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ANDERPORT RECORDS-NO. III.
REGINALD, SON OF ANTHONY.
A MONTH passed away. Though Reginald during this time paid assiduous attention to Miss Chesley, and seemed to be regarded in the light of an accepted suitor, he had sought no explicit understanding. Mr. Chesley and Edward were naturally gratified at the prospect of the approaching connection. The young man's wealth may have contributed to the earnestness of their approval, yet there were higher and more disinterested considerations. Not only had Reginald rendered the family most important services, but in rendering them had displayed such qualities of mind and heart as appeared to ensure the happiness of any woman whom he should choose for his bride.
While everything flowed along thus smoothly, Simon Rennoe was not idle. Reginald himself scarcely made more frequent visits to the house of Mr. Chesley, nor was more cordially welcomed by Matilda. His age and unpresuming urbanity were warrants for admitting him to familiar intercourse, whilst the kindliness of his disposition, the sympathy which overflowed from his bosom towards every human being, and the readiness with which he accommodated himself to the mood of the person into whose society he chanced to be thrown, made it impossible that he could be known as acquaintance without being honored and loved as friend. Besides these amiable traits, he was remarkable for the possession of others of a different kind, but which are equally valuable in a confidential adviser. In knowledge of the world, in penetration, in tact, in a perfectly balanced judgment, and in rapidity of decision, who surpassed Simon Rennoe?
That he was soon able to gain a great influence over the mind of Matilda, may be easily credited. But the use to which he applied this influence, evinces most
VOL. IV. NO. V NEW SERIES.
clearly the extent of his capacity. Never was art more thoroughly concealed. Day after day added surely but imperceptibly to the effect of that which preceded. Everything tended to the result, yet no particular circumstance seemed to have any connection with it. The subject upon whom he operated was least of all conscious of the means employed. Such profound subtlety defies both analysis and description, and even a calm spectator must look to the end without attempting to scrutinise in detail the measures which conducted to it.
Sometimes Matilda would detect Rennoe gazing upon her with an expression of tender melancholy that touched her to the heart: but the very moment he found himself observed, he would assume an air of constraint, or would break out suddenly into a gaiety as evidently hollow and artificial as to be more affecting than his previous look of compassion. He appeared to the young lady to be ever stung by self-reproach for unintentionally giving her pain. Sometimes the name of Laurence Seymour fell as by accident from his lips. Rennoe would hesitate, falter, seemed shocked at his indiscretion, and leave the sentence unfinished, to commence another upon a totally different topic. At last he spoke not of the Englishman at all, but whenever any transaction was mentioned in which he had been engaged, studiously resorted to a circumlocution.
Matilda was enthusiastically fond of the fine arts. Reginald had little taste that way, but Rennoe, who had been in early life an artist of no mean proficiency, took pains to gratify and amuse her, both by the exhibition of his own port-folio and by the selection of the best engravings he could find in the ill-arranged library at the Anderport mansion. One of these plates happened to contain a head which bore a striking resemblance to Seymour. Rennoe,
placing it among some others, proceeded to Mr. Chesley's. While Matilda was examining the bundle, he seated himself at some distance, and appeared deeply engaged in perusing a late number of the Public Advertiser. The beautiful girl hung long over one of the engravings-the beholder knew well enough which one-and a tear had time to creep from its hiding-place and glisten on the eyelid. She brushed it away, and instantly cast around her a startled glance to learn whether the action had been observed. But there sat Rennoe, his eye fastened on the printed sheet, and his features clothed with the same untroubled gravity.
Though the means employed were thus refined and artful, the general policy itself was exceedingly simple. Matilda loved Laurence Seymour; Rennoe took care that she was made conscious that she loved him. She was unhappy: indefatigable skill was employed to prevent her from losing sight, for a single moment, of that unhappiness. The consequence was, that the poor girl drooped and lost heart hourly. She became thoughtful, nervous, prone to alternate changes of animation and depression. Rennoe watched her decline, which was so gradual as to be scarcely obvious to any but him, with intense satisfaction. "Reginald Ander," he said to himself, "give me but time, and your bride shall fade away before she reaches your arms!"
Yet that time he could not expect to be allowed him. Some more speedy course must be determined on. It was possible that, with judicious treatment, he might be able very seriously to impair the girl's mind-perhaps to make it a hopeless ruin; yet such a plan must be attended with many dangers, not the least of which was the prospect of Reginald's interference. Besides this, Rennoe was not a cruel man, and was desirous of inflicting no more suffering than the attainment of his object demanded. Matilda, had been subjected to a pretty faithful preparation, and his own powers of persuasion, joined to the influence he had obtained over her, must now be adequate, he thought, to bend her mind according to his will.
