Page images
PDF
EPUB

IT IS OMNIPOTENT.

Years ago, it matters not how many, Poor, unhappy gentleman!” This was there walked the streets of a nameless the little girl's thought. city a little school-girl. Tip-toe she Once his deep hazel eyes deigned to stood upon

that mount whence the warm fall to the level of that child's brow. splendours of womanhood are descried. Fearlessly and full she met his gaze; he Sweet, sweet, and never to be forgotten is but saw that it was a human being and that scene! The realities of later life went on. She sighed, and hastened on may be better, but never, never so en- to school, to miss her lesson (was not her. trancing.

mind wandering?) to be harshly, too She had not a sinless heart-that child: harshly reproved by her teacher, to reall her impulses were intense, very in- turn home and in solitude, unnatural and tense, but, because she was not selfislı, unhealthy for a child, to give way to that those impulses led her oftenest in the passion of tears which only half grown right way, yet sometimes too far in that school-girls knew, and which is so terriway. Little beauty had she-nothing to ble, because so boundless, so vague. take pride in, except her lavish black Ere that grief was fully past, another curls that floated free on her shoulders May morning dawned, a morning all too in those careless days. Her broad brow soft and brilliant for her mood. The shamed her, for was too broad, of storm, indeed, was over, and outwardly almost masculine mould, not delicately all was calm and fair ; but within, the shaped, nor fair. Mind she had, more long sullen waves were lashing the barthan she knew; power, that came of ren shore, and the clouds, no longer her intense feeling, more than those who spread smoothly over the whole heavens, should have known her best ever dreamed, were gathered into dreadful black shapes, but the light of that power was not yet none the less horrible because they went fully come into her grey eyes to beautify hurrying away upon some fearful errand them.

of ill. Her heavy heart foretold what One bright spring morning, this little bechanced as, satchel in hand and with girl, in her school-going walk, passed a bonnet downcast, she paced slowly togentleman whose presence so touched her ward her dungeon, the school-room. A that she stopped, and turned to look after carriage stood at the door of the house, him as he went on. Morning after morn- trunks were piled behind, the driver was ing she met him, passed him, turned to gathering his reins. A tall, manly form look after him. To her young eyes he came out upon the door-step—farewells seemed old, taller than he really was, were said, hands shaken, a kiss given to grave, pale, abstracted—a student whose a stately lady, and, with pale face and blood ran cold, who pored over dry books, eyes that looked not up from the pavewho cared not for the world budding in ment, he stepped into the carriage, and May, blithe and warm with sunshine and the door was shut. It rattled with cruel bird-songs, cared least of all for homely sounds away. A little while, and the little school-girls. From the heights of door of the house was closed—the carri. manhood, he seemed to see only far age had turned the corner. And not a things—wise and great things, that so parting word, not one look, vouchsafed to fixed him he could see naught that was her who saw all this. No, not one word. little, be it never so beautiful and sweet. It was only an idle school-girl, stopping

This tall, handsome gentleman-he in the street-an idle little girl—that was was handsome—but very, very cold and all ! hard-stood far above the pettiness of Who told this little girl that the tall, such poor things as flowers and music, handsome gentleman was going away, He was all mind-pure intellect; he had told her so plainly that she stood by and no heart. Surely, his mother and sisters watched his leaving as calmly as if she must have died when he was very young. had been sent for to witness it-who told her this? Grief told her-grief, the Only strong scholars can go to it. The truest, the only prophet left us in these weak, the worldly, the puny of mind or the uninspired latter days. How sor- of heart, cannot go ; they die. It is the row-it must be deep sorrow-and that best school, but to be forced to it in alone of all the emotions, can be and is youth, day after day, day after day, oh! prophetic, who shall tell? In the night- it is wearisome, it is hurtful. Jane time, come the spirits, yet if the night be Eyre's school is gladsome to it. many-splendoured they come not, it must The girl was a woman grown: it is no be dark.

discredit to her to say that she wished to " He came, and he is gone. He will be admired and loved-and it has been not come back. Will he ? When?” So already said that her impulses and her dethe little girl said to herself, and went sires were intense. In the fresh mornquietly to school, sat down at the desk, ing of womanhood, homage comes most and opened her book. She remembers naturally to woman, and she should have how

very quiet that morning, and all that it then. If she misses it, she goes sick, day was—as if the sense of well bearing and if she misses it long, the sickness is had been numbed, or as if an eclipse but too apt to become blight, from which had overshadowed the world and hushed she may recover, out of which she may it. She studied hard that morning and wear, but not without retaining a foul thenceforth;

what else was left for her sore at heart. to do but to study?

She intensely desired to be loved," The eclipse of that morning passed not aye! and to love. No shame to her for quickly away. In its shadow, she dwelt; this. Admiration she also desired, and happy, she knew not why. Far, far she is no woman who pretends to wish away, in the distant sky behind her, otherwise. Love of admiration is not shone a star, faint, feeble, tremulous-a vanity; self-admiration is. How could pulsing speck of light, which followed she be vain whose mirror told the truth, her, coming never nearer, never going and whose heart was not afraid to own it? further. Could she have seen it plainly, She wished, as only a plain woman can she would have named this shining mote wish, to be beautiful, dazzlingly beautiwith a pretty name-she would have ful, and in beauty's default, she longed called it Hope. She did not see it, she that some clear eye of power might pierce felt it there, all the time, not watching to that hidden spring whence flowed her, but simply there. So peacefully she emotions she knew to be more beautiful wrought away at her work of knowing than any tints of complexion or lines what books might teach. Something she of configuration. Yet she stood a handlearned of that illumined volume whose breadth’s height above her companions, beautiful lids Spring uplifts, whose glori- her shape was envied, and her skin-too ous leaves Summer unfolds—that volume quick to lose or gain its color-was so which Autumn shuts somewhat again, praised that she herself, at times, linbut which even Winter cannot wholly gered to look at it. She could talk, talk close. One other book she studied close- nonsense too, and abundantly, laugh merls-that living, thinking, feeling book, rily, and in any other way make herself, we call the heart, the mind, the soul. as she thought, truly agreeable. The

And now the girl was a woman grown, girls enjoyed, or pretended to enjoy, her wore a woman's dress, and learned to society wonderfully. What wonder then, bind her black curls in formal puffs and if she asked herself many torturing and bands. But the curls were wilful, and unanswerable questions, when, looking the woman would often let them have around her, she saw many of her schooltheir way. She had quitted school, or mates belles, all more or less beloved, rather she bad changed her school. and herself alone wholly, utterly neglectHer school-house now was solitude, her ed. It was thus for years. Years! and teacher, herself. This is the best, the every moment of every day of these saddest school of all--for the young. years her heart ached in want, in emptiness, in shame, in anger, in fear. Her they bear no witness, they know nothing. maiden's right-love-was denied her. Sight is the sense the Muses love to inWhy? What was, what could be, the struct; hearing they will not, because they reason of it." What had she done to be cannot educate. Not that man is deaf; punished thus? Was it to be always ? he hears, indeed, but cannot compreWould it never end? These questions, liend what he hears under the azure repeated a thousand times oftener, it is dome. How pitiable his guesses at the to be hoped, than any of her hapless significance of sounds in the not soulsisters have repeated them, were never less world of matter! What do the answered then, nor since. It was so prattling waters say ? the winds with ordered; simply that.

their almost human breath? the vocal Her wont, during these unhappy days, birds ? aud what the hush of starry was to walk alone in the garden. There, nights and swooning noons—what say book in hand, she would pace the level- these eloquent silences ? The poet cantopped terraces for hours on hours, not not tell. At best, he can only imitate reading, not thinking of what she had

the tongues he hears, and listen-further read, but fruitless task! questioning off than ever from the meaning-to his destiny, and conning in the high clouds imitations. hopes that winged themselves too quick- Yet it is pleasant to listen-beyond all ly away, or studying the sadness that

things pleasant to imitate even remotely, dwells asleep ever in the far horizon. and to fix on the legible page the sad, Her imagination, though it teemed with sweet intimations of Nature's musicfairest images, claimed not the power to the binted thought of the worlds of light give pantheistic shapes to the beautiful and peace, the sorrowless worlds, where earth-life around her, to give poetic ut- melody in all the fullness of its spiritual terances to the slow, soft wind that whis- significance and force is known, truly, pered secrets in her cars, or to compel perfectly. meanings from the splendid light that Ellen, so was she called, had many rained out of the blue heavens. And the friends among the girls of her acquainleaves that were born, grew old, and died tance, but her best friend was her piano. silently at her feet-telling her nothing To her the piano was something more of all they knew. The mystery of than a plaything, much more than a the changeful elements, the magic work mere help to fill

up

the pauses in converof Nature's hidden alchemy, sho was sation with tiresome visitors. It was the content to let pass in bright panorama, joy of her life, the interpreter of all her uninterpreted, except as signs and won- wordless moods, whether gay or grave, ders, telling of Ilim that dwelleth in the confidante of her heart-that heart light inaccessible and full of glory. In so full of longings, seemingly never to be her books she saw how some priest or appensed. Hence she excelled in music, priestess of Nature construed these won- astonished her masters, learned to deders, but when she came back from the spise them, and, when alone and secure book to the temple itself—the mighty against intrusion, not seldom surprised temple of the visible, ever-changing, and delighted herself-80 prompt and so ever-renewed life-she confessed with

volubly the keys gave back the music sorrow that the makers of books were which neither books nor masters had false, or but partially inspired prophets. ever taught her. In the Autumn twi. Every movement, every sound in that lights, when the fire in the grate warmed, sky-domed temple, older, grander, more but did not dispel the gloom, there would beautiful than Greece, Egypt or India sometimes come to her a thrilling force, ever saw, points to some sibylline leaf a passion and a power to compel whatyet undiscovered, perhaps undiscovera- ever she would of strange, wild, sad, ble. Something of Nature's form and beautiful utterances from the instrument color, the poets may describe; but of she loved. When the piano was obedient, our mother's speech and true dialect, she was happy. Then she truly lired,

of power.

The faint

then placed due value on her life; which its own original utterance, admitting nor at all other times seemed wasting use- permitting any variation. She rememlessly away, then felt not the teasing of bered it perfectly-could have written it hope, but the high and joyous fruition in notes if she had chosen. But she was

startled to find how old it was, familiar to One evening-can she ever forget it? her as the most familiar airs of childshe had wandered late in the garden. hood—the oldest, it seemed—the sweet Step by step, during that long walk, her est and the dearest of early recollections. spirit seemed to have descended the Where she had heard it, when, and under solemn vale, where, among great dusky what eircumstances it was first played to rocks, overgrown with gnarled and leaf- her, she could never tell ; but she soon less trees, was put the cavern of Despair. ceased to think of it as her own producLong she stood breathing the deadly tion. vapour that came out of its black, illimita- Noiselessly as a spirit, she walked ble depths. When an unseen hand led from the parlour to her chamber. The ber gently away from the mouth of that clock struck twelve. Was it possible ? horrid vault, she was loath to go. Yet She retired, but not to sleep; she wept, the kindly force constrained her. The but the tears were sweet. October moon was riding high, the yel- star which had stood so long above and low mist was thick and chill, when she behind her, was brighter now and had went in, and her school-girl sorrow, the moved forward. Then the days began terrible, vague sorrow which seized her to go swiftly, the air became purer, the the day before the proud, cold stranger light shone clearer, something dark and left, never to return, was upon her. heavy had passed away from her. Yet She locked herself in the parlour, and it was Autumn still, and the breathing there, with thought and sense and feel- of her spirit was not quite free and ing, with fears and hopes, all the fears unimpeded. So the Winter canie on, less and hopes of her lonely life, blended in stern than of yore, but vacant. one usurping passion-the piano listen- With the Winter came parties, in which ed and replied to the sad story which she took little delight. She danced to had been dumb in her breast so many fill up the set; she talked with those who years. It was a weird, a melancholy, talked with, her because they could talk, yet most sweet story-the sweetest ever just then, with no one they liked better. told in the sweet language of music. She was always asked to play, and she The trembling, tender fire of the Sere- played mechanically-banged, that under nade, the mortal sadness, and the im- the coverture of the banging, the chatter mortal hope of the Requiem, were indis- might go on more quietly, and soft words solubly and harmoniously interwoven in might be spoken to willing ears. Sitting it, and through this warm, melodious thus one night at the piano, the thought Woof of mournful sweetness ran tortu- came to her, “If I have any skill it is ous threads of scarlet and of silver sound, on this instrument; yet, play as I may, now lost, now found again—intimations, they heed me not.” Her great pride suggestions, reachings, upheavings, as- was stung to the quick at this. “I will pirations-ever hiding, yet ever flash- convince myself how silly and weak I ing back to light-something almost un- really am,” said she to herself. “I will bearable, inserted upon and piercing play the air that moves me most; I will through all the changeful, thrilling play it with all the feeling and all the chords.

force I can command, under these lights, Unlike other improvisations, this air and in this poisy throng, who know me was defined, complete; she played it not, nor care for me." again and again ; it did not change with She played. There, in the midst of the ever-changing shades of emotions, the revel, she boldly told the secret of although that emotion did not even keep her heart-told it in that beautiful lanalways within the key ; it insisted upon guage which speaks the native tongue of

[ocr errors]

the souls of all men that walk the earth. the light of life was darkened, the star Whether there was something in the air above her shone paler, and the fresh imitself which had power to command her pulse which had made her heart warm consciousness away from the gay scene and the world habitable, was gone. Then around her, she knows not; she only why is it always thus ? then, he was knows that the thrill of strength, crea- announced. tive, passed from her heart to her hands, She was not slow to meet him in her and-there was silence; and then ap- own parlour, nor backward to atone for plause, questions, entreaties, warm en- her rudeness at the party. Surely, it treaties to play it again. If her life had became her to make his visit a pleasant been at stake she could not have com- one, so pleasant that he would return plied. She rose, and was introduced again. But he was calm, and would not to

respond to her warmth and animationOh ! how pale her poor foolish face perhaps she showed her gladness too grew-the chill of death ran to her very plainly. Pained by this thought, she befeet. She needs must take his arm, and came as cold as himself. they walked into the hall where the air Conversation had not fairly commenced, was cooler. She could not look at him, ere he startled and offended her, by askyet she saw him, faint as she was.

Un

ing her to the piano. She could not rechanged, unchanged ; grave, pale, cold, fuse, neither could she do herself justice. proud. For the first time she heard his “ I am only a musical instrument in his voice; it was low, deliberate, full of eyes, to which he will listen a little power, and, at that moment, kind even while and go away and forget it." How to pity. And this angered her. • What! could she play? after so long, pity me, and pity me here “Excuse me, Miss Ellen," said he, —the time is past when I needed pity. " but I have not forgotten the beautiful Have I not been well this half-year ?” air which procured for me the pleasure Summoning all her strength, she forced of your acquaintance. Will you play it the colour back to her cowardly, tell-tale for me now?" cheek, and answered him:

No, she

“I cannot." was not sick-she was quite well, and “Why?" would trouble him no longer.”

“Indeed, I cannot." This was even roughly said. A film Soon he went away, leaving her not of something very near disgust overlay altogether at peace with herself. But he his surprised voice when he replied: came again, and with the same petition. “ Trouble?”

The compliment implied in his visit, was The cadence of interrogation ended in

destroyed by this request, preferred, as pity. It was not that she wanted. She before, but a few moments after he enwithdrew her arm, and so they parted.

tered the room. “ He is in love with Yes, the house was lonely, and the the tune,” said she to herself, “I have grey eyes, feeling ashamed of the warmer heard of such instances before.light that shone in them, would look out She would not play it for him, though of the window—a glance, and then to

he asked a second and a third time for work and study again. But nothing pass- it. There was a smile of derision, barely ed the window ; days, days, days, and perceptible, but unmistakable, on his nothing passed the window. She would face, “ He thinks me childish. I am not go out; they might beg, they might not." threaten, and talk of doctors, but she He went away, and the weary days would not go abroad. She could get began to come and go. While the long fresh air in the garden, and now, what hours wore on, she thought to herself, were doctors made for ? She wondered. “I will yield next time; I will play it Yet the dull days sped on, on, on, how with all my heart, my soul-he shall like wearily, how lonesomely! Hope, new- it better than before." born and full of vigorous life, was dying, But no sooner was he come than this

66

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »