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Title:      Falkner; A Novel
Author:     Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
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Edition:    1
Language:   English
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Date first posted:          July 2006
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Title:      Falkner; A Novel
Author:     Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley




VOL. I.



CHAPTER I.
CHAPTER II.
CHAPTER III.
CHAPTER IV.
CHAPTER V.
CHAPTER VI.
CHAPTER VII.
CHAPTER VIII.
CHAPTER IX.
CHAPTER X.
CHAPTER XI.
CHAPTER XII.
CHAPTER XIII.
CHAPTER XIV.
CHAPTER XV.
CHAPTER XVI.
CHAPTER XVII.

VOL. II.

CHAPTER I.
CHAPTER II.
CHAPTER III.
CHAPTER IV.
CHAPTER V.
CHAPTER VI.
CHAPTER VII.
CHAPTER VIII.
CHAPTER IX.
CHAPTER X.
CHAPTER XI.
CHAPTER XII.
CHAPTER XIII.
CHAPTER XIV.
CHAPTER XV.


VOL. III.

CHAPTER I.
CHAPTER II.
CHAPTER III.
CHAPTER IV.
CHAPTER V.
CHAPTER VI.
CHAPTER VII.
CHAPTER VIII.
CHAPTER IX.
CHAPTER X.
CHAPTER XI.
CHAPTER XII.
CHAPTER XIII.
CHAPTER XIV.
CHAPTER XV.
CHAPTER XVI.
CHAPTER XVII.
CHAPTER XVIII.
CHAPTER XIX.
CHAPTER XX.


VOL. I.


"there stood
In record of a sweet sad story,
An altar, and a temple bright,
Circled by steps, and o'er the gate
Was sculptured, 'To Fidelity!'"

--Shelley.





CHAPTER I.

The opening scene of this tale took place in a little village on the
southern coast of Cornwall. Treby (by that name we choose to designate
a spot, whose true one, for several reasons, will not be given,) was,
indeed, rather a hamlet than a village, although, being at the
sea-side, there were two or three houses which, by dint of green paint
and chintz curtains, pretended to give the accommodation of "Apartments
Furnished" to the few bathers who, having heard of its cheapness,
seclusion, and beauty, now and then resorted thither from the
neighbouring towns.

This part of Cornwall shares much of the peculiar and exquisite
beauty which every Englishman knows adorns "the sweet shire of Devon."
The hedges near Treby, like those round Dawlish and Torquay, are
redolent with a thousand flowers: the neighbouring fields are prankt
with all the colours of Flora,--its soft air,--the picturesque bay in
which it stood, as it were, enshrined,--its red cliffs, and verdure
reaching to the very verge of the tide,--all breathe the same festive
and genial atmosphere. The cottages give the same promise of comfort,
and are adorned by nature with more luxurious loveliness than the
villas of the rich in a less happy climate.

Treby was almost unknown; yet, whoever visited it might well prefer
its sequestered beauties to many more renowned competitors. Situated in
the depths of a little bay, it was sheltered on all sides by the
cliffs. Just behind the hamlet the cliff made a break, forming a little
ravine, in the depth of which ran a clear stream, on whose banks were
spread the orchards of the villagers, whence they derived their chief
wealth. Tangled bushes and luxuriant herbage diversified the cliffs,
some of which were crowned by woods; and in "every nook and coign of
'vantage" were to be seen and scented the glory of that coast--its
exhaustless store of flowers. The village was, as has been said, in the
depth of a bay; towards the east the coast rounded off with a broad
sweep, forming a varied line of bay and headland: to the west a little
promontory shot out abruptly, and at once closed in the view. This
point of land was the peculiarity of Treby. The cliff that gave it its
picturesque appearance was not high, but was remarkable for being
crowned by the village church, with its slender spire.

Long may it be before the village church-yard ceases to be in
England a favoured spot--the home of rural and holy seclusion. At Treby
it derived a new beauty, from its distance from the village, and the
eminence on which it was placed, overlooking the wide ocean, the sands,
the village itself, with its gardens, orchards, and gaily painted
fields. From the church a straggling, steep, yet not impracticable
path, led down to the sands; by way of the beach; indeed, the distance
from the village to the church was scarcely more than half a mile; but
no vehicle could approach, except by the higher road, which, following
the line of coast, measured nearly two miles. The edifice itself,
picturesque in its rustic simplicity, seemed at the distance to be
embosomed in a neighbouring grove. There was no house, nor even
cottage, near. The contiguous church-yard contained about two acres; a
light, white paling surrounded it on three sides; on the fourth was a
high wall, clothed thickly with ivy: the trees of the near wood
overhung both wall and paling, except on the side of the cliff: the
waving of their branches, the murmur of the tide, and the occasional
scream of sea-fowl, were all the sounds that disturbed, or rather
harmonized with, the repose and solitude of the spot.

On Sunday, the inhabitants of several hamlets congregated here to
attend divine service. Those of Treby usually approached by the beach,
and the path of the cliff, the old and infirm only taking the longer,
but more easy road. On every other day of the week, all was quiet,
except when the hallowed precincts were visited by happy parents with a
new-born babe, by bride and bridegroom hastening all gladly to enter on
the joys and cares of life--or by the train of mourners who attended
relation or friend to the last repose of the dead.

The poor are not sentimental--and, except on Sunday, after evening
service, when a mother might linger for a few moments near the fresh
grave of a lately lost child--or, loitering among the rustic tombs,
some of the elder peasants told tales of the feats of the dead
companions of their youth, a race unequalled, so they said, by the
generation around them. Save on that day, none ever visited or wandered
among the graves, with the one exception of a child, who had early
learned to mourn, yet whose infantine mind could scarcely understand
the extent of the cause she had for tears. A little girl, unnoticed and
alone, was wont, each evening, to trip over the sands--to scale, with
light steps, the cliff, which was of no gigantic height, and then,
unlatching the low, white gate, of the church-yard, to repair to one
corner, where the boughs of the near trees shadowed over two
graves--two graves, of which one only was distinguished by a simple
head-stone, to commemorate the name of him who mouldered beneath. This
tomb was inscribed to the memory of Edwin Raby, but the neighbouring
and less honoured grave claimed more of the child's attention--for her
mother lay beneath the unrecorded turf.

Beside this grassy hillock she would sit and talk to herself, and
play, till, warned home by the twilight, she knelt and said her little
prayer, and, with a "Good night, mamma," took leave of a spot with
which was associated the being whose caresses and love she called to
mind, hoping that one day she might again enjoy them. Her appearance
had much in it to invite remark, had there been any who cared to notice
a poor little orphan. Her dress, in some of its parts, betokened that
she belonged to the better classes of society; but she had no
stockings, and her little feet peeped from the holes of her well-worn
shoes. Her straw bonnet was dyed dark with sun and sea spray, and its
blue ribbon faded. The child herself would, in any other spot, have
attracted more attention than the incongruities of her attire. There is
an expression of face which we name angelic, from its purity, its
tenderness, and, so to speak, plaintive serenity, which we oftener see
in young children than in persons of a more advanced age. And such was
hers: her hair, of a light golden brown, was parted over a brow, fair
and open as day: her eyes, deep set and earnest, were full of thought
and tenderness: her complexion was pure and stainless, except by the
roses that glowed in her cheek, while each vein could be traced on her
temples, and you could almost mark the flow of the violet-coloured
blood beneath: her mouth was the very nest of love: her serious look
was at once fond and imploring; but when she smiled, it was as if
sunshine broke out at once, warm and unclouded: her figure had the
plumpness of infancy; but her tiny hands and feet, and tapering waist,
denoted the faultless perfection of her form. She was about six years
old--a friendless orphan, cast, thus young, pennyless on a thorny,
stony-hearted world.

Nearly two years previous, a gentleman, with his wife and little
daughter, arrived at Treby, and took up his abode at one of the
moderate priced lodging-houses before mentioned. The occasion of their
visit was but too evident. The husband, Mr. Raby, was dying of a
consumption. The family had migrated early in September, so to receive
the full benefit of a mild winter in this favoured spot. It did not
appear to those about him that he could live to see that winter. He was
wasted to a shadow--the hectic in his cheek, the brightness of his eyes
and the debility apparent in every movement, showed that disease was
triumphing over the principles of life. Yet, contrary to every
prognostic, he lived on from week to week, from month to month. Now he
was said to be better--now worse--and thus a winter of extraordinary
mildness was passed. But with the east winds of spring a great
deterioration was visible. His invalid walks in the sun grew shorter,
and then were exchanged for a few minutes passed sitting in his garden.
Soon he was confined to his room--then to his bed. During the first
week of a bleak, ungenial May, he died.

The extreme affection that subsisted between the pair rendered his
widow an object of interest even to the villagers. They were both
young, and she was beautiful; and more beautiful was their
offspring--the little girl we have mentioned--who, watched over and
attended on by her mother, attracted admiration as well as interest, by
the peculiar style of her childish, yet perfect loveliness. Every one
wondered what the bereaved lady would do; and she, poor soul, wondered
herself, and would sit watching the gambols of her child in an attitude
of unutterable despondency, till the little girl, remarking the sadness
of her mother, gave over playing to caress, and kiss her, and to bid
her smile. At such a word the tears fell fast from the widow's eyes,
and the frightened child joined her sobs and cries to hers.

Whatever might be the sorrows and difficulties of the unhappy lady,
it was soon evident to all but herself, that her own life was a fragile
tenure. She had attended on her husband with unwearied assiduity, and,
added to bodily fatigue, was mental suffering; partly arising from
anxiety and grief, and partly from the very virtues of the sufferer. He
knew that he was dying, and tried to reconcile his wife to her
anticipated loss. But his words, breathing the most passionate love and
purest piety, seemed almost to call her also from the desolation to
which he was leaving her, and to dissolve the ties that held her to
earth. When he was gone, life possessed no one attraction except their
child. Often while her father, with pathetic eloquence, tried to pour
the balm of resignation, and hopes of eternal reunion, into his wife's
heart, she had sat on her mother's knee, or on a little stool at her
feet, and looked up, with her cherub face, a little perplexed, a little
fearful, till, at some words of too plain and too dread an import, she
sprung into her father's arms, and clinging to his neck, amidst tears
and sobs, cried out, "You must not leave us, papa! you must stay--you
shall not go away!"

Consumption, in all countries except our own, is considered a
contagious disorder, and it too often proves such here. During her
close attendance, Mrs. Raby had imbibed the seeds of the fatal malady,
and grief, and a delicate texture of nerves, caused them to d'evelop
with alarming rapidity. Every one perceived this except herself. She
thought that her indisposition sprung from over-fatigue and grief, but
that repose would soon restore her; and each day, as her flesh wasted
and her blood flowed more rapidly, she said, "I shall be better
to-morrow." There was no one at Treby to advise or assist her. She was
not one of those who make friends and intimates of all who fall in
their way. She was gentle, considerate, courteous--but her refined mind
shrunk from displaying its deep wounds to the vulgar and unfeeling.

After her husband's death she had written several letters, which she
carefully put into the post-office herself--going on purpose to the
nearest post town, three miles distant. She had received one in answer,
and it had the effect of increasing every fatal symptom, through the
anguish and excessive agitation it excited. Sometimes she talked of
leaving Treby, but she delayed till she should be better; which time,
the villagers plainly saw, would never come, but they were not aware
how awfully near the crisis really was.

One morning--her husband had now been dead about four months--she
called up the woman of the house in which she lodged; there was a smile
on her face, and a pink spot burnt brightly in either cheek, while her
brow was ashy pale; there was something ghastly in the very gladness
her countenance expressed; yet she felt nothing of all this, but said,
"The newspaper you lent me had good news in it, Mrs. Baker. It tells me
that a dear friend of mine is arrived in England, whom I thought still
on the Continent. I am going to write to her. Will you let your
daughter take my little girl a walk while I write?"

Mrs. Baker consented. The child was equipped and sent out, while her
mother sat down to write. In about an hour she came out of her parlour;
Mrs. Baker saw her going towards the garden; she tottered as she
walked, so the woman hastened to her. "Thank you," she said; "I feel
strangely faint--I had much to say, and that letter had unhinged me--I
must finish it to-morrow--now the air will restore me--I can scarcely
breathe."

Mrs. Baker offered her arm. The sufferer walked faintly and feebly
to a little bench, and, sitting down, supported herself by her
companion. Her breath grew shorter; she murmured some words; Mrs. Baker
bent down, but could catch only the name of her child, which was the
last sound that hovered on the mother's lips. With one sigh her heart
ceased to beat, and life quitted her exhausted frame. The poor woman
screamed loudly for help, as she felt her press heavily against her;
and then, sliding from her seat, sink lifeless on the ground.



CHAPTER II.

It was to Mrs. Baker's credit that she did not attempt to
investigate the affairs of her hapless lodger till after the funeral. A
purse, containing twelve guineas, which she found on her table, served,
indeed, to satisfy her that she would be no immediate loser. However,
as soon as the sod covered the gentle form of the unfortunate lady, she
proceeded to examine her papers. The first that presented itself was
the unfinished letter which Mrs. Raby was engaged in writing at the
time of her death. This promised information, and Mrs. Baker read it
with eagerness. It was as follows:--

"My dearest Friend,

"A newspaper has just informed me that you are returned to England,
while I still believed you to be, I know not where, on the Continent.
Dearest girl, it is long since I have written, for I have been too sad,
too uncertain about your movements, and too unwilling to cloud your
happiness, by forcing you to remember one so miserable. My beloved
friend, my schoolfellow, my benefactress; you will grieve to hear of my
misfortunes, and it is selfish in me, even now, to intrude upon you
with the tale; but, under heaven, I have no hope, except in my
generous, my warm-hearted Alithea. Perhaps you have already heard of my
disaster, and are aware that death has robbed me of the happiness
which, under your kind fosterage, I had acquired and enjoyed. He is
dead who was my all in this world, and but for one tie I should bless
the day when I might be permitted to rest for ever beside him.

"I often wonder, dear Alithea, at the heedlessness and want of
foresight with which I entered life. Doomed, through poverty and my
orphan state, to earn my bread as a governess, my entrance on that
irksome task was only delayed by my visit to you: then under your dear
roof I saw and was beloved by Edwin; and his entreaties, and your
encouragement, permitted my trembling heart to dream of--to possess
happiness. Timidity of character made me shrink from my career:
diffidence never allowed me to suppose that any one would interest
themselves enough in me to raise the poor trembler from the ground, to
shelter and protect her; and this kind of despondency rendered Edwin's
love a new, glorious, and divine joy. Yet, when I thought of his
parents, I trembled--I could not bear to enter a family where I was to
be regarded as an unwelcome intruder; yet Edwin was already an
outcast--already father and brothers, every relation, had disowned
him--and he, like I, was alone. And you, Alithea, how fondly, how
sweetly did you encourage me--making that appear my duty which was the
fulfilment of my wildest dreams of joy. Surely no being ever felt
friendship as you have done--sympathizing even in the untold secrets of
a timid heart--enjoying the happiness that you conferred with an ardour
few can feel, even for themselves. Your transports of delight when you
saw me, through your means, blest, touched me with a gratitude that can
never die. And do I show this by asking now for your pity, and
saddening you by my grief? Pardon me, sweet friend, and do not wonder
that this thought has long delayed my letter.

"We were happy--poor, but content. Poverty was no evil to me, and
Edwin supported every privation as if he had never been accustomed to
luxury. The spirit that had caused him to shake off the shackles his
bigoted family threw over him, animated him to exertions beyond his
strength. He had chosen for himself--he wished to prove that his choice
was good. I do not allude to our marriage, but to his desertion of the
family religion, and determination to follow a career not permitted by
the policy of his relations to any younger son. He was called to the
bar--he toiled incessantly--he was ambitious, and his talents gave
every promise of success. He is gone--gone for ever! I have lost the
noblest, wisest friend that ever breathed, the most devoted lover, and
truest husband that ever blessed woman!

"I write incoherently. You know what our life in London was--obscure
but happy--the scanty pittance allowed him seemed to me amply to
suffice for all our wants; I only then knew of the wants of youth and
health, which were love and sympathy. I had all this, crowning to the
brim my cup of life--the birth of our sweet child filled it to
overflowing. Our dingy lodgings, near the courts of law, were a palace
to me; I should have despised myself heartily could I have desired any
thing beyond what I possessed. I never did--nor did I fear its loss. I
was grateful to Heaven, and thus, I fancied, that I paid the debt of my
unmeasured prosperity.

"Can I say what I felt when I marked Edwin's restless nights,
flushed cheek, and the cough that would not go away? these things I
dare not dwell upon--my tears overflow--my heart beats to bursting--the
fatal truth was at last declared; the fatal word, consumption, spoken:
change of air was all the hope held out--we came here; the church-yard
near holds now all earthly that remains of him--would that my dust were
mingling with his!

"Yet I have a child, my Alithea; and you, who are incomparable as a
mother, will feel that I ought not to grieve so bitterly while this
dear angel remains to me. I know, indeed, that without her, life would
at once suspend all its functions; why, then, is it, that while she is
with me I am not stronger, more heroic? for, to keep her with me, I
must leave the indolence of my present life--I must earn the bread of
both. I should not repine at this--I shall not, when I am better; but I
am very ill and weak; and though each day I rise, resolving to exert
myself, before the morning has past away I lie down exhausted,
trembling, and faint.

"When I lost Edwin, I wrote to Mr. Raby, acquainting him with the
sad intelligence, and asking for a maintenance for myself and my child.
The family solicitor answered my letter. Edwin's conduct had, I was
told, estranged his family from him; and they could only regard me as
one encouraging his disobedience and apostacy. I had no claim on them.
If my child were sent to them, and I would promise to abstain from all
intercourse with her, she should be brought up with her cousins, and
treated in all respects like one of the family. I answered this letter
hastily and proudly. I declined their barbarous offer, and haughtily,
and in few words, relinquished every claim on their bounty, declaring
my intention to support and bring up my child myself. This was
foolishly done, I fear; but I cannot regret it even now.

"I cannot regret the impulse that made me disdain these unnatural
and cruel relatives, or that led me to take my poor orphan to my heart
with pride, as being all my own. What had they done to merit such a
treasure? How did they show themselves capable of replacing a fond and
anxious mother? How many blooming girls have they sacrificed to their
peculiar views! With what careless eyes they regard the sweetest
emotions of nature!--never shall my adored girl be made the victim of
that loveless race. Do you remember our sweet child? She was lovely
from her birth; and surely, if ever angel assumed an earthly vesture,
it took a form like my darling: her loveliness expresses only the
beauty of her disposition; so young, yet so full of sensibility; her
temper is without a flaw, and her intelligence transcends her age. You
will not laugh at me for my maternal enthusiasm, nor will you wonder at
it; her endearing caresses, her cherub smiles, the silver accents of
her infantine voice, fill me with trembling rapture. Is she not too
good for this bad world? I fear it, I fear to lose her; I fear to die
and to leave her; yet if I should, will you not cherish, will you not
be a mother to her? I may be presumptuous; but if I were to die, even
now, I should die in the belief that I left my child another mother in
you--".

The letter broke off here, and these were the last words of the
unfortunate writer. It contained a sad, but too common story of the
hardheartedness of the wealthy, and the misery endured by the children
of the high-born. Blood is not water, it is said, but gold with them is
dearer far than the ties of nature; to keep and augment their
possessions being the aim and end of their lives, the existence, and,
more especially, the happiness of their children, appears to them a
consideration at once trivial and impertinent, when it would compete
with family views and family greatness. To this common and iniquitous
feeling these luckless beings were sacrificed; they had endured the
worst, and could be injured no more; but their orphan child was a
living victim, less thought of than the progeny of the meanest animal
which might serve to augment their possessions.

Mrs. Baker felt some complacency on reading this letter; with the
common English respect for wealth and rank, she was glad to find that
her humble roof had sheltered a man who was the son--she did not
exactly know of whom, but of somebody, who had younger sons and elder
sons, and possessed, through wealth, the power of behaving frightfully
ill to a vast number of persons. There was a grandeur and dignity in
the very idea; but the good woman felt less satisfaction as she
proceeded in her operations--no other letter or paper appeared to
inform or to direct. Every letter had been destroyed, and the young
pair had brought no papers or documents with them. She could not guess
to whom the unfinished letter she held was addressed, all was darkness
and ignorance. She was aghast--there was none to whom to apply--none to
whom to send the orphan. In a more busy part of the world, an
advertisement in the newspapers would have presented itself as a
resource; but Treby was too much cut off from the rest of the world,
for its inhabitants to conceive so daring an idea; and Mrs. Baker,
repining much at the burthen fallen upon her, and fearful of the
future, could imagine no means by which to discover the relations of
the little orphan; and her only notion was to wait, in hopes that some
among them would at last make inquiries concerning her.

Nearly a year had passed away, and no one had appeared. The
unfortunate lady's purse was soon emptied--and her watch, with one or
two trinkets of slight value, disposed of. The child was of small cost,
but still her sordid protectress harped perpetually on her ill
luck:--she had a family of her own, and plenty of mouths to feed. Missy
was but little, but she would get bigger--though for that matter it was
worse now, as she wanted more taking care of--besides, she was getting
quite a disgrace--her bonnet was so shabby, and her shoes worn out--and
how could she afford to buy others for one who was not a bit of her
flesh and blood, to the evident hurt of her own children? It was bad
enough now, but, by and by, she saw nothing but the parish; though
Missy was born for better than that, and her poor mamma would turn in
her grave at the name of such a thing. For her part she was to blame,
she feared, and too generous--but she would wait yet a little longer
before it came to that--for who could tell--and here Mrs. Baker's
prudence dammed up the stream of her eloquence--to no living ear did
she dare trust her dream of the coach and six that might one day come
for her little charge--and the remuneration and presents that would be
heaped upon her;--she actually saved the child's best frock, though she
had quite outgrown it, that on such a day her appearance might do her
honour. But this was a secret--she hid these vague but splendid images
deep in her heart, lest some neighbour might be seized with a noble
emulation--and through some artifice share in her dreamy gains. It was
these anticipations that prevented Mrs. Baker from taking any decisive
step injurious to her charge--but they did not shed any rosy hues over
her diurnal complaints--they grew more peevish and frequent, as time
passed away, and her visions attained no realization.

The little orphan grew meanwhile as a garden rose, that accident has
thrown amidst briers and weeds--blooming with alien beauty, and
unfolding its soft petals--and shedding its ambrosial odour beneath the
airs of heaven, unharmed by its strange position. Lovely as a day of
paradise, which by some strange chance visits this nether world to
gladden every heart, she charmed even her selfish protectress, and,
despite her shabby attire, her cherub smiles--the free and noble steps
which her tiny feet could take even now, and the music of her voice,
rendered her the object of respect and admiration, as well as love, to
the whole village.

The loss of her father had acquainted the poor child with death. Her
mother had explained the awful mystery as well as she could to her
infantine intellects, and, indulging in her own womanish and tender
fancies, had often spoken of the dead as hovering over and watching
around his loved ones, even in the new state of existence to which he
had been called. Yet she wept as she spoke: "He is happy," she
exclaimed, "but he is not here! Why did he leave us? Ah, why desert
those who loved him so well, who need him so dearly. How forlorn and
cast away are we without him!"

These scenes made a deep impression upon the sensitive child--and
when her mother died too, and was carried away and placed in the cold
earth, beside her husband, the orphan would sit for hours by the
graves, now fancying that her mother must soon return, now exclaiming,
"Why are you gone away? Come, dear mamma, come back--come quickly!"
Young as she was, it was no wonder that such thoughts were familiar to
her. The minds of children are often as intelligent as those of persons
of maturer age--and differ only by containing fewer ideas--but these
had so often been presented to her--and she so fixed her little heart
on the idea that her mother was watching over her, that at last it
became a part of her religion to visit, every evening, the two graves,
and saying her prayers near them, to believe that her mother's spirit,
which was obscurely associated with her mortal remains reposing below,
listened to and blest her on that spot.

At other times, neglected as she was, and left to wander at will,
she conned her lesson, as she had been accustomed at her mother's feet,
beside her grave. She took her picture-books there--and even her
playthings. The villagers were affected by her childish notion of being
"with mamma;" and Missy became something of an angel in their eyes, so
that no one interfered with her visits, or tried to explain away her
fancies. She was the nursling of love and nature: but the human hearts
which could have felt the greatest tenderness for her, beat no longer,
and had become clods of the soil,--


Borne round in earth's diurnal course
With rocks, and stones, and trees.


There was no knee on which she could playfully climb--no neck round
which she could fondly hang--no parent's cheek on which to print her
happy kisses--these two graves were all of relationship she knew upon
the earth--and she would kiss the ground and the flowers, not one of
which she plucked--as she sat embracing the sod. "Mamma" was everywhere
around. "Mamma" was there beneath, and still she could love and feel
herself beloved.

At other times she played gaily with her young companions in the
village--and sometimes she fancied that she loved some one among
them--she made them presents of books and toys, the relics of happier
days; for the desire to benefit, which springs up so naturally in a
loving heart, was strong within her, even in that early age. But she
never took any one with her in her church-yard visits--she needed none
while she was with mamma. Once indeed a favourite kitten was carried to
the sacred spot, and the little animal played amidst the grass and
flowers, and the child joined in its frolics--her solitary gay laugh
might be heard among the tombs--she did not think it solitary; mamma
was there to smile on her, as she sported with her tiny favourite.



CHAPTER III.

Towards the end of a hot, calm day of June, a stranger arrived at
Treby. The variations of calm and wind are always remarkable at the
sea-side, and are more particularly to be noticed on this occasion;
since it was the stillness of the elements that caused the arrival of
the stranger. During the whole day several vessels had been observed in
the offing, lying to for a wind, or making small way under press of
sail. As evening came on, the water beyond the bay lay calmer than
ever; but a slight breeze blew from shore, and these vessels,
principally colliers, bore down close under it, endeavouring by short
tacks to procure a long one, and at last to gain sea-room to make the
eastern headland of the bay. The fishermen on shore watched the
manoeuvres of the different craft; and even interchanged shouts with
the sailors, as they lay lazily on the beach. At length they were put
in motion by a hail for a boat from a small merchantman--the call was
obeyed--the boat neared the vessel--a gentleman descended into it--his
portmanteau was handed after him--a few strokes of the oar drove the
boat on the beach, and the stranger leapt out upon the sands.

The new comer gave a brief order, directing his slight luggage to be
carried to the best inn, and, paying the boatmen liberally, strolled
away to a more solitary part of the beach. "A gentleman," all the
spectators decided him to be--and such a designation served for a full
description of the new arrival to the villagers of Treby. But it were
better to say a few words to draw him from among a vast multitude who
might be similarly named, and to bestow individuality on the person in
question. It would be best so to present his appearance and manner to
the "mind's eye" of the reader, that if any met him by chance, he might
exclaim, "That is the man!" Yet there is no task more difficult, than
to convey to another, by mere words, an image, however distinctly it is
impressed on our own minds. The individual expression, and peculiar
traits, which cause a man to be recognized among ten thousand of his
fellow men, by one who has known him, though so palpable to the eye,
escape when we would find words whereby to delineate them.

There was something in the stranger that at once arrested
attention--a freedom, and a command of manner--self-possession joined
to energy. It might be difficult to guess his age, for his face had
been exposed to the bronzing influence of a tropical climate, and the
smoothness of youth was exchanged for the deeper lines of maturity,
without anything being as yet taken from the vigour of the limbs, or
the perfection of those portions of the frame and face, which so soon
show marks of decay. He might have reached the verge of thirty, but he
could not be older--and might be younger. His figure was active, sinewy
and strong--upright as a soldier (indeed a military air was diffused
all over his person); he was tall, and, to a certain degree, handsome;
his dark grey eyes were piercing as an eagle's, and his forehead high
and expansive, though somewhat distorted by various lines that spoke
more of passion than thought; yet his face was eminently intelligent;
his mouth, rather too large in its proportions, yet grew into beauty
when he smiled--indeed, the remarkable trait of his physiognomy was its
great variation--restless, and even fierce, the expression was often
that of passionate and unquiet thoughts; while at other times it was
almost bland from the apparent smoothness and graceful undulation of
the lines. It was singular, that when communing only with himself,
storms appeared to shake his muscles, and disfigure the harmony of his
countenance--and that when he addressed others, all was composed--full
of meaning, and yet of repose. His complexion, naturally of an olive
tint, had grown red and adust under the influence of climate--and often
flushed from the inroads of vehement feeling. You could not doubt at
the instant of seeing him, that many singular, perhaps tragical,
incidents were attached to his history--but, conviction was enforced
that he reversed the line of Shakspeare, and was less sinned against,
than sinning--or, at least, that he had been the active machinator of
his fate, not the passive recipient of disappointment and sorrow. When
he believed himself to be unobserved, his face worked with a thousand
contending emotions, fiery glances shot from his eyes--he appeared to
wince from sudden anguish--to be transported by a rage that changed his
beauty into utter deformity: was he spoken to, all these tokens
vanished on the instant--dignified--calm, and even courteous, though
cold, he would persuade those whom he addressed that he was one of
themselves--and not a being transported by his own passions and actions
into a sphere which every other human being would have trembled to
approach. A superficial observer had pronounced him a good fellow,
though a little too stately--a wise man had been pleased by the
intelligence and information he displayed--the variety of his powers,
and the ease with which he brought forward the stores of his intellect
to enlighten any topic of discourse. An independent and a gallant spirit
he surely had--what, then, had touched it with destruction--shaken
it to ruin, and made him, while yet so young, abhorrent even to himself?

Such is an outline of the stranger of Treby; and his actions were in
conformity with the incongruities of his appearance--outwardly
unemployed and tranquil; inwardly torn by throes of the most
tempestuous and agonizing feelings. After landing he had strolled away,
and was soon out of sight; nor did he return till night, when he looked
fatigued and depressed. For form's sake,--or for the sake of the bill
at the inn,--he allowed food to be placed before him; but he neither
ate nor drank--soon he hurried to the solitude of his chamber--not to
bed--he paced the room for some hours; but as soon as all was
still--when his watch and the quiet stars told him that it was
midnight, he left the house--he wandered down to the beach--he threw
himself upon the sands--and then again he started up and strode along
the verge of the tide--and then sitting down, covering his face with
his hands, remained motionless: early dawn found him thus--but, on the
first appearance of a fisherman, he left the neighbourhood of the
village, nor returned till the afternoon--and now when food was placed
before him, he ate like one half famished; but after the keen sensation
of extreme hunger was satisfied, he left the table and retired to his
own room.

Taking a case of pistols from his portmanteau, he examined the
weapons with care, and, putting them in his pocket, walked out upon the
sands. The sun was fast descending in the sky, and he looked, with
varying glances, at it, and at the blue sea, which slumbered
peacefully, giving forth scarcely any sound, as it receded from the
shore. Now he seemed wistful--now impatient--now struck by bitterer
pangs, that caused drops of agony to gather on his brow. He spoke no
word; but these were the thoughts that hovered, though unexpressed,
upon his lips: "Another day! Another sun! Oh, never, never more for me
shall day or sun exist. Coward! Why fear to die! And do I fear? No! no!
I fear nothing but this pain--this unutterable anguish--this image of
fell despair! If I could feel secure that memory would cease when my
brain lies scattered on the earth, I should again feel joy before I
die. Yet that is false. While I live, and memory lives, and the
knowledge of my crime still creeps through every particle of my frame,
I have a hell around me, even to the last pulsation! For ever and for
ever I see her, lost and dead at my feet--I the cause--the murderer! My
death shall atone. And yet even in death the curse is on me--I cannot
give back the breath of life to her sweet pale lips! O fool! O villain!
Haste to the last act; linger no more, lest you grow mad, and fetters
and stripes become your fitter punishment than the death you
covet!"

"Yet,"--after a pause, his thoughts thus continued:--"not here, nor
now: there must be darkness on the earth before the deed is done!
Hasten and hide thyself, O sun! Thou wilt never be cursed by the sight
of my living form again!"

Thus did the transport of passion embrace the universe in its grasp;
and the very sunlight seemed to have a pulse responsive to his own. The
bright orb sunk lower; and the little western promontory, with its
crowning spire, was thrown into bold relief against the glowing sky. As
if some new idea were awakened, the stranger proceeded along the sands,
towards the extremity of the headland. A short time before, unobserved
by him, the little orphan had tripped along, and, scaling the cliff,
had seated herself, as usual, beside her mother's grave.

The stranger proceeded slowly, and with irregular steps. He was
waiting till darkness should blind the eyes of day, which now appeared
to gaze on him with intolerable scrutiny, and to read his very soul,
that sickened and writhed with its burthen of sin and sorrow. When out
of the immediate neighbourhood of the village, he threw himself upon a
fragment of rock, and--he could not be said to meditate--for that
supposes some sort of voluntary action of the mind--while to him might
be applied the figure of the poet, who represented himself as hunted by
his own thoughts--pursued by memory, and torn to pieces, as
Acton by his own hounds. A troop of horrid recollections
assailed his soul: there was no shelter, no escape! various passions,
by turns, fastened themselves upon him--jealousy, disappointed love,
rage, fear, and last and worst, remorse and despair. No bodily torture,
invented by revengeful tyrant, could produce agony equal to that which
he had worked out for his own mind. His better nature, and the powers
of his intellect, served but to sharpen and strike deeper the pangs of
unavailing regret. Fool! He had foreseen nothing of all this! He had
fancied that he could bend the course of fate to his own will; and that
to desire with energy was to insure success. And to what had the
immutable resolve to accomplish his ends brought him? She was dead--the
loveliest and best of created beings: torn from the affections and the
pleasures of life! from her home, her child! He had seen her stretched
dead at his feet: he had heaped the earth upon her clay-cold form;--and
he the cause! he the murderer!

Stung to intolerable anguish by these ideas, he felt hastily for his
pistols, and rising, pursued his way. Evening was closing in; yet he
could distinguish the winding path of the cliff: he ascended, opened
the little gate, and entered the church-yard. Oh! how he envied the
dead!--the guiltless dead, who had closed their eyes on this mortal
scene, surrounded by weeping friends, cheered by religious hope. All
that imaged innocence and repose, appeared in his eyes so beautiful and
desirable: and how could he, the criminal, hope to rest like one of
these? A star or two came out in the heavens above, and the church
spire seemed almost to reach them, as it pointed upwards. The dim,
silent sea was spread beneath: the dead slept around: scarcely did the
tall grass bend its head to the summer air. Soft, balmy peace possessed
the scene. With what thrilling sensations of self-enjoyment and
gratitude to the Creator, might the mind at ease drink in the tranquil
loveliness of such an hour. The stranger felt every nerve wakened to
fresh anguish. His brow contracted convulsively. "Shall I ever die!" he
cried; "Will not the dead reject me!"

He looked round with the natural instinct that leads a human being,
at the moment of dissolution, to withdraw into a cave or corner, where
least to offend the eyes of the living by the loathsome form of death.
The ivyed wall and paling, overhung by trees, formed a nook, whose
shadow at that hour was becoming deep. He approached the spot; for a
moment he stood looking afar: he knew not at what; and drew forth his
pistol, cocked it, and, throwing himself on the grassy mound, raised
the mouth of the fatal instrument to his forehead. "Oh go away! go away
from mamma!" were words that might have met his ear, but that every
sense was absorbed. As he drew the trigger, his arm was pulled; the
ball whizzed harmlessly by his ear: but the shock of the sound, the
unconsciousness that he had been touched at that moment--the belief
that the mortal wound was given, made him fall back; and, as he himself
said afterwards, he fancied that he had uttered the scream he heard,
which had, indeed, proceeded from other lips.

In a few seconds he recovered himself. Yet so had he worked up his
mind to die; so impossible did it appear that his aim should fail him,
that in those few seconds, the earth and all belonging to it had passed
away--and his first exclamation, as he started up, was, "Where am I!"
Something caught his gaze; a little white figure, which lay but a few
paces distant, and two eyes that gleamed on him--the horrible thought
darted into his head--had another instead of himself been the victim?
and he exclaimed in agony, "Gracious God! who are you?--speak! What
have I done!" Still more was he horror-struck when he saw that it was a
little child who lay before him--he raised her--but her eyes had glared
with terror, not death; she did not speak; but she was not wounded, and
he endeavoured to comfort and re-assure her, till she, a little
restored, began to cry bitterly, and he felt, thankfully, that her
tears were a pledge that the worst consequences of her fright had
passed away. He lifted her from the ground, while she, in the midst of
her tears, tried to get him away from the grave he desecrated. The
twilight scarcely showed her features; but her surpassing fairness--her
lovely countenance and silken hair, so betokened a child of love and
care, that he was the more surprised to find her alone, at that hour,
in the solitary church-yard.

He soothed her gently, and asked, "How came you here? what could you
be doing so late, so far from home?"

"I came to see mamma."

"To see mamma! Where? how? Your mother is not here."

"Yes, she is; mamma is there;" and she pointed with her little
finger to the grave.

The stranger started up--there was something awful in this childish
simplicity and affection: he tried to read the inscription on the stone
near--he could just make out the name of Edwin Raby. "That is not your
mother's grave," he said.

"No; papa is there--mamma is here, next to him."

The man, just bent on self-destruction, with a conscience burning
him to the heart's core--all concentrated in the omnipotence of his own
sensations--shuddered at the tale of dereliction and misery these words
conveyed; he looked earnestly on the child, and was fascinated by her
angel look; she spoke with a pretty seriousness, shaking her head, her
lips trembling--her large eyes shining in brimming tears. "My poor
child," he said, "your name is Raby, then?"

"Mamma used to call me Baby," she replied; "they call me Missy at
home--my name is Elizabeth."

"Well, dear Elizabeth, let me take you home; you cannot stay all
night with mamma."

"O no; I was just going home, when you frightened me."

"You must forget that; I will buy you a doll to make it up again,
and all sorts of toys;--see, here is a pretty thing for you!" and he
took the chain of his watch, and threw it over her head; he wanted so
to distract her attention, as to make her forget what had passed, and
not to tell a shocking story when she got home.

"But," she said, looking up into his face, "you will not be so
naughty again, and sit down where mamma is lying."

The stranger promised, and kissed her, and, taking her hand, they
walked together to the village; she prattled as she went, and he
sometimes listened to her stories of mamma, and answered, and sometimes
thought with wonder that he still lived--that the ocean's tide still
broke at his feet--and the stars still shone above; he felt angry and
impatient at the delay, as if it betokened a failing of purpose. They
walked along the sands, and stopped at last at Mrs. Baker's door. She
was standing at it, and exclaimed, "Here you are, Missy, at last! What
have you been doing with yourself? I declare I was quite frightened--it
is long past your bed-time."

"You must not scold her," said the stranger; "I detained her. But
why do you let her go out alone? it is not right."

"Lord, sir," she replied, "there is none hereabouts to do her a
harm--and she would not thank me if I kept her from going to see her
mamma, as she calls it. I have no one to spare to go with her; it's
hard enough on me to keep her on charity, as I do. But,"--and her voice
changed, as a thought flashed across her,--"I beg your pardon, sir,
perhaps you come for Missy, and know all about her. I am sure I have
done all I can; it's a long time since her mamma died; and, but for me,
she must have gone to the parish. I hope you will judge that I have
done my duty toward her."

"You mistake," said the stranger; "I know nothing of this young
lady, nor of her parents, who, it would seem, are both dead. Of course
she has other relations?"

"That she has, and rich ones too," replied Mrs. Baker, "if one could
but find them out. It's hard upon me, who am a widow woman, with four
children of my own, to have other people's upon me--very-hard, sir, as
you must allow; and often I think that I cannot answer it to myself,
taking the bread from my own children and grandchildren, to feed a
stranger. But, to be sure, Missy has rich relations, and some day they
will inquire for her; though come the tenth of next August, and it's a
year since her mother died, and no one has come to ask good or bad
about her, or Missy."

"Her father died also in this village?" asked the stranger.

"True enough," said the woman; "both father and mother died in this
very house, and lie up in the church-yard yonder. Come, Missy, don't
cry; that's an old story now, and it's no use fretting."

The poor child, who had hitherto listened in simple ignorance, began
to sob at this mention of her parents; and the stranger, shocked by the
woman's unfeeling tone, said, "I should like to hear more of this sad
story. Pray let the poor dear child be put to bed, and then if you will
relate what you know of her parents, I dare say I can give you some
advice, to enable you to discover her relations, and relieve you from
the burthen of her maintenance."

"These are the first comfortable words I have heard a long time,"
said Mrs. Baker. "Come, Missy, Nancy shall put you to bed; it's far
past your hour. Don't cry, dear; this kind gentleman will take you
along with him, to a fine house, among grand folks, and all our
troubles will be over. Be pleased, sir, to step into the parlour, and I
will show you a letter of the lady, and tell you all I know. I dare
say, if you are going to London, you will find out that Missy ought to
be riding in her coach at this very moment."

This was a golden idea of Mrs. Baker, and, in truth, went a little
beyond her anticipations; but she had got tired of her first dreams of
greatness, and feared that, in sad truth, the little orphan's relations
would entirely disown her; but it struck her that if she could persuade
this strange gentleman that all she said was true, he might be induced
to take the little girl with him, when he went away, and undertake the
task of restoring her to her father's family, by which means she at
least would be released from all further care on her account:--"Upon
this hint she spake."

She related how Mr. and Mrs. Raby had arrived with their almost
infant child--death already streaked the brow of the dying man; each
day threatened to be his last; yet he lived on. His sufferings were
great; and night and day his wife was at his side, waiting on him,
watching each turn of his eye, each change of complexion, or of pulse.
They were poor, and had only one servant, hired at the village soon
after their arrival, when Mrs. Raby found herself unable to bestow
adequate attention on both husband and child; yet she did so much as
evidently to cause her to sink beneath her too great exertions. She was
delicate and fragile in appearance; but she never owned to being
fatigued, or relaxed in her attentions. Her voice was always attuned to
cheerfulness, her eyes beaming with tenderness; she, doubtless, wept in
secret; but when conversing with her husband, or playing with her
child, a natural vivacity animated her, that looked like hope; indeed,
it was certain that, in spite of every fatal symptom, she did not
wholly despair. When her husband declared himself better, and resumed
for a day his task of instructor to his little girl, she believed that
his disorder had taken a favourable turn, and would say, "O, Mrs.
Baker, please God, he is really better; doctors are not infallible; he
may live!" And as she spoke, her eyes swam in tears, while a smile lay
like a sunbeam on her features. She did not sink till her husband died,
and even then struggled, both with her grief and the wasting malady
already at work within her, with a fortitude a mother only could
practise; for all her exertions were for her dear child; and she could
smile on her, a wintry smile--yet sweet as if warmed by seraphic faith
and love. She lingered thus, hovering on the very limits of life and
death; her heart warm and affectionate, and hoping, and full of fire to
the end, for her child's sake, while she herself pined for the freedom
of the grave, and to soar from the cares and sorrows of a sordid world,
to the heaven already open to receive her. In homely phrase, Mrs. Baker
dwelt upon this touching mixture of maternal tenderness and soft
languor, that would not mourn for him she was so soon to join. The
woman then described her sudden death, and placed the fragment of her
last letter before her auditor.

Deeply interested, the stranger began to read, when suddenly he
became ghastly pale, and, trembling all over, he asked, "To whom was
this letter addressed?"

"Ah, sir," replied Mrs. Baker, "would that I could tell, and all my
troubles would be over. Read on, sir, and you will see that Mrs. Raby
feels sure that the lady would have been a mother to poor Missy; but
who, or where she is, is past all my guessing."

The stranger strove to read on, but violent emotion, and the
struggle to hide what he felt, hindered him from taking in the meaning
of a single word. At length he told Mrs. Baker, that, with her leave,
he would take the letter away, and read it at his leisure. He promised
her his aid in discovering Miss Raby's relatives, and assured her that
there would be small difficulty in so doing. He then retired, and Mrs.
Baker exclaimed, "Please God, this will prove a good day's work."

A voice from the grave had spoken to the stranger. It was not the
dead mother's voice--she, whatever her merits and sufferings had been,
was to him an image of the mind only--he had never known her. But her
benefactress, her hope and trust, who and where was she? Alithea! the
warm-hearted friend--the incomparable mother! She to whom all hearts in
distress turned, sure of relief--who went before the desires of the
necessitous; whose generous and free spirit made her empress of all
hearts; who, while she lived, spread, as does the sun, radiance and
warmth around--her pulses were stilled; her powers cribbed up in the
grave. She was nothing now; and he had reduced to this nothing the
living frame of this glorious being.

The stranger read the letter again and again; again he writhed, as
her name appeared, traced by her friend's delicate hand, and the
concluding hope seemed the acme of his despair. She would indeed have
been a mother to the orphan--he remembered expressions that told him
that she was making diligent inquiry for her friend, whose luckless
fate had not reached her. Yes, it was his Alithea; he could not doubt.
His? Fatal mistake--his she had never been; and the wild resolve to
make her such, had ended in death and ruin.

The stranger had taken the letter to his inn--but any roof seemed to
imprison and oppress him--again he sought relief in the open air, and
wandered far along the sands, with the speed of a misery that strove to
escape from itself. The whole night he spent thus--sometimes climbing
the jagged cliffs, then descending to the beach, and throwing himself
his length upon the sands. The tide ebbed and flowed--the roar of ocean
filled the lone night with sound--the owl flapped down from its home in
the rock, and hooted. Hour after hour passed,--and, driven by a
thousand thoughts--tormented by the direst pangs of memory--still the
stranger hurried along the winding shores. Morning found him many miles
from Treby. He did not stop till the appearance of another village put
a limit to solitude, and he returned upon his steps.

Those who could guess his crime, could alone divine the combat of
life and death waging in his heart. He had, through accident and
forgetfulness, left his pistols on the table of his chamber at the inn,
or, in some of the wildest of the paroxysms of despair, they had ended
all. To die, he fondly hoped, was to destroy memory and to defeat
remorse; and yet there arose within his mind that feeling, mysterious
and inexplicable to common reason, which generates a desire to expiate
and to atone. Should he be the cause of good to the friendless orphan,
bequeathed so vainly to his victim, would not that, in some sort,
compensate for his crime? Would it not double it to have destroyed her,
and also the good of which she would have been the author? The very
finger of God pointed to this act, since the child's little hand had
arrested his arm at the fatal moment when he believed that no interval
of a second's duration intervened between him and the grave. Then to
aid those dim religious misgivings, came the manly wish to protect the
oppressed, and assist the helpless. The struggle was long and terrible.
Now he made up his mind that it was cowardice to postpone his
resolve--that to live was to stamp himself poltroon and traitor. And
now again, he felt that the true cowardice was to die--to fly from the
consequences of his actions, and the burthen of existence. He gazed
upon the dim waste of waters, as if from its misty skirt some vision
would arise to guide or to command. He cast his eyes upward to
interrogate the silent stars--the roaring of the tide appeared to
assume an inorganic voice, and to murmur hoarsely, "Live! miserable
wretch! Dare you hope for the repose which your victim enjoys? Know
that the guilty are unworthy to die--that is the reward of
innocence!"

The cool air of morning chilled his brow; and the broad sun arose
from the eastern sea, as, pale and haggard, he re-trod many a weary
step towards Treby. He was faint and weary. He had resolved to live yet
a little longer--till he had fulfilled some portion of his duty towards
the lovely orphan. So resolving, he felt as if he paid a part of the
penalty due. A soothing feeling, which resembled repentance, stole over
his heart, already rewarding him. How swiftly and audibly does the
inner voice of our nature speak, telling us when we do right. Besides,
he believed that to live was to suffer; to live, therefore, was in him
a virtue; and the exultation, the balmy intoxication which always
follows our first attempt to execute a virtuous resolve, crept over
him, and elevated his spirits, though body and soul were alike weary.
Arriving at Treby, he sought his bed. He slept peacefully; and it was
the first slumber he had enjoyed since he had torn himself from the
spot where she lay, whom he had loved so truly, even to the death to
which he had brought her.



CHAPTER IV.

Two days after, the stranger and the orphan had departed for London.
When it came to the point of decision, Mrs. Baker's conscience began to
reproach her; and she doubted the propriety of intrusting her innocent
charge to one totally unknown. But the stranger satisfied her doubts;
he showed her papers betokening his name and station, as John Falkner,
Captain in the Native Cavalry of the East India Company, and moreover
possessed of such an independence as looked like wealth in the eyes of
Mrs. Baker, and at once commanded her respect.

His own care was to collect every testimony and relic that might
prove the identity of the little Elizabeth. Her unfortunate mother's
unfinished letter--her Bible and prayer-book--in the first of which was
recorded the birth of her child--and a seal, (which Mrs. Baker's
prudence had saved, when her avarice caused her to sell the watch,)
with Mr. Raby's coat of arms and crest engraved--a small desk,
containing a few immaterial papers, and letters from strangers,
addressed to Edwin Raby--such was Elizabeth's inheritance. In looking
over the desk, Mr. Falkner found a little foreign almanac, embellished
with prints, and fancifully bound--on the first page of which was
written, in a woman's elegant hand, To dearest Isabella--from her A.
R.

Had Falkner wanted proof as to the reality of his suspicions with
regard to the friend of Mrs. Raby, here was conviction; he was about to
press the dear hand-writing to his lips, when, feeling his own
unworthiness, he shuddered through every limb, and thrusting the book
into his bosom, he, by a strong effort, prevented every outward mark of
the thrilling agony which the sight of his victim's writing occasioned.
It gave, at the same time, fresh firmness to his resolve to do all that
was requisite to restore the orphan daughter of her friend to her place
in society. She was, as a bequest, left him by her whom he last saw
pale and senseless at his feet--who had been the dream of his life from
boyhood, and was now the phantom to haunt him with remorse to his
latest hour. To replace the dead to the lovely child was impossible. He
knew the incomparable virtues of her to whom her mother bequeathed her,
while every thought that tended to recall her to his memory was armed
with a double sting--regret at having lost--horror at the fate he had
brought upon her.

By what strange, incalculable, and yet sure enchainment of events
had he been brought to supply her place! She was dead--through his
accursed machinations she no longer formed a portion of the breathing
world--how marvellous that he, flying from memory and conscience,
resolved to expiate his half involuntary guilt by his own death, should
have landed at Treby! Still more wondrous were the motives--hair-slight
in appearance, yet on which so vast a weight of circumstance hung--that
led him to the twilight church-yard, and had made Mrs. Raby's grave the
scene of the projected tragedy--which had brought the orphan to guard
that grave from pollution, caused her to stay his upraised hand, and
gained for herself a protector by the very act.

Whoever has been the victim of a tragic event--whoever has
experienced life and hope--the past and the future wrecked by one fatal
catastrophe, must be at once dismayed and awestruck to trace the secret
agency of a thousand foregone, disregarded, and trivial events, which
all led to the deplored end, and served, as it were, as invisible
meshes to envelop the victim in the fatal net. Had the meanest among
these been turned aside, the progress of the destroying destiny had
been stopped; but there is no voice to cry "Hold!" no prophesying eye
to discern the unborn event--and the future inherits its whole portion
of woe.

Awed by the mysteries that encompassed and directed his steps, which
used no agency except the unseen, but not unfelt, power which surrounds
us with motive, as with an atmosphere, Falkner yielded his hitherto
unbending mind to control. He was satisfied to be led, and not to
command; his impatient spirit wondered at this new docility, while yet
he felt some slight self-satisfaction steal over him; and the prospect
of being useful to the helpless little being who stood before him, weak
in all except her irresistible claim to his aid, imparted such pleasure
as he was surprised to feel.

Once again he visited the church-yard of Treby, accompanied by the
orphan. She was loath to quit the spot--she could with difficulty
consent to leave mamma. But Mrs. Baker had made free use of a grown-up
person's much abused privilege of deceit, and told her lies in
abundance; sometimes promising that she should soon return; sometimes
assuring that she would find her mother alive and well at the grand
place whither she was going: yet, despite the fallacious hopes, she
cried and sobbed bitterly during her last visits to her parents'
graves. Falkner tried to soothe her, saying, "We must leave papa and
mamma, dearest; God has taken them from you; but I will be a new papa
to you."

The child raised her head, which she had buried in his breast, and
in infantine dialect and accent, said, "Will you be good to her, and
love Baby, as papa did?"

"Yes, dearest child, I promise always to love you: will you love me,
and call me your papa?"

"Papa, dear papa," she cried, clinging round his neck--"My new, good
papa!" And then whispering in his ear, she softly, but seriously,
added, "I can't have a new mamma--I won't have any but my own
mamma."

"No, pretty one," said Falkner, with a sigh, "you will never have
another mamma; she is gone who would have been a second mother, and you
are wholly orphaned."

An hour after they were on the road to London, and, full of
engrossing and torturing thoughts as Falkner was, still he was called
out of himself and forced to admire the winning ways, the enchanting
innocence, and loveliness of his little charge. We human beings are so
unlike one to the other, that it is often difficult to make one person
understand that there is any force in an impulse which is omnipotent
with another. Children, to some, are mere animals, unendued with
instinct, troublesome, and unsightly--with others they possess a charm
that reaches to the heart's core, and stirs the purest and most
generous portions of our nature. Falkner had always loved children. In
the Indian wilds, which for many years he had inhabited, the sight of a
young native mother, with her babe, had moved him to envious tears. The
fair, fragile offspring of European women, with blooming faces and
golden hair, had often attracted him to bestow kind offices on parents,
whom otherwise he would have disregarded; the fiery passions of his own
heart caused him to feel a soothing repose, while watching the innocent
gambols of childhood, while his natural energy, which scarcely ever
found sufficient scope for exercise, led him to delight in protecting
the distressed. If the mere chance spectacle of infant helplessness was
wont to excite his sympathy, this sentiment, by the natural workings of
the human heart, became far more lively when so beautiful and perfect a
creature as Elizabeth Raby was thrown upon his protection. No one could
have regarded her unmoved; her silver-toned laugh went to the heart;
her alternately serious or gay looks, each emanating from the spirit of
love; her caresses, her little words of endearment; the soft pressure
of her tiny hand and warm, rosy lips,--were all as charming as beauty,
and the absence of guile, could make them. And he, the miserable man,
was charmed, and pitied the mother who had been forced to desert so
sweet a flower--leaving to the bleak elements a blossom which it had
been paradise for her to have cherished and sheltered in her own bosom
for ever.

At each moment Falkner became more enchanted with his companion.
Sometimes they got out of the chaise to walk up a hill; then taking the
child in his arms, he plucked flowers for her from the hedges, or she
ran on before and gathered them for herself--now pulling ineffectually
at some stubborn parasite--now pricking herself with briar, when his
help was necessary to assist and make all well again. When again in the
carriage she climbed on his knee and stuck the flowers in his hair "to
make papa fine;" and as trifles affect the mind when rendered sensitive
by suffering, so was he moved by her trying to remove the thorns of the
wild roses before she decorated him with them; at other times she
twisted them among her own ringlets, and laughed to see herself
mirrored in the front glasses of the chaise. Sometimes her mood
changed, and she prattled seriously about "mamma." Asked if he did not
think that she was sorry at Baby's going so far--far away--or,
remembering the fanciful talk of her mother, when her father died, she
asked, whether she were not following them through the air. As evening
closed in, she looked out to see whether she could not perceive her; "I
cannot hear her; she does not speak to me," she said; "perhaps she is a
long way off, in that tiny star; but then she can see us--Are you
there, mamma?"

Artlessness and beauty are more truly imaged on the canvass than in
the written page. Were we to see the lovely orphan thus pictured (and
Italian artists, and our own Reynolds, have painted such), with
uplifted finger; her large earnest eyes looking inquiringly and
tenderly for the shadowy form of her mother, as she might fancy it
descending towards her from the little star her childish fancy singled
out, a half smile on her lips, contrasted with the seriousness of her
baby brow--if we could see such visibly presented on the canvass, the
world would crowd round to admire. This pen but feebly traces the
living grace of the little angel; but it was before Falkner; it stirred
him to pity first, and then to deeper regret: he strained the child to
his breast, thinking, "O, yes, I might have been a better and a happy
man! False Alithea! why, through your inconstancy, are such joys buried
for ever in your grave!"

A few minutes after and the little girl fell asleep, nestled in his
arms. Her attitude had all the inartificial grace of childhood; her
face hushed to repose, yet breathed of affection. Falkner turned his
eyes from her to the starry sky. His heart swelled impatiently--his
past life lay as a map unrolled before him. He had desired a peaceful
happiness--the happiness of love. His fond aspirations had been snakes
to destroy others, and to sting his own soul to torture. He writhed
under the consciousness of the remorse and horror which were henceforth
to track his path of life. Yet, even while he shuddered, he felt that a
revolution was operating within himself--he no longer contemplated
suicide. That which had so lately appeared a mark of courage, wore now
the guise of cowardice. And yet, if he were to live, where and how
should his life be passed? He recoiled from the solitude of the heart
which had marked his early years--and yet he felt that he could never
more link himself in love or friendship to any.

He looked upon the sleeping child, and began to conjecture whether
he might not find in her the solace he needed. Should he not adopt her,
mould her heart to affection, teach her to lean on him only, be all the
world to her, while her gentleness and caresses would give life a
charm--without which it were vain to attempt to endure existence?

He reflected what Elizabeth's probable fate would be if he restored
her to her father's family. Personal experience had given him a horror
for the forbidding; ostentatious kindness of distant relations. That
hers resembled such as he had known, and were imperious and
cold-hearted, their conduct not only to Mrs. Raby, but previously to a
meritorious son, did not permit him to doubt. If he made the orphan
over to them, their luxuries and station would ill stand instead of
affection and heart-felt kindness. Soft, delicate, and fond, she would
pine and die. With him, on the contrary, she would be happy--he would
devote himself to her--every wish gratified--her gentle disposition
carefully cultivated--no rebuke, no harshness; his arms ever open to
receive her in grief--his hand to support her in danger. Was not this a
fate her mother would have preferred? In bequeathing her to her friend,
she showed how little she wished that her sweet girl should pass into
the hands of her husband's relations. Could he not replace that friend
of whom he had cruelly robbed her--whose loss was to be attributed to
him alone?

We all are apt to think that when we discard a motive we cure a
fault, and foster the same error from a new cause with a safe
conscience. Thus, even now, aching and sore from the tortures of
remorse for past faults, Falkner indulged in the same propensity,
which, apparently innocent in its commencement, had led to fatal
results. He meditated doing rather what he wished, than what was
strictly just. He did not look forward to the evils his own course
involved, while he saw in disproportionate magnitude those to be
brought about if he gave up his favourite project. What ills might
arise to the orphan from his interweaving her fate with his--he, a
criminal, in act, if not in intention--who might be called upon
hereafter to answer for his deeds, and who at least must fly and hide
himself--of this he thought not; while he determined, that, fostered
and guarded by him, Elizabeth must be happy--and; under the tutelage of
her relations, she would become the victim of hardhearted neglect.
These ideas floated somewhat indistinctly in his mind--and it was half
unconsciously that he was building from them a fabric for the future,
as deceitful as it was alluring.

After several days' travelling, Falkner found himself with his young
charge in London, and then he began to wonder wherefore he had repaired
thither, and to consider that he must form some settled scheme for the
future. He had in England neither relation nor friend whom he cared
for. Orphaned at an early age, neglected by those who supported him, at
least as far as the affections were concerned, he had, even in boyhood,
known intimately, and loved but one person only--she who had ruled his
fate to this hour--and was now among the dead. Sent to India in early
youth, he had there to make his way in defiance of poverty, of want of
connexion, of his own overbearing disposition--and the sense of wrong
early awakened, that made him proud and reserved. At last, most
unexpectedly, the death of several relations caused the family estate
to devolve upon him--and he had sold his commission in India and
hastened home--with his heart so set upon one object, that he scarcely
reflected, or reflected only to congratulate himself, on how alone he
stood. And now that his impetuosity and ill-regulated passions had
driven the dear object of all his thoughts to destruction--still he was
glad that there were none to question him--none to wonder at his
resolves; to advise or to reproach.

Still a plan was necessary. The very act of his life which had been
so big with ruin and remorse enjoined some forethought. It was probable
that he was already suspected, if not known. Detection and punishment
in a shape most loathsome would overtake him, did he not shape his
measures with prudence; and, as hate as well as love had mixed strongly
in his motives, he was in no humour to give his enemies the triumph of
visiting his crime on him.

What is written in glaring character in our own consciousness, we
believe to be visible to the whole world; and Falkner, after arriving
in London, after leaving Elizabeth at an hotel, and walking into the
streets, felt as if discovery was already on him, when he was accosted
by an acquaintance, who asked him where he had been--what he had been
doing--and why he was looking so deucedly ill? He stammered some reply,
and was hastening away, when his friend, passing his arm through his,
said, "I must tell you of the strangest occurrence I ever heard of--I
have just parted from a man--do you remember a Mr. Neville, whom you
dined with at my house, when last in town?"

Falkner, at this moment, exercised with success the wonderful
mastery which he possessed over feature and voice, and coldly replied
that he did remember.

"And do you remember our conversation after he left us?" said his
friend, "and my praises of his wife, who I exalted as the pattern of
virtue? Who can know women! I could have bet any sum that she would
have preserved her good name to the end--and she has eloped."

"Well!" said Falkner, "is that all?--is that the most wonderful
circumstance ever heard?"

"Had you known Mrs. Neville," replied his companion, "you would be
as astonished as I: with all her charms--all her vivacity--never had
the breath of scandal reached her--she seemed one of those whose
hearts, though warm, are proof against the attacks of love; and with
ardent affections yet turn away from passion, superior and unharmed.
Yet she has eloped with a lover--there is no doubt of that fact, for he
was seen--they were seen going off together, and she has not been heard
of since."

"Did Mr. Neville pursue them?" asked Falkner.

"He is even now in full pursuit--vowing vengeance--more enraged than
I ever beheld man. Unfortunately he does not know who the seducer is;
nor have the fugitives yet been traced. The whole affair is the most
mysterious--a lover dropped from the clouds--an angel of virtue
subdued, almost before she is sought. Still they must be found
out--they cannot hide themselves for ever."

"And then there will be a duel to the death?" asked Falkner, in the
same icy accents.

"No," replied the other, "Mrs. Neville has no brother to fight for
her, and her husband breathes law only. Whatever vengeance the law will
afford, that he will use to the utmost--he is too angry to fight."

"The poltroon!" exclaimed Falkner, "and thus he loses his sole
chance of revenge."

"I know not that," replied his companion; "he has formed a thousand
schemes of chastisement for both offenders, more dread than the field
of honour--there is, to be sure, a mean as well as an indignant spirit
in him, that revels rather in the thought of inflicting infamy than
death. He utters a thousand mysterious threats--I do not see exactly
what he can do--but when he discovers his injurer, as he must some
day--and I believe there are letters that afford a clue,--he will wreak
all that a savage, and yet a sordid desire of vengeance can
suggest.--Poor Mrs. Neville!--after all, she must have lived a sad life
with such a fellow!"

"And here we part," said Falkner; "I am going another way. You have
told me a strange story--it will be curious to mark the end.
Farewell!"

Brave to rashness as Falkner was, yet there was much in what he had
just heard that made him recoil, and almost tremble. What the vengeance
was that Mr. Neville could take--he too well knew--and he resolved to
defeat it. His plans, before vague, were formed on the instant. His lip
curled with a disdainful smile when he recollected what his friend had
said of the mystery that hung over the late occurrences--he would steep
them all in tenfold obscurity. To grieve for the past was futile, or
rather, nothing he could do, would prevent or alleviate the piercing
regret that tortured him--but that need not influence his conduct. To
leave his arch enemy writhing from injury, yet powerless to revenge
himself--blindly cursing he knew not who, and removing the object of
his curses from all danger of being hurt by them, was an image not
devoid of satisfaction. Acting in conformity with these ideas, the next
morning saw him on the road to Dover--Elizabeth still his companion,
resolved to seek oblivion in foreign countries and far climes--and
happy, at the same time, to have her with him, whose infantine caresses
already poured balm upon his rankling wounds.



CHAPTER V.

Paris was the next, but transient, resting-place of the travellers.
Here Falkner made such arrangements with regard to remittances, as he
believed would best insure his scheme of concealment. He laid the map
of Europe before him, and traced a course with his pencil, somewhat
erratic, yet not without a plan. Paris, Hamburgh, Stockholm, St.
Petersburgh, Moscow, Odessa, Constantinople, through Hungary to Vienna.
How many thousand miles! miles--which while he traversed, he could
possess his soul in freedom--fear no scrutiny--be asked no insidious
questions. He could look each man in the face, and none trace his crime
in his own.

It was a wild scheme to make so young a child as Elizabeth the
companion of these devious and long wanderings; yet it was her idea
that shed golden rays on the boundless prospect he contemplated. He
could not have undertaken this long journey alone--memory and remorse
his only companions. He was not one of those, unfortunately, whom a
bright eye and kindly smile can light at once into a flame--soon burnt
out, it is true, but warming and cheering, and yet harmless while it
lasted. He could not among strangers at once discern the points to
admire, and make himself the companion of the intelligent and good,
through a sort of freemasonry some spirits possess. This was a great
defect of character. He was proud and reserved. His esteem must be
won--long habits of intimacy formed--his fastidious taste never
wounded--his imagination never baulked--without this, he was silent and
wrapt in himself. All his life he had cherished a secret and ardent
passion, beyond whose bounds every thing was sterile--this had changed
from the hopes of love to the gnawing pangs of remorse--but still his
heart fed on itself--and unless that was interested, and by the force
of affection he were called out of himself, he must be miserable. To
arrive unwelcomed at an inn--to wander through unknown streets and
cities, without any stimulus of interest or curiosity--to traverse vast
tracts of country, useless to others, a burthen to himself--alone, this
would have been intolerable. But Elizabeth was the cure; she was the
animating soul of his project: her smiles--her caresses--the knowledge
that he benefited her, was the life-blood of his design. He indulged
with a sort of rapture in the feeling, that he loved, and was beloved
by an angel of innocence, who grew, each day, into a creature endowed
with intelligence, sympathies, hopes, fears, and affections--all
individually her own, and yet all modelled by him--centred in him--to
whom he was necessary--who would be his: not like the vain love of his
youth, only in imagination, but in every thought and sensation, to the
end of time.

Nor did he intend to pursue his journey in such a way as to overtask
her strength, or injure her health. He cared not how much time elapsed
before its completion. It would certainly employ years; it mattered not
how many. When winter rendered travelling painful, he could take up his
abode in a metropolis abounding in luxuries. During the summer heats he
might fix himself in some villa, where the season would be mitigated to
pleasantness. If impelled by a capricious predilection, he could stay
for months in any chance selected spot: but his home was, with
Elizabeth beside him, in his travelling carriage. Perpetual change
would baffle pursuit, if any were set on foot; while the restlessness
of his life, the petty annoyances and fleeting pleasures of a
traveller's existence, would serve to occupy his mind, and prevent its
being mastered by those passions to which one victim had been
immolated, and which rendered the remnant of his days loathsome to
himself. "I have determined to live," he thought, "and I must therefore
insure the means of life. I must adopt a method by which I can secure
for each day that stock of patrence which is necessary to lead me to
the end of it. In the plan I have laid down, every day will have a task
to be fulfilled; and, while I employ myself in executing it, I need
look neither before nor behind; and each day added thus, one by one, to
one another, will form months and years, and I shall grow old,
travelling post over Europe."

His resolution made, he was eager to enter on his travels, which,
singular to say, he performed even in the very manner he had
determined; for the slight changes in the exact route, introduced
afterwards, from motives of convenience or pleasure, might be deemed
rather as in accordance with, than deviating from, his original
project.

Falkner was not a man ordinarily met with. He possessed wild and
fierce passions, joined to extreme sensibility, beneficence, and
generosity. His boyhood had been rendered miserable by the violence of
a temper roused to anger, even from trifles. Collision with his
fellow-creatures, a sense of dignity with his equals, and of justice
towards his inferiors, had subdued this; still his blood was apt to
boil when roused by any impediment to his designs, or the sight of
injury towards others; and it was with great difficulty that he kept
down the outward marks of indignation or contempt. To tame the
vehemence of his disposition, he had endeavoured to shackle his
imagination, and to cultivate his reason--and perhaps he fancied that
he succeeded best, when, in fact, he entirely failed. As now, when he
took the little orphan with him away from all the ties of blood--the
manners and customs of her country--from the discipline of regular
education, and the society of others of her sex--had not Elizabeth been
the creature she was, with a character not to be disharmonized by any
circumstances, this had been a fearful experiment.

Yet he fondly hoped to derive happiness from it. Traversing long
tracts of country with vast speed, cut off from intercourse with every
one but her, and she endearing herself more, daily, by extreme
sweetness of disposition, he began almost to forget the worm gnawing at
his bosom; and, feeling himself free, to fancy himself happy.
Unfortunately, it was not so: he had passed the fatal Rubicon, placed
by conscience between innocence and crime; and however much he might
for a time deaden the stings of feeling, or baffle the inevitable
punishment, hereafter to arise from the consequences of his guilt,
still there was a burthen on his soul that took all real zest from
life, and made his attempts at enjoyment more like the experiments of a
physician to dissipate sickness, than the buoyant sensations of one in
health.