An opportunity for testing it was not long in occurring. All the family was invited away on a visit. Miss Chesley alone did not go. The cause assigned was a
headache, but such a headache as hers did not interfere a whit with Simon Rennoe's purpose. Everything seemed favorable. The house was still and empty, and he had the whole morning at his disposal.
Too adroit not to make very gradual advances, he suffered an hour to elapse in desultory conversation. Finally, Miss Chesley was led to inquire what were the most striking social differences which he noticed in coming to America from Europe.
"There is one," replied Rennoe, "which has impressed me very forcibly, though some others indeed are much more glaringly obvious. What I refer to is, the comparative infrequency here of those marriages-alas! so common in the old world
which are not dictated by the affections of the parties. I thus see the Colonies freed from one of the greatest curses which can blast a land. For what more horrible can be imagined? A marriage from which love is absent-that which calls itself union, whilst in the sight of Heaven it is no union-is not only itself an awful crime, but it is the fruitful source of other crimes."
Matilda trembled. On another occasion, Rennoe, noticing this, would have turned the discourse, but the time to spare had passed. He looked at her long and fixedly. Her agitation increased, but that searching gaze was not removed. At last she burst into tears. Rennoe seemed much affected. "My dear young lady," he said. "I know you do not doubt my friendship. Ah, if it were less sincere, I should spare myself the keen anguish of inflicting pain on you! I ask you solemnly to-day whether you love-Laurence Seymour ?"
At the sound of that name, Matilda became as pallid as marble, and as speechless.
Rennoe continued, "And loving him, are you about to wed another?”
"I know not-I know not!" burst from Matilda.
"You know not? Think, Miss Chesley, what it is you say. How can I bear to hear from your own mouth that you premeditate a crime."
"But my father's wish-my mother's"—
"Pause again, my dear girl, and reflect. Beware how you lay so fearful a charge at
the door of those to whom you owe your birth. Do your parents, indeed, insist upon your marrying against your preference? Are they guilty of such cruelty and wickedness?"
"No, no," she murmured, "they are all that is kind and good."
"You speak truly," said Rennoe; "on your own conscience alone must all the sin rest. Your heart will not be able to say to itself in its hour of suffering, that others partake of the responsibility. Then weigh the matter well. Reckon up now the reasons which drive you into this marriage. Are they strong and sufficient?"
"The reasons why I should not withhold my consent, are strong," Matilda answered; "the strongest and weightiest. Has not Mr. Ander saved my life at the risk of his own? Should I hesitate to offer even life itself in return? Yet has he done far more than this. He is the preserver of my brother-nay, of my father also. He has restored peace to a divided household. In every action he has been most courageous, generous, magnanimous, self-sacrificing the best, the truest of men. Shall I, the humblest of a family, every member of which he has rescued from ruin, or from wretchedness, worse than ruin, falter and waver, or refuse to render any service which such a benefactor may deign to ask?"
Yet," replied Rennoe, "examine your heart well-search and see whether there may not lurk at the bottom some reason less disinterested. Has Ander's wealth nothing to do with your determination ?"
Sir, what mean you?" said Matilda, with indignant scorn; and is this the opinion you have learned to entertain of me? Do I appear so despicably base."
"I pray you, understand me, my dear young lady. Too well do I know your unselfish nature, to entertain the suspicion which you suppose. I meant simply to ask-and I do now ask you-whether you do not regard young Ander's suit with some additional favor, from a consideration of the benefit which his riches may be the means of rendering to your father?"
Matilda blushed, for Rennoe who could only guess at the terms on which Reginald had recovered the £3,600 from the gambler, had given a keener thrust than he supposed; but she soon recovered, and answered
with spirit: "And what if it were so? where is the harm in being unwilling to obstruct Mr. Ander's generous services to my parents?"
"I will tell you," said Rennoe, in a manner more cold and stern than usual; "or rather, you may answer for yourself. Is it right to procure the advancement of your father's prosperity at the expense of Reginald Ander's happiness? Does generosity merit this return?”
Rennoe perceived she was struck with the novel light in which he had put the case, and added, in an under tone,
"How can his life be aught but wretched, think you, when he takes to his bosom a wife, whose affections are given to another? Can you be the cause of that affliction, the bitterest that man can endure, and call the act disinterestedness ?"
The poor girl, at this rebuke, covered her face with her hands, and removing them suddenly as a thought occurred to her, replied—
"You are Mr. Ander's most intimate friend. Tell him, then-for it is your duty to do it-that Matilda Chesley is not worthy of him; that it may peril his happiness to admit her into his dwelling-tell him-I say-tell him-for upon him rests the decision!"
