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though from a humble quarter and expressed in homely language, contained news of such deep and distracting import that it roused my jealousy to a maddening degree and added a fresh and decisive stimulus to my determination.
THIS alarming letter was in the following terms :
"Honerd sir, Acordin to your wishus Muster Leander I rite to tel you al the noos about yur favrits and in partiklar Miss Jinny she got over her couchment very wel and my wife paid her the greatest of atenshun as if it was her own sulf wun brown black nose ears tidyish wun brown and white long ears white spot on his nose not much of a tail wun same very curly looks suspishus others rather mongrel looking but Miss Jinny takes to em kindly and licks em all over very tender and my wife says it does her hart good to see it and makes her think of you Muster Leander when you was a babby I mean to bite off all their tails myself tho my wife is agin it and says it is agin natur so you may depend on everything bein dun as if you did it yursulf tim the ratkitcher as is jist cum in sais theres niver a tarrier as he knowed as is ekal to Miss Jinny for buty for why becoz she's so ugly and sich a little rough un as is proper to the breed and that theres not another in the hole county round fit to hold a paunch to her and he promises to worm the yunguns careful for they are alays onsteady and are ful of all sorts of wims and vagaries and their tungs are niver right partiklar the female uns till they are wormed reglar which is my opinion tim is right for Ive alays seed Master Leander as those pups as isnt edikated proper are niver worth nothing and reason why becoz its al owin to training in horses and dogs and what not and if so be as you dont get the worm out of em when they are yung when they are old and grow up to be dogs they alays turn to mis-chif and some of em are puppies all their life a scampring here and a scampring there arter evrything they see and consikence is they niver cum to no good please to say if I am to give a pup to the yong lady at the lodge who is going to be put in harness with a genalman from the city of lunnon I seed him promis cus red fore-lock wall-eyed uncommon round in the barrel and very ontidy about the heels dont think much about his breed so as I thout youd like to hear about the young bitch and her pups I rite these limes acordin master and missus out of sorts and the old cuch horse is but poorly from yur afeckshunate humbel servant ruspectfully thomas whippy."
Notwithstanding the enthusiasm with which I should have been inspired for "Miss Jenny's pups" on any other occasion, the only part of the communication of my ancient friend and stable preceptor the coachman that struck me at the moment was the astounding news of the "putting in harness" as my friend professionally expressed it, of the young lady at the Lodge with the "genalman from Lunnun with the red firelock" &c., and whom I at once recognised as my enemy Peter; although, as it seemed to me, the she-dragon must have made quick work of it; and, I thought, too, that Lavinia was rather precipitate in acquiescing in such a matrimonial arrangement without deigning to inquire how far such a consummation might be disagreeable to myself. On the other hand I considered, that, from the circumstance of my having quitted the county without making any attempt, as she might have supposed, to see her, was likely to have piqued her pride, and to
have made her think that I had treated her with indifference, and indeed with a want of common courtesy.
Then I got into my head that she had been constrained into a consent to this wretched union as I chose to consider it; and that she was pining in despair at my neglect of her and anxiously waiting for some communication; and all this time it never occurred to me that not only had there been no explanation on either side, but that there had not been even a declaration on my part nor the slightest formal assent on her own; but somehow I had acquired the conviction that there was a mutual understanding between us which although not expressed in words was perfectly intelligible to the parties concerned, and was a tacit engagement. In short I came to the conclusion that as I was honourably committed, it was my duty to effect her rescue from the unworthy Peter in spite of all the dragons in the air or on the earth or under the earth. With this resolve, I determined immediately to repair to the scene of her despair, with certain contingent plans and contrivances in my head in the event of difficulties; and which will develope themselves in due order.
As if to assist me at this anxious moment, I received a letter from my mother, which rather to my surprise, made no mention of the matter which was most interesting to me, and which I attributed to a tender solicitude on her part to spare my feelings; but it communicated to me the distressing information of my father having a touch of the gout which I forthwith insisted was of an alarming character, and which justified, and indeed rendered imperative that I should return home without delay, which I instantly did, showing by my excessive haste and speed how anxious I was to comply with the dictates of filial duty.