But then he thought not of himself--he did not live in himself, but
in the joyous being at his side. Her happiness was exuberant. She might
be compared to an exotic, lately pinched, and drooping from the effects
of the wintry air, transported back in the first opening of a balmy
southern spring, to its native clime. The young and tender green leaves
unfolded themselves in the pleasant air; blossoms appeared among the
foliage, and sweet fruit might be anticipated. Nor was it only the
kindness of her protector that endeared him to her: much of the warm
sentiment of affection arose from their singular modes of life. Had
they continued at a fixed residence, in town or country, in a civilized
land, Elizabeth had seen her guardian at stated periods; have now and
then taken a walk with him, or gambolled in the garden at his side;
while, for the chief part, their occupation and pursuits being
different, they had been little together. As it was, they were never
apart: side by side in a travelling carriage--now arriving, now
departing; now visiting the objects worthy of observation in various
cities. They shared in all the pleasures and pains of travel, and each
incident called forth her sense of dependence, and his desire to
protect; or, changing places, even at that early age, she soothed his
impatience, while he was beguiled of his irritability by her cheerful
voice and smiling face. In all this, Elizabeth felt most strongly the
tie that bound them. Sometimes benighted; sometimes delayed by swollen
rivers; reduced to bear together the miseries of a bad inn, or, at
times, of no inn at all;--sometimes in danger--often worn by
fatigue--Elizabeth found in her adopted parent a shelter, a support,
and a preserver. Creeping close to him, her little hand clasped in his,
or carried in his arms, she feared nothing, because he was there.
During storms at sea, he had placed his own person between her and the
bitter violence of the wind, and had often exposed himself to the
inclemency of the weather to cover her, and save her from wet and cold.
At all times he was on the alert to assist, and his assistance was like
the coming of a superior being, sufficient to save her from harm, and
inspire her with courage. Such circumstances had, perhaps, made a
slight impression on many children; but Elizabeth had senses and
sensibilities so delicately strung, as to be true to the slightest
touch of harmony.

She had not forgotten the time when, neglected, and almost in rags,
she only heard the voice of complaint or chiding; when she crept alone
over the sands to her mother's grave, and, did a tempest overtake her,
there was none to shield or be of comfort; she remembered little
accidents that had at times befallen her, which, to her infantine
feelings, seemed mighty dangers. But there had been none, as now, to
pluck her from peril, and insure her safety. She recollected when, on
one occasion, a thunder-storm had overtaken her in the church-yard;
when, hurrying home, her foot slipped, as she attempted to descend the
wet path of the cliff--frightened, she clambered up again, and,
returning home by the upper road, had lost her way, and found night
darkening round her--wet, tired, and shivering with fear and cold; and
then, on her return, her welcome had been a scolding--well meant,
perhaps, but vulgar, loud, and painful: and now the contrast! Her
wishes guessed--her thoughts divined--ready succour and perpetual
vigilance were for ever close at hand; and all this accompanied by a
gentleness, kindness, and even by a respect, which the ardent, yet
refined feelings of her protector readily bestowed. Thus a physical
gratitude--so to speak--sprung up in her child's heart, a precursor to
the sense of moral obligation, to be developed in after years. Every
hour added strength to her affection, and habit generated fidelity, and
an attachment, not to be shaken by any circumstances.

Nor was kindness from him the only tie between them. Elizabeth
discerned his sadness, and tried to cheer his gloom. Now and then the
fierceness of his temper broke forth towards others; but she was never
terrified, and grieved for the object of his indignation; or if she
felt it to be unjust, she pleaded the cause of the injured, and, by her
caresses, brought him back to himself. She early learnt the power she
had over him, and loved him the more fondly on that account. Thus there
existed a perpetual interchange of benefit--of watchful care--of mutual
forbearance--of tender pity and thankfulness. If all this seems beyond
the orphan's years, it must be remembered that peculiar circumstances
develop peculiar faculties; and that, besides, what is latent does not
the less exist on that account. Elizabeth could not have expressed, and
was, indeed, unconscious of the train of feeling here narrated. It was
the microcosm of a plant, folded up in its germ. Sometimes looking at a
green, unformed bud, we wonder why a particular texture of leaves must
inevitably spring from it, and why another sort of plant should not
shoot out from the dark stem: but, as the tiny leaflet uncloses, it is
there in all its peculiarity, and endowed with all the especial
qualities of its kind. Thus with Elizabeth, however, in the
thoughtlessness and inexperience of childhood, small outward show was
made of the inner sense; yet in her heart tenderness, fidelity, and
unshaken truth, were folded up, to be developed as her mind gained
ideas, and sensation gradually verged into sentiment.

The course of years, also, is included in this sketch. She was six
years old when she left Paris--she was nearly ten when, after many
wanderings, and a vast tract of country over-passed, they arrived at
Odessa. There had always been a singular mixture of childishness and
reflection in her, and this continued even now. As far as her own
pleasures were concerned, she might be thought behind her age: to chase
a butterfly--to hunt for a flower--to play with a favourite animal--to
listen with eagerness to the wildest fairy tales,--such were her
pleasures; but there was something more as she watched the turns of
countenance in him she named her father--adapted herself to his gloomy
or communicative mood--pressed near him when she thought he was
annoyed--and restrained every appearance of discomfort, when he was
distressed by her being exposed to fatigue or the inclement sky.

When at St. Petersburgh he fell ill, she never left his bed-side;
and, remembering the death of her parents, she wasted away with terror
and grief. At another time, in a wild district of Russia, she sickened
of the measles. They were obliged to take refuge in a miserable hovel;
and, despite all his care, the want of medical assistance endangered
her life; while her convalescence was rendered tedious and painful by
the absence of every comfort. Her sweet eyes grew dim; her little head
drooped. No mother could have attended on her more assiduously than
Falkner; and she long after remembered his sitting by her in the night
to give her drink--her pillow smoothed by him--and, when she grew a
little better, his carrying her in his arms under a shady grove, so to
give her the benefit of the air, in a manner that would least incommode
her. These incidents were never forgotten. They were as the colour and
fragrance to the rose--the very beauty and delight of both their lives.
Falkner felt a half remorse at the too great pleasure he derived from
her society; while hers was a sort of rapturous, thrilling adoration,
that dreamt not of the necessity of a check, and luxuriated in its
boundless excess.



CHAPTER VI.

It was late in the autumn when the travellers arrived at Odessa,
whence they were to embark for Constantinople; in the neighbourhood of
which city they intended to pass the winter.

It must not be supposed that Falkner journeyed in the luxurious and
troublesome style of a Milord Anglais. A calche was his only
carriage. He had no attendant for himself, and was often obliged to
change the woman hired for the service of Elizabeth. The Parisian, with
whom they commenced their journey, was reduced to despair by the time
they arrived at Hamburgh. The German who replaced her, was dismissed at
Stockholm. The Swede next hired, became homesick at Moscow, and they
arrived at Odessa without any servant. Falkner scarcely knew what to
do, being quite tired of the exactions, caprices, and repinings of each
expatriated menial--yet it was necessary that Elizabeth should have a
female attendant; and, on his arrival at Odessa, he immediately set on
foot various inquiries to procure one. Several presented themselves,
who proved wholly unfit; and Falkner was made angry by their
extortionate demands, and total incapacity.

At length a person was ushered into him, who looked, who was,
English. She was below the middle stature--spare, and upright in
figure, with a composed countenance, and an appearance of tidiness and
quiet that was quite novel, and by no means unpleasing, contrasted with
the animated gestures, loud voices, and exaggerated protestations of
the foreigners.

"I hear, sir," she began, "that you are inquiring for an attendant
to wait on Miss Falkner, during your journey to Vienna: I should be
very glad if you would accept my services."

"Are you a lady's maid, in any English family here?" asked
Falkner.

"I beg your pardon, sir," continued the little woman, primly, "I am
a governess. I lived many years with a Russian lady, at St.
Petersburgh; she brought me here, and is gone and left me."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Falkner; "that seems a very unjust
proceeding--how did it happen?"

"On our arrival at Odessa, sir, the lady, who had no such notion
before, insisted on converting me to her church; and because I refused,
she used me, I may say, very ill; and, hiring a Greek girl, left me
here quite destitute."

"It seems that you have the spirit of a martyr," observed Falkner,
smiling.

"I do not pretend to that," she replied; "but I was born and brought
up a Protestant--and I did not like to pretend to believe what I could
not."

Falkner was pleased with the answer, and looked more scrutinizingly
on the applicant. She was not ugly--but slightly pitted with the
small-pox--and with insignificant features; her mouth looked
obstinate--and her light grey eyes, though very quick and intelligent,
yet from their smallness, and the lids and brows being injured by the
traces of the malady, did not redeem her countenance from an entirely
common-place appearance, which might not disgust, but could not
attract.

"Do you understand," asked Falkner, "that I need a servant, and not
a governess. I have no other attendant for my daughter; and you must
not be above waiting on her as she has been accustomed."

"I can make no objection," she replied; "my first wish is to get
away from this place, free from expense. At Vienna I can find a
situation such as I have been accustomed to--now I shall be very glad
to reach Germany safely in any creditable capacity--and I shall be
grateful to you, sir, if you do not consider my being destitute against
me, but be willing to help a countrywoman in distress."

There was a simplicity, though a hardness in her manner, and an
entire want of pretension or affectation that pleased Falkner. He
inquired concerning her abilities as a governess, and began to feel
that in that capacity also, she might be useful to Elizabeth. He had
been accustomed, on all convenient occasions, to hire a profusion of
masters; but this desultory sort of teaching did not inculcate those
habits of industry and daily application which it is the best aim of
education to promote. At the same time he much feared an improper
female companion for the child, and had suffered a good deal of anxiety
on account of the many changes he had been forced to make. He observed
the lady before him narrowly--there was nothing prepossessing, but all
seemed plain and unassuming; though formal, she was direct--her words
few--her voice quiet and low, without being soft or constrained. He
asked her what remuneration she would expect--she said that her present
aim was to get to Vienna free of expense, and she did not expect much
beyond--she had been accustomed to receive eighty pounds a year as
governess, but as she was to serve Miss Falkner as maid, she would only
ask twenty.

"But as I wish you to act as both," said Falkner, "we must join the
two sums, and I will pay you a hundred."

A ray of pleasure actually for a second illuminated the little
woman's face; while with an unaltered tone of voice she replied: "I
shall be very thankful, sir, if you think proper."

"You must, however, understand our conditions," said Falkner. "I
talk of Vienna--but I travel for my pleasure, with no fixed bourn or
time. I am not going direct to Germany--I spend the winter at
Constantinople. It may be that I shall linger in those parts--it may be
that from Greece I shall cross to Italy. You must not insist on my
taking you to Vienna: it is enough for your purpose, I suppose, if you
reach a civilized part of the world, and are comfortably situated, till
you find some other family going whither you desire."

She was acquiescent. She insisted, however, with much formality,
that he should make inquiries concerning her from several respectable
families at Odessa; otherwise, she said, he could not fitly recommend
her to any other situation. Falkner complied. Every one spoke of her in
high terms, lauding her integrity and kindness of heart. "Miss Jervis
is the best creature in the world," said the wife of the French Consul;
"only she is English to the core--so precise, and formal, and silent,
and quiet, and cold. Nothing can persuade her to do what she does not
think right. After being so shamefully deserted, she might have lived
in my house, or four or five others, doing nothing; but she chose to
have pupils, and to earn money by teaching. This might have been merely
for the sake of paying for her journey; but, besides this, we
discovered that she supports some poor relation in England, and, while
cast away here, she still remembered and sent remittances to one whom
she thought in want. She has a heart of gold, though it does not
shine."

Pleased with this testimony, Falkner thought himself fortunate in
securing her services, at the same time that he feared he should find
her presence a considerable encumbrance. A servant was a cipher, but a
governess must receive attention--she was an equal, who would
perpetually form a third with him and Elizabeth. His reserve, his love
of independence, and his regard for the feelings of another, would be
perpetually at war. To be obliged to talk, when he wished to be silent;
to listen to, and answer frivolous remarks; to know that at all times a
stranger was there--all this seemed to him a gigantic evil; but it
vanished after a few days' trial of their new companion's qualities.
Whatever Miss Jervis's latent virtues might be, she thought that the
chief among them was to be

Content to dwell in decencies for ever--

her ambition was to be unimpeachably correct in conduct. It a little
jarred with her notions to be in the house of a single gentleman--but
her desolate situation at Odessa allowed her no choice; and she tried
to counterbalance the evil by seeing as little of her employer as
possible. Brought up from childhood to her present occupation, she was
moulded to its very form; and her thoughts never strayed beyond her
theory of a good governess. Her methods were all straight
forward--pointing steadily to one undisguised aim--no freak of
imagination ever led her out of one hard, defined, unerratic line. She
had no pretension, even in the innermost recess of her heart, beyond
her station. To be diligent and conscientious in her task of teaching,
was the sole virtue to which she pretended; and, possessed of much good
sense, great integrity, and untiring industry, she succeeded beyond
what could have been expected from one apparently so insignificant and
taciturn.

She was, at the beginning, limited very narrowly in the exercise of
any authority over her pupil. She was obliged, therefore, to exert
herself in winning influence, instead of controlling by reprimands. She
took great pains to excite Elizabeth to learn; and once having gained
her consent to apply to any particular study, she kept her to it with
patience and perseverance; and the very zeal and diligence she
displayed in teaching, made Elizabeth ashamed to repay her with an
inattention that looked like ingratitude. Soon, also, curiosity, and a
love of knowledge, developed itself. Elizabeth's mind was of that high
order which soon found something congenial in study. The acquirement of
new ideas--the sense of order, and afterwards of power--awoke a desire
for improvement. Falkner was a man of no common intellect; but his
education had been desultory; and he had never lived with the learned
and well-informed. His mind was strong in its own elements, but these
lay scattered, and somewhat chaotic. His observation was keen, and his
imagination fervid; but it was inborn, uncultivated, and unenriched by
any vast stores of reading. He was the very opposite of a pedant. Miss
Jervis was much of the latter; but the two served to form Elizabeth to
something better than either. She learned from Falkner the uses of
learning: from Miss Jervis she acquired the thoughts and experience of
other men. Like all young and ardent minds, which are capable of
enthusiasm, she found infinite delight in the pages of ancient history:
she read biography, and speedily found models for herself, whereby she
measured her own thoughts and conduct, rectifying her defects, and
aiming at that honour and generosity which made her heart beat, and
cheeks glow, when narrated of others.

There was another very prominent distinction between Falkner and the
governess: it made a part of the system of the latter never to praise.
All that she tasked her pupil to do, was a duty--when not done it was a
deplorable fault--when executed, the duty was fulfilled, and she need
not reproach herself,--that was all. Falkner, on the contrary, fond and
eager, soon looked upon her as a prodigy; and though reserved, as far
as his own emotions were concerned, he made no secret of his almost
adoration of Elizabeth. His praise was enthusiastic--it brought tears
into her eyes--and yet, strange to say, it is doubtful whether she ever
strived so eagerly, or felt so satisfied with it, as for the
parsimonious expressions of bare satisfaction from Miss Jervis. They
excited two distinct sensations. She loved her protector the more for
his fervid approbation--it was the crown of all his gifts--she wept
sometimes only to remember his ardent expressions of approbation; but
Miss Jervis inspired self-diffidence, and with it a stronger desire for
improvement. Thus the sensibility of her nature was cultivated, while
her conceit was checked; to feel that to be meritorious with Miss
Jervis was impossible,--not to be faulty was an ambitious aim. She
easily discovered that affection rather than discernment dictated the
approbation of Falkner; and loved him better, but did not prize herself
the more.

He, indeed, was transported by the progress she made. Like most
self-educated, or uneducated men, he had a prodigious respect for
learning, and was easily deceived into thinking much of what was
little: he felt elated when he found Elizabeth eager to recite the
wonders recorded in history, and to delineate the characters of ancient
heroes--narrating their achievements, and quoting their sayings. His
imagination and keen spirit of observation were, at the same time, of
the utmost use. He analyzed with discrimination the actions of her
favourites--brought the experience of a mind full of passion and
reflection to comment upon every subject, and taught her to refer each
maxim and boasted virtue to her own sentiments and situation; thus to
form a store of principle by which to direct her future life.

Nor were these more masculine studies the only lessons of Miss
Jervis--needlework entered into her plan of education, as well as the
careful inculcation of habits of neatness and order; and thus Elizabeth
escaped for ever the danger she had hitherto run of wanting those
feminine qualities without which every woman must be unhappy--and, to a
certain degree, unsexed. The governess, meanwhile, was the most
unobtrusive of human beings. She never showed any propensity to
incommode her employer by making him feel her presence. Seated in a
corner of the carriage, with a book in her hand, she adopted the
ghostly rule of never speaking, except when spoken to. When stopping at
inns, or when, on arriving at Constantinople, they became stationary,
she was even less obtrusive. At first Falkner had deemed it proper to
ask her to accompany them in their excursions and drives; but she was
so alive to the impropriety of being seen with a gentleman, with only a
young child for their companion, that she always preferred staying at
home. After ranging a beautiful landscape, after enjoying the breezes
of heaven and the sight of the finest views in the world, when
Elizabeth returned, she always found her governess sitting in the same
place, away from the window, (because, when in London, she had been
told that it was not proper to look out of window,) even though the
sublimest objects of nature were spread for her view; and employed on
needlework, or the study of some language that might hereafter serve to
raise her in the class of governesses. She had travelled over half the
habitable globe, and part of the uninhabited--but she had never
diverged from the prejudices and habits of home--no gleam of
imagination shed its golden hue over her drab-coloured mind: whatever
of sensibility existed to soften or dulcify, she sedulously hid; yet
such was her serenity, her justice, her trustworthiness, and total
absence of pretension, that it was impossible not to esteem, and almost
to like her.

The trio, thus diverse in disposition, yet, by the force of a secret
harmony, never fell into discord. Miss Jervis was valued, and by
Elizabeth obeyed in all that concerned her vocation--she therefore was
satisfied. Falkner felt her use, and gladly marked the good effects of
application and knowledge on the character of his beloved ward--it was
the moulding of a block of Parian marble into a Muse; all corners--all
superfluous surface--all roughness departed--the intelligent, noble
brow--the serious, inquiring eye--the mouth--seat of sensibility--all
these were developed with new beauty, as animated by the aspiring soul
within. Her gentleness and sweetness increased with the cultivation of
her mind. To be wise and good was her ambition--partly to please her
beloved father--partly because her young mind perceived the uses and
beauty of knowledge.

If any thing could have cured the rankling wounds of Falkner's mind,
it was the excellence of the young Elizabeth. Again and again he
repeated to himself, that, brought up among the worldly and cold, her
noblest qualities would either have been destroyed, or produced misery.
In contributing to her happiness and goodness, he hoped to make some
atonement for the past. There were many periods when remorse, and
regret, and self-abhorrence held powerful sway over him: he was,
indeed, during the larger portion of his time, in the fullest sense of
the word--miserable. Yet there were gleams of sunshine he had never
hoped to experience again--and he readily gave way to this relief;
while he hoped that the worst of his pains were over.

In this idea he was egregiously mistaken. He was allowed to repose
for a few years. But the cry of blood was yet unanswered--the evil he
had committed unatoned; though they did not approach him, the
consequences of his crime were full of venom and bitterness to
others--and, unawares and unexpectedly, he was brought to view and feel
the wretchedness of which he was the sole author.



CHAPTER VII.

Three more years passed thus over the head of the young Elizabeth;
when, during the warm summer months, the wanderers established
themselves for a season at Baden. They had hitherto lived in great
seclusion--and Falkner continued to do so; but he was not sorry to find
his adopted child noticed and courted by various noble ladies, who were
charmed by the pure complexion--the golden hair, and spirited, though
gentle, manners of the young English girl.

Elizabeth's characteristic was an enthusiastic
affectionateness--every little act of kindness that she received
excited her gratitude: she felt as if she never could--though she would
constantly endeavour--repay the vast debt she owed her benefactor. She
loved to repass in her mind those sad days when, under the care of the
sordid Mrs. Baker, she ran every hazard of incurring the worst evils of
poverty; ignorance, and blunted sensibility. She had preserved her
little well-worn shoes, full of holes, and slipping from her feet, as a
sort of record of her neglected situation. She remembered how her hours
had been spent loitering on the beach--sometimes with her little book,
from which her mother had taught her--oftener in constructing sand
castles, decorated with pebbles and broken shells. She recollected how
she had thus built an imitation of the church and church-yard, with its
shady corner, and single stone, marking two graves: she remembered the
vulgar, loud voice that called her from her employment, with, "Come,
Missy, come to your dinner! The Lord help me! I wonder when any body
else will give you a dinner." She called to mind the boasts of Mrs.
Baker's children, contrasting their Sunday frock with hers--the
smallest portion of cake given to her last, and with a taunt that made
her little heart swell, and her throat feel choked, so that she could
not eat it, but scattered it to the birds--on which she was beat for
being wasteful; all this was contrasted with the vigilance, the
tenderness, the respect of her protector. She brooded over these
thoughts till he became sacred in her eyes; and, young as she was, her
heart yearned and sickened for an occasion to demonstrate the deep and
unutterable thankfulness that possessed her soul.

She was not aware of the services she rendered him in her turn. The
very sight of her was the dearest--almost the only joy of his life.
Devoured by disappointment, gloom, and remorse, he found no relief
except in her artless prattle, or the consciousness of the good he did
her. She perceived this, and was ever on the alert to watch his mood,
and to try by every art to awaken complacent feelings. She did not
know, it is true, the cause of his sufferings--the fatal memories that
haunted him in the silence of night--and threw a dusky veil over the
radiance of day. She did not see the fair, reproachful figure, that was
often before him to startle and appal--she did not hear the shrieks
that rung in his ears--nor behold her floating away, lifeless, on the
turbid waves--who, but a little before, had stood in all the glow of
life and beauty before him. All these agonizing images haunted silently
his miserable soul, and Elizabeth could only see the shadow they cast
over him, and strive to dissipate it. When she could perceive the dark
hour passing off, chased away by her endeavours, she felt proud and
happy. And when he told her that she had saved his life, and was his
only tie to it--that she alone prevented his perishing miserably, or
lingering in anguish and despair, her fond heart swelled with rapture;
and what soul-felt vows she made to remain for ever beside him, and pay
back to the last the incalculable debt she owed! If it be true that the
most perfect love subsists between unequals--no more entire attachment
ever existed, than that between this man of sorrows, and the happy
innocent child. He, worn by passion, oppressed by a sense of guilt, his
brow trenched by the struggles of many years--she, stepping pure and
free into life, innocent as an angel--animated only by the most
disinterested feelings. The link between them of mutual benefit and
mutual interest had been cemented by time and habit--by each waking
thought, and nightly dream. What is so often a slothful, unapparent
sense of parental and filial duty, was with them a living, active
spirit, for ever manifesting itself in some new form. It woke with
them, went abroad with them--attuned the voice, and shone brightly in
the eyes.

It is a singular law of human life, that the past, which apparently
no longer forms a portion of our existence, never dies; new shoots, as
it were, spring up at different intervals and places, all bearing the
indelible characteristics of the parent stalk; the circular emblem of
eternity is suggested by this meeting and recurrence of the broken ends
of our life. Falkner had been many years absent from England. He had
quitted it to get rid of the consequences of an act which he deeply
deplored, but which he did not wish his enemies to have the triumph of
avenging. So completely during this interval had he been cut off from
any, even allusion to the past, that he often tried to deceive himself
into thinking it a dream;--often into the persuasion, that, tragical as
was the catastrophe he had brought about, it was in its result for the
best. The remembrance of the young and lovely victim lying dead at his
feet, prevented his ever being really the dupe of these fond
deceits--but still, memory and imagination alone ministered to
remorse--it was brought home to him by none of the effects from which
he had separated himself by a vast extent of sea and land.

The sight of the English at Baden was exceedingly painful to him.
They seemed so many accusers and judges; he sedulously avoided their
resorts, and turned away when he saw any approach. Yet he permitted
Elizabeth to visit among them, and heard her accounts of what she saw
and heard even with pleasure; for every word showed the favourable
impression she made, and the simplicity of her own tastes and feelings.
It was a new world to her, to find herself talked to, praised and
caressed, by decrepit, painted, but courteous old princesses, dowagers,
and all the tribe of German nobility and English fashionable wanderers.
She was much amused, and her lively descriptions often made Falkner
smile, and pleased him by proving that her firm and unsophisticated
heart was not to be deluded by adulation.

Soon, however, she became more interested by a strange tale she
brought home, of a solitary boy. He was English--handsome, and well
born--but savage, and secluded to a degree that admitted of no
attention being paid him. She heard him spoken of at first, at the
house of some foreigners. They entered on a dissertation on the
peculiar melancholy of the English, that could develop itself in a lad
scarcely sixteen. He was a misanthrope. He was seen rambling the
country, either on foot, or on a pony--but he would accept no
invitations--shunned the very aspect of his fellows--never appearing,
by any chance, in the frequented walks about the baths. Was he deaf and
dumb? Some replied in the affirmative, and yet this opinion gained no
general belief. Elizabeth once saw him at a little distance, seated
under a wide-spreading tree in a little dell--to her he seemed more
handsome than any thing she had ever seen, and more sad. One day she
was in company with a gentleman, who she was told was his father; a man
somewhat advanced in years--of a stern, saturnine aspect--whose smile
was a sneer, and who spoke of his only child, calling him that "unhappy
boy," in a tone that bespoke rather contempt than commiseration. It
soon became rumoured that he was somewhat alienated in mind through the
ill-treatment of his parent--and Elizabeth could almost believe
this--she was so struck by the unfeeling and disagreeable appearance of
the stranger.

All this she related to Falkner with peculiar earnestness--"If you
could only see him," she said, "if we could only get him here--we would
cure his misery, and his wicked father should no longer torment him. If
he is deranged, he is harmless, and I am sure he would love us.--It is
too sad to see one so gentle and so beautiful pining away without any
to love him."

Falkner smiled at the desire to cure every evil that crossed her
path, which is one of the sweetest illusions of youth, and asked, "Has
he no mother?"

"No," replied Elizabeth, "he is an orphan like me, and his father is
worse than dead, as he is so inhuman. Oh! how I wish you would save him
as you saved me."

"That, I am afraid, would be out of my power," said Falkner; "yet,
if you can make any acquaintance with him, and can bring him here,
perhaps we may discover some method of serving him."

For Falkner had, with all his sufferings and his faults, much of the
Don Quixote about him, and never heard a story of oppression without
forming a scheme to relieve the victim. On this permission, Elizabeth
watched for some opportunity to become acquainted with the poor boy.
But it was vain. Sometimes she saw him at a distance; but if walking in
the same path, he turned off as soon as he saw her; or, if sitting
down, he got up, and disappeared, as if by magic. Miss Jervis thought
her endeavours by no means proper, and would give her no assistance.
"If any lady introduced him to you," she said, "it would be very well;
but, to run after a young gentleman, only because he looks unhappy, is
very odd, and even wrong."

Still Elizabeth persisted; she argued, that she did not want to know
him herself, but that her father should be acquainted with him--and
either induce his father to treat him better, or take him home to live
with them.

They lived at some distance from the baths, in a shady dell, whose
sides, a little further on, were broken and abrupt. One afternoon, they
were lingering not far from their house, when they heard a noise among
the underwood and shrubs above them, as if some one was breaking his
way through. "It is he,--look!" cried Elizabeth; and there emerged from
the covert, on to a more open, but still more precipitous path, the
youth they had remarked: he was urging his horse, with wilful blindness
to danger, down a declivity which the animal was unwilling to attempt.
Falkner saw the danger, and was sure that the boy was unaware of how
steep the path grew at the foot of the hill. He called out to him, but
the lad did not heed his voice--in another minute the horse's feet
slipped, the rider was thrown over his head, and the animal himself
rolled over. With a scream, Elizabeth sprang to the side of the fallen
youth, but he rose without any appearance of great injury--or any
complaint--evidently displeased at being observed: his sullen look
merged into one of anxiety as he approached his fallen horse, whom,
together with Falkner, he assisted to rise--the poor thing had fallen
on a sharp point of a rock, and his side was cut and bleeding. The lad
was now all activity, he rushed to the stream that watered the little
dell, to procure water, which he brought in his hat to wash the wound;
and as he did so, Elizabeth remarked to her father that he used only
one hand, and that the other arm was surely hurt. Meanwhile Falkner had
gazed on the boy with a mixture of admiration and pain. He was
wondrously handsome; large, deep-set hazel eyes, shaded by long dark
lashes--full at once of fire, and softness; a brow of extreme beauty,
over which clustered a profusion of chesnut-coloured hair; an oval
face; a person, light and graceful as a sculptured image--all this,
added to an expression of gloom that amounted to sullenness, with
which, despite the extreme refinement of his features, a certain
fierceness even was mingled, formed a study a painter would have
selected for a kind of ideal poetic sort of bandit stripling; but,
besides this, there was resemblance, strange, and thrilling, that
struck Falkner, and made him eye him with a painful curiosity. The lad
spoke with fondness to his horse, and accepted the offer made that it
should be taken to Falkner's stable, and looked to by his groom.

"And you, too," said Elizabeth, "you are in pain, you are hurt."

"That is nothing," said the youth; "let me see that I have not
killed this poor fellow--and I am not hurt to signify."

Elizabeth felt by no means sure of this. And while the horse was
carefully led home, and his wound visited, she sent a servant off for a
surgeon, believing, in her own mind, that the stranger had broken his
arm. She was not far wrong--he had dislocated his wrist. "It were
better had it been my neck," he muttered, as he yielded his hand to the
gripe of the surgeon, nor did he seem to wince during the painful
operation; far more annoyed was he by the eyes fixed upon him, and the
questions asked--his manner, which had become mollified as he waited on
his poor horse, resumed all its former repulsiveness; he looked like a
young savage, surrounded by enemies whom he suspects, yet is unwilling
to assail: and when his hand was bandaged, and his horse again and
again recommended to the groom, he was about to take leave, with thanks
that almost seemed reproaches, for having an obligation thrust on him,
when Miss Jervis exclaimed, "Surely I am not mistaken--are you not
Master Neville?"

Falkner started as if a snake had glided across his path, while the
youth, colouring to the very roots of his hair, and looking at her with
a sort of rage at being thus in a matter detected, replied, "My name is
Neville."

"I thought so," said the other; "I used to see you at Lady
Glenfell's. How is your father, Sir Boyvill?"

But the youth would answer to more; he darted at the questioner a
look of fury, and rushed away. "Poor fellow!" cried Miss Jervis, "he is
wilder than ever--his is a very sad case. His mother was the Mrs.
Neville talked of so much once--she deserted him, and his father hates
him. The young gentleman is half crazed, by ill treatment and
neglect."

"Dearest father, are you ill?" cried Elizabeth--for Falkner had
turned ashy pale--but he commanded his voice to say that he was well,
and left the room; a few minutes afterwards he had left the house, and,
seeking the most secluded pathways, walked quickly on as if to escape
from himself. It would not do--the form of her son was before him--a
ghost to haunt him to madness. Her son, whom she had loved with passion
inexpressible, crazed by neglect and unkindness. Crazed he was
not--every word he spoke showed a perfect possession of acute
faculties--but it was almost worse to see so much misery in one so
young. In person, he was a model of beauty and grace--his mind seemed
formed with equal perfection; a quick apprehension, a sensibility, all
alive to every touch; but these were nursed in anguish and wrong, and
strained from their true conclusions into resentment, suspicion, and a
fierce disdain of all who injured, which seemed to his morbid feelings
all who named or approached him. Falkner knew that he was the cause of
this evil. How different a life he had led, if his mother had lived!
The tenderness of her disposition, joined to her great talents and
sweetness, rendered her unparalleled in the attention she paid to his
happiness and education. No mother ever equalled her--for no woman ever
possessed at once equal virtues and equal capacities. How tenderly she
had reared him, how devotedly fond she was, Falkner too well knew; and
tones and looks, half forgotten, were recalled vividly to his mind at
the sight of this poor boy, wretched and desolate through his rashness.
What availed it to hate, to curse the father!--he had never been
delivered over to this father, had never been hated by him, had his
mother survived. All these thoughts crowded into Falkner's mind, and
awoke an anguish, which time had rendered, to a certain degree, torpid.
He regarded himself with bitter contempt and abhorrence--he feared,
with a kind of insane terror, to see the youth again, whose eyes, so
like hers, he had robbed of all expression of happiness, and clouded by
eternal sorrow. He wandered on--shrouded himself in the deepest
thickets, and clambered abrupt hills, so that, by breathless fatigue of
body, he might cheat his soul of its agony.

Night came on, and he did not return home. Elizabeth grew
uneasy--till at last, on making more minute inquiry, she found that he
had come back, and was retired to his room.

It was the custom of Falkner to ride every morning with his daughter
soon after sunrise; and on the morrow, Elizabeth had just equipped
herself, her thoughts full of the handsome boy--whose humanity to his
horse, combined with fortitude in enduring great personal pain,
rendered far more interesting than ever. She felt sure that, having
once commenced, their acquaintance would go on, and that his savage
shyness would be conquered by her father's kindness. To alleviate the
sorrows of his lot--to win his confidence by affection, and to render
him happy, was a project that was occupying her delightfully--when the
tramp of a horse attracted her attention--and, looking from the window,
she saw Falkner ride off at a quick pace. A few minutes afterwards a
note was brought to her from him. It said:--

"Dear Elizabeth,

"Some intelligence which I received yesterday obliges me
unexpectedly to leave Baden. You will find me at Mayence. Request Miss
Jervis to have every thing packed up as speedily as possible; and to
send for the landlord, and give up the possession of our house. The
rent is paid. Come in the carriage. I shall expect you this
evening.

"Yours, dearest,

"J. Falkner."

Nothing could be more disappointing than this note. Her first fairy
dream beyond the limits of her home, to be thus brushed away at once.
No word of young Neville--no hope held out of return! For a moment an
emotion ruffled her mind, very like ill humour. She read the note
again--it seemed yet more unsatisfactory--but in turning the page, she
found a postscript. "Pardon me," it said, "for not seeing you last
night; I was not well--nor am I now."

These few words instantly gave a new direction to her thoughts--her
father not well, and she absent, was very painful--then she recurred to
the beginning of the note. "Intelligence received yesterday,"--some
evil news, surely--since the result was to make him ill--at such a word
the recollection of his sufferings rushed upon her, and she thought no
more of the unhappy boy, but, hurrying to Miss Jervis, entreated her to
use the utmost expedition that they might depart speedily. Once she
visited Neville's horse; it was doing well, and she ordered it to be
led carefully and slowly to Sir Boyvill's stables.

So great was her impatience, that by noon they were in the
carriage--and in a few hours they joined Falkner at Mayence. Elizabeth
gazed anxiously on him. He was an altered man--there was something wild
and haggard in his looks, that bespoke a sleepless night, and a
struggle of painful emotion by which the very elements of his being
were convulsed--"You are ill, dear father," cried Elizabeth; "you have
heard some news that afflicts you very much."

"I have," he replied; "but do not regard me: I shall recover the
shock soon, and then all will be as it was before. Do not ask
questions--but we must return to England immediately."

To England! such a word Falkner had never before spoken--Miss Jervis
looked almost surprised, and really pleased. A return to her native
country, so long deserted, and almost forgotten, was an event to excite
Elizabeth even to agitation--the very name was full of so many
associations. Were they hereafter to reside there? Should they visit
Treby? What was about to happen? She was bid ask no questions, and she
obeyed--but her thoughts were the more busy. She remembered also that
Neville was English, and she looked forward to meeting him, and
renewing her projects for his welfare.



CHAPTER VIII.

In the human heart--and if observation does not err--more
particularly in the heart of man, the passions exert their influence
fitfully. With some analogy to the laws which govern the elements--they
now sleep in calm, and now arise with the violence of furious winds.
Falkner had latterly attained a state of feeling approaching to
equanimity. He displayed more cheerfulness--a readier interest in the
daily course of events--a power to give himself up to any topic
discussed in his presence; but this had now vanished. Gloom sat on his
brow--he was inattentive even to Elizabeth. Sunk back in the
carriage--his eyes bent on vacancy, he was the prey of thoughts, each
of which had the power to wound.

It was a melancholy journey. And when they arrived in London,
Falkner became still more absorbed and wretched. The action of remorse,
which had been for some time suspended, renewed its attacks, and made
him look upon himself as a creature at once hateful and accursed. We
are such weak beings that the senses have power to impress us with a
vividness, which no mere mental operation can produce. Falkner had been
at various time haunted by the probable consequences of his guilt on
the child of his victim. He recollected the selfish and arrogant
character of his father; and conscience had led him to reproach himself
with the conviction, that whatever virtues young Neville derived from
his mother, or had been implanted by her care, must have been rooted
out by the neglect or evil example of his surviving parent. The actual
effect of her loss he had not anticipated. There was something
heart-breaking to see a youth, nobly gifted by nature and fortune,
delivered over to a sullen resentment for unmerited wrongs--to
dejection, if not to despair. An uninterested observer must deeply
compassionate him; Elizabeth had done so, child as she was--with a pity
almost painful from its excess--what then must he feel who knew himself
to be the cause of all his woe?

Falkner was not a man to sit quietly under these emotions. In their
first onset they had driven him to suicide; preserved, as by a miracle,
he had exerted strong self-command, and, by dint of resolution, forced
himself to live. Year after year had passed, and he abided by the
sentence of life he had passed on himself--and, like the galley slave,
the iron which had eaten into the flesh, galled less than when newly
applied. But he was brought back from the patience engendered by
custom, at the sight of the unfortunate boy. He felt himself
accursed--God-reprobated--mankind (though they knew it not) abhorred
him. He would no longer live--for he deserved to die. He would not
again raise his hand against himself--but there are many gates to the
tomb; he found no difficulty on selecting one by which to enter. He
resolved to enter upon a scene of desperate warfare in a distant
country, and to seek a deliverance from the pains of life by the bullet
or the sword on the field of battle. Above all, he resolved that
Elizabeth's innocence should no longer be associated with his guilt.
The catastrophe he meditated must be sought alone; and she, whom he had
lived to protect and foster, must be guarded from the hardships and
perils to which he was about to deliver himself up.

Meditation on this new course absorbed him for some days. At first
he had been sunk in despondency; as the prospect opened before him of
activity allied to peril, and sought for the sake of the destruction to
which it unavoidably led, his spirits rose; like a war-horse dreaming
of the sound of a trumpet, his heart beat high in the hope of
forgetting the consciousness of remorse in all the turbulence of
battle, or the last forgetfulness of the grave. Still it was a
difficult task to impart his plan to the orphan, and to prepare her for
a separation. Several times he had tried to commence the subject, and
felt his courage fail him. At length, being together one day, some
weeks after their arrival in London--when, indeed, many steps had been
already taken by him in furtherance of his project; at twilight, as
they sat together near the window which looked upon one of the London
squares--and they had been comparing this metropolis with many foreign
cities--Falkner abruptly, fearful if he lost this occasion, of not
finding another so appropriate, said, "I must bid you good-by,
to-night, Elizabeth--to-morrow, early, I set out for the north of
England."

"You mean to leave me behind?" she asked; "but you will not be away
long?"

"I am going to visit your relations," he replied; "to disclose to
them that you are under my care, and to prepare them to receive you. I
hope soon to return, either to conduct you to them, or to bring one
among them to welcome you here."

Elizabeth was startled. Many years had elapsed since Falkner had
alluded to her alien parentage. She went by his name, she called him
father; and the appellation scarcely seemed a fiction--he had been the
kindest, fondest parent to her--nor had he ever hinted that he meant to
forego the claim his adoption had given him, and to make her over to
those who were worse than strangers in her eyes. If ever they had
recurred to her real situation, he had not been chary of expressions of
indignation against the Raby family. He had described with warm
resentment the selfishness, the hardness of heart, and disdain of the
well-being of those allied to them by blood, which too often subsists
in aristocratic English families, when the first bond has been broken
by any act of disobedience. He grew angry as he spoke of the indignity
with which her mother had been treated--and the barbarous proposition
of separating her from her only child; and he had fondly assured her
that it was his dearest pride to render her independent of these
unworthy and inhuman relations. Why were his intentions changed? His
voice and look were ominous. Elizabeth was hurt--she did not like to
object; she was silent--but Falkner deciphered her wounded feelings in
her ingenuous countenance, and he too was pained; he could not bear
that she should think him ungrateful--mindless of her affection, her
filial attentions, and endearing virtues: he felt that he must, to a
certain degree, explain his views--difficult as it was to make a
segment of his feelings in any way take a definite or satisfactory
shape.

"Do not think hardly of me, my own dear girl," he began; "for
wishing that we should separate. God knows that it is a blow that will
visit me far more severely than you. You will find relations and
friends, who will be proud of you--whose affections you will
win;--wherever you are, you will meet with love and admiration--and
your sweet disposition and excellent qualities will make life happy. I
depart alone. You are my only tie--my only friend--I break it and leave
you--never can I find another. Henceforth, alone--I shall wander into
distant and uncivilized countries, enter on a new and perilous career,
during which I may perish miserably. You cannot share these dangers
with me."

"But why do you seek them?" exclaimed Elizabeth, alarmed by this
sudden prophecy of ill.

"Do you remember the day when we first met?" replied Falkner; "when
my hand was raised against my own life, because I knew myself unworthy
to exist. It is the same now. It is cowardly to live, feeling that I
have forfeited every right to enjoy the blessings of life. I go that I
may die--not by my own hand--but where I can meet death by the hand of
others."

Strangely and frightfully did these words fall on the ear of his
appalled listener; he went on rapidly--for having once begun, the words
he uttered relieved, in some degree, the misery that burthened his
soul.

"This idea cannot astonish you, my love; you have seen too much of
the secret of my heart; you have witnessed my fits of distress and
anguish, and are not now told, for the first time, that grief and
remorse weigh intolerably on me. I can endure the infliction no longer.
May God forgive me in another world--the light of this I will see no
more!"

Falkner saw the sort of astonished distress her countenance
depicted; and, angry with himself for being its cause, was going on in
a voice changed to one less expressive of misery, but Elizabeth, seized
with dismay--the unbidden tears pouring from her eyes; her young--her
child's heart bursting with a new sense of horror--cast herself at his
feet and, embracing his knees as he sat, exclaimed, "My dear, dear
father!--my more than father, and only friend--you break my heart by
speaking thus. If you are miserable, the more need that your child--the
creature you preserved, and taught to love you--should be at your side
to comfort--I had almost said to help you. You must not cast me off!
Were you happy, you might desert me; but if you are miserable, I cannot
leave you--you must not ask me--it kills me to think of it!"

The youthful, who have no experience of the changes of life, regard
the present with far more awe and terror than those who have seen one
turn in the hour-glass suffice to change, and change again, the colour
of their lives. To be divided from Falkner, was to have the pillars of
the earth shaken under her--and she clung to him, and looked up
imploringly in his face, as if the next word he spoke were to decide
all; he kissed her, and, seating her on his knee, said, "Let us talk of
this more calmly, dearest--I was wrong to agitate you--or to mix the
miserable thoughts forced on me by my wretchedness--with the prudent
consideration of your future destiny. I feel it to be unjust to keep
you from your relations. They are rich. We are ignorant of what changes
and losses may have taken place among them, to soften their
hearts--which, after all, were never shut against you. You may have
become of importance in their eyes. Raby is a proud name, and we must
not heedlessly forego the advantages that may belong to your right to
it."

"My dear father," replied Elizabeth, "this talk is not for me. I
have no wish to claim the kindness of those who treated my true parents
ill. You are every thing to me. I am little more than a child, and
cannot find words to express all I mean; but my truest meaning is, to
show my gratitude to you till my dying day; to remain with you for
ever, while you love me; and to be the most miserable creature in the
world if you drive me from you. Have we not lived together since I was
a little thing, no higher than your knee? And all the time you have
been kinder than any father. When we have been exposed to storms, you
have wrapped me round in your arms so that no drop could fall on my
head. Do you remember that dreadful evening, when our carriage broke
down in the wide, dark steppe; and you, covering me up, carried me in
your arms, while the wind howled, and the freezing rain drove against
you? You could hardly bear up; and when we arrived at the post-house,
you, strong man as you are, fainted from exhaustion; while I, sheltered
in your arms, was as warm and well as if it had been a summer's day.
You have earned me--you have bought me by all this kindness, and you
must not cast me away!"

She clung round his neck--her face bathed in tears, sobbing and
speaking in broken accents. As she saw him soften, she implored him yet
more earnestly, till his heart was quite subdued; and, clasping her to
his heart, he showered kisses on her head and neck; while, to his
surprise, forgotten tears sprung to his own eyes. "For worlds I would
not desert you," he cried. "It is not casting you away that we should
separate for a short time; for where I go, indeed, dearest, you cannot
accompany me. I cannot go on living as I have done. For many years now
my life has been spent in pleasantness and peace--I have no right to
this--hardship and toil, and death, I ought to repay. I abhor myself
for a coward, when I think of what others suffer through my
deeds--while I am scathless. You can scarcely remember the hour when
the touch of your little hand saved my life. My heart is not changed
since then--I am unworthy to exist. Dear Elizabeth, you may one day
hate me, when you know the misery I have caused to those who deserved
better at my hands. The cry of my victim rings in my ears, and I am
base to survive my crime. Let me, dearest, make my own the praise, that
nothing graced my life more than the leaving it. To live a coward and a
drone, suits vilely with my former acts of violence and ill. Let me
gain peace of mind by exposing my life to danger. By advocating a just
cause I may bring a blessing down upon my endeavours. I shall go to
Greece. Theirs is a good cause--that of liberty and Christianity
against tyranny and an evil faith. Let me die for it; and when it is
known, as it will one day be, that the innocent perished through me, it
will be added, that I died in the defence of the suffering and the
brave. But you cannot go with me to Greece, dearest; you must await my
return in this country."

"You go to die!" she exclaimed, "and I am to be far away. No, dear
father, I am a little girl, but no harm can happen to me. The Ionian
Isles are under the English government--there, at least, I may go.
Athens too, I dare say, is safe. Dear Athens--we spent a happy winter
there before the revolution began. You forget what a traveller I
am--how accustomed to find my home among strangers in foreign and
savage lands. No, dear father, you will not leave me behind. I am not
unreasonable--I do not ask to follow you to the camp--but you must let
me be near--in the same country as yourself."

"You force me to yield against my better reason," said Falkner.
"This is not right--I feel that it is not so--one of your sex, and so
young, ought not to be exposed to all I am about to encounter;--and if
I should die, and leave you there desolate?"

"There are good Christians everywhere to protect the orphan,"
persisted Elizabeth. "As if you could die when I am with you! And if
you died while I was far, what would become of me? Am I to be left,
like a poor sailor's wife--to get a shocking, black-sealed letter, to
tell me that, while I was enjoying myself, and hoping that you had long
been--? It is wicked to speak of these things--but I shall go with my
own dear, dear father, and he shall not die!"

Falkner yielded to her tears, her caresses, and persuasions. He was
not convinced, but he could not withstand the excess of grief she
displayed at the thought of parting. It was agreed that she should
accompany him to the Ionian Isles, and take up her residence there
while he joined the patriot band in Greece. This point being decided
upon, he was anxious that their departure should not be delayed a
single hour, for most earnest was he to go, to throw off the sense of
the present--to forget its pangs in anticipated danger.

Falkner played no false part with himself. He longed to die; nor did
the tenderness and fidelity of Elizabeth disarm his purpose. He was
convinced that she must be happier and more prosperous when he was
removed. His tortured mind found relief when he thought of sacrificing
his life, and quitting it honourably on the field of battle. It was
only by the prospect of such a fate that he shut his eyes to sterner
duties. In his secret heart, he knew that the course demanded of him by
honour and conscience, was to stand forth, declare his crime, and
reveal the mysterious tragedy, of which he was the occasion, to the
world; but he dared not accuse himself, and live. It was this that
urged him to the thoughts of death. "When I am no more," he told
himself, "let all be declared--let my name be loaded with curses--but
let it be added, that I died to expiate my guilt. I cannot be called
upon to live with a brand upon my name; soon it will be all over, and
then let them heap obloquy, pyramid-high, upon my grave! Poor Elizabeth
will become a Raby; and, once cold beneath the sod, no more misery will
spring from acts of mine!"

Actuated by these thoughts, Falkner drew up two narratives--both
short. The tenor of one need not be mentioned in this place. The other
stated how he had found Elizabeth, and adopted her. He sealed up with
this the few documents that proved her birth. He also made his
will--dividing his property between his heir at law and adopted
child--and smiled proudly to think, that, dowered thus by him, she
would be gladly received into her father's family.

Every other arrangement for their voyage was quickly made, and it
remained only to determine whether Miss Jervis should accompany them.
Elizabeth's mind was divided. She was averse to parting with an
unoffending and kind companion, and to forego her instructions--though,
in truth, she had got beyond them. But she feared that the governess
might hereafter shackle her conduct. Every word Falkner had let fall
concerning his desire to die, she remembered and pondered upon. To
watch over and to serve him was her aim in going with him. Child as she
was, a thousand combinations of danger presented themselves to her
imagination, when her resolution and fearlessness might bring safety.
The narrow views and timid disposition of Miss Jervis might impede her
grievously.

The governess herself was perplexed. She was startled when she heard
of the new scheme. She was pleased to find herself once again in
England, and repugnant to the idea of leaving so soon again for so
distant a region, where a thousand perils of war and pestilence would
beset every step. She was sorry to part with Elizabeth, but some day
that time must come; and others, dearer from ties of relationship,
lived in England from whom she had been too long divided. Weighing
these things, she showed a degree of hesitation that caused Falkner to
decide as his heart inclined, and to determine that she should not
accompany him. She went with them as far as Plymouth, where they
embarked. Elizabeth, so long a wanderer, felt no regret in leaving
England. She was to remain with one who was far more than country--who
was indeed her all. Falkner felt a load taken from his heart when his
feet touched the deck of the vessel that was to bear them away--half
his duty was accomplished--the course begun which would lead to the
catastrophe he coveted. The sun shone brightly on the ocean, the breeze
was fresh and favourable. Miss Jervis saw them push from shore with
smiles and happy looks--she saw them on the deck of the vessel, which,
with sails unfurled, had already begun its course over the sea.
Elizabeth waved her handkerchief--all grew confused; the vessel itself
was sinking beneath the horizon, and long before night no portion of
her canvass could be perceived.

"I wonder," thought Miss Jervis, "whether I shall ever see them
again!"



CHAPTER IX.

Three years from this time, Elizabeth found herself in the position
she had vaguely anticipated at the outset, but which every day spent in
Greece showed her as probable, if not inevitable. These three years
brought Falkner to the verge of the death he had gone out to seek. He
lay wounded, a prey of the Greek fever, to all appearance about to die;
while she watched over him, striving, not only to avert the fatal
consequences of disease, but also to combat the desire to die which
destroyed him.

In describing Elizabeth's conduct during these three years, it may
be thought that the type is presented of ideal and almost unnatural
perfection. She was, it is true, a remarkable creature; and unless she
had possessed rare and exalted qualities, her history had not afforded
a topic for these pages. She was intelligent, warm-hearted, courageous,
and sincere. Her lively sense of duty was perhaps her chief
peculiarity. It was that which strung to such sweet harmony the other
portions of her character. This had been fostered by the circumstances
of her life. Her earliest recollection was of her dying parents. Their
mutual consolations, the bereaved widow's lament, and her talk of
another and better world, where all would meet again who fulfilled
their part virtuously in this world. She had been taught to remember
her parents as inheriting the immortal life promised to the just, and
to aspire to the same. She had learnt, from her mother's example, that
there is nothing so beautiful and praiseworthy as the sacrifice of life
to the good and happiness of one beloved. She never forgot her debt to
Falkner. She felt herself bound to him by stronger than filial ties. A
father performs an imperious duty in cherishing his child; but all had
been spontaneous benevolence in Falkner. His very faults and passions
made his sacrifice the greater, and his generosity the more
conspicuous. Elizabeth believed that she could never adequately repay
the vast obligation which she was under to him.

Miss Jervis also had conduced to perfectionize her mind by adding to
its harmony and justness. Miss Jervis, it is true, might be compared to
the rough-handed gardener, whose labours are without elegance, and yet
to whose waterings and vigilance the fragrant carnation owes its
peculiar tint, and the waxlike camellia its especial variety. It was
through her that she had methodized her mind--through her that she had
learnt to concentrate and prolong her attention, and to devote it to
study. She had taught her order and industry--and, without knowing it,
she had done more--she had inspired ardour for knowledge, delight in
its acquisition, and a glad sense of self-approbation when difficulties
were conquered by perseverance; and, when by dint of resolution,
ignorance was exchanged for a clear perception of any portion of
learning.

It has been said that every clever person is, to a certain degree,
mad. By which it is to be understood, that every person whose mind
soars above the vulgar, has some exalted and disinterested object in
view to which they are ready to sacrifice the common blessings of life.
Thus, from the moment that Elizabeth had brought Falkner to consent to
her accompanying him to Greece, she had devoted herself to the task,
first of saving his life, if it should be in danger; and, secondly, of
reconciling him in the end to prolonged existence. There were many
difficulties which presented themselves, since she was unaware of the
circumstances that drove him to seek death as a remedy and an
atonement; nor had she any desire to pry into her benefactor's secrets:
in her own heart, she suspected an overstrained delicacy or generosity
of feeling, which exaggerated error, and gave the sting to remorse. But
whatever was the occasion of his sufferings, she dedicated herself to
their relief; and resolved to educate herself so as to fulfil the task
of reconciling him to life, to the best of her ability.

Left at Zante, while he proceeded to join the patriot bands of
Greece, she boarded in the house of a respectable family, but lived in
the most retired manner possible. Her chief time was spent in study.
She read to store her mind--to confirm its fortitude--to elevate its
tone. She read also to acquire such precepts of philosophy and religion
as might best apply to her peculiar task, and to learn those secrets of
life and death which Falkner's desire to die had brought so home to her
juvenile imagination.

If a time is to be named when the human heart is nearest moral
perfection, most alive and yet most innocent, aspiring to good, without
a knowledge of evil, the period at which Elizabeth had arrived,--from
thirteen to sixteen,--is it. Vague forebodings are awakened; a sense of
the opening drama of life, unaccompanied with any longing to enter on
it--that feeling is reserved for the years that follow; but at fourteen
and fifteen we only feel that we are emerging from childhood, and we
rejoice, having yet a sense that as yet it is not fitting that we
should make one of the real actors on the world's stage. A dreamy
delicious period, when all is unknown; and yet we feel that all is soon
to be unveiled. The first pang has not been felt; for we consider
childhood's woes (real and frightful as those sometimes are,) as
puerile, and no longer belonging to us. We look upon the menaced evils
of life as a fiction. How can care touch the soul which places its
desires beyond lowminded thought! Ingratitude, deceit, treason--these
have not yet engendered distrust of others, nor have our own weaknesses
and errors planted the thorn of self-disapprobation and regret.
Solitude is no evil, for the thoughts are rife with busy visions; and
the shadows that flit around and people our reveries, have almost the
substance and vitality of the actual world.

Elizabeth was no dreamer. Though brought up abstracted from common
worldly pursuits, there was something singularly practical about her.
She aimed at being useful in all her reveries. This desire was rendered
still more fervent by her affection for Falkner--by her fears on his
account--by her ardent wish to make life dear to him. All her
employments, all her pleasures, referred themselves, as it were, to
this primary motive, and were entirely ruled by it.

She portioned out the hours of each day, and adhered steadily to her
self-imposed rules. To the early morning's ride, succeeded her various
studies, of which music, for which she developed a true ear and
delicate taste, formed one; one occupation relieved the other; from her
dear books she had recourse to her needle, and, bending over her
embroidery frame, she meditated on what she read; or, occupied by many
conjectures and many airy dreams concerning Falkner, she became
absorbed in reverie. Sometimes, from the immediate object of these, her
memory reverted to the melancholy boy she had seen at Baden. His wild
eyes--his haughty glance--his lively solicitude about the animal he had
hurt, and uncomplaining fortitude with which he had endured bodily
pain, were often present to her. She wished that they had not quitted
Baden so suddenly: if they had remained but a few days longer, he might
have learnt to love them; and even now he might be with Falkner,
sharing his dangers, it is true, but also each guarding the other from
that rash contempt of life in which they both indulged.

Her whole mind being filled by duties and affection, each day seemed
short, yet each was varied. At dawn she rose lightly from her bed, and
looked out over the blue sea and rocky shore; she prayed, as she gazed,
for the safety of her benefactor; and her thoughts, soaring to her
mother in heaven, asked her blessing to descend upon her child. Morning
was not so fresh as her, as she met its first sweet breath; and,
cantering along the beach, she thought of Falkner--his absence, his
toils and dangers--with resignation, mingled with a hope that warmed
into an ardent desire to see him again. Surely there is no object so
sweet as the young in solitude. In after years--when death has bereaved
us of the dearest--when cares, and regrets, and fears, and passions,
evil either in their nature or their results, have stained our lives
with black, solitude is too sadly peopled to be pleasing; and when we
see one of mature years alone, we believe that sadness must be the
companion. But the solitary thoughts of the young are glorious
dreams,--


--their state,
Like to a lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate.
To behold this young and lovely girl wandering by the lonely shore,


her thoughts her only companions; love for her benefactor her only
passion, no touch of earth and its sordid woes about her, it was as if
a new Eve, watched over by angels, had been placed in the desecrated
land, and the very ground she trod grew into paradise.

Sometimes the day was sadly chequered by bad news brought from the
continent of Greece. Sometimes it was rendered joyous by the arrival of
a letter from her adored father. Sometimes he was with her, and he,
animated by the sense of danger, and the knowledge of his usefulness to
the cause he espoused, was eloquent in his narrations, overflowing in
his affection to her, and almost happy in the belief that he was
atoning for the past. The idea that he should fall in the fields of
Greece, and wash out with his heart's blood the dark blot on his name,
gave an elevation to his thoughts, a strained and eager courage and
fortitude that accorded with his fiery character. He was born to be a
soldier; not the military man of modern days, but the hero who exposed
his life without fear, and found joy in battle and hard-earned victory,
when these were sought and won for a good cause, from the cruel
oppressor.



CHAPTER X.

During Falkner's visits to Zante, Elizabeth had been led to remark
the faithful attentions of his chief follower, an Albanian Greek. This
man had complained to his young mistress of the recklessness with which
Falkner exposed himself--of the incredible fatigue he underwent--and
his belief that he must ere long fall a victim to his disdain of safety
and repose; which, while it augmented the admiration his courage
excited, was yet not called for by the circumstances of the times. He
would have been termed rash and fool-hardy, but that he maintained a
dignified composure throughout, joined to military skill and fertility
of resource; and while contempt of life led him invariably to select
the post of danger for himself, he was sedulous to preserve the lives
of those under his command. His early life had familiarized him with
the practices of war. He was a valuable officer; kind to his men, and
careful to supply their wants, while he contended for no vain
distinctions; and was ready, on all occasions, to undertake such duties
as others shrunk from, as leading to certain death.

Elizabeth listened to Vasili's account of his hair-breadth escapes,
his toils, and desperate valour, with tearful eyes and an aching heart.
"Oh! that I could attach him to life!" she thought. She never
complained to him, nor persuaded him to alter his desperate purpose,
but redoubled her affectionate attentions. When he left her, after a
hurried visit, she did not beseech him to preserve himself; but her
tearful eyes, the agony with which she returned his parting embrace,
her despondent attitude as his bark left the shore; and when he
returned, her eager joy--her eye lighted up with thankful love--all
bespoke emotions that needed no other interpreter, and which often made
him half shrink from acting up to the belief he had arrived at, that he
ought to die, and that he could only escape worse and ignominious
evils, by a present and honourable death.

As time passed on--as by the arrival of the forces from Egypt the
warfare grew more keen and perilous--as Vasili renewed the sad tale of
his perils at each visit, with some added story of lately and narrowly
escaped peril--fear began to make too large and engrossing a portion of
her daily thoughts. She ceased to take in the ideas as she read--her
needle dropped from her hand--and, as she played, the music brought
streams of tears from her eyes, to think of the scene of desolation and
suffering in which she felt that she should soon be called upon to take
a part. There was no help or hope, and she must early learn the woman's
first and hardest lesson, to bear in silence the advance of an evil,
which might be avoided, but for the unconquerable will of another.
Almost she could have called her father cruel, had not the remembrance
of the misery that drove him to desperation, inspired pity, instead of
selfish resentment.

He had passed a few days with her, and the intercourse they held,
had been more intimate and more affectionate than ever. As she grew
older, her mind enriched by cultivation, and developed by the ardour of
her attachment, grew more on an equality with his experienced one, than
could have been the case in mere childhood. They did not take the usual
position of father and child,--the instructor and instructed--the
commander and the obedient--They talked with open heart, and tongue

Affectionate and true,

A pair of friends.--

And the inequality which made her depend on him, and caused him to
regard her as the creature who was to prolong his existence, as it
were, beyond the grave, into which he believed himself to be
descending, gave a touch of something melancholy to their sympathy,
without which, in this shadowy world, nothing seems beautiful and
enduring.

He left her; and his little bark, under press of sail, sped merrily
through the waves. She stood to watch--her heart warmed by the
recollection of his fervent affection--his attentive kindness. He had
ever been brave and generous; but now he had become so sympathising and
gentle, that she hoped that the time was not far off when moral courage
would spring from that personal hardihood which is at once so glorious
and so fearful. "God shield you, my father!" she thought, "God preserve
you, my more than father, for happier thoughts and better days! For the
full enjoyment of, and control over, those splendid qualities with
which nature has gifted you!"

Such was the tenor of her thoughts. Enthusiasm mingled with fond
solicitude--and thus she continued her anxious watchings. By every
opportunity she received brief letters, breathing affection, yet
containing no word of self. Sometimes a phrase occurred directing her
what to do if any thing fatal occurred to him, which startled and
pained her; but there was nothing else that spoke of death--nor any
allusion to his distaste for life. Autumn was far advanced--the sounds
of war were somewhat lulled; and, except in small skirmishing parties,
that met and fought under cover of the ravines and woods, all was
quiet. Elizabeth felt less fearful than usual. She wrote to ask when
Falkner would again visit her; and he, in reply, promised so to do,
immediately after a meditated attack on a small fortress, the carrying
of which was of the first import to the safe quartering of his little
troop during the winter. She read this with delight--she solaced
herself with the prospect of a speedier and longer visit than usual;
with childish thoughtlessness she forgot that the attack on the town
was a work of war, and might bring with it the fatal results of mortal
struggle.

A few days after, a small, ill-looking letter was put into her
hands--it was written in Romaic, and the meaning of its illegible
ciphers could only be guessed at by a Greek. It was from Vasili--to
tell her, in few words, that Falkner was lying in a small village, not
far from the sea coast, opposite Zante. It mentioned that he had been
long suffering from the Greek fever; and having been badly wounded in
the late attack, the combined effects of wound and malady left little
hopes of recovery; while the fatal moment was hastened by the absence
of all medical assistance--the miserable state of the village where he
was lying--and the bad air of the country around.

Elizabeth read as if in a dream--the moment then had come, the fatal
moment which she had often contemplated with terror, and prayed Heaven
to avert--she grew pale and trembling; but again in a moment she
recalled her presence of mind, and summoned all the resolution she had
endeavoured to store up to assist her at this extremity. She went
herself to the chief English authority in the island--and obtained an
order for a vessel to bring him off--instantly she embarked. She
neither wept nor spoke; but sitting on the deck, tearless and pale, she
prayed for speed, and that she might not find him dead. A few hours
brought her to the desired port. Here a thousand difficulties awaited
her--but she was not to be intimidated by all the threatened
dangers--and only besought the people about her to admit of no excuses
for delay. She was accompanied by an English surgeon and a few
attendants. She longed to outspeed them all, and yet she commanded
herself to direct every thing that was done; nor did her heart quail
when a few shot, and the cry of the men about her, spoke of the
neighbourhood of the enemy. It proved a false alarm--the shots came
from a straggling party of Greeks--salutations were exchanged, and
still she pushed on--her only thought was:--"Let me but find him
alive--and then surely he will live!"

As she passed along, the sallow countenances and wasted figures of
the peasants spoke of the frightful ravages of the epidemic by which
Falkner was attacked--and the squalidness of the cabins and the filth
of the villages were sights to make her heart ache; at length they drew
near one which the guide told her was that named by Vasili. On
inquiring they were directed down a sort of lane to a wretched
dilapidated dwelling--in the court-yard of which were a party of armed
Greeks, gathered together in a sort of ominous silence. This was the
abode of Falkner; she alighted--and in a few minutes Vasili presented
himself--his face painted with every mark of apprehension and
sorrow--he led her on. The house was desolate beyond expression--there
was no furniture--no glass in the windows--no token of human habitation
beyond the weather-stained walls. She entered the room where her father
lay--some mattrasses placed on the divan were all his bed--and there
was nothing else in the room except a brazier to heat his food.
Elizabeth drew near--and gazed in awe and grief. Already he was so
changed that she could scarcely know him--his eyes sunk--his cheeks
fallen, his brow streaked with pallid hues--a ghastly shadow lay upon
his face, the apparent forerunner of death. He had scarcely strength
sufficient to raise his hand--and his voice was hollow--yet he smiled
when he saw her--and that smile, the last refuge of the soul that
informs our clay, and even sometimes survives it, was all his own; it
struck her to the heart--and her eyes were dimmed with tears while
Vasili cast a wistful glance on her--as much as to say, "I have lost
hope!"

"Thank you for coming--yet you ought not to be here," hoarsely
murmured the sick man.--Elizabeth kissed his hand and brow in
answer--and despite of all her endeavours the tears fell from her eyes
on his sunken cheek; again he smiled. "It is not so bad," he said--"do
not weep, I am willing to die! I do not suffer very much--though I am
weary of life."--

The surgeon was now admitted. He examined the wound, which was of a
musket ball, in his side. He dressed it, and administered some potion,
from which the patient received instant relief; and then joined the
anxious girl, who had retired to another room.

"He is in a very dangerous state," the surgeon remarked, in reply to
her anxious looks. "Nothing certain can be pronounced yet. But our
first care must be to remove him from this pestiferous place--the fever
and wound combined, must destroy him.--Change of air may produce an
amelioration in the former."

With all the energy, which was her prominent characteristic,
Elizabeth caused a litter to be prepared--horses hired and every thing
arranged so that their journey might be commenced at day-break. Every
one went early to rest, to enjoy some repose before the morrow's
journey, except Elizabeth; she spent the livelong night watching beside
Falkner, marking each change, tortured by the groans that escaped him
in sleep, or the suppressed complaints that fell from his lips--by the
restlessness and fever that rendered each moment full of fate. The
glimmering and dreary light of the lamp increased even the squalid and
bare appearance of the wretched chamber in which he lay--Elizabeth
gazed for a moment from the casement to see how moved the stars--and
there, without--nature asserted herself--and it was the lovely land of
Greece that met her eyes; the southern night reigned in all its
beauty--the stars hung refulgent lamps in the transparent ether--the
fire-flies darted and wheeled among the olive groves or rested in the
myrtle hedges, flashing intermittingly, and filling for an instant a
small space around them with fairy brightness; each form of tree, of
rocky fragment, and broken upland, lay in calm and beautiful repose;
she turned to the low couch on which lay all her hope--her idolized
father--the streaked brow--the nerveless hand--half open eye, and hard
breathing, betokened a frightful stage of weakness and suffering.

The scene brought unsought into her mind the lines of the English
poet, which so touchingly describes the desolation of Greece,--
blending the idea of mortal suffering with the long drawn calamities of
that oppressed country. The words, the lines, crowded on her memory;
and a chord was struck in her heart, as she ejaculated, "No! no, not
so! Not the first day of death--not now, or ever!" As she spoke, she
dissolved in tears--and weeping long and bitterly, she became
afterwards calmer--the rest of her watch passed more peacefully. Even
the patient suffered less as night verged into morning.

At an early hour all was ready. Falkner was placed in the litter;
and the little party, gladly leaving the precincts of the miserable
village, proceeded slowly towards the sea shore. Every step was replete
with pain and danger. Elizabeth was again all herself. Self-possessed
and vigilant--she seemed at once to attain years of experience. No one
could remember that it was a girl of sixteen who directed them.
Hovering round the litter of the wounded man, and pointing out how best
to carry him, so that he might suffer least--as the inequalities of the
ground, the heights to climb, and the ravines to cross, made it a task
of difficulty. Now and then the report of a musket was heard, sometimes
a Greek cap--not unoften mistaken for a turban, peered above the
precipice that overlooked the road--frequent alarms were given--but she
was frightened by none. Her large eyes dilated and darkened as she
looked towards the danger pointed out--and she drew nearer the litter,
as a lonely mother might to the cradle of her child, when in the
stillness of night some ravenous beast intruded on a savage solitude;
but she never spoke, except to point out the mistakes she was the first
to perceive--or to order the men to proceed lightly, but without
fear--nor to allow their progress to be checked by vain alarms.

At length the sea shore was gained--and Falkner at last placed on
the deck of the vessel--reposing after the torture which, despite every
care, the journey had inflicted. Already Elizabeth believed that he was
saved--and yet, one glance at his wan face, and emaciated figure
re-awakened every fear He looked--and all around believed him to be--a
dying man.



CHAPTER XI.

Arrived at Zante, placed in a cool and pleasant chamber, attended by
a skilful surgeon--and watched over by the unsleeping vigilance of
Elizabeth, Falkner slowly receded from the shadow of death--whose livid
hue had sat upon his countenance. Still health was far. His wound was
attended by bad symptoms--and the fever eluded every attempt to
dislodge it from his frame. He was but half saved from the grave;
emaciated and feeble, his disorder even tried to vanquish his mind; but
that resisted with more energy than his prostrate body. The death he
had gone out to seek--he awaited with courage--yet he no longer
expressed an impatience of existence, but struggled to support with
manly fortitude at once the inroads of disease, and the long nourished
sickness of his soul.

It had been a hard trial to Elizabeth to watch over him, while each
day the surgeon's serious face gave no token of hope. But she would not
despond, and in the end his recovery was attributed to her careful
nursing. She never quitted his apartment, except for a few hours sleep;
and even then, her bed was placed in the chamber adjoining his. If he
moved, she was roused, and at his side, divining the cause of his
uneasiness, and alleviating it. There were other nurses about him, and
Vasili the most faithful of all--but she directed them, and brought
that discernment and tact of which a woman only is capable. Her little
soft hand smoothed his pillow, or placed upon his brow, cooled and
refreshed him. She scarcely seemed to feel the effects of sleepless
nights and watchful days--every minor sensation was merged in the hope
and resolution to preserve him.