"No, no, my dear Miss Chesley, little do you understand the ardor and impetuosity of a young man, if you suppose that he can be deterred by any representation of consequences, which I could make. All buoyant with confidence, he cannot believe in the existence of any obstacles which his efforts cannot overcome. No, upon you, must abide the responsibility."
"Do you, then," said Matilda, "advise that I should myself inform him, that my heart cannot be wholly his?"
Rennoe reflected, for the question was one which he had not anticipated. young fellow will take her, I am afraid, without caring the value of a straw, whether he gets her heart or not. He is troubled with precious little sentiment, I think: yet it will not do to tell her No." Then he answered aloud, "Yes, you may tell him, if you think fit, but be sure that it is done with distinctness, and that energy which makes itself felt. Speak not of the difficulty in tones so light, that delusive hopes shall be excited-hopes which
you yourself are well aware cannot possibly be realized. Consider that he is acting the part of a lover; a part which requires him to exhibit a temper, bold, eager, and not easily daunted."
"I shall say nothing," replied Matilda; "I know that however I might begin, I should end only in obeying the impulses of gratitude. No, Mr. Rennoe, my path is clear. It must be one of toil-it may be one of suffering-yet I will not shun it. Most weak and unworthy, I am conscious that I am; all my effort then must be, not to shrink from my duty, but by labor and zeal to strive to render myself less incapable of fulfilling it. When Mr. Ander has done so much, it is impossible that I can ever do enough; yet, at least, he shall never be grieved by learning, from my lips, that I am not all he may wish me to be." Mr. Rennoe, after an interval in which he appeared to his companion to be undergoing a severe internal struggle, began to reply, in a very slow and deliberate manner. 'Perhaps it would be best for me to say nothing more—yet I dare not be silent -I feel I should carry a weight upon my conscience to my dying day. Are you not able, my dear young lady, to perceive the real nature of the difficulty that embarrasses you? It is your duty to be grateful, you urge."
Matilda, whose eyes were fixed upon him, here bowed her head in assent, and the other continued: "You are right; gratitude is a duty, but are there no others paramount to it? Would you do murder to gratify Reginald Ander?"
The fair girl was much shocked at the suggestion.
Rennoe, in a low, deep, thrilling tone, went on to say "Then would you be willing, out of gratitude, to tempt some poor soul to a fearful sin-a sin which may exclude that soul from all hope of pardon?— answer me."
"Am I a fiend?" was the reply. "A fiend, my dear child?" returned Rennoe, solemnly. "Ay, it is but too true-O, to think that your own heart is compelled to apply to itself a term so dreadful! Yes, there is a soul, which you, for Reginald's sake, are about to tempt into awful sin-and further-yet how can I utter it?-perhaps you are about to decide the eternal fate of a human being-to destroy a soul-think of it!"
The painful silence that ensued had at last to be broken by Rennoe: "Yes, it is your own soul that is in jeopardy. Fain would you escape the knowledge; but, my dear Miss Chesley, it is charity to urge it upon you. Do you ever think of Laurence Seymour, or rather, do you not think of him, daily-hourly?"
"Can I help it ?" Matilda answered, in a low voice, and almost unconsciously.
"These thoughts," resumed Rennoe, are now innocent, but what will they be when you are married to Reginald? Does not conscience tell you, that every affectionate remembrance of your lover, will then become a crime? Will you seek to annihilate memory? how impossible! Every moment the form of Laurence, will rise before your mental sight; your heart will hail the vision with joy, while conscience will declare it the omen of destruction. Each morning you will supplicate pardon for your sin; and yet, before you have risen from your knees, you will insult Heaven by committing it anew. Can the imagination conceive of agonies more horrible to endure, than these? That you look forward to your wedded life, as a term of unceasing suffering, your own admission assures me; but reflect upon the nature of that suffering. Frail humanity often yields to sudden temptation, and has need to spend each moment in penitence. Yet your self-reproach must be of a different and peculiar kind. You will be oppressed by the crushing conviction that your state of unutterable woe, has been brought on deliberately, and with a full knowledge of its character. Sinning hourly-doomed to despair of any escape from sin-will it comfort you to think that your own calm decision, is the cause of all ?”
Matilda, whose nerves-thanks to the four week's discipline through which she had gone-were less firm than they had been, was deeply agitated by this strain of denunciation. An operator, less practiced than Rennoe, would have been startled at the effect of his own words. As he ended his last sentence, she sat perfectly rigid, leaning slightly forward in her chair, and her eyes, which were fastened upon his,