of a burnished red, in which are set like jewels the purple cyclamen and golden jonquil; the whole picture framed by the distant hills, ever varying in shade from ash-gray to opal blue—and over all the radiant skies of Rome!
It is the First of May, and there is unusual stir and bustle on the road. We meet first slow droves of dun-colored, majestic eyed oxen, then herds of black and white goats, those frisky sages whose sidelong gambols misbecome their beards; yonder come the buffaloes, with their rnde, earthy, sphynx-like look, as if the mnd from which they were made had not been thoroughly animated, and scattered along the road their savage-looking drivers mounted on fiery little horses, and clothed in tattered goatskins. There is something wild and primitive in these pastoral appearances in these broad prairies. But besides these, strange-looking horsemen and charioteers are gaining on us every moment, and momently they increase. Here is a good-looking young man equipped in a helmet and feathers, a slashed doublet, and a velvet mantle; there is another dressed like a Mousquetaire, and as handsome as Aramis himself; there is a third in the picturesque dress of a Roman Senator. I wonder, but am snddenly enlightened: it is the First of May, and the artist's festa. Kept up with less spirit than of old, it is still a pleasant holiday to persons willing to make the best of this workday world. A society of artists of every nation assembled to spend an idle jovial day in the open air, dining together, and conclnding the festivities with rustic and athletic gamea. It interests me, for I am not one of those who think the whole duty of Christian sympathy is centred in weeping with those who weep. I can spare some of my brotherly feelings to those who rejoice.
As the cavalcade proceeds, it increases in picturesqueness of costume; flag-bearers join it, then come carriages filled with gay dresses;
others of a less grotesque description, but adorned with as bright colors from gay bonnets and light mantles. Several of the fair visitors of Rome take this opportunity of spending the whole day in one of the fairest scenes of God's fair creation. Last comes the elected king of the day, in his barouche drawn by six horses. Let no jndge of horseflesh critically examine these poor beasts. By his side are bis two squires, with gigantio shields, and swords with the inscription "Thou shalt not kill."
Five miles out of Rome the encampment takes place, and the artists look out for a convenient sheltered spot for their dinner. The preparations are commenced with the earnest solemnity which distinguishes humanity, anticipating feeding time. And it is a struggle with difficulties, this mid-day repast. Soon, however, baskets are opened, fringed tablecloths, like gigantic daisies, are spread on the grass, and there is an encouraging jingle of knives and forks, and tumblers. Voices in a Babel confusion of language are heard on all sides—Russian, Swedish, Danish, German, Italian, English, and French. Sometimes the irrepressible joy of some young heart, intoxicated by a sense of youth and hope, breaks forth into song with as natural and musical an expression as a lark or thrush. Some more steady ones, who cannot forget duty in pleasure, have set up their brown umbrellas, and are sketching. They have drawn on their wide-awakes, and perched on their low stools look like the whitish roots of giant mushrooms.
Yonder, ascending a steep bank, I see two figures, one a young lady in a fluttering muslin dress, and bonnet thrown back from a lovely face; the other, a handsome youth in a light blouse. The air, soft and bright as liquid crystal, which they breathe, gives a glow to her cheek and a light to her eyes. The small curved mouth, with its half open full red lip, showing the prettiest infantine-looking teeth, and the bright gold-colored hair, identify her. She is an English girl, an orphan heiress, frank and spirited in her manners, and more unconventional than the English generally are. Given a certain quantity of white muslin and dancing lessons, and the supply of English "young ladies" shall equal the demand. None but a countryman could take such liberties