Several months were passed in a state of the utmost solicitude. At
last he grew a little better--the fever intermitted--and the wound gave
signs of healing. On the first day that he was moved to an open alcove,
and felt some enjoyment from the soft air of evening, all that
Elizabeth had gone through was repaid. She sat on a low cushion near;
and his thin fingers now resting on her head, now playing with the
ringlets of her hair, gave token by that caress, that though he was
silent and his look abstracted, his thoughts were occupied upon her. At
length he said:--"Elizabeth, you have again saved my life."

She looked up with a quick, glad look, and her eyes brightened with
pleasure.

"You have saved my life twice," he continued; "and through you, it
seems, I am destined to live. I will not quarrel again with existence,
since it is your gift; I will hope, prolonged as it has been by you,
that it will prove beneficial to you. I have but one desire now--it is
to be the source of happiness to you."

"Live! dear father, live! and I must be happy!" she exclaimed.

"God grant that it prove so!" he replied, pressing her hand to his
lips. "The prayers of such as I, too often turn to curses. But you, my
own dearest, must be blest; and as my life is preserved, I must hope
that this is done for your sake, and that you will derive some
advantage from it."

"Can you doubt it?" said Elizabeth. "Could I ever be consoled if I
lost you? I have no other tie on earth--no other friend--nor do I wish
for any. Only put aside your cruel thoughts of leaving me for ever, and
every blessing is mine."

"Dear, generous, faithful girl! Yet the time will come when I shall
not be all in all to you; and then, will not my name--my
adoption--prove a stumbling-block to your wishes?"

"How could that happen?" she said. "But do not, dear father, perplex
yourself with looking either forward or backward--repose on the
present, which has nothing in it to annoy you; or rather, your
gallantry--your devotion to the cause of an injured people, must
inspire you with feelings of self-gratulation, and speak peace to your
troubles. Let the rest of your life pass away as a dream; banish quite
those thoughts that have hitherto made you wretched. Your life is
saved, despite yourself. Accept existence as an immediate gift from
heaven; and begin life, from this moment, with new hopes, new resolves.
Whatever your error was, which you so bitterly repent, it belonged to
another state of being. Your remorse, your resignation, has effaced it;
or if any evil results remain, you will rather exert yourself to repair
them--than uselessly to lament.

"To repair my error--my crime!" cried Falkner, in an altered voice,
while a cloud gathered over his face, "No! no! that is impossible!
never till we meet in another life, can I offer reparation to the dead!
But I must not think of this now; it is too ungrateful to you to dwell
upon thoughts which would deliver me over to the tomb. Yet one thing I
would say. I left a short detail in England of the miserable event that
must at last destroy me, but it is brief and unsatisfactory. During my
midnight watchings in Greece, I prepared a longer account. You know
that little rosewood box, which, even when dying, I asked for; it is
now close to my bed; the key is here attached to my watch-chain. That
box contains the narrative of my crime; when I die, you will read it
and judge me."

"Never! never!" exclaimed Elizabeth, earnestly. "Dear father, how
cruelly you have tormented yourself by dwelling on and writing about
the past! and do you think that I would ever read accusations against
you, the guardian angel of my life, even though written by yourself?
Let me bring the box--let me burn the papers--let no word remain to
tell of misery you repent, and have atoned for."

Falkner detained her, as she would have gone to execute her purpose.
"Not alone for you, my child," he said, "did I write, though hereafter,
when you hear me accused, it may be satisfactory to learn the truth
from my own hand. But there are others to satisfy--an injured angel to
be vindicated--a frightful mystery to be unveiled to the world. I have
waited till I should die to fulfil this duty, and still, for your sake,
I will wait; for while you love me and bear my name, I will not cover
it with obloquy. But if I die, this secret must not die with me. I will
say no more now, nor ask any promises: when the time comes, you will
understand and submit to the necessity that urged me to
disclosure."

"You shall be obeyed, I promise you," she replied. "I will never set
my reason above yours, except in asking you to live for the sake of the
poor little thing you have preserved."

"Have I preserved you, dearest? I often fear I did wrong in not
restoring you to your natural relations. In making you mine, and
linking you to my blighted fortunes, I may have prepared unnumbered
ills for you. Oh, how sad a riddle is life! we hear of the straight and
narrow path of right in youth, and we disdain the precept; and now
would I were sitting among the nameless crowd on the common road-side,
instead of wandering blindly in this dark desolation; and you--I have
brought you with me into the wilderness of error and suffering; it was
wrong--it was mere selfishness; yet who could foresee?"

"Talk not of foreseeing," said Elizabeth, soothingly, as she pressed
his thin hand to her warm young lips, "think only of the present; you
have made me yours for ever--you cannot cast me off without inflicting
real pangs of misery, instead of those dreamy ills you speak of. I am
happy with you, attending on, being of use to you. What would you
more?"

"Perhaps it is so," replied Falkner, "and your good and grateful
heart will repay itself for all its sacrifices. I never can. Henceforth
I will be guided by you, my Elizabeth. I will no longer think of what I
have done, and what yet must be suffered, but wrap up my existence in
you; live in your smiles, your hopes, your affections."

This interchange of heart-felt emotions did good to both. Perplexed,
nay, tormented by conflicting duties, Falkner was led by her entreaties
to dismiss the most painful of his thoughts, and to repose at last on
those more healing. The evil and the good of the day, he resolved
should henceforth be sufficient; his duty towards Elizabeth was a
primary one, and he would restrict himself to the performing it.

There is a magic in sympathy, and the heart's overflowing, that we
feel as bliss, though we cannot explain it. This sort of joy Elizabeth
felt after this conversation with her father. Their hearts had united;
they had mingled thought and sensation, and the intimacy of affection
that resulted was an ample reward to her for every suffering. She loved
her benefactor with inexpressible truth and devotedness, and their
entire and full interchange of confidence gave a vivacity to this
sentiment which of itself was happiness.



CHAPTER XII.

Though saved from immediate death, Falkner could hardly be called
convalescent. His wound did not heal healthily, and the intermitting
fever, returning again and again, laid him prostrate after he had
acquired a little strength. After a winter full of danger, it was
pronounced that the heats of a southern summer would probably prove
fatal to him, and that he must be removed without delay to the bracing
air of his native country.

Towards the end of the month of April, they took their passage to
Leghorn. It was a sad departure; the more so that they were obliged to
part with their Greek servant, on whose attachment Elizabeth so much
depended. Vasili had entered into Falkner's service at the instigation
of the Protokleft, or chief of his clan; when the Englishman was
obliged to abandon the cause of Greece, and return to his own country,
Vasili, though lothe and weeping, went back to his native master. The
young girl, being left without any attendant on whom she could wholly
rely, felt singularly desolate; for as her father lay on the deck, weak
from the exertion of being removed, she felt that his life hung by a
very slender thread, and she shrank half affrighted from what might
ensue to her, friendless and alone.

Her presence of mind and apparent cheerfulness was never, however,
diminished by these secret misgivings; and she sat by her father's low
couch, and placed her hands in his, speaking encouragingly, while her
eyes filled with tears as the rocky shores of Zante became indistinct
and vanished.

Their voyage was without any ill accident, except that the warm
south-east wind, which favoured their navigation, sensibly weakened the
patient; and Elizabeth grew more and more eager to proceed northward.
At Leghorn they were detained by a long and vexatious quarantine. The
summer had commenced early, with great heats; and the detention of
several weeks in the lazaretto nearly brought about what they had left
Greece to escape. Falkner grew worse. The sea breezes a little
mitigated his sufferings; but life was worn away by repeated struggles,
and the most frightful debility threatened his frame with speedy
dissolution. How could it be otherwise? He had wished to die. He sought
death where it lurked insidiously in the balmy airs of Greece, or met
it openly armed against him on the field of battle. Death wielded many
weapons; and he was struck by many, and the most dangerous. Elizabeth
hoped, in spite of despair; yet, if called away from him, her heart
throbbed wildly as she re-entered his apartment; there was no moment
when the fear did not assail her, that she might, on a sudden, hear and
see that all was over.

An incident happened at this period, to which Elizabeth paid little
attention at the time, engrossed as she was by mortal fears. They had
been in quarantine about a fortnight, when, one day, there entered the
gloomy precincts of the lazaretto, a tribe of English people. Such a
horde of men, women, and children, as gives foreigners a lively belief
that we islanders are all mad, to migrate in this way, with the young
and helpless, from comfortable homes, in search of the dangerous and
comfortless. This roving band consisted of the eldest son of an English
nobleman and his wife--four children, the eldest being six years old--a
governess--three nursery-maids, two lady's maids, and a sufficient
appendage of men-servants. They had all just arrived from viewing the
pyramids of Egypt. The noise and bustle--the servants insisting on
making every body comfortable, where comfort was not--the spreading out
of all their own camp apparatus--joined to the seeming indifference of
the parties chiefly concerned, and the unconstrained astonishment of
the Italians--was very amusing. Lord Cecil, a tall, thin, plain, quiet,
aristocratic-looking man, of middle age, dropped into the first
chair--called for his writing-case--began a letter, and saw and heard
nothing that was going on. Lady Cecil--who was not pretty, but lively
and elegant--was surrounded by her children--they seemed so many little
angels, with blooming cheeks and golden hair--the youngest cherub slept
profoundly amidst the din; the others were looking eagerly out for
their dinner.

Elizabeth had seen their entrance--she saw them walking in the
garden of the lazaretto--one figure, the governess, though disguised by
a green shade over her eyes, she recognized--it was Miss Jervis.
Desolate and sad as the poor girl was, a familiar face and voice was a
cordial drop to comfort her; and Miss Jervis was infinitely delighted
to meet her former pupil. She usually looked on those intrusted to her
care as a part of the machinery that supported her life; but Elizabeth
had become dear to her from the irresistible attraction that hovered
round her--arising from her carelessness of self, and her touching
sensibility to the sufferings of all around. She had often regretted
having quitted her, and she now expressed this, and even her silence
grew into something like talkativeness upon the unexpected meeting. "I
am very unlucky," she said; "I would rather, if I could with propriety,
live in the meanest lodging in London, than in the grandest tumble-down
palace of the East, which people are pleased to call so fine--I am sure
they are always dirty and out of order. Lady Glenfell recommended me to
Lady Cecil--and, certainly, a more generous and sweet-tempered woman
does not exist--and I was very comfortable, living at the Earl of G--'s
seat in Hampshire, and having almost all my time to myself. One day, to
my misfortune, Lady Cecil made a scheme to travel--to get out of her
father-in-law's way, I believe--he is rather a tiresome old man. Lord
Cecil does any thing she likes. All was arranged, and I really thought
I should leave them--I so hated the idea of going abroad again, but
Lady Cecil said that I should be quite a treasure, having been
everywhere, and knowing so many languages, and that she should have
never thought of going, but from my being with her; so, in short, she
was very generous, and I could not say no: accordingly we set out on
our travels, and went first to Portugal--where I had never been--and do
not know a word of Portuguese; and then through Spain--and Spanish is
Greek to me--and worse--for I do know a good deal of Romaic. I am sure
I do not know scarcely where we went--but our last journey was to see
the pyramids of Egypt--only, unfortunately, I caught the ophthalmia the
moment we got to Alexandria, and could never bear to see a ray of light
the whole time we were in that country."

As they talked, Lady Cecil came to join her children. She was struck
by Elizabeth's beaming and noble countenance, which bore the impress of
high thought, and elevated sentiments. Her figure, too, had sprung up
into womanhood--tall and graceful--there was an elasticity joined to
much majesty in all her appearance; not the majesty of assumption, but
the stamp of natural grandeur of soul, refined by education, and
softened by sympathetic kindness for the meanest thing that breathed.
Her dignity did not spring in the slightest degree from self-worship,
but simply from a reliance on her own powers, and a forgetfulness of
every triviality which haunts the petty-minded. No one could chance to
see her, without stopping to gaze; and her peculiar circumstances--the
affectionate and anxious daughter of a dying man--without friend or
support, except her own courage and patience--never daunted, yet always
fearfully alive to his danger--rendered her infinitely interesting to
one of her own sex. Lady Cecil was introduced to her by Miss Jervis,
and was eager to show her kindness. She offered that they should travel
together; but as Elizabeth's quarantine was out long before that of the
new comers, and she was anxious to reach a more temperate climate, she
refused; yet she was thankful, and charmed by the sweetness and
cordiality of her new acquaintance.

Lady Cecil was not handsome, but there was something, not exactly
amounting to fascination, but infinitely taking in her manner and
appearance.--Her cheerfulness, good-nature, and high breeding, diffused
a grace and a pleasurable easiness over her manners, that charmed every
body; good sense and vivacity, never loud nor ever dull, rendered her
spirits agreeable. She was apparently the same to every body; but she
well knew how to regulate the inner spirit of her attentions while
their surface looked so equal: no one ventured to go beyond her
wishes,--and where she wished, any one was astonished to find how far
they could depend on her sincerity and friendliness. Had Elizabeth's
spirit been more free, she had been delighted; as it was, she felt
thankful, merely for a kindness that availed her nothing.

Lady Cecil viewed the dying Falkner and his devoted, affectionate
daughter with the sincerest compassion; dying she thought him, for he
was wasted to a shadow, his cheeks colourless, his hands yellow and
thin--he could not stand upright--and when, in the cool of evening, he
was carried into the open air, he seemed scarcely able to speak from
very feebleness. Elizabeth's face bespoke continual anxiety; her
vigilance, her patience, her grief, and her resignation, formed a
touching picture which it was impossible to contemplate without
admiration. Lady Cecil often tried to win her away from her father's
couch, and to give herself a little repose from perpetual attendance;
she yielded but for a minute; while she conversed, she assumed
cheerfulness--but in a moment after, she had glided back and taken her
accustomed place at her father's pillow.

At length their prison-gates were opened, and Falkner was borne on
board a felucca, bound for Genoa. Elizabeth took leave of her new
friend, and promised to write, but while she spoke, she forgot what she
said--for, dreading at each moment the death of her benefactor, she did
not dare look forward, and had little heart to go beyond the circle of
her immediate, though dreary sensations. A fair wind bore them to
Genoa, and Falkner sustained the journey very well: at Genoa they
transferred themselves to another vessel, and each mile they gained
towards France lightened the fears of Elizabeth. But this portion of
their voyage was not destined to be so prosperous. They had embarked at
night, and had made some way during the first hours; but by noon on the
following day they were becalmed; the small vessel--the burning
sun--the shocking smells--the want of all comfortable accommodation,
combined to bring on a relapse--and again Falkner seemed dying. The
very crew were struck with pity; while Elizabeth, wild almost with
terror, and the impotent wish to save, preserved an outward calm, more
shocking almost than shrieks and cries. At evening she caused him to be
carried on the deck, and placed on a couch, with a little sort of shed
prepared for him there; he was too much debilitated to feel any great
degree of relief--there was a ghastly hue settled on his face that
seemed gradually sinking into death. Elizabeth's courage almost gave
way; there was no physician, no friend; the servants were frightened,
the crew pitying, but none could help.

As this sense of desertion grew strong, a despair she had never felt
before invaded her; and it was as she thus hung over Falkner's couch,
the tears fast gathering in her eyes, and striving to check the
convulsive throb that rose in her throat, that a gentle voice said,
"Let me place this pillow under your father's head, he will rest more
quietly." The voice came as from a guardian angel; she looked up
thankfully, the pillow was placed, some drink administered, a sail
extended, so as to shield him from the evening sun, and a variety of
little attentions paid, which evidently solaced the invalid; and the
evening breeze rising as the sun went down, the air grew cool, and he
sunk at last into a profound sleep. When night came on, the stranger
conjured Elizabeth to take some repose, promising to watch by Falkner.
She could not resist the entreaty, which was urged with sincere
earnestness; going down, she found a couch had been prepared for her
with almost a woman's care by the stranger; and before she slept, he
knocked at her door to tell her--Falkner having awoke, expressed
himself as much easier, and very glad to hear that Elizabeth had
retired to rest; after this he had dropped asleep again.

It was a new and pleasant sensation to the lone girl to feel that
there was one sharing her task, on whom she might rely. She had
scarcely looked at or attended to the stranger while on deck; she only
perceived that he was English, and that he was young; but now, in the
quiet that preceded her falling asleep, his low, melodious voice
sounded sweetly in her ears, and the melancholy and earnest expression
of his handsome countenance reminded her of some one she had seen
before, probably a Greek; for there was something almost foreign in his
olive complexion, his soft, dark eyes, and the air of sentiment,
mingled with a sort of poetic fervour, that characterized his
countenance. With these thoughts Elizabeth fell asleep, and when early
in the morning she rose, and made what haste she could to visit the
little sort of hut erected for her father on deck, the first person she
saw was the stranger, leaning on the bulwark, and looking on the sea
with an air of softness and sadness that excited her sympathy. He
greeted her with extreme kindness. "Your father is awake, and has
inquired for you;" he said. Elizabeth, after thanking him, took her
accustomed post beside Falkner. He might be better, but he was too weak
to make much sign, and one glance at his colourless face renewed all
her half-forgotten terrors.

Meanwhile the breeze freshened, and the vessel scudded through the
blue sparkling waves. The heats of noon, though tempered by the gale,
still had a bad effect on Falkner; and when, at about five in the
evening--often in the south the hottest portion of the day, the air
being thoroughly penetrated by the sun's rays--they arrived at
Marseilles, it became a task of some difficulty to remove him.
Elizabeth and the stranger had interchanged little talk during the day;
but he now came forward to assist in removing him to the boat--acting,
without question, as if he had been her brother, guessing, as if by
instinct, the best thing to be done, and performing all with activity
and zeal. Poor Elizabeth, cast on these difficult circumstances,
without relation or friend, looked on him as a guardian angel,
consulted him freely, and witnessed his exertions in her behalf in a
transport of gratitude. He did every thing for her, and would sit for
hours in the room at the hotel, next to that in which Falkner lay,
waiting to hear how he was, and if there was any thing to be done.
Elizabeth joined him now and then; they were in a manner already
intimate, though strangers; he took a lively interest in her anxieties,
and she looked towards him for advice and help, relied on his counsels,
and was encouraged by his consolations. It was the first time she had
felt any friendship or confidence, except in Falkner; but it was
impossible not to be won by her new friend's gentleness, and almost
feminine delicacy of attention, joined to all a man's activity and
readiness to do the thing that was necessary to be done. "I have an
adopted father," thought Elizabeth, "and this seems a brother dropped
from the clouds." He was of an age to be her brother, but few years
older; in all the ardour and grace of early manhood, when developed in
one of happy nature, unsoiled by the world.

Elizabeth, however, remained but a few days at Marseilles--it was of
the first necessity to escape the southern heats, and Falkner was
pronounced able to bear the voyage up the Rhone. The stranger showed
some sadness at the idea of being left behind. In truth, if Elizabeth
was gladdened and comforted by her new friend--he felt double pleasure
in the contemplation of her beauty and admirable qualities. No word of
self ever passed her lips. All thought, all care, was spent on him she
called her father--and the stranger was deeply touched by her
demonstrations of filial affection--her total abnegation of every
feeling that did not centre in his comfort and recovery. He had been
present one evening--though standing apart, when Falkner, awakening
from sleep, spoke with regret of the fatigue Elizabeth endured, and the
worthlessness of his life compared with all that she went through for
his sake. Elizabeth replied at once with such energy of affection, such
touching representation of the comfort she derived from his returning
health, and such earnest entreaties for him to love life, that the
stranger listened as if an angel spoke. Falkner answered, but the
remorse that burthened his heart gave something of bitterness to his
reply. And her eloquent, though gentle solicitations, that he would
look on life in a better and nobler light--not rashly to leave its
duties here, to encounter those he knew not of, in an existence beyond;
and kind intimations, which exalting his repentance into a virtue,
might reconcile him to himself--all this won the listener to a deep and
wondering admiration. Not in human form had he ever seen embodied so
much wisdom, and so much strong, yet tender emotion--none but woman
could feel thus, but it was beyond woman to speak and to endure as she
did. She spoke only just so openly, remembering the stranger's
presence, as to cast a veil over her actual relationship to Falkner,
whom she called and wished to have believed to be her true father.

The fever of the sufferer being abated, a day was fixed for their
departure from Marseilles. Their new friend appeared to show some
inclination to accompany them in their river navigation as far as
Lyons. Elizabeth thanked him with her gladdened eyes; she had felt the
want of support, or rather she had experienced the inestimable benefit
of being supported, during the sad crisis now and then brought about by
Falkner's changeful illness; there was something, too, in the stranger
very attractive, not the less so for the melancholy which often
quenched the latent fire of his nature. That his disposition was really
ardent, and even vivacious, many little incidents, when he appeared to
forget himself, evinced--nay, sometimes his very gloom merged into
sullen savageness, that showed that coldness was not the secret of his
frequent fits of abstraction. Once or twice, on these occasions,
Elizabeth was reminded, she knew not of whom--but some one she had seen
before--till one day it flashed across her; could it be the sullen,
solitary boy of Baden! Singularly enough, she did not even know her new
friend's name; to those accustomed to foreign servants this will not
appear strange; he was their only visitor, and "le monsieur" was
sufficient announcement when he arrived--but Elizabeth remembered well
that the youth's name was Neville--and, on inquiry, she learnt that
this also was the appellation of her new acquaintance.

She now regarded him with greater interest. She recalled her girlish
wish that he should reside with them, and benefit by the kindness of
Falkner--hoping that his sullenness would be softened, and his gloom
dissipated, by the affectionate attentions he would receive. She wished
to discover in what degree time and other circumstances had operated to
bring about the amelioration she had wished to be an instrument in
achieving. He was altered--he was no longer fierce nor sullen--yet he
was still melancholy, and still unhappy--and she could discern that as
his former mood had been produced by the vehemence of his character
fretting against the misfortunes of his lot; so it was by subduing
every violence of temper that the change was operated--and she
suspected that the causes that originally produced his unhappiness
still remained. Yet violence of temper is not a right word to use; his
temper was eminently sweet--he had a boiling ardour within--a fervent
and a warm heart, which might produce vehemence of feeling, but never
asperity of temper. All this Elizabeth remarked--and, as before, she
longed to dissipate the melancholy that so evidently clouded his mind;
and again she indulged fancies, that if he accompanied them, and was
drawn near them, the affection he would receive must dissipate a
sadness created by unfortunate circumstances in early youth--but not
the growth of a saturnine disposition. She pitied him intensely, for
she saw that he was often speechlessly wretched; but she reverenced his
self-control, and the manner in which he threw off all his own
engrossing feelings to sympathize with, and assist her.

They were now soon to depart, and Elizabeth was not quite sure
whether Neville was to accompany them--he had gone to the boat to look
after some arrangements made for the patient's comfort--and she sat
with the invalid, expecting his return. Falkner reclined near a window,
clasping her hand, looking on her with fondness, and speaking of all he
owed her; and how he would endeavour to repay, by living, and making
life a blessing to her. "I shall live," he said; "I feel that this
malady will pass away, and I shall live to devote myself to rewarding
you for all your anxieties, to dissipating the cloud with which I have
so cruelly overshadowed your young life, and to making all the rest
sunshine. I will think only of you; all the rest, all that grieves me,
and all that I repent, I cast even now into oblivion."

At this moment the stranger entered and drew near. Elizabeth saw him
and said: "And here, dearest father, is another to whom you owe more
than you can guess--for kindness to me and the help to you. I do not
think I should have preserved you without Mr. Neville."

The young man was standing near the couch, looking on the invalid,
and rejoicing in the change for the better that appeared. Falkner
turned his eyes on him as Elizabeth spoke, a tremor ran through all his
limbs, he grew ghastly pale, and fainted.

An evil change from this time appeared in his state--and the
physician was afraid of the journey, attributing his fainting to his
inability to bear any excitement; while Falkner, who was before
passive, grew eager to depart. "Change of scene and moving will do me
good," he said, "so that no one comes near me, no one speaks to me but
Elizabeth."

At one time the idea of Neville's accompanying them was alluded
to--he was greatly disturbed--and seriously implored Elizabeth not to
allow it. It was rather hard on the poor girl, who found so much
support and solace in her new friend's society--but Falkner's slightest
wish was with her a law, and she submitted without a murmur. "Do not
let me even see him before we go," said Falkner. "Act on this wish,
dearest, without hurting his feelings--without betraying to him that I
have formed it--it would be an ungracious return for the services he
has rendered you--for which I would fain show gratitude; but that
cannot be--you alone can repay--do so, as you best may, with
thanks--but do not let me see him more."

Elizabeth wondered--and as a last effort to vanquish his dislike,
she said: "Do you know that he is the same boy, who interested us so
much at Baden?--he is no longer savage as he was then--but I fear that
he is as unhappy as ever."

"Too well do I know it"--replied Falkner--"do not question me--do
not speak to me again of him." He spoke in disjointed sentences--a cold
dew stood on his brow--and Elizabeth, who knew that a mysterious wound
rankled in his heart, more painful than any physical injury, was eager
to calm him. Something, she might wonder; but she thought more of
sparing Falkner pain, than of satisfying her curiosity--and she
mentally resolved never to mention the name of Neville again.

They were to embark at sunrise--in the evening her new friend came
to take leave--she having evaded the notion of his accompanying them,
and insisted that he should not join them in the morning to assist at
their departure. Though she had done this with sweetness, and so much
cordiality of manner as prevented his feeling any sort of slight; yet
in some sort he guessed that they wished to dismiss him, and this
notion added to his melancholy, while some latent feeling made him
readily acquiesce in it. Elizabeth was told that he had come, and left
Falkner to join him. It was painful to her to take leave--to feel that
she should see him no more--and to know that their separation was not
merely casual, but occasioned by her father's choice, which hereafter
might again and again interfere to separate them. As she entered the
room, he was leaning against the casement, and looking on the sea which
glanced before their windows, still as a lake, blue as the twilight sky
that bent over it. It was a July evening--soft, genial, and soothing;
but no portion of the gladness of nature was reflected in the
countenance of Neville. His large dark eyes seemed two wells of
unfathomable sadness. The drooping lids gave them an expression of
irresistible softness, which added interest to their melancholy
earnestness. His complexion was olive, but so clear that each vein
could be discerned. His full, and finely shaped lips bespoke the ardour
and sensibility of his disposition; while his slim, youthful form
appeared half bending with a weight of thought and sorrow. Elizabeth's
heart beat as she came near and stood beside him. Neither spoke; but he
took her hand--and they both felt that each regretted the moment of
parting too deeply for the mere ceremony of thanks and leave-taking.

"I have grieved," said Neville, as if answering her, though no word
had been said, "very much grieved at the idea of seeing you no more;
and yet it is for the best, I feel--and am sure. You do not know the
usual unhappy tenor of my thoughts, nor the cause I have to look on
life as an unwelcome burthen. This is no new sentiment--it has been my
companion since I was nine years old. At one time, before I knew how to
rein and manage it, it was more intolerable than now; as a boy, it
drove me to solitude--to abhorrence of the sight of man--to anger
against God for creating me. These feelings have passed away; nay,
more--I live for a purpose--a sacred purpose, that shall be fulfilled
despite of every obstacle--every seeming impossibility. Too often
indeed the difficulties in my way have made me fear that I should never
succeed, and I have desponded; but never, till I saw you, did I know
pleasure unconnected with my ultimate object. With you I have been at
times taken out of myself; and I have almost forgotten--this must not
be. I must resume my burthen, nor form one thought beyond the
resolution I have made to die, if need be, to secure success."

"You must not speak thus," said Elizabeth, looking at once with pity
and admiration on a face expressive of so much sensitive pride and
sadness springing from a sense of injury. "If your purpose is a good
one, as I must believe that it is--you will either succeed, or receive
a compensation from your endeavours equivalent to success. We shall
meet again, and I shall see you happier."

"When I am happier," he said, with more than his usual earnestness,
"we shall indeed meet--for I will seek you at the furthest end of the
globe. Till then, I shrink from seeing any one who interests me--or
from renewing sentiments of friendship which had better end here. You
are too good and kind not to be made unhappy by the sight of suffering,
and I must suffer till my end is accomplished. Even now I regret that I
ever saw you--though that feeling springs from a foolish pride. For
hereafter you will hear my name--and if you already do not know--you
will learn the miserable tale that hangs upon it--you will hear me
commiserated; you will learn why--and share the feeling. I would even
avoid your pity--judge then how loathsome it is to receive that of
others, and yet I must bear it, or fly them as I do. This will change.
I have the fullest confidence that one day I may throw back on others
the slur now cast upon me. This confidence, this full and sanguine
trust, has altered me from what I once was; it has changed the
impatience, the almost ferocity I felt as a boy, into fortitude and
resolution."

"Yes," said Elizabeth, "I remember once I saw you a long time since,
when I was a mere girl, at Baden. Were you not there about four years
ago? Do you not remember falling with your horse and dislocating your
wrist?"

A tracery of strange wild thought came over the countenance of
Neville. "Do I remember?" he cried--"Yes--and I remember a beautiful
girl--and I thought such would have been my sister, and I had not been
alone--if fate, if cruel, inexorable, horrible destiny had not deprived
me of her as well as all--all that made my childish existence Paradise.
It is so--and I see you again, whom then my heart called sister--it is
strange."

"Did you give me that name?" said Elizabeth. "Ah, if you knew the
strange ideas I then had of giving you my father for your friend,
instead of one spoken harshly--perhaps unjustly of--"

As she spoke--he grew gloomy again--his eyes drooped, and the
expression of his face became at first despondent, then proud, and even
fierce; it reminded her more forcibly than it had ever done before of
the Boy of Baden--"It is better as it is," he continued, "much better
that you do not share the evil that pursues me; you ought not to be
humiliated, pressed down--goaded to hatred and contempt.

"Farewell--I grieve to leave you--yet I feel deeply how it is for
the best. Hereafter you will acknowledge your acquaintance with me,
when we meet in a happier hour. God preserve you and your dear father,
as he will for your sake! Twice we have met--the third time, if sibyls'
tales are true, is the test of good or evil in our friendship--till
then, farewell."

Thus they parted. Had Elizabeth been free from care with regard to
Falkner--she had regretted the separation more; and pondered more over
the mysterious wretchedness that darkened the lives of the only two
beings, the inner emotions of whose souls had been opened to her. As it
was, she returned to watch and fear beside her father's couch--and
scarcely to remember that a few minutes before she had been interested
by another--so entirely were her feelings absorbed by her affection and
solicitude for him.



CHAPTER XIII.

From this time their homeward journey was more prosperous. They
arrived safely at Lyons, and thence proceeded to Basle--to take
advantage again of river, navigation; the motion of a carriage being so
inimical to the invalid. They proceeded down the Rhine to Rotterdam,
and crossing the sea, returned at last to England, after an absence of
four years.

This journey, though at first begun in terror and danger, grew less
hazardous at each mile they traversed towards the North; and while
going down the Rhine, Falkner and his adopted daughter spent several
tranquil and happy hours--comparing the scenery they saw to other and
distant landscapes--and recalling incidents that had occurred many
years ago. Falkner exerted himself for Elizabeth's sake--she had
suffered so much, and he had inflicted so much anguish upon her while
endeavouring to free himself from the burthen of life, that he felt
remorse at having thus trifled with the deepest emotions of her
heart--and anxious to recal the more pleasurable sensations adapted to
her age. The listless, yet pleasing feelings attendant on convalescence
influenced his mind also--and he enjoyed a peace to which he had long
been a stranger.

Elizabeth, it is true, had another source of reverie beside that
ministered to her by her father. She often thought of Neville; and,
though he was sad, the remembrance of him was full of pleasure. He had
been so kind, so sympathizing, so helpful; besides there was a poetry
in his very gloom that added a charm to every thought spent upon him.
She did not only recall his conversation, but conjectured the causes of
his sorrow, and felt deeply interested by the mystery that hung about
him. So young and so unhappy! And he had been long so--he was more
miserable when they saw him roving wildly among the Alsatian hills.
What could it mean?--She strove to recollect what Miss Jervis mentioned
at that time; she remembered only that he had no mother, and that his
father was severe and unkind.

Yet why, when nature is so full of joyousness, when, at the summer
season, vegetation basks in beauty and delight, and the very clouds
seemed to enjoy their aerial abode in upper sky, why should misery find
a home in the mind of man? a misery which balmy winds will not lull,
nor the verdant landscape and its winding river dissipate? She thought
thus as she saw Falkner reclining apart, a cloud gathered on his brow,
his piercing eyes fixed in vacancy, as if it beheld there a
heart-moving tragedy; but she was accustomed to his melancholy, she had
ever known him as a man of sorrows; he had lived long before she knew
him, and the bygone years were filled by events pregnant with
wretchedness, nay, if he spoke truth, with guilt. But Neville, the
young, the innocent, who had been struck in boyhood through no fault of
his own, nor any act in which he bore a part; was there no remedy for
him? and would not friendship, and kindness, and the elastic spirit of
youth, suffice to cure his wound? She remembered that he declared that
he had an aim in view, in which he resolved to succeed, and,
succeeding, he should be happy: a noble aim, doubtless; for his soft
eyes lighted joyously up, and his face expressed a glad pride when he
prognosticated ultimate triumph. Her heart went with him in his
efforts; she prayed earnestly for his success, and was as sure as he,
that Heaven would favour an object which she felt certain was generous
and pure.

A sigh, a half groan from Falkner, called her to his side, while she
meditated on these things. Both suffer, she thought; would that some
link united them, so that both might find relief in the accomplishment
of the same resolves! Little did she think of the real link that
existed, mysterious, yet adamantine; that to pray for the success of
one, was to solicit destruction for the other. A dark veil was before
her eyes, totally impervious; nor did she know that the withdrawing it,
as was soon to be, would deliver her over to conflicting duties, sad
struggles of feeling, and stain her life with the dark hues that now,
missing her, blotted the existence of the two upon earth, for whom she
was most interested.

They arrived in London. Falkner's fever was gone, but his wound was
rankling, painful, and even dangerous. The bullet had grazed the bone,
and this, at first neglected, and afterwards improperly treated, now
betrayed symptoms of exfoliation; his sufferings were great--he bore
them patiently; he looked on them as an atonement. He had gone out in
his remorse to die--he was yet to live, broken and destroyed; and if
suffered to live, was it not for Elizabeth's sake? and having bound her
fate to his, what right had he to die? The air of London being
injurious, and yet it being necessary to continue in the vicinity of
the most celebrated surgeons, they took a pleasant villa on Wimbledon
Common, situated in the midst of a garden, and presenting to the eye
that mixture of neatness, seclusion and comfort, that renders some of
our smaller English country houses so delightful. Elizabeth, despite
her wanderings, had a true feminine love of home. She busied herself in
adding elegance to their dwelling, by a thousand little arts, which
seem nothing, and are every thing in giving grace and cheerfulness to
an abode.

Their life became tranquil, and a confidence and friendship existed
between them, the source of a thousand pleasant conversations, and
happy hours. One subject, it is true, was forbidden, the name of
Neville was never mentioned; perhaps, on that very account, it assumed
more power over Elizabeth's imagination. A casual intercourse with one,
however interesting, might have faded into the common light of day, had
not the silence enjoined, kept him in that indistinct mysterious
darkness so favourable to the processes of the imagination. On every
other subject, the so called father and daughter talked with open
heart, and Falkner was totally unaware of a secret growth of unspoken
interest, which had taken root in separation and secrecy.

Elizabeth, accustomed to fear death for one dearest to her, and to
contemplate its near approaches so often, had something holy and solemn
kneaded into the very elements of her mind, that gave sublimity to her
thoughts, resignation to her disposition, and a stirring inquiring
spirit to her conversation, which, separated as they were from the busy
and trivial duties of life, took from the monotony and stillness of
their existence, by bringing thoughts beyond the world to people the
commonplace of each day's routine. Falkner had not much of this; but he
had a spirit of observation, a ready memory, and a liveliness of
expression and description which corrected her wilder flights, and gave
the interest of flesh and blood to her fairy dreams. When they read of
the heroes of old, or the creations of the poets, she dwelt on the
moral to be deduced, the theories of life and death, religion and
virtue, therein displayed; while he compared them to his own
experience, criticised their truth, and gave pictures of real human
nature, either contrasting with, or resembling, those presented on the
written page.

Their lives, thus spent, would have been equable and pleasant, but
for the sufferings of Falkner; and as those diminished, another evil
arose, in his eyes of far more awful magnitude. They had resided at
Wimbledon about a year, when Elizabeth fell ill. Her medical advisers
explained her malady as the effect of the extreme nervous excitement
she had gone through during the last years, which, borne with a
patience and fortitude almost superhuman, had meanwhile undermined her
physical strength. This was a mortal blow to Falkner; while with
self-absorbed, and, he now felt, criminal pertinacity, he had sought
death, he had forgotten the results such acts of his might have on one
so dear, and innocent. He had thought that when she lost him, Elizabeth
would feel a transitory sorrow; while new scenes, another family, and
the absence of his griefs, would soon bring comfort. But he lived, and
the consequences of his resolve to die fell upon her--she was his
victim! there was something maddening in the thought. He looked at her
dear face, grown so pale--viewed her wasting form--watched her loss of
appetite, and nervous tremours, with an impatient agony that irritated
his wound, and brought back malady on himself.

All that the physicians could order for Elizabeth, was change of
air--added to an intimation that an entirely new scene, and a short
separation from her father, would be of the utmost benefit. Where could
she go? it was not now that she drooped--and trembled at every sound,
that he could restore her to her father's family. No time ought to be
lost, he was told, and the word consumption mentioned; the deaths of
her parents gave a sting to that word, which filled him with terror.
Something must be done immediately--what he knew not; and he gazed on
his darling, whom he felt that by his own act he had destroyed, with an
ardour to save that he felt was impotent, and he writhed beneath the
thought.

One morning, while Falkner was brooding over these miserable
ideas--and Elizabeth was vainly trying to assume a look of cheerfulness
and health, which her languid step and pale cheek belied--a carriage
entered their quiet grounds, and a visitor was announced. It was Lady
Cecil. Elizabeth had nearly forgotten, nor ever expected to see her
again--but that lady, whose mind was at ease at the period of their
acquaintance, and who had been charmed by the beauty and virtues of the
devoted daughter, had never ceased to determine at some time to seek
her, and renew their acquaintance. She, indeed, never expected to see
Falkner again, and she often wondered what would be his daughter's fate
when he died; she and her family had remained abroad till the present
spring, when being in London, she, by Miss Jervis's assistance, learned
that he still lived, and that they were both at Wimbledon.

Lady Cecil was a welcome visitor wherever she went, for there was an
atmosphere of cheerful and kindly warmth around her, that never failed
to communicate pleasure. Falkner, who had not seen her at Leghorn, and
had scarcely heard her name mentioned, was won at once; and when she
spoke with ardent praise of Elizabeth, and looked upon her altered
appearance with undisguised distress, his heart warmed towards her, and
he was ready to ask her assistance in his dilemma. That was offered,
however, before it was asked--she heard that change of air was
recommended--she guessed that too great anxiety for her father had
produced her illness--she felt sure that her own pleasant residence,
and cheerful family, was the best remedy that could be administered.

"I will not be denied," she said, after having made her invitation,
that both father and daughter should pay her a visit. "You must come to
me: Lord Cecil is gone to Ireland for two months, to look after his
estate there; and our little Julius being weakly, I could not accompany
him. I have taken a house near Hastings--the air is salubrious, the
place beautiful--I lead a domestic, quiet life, and I am sure Miss
Falkner will soon be well with me."

As her invitation was urged with warmth and sincerity, Falkner did
not hesitate to accept it. To a certain degree, he modified it, by
begging that Elizabeth should accompany Lady Cecil, in the first place,
alone. As the visit was to be for two months, he promised after the
first was elapsed to join them. He alleged various reasons for this
arrangement; his real one being, that he had gathered from the
physicians, that they considered a short separation from him as
essential to the invalid's recovery. She acceded, for she was anxious
to get well, and hoped that the change would restore her. Every thing
was therefore soon agreed upon; and, two days afterwards, the two
ladies were on their road to Hastings, where Lady Cecil's family
already was--she having come to town with her husband only, who by this
time had set out on his Irish tour.

"I feel convinced that three days of my nursing will make you quite
well," said Lady Cecil, as they were together in her travelling
carriage; "I wish you to look as you did in Italy. One so young, and
naturally so healthy, will soon recover strength. You overtasked
yourself--and your energetic mind is too strong for your body; but
repose, and my care, will restore you. I am sure we shall be very
happy--my children are dear little angels, and will entertain you when
you like, and never be in your way. I shall be your head nurse--and
Miss Jervis, dear odd soul! will act under my orders. The situation of
my house is enchanting; and, to add to our family circle, I expect my
brother Gerard, whom I am sure you will like. Did I ever mention him to
you? perhaps not--but you must like Gerard--and you will delight him.
He is serious--nay, to say the truth, sad--but it is a sadness a
thousand times more interesting than the gaiety of common-place worldly
men. It is a seriousness full of noble thoughts, and affectionate
feelings. I never knew, I never dreamt, that there was a creature
resembling, or to be compared to him in the world, till I saw you. You
have the same freedom from worldliness--the same noble and elevated
ideas--feeling for others, and thinking not of the petty circle of
ideas that encompasses and presses down every other mind, so that they
cannot see or feel beyond their Lilliputian selves.

"In one thing you do not resemble Gerard. You, though quiet, are
cheerful; while he, naturally more vivacious, is melancholy. You look
an inquiry, but I cannot tell you the cause of my brother's
unhappiness; for his friendship for me, which I highly prize, depends
upon my keeping sacredly the promise I have given never to make his
sorrows a topic of conversation. All I can say is, that they result
from a sensibility, and a delicate pride, which is overstrained, yet
which makes me love him ten thousand times more dearly. He is better
now than he used to be, and I hope that time and reason will altogether
dissipate the vain regrets that embitter his life. Some new--some
strong feeling may one day spring up, and scatter the clouds. I pray
for this; for though I love him tenderly, and sympathize in his grief,
yet I think it excessive and deplorable; and, alas! never to be
remedied, though it may be forgotten."

Elizabeth listened with some surprise to hear of another so highly
praised, and yet unhappy; while in her heart she thought "Though this
sound like one to be compared to Neville, yet, when I see him, how I
shall scorn the very thought of finding another as high-minded, kind,
and interesting as he?" She gave no utterance however to this
reflection, and merely asked, "Is your brother older than you?"

"No, younger--he is only two-and-twenty; but passion and grief,
endured almost since infancy, prevented him when a child from being
childish; and now he has all that is beautiful in youth, with none of
its follies. Pardon my enthusiasm; but you will grow enthusiastic also
when you see Gerard."

"I doubt that," thought Elizabeth--"my enthusiasm is spent--and I
should hate myself if I could think of another as of Neville." This
latent thought made the excessive praises which Lady Cecil bestowed on
her brother sound almost distastefully. Her thoughts flew back to
Marseilles; to his sedulous attentions--their parting interview--and
fixed at last upon the strange emotion Falkner had displayed when
seeing him; and his desire that his name even should not be mentioned.
Again she wondered what this meant, and her thoughts became abstracted;
Lady Cecil conjectured that she was tired, and permitted her to indulge
in her silent reveries.



CHAPTER XIV.

Lady Cecil's house was situated on the heights that overlook
Fairlight Bay, near Hastings. Any one who has visited that coast, knows
the peculiar beauty of the rocks, downs, and groves of Fairlight. The
oak, which clothes each dell, and, in a dwarf and clipped state, forms
the hedges, imparts a richness not only to the wide landscape, but to
each broken nook of ground and sequestered corner; the fern, which
grows only in contiguity to the oak, giving a wild forest appearance to
the glades. The mansion itself was large, convenient, and cheerful. The
grounds were extensive; and from points of view you could see the wide
sea--the more picturesque bay--and the undulating varied shore that
curves in towards Winchelsea. It was impossible to conceive a scene
more adapted to revive the spirits, and give variety and amusement to
the thoughts.

Elizabeth grew better, as by a miracle, the very day after her
arrival; and within a week a sensible change had taken place in her
appearance, as well as her health. The roses bloomed in her cheeks--her
step regained its elasticity--her spirits rose even to gaiety. All was
new and animating. Lady Cecil's beautiful and spirited children
delighted her. It was a domestic scene, adorned by elegance, and warmed
by affection. Elizabeth had, despite her attachment to her father,
often felt the weight of loneliness when left by him at Zante; or when
his illness threw her back entirely on herself. Now on each side there
were sweet, kind faces--playful, tender caresses--and a laughing mirth,
cheering in its perfect innocence.

The only annoyance she suffered, arose from the great influx of
visitors. Having lived a life disjoined from the crowd, she soon began
to conceive the hermitess delight in loneliness, and the vexation of
being intruded upon by the frivolous and indifferent. She found that
she loved friends, but hated acquaintance. Nor was this strange. Her
mind was quite empty of conventional frivolities. She had not been at a
ball twice in her life, and then only when a mere child; yet all had
been interest and occupation. To unbend with her was to converse with a
friend--to play with children--or to enjoy the scenes of nature with
one who felt their beauties with her. "It was hard labour," she often
said, "to talk with people with whom she had not one pursuit--one taste
in common." Often when a barouche, crowded with gay bonnets, appeared,
she stole away. Lady Cecil could not understand this. Brought up in the
thick of fashionable life, no person of her clique was a stranger; and
if any odd people called on her--still they were in some way
entertaining; or if bores--bores are an integral portion of life, not
to be shaken off with impunity, for as oysters they often retain the
fairest pearls in close conjunction. "You are wrong," said Lady Cecil.
"You must not be savage--I cannot have mercy on you; this little jagged
point in your character must be worn off--you must be as smooth and
glossy in exterior, as you are incalculably precious in the substance
of your mind."

Elizabeth smiled; but not the less when a sleek, self-satisfied
dowager, all smiles to those she knew--all impertinent scrutiny to the
unknown--and a train of ugly old women in embryo--called, for the
present, misses--followed, each honouring her with an insolent stare.
"There was a spirit in her feet," and she could not stay, but hurried
out into the woodland dells, and with a book, her own reveries, and the
beautiful objects around her, as her companions; and feeling
ecstatically happy, both at what she possessed, and what she had
escaped from.

Thus it was one day that she deserted Lady Cecil, who was smiling
sweetly on a red-faced gouty 'squire, and listening placidly to his
angry wife, who was complaining that her name had been put too low down
in some charity list. She stole out from the glassdoor that opened on
the lawn, and, delighted that her escape was secure, hurried to join
the little group of children whom she saw speeding beyond into the
park.

"Without a bonnet, Miss Falkner!" cried Miss Jervis.

"Yes; and the sun is warm. You are not using your parasol, Miss
Jervis; lend it me, and let us go into the shade." Then, taking her
favourite child by the hand, she said, "Come, let us pay visits. Mamma
has got some visitors; so we will go and seek for some. There is my
Lord Deer, and pretty Lady Doe. Ah! pretty Miss Fawn, what a nice
dappled frock you have on!"

The child was enchanted; and they wandered on through the glades,
among the fern, into a shady dell, quite at the other side of the park,
and sat down beneath a spreading oak tree. By this time they had got
into a serious talk of where the clouds were going, and where the first
tree came from, when a gentleman, who had entered the park gates
unperceived, rode by, and pulling up his horse suddenly, with a start,
and an exclamation of surprise, he and Elizabeth recognized each
other.

"Mr. Neville!" she cried, and her heart was full in a moment of a
thousand recollections--of the gratitude she owed--their parting
scene--and the many conjectures she had formed about him since they
separated. He looked more than pleased; and the expression of gloomy
abstraction which his face too often wore, was lit up by a smile that
went straight to the heart. He sprung from his horse, gave the rein to
his groom, and joining Elizabeth and her little companion, walked
towards the house.

Explanations and surprise followed. He was the praised, expected
brother of Lady Cecil. How strange that Elizabeth had not discovered
this relationship at Marseilles! and yet, at that time, she had
scarcely a thought to spare beyond Falkner. His recovery surprised
Neville, and he expressed the warmest pleasure. He looked with
tenderness and admiration at the soft and beautiful creature beside
him, whose courage and unwearied assiduity had preserved her father's
life. It was a bewitching contrast to remember her face shadowed by
fear--her vigilant, anxious eyes fixed on her father's wan
countenance--her thoughts filled with one sad fear; and now to see it
beaming in youthful beauty, animated by the happy, generous feelings
which were her nature. Yet this very circumstance had a sad reaction
upon Neville. His heart still bore the burthen of its sorrow, and he
felt more sure of the sympathy of the afflicted mourner, than of one
who looked untouched by any adversity. The sentiment was transitory,
for Elizabeth, with that delicate tact which is natural to a feeling
mind, soon gave such a subdued tone to their conversation as made it
accord with the mysterious unhappiness of her companion.

When near the house, they were met by Lady Cecil, who smiled at what
she deemed a sudden intimacy naturally sprung between two who had so
many qualities in common. Lady Cecil really believed them made for each
other, and had been anxious to bring them together; for being
passionately attached to her brother, and grieving at the melancholy
that darkened his existence, she thought she had found a cure in her
new friend; and that the many charms of Elizabeth would cause him to
forget the misfortunes on which he so vainly brooded. She was still
more pleased when an explanation was given, and she found that they
were already intimate--already acquainted with the claims each
possessed to the other's admiration and interest; and each naturally
drawn to seek in the other that mirror of their better nature, that
touch of kindred soul, which showed that they were formed to share
existence, or, separated, to pine eternally for a reunion.

Lady Cecil, with playful curiosity, questioned why they had
concealed their being acquainted. Elizabeth could not well tell; she
had thought much of Neville, but first the prohibition of Falkner, and
then the excessive praises Lady Cecil bestowed upon her brother,
chained her tongue. The one had accustomed her to preserve silence on a
subject deeply interesting to her; the other jarred with any
confidence, for there would have been a comparing Neville with the
Gerard which was indeed himself; and Elizabeth neither wished to have
her friend depreciated, nor to struggle against the enthusiasm felt by
the lady for her brother. The forced silence of to-day on such a
subject, renders the silence of to-morrow almost a matter of necessity;
and she was ashamed to mention one she had not already named. It may be
remarked that this sort of shame arises in all dispositions; it is the
seal and symbol of love. Shame of any kind was not akin to the sincere
and ingenuous nature of Elizabeth; but love, though young and
unacknowledged, will tyrannise from the first, and produce emotions
never felt before.

Neville hoarded yet more avariciously the name of Elizabeth. There
was delight in the very thought of her; but he shrunk from being
questioned. He had resolved to avoid her; for, till his purpose was
achieved, and the aim of his existence fulfilled, he would not yield to
the charms of love, which he felt hovered round the beautiful
Elizabeth. Sworn to a sacred duty, no self-centred or self-prodigal
passion should come between him and its accomplishment. But, meeting
her thus unawares, he could not continue guarded; his very soul drank
in gladness at the sight of her. He remarked with joy the cheerfulness
that had replaced her cares; he looked upon her open brow, her eyes of
mingled tenderness and fire, her figure free and graceful in every
motion, and felt that she realised every idea he had formed of feminine
beauty. He fancied indeed that he looked upon her as a picture; that
his heart was too absorbed by its own griefs to catch a thought beyond;
he was unmindful, while he gazed, of that emanation, that shadow of the
shape, which the Latin poet tells us flows from every object, that
impalpable impress of her form and being, which the air took and then
folded round him, so that all he saw entered, as it were, into his own
substance, and became mingled up for evermore with his identity.



CHAPTER XV.

Three or four days passed in great tranquillity; and Lady Cecil
rejoiced that the great medicine acted so well on the rankling malady
of her brother's soul. It was the leafy month of June, and nature was
as beautiful as these lovely beings themselves, who enjoyed her sweets
with enthusiastic and new-sprung delight. They sailed on the sunny
sea--or lingered by the summer brooks, and among the rich
woodlands--ignorant, why all appeared robed in a brightness, which
before they had never observed. Elizabeth had little thought beyond the
present hour--except to wish for the time when Falkner was to join
them. Neville rebelled somewhat against the new law he obeyed, but it
was a slothful rebellion--till on a day, he was awakened from his dream
of peace.

One morning Elizabeth, on entering the breakfast room, found Lady
Cecil leaning discontentedly by the window, resting her cheek on her
hand, and her brow overcast.

"He is gone," she exclaimed; "it is too provoking! Gerard is gone! A
letter came, and I could not detain him--it will take him probably to
the other end of the kingdom--and who knows when we shall see him
again!"

They sat down to breakfast, but Lady Cecil was full of discontent.
"It is not only that he is gone," she continued; "but the cause of his
going is full of pain, and care--and unfortunately, you cannot
sympathize with me, for I have not obtained his consent to confide his
hapless story to you. Would that I might!--you would feel for him--for
us all."

"He has been unhappy since childhood," observed Elizabeth.

"He has, it is true; but how did you learn that? has he ever told
you any thing?"

"I saw him many years ago at Baden. How wild, how sullen he
was--unlike his present self! for then there was a violence, and a
savageness in his gloom, which has vanished."

"Poor boy!" said Lady Cecil, "I remember well--and it is a pleasure
to think that I am, to a great degree, the cause of the change. He had
no friend at that time--none to love--to listen to him, and foster
hopes which, however vain, diminish his torments, and are all the cure
he can obtain, till he forgets them. But what can this mean?" she
continued, starting up; "what can bring him back? It is Gerard
returned!"

She threw open the glass-door, and went out to meet him as he rode
up the avenue--he threw himself from his horse, and advanced
exclaiming, "Is my father here?"

"Sir Boyvill? No; is he coming?"

"O yes! we shall see him soon. I met a servant with a letter sent
express--the post was too slow--he will be here soon; he left London
last night--you know with what speed he travels."

"But why this sudden visit?"

"Can you not guess? He received a letter from the same
person--containing the same account; he knew I was here--he comes to
balk my purpose, to forbid, to storm, to reproach; to do all that he
has done a thousand times before, with the same success."

Neville looked flushed, and disturbed; his face, usually, "more in
sorrow than in anger," now expressed the latter emotion, mingled with
scorn and resolution; he gave the letter he had received to Lady Cecil.
"I am wrong, perhaps, in returning at his bidding, since I do not mean
ultimately to obey--yet he charges me on my duty to hear him once
again; so I am come to hear--to listen to the old war of his vanity,
with what he calls my pride--his vindictiveness with my sense of
duty--his vituperation of her I worship--and I must bear this!"

Lady Cecil read the letter, and Neville pressed Elizabeth's hand,
and besought her excuse, while she, much bewildered, was desirous to
leave the room. At this moment the noise of a carriage was heard on the
gravel. "He is here," said Neville; "see him first, Sophia, tell him
how resolved I am--how right in my resolves. Try to prevent a struggle,
as disgraceful as vain; and most so to my father, since he must suffer
defeat."

With a look of much distress, Lady Cecil left the room to receive
her new guest; while Elizabeth stole out by another door into the
grove, and mused under the shady covert on what had passed. She felt
curious, yet saddened. Concord, affection, and sympathy, are so
delightful, that all that disturbs the harmony is eminently
distasteful. Family contentions are worst of all. Yet she would not
prejudge Neville. He felt, in its full bitterness, the pain of
disobeying his parent; and whatever motive led to such a mode of
action, it hung like an eclipse over his life. What it might be, she
could not guess; but it was no ignoble, self-centred passion. Hope, and
joy were sacrificed to it. She remembered him as she first saw him, a
boy driven to wildness by a sense of injury; she remembered him when
reason, and his better nature, had subdued the selfish portion of his
feeling--grown kind as a woman--active, friendly, and sympathizing, as
few men are; she recollected him by Falkner's sick couch, and when he
took leave of her, auguring that they should meet in a happier hour.
That hour had not yet come, and she confessed to herself that she
longed to know the cause of his unhappiness; and wondered whether, by
counsel or sympathy, she could bring any cure.

She was plunged in reverie, walking slowly beneath the forest trees,
when she heard a quick step brushing the dead leaves and fern, and
Neville joined her. "I have escaped," he cried, "and left poor Sophy to
bear the scoldings of an unjust and angry man. I could not stay--it was
not cowardice--but I have recollections joined to such contests, that
make my heart sick. Besides, I should reply--and I would not willingly
forget that he is my father."

"It must be indeed painful," said Elizabeth, "to quarrel with, to
disobey a parent."

"Yet there are motives that might, that must excuse it. Do you
remember the character of Hamlet, Miss Falkner?"

"Perfectly--it is the embodying of the most refined, the most
genuine, and yet the most harrowing feelings and situation, that the
imagination ever conceived."

"I have read that play," said Neville, "till each word seems
instinct with a message direct to my heart--as if my own emotions gave
a conscious soul to every line. Hamlet was called upon to avenge a
father--in execution of his task he did not spare a dearer, a far more
sacred name--if he used no daggers with his mother, he spoke them; nor
winced though she writhed beneath his hand. Mine is a lighter--yet a
holier duty. I would vindicate a mother--without judging my
father--without any accusation against him, I would establish her
innocence. Is this blameable? What would you do, Miss Falkner, if your
father were accused of a crime?"

"My father and a crime! Impossible!" exclaimed Elizabeth; for,
strange to say, all the self-accusations of Falkner fell empty on her
ear. It was a virtue in him to be conscience-stricken for an error; of
any real guilt she would have pledged her life that he was free.

"Yes--impossible!" cried Neville--"doubtless it is so; but did you
hear his name stigmatized--shame attend your very kindred to him--What
would you do?--defend him--prove his innocence--Would you not?"

"A life were well sacrificed to such a duty."

"And to that very duty mine is devoted. In childhood I rebelled
against the accusation with vain, but earnest indignation; now I am
calmer because I am more resolved; but I will yield to no
impediment--be stopped by no difficulty--not even by my father's blind
commands. My mother! dear name--dearer for the ills attached to it--my
angel mother shall find an unfaltering champion in her son."

"You must not be angry," he continued, in reply to her look of
wonder, "that I mention circumstances which it is customary to slur
over and conceal. It is shame for me to speak--for you to hear--my
mother's name. That very thought gives a keener edge to my purpose. God
knows what miserable truth is hidden by the veils which vanity, revenge
and selfishness have drawn around my mother's fate; but that
truth--though it be a bleeding one--shall be disclosed, and her
innocence be made as clear as the sun now shining above us.

"It is dreadful, very dreadful, to be told--to be persuaded that the
idol of one's thoughts is corrupt and vile. It is no new story, it is
true--wives have been false to their husbands ere now, and some have
found excuses, and sometimes been justified; it is the manner makes the
thing. That my mother should have left her happy home--which, under her
guardian eye, was Paradise--have deserted me, her child, whom she so
fondly loved--and who even in that unconscious age adored her--and her
poor little girl, who died neglected--that year after year she has
never inquired after us--nor sent nor sought a word--while following a
stranger's fortune through the world! That she whose nightly sleep was
broken by her tender cares--whose voice so often lulled me, and whose
every thought and act was pure as an angel's--that she, tempted by the
arch fiend, strayed from hell for her destruction, should leave us all
to misery, and her own name to obloquy. No! no! The earth is yet
sheltered by heaven, and sweet, and good things abide in it--and she
was, and is, among them sweetest and best!"

Neville was carried away by his feelings--while Elizabeth,
overpowered by his vehemence--astonished by the wild, strange tale he
disclosed, listened in silence, yet an eloquent silence--for her eyes
filled with tears--and her heart burned in her bosom with a desire to
show how entirely she shared his deep emotion.

"I have made a vow," he continued--"it is registered in heaven; and
each night as I lay my head on my pillow I renew it; and beside
you--the best of earthly things now that my dear mother is gone. I
repeat--that I devote my life to vindicate her who gave me life; and my
selfish, revengeful father is here to impede--to forbid--but I trample
on such obstacles, as on these dead leaves beneath our feet. You do not
speak, Miss Falkner--did you ever hear of Mrs. Neville?"

"I have spent all my life out of England," replied Elizabeth, "yet I
have some recollection."

"I do not doubt it--to the ends of the earth the base-minded love to
carry the tale of slander and crime. You have heard of Mrs. Neville,
who for the sake of a stranger deserted her home, her husband, her
helpless children--and has never been heard of since; who, unheard and
undefended, was divorced from her husband--whose miserable son was
brought to witness against her. It is a story well fitted to raise
vulgar wonder--vulgar abhorrence; do you wonder that I, who since I was
nine years old have slept and waked on the thought, should have been
filled with hate, rancour, and every evil passion, till the blessed
thought dawned on my soul, that I would prove her innocence, and that
she should be avenged--for this I live."

"And now I must leave you. I received yesterday a letter which
promises a clue to guide me through this labyrinth; wherever it leads,
there I follow. My father has come to impede me--but I have, after
using unvailing remonstrance, told him that I will obey a sense of duty
independent of parental authority. I do not mean to see him again--I
now go--but I could not resist the temptation of seeing you before I
went, and proving to you the justice of my resolves. If you wish for
further explanation, ask Sophia--tell her that she may relate all;
there is not a thought or act of my life with which I would have you
unacquainted, if you will deign to listen."

"Thank you for this permission," said Elizabeth; "Lady Cecil is
desirous, I know, of telling me the cause of a melancholy which, good
and kind as you are, you ought not to suffer. Alas! this is a miserable
world: and when I hear of your sorrows, and remember my dear father's,
I think that I must be stone to feel no more than I do; and yet, I
would give my life to assist you in your task."

"I know well how generous you are, though I cannot now express how
my heart thanks you. I will return before you leave my sister; wherever
fate and duty drives me, I will see you again."

They returned towards the house, and he left her; his horse was
already saddled, and standing at the door; he was on it, and gone in a
moment.

Elizabeth felt herself as in a dream when he was gone, yet her heart
and wishes went with him; for she believed the truth of all he said,
and revered the enthusiasm of affection that impelled his actions.
There was something wild and proud in his manner, which forcibly
reminded her of the boy of sixteen, who had so much interested her
girlish mind; and his expressions, indignant and passionate as they
were, yet vouched, by the very sentiment they conveyed, for the justice
of his cause. "Gallant, noble-hearted being! God assist your
endeavours! God and every good spirit that animates this world!" Thus
her soul spoke as she saw him ride off; and, turning into the house, a
half involuntary feeling made her take up the volume of Shakspeare
containing Hamlet; and she was soon buried, not only in the interest of
the drama itself, but in the various emotions it excited by the
association it now bore to one she loved more even than she knew. It
was nothing strange that Neville, essentially a dreamer and a poet,
should have identified himself with the Prince of Denmark; while the
very idea that he took to himself, and acted on sentiments thus
high-souled and pure, adorned him yet more in her eyes, endowing him in
ample measue with that ideality which the young and noble love to
bestow on the objects of their attachment.

After a short time, she was interrupted by Lady Cecil, who looked
disturbed and vexed. She said little, except to repine at Gerard's
going, and Sir Boyvill's stay--he also was to depart the following
morning: but Sir Boyvill was a man who made his presence felt
disagreeably, even when it was limited to a few hours. Strangers
acknowledged this; no one liked the scornful, morose old man; and a
near connexion, who was open to so many attacks, and sincerely loved
one whom Sir Boyvill pretended most to depreciate, was even more
susceptible to the painful feelings he always contrived to spread round
him. To despise every body, to contradict every body with marks of
sarcasm and contempt, to set himself up for an idol, and yet to scorn
his worshippers; these were the prominent traits of his character,
added to a galled and sore spirit, which was for ever taking offence,
which discerned an attack in every word, and was on the alert to repay
these fancied injuries with real and undoubted insult. He had been a
man of fashion, and retained as much good breeding as was compatible
with a tetchy and revengeful temper; this was his only merit.

He was nearly seventy years of age, remarkably well preserved, but
with strongly marked features, and a countenance deeply lined, set off
by a young looking wig, which took all venerableness from his
appearance, without bestowing juvenility; his lips were twisted into a
sneer, and there was something in his evident vanity that might have
provoked ridicule, but that traces of a violent, unforgiving temper
prevented him from being merely despicable, while they destroyed every
particle of compassion with which he might have been regarded; for he
was a forlorn old man, separating himself from those allied to him by
blood or connexion, excellent as they were. His only pleasure had been
in society; secluding himself from that, or presenting himself only in
crowds, where he writhed to find that he went for nothing, he was
miserable, yet not to be comforted, for the torments he endured were
integral portions of his own nature.

He looked surprised to see Elizabeth, and was at first very civil to
her, with a sort of old-fashioned gallantry which, had it been
good-humoured, might have amused, but, as it was, appeared forced,
misplaced, and rendered its object very uncomfortable. Whatever Lady
Cecil said, he contradicted. He made disagreeable remarks about her
children, prophesying in them so much future torment; and when not
personally impertinent, amused them by recapitulating all the most
scandalous stories rife in London of unfaithful wives and divided
families, absolutely gloating with delight, when he narrated any thing
peculiarly disgraceful. After half an hour, Elizabeth quite hated him;
and he extended the same sentiment to her on her bestowing a meed of
praise on his son. "Yes," he said, in reply, "Gerard is a very pleasant
person; if I said he was half madman, half fool, I should certainly say
too much, and appear an unkind father; but the sort of imbecility that
characterizes his understanding is, I think, only equalled by his
self-willed defiance of all laws which society has established; in
conduct he very much resembles a lunatic armed with a weapon of
offence, which he does not fear himself, and deals about on those
unfortunately connected with him, with the same indifference to
wounds."

On this speech, Lady Cecil coloured and rose from the table, and her
friend gladly followed; leaving Sir Boyvill to his solitary wine. Never
had Elizabeth experienced before the intolerable weight of an odious
person's society--she was stunned. "We have but one resource," said
Lady Cecil; "you must sit down to the piano. Sir Boyvill is too polite
not to entreat you to play on, and too weary not to fall asleep; he is
worse than ever."

"But he is your father!" cried Elizabeth, astonished.

"No, thank heaven!" said Lady Cecil.--"What could have put that into
your head? Oh, I see--I call Gerard my brother. Sir Boyvill married my
poor mother, who is since dead. We are only connected--I am happy to
say--there is no drop of his blood in my veins. But I hear him coming.
Do play something of Herz. The noise will drown every other sound, and
even astonish my father-in-law."

The evening was quickly over, for Sir Boyvill retired early; the
next morning he was gone, and the ladies breathed freely again. It is
impossible to attempt to describe the sort of moral nightmare the
presence of such a man produces. "Do you remember in Madame de
Svign's Letters," said Lady Cecil, "where she observes
that disagreeable society is better than good--because one is so
pleased to get rid of it? In this sense, Sir Boyvill is the best
company in the whole world. We will take a long drive to-day, to get
rid of the last symptoms of the Sir Boyvill fever."

"And you will tell me what all this mystery means," said Elizabeth.
"Mr. Neville gave some hints yesterday; but referred me to you. You may
tell me all."

"Yes; I am aware," replied Lady Cecil. "This one good, at least, I
have reaped from Sir Boyvill's angry visit. I am permitted to explain
to you the causes of our discord, and of dear Gerard's sadness. I shall
win your sympathy for him, and exculpate us both. It is a mournful
tale--full of unexplainable mystery--shame--and dreaded ill. It fills
me perpetually with wonder and regret; nor do I see any happy
termination, except in the oblivion, in which I wish that it was
buried. Here is the carriage. We will not take any of the children with
us, that we may suffer no interruption."

Elizabeth's interest was deeply excited, and she was as eager to
listen as her friend to tell. The story outlasted a long drive. It was
ended in the dusky twilight--as they sat after dinner, looking out on
the summer woods--while the stars came out twinkling amidst the foliage
of the trees--and the deer crept close to graze. The hour was
still--and was rendered solemn by a tale as full of heartfelt sorrow,
and generous enthusiasm, as ever won maiden's attention, and bespoke
her favour for him who loved and suffered.



CHAPTER XVI.

Lady Cecil began:--

"I have already told you that though I call Gerard my brother, and
he possesses my sisterly affection, we are only connexions by marriage,
and not the least related in blood. His father married my mother; but
Gerard is the offspring of a former marriage, as I am also. Sir
Boyvill's first wife is the unfortunate lady who is the heroine of my
tale.

"Sir Boyvill, then Mr. Neville, for he inherited his baronetcy only
a few years ago, had advanced beyond middle age when he first married.
He was a man of the world, and of pleasure; and being also clever,
handsome, and rich, had great success in the circles of fashion. He was
often involved in liaisons with ladies, whose names were rife among the
last generation for loving notoriety and amusement better than duty and
honour. As he made a considerable figure, he conceived that he had a
right to entertain a high opinion of himself, and not without some
foundation; his good sayings were repeated; his songs were set to
music, and sung with enthusiasm in his own set--he was courted and
feared. Favoured by women, imitated by men, he reached the zenith of a
system, any connection with which is considered as enviable.

"He was some five-and-forty when he fell in love, and married. Like
many dissipated men, he had a mean idea of female virtue--and
especially disbelieved that any portion of it was to be found in
London; so he married a country girl, without fortune, but with beauty
and attractions sufficient to justify his choice. I never saw his lady;
but several of her early friends have described her to me. She was
something like Gerard--yet how unlike! In the colour of the eyes and
hair, and the formation of the features, they resembled; but the
expression was wholly different. Her clear complexion was tinged by a
pure blood, that ebbed and flowed rapidly in her veins, driven by the
pulsations of her soul, rather than of her body. Her large dark eyes
were irresistibly brilliant; and opened their lids on the spectator,
with an effect such as the sun has, when it drops majestically below a
heavy cloud, and dazzles the beholder with its unexpected beams. She
was vivacious--nay wild of spirit; but though raised far above the dull
monotony of common life by her exuberant joyousness of soul, yet every
thought and act was ruled by a pure, unsullied heart. Her impulses were
keen and imperative; her sensibility, true to the touch of nature, was
tremblingly alive; but their more dangerous tendencies were guarded by
excellent principles, and a truth never shadowed by a cloud. Her
generous and confiding heart might be duped--might spring forward too
eagerly--and she might be imprudent; but she was never false. An
ingenuous confession of error, if ever she fell into it, purged away
all suspicion that any thing mysterious or forbidden lurked in her most
thoughtless acts. Other women, who like her are keenly sensitive, and
who are driven by ungovernable spirits to do what they afterwards
repent, and are endowed, as she was, with an aptitude to shame when
rebuked, guard their dignity or their fears by falsehood; and while
their conduct is essentially innocent, immesh themselves in such a web
of deceit, as not only renders them absolutely criminal in the eyes of
those who detect them, but in the end hardens and perverts their better
nature. Alithea Neville never sheltered herself from the consequences
of her faults; rather she met them too eagerly, acknowledged a venial
error with too much contrition, and never rested till she had laid her
heart bare to her friend and judge, and vindicated its every impulse.
To this admirable frankness, soft tenderness, and heart-cheering
gaiety, was added a great store of common sense. Her fault, if fault it
could be called, was a too earnest craving for the sympathy and
affection of those she loved; to obtain this, she was unwearied, nay
prodigal, in her endeavours to please and serve. Her generosity was a
ready prompter, while her sensibility enlightened her. She sought love,
and not applause; and she obtained both from all who knew her. To sum
up all with the mention of a defect--though she could feel the dignity
which an adherence to the dictates of duty imparts, yet sometimes going
wrong--sometimes wounded by censure, and always keenly alive to blame,
she had a good deal of timidity in her character. She was so
susceptible to pain, that she feared it too much, too agonizingly; and
this terror of meeting any thing harsh or grating in her path, rendered
her too diffident of herself--too submissive to authority--too
miserable, and too yielding, when any thing disturbed the harmony with
which she desired to be surrounded.

"It was these last qualities probably that led her to accept Mr.
Neville's offer. Her father wished it, and she obeyed. He was a retired
lieutenant in the navy. Sir Boyvill got him raised to the rank of post
captain; and what naval officer but would feel unbounded gratitude for
such a favour! He was appointed to a ship--sailed--and fell in an
engagement not many months after his daughter's marriage--grateful,
even in his last moments, that he died commanding the deck of a
man-of-war. Meanwhile his daughter bore the effects of his promotion in
a less gratifying way. Yet, at first, she loved and esteemed her
husband. He was not then what he is now. He was handsome; and his
good-breeding had the polish of the day. He was popular, through a sort
of liveliness which passes for wit, though it was rather a conventional
ease in conversation than the sparkle of real intellect. Besides, he
loved her to idolatry. Whatever he is now, still vehemence of passion
forms his characteristic; and though the selfishness of his disposition
gave an evil bias even to his love, yet it was there, and for a time it
shed its delusions over his real character. While her artless and sweet
caresses could create smiles--while he played the slave at her feet, or
folded her in his arms with genuine and undisguised transport, even his
darker nature was adorned by the, to him, alien and transitory magic of
love.

"But marriage too soon changed Sir Boyvill for the worse. Close
intimacy disclosed the distortions of his character. He was a vain and
a selfish man. Both qualities rendered him exacting in the extreme; and
the first give birth to the most outrageous jealousy. Alithea was too
ingenuous for him to be able to entertain suspicions; but his jealousy
was nourished by the difference of their age and temper. She was
nineteen--in the first bloom of loveliness--in the freshest spring of
youthful spirits--too innocent to suspect his doubts--too kind in her
most joyous hour to fancy that she could offend. He was a man of the
world--a thousand times had seen men duped and women deceive. He did
not know of the existence of a truth as spotless and uncompromising as
existed in Alithea's bosom. He imagined that he was marked out as the
old husband of a young wife; he feared that she would learn that she
might have married more happily; and, desirous of engrossing her all to
himself, a smile spent on another was treason to the absolute nature of
his rights. At first she was blind to his bad qualities. A thousand
times he frowned when she was gay--a thousand times ill humour and
cutting reproofs were the results of her appearing charming to others,
before she discovered the selfish and contemptible nature of his
passion, and became aware that, to please him, she must blight and
uproot all her accomplishments, all her fascinations; that she must for
ever curb her wish to spread happiness around; that she, the very soul
of generous unsuspecting goodness, must become cramped in a sort of bed
of Procrustes, now having one portion lopped off, and then another,
till the maimed, and half-alive remnant should resemble the soulless
niggard tyrant, whose every thought and feeling centred in his
Lilliputian self. That she did at last make this discovery, cannot be
doubted; though she never disclosed her disappointment, nor complained
of the tyranny from which she suffered. She grew heedful not to
displease, guarded in her behaviour to others, and so accommodated her
manner to his wishes, as showed that she feared, but concealed that she
no longer esteemed him. A new reserve sprang up in her character, which
after all was not reserve; for it was only the result of her fear to
give pain, and of her unalterable principles. Had she spoken of her
husband's faults, it would have been to himself--but she had no spirit
of governing--and quarrelling and contention were the antipodes of her
nature. If, indeed, this silent yielding to her husband's despotism was
contrary to her original frankness, it was a sacrifice made to what she
esteemed her duty, and never went beyond the silence which best becomes
the injured.

"It cannot be doubted that she was alive to her husband's faults.
Generous, she was restrained by his selfishness; enthusiastic, she was
chilled by his worldly wisdom; sympathetic, she was rebuked by a
jealousy that demanded every feeling. She was like a poor bird, that
with untired wing would mount gaily to the skies, when on each side the
wires of the aviary impede its flight. Still it was her principle that
we ought not to endeavour to form a destiny for ourselves, but to act
well our part on the scene where Providence has placed us. She
reflected seriously, and perhaps sadly, for the first time in her life;
and she formed a system for herself, which would give the largest
extent to the exercise of her natural benevolence, and yet obviate the
suspicions, and cure the fears, of her narrowminded, self-engrossed
husband.

"In pursuance of her scheme, she made it her request that they
should take up their residence entirely at their seat in the north of
England; giving up London society, and transforming herself altogether
into a country lady. In her benevolent schemes, in the good she could
there do, and in the few friends she could gather round her, against
whom her husband could form no possible objection, she felt certain of
possessing a considerable share of rational happiness--exempt from the
hurry and excitement of town, for which her sensitive and ardent mind
rendered her very unfit, under the guidance of a man who at once
desired that she should hold a foremost place, and was yet disturbed by
the admiration which she elicited. Sir Boyvill complied with seeming
reluctance, but real exultation. He possesses a delightful seat in the
southern part of Cumberland. Here, amidst a simple-hearted peasantry,
and in a neighbourhood where she could cultivate many social pleasures,
she gave herself up to a life which would have been one of extreme
happiness, had not the exactions, the selfishness, the uncongenial mind
of Sir Boyvill, debarred her from the dearest blessing of all--sympathy
and friendship with the partner of her life.

"Still she was contented. Her temper was sweet, and yielding. She
did not look on each cross in circumstance as an injury, or a
misfortune; but rather as a call on her philosophy, which it was her
duty to meet cheerfully. Her heart was too warm not to shrink with pain
from her husband's ungenerous nature, but she had a resource, to which
she gave herself up with ardour. She turned the full, but checked tide
of her affections, from her husband to her son. Gerard was all in all
to her--her hope, her joy, her idol, and he returned her love with more
than a child's affection. His sensibility developed early, and she
cultivated it perhaps too much. She wished to secure a friend--and the
temptation afforded by the singular affectionateness of his
disposition, and his great intelligence, was too strong. Mr. Neville
strongly objected to the excess to which she carried her maternal
cares, and augured ill of the boy's devotion to her; but here his
interference was vain, the mother could not alter; and the child,
standing at her side, eyed his father even then with a sort of proud
indignation, on his daring to step in between them.

"To Mrs. Neville, this boy was as an angel sent to comfort her. She
could not bear that any one should attend on him except herself--she
was his playmate, and instructress. When he opened his eyes from sleep,
his mother's face was the first he saw; she hushed him to rest at
night--did he hurt himself, she flew to his side in agony--did she
utter one word of tender reproach, it curbed his childish passions on
the instant--he seldom left her side, but she was young enough to share
his pastimes--her heart overflowed with its excess of love, and he,
even as a mere child, regarded her as something to protect, as well as
worship.

"Mr. Neville was angry, and often reproved her too great partiality,
though by degrees it won some favour in his eyes. Gerard was his son
and heir, and he might be supposed to have a share in the affection
lavished on him. He respected, also, the absence of frivolous vanity,
that led her to be happy with her child--contented, away from
London--satisfied in fulfilling the duties of her station, though his
eyes only were there to admire. He persuaded himself that there must
exist much latent attachment towards himself, to reconcile her to this
sort of exile; and her disinterestedness received the reward of his
confidence,--he who never before believed or respected woman. He began
to yield to her more than he was wont, and to consider that he ought
now and then to show some approbation of her conduct.

"When Gerard was about six years old, they went abroad on a tour.
Travelling was a mode of passing the time, that accorded well with Mr.
Neville's matrimonial view of keeping his wife to himself. In the
travelling carriage, he only was beside her; in seeing sights, he, who
had visited Italy before, and had some taste, could guide and instruct
her; and short as their stay in each town was, there was no possibility
of forming serious attachments, or lasting friendships; at the same
time his vanity was gratified by seeing his wife and son admired by
strangers and natives. While abroad, Mrs. Neville bore another child, a
little girl. This added greatly to her domestic happiness. Her husband
grew extremely fond of his baby daughter; there was too much difference
of age, to set her up as a rival to Gerard; she was by contradistinction
the father's darling it is true, but this rather produced harmony than
discord--for the mother loved both children too well to feel hurt by
the preference; and, softened by having an object he really loved to
lavish his favour on, Sir Boyvill grew much more of a tender father,
and indulgent husband, than he had hitherto shown himself."



CHAPTER XVII.

"It was not until a year after their return from abroad that the
events happened which terminated so disastrously Mrs. Neville's career
in her own family. I am perplexed how to begin the narration, the story
is so confused and obscure; the mystery that envelops the catastrophe,
so impenetrable; the circumstances that we really know so few, and
these gleaned, as it were ear by ear, as dropped in the passage of the
event; so making, if you will excuse my rustic metaphor, a meagre,
illassorted sheaf. Mrs. Neville had been a wife nearly ten years; never
had she done one act that could be disapproved by the most circumspect;
never had she swerved from that veracity and open line of conduct which
was a safeguard against the mingled ardour and timidity of her
disposition. It required extraordinary circumstances to taint her
reputation, as, to say the least, it is tainted; and we are still in
the dark as to the main instrument by which these circumstances were
brought about. Their result is too obvious. At one moment Mrs. Neville
was an honoured and beloved wife; a mother, whose heart's pulsations
depended on the well-being of her children; and whose fond affection
was to them as the sun's warmth to the opening flower. At the next,
where is she? Silence and mystery wrap her from us; and surmise is busy
in tracing shapes of infamy from the fragments of truth that we can
gather.

"On the return of the family from abroad, they again repaired to
their seat of Dromore; and, at the time to which I allude, Mr. Neville
had left them there, to go to London on business. He went for a week;
but his stay was prolonged to nearly two months. He heard regularly
from his wife. Her letters were more full of her children and household
than herself; but they were kind; and her maternal heart warmed, as she
wrote, into anticipations of future happiness in her children, greater
even than she now enjoyed. Every line breathed of home and peace; every
word seemed to emanate from a mind in which lurked no concealed
feeling, no one thought unconfessed or unapproved. To such a home,
cheered by so much beauty and excellence, Sir Boyvill returned, as he
declares, with eager and grateful affection. The time came when he was
expected at home; and true, both to the day and to the hour, he
arrived. It was at eleven at night. His carriage drove through the
grounds; the doors of the house were thrown open; several eager faces
were thrust forward with more of curiosity and anxiety than is at all
usual in an English household; and as he alighted, the servants looked
aghast, and exchanged glances of terror. The truth was soon divulged.
At about six in the evening, Mrs. Neville, who dined early in the
absence of her husband, had gone to walk in the park with Gerard; since
then neither had returned.

"When the darkness, which closed in with a furious wind and
thunder-storm, rendered her prolonged absence a matter of solicitude,
the servants had gone to seek her in the grounds. They found their
mistress's key in the lock of a small masked gate that opened on a
green lane. They went one way up the lane to meet her; but found no
trace. They followed the other, with like ill success. Again they
searched the park with more care; and again resorted to the lanes and
fields; but in vain. The obvious idea was, that she had taken shelter
from the strom; and a horrible fear presented itself, that she might
have found no better retreat than a tree or hayrick, and that she had
been struck by the lightning. A slight hope remained, that she had gone
along the high-road to meet her husband, and would return with him. His
arrival alone took from them this last hope.

"The country was now raised. Servants and tenants were sent divers
ways; some on horseback, some on foot. Though summer-time, the night
was inclement and tempestuous; a furious west wind swept the earth;
high trees were bowed to the ground; and the blast howled and roared,
at once baffling and braving every attempt to hear cries or distinguish
sounds.

"Dromore is situated in a beautiful, but wild and thinly inhabited
part of Cumberland, on the verge of the plain that forms the coast
where it first breaks into uplands, dingles and ravines; there is no
high road towards the sea--but as they took the one that led to
Lancaster, they approached the ocean, and the distant roar of its
breakers filled up the pauses of the gale. It was on this road, at the
distance of some five miles from the house, that Gerard was found. He
was lying on the road in a sort of stupor--which could be hardly called
sleep--his clothes were drenched by the storm--and his limbs stiff from
cold. When first found, and disturbed, he looked wildly round; and his
cry was for his mother--terror was painted in his face--and his
intellects seemed deranged by a sudden and terrific shock. He was taken
home. His father hurried to him, questioning him eagerly--but the child
only raved that his mother was being carried from him; and his pathetic
cry of, 'Come back, mamma--stop--stop for me!' filled every one with
terror and amazement. As speedily as possible medical assistance was
sent for; the physician found the boy in a high fever, the result of
fright, exposure to the storm, and subsequent sleep in his wet clothes
in the open air. It was many days before his life could be answered
for--or the delirium left him--and still he raved that his mother was
being carried off--and would not stop for him, and often he tried to
rise from his bed under the notion of pursuing her.

"At length consciousness returned--consciousness of the actual
objects around him, mingled with an indistinct recollection of the
events that immediately preceded his illness. His pulse was calm; his
reason restored; and he lay quietly with open eyes fixed on the door of
his chamber. At last he showed symptoms of uneasiness, and asked for
his mother. Mr. Neville was called, as he had desired he might be, the
moment his son showed signs of being rational. Gerard looked up in his
father's face with an expression of disappointment, and again murmured,
'Send mamma to me.'

"Fearful of renewing his fever by awakening his disquietude, his
father told him that mamma was tired and asleep, and could not be
disturbed.

"'Then she has come back?' he cried; 'that man did not take her
quite away? The carriage drove here at last.'

"Such words renewed all their consternation. Afraid of questioning
the child himself, lest he should terrify him, Mr. Neville sent the
nurse who had been with him from infancy, to extract information. His
story was wild and strange; and here I must remark that the account
drawn from him by the woman's questions, differs somewhat from that to
which he afterwards adhered; though not so much in actual
circumstances, as in the colouring given. This his father attributes to
his subsequent endeavours to clear his mother from blame; while he
asserts, and I believe with truth, that time and knowledge, by giving
him an insight into motives, threw a new light on the words and actions
which he remembered; and that circumstances which bore one aspect to
his ignorance, became clearly visible in another, when he was able to
understand the real meaning of several fragments of conversation which
had at first been devoid of sense.

"All that he could tell during this first stage of inquiry was, that
his mother had taken him to walk with her in the grounds, that she had
unlocked the gate that opened out on the lane with her own key, and
that a gentleman was without waiting.

"Had he ever seen the gentleman before?

"Never; he did not know him, and the stranger took no notice of him;
he heard his mamma call him Rupert.

"His mother took the stranger's arm, and walked on through the lane,
while he sometimes ran on before, and sometimes remained at her side.
They conversed earnestly, and his mother at one time cried; he, Gerard,
felt very angry with the gentleman for making her cry, and took her
hand and begged her to leave him and come away; but she kissed the boy,
told him to run on, and they would return very soon.

"Yet they did not return, but walked on to where the lane was
intersected by the high road. Here they stopped, and continued to
converse; but it seemed as if she were saying good bye to the stranger,
when a carriage, driven at full speed, was seen approaching; it stopped
close to them; it was an open carriage, a sort of calhe, with
the head pulled forward low down; as it stopped, his mother went up to
it, when the stranger, pulling the child's hand from hers, hurried her
into the carriage, and sprang in after, crying out to him, 'Jump in, my
boy!' but before he could do so, the postillion whipped the horses, who
started forward almost with a bound, and were in a gallop on the
instant; he heard his mother scream; the words 'My child! my son!'
reached his ears, shrieked in agony. He ran wildly after the carriage;
it disappeared, but still he ran on. It must stop somewhere, and he
would reach it, his mother had called for him: and thus, crying,
breathless, panting, he ran along the high road; the carriage had long
been out of sight, the sun had set; the wind, rising in gusts, brought
on the thunder storm; yet, still he pursued, till nature and his boyish
strength gave way, and he threw himself on the ground to gain breath.
At every sound which he fancied might be that of carriage wheels, he
started up; but it was only the howling of the blast in the trees, and
the hoarse muttering of the now distant thunder; twice and thrice he
rose from the earth, and ran forwards; till, wet through, and utterly
exhausted, he lay on the ground, weeping bitterly, and expecting to
die.

"This was all his story. It produced a strict inquiry among the
servants, and then circumstances scarcely adverted to were remembered,
and some sort of information gained. About a week or ten days before, a
gentleman on horseback, unattended by any servant, had called. He asked
for Mrs. Neville; the servant requested his name, but he muttered that
it was no matter. He was ushered into the room, where their mistress
was sitting; he staid at least two hours; and when he was gone, they
remarked that her eyes were red, as if she had been weeping. The
stranger called again, and Mrs. Neville was denied to him.

"Inquiries were now instituted in the neighbourhood. One or two
persons remembered something of a stranger gentleman who had been seen
riding about the country, mounted on a fine bay horse. One evening, he
was seen coming from the masked gate in the park, which caused it to be
believed that he was on a visit at Dromore. Nothing more was known of
him.

"The servants tasked themselves to remember more particularly the
actions of their lady, and it was remembered that one evening she went
to walk alone in the grounds, some accident having prevented Gerard
from accompanying her. She returned very late, at ten o'clock; and
there was, her maid declared, a good deal of confusion in her manner.
She threw herself on a sofa, ordered the lights to be taken away, and
remained alone for two hours past her usual time for retiring for the
night, till, at last, her maid ventured in to ask her if she needed
anything. She was awake, and when lights were brought, had evidently
been weeping. After this, she only went out in the carriage with the
children, until the fatal night of her disappearance. It was
remembered, also, that she received several letters, brought by a
strange man, who left them without waiting for any answer. She received
one the very morning of the day when she left her home, and this last
note was found; it threw some light on the fatal mystery. It was only
dated with the day of the week, and began abruptly:--

"On one condition I will obey you; I will never see you more--I will
leave the country; I will forget my threats against the most hated life
in the world; he is safe, on one condition. You must meet me this
evening; I desire to see you for the last time. Come to the gate of
your park that opens on the lane, which you opened for me a few nights
ago; you will find me waiting outside. I will not detain you long. A
farewell to you and to my just revenge shall be breathed at once. If
you do not come, I will wait till night, till I am past hope, and then
enter your grounds, wait till he returns, and--Oh, do not force me to
say what you will call wicked and worse than unkind, but come, come,
and prevent all ill. I charge you come, and hereafter you shall, if you
please, be for ever delivered from your

"'Rupert.'

"On this letter she went; yet in innocence, for she took her child
with her. Could any one doubt that she was betrayed, carried off, the
victim of the foulest treachery? No one did doubt it. Police were sent
for from London, the country searched, the most minute inquiries set on
foot. Sometimes it was supposed that a clue was found, but in the end
all failed. Month after month passed; hope became despair; pity merged
into surmise; and condemnation quickly followed. If she had been
carried forcibly from her home, still she could not for ever be
imprisoned and debarred from all possibility at least of writing. She
might have sent tidings from the ends of the earth, nay, it was madness
to think that she could be carried far against her own will. In any
town, in any village, she might appeal to the justice and humanity of
her fellow-creatures, and be set free. She would not have remained with
the man of violence who had torn her away, unless she had at last
become a party in his act, and lost all right to return to her
husband's roof.

"Such suspicions began to creep about--rather felt in men's minds,
than inferred in their speech--till her husband first uttered the fatal
word; and then, as if set free from a spell, each one was full of
indignation at her dereliction, and his injuries. Sir Boyvill was
beyond all men vain--vanity rendered him liable to jealousy--and when
jealous, full of sore and angry feelings. His selfishness and
unforgiving nature, which had been neutralized by his wife's virtues,
now quickened by the idea of her guilt, burst forth and engrossed every
other emotion. He was injured there where the pride of man is most
accessible--branded by pity--the tale of the world. He had feared such
a catastrophe during the first years of his wedded life, being
conscious of the difference which age and nature had placed between him
and his wife. In the recesses of his heart he had felt deeply grateful
to her for having dissipated these fears. From the moment that her
prudent conduct had made him secure, he had become another man--as far
as his defective nature and narrow mind permitted--he had grown
virtuous and disinterested; but this fabric of good qualities was the
result of her influence; and it was swept away and utterly erased from
the moment she left him, and that love and esteem were exchanged for
contempt and hatred.

"Soon, very soon, had doubts of his wife's allegiance, and a
suspicion of her connivance, insinuated themselves. Like all evilly
inclined persons, he jumped at once into a belief of the worst; her
taking her son with her was a mere contrivance, or worse, since her
design had probably been to carry him with her--a design frustrated by
accident, and the lukewarmness of her lover on that point; the letter
left behind, he looked on as a fabrication left there to gloss over her
conduct. He forgot her patient goodness--her purity of soul--her
devoted attachment to her children--her truth; and attributed at once
the basest artifice--the grossest want of feeling. Want of feeling in
her! She whose pulses quickened, and whose blushes were, called up at a
word; she who idolized her child even to a fault, and whose tender
sympathy was alive to every call; but these demonstrations of
sensibility grew into accusations. Her very goodness and guarded
propriety were against her. Why appear so perfect, except to blind? Why
seclude herself, except from fears, which real virtue need never
entertain? Why foster the morbid sensibility of her child, except from
a craving for that excitement which is a token of depravity? In this
bad world we are apt to consider every deviation from stony apathy as
tending at last to the indulgence of passions against which society has
declared a ban; and thus with poor Alithea, all could see, it was said,
that a nature so sensitive must end in ill at last; and that, if
tempted, she must yield to an influence, which few, even of the coldest
natures, can resist.

"While Sir Boyvill revolved these thoughts, he grew gloomy and
sullen. At first his increased unhappiness was attributed to sorrow;
but a little word betrayed the real source--a little word that named
his wife with scorn. That word turned the tide of public feeling; and
she, who had been pitied and wept as dead, was now regarded as a
voluntary deserter from her home. Her virtues were remembered against
her; and surmises, which before would have been reprobated almost as
blasphemy, became current as undoubted truths.

"It was long before Gerard became aware of this altered feeling. The
minds of children are such a mystery to us! They are so blank, yet so
susceptible of impression, that the point where ignorance ends and
knowledge is perfected, is an enigma often impossible to solve. From
the time that he rose from his sick bed, the boy was perpetually on the
watch for intelligence--eagerly inquiring what discoveries were
made--what means were used for, what hopes entertained of, his mother's
rescue. He had asked his father, whether he should not be justified in
shooting the villain who had stolen her, if ever he met him? He had
shed tears of sorrow and pity, until indignation swallowed up each
softer feeling, and a desire to succour and to avenge became paramount.
His dear, dear mother! that she should be away--kept from him by
force--that he could not find--not get at her, were ideas to incense
his young heart to its very height of impatience and rage. Every one
seemed too tame--too devoid of expedients and energy. It appeared an
easy thing to measure the whole earth, step by step, and inch by inch,
leaving no portion uninspected, till she was found and liberated. He
longed to set off on such an expedition; it was his dream by night and
day; and he communicated these bursting feelings to every one, with an
overflowing eloquence, inexpressibly touching from its truth and
earnestness.

"Suddenly he felt the change. Perhaps some officious domestic
suggested the idea. He says himself, it came on him as infection may be
caught by one who enters an hospital. He saw it in the eyes--he felt it
in the air and manner of all: his mother was believed to be a voluntary
fugitive; of her own accord she went, and never would return. At the
thought his heart grew sick within him:


"'To see his nobleness!
Conceiving the dishonour of his mother,
He straight declined upon't, drooped, took it deeply;
Fastened and fixed the shame on't in himself;
Threw off his spirit, his appetite, his sleep,
And downright languished.'


"He refused food, and turned in disgust from every former pursuit.
Hitherto he had ardently longed for the return of his mother; and it
seemed to him that give his limbs but a manlier growth, let a few years
go over, and he should find and bring her back in triumph. But that
contumely and disgrace should fall on that dear mother's head; how
could he avert that? The evil was remediless, and death was slight in
comparison. One day he walked up to his father, and fixing his clear
young eyes upon him, said: 'I know what you think, but it is not true.
Mamma would come back if she could. When I am a man I will find and
bring her back, and you will be sorry then!'

"What more he would have said was lost in sobs. His heart had beat
impetuously as he had worked on himself to address his father, and
assert his mother's truth; but the consciousness that she was indeed
gone, and that for years there was no hope of seeing her, broke in--his
throat swelled, he felt suffocated, and fell down in a fit."

END OF VOL. I.

VOL. II.



CHAPTER I.

Lady Cecil had broken off her tale on their return from their
morning drive. She resumed it in the evening, as she and Elizabeth sat
looking on the summer woods; and the soft but dim twilight better
accorded with her melancholy story.

"Poor Gerard! His young heart was almost broken by struggling
passions, and the want of tenderness in those about him. After this
scene with his father his life was again in the greatest danger for
some days, but at last health of body returned. He lay on his little
couch, pale and wasted, an altered child--but his heart was the same,
and he adhered tenaciously to one idea. 'Nurse,' he said one day, to
the woman who had attended him from his birth, 'I wish you would take
pen and paper, and write down what I am going to say. Or if that is too
much trouble, I wish you would remember every word and repeat it to my
father. I cannot speak to him. He does not love mamma as he used; he is
unjust, and I cannot speak to him--but I wish to tell every little
thing that happened, that people may see that what I say is true--and
be as sure as I am that mamma never meant to go away.

"'When we met the strange gentleman first, we walked along the lane,
and I ran about gathering flowers--yet I remember I kept thinking, why
is mamma offended with that gentleman?--what right has he to displease
her? and I came back with it in my mind to tell him that he should not
say anything to annoy mamma; but when I took her hand, she seemed no
longer angry, but very, very sorry. I remember she said--"I grieve
deeply for you, Rupert"--and then she added--"My good wishes are all I
have to give"--I remember the words, for they made me fancy, in a most
childish manner, mamma must have left her purse at home--and I began to
think of my own--but seeing him so well dressed, I felt a few shillings
would do him no good. Mamma talked on very softly--looking up in the
stranger's face; he was tall--taller, younger--and better looking than
papa: and I ran on again, for I did not know what they were talking
about. At one time mamma called me and said she would go back, and I
was very glad, for it was growing late and I felt hungry--but the
stranger said: "Only a little further--to the end of the lane only," so
we walked on and he talked about her forgetting him, and she said
something that that was best--and he ought to forget her. On this he
burst forth very angrily, and I grew angry too--but he changed, and
asked her to forgive him--and so we reached the end of the lane.

"'We stopped there, and mamma held out her hand and
said--Farewell!--and something more--when suddenly we heard the sound
of wheels, and a carriage came at full speed round from a turn in the
road; it stopped close to us--her hand trembled which held mine--and
the stranger said--"You see I said true--I am going--and shall soon be
far distant; I ask but for one half hour--sit in the carriage, it is
getting cold."--Mamma said: "No, no--it is late--farewell;" but as she
spoke, the stranger as it were led her forward, and in a moment lifted
her up; he seemed stronger than any two men--and put her in the
carriage--and got in himself, crying to me to jump after, which I would
have done, but the postillion whipped the horses. I was thrown almost
under the wheel by the sudden motion--I heard mamma scream, but when I
got up the carriage was already a long way off--and though I called as
loud as I could--and ran after it--it never stopped, and the horses
were going at full gallop. I ran on--thinking it would stop or turn
back--and I cried out on mamma--while I ran so fast that I was soon
breathless--and she was out of hearing--and then I shrieked and cried,
and threw myself on the ground--till I thought I heard wheels, and I
got up and ran again--but it was only the thunder--and that pealed, and
the wind roared, and the rain came down--and I could keep my feet no
longer, but fell on the ground and forgot every thing, except that
mamma must come back and I was watching for her. And this, nurse, is my
story--Every word is true--and is it not plain that mamma was carried
away by force?'

"'Yes,' said the woman, 'no one doubts that, Master Gerard--but why
does she not come back?--no man could keep her against her will in a
Christian country like this.'

"'Because she is dead or in prison,' cried the boy, bursting into
tears--'but I see you are as wicked as every body else--and have wicked
thoughts too--and I hate you and every body--except mamma.'

"From that time Gerard was entirely altered; his boyish spirit was
dashed--he brooded perpetually over the wrong done his mother--and was
irritated to madness, by feeling that by a look and a word he could not
make others share his belief in her spotless innocence. He became
sullen, shy--shut up in himself--above all, he shunned his father.
Months passed away:--requisitions, set on foot at first from a desire
to succour, were continued from a resolve to revenge; no pains nor
expense were spared to discover the fugitives, and all in vain. The
opinion took root that they had fled to America--and who on that vast
continent could find two beings resolved on concealment? Inquiries were
made at New York and other principal towns: but all in vain.

"The strangest, and most baffling circumstance in this mystery was,
that no guess could be formed as to who the stranger was. Though he
seemed to have dropped from the clouds, he had evidently been known
long before to Mrs. Neville. His name, it appeared, was Rupert--no one
knew of any bearing that name. Had Alithea loved before her marriage?
such a circumstance must have been carefully hidden, for her husband
had never suspected it. Her childhood had been spent with her mother,
her father being mostly at sea. When sixteen, she lost her mother, and
after a short interval resided with her father, then retired from
service. He had assured Sir Boyvill that his daughter had never loved;
and the husband, jealous as he was, had never seen cause to doubt the
truth of this statement. Had she formed any attachment during the first
years of her married life? Was it to escape the temptation so held out,
that she secluded herself in the country? Rupert was probably a feigned
name; and Sir Boyvill tried to recollect who her favourites were, so to
find a clue by their actions to her disappearance. It was in vain that
he called to mind every minute circumstance, and pondered over the name
of each visitor: he could remember nothing that helped discovery. Yet
the idea that she had, several years ago, conceived a partiality for
some man, who, as it proved, loved her to distraction, became fixed in
Sir Boyvill's mind. The thought poured venom on the time gone by. It
might have been a virtue in her to banish him she loved and to seclude
herself: but this mystery, where all seemed so frank and open, this
defalcation of the heart, this inward thought which made no sign, yet
ruled every action, was gall and wormwood to her proud, susceptible
husband. That in her secret soul she loved this other, was
manifest--for though it might be admitted that he used art and violence
to tear her from her home--yet in the end she was vanquished; and even
maternal duties and affections sacrificed to irresistible passion.

"Can you wonder that such a man as Sir Boyvill, ever engrossed by
the mighty idea of self--yet fearful that that self should receive the
minutest wound; proud of his wife--because, being so lovely and so
admired, she was all his--grateful to her, for being so glorious and
enviable a possession--can you wonder that this vain, but sensitive
man, should be wound up to the height of jealous rage, by the loss of
such a good, accompanied by circumstances of deception and dishonour?
He had been fond of his wife in return for her affection, while she in
reality loved another; he had respected the perfection of her truth,
and there was falsehood at the core. Had she avowed the traitor
passion; declared her struggles, and, laying bare her heart, confessed
that, while she preferred his honour and happiness, yet in the weakness
of her nature, another had stolen a portion of that sentiment which she
desired to consecrate to him--then with what tenderness he had forgiven
her--with what soothing forbearance he had borne her fault--how
magnanimous and merciful he had shown himself! But she had acted the
generous part; thanks had come from him--the shows of obligation from
her. He fancied that he held a flower in his hand, from which the
sweetest perfume alone could be extracted--but the germ was blighted,
and the very core turned to bitter ashes and dust.

"Such a theme is painful; howsoever we view it, it is scarcely
possible to imagine any event in life more desolating. To be happy, is
to attain one's wishes, and to look forward to the lastingness of their
possession. Sir Boyvill had long been sceptical and distrusting--but at
last he was brought to believe that he had drawn the fortunate ticket;
that his wife's faith was a pure and perfect chrysolite--and if in his
heart he deemed that she did not regard him with all the reverence that
was his due; if she did not nurture all the pride of place, and disdain
of her fellow-creatures which he thought that his wife ought to
feel--yet her many charms and virtues left him no room for complain.
Her sensibility, her vivacity, her wit, her accomplishments--her
exceeding loveliness--they were all undeniably his--and all made her a
piece of enchantment. This merit was laid low--deprived of its
crown--her fidelity to him; and the selfish, the heartless, and the
cold, whom she reproved and disliked, were lifted to the eminence of
virtue, while she lay fallen, degraded, worthless.

"Sir Boyvill was, in his own conceit, for ever placed on a pedestal;
and he loved to imagine that he could say, 'Look at me, you can see no
defect! I am a wealthy, and a well-born man. I have a wife the envy of
all--children, who promise to inherit all our virtues. I am
prosperous--no harm can reach me--look at me!' He was still on his
pedestal, but had become a mark for scorn, for pity! Oh, how he loathed
himself--how he abhorred her who had brought him to this pass! He had,
in her best days, often fancied that he loved her too well, yielded too
often his pride-nurtured schemes to her soft persuasions. He had indeed
believed that Providence had created this exquisite and most beautiful
being, that life might be made perfect to him. Besides, his months, and
days, and hours, had been replete with her image; her very admirable
qualities, accompanied as they were by the trembling delicacy, that
droops at a touch, and then revives at a word; her quickness, not of
temper, but of feeling, which received such sudden and powerful
impression, formed her to be at once admired and cherished with the
care a sweet exotic needs, when transplanted from its sunny, native
clime, to the ungenial temperature of a northern land. It was madness
to recollect all the fears he had wasted on her. He had foregone the
dignity of manhood to wait on her--he had often feared to pursue his
projects, lest they should jar some delicate chord in her frame; to his
own recollection it seemed, that he had become but the lackey to her
behests--and all for the sake of a love, which she bestowed on
another--to preserve that honour, which she blasted without pity.

"It were in vain to attempt to delineate the full force of
jealousy;--natural sorrow at losing a thing so sweet and dear was
blended with anger, that he should be thrown off by her; the misery of
knowing that he should never see her more, was mingled with a ferocious
desire to learn that every disaster was heaped on one whom hitherto he
had, as well as he could, guarded from every ill. To this we may add,
commiseration for his deserted children. His son, late so animated, so
free-spirited and joyous, a more promising child had never blessed a
father's hopes, was changed into a brooding grief-struck, blighted
visionary. His little girl, the fairy thing he loved best of all, she
was taken from him; the carelessness of a nurse during a childish
illness caused her death, within a year after her mother's flight. Had
that mother remained, such carelessness had been impossible. Sir
Boyvill felt that all good fell from him--the only remaining golden
fruit dropped from the tree--calamity encompassed him; with his whole
soul he abhorred and desired to wreak vengeance on her who caused the
ill.

"After two years were past, and no tidings were received of the
fugitives, it seemed plain that there could be but one solution to the
mystery. No doubt she and her lover concealed themselves in some far
land, under a feigned name. If indeed it were--if it be so, it might
move any heart to imagine poor Alithea's misery--the obloquy that
mantles over her remembrance at home, while she broods over the
desolation of the hearth she so long adorned, and the pining, impatient
anguish of her beloved boy. What could or can keep her away, is matter
of fearful conjecture; but this much is certain, that, at that time at
least, and now, if she survives, she must be miserable. Sir Boyvill, if
he deigned to recollect these things, enjoyed the idea of her anguish.
But, without adverting to her state and feelings, he was desirous of
obtaining what reparation he could; and to dispossess her of his name.
Endeavours to find the fugitives in America, and false hopes held out,
had delayed the process. He at last entered on it with eagerness. A
thousand obvious reasons rendered a divorce desirable; and to him, with
all his pride, then only would his pillow be without a thorn, when she
lost his name, and every right, or tie, that bound them together. Under
the singular circumstances of the case, he could only obtain a divorce
by a bill in parliament, and to this measure he resorted.

"There was nothing reprehensible in this step; self-defence, as well
as revenge, suggested its expediency. Besides this, it may be said,
that he was glad of the publicity that would ensue, that he might be
proved blameless to all the world. He accused his wife of a fault so
great as tarnished irrecoverably her golden name. He accused her of
being a false wife and an unnatural mother, under circumstances of no
common delinquency. But he might be mistaken; he might view his
injuries with the eye of passion, and others, more disinterested, might
pronounce that she was unfortunate, but not guilty. By means of the
bill for divorce, the truth would be investigated and judged by several
hundreds of the best born and best educated of his countrymen. The
publicity also might induce discovery. It was fair and just; and though
his pride rebelled against becoming the tale of the day, he saw no
alternative. Indeed it was reported to him by some officious friend,
that many had observed that it was strange that he had not sought this
remedy before. Something of wonder, or blame, or both, was attached to
his passiveness. Such hints galled him to the quick, and he pursued his
purpose with all the obstinacy and imperious haste peculiar to him.

"When every other preliminary had been gone through, it was deemed
necessary that Gerard should give his evidence at the bar of the House
of Lords. Sir Boyvill looked upon his lost wife as a criminal, so
steeped in deserved infamy, so odious, and so justly condemned, that
none could hesitate in siding with him to free him from the bondage of
those laws, which, while she bore his name, might be productive of
incalculable injury. His honour too was wounded. His honour, which he
would have sacrificed his life to have preserved untainted, he had
intrusted to Alithea, and loved her the more fervently that she
regarded the trust with reverence. She had foully betrayed it; and must
not all who respected the world's customs, and the laws of social life;
above all, must not any who loved him--be forward to cast her out from
any inheritance of good that could reach her through him?

"Above all, must not their son--his son, share his indignation, and
assist his revenge? Gerard was but a boy; but his mother's tenderness,
his own quick nature, and lastly, the sufferings he had endured through
her flight, had early developed a knowledge of the realities of life,
and so keen a sense of right and justice, as made his father regard him
as capable of forming opinions, and acting from such motives, as
usually are little understood by one so young. And true it was that
Gerard fostered sentiments independent of any teaching; and cherished
ideas the more obstinately, because they were confined to his single
breast. He understood the pity with which his father was regarded--the
stigma cast upon his mother--the suppressed voice--the wink of the
eye--the covert hint. He understood it all; and, like the poet, longed
for a word, sharp as a sword, to pierce the falsehood through and
through.

"For many months he and his father had seen little of each other.
Sir Boyvill had not a mind that takes pleasure in watching the
ingenuous sallies of childhood, or the development of the youthful
mind; the idea of making a friend of his child, which had been
Alithea's fond and earnest aim, could never occur to his self-engrossed
heart. Since his illness Gerard had been weakly, or he would have been
sent to school. As it was, a tutor resided in the house. This person
was written to by Sir Boyvill's man of business, and directed to break
the matter to his pupil; to explain the formalities, to soothe and
encourage any timidity he might show, and to incite him, if need were,
to a desire to assist in a measure, whose operation was to yrender
justice to his father.

"The first allusion to his mother made by Mr. Carter, caused the
blood to rush from the boy's heart and to dye crimson his cheeks, his
temples, his throat; then he grew deadly pale, and without uttering a
word, listened to his preceptor, till suddenly taking in the nature of
the task assigned to him, every limb shook, and he answered by a simple
request to be left alone, and he would consider. No more was thought by
the unapprehensive people about, than that he was shy of being spoken
to on the subject--that he would make up his mind in his own way--and
Mr. Carter at once yielded to his request; the reserve which had
shrouded him since he lost his mother, had accustomed those about him
to habitual silence. None--no one watchful, attached, intelligent eye
marked the struggles which shook his delicate frame, blanched his
cheek, took the flesh from his bones, and quickened his pulse into
fever. None marked him as he lay in bed the livelong night, with open
eyes and beating heart, a prey to contending emotion. He was passed
carelessly by as he lay on the dewy grass from morn to evening, his
soul torn by grief--uttering his mother's name in accents of despair,
and shedding floods of tears.

"I said that these signs of intense feeling were not remarked--and
yet they were, in a vulgar way, by the menials, who said it would be
well when the affair was over, Master Neville took it so to heart, and
was sadly frightened. Frightened! such a coarse, undistinguishing name
was given to the sacred terror of doing his still loved mother injury,
which heaved his breast with convulsive sobs and filled his veins with
fire.

"The thought of what he was called upon to do haunted him day and
night with agony. He, her nursling, her idol, her child--he who could
not think of her name without tears, and dreamed often that she kissed
him in his sleep, and woke to weep over the delusion--he was to accuse
her before an assembled multitude--to give support to the most infamous
falsehoods--to lend his voice to stigmatise her name; and wherever she
was, kept from him by some irresistible power, but innocent as an
angel, and still loving him, she was to hear of him as her enemy, and
receive a last wound from his hand. Such appeared the task assigned to
him in his eyes, for his blunt-witted tutor had spoken of the justice
to be rendered his father, by freeing him from his fugitive wife,
without regarding the inner heart of his pupil, or being aware that his
mother sat throned there an angel of light and goodness,--the victim of
ill, but doing none.

"Soon after Mrs. Neville's flight, the family had abandoned the seat
in Cumberland, and inhabited a house taken near the Thames, in
Buckinghamshire. Here Gerard resided, while his father was in town,
watching the progress of the bill. At last the day drew near when
Gerard's presence was required. The peers showed a disposition, either
from curiosity or a love of justice, to sift the affair to the
uttermost, and the boy's testimony was declared absolutely necessary.
Mr. Carter told Gerard that on the following morning they were to
proceed to London, in pursuance of the circumstances which he had
explained to him a few days before.

"'Is it then true,' said the boy, 'that I am to be called upon to
give evidence, as you call it, against my mother?'

"'You are called upon by every feeling of duty,' replied the sapient
preceptor, 'to speak the truth to those whose decision will render
justice to your father. If the truth injure Mrs. Neville, that is her
affair.'

"Again Gerard's cheeks burned with blushes, and his eyes, dimmed as
they were with tears, flashed fire. 'In that case,' he said, 'I beg to
see my father.'

"'You will see him when in town,' replied Mr. Carter. 'Come,
Neville, you must not take the matter in this girlish style; show
yourself a man. Your mother is unworthy--'

"'If you please, sir,' said Gerrard, half choked, yet restraining
himself, 'I will speak to my father; I do not like any one else to talk
to me about these things.'

"'As you please, sir,' said Mr. Carter, much offended.

"No more was said--it was evening. The next morning they set out for
London. The poor boy had lain awake the whole night; but no one knew or
cared for his painful vigils."



CHAPTER II.

"On the following day the journey was performed; and it had been
arranged that Gerard should rest on the subsequent one; the third being
fixed for his attendance in the House of Lords. Sir Boyvill had been
informed how sullenly (that was the word they used) the boy had
received the information conveyed to him by his tutor. He would rather
have been excused saying a word himself to his son on the subject; but
this account, and the boy's request to see him, forced him to change
his purpose. He did not expect opposition; but he wished to give a
right turn to Gerard's expressions. The sort of cold distance that
separation and variance of feeling produced, rendered their intercourse
little like the tender interchange of parental and filial love.

"'Gerard, my boy,' Sir Boyvill began, we are both sufferers; and
you, like me, are not of a race tamely to endure injury. I would
willingly have risked my life to revenge the ruin brought on us; so I
believe would you, child as you are; but the sculking villain is safe
from my arm. The laws of his country cannot even pursue him; yet, what
reparation is left, I must endeavour to get.'

"Sir Boyvill showed tact in thus, bringing forward only that party,
whose act none could do other than reprobate, and who was the object of
Gerard's liveliest hatred. His face lightened up with something of
pleasure--his eye flashed fire; to prove to the world the guilt and
violence of the wretch who had torn his mother from him, was indeed a
task of duty and justice. A little more forbearance on his father's
part had wound him easily to his will; but the policy Sir Boyvill
displayed was involuntary, and his next words overturned all. 'Your
miserable mother,' he continued, 'must bear her share of infamy; and if
she be not wholly hardened, it will prove a sufficient punishment. When
the events of to-morrow reach her, she will begin to taste of the
bitter cup she has dealt out so largely to others. It were folly to
pretend to regret that--I own that I rejoice.'

Every idea now suffered revulsion, and the stream of feeling flowed
again in its old channel. What right had his father to speak thus of
the beloved and honoured parent, he had so cruelly lost? His blood
boiled within him, and, despite childish fear and reverence, he said,
'If my mother will grieve or be injured by my appearing to-morrow, I
will not go--I cannot.'

"'You are a fool to speak thus,' said his father, 'a galless animal,
without sense of pride or duty. Come, sir, no more of this. You owe me
obedience, and you must pay it on this occasion. You are only bid speak
the truth, and that you must speak. I had thought, notwithstanding your
youth, higher and more generous motives might be urged--a father's
honour vindicated--a mother's vileness punished.'

"'My mother is not vile!' cried Gerard, and there stopped; for a
thousand things restrain a child's tongue; inexperience, reverence,
ignorance of the effect his words may produce, terror at the mightiness
of the power with which he has to contend. After a pause, he muttered,
'I honour my mother; I will tell the whole world that she deserves
honour.'

"'Now, Gerard, on my soul,' cried Sir Boyvill, roused to anger, as
parents too easily are against their offspring, when they show any will
of their own, while they expect to move them like puppets; 'On my soul,
my fine fellow, I could find it in my heart to knock you down. Enough
of this; I don't want to terrify you: be a good boy to-morrow, and I
will forgive all.'

"'Forgive me now, father,' cried the youth, bursting into tears;
'forgive me and spare me! I cannot obey you, I cannot do any thing that
will grieve my mother; she loved me so much--I am sure she loves me
still--that I cannot do her a harm. I will not go to-morrow.'

"'This is most extraordinary,' said Sir Boyvill, controlling, as
well as he could, the rage swelling within him. 'And are you such an
idiot as not to know that your wretched mother has forfeited all claim
to your affection? and am I of so little worth in your eyes, I, your
father, who have a right to your obedience from the justice of my
cause, not to speak of parental authority, am I nothing? to receive no
duty, expect no service? I was, indeed, mistaken; I thought you were
older than your years, and had that touch of gentlemanly pride about
you, that would have made you eager to avenge my injuries, to stand by
me as a friend and ally, compensating, as well as you could, for the
wrongs done me by your mother. I thought I had a son in whose veins my
own blood flowed, who would be ready to prove his true birth by siding
with me. Are you stone--or a base-born thing, that you cannot even
conceive what thing honour is?'

"Gerard listened, he wept; the tears poured in torrents from his
eyes; but as his father continued, and heaped many an opprobrious
epithet on him, a proud and sullen spirit was indeed awakened; he
longed to say--Abuse me, strike me, but I will not yield! Yet he did
not speak; he dried his eyes, and stood in silence before his parent,
his face darkening, and something ferocious gleaming in eyes, hitherto
so soft and sorrowing. Sir Boyvill saw that he was far from making the
impression he desired; but he wished to avoid reiterated refusals to
obey, and he summed up at last with vague but violent threats of what
would ensue--exile from his home, penury; nay, starvation, the
abhorrence of the world, his own malediction; and, after having worked
himself up into a towering rage, and real detestation of the shivering,
feeble, yet determined child before him, he left him to consider, and
to be vanquished.

"Far other thoughts occupied Gerard. 'I had thought,' he has told
me, 'once or twice to throw myself into his arms, and pray for mercy;
to kneel at his feet and implore him to spare me; one kind word had
made the struggle intolerable, but no kind word did he say; and while
he stormed, it seemed to me as if my dear mother were singing as she
was used, while I gathered flowers and played beside her in the park,
and I thought of her, not of him; the words kick me out of doors,
suggested but the idea I shall be free, and I will find my mother. I
feel intensely now; but surely a boy's feelings are far wilder, far
more vehement than a man's; for I cannot now, violent as you think me,
call up one sensation so whirlwind-like as those that possessed me
while my father spoke!'

"Thus has Gerard described his emotions; his father ordered him to
quit the room, and he went to brood upon the fate impending over him.
On the morrow early, he was bid prepare to attend the House of Lords.
His father did not appear; he thought that the boy was terrified, and
would make no further resistance. Gerard, indeed, obeyed in silence. He
disdained to argue with strangers and hirelings; he had an idea that if
he openly rebelled, he might be carried by force, and his proud heart
swelled at the idea of compulsion. He got into the carriage, and, as he
went, Mr. Carter, who was with him, thought it advisable to explain the
forms, and give some instructions. Gerard listened with composure, nay,
asked a question or two concerning the preliminaries; he was told of
the oath that would be administered; and how the words he spoke after
taking that oath would be implicitly believed, and that he must be
careful to say nothing that was not strictly true. The colour, not an
indignant blush, but a suffusion as of pleasure, mantled over his
cheeks as this was explained.

"They arrived; they were conducted into some outer room to await the
call of the peers. What tortures the boy felt as strangers came up,
some to speak, and others to gaze; all of indignation, resolution,
grief, and more than manhood's struggles that tore his bosom during the
annoying delays that always protract these sort of scenes, none cared
to scan. He was there unresisting, apparently composed; if now his
cheek flushed, and now his lips withered into paleness, if now the
sense of suffocation rose in his throat, and now tears rushed into his
eyes, as the image of his sweet mother passed across his memory, none
regarded, none cared. When I have thought of the spasms and throes
which his tender and high-wrought soul endured during this interval, I
often wonder his heart-strings did not crack, or his reason for ever
unsettle; as it is, he has not yet escaped the influence of that hour;
it shadows his life with eclipse, it comes whispering agony to him,
when otherwise he might forget. Some author has described the effect of
misfortune on the virtuous, as the crushing of perfumes, so to force
them to give forth their fragrance. Gerard is all nobleness, all
virtue, all tenderness; do we owe any part of his excellence to this
hour of anguish? If so, I may be consoled; but I can never think of it
without pain. He says himself, 'Yes! without these sharp goadings, I
had not devoted my whole life to clearing my mother's fame.' Is this
devotion a good? As yet no apparent benefit has sprung from it.

"At length he was addressed: 'Young gentleman, are you ready?' and
he was led into that stately chamber, fit for solemn and high
debate--thronged with the judges of his mother's cause. There was a
dimness in his eye--a tumult in his heart that confused him, while on
his appearance there was first a murmur--then a general hush. Each
regarded him with compassion as they discerned the marks of suffering
in his countenance. A few moments passed before he was addressed; and
when it was supposed that he had had time to collect himself, the
proper officer administered the oath, and then the barrister asked him
some slight questions, not to startle, but to lead back his memory by
insensible degrees to the necessary facts. The boy looked at him with
scorn--he tried to be calm, to elevate his voice; twice it
faltered--the third time he spoke slowly but distinctly: 'I have sworn
to speak the truth, and I am to be believed. My mother is
innocent.'

"'But this is not the point, young gentleman,' interrupted his
interrogator, 'I only asked if you remembered your father's house in
Cumberland.'

"The boy replied more loudly, but with broken accents--'I have said
all I mean to say--you may murder me, but I will say no more--how dare
you entice me into injuring my mother?'

"At the word, uncontrollable tears burst forth, pouring in torrents
down his burning cheeks. He told me that he well remembers the feeling
that rose to his tongue, instigating him to cry shame on all
present--but his voice failed, his purpose was too mighty for his young
heart; he sobbed and wept; the more he tried to control the impulse,
the more hysterical the fit grew--he was taken from the bar, and the
peers, moved by his distress, came to a resolve that they would
dispense with his attendance, and be satisfied by hearing his account
of the transaction, from those persons to whom he made it, at the
period when it occurred. I will now mention, that the result of this
judicial inquiry was a decree of divorce in Sir Boyvill's favour.

"Gerard, removed from the bar, and carried home, recovered his
composure--but he was silent--revolving the consequences which he
expected would ensure from disobedience. His father had menaced to turn
him out of doors, and he did not doubt but that this threat would be
put into execution, so that he was somewhat surprised that he was taken
home at all; perhaps they meant to send him to a place of exile of
their own choosing, perhaps to make the expulsion public and
ignominious. The powers of grown-up people appear so illimitable in a
child's eyes, who have no data whereby to discover the probable from
the improbable. At length the fear of confinement became paramount; he
revolted from it; his notion was to go and seek his mother--and his
mind was quickly made up to forestall their violence, and to run
away.

"He was ordered to confine himself to his own room--his food was
brought to him--this looked like the confirmation of his fears. His
heart swelled high: 'They think to treat me like a child, but I will
show myself independent--wherever my mother is, she is better than they
all--if she is imprisoned, I will free her, or I will remain with her;
how glad she will be to see me--how happy shall we be again together!
My father may have all the rest of the world to himself, when I am with
my mother, in a cavern or a dungeon, I care not where.'

"Night came on--he went to bed--he even slept, and awoke terrified
to think that the opportune hour might be overpast--daylight was
dawning faintly in the east; the clocks of London struck four--he was
still in time--every one in the house slept; he rose and dressed--he
had nearly ten guineas of his own, this was all his possession, he had
counted them the night before--he opened the door of his
chamber--daylight was struggling with darkness, and all was very
still--he stepped out, he descended the stairs, he got into the
hall--every accustomed object seemed new and strange at that early
hour, and he looked with some dismay at the bars and bolts of the house
door--he feared making a noise, and rousing some servant, still the
thing must be attempted; slowly and cautiously he pushed back the
bolts, he lifted up the chain--it fell from his hands with terrific
clatter on the stone pavement--his heart was in his mouth--he did not
fear punishment, but he feared ill success; he listened as well as his
throbbing pulses permitted--all was still--the key of the door was in
the lock, it turned easily at his touch, and in another moment the door
was open; the fresh air blew upon his cheeks--the deserted treet was
before him. He closed the door after him, and with a sort of extra
caution locked it on the outside and then took to his heels, throwing
the key down a neighbouring street. When out of sight of his home, he
walked more slowly, and began to think seriously of the course to
pursue. To find his mother!--all the world had been trying to find her,
and had not succeeded--but he believed that by some means she would
hear of his escape and come to him--but whither go in the first
instance?--his heart replied, to Cumberland, to Dromore--there he had
lived with his mother--there had he lost her--he felt assured that in
its neighbourhood he should again be restored to her.

"Travelling had given him some idea of distance, and of the modes of
getting from one place to another--he felt that it would be a task of
too great difficulty to attempt walking across England--he had no
carriage, he knew of no ship to take him, some conveyance he must get,
so he applied to a hackney coach. It was standing solitary in the
middle of the street, the driver asleep on the steps--the skeleton
horses hanging down their heads--with the peculiarly disconsolate look
these poor hacked animals have. Gerard, as the son of a wealthy man,
was accustomed to consider that he had a right to command those whom he
could pay--yet fear of discovery and being sent back to his father,
filled him with unusual fears; he looked at the horses and the man--he
advanced nearer, but he was afraid to take the decisive step, till the
driver awaking, started up and shook himself, stared at the boy, and
seeing him well dressed--and he looked too, older than his years, from
being tall--he asked, 'Do you want me, sir?'

"'Yes,' said Gerard, 'I want you to drive me.'

"'Get in then. Where are you going?'

"'I am going a long way--to Dromore, that is in Cumberland--'

"The boy hesitated; it struck him that those miserable horses could
not carry him far. 'Then you want me to take you to the stage,' said
the man. 'It goes from Piccadilly--at five--we have no time to
lose.'

"Gerard got in--on they jumbled--and arriving at the coach office,
saw some half dozen stages ready to start. The name of Liverpool on one
struck the boy, by the familiar name. If he could get to Liverpool, it
were easy afterwards even to walk to Dromore; so getting out of the
hackney coach, he went up to the coachman, who was mounting his box,
and asked, 'Will you take me to Liverpool?'

"'Yes, my fine fellow, if you can pay the fare.'

"'How much is it?' drawing out his purse.

"'Inside or outside?'

"From the moment he had addressed these men, and they began to talk
of money, Gerard, calling to mind the vast disbursements of gold coin
he had seen made by his father and the courier on their travels, began
to fear that his little stock would ill suffice to carry him so far;
and the first suggestion of prudence the little fellow ever experienced
made him now answer, 'Whichever costs least.'

"'Outside then.'

"'Oh I have that--I can pay you.'

"'Jump up then, my lad--lend me your hand--here, by me--that's
right--all's well, you're just in the nick, we are off directly.'

"He cracked his whip, and away they flew; and as they went, Gerard
felt free, and going to his mother.

"Such in these civilized times are the facilities offered to the
execution of our wildest wishes! the consequences, the moral
consequences, are still the same, still require the same exertions to
overcome them; but we have no longer to fight with physical
impediments. If Gerard had begun his expedition from any other town,
curiosity had perhaps been excited; but in the vast, busy metropolis
each one takes care of himself, and few scrutinize the motives or means
of others. Perched up on the coach-box, Gerard had a few questions to
answer--Was he going home? did he live in Liverpool? but the name of
Dromore was a sufficing answer. The coachman had never heard of such a
place; but it was a gentleman's seat, and it was Gerard's home, and
that was enough.

"Some day you must ask Gerard to relate to you his adventures during
this journey. They will come warmly and vividly from him; while mine,
as a mere reflex, must be tame. It is his mind I would describe; and I
will not pause to narrate the tantalizing cross questioning that he
underwent from a Scotchman--nor the heart-heavings with which he heard
allusions made to the divorce case before the Lords. A newspaper
describing his own conduct was in the hands of one of the passengers;
he heard his mother lightly alluded to. He would have leaped from the
coach; but that was to give up all. He pressed his hands to his
ears--he scowled on those around--his heart was on fire. Yet he had one
consolation. He was free. He was going to her--he resolved never to
mingle with his fellow creatures more. Buried in some rural retreat
with his mother, it mattered little what the vulgar and the indifferent
said about either.

"Some qualms did assail him. Should he find his dear mother? Where
was she? his childish imagination refused to paint her distant from
Dromore--his own removal from that mansion so soon after losing her,
associated her indelibly with the mountains, the ravines, the brawling
streams, and clustering woods of his natal county. She must be there.
He would drive away the man of violence who took her from him, and they
would be happy together.

"A day and a night brought him to Liver-pool, and the coachman
hearing whither he wished to go, deposited him in the stage for
Lancaster on his arrival. He went inside this time, and slept all the
way. At Lancaster he was recognized by several persons, and they
wondered to see him alone. He was annoyed at their recognition and
questionings; and though it was night when he arrived, instantly set
off to walk to Dromore.

"For two months from this time he lived wandering from cottage to
cottage, seeking his mother. The journey from Lancaster to Dromore he
performed as speedily as he well could. He did not enter the
house--that would be delivering himself up as a prisoner. By night he
clambered the park railings, and entered like a thief the demesnes
where he had spent his childhood. Each path was known to him, and
almost every tree. Here he sat with his mother; there they found the
first violet of spring. His pilgrimage was achieved; but where was she?
His heart beat as he reached the little gate whence they had issued on
that fatal night. All the grounds bore marks of neglect and the
master's absence; and the lock of this gate was spoiled; a sort of
rough bolt had been substituted. Gerard pushed it back. The rank grass
had gathered thick on the threshold; but it was the same spot. How well
he remembered it!

"Two years only had since passed, he was still a child; yet to his
own fancy how much taller, how much more of a man he had become!
Besides, he now fancied himself master of his own actions--he had
escaped from his father; and he--who had threatened to turn him out of
doors--would not seek to possess himself of him again. He belonged to
no one--he was cared for by no one--by none but her whom he sought with
firm, yet anxious expectation. There he had seen her last--he stepped
forward; he followed the course of the lane--he came to where the road
crossed it--where the carriage drove up, where she had been torn from
him.

"It was day-break--a June morning; all was golden and still--a few
birds twittered, but the breeze was hushed, and he looked out on the
extent of country commanded from the spot where he stood, and saw only
nature, the rugged hills, the green corn-fields, the flowery meads, and
the umbrageous trees in deep repose. How different from the wild,
tempestuous night, when she whom he sought was torn away; he could then
see only a few yards before him, now he could mark the devious windings
of the road, and, afar off, distinguish the hazy line of the ocean. He
sat down to reflect--what was he to do? in what nook of the wide
expanse was his mother hid? that some portion of the landscape he
viewed, harboured her, was his fixed belief; a belief founded in
inexperience and fancy, but not the less deep-rooted. He meditated for
some time, and then walked forward--he remembered when he ran panting
and screaming along that road; he was a mere child then, and what was
he now? a boy of eleven, yet he looked back with disdain to the
endeavours of two years before.

"He walked along in the same direction that he had at that time
pursued, and soon found that he reached the turnpike road to Lancaster.
He turned off, and went by the cross road that leads to the wild and
dreary plains that form the coast. The inner range of picturesque
hills, on the declivity of which Dromore is situated, is not more than
five miles from the sea; but the shore itself is singularly blank and
uninteresting, varied only by sandhills thrown up to the height of
thirty or forty feet, intersected by rivers, which at low water are
fordable even on foot; but which, when the tide is up, are dangerous to
those who do not know the right track, from the holes and ruts which
render the bed of the river uneven. In winter, indeed, at the period of
spring tides, or in stormy weather, with a west wind which drives the
ocean towards the shore, the passage is often exceedingly dangerous,
and, except under the direction of an experienced guide, fatal
accidents occur.

"Gerard reached the borders of the ocean, near one of these streams;
behind him rose his native mountains, range above range, divided by
tremendous gulfs, varied by the shadows of the clouds, and the gleams
of sunlight; close to him was the waste sea shore; the ebbing tide gave
a dreary sluggish appearance to the ocean, and the river--a shallow,
rapid stream--emptied its slender pittance of mountain water
noiselessly into the lazy deep. It was a scene of singular desolation.
On the other side of the river, not far from the mouth, was a rude hut,
unroofed, and fallen to decay--erected, perhaps, as the abode of a
guide; near it grew a stunted tree, withered, moss-covered,
spectre-like--the sand hills lay scattered around--the sea gull
screamed above, and skimmed over the waste. Gerard sat down and
wept--motherless--escaped from his angry father; even to his young
imagination, his fate seemed as drear and gloomy as the scene
around.



CHAPTER III.

"I donot know why I have dwelt on these circumstances so long. Let
me hasten to finish. For two months Gerard wandered in the
neighbourhood of Dromore. If he saw a lone cottage, embowered in trees,
hidden in some green recess of the hills, sequestered and peaceful, he
thought, Perhaps my mother is there! and he clambered towards it,
finding it at last, probably, a mere shepherd's hut, poverty stricken,
and tenanted by a noisy family. His money was exhausted--he made a
journey to Lancaster to sell his watch, and then returned to
Cumberland--his clothes, his shoes were worn out--often he slept in the
open air--ewes' milk cheese and black bread were his fare--his hope was
to find his mother--his fear, to fall again into his father's hands.
But as the first sentiment failed, his friendless condition grew more
sad; he began to feel that he was indeed a feeble helpless
boy--abandoned by all--he thought nothing was left for him, but to lie
down and die.

"Meanwhile he was noticed, and at last recognized, by some of the
tenants; and information reached his father of where he was.
Unfortunately the circumstance of his disappearance became public. It
was put into the newspapers as a mysterious occurrence; and the proud
Sir Boyvill found himself not only pitied on account of his wife's
conduct, but suspected of cruelty towards his only child. At first he
was himself frightened and miserable; but when he heard where Gerard
was, and that he could be recovered at any time, these softer feelings
were replaced by fury. He sent the tutor to possess himself of his
son's person. He was seized with the help of a constable; treated more
like a criminal than an unfortunate erring child; carried back to
Buckinghamshire; shut up in a barricadoed room; debarred from air and
exercise; lectured; menaced; treated with indignity. The boy, hitherto
accustomed to more than usual indulgence and freedom, was at first
astonished, and then wildly indignant at the treatment he suffered. He
was told that he should not be set free till he submitted. He believed
that to mean, until he should give testimony against his mother. He
resolved rather to die. Several times he endeavoured to escape, and was
brought back and treated with fresh barbarity--his hands bound, and
stripes inflicted by menials; till driven to despair, he at one time
determined to starve himself, and at another, tried to bribe a servant
to bring him poison. The trusting piety inculcated by his gentle
mother, was destroyed by the ill-judged cruelty of his father and his
doltish substitute. It is painful to dwell on such circumstances; to
think of a sensitive, helpless child treated with the brutality
exercised towards a galleyslave. Under this restraint, Gerard grew such
as you saw him at Baden--sullen, ferocious, plunged in melancholy,
delivered up to despair.

"It was some time before he discovered that the submission demanded
of him was, not to run away again. On learning this, he wrote to his
father. He spoke with horror of the personal indignities he had
endured; of his imprisonment; of the conduct of Mr. Carter. He did not
mean it as such; but his letter grew into an affecting, irresistible
appeal, that even moved Sir Boyvill. His stupid pride prevented him
from showing the regret he felt. He still used the language of reproof
and conditional pardon; but the tutor was dismissed, and Gerard
restored to liberty. Had his father been generous or just enough to
show his regret, he might probably have obliterated the effects of his
harshness; as it was, Gerard gave no thanks for a boon which saved his
life, but restored him to none of its social blessings. He was still
friendless; still orphaned in his affections; still the memory of
intolerable tyranny, the recurrence of which was threatened, if he made
an ill use of the freedom accorded him, clung like the shirt of Nessus;
and his noble, ardent nature was lacerated by the intolerable
recollection of slavish terrors.

"You saw him at Baden; and it was at Baden that I also first knew
him. You had left the baths when my mother and I arrived. We became
acquainted with Sir Boyvill. He was still handsome; he was rich; and
those qualities of mind which ill agreed with Alithea's finer nature,
did not displease a fashionable woman of the world. Such was my mother.
Something that was called an attachment sprang up, and they married.
She preferred the situation of wife to that of widow; and he, having
been accustomed to the social comforts of a domestic circle, despite
his disasters, disliked his bachelor state. They married; and I, just
then eighteen--just out, as it is called--became the sister of my
beloved Gerard.

"I feel pride when I think of the services that I have rendered him.
He had another fall from his horse not long after, or rather again
urging the animal down a precipice, it fell. He was underneath, and his
leg was broken. During the long confinement that ensued, I was his
faithful nurse and companion. Naturally lively, yet I could sympathise
in his sorrows. By degrees I won his confidence. He told me all his
story; all his feelings. He grew mild and soft under my influence. He
grew to regret that he had been vanquished by adversity, so as to
become almost what he was accused of being, a frantic idiot. As he
talked of his mother, and the care she bestowed on his early years, he
wept to think how unlike he was to the creature she had wished him to
become. A desire to reform, to repair past faults, to school himself,
grew out of such talk. He threw off his sullenness and gloom. He became
studious at the same time that he grew gentle. His education, which had
proceeded but badly, while he refused to lend his mind to improvement,
was now the object of his own thoughts and exertions. Instead of
careering wildly over the hills, or being thrown under some tree,
delivered up to miserable reverie, he asked for masters, and was
continually seen with a book in his hands.

"The passion of his soul still subsisted, modulated by his new
feelings. He continued to believe in the innocence of his mother,
though he often doubted her existence. He longed inexpressibly to
unveil the mystery that shrouded her fate. He devoted himself in his
heart to discovering the truth. He resolved to occupy his whole life in
the dear task of reinstating her in that cloudless purity of reputation
which he intimately felt she had never deserved to forfeit. He
considered the promise exacted from him by his father as preventing him
from following up his design, and as binding him till he was
twenty-one. Till then he deferred his endeavours. No young spendthrift
ever aspired for the attainment of the age of freedom, and the
possession of an estate, as vehemently as did Gerard for the hour which
was to permit him to deliver himself wholly up to this task.

"Before that time arrived, I married. I wished to take him abroad
with us; but the unfounded (as I believe) notion, that the secret of
his mother's fate is linked to the English shores, made him dislike to
leave his native country. It was only on our return that he consented
to come as far as Marseilles to meet us.

"When he had reached the age of twenty-one, he announced to his
father his resolve to discover his mother's fate. Sir Boyvill was
highly indignant. The only circumstance that at all mitigated the
disgrace of his wife's flight, was the oblivion into which she and all
concerning her had sunk. To have new inquiries set on foot, and the
forgotten shame recalled to the memories of men, appeared not less
wicked than insane. He remonstrated, he grew angry, he stormed, he
forbade; but Gerard considered that time had set a limit to his
authority, and only withdrew in silence, not the less determined to
pursue his own course.

"I need not say that he met with no success; a mystery, so
impenetrable at first, does not acquire clearness, after time has
obscured the little ever known. Whatever were the real circumstances,
and feelings, that occasioned her flight, however innocent she might
then be, time has cemented his mother's union with another, and made
her forget those she left behind. Or may I not say, what I am inclined
to believe, that though the violence of another was the cause, at last,
of guilt in her, yet she pined for those she deserted, that her heart
was soon broken, that the sod has long since covered her form; while
the miserable man who caused all this evil, is but too eager to observe
a silence, which prevents his name from being loaded with the
execrations he deserves? I cannot help, therefore, regretting that
Gerard insists upon discovering the obscure grave of his miserable
mother--while he, who, whether living or dead, believes her to have
been always innocent, is to be dissuaded by no arguments, still less by
the angry denunciations of Sir Boyvill, whose conduct throughout he
looks on as being the primal cause of his mother's misfortunes.

"I have told you the tale, as nearly as I can, in the spirit in
which Gerard himself would have communicated it--such was my tacit
pledge to him--nor do I wish by my suspicions, or conjectures, to
deprive him of your sympathy, and the belief he wishes you to entertain
of his mother's innocence; but truth will force its way, and who can
think her wholly guiltless? would to God! Oh, how often, and how
fervently have I prayed that Gerard were cured of the madness which
renders his life a wild, unprofitable dream; and looking soberly on the
past, consent to bury in oblivion misfortunes and errors which are
beyond all cure, and which it is worse than vain to remember."



CHAPTER IV.

There was to Elizabeth a fascinating interest in the story related
by Lady Cecil. Elizabeth had no wild fairy-like imagination. Her
talents, which were remarkable, her serious, thoughtful mind, was
warmed by the vital heat emanating from her affections--whatever
regarded these, moved her deeply.

Here was a tale full of human interest, of love, error, of filial
tenderness, and deep rooted, uneradicable fidelity. Elizabeth, who knew
little of life, except through such experience as she gathered from the
emotions of her own heart, and the struggling passions of Falkner,
could not regard the story in the same worldly light as Lady Cecil.
There was an unfathomable mystery; but, was there guilt as far as
regarded Mrs. Neville? Elizabeth could not believe it. She believed,
that in a nature as finely formed as hers was described to have been,
maternal love, and love for such a child as Gerard, must have risen
paramount to every other feeling. Philosophers have said that the most
exalted natures are endowed with the strongest and deepest-seated
passions. It is by combating, and purifying them, that the human being
rises into excellence; and the combat is assisted by setting the good
in opposition to the evil. Perhaps, Mrs. Neville had loved--though,
even that seemed strange--but her devoted affection to her child must
have been more powerful than a love, which, did it exist, appeared
unaccompanied by one sanctifying or extenuating circumstance.

Thus thought Elizabeth. Gerard appeared in a beautiful, and heroic
light, bent on his holy mission of redeeming his mother's name from the
stigma accumulated on it. Her heart warmed within her at the thought,
that such a task assimilated to hers. She was endeavouring to reconcile
her benefactor to life, and to remove from his existence the stings of
unavailing remorse. She tried to fancy that some secret tie existed
between their two distinct tasks; and that a united happy end would
spring up for both.

After musing for some time in silence, at length she said, "But you
do not tell me whither Mr. Neville is now gone, and what it is that has
so newly awakened his hopes."

"You remind me," replied Lady Cecil, "of what I had nearly
forgotten. It is a provoking and painful circumstance; the artifice of
cupidity to dupe enthusiasm. You must know that Gerard, in furtherance
of his wild project, has left an intimation among the cottages and
villages near Dromore, and in Lancaster itself, that he will give two
hundred pounds to any one who shall bring any information that will
conduce to the discovery of Mrs. Neville's fate. This is a large bribe
to falsehood, and yet, until now, no one has pretended to have any
thing to tell. But the other day he received a letter, and the person
who wrote it was so earnest, that he sent a duplicate to Sir Boyvill.
This letter stated that the writer, Gregory Hoskins, believed himself
to be in possession of some facts connected with Mrs. Neville of
Dromore, and on the two hundred pounds being properly secured to him by
a written bond, he would communicate them. This letter was dated
Lancaster--thither Gerard is gone."

"Does it speak of Mrs. Neville as still alive?" asked Elizabeth.

"It says barely the words which I have repeated," Lady Cecil
replied. "Sir Boyvill, knowing his son's impetuosity, hurried down
here, to stop, if he could, his reviving, through such means, the
recollection of his unfortunate lady,--with what success you have seen;
Gerard is gone, nor can any one guess what tale will be trumped up to
deceive and rob him."

Elizabeth could not feel as secure as her friend, that nothing would
come of the promised information. This was not strange; besides the
different view taken by a worldly and an inexperienced person, the
tale, with all its mystery, was an old one to Lady Cecil; while, to her
friend, it bore the freshness of novelty: to the one, it was a story of
the dead and the forgotten, to the other, it was replete with living
interest; the enthusiasm of Gerard communicated itself to her, and she
felt that his present journey was full of event, the first step in a
discovery of all that hitherto had been inscrutable.

A few days brought a letter from Gerard. Lady Cecil read it, and
then gave it to her young friend to peruse. It was dated Lancaster; it
said, "My journey has hitherto been fruitless; this man Hoskins has
gone from Lancaster, leaving word that I should find him in London, but
in so negligent a way as to lower my hopes considerably. His chief aim
must be to earn the promised reward, and I feel sure that he would take
more pains to obtain it, did he think that it was really within his
grasp.

"He arrived but a few weeks since, it seems, from America, whither
he migrated, some twenty years ago, from Ravenglass. How can he bring
news of her I seek from across the Atlantic? The very idea fills me
with disturbance. Has he seen her? Great God! does she yet live? Did
she commission him to make inquiries concerning her abandoned child?
No, Sophia, my life on it, it is not so; she is dead! My heart too
truly reveals the sad truth to me.

"Can I then wish to hear that she is no more? My dear, dear mother!
Were all the accusations true which are brought against you, still
would I seek your retreat, endeavour to assuage your sorrows; wherever,
whatever you are, you are of more worth to me--methinks that you must
still be more worthy of affection, than all else that the earth
contains! But it is not so. I feel it--I know it--she is dead. Yet
when, where, how? Oh, my father's vain commands! I would walk barefoot
to the summit of the Andes to have these questions answered. The
interval that must elapse before I reach London, and see this man, is
hard to bear. What will he tell? Nothing! often, in my lucid intervals,
as my father would call them, in my hours of despondency, I
fear--nothing!

"You have not played me false, dearest Sophy? In telling your lovely
friend the strange story of my woes, you have taught her to mourn my
mother's fate, not to suspect her goodness? I am half angry with myself
for devolving the task upon you. For, despite your kind endeavours, I
read your heart, my worldly-wise sister, and know its unbelief. I
forgive you, for you never saw my mother's face, nor heard her voice.
Had you ever beheld the purity and integrity that sat upon her brow,
and listened to her sweet tones, she would visit your dreams by day and
night, as she does mine, in the guise of an angel robed in perfect
innocence. I cannot forgive my father for his accusations; his own
heart must be bad, or he could not credit that any evil inhabited hers.
For how many years that guileless heart was laid bare to him! and if it
was not so fond and admiring towards himself as he could have wished,
still there was no concealment, no tortuosity; he saw it all, though
now he discredits the evidence of his senses--shuts his eyes,

"And hooting at the glorious sun in heaven,

Cries out, 'Where is it?'

For truth was her attribute; the open heart, which made the brow,
the eyes, the cheerful mien, the sweet, loving smile and thrilling
voice, all transcripts of its pure emotions. It was this that rendered
her the adorable being, which all who knew her acknowledge that she
was.

"I am solicitous beyond measure that Miss Falkner should receive no
false impression. Her image is before me, when I saw her first, pale in
the agony of fear, bending over her dying father; by day and by night
she forgot herself to attend on him. She, who loves a parent so well,
can understand me better than any other. She, I am convinced, will form
a true judgment. She will approve my perseverance and share my doubts
and fears; will she not? ask her--or am I too vain, too credulous? Is
there in the whole world one creature, who will join with me in my
faith and my labours? You do not, Sophia; that I have long known, and
the feeling of disappointment is already blunted; but it will revive,
it will be barbed with a new sting, if I am deceived in my belief that
Elizabeth Falkner shares my convictions, and appreciates the utility,
the necessity of my endeavours. I do not desire her pity, that you give
me; but at this moment I am blest by the hope that she feels with me. I
cannot tell you the good that this idea does me. It spurs me to double
energy in my pursuit, and it sustains me during the uncertainty that
attends it; it makes me inexpressibly more anxious to clear my mother's
name in her eyes; since she deigns to partake my griefs, I desire that
she should hereafter share in the triumph of my success.

"My success! the word throws me ten thousand fathoms deep, from the
thoughts of innocence and goodness, to those of wrongs, death, or
living misery. Farewell, dearest Sophia. This letter is written at
night; to-morrow, early, I set out by a fast coach to London. I shall
write again, or you will see me soon. Keep Miss Falkner with you till I
return, and write me a few words of encouragement."

Not a line in this letter but interested and gratified
Elizabeth--and Lady Cecil saw the blush of pleasure mantle over her
speaking countenance; she was half glad--half sorry--she looked on
Elizabeth as she who could cure Gerard of his Quixotic devotion, by
inspiring him with feelings which, while they had all the enthusiasm
natural to his disposition, would detach him from his vain endeavours,
and centre his views and happiness in the living instead of the dead.
Lady Cecil knew that Gerard already loved her friend--he had never
loved before--and the tenderness of his manner, and the admiration that
lighted up his eyes whenever he looked on her, revealed the birth of
passion. Elizabeth, less quick to feel, or at least more tranquil in
the display of feeling, yet sympathised too warmly with him--felt too
deeply interested in all he said and did, not to betray that she was
touched by the divine fire that smooths the ruggedness of life, and
fills with peace and smiles a darkling, stormy world. But instead of
weaning Gerard from his madness, she encouraged him in it--as she well
knew; for when she wrote to Gerard, she asked Elizabeth to add a few
lines, and thus she wrote:

"I thank you for the confidence you repose in me, and more than
that, I must express how deeply I feel for you--the more that I think
that justice and truth are on your side. Whether you succeed or not, I
confess that I think you are right in your endeavours--your aim is a
noble and a sacred one--and like you, I cherish the hope that it will
end in the exculpation of one deeply injured--and your being rewarded
for your fidelity to her memory. God bless you with all the happiness
you deserve."

No subsequent letter arrived from Gerard. Lady Cecil wondered and
conjectured, and expected impatiently. She and her friend could talk of
nothing else. The strange fact that a traveller from America proclaimed
that he had tidings of the lost one, offered a fertile field for
suppositions. Had Mrs. Neville been carried across the Atlantic? How
impossible was this, against her own consent! No pirate's bark was
there, with a crew experienced in crime, ready to acquiesce in a deed
of violence; no fortalice existed, in whose impenetrable walls she
could have been immured; yet so much of strange and fearful must belong
to her fate, which the imagination mourned to think of! Love, though in
these days it carries on its tragedies more covertly--and kills by the
slow, untold pang--by the worm in the bosom--and exerts its influence
rather by teaching deceit, than instigating to acts of violence, yet
love reigns in the hearts of men as tyrannically and fiercely--and
causes as much evil, as much ruin and as many tears, as when, in the
younger world, hecatombs were slain in his honour. In former days
mortals wasted rather life than feeling, and every blow was a physical
one; now the heart dies, though the body lives--and a miserable
existence is dragged out, after hope and joy have ceased to adorn it;
yet love is still, despite the school-master and the legislator, the
prime law of human life, and Alithea Neville was well fitted to inspire
an ardent passion. She had a sensibility which, while it gave strength
to her affections, yet diffused a certain weakness over the mechanism
of her being, that made those around her tremble; she had genius which
added lustre to her eye, and shed around her a fascination of manner,
which no man could witness without desiring to dedicate himself to her
service. She seemed the very object whom Sheridan addressed when he
said--

"For friends in every age you'll meet,

And lovers in the young."

That she should be loved to desperation could excite no wonder--but
what had been the effects of this love? a distant home across the
ocean--a home of privation and sorrow--the yearning for her lost
children--the slow breaking of the contrite heart; a life dragged on
despite the pangs of memory--or a nameless grave. Such were the
conjectures caused by the letter of the American.

At length Neville returned. Each turned her eye on his face, to read
the intelligence he had acquired in his speaking countenance. It was
sad. "She lives and is lost," thought Lady Cecil; "He mourns her dead!"
was the supposition of the single-minded Elizabeth. At first he avoided
the subject of his inquiry, and his companions did not question him;
till at last he suddenly exclaimed, "Do you not wish to learn
something, Sophia?--Have you forgotten the object of my journey?"

"Dear Gerard," replied Lady Cecil, "these walls and woods, had they
a voice, could tell you that we have thought and spoken of nothing
else."

"She is dead!" he answered abruptly.

A start--an exclamation was the reply. He continued: "If there be
any truth in the tale I have heard, my dear injured mother is dead;
that is, if what I have heard concern her--mean any thing, or is not a
mere fabrication. You shall hear all by and by; I will relate all I
have been told. It is a sad story if it be hers, if it be a true story
at all."

These disjointed expressions raised the curiosity and interest of
his auditors to their height. It was evening; instead of going on with
his account, he passed into the adjoining room, opened the glass door,
and stepped out into the open air. It was dark, scarcely could you see
the dim outline of the woods--yet, far on the horizon where sky and sea
met, there was a streak of light. Sophia and Elizabeth followed to the
room whence he had gone, and drew their chairs near the open window and
pressed each other's hands.

"What can it all mean?" at length said Lady Cecil. "Hush!" whispered
Elizabeth--"he is here, I saw him cross the streak of light."

"True," said Gerard's voice--his person they could not distinguish,
for they were in darkness; "I am here, and I will tell you now all I
have heard. I will sit at your feet: give me your hand, Sophy, that I
may feel that you are really present--it is too dark to see any
thing."

He did not ask for Elizabeth's hand, but he took it, and placing it
on Lady Cecil's, gently clasped both: "I cannot see either of you--but
indulge my wayward humour; so much of coarse and commonplace has been
thrown on the most sacred subject in the world--that I want to bathe my
soul in darkness--a darkness as profound as that which wraps my
mother's fate. Now for my story."



CHAPTER V.

"You know that I did not find this man, this Hoskins, at Lancaster.
By his direction I sought him in London, and after some trouble found
him. He was busy in his own affairs, and it was difficult to get at
him; but by perseverance, and asking him to dine with me at a
coffeehouse, I at last succeeded. He is a native of Ravenglass, a
miserable town on the sea-shore of Cumberland, with which I am well
acquainted, for it is not far from Dromore. He emigrated to America
before I was born; and after various speculations, is at last settled
at Boston, in some sort of trade, the exigencies of which brought him
over here, and he seized the opportunity to visit his family. There
they were, still inhabiting the forlorn town of Ravenglass; their
cottage still looking out on a dreary extent of sand, mud, and marsh;
and the far mountains, which would seem to invite the miserable
dwellers of the flats to shelter themselves in their green recesses,
but they invite in vain.

"Hoskins found his mother, a woman nearly a hundred years of age,
alive; and a widowed sister living with her, surrounded by a dozen
children of all ages. He passed two days with them, and naturally
recurred to the changes that had taken place in the neighbourhood. He
had at one time had dealings with the steward of Dromore, and had seen
my father. When he emigrated, Sir Boyvill had just married. Hoskins
asked how it went on with him and his bride. It is our glorious fate to
be in the mouths of the vulgar, so he heard the story of my mother's
mysterious flight; and in addition to this he was told of my boyish
wanderings, my search for my mother, and my declaration that I would
give two hundred pounds to any one through whose means I should
discover her fate.

"The words fell at first upon a heedless ear, but the next morning
it all at once struck him that he might gain the reward, and he wrote
to me; and as I was described as a wanderer without a home, he wrote
also to my father. When I saw him in town, he seemed ashamed of the
trouble I had taken. 'It is I who am to get the two hundred pounds,' he
said, 'not you; the chance was worth wasting a little breath; but you
may not think the little I have to tell worth your long journey.'

"At length I brought him to the point. At one period, a good many
years ago, he was a settler in New York, and by some chance he fell in
with a man lately arrived from England, who asked his advice as to
obtaining employment: he had some little money--some few hundred
pounds, but he did not wish to sink it in trade or the purchase of
land, but to get some situation with a tolerable salary, and keep his
little capital at command. A strange way of using money and time in
America! but such was the fancy of the stranger; he said he should not
be easy unless he could draw out his money at any time, and emigrate at
an hour's notice. This man's name was Osborne; he was shrewd,
ready-witted, and good-natured, but idle, and even unprincipled. 'He
did me a good turn once,' said Hoskins, 'which makes me unwilling to do
him a bad one; but you cannot injure him, I think, in America. He has
risen in the world since the time I mention, and has an employment
under our minister at Mexico. After all he did not tell me much, and
what I learnt came out in long talks by degrees, during a journey or
two we took together to the west. He had been a traveller, a soldier in
the East Indies, and unlucky every where; and it had gone hard with him
at one time in Bengal, but for the kindness of a friend. He was a
gentleman far above him in station, who got him out of trouble, and
paid his passage to England; and afterwards, when this gentleman
returned himself to the island, he found Osborne in trouble again, and
again he assisted him. In short, sir, it came out, that if this
gentleman (Osborne would never tell his name) stood his friend, it was
not for nothing this time. There was a lady to be carried off. Osborne
swore he did not know who--he thought it a runaway match; but it turned
out something worse, for never did girl take on so for leaving her home
with a lover. I tell the story badly, for I never got the rights of it.
It ended tragically--the lady died--was drowned, as well as I could
make out, in some river. You know how dangerous the streams are on our
coast.

"'It was the naming Cumberland and our estuaries that set me asking
questions, which frightened Osborne. When he found that I was a native
of that part of the world, he grew as mute as a fish, and never a word
more of lady or friend did I get from him; except, as I guessed, he was
well rewarded, and sent over the water out of the way; and he swore he
believed that the gentleman was dead too. It was no murder--that he
averred, but a sad tragic accident that might look like one; and he
grew as white as a sheet if ever I tried to bring him to speak of it
again. It haunted his thoughts nevertheless: and he would talk in his
sleep, and dream of being hanged--and mutter about a grave dug in the
sands, and there being no parson; and the dark breakers of the
ocean--and horses scampering away, and the lady's wet hair--nothing
regular, but such as often made me waken him; for in wild nights, such
mutterings were no lullaby.

"'Now, sir, whether the lady he spoke of were your lady mother, is
more than I can say; but the time and place tally. It is twelve years
this summer since he came out; and it had just happened, for his heart
and head were full of horrors, and he feared every vessel from Europe
brought out a warrant to arrest him, or the like. He was a
chicken-hearted fellow; and I have known him hide himself for a week
when a packet came from Liverpool. But he got courage as time went on;
when I saw him last, he had forgotten all about it; and when I jeered
him about his terrors, he laughed, and said all was well, and he should
not care going to England; for that the story was blown over, and
neither he nor his friend even so much as suspected.

"'This, sir, is my story; and I don't think he ever told me any
more, or that I can remember any thing else; but such as I tell it, I
can swear to it. There was a lady run off with, and she died, by fair
means or foul, before she quitted the coast; and was buried, as we
might bury in the far west, without bell or prayer-book. And Osborne
does not know the name of the lady; but the gentleman he knew, though
he has never since heard of him, and believes him to be dead. You best
know whether my story is worth the two hundred pounds.'

"Such, Sophia, is the tale I heard. Such is the coarse hand and
vulgar tongue that first touches the veil that conceals my mother's
fate."

"It is a strange story," said Lady Cecil, shuddering.

"But, on my life, a true one," cried Neville, "as I will prove.
Osborne is now at Mexico. I have inquired at the American consul's. He
is expected back to Washington at the end of this summer. In a few
weeks, I shall embark and see this man, who now bears a creditable
character, and learn if there is any foundation for Hoskins's
conjectures. If there is, and can I doubt it? if my mother died as he
says, I shall learn the manner of her death, and who is the
murderer."

"Murderer!" echoed both his auditors.

"Yes; I cannot retract the word. Murderer in effect, if not in deed.
Remember, I witnessed the act of violence which tore my mother from me.
He who carried her away is, in all justice, an assassin, even if his
hands be not embued with blood. Blood! did I say. Nay, none was shed. I
know the spot; I have viewed the very scene. Our waste and desolate
coast--the perilous, deceitful rivers, in one of which she
perished--the very night, so tempestuous--the wild west-wind bearing
the tide with irresistible impetuosity up the estuaries--he seeking the
solitary sands--perhaps some smuggling vessel lying in wait--to carry
her off unseen, unheard. To me it is as if I knew each act of the
tragedy, and heard her last sigh beneath the waves breathed for me. She
was dragged out by these men; buried without friend; without decent
rites; her tomb the evil report her enemy raised above her; her grave
the sands of that dreary shore. Oh, what wild, what miserable thoughts
are these! This tale, instead of alleviating my anxious doubts, has
taken the sleep out from my eyes. Images of death are for ever passing
before me; I think of the murderer with a heart that pants for revenge,
and of my beloved mother with such pity, such religious woe, that I
would spend my life on that shore seeking her remains, so that at last
I might shed my tears above them, and bear them to a more sacred spot.
There is an easier way to gain both ends."

"It is a sad, but a wild and uncertain story," remarked Lady Cecil,
"and not sufficiently plain, I think, to take you away from us all
across the Atlantic."

"A far slighter clue would take me so far," replied Gerard, "as you
well know. It is not for a traveller to Egypt to measure miles with
such timidity. My dear Sophy, you would indeed think me mad if, after
devoting my life to one pursuit, I were now to permit a voyage across
the Atlantic to stand between me and the slightest chance of having my
doubts cleared up. It is a voyage which thousands take every week for
their interest or their pleasure. I do much, I think, in postponing my
journey till this man returns to Washington. At first I had thought of
taking my passage on the instant, and meeting him on his journey
homeward from Mexico; but I might miss him. Yet I long to be on the
spot, in America; for, if any thing should happen to him; if he should
die, and his secret die with him, how for ever after I should be stung
by self-reproach!"

"But there seems to me so little foundation--" Lady Cecil began.
Neville made an impatient gesture, exclaiming, "Are you not
unreasonable, Sophy? my father has made a complete convert of you."

Elizabeth interposed, and asked, "You saw this man more than
once?"

"Who? Hoskins? Yes, three times, and he always told the same story.
He persisted in the main points. That the scene of the carrying off of
the lady was his native shore, the coast of Cumberland; that the act
immediately preceded Osborne's arrival in America, twelve years ago;
and that she died miserably, the victim of her wretched lover. He knew
Osborne immediately on his coming to New York, when he was still
suffering from the panic of such a tragedy, dreading the arrival of
every vessel from England. At that time he concealed carefully from his
new friend what he afterwards, in the overflow of his heart,
communicated so freely; and, in aftertimes, he reminded him how, when
an emissary of the police came from London to seek after some
fraudulent defaulter, he, only hearing vaguely that there was search
made for a criminal, hid himself for several days. That Osborne was
privy to, was participator in, a frightful tragedy, which, to my eyes,
bears the aspect of murder, seems certain. I do not, I cannot doubt
that my mother died then and there. How? the blood curdles to ask; but
I would compass the earth to learn, to vindicate her name, to avenge
her death."

Elizabeth felt Gerard's hand tremble and grow cold. He rose, and led
the way into the drawing-room, while Lady Cecil whispered to her
friend, "I am so very, very sorry! To go to America on such a story as
this, a story which, if it bear any semblance to the truth, had better
be for ever buried in oblivion. Dear Elizabeth, dissuade him, I entreat
you."

"Do you think Mr. Neville so easy of persuasion, or that he ought to
be?" replied her companion. "Certainly all that he has heard is vague,
coming, as it does, from a third, and an interested person. But his
whole life has been devoted to the exculpation of his mother; and, if
he believes that this tale affords a clue to lead to discovery, he is a
son, and the nature that stirs within him may gift him with a clearer
vision and a truer instinct than we can pretend to. Who can say but
that a mysterious, yet powerful, hand is at last held out to guide him
to the completion of his task? Oh, dear Lady Cecil, there are secrets
in the moral, sentient world, of which we know nothing: such as brought
Hamlet's father before his eyes; such as now may be stirring in your
brother's heart, revealing to him the truth, almost without his own
knowledge."

"You are as mad as he," said Lady Cecil, peevishly. "I thought you a
calm and reasonable being, who would co-operate with me in weaning
Gerard from his wild fancies, and in reconciling him to the world as it
is; but you indulge in metaphysical sallies and sublime flights, which
my common-place mind can only regard as a sort of intellectual
will-of-the-wisp. You betray, instead of assisting me. Peace be with
Mrs. Neville, whether in her grave, or, in some obscure retreat, she
grieve over the follies of her youth. She has been mourned for, as
never mother was mourned before; but be reasonable, dear Elizabeth, and
aid me in putting a stop to Gerard's insane career. You can, if you
will; he reveres you--he would listen to you. Do not talk of mysterious
hands, and Hamlet's ghost, and all that is to carry us away to
Fairyland; but of the rational duties of life, and the proper aim of a
man, to be useful to the living, and not spend the best years of his
life in dreams of the dead."

"What can I say?" replied Elizabeth: "you will be angry, but I
sympathise with Mr. Neville; and I cannot help saying, though you scoff
at me, that I think that, in all he is doing, he is obeying the most
sacred law of our nature, exculpating the innocent, and rendering duty
to her who has a right, living or dead, to demand all his love."

"Well," said Lady Cecil, "I have managed very ill; I had meant to
make you my ally, and have failed. I do not oppose Gerard in Sir
Boyvill's open angry manner, but it has been my endeavour throughout to
mitigate his zeal, and to change him, from a wild sort of visionary,
into a man of this world. He has talents, he is the heir to large
possessions, his father would gladly assist any rational pursuit; he
might make a figure in his country, he might be any thing he pleased;
and instead of this, all is wasted on the unhappy dead. You do wrong to
encourage him; think of what I say, and use your influence in a more
beneficial manner."

During the following days, this sort of argument was several times
renewed. Lady Cecil, who had heretofore opposed Neville covertly, with
some show of sympathy, the fallacy of which he easily detected, and who
had striven rather to lead him to forget, than to argue against his
views, now openly opposed his voyage to America. Gerard heard in
silence. He would not reply. Nothing she said carried the slightest
weight with him, and he had long been accustomed to opposition, and to
take his own way in spite of it. He was satisfied to do so now, without
making an effort to convince her. Yet he was hurt, and turned gladly to
Elizabeth for consolation. Her avowed and warm approval, her anxious
sympathy, the certainty she expressed that in the end he would succeed,
and that his enthusiasm and zeal were implanted in his heart for the
express purpose of his mother's vindication, and that he would fail in
every higher duty if he now held back; all this echoed so faithfully
his own thoughts, that she already appeared a portion of his existence
that he could never part from, the dear and promised reward of all his
exertions.

In the ardour of her sympathy, Elizabeth wrote to Falkner. She had
before written to tell him that she had seen again her friend of
Marseilles; she wrote trembling, fearful of being recalled home; for
she remembered the mysterious shrinking of her father from the name of
Neville. His replies, however, only spoke of a short journey he was
making, and a delay in his own joining her. Now again she wrote to
speak of Neville's filial piety, his mother's death, her alleged
dishonour, his sufferings and heroism; she dilated on this subject with
fond approval, and expressed her wishes for his success in warm and
eager terms; for many days she had no reply; a letter came at last--it
was short. It besought her instantly to return. "This is the last act
of duty, of affection, I shall ever ask," Falkner wrote: "comply
without demurring, come at once; come, and hear the fatal secret that
will divide us for ever. Come! I ask but for a day; the eternal future
you may, you will, pass with your new friends."

Had the writing not been firm and clear, such words had seemed to
portend her benefactor's death; wondering, struck by fear,
inexpressibly anxious to comply with his wishes, pale and trembling,
she besought Lady Cecil to arrange for her instant return. Gerard heard
with sorrow, but without surprise; he knew, if her father demanded her
presence, her first act would be obedience. But he grieved to see her
suffer, and he began also to wonder by what strange coincidence they
should both be doomed to sorrow, through the disasters of their
parents.



CHAPTER VI.

Falkner had parted with his dear adopted child, under a strong
excitement of fear concerning her health. The change of air and scene
restored her so speedily, that his anxieties were of short duration. He
was, however, in no hurry to rejoin her, as he was taught to consider a
temporary separation from him as important to her convalescence.

For the first time, after many years, Falkner was alone. True, he
was so in Greece; but there, he had an object. In Greece also, it is
true that he had dwelt on the past, writing even a narrative of his
actions, and that remorse sat heavy at his heart, while he pursued this
task. Yet he went to Greece to assist in a glorious cause, and to
redeem his name from the obloquy his confession would throw on it, by
his gallantry and death. There was something animating in these
reflections. Then also disease had not attacked him, nor pain made him
its prey--his sensations were healthful--and if his reflections were
melancholy and self-condemning, yet they were attended by grandeur, and
even by sublimity, the result of the danger that surrounded him, and
the courage with which he met it.

Now he was left alone--broken in health--dashed in spirit;
consenting to live--wishing to live for Elizabeth's sake--yet haunted
still by one pale ghost, and the knowledge that his bosom contained a
secret which, if divulged, would acquire for him universal detestation.
He did not fear discovery; but little do they know the human heart, who
are not aware of the throes of shame and anguish that attend the
knowledge that we are in reality a cheat, that we disguise our own real
selves, and that truth is our worst enemy. Left to himself, Falkner
thought of these things with bitterness, he loathed the burthen that
sat upon his soul, he longed to cast it off; yet, when he thought of
Elizabeth, her devoted affection, and earnest entreaties, he was again
a coward; how could he consent to give her up, and plant a dagger in
her heart!

There was but one cure to the irritation that his spirit endured,
which was--to take refuge in her society; and he was about to join her,
when a letter came, speaking of Gerard Neville--the same wild boy they
had seen at Baden--the kind friend of Marseilles, still melancholy,
still stricken by adversity; but endowed with a thousand qualities to
attract love and admiration; full of sentiment, and poetry--kind and
tender as woman--resolute and independent as a man.--Elizabeth said
little, remembering Falkner's previous restriction upon his name--but
she considered it her duty to mention him to her benefactor; and that
being her duty to him, it became another to her new friend, to assert
his excellence, lest by some chance Falkner had mistaken, and
attributed qualities that did not belong to him.

Falkner's thoughts became busy on this with new ideas. It was at
once pleasing, and painful, to hear of the virtues of Gerard Neville.
The pleasure was derived from the better portion of human nature--the
pain from the worst; a lurking envy, and dislike to excellence derived
in any degree from one he hated, and with such sentiment he regarded
the father of Gerard. Still he was the son of the angel he worshipped,
and had destroyed; she had loved her child to adoration, and to know
that he grew up all she would have wished, would console her wandering,
unappeased spirit. He remembered his likeness to her, and that softened
him even more. Yet he thought of the past--and what he had done; and
the very idea of her son lamenting for ever his lost mother, filled him
with renewed and racking remorse.

That Elizabeth should now for the third time be thrown in his way,
was strange, and his first impulse was to recall her. It was well that
Gerard should be noble-minded, endowed with talent, a rare and exalted
being--but that she should be brought into near contact with him, was
evil: between Falkner and Gerard Neville, there existed a gulf
unfathomable, horrific, deadly; and any friendship between him and his
adopted child, must cause disunion between her and Falkner. He had
suffered much, but this last blow, a cause for disuniting them, would
tax his fortitude too much.

Yet thus it was to be taxed. He received a letter from Lady Cecil,
of which Elizabeth was ignorant. Its ostensible object was to give good
tidings of her fair guest's health, and to renew her invitation to him.
But there was a covert meaning which Falkner detected. Lady Cecil,
though too young to be an inveterate match-maker, yet conceived and
cherished the idea of the marriage of Neville and Elizabeth. In common
parlance, Gerard might look higher; but so also might Elizabeth,
apparently the only daughter and heiress of a man of good birth, and
easy fortune. But this went for little with Lady Cecil;--Gerard's
peculiar disposition--his devotion to his dead mother, his distaste to
all society--the coldness he had hitherto manifested to feminine
attractions, made the choice of a wife difficult for him. Elizabeth's
heroic, and congenial character; her total inexperience in the world,
and readiness to sympathize with sentiments which, to the ordinary
class of women would appear extravagant and foolish; all this suited
them for each other. Lady Cecil saw them together, and felt that
intimacy would produce love. She was delighted; but thinking it right
that the father should have a voice, she wrote to Falkner, scarcely
alluding to these things, but with a delicate tact that enabled her to
convey her meaning, and Falkner jumping at once to the conclusion, saw
that his child was lost to him for ever.

There arose from this idea a convulsion of feeling, that shook him
as an earthquake shakes the firm land, making the most stable edifices
totter. A chill horror ran through his veins, a cold dew broke out on
his forehead; it was unnatural--it was fatal, it must bring on all
their heads tenfold ruin.

Yet wherefore? Elizabeth was no child of his--Elizabeth Falkner
could never wed Gerard Neville--but between him and Elizabeth Raby
there existed no obstacle. Nay, how better could he repay the injury he
had done him in depriving him of his mother, than by bestowing on him a
creature, perhaps more perfect, to be his solace and delight to the end
of his life? So must it be--here Falkner's punishment would begin; to
exile himself for ever from her, who was the child of his heart, the
prop of his existence. It was dreadful to think of, but it must be
done.

And how was the sacrifice to be fulfilled? by restoring Elizabeth to
her father's family, and then withdrawing himself to a distant land. He
need not add to this the confession of his crime. No! thus should he
compensate to Gerard for the injury done him; and burning his papers,
leaving still in mystery the unknown past, die, without it ever being
known to Elizabeth, that he was the cause of her husband's sorrows. It
was travelling fast, to arrange this future for all three; but there
are moments when the future, with all its contingencies and
possibilities, becomes glaringly distinct to our foreseeing eye; and we
act as if that was, which we believe must be. He would become a soldier
once again--and the boon of death would not be for ever denied to
him.

To restore Elizabeth to her family was at any rate but doing her a
long-withheld justice. The child of honour and faithful affection--who
bore a proud name--whose loveliness of person and mind would make her a
welcome treasure in any family; she, despite her generous sacrifices,
should follow his broken fortunes no longer. If the notion of her
marrying Neville were a mere dream, still to give back to her name and
station, was a benefit which it was unjust any longer to withhold; nor
should it be a question between them. They were now divided, so should
they remain. He would reveal her existence to her family, claim their
protection, and then withdraw himself; while she, occupied by a new and
engrossing sentiment, would easily get reconciled to his absence.

The first step he took in furtherance of this new resolution, was to
make inquiries concerning the present state of Elizabeth's family--of
which hitherto he knew no more than what he gathered from her mother's
unfinished letter, and this was limited to their being a wealthy
Catholic family, proud of their ancestry, and devoted to their faith.
Through his solicitor he gained intelligence of their exact situation.
He heard that there was a family of that name in Northumberland; it was
Roman Catholic, and exceedingly rich. The present head of the family
was an old man; he had long been a widower; left with a family of six
sons. The eldest had married early, and was dead, leaving his widow
with four daughters and one son, yet a child, who was the heir of the
family honours and estates, and resided with his mother, for the most
part, at the mansion of his grandfather. Of the remaining sons little
account could be gained. It was the family custom to concentrate all
its prosperity and wealth on the head of the eldest son; and the
younger, precluded by their religion, at that time, from advancement in
their own country, entered foreign service. One only had exempted
himself from the common lot, and become an outcast, and, in the eyes of
his family, a reprobate. Edwin Raby had apostatized from the Catholic
faith; he had married a portionless girl of inferior birth, and entered
the profession of the law. His parents looked with indignation on the
dishonour entailed on their name through his falling off; but his death
relieved their terrors--he died, leaving a widow and an infant
daughter. As the marriage had never been acknowledged, and female
offspring were held supernumerary, and an incumbrance in the Raby
family, they had refused to receive her, and never heard of her more;
she was, it was conjectured, living in obscurity among her own
relations. Falkner at once detected the truth. The despised, deserted
widow had died in her youth; and the daughter of Edwin Raby was the
child of his adoption. On this information Falkner regulated his
conduct; and finding that Elizabeth's grandfather, old Oswi Raby,
resided habitually at his seat in the north of England, he--his health
now restored sufficiently to make the journey without
inconvenience--set out for Northumberland, to communicate the
existence, and claim his acknowledgment, of his granddaughter.

There are periods in our lives when we seem to run away from
ourselves and our afflictions; to commence a new course of existence,
upon fresh ground, towards a happier goal. Sometimes, on the contrary,
the stream of life doubles--runs back to old scenes, and we are
constrained to linger amidst the desolation we had hoped to leave far
behind. Thus was it with Falkner; the past clung to him inextricably.
What had he to do with those who had suffered through his misdeed? He
had fled from them--he had traversed a quarter of the earth--he had
placed a series of years between them; but there he was again--in the
same spot--the same forms before him--the same names sounding in his
ears--the effects of his actions impending darkly and portentously over
him; seeing no escape but by casting away the only treasure of his
life--his adopted child--and becoming again a solitary, miserable
wanderer.

No man ever suffered more keenly than Falkner the stings of remorse;
no man ever resolved more firmly to meet the consequences of his
actions systematically, and without outward flinching. It was
perseverance to one goal that had occasioned all his sin and woe; it
followed him in his repentance; and though misery set a visible mark on
his brow, he did not hesitate nor delay. The journey to Northumberland
was long, for he could only proceed by short stages; and all the time
miserable reflection doubled every mile, and stretched each hour into
twice its duration. He was alone. To look back was wretchedness--to
think of Elizabeth was no solace; hereafter they were to be
divided--hereafter, no voice of love or gentle caress would chase the
darkness from his brow--he was to be for ever alone.

At length he arrived at his destination, and reached the entrance to
Belleforest. The mansion, a fine old Gothic building, adorned by the
ruins of an ancient abbey, was in itself venerable and extensive, and
surrounded by a princely demesne. This was the residence of Elizabeth's
ancestors--of her nearest relations. Here her childhood would have been
spent--under these venerable oaks--within these ancestral walls.
Falkner was glad to think, that, in being forced to withdraw from her
his own protection, she would take a higher station, and in the world's
eye become more on an equality with Gerard Neville. Every thing around
denoted grandeur and wealth; the very circumstance that the family
adhered to the ancient faith of the land--to a form of worship, which,
though evil in its effects on the human mind, is to the eye imposing
and magnificent, shed a greater lustre round the place. On inquiry,
Falkner heard that the old gentleman was at Belleforest; indeed he
never quitted it; but that his daughter-in-law, with her family, were
in the south of England. Mr. Raby was very accessible; on asking for
him, Falkner was instantly ushered in,

He entered a library of vast dimensions, and fitted up with a sort
of heavy splendour; very imposing, but very sombre. The high windows,
painted ceiling, and massy furniture, bespoke an old-fashioned, but
almost regal taste. Falkner, for a moment, thought himself alone, when
a slight noise attracted his attention to a diminutive, and very white
old gentleman, who advanced towards him. The mansion looked built for a
giant race; and Falkner, expecting the majesty of size, could hardly
contract his view to the slender and insignificant figure of the
present possessor. Oswi Raby looked shrivelled, not so much by age as
the narrowness of his mind; to whose dimensions his outward figure had
contracted itself. His face was pale and thin; his light blue eyes
grown dim; you might have thought that he was drying up and vanishing
from the earth by degrees. Contrasted with this slight shadow of a man,
was a mind that saw the whole world almost concentrated in himself. He,
Oswi Raby, he, head of the oldest family in England, was first of
created beings. Without being assuming in manner, he was self-important
in heart; and there was an obstinacy, and an incapacity to understand
that any thing was of consequence except himself, or rather, except the
house he represented, that gave extreme repulsion to his manners.

It is always awkward to disclose an errand such as Falkner's; it was
only by plunging at once into it, and warming himself by his own words,
that he contrived to throw grace round his subject. A cloud gathered
over the old man's features; he grew whiter, and his thin lips closed
as if they had never opened except with a refusal.

"You speak of very painful circumstances," he said; "I have
sometimes feared that I should be intruded upon in behalf of this
person; yet, after so many years, there is less pretence than ever for
encroaching upon an injured family. Edwin himself broke the tie. He was
rebellious and apostate. He had talents, and might have distinguished
himself to his honour; he preferred irreparable disgrace. He abandoned
the religion which we consider as the most precious part of our
inheritance; and he added imprudence to guilt, by, he being himself
unprovided for, marrying a portionless, low-born girl. He never hoped
for my forgiveness; he never even asked it. His death--it is hard for a
father to feel thus--but his death was a relief. We were applied to by
his widow; but with her we could have nothing to do. She was the
partner of his rebellion--nay, we looked upon her as its primal cause.
I was willing to take charge of my grandchild, if delivered entirely up
to me. She did not even think proper to reply to the letter making this
concession. I had, indeed, come to the determination of continuing to
her a portion of the allowance I made to my son, despite his
disobedience; but from that time to this no tidings of either mother or
daughter have reached us."

"Death must bear the blame of that negligence," said Falkner,
mastering his rising disgust. "Mrs. Raby was hurried to the grave but a
few months after your son's death, the victim of her devoted affection
to her husband. Their innocent daughter was left among strangers, who
did not know to whom to apply. She, at least, is free from all fault,
and has every claim on her father's family."

"She is nothing, and has no claim," interrupted Mr. Raby, peevishly,
"beyond a bare maintenance, even if she be the person you represent. I
beg your pardon, sir, but you may be deceived yourself on this subject;
but taking it for granted that this young person is the daughter of my
son, what is she to me?"

"A grand-daughter is a relation," Falkner began; "a near and dear
one--"

"Under such circumstances," interrupted Mr. Raby; "under the
circumstances of a marriage to which I gave no consent, and her being
brought up at a distance from us all, I should rather call her a
connexion than a relation. We cannot look with favour on the child of
an apostate; educated in a faith which we consider pernicious. I am an
old-fashioned man, accustomed only to the society of those whose
feelings coincide with mine; and I must apologize, sir, if I say any
thing to shock you; but the truth is self-evident, a child of a
discarded son may have a slender claim for support, none for favour or
countenance. This young person has no right to raise her eyes to us;
she must regulate her expectations by the condition of her mother, who
was a sort of servant, a humble companion or governess, in the house of
Mrs. Neville of Dromore--"

Falkner grew pale at the name, but, commanding himself, replied, "I
believe she was a friend of that lady! I have said I was unacquainted
with the parents of Miss Raby; I found her an orphan, subsisting on
precarious charity. Her few years--her forlorn situation--her beauty
and sweetness, claimed my compassion--I adopted her--"

"And would now throw her off," again interrupted the ill-tempered
old man. "Had you restored her to us in her childhood--had she been
brought up in our religion among us--she would have shared this home
with her cousins. As it is, you must yourself be aware, that it will be
impossible to admit, as an inmate, a stranger--a person ignorant of our
peculiar systems--an alien from our religion. Mrs. Raby would never
consent to it; and I would on no account annoy her who, as the mother
and guardian of my heir, merits every deference. I will, however,
consult with her, and with the gentleman who has the conduct of my
affairs; and as you wish to get rid of an embarrassment, which, pardon
me if I say you entirely brought on yourself, we will do what we judge
due to the honour of the family; but I cannot hold out any hopes beyond
a maintenance--unless this young person, whom I should then regard as
my grand-daughter, felt a vocation for a religion, out of whose pale I
will never acknowledge a relation."

At every word Falkner grew more angry. He always repressed any
manifestation of passion, and only grew pale, and spoke in a lower,
calmer voice. There was a pause; he glanced at the white hair, and
attenuated form of the old man, so to acquire a sufficient portion of
forbearance; and then replied: "It is enough--forget this visit; you
shall never hear again of the existence of your outraged grandchild.
Could you for a moment comprehend her worth, you might feel regret at
casting from you one whose qualities render her the admiration of all
who know her. Some day, when the infirmities of age increase upon you,
you may remember that you might have had a being near, the most
compassionate and kind that breathes. If ever you feel the want of an
affectionate hand to smooth your pillow, you may remember that you have
shut your heart to one who would have been a daily blessing. I do not
wish to disembarrass myself of Miss Raby--Miss Falkner, rather, let me
call her; she has borne my name as my daughter for many years, and
shall continue to retain it, together with my paternal guardianship,
while I live. I have the honour to wish you a good morning."

Falkner hastily departed; and, as he threw himself on his horse, and
at a quick pace traversed the long avenues of Belleforest, he felt that
boiling of the blood, that inexpressible bursting and tumult of the
heart, that accompanies fierce indignation and disdain. A vehement
desire to pour out the cataract of his contempt and anger on the
offender, was mingled with redoubled tenderness for Elizabeth, with
renewed gratitude for all he owed her, and a yearning, heart-warming
desire to take her again to the shelter of his love, from whence she
should never more depart.



CHAPTER VII.

Falkner's mind had undergone a total change; he had gone to
Belleforest, believing it to be his duty to restore to its possessors a
dearer treasure than any held by them; he left it, resolved never to
part from his adopted child. "Get rid of an embarrassment!" he repeated
to himself; "get rid of Elizabeth, of tender affection, truth and
fidelity! of the heart's fondest ties, my soul's only solace! How often
has my life been saved, and cheered by her only! And when I would
sacrifice blessings of which I hold myself unworthy, I hear the noblest
and most generous being in the world degraded by the vulgar, sordid
prejudices of that narrow-minded bigot! How paltry seems the pomp of
wealth, or the majesty of these ancient woods, when it is recollected
that they are lorded over by such a thing as that!"

Falkner's reflections were all painful; his heavily-burthened
conscience weighed him to the earth. He felt that there was justice in
a part of Mr. Raby's representations; that if Elizabeth had been
brought up under his care, in a religion which, because it was
persecuted, was the more valuable in their eyes; participating in their
prejudices, and endeared to them by habit, she would have had claims,
which, as she was, unseen, unknown, and totally disjoined from them in
opinions and feelings, she could never possess. He was the cause of
this, having, in her infancy, chosen to take her to himself, to link
his desolate fate to her brighter one; and now, he could only repent
for her sake; yet, for her sake, he did repent, when, looking forward,
he thought of the growing attachment between her and the son of his
victim.

What could he do? recall her? forbid her again to see Gerard
Neville? Unexplained commands are ever unjust, and had any strong
feeling sprung up in either of their hearts, they could not be obeyed.
Should he tell her all, and throw himself on her mercy? He would thus
inflict deep, irreparable pangs, and, besides, place her in a painful
situation, where duty would struggle with inclination; and pride and
affection both made it detestable to him to create such a combat in her
heart, and cause her to feel pangs and make sacrifices for him. What
other part was there to take? to remain neuter? let events take their
course? If it ended as he foresaw, when a marriage was mentioned, he
could reveal her real birth. Married to Gerard Neville, her relations
would gladly acknowledge her, and then he could withdraw for ever. He
should have much to endure meanwhile; to hear a name perpetually
repeated that thrilled to the very marrow of his bones; perhaps, to see
the husband and son of her he had destroyed: he felt sick at heart at
such a thought; he put it aside. It was not to-day, it could not be
to-morrow, that he should be called upon to encounter these evils;
meanwhile, he would shut his eyes upon them.

Returning homeward, he felt impelled to prolong his tour; he visited
some of the lakes of Westmoreland, and the mountain scenery of
Derbyshire. The thought of return was painful, so he lingered on the
way, and wrote for his letters to be forwarded to him. He had been some
weeks without receiving any from Elizabeth, and he felt extreme
impatience again to be blest with the sight of her handwriting--he felt
how passionately he loved her--how to part from her was to part from
every joy of life; he called himself her father--his heart acknowledged
the tie in every pulsation; no father ever worshipped a child so
fervently; her voice, her smile--and dear loving eyes, where were
they?--they were far, but here was something--a little packet of
letters, that must for the present stand in lieu of the dearer blessing
of her presence. He looked at the papers with delight--he pressed them
to his lips--he delayed to open them, as if he did not deserve the joy
they would communicate--as if its excess would overpower him. "I
purpose parting from her"--he thought--"but still she is mine, mine
when she traced those lines--mine as I read the expressions of her
affection; there are hours of delight garnered for me in those little
sealed talismans that nothing future or past can tarnish, and yet the
name of Neville will be there!" The thought brought a cold chill with
it, and he opened the letters hastily to know the worst.

Elizabeth had half forgotten the pain with which Falkner had at one
time shrunk from a name become so dear to her; when she wrote, her
heart was full of Gerard's story--and besides she had had letters from
her father speaking of him with kindness, so that she indulged herself
by alluding to it--to the disappearance of his mother and Gerard's
misery; the trial--the brutality of Sir Boyvill; and last, to the
resolution formed in childhood, brooded over through youth, now acted
upon, to discover his mother's destroyer. "Nor is it," she wrote, "any
vulgar feeling of vengeance that influences him--but the purest and
noblest motives. She is stigmatized as unworthy--he would vindicate her
fame. When I hear the surmises, the accusations cast on her, I feel
with him. To hear a beloved parent accused of guilt, must indeed be the
most bitter woe; to believe her innocent, and to prove her such, the
only alleviation. God grant that he may succeed!--and though I wish no
ill to any human being, yet rather may the height of evil fall on the
head of the true criminal, than continue to cloud the days of a being
whose soul is moulded in sensibility and honour!"

"Thus do you pray, heedless Elizabeth! May the true criminal feel
the height of evil; may he--whom you have saved from death--endure
tortures compared to which a thousand deaths were nothing! Be it so!
you shall have your wish!"

Impetuous as fire, Falkner did not pause; something, some emotion
devouring as fire, was lighted up in his heart--there must be no
delay!--never had he seen the effects of his crime in so vivid a light;
avoiding the name of Neville, he had never heard that of his victim
coupled with shame--she was unfortunate, but he persuaded himself that
she was not thought guilty; dear injured saint! had then her sacred
name been bandied about by the vulgar, she pronounced unworthy by the
judges of her acts; ignominy heaped upon the grave he had dug for her?
Was her beloved son the victim of his belief in her goodness? Had his
youthful life been blighted by his cowardly concealments? Oh, rather a
thousand deaths than such a weight of sin upon his soul!--He would
declare all; offer his life in expiation--what more could be
demanded!

And again--this might be thought a more sordid motive; and yet it
was not--Gerard was vowed to the discovery of the true criminal; he
would discover him--earth would render up her secrets, Heaven lead the
son to the very point--by slow degrees his crime would be
unveiled--Elizabeth called upon to doubt and to believe. His vehement
disposition was not calculated to bear the slow process of such
discoveries; he would meet them, avow all--let the worst fall on him:
it was happiness to know and feel the worst.

Lost for ever, he would deliver himself up to reprobation and the
punishment of his guilt. Too long he had delayed--now all his motives
for concealment melted away like snow overspread by volcanic fire.
Fierce, hurrying destiny seized him by the hair of his head--crying
aloud, Murderer, offer up thy blood--shade of Alithea, take thy
victim!

He wrote instantly to Elizabeth to meet him at their home at
Wimbledon, and proceeded thither himself. Unfortunately the tumult of
his thoughts acted on his health; after he had proceeded a few miles,
he was taken ill--for three days he was confined to his bed, in a high
fever. He thought he was about to die--his secret untold. Copious
bleeding, however, subdued the violence of the attack--and weak and
faint, he, despite his physician's advice, proceeded homewards; weak
and faint, an altered man--life had no charms, no calls, but one duty.
Hitherto he had lived in contempt of the chain of effects, which ever
links pain to evil; and of the Providence, which will not let the
innocent be for ever traduced. It had fallen on him; now his punishment
had begun, not as he, in the happier vehemence of passion, had
determined, not by sudden--self-inflicted, or glorious death--but the
slow grinding of the iron wheels of destiny, as they passed over him,
crushing him in the dust.

Yet his heart, despite its sufferings, warmed with something like
pleasure when, after a tedious journey of three days, he drew near his
home where he hoped to find Elizabeth. He had misgivings, he had asked
her to return, but she might have written to request a delay--no! she
was there; she had been there two days, anxiously expecting him. It is
so sweet a thing to hear the voice of one we love welcoming us on our
return home! It seems to assure us of a double existence; not only in
our own identity--which we bear perpetually about with us--but in the
heart we leave behind, which has thought of us--lived for us, and now
beats with warm pleasure on beholding the expected one. On the whole
earth Falkner loved none but Elizabeth. He hated himself; the past--the
present--the future, as they appertained to him, were all detestable;
remorse, grief, and loathsome anticipation, made up the sum of feelings
with which he regarded them: but here, bright and beautiful; without
taint; all affection and innocence--a monument of his own good
feelings, a lasting rock to which to moor his every hope; stood before
him, the child of his adoption; his heart felt bursting when he thought
of all she was to him.

Yet a doubt entered to mar his satisfaction--was she changed? If
love had insinuated itself into her heart, he was ejected; at least the
plenteous abundant fountain, that gave from its own source, would be
changed to the still waters that neither received increase, nor
bestowed any overflowing. Worse than this--she loved Gerard Neville,
the son of his victim, he whose life was devastated by him, who would
regard him with abhorrence. He would teach Elizabeth to partake this
feeling. The blood stood chilled in Falkner's heart, when he thought of
thus losing the only being he loved on earth.

He mastered these feelings when he saw her. The first moment,
indeed, when she flew to his arms and expressed with eager fondness her
delight in seeing him again, was all happiness. She perceived the
traces of suffering on his brow, and chided herself for having remained
away so long; she promised never to absent herself thus again. Every
remembered look, and tone, of her dear face, and voice, now brought
palpably before him, was a medicine to Falkner. He repressed his
uneasiness, he banished his fears; for a few hours he made happiness
his own again.

The evening was passed in calm and cheering conversation. No word
was said of the friends whom Elizabeth had left. She had forgotten
them, during the first few hours she spent with her father; and when
she did allude to her visit, Falkner said, "We will talk of these
things to-morrow; to-night, let us only think of ourselves." Elizabeth
felt a little mortified; the past weeks, the fortunes of her friends,
and the sentiments they excited, had become a part of herself; and she
was pained that so much of disjunction existed between her and Falkner,
as to make that which was so vivid and present to her, vacant of
interest to him; but she checked her disappointment: soon he would know
her new friend, sympathize in his devotion towards his injured mother,
enter as warmly as she did, into the result of his endeavours for her
exculpation. Meanwhile she yielded to his wish, and they talked of
scenes and countries they had visited together, and all the feelings
and opinions engendered by the past; as they were wont to do in days
gone by, before a stranger influence had disturbed a world in which
they lived for each other only--father and daughter--without an
interest beyond.

Nothing could be more pure and entire than their affection, and
there was between them that mingling of hearts, which words cannot
describe; but which, whenever it is experienced, in whatever relation
in life, is unalloyed happiness. There was a total absence of disguise,
of covert censure, of mutual diffidence; perfect confidence gave rise
to the fearless utterance of every idea, and there was a repose, and
yet an enjoyment in the sense of sympathy and truth, which filled and
satisfied. Falkner was surprised at the balmy sense of joy that,
despite every thing, stole over him; and he kissed, and blessed his
child, as she retired for the night, with more grateful affection, a
fuller sense of her merits, and a more fervent desire of preserving her
always near him, than he had ever before been conscious of
experiencing.



CHAPTER VIII.

Elizabeth rose on the following morning, her bosom glowing with a
sensation of acknowledged happiness. So much of young love brooded in
her heart, as quickened its pulsations, and gave lightness and joy to
her thoughts. She had no doubts, nor fears, nor even hopes: she was not
aware that love was the real cause of the grateful sense of happiness,
with which she avowed, to Heaven and herself, that all was peace. She
was glad to be reunited to Falkner, for whom she felt an attachment at
once so respectful, and yet, on account of his illness and melancholy,
so watchful and tender, as never allowed her to be wholly free from
solicitude, when absent from him. Also she expected on that morning to
see Gerard Neville. When Falkner's letter came to hasten her departure
from Oakly, she felt grieved at the recall, at the moment when she was
expecting him to join her, so to fill up the measure of her enjoyments;
with all this, she was eager to obey, and anxious to be with him again.
Lady Cecil deputed Miss Jervis to accompany her. On the very morning of
their departure, Neville asked for a seat in the carriage; they
travelled to town together, and when they separated, Neville told her
of his intention of immediately securing a passage to America, and
since then, had written a note to mention that he should ride over to
Wimbledon on that morning.

The deep interest that Elizabeth took in his enterprise, made her
solicitous to know whether he had procured any further information; but
her paramount desire was to introduce him to Falkner, to inspire him
with her sentiments of friendship; and to see two persons, whom she
considered superior to the rest of the world, bound to each other by a
mutual attachment; she wanted to impart to her father a pity for
Alithea's wrongs, and an admiration for her devoted son. She walked in
the shrubbery before breakfast, enjoying nature with the enthusiasm of
love; she gathered the last roses of the departing season, and mingling
them with a few carnations, hung, with a new sense of rapture, over
these fairest children of nature; for it is the property of love to
enhance all our enjoyments, "to paint the lily, and add a perfume to
the rose." When she returned to the house, she was told that Falkner
still slept, and had begged not to be disturbed. She breakfasted,
therefore, by herself, sitting by the open casement, and looking on the
waving trees, her flowers shedding a sweet atmosphere around; sometimes
turning to her open book, where she read of

"The heavenly Una with her milk-white lamb,"

and sometimes leaning her cheek upon her hand, in one of those
reveries where we rather feel than think, and every articulation of the
frame thrills with a living bliss.

The quick canter of a horse, the stopping at the gate, the ringing
of the bell, and the entrance of Neville, made her heart beat, and her
eyes light up with gladness. He entered with a lighter step, a more
cheerful and animated mien, than usual. He was aware that he loved. He
was assured that Elizabeth was the being selected from the whole world
who could make him happy; while he regarded her with all the
admiration, the worship, due to her virtues. He had never loved before.
The gloom that had absorbed him, the shyness inspired by his extreme
sensitiveness, had hitherto made him avoid the society of women, their
pleasures, their gaiety, their light, airy converse, were a blank to
him; it was Elizabeth's sufferings that first led him to remark her:
the clearness of her understanding, her simplicity, tenderness, and
dignity of soul won him; and lastly, the unbounded, undisguised
sympathy she felt for his endeavours, which all else regarded as futile
and insane, riveted him to her indissolubly.

Events were about to separate them, but her thoughts would accompany
him across the Atlantic--stand suspended while his success was dubious,
and hail his triumph with a joy equal to his own. The very thought gave
fresh ardour to his desire to fulfil his task; he had no doubt of
success, and, though the idea of his mother's fate was still a cloud in
the prospect, it only mellowed, without defacing, the glowing tints
shed over it by love.

They met with undisguised pleasure; he sat near her, and gazed with
such delight as, to one less inexperienced than Elizabeth, would have
at once betrayed the secret of his heart. He told her that he had found
a vessel about to sail for New York, and that he had engaged a passage
on board. He was restless and uneasy, he feared a thousand chances; he
felt as if he were neglecting his most sacred duty by any delay; there
was something in him urging him on, telling him that the crisis was at
hand; and yet, that any neglect on his part might cause the moment to
slip by for ever. When arrived at New York, he should proceed with all
speed to Washington, and then, if Osborne had not arrived, he should
set forward to meet him. So much might intervene to balk his hopes!
Osborne might die, and his secret die with him. Every moment's delay
was crime. The vessel was to drop down the river that very night, and
to-morrow he was to join her at Sheerness. He had come to say
farewell.

This sudden departure led to a thousand topics of interest; to his
hopes--his certainty, that all would soon be revealed, and he rewarded
for his long suffering. Such ideas led him to speak of the virtues of
his mother, which were the foundation of his hopes. He spoke of her as
he remembered her; he described her watchful tenderness, her playful
but well-regulated treatment of himself. Still in his dreams, he said,
he sometimes felt pressed in her arms, and kissed with all the
passionate affection of her maternal heart; in such sweet visions her
cry of agony would mingle; it seemed the last shriek of woe and death.
"Can you wonder," continued Neville, "can my father, can Sophia wonder,
that, recollecting all these things, I will not bear without a struggle
that my mother's name should be clouded, her fate encompassed by
mystery and blame; her very warm, kind feelings and enchanting
sensibility turned into accusations against her. I do indeed hope and
believe, that I shall learn the truth whither I am going, and that the
unfortunate victim of lawless violence, of whom Osborne spoke, is my
lost mother; but, if I am disappointed in this expectation, I shall not
for that give up my pursuit; it will only whet my purpose to seek the
truth elsewhere."

"And that truth may be less sad than you anticipate," said
Elizabeth, "yet I cannot help fearing that the miserable tragedy which
you have heard, is connected with your mother's fate."

"That it is a tragedy may well dash my eagerness," replied Neville;
"for, right or wrong, I cannot help feeling that to see her again--to
console her for her sufferings--to show that she is remembered, loved,
idolized, by her son, would be a dearer reward to me, than triumph over
the barbarous condemnation of the world, if that triumph is to be
purchased by having lost her for ever. This is not an heroic feeling, I
confess--"

"If it be heroism," said Elizabeth, "to find our chief good in
serving others; if compassion, sympathy, and generosity, be greater
virtues, as I believe, than cold self-absorbed severity, then is your
feeling founded on the purest portion of our nature."

While they were thus talking, seated near each other, Elizabeth's
face beaming with celestial benignity, and Neville, in the warmth of
his gratitude for her approval, had taken her hand and pressed it to
his lips, the door opened, and Falkner slowly entered. He had not heard
of the arrival of the stranger; but seeing a guest with Elizabeth, he
divined in a moment who it was. The thought ran through his frame like
an ice-bolt--his knees trembled under him--cold dew gathered on his
brow--for a moment he leaned against the door-way, unable to support
himself; while Elizabeth, perceiving his entrance, blushing she knew
not why, and now frightened by the ghastly pallor of his face, started
up, exclaiming, "My father! Are you ill?--"

Falkner struggled a moment longer, and then recovered his
self-possession. The disordered expression of his countenance was
replaced by a cold and stern look, which, aided by the marble paleness
that settled over it, looked more like the chiselling of a statue than
mortal endurance. A lofty resolve, to bear unflinchingly, was the
spirit that moulded his features into an appearance of calm. From this
moment he acquired strength of body, as well as of mind, to meet the
destiny before him. The energy of his soul did not again fail. Every
instant--every word, seemed to add to his courage--to nerve him to the
utmost height of endurance; to make him ready to leap, without one
tremor, into the abyss which he had so long and so fearfully
avoided.

The likeness of Neville to his mother had shaken him more than all.
His voice, whose tones were the same with hers, was another shock. His
very name jarred upon his sense, but he betrayed no token of suffering.
"Mr. Neville," said Elizabeth, "is come to take leave of me. To-morrow
he sails to America."

"To America! Wherefore?" asked Falkner.

"I wrote to you," she replied; "I explained the motives of this
voyage. You know--"

"I know all," said Falkner; "and this voyage to America is
superfluous."

Neville echoed the word with surprise, while Elizabeth exclaimed,
"Do you think so? You must have good reasons for this opinion. Tell
them to Mr. Neville. Your counsels, I am sure, will be of use to him. I
have often wished that you had been with us. I am so glad that he sees
you before he goes--if he does go. You say his voyage is superfluous;
tell him wherefore; advise him. Your advice will, I am sure, be good. I
would give the world that he did the exact thing that is best--that is
most likely to succeed."

Neville looked gratefully at her as she spoke thus eagerly; while
Falkner, still standing, his eyes fixed on, and scanning the person of
the son of his victim, marble pale, but displaying feeling by no other
outward sign, scarcely heard what she said, till her last words drew
his attention. He smiled, as in scorn, and said, "Oh, yes, I can
advise; and he shall succeed--and he will not go."

"I shall be happy," said Neville, with surprise. "I am willing to be
advised--that is, if your advice coincides with my wishes."

"It shall do so," interrupted Falkner.

"Then," exclaimed Neville, impetuously, "the moments that I linger
here will appear to you too many. You will desire that I should be on
board already--already under sail--already arrived. You will wish the
man whom I seek should be waiting on the sands when I reach the
shore!"

"He is much nearer," said Falkner, calmly; "he is before you. I am
he!"

Neville started; "You! What mean you? You are not Osborne."

"I am Rupert Falkner; your mother's destroyer."

Neville glanced at Elizabeth--his eye met hers--their thought was
the same, that this declaration proceeded from insanity. The fire that
flashed from Falkner's eye as he spoke--the sudden crimson that dyed
his cheeks--the hollow, though subdued, tone of his voice, gave warrant
for such a suspicion.

Elizabeth gazed on him with painful solicitude.

"I will not stay one moment longer," continued Falkner, "to pain you
by the sight of one so accursed as I. You will hear more from me this
very evening. You will hear enough to arrest your voyage; and remember
that I shall remain ready to answer any call--to make any
reparation--any atonement you may require."

He was gone--the door closed; it was as if a dread spectre had
vanished, and Neville and Elizabeth looked at each other to read in the
face of either, whether both were conscious of having been visited by
the same vision.

"What does he mean? Can you tell me what to think?" cried Neville,
almost gasping for breath.

"I will tell you in a few hours," said Elizabeth. "I must go to him
now; I fear he is very ill. This is madness. When your mother died, Mr.
Neville, my father and I were travelling together in Russia or Poland.
I remember dates--I am sure that it was so. This is too dreadful.
Farewell. You sail to-morrow--you shall hear from me to-night."

"Be sure that I do," said Neville; "for there is a method in his
speech--a dignity and a composure in his manner, that enforces a sort
of belief. What can he mean?"

"Do you imagine," cried Elizabeth, "that there is any truth in these
unhappy ravings? That my father, who would not tread upon a worm--whose
compassionate disposition and disinterestedness have been known to me
since early childhood--the noblest, and yet the gentlest, of human
beings--do you imagine that he is a murderer? Dear Mr. Neville, he
never could have seen your mother!"

"Is it indeed so?" said Neville; "yet he said one word--did you not
remark?--he called himself Rupert. But I will not distress you. You
will write; or rather, as my time will be occupied in preparations for
my voyage, and I scarcely know where the day will be spent, I will call
here this evening at nine. If you cannot see me, send me a note to the
gate, containing some information, either to expedite or delay my
journey. Even if this strange scene be the work of insanity, how can I
leave you in distress? and if it be true what he says--if he be the man
I saw tear my mother from me--how altered! how turned to age and
decrepitude! Yet, if he be that man, then I have a new and horrible
course to take."

"Is it so!" cried Elizabeth, with indignation; "and can a man so
cloud his fair fame, so destroy his very existence, by the wild words
of delirium--that my dear father should be accused of being the most
odious criminal!"

"Nay," replied Neville, "I make no accusation. Do not part from me
in anger. You are right, I do not doubt; and I am unjust. I will call
to-night."

"Do so without fail. Do not lose your passage. I little knew that
personal feeling would add to my eagerness to learn the truth. Do not
stay for my sake. Come to-night and learn how false and wild my
father's words were; and then hasten to depart--to see Osborne--to
learn all! Farewell till this evening."

She hurried away to Falkner's room, while stunned--doubting--forced,
by Elizabeth, to entertain doubts, and yet convinced in his heart; for
the name of Rupert brought conviction home--Neville left the house. He
had entered it fostering the sweetest dreams of happiness, and now he
dared not look at the reverse.

Elizabeth, filled with the most poignant inquietude with regard to
his health, hastened to the sitting-room which Falkner usually
occupied. She found him seated at the table, with a small box--a box
she well remembered--open before him. He was looking over the papers it
contained. His manner was perfectly composed--the natural hue had
returned to his cheeks--his look was sedate. He was, indeed, very
different from the man who, thirteen years before, had landed in
Cornwall. He was then in the prime of life; and if passion defaced his
features, still youth, and health, and power, animated his frame. Long
years of grief and remorse, with sickness superadded, had made him old
before his time. The hair had receded from the temples, and what
remained was sprinkled with grey; his figure was bent and attenuated;
his face care-worn; yet, at this moment, he had regained a portion of
his former self. There was an expression on his face of satisfaction,
almost of triumph; and when he saw Elizabeth, the old, sweet smile, she
knew and loved so well, lighted up his countenance. He held out his
hand; she took it. There was no fever in the palm--his pulse was
equable; and when he spoke, his voice did not falter. He said, "This
blow has fallen heavily on you, my dear girl; yet all will be well
soon, I trust. Meanwhile it cannot be quite unexpected."

Elizabeth looked her astonishment--he continued:--"You have long
known that a heavy crime weighs on my conscience. It renders me unfit
to live; yet, I have not been permitted to die. I sought death, but we
are seldom allowed to direct our fate. I do not, however, complain; I
am well content with the end which will speedily terminate all."

"My dearest father," cried Elizabeth, "I cannot guess what you mean.
I thought--but no--you are not ill--you are not--"

"Not mad, dearest? was that your thought? It is a madness, at least,
that has lasted long--since first you staid my hand on your mother's
grave. You are too good, too affectionate, to regret having saved me,
even when you hear who I am. You are too resigned to Providence not to
acquiesce in the way chosen, to bring all things to their destined
end."

Elizabeth put her arm round his neck, and kissed him. "Thank you,"
said Falkner, "and God bless you for this kindness. I shall indeed be
glad if you, from your heart, pardon and excuse me. Meanwhile, my love,
there is something to be done. These papers contain an account of the
miserable past; you must read them, and then let Mr. Neville have them
without delay."

"Nay," said Elizabeth, "spare me this one thing--do not ask me to
read the history of any one error of yours. In my eyes you must ever be
the first, and best of human beings--if it has ever been otherwise, I
will not hear of it. You shall never be accused of guilt before me,
even by yourself."

"Call it, then, my justification," said Falkner. "But do not refuse
my request--it is necessary. If it be pain, pardon me for inflicting
it; but bear it for my sake--I wrote this narrative when I believed
myself about to die in Greece, for the chief purpose of disclosing the
truth to you. I have told my story truly and simply, you can have it
from no one else, for no human being breathes who knows the truth
except myself. Yield then--you have ever been yielding to me--yield, I
beseech you, to my solemn request; do not shrink from hearing of my
crimes, I hope soon to atone them. And then perform one other duty:
send these papers to your friend--you know where he is."

"He will call here this evening at nine."

"By that time you will have finished; I am going to town now, but
shall return to-night. Mr. Neville will be come and gone before then,
and you will know all. I do not doubt but that you will pity me--such
is your generosity, that perhaps you may love me still--but you will be
shocked and wretched, and I the cause. Alas! how many weapons do our
errors wield, and how surely does retribution aim at our defenceless
side! To know that I am the cause of unhappiness to you, my sweet girl,
inflicts a pang I cannot endure with any fortitude. But there is a
remedy, and all will be well in the end."

Elizabeth hung over him as he spoke, and he felt a tear warm on his
cheek, fallen from her eye--he was subdued by this testimony of her
sympathy--he strained her to his heart; but in a moment after he
reassumed his self-command, and kissing her, bade her farewell, and
then left her to the task of sorrow he had assigned.

She knew not what to think, what image to conjure up. His words were
free from all incoherence; before her also were the papers that would
tell all--she turned from them with disgust; and then again she thought
of Neville, his departure, his promised return, and what she could say
to him. It was a hideous dream, but there was no awakening; she sat
down, she took out the papers: the number of pages written in her
father's hand seemed a reprieve--she should not hear all the dreadful
truth in a few, short, piercing words--there was preparation. For a
moment she paused to gather her thoughts--to pray for fortitude--to
hope that the worst was not there, but in its stead some venial error,
that looked like crime to his sensitive mind--and then--She began to
read.



CHAPTER IX.
FALKNER'S NARRATIVE.

"To palliate crime, and by investigating motive to render guilt less
odious--such is not the feeling that rules my pen; to confer honour
upon innocence, to vindicate virtue, and announce truth--though that
offer my own name as a mark for deserved infamy--such are my motives.
And if I reveal the secrets of my heart and dwell on the circumstances
that led to the fatal catastrophe I record, so that, though a criminal,
I do not appear quite a monster, let the egotism be excused for her
dear sake--within whose young and gentle heart I would fain that my
memory should be enshrined without horror--though with blame.

"The truth, the pure and sacred truth, will alone find expression in
these pages. I write them in a land of beauty, but of desolation--in a
country whose inhabitants are purchasing by blood and misery the
dearest privileges of human nature--where I have come to die! It is
night; the cooing aziolo, the hooting owl, the flashing fire-fly--the
murmur of time-honoured streams; the moonlit foliage of the grey olive
woods--dark crags and rugged mountains, throwing awful shadows--and the
light of the eternal stars; such are the objects around me. Can a man
speak false in the silence of night, when God and his own heart alone
keep watch! when conscience hears the moaning of the dead in the pauses
of the breeze, and sees one pale, lifeless figure float away on the
current of the stream! My heart whispers that, before such witnesses,
the truth will be truly recorded; and my blood curdles, and my nerves,
so firm amidst the din of battle, shrink and shudder at the tale I am
about to narrate.

"What is crime?

"A deed done injurious to others--forbidden by religion, condemned
by morality, and which human laws are enacted to punish.

"A criminal feels all mankind to be his foes, the whole frame of
society is erected for his especial ruin. Before, he had a right to
choose his habitation in the land of his forefathers--and placing the
sacred name of liberty between himself and power, none dared check his
free-born steps--his will was his law; the limits of his physical
strength were the only barriers to his wildest wanderings; he could
walk erect and fear the eye of no man. He who commits a crime forfeits
these privileges. Men from out the lowest grade of society can say to
him--'You must come with us!'--they can drag him from those he
loves--immure him in a loathsome cell, dole out scant portions of the
unchartered air, make a show of him, lead him to death--and throw his
body to the dogs; and society, which for the innocent would have raised
one cry of horror against the perpetrators of such outrages, look on
and clap their hands with applause.

"This is a vulgar aspect of the misery of which I speak--a crime may
never be discovered. Mine lies buried in my own breast. Years have
passed and none point at me, and whisper, 'There goes the
murderer!'--But do I not feel that God is my enemy, and my own heart
whispers condemnation? I know that I am an impostor, that any day may
discover the truth; but, more heavy than any fear of detection, is the
secret hidden in my own heart, the icy touch of the death I caused
creeps over me during the night. I am pursued by the knowledge that
nought I do can prosper, for the cry of innocence is raised against me,
and the earth groans with the secret burthen I have committed to her
bosom. That the death-blow was not actually dealt by my hand, in no
manner mitigates the stings of conscience. My act was the murderer,
though my intention was guiltless of death.

"Is there a man who at some time has not desired to possess by
illegal means a portion of another's property, or to obey the dictates
of an animal instinct, and plant his foot on the neck of his enemy? Few
are so cold of blood, or temperate of mood, as not at some one time to
have felt hurried beyond the demarcations set up by conscience and law:
few but have been tempted without the brink of the forbidden; but they
stopped, while I leaped beyond,--there is the difference between us.
Falsely do they say who allege that there is no difference in guilt
between the thought and act: to be tempted is human; to resist
temptation--surely if framed like me, such is to raise us from our
humanity, into the sphere of angels.

"Many are the checks afforded us. Some are possessed by fear; others
are endowed by a sensibility so prophetic of the evil that must ensue,
that perforce they cannot act the thing they desire; they tremble at
the idea of being the cause of events, over whose future course they
can have no control; they fear injuring others--and their own
remorse.

"But I disdained all these considerations; they occurred but faintly
and ineffectually to my mind. Piety, conscience, and moral respect
yielded before a feeling which decked its desires in the garb of
necessity. Oh, how vain it is to analyse motive! Each man has the same
motives; but it is the materials of each mind--the plastic or rocky
nature, the mild or the burning temperament, that rejects the alien
influence or receives it into its own essence, and causes the act. Such
an impulse is as a summer healthy breeze, just dimpling a still lake,
to one; while to another it is the whirlwind that rouses him to spread
ruin around.

"The Almighty who framed my miserable being, made me a man of
passion. They say that of such are formed the great and good. I know
not that--I am neither; but I will not arraign the Creator. I will hope
that in feeling my guilt--in acknowledging the superexcellence of
virtue, I fulfil, in part, his design. After me, let no man doubt but
that to do what is right, is to insure his own happiness; or that
self-restraint, and submission to the voice of conscience implanted in
our souls, impart more dignity of feeling, more true majesty of being,
than a puerile assertion of will, and a senseless disregard of
immutable principles.

"Is passion known in these days? Such as I felt, has any other
experienced it? The expression has fled from our lips; but it is as
deep-seated as ever in our hearts. Who, of created beings, has not
loved? Who of my sex has not felt the struggle, and the yielding in the
struggle, of the better to the worse parts of our nature? Who so dead
to nature's influence as not, at least for some brief moments, to have
felt that body and soul were a slight sacrifice to obtain possession of
the affections of her he loved? Who, for some moment in his life, would
not have seen his mistress dead at his feet, rather than wedded to
another? To feel this tyranny of passion, is to be human; to conquer
it, is to be virtuous. He who conquers himself is, in my eyes, the only
true hero. Alas, I am not such! I am among the vanquished, and view the
wretch I am; and learn that there is nothing so contemptible, so
pitiable, so eternally miserable, as he who is defeated in his conflict
with passion.

"That I am such, this very scene--this very occupation testifies.
Once, the slave of head-long impulse; I am now the victim of remorse. I
am come to seek death, because I cannot retrieve the past; I long for
the moment when the bullet shall pierce my flesh, and the pains of
dissolution gather round me. Then I may hope to be, that for which I
thirst, free! There is one who loves me. She is pure and kind as a
guardian angel--she is as my own child--she implores me to live. With
her my days might pass in a peace and innocence that saints might envy;
but so heavy are the fetters of memory, so bitter the slavery of my
soul, that even she cannot take away the sting from life.

"Death is all I covet. When these pages are read, the hand that
traces them will be powerless--the brain that dictates will have lost
its functions. This is my last labour--my legacy to my fellow beings.
Do not let them disdain the outpourings of a heart which for years has
buried its recollections and remorse in silence. The waters were pent
up by a dam--now they rush impetuously forth--they roar as if pursued
by a thousand torrents--their turmoil deafens heaven; and what though
their sound be only conveyed by the little implement that traces these
lines--not less headlong than the swelling waves is the spirit that
pours itself out in these words.

"I am calmer now--I have been wandering beside the stream--and,
despite the lurking foe and deceptive moonbeams, I have ascended the
steep mountain's side--and looked out on the misty sea, and sought to
gain from reposing nature some relief to my sense of pain. The hour of
midnight is at hand--all is still--I am calm, and with deliberation
begin to narrate that train of circumstances, or rather of feelings,
that hurried me first to error, then to crime, and lastly, brought me
here to die.

"I lost my mother before I can well remember. I have a confused
recollection of her crying--and of her caressing me--and I can call to
mind seeing her ill in bed, and her blessing me; but these ideas are
rather like revelations of an ante-natal life, than belonging to
reality. She died when I was four years old. My childhood's years were
stormy and drear. My father, a social, and I believe even a polite man
in society, was rough and ill-tempered at home. He had gambled away his
own slender younger brother's fortune and his wife's portion, and was
too idle to attend to a profession, and yet not indolent enough for a
life devoid of purpose and pursuit. Our family was a good one; it
consisted of two brothers, my father, and my uncle. This latter,
favoured of birth and fortune, remained long unmarried; and was in weak
health. My father expected him to die. His death and his own consequent
inheritance of the family estate, was his constant theme; but the
delayed hope irritated him to madness. I knew his humour even as a
child, and escaped it as I could. His voice, calling my name, made my
blood run cold; his epithets of abuse, so frequently applied, filled me
with boiling but ineffectual rage.

"I am not going to dwell on those painful days, when a weak, tiny
boy, I felt as if I could contend with the paternal giant; and did
contend, till his hand felled me to the ground, or cast me from his
threshold with scorn and seeming hate. I dare say he did not hate me;
but certainly no touch of natural love warmed his heart.

"One day he received a letter from his brother--I was but ten years
old, but rendered old and care-worn by suffering; I remember that I
looked on him as he took it and exclaimed, 'From Uncle John! What have
we here?' with a nervous tremor as to the passions the perusal of it
might excite. He chuckled as he broke the seal--he fancied that he
called him to his dying bed--'And that well over, you shall go to
school, my fine fellow,' he cried; 'we shall have no more of your
tricks at home.' He broke the seal, he read the letter. It announced
his brother's marriage, and asked him to the wedding. I let fall the
curtain over the scene that ensued: you would have thought that a
villanous fraud had been committed, in which I was implicated. He drove
me with blows from his door; I foamed with rage, and then I sat down
and wept, and crept away to the fields, and wondered why I was born,
and longed to kill my uncle, who was the cause to me of so much
misery.

"Every thing changed for the worse now. Hitherto my father had lived
on hope--now he despaired. He took to drinking, which exalted his
passions, and debased his reason. This at times gave me a superiority
over him--when tipsy, I could escape his blows--which yet, when sober,
fell on me with double severity. But even the respite I gained through
his inebriety, afforded me no consolation--I felt at once humbled and
indignant at the shame so brought on us. I, child as I was,
expostulated with him--I was knocked down, and kicked from the room.
Oh, what a world this appeared to me! a war of the weak with the
strong--and how I despised every thing except victory.

"Time wore on. My uncle's wife bore him in succession two girls.
This was a respite. My father's spirits rose--but fallen as he was he
could only celebrate his re-awakened hopes by deeper potations and
coarse jokes. The next offspring was a boy--he cost my father his life.
Habits of drink had inflamed his blood--and his violence of temper made
him nearly a maniac. On hearing of the birth of the heir, he drank to
drown thought; wine was too slow a medicine, he quaffed deeply of
brandy, and fell into a sleep, or rather torpor, from which he never
after awoke. It was better so--he had spent every thing--he was deeply
in debt--he had lost all power of raising himself from the state of
debasement into which he had fallen--the next day would have seen him
in prison.

"I was taken in by my uncle. At first the peace and order of the
household seemed to me paradise--the comfort and regularity of the
meals was a sort of happy and perpetual miracle. My eye was no longer
blasted by the sight of frightful excesses, nor my ear wounded by
obstreperous shouts. I was no longer reviled--I no longer feared being
felled to the ground--I was not any more obliged to obtain food by
stratagem, or by expostulations, which always ended by my being the
victim of personal violence. The mere calm was balmy, and I fancied
myself free, because I was no longer in a state of perpetual
terror.

"But soon I felt the cold and rigid atmosphere that, as far as
regarded me, ruled this calm. No eye of love ever turned on me, no
voice ever spoke a cheering word. I was there on sufferance, and was
quickly deemed a troublesome inmate; while the order and regularity
required of me, and the law passed that I was never to quit the house
alone, became at last more tormenting than the precarious, but wild and
precious liberty of my former life. My habits were bad enough; my
father's vices had fostered my evil qualities--I had never learnt to
lie or cheat, for such was foreign to my nature, but I was rough,
self-willed, lazy, and insolent. I have a feeling, such was my sense of
bliss on first entering the circle of order and peace, that a very
little kindness would have subdued my temper, and awakened a desire to
please. It was not tried. From the very first, I was treated with a
coldness to which a child is peculiarly sensitive; the servants, by
enforcing the rules of the house, became first my tormentors, and then
my enemies. I grew imperious and violent--complaint, reprehension, and
punishment, despoiled my paradise of its matin glow--and then I
returned at once to my own bad self; I was disobedient and reckless;
soon it was decreed that I was utterly intolerable, and I was sent to
school.

"This, a boy's common fate, I had endured without a murmur, had it
not been inflicted as a punishment, and I made over to my new tyrants,
even in my own hearing, as a little blackguard, quite irreclaimable,
and only to be kept in order by brute force. It is impossible to
describe the effect of this declaration of my uncle--followed up by the
master's recommendation to the usher to break my spirit, if he could
not bend it--had on my heart, which was bursting with a sense of
injury, panting for freedom, and resolved not to be daunted by the
menaces of the tyrants before me. I declared war with my whole soul
against the world; I became all I had been painted; I was sullen,
vindictive, desperate. I resolved to run away; I cared not what would
befall me--I was nearly fourteen--I was strong, and could work--I could
join a gang of gipsies, I could act their life singly, and, subsisting
by nightly depredation, spend my days in liberty.

"It was at an hour when I was meditating flight, that the master
sent for me. I believed that some punishment was in preparation. I
hesitated whether I should not instantly fly--a moment's thought told
me that that was impossible, and that I must obey. I went with a dogged
air, and a determination to resist. I found my tyrant with a letter in
his hand. 'I do not know what to do with you,' he said; 'I have a
letter here from a relation, asking you to spend the day. You deserve
no indulgence; but for this once you may go. Remember, any future
permission depends upon your turning over an entirely new leaf. Go,
sir; and be grateful to my lenity, if you can. Remember, you are to be
home at nine.' I' asked no questions--I did not know where I was to go;
yet I left him without a word. I was sauntering back to the prison
yard, which they called a play-ground, when I was told that there was a
pony-chaise at the door, ready to take me. My heart leaped at the word;
I fancied that, by means of this conveyance, I could proceed on the
first stage of my flight. The pony-carriage was of the humblest
description; an old man drove. I got in, and away we trotted, the
little cob that drew it going much faster than his looks gave warrant.
The driver was deaf--I was sullen--not a word did we exchange. My plan
was, that he should take me to the farthest point he intended, and then
that I should leap out and take to my heels. As we proceeded, however,
my rebel fit somewhat subsided. We quitted the town in which the school
was situated, and the dreary dusty roads I was accustomed to
perambulate under the superintendence of the ushers. We entered shady
lanes and umbrageous groves; we perceived extensive prospects, and saw
the winding of romantic streams; a curtain seemed drawn from before the
scenes of nature; and my spirits rose as I gazed on new objects, and
saw earth spread wide and free around. At first this only animated me
to a keener resolve to fly; but as we went on, a vague sentiment
possessed my soul. The sky-larks winged up to heaven, and the swallows
skimmed the green earth; I felt happy because nature was gay, and all
things free and at peace. We turned from a lane redolent with
honeysuckle into a little wood, whose short, thick turf was
interspersed with moss, and starred with flowers. Just as we emerged, I
saw a little railing, a rustic green gate, and a cottage clustered over
with woodbine and jessamine, standing secluded among, yet peeping out
from the overshadowing trees. A little peasant boy threw open the gate,
and we drove up to the cottage door.

"At a low window, which opened on the lawn, in a large arm-chair,
sat a lady, evidently marked by ill health, yet with something so
gentle and unearthly in her appearance as at once to attract and
please. Her complexion had faded into whiteness--her hair was nearly
silver, yet not a grisly greyish white, but silken still in its change;
her dress was also white--and there was something of a withered look
about her--redeemed by a soft, but bright grey eye, and more by the
sweetest smile in the world, which she wore, as rising from her chair,
she embraced me, exclaiming, 'I know you from your likeness to your
mother--dear, dear Rupert.'

"That name of itself touched a chord which for many years had been
mine. My mother had called me by that name; so, indeed, had my father,
when any momentary softness of feeling allowed him to give me any other
appellation except, 'You sir!' 'You dog, you!' My uncle, after whom I
was also called John, chose to drop what he called a silly, romantic
name; and in his house, and in his letters, I was always John. Rupert
breathed of a dear home, and my mother's kiss; and I looked inquiringly
oon her who gave it me, when my attention was attracted, riveted by the
vision of a lovely girl, who had glided in from another room, and stood
near us, radiant in youth and beauty. She was indeed supremely
lovely--exuberant in all the charms of girlhood--and her beauty was
enhanced by the very contrast to the pale lady by whom she stood--a
houri she seemed, standing by a disembodied spirit--black, soft, large
eyes, overpowering in their lustre, and yet more so from the soul that
dwelt within--a cherub look--a fairy form; with a complexion and shape
that spoke of health and joy. What could it mean? Who could she be? And
who was she who knew my name? It was an enigma; but one full of promise
to me, who had so long been exiled from the charities of life; and who,
'as the hart panteth for the water brooks,' panted for love.



CHAPTER X.

After a little explanation, I discovered who my new friends were.
The lady and my mother were remotely related; but they had been
educated together, and separated only when they married. My mother's
death had prevented my knowing that such a relation existed; far less
that she took the warmest interest in the son of her earliest friend.
Mrs. Rivers had been the poorer of the two, and for a long time
considered that her childhood's companion was moving in an elevated
sphere of life, while she had married a lieutenant in the navy; and
while he was away attending the duties of his profession, she lived in
retirement and economy, in the rustic, low-roofed, yet picturesque and
secluded cottage, whose leaf-shrouded casements and flowery lawn, even
now, are before me, and speak of peace. I never call to mind that abode
of tranquillity without associating it with the poet's wish:

'Mine be a cot beside the hill--
A beehive's hum shall soothe my ear;
A willowy brook, that turns a mill,
With many a fall shall linger near.'

To any one who fully understands and appreciates the peculiar
beauties of England--who knows how much elegance, content, and
knowledge can be sheltered under such a roof, these lines must ever, I
think, as to me, have a music of their own, and, unpretending as they
are, breathe the very soul of happiness. In this embowered cot, near
which a clear stream murmured--which was clustered over by a thousand
odoriferous parasites--which stood in the seclusion of a beech
wood--there dwelt something more endearing even than all this--and one
glance at the only daughter of Mrs. Rivers, served to disclose that an
angel dwelt in the paradise.

"Alithea Rivers--there is music, and smiles, and tears--a whole life
of happiness--and moments of intensest transport, in the sound. Her
beauty was radiant; her dark eastern eye, shaded by the veined and
darkly fringed lid, beamed with a soft, but penetrating fire; her face
of a perfect oval; and lips, which were wreathed into a thousand
smiles, or, softly and silently parted, seemed the home of every tender
and poetic expression which one longed to hear them breathe forth; her
brow clear as day; her swan throat, and symmetrical and fairy-like
form, disclosed a perfection of loveliness, that the youngest and least
susceptible must have felt, even if they did not acknowledge.

"She had two qualities which I have never seen equalled separately,
but which, united in her, formed a spell no one could resist--the most
acute sensitiveness to joy or grief in her own person, and the most
lively sympathy with these feelings in others. I have seen her so enter
heart and soul into the sentiments of one in whom she was interested,
that her whole being took the colour of their mood; and her very
features and complexion appeared to alter in unison with theirs. Her
temper was never ruffled; she could not be angry; she grieved too
deeply for those who did wrong: but she could be glad; and never have I
seen joy, the very sunshine of the soul, so cloudlessly expressed as in
her countenance. She could subdue the stoniest heart by a look--a word;
and were she ever wrong herself, a sincere acknowledgment, an ingenuous
shame--grief to have offended, and eagerness to make reparation, turned
her very error into a virtue. Her spirits were high, even to wildness;
but, at their height, tempered by such thought for others, such inbred
feminine softness, that her most exuberant gaiety resembled
heart-cheering music, and made each bosom respond. All, every thing
loved her; her mother idolized her; each bird of the grove knew her;
and I felt sure that the very flowers she tended were conscious of, and
rejoiced in, her presence.

"Since my birth--or at least since I had lost my mother in early
infancy, my path had been cast upon thorns and brambles--blows and
stripes, cold neglect, reprehension, and debasing slavery; to such was
I doomed. I had longed for something to love--and in the desire to
possess something whose affections were my own, I had secreted at
school a little nest of field mice on which I tended; but human being
there was none who marked me, except to revile, and my proud heart rose
in indignation against them. Mrs. Rivers had heard a sad story of my
obduracy, my indolence, my violence; she had expected to see a savage,
but my likeness to my mother won her heart at once, and the affection I
met transformed me at once into something worthy of her. I had been
told I was a reprobate till I half believed. I felt that there was war
between me and my tyrants, and I was desirous to make them suffer even
as they made me. I read in books of the charities of life--and the very
words seemed only a portion of that vast system of imposture with which
the strong oppressed the weak. I did not believe in love or beauty; or
if ever my heart opened to it--it was to view it in external nature,
and to wonder how all of perceptive and sentient in this wondrous
fabric of the universe was instinct with injury and wrong.

"Mrs. Rivers was a woman of feeling and sense. She drew me out--she
dived into the secrets of my heart; for my mother's sake she loved me,
and she saw that to implant sentiments of affection was to redeem a
character not ungenerous, and far, far from cold--whose evil passions
had been fostered as in a hot-bed, and whose better propensities were
nipped in the bud. She strove to awaken my susceptibility to kindness,
by lavishing a thousand marks of favour. She called me her son--her
friend; she taught me to look upon her regard as a possession of which
nothing could deprive me--and to consider herself and her daughter as
near and dear ties that could not be rent away. She imparted happiness,
she awoke gratitude, and made me in my innermost heart swear to deserve
her favour.

"I now entered on a new state of being, and one of which I had
formed no previous idea. I believed that the wish to please one who was
dear to me, would render every task easy; that I did wrong merely from
caprice and revenge, and that if I chose, I could with my finger stem
and direct the tide of my passions. I was astonished to find that I
could not even bend my mind to attention--and I was angry with myself,
when I felt my breast boiling with tumultuous rage, when I promised
myself to be meek, enduring and gentle. My endeavours to conquer these
evil habits were indeed arduous. I forced myself by fits and starts to
study sedulously--I yielded obedience to our school laws; I taxed
myself to bear with patience the injustice and impertinence of the
ushers, and the undisguised tyranny of the master. But I could not for
ever string myself to this pitch. Meanness and falsehood, and
injustice, again and again awoke the tiger in me. I am not going to
narrate my boyhood's wrongs; I was doomed. Sent to school with a bad
character which at first I had taken pains to deserve; and afterwards
doing right in my own way, and still holding myself aloof from all,
scorning their praise, and untouched by their censure, I gained no
approbation, and was deemed a dangerous savage--whose nails must be
kept close pared--and whose limbs were still to be fettered, lest he
should rend his keepers.

"From such a scene I turned, each Sunday morning, my willing steps
to the cottage of Mrs. Rivers. There was something fascinating to me in
the very peculiarities of her appearance. Ill health had brought
premature age upon her person--but her mind was as active and
young--her feelings as warm as ever. She could only stand for a few
minutes, and could not unassisted walk across the room--she took hardly
any nourishment, and looked as I have said more like a spirit than a
woman. Thus deprived of every outward resource, her mind acquired, from
habits of reflection and resignation, aided by judicious reading, a
penetration and delicacy quite unequalled. There was a philosophical
truth in all her remarks, adorned by a feminine tact and extreme warmth
of heart, that rendered her as admirable as she was endearing.
Sometimes she suffered great pain, but for the most part her malady,
which was connected with the spine, had only the effect ofextreme
weakness, and at the same time of rendering her sensations acute and
delicate. The odour of flowers, the balmy air of morning, the evening
breeze almost intoxicated her with delight; any dissonant sound
appeared to shatter her--peace was within and she coveted peace around;
and it was her dearest pleasure when we--I and her lovely
daughter--were at her feet, she playing with the sunny ringlets of
Alithea's hair, and I listening, with a thirst for knowledge--and
ardour to be taught; while she with eloquence mild and cheering, full
of love and wisdom, charmed our attentive ears, and caused us to hang
on all she said as on the oracles of a divinity.

"At times we left her, and Alithea and I wandered through the woods
and over the hills; our talk was inexhaustible, now canvassing some
observation of her mother, now pouring out our own youthful bright
ideas, and enjoying the breezes and the waterfalls, and every sight of
nature, with a rapture unspeakable. When we came to rugged uplands, or
some swollen brook, I carried my young companion over in my arms; I
sheltered her with my body from the storms that sometimes overtook us.
I was her protector and her stay; and the very office filled me with
pride and joy. When fatigued by our rambles, we returned home, bringing
garlands of wild-flowers for the invalid, whose wisdom we revered,
whose maternal tenderness was our joy; and yet, whose weakness made
her, in some degree, dependent on us, and gave the form of a voluntary
tribute to the attentions we delighted to pay her.

"Oh, had I never returned to school, this life had been a foretaste
of heaven! but there I returned, and there again I found rebuke,
injustice, my evil passions, and the fiends who tormented me. How my
heart revolted from the contrast! with what inconceivable struggles I
tried to subdue my hatred, to be as charitable and forgiving as Mrs.
Rivers implored me to be; but my tormentors had the art of rousing the
savage again, and despite good resolves, despite my very pride, which
urged me merely to despise, I was again violent and rebellious; again
punished, again vowing revenge, and longing to obtain it. I cannot
imagine--even the wild passions of my after life do not disclose--more
violent struggles than those I went through. I returned from my
friends, my heart stored with affectionate sentiments and good
intentions; my brow was smooth, my mind unruffled; my whole soul set
upon at once commanding myself, and proving to my tyrants that they
could not disturb the sort of heavenly calm with which I was
penetrated.

"On such a day, and feeling thus, I came back one evening from the
cottage. I was met by one of the ushers, who, in a furious voice,
demanded the key of my room, threatening me with punishment if I ever
dared lock it again. This was a sore point; my little family of mice
had their warm nest in my room, and I knew that they would be torn from
me if the animal before me penetrated into my sanctuary before I could
get in to hide them; but the fellow had learnt from the maids that I
had some pets, and was resolute to discover them. I cannot dwell on the
puerile, yet hideous, minutia of such a scene; the loud voice, the
blow, the key torn from me, the roar of malice with which my pets were
hailed, the call for the cat. My blood ran cold; some slave--among boys
even there are slaves--threw into the room the tiger animal; the usher
showed her her prey, but before she could spring, I caught her up, and
whirled her out of window. The usher gave me a blow with a stick; I was
a well-grown boy, and a match for him unarmed; he struck me on the
head, and then drew out a knife, that he might himself commence the
butcher's work on my favourites: stunned by the blow, but casting aside
all the cherished calm I had hitherto maintained, my blood boiling, my
whole frame convulsed with passion, I sprung on him. We both fell on
the ground, his knife was in hand, open; in our struggle I seized the
weapon, and the fellow got cut in the head--of course I inflicted the
wound; but had, neither before or at the time, the intention; our
struggle was furious, we were both in a state of frenzy, and an open
knife at such a moment can hardly fail to do injury; I saw the blood
pouring from his temple, and his efforts slacken. I jumped up, called
furiously for help, and when the servants and boys rushed into the
room, I made my escape. I leaped from the window, high as it was, and
alighting, almost by a miracle, unhurt on the turf below, I made my way
with all speed across the fields. Methought the guilt of murder was on
my soul, and yet I felt exultation that at last I, a boy, had brought
upon the head of my foe some of the tortures he had so often inflicted
upon me. By this desperate act, I believed that I had severed the cords
that bound me to the vilest servitude. I knew not but that houseless
want would be my reward, but I felt light as air, and free as a
bird.

"Instinctively my steps took the direction of my beloved cottage;
yet I dared not enter it. A few hours ago I had left it in a pure and
generous frame of mind. I called to mind the conversation of the
evening before, the gentle eloquence of Mrs. Rivers, inculcating those
lessons of mild forbearance and lofty self-command, which had filled me
with generous resolve; and how was I to return?--my hands dyed in
blood.

"I hid myself in the thicket near her house, sometimes I stole near
it; then, as I heard voices, I retreated further into the wild part of
the wood. Night came on at last, and that night I slept under a tree,
but at a short distance from the cottage.

"The cool morning air woke me; and I began seriously to consider my
situation; destitute of friends and money, whither should I direct my
steps? I was resolved never to return to my school. I was nearly
sixteen; I was tall and athletic in my frame, though still a mere boy
in my thoughts and pursuits; still, I told myself that, such as I, many
a stripling was cast upon the world, and that I ought to summon
courage, and to show my tyrants that I could exist independent of them.
My determination was to enlist as a soldier; I believed that I should
so distinguish myself by my valour, as speedily to become a great man.
I saw myself singled out by the generals, applauded, honoured, and
rewarded. I fancied my return, and how proudly I should present myself
before Alithea, having carved out my own fortune, and become all that
her sweet mother entreated me to be--brave, generous, and true. But
could I put my scheme in execution without seeing my young companion
again? Oh, no! my heart, my whole soul led me to her side, to demand
her sympathy, to ask her prayers, to bid her never forget me; at the
same time that I dreaded seeing her mother, for I feared her lessons of
wisdom. I felt sure, I knew not why, that she would wholly disapprove
of my design.

"I tore a leaf from my pocket-book, and, with the pencil, implored
Alithea to meet me in the wood, whence I resolved not to stir till I
should see her. But how was I to convey my paper without the knowledge
of her mother? or being seen by the servants? I hovered about all day;
it was not till nightfall that I ventured near, and, knowing well the
casement of her room, I wrapped my letter round a stone, and threw it
in. Then I retreated speedily.

"It was night again; I had not eaten for twenty-four hours; I knew
not when Alithea could come to me, but I resolved not to move from the
spot I had designated, till she came. I hunted for a few berries, and a
turnip that had fallen from a cart was as the manna of the desert. For
a short half hour it stilled the gnawings of my appetite, and then I
lay down unable to sleep. Eyeing the stars through the leafy boughs
above, thinking alternately of a prisoner deserted by his gaoler, and
starved to death, while at each moment he fancied the far step
approaching, and the key turning in the lock; and then, again, of
feasts, of a paradise of fruits, of the simple, cheerful repasts at the
cottage, which, for many a long year, I was destined never again to
partake of.

"It was midnight; the air was still, not a leaf moved; sometimes I
believed I dozed; but I had a sense of being awake, always present to
my mind; the hours seemed changed to eternity. I began suddenly to
think I was dying; I thought I never should see the morrow's sun.
Alithea would come, but her friend would not answer to her call; he
would never speak to her more. At this moment, I heard a rustling; was
there some animal about? it drew near, it was steps; a white figure
appeared between the trunks of the trees; again, I thought it was a
dream, till the dearest of all voices spoke my name, the loveliest and
kindest face in the world bent over me; my cold, clammy hand was taken
in hers, so soft and warm. I started up, I threw my arms around her, I
pressed her to my bosom. She had found my note on retiring for the
night; fearful of disobeying my injunctions of secresy, she had waited
till all was at rest, before she stole out to me; and now, with all the
thoughtfulness that characterized her, when another's wants and
sufferings were in question, she brought food with her, and a large
cloak to wrap my shivering limbs. She sat beside me as I ate, smiling
through her tears; no reproach fell from her lips, it was only joy to
see me, and expressions of kind encouragement.

"I dwell too much on these days; my tale grows long, and I must
abridge the dear recollections of those moments of innocence and
happiness. Alithea easily persuaded me to see her mother, and Mrs.
Rivers received me as a mother would a son, who has been in danger of
death, and is recovering. I saw only smiles, I heard only
congratulations. I wondered where the misery and despair which gathered
so thickly round me had flown--no vestige remained; the sun shone
unclouded on my soul.

"I asked no questions, I remained passive; I felt that something was
being done for me, but I did not inquire what. Each day I spent several
hours in study, so to reward the kindness of my indulgent friend. Each
day I listened to her gentle converse, and wandered with Alithea over
hill and dale, and poured into her ear my resolutions to become great
and good. Surely in this world there are no aspirations so noble, pure,
and godlike as those breathed by an enthusiastic boy, who dreams of
love and virtue, and who is still guarded by childlike innocence.

"Mrs. Rivers, meanwhile, was in correspondence with my uncle, and,
by a fortunate coincidence, a cadetship long sought by him was
presented at this moment, and I was removed to the East Indian military
college. Before I went, my maternal friend spoke with all the fervour
of affection of my errors, my duties, the expectation she had that I
should show myself worthy of the hopes she entertained of me. I
promised to her and to her Alithea--I vowed to become all they wished;
my bosom swelled with generous ambition and ardent gratitude; the drama
of life, methought, was unrolling before me, the scene on which I was
to act appeared resplendent in fairy and gorgeous colours; neither
vanity, nor pride, swelled me up; but a desire to prove myself worthy
of those adored beings who were all the world to me, who had saved me
from myself, to restore me to the pure and happy shelter of their
hearts. Can it be wondered that, from that day to the present hour,
they have seemed to me portions of heaven incarnate upon earth; that I
have prized the thought of them as a rich inheritance? And how did I
repay? cold wan figure of the dead! reproach me not thus with your
closed eyes, and the dank strings of your wet clinging hair. Give me
space to breathe, that I may record your vindication, and my crime.

"I was placed at the military college. Had I gone there at once, it
had been well; but first I spent a month at my uncle's, where I was
treated like a reprobate and a criminal. I tried to consider this but
as a trial of my promises and good resolution to be gentle--to turn one
cheek when the other was smitten. It is not for me to accuse others or
defend myself; but yet I think that I had imbibed so much of the
celestial virtues of my instructress, that, had I been treated with any
kindness, my heart must have warmed towards my relatives; as it was, I
left my uncle's, having made a vow never to sleep beneath his roof
again.

"I reached the military college, and here I might fairly begin a new
career. I exerted myself to study--to obey--to conciliate. The applause
that followed my endeavours gave me a little pleasure; but when I wrote
to Alithea and her mother, and felt no weight on my conscience, no
drawback to my hope, that I was rendering myself worthy of them, then
indeed my felicity was without alloy; and when my fiery temper kindled,
when injustice and meanness caused my blood to boil, I thought of the
mild appealing look of Mrs. Rivers, and the dearer smiles of her
daughter, and I suppressed every outward sign of anger and scorn.

"For two whole years I did not see these dear, dear friends, while I
lived upon the thought of them--alas! when have I ceased to do that?--I
wrote constantly and received letters. Those dictated by Mrs.
Rivers--traced by her sweet daughter's hand--were full of all that
generous benevolence, and enlightened sensibility, which rendered her
the very being to instruct and rule me; while the playful phrases of
Alithea--her mention of the spots we had visited together, and history
of all the slight events of her innocent life, breathed so truly of the
abode of peace from which they emanated, that they carried the charm of
a soft repose even to my restless spirit. A year passed, and then
tidings of misery came. Mrs. Rivers was dying. Alithea wrote in
despair--she was alone--her father distant. She implored my
assistance--my presence. I did not hesitate. Her appeal came during the
period that preceded an examination; I believed that it would be
useless to ask leave to absent myself, and I resolved at once to go
without permission. I wrote a letter to the master, mentioning that the
sickness of a friend forced me to this step; and then, almost moneyless
and on foot, I set out to cross the country. I do not record
trivialties--I will not mention the physical sufferings of that
journey, they were so much less than the agony of suspense I suffered,
the fear that I should not find my maternal friend alive. Life burnt
low indeed--when I, at last, stepped within the threshold of her sick
chamber; yet she smiled when she saw me, and tried to hold out her
hand--one already clasped that of Alithea. For hours we thus watched
her, exchanging looks, not speech. Alithea, naturally impetuous, and
even vehement, now controlled all sign of grief, except the expression
of woe, that took all colour from her face, and clouded her brow with
anguish. She knelt beside her mother--her lips glued to her hand, as if
to the last to feel her pulse of life, and assure herself that she
still existed. The room was darkened; a broken ray tinged the head of
the mourner, while her mother lay in shadow--a shadow that seemed to
deepen as the hue of death crept over her face, now and then she opened
her eyes--now and then murmured inarticuately, and then she seemed to
sleep. We neither moved--sometimes Alithea raised her head and looked
on her mother's countenance, and then seeing the change already
operated, it drooped over the wan hand she held. Suddenly there was a
slight sound--a slight convulsion in the fingers. I saw a shade darken
over the face--something seemed to pass over, and then away--and all
was marble still--and the lips, wreathed into a smile, became fixed and
breathless. Alithea started up, uttered a shriek, and threw herself on
her mother's body--such name I give--the blameless soul was gone for
ever.

"It was my task to console the miserable daughter; and such was the
angelic softness of Alithea's disposition, that when the first burst of
grief was over, she yielded to be consoled. There was no hardness in
her regrets. She collected every relic, surrounded herself with every
object, that might keep alive the memory of her parent. She talked of
her continually; and together we spoke of her virtues--her wisdom, her
ardent affection--and felt a thrilling, trembling pleasure in recalling
every act and word that most displayed her excellence. As we were thus
employed, I could contemplate and remark the change the interval of my
absence had operated in the beautiful girl--she had sprung into
womanhood, her figure was surrounded by a thousand graces; a tender
charm was diffused over each lineament and motion that intoxicated me
with delight. Before I loved--now I revered her--her mother's angelic
essence seemed united to hers, forming two in one. The sentiments these
beings had divided, were now concentrated in her; and added to this, a
breathless adoration, a heart's devotion--which still even now dwells
beside her grave, and hallows every memory that remains.

"The cold tomb held the gentle form of Mrs. Rivers: each day we
visited it, and each day we collected fresh memorials, and exhausted
ourselves in talk concerning the lost one. Immediately on my arrival I
had written to my uncle, and the cause of my rash act pleading my
excuse, it was visited less severely than I expected; I was told that
it was well that I displayed affection and gratitude towards a too
indulgent friend, though my depravity betrayed itself in the manner
even in which I fulfilled a duty. I was bid at once return to the
college--after a fortnight had passed I obeyed; and now I lived on
Alithea's letters, which breathed only her eloquent regrets--already my
own dream of life was formed to be for ever her protector, her friend,
her servant, her all that she could deign to make me; to devote myself
day after day, year after year, through all my life to her only. While
with her, oppressed by grief as we both were, I did not understand my
own sensations, and the burning of my heart, which opened as a volcano
when I heard her only speak my name, or felt the touch of her soft
hand. But, returned to college, a veil fell from my eyes. I knew that I
loved her, I hailed the discovery with transport; I hugged to my bosom
the idea that she was the first and last being to awaken the tumultuous
sensations that took away my breath, dimmed my eyes, and dissolved me
into tenderness.

"Soon after her mother's death she was placed as a parlour boarder
at a school--I saw her once there, but I did not see her alone--I could
not speak, I could only gaze on her unexampled loveliness; nor, strange
to say, did I wish to disclose the passion that agitated me; she was so
young, so confiding, so innocent, I wished to be but as a brother to
her, for I had a sort of restless presentiment, that distance and
reserve would ensue on my disclosing my other feeling. In fact, I was a
mere boy; I knew myself to be a friendless one, and I desired time and
consideration, and the fortunate moment to occur, before I exchanged
our present guileless, but warm and tender attachment, for the hopes
and throes of a passion which demands a future, and is therefore full
of peril. True, when I left her I reproached myself for my cowardice;
but I would not write, and deferred, till I saw her, all explanation of
my feelings.

"Some months after, the time arrived when I was to embark for India.
Captain Rivers had returned, and inhabited the beloved cottage, and
Alithea dwelt with him; I went to see her previous to my departure. My
soul was in tumults; I desired to take her with me; but that was
impossible, and yet to leave her thus, and go into a far and long exile
away from her, was too frightful; I could not believe that I could
exist without the near hope and expectation of seeing her, without that
constant mingling of hearts which made her life-blood but as a portion
of my own. My resolution was easily made to claim her as mine, my
betrothed, my future bride; and I had a vague notion that, if I were
accepted, Captain Rivers would form some plan to prevent my going to
India, or to bring me back speedily. I arrived at the cottage, and the
first sight of her father was painful to me--he was rough and uncouth;
and though proud of his daughter, yet treated her with little of that
deference to which she had a right even from him--the more reason, I
thought, to make her mine; and that very evening I expressed my desire
to Captain Rivers: a horse-laugh was the reply--he treated me partly as
a mad boy, partly as an impertinent beggar. My passions were roused, my
indignation burst all the fetters I sought to throw over it--I answered
haughtily--insolently--our words were loud and rude; I laughed at his
menaces, and scoffed at his authority. I retorted scorn with scorn,
till the fiery old sailor was provoked to knock me down. In all this I
thought not of him in the sacred character of Alithea's father--I knew
but one parent for her, she had as it were joined us by making us
companions, and friends--both children of her heart; she was gone, and
the rude tyrant who usurped her place excited only detestation and
loathing, from the insolence of his pretensions. Still, when he struck
me, his age, and his infirmities--for he was lame--prevented my
returning the blow. I rose, and folding my arms, and looking at him
with a smile of ineffable contempt, I said, "Poor miserable man! do you
think to degrade me by a blow? but for pity, I could return it so that
you would never lift up your head again from that floor--I spare
you--farewell. You have taught me one lesson--I will die rather than
leave Alithea in the hands of a ruffian, such as you." With these words
I turned on my heel, and walked out of the house.

"I repaired to a neighbouring public-house, and wrote to Alithea,
asking, demanding an interview; I claimed it in her mother's name. Her
answer came, it was wetted with her tears--dear gentle being!--so alien
was her nature from all strife, that the very idea of contention shook
her delicate frame, and seemed almost to unhinge her reason. She
respected her father, and she loved me with an affection nourished by
long companionship, and sacred associations. She promised to meet me,
if I would abstain from again seeing her father.

"In the same wood, and at the same midnight hour, as when before she
came to bring assistance and consolation to the outcast boy three years
before, I saw her again; and for the last time, before I quitted
England. Alithea had one fault, if such name may be given to a delicacy
of structure that rendered every clash of human passion, terrifying. In
physical danger, she could show herself a heroine; but awaken her
terror of moral evil, and she was hurried away beyond all self-command
by spasms of fear. Thus, as she came now clandestinely, under the cover
of night, her father's denunciations still sounding in her ears--the
friend of her youth banished--going away for ever; and that departure
disturbed by strife, her reason almost forsook her--she was
bewildered--clinging to me with tears--yet fearful at every minute of
discovery. It was a parting of anguish. She did not feel the passion
that ruled my bosom. Hers was a gentler, sisterly feeling; yet not the
less entwined with the principles of her being, and necessary to her
existence. She lavished caresses and words of endearment on me: she
could not tear herself away; yet she rejected firmly every idea of
disobedience to her father; and the burning expressions of my love
found no echo in her bosom.

"Thus we parted; and a few days afterwards I was on the wide sea,
sailing for my distant bourn. At first I had felt disappointed and
angry; but soon imagination shed radiance over what had seemed chilly
and dim. I felt her dear head repose on my heart; I saw her bright eyes
overbrimming with tears; and heard her sweet voice repeat again and
again her vow never to forget her brother, her more than brother, her
only friend; the only being left her to love. No wonder that, during
the various changes of a long voyage--during reveries indulged
endlessly through calm nights, and the mightier emotions awakened by
storm and danger, that the memory of this affection grew into a
conviction that I was loved, and a belief that she was mine
forever.

"I am not writing my life; and, but for the wish to appear less
criminal in my dear child's eyes, I had not written a word of the
foregone pages, but leaped at once to the mere facts that justify poor
Alithea, and tell the tragic story of her death. Years have past, and
oblivion has swept away all memory of the events of which I speak. Who
recollects the wise, white lady of the secluded cot, and her houri
daughter? This heart alone, there they live enshrined. My dreams call
up their forms. I visit them in my solitary reveries. I try to forget
the ensuing years, and to become the heedless, half-savage boy, who
listened with wonder, yet conviction, to lessons of virtue; and to call
back the melting of the heart which the wise lady's words produced, and
the bounding, wild joy I felt beside her child. If there is a hell, it
need no other torment but memory to call back such scenes as these, and
bid me remember the destruction that ensued.

"I remained ten years in India, an officer in a regiment of the
Company's cavalry. I saw a good deal of service; went through much
suffering; and doing my duty on the field of battle, or at the hour of
attack, I gained that approbation in the field, which I lost when in
quarters by a sort of systematized insubordination, which was a part of
my untameable nature. In action even, I went beyond my orders--however
that was forgiven; but when in quarters, I took part with the weak, and
showed contempt for the powerful. I was looked upon as dangerous; and
the more so, that the violence of my temper often made my manner in a
high degree reprehensible. I attached myself to several natives; that
was a misdemeanor. I strove to inculcate European tastes and spirit,
enlightened views, and liberal policy, to one or two native princes,
whom, from some ill-luck, the English governors wished to keep in
ignorance and darkness. I was for ever entangled in the intimacy, and
driven to try to serve the oppressed; while the affection I excited was
considered disaffection on my part to the rulers. Sometimes also I met
with ingratitude and treachery; my actions were misrepresented, either
by prejudice or malice; and my situation, of a subordinate officer,
without fortune, gave to the influence I acquired, through learning the
language and respecting the habits and feelings of the natives, an air
of something so inexplicable, as might, in the dark ages, have been
attributed to witchcraft, and in these enlightened times was considered
a tendency to the most dangerous intrigues. Having saved an old rajah's
life, and having taken great pains to extricate him from a difficulty
in which the Europeans had purposely entangled him, it became rumoured
that I aspired to succeed to a native principality, and I was
peremptorily ordered off to another station. My views were in
diametrical opposition to the then Indian government. My conversation
was heedless--my youthful imagination exalted by native magnificence; I
own I often dreamt of the practicability of driving the merchant
sovereigns from Hindostan. There was, as is the essence of my
character, much boyish folly joined to dangerous passion; all of which
took the guise in my own heart of that high heroic adventure with which
I longed to adorn my life. A subaltern in the Company's service, I
could never gain my Alithea, or do her the honour with which I longed
to crown her. The acquisition of power, of influence, of station, would
exalt me in her father's eyes--so much of what was selfish mingled in
my conduct--but I was too young and impetuous to succeed. Those in
power watched me narrowly. The elevation of a day was always followed
by a quick transfer to an unknown and distant province.

"In all my wildest schemes the thought of Alithea reigned paramount.
My only object was to prove myself worthy of her; and my only dream for
the future was to make her mine for ever.

"A constancy of ten years, strung perpetually up to the height of
passion, may appear improbable; yet it was so. It was my nature to hold
an object with tenacious grasp--to show a proud contempt of
obstacles--to resolve on ultimate triumph. Besides this, the idea of
Alithea was so kneaded up and incorporate with my being, that my living
heart must have been searched and anatomized to its core, before the
portion belonging to her could have been divided from the rest. I
disdained the thought of every other woman. It was my pride to look
coldly on every charm, and to shut my heart against all but Alithea.
During the first years of my residence in India, I often wrote to her,
and pouring out my soul on paper, I conjured her to preserve herself
for me. I told her how each solitary jungle or mountain ravine spoke to
me of a secluded home with her; how every palace and gorgeous hall
seemed yet a shrine too humble for her. The very soul of passion
breathed along the lines I traced--they were such as an affianced lover
would have written, pure in their tenderness; but heart-felt,
penetrating, and eloquent; they were my dearest comfort. After long,
wearisome marches--after the dangers of an assault or a skirmish--after
a day spent among the sick or dying--in the midst of many
disappointments and harassing cares; during the storms of pride and the
languor of despair, it was my consolation to fly to her image and to
recall the tender happiness of reunion--to endeavour to convey to her
how she was my hope and aim--my fountain in the desert, the shadowy
tree to shelter me from the burning sun--the soft breeze to refresh
me--the angelic visitor to the unfortunate martyr. Not one of these
letters ever reached her--her father destroyed them all: on his head be
the crime and the remorse of his daughter's death! Fool and coward!
would I shift to other shoulders the heavy weight? No! no! crime and
remorse still link me to her. Let them eat into my frame with fiery
torture; they are better than forgetfulness!

"I had two hopes in India: one was, to raise myself to such a
station as would render me worthy of Alithea in the eyes of Captain
Rivers; the other, to return to England--to find change there--to find
love in her heart--and to move her to quit all for me. By turns these
two dreams reigned over me; I indulged in them with complacency--I
returned to them with ardour--I nourished them with perseverance. I
never saw a young Indian mother with her infant but my soul dissolved
in tender fancies of domestic union and bliss with Alithea. There was
something in her soft, dark eye, and in the turn of her countenance,
purely eastern; and many a lovely, half-veiled face I could have taken
for hers; many a slight, symmetrical figure, round, elegant and
delicate, seemed her own, as, with elastic undulating motion, they
passed on their way to temple or feast. I cultivated all these fancies;
they nourished my fidelity, and made the thought of her the absolute
law of my life.

"Ten years passed, and then news came that altered my whole
situation. My uncle and his only son died; the family estate devolved
on me. I was rich and free. Rich in my own eyes, and in the eyes of all
to whom competency is wealth. I felt sure that, with this inheritance,
Captain Rivers would not disdain me for his child. I gave up my
commission immediately, and returned to England.

"England and Alithea! How balmy, how ineffably sweet was the idea of
once more beholding the rural spot where she resided; of treading the
woodland paths with her--of visiting her dear mother's grave--of
renewing our old associations, and knitting our destinies inextricably
in one. It was a voyage of bliss. I longed for its conclusion; but
feeling that a pathway was stretched across the ocean, leading even
into her very presence, I blessed each wave or tract of azure sea we
passed over. The limitless Atlantic was my road to her, and became
glorified as the vision of the Hebrew shepherd boy; and yet loved, with
the same home-felt sweetness as that with which I used to regard the
lime-tree walk that led to her garden-gate. I forgot the years that had
elapsed since we met; it was with difficulty that I forced my
imagination to remember that I should not find her pale mother beside
her to sanctify our union.



CHAPTER XI.

"On landing in England, I at once set off to the far northern county
where she resided. I arrived at the well-known village; all looked the
same; I recognized the cottages and their flower-gardens, and even some
of the elder inhabitants, looking, methought, no older than when I left
them. My heart hailed my return home with rapture, and I quickened my
steps towards the cottage. It was shut up and abandoned. This was the
first check my sanguine spirit had met. Hitherto I had not pronounced
her name nor asked a question--I longed to return, as from a walk, and
to find all things as I had left it. Living in a dream, I had not
considered the chances and the storms, or even the mere changes, of the
seasons of life.

"My pen lags in its task--I dilate on things best hurried over, yet
they serve as a screen between me and fate. A few inquiries revealed
the truth. Captain Rivers was dead--his daughter married. I had lived
in a fool's paradise. None of the obstacles existed that I expected to
meet and conquer but in their stead a fourfold brazen door had risen,
locked, barred and guarded, and I could not even shake a hinge, or put
back a bolt.

"I hurried from the fatal spot; it became a hell to me. And oh, to
think that I had lived in vain--vainly dreamt of the angel of my
idolatry, vainly hoped--and most vainly loved; called her mine when
another held her, sold myself to perpetual slavery to her shadow, while
her living image enriched the shrine of another's home! The tempest
that shook my soul did not permit me to give form, or indeed to dwell
consecutively on such desolating thoughts. As a man who arrives from a
pleasant journey, and turns the corner where he expects to view the
dwelling in which repose his wife, his children--all dear to him--and
when he gains the desired spot, beholds it smouldering in ashes, and is
told that all are consumed, and that their bones lie beneath the ruins;
thus was I--my imagination had created home, and bride, and fair beings
sprung from her side, who called me father, and one word defaced my
whole future life and widowed me for ever.

"Now began that chain of incidents that led to a deed I had not thought
of. Incidents or accidents; acts, done I know not why; nothing in
themselves; but meeting, and kindled by the fiery spirit that raged in
my bosom, they gave such direction to its ruinous powers, as produced
the tragedy for ever to be deplored.

"Bewildered and overwhelmed by the loss which to me had all the
novelty and keenness of a disaster of yesterday, though I found that
many years had gone by, since, in reality, it was completed, I fled
from the spot I had so fondly sought, and hurried up to London on no
fixed errand, with no determined idea, yet vaguely desiring to do
something. Scarcely arrived, I met a man whom I had known in India. He
asked me to dine with him, and I complied; because to refuse would have
required explanation, and the affirmative was more easily given. I did
not mean to keep my engagement; yet when the hour came, so intolerable
had I become to myself--so poignant and loathsome were my
thoughts--that I went, so to lose for a few moments the present sense
of ill. It was a bachelor's dinner, and there were in addition to
myself three or four other guests--among them a Mr. Neville. From the
moment this man opened his lips to speak, I took a violent dislike to
him. He was, and always must have been, the man whom among ten thousand
I should have marked out to abhor. He was cold, proud, and sarcastic,
withal a decayed dandy, turned cynic--who, half despising himself,
tried wholly to disdain his fellow creatures. A man whose bosom never
glowed with a generous emotion, and who took pride in the sagacity
which enabled him to detect worms and corruption in the loveliness of
virtue. A poor, mean-spirited fellow, despite his haughty outside; and
then when he spoke of women, how base a thing he seemed! his disbelief
in their excellence, his contemptuous pity, his insulting love, made my
blood boil. To me there was something sacred in a woman's very shadow.
Was she evil, I regarded her with the pious regret with which I might
view a shrine desecrated by sacrilegious hands--the odour of sanctity
still floated around the rifled altar; I never could regard them as
mere fellow-creatures--they were beings of a better species, sometimes
gone astray in the world's wilderness, but always elevated above the
best among us. For Alithea's sake I respected every woman. How much
good I knew of them! Generous, devoted, delicate--their very faults
were but misdirected virtues; and this animal dared revile beings of
whose very nature he could form no conception. A burthen was lifted
from my soul when he left us.

"'It is strange,' said our host, 'that Neville should indulge in
this kind of talk; he is married to the most beautiful, and the best
woman in the world. Much younger than himself, she yet performs her
duties as a wife with steadiness and cheerfulness; lovely beyond her
sex, she is without its weakness; to please some jealous freak of his,
she has withdrawn herself from the world, and buried herself alive at
his seat in the North. How she can endure an eternal tte--tte
with that empty, conceited, and arrogant husband of hers is beyond
any guessing.'

"I made some observation expressive of my abhorrence of Mr.
Neville's character, and my friend continued--'Disagreeable and shallow
as he is, one would have thought that the society of so superior, so
perfect a woman, would have reconciled him to her sex, but I verily
believe he is jealous of her surpassing excellence; and that it is not
so much a natural, and I might almost call it generous, fear of losing
her affections, as a dislike of seeing her admired, and knowing that
she is preferred to him, especially now that he absolutely looks an old
fellow. Poor Alithea Rivers--hers is a hard fate!'

"I had a glass of wine in my hand; my convulsive grasp shivered the
brittle thing, but I gave no other outward sign; before, I was
miserable, I had lost all that made life dear; but to know that she was
lost to herself, bound for life to a human brute, curdled my heart's
blood, and spread an unnatural chilliness through my frame.

"What a sacrifice was there! a sacrifice of how much more than life,
of the heart's sweetest feelings, when a spirit, sent to gladden the
world, and cast one drop of celestial nectar into the bitterness of
existence, was made garbage for that detested animal; from that moment,
from the moment I felt assured that I had seen Alithea's husband,
something departed from the world, such as I had once known it, never
to return again. A sense of acquiescence in the decrees of Providence,
of confidence in the benevolence and beauty of the universe, of pride,
despite all my misfortunes, in being man, of pleasure in the loveliness
of nature, all departed! I had lost her--that was nothing; it was my
disaster, but did not injure the order and grace of the creation; she
was, I fondly trusted, married to a better man than I; but, bound to
that grovelling and loathsome type of the world's worst qualities, the
devil usurped at once the throne of God, and life became a hell.

"'You are miserable, Alithea! you must be miserable! For you there
is no sympathy, no mingling of hearts, no generous confidence in
another's esteem and kindness, no indulgence in golden imaginations of
the beauty of life. You are tied to a foul, corrupting corpse. You are
cut off from the dear associations of the social hearth, from the
dignified sense of having exchanged virgin purity for a sweeter and
more valuable possession in another's heart; coldly and listlessly you
look on the day which brings no hope to you, if, indeed, you do not
rave and blaspheme in your despair. Oh! with me, the brother of your
soul, your servant, lover, untiring friend, how differently had your
lot been cast!'

"I rushed from my friend's house; I entered no roof that night; my
passions were awake, my fierce, volcanic passions! Had I encountered
Neville, I had assuredly murdered him; my soul was chaos, yet a
tempestuous ray gave a dark light amidst the storm; a glimmering, yet
permanent irradiation mantled over the ruins among which I stood. I
said to myself, 'I am mad, driven to desperation;' but, beneath this
outward garb of my thought, I knew and recognized an interior form. I
knew what I desired, what I intended, and what, though I tried to cheat
myself into the belief that I wavered, I henceforth steadily pursued.
There is, perhaps, no more dangerous mood of mind than when we doggedly
pursue means, recklessly uncertain of their end.

"Thus was I led to the fatal hour; a life of love, and a sudden
bereavement, with such a thing the instrument of my ruin! A contempt
for the order of the universe, a stern demoniacal braving of fate,
because I would rule, and put that right which God had let go wrong.
Oh, let me not again blaspheme. God made the stars, and the green
earth, within whose bosom Alithea lies. She also is his, and I will
believe, despite the hellish interference that tainted and deflowered
her earthly life, that now she is with the source of all good, reaping
the reward of her virtues, the compensation for her suffering. Else,
why are we created? To crawl forth, to suffer and die? I cannot believe
it. Spirit of the blest, omnipotence did not form perfection to shatter
and dissipate the elements like broken glass! But I rave and wander;
Alithea still lives and suffers at the time of which I write, and I,
erecting myself into a providence, resolved to put that right which was
wrong, and cure the world's misrule. From that moment I never paused or
looked back; I set my soul upon the cast, and I am here. And Alithea!
her mysterious grave you shall now approach.

"Bent upon a dangerous purpose, fate led before me an instrument,
without which I should have found it difficult to execute my plan. I
got a letter from a man in great distress, asking for some small help;
he was on the point of quitting England for America, and working his
passage; slight assistance would be of inestimable benefit in
furthering his plans. The petitioner followed his petition quickly, and
was ushered in before me. I scrutinized his shrewd, yet down-looking
countenance; I scanned his supple, yet uncertain carriage; I felt that
he was a coward, yet knew he would tamper with roguery, in all safety,
for a due reward. I had known the fellow in India; James Osborne was
his name; he dabbled in various disreputable money transactions, both
with natives and Englishmen, and at last, having excited the suspicion
of government, got thrown into prison. He had then written to me, who
was considered a sort of refuge for the destitute, and I went to see
him. There was no great harm in the man; on the contrary, he was
soft-hearted and humane; the infection of dishonesty, caught in bad
company, and fostered in poverty, was his ruin; and he joined to this a
strong desire to be respectable, if he could only contrive to subsist
without double-dealing. I thought, that by extricating him from his
embarrassments, and removing him from temptation, I might save him from
ignominy; so I paid his passage to England; where he told me that he
had friends and resources. But his old habits pursued him, and even
now, though poverty was the alleged motive for his emigration, I saw
that there was secret fear of legal pursuit for dishonest practices; he
had been inveigled, he said, to lend his name to a transaction which
turned out a knavish one. With all this, Osborne was not a villain, and
scarcely a rogue; there was truth in what he said; he had always an
aspiration for a better place in society, but he saw no way of
attaining it except by money, and no way of gaining money except by
cheating.

"I listened to his story. 'You are an incorrigible fellow,' said I.
'How can I give ear to your promises? Still I am willing to assist you.
I am myself going to America; you shall accompany me.' By degrees I
afterwards explained the service I needed; yet I only half disclosed
the truth. Osborne never knew the name or position of the lady who was
to be my companion across the Atlantic. A man's notions of the conduct
of others are always coloured by his own ruling passion. Osborne
thought I was intent on carrying off an heiress.

"With this ally I proceeded to Cumberland--my mind more intent on
the result of my schemes than their intermediate detail. I learned
before I went that Mr. Neville was still in town. This was a golden
opportunity, and I hastened to use it. I reached the spot that Alithea
inhabited--I entered the outer gate of the demesne--I rode up to the
avenue that led to the house--I was ushered into the room where I knew
that I should find her. I summoned every power to calm the throbbing of
my heart. I expected to find her changed; but when I saw her, I
discovered no alteration. It was strange that so much of girlish
appearance should remain. Her figure was light and airy; her rich
clustering ringlets abundant as before; her face--it was Alithea! All
herself! That soft, loving eye--that clear brow--those music-breathing
lips--time had not harmed her--it was herself.

"She did not at once recognize me; the beardless stripling was
become a weather-beaten, thought-worn man: but when I told her who I
was--the name so long forgotten--never heard since last she spoke it,
'Rupert!' burst from her lips--it united our severed lives; and her
look of rapture, her accent all breathless with joy, told me that her
heart was still the same--ardent, affectionate, and true.

"We sat together, hand linked in hand, looking at each other with
undisguised delight. At first, with satanic cunning, I assumed the
brother's part. I questioned her concerning her fate--her feelings; and
seeing that she was averse to confess the truth of her disappointed,
joyless married state, I led her back to past days. I spoke of her dear
mother. I said that often had the image of that pale, wise spirit
checked, guided, and whispered sage lessons to me in my banishment. I
recalled a thousand scenes of our childhood, when we wandered
together--hand in hand--heart linked to heart--confiding every
pain--avowing every wild or rebellious thought, or discussing the
mighty secrets of nature and of fate, which to our young hearts were
full of awe and mystery, and yet of beauty and joy. As I spoke, I
examined her more narrowly. At first she had appeared to me the same;
now I marked a difference. Her mouth, the home of smiles, had ever its
sweet, benignant expression; but her eyes, there was a heaviness in the
lids, a liquid melancholy in their gaze, which said that they were
acquainted with tears; her cheeks, once round, peachlike, and downy,
were not fallen, yet they had lost their rich fulness. She was more
beautiful; there was more reflection, more sentiment in her face; but
there was far, far less happiness. Before, smiles sprung up wherever
she turned to gaze; now, an interest akin to pity and tears made the
spectator's heart ache as he watched the turns of a countenance which
was the faithful mirror of the truest heart that ever beat. Worse than
this, there ever and anon shot across her face a look that seemed like
fear. Oh, how unlike the trusting, dreadless Alithea!

"My talk of other days at first soothed, then excited, and threw her
off her guard. By degrees I approached the object of all my talk, and
drew her to speak of her father, and the motives that induced her
marriage. My knowledge and vivid recollections of all that belonged to
her, made her unawares speak, as she had not done since we parted, the
undisguised truth; and before she knew what she had said, I had led her
to confess that she had never loved her husband; that she found no
sympathy, and little kindness in him; that her life had been one of
endurance of faults alien to her own temperament. Had I been more
cautious, I had allowed this to pass off at first, and won her entire
confidence before I laid bare my own thoughts; for all she said had
never before been breathed into any living ear but mine. It was her
principle to submit, and to hide her sense of her husband's defective
disposition; and had I not, with a serpent's subtlety, glided on
imperceptibly; had I not brought forward her mother's name, and the
memory of childhood's cloudless years, she had been mute with me. But
now I could contain myself no longer. I told her that I had seen the
miserable being to whom she was linked. I uttered curses on the fate
that had joined them together. She laid her hand on my arm, and looking
in my face with confiding innocence, 'Hush, Rupert,' she said, 'you
make me mean more than I would willingly have you think. He is not
unkind; I have no right to complain; it is not in every man that we can
find a brother's or a friend's heart. Neville does not understand these
things; but he is my husband; as such I honour him.'

"I saw the internal feeling that led her to speak thus; I saw the
delicate forbearance that filled her noble mind. She thought of her
virgin faith plighted--long years spent at his side--her children--her
fidelity, which, if it had ceased to cling to him, had never wandered,
even in thought, to another; duties exemplarily fulfilled--earnest
strivings to forget his worthlessness. All this honour for her own pure
nature, she cheated herself into believing was honour paid to him. I
resolved to tear the veil which her gentleness and sense of right had
drawn before the truth, and I exclaimed, impetuously, 'Wrong yourself
not so much! dear girl; do not fancy that your high soul can really bow
down to baseness. You pay reverence to your own sense of duty; but you
hate--you must hate that man.'

"She started, and her face and neck became dyed in blushes,
proceeding half from anger at being urged beyond her wish, half from
native modesty at hearing her husband thus spoken of. As for myself, I
grew mad as I looked on her, and felt the sweet, transporting
influences that gathered round; here indeed was the creature whom I had
loved through so many years, who was mine in my dreams, whose faith and
true affection I fancied I held for ever; and she was torn from me,
given away, not to one who, like me, knew and felt her matchless
excellence, but to a base-minded thing, from whom she must shrink as
from an animal of another species. All that her soul contained of
elevated thought and celestial aspirations, all of generous, high, and
heroic, that warmed her heart, what were they before a blind, creeping
worm, who held a matchless jewel in his hand, and deemed it dross? He
even could not understand, or share the more sober affections--mutual
trust and mutual forbearance; the utterance of love, the caresses of
tenderness, what were these to a wretch who saw baseness and deceit in
the most lofty and pure feelings of a woman's heart?

"I expressed these thoughts, or rather, they burst from me. She
interrupted me. 'I do not deny,' she said, 'for I know not how you have
cheated me of my secret, but that repinings have at times entered my
mind; and I have shed foolish tears, to think that the dreams of my
girlhood were as a bright morning, quickly followed by a dim, cloudy
day. But I have reproved myself for this discontent, and you do very
wrong to revive it; the heart will rebel, but religion, and philosophy,
and the very tears I shed, soothe its ruffled mood, and make me
remember that we do not live to be happy, but to perform our duties; to
fulfil mine is the aim of my life; teach me how to do that more
completely, more entirely to resign myself, and you will be my
benefactor. It is true that my husband does not understand the childish
overflowings of my heart, which is too ready to seek its joys among the
clouds; he does not dwell with rapture on the thoughts and sentiments
which give me so much life and happiness--his is a stronger, and
sterner nature; a slower one also, I acknowledge, one less ready to
sympathize and feel. But if I have in my intercourse with him regretted
that lively, cheering interchange of sentiment which I enjoyed with
you--you are now here to bestow it, and my life, hitherto defective,
your return may render complete.'

"I laughed bitterly. 'Poor innocent bird,' I cried; 'think you at
once to be free, and in a cage? at once to feel the fowler's grasp, and
fly away to heaven? Alithea, you miserably deceive yourself; hitherto
you have but half guessed the secrets of a base grovelling spirit--have
you never seen your husband jealous?'

"She shuddered--and I saw a spasm of exquisite pain cloud her
features as she averted her head from me, and the look of trembling
fear I had before remarked, crept over her. I was shocked to see so
much of the slave had entered her soul. I told her this; I told her she
was being degraded by the very duties which she was devoting herself,
body and soul, to perform; I told her that she must be free; she looked
wonderingly, but I continued. 'Is not the very name of liberty dear and
exhilarating, does it not draw you irresistibly onwards, is not the
very thought of casting your heavy chains from off you, full of new and
inexpressible joy? Poor prisoner, do you not yearn to breathe without a
fear; would you not with transport escape from your jailor to a home of
love and freedom?'

"Hitherto she had fancied that I but regretted her sorrows as she
did, and repined as she did over a fate whose real misery she alone
could entirely feel; she repented having spoken so openly--yet she
loved me for my unfeigned sympathy; but now she saw that something more
was meant, she looked earnestly at me, as if to read my heart; she saw
its wishes in my eyes, and shrunk from them as from a snake, as she
exclaimed, 'Never, dear Rupert, speak thus to me again, or we must
again part--I have a son.'

"The radiance of angelic love lighted up her face as she uttered
these words; and then, my error and weakness being her strength, she
resumed the self-possession she had lost during our previous
conversation; with bewitching grace she held out her hand to me, and in
a voice modulated by the soul of persuasion, said, 'Let us be friends,
Rupert, such as we once were, brother and sister; I will not believe
that you are returned only to pain and injure me--I am happy in my
children--stay but a little, and you will see how foolish I have been
to complain at all. You also will love my boy.'

"Would you not think that these words had sufficed to cure my
madness, and banish every guilty project? Had you seen her, her
inimitable grace of attitude, the blushing, tender expression of her
face, and her modest earnest manner, a manner which spoke the maternal
nature, such as Catholics imagine it, without a tincture of the wife, a
girlish, yet enthusiastic rapture at the very thought of her child, you
would have known that every scheme I meditated was riveted faster,
every desire to make her my own for ever, more fixed and eager. I went
on to urge her, till I saw every feature given token of distress; and
at last she suddenly left me, as if unable any longer to bear my
pertinacity. She left me without a word, but I saw her face bathed in
tears. I was indeed insane. These tears, which sprung from anguish of
soul to think that her childhood's companion should thus show himself
an injurer instead of a friend, I interpreted into signs of
relenting--into a struggle with her heart.



CHAPTER XII.

"I called again the following morning, but she was denied to me;
twice this happened. She feared me, I believed; and still more
franticly I was driven to continue my persecutions. I wrote to her; she
did not answer my letters. I entered the grounds of her house
clandestinely; I lay in wait for her; I resolved to see her again. At
length, one afternoon I found her alone, walking and musing in the more
solitary part of the park; I stood suddenly before her, and her first
emotion was pleasure, so true was she to her affections, so constant to
her hope that at last I should be persuaded not to pain her by a
renewal of my former conversation. But I believed that I had a hold on
her that I would not forego. When she offered to renew our childhood's
compact of friendship, I asked her how that could be if she refused me
her confidence; I asked how she could promise me happiness, whose every
hope was blighted. I told her that it was my firm conviction that her
mother had intended us for one another, that she had brought her up for
me, given her to me, and that thus she was indeed mine. Her eyes
flashed fire at this. 'My mother,' she said, 'brought me up for a
higher purpose than even conducing to your happiness. She brought me up
to fulfil my duties, to be a mother in my turn. I do not deny,' she
continued, 'that I share in some sort my mother's fate, and am more
maternal than wife-like; and as I fondly wish to resemble her in all
her virtues, I will not repine at the circumstances that lead me rather
to devote my existence to my children, than to be that most blessed
creature, a happy wife--I do not ask for that happiness, I am contented
with my lot; my very girlish, romantic repinings do not really make me
unhappy.'

"'Nor your fears, nor his base jealousy, his selfishness, his narrow
soul, and brutish violence? I know more than you think, Alithea--I read
your heart--you must be miserable, submissive, yet tyrannized over;
wedded to your duty, yet watched, suspected, accused. There are traces
of tears on your cheeks, my poor girl; your neck is bowed by the yoke,
your eyes have no longer the radiance of conscious rectitude, and yet
you are innocent.'

"'God knows I am,' she replied, as a shower of tears fell from her
eyes--but she was ashamed, and brushed them away--'I am, and will be,
Rupert, though you would mislead me. Where indeed can I find a
consciousness of rectitude, except in my heart? My husband mistrusts
me, I acknowledge it--by torture you force the truth--he does not
understand, and you would pervert me; in God and my own heart I put my
trust, and I will never do that which my conscience tells me is
wrong--and despite both I shall be happy. A mother is, in my eyes, a
more sacred name than wife. My life is wrapped in my boy, in him I find
blameless joy, though all the rest pierce my heart with poisoned
arrows.'

"'You shall, sweet Alithea,' I cried, 'preserve him, and every other
blessing. You were not born to inherit this maimed, poverty-stricken
life, the widowed mother of an orphan child, such are you now; I will
be a father to him for your sake, and many other joys will be yours,
and the fondest, truest heart that ever warmed man's bosom shall be all
your own. Alithea, you must not offer yourself up a living sacrifice to
that base idol, but belong to one whose love, and honour, and eternal
devotion merit you, though he possess no other claim. Let me save you
from him, I ask no more.'

"I felt a tear, for many long years forgotten, steal down my
cheek--my heart worshipped her excellence, and pity, and grief, mingled
with my deep regrets; she saw how sincerely I was moved, and tried to
comfort me. She wept also, for, despite her steadier thoughts, she knew
the cruelty of her destiny, and I do believe her heart yearned to
taste, once more before she died, the full joy of complete sympathy.
But, if indeed her tears were partly shed for herself, yet she never
wavered; she deplored my unhappiness, but she reproved my perversion of
principle; she tried to awaken patience, piety, or philosophic
fortitude--any of the noble virtues that might enable me to combat the
passion by which I was enslaved.

"Time was forgotten as we thus talked with the same openness of
heart as in former days, yet those hearts how saddened, and wounded
since then! I would not let her go: while the moon rose high, shedding
its silvery light over the forest trees, and casting dark shadows on
our path, still we indulged in what she deemed our last conference. As
I must answer my crimes before God, I swear I could discern no wavering
thought, no one idea that strayed to the forbidden ground, toward which
I strove to lead her. She told me that she had intended not to see me
again till her husband returned; she said that she must implore me not
again to seek her in this way, or I should make her a prisoner in her
house. I listened--I answered, I knew not what--I was more resolved
than ever not to lose her--despite all, I still was mad enough to hope.
She left me at last, hoping to have conquered, yet resolved not to see
me again, she said, till her husband returned. This determination on
her part was in absolute contradiction to what I resolved should be. I
had decreed to see her again; nay, more, I would see her, not within
the precincts of her home, where all spoke against me; but where she
should be free, where, seeing nothing to remind her of the heavy yoke
to which she bent her neck, I fondly dreamed I might induce her wholly
to throw it aside. If it so pleased her, I would detain her but a few
short hours, and restore her to her home in all liberty; but, could I
induce her to assert her freedom, and follow me voluntarily--then--to
think that possible, the earth reeled under me, and my passion gained
strength from its very folly.

"I prepared all things for my plan; I went to Liverpool, and bought
two fleet horses and a light foreign calche suited to my
purpose. Returning northward towards Dromore, I sought a solitary spot,
for the scene of our last interview, or of the first hour of my lasting
bliss. What more solitary than the wild and drear sea shore of the
south of Cumberland? Landward it is screened by a sublime background of
mountains; but in itself presenting to the view a wide extent of
uninhabited sands, intersected by rivers, which when the tide is up
presents a dreary expanse of shallow water, and at ebb are left, except
in the channels of the rivers, a barren extent of mud and marsh; the
surrounding waste being variegated only by a line of sand hills thrown
up to the height of thirty or forty feet, shutting in the view from
shore, while seaward no boat appeared ever to spread its sail on that
lonely sea. On these sands, near the mouth of one of the rivers, there
was a small hut deserted, but not in ruins; it was probably
occasionally inhabited by guides who are used in this part of the
country, to show the track of the fords when the tide is full, and any
deviation from the right path is attended by peril, the beds of the
rivers being full of ruts and deep holes; that hut I selected as the
spot where all should be determined. If she consented to accompany me,
we would proceed rapidly forward to Liverpool, and embark for America;
if she resolved to return, this spot was but five miles from her home,
and I could easily lead her back without suspicion being excited. I was
anxious to put my scheme in execution, as her husband was shortly
expected.

"It seemed a feasible one. In my own heart I did not expect to
induce her to forsake her home; but I might; and the very doubt
maddened me. And if I did not, yet for a few hours to have her near me,
not in any spot that called her detested husband master, but in the
wide, free scenes of nature, the ocean, parent of all liberty, spread
at our feet; the way easy to escape, no eye, no ear, to watch and spy
out the uncontrolled and genuine emotions of her heart, or no hand to
check our progress if she consented to follow. In this plan Osborne,
whom I had left at the miserable town of Ravenglass--and who indeed had
been the man to find and point out to me the solitary hut, was
necessary. My explanation and directions to him were few and
peremptory: he was to appear with the calche, he acting as
postillion, at a certain spot; the moment he saw me arrive, as soon as
I had placed the lady who was to be my companion in the carriage, he
was to put spurs to his horses, and not by any cry of hers, nor command
of mine, nor interference of strangers, to be induced to stop till he
reached the hut: there she should be free; till then I would have her a
prisoner even beyond my own control, lest her entreaties should cheat
me out of my resolves. Osborne looked frightened at some portion of
these orders, but I glossed over any inconsistency; my bribe was high,
and he submitted.

"At every step I took in this mad and guilty scheme I became more
resolved to carry it on. Here is my crime--here the tale of sin, I have
to relate. The rest is disaster and endless remorse. What moved me to
this height of insanity--what blinded me to the senseless, as well as
the unpardonable nature of my design, I cannot tell; except that, for
years, I had lived in a dream, and waking in the real world, I refused
to accommodate myself to its necessities, but resolved to bend its laws
to my desires. I loved Alithea--I had loved her through years of
absence; she was the wife of my reveries, my hopes, my heart. I could
no more part with the thought of her, as such, than with a
consciousness of my own identity. To see her married and a mother might
be supposed capable of dissipating these fancies; far from it. Her
presence--her beauty--the witchery of her eye, her heart-subduing
voice, her sensibility, the perfection of her nature, which her
inimitable loveliness only half expressed, but which reached my soul,
through a sort of inner sense that acknowledged it with worship; all
this added to my frenzy, and steeped me to the very lips in
intoxication.

"What right had I to call this matchless creature mine?--None! That
I acknowledged--but that he, the man without a soul, the incarnate
Belial, should claim her, was not for a moment to be endured. Mad as I
was, I aver, and He who reads all hearts be now my testimony, that it
was more my wish to set her free from him, than to bind her to myself,
that urged me on. I had in the solitary shades of her park, during the
arguments and struggles of our last interview, sworn, that if she would
suffer me to take her, and her boy too if she chose, away from him, I
would claim no share in her myself. I would place her in some romantic
spot, build a home worthy of her, surrounded with all the glory of
nature, and only see her as a servant and a slave. I pledged my soul to
this, and I would have kept my oath. Those who have not loved may look
on this as the very acme of my hallucination; it might be--I cannot
tell--but so it was.

"All was ready; and I wrote to her to meet me for the last time. In
this also I was, in one sense, sincere; for I had determined, if I
should fail in my persuasions, never to see her more. She came, but
several hours later than I intended, which, to a certain degree,
deranged my plans. The weather had a sultriness about it all day,
portending storm, occasioning a state of atmosphere that operates to
render the human frame uneasy and restless. I paced the lane that
bounded the demesnes of Dromore, for hours; I threw myself on a grassy
bank. The rack in the upper sky sped along with fearful impetuosity; it
traversed the heavens from west to east, driven by a furious wind which
had not yet descended to us; for below on earth, no breath of air moved
the herbage, or could be perceived amidst the' topmost boughs of the
trees. Every thing in nature, acted upon by these contrary influences,
had a strange and wild appearance. The sun descended red towards the
ocean before Alithea opened the private gate of the grounds, and stood
in all her loveliness before me.

"She brought her son with her. At first this annoyed me; but at a
second thought, it seemed to render my whole design more conclusive.
She had spoken of this child with such rapture that it would have been
a barbarity beyond my acting to have separated her from him. By making
him her companion, she completed my purpose; I would take them away
together. I met her I thought with self-possession, but she read the
conflict of passion in my face, and, half fearful, asked what disturbed
me. I attributed my agitation to our approaching parting; and drawing
her hand through my arm, walked forward along the lane. At the moment
of executing my project, its wickedness and cruelty became so apparent,
that a thousand times I was about to confess all, solicit her
forgiveness, and leave her for ever: but that hardness, which in the
ancient religions is deemed the immediate work of God, crept over my
heart, turning its human misgiving to stony resolution. I endeavoured
to close every aperture of my soul against the relenting moods that
assailed me; yet they came with greater power each time, and at length
wholly mastering me, I consented to be subdued. I determined to
relinquish my schemes, to bid her an eternal adieu; and moved by
self-pity at the desolate lot I was about to encounter, I spoke of
separation and absence, and the death of hope, with such heart-felt
pathos, as moved her to tears.

"Surely there is no greater enemy to virtue and good intentions,
than that want of self-command, the exterior of which, though I had
acquired, no portion existed in the inner substance of my mind. Calm,
proud, and stern, as I seemed to others, capable of governing the
vehemence of my temper,--within I was the same slave of passion I had
ever been. I never could force myself to do the thing I hated; I never
could persuade myself to relinquish the thing I desired. There is the
secret of my crimes; there the vice of my disposition, which produced
for her I loved a miserable death, and for myself endless, unutterable
woe. For a moment I had become virtuous and heroic. We reached the end
of the lane--my emissary appeared with the carriage. I had worked
myself up by this time to determine to restore her to her home; to part
with her for ever. She believed this. The despair written on my
brow--my sombre, mute, yet heart-broken mien--my thoughts, which had
totally relinquished their favourite project, and consented to be
widowed of her for ever, expressed in brief passionate sentences,
proved to her, who had never suspected that I meant otherwise, that I
took my last look, and spoke my last words. We reached the end of the
lane; Osborne drove up. 'Be not surprised,' I said. 'Yes, it is there,
Alithea; the carriage that is to convey me far, far away. Gracious God,
do I live to see this hour!'

"The carriage stopped; we walked up to it. A devil at that moment
whispered in my ear, a devil, who feeds on human crimes and groans,
prompted my arm. Coward and dolt! to use such words--my own hellish
mind was the sole instigator. In a moment it was done. I lifted her
light figure into the carriage; I jumped in after her; I bade her boy
follow. It was too late. One cry from him, one long, piercing shriek
from her, and we were gone. With the swiftness of the winds we
descended the eminence towards the shore, and left child and all return
far behind.

"At that moment the storm burst over us; but the thunder was unheard
amidst the rattling of the wheels. Even her cries were lost in the
uproar; but as the thickening clouds changed twilight into night, the
vivid lightning showed me Alithea at my feet, in convulsions of fear
and anguish. There was no help. I raised her in my arms; and she
struggled in them without meaning, without knowledge. Spasm succeeded
to spasm; I saw them by the flashes of the frequent lightning distort
her features with agony, but I could not even hear her groans; the
furious haste at which we went, the thunder from above, the plash of
the rain, suspended only by the howlings of the rising wind, drowned
every other sound. I called to Osborne to stop; he gave no heed to my
cries. Methought the horses had taken fright, and held the bit in their
teeth, with such unimaginable speed we swept along. The roar of ocean,
torn up by the wild west wind, now mingled with the universal
uproar--hell had broken loose upon earth--yet what was every other and
more noisy tempest compared to that which shook my soul, as I pressed
Alithea to my heart in agony, vainly hoping to see the colour revisit
her cheeks, and her dear eyes open! Was she already a corpse? I tried
to feel her breath upon my cheek; but the speed of our course, and the
uproar of the elements, prevented my being able to ascertain whether
she was alive or dead. And thus I bore her--thus I made her my bride,
thus I, her worshipper, emptied the vials of pain on her beloved
head!



CHAPTER XIII.

"At last I became aware that the wheels of the carriage passed
through water. Hope revived with the thought. The hut where Osborne was
to stop, was to the south of the river we were now crossing; the tide
was ebbing, and despite the wind and storm, we passed the ford in
safety; a moment more, and the carriage stopped amidst the sands. I
took the unfortunate lady in my arms, and carried her into the hut;
then fetching the cushions of the carriage, I bade Osborne take the
horses on to a covered shed about half a mile off, which he had
prepared for them, and return immediately.

"I re-entered the hut--still Alithea lay motionless on the ground
where I had placed her. The lightning showed me her pale face; and
another flash permitted me to discover a portion of luggage brought
here by Osborne--necessary if we fled. Among other things which,
soldier-like, I always carried with me, I saw my canteen; it contained
the implements for striking a light, and tapers. By such means I could
at last discover that my victim still lived; and sometimes also she
groaned and sighed heavily. What had happened to her I could not tell,
nor by what means consciousness might be restored. I chafed her head
and hands in spirituous waters; I made her swallow some--in vain. For a
moment she somewhat revived, but relapsed again; and the icy cold of
her hands and feet seemed to portend instant dissolution. Osborne
returned, as I had ordered; he was totally unaware of the state to
which my devilish machinations had brought my victim. He found me
hanging over her--calling her by every endearing name--chafing her
hands in mine--watching in torture for such signs of returning sense as
would assure me that I was not about to see her expire before my eyes.
He was scared by what he saw; but I silenced him, and made him light a
fire--and heat sand, which I placed at her feet; and then by degrees,
with help of large doses of sal-volatile and other drugs, circulation
was restored. She opened her eyes and gazed wildly round, and tears
gushed from under the lids in large, slow drops. My soul blessed God!
Every mad desire and guilty scheme had faded before the expectation of
her death. All I asked of Heaven was her life, and leave to restore her
to her child and her home. Heaven granted, as I thought, my prayer. The
livid streaks which had settled round her mouth and eyes disappeared;
her features lost the rigidity of convulsions, a slight colour tinged
her cheeks; her hands, late chill and stiff, now had warmth, and
voluntary motions of their own. Once or twice she looked round and
tried to speak. 'Gerard!' that word, the name of her boy, was murmured;
I caught the sound as I bent eagerly over her. 'He is safe--he is
well,' I whispered. 'All is well; be comforted, Alithea.' The poor
victim smiled; yes, her own sweet smile dawned upon her face. 'She too
is safe,' I thought. Once again I felt my heart beat freely and at
ease.

"She continued however in a state of torpor. There were two rooms in
the hut. I prepared a sort of couch for her in the inner one. I placed
her on it; I covered her with her cloak. By degrees the sort of
insensibility in which she sunk changed to sleep. We left her then, and
sat watching in the outer room. I kept my eyes fixed on her, and saw
that each hour added to the tranquillity of her repose; I could not
hear her breathe; for though the thunder and rain had ceased, the wind
howled and the near ocean roared; its billows, driven by the western
gale, encroached upon the sands almost to the threshold of the hut.

"A revulsion had taken place within me; I felt that there was
something dearer to me than the fulfilment of my schemes, which was her
life. She appeared almost miraculously restored, and my softened heart
thanked God and blessed her. I believed I could be happy even in
eternal absence, now that the guilt of her death was taken from my
soul. Well do I remember the kind of rapture that flowed in upon my
heart, as at dawn of day I crept noiselessly to her side, and marked
the regular heaving of her bosom; and saw her eye-lids, heavy and dark
with suffering, it is true, yet gently closed over the dear orbs which
again and for many a long year would enjoy the light of day. I felt a
new man, I felt happy. In a few short hours I should receive her
pardon--convey her home--declare my own guilt; and while absolving her,
offer myself as the mark of whatever vengeance her husband might choose
to take. Me!--Oh, what was I? I had no being; it was dissolved into a
mere yearning for her life--her contentment. I was about to render
myself up as a criminal to a man whose most generous act would be to
meet me in the field; but that was nothing: I thought not of it, either
with gladness or regret. She lives--she shall be restored to all she
loves--she once again will be at peace.

"These were my dreams as I hung over her, and gradually the break of
day became more decided; by the increasing light I could perceive that
I had not deceived myself, she slept a healthy, profound, healing
sleep: I returned to the outer room; Osborne had wrapt himself in his
great coat, and lay stretched on the floor. I roused him, and told him
to go for the horses and carriage immediately, so that the first thing
that might welcome Alithea's awakening should be the offer of an
immediate return home. He gladly obeyed, and left the hut; but scarcely
was he gone than a sort of consciousness came over me, that I would not
remain with her alone; so I followed him at some little distance
towards the shed where the carriage and horses were.

"The wind had scattered every cloud, and still howled through the
clear gray morning sky, the sea was in violent commotion, and huge
surges broke heavily and rapidly on the beach. The tide was flowing
fast, and the bed of the river, we had crossed so safely the night
before, was covered by the waves; in a little time the ford would be
impassable, and this was another reason to hasten the arrival of the
horses. To the east each crag and precipice, each vast mountain top,
showed in dark relief against the golden eastern sky; seaward the
horizon was misty from the gale, and the ocean stretched out
illimitably; curlews and gulls screamed as they skimmed the crested
waves, and breaker after breaker dashed furiously at my feet. It was a
desolate, but a magnificent spectacle, and my throbbing heart was in
unison with its vast grandeurs. I blessed sea and wind, and heaven, and
the dawn; the guilt of my soul had passed from me, and without the
grievous penalty I had dreaded; all again was well. I walked swiftly
on, I reached the shed. Osborne was busy with the horses; he had done
what he could for them the night before, and they seemed tolerably
fresh. I spoke cheerfully to the man, as I helped to harness them.
Osborne was still pale with fright, but when I told him that I was
going to carry the lady back to her friends, and that there was nothing
to fear, he took heart; I bade him come slowly along, that the noise of
the wheels might not waken her, if she still slept, and I walked
beside, my hand on the neck of one horse while he bestrode the other,
and we gazed around and pointed to each other signs of the recent
tempest, which had been so much more violent than I in my
pre-occupation had known; and then as the idea of the ford being
rendered impassable crossed me again, I bid him get on at a quicker
rate, there was no fear of disturbing the sleeping lady, for the wheels
were noiseless on the heavy sands.

"I have mentioned that huge sand hills were thrown up here and there
on the beach; two of the highest of these shut out all view of the hut,
and even of the river, till we were close upon them. As we passed these
mounds, my first glance was to see the state of the tide. The bed of
the river was entirely filled with dashing crested waves, which poured
in from the sea with inconceivable rapidity, and obliterated every
trace of the ford. I looked anxiously round, but it was plain we must
wait for the ebbing tide, or make a long detour to seek the upper part
of the stream. As I gazed, something caught my eyes as peculiar. The
foam of the breaking waves was white, and this object also was white;
yet was it real, or but the mockery of a human form? For a moment my
heart ceased to beat, and then with wings to my feet I ran to the hut:
I rushed into the inner room--the couch was deserted, the whole
dwelling empty! I hurried back to the river's brink and strained my
eyeballs to catch a sight of the same fearful object; it was there! I
could not mistake, a wave lifted up and then again overwhelmed and
swallowed in its abyss, the form, no longer living, the dead body of
Alithea. I threw myself into the water, I battled with the waves, the
tide bore me on. Again and again I was blinded and overwhelmed by the
surges, but still I held on, and made my way into the middle of the
roaring flood. As I rose gasping from one large billow, that had, for
more than a minute, ingulfed me in its strangling depths, I felt a
substance strike against me; instinctively I clutched at it, and
grasping her long, streaming hair, now with renewed strength and
frantic energy I made for shore. I was as a plaything to the foaming
billows, but by yielding to them, by suffering myself to be carried up
the tide, to where the river grew shallower and the waves less
powerful, I was miserable enough at last to escape. Fool! did I not
know that she was dead!--why did I not, clasping her in my arms, resign
my life to the waters? No! she had returned to me from the gates of
death the night before, and I madly deemed the miracle would be twice
performed.

"I reached the bank. Osborne, trembling and ghastly, helped me to
lift her on shore; we endeavoured by various means to recall the spark
of life: it was too late. She had been long in the water, and was quite
dead!

"How can I write these words, how linger on these hideous details?
Alas! they are for ever before me; no day, no hour passes but the whole
scene is acted over again with startling vividness--and my soul shrinks
and shudders from the present image of death. Even now that the dawn of
Greece is breaking among the hills; that the balmy summer air fans my
cheek, that the distant mountain tops are gilded by the morning
beams--and the rich tranquil beauty of a southern clime is around; yet
even now the roar of that distant ocean is in my ear, the desolate
coast stretches out far away, and Alithea lies pale, drenched and
lifeless, at my feet.

"I saw it all; and how often, and for ever, do I go over in my
thoughts what had passed during the interval of my absence! She had
awoke refreshed, she collected her scattered senses, she remembered the
hideous vision of her carrying off. She knew not of my relenting, she
feared my violence, she resolved to escape; she was familiar with that
shore; its rivers and the laws which governed their tides, were known
to her. She believed that she could pass the water in safety, for often
when the bed of the estuary was apparently full, she knew that she had
forded the stream on horseback, and the waters scarce covered the
animal's fetlock. Intent on escaping the man of violence, of reaching
her beloved home, she had entered the stream without calculating the
difference of a calm neap tide, and the mass of irresistible waves
borne up by the strong western wind; they perhaps seemed less terrible
than I; to fly from me, she encountered, delivered herself up to them!
and there she lay destroyed, dead, lost for ever!

"No more of this! What then I did, may, I now conceive, appear more
shocking to my countrymen, than all that went before. But I knew little
of English customs. I had gone out an inexperienced stripling to India,
and my modes of action were formed there. I now know that when one dies
in England, they keep the lifeless corpse, weeping and watching beside
it for many days, and then with lingering ceremonies, and the
attendance of relations and friends, lay it solemnly in the dismal
tomb. But I had seen whole armies mown down by the sword and disease; I
was accustomed to the soldier's hastily dug grave, in a climate where
corruption follows fast upon death. To hide the dead with speed from
every eye, was the Indian custom.

"And then, should I take the corpse of Alithea, wet with the ocean
tide, ghastly from the throes of recent death, and bear her to her
home, and say, here she is--she enjoyed life and happiness
yester-evening; I bore her away, behold my work! Should I present
myself to her husband, answer his questions, detail the various stages
of my crime, and tamely await his vengeance, or his pardon? never!

"Or should I destroy myself at her side, and leave our bodies to
tell a frightful tale of mystery and horror? The miserable terrors of
my associate would of itself have prevented this catastrophe. I had to
reassure and protect him.

"My resolution was quickly made not to outlive my victim, and making
atonement by my death, what other penalty could I be called upon to
pay? But my death should not be a tale to appal or amuse the vulgar, or
to swell with triumph the heart of Alithea's tyrant husband. Secrecy
and oblivion should cover all. My plan was laid, and I acted
accordingly.

"Osborne entered into the design with alacrity. He was moved by
other feelings, he was possessed by an agony of fear; he did not doubt
but that we should be accused of murdering the hapless lady, and the
image of the gallows flitted before his eyes.

"Understanding each other without many words, Osborne said that in
the shed where we had placed the horses, he had remarked a spade; it
was so early, that no one was about to observe him, and he went to
fetch it. He returned in about half an hour; I sat keeping watch the
while, by the dead, and feasted my eyes with the sight of my pale
victim, as she lay at my feet. Of what tough materials is man formed,
that my heart-strings did not break, and that I outlived that hour!

"Osborne returned, and we went to work. Some ten yards above high
water mark, there was a single, leafless, moss-grown, skeleton tree,
with something like soil about its roots, and sheltered from the spray
and breeze by the vicinity of a sand-hill: close to it we dug a deep
grave. I placed the cushions in it, on which her fair form, all warm,
and soft, had reposed during the preceding night. Then I composed her
stark limbs, banding the long wet tresses of her abundant hair across
her eyes, for ever closed, crossing her hands upon her pure, death-cold
bosom; I touched her reverently, I did not even profane her hand by a
kiss; I wrapped her in her cloak, and laid her in the open grave. I
tore down some of the decaying boughs of the withered tree, and arching
them above her body, threw my own cloak above, so with vain care to
protect her lifeless form from immediate contact with the soil. Then we
filled up the grave, and scattering dry sand above, removed every sign
of recent opening. This was performed in silence, or with whispered
words--the roaring waves were her knell, the rising sun her funeral
torch; I was satisfied with the solemnity of the scene around; and I
was composed, for I was resolved on death. Osborne trembled in every
limb, and his face rivalled in hue her wan, bloodless countenance.

"We carefully removed every article from the hut, and put all in the
same state as when we found it. I did not, indeed, fear discovery; who
would imagine that my course would be to the desolate sea beach? and if
they did, and found all, I should be far, I should be dead. But Osborne
was eager to obliterate every mark of the hut having been visited. When
he was satisfied that he had accomplished this, without looking behind,
I got into the carriage, we drove with what speed we could to
Lancaster, and thence to Liverpool. Osborne was in a transport of fear
till he got on board an American vessel: fortunately, the wind having
veered towards the north, there was one about to weigh anchor. I placed
a considerable sum of money in my accomplice's hands, and recommended
discretion. He would have questioned me as to my own designs, but he
respected my stern silence, and we parted never to meet again. A small
coasting vessel, bound for Plymouth, was at that moment making her way
out of harbour; I hailed a man on board, and threw myself on to the
deck.

"Elizabeth can tell the rest. She knows how I landed in a secluded
village of Cornwall, with the intent there to make due sacrifice to the
outraged manes of Alithea. Still I grieve for the unaccomplished
purpose; still I repine that I did not there die. She stopped my hand.
An angel, in likeness of a human child, arrested my arm; and winning my
wonder by her extraordinary loveliness, and my interest by her orphan
and desolate position, I seemed called upon to live for her sake. The
struggle was violent, for I longed to make atonement by my death; and I
longed to forget my crimes, and their consequences, in the oblivious
grave. At first I thought that the respite I granted myself would be
short, but it lasted for year; and I dragged out a living death, having
survived love and hope: remorse my follower; ghastly images of crime
and death my comrades. I travelled from place to place, pursued by
Alithea's upbraiding ghost, and my own torturing thoughts. By frequent
change of place, I sought to assuage my pangs; I believe that I
increased them. They might, perhaps, have been mitigated by the
monotony of a stationary life. But a traveller's existence is all
sensation, and every emotion is rendered active and penetrating by the
perpetual variation of the appearances of natural objects. Thought and
feeling awaken with the sun, and dewy eve and the radiant stars cause
the eyes to turn towards the backward path; while darkness, felt
palpably, as one proceeds onward in an unknown land, awakens the snakes
of conscience. The storm and expected wreck are images of retribution;
while yet the destruction I pined for, receded from before my thirsting
lips.

"Yet still I dragged on life, most unworthily and unworthy, till on
a day I saw the son of my victim at Baden. I witnessed misery, widely
spread, through my means; and felt that her disembodied spirit must
curse me for the evil I had brought on her beloved child. I remembered
all she had fondly said of him: and the cloudless beauty of his face,
his joyous laugh, and free step when last I saw him at her side. He was
blighted and destroyed by me; gloomy, savage and wild, eternal sorrow
was written on his brow, fear and hatred gleamed in his eyes. Such by
my means had the son of Alithea become; such had his base-minded father
rendered him; but mine the guilt--mine be the punishment! What a wretch
was I, to live in peace and security, ministered to by an angel--while
this dearest part of herself was doomed to anguish, and to the
unmitigated influence of the demon for ever at his side, through my
accursed means.

"From that hour I became thrice hateful to myself; I had tried to
live for my Elizabeth; but that idea passed away with every other
solace, in which hitherto I had iniquitously indulged. I resolved to
die; but as a taint has been cast by the most villanous heart in the
world upon her hallowed name, my first task was to redeem that out of
her unworthy husband's hands; and yet I could not, I would not, while
living, disclose the truth and give a triumph to my enemy. But soon, oh
very soon, will the soil of Greece drink up my life-blood! and while
this writing proclaims her innocence, I shall be sheltered by the grave
from the taunts and revilings of men.

"And you, dear child of my affection, who have been to me as a
blessing immediate from heaven, who have warmed my heart with your love
and smoothed the fierceness of my temper by your unalterable sweetness;
who having blessed me with your virtues, clinging to the ruin with a
fidelity I believed impossible, how shall I say farewell to you?
Forgive your friend that he deserts you; long ago he deserted himself
and the better part of life; it is but the shell of him that remains;
and that corroded by remorse, and the desire to die. You deserve better
than to have your young days clouded by the shadow of my crime thrown
over them. Forget me, and be happy; you must be so, while I!---The sun
is up; the martial trumpet sounds. It is a joy to think that I shall
have a soldier's grave."



CHAPTER XIV.

Such was the tale presented to the young, enthusiastic, innocent
Elizabeth, unveiling the secret of the life of him whom she revered
above all the world. Her soul was in her eyes as she read, or rather
devoured, page after page, till she arrived at the catastrophe; when a
burst of passionate tears relieved her swelling bosom, and carried away
upon their stream a thousand, trembling, unspeakable fears that had
gathered in wild multitude around her heart. "He is innocent! He, my
benefactor, my father, when he accused himself of murder, spoke, as I
thought, of a consequence, not an act; and if the chief principle of
religion be true, that repentance washes away sin, he is pardoned, and
the crime forgotten. Noble, generous heart! What drops of anguish have
you not shed in atonement! What glorious obsequies you pay your victim!
For she also is acquitted. Gerard's mother is more than innocent. She
was true to him, and to the purest sentiments of nature, to the end;
nay more, her life was sacrificed to them." And Elizabeth went over in
her mind, as Falkner had often done, the emotions that actuated her to
attempt the dangerous passage across the ford. She fancied her
awakening on the fatal morning, her wild look around. No familiar
object met her view--nor did any friendly voice re-assure her; the
strange scene and solitary hut were testimonies that she did not dream,
and that she had really been torn from home and all she loved by a
violence she could not resist. At first she must have listened
tremblingly, and fancied her lover-enemy at hand. But all is still. She
rises; she ventures to examine the strange dwelling to which she has
been carried--no human being presents himself. She quits the threshold
of the hut--a familiar scene is before her eyes, the ocean, and the
dreary, but well known shore--the river which she has so often
crossed--and among the foldings of the not distant hills, embosomed in
trees, she sees Dromore, her tranquil home. She knows that it is but a
few miles distant; and while she fancies her enemy near at hand, yet
the hope animates her that she may cross the stream unseen, and escape.
Elizabeth imaged all her hopes and fears; she seemed to see the hapless
lady place her uncertain feet, her purpose being staunch and
unfaltering, within the shallow wave, which she believed she could
traverse in safety; the roar of the advancing tide was in her ears, the
spray dashed round her, and her footing grew uncertain, as she sought
to find her way across the rugged bed of the river. But she thought
only of her child, from whom she had been torn, and her fears of being,
through the deed of violence which had carried her off, excluded from
her home for ever. To arrive at that home was all her desire. As she
advanced she still fixed her eyes on the clustering woods of Dromore,
sleeping stilly in the grey, quiet dawn: and she risked her life
unhesitatingly to gain the sacred shelter. All depended on her reaching
it, quickly and alone; and she was doomed never to see it more. She
advances resolutely, but cautiously. The waves rise higher--she is in
the midst of the stream--her footing becomes more unsteady--does she
look back?--there is no return--her heart proudly repels the very
thought of desiring it. She gathers her garments about her--she looks
right onward--she steps more carefully--the surges buffet her--they
rise higher and higher--the spray is dashed over her head, and blinds
her sight--a false step--she falls--the waters open to engulf her--she
is borne away. One thought of her Gerard--one prayer to Heaven, and the
human eye can pursue the parting soul no further. She is lost to
earth--none upon it can any longer claim a portion in her.

But she is innocent. The last word murmured in her last sleep--the
last word human ears heard her utter, was her son's name. To the last
she was all mother; her heart filled with that deep yearning, which a
young mother feels to be the very essence of her life, for the presence
of her child. There is something so beautiful in a young mother's
feelings. Usually a creature to be fostered and protected--taught to
look to another for aid and safety; yet a woman is the undaunted
guardian of her little child. She will expose herself to a thousand
dangers to shield his fragile being from harm. If sickness or injury
approach him, her heart is transfixed by terror: readily, joyfully, she
would give her own blood to sustain him. The world is a hideous desert
when she is threatened to be deprived of him; and when he is near, and
she takes him to the shelter of her bosom, and wraps him in her soft,
warm embrace, she cares for nothing beyond that circle; and his smiles
and infantine caresses are the life of her life. Such a mother was
Alithea; and in Gerard she possessed a son capable of calling forth in
its intensity, and of fully rewarding, her maternal tenderness. What
wonder, when she saw him cast pitilessly down, on the road side--alive
or dead she knew not--the wheel of the carriage that bore her away,
might have crushed and destroyed his tender limbs--what wonder that she
should be threatened by instant death, through the excess of her agony?
What wonder that, reviving from death, her first and only thought was
to escape--to get back to him--to clasp him to her heart--never to be
severed more?

How glad, and yet how miserable, Gerard would be to read this tale.
His proudest and fondest assertions certified as true, and yet to feel
that he had lost her for ever, whose excellence was proved to be thus
paramount. Elizabeth's reflections now rested on him--and now turned to
Falkner--and now she opened the manuscript again, and read anew--and
then again her heart made its commentary, and she wept and rejoiced;
and longed to comfort her father, and congratulate Neville, all in a
breath.

She never thought of herself. This was Elizabeth's peculiarity. She
could be so engrossed by sympathy for others, that she could forget
herself wholly. At length she remembered her father's directions, that
his manuscript should be given to Neville when he called. She had no
thought of disobeying; nor could she help being glad that Gerard's
filial affection should receive its reward, even while she was pained
to think that Falkner should be changed at once into an enemy in her
new friend's eyes. Still her generous nature led her instantly to ally
herself to the weaker side. Neville was triumphant--Falkner humiliated
and fallen; and thus he drew her closer to him, and riveted the chain
of gratitude and fidelity by which she was bound. She had shed many
tears for Alithea's untimely fate; for the virtues and happiness
hurried to a mysterious end--buried in an untold grave. But she had her
reward. Long had she been there, where there is no trouble, no
strife--her pure soul received into the company of kindred angels. Her
heroism would now be known; her actions justified; she would be raised
above her sex in praise; her memory crowned with unfading glory. It was
Falkner who needed the exertion of present service, to forgive and
console. He must be raised from his self-abasement; his despair must be
cured. He must feel that the hour of remorse was past; that of
repentance and forgiveness come. He must be rewarded for all his
goodness to her, by being made to love life for her sake. Neville,
whose heart was free from every base alloy, would enter into these
feelings. Content to rescue the fame of his mother from the injury done
it; happy in being assured that his faithful, filial love had not been
mistaken in its reliance, the first emotion of his generous soul would
be to forgive. Yet Elizabeth fancied that, borne away by his ardour in
his mother's cause, he might altogether pass over and forget the
extenuating circumstances that rendered Falkner worthy of pardon; and
she thought it right to accompany the narrative with an explanatory
letter. Thus she wrote:

"My father has given me these papers for the purpose of transmitting
them to you. I need not tell you that I read them this day for the
first time; that till now I was in total ignorance of the facts they
disclose.

"It is most true that I, a little child, stopped his arm as he was
about to destroy himself. Moved by pity for my orphan state, he
consented to live. Is this a crime? Yet I could not reconcile him to
life, and he went to Greece, seeking death. He went there in the pride
of life and health. You saw him at Marseilles; you saw him to-day--the
living effigy of remorse and woe.

"It is hard, at the moment you discover that he was the cause of
your mother's death, to ask your sympathy for his sufferings and
high-minded contrition. I leave you to follow the dictates of your own
heart, with regard to him. For myself, attached to him as I am by every
sentiment of affection and gratitude, I am, from this moment, more than
ever devoted to his service, and eager to prove to him my fidelity.

"These words come from myself. My father knows not what I write. He
simply told me to inform you that he should remain here; and if you
desired aught of him, he was ready at your call. He thinks, perhaps,
you may require further explanation--further guidance to your mother's
grave. Oh, secret and obscure as it is, is it not guarded by angels?
Have you not been already led to it?"

She left off abruptly--she heard a ring at the outer gate--the hour
had come--it must be Neville! She placed the papers in the
writing-case, and directing and sealing the letter, gave both to the
servant, to be delivered to him. Scarcely was this done, when, suddenly
it flashed across her, how the relative situations of Neville and
herself were changed. That morning she had been his chosen friend--into
her ear he poured the history of his hopes and fears--he claimed her
sympathy--and she felt that from her he derived a happiness never felt
before. Now he must regard her as the daughter of his mother's
destroyer, and should she ever see him more? Instinctively she rushed
to the highest room of the house to catch one other glimpse. By the
time she reached the window, the act was fulfilled that changed both
their lives--the packet given. Dimly, in the twilight, she saw a
horseman emerge from under the wall of the garden, and slowly cross the
heath; slowly at first, as if he did not comprehend what had happened,
or what he was doing. There is something that excites unspeakable
tenderness when the form of the loved one is seen, even from far; and
Elizabeth, though unaware of the nature and depth of her sensations,
yet felt her heart soften and yearn towards her friend. A blessing fell
from her lips; while the consciousness of all of doubtful and sad that
he must at that moment experience, at being sent from her door with a
written communication only, joined to the knowledge that each
succeeding hour would add to the barriers that separated them, so
overcame her, that when at last he put spurs to his horse, and was
borne out of sight into the thickening twilight, she burst into a
passion of tears, and wept for some time, not knowing what she did, nor
where she was; but feeling that from that hour the colour of her
existence was changed--its golden hue departed--and that patience and
resignation must henceforth take place of gladness and hope.

She roused herself after a few minutes from this sort of trance, and
her thoughts reverted to Falkner. There are few crimes so enormous but
that, when we undertake to analyse their motives, they do not find some
excuse and pardon in the eyes of all, except their perpetrators.
Sympathy is more of a deceiver than conscience. The stander-by may
dilate on the force of passion and the power of temptation, but the
guilty are not cheated by such subterfuges; he knows that the still
voice within was articulate to him. He remembers that at the moment of
action he felt his arm checked, his ear warned; he could have stopped,
and been innocent. Perhaps of all the scourges wielded by the dread
Eumenides, there is none so torturing as the consciousness of the
wilfulness of the act deplored. It is a mysterious principle, to be
driven out by no reasonings, no commonplace philosophy. It had eaten
into Falkner's soul; taken sleep from his eyes, strength from his
limbs, every healthy and self-complacent sentiment from his soul.

Elizabeth, however, innocent and good as she was, fancied a thousand
excuses for an act, whose frightful catastrophe was not foreseen.
Falkner called himself a murderer; but though the untimely death of the
unfortunate Alithea was brought about by his means, so far from being
guilty of the deed, he would have given a thousand lives to save her.
Since her death, she well knew that sleep had not refreshed, nor food
nourished him. He was blighted, turned from all the uses, and
enjoyments of life; he desired the repose of the grave; he had sought
death; he had made himself akin to the grim destroyer.

That he had acted wrongly, nay criminally, Elizabeth acknowledged.
But by how many throes of anguish, by what repentance and sacrifice of
all that life holds dear, had he not expiated the past! Elizabeth
longed to see him again, to tell him how fondly she still loved him,
how he was exalted, not debased in her eyes; to comfort him with her
sympathy, cherish him with her love. It was true that she did not quite
approve of the present state of his mind; there was too much of pride,
too much despair. But when he found that, instead of scorn, his
confessions met with compassion and redoubled affection, his heart
would soften, he would no longer desire to die, so to escape from blame
and retribution; but be content to endure, and teach himself that
resignation which is the noblest, and most unattainable temper of mind
to which humanity may aspire.



CHAPTER XV.

While these thoughts, founded on a natural piety, pure and gentle as
herself, occupied Elizabeth, Falkner indulged in far other
speculations. He triumphed. It is strange, that although perpetually
deceived and led astray by our imagination, we always fancy that we can
foresee, and in some sort command, the consequences of our actions.
Falkner, while he deplored his beloved victim with the most heartfelt
grief, yet at no time experienced a qualm of fear, because he believed
that he held the means of escape in his own hands, and could always
shelter himself from the obloquy that he now incurred, in an
unapproachable tomb. Through strange accidents, that resource had
failed him; he was alive, and his secret was in the hands of his
enemies. But as he confronted the injured son of a more injured mother,
another thought, dearer to his lawless yet heroic imagination,
presented itself. There was one reparation he could make, and doubtless
it would be demanded of him. The law of honour would be resorted to, to
avenge the death of Alithea. He did not for a moment doubt but that
Neville would challenge him. His care must be to fall by the young
man's hand. There was a sort of poetical justice in this idea, a noble
and fitting ending to his disastrous story, that solaced his pride, and
filled him, as has been said, with triumph.

Having arrived at this conclusion, he felt sure also that the
consummation would follow immediately on Neville's perusal of the
narration put into his hands. This very day might be his last, and it
was necessary to make every preliminary arrangement. Leaving Elizabeth
occupied with his fatal papers, he drove to town to seek Mr. Raby's
solicitor, to place in his hands the proofs of his adopted child's
birth, so to secure her future acknowledgment by her father's family.
She was not his child; no drop of his blood flowed in her veins; his
name did not belong to her. As Miss Raby, Neville would gladly seek
her, while as Miss Falkner, an insuperable barrier existed between
them; and though he fell by Gerard's hand, yet he meant to leave a
letter to convince her that this was but a sort of cunning suicide, and
that it need place no obstacle between two persons, whom he believed
were formed for each other. What more delightful than that his own
Elizabeth, should love the son of Alithea! If he survived, indeed, this
mutual attachment would be beset by difficulties; his death was like
the levelling of a mountain, all was plain, easy, happy, when he no
longer deformed the scene.

He had some difficulty in meeting with Mr. Raby's man of business.
He found him however perfectly acquainted with all the circumstances,
and eager to examine the documents placed in his hands. He had already
written to Treby and received confirmation of all Falkner's statements.
This activity had been imparted by Mrs. Raby, then at Tunbridge Wells,
who was anxious to render justice to the orphan, the moment she had
been informed of her existence; Falkner heard with great satisfaction
of the excellent qualities of this lady, and the interest she showed in
poor Edwin Raby's orphan child. The day was consumed, and part of the
evening in these arrangements, and a final interview with his own
solicitor. His will was already made, he divided his property between
Elizabeth, and his cousin, the only surviving daughter of his
uncle.

Something of shame was in his heart when he returned and met again
his adopted child, a shame ennobled by the sense that he was soon to
offer up his life as atonement; while she, who had long been reflecting
on all that occurred, yet felt it brought home more keenly when she
again saw him, and read in his countenance the tale of remorse and
grief, more legibly than in the written page. Passionately and
gratefully attached, her heart warmed towards him, his very look of
suffering was an urgent call upon her fidelity; and though she felt all
the change that his disclosures operated, though she saw the flowery
path she had been treading, at once wasted and barren, all sense of
personal disappointment was merged in her desire to prove her affection
at that moment; silently, but with heroic fervour, she offered herself
up at the shrine of his broken fortunes: love, friendship, good name,
life itself, if need were, should be set at nought; weighed in a
balance against her duty to him, they were but as a feather in the
scale.

They sat together as of old, their looks were affectionate, their
talk cheerful; it seemed to embrace the future as well as the present,
and yet to exclude every painful reflection. The heart of each bore its
own secret without betrayal. Falkner expected in a few hours to be
called upon to expiate with his life the evils he had caused, while
Elizabeth's thoughts wandered to Neville. Now he was reading the fatal
narrative; now agonized pity for his mother, now abhorrence of Falkner,
alternated in his heart; her image was cast out, or only called up to
be associated with the hated name of the destroyer. Her sensibility was
keenly excited. How ardently had she prayed, how fervently had she
believed that he would succeed in establishing his mother's innocence;
in what high honour she had held his filial piety,--these things were
still the same; yet how changed were both towards each other! It was
impossible that they should ever meet again as formerly, ever take
counsel together, that she should ever be made happy by the reflection
that she was his friend and comforter.

Falkner called her attention by a detail of his journey to
Belleforest, and the probability that she would soon have a visit from
her aunt. Here was a new revulsion; Elizabeth was forced to remember
that her name was Raby. Falkner described the majestic beauties of the
ancestral seat of her family, tried to impress her with the imposing
grandeur of its antiquity, to interest her in its religion and
prejudices, to gild the reality of pride and desertion with the false
colours of principle and faith. He spoke of Mrs. Raby, as he had heard
her mentioned, as a woman of warm feeling, strong intellect, and
extreme generosity. Elizabeth listened, but her eyes were fondly fixed
on Falkner's face, and at last she exclaimed with spontaneous
earnestness, "For all this I am your child, and we shall never be
divided!"

It was now near midnight; at each moment Falkner expected a message
from the son of his victim. He engaged Elizabeth to retire to her room,
that her suspicions might not be excited by the arrival of a visitor at
that unaccustomed hour. He was glad to see her wholly unsuspicious of
what he deemed the inevitable consequence of his confession; for though
her thoughts evidently wandered, and traces of regret clouded her brow,
it was regret, not fear, that inspired sadness; she tried to cheer, to
comfort for the past, and gain fortitude to meet the future; but that
future presented no more appalling image than the never seeing Gerard
Neville more.

She went, and he remained waiting and watching the livelong night,
but no one came. The following day passed, and the same mysterious
silence was observed. What could it mean? It was impossible to accuse
Alithea's child of lukewarmness in her cause, or want of courage. A
sort of dark, mysterious fear crept over Falkner's heart; something
would be done; some vengeance taken. In what frightful shape would the
ghost of the past haunt him? He seemed to scent horror and disgrace in
the very winds, yet he was spellbound; he must await Neville's call, he
must remain as he had promised, to offer the atonement demanded. He had
felt glad and triumphant when he believed that reparation to be his
life in the field; but the delay was ominous; he knew not why, but at
each ring at the gate, each step along the passages of the house, his
heart grew chill, his soul quailed. He despised himself for cowardice,
yet it was not that; but he knew that evil was at hand; he pitied
Elizabeth, and he shrunk from himself as one doomed to dishonour, and
unspeakable misery.

END OF VOL. II.

VOL. III.



CHAPTER I.

On arriving in London from Hastings, Neville had repaired as usual
to his father's house; which, as was to be supposed at that season of
the year, he found empty. On the second day Sir Boyvill presented
himself unexpectedly. He looked cold and stern as ever. The father and
son met as they were wont: the latter anticipating rebuke and angry
unjust commands; the other assuming the lofty tone of legitimate
authority, indignant at being disputed. "I hear from Sophia," said Sir
Boyvill, "that you are on the point of sailing for America, and this
without deigning to acquaint me with your purpose. Is this fair? Common
acquaintances act with more ceremony towards each other."

"I feared your disapproval, sir," replied Neville.

"And thought it less faulty to act without, than against a father's
consent: such is the vulgar notion; but a very erroneous one. It
doubles the injury, both to disobey me, and to keep me in the dark with
regard to my danger."

"But if the danger be only imaginary?" observed his son.

Sir Boyvill replied, "I am not come to argue with you, nor to
dissuade, nor to issue commands. I come with the more humble intention
of being instructed. Sophy, though she evidently regrets your purposed
journey, yet avers that it is not so wild and aimless as your
expeditions have hitherto been--that the letters from Lancaster did
lead to some unlooked-for disclosure. You little know me if you are not
aware that I have the question, which you debate in so rash and boyish
a manner, as deeply and more sorely at heart than you. Let me then hear
the tale you have heard."

Surprised and even touched to find his father unbend so far as to
listen to him, Neville related the American's story, and the
information that it seemed probable that Osborne could afford. Sir
Boyvill listened attentively, and then observed: "It will be matter of
triumph to you, Gerard, to learn that your strange perseverance has a
little overcome me. You are no longer a mere lad; and though
inexperienced and headstrong, you have shown talents and decision; and
I am willing to believe, though perhaps I am wrong, that you are guided
by conviction, and not by a blind wish to disobey. Your conduct has
been consistent throughout, and so far is entitled to respect.
But you are, as I have said (and forgive a father for saying
so)--inexperienced--a mere child in the world's ways. You go
straight-forward to your object, reckless of the remark that you
excite, and the gall and wormwood that such remark imparts. Why will
you not in some degree be swayed by me? Our views, if you would deign
to inquire into mine, are not so dissimilar."

Neville knew not what to answer, for every reply and explanation
were likely to offend. "Hitherto," continued Sir Boyvill, "in disgust
at your wilfulness, I have only issued disregarded commands. But I am
willing to treat my son as my friend, if he will let me; but it must be
on one condition. I exact one promise."

"I am ready, sir," replied Neville, "to enter into any engagement
that does not defeat my purpose."

"It is simply," said Sir Boyvill, "that you shall do nothing without
consulting me. I, on the other hand, will promise not to interfere by
issuing orders which you will not obey. But if there is any sense in
your pursuit, my councils may assist. I ask no more than to offer
advice, and to have opportunity afforded me to express my opinion. Will
you not allow that so much is due to me? Will you not engage to
communicate your projects, and to acquaint me unreservedly with every
circumstance that falls to your knowledge? This is the limit of my
exactions."

"Most willingly I make this promise," exclaimed Neville. "It will
indeed be my pride to have your participation in my sacred task."

"How far I can afford that," replied Sir Boyvill, "depends on the
conduct you will pursue. With regard to this Osborne, I consent at once
that his story should be sifted--nay, that you should go to America for
that purpose, while you are ready to engage that you will not act on
any information you may gather, without my knowledge."

"You may depend," said Gerard, "that I will keep to the letter of my
promise--and I pledge my honour gladly and unreservedly to tell you
everything, to learn your wishes, and to endeavour throughout to act
with your approbation."

This concession made on both sides, the father and son conversed on
more unreserved and kinder terms than they had ever before done. They
passed the evening together, and though the arrogance, the wounded
pride, the irritated feelings, and unredeemed selfishness of Sir
Boyvill betrayed themselves at every moment, Gerard saw with surprise
the weakness masked by so imposing an exterior. His angry commands and
insulting blame had been used as batteries to defend the accessible
part. He still loved and regretted Alithea, he pined to be assured of
her truth--but he despised himself for these emotions--calling them
feebleness and credulity. He felt assured that his worst suspicions
would be proved true.--She might now be dead; he thought it probable
that ere this her faults and sorrows were hushed in the grave: but had
she remained voluntarily one half hour in the power of the man who had
carried her from her home, no subsequent repentance, no remorse, no
suffering could exculpate her. What he feared was the revival of a
story so full of dishonour--the dragging a mangled half-formed tale
again before the public, which would jeer his credulity, and make merry
over the new gloss of a time-worn subject. When such a notion occupied
his brain, his heart swelled with uncontrollable emotions of pride and
indignation.

Neville cared little for the world. He thought of his mother's
wrongs and sufferings. He conjured up the long years which might have
been spent in wretchedness; he longed, whatever she had done, to feel
her maternal embrace, to show his gratitude for her early care of him.
This was one view, one class of emotions present to his mind, when any
occurrence tended to shake his belief in her unblemished honour and
integrity, which was the religion of his heart. At the same time he, as
much as his father, abhorred that the indifferent and light-hearted,
the levelling and base, should have any food administered to their
loathsome appetite for slander. So far as his father's views were
limited to the guarding Alithea's name from further discussion, Neville
honoured them. He showed Sir Boyvill that he was not so imprudent as he
seemed, and brought him at last to allow that some discovery might
ensue from his voyage. This open-hearted and peaceful interchange of
sentiment between them was very cheering to both; and when Gerard
visited Elizabeth the following day, his spirit was lighter and happier
than it had ever been, and love was there to mingle its roseate visions
with the sterner calls of duty. He entered Falkner's house with much of
triumph, and more of hope gladdening his heart; he left it
horror-struck, aghast, and almost despairing.

He would not return to his father. Elizabeth's supposition that
Falkner spoke under a delusion, produced by sudden insanity; and his
reluctance that while doubt hung over the event, that her dear name
should be needlessly mixed up with the tragedy of his mother's death,
restrained him. He resolved at once to take no final step till the
evening, till he had again seen Elizabeth, and learned what foundation
there was for the tremendous avowal that still rung in his ears. The
evening--he had mentioned the evening--but would it ever come? till
then he walked in a frightful dream. He first went to the docks,
withdrew his luggage, and yet left word that by possibility he might
still join the vessel at Sheerness. He did this, for he was glad to
give himself something to do; and yet, soon after, how gladly would he
have exchanged those hours of suspense, for the certainty that too
quickly came like a sudden ray of light, to show that he had long been
walking at the edge of a giddy precipice. He received the packet and
letter from the servant; dizzy and confounded he rode away; by the
light of the first lamp he read Elizabeth's letter, it disordered the
current of his blood, it confused and maddened the functions of reason;
putting spurs to his horse he galloped furiously on till he reached his
father's house.

Sir Boyvill was seated solitarily in his drawing-room, sipping his
coffee, and indulging in various thought. His wedded life with
Alithea--her charms, her admirable qualities, and sweet, endearing
disposition--occupied him as they had never done before since her
flight. For the first time the veil, woven by anger and vanity, fell
from his eyes, and he saw distinctly the rashness and injustice of his
past actions. He became convinced that deceit could never have had a
part in her;--did not her child resemble her, and was he not truth
itself? He had nourished an aversion to his son, as her offspring; now
he looked on his virtues as an inheritance derived from his sweet
mother, and his heart instinctively, unaccountably, warmed towards
both.

Gerard opened the door of the room and looked in; Sir Boyvill could
hardly have recognized him, his face whiter than marble, his eyes wild
and wandering, his whole countenance convulsed, his person shrunk up
and writhing. He threw the packet on the table, crying out, "Victory,
my father, victory!" in a voice so shrill and dissonant, so near a
shriek, as to inspire his auditor with fear rather than triumph: "Read!
read!" he continued, "I have not yet--I keep my word, you shall know
all, even before me--and yet, I do know all, I have seen my mother's
destroyer! She is dead!"

Sir Boyvill now, in some degree, comprehended his son's agitation.
He saw that he was too much excited to act with any calmness; he could
not guess how he had discovered the villain on whom both would desire
to heap endless, unsatiable revenge; but he did not wonder, that if he
had really encountered this man, and learned his deeds, that he should
be transported into a sort of frenzy. He took up the packet--he cut the
string that tied it--he turned over the papers, and his brow darkened.
"Here is a long narrative," he said; "there is much of excuse, and much
of explanation here. The story ought to be short that exculpates her; I
do not like these varnishings of the simple truth."

"You will find none," said Neville; "at least I heard none. His
words were direct--his avowal contained no subterfuge."

"Of whom do you speak?" asked Sir Boyvill.

"Read," said Neville; "and you will know more than I; but half an
hour ago those papers were put into my hands. I have not read them. I
give them to you before I am aware of their contents, that I might
fully acquit myself of my promise. They come from Rupert Falkner, my
mother's destroyer."

"Leave me then to my task," said Sir Boyvill, in an altered and
subdued tone. "You speak of strange things: facts to undo a frightful
past, and to generate a future, dedicated to a new revenge. Leave me;
let me remain alone while I read--while I ponder on what credit I may
give--what course I must pursue. Leave me, Gerard. I have long injured
you; but at last you will be repaid. Come back in a few hours; the
moment I am master of the contents of the manuscript I will see
you."

Gerard left him. He had scarcely been aware of what he was doing
when he carried the packet, unopened, unexamined, to his father. He had
feared that he might be tempted--to what?--to conceal his mother's
vindication? Never! Yet the responsibility sat heavy on him; and,
driven by an irresistible impulse, he had resolved to deprive himself
of all power of acting basely, by giving at once publicity to all that
passed. When he had done this, he felt as if he had applied a match to
some fatal rocket which would carry destruction to the very temple and
shrine of his dearest hopes--to Elizabeth's happiness and life. But the
deed was done; he could but shut his eyes and let the mortal ball
proceed towards its destined prey.

Gerard was young. He aspired to happiness with all the ardour of
youth. While we are young, we feel as if happiness were the birthright
of humanity; after a long and cruel apprenticeship, we disengage
ourselves from this illusion--or from (a yet more difficult sacrifice)
the realities that produce felicity--for on earth there are such,
though they are too often linked with adjuncts that make the purchase
of them cost in the end peace of mind and a pure conscience. Thus was
it with Gerard. With Elizabeth, winning her love and making her his
own, he felt assured of a life of happiness; but to sacrifice his
mother's name--the holy task to which he had dedicated himself from
childhood, for the sake of obtaining her--it must not be!

With this thought came destruction to the fresh-sprung hopes that
adorned his existence. Gerard's poetic and tender nature led him to
form sweet dreams of joys derived from a union which would be cemented
by affection, sympathy, and enthusiastic admiration of the virtues of
his companion. In Elizabeth he had beheld the embodying of all his
wishes; in her eyes he had read their accomplishment. Her love for her
father had first awakened his love. Her wise, simple, upright train of
thinking--the sensibility ennobled by self-command, yet ever ready to
spring forth and comfort the unhappy--her generosity--her total
abnegation of self--her understanding so just and true, yet tempered
with feminine aptitude to adapt itself to the situation and sentiments
of others, all these qualities, discovered one by one, and made dear by
the friendship she displayed towards him, had opened the hitherto
closed gates of the world's only paradise; and now he found that, as
the poet says, evil had entered even there--"and the trail of the
serpent," marked with slimy poison the fairest and purest of Eden's
flowers.

Neville had looked forward to a life of blameless but ecstatic
happiness, as her friend, her protector, her husband. Youth, without
being presumptuous, is often sanguine. Prodigal of self, it expects, as
of right, a full return. Ready to assist Elizabeth in her task of
watching over her father's health--who in his eyes, was wasting
gradually away--he felt that he should be near to soften her regrets,
and fill his place; and soothe her sinking spirits when struck by a
loss which to her would seem so dire.

And now--Falkner!--He believed him to be in a state of health that
did not leave him many years to live. He recollected him at Marseilles,
stretched on his couch, feeble as an infant, the hues of death on his
brow. He thought of him as he had seen him that morning--his figure
bent by disease--his face ashy pale and worn. He was the man whom
thirteen years before he remembered in upright, proud, and youthful
strength--woe and disease had brought on the ravages of age--he was
struck by premature decay--a few years, by the course of nature, he
would be laid in his grave. But Gerard could not leave him this
respite--he must at once meet him in such encounter as must end in the
death of one of the combatants--whichever that might be, there was no
hope for Elizabeth--in either case she lost her all--in either case
Falkner would die, and an insuperable barrier be raised between her and
her only other friend. Neville's ardent and gentle spirit quivered with
agony as he thought of these things. "O ye destructive powers of
nature!" he cried; "come all! Storm--flood and fire--mingled in one
dire whirlwind; or bring the deadlier tortures tyrants have inflicted,
and martyrs undergone, and say, can any agony equal that which
convulses the human heart, when writhing under contending
passions--torn by contrary purposes. This very morning Elizabeth was
all the universe of hope and joy. I would not for worlds have injured
one hair of her dear head, and now I meditate a deed that is to consign
her to eternal grief."

Athwart this tumult of thought, came the recollection that he was
still in ignorance of the truth. He called to mind the narrative which
his father was then reading--would it reveal aught that must alter the
line of conduct which he now considered inevitable? a devouring
curiosity was awakened. Leaving his father, he had rushed into the open
air, in obedience to the instinct that always leads the unquiet mind to
seek the solace of bodily activity. He had hurried into Hyde Park,
which then, in the dimness of night, appeared a wide expanse--a
limitless waste. He hurried to and fro on the turf--he saw nothing--he
was aware of nothing, except the internal war that shook him. Now, as
he felt the eager desire to get quit of doubt, he fancied that several
hours must have elapsed, and that his father must be waiting for him.
The clocks of London struck--he counted--it was but eleven--he had been
there scarcely more than an hour.



CHAPTER II.

Neville returned home--he paused at the drawing-room door--a slight
noise indicated that his father was within--his hand was on the lock,
but he retreated; he would not intrude uncalled for--he wandered
through the dark empty rooms, till a bell rang. Sir Boyvill inquired
for him--he hurried into his presence--he devoured the expression of
his countenance with his eyes, trying to read the thought within. Sir
Boyvill's face was usually stamped with an unvarying expression of cold
self-possession, mingled with sarcasm. These feelings were now at their
height--his aged countenance, withered and deep lined, was admirably
calculated to depict the concentrated disdain that sat upon his lips
and elevated his brows. He pointed to the papers before him, and said
in a composed, yet hollow voice, "Take these away--read, for it is
necessary you should--the amplified confession of the murderer."

Gerard's blood ran cold. "Yet why call it a confession," continued
Sir Boyvill, his assumed contempt rising into angry scorn; "from the
beginning to the end it is a lie. He would varnish over his
unparalleled guilt--he would shelter himself from its punishment, but
in vain. Read, Gerard--read and be satisfied. I have wronged your
mother--she was innocent--murdered. Be assured that her vindication
shall be heard as loudly as her accusation, and that her destroyer
shall die to expiate her death."

"Be that my task," said Gerard, trembling and pale from the conflict
of passion; "I take the office of vengeance on myself--I will meet Mr.
Falkner."

"Ha! you think of a duel!" cried his father. "Remember your promise,
young man--I hold you strictly to it--you do nothing without first
communicating with me. You must read these papers before you decide; I
have decided--be not afraid, I shall not forestall your purpose, I will
not challenge the murderer; but, in return for this pledge, give me
your word that you have no communication with the villain till you see
me again. I will not baulk you of your revenge, be sure of that; but
you must see me first."

"I promise"--said Gerard.

"And one word more," continued Sir Boyvill; "Is there any
possibility of this man's escape? Is he wrapped in the security which
his lie affords, or has he even now fled beyond our vengeance?"

"Be his crimes what they may," replied Neville, "I believe him to
entertain a delicate sense of worldly honour. He has promised to remain
in his home till he hears from me. He doubtless expects to be
challenged, and I verily believe desires to die. I feel convinced that
the idea of flight has not crossed his mind."

"Enough; good night. We are now one, Gerard; united by our love and
honour for your wronged mother's memory, and by our revenge; dissimilar
only in this, that my desire to repair her injuries is more vehement
even than yours." Sir Boyvill pressed his son's hand, and left him. A
few minutes afterwards, it would seem, he quitted the house.

"Now to my task," thought Neville; "and oh, thou God, who watchest
over the innocent, and yet gavest the innocent into the hands of the
destroyer, rule thou the throbbings of my heart; that neither mad hate,
nor hunger for revenge, take away my human nature, and turn me into a
fiend!"

He took up the manuscript; at first the words seemed written in
fire, but he grew calmer as he found how far back the narration went;
and curiosity succeeding to devouring impatience, he became
attentive.

He read and pitied. All that awoke Sir Boyvill's ire; Falkner's
presumption in daring to love, and his long-cherished constancy,
excited his compassion. When he came to the account of the meeting of
the forsaken lover and happy husband, he found, in the epithets so
liberally bestowed in the contemptuous description of his father, a
cause for his augmented desire for vengeance. When he read that his
mother herself repined, herself spoke disparagingly of her husband, he
wondered at the mildness of Sir Boyvill's expressions with regard to
her, and began to suspect that some strange and appalling design must
be working in his head to produce this unnatural composure. The rest
was madness, madness and misery, thus to take a wife and mother from
her home, to gratify the insane desire to exert for one half hour a
power he had lost for ever; the vain hope of turning her from her
duties, which at least, as far as her children were concerned, were the
dearest part of herself; her terror, her incapacity of mastering her
alarm, the night of insensibility which she passed in the hut--with a
start, Gerard felt sure that he had seen and marked that very spot; all
wrought him up to the height of breathless interest; till, when he read
the sad end of all, cold dew gathered on his brow, the tears that
filled his eyes changed to convulsive sobbings, and, despite his
manhood, he wept with the agony of a child.

He ended the tale, and he thought--"Yes, there is but one
termination to this tragedy; I must avenge my sweet mother, and, by the
death of Falkner, proclaim her innocence. But wherefore, it came across
his mind, had his father called him murderer? in intention and very
deed he was none; why term the narrative a lie. He followed it word by
word, and felt that truth was stamped in every line.

The house was still; it was two in the morning. Had his father
retired to rest? He had been so absorbed by his occupation, that he had
heard no sound, knew nothing that might have been passing around. He
remembered at last Sir Boyvill's Good night, and believing, as all was
hushed, that all slept, he retired to his own room. He could not think
of Elizabeth, or of the projected duel; he could think only of the
narrative he had read. When in bed, unable to sleep, he rose, lighted
his candle, and read much of it again: he pondered over every word, in
the concluding pages; it was all true, he would have staked his
existence on the accuracy of every word: was it not stamped on
Falkner's brow, as he had seen him but a few hours ago? sad, and worn
with grief and suffering, but without the stain of concealed guilt,
lofty in its very woe. It was break of day, just as Gerard was thinking
of rising to find and consult with his father, that sleep crept
unawares over him. Sleep will visit the young unbidden; he had suffered
so much fatigue of mind and body, that nature sought relief; sleep, at
first disturbed, but soon profound and refreshing, steeped his
distracted thoughts in peace, his wearied limbs in delightful
repose.

The morning was far advanced when he awoke, refreshed, ready to meet
the necessities of the hour, grieved, but composed, sad, but
strengthened and resolved. He inquired for his father, and heard, to
his infinite astonishment, that he had left town; he had set out in his
travelling carriage at four that morning; a note from him was put into
Neville's hands. It contained few words: "Remember your
engagement--that you take no steps, with regard to Mr. Falkner, till
you have seen me. I am setting out for Dromore; on my return, which
will be speedy, I will communicate my wishes, to which I do not doubt
you will accede."

Neville was startled; he guessed at once Sir Boyvill's aim in the
sudden journey;--but was he not a fit partner in such an act? ought he
not to share in the duty of rendering honour to his mother's grave? He
felt that he ought to be at his father's side, and, ordering his own
chariot, set out with the hope of overtaking him.

But Sir Boyvill travelled with equal speed, and was many miles and
many hours in advance. Gerard hoped to come up with him when he stopped
at night. But the old gentleman was so eager in his pursuit, that he
prosecuted his journey without rest. Gerard continued in the same way;
travelling alone, he revolved again and again all that must be, all
that might have been. Whatever happened, he was divided from Elizabeth
for ever. Did she love him? he had scarcely questioned the return his
affection would one day meet, till now that he had lost her for ever;
and, like a true lover, earnestly desirous to preserve some property in
her he loved, he cherished the hope that she would share his deep
regrets, and so prove that in heart they were one. How pleasant were
the days they had passed at Oakly; all his sorrows there, and his
passionate desire to unveil the mystery of his mother's fate, how had
it given an interest to each hour, and imparted an untold and most
sweet grace to the loved Elizabeth, that she should sympathize with so
much fervour and kindness.

How strange the chance that led the daughter of the destroyer to
share the feelings of the unhappy victim's son; yet stranger still that
that destroyer had a child. Rambling among many tangled thoughts,
Gerard started when first this idea suggested itself. Where was
Falkner's boasted fidelity, on which he laid claim to compassion and
pardon; where his assertion, that all his soul was centred in Alithea?
and this child, an angel from her birth, was even then born to him; he
opened the writing-case which contained the papers, and which he
carried with him; he referred to them for explanation. Yes, Elizabeth
then lived, and was not far from him; her hand had staid his arm,
raised against his life. It was not enough that the frenzy of passion
urged him to tear Alithea from her home and children, but even the
existence of his own daughter was no restraint, he was willing to doom
her from very childhood to a partnership in guilt and misery. Hitherto,
despite all, and in despite of his resolve to meet him in mortal
encounter, Neville had pitied Falkner; but now his heart grew hard
against him, he began to revolve thoughts similar to those expressed by
Sir Boyvill, and to call Elizabeth's father an impostor, his tale a
lie. He re-read the manuscript with a new feeling of scepticism; this
time he was against the writer, he detected exaggeration, where,
before, he had only found the energy of passion: he saw an attempt to
gloss over guilt, where, before, he had read merely the struggles of
conscience, the innate innocence of profound feeling, combating with
the guilt, which circumstances may impart to our loftiest emotions; his
very sufferings became but the just visitation of angry Heaven; he was
a wretch, whom to kill were mercy--and Elizabeth, beautiful, generous,
and pure, was his child!



CHAPTER III.

That night was spent in travelling, and without any sleep. Neville
saw the daybreak in melancholy guise, struggling with the clouds, with
which a south-east wind veiled the sky. Nature looked bleak and
desolate, even though she was still dressed in her summer garments. It
was only the latter end of August, but so changeable is our climate,
that the bright festive days which he had lately enjoyed in Sussex,
were already followed by chill and dreary precursors of the year's
decline. Gerard reached Dromore at about noon. He learned that his
father had arrived during the night--he had slept a few hours, but was
already gone out; it appeared that he had ridden over to a neighbour,
Mr. Ashley; for he had inquired if he were in the county, and had, with
his groom, both on horseback, taken the road that led towards his
house.

Neville hastily took some refreshment, while he ordered a horse to
be saddled.--His heart led him to seek and view a spot which he had
once before visited, and which seemed accurately described in Falkner's
narrative. He left behind him the woods of Dromore, and the foldings of
the green hills in which it was situated--he descended towards the
barren dreary shore--the roar of ocean soon met his ear, and he reached
the waste sands that border that melancholy coast--he saw the line of
sand-hills, which formed a sort of bulwark against the tide--he reached
at length a rapid, yet shallow stream, which was but about twenty yards
wide, flowing over a rough bottom of pebbles; the eye easily reached
its utmost depth, it could not be more than two feet. Could that be the
murderous, furious estuary in which his mother had been borne away? he
looked across--there stood the hut--there the moss-grown, leafless oak,
and gathered round it was a crowd of men. His father, and two or three
other gentlemen on horseback, were stationed near--while some labourers
were throwing up the sand beneath the withered trunk. When we have long
thought of and grieved over an incident--if any outward object bring
the image of our thoughts bodily before us, it is strange what an
accession of emotion stirs the depths of the heart. For many hours
Neville's mind had dwelt upon the scene in all its parts--the wild
waste sea, dark and purple beneath the lowering clouds--the dreary
extent of beach--the far, stupendous mountains, thrown up in sublime,
irregular grandeur, with cloud-capt peaks, and vast gulfs between--a
sort of Cyclopean screen to the noble landscape, which they encompassed
with their wide majestic extent--his reflections had selected the
smaller objects--the river, the hut, the monumental tree; and it seemed
as if actual vision could not bring it home more truly; but when he
actually beheld these objects, and the very motive of his coming was
revealed, as it were, by the occupation of the men at work, his young
heart, unhardened by many sufferings, sickened, the tears rushed into
his eyes, and the words--"O my mother!" burst from his lips. It was a
spasm of uncontrollable pain--an instant afterwards he had mastered it,
and guiding his horse through the ford, with tranquil mien, though pale
and sad, he took his station abreast with his father. Sir Boyvill
turned as he rode up; he manifested no surprise, but he looked
thankful, and even triumphant, Gerard thought; and the young man
himself, as he contemplated the glazed eyes and attenuated form of his
parent, which spoke of the weight of years, despite his still upright
carriage, and the stern expression of his face, felt that his right
place was at his side, to render the support of his youthful strength,
and active faculties. The men went on with their work in silence, nor
did any speak; the sand was thrown up in heaps, the horses pawed the
ground impatiently, and the hollow murmurs of the neighbouring breakers
filled every pause with sound, but no voice spoke; or if one of the
labourers had a direction to give, it was done in whispers. At length
some harder substance opposed their progress, and they worked more
cautiously. Mingled with sand they threw out pieces of dark substance
like cloth or silk, and at length got out of the wide long trench they
had been opening. With one consent, though in silence, every one
gathered nearer, and looked in--they saw a human skeleton. The action
of the elements, which the sands had not been able to impede, had
destroyed every vestige of a human frame, except those discoloured
bones, and long tresses of dark hair, which were wound around the
skull. A universal yet suppressed groan burst from all. Gerard felt
inclined to leap into the grave, but the thought of the many eyes all
gazing, acted as a check; and a second instinctive feeling of pious
reverence induced him to unfasten his large black horseman's cloak, and
to cast it over the opening. Sir Boyvill then broke the silence: "You
have done well, my son; let no man lift that covering, or in any way
disturb the remains beneath. Do you know, my friends, who lies there?
Do you remember the night when Mrs. Neville was carried off? The
country was raised, but we sought for her in vain. On that night she
was murdered, and was buried here."

A hollow murmur ran through the crowd, already augmented by several
stragglers, who had heard that something strange was going on. All
pressed forward, though but to see the cloak, now become an object of
curiosity and interest. Several remembered the lady, whose mouldered
remains were thus revealed, in the pride of youth and beauty, warm of
heart, kind, beloved; and this was all left of her! these unseemly
bones were all earth had to show of the ever sweet Alithea!

"Mr. Ashley kindly assists me," continued Sir Boyvill; "we are both
magistrates. The coroner is already sent for, a jury will be summoned;
when that duty is performed, the remains of my unfortunate,
much-wronged wife will be fitly interred. These ceremonies are
necessary for the punishment of the murderer. We know him, he cannot
escape; and you, every one of you, will rejoice in that vengeance which
will be mine at last."

Execrations against the villain burst from every lip; yet even then
each eye turned from old Sir Boyvill, whose vindictive nature had been
showed before towards the hapless victim herself, to the young man, the
son, whose grief and pious zeal had been the theme of many a gossip's
story, and who now, pale and mute as he was, showed, in his intent and
woe-struck gaze, more true touch of natural sorrow than Sir Boyvill's
wordy harangue could denote.

"We must appoint constables to guard this place," said Sir
Boyvill.

Mr. Ashley assented; the proper arrangements were made; the curious
were to be kept off, and two servants from Dromore were added to the
constables; then the gentlemen rode off. Neville, bewildered, desirous
to stay to look once again on what had been his mother, yet averse to
the vulgar gaze, followed them at a slower pace, till Mr. Ashley,
taking leave of Sir Boyvill, rode away, and he perceived that his
father was waiting for him, and that he must join him.

"Thank you, my son," said Sir Boyvill, "for your zeal and timely
arrival. I expected it of you. We are one now; one to honour your
mother; one in our revenge. You will not this time refuse your
evidence."

"Do you then believe that Mr. Falkner is actually a murderer?" cried
Neville.

"Let the laws of his country decide on that question," replied Sir
Boyvill, with a sneering laugh. "I bring forward the facts only, you do
the same; let the laws of his country, and a jury of his equals, acquit
or condemn him."

"Your design then is to bring him to a trial?" asked Gerard. "I
should have thought that the publicity--"

"I design," cried Sir Boyvill, with uncontrolled passion, "to bring
him to a fate more miserable than his victim's; and I thank all-seeing
Heaven, which places such ample revenge in my hands. He will die by the
hands of the hangman, and I shall be satisfied."

There was something horrible in the old man's look and voice; he
gloated on the foul disgrace about to be heaped on his enemy. The
chivalrous notions of Gerard, a duel between the destroyer and his
victim's son, was a paltry, trifling vengeance, compared with the
ignominy he contemplated. "Was not the accusation against your mother
loud," continued Sir Boyvill, "public, universal? Did not the assembled
parliament pronounce upon her guilt, and decree her shame? And shall
her exculpation be hushed up and private? I court publicity. A less
august tribunal, but one whose decisions are no less widely circulated,
shall proclaim her innocence. This idea alone would decide my course,
if I could so far unman my soul as to forget that vengeance is due. Let
it decide yours, if so much milk still mingle with your blood, that it
sicken at the thought of justice against a felon."

Transported by rage, Sir Boyvill sought for words bitter and
venomous enough to convey his meaning; and Neville discerned at once
how much he was incensed by the language used with regard to him in
Falkner's manuscript. Wounded vanity sought to ape injured feelings; in
such petty selfish passions, Gerard could take no share, and he
observed: "Mr. Falkner is a gentleman. I confess that his narration has
won belief from me. His crime, dressed in his own words, is frightful
enough; and heavily, if it be left to me, shall I visit it; but the
plan you adopt is too discordant with the habits of persons of our rank
of life, for me to view it without aversion. There is another which I
prefer adopting."

"You mean," replied Sir Boyvill, "that you would challenge him, risk
your life on the chance of taking his. Pardon me; I can by no means
acquiesce in the propriety of such an act. I look on the wrongs he has
done us as depriving him of the right to be treated with courtesy; nor
do I wish him to add the death of my only son, to the list of the
injuries I have sustained."

The old man paused: his lip quivered--his voice dropped. Neville
fancied that tenderness of feeling caused these indications; he was
deceived; his father continued: "I am endeavouring so far to command
myself as to speak with moderation. It is difficult to find words to
express implacable hatred, so let that go by, and let us talk, since
you can, and believe doubtless that I ought, calmly and reasonably. You
would challenge this villain, this gentleman, as you name him. You
would put your life on a par with his. He murdered your mother, and to
repay me, you would die by the same hand.

"If you speak the truth, if he possess a spark of those feelings,
which, as a soldier, you have a right to believe may animate him, do
you think that he would return your fire? He raves about remorse in
that tissue of infamous falsehoods which you put into my hands; if he
be human, he must have some touch of that; and he could not, if he
would, raise his weapon against the child of poor Alithea. He will
therefore refuse to meet you, or, meeting you, refuse to fire; and
either it will end in a farce for the amusement of the world, or you
will shoot a defenceless man. I do not see the mercy of this
proceeding."

"Of that, sir," said Neville, "we must take our chance."

"I will take no chance," cried his father. "My unfortunate wife was
borne off forcibly from her home; you can bear witness to that. Two men
carried her away, and no tidings ever again reached us of her fate. And
now one of these men, the arch criminal, chooses to gloss over these
circumstances, events as pleases him; tells his own story, giving it
such graces of style as may dupe the inexperienced, and we are to rest
satisfied, and say, It is so. The absurdity of such conduct would mark
us as madmen. Enough of this; I have reasoned with you as if the
decision lay with me; when, in fact, I have no voice on the subject. It
is out of my hands; I have made it over to the law, and we can but
stand by and view its course. I believe, and before Heaven and your
country you must assert the same, that the remains we have uncovered,
are all that is left us of your lost mother; the clandestine burial at
once declares the guilt of murder; such must be the opinion of
impartial judges, if I mistake not. I can interfere no further. The
truth will be sifted by three juries; this is no hole-and-corner
vengeance; let our enemy escape, in God's name, if they acquit him; but
if he be guilty, then let him die, as I believe he will, a felon's
death."

Sir Boyvill looked on his son with glassy eyes, but a sneering lip,
that spoke of the cruel triumph he desired. "There is Ravenglass," he
added, "there the coroner is summoned--there the court meets. We go to
give our deposition. We shall not lie, nor pervert facts; we tell who
it was revealed to us your mother's unknown grave; it rests with them
to decide whether he, who by his own avowal placed her therein, has not
the crime of murder on his soul."



CHAPTER IV.

Sir Boyvill quickened his pace; Neville followed. He was still the
same being who in his youth had been driven to the verge of insanity by
the despotism of his father. His free and feeling heart revolted from
arbitrary commands and selfishness. It was not only that his thoughts
flew back, wounded and sore, to Elizabeth, and figured her agony; but
he detested the fierce and vulgar revenge of his father. It is true
that he had seen Falkner, and in the noble, though tarnished, grandeur
of his countenance, he had read the truth of the sad tale he related;
and he could not treat him with the contempt Sir Boyvill evinced; to
whom he was an image of the mind--unseen, unfelt. And then Falkner had
loved his mother; nay more, she as a sister had loved him; and faulty
and cruel as had been his return for her kindness, he, through her, was
endued with sacredness in his eyes.

To oppose these softening feelings, came a sort of rage that
Elizabeth was his child, that through him a barrier was raised to
separate him from the chosen friend of his heart, the one sweet angel
who had first whispered peace to his soul. The struggle was violent--he
did not see how he could refuse his evidence at the inquest already
summoned; in every way his motives might be misunderstood, and his
mother's fame might suffer. This idea became the victor--he would do
all that he was called upon to do--to exculpate her; the rest he must
leave to the mysterious guidance of Providence.

He arrived at the poverty-stricken town of Ravenglass--the legal
authorities were assembled; and while preliminaries were being
arranged, he was addressed by Sir Boyvill's solicitor, who asked him to
relate what he knew, that his legal knowledge might assist in framing
his evidence briefly, and conclusively. Neville recounted his story
simply, confining himself as much as possible to the bare outline of
the facts. The man of law was evidently struck by the new turn he gave
to the tale; for Sir Boyvill had unhesitatingly accused Falkner of
murder. "This Falkner," he said, "had concealed himself for the space
of thirteen years, till his accomplice Osborne was discovered--and till
he heard of Gerard's perseverance in sifting the truth--then, fearful
the tale might be disclosed in America, he came forward with his own
narrative, which glossed over the chief crime, and yet, by revealing
the burial-place of his victim, at once demonstrated the truth of the
present accusation. It is impossible that the facts could have occurred
as he represents them, plausible as his account is. Could a woman as
timid as Alithea have rushed on certain death, as he describes? Why
should she have crossed the stream in its fury? A bare half mile would
have carried her to a cottage where she had been safe from Falkner's
pursuit. What lady in a well-known country, where every face she met
must prove a friend, but would not have betaken herself to the nearest
village, instead of to an estuary renowned for danger. The very wetting
her feet in a brook had terrified her--never could she have encountered
the roar of waves sufficient to overwhelm and destroy her."

Such were the observations of Sir Boyvill; and though Gerard, by his
simple assertion that he believed Falkner's tale, somewhat staggered
the solicitor, yet he could not banish his notion that a trial was the
inevitable and best mode of bringing the truth to light. The jury were
now met, and Sir Boyvill gave such a turn to his evidence, as at once
impressed them unfavourably towards the accused. In melancholy
procession they visited poor Alithea's grave. A crowd of country people
were collected about it--they did not dare touch the cloak, but gazed
on it with curiosity and grief. Many remembered Mrs. Neville, and their
rude exclamations showed how deeply they felt her injuries. "When I was
ill," said an old woman, "she gave me medicine with her own hand."
"When my son James was lost at sea," said another, "she came to comfort
me, and brought young master Gerard--and cried, bless her! When she saw
me take on--rich and grand as she was, she cried for poor James,--and
that she should be there now!" "My dear mistress," cried another,
"never did she speak a harsh word to me--but for her, I could not have
married--if she had lived, I had never known sorrow!"

Execrations against the murderer followed these laments. The arrival
of the jury caused a universal murmur--the crowd was driven back--the
cloak lifted from the grave--the men looked in; the skull, bound by her
long hair--hair whose colour and luxuriance many remembered--attracted
peculiar observation; the women, as they saw it, wept aloud--fragments
of her dress were examined, which yet retained a sort of identity, as
silk or muslin--though stained and colourless. As further proof, among
the bones were found a few ornaments--among them, on the skeleton hand,
were her wedding-ring, with two others--both of which were sworn to by
Sir Boyvill as belonging to his wife. No doubt could exist concerning
the identity of the remains; it was sacrilege to gaze on them a moment
longer than was necessary--while each beholder, as they contemplated so
much beauty and excellence reduced to a small heap of bones, abhorrent
to the eye, imbibed a heart-felt lesson on the nothingness of life.
Stout-hearted men wept--and each bosom glowed with hatred against her
destroyer.

After a few moments the cloak was again extended--the crowd pressed
nearer: the jury retired, and returned to Ravenglass. Neville's
evidence was only necessary to prove the name and residence of the
assassin--there was no hesitation about the verdict. That of wilful
murder against Falkner was unhesitatingly pronounced--a warrant issued
for his apprehension, and proper officers dispatched to execute it.

The moment that the verdict was delivered, Sir Boyvill and his son
rode back to Dromore. Mr. Ashley and the solicitor accompanied
them--and all the ordinary mechanism of life, which intrudes so often
for our good, so to jostle together discordant characters, and wear off
poignant impressions, now forced Neville, who was desirous to give
himself up to meditation, to abide for several hours in the society of
these gentlemen. There was a dinner to be eaten--Mr. Ashley partook of
it, and Gerard felt that his absence would be indecorous. After dinner
he was put to a trial--more severe to a sensitive, imaginative mind
than any sharp strokes of common-place adversity. He was minutely
questioned as to the extent of his acquaintance with Falkner--how he
came to form it, how often he had seen him--and what had drawn
confession from him they named the criminal. These inquiries had been
easily answered, but that the name of Elizabeth must be
introduced--and, as he expected, at the mention of a daughter, a world
of inquiry followed--and coarse remarks fell from his father's
lips--which harrowed up his soul; while he felt that he had no
exculpation to offer, nor any explanation that might take from her the
name and association of the child of a murderer.

As soon as he could, he burst away. He rushed into the open air, and
hurried to the spot where he could best combat with, and purify the
rebellious emotions of his heart--none but the men placed as watch were
near his mother's grave. Seeing the young squire, they retreated--and
he who had come on foot at such quick pace, that he scarcely felt the
ground he trod, threw himself on the sands, grateful to find himself
alone with nature. The moon was hurrying on among the clouds--now
bright in the clear ether, now darkened by heavy masses--and the
mirroring ocean was sometimes alive with sparkling silver, now veiled
and dim, so that you could hear, but not see, the breaking of the
surge.

An eloquent author has said, in contempt of such a being: "Try to
conceive a man without the ideas of God and eternity; of the good, the
true, the beautiful, and the infinite." Neville was certainly not such.
There was poetry in his very essence, and enthusiasm for the ideal of
the excellent, gave his character a peculiar charm, to any one equally
exalted and refined. His mother's decaying form lay beneath the sands
on which he was stretched, death was there in its most hideous form;
beauty, and even form had deserted that frame-work which once was the
dear being, whose caresses, so warm and fond, it yet often thrilled him
to remember. He had demanded from Heaven the revelation of his mother's
fate, here he found it, here in the narrow grave lay the evidence of
her virtues and her death;--did he thank Heaven? even while he did, he
felt with bitterness that the granting of his prayer was inextricably
linked with the ruin of a being, as good and fair as she, whose honour
he had so earnestly desired to vindicate.

He thought of all the sordid, vulgar, but heart-thrilling misery,
which by his means was brought on Elizabeth; and he sought his heart
for excuses for the success for which he had pined. They came ready; no
desire of vulgar vengeance had been his, his motives had been exalted,
his conduct straight-forward. The divine stamp on woman is her maternal
character--it was to prove that his idolized mother had not deserted
the first and most sacred duty in the world, that had urged him--and he
could not foresee that the innocent would suffer through his inquiries.
The crime must fall on its first promoter--on Falkner's head must be
heaped the consequences of his act; all else were guiltless.--These
reflections, however, only served to cheat his wound of its pain for a
time--again other thoughts recurred; the realities, the squalid
realities of the scene, in which she, miserable, was about to take a
part. The thief-takers and the gyves--the prison, and the public
ignominious trial--Falkner was to be subjected to all these
indignities, and he well knew that his daughter would not leave his
side. "And I, her son, the offspring of these sainted bones--placed
here by him--how can I draw near his child! God have mercy on her, for
man will have none!"

Still he could not be satisfied. "Surely," he thought, "something
can be done, and something I will do. Already men are gone, who are to
tear him from his home, and to deliver him up to all those vile
contrivances devised for the coercion of the lowest of mankind--she
will accompany him, while I must remain here. To-morrow these remains
will be conveyed to our house--on the following day they are to be
interred in the family vault, and I must be present--I am tied, forced
to inaction--the privilege of free action taken from me."

Hope was awakened, however, as he pursued these thoughts, and
recollected the generous, kindly disposition of Lady Cecil, and her
attachment to her young friend. He determined to write to her. He felt
assured that she would do all in her power to alleviate Elizabeth's
sufferings--what she could do, he did not well understand--but it was a
relief to him to take some step for the benefit of the devoted
daughter. Bitterly, as he thought of these things, did he regret that
he had ever seen Elizabeth? So complicated was the web of event, that
he knew not how to wish any event to have occurred differently; except,
that he had not trusted to the hollow pretences of his father. He saw
at once how the generous and petty-minded can never coalesce--he ought
to have acted for himself, by himself; and miserable as in any case the
end must have been, he felt that his own open, honourable revenge would
have been less cruel in its effects, than the malicious pursuit of his
vindictive father.



CHAPTER V.

There is an impatient spirit in the young, that will not suffer them
to take into consideration the pauses that occur between events. That
which they do not see move, they believe to be stationary. Falkner was
surprised by the silence of several days on the part of Neville; but he
did not the less expect and prepare for the time, when he should be
called upon to render an account for the wrong he had done. Elizabeth,
on the contrary, deemed that the scene was closed, the curtain fallen.
What more could arise? Neville had obtained assurance of the innocence
and miserable end of his mother. In some manner this would be declared
to the world; but the echo of such a voice would not penetrate the
solitude in which she and her guardian were hereafter to live. Silence
and exclusion were the signal and seal of discovered guilt--other
punishment she did not expect. The name of Falkner had become abhorrent
to all who bore any relationship to the injured Alithea. She had bid an
eternal adieu to the domestic circle at Oakly--to the kind and
frank-hearted Lady Cecil--and, with her, to Gerard. His mind, fraught
with a thousand virtues--his heart, whose sensibility had awoke her
tenderness, were shut irrevocably against her.

Did she love Gerard? This question never entered her own mind. She
felt, but did not reason on, her emotions.--Elizabeth was formed to be
alive to the better part of love. Her enthusiasm gave ideality, her
affectionate disposition warmth, to all her feelings. She loved
Falkner, and that with so much truth and delicacy, yet fervour of
passion, that scarcely could her virgin heart conceive a power more
absolute, a tie more endearing, than the gratitude she had vowed to
him; yet she intimately felt the difference that existed between her
deep-rooted attachment for him she named and looked on as her father,
and the spring of playful, happy, absorbing emotions that animated her
intercourse with Neville. To the one she dedicated her life and
services; she watched him as a mother may a child; a smile or cheerful
tone of voice were warmth and gladness to her anxious bosom, and she
wept over his misfortunes with the truest grief.

But there was more of the genuine attachment of mind for mind in her
sentiment for Neville. Falkner was gloomy and self-absorbed. Elizabeth
might grieve for, but she found it impossible to comfort him. With
Gerard it was far otherwise. Elizabeth had opened in his soul an
unknown spring of sympathy, to relieve the melancholy which had
hitherto overwhelmed him. With her he gave way freely to the impulses
of a heart, which longed to mingle its hitherto checked stream of
feeling with other and sweeter waters. In every way he excited her
admiration as well as kindness. The poetry of his nature suggested
expressions and ideas at once varied and fascinating. He led her to new
and delightful studies, by unfolding to her the pages of the poets of
her native country, with which she was little conversant. Except
Shakspeare and Milton, she knew nothing of English poetry. The volumes
of Chaucer and Spenser, of ancient date; of Pope, Gray, and Burns; and,
in addition, the writings of a younger, but divine race of poets, were
all opened to her by him. In music, also, he became her teacher. She
was a fine musician of the German school. He introduced her to the
simpler graces of song; and brought her the melodies of Moore, so
"married to immortal verse," that they can only be thought of
conjointly. Oh the happy days of Oakly! How had each succeeding hour
been gilded by the pleasures of a nascent passion, of the existence of
which she had never before dreamed--and these were fled for ever! It
was impossible to feel assured of so sad a truth, and not to weep over
the miserable blight. Elizabeth commanded herself to appear cheerful,
but sadness crept over her solitary hours. She felt that the world had
grown, from being a copy of Paradise, into a land of labour and
disappointment; where self-approbation was to be gained through
self-sacrifice; and duty and happiness became separate, instead of
united objects at which to aim.

From such thoughts she took refuge in the society of Falkner. She
loved him so truly, that she forgot her personal regrets--she forgot
even Neville when with him. Her affection for her benefactor was not a
stagnant pool, mantled over by memories, existing in the depths of her
soul, but giving no outward sign; it was a fresh spring of ever-flowing
love--it was redundant with all the better portion of our
nature--gratitude, admiration, and pity, for ever fed it, as from a
perennial fountain.

It was on a day, the fifth after the disclosure of Falkner, that she
had been taking her accustomed ride, and, as she rode, given herself up
to all those reveries--now enthusiastic, now drooping and
mournful--that sprung from her singular and painful position. She
returned home, eager to forget in Falkner's society many a rebel
thought, and to drive away the image of her younger friend, by gazing
on the wasted, sinking form of her benefactor, in whose singularly
noble countenance she ever found new cause to devote her fortunes and
her heart. To say that he was "not less than archangel ruined," is not
to express the peculiar interest of Falkner's appearance. Thus had he
seemed, perhaps, thirteen years before at Treby; but gentle and kindly
sentiments, the softening intercourse of Elizabeth, the improvement of
his intellect, and the command he had exercised over the demonstration
of passion, had moulded his face into an expression of benevolence and
sweetness, joined to melancholy thoughtfulness; an abstracted, but not
sullen, seriousness, that rendered it interesting to every beholder.
Since his confession to Neville, since the die was cast, and he had
delivered himself up to his fate, to atone for his victim, something
more was added; exalted resolution, and serene lofty composure had
replaced his usual sadness; and the passions of his soul, which had
before deformed his handsome lineaments, now animated them with a
beauty of mind, which struck Elizabeth at once with tenderness and
admiration.

Now, longing to behold, to contemplate, this dear face, and to
listen to a voice that always charmed her out of herself, and made her
forget her sorrows--she was disappointed to find his usual sitting-room
empty--it appeared even as if the furniture had been thrown into
disorder; there were marks of several dirty feet upon the carpet; on
the half-written letter that lay on the desk, the pen had hastily been
thrown, blotting it. Elizabeth wondered a little, but the emotion was
passing away, when the head servant came into the room, and informed
her, that his master had gone out, and would not return that night.

"Not to night!" exclaimed Elizabeth; "what has happened? who have
been here?"

"Two men, miss."

"Men! gentlemen?"

"No, miss, not gentlemen."

"And my father went away with them?"

"Yes, miss," replied the man, "he did indeed. He would not take the
carriage; he went in a hired postchaise. He ordered me to tell you,
miss, that he would write directly, and let you know when you might
expect him."

"Strange, very strange is this!" thought Elizabeth. She did not know
why she should be disturbed, but disquiet invaded her mind; she felt
abandoned and forlorn, and, as the shades of evening gathered round,
even desolate. She walked from room to room, she looked from the
window, the air was chill, and from the east, yet she repaired to the
garden; she felt restless and miserable;--what could the event be that
took Falkner away? She pondered vainly. The most probable conjecture
was, that he obeyed some summons from her own relations. At length one
idea rushed into her mind, and she returned to the house, and rang for
the servant. Falkner's wandering life had prevented his having any
servant of long-tried fidelity about him--but this man was
good-hearted, and respectable--he felt for his young mistress, and had
consulted with her maid as to the course they should take, under the
present painful circumstances; and had concluded that they should
preserve silence as to what had occurred, leaving her to learn it from
their master's expected letter. Yet the secret was in some danger,
when, fixing her eyes on him, Elizabeth said, "Tell me truly, have you
no guess what the business is that has taken your master away?"

The man looked confused; but, like many persons not practised in the
art of cross-questioning, Elizabeth baulked herself, by adding another
inquiry before the first was answered; saying with a faltering voice,
"Are you sure, Thompson, that it was not a challenge--a duel?"

The domestic's face cleared up: "Quite certain, miss, it was no
duel--it could not be--the men were not gentlemen."

"Then," thought Elizabeth, as she dismissed the man, "I will no
longer torment myself. It is evidently some affair of mere business
that has called him away. I shall learn all tomorrow."

Yet the morrow and the next day came, and Falkner neither wrote nor
returned. Like all persons who determine to conjecture no more,
Elizabeth's whole time was spent in endeavouring to divine the cause of
his prolonged absence, and strange silence. Had any communication from
Neville occasioned his departure? was he sent for to point out his
victim's grave? That idea carried some probability with it; and
Elizabeth's thoughts flew fast to picture the solitary shore, and the
sad receptacle of beauty and love. Would Falkner and Neville meet at
such an hour? without a clue to guide her, she wandered for ever in a
maze of thought, and each hour added to her disquietude. She had not
gone beyond the garden for several days, she was fearful of being
absent when any thing might arise; but nothing occurred, and the
mystery became more tantalizing and profound.

On the third day she could endure the suspense no longer; she
ordered horses to be put to the carriage, and told the servant of her
intention to drive into town, and to call on Falkner's solicitor, to
learn if he had any tidings; that he was ill she felt assured--where
and how? away from her, perhaps deserted by all the world: the idea of
his sick-bed became intolerably painful; she blamed herself for her
inaction, she resolved not to rest till she saw her father again.

Thompson knew not what to say; he hesitated, begged her not to go;
the truth hovered on his lips, yet he feared to give it utterance.
Elizabeth saw his confusion; it gave birth to a thousand fears, and she
exclaimed, "What frightful event are you concealing? Tell me at once.
Great God! why this silence? Is my father dead?"

"No, indeed, miss," said the man, "but my master is not in London,
he is a long way off. I heard he was taken to Carlisle."

"Taken to Carlisle! Why taken? What do you mean?"

"There was a charge against him, miss;" Thompson continued,
hesitating at every word, "the men who came--they apprehended him for
murder."

"Murder!" echoed his auditress; "then they fought! Gerard is
killed!"

The agony of her look made Thompson more explicit. "It was no duel,"
he said, "it was done many years ago; it was a lady who was murdered, a
Mrs. or Lady Neville."

Elizabeth smiled--a painful, yet a genuine smile; so glad was she to
have her worst fears removed, so futile did the accusation appear; the
smile passed away, as she thought of the ignominy, the disgraceful
realities of such a process;--of Falkner torn from his home,
imprisoned, a mark for infamy. Weak minds are stunned by a blow like
this, while the stronger rise to the level of the exigency, and grow
calm from the very call made upon their courage. Elizabeth might weep
to remember past or anticipated misfortunes, but she was always calm
when called upon to decide and act; her form seemed to dilate, her eyes
flashed with a living fire, her whole countenance beamed with lofty and
proud confidence in herself. "Why did you not tell me this before!" she
exclaimed. "What madness possessed you to keep me in ignorance? How
much time has been lost! Order the horses! I must begone at once, and
join my father."

"He is in gaol, miss," said Thompson. "I beg your pardon, but you
had better see some friend before you go."

"I must decide upon that," replied Elizabeth. "Let there be no delay
on your part, you have caused too much. But the bell rings;--did I not
hear wheels? perhaps he is returned." She rushed to the outer door; she
believed that it was her father returned; the garden gate opened--two
ladies entered; one was Lady Cecil. In a moment Elizabeth felt herself
embraced by her warm-hearted friend; she burst into tears. "This is
kind, more than kind!" she exclaimed; "and you bring good news, do you
not? My father is liberated, and all is again well!"



CHAPTER VI.

The family of Raby must be considered collectively, as each member
united in one feeling, and acted on one principle. They were Catholics,
and never forgot it. They were not bent on proselytism; on the
contrary, they rather shunned admitting strangers into their circle;
but they never ceased to remember that they belonged to the ancient
faith of the land, and looked upon their fidelity to the tenets of
their ancestors as a privilege, and a distinction far more honourable
than a patent of nobility. Surrounded by Protestants, and consequently,
as they believed, by enemies, it was the aim of their existence to keep
their honour unsullied; and that each member of the family should act
for the good and glory of the whole, unmindful of private interests,
and individual affections. The result of such a system may be divined.
The pleasures of mediocrity--toiling merit--the happy home--the
cheerful family union, where smiles glitter brighter than gold; all
these were unknown or despised. Young hearts were pitilessly crushed;
young hopes blighted without remorse. The daughters were doomed, for
the most part, to the cloister; the sons to foreign service. This
indeed was not to be attributed entirely to the family failing--a few
years ago, English Catholics were barred out from every road to
emolument and distinction in their native country.

Edwin Raby had thus been sacrificed. His enlightened mind disdained
the trammels thrown over it; but his apostacy doomed him to become an
outcast. He had previously been the favourite and hope of his parents;
from the moment that he renounced his religion, he became the
opprobrium. His name was never mentioned; and his death hailed as a
piece of good fortune, that freed his family from a living disgrace.
The only person among them who regretted him, was the wife of his
eldest brother; she had appreciated his talents and virtues, and had
entertained a sincere friendship for him;--but even she renounced him.
Her heart, naturally warm and noble, was narrowed by prejudice; but
while she acted in conformity with the family principle, she suffered
severely from the shock thus given to her better feelings. When Edwin
died, her eyes were a little opened; she began to suspect that human
life and human suffering deserved more regard than articles of belief.
The "late remorse of love" was awakened, and she never wholly forgot
the impression. She had not been consulted concerning, she knew nothing
of, his widow and orphan child. Young at that time, the weight of
authority pressed also on her, and she had been bred to submission.
There was a latent energy, however, in her character that developed
itself as she grew older. Her husband died, and her consequence
increased in old Oswi Raby's eyes. By degrees her authority became
paramount; it was greatly regulated by the prejudices and systems
cherished by the family, as far as regarded the world in general; but
it was softened in her own circle by the influence of the affections.
Her daughters were educated at home--not one was destined for the
cloister. Her only son was brought up at Eton; the privileges granted
of late years to the Catholics, made her entertain the belief, that it
was no longer necessary to preserve the old defences and
fortifications, which intolerance had forced its victims to institute;
still pride--pride of religion, pride of family, pride in an
unblemished name, were too deeply rooted, too carefully nurtured, not
to form an integral part of her character.

When a letter from her father-in-law revealed to her the existence
of Elizabeth, her heart warmed towards the orphan and deserted daughter
of Edwin. She felt all the repentance which duties neglected bring on a
well-regulated mind--her pride revolted at the idea that a daughter of
the house of Raby was dependent on the beneficence of a stranger--she
resolved that no time should be lost in claiming and receiving her,
even while she trembled to think of how, brought up as an alien, she
might prove rather a burthen than an acquisition. She had written to
make inquiries as to her niece's abode. She heard that she was on a
visit, at Lady Cecil's, at Hastings--Mrs. Raby was at Tunbridge--she
instantly ordered horses, and proceeded to Oakly.

On the morning of her visit, Lady Cecil had received a letter from
Gerard: it was incoherent, and had been written by snatches in the
carriage on his way to Dromore. Its first words proclaimed his mother's
innocence, and the acknowledgment of her wrongs by Sir Boyvill himself.
As he went on, his pen lingered--he trembled to write the words, "Our
friend, our Elizabeth, is the daughter of the destroyer." It was
unnatural, it was impossible--the very thought added acrimony to his
detestation of Falkner--it prevented the compassion his generous nature
would otherwise have afforded, and yet roused every wish to spare him,
as much as he might be spared, for his heroic daughter's sake. He felt
deceived, trepanned, doomed. In after-life we are willing to compromise
with fate--to take the good with the bad--and are satisfied if we can
at all lighten the burthen of life. In youth we aim at completeness and
perfection. Ardent and single-minded, Neville disdained prejudices; and
his impulse was, to separate the idea of father and daughter, and to
cherish Elizabeth as a being totally distinct from her parentage. But
she would not yield to this delusion--she would cling to her
father--and if he died by his hand, he would for ever become an object
of detestation. Well has Alfieri said, "There is no struggle so
vehement as when an upright, but passionate, heart is divided between
inclination and duty." Neville's soul was set upon honour and
well-doing; never before had he found the execution of the dictates of
his conscience so full of bitterness and impatience. Something of these
feelings betrayed themselves in his letter.--"We have lost Elizabeth,"
he wrote; "for ever lost her! Is there no help for this? No help for
her? None! She clings to the destroyer's side, and shares his miserable
fate--lost to happiness--to the innocence and sunshine of life. She
will live a victim, and die a martyr, to her duties; and she is lost to
us for ever!"

Lady Cecil read again and again--she wondered--she grieved--she
uttered impatient reproaches against Gerard for having sought the
truth; and yet her heart was with him, and she rejoiced in the
acknowledged innocence of Alithea. She thought of Elizabeth with the
deepest grief--had they never met--had she and Gerard never seen each
other, neither had loved, and half this woe had been spared. How
strange and devious are the ways of fate--how difficult to resign
oneself to its mysterious and destructive course! Naturally serene,
though vivacious--kind-hearted, but not informed with trembling
sensibility--yet so struck was Lady Cecil by the prospects of misery
for those she best loved, that she wept bitterly, and wrung her hands
in impatient, impotent despair. At this moment Mrs. Raby was
announced.

Mrs. Raby had something of the tragedy queen in her appearance. She
was tall, and dignified in person. Her black full eyes were
melancholy--her brow shadowing them over had a world of thought and
feeling in its sculpture-like lines. The lower part of her face
harmonized, though something of pride lurked about her beautiful mouth
--her voice was melodious, but deep-toned. Her manners had not the ease
of the well-bred Lady Cecil--something of the outcast was imprinted
upon them, which imparted consciousness, reserve, and alternate
timidity and haughtiness. There was nothing embarrassed, however, in
her mien, and she asked at once for Elizabeth with obvious impatience.
She heard that she was gone with regret. The praises Lady Cecil almost
involuntarily showered on her late guest, at once dissipated this
feeling; and caused her, with all the frankness natural to her, to
unfold at once the object of her visit--the parentage of the
orphan--the discovery of her niece. Lady Cecil clasped her hands in a
transport, which was not all joy. There was so much of wonder, almost
of disbelief, at the strange tale--had a fairy's wand operated the
change, it had not been more magical in her eyes. Heaven's ways were
vindicated--all of evil vanished from the scene--her friend snatched
from ignominy and crime, to be shrined for ever in their hearts and
love.

She poured out these feelings impetuously. Mrs. Raby was well
acquainted with Alithea's story, and was familiar with Gerard Neville's
conduct; all that she now heard was strange indeed. She did not imbibe
any of Lady Cecil's gladness, but much of her eagerness. It became of
paramount importance in her mind to break at once the link between
Elizabeth and her guardian, before the story gained publicity, and the
name of Raby became mingled in a tale of horror and crime, which, to
the peculiar tone of Mrs. Raby's mind, was singularly odious and
disgraceful. No time must be lost--Elizabeth must be claimed--must at
once leave the guilty and tainted one, while yet her name received no
infection; or she would be disowned for ever by her father's family.
When Lady Cecil learned Mrs. Raby's intention of proceeding to London
to see her niece, she resolved to go also, to act as mediator, and to
soften the style of the demands made, even while she persuaded
Elizabeth to submit to them. She expressed her intention, and the
ladies agreed to travel together. Both were desirous of further
communication. Lady Cecil wished to interest Mrs. Raby still more
deeply in her matchless kinswoman's splendid qualities of heart and
mind; while Mrs. Raby felt that her conduct must be founded on the
character and worth of her niece; even while she was more convinced at
every minute, that no half measures would be permitted by Oswi Raby,
and others of their family and connection, and that Elizabeth's welfare
depended on her breaking away entirely from her present position, and
throwing herself unreservedly upon the kindness and affection of her
father's relations.

Strange tidings awaited their arrival in London, and added to the
eagerness of both. The proceedings of Sir Boyvill, the accusation of
Falkner, and his actual arrest, with all its consequent disgrace, made
each fear that it was too late to interpose. Mrs. Raby showed most
energy. The circumstances were already in the newspapers, but there was
no mention of Elizabeth. Falkner had been taken from his home, but no
daughter accompanied him, no daughter appeared to have had any part in
the shocking scene. Had Falkner had the generosity to save her from
disgrace? If so, it became her duty to co-operate in his measures.
Where Elizabeth had taken refuge, was uncertain; but, on inquiry, it
seemed that she was still at Wimbledon. Thither the ladies proceeded
together. Anxiety possessed both to a painful degree. There was a
mysteriousness in the progress of events, which they could not
unveil--all depended on a clear and a happy explanation. The first
words, and first embrace of Elizabeth reassured her friend; all indeed
would be well, she restored to her place in society, and punishment
would fall on the guilty alone.



CHAPTER VII.

The first words Elizabeth spoke, as she embraced Lady Cecil, "You
are come, then all is well," seemed to confirm her belief that the
offered protection of Mrs. Raby would sound to the poor orphan as a
hospitable shore to the wrecked mariner. She pressed her fondly to her
heart, repeating her own words, "All is well--dear, dear Elizabeth, you
are restored to us, after I believed you lost for ever."

"What then has happened?" asked Elizabeth; "and where is my dear
father?"

"Your father! Miss Raby," repeated a deep, serious, but melodious
voice; "whom do you call your father?"

Elizabeth, in her agitation, had not caught her aunt's name, and
turned with surprise to the questioner, whom Lady Cecil introduced as
one who had known and loved her real father; as her aunt, come to offer
a happy and honourable home--and the affection of a relative, to one so
long lost, so gladly found.

"We have come to carry you off with us," said Lady Cecil; "your
position here is altogether disagreeable; but every thing is changed
now, and you will come with us."

"But my father," cried Elizabeth; "for what other name can I give to
my benefactor? Dear Lady Cecil, where is he?"

"Do you not then know?" asked Lady Cecil, hesitatingly."

"This very morning I heard something frightful, heart-breaking; but
since you are here, it must be all a fiction, or at least the dreadful
mistake is put right. Tell me, where is Mr. Falkner?"

"I know less than you, I believe," replied her friend; "my
information is only gathered from the hasty letters of my brother,
which explain nothing."

"But Mr. Neville has told you," said Elizabeth, "that my dear father
is accused of murder; accused by him who possesses the best proof of
his innocence. I had thought Mr. Neville generous, unsuspicious"--

"Nor is it he," interrupted Lady Cecil, "who brings this accusation.
I tell you I know little; but Sir Boyvill is the origin of Mr.
Falkner's arrest. The account he read seemed to him unsatisfactory, and
the remains of poor Mrs. Neville.--Indeed, dear Elizabeth, you must not
question me, for I know nothing; much less than you. Gerard puts much
faith in the innocence of Mr. Falkner."

"Bless him for that!" cried Elizabeth, tears gushing into her eyes.
"Oh yes, I knew that he would be just and generous. My poor, poor
father! by what fatal mistake is your cause judged by one incapable of
understanding or appreciating you."

"Yet," said Lady Cecil, "he cannot be wholly innocent; the flight,
the catastrophe, the concealment of his victim's death;--is there not
guilt in these events?"

"Much, much; I will not excuse or extenuate. If ever you read his
narrative, which, at his desire, I gave Mr. Neville, you will learn
from that every exculpation he can allege. It is not for me to speak,
nor to hear even of his past errors; never was remorse more bitter,
contrition more sincere. But for me, he had not survived the unhappy
lady a week; but for me, he had died in Greece, to expiate his fault.
Will not this satisfy his angry accusers?

"I must act from higher motives. Gratitude, duty, every human
obligation bind me to him. He took me, a deserted orphan, from a state
of miserable dependence on a grudging, vulgar woman; he brought me up
as his child; he was more to me than father ever was. He has nursed me
as my own mother would in sickness; in perilous voyages he has carried
me in his arms, and sheltered me from the storm, while he exposed
himself for my sake; year after year, while none else have cared for,
have thought of me, I have been the object of his solicitude. He has
consented to endure life, that I might not be left desolate, when I
knew not that one of my father's family would acknowledge me. Shall I
desert him now? Never!"

"But you cannot help him," said Lady Cecil; "he must be tried by the
laws of his country. I hope he has not in truth offended against them;
but you cannot serve him."

"Where is he?" dear Lady Cecil; "tell me where he is?"

"I fear there can be no doubt he is in prison at Carlisle."

"And do you think that I cannot serve him there? in prison as a
criminal! Miserable as his fate makes me, miserable as I too well know
that he is, it is some compensation to my selfish heart to know that I
can serve him, that I can be all in all of happiness and comfort to
him. Even now he pines for me; he knows that I never leave his side
when in sorrow; he wonders I am not already there. Yes, in prison, in
shame, he will be happy when he sees me again. I shall go to him, and
then, too, I shall have comfort."

She spoke with a generous animation, while yet her eyes glistened,
and her voice trembled with emotion. Lady Cecil was moved, while she
deplored; she caressed her; she praised, while Mrs. Raby said, "It is
impossible not to honour your intentions, which spring from so pure and
noble a source. I think, indeed, that you overrate your obligations to
Mr. Falkner. Had he restored you to us after your mother's death, you
would have found, I trust, a happy home with me. He adopted you,
because it best pleased him so to do. He disregarded the evil he
brought upon us by so doing; and only restored you to us when the
consequence of his crimes prevented him from being any longer a
protection."

"Pardon me," said Elizabeth, "if I interrupt you. Mr. Falkner is a
suffering, he believed himself to be a dying, man; he lived in anguish
till he could declare his error, to clear the name of his unhappy
victim; he wished first to secure my future lot, before he dared fate
for himself; chance altered his designs; such were his motives,
generous towards me as they ever were."

"And you, dear Elizabeth," said Lady Cecil, "must act in obedience
to them and to his wishes. He anticipated disgrace from his
disclosures, a disgrace which you must not share. You speak like a
romantic girl of serving him in prison. You cannot guess what a modern
gaol is, its vulgar and shocking inhabitants: the hideous language and
squalid sights are such, that their very existence should be a secret
to the innocent: be assured that Mr. Falkner, if he be, as I believe
him, a man of honour and delicacy, will shudder at the very thought of
your approaching such contamination; he will be best pleased to know
you safe and happy with your family."

"What a picture do you draw!" cried Elizabeth, trying to suppress
her tears; "my poor, poor father, whose life hangs by a thread! how can
he survive the accumulation of evil? But he will forget all these
horrors when I am with him. I know, thank God, I do indeed know, that I
have power to cheer and support him, even at the worst."

"This is madness!" observed Lady Cecil, in a tone of distress.

Mrs. Raby interposed with her suggestions. She spoke of her own
desire, the desire of all the family, to welcome Elizabeth; she told
her that with them, belonging to them, she had new duties; her
obedience was due to her relatives; she must not act so as to injure
them. She alluded to their oppressed religion; to the malicious joy
their enemies would have in divulging such a tale as that would be, if
their niece's conduct made the whole course of events public. And, as
well as she could, she intimated that if she mixed up her name in a
tale so full of horror and guilt, her father's family could never after
receive her.

Elizabeth heard all this with considerable coldness. "It grieves
me," she said, "to repay intended kindness with something like repulse.
I have no wish to speak of the past; nor to remind you that if I was
not brought up in obedience to you all, it was because my father was
disowned, my mother abandoned; and I, a little child, an orphan, was
left to live and die in dependence. I, who then bore your name, had
become a subject of niggard and degrading charity. Then, young as I
was, I felt gratitude, obedience, duty, all due to the generous
benefactor who raised me from this depth of want, and made me the child
of his heart. It is a lesson I have been learning many years; I cannot
unlearn it now. I am his; bought by his kindness; earned by his
unceasing care for me, I belong to him--his child--if you will, his
servant--I do not quarrel with names--a child's duty I pay him, and
will ever. Do not be angry with me, dear aunt, if I may give you that
name--dearest Lady Cecil, do not look so imploringly on me--I am very
unhappy. Mr. Falkner, a prisoner, accused of the most hideous
crime--treated with ignominy--he whose nerves are agonized by a
touch--whose frame is even now decaying through sickness and
sorrow--and I, and every hope, away. I am very unhappy. Do not urge me
to what is impossible, and thrice, thrice wicked. I must go to him; day
and night I shall have no peace till I am at his side; do not, for my
sake do not, dispute this sacred duty."

It was not thus that the two ladies could be led to desist; they
soothed her, but again returned to the charge. Lady Cecil brought a
thousand arguments of worldly wisdom, of feminine delicacy. Mrs. Raby
insinuated the duty owed to her family, to shield it from the disgrace
she was bringing on it. They both insisted on the impossibility, on the
foolish romance of her notions. Had she been really his daughter, her
joining him in prison was impracticable--out of all propriety. But
Elizabeth had been brought up to regard feelings, rather than
conventional observances; duties, not proprieties. All her life Falkner
had been law, rule, every tie to her; she knew and felt nothing beyond.
When she had followed him to Greece--when she had visited the Morea, to
bear him dying away--when at Zante she had watched by his sick couch,
the world, and all the Rabys it contained, were nothing to her; and
now, when he was visited by a far heavier calamity, when in solitude
and misery, he had besides her, no one comfort under heaven, was she to
adopt a new system of conduct, become a timid, home-bred young lady,
tied by the most frivolous rules, impeded by fictitious notions of
propriety and false delicacy? Whether they were right, and she were
wrong--whether indeed such submission to society--such useless,
degrading dereliction of nobler duties, was adapted for feminine
conduct, and whether she, despising such bonds, sought a bold and
dangerous freedom, she could not tell; she only knew and felt, that for
her, educated as she had been, beyond the narrow paling of
boarding-school ideas, or the refinements of a lady's boudoir, that,
where her benefactor was, there she ought to be; and that to prove her
gratitude, to preserve her faithful attachment to him amidst dire
adversity, was her sacred duty--a virtue, before which every minor
moral faded and disappeared.

The discussion was long; and even when they found her proof against
every attack, they would not give up. They entreated her to go home
with them for that day. A wild light beamed from her eyes. "I am going
home," she cried; "an hour hence, and I shall be gone to where my true
home is. How strange it is that you should imagine that I could linger
here!

"Be not afraid for me, dear Lady Cecil," she continued, "all will go
well with me; and you will, after a little reflection, acknowledge that
I could not act other than I do. And will you, Mrs. Raby, forgive my
seeming ingratitude? I acknowledge the justice of your demands. I thank
you for your proposed kindness. The name of Raby shall receive no
injury; it shall never escape my lips. My father will preserve the same
silence. Be not angry with me; but--except that I remember my dear
parents with affection--I would say, I take more joy and pride in being
his daughter--his friend at this need--than in the distinction and
prosperity your kindness offers. I give up every claim on my family;
the name of Raby shall not be tainted: but Elizabeth Falkner, with all
her wilfulness and faults, shall, at least, prove her gratitude to him
who bestowed that appellation on her."

And thus they parted. Lady Cecil veiling her distress in sullenness;
while Mrs. Raby was struck and moved by her niece's generosity, which
was in accordance with her own noble mind. But she felt that other
judges would sit upon the cause, and decide from other motives. She
parted from her as a Pagan relative might from a young Christian
martyr--admiring, while she deplored her sacrifice, and feeling herself
wholly incapable of saving.



CHAPTER VIII.

Elizabeth delayed not a moment proceeding on her journey; an exalted
enthusiasm made her heart beat high, and almost joyously. This buoyancy
of spirit, springing from a generous course of action, is the
compensation provided for our sacrifices of inclination--and at least,
on first setting out, blinds us to the sad results we may be preparing
for ourselves. Elated by a sense of acting according to the dictates of
her conscience, despite the horror of the circumstances that closed in
the prospect, her spirits were light, and her eyes glistened with a
feeling at once triumphant and tender, while reflecting on the comfort
she was bringing to her unfortunate benefactor. A spasm of horror
seized her now and then, as the recollection pressed that he was in
prison--accused as a murderer--but her young heart refused to be cowed,
even by the ignominy and anguish of such a reflection.

A philosopher not long ago remarked, when adverting to the principle
of destruction latent in all works of art, and the overthrow of the
most durable edifices; "but when they are destroyed, so as to produce
only dust, Nature asserts an empire over them; and the vegetative world
rises in constant youth, and in a period of annual successions, by the
labours of man, providing food, vitality and beauty adorn the wrecks of
monuments, which were once raised for purposes of glory." Thus when
crime and woe attack and wreck an erring human being, the affections
and virtues of one faithfully attached, decorate the ruin with alien
beauty; and make that pleasant to the eye and heart, which otherwise we
might turn from as a loathsome spectacle.

It was a cold September day when she began her journey, and the
solitary hours spent on the road exhausted her spirits. In the evening
she arrived at Stony Stratford, and here, at the invitation of her
servant, consented to spend the night. The solitary inn room, without a
fire, and her lonely supper, chilled her; so susceptible are we to the
minor casualties of life, even when we meet the greater with heroic
resolution. She longed to skip the present hour, to be arrived--she
longed to see Falkner, and to hear his voice--she felt forlorn and
deserted. At this moment the door was opened, "a gentleman" was
announced, and Gerard Neville entered. Love and nature at this moment
asserted their full sway--her heart bounded in her bosom, her cheek
flushed, her soul was deluged at once with a sense of living
delight--she had never thought to see him more--she had tried to forget
that she regretted this; but he was there, and she felt that such a
pleasure were cheaply purchased by the sacrifice of her existence. He
also felt the influence of the spell. He came agitated by many fears,
perplexed by the very motive that led him to her--but she was there in
all her charms, the dear object of his nightly dreams and waking
reveries--hesitation and reserve vanished in her presence, and they
both felt the alliance of their hearts.

"Now that I am here, and see you," said Neville, "it seems to me the
most natural thing in the world, that I should have followed you as I
have done. While away, I had a thousand misgivings--and wherefore? did
you not sympathize in my sufferings, and desire to aid me in my
endeavours; and I feel convinced that fate, while by the turn of events
it appeared to disunite, has, in fact, linked us closer than ever. I am
come with a message from Sophia--and to urge also, on my own part, a
change in your resolves; you must not pursue your present journey."

"You have, indeed, been taking a lesson from Lady Cecil, when you
say this," replied Elizabeth; "she has taught you to be worldly for
me--a lesson you would not learn on your own account--she did not
seduce me in this way; I gave you my support when you were going to
America."

Elizabeth began to speak almost sportively, but the mention of
America brought to her recollection the cause of his going, and the
circumstances that prevented him; and the tears gushed from her eyes as
she continued in a voice broken by emotion. "Oh, Mr. Neville, I smile
while my heart is breaking--My dear, dear father! What misery is this
that you have brought on him--and how, while he treated you with
unreserve, have you falsely--you must know--accused him of crime, and
pursued your vengeance in a vindictive and ignominious manner? It is
not well done!"

"I pardon your injustice," said Neville; "though it is very great.
One of my reasons for coming, was to explain the exact state of things,
though I believed that your knowledge of me would have caused you to
reject the idea of my being a party to my father's feelings of
revenge."

Neville then related all that had passed;--the discovery of his
mother's remains in the very spot Falkner had indicated, and Sir
Boyvill's resolve to bring the whole train of events before the public.
"Perhaps," he continued, "my father believes in the justice of his
accusation--he never saw Mr. Falkner, and cannot be impressed as I am
by the tokens of a noble mind, which, despite his errors, are indelibly
imprinted on his brow. At all events, he is filled with a sense of his
own injuries--stung by the disdain heaped on him in that narration, and
angry that he had been led to wrong a wife, the memory of whose virtues
and beauty now revives, bitterly to reproach him. I cannot wonder at
his conduct, even while I deplore it: I do deplore it on your
account;--for Mr. Falkner, God knows I would have visited his crime in
another mode; yet all he suffers he has brought on himself--he must
feel it due--and must bear it as best he may: forgive me if I seem
harsh--I compassionate him through you--I cannot for his own sake."

"How falsely do you reason," cried Elizabeth, "and you also are
swayed and perverted by passion. He is innocent of the hideous crime
laid to his charge--you know and feel that he is innocent; and were he
guilty--I have heard you lament that crime is so hardly visited by the
laws of society. I have heard you say, that even where guilt is joined
to the hardness of habitual vice, that it ought to be treated with the
indulgence of a correcting father, not by the cruel vengeance of the
law. And now, when one whose very substance and flesh are corroded by
remorse--one whose conscience acts as a perpetual scourge--one who has
expiated his fault by many years spent in acts of benevolence and
heroism; this man, because his error has injured you, you, forgetting
your own philosophy, would make over to a fate, which, considering who
and what he is, is the most calamitous human imagination can
conceive."

Neville could not hear this appeal without the deepest pain.--"Let
us forget," he at last said, "these things for a few minutes. They did
not arise through me, nor can I prevent them; indeed they are now
beyond all human control. Falkner could as easily restore my mother,
whose remains we found mouldering in the grave which he dug for them;
he could as easily bring her back to the life and happiness of which he
deprived her, as I, my father, or any one, free him from the course of
law to which he is made over. We must all abide by the issue--there is
no remedy. But you--I would speak of you--"

"I cannot speak, cannot think of myself," replied Elizabeth, "except
in one way--to think all delays tedious that keep me from my father's
side, and prevent me from sharing his wretchedness."

"And yet you must not go to him," said Neville; "yours is the scheme
of inexperience--but it must not be. How can you share Mr. Falkner's
sorrows? you will scarcely be admitted to see him. And how unfit for
you is such a scene. You cannot guess what these things are; believe
me, they are most unfit for one of your sex and age. I grieve to say in
what execration the supposed murderer of my mother is held. You would
be subjected to insult, you are alone and unprotected--even your high
spirit would be broken by the evils that will gather round you."

"I think not," replied Elizabeth; "I cannot believe that my spirit
can be broken by injustice, or that it can quail while I perform a
duty. It would indeed--spirit and heart would both break--were my
conscience burthened with the sin of deserting my father. In
prison--amidst the hootings of the mob--if for such I am reserved, I
shall be safe and well guarded by the approbation of my own mind."

"Would that an angel from heaven would descend to guard you!" cried
Neville, passionately, "but in this inexplicable world, guilt and
innocence are so mingled, that the one reaps the blessings deserved by
the other; and the latter sinks beneath the punishment incurred by the
former. Else why, removed by birth, space, and time from all natural
connexion with the cause of all this misery, are you cast on this evil
hour? Were you his daughter, my heart would not rebel--blood calls to
blood, and a child's duty is paramount. But you are no child of his;
you spring from another race--honour, affection, prosperity await you
in your proper sphere. What have you to do with that unhappy man?

"Yet another word," he continued, seeing Elizabeth about to reply
with eagerness; "and yet how vain are words to persuade. Could I but
take you to a tower, and show you, spread below, the course of events,
and the fatal results of your present resolves, you would suffer me to
lead you from the dangerous path you are treading. If once you reach
Cumberland, and appear publicly as Falkner's daughter, the name of Raby
is lost to you for ever; and if the worst should come, where will you
turn for support? Where fly for refuge? Unable to convince, I would
substitute entreaty, and implore you to spare yourself these evils. You
know not, indeed you do not know, what you are about to do."

Thus impetuously urged, Elizabeth was for a few minutes half
bewildered; "I am afraid," she said, "I suppose indeed that I am
something of a savage--unable to bend to the laws of civilization. I
did not know this--I thought I was much like other girls--attached to
their home and parents--fulfilling their daily duties, as the
necessities of those parents demand. I nursed my father when sick: now
that he is in worse adversity, I still feel my proper place to be at
his side, as his comforter and companion, glad if I can be of any
solace to him. He is my father--my more than father--my preserver in
helpless childhood from the worst fate. May I suffer every evil when I
forget that! Even if a false belief of his guilt renders the world
inimical to him, it will not be so unjust to one as inoffending as I;
and if it is, it cannot touch me. Methinks we speak two languages--I
speak of duties the most sacred; to fail in which, would entail
self-condemnation on me to the end of my days. You speak of the
conveniences, the paint, the outside of life, which is as nothing in
comparison. I cannot yield--I grieve to seem eccentric and
headstrong--it is my hard fate, not my will, so to appear."

"Do not give such a name," replied Neville, deeply moved, "to an
heroic generosity, only too exalted for this bad world. It is I that
must yield, and pray to God to shield and recompense you as you
deserve--he only can--he and your own noble heart. And will you pardon
me, Miss Raby?"

"Do not give me that name," interrupted Elizabeth. "I act in
contradiction to my relations' wishes--I will not assume their name.
The other, too, must be painful to you. Call me Elizabeth--"

Neville took her hand. "I am," he said, "a selfish, odious being;
you are full of self-sacrifice, of thought for others, of every blessed
virtue. I think of myself--and hate myself while I yield to the
impulse. Dear, dear Elizabeth, since thus I may call you, are you not
all I have ever imagined of excellent; I love you beyond all thought or
word; and have for many, many months, since first I saw you at
Marseilles. Without reflection, I knew and felt you to be the being my
soul thirsted for. I find you, and you are lost!"

Love's own colour dyed deeply the cheeks of Elizabeth--she felt
recompensed for every suffering in the simple knowledge of the
sentiment she inspired. A moment before, clouds and storms had
surrounded her horizon; now the sun broke in upon it. It was a
transcendent though a transient gleam. The thought of Falkner again
obscured the radiance, which, even in its momentary flash, was as if an
angel, bearing with it the airs of Paradise, had revealed itself, and
then again become obscured.

Neville was less composed. He had never fully entered into his
father's bitter thoughts against Falkner--and Elizabeth's fidelity to
the unhappy man, made him half suspect the unexampled cruelty and
injustice of the whole proceeding. Still compassion for the prisoner
was a passive feeling; while horror at the fate preparing for Elizabeth
stirred his sensitive nature to its depths, and filled him with
anguish. He walked impatiently about the room--and stopped before her,
fixing on her his soft lustrous eyes, whose expression was so full of
tenderness and passion. Elizabeth felt their influence; but this was
not the hour to yield to the delusions of love, and she said--"Now you
will leave me, Mr. Neville--I have far to travel to-morrow--good
night."

"Have patience with me yet a moment longer," said Neville; "I cannot
leave you thus--without offering from my whole heart, and conjuring you
to accept my services. Parting thus, it is very uncertain when we meet
again, and fearful sufferings are prepared for you. I believe that you
esteem, that you have confidence in me. You know that my disposition is
constant and persevering. You know, that the aim of my early life being
fulfilled, and my mother's name freed from the unworthy aspersions cast
upon it, I at once transfer every thought, every hope, to your
well-being. At a distance, knowing the scene of misery in which you are
placed, I shall be agitated by perpetual fears, and pass unnumbered
hours of bitter disquietude. Will you promise me, that, despite all
that divides us, if you need any aid or service, you will write to me,
commanding me, in the full assurance that all you order shall be
executed in its very spirit and letter."

"I will indeed," replied Elizabeth, "for I know that whatever
happens you will always be my friend."

"Your true, your best, your devoted friend," cried Neville; "it will
always be my dearest ambition to prove all this. I will not adopt the
name of brother--yet use me as a brother--no brother ever cherished the
honour, safety, and happiness of a sister as I do yours."

"You know," said Elizabeth, "that I shall not be alone--that I go to
one to whom I owe obedience, and who can direct me. If in his frightful
situation he needs counsel and assistance, it is not you, alas, that
can render them; still in the world of sorrow in which I shall soon be
an inhabitant, it will be a solace and support to think of your
kindness, and rely upon it as unreservedly as I do."

"A world of sorrow, indeed!" repeated Neville,--"A world of ignominy
and woe, such as ought never to have visited you, even in a dream.--Its
duration will be prolonged also beyond all fortitude or patience. Of
course Mr. Falkner's legal advisers will insist on the necessity of
Osborne's testimony--he must be sent for, and brought over. This
demands time; it will be spring before the trial takes place."

"And all this time my father will be imprisoned as a felon in a
gaol," cried Elizabeth; tears, bitter tears, springing into her eyes.
"Most horrible! Oh how necessary that I should be with him, to lighten
the weary, unending hours. I thought all would soon be over--and his
liberation at hand; this delay of justice is indeed beyond my
fears."

"Thank God, that you are thus sanguine of the final result," replied
Neville. "I will not say a word to shake your confidence, and I
fervently hope it is well placed. And now indeed good night, I will not
detain you longer. All good angels guard you--you cannot guess how
bitterly I feel the necessity that disjoins us in this hour of mutual
suffering."

"Forgive me," said Elizabeth, "but my thoughts are with my father.
You have conjured up a whole train of fearful anticipations; but I will
quell them, and be patient again--for his, and all our sakes."

They separated, and at the moment of parting, a gush of tenderness
smoothed the harsher feelings inspired by their grief--despite herself,
Elizabeth felt comforted by her friend's faithful and earnest
attachment; and a few minutes passed in self-communion restored her to
those hopes for the best, which are the natural growth of youth and
inexperience. Neville left the inn immediately on quitting her; and
she, unable to sleep, occupied by various reveries, passed a few
uneasy, and yet not wholly miserable, hours. A hallowed calm at last
succeeded to her anxious fears; springing from a reliance on Heaven,
and the natural delight at being loved by one so dear; it smoothed her
wrinkled cares, and blunted her poignant regrets.

At earliest dawn she sprung from her bed, eager to pursue her
journey--nor did she again take rest till she arrived at Carlisle.



CHAPTER IX.

In the best room that could be allotted to him, consistently with
safe imprisonment, and with such comforts around, as money might
obtain, Falkner passed the lingering days. What so forlorn as the
comforts of a prison! the wigwam of the Indian is more pleasing to the
imagination--that is in close contiguity with Nature, and partakes her
charm--no barrier exists between it and freedom--and nature and freedom
are the staunch friends of unsophisticated man. But a gaol's best room
sickens the heart in its very show of accommodation. The strongly
barred windows, looking out on the narrow court, surrounded by high
frowning walls; the appalling sounds that reach the ear, in such close
neighbourhood to crime and woe;--the squalid appearance given to each
inhabitant by the confined air--the surly authoritative manners of the
attendants--not dependent on the prisoner, but on the state--the
knowledge that all may come in, while he cannot get out--and the
conviction that the very unshackled state of his limbs depends upon his
tame submission and apparent apathy;--there is no one circumstance that
does not wound the free spirit of man, and make him envy the meanest
animal that breathes the free air, and is at liberty.

Falkner, by that strange law of our nature, which makes us conceive
the future, without being aware of our foreknowledge, had acquainted
his imagination with these things--and, while writing his history
amidst the farstretched mountains of Greece, had shrunk and trembled
before such an aspect of slavery; and yet now that it had fallen on
him, he felt in the first instance more satisfied, more truly free,
than for many a long day before.

There is no tyranny so hard as fear; no prison so abhorrent as
apprehension; Falkner was not a coward, yet he feared. He feared
discovery--he feared ignominy, and had eagerly sought death to free him
from the terror of such evils, with which, perhaps--so strangely are we
formed--Osborne had infected him. It had come--it was here--it was his
life, his daily bread; and he rose above the infliction calmly, and
almost proudly. It is with pride that we say, that we endure the
worst--there is a very freedom in the thought, that the animosity of
all mankind is roused against us--and every engine set at work for our
injury--no more can be done the gulf is passed--the claw of the wild
beast is on our heart--but the spirit soars more freely still. To this
was added the singular relief which confession brings to the human
heart. Guilt hidden in the recesses of the conscience assumes gigantic
and distorted dimensions. When the secret is shared by another, it
falls back at once into its natural proportion.

Much had this man of woe endured--the feeling against him,
throughout the part of the country where he now was, was vehement. The
discovery of poor Alithea's remains--the inquest, and its verdict--the
unhappy lady's funeral--had spread far and wide his accusation. It had
been found necessary to take him into Carlisle by night; and even then,
some few remained in waiting, and roused their fellows, and the
hootings of execration were raised against him. "I end as I began,"
thought Falkner; "amidst revilings and injustice--I can surely suffer
now, that which was often my lot in the first dawn of boyhood."

His examination before the magistrates was a more painful
proceeding. There was no glaring injustice, no vindictive hatred here,
and yet he was accused of the foulest crime in nature, and saw in many
faces the belief that he was a murderer. The murderer of Alithea! He
could have laughed in scorn, to think that such an idea had entered a
man's mind. She, an angel whom he worshipped--whom to save he would
have met ten thousand deaths--how mad a world--how insane a system must
it be, where such a thought was not scouted as soon as conceived!

Falkner had no vulgar mind. In early youth he experienced those
aspirations after excellence, which betokens the finely moulded among
our fellow-creatures. There was a type of virtue engraved in his heart,
after which he desired to model himself. Since the hour when the
consequences of his guilt revealed its true form to him--he had
striven, like an eagle in an iron-bound cage, to free himself from the
trammels of conscience. He felt within how much better he might be than
any thing he was. But all this was unacknowledged, and uncared for, in
the present scene--it was not the heroism of his soul that was inquired
into, but the facts of his whereabouts; not the sacred nature of his
worship for Alithea, but whether he had had opportunity to perpetrate
crime. When we are conscious of innocence, what so heart-sickening as
to combat circumstances that accuse us of guilt which we abhor. His
prison-room was a welcome refuge, after such an ordeal.

His spirit could not be cowed by misfortune, and he felt unnaturally
glad to be where he was; he felt glad to be the victim of injustice,
the mark of unspeakable adversity; but his body's strength failed to
keep pace with the lofty disdain of his soul--and Elizabeth, where was
she? He rejoiced that she was absent when torn from his home; he had
directed the servants to say nothing to Miss Falkner--he would write;
and he had meant to fulfil this promise, but each time he thought to do
so, he shrunk repugnant. He would not for worlds call her to his side,
to share the horrors of his lot; and feeling sure that she would be
visited by some member of her father's family, he thought it best to
let things take their course--unprotected and alone, she would gladly
accept refuge there where it was offered--and the tie snapped between
them--happiness and love would alike smile on her.

He had it deeply at heart that she should not be mingled in the
frightful details of his present situation, and yet drearily he missed
her, for he loved her with a feeling, which, though not paternal, was
as warm as ever filled a father's breast. His passions were ardent, and
all that could be spared from remorse, were centred in his adopted
child. He had looked on her, as the prophet might on the angel, who
ministered to his wants in the desert: in the abandonment of all
mankind, in the desolation to which his crime had led him, she had
brought love and cheer. She had been his sweet household companion, his
familiar friend, his patient nurse--his soul had grown to her image,
and when the place was vacant that she had filled, he was excited by
eager longings for her presence, that even made his man's heart soft as
a woman's with very desire.

By degrees, as he thought of her and the past, the heroism of his
soul was undermined and weakened. To every eye he continued composed,
and even cheerful, as before. None could read in his impassive
countenance the misery that dwelt within. He spent his time in reading
and writing, and in necessary communications with the lawyers who were
to conduct his defence; and all this was done with a calm eye and
unmoved voice. No token of complaint or impatience ever escaped; he
seemed equal to the fortune that attacked him. He grew, indeed, paler
and thinner--till his handsome features stood out in their own
expressive beauty; he might have served for a model of Prometheus--the
vulture at his heart producing pangs and spasms of physical suffering;
but his will unconquered--his mind refusing to acknowledge the bondage
to which his body was the prey. It was an unnatural combat; for the
tenderness which was blended with his fiercer passions, and made the
charm of his character, sided with his enemies, and made him less