صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

and the ladies retired to the drawing-room. To succeeded each other rapidly, and Constance was gratify the guests of her relative, Constance ex- the life, the light of all. So inspired, so animated erted herself to the utmost; her vivacity and ele- was her manner, she might have serred as an illusgance charmed all around her. They expressed tration of the Pythoness revealing the oracles of her a wish to inspect some glorious triomphs of the god; but the resemblance went still further : the artist's skill, which Edward had brought from struggle of giving utterance to those oracles, often Europe. Constance had them intrusted to her cost the priestess her life. That evening, which care. Playfully protesting that no hand save her to her seemed eternal, at last ended. The guests own should be permitted to touch the treasures, departed. Edward was the last to linger; and as she flew down stairs to the apartment adjoining he pressed her hand, murmuring “good night,” that in which they had dined. She opened the the tremulousness, the coldness of that hand starlibrary, and the search occupied her some mo- lled him. He gazed in her face. Its expression, ments. Scarcely had she commenced, when she wild and varying, was still so gay and beautiful, heard the rich tones of Edward's voice apparently that he treated the circumstance lightly. Months raised in argument. As the sound struck her ear, after, he recalled it with a shudder. she paused; her hand yet supporting the port-folio No eye saw Constance that night in her chamwhich she had been seeking. Suddenly she bent ber.- No eye witnessed her agony. She had all forward in an attitude of attention, remaining her life been in one happy dream, from which, breathless for an instant. As he continued, a even at the acme of enjoyment, she had been sudfaint cry escaped ber, and the volume fell from denly, fearfully awakened to the consciousness of her hand. Its valuable contents were scattered misery. Edward called on the ensuing day; Rose on the floor before her-she heeded them not: she informed him that Constance was too much fawould have given worlds for the power to move; tigued from the previous evening, to receive him. but spell-bound she stood listening to his words, She had made a superhuman effort, while subject each syllable being distinctly heard through the to the scrutiny of a large assembly, but she knew thin partition that divided the apartment. At herself unequal to the task of meeting him so soon length his voice ceased, and the conversation at home. He withdrew, though manifestly grievchanged. By a violent effort, Constance aroused ed; informing the family that he had received news herself; but how altered was the expression of her from Europe, which required his absence, and face! The object of her love, of her adoration had would perhaps detain him for some months. avowed himself,—nay, triumphantly avowed himself—an Atheist! That being who had hitherto so cautiously concealed from her knowledge all idea of his entertaining such thoughts, had now expressed

CHAPTER IV. himself in terms, alas! too plain to be misunderstood. She had heard his arguments in favor of his disbelief, and his assertion that those subjects

What heaven approves—my duty! which she revered, were mere fables to keep gro

Mon cæur, peut-il porter, seul et privé d'appui, velling minds in subjection, and that the philoso- Le fardeau des devoirs qu'on m'impose aujourd'hui? pher, the man of science or of intellect was above A ta loi, Dieu puissant, oui, mon ame est rendue, such childisk prejudices. One or two guests, it is

Mais fais que mon amant s'éloigne de ma vie.

Cher amant! Ce matin l'aurois-je pu prévoir true, at first supported him, but even they soon Que je dusse aujourd'hui redouter de te voir? shrunk abashed from his bold asseverations. "Alas! Poor Constance.” Footsteps approach

Dieu de tous mes parens, de mon malheureux père,

Que ta voix me conduise, et que ton cil m'eclaire ! ing awoke her from her stupor. Suddenly starting, she gained sufficient presence of mind to attempt to collect the scattered drawings, when her On the same evening, Edward called to bid sister entered the room, wondering at her pro- them all farewell. His request to see Constance tracted absence. The wild and incoherent replies being again denied, he left a letter which he enof Constance alarmed Rose. She gently attempted treated Rose to deliver. She did so. Constance to soothe her sister, and after completing the search gave one hasty glance at its contents, and then which had so fearfully begun, she conducted her to laid it aside until all the house had retired to rest. the garden. The cool, mild air, the calm repose of When she was quite alone, she drew forth the letall nature, the stillness of evening, gradually re- ter, and read its contents as follows: stored her to herself. She returned to the draw- “Miss Woodburn will pardon the basty, inconing-room, where she found all the guests assem - siderate anxiety of one who looks to her to decide bled. At the sight of Edward she trembled, but his future fate. He trusts that she will not censhe remembered that all eyes were upon her, and sure his abruptness, but Oh, Constance, I pride came to her aid. Never had she looked so cannot address you in a formal phrase. My heart wildly beautiful. Conversation, laughter, music, is now so overflowing with mingled hope and fear,

I will



that I can scarcely command sufficient calmness to Her heart was a well of ever-springing aspirawrite these words. I have to-day received a letter tions after affection. An orphan from her childwhich peremptorily summons me to Europe. I hood, with but few objects on whom to bestow her must leave home to-morrow. These circumstan- love, on those who dwelt around her she lavished ces alone have made me presume to address you all the treasures of her heart. What then would thus abruptly.

she feel for him whom every duty as well as incli“Constance, from childhood we have been friends. nation, would call upon her to love with all the inI have watched your beauty as it expanded into tensity, the devotion of which her nature was cawomanhood—have watched the more angelic un- pable! But one fault, but one error could be imfoldings of your mind. In all your little difficul- puted to him. Might not the love which he bore ties you looked upon me as your friend, your coun- his wife incite in him a desire to listen and believe? sellor. Even then I hung with rapture upon each Firm in her own path, strong in the consciousness modulation of your voice-even then I wished that of undeviating rectitude, might not her example your fate might be linked with mine. I felt my- persuade and at length convince? Would not her self unworthy of you: the idea of possessing your refusal plunge him still deeper into error? Might love inspired me. For your sake I entered into she not be called upon to answer for the destructhe world, I strove for mastery in the intellectual tion of him whom she might have preserved? arena; I succeeded. I returned. I found you all, But in vain were all these suggestions. She nay, more than my fond heart could have wished. knew too well he did not only doubt; he disbeYou seemed, (dare I assert it?) to take pleasure lieved in the very existence of those objects of love in my society. Yet would I not thus have dared, and reverence which were to her a day-spring of had not my basty departure compelled me. No! bliss. It was not from the assertions of others that months of silent devotion of each look, word, and she judged; his own lips had pronounced his opinthought, should have insensibly expressed my feel-ions: and could a wife hope to effect that which the ings; but I haye now no alternative.

courted mistress had been unable to complete? In“Constance, dearest, adored Constance, I love stead of converting him to her own feelings, would you! You know the ardor of my nature. You she not rather be influenced by example, far more know how deep, how fervent, how idolatrous a powerful than precept, and at last become herself passion is comprehended in these words! Accept less firm and less devout? Or if she still passed my hand, and the devotion of my life shall be the ordeal unmoved, would not her continual difyours, to study every look, to anticipate every ference of opinion, her repeated observance of those wish! Say but those blessed words—that I may duties which he despised, be a constant source of hope, and my dreary pilgrimage will seem a para- bickerings? And must she not either be silent on dise—the days will glide in golden succession till all those subjects on which she loved to commune, my return. I love, I adore you! Say then that or else hear them ridiculed, or at least listened to I may hope! To-morrow will behold me at your in sullen silence by the being whom she had profeet to hear my sentence from your lips my ever- mised to love, honor and obey? lasting bliss, or my irremediable misery! My pen All these, and many more arguments, alike of is cold! it cannot express what I feel. My very passion and of virtue, did Constance bring forthoughts when written bear another aspect. Im- ward in terrible array before her mind. Hard agine then, dearest Constance, all that love or pas- indeed was the struggle; it seemed to rend asunsion can form in its wildest dreams,-even of such der her heartstrings. Again she hurriedly reflecta nature are my prayers to you.

ed upon his merits, his worth, -and again that EDWARD,”

one fatal thought glared visibly before her. Again Here then was the crisis of her fate. Principle, she caught up his letter ;-those words breathing virtue, religion, prompted a sudden and decisive tenderness again subdued her. She pressed it to refusal, but all their efforts were combatted by her lips, to her heart; she exclaimed, “No, no! the broadest, deepest, strongest passion, that it is too great a trial, too great a sacrifice! But ever woman's heart was borne away by.” How the lessons, the holy principles instilled into me, anxiously did she question her own heart, and how are they nought? Oh God! assist and strengthen bitter were its answers! She had raised in her me !” She sunk on her knees -and prayed for own soul an object of love; she had invested it aid; shrinking from a reliance on her own pow. with ideal charms and perfections. That object, ers-she cast her burthen upon her Heavenly that form was erer the engrossing feature, the Guide, and be sustained her. Tears, tears of bitguiding principle of all her plans for the future: ter anguish followed her supplication, but they there was no thought of happiness in which the could not alter her resolve. She arose from her thought of him did not mingle. There was no knees, and without trusting her eyes again toobstacle to their union ; their friends approved; wards the letter, she threw herself on the bed, fortune smiled on them; and should she be the and ere an hour had passed, her sobs and tears only cause of her own grief and future misery? | had ceased in sleep.


| preference of which women far superior to me

might be proud—I speak this from my heart! Ard she, that ever through her home had moved But Edward, I grieve most deeply, bitterly, that With the meek thoughtfulness and quiet smile or woman calmly loving and beloved,

this offer has ever been made, for, however the And timid in her happiness the while,

decision may pain us both, 1-cannot_accept it!" Slood brightly forth, and steadfastly, that hour,

Had the earth opened suddenly before him, EdHer clear glance kindling into sudden power.

ward could scarcely have been more thunderstruck And were not these high words to flow

or appalled. Hope, bordering almost on certainty, From woman's breaking heart?

had buoyed him up during the conversation, and Through all that scene of bitterest wo

the sudden blow was only more fearful, from its She bore her lofty part. Bai oh! with such a glazing eye,

being so utterly unexpected. With such a curdling cheek

Constance, am I dreaming? What can have Lore! love! of mortal agony

caused your peremptory rejection? What can so Thou, only thou shouldst speak!

Mrs. Hemans.

suddenly have altered your whole demeanor to

wards me? Have I unconsciously offended?" The next morning Constance arose, and forti- Edward, do not, I beseech you, accuse me of fied herself again by prayer. She performed her caprice; it is rather to free myself from such a accustomed duties at home with her usual regu- charge, that I have spoken thus firmly. We may larity, but at length she heard the sound of Ed- still be friends, but my decision cannot be reward's foot ascending the stairs. Clinging to the tracted.” chair near which she stood for support, she sunk “Nay, madam, I will not presume to remoninto it as the door opened. With the freedom strate;" he answered, striving by a sarcastic tone their long acquaintance warranted, he entered the to hide bis despairing feelings. “You are above room unannounced; he approached; his face ra- the trifling affections that generally interest your diant with smiles alike of hope and expectation. sex. Your heart did not need to be consulted, and She felt thankful at the moment that a domestic your judgment since last evening must no doubt was present, as Edward was under the necessity have found cogent reasons for thus deciding.” of speaking on some other subject than the only “Edward Delancy, however I might have one of interest to them. He spoke of indifferent wished to enter into an explanation, it is but a topics; she answered gravely, but calmly. She duty to myself not to reply to such language utwas bracing her heart for the approaching trial. tered in such a tone;" she observed with dignity, At length the domestic quitted the room, and they rising from her seat. were alone. A pause ensued, which was soon “And can you, Constance,” he exclaimed, castbroken by Delancy. “ Constance-Miss Wood-ing aside the pride in which he had endeavored to burn-1 have called thus early, as I am absolutely fortify himself: “can you not pardon those words? compelled to leave home to-day. I have long Can you not feel for me? Have you not snatched wished an opportunity of speaking to you alone, from me all hope of happiness? Have you not, with and failing in that wish, I sent a letter last night. one blow, forever destroyed the fond aspirations of May I ask if you bave received it?"

my heart? And can you look thus unmoved upon “I have.”

the ruin of my peace, upon my blighted hopes, my “You have, then, read my feelings. I have told crushed spirit? Has then my own egregious vanyou that my heart is wholly devoted to you—I have ity deceived me; and have you never felt more for entreated you to accept my hand, my love—to share me than for a mere acquaintance? It must be so ; my fortune: that offer I now repeat. Is it pre- this determination causes you no pang!" sumption to entreat a reply? Were I not obliged “ Edward! Edward! I do not deserve that reto depart, (and I could not bear to go, uncertain of proach!” she exclaimed in anguish, as her assumed my fate,) I would not have thus sudddenly declared firmness gave way, and the tears coursed each other my hopes, my wishes. Speak then, dearest Con- from her eyes. stance, and tell me your answer!”

Why then inflict that pang upon yourself and “Edward-Edward Delancy,” she replied, me? Constance, dearest, beloved Constance, hear speaking with difficulty, but gathering strength me! You know how fondly I love you. My whole as she proceeded; “I have received your letter, life shall be employed in rendering you happy. Let and had I possessed sufficient firmness to write me not believe that my own love has blinded memy reply, I should have spared both of us the that those bright eyes, when they grew brighter as pain of this interview. I regret, most sincerely, I approached—that this hand, when it trembled at that circumstances have obliged you to depart my touch—that those sweet blushes, (that even thus suddenly, otherwise my future conduct might now chase each other over your face,) when they gradually have explained what I am now compelled followed my breathing your name—(nay, do not to declare to you at once. I fully appreciate the turn from me, Constance, nor withdraw your value of the preference you have shown me;—a hand!) Let me not believe that those tokens,

seen only by a lover's eye, have deceived me! | what might not your pure example effect? ConFrom childhood you have been the guiding star sider then.” of my existence. If your heart is now turned to- “ Edward, all this, and more, much more, has wards me, may not time ripen your friendship my own heart urged! You know not, you caninto love? Dearest, best beloved, speak, I be- not picture to yourself the anguish which this reseech you!”

solve has cost me, but I will not now waver. 1 “ Edward Delancy, listen to me, while I make doubt not that you would do all to make me happy. a disclosure which is perhaps unmaidenly, but But your principles, right or wrong, are firmly, which, for my own justification it is necessary irrevocably established. An erring, hesitating you should hear. I will not deny or disguise the being like myself can never hope to alter them. truth. You have been a friend, a brother to me You deride, you deny the existence of that true from infancy, and I have ever esteemed and ad- and holy faith, on which I rest my hopes of eternal mired you. When we parted last, in the simpli- salvation—and were my love even more maddencity of my heart, I gave you a sister's farewell. ing than I have proved it—were you a thousand I heard of your success in life,—of your ambi- times more fitted to inspire that love—though tion-of your genius. You returned— I saw your my heart should break I would not accept your attention, your unceasing devotion—and I loved hand!” you. Yes, Edward, I do not shrink from the A death-like silence succeeded to this solemn avowal—I loved you !” Misled by these words, asseveration. Awed by her manner, Edward did by the crimson Aushes that came and went like not attempt to utter a word; he looked at her, and lightning o'er her face, and still more, by the wo- revered her more than ever. At length, rousing manly faltering of her voice, which defied the con- himself as from a dream, he spoke: trol of the high resolution which actuated her, Ed- “Constance, I shall urge you no more. I now ward passionately pressed her hand to his lips. see clearly your motives, and though they destroy Calmly, but firmly she withdrew it from his all my happiness, I respect them. You have taught grasp, and with a look that could not be mista- me, Constance, that which I ever doubted until ken, she resumed: "Edward, I speak of past feel- know; that religion and duty may have greater ings. I shall ever think of you as a friend, but to power over a woman's heart, than even love itself. love I have bid adieu. It is no idle caprice to en- To prolong this interview is now prolonging mishance my future acceptance—it is no thoughtless ery to both. Let me still live in your memory! fantasy of a heartless coquette which now urges Whatever be my fate hereafter, my love towards me to speak-your own lips have pronounced the you will be still unchanged. And if we should decision-your own heart has divided us forever! meet again, I will strive to conquer the selfish reTwo nights have passed since, in this very room, pinings of my heart, even though I see another in by accident I heard your conversation with the the enjoyment of that affection which I once hoped guests at my uncle's table. I heard you, Edward to have called my own.” Delancy, jest upon those subjects which I have That, Edward, you will never see. The heart been taught to revere. Nay more, you, (and you which you won, cannot idly be caught by another. the most eagerly,) disclaimed all belief in the ex- In wealth or in poverty, in life—or in death, I will istence of that religion and its attributes on which cherish, with a pure and passionless regard, the I rest all my hopes here and hereafter!"

recollection of my earliest, dearest friend. Should “And, Constance, can you lay such stress upon we meet no more--let your last remembrance of a mere difference of opinion?”

me be my blessing. May that Supreme Being, Opinion ! and is such the term you give it? whose power you deride, soften and enlighten your Why, Edward, are you thus unjust? Would not heart-protect and bless you!" even you shrink from a woman who professed such Noble-hearted, exalted woman, farewell! For opinions? Would you not avoid, as a pestilence, the last time I press your band in mine; remember an irreligious wife? Where would be your con- him who, whatever were his faults, deeply, truly fidence in her honor or her virtue? Would not loved you. Farewell! farewell!” Again, and the very fulness of her love make you doubt her? again he pressed her hand to his lips; she made no For what can be opposed to the raging floods of a effort to withdraw it. She murmured“ farewell!" woman's passions, when religion's barriers are it was the word that severed them forever. swept away?”

Her scalding tears flowed in rapid succession, Constance, you consider this too deeply. 1 and fell upon his hand; and as the answering honor, I respect your prejudices, and were you drops glistened in his own eyes, with man's feelmine, never should they be interfered with.” ing of shame at such weakness, he suddenly

“And what prospect could such a pledge pre- gasped forth an adieu, and rushed from the house. sent, but constant suspicion and a mutual want of Weeping, Constance feebly tottered to her own confidence? No, Edward, it cannot be.” apartment, where, unseen by any mortal eye, she

“But, my own Constance, loving you as I do, I passed hours in comfortless agony.


in her resolve. Months passed on, and with a

mild and cheerful resignation she could speak and The strait

think of Edward Delancy composedly, as the friend I'm fallen into, my patience cannot bear; It frights my reason, warps my sense of virtue,

of her childhood. Her relatives rejoiced at the of religion ; changes me into a thing

restoration of her health, and while she gradually I look at wilh abhorring!

Knowles. unfolded the long-concealed treasures of her mind, There are a thousand joyous things in life

and more than all the rest, while they experienced Which pass unheeded, in a life of joy

the blessings bestowed by her benign and sunny As thine hath been, till breezy sorrow comes To rufile it; and daily duties paid

disposition, they felt that “to know her was to Hardly at first, at length will bring repose

love her,--to name her, but to praise !"
To the sad mind that studies to perform thein. Ion.
Three weeks had passed a blank in existence.
Edward had departed. The family deemed that

Constance was seriously indisposed, and physi-
cians were sent for; but their skill was exerted

Misfortune liketh company; it seldom in vain. At length, Constance herself made a

Visits its friends alone.

Knowles. last effort to rise from her lethargy. When alone, Now and then an ample tear trilled down she would pace the apartment for hours reflecting

Her delicate cheek: it seemed she was a queen on what she had done, and by a rigid self-exami

Over her passion, who, most rebel·like,

Sought to be king o'er her. nation, discovered wherein she had erred. “What

There she shook avails it,” she would exclaim, " that I have bidden

The holy water from her heavenly eyes, him farewell; and that forever? Do I not still love

And clamor-moistened : then away she started
To deal with grief alone.

Shakspeare. bim? If duty required that I should reject him, that duty is not fulfilled while I thus cherish and feed a Three years and more had elapsed, and Conconsuming melancholy. The affection of my re- stance had heard repeatedly of Edward, both from latives I cast aside with indifference—the glowing bis letters to her uncle, and from public report. health wbich heaven has granted, I wantonly abuse He had again appeared before the world as an auby this indulgence of grief,the precious time thor, and again success had triumphantly crowned which never can return, I waste in fruitless re- his efforts. Time had given new strength to his trospection—and those talents and acquirements intellect, and it seemed as if, thwarted where his which might make me estimable and useful to my whole heart had been devoted, he had determined friends, I daily enfeeble and neglect. More than to "pursue a nobler mistress, Glory !" all these, I nourish and encourage the absorbing During Edward's absence, in the eventful passion which principle first taught me to shun, course of those three years, Constance experiand which I feel is now sinful. When I bade him enced a change in all her prospects. Her aged farewell, I vowed to remember him as a friend- uncle died, after a short, but painful illness, of let me keep my promise! Let me look upon him, which she too soon learnt the fatal cause. Being not with the regret I should feel for the beloved dead, naturally of an indolent disposition, having seen but with that pure regard due to a brother living ! but little of the world, and deeming all mankind Let me live for others, as well as for myself—and as honest as himself, he had unreservedly entrusted let me avoid, as a serpent, one moment's idleness; the care of all his property to an agent, who, by his that sure foster-mother of all vain fancies and un- plausible, and seemingly disinterested arguments, controlled imaginations. Let me cast all my sor- had so far misled Mr. Glenford, as to persuade him rows at the feet of my Heavenly Father, and let to enter into vast speculations, in which, (having the past week be the last of my existence, which obtained the consent of Constance,) a considerable I can reproach myself with having wasted !" portion of her property had also been embarked.

Earnestly sbe besought of heaven the aid none These speculations proved, in part, successful; Ever sincerely asked in vain. Strictly she adhered but, on pretence of urgent business, the agent to the undeviating path she had marked out. She hastened to New York and thence absconded no allowed herself no time for regrets. She plunged one knew whither, carrying with him an immense deeply into studies the most scientific and abstruse. sum of money, and all the documents which were She determined to comprehend them in all their requisite to substantiate Mr. Glenford's claims. bearings. To effect this it became necessary to The officers of justice were eagerly engaged in exert to their full extent all the powers of thought the search, and the agent was traced on board a and reasoning which she possessed; and by this vessel coasting to the south of France, where the constant and untiring exercise, the healthful tone ship was wrecked, and every soul perished. The of her feelings was by degrees restored. The news of the search having terminated thus hopestruggle was great, nor was the change soon ef- lessly, overcame Mr. Glenford. Appalled by the fected; but at last she was triumphant. She had accumulated weight of business which came pourschooled her heart must bitterly, and persevered ling in on every side, and called for exertions be

« السابقةمتابعة »