My arrival at home was at all times gratifying to my affectionate mother; and my father, whom I had the pleasure to find unusually hearty, was pleased to consider on this occasion that I had done well in coming. There was not a word said about the family at the Lodge; although I endeavoured dexterously, several times, to incline the conversation in that direction. I was burning to hear some news, but as I found a great awkwardness in forcing the subject, particularly as the affair of the "bill" was mixed up with it, I was obliged to devour my impatience and wait for the solution of the question till I could investigate the matter in propriâ personâ. As I had travelled all night I had the whole day before me; and after I had satisfied the various inquiries as to my health and occupations which it was natural to expect under the circumstances, I determined to make the best use of my time; evading therefore, an intimation from my father that I might accompany him in his walk over the corn-fields and pastures, and quietly eluding my mother's affectionate attempts to detain me, I mounted a horse, and presently found myself, after a hard gallop, close to the spot where I had first met Lavinia.
While I was speculating how I should obtain an interview with her, to my great joy I suddenly beheld her emerge from behind the celebrated mound of green turf, and with a melancholy air seat herself before it, gazing with her cheek on her hand on the bright waters of the stream which flowed swiftly and silently before her. For once, thought I, the gods are propitious! In a moment I dismounted from my horse, threw his rein over the bough of a tree, and clearing the hedge at a bound, I stood before her.
"THE maiden was in raptures at sight of the garland, and said that she knew she should be inspired while its shadow fell upon her brow. She then seated me in the arm-chair by the fire and unrolling her long tresses she came and knelt low at my feet, declaring playfully that she who could imagine such beauty-such poetry, must be the only one capable of playing it to perfection; and then, in spite of all my resistance, for I knew no more of hair-dressing than the veriest scullion, insisted upon my playing it for the performance. I could not refuse, for she said that it would bring her good fortune, and accordingly I set about the task, exerting myself to the utmost I was able, and I may say, without vanity, that I succeeded to a miracle; but then, Paquerette's hair was so very beautiful, and I was so anxious to set her off to the best advantage. "It was while I plaited and smoothed the rich tresses which, as she knelt swept the very ground, that the old confidence which she used once to have in me returned. She told me that the dark close wrought web of her destiny was about to be unravelled; that poor old C., the professor who loved her like a father, had mentioned her name to an illustrious princess, his pupil; that her highness had been so interested in her sad story, that she had wept outright at the bare recital, even though told with all sorts of blunders through the medium of C.'s Germanised French, that she had taken such an interest in her fate, that she intended to come incognito to the theatre to witness her début. She said too, that dear old C. had given way to a wild and foolish hope that the interest he had thus excited might lead to some yet greater, and that he might live to salute her Lady of Fontenay.
"And why not, Paquerette?' said I, in answer to the cold, wan smile with which she spoke the words. 'Others, who have less right than thou, dearest, have been restored to their possessions, even the emigrants have for the most part returned to claim their own. Why then should it be impossible thou shouldst have less success than they?'
"Because,' replied she, quickly, when the sap is withered the tree will die and can no more be transplanted. What is life, and why should I wish to live, a thing of chance and change, the toy-the plaything of the lover.' She suffered her clasped hands to fall low before her, and added mournfully, How have I prayed that this bitter cup which I must quaff tonight might pass untasted from my lips! How have I put off this day, in hope-but it was not to be, and I, the daughter of a long line of nobles, am forced by fate to become an actress-an outcast for the short space which now remains ere I become as nought.'
"She held up one thin pale hand before me as she uttered these words Sept.-VOL. LXXXIV. NO. CCCXXXIII.
of bitterness. The fire light shone with a ghastly glare through the worn corpse-light fingers, and I shuddered to see how thin they were.
"And Louis,' I said, endeavouring to divert her gloomy thoughts and to give her courage.
"She fixed her full earnest gaze upon me, as she answered slowly, Nay, Georgette, thou art surely mocking me. Thou canst not but have perceived that all our early love is but a dream. He hath returned to the world from which he has wandered to hold communion for that brief time with me. Why should I grieve? He hath chosen by far the wiser path, and if I cannot follow him so swiftly in his downward flight it is no fault of his.'
"I was terrified at the calmness of her manner, and remembering the exertion she would in so short a time be compelled to make, I sought to raise her hope and spirit by every means in my power. I greatly fear that I was wrong. I know not to this hour; but who could foresee the event?
"Thou thinkest far too lightly of thyself, sweet Paquerette,' said I, in a cheerful voice, while yet I was scarcely able to refrain from tears. 'Louis loves thee more than ever, but then 'tis with a more proud and manly love. Fear not, he feels that thou art worthy other sentiments than those he felt ere he had mixed with men. He seeks now not merely to admire but to deserve thee.'
"She slowly arose from her kneeling posture, and fixed a steady gaze upon my face. Her large dark eyes seemed to grow yet larger-to expand like those of the wild, the desert-born antelope.
"Speakest thou truly, Georgette?' said she, Do I hear aright? I know not, in truth, for thy voice seems unlike thine own. I could almost fancy it the echo of some music which I had heard long ago, thy words have found such quick response within my heart. See now, how weak and foolish I become. Thy simple speech hath made me almost forswear my long-cherished hope. Could I but believe thee, my only friendbut-no, no, it must not be, or I should dread to die!'
"She gazed mournfully into the fire. The log upon the hearth just then broke in two, and rolled among the embers. Its bright yellow blaze flared up for a moment, and showed her pale features as clearly as in day, and then sank into darkness. She seized my hand, and pressed it with a convulsive grasp. I am sure she looked upon this incident as a
omen of her fate.
"It was just at that very moment that the dresser of the theatre came to announce that the hour for attiring was arrived. It was fortunate, for it broke the spell which seemed to have bound us both. I busied myself in lighting the lamp, and in arranging every thing which would be wanted for her toilet, making these little offices each and all last as long as I could, ere I dared turn my face to hers, so much was it stained with tears.
"I roused myself by an effort, and endeavoured to cheer her spirits; and as I proceeded to assist her in dressing, succeeded, by dint of perseverance, in winning from her now and then a sickly smile. Thus encouraged, I talked once more of Louis. I told her (alas! that I should say it) of the bouquet of purple bruyère! She seemed to take courage while listening to all my specious reasonings in his favour; and said, with a return of her own tranquil manner, that she would try and chase the gloomy
thoughts which for ever followed her, and would endeavour to recall the trust and faith in him which she had felt in bygone days, when they had nought to love but each other.
"As the hour for the opening of the theatre approached, I grew far more excited than herself, for my words had soothed her agitation. I shall never forget the effect which the first burst of the full orchestra produced upon us both as we had sat quiet and silent for a few moments in that little chamber. It was like the thunderbolt. Paquerette raised her eye to heaven, and I threw myself upon her bosom in speechless agony. As the overture proceeded, she followed each note, beating the measure with her tiny foot, and humming each bar distinctly, although the tears were ready to gush forth. She needed not the warning of the call-boy to arouse her attention; for as the piece of music drew near to its close, she kissed me hastily, and by a strong effort, rushed through the door into the coulisses. I remained behind leaning against the doorway, panting and breathless; and all I can remember now is, the fact of hearing the voice of dear kind old C. calling in a loud tone, Be quick here-be quick-a tumbler of eau à la glace for the débutante, or she will faint before the curtain rises!'
"I live in hope that the Lord will forgive me, but at that moment I forgot the time-the place-the when-the where-the occasion which had brought me there-in short, all but Paquerette-there in that unhallowed spot, amid the emblems of unholy things by which I was surrounded, did I sink upon my knees, and cross myself, and pray with such yearning fervour for the success of the poor orphan, that those who saw me kneeling there, between those painted side scenes, as deeply absorbed in prayer as if I had been alone in my own village church, might have deemed me overcome by sudden madness, and I cannot wonder at the roars of laughter which burst from the whole band of thinly-clad Coryphées who were gazing upon me from the coulisse opposite.
"The music of the opening scene- a sylvan chorus of village maids and foresters-bold, yet flowing and harmonious, succeeded greatly in restoring the calm to my spirit, and I arose, soothed and quieted, just in time to behold Paquerette gliding softly from the side scenes unto the stage. Her entrance called forth no applause. Not the slightest murmur of encouragement greeted her appearance. On the contrary, it would have seemed as if each one held his breath fearing to break the charm the gliding of that spirit-like form across the stage. There was a slight pause, even in the orchestra-but it was unobserved-the whole audience seemed beneath the influence of some magic spell, and sat watching that ethereal figure, dim and shadowy like a half-forgotten dream, as if, like the sybils of ancient days, the first notes she uttered were to be pregnant with the fate of some one among them.
"She began at length-I almost fancied that from where I stood I could hear her deep drawn respiration, but as she proceeded in her part, fear gave way to inspiration. Her genius took wing, and ere long soared above all the trammels of minor considerations, and, on the falling of the curtain at the close of the first act, the applause was most enthusiastic. "How glad she was to breathe once more free and unconstrained upon my bosom, and to tell me of all her newly-born sensations, and to receive my words of hope and comfort. She seemed in better spirits than I had