« السابقةمتابعة »
mention my wife; it is the thought of her that drives me almost to madness!"
"And why not?" said I. "She must know it sooner or later: you cannot keep it long from her, and the intelligence may break upon her in a more startling manner, than if imparted by yourself; for the accents of those we love. soften the harshest tidings. Besides, you are depriving yourself of the comforts of her sympathy; and not merely that, but also endangering the only bond that can keep hearts together an unreserved community of thought and feeling. She will soon perceive that something is secretly preying upon your mind; and true love will not brook reserve; it feels undervalued and outraged, when even the sorrows of those it loves are concealed from it."
"Oh, but, my friend! to think what a blow I am to give to all her future prospects - how I am to strike her very soul to the earth, by telling her that her husband is a beggar! that she is to forego all the elegancies of lifeall the pleasures of society to shrink with me into indigence and obscurity! To tell her that I have dragged her down from the sphere in which she might have continued to move in constant brightness-the light of every eyethe admiration of every heart! - How can she bear poverty? she has been brought up in all the refinements of opulence. How can she bear neglect? she has been the idol of society. Oh! it will break her heart — it will break her heart! — "
I saw his grief was eloquent, and I let it have its flow; for sorrow relieves itself by words. When his paroxysm had subsided, and he had relapsed into moody silence, I resumed the subject gently, and urged him to break his situation at once to his wife. He shook his head mournfully, but positively.
"But how are you to keep it from her? It is necessary she should know it, that you may take the steps proper to the alteration of your circumstances. You must change
your style of living- nay," observing a pang to pass across his countenance, " don't let that afflict you. I am sure you have never placed your happiness in outward show-you have yet friends, warm friends, who will not think the worse of you for being less splendidly lodged: and surely it does not require a palace to be happy with Mary
"I could be happy with her," cried he, convulsively, "in a hovel! — I could go down with her into poverty and the dust! I could I could-God bless her! - God bless her!" cried he, bursting into a transport of grief and tenderness.
"And believe me, my friend," said I, stepping up, and grasping him warmly by the hand, "believe me, she can be the same with you. Ay, more: it will be a source of pride and triumph to her —it will call forth all the latent energies and fervent sympathies of her nature; for she will rejoice to prove that she loves you for yourself. There is in every true woman's heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity. No man knows what the wife of his bosom is —no man knows what a ministering angel she is — until he has gone with her through the fiery trials of this world."
There was something in the earnestness of my manner, and the figurative style of my language, that caught the excited imagination of Leslie. I knew the auditor I had to deal with; and following up the impression I had made, I finished by persuading him to go home and unburden his sad heart to his wife.
I must confess, notwithstanding all I had said, I felt some little solicitude for the result. Who can calculate on the fortitude of one whose life has been a round of pleasures? Her gay spirits might revolt at the dark downward path of low humility suddenly pointed out before her, and might cling to the sunny regions in which they had hitherto
revelled. Besides, ruin in fashionable life is accompanied by so many galling mortifications, to which in other ranks. it is a stranger. -In short, I could not meet Leslie the next morning without trepidation. He had made the disclosure. "And how did she bear it?"
"Like an angel! It seemed rather to be a relief to her mind, for she threw her arms round my neck, and asked if this was all that had lately made me unhappy. — But, poor girl," added he, "she cannot realize the change we must undergo. She has no idea of poverty but in the abstract; she has only read of it in poetry, where it is allied to love. She feels as yet no privation; she suffers no loss of accustomed conveniences nor elegancies. When we come practically to experience its sordid cares, its paltry wants, its petty humiliations - then will be the real trial."
"But,” said I, "now that you have got over the severest task, that of breaking it to her, the sooner you let the world into the secret the better. The disclosure may be mortifying; but then it is a single misery, and soon over whereas you otherwise suffer it, in anticipation, every hour in the day. It is not poverty so much as pretence, that harasses a ruined man - the struggle between a proud mind and an empty purse the keeping up a hollow show that must soon come to an end. Have the courage to appear poor and you disarm poverty of its sharpest sting." On this point I found Leslie perfectly prepared. He had no false pride himself, and as to his wife, she was only anxious to conform to their altered fortunes.
Some days afterward he called upon me in the evening. He had disposed of his dwelling house, and taken a small cottage in the country, a few miles from town. He had been busied all day in sending out furniture. The new establishment required few articles, and those of the simplest kind. All the splendid furniture of his late residence had been sold, excepting his wife's harp. That, he
said, was too closely associated with the idea of herself; it belonged to the little story of their loves; for some of the sweetest moments of their courtship were those when he had leaned over that instrument, and listened to the melting tones of her voice. I could not but smile at this instance of romantic gallantry in a doting husband.
He was now going out to the cottage, where his wife been all day superintending its arrangement. My feelings had become strongly interested in the progress of this family story, and, as it was a fine evening, I offered to accompany him.
He was wearied with the fatigues of the day, and, as he walked out, fell into a fit of gloomy musing.
"Poor Mary!" at length broke, with a heavy sigh, from his lips.
"And what of her?" asked I: "has anything happened to her?"
"What," said he, darting an impatient glance, "is it nothing to be reduced to this paltry situation — to be caged in a miserable cottage to be obliged to toil almost in the menial concerns of her wretched habitation?"
"Has she then repined at the change?"
"Repined! she has been nothing but sweetness and good humor. Indeed, she seems in better spirits than I have ever known her; she has been to me all love, and tenderness, and comfort!"
"Admirable girl!" exclaimed I.
"You call yourself
poor, my friend; you never were so rich - you never knew the boundless treasures of excellence you possess in that woman."
"Oh! but, my friend, if this first meeting at the cottage were over, I think I could then be comfortable. But this is her first day of real experience; she has been introduced into a humble dwelling- she has been employed all day in arranging its miserable equipments she has, for the first
time, known the fatigues of domestic employment - she has, for the first time, looked round her on a home destitute of everything elegant, almost of everything convenient; and may now be sitting down, exhausted and spiritless, brooding over a prospect of future poverty."
There was a degree of probability in this picture that I could not gainsay, so we walked on in silence.
After turning from the main road up a narrow lane, so thickly shaded with forest trees as to give it a complete air of seclusion, we came in sight of the cottage. It was humble enough in its appearance for the most pastoral poet; and yet it had a pleasing rural look. A wild vine had overrun one end with a profusion of foliage; a few trees threw their branches gracefully over it; and I observed several pots of flowers tastefully disposed about the door, and on the grass-plot in front. A small wicket gate opened upon a footpath that wound through some shrubbery to the door. Just as we approached, we heard the sound of music Leslie grasped my arm; we paused and listened. It was Mary's voice singing, in a style of the most touching simplicity, a little air of which her husband was peculiarly fond.
I felt Leslie's hand tremble on my arm. He stepped forward to hear more distinctly. His step made a noise on the gravel walk. A bright beautiful face glanced out at the window and vanished a light footstep was heard and Mary came tripping forth to meet us: she was in a pretty rural dress of white; a few wild flowers were twisted in her fine hair; a fresh bloom was on her cheek; her whole countenance beamed with smiles I had never seen her look so lovely.
"My dear George," cried she, "I am so glad you are come! I have been watching and watching for you; and running down the lane, and looking out for you. I've set out a table under a beautiful tree behind the cottage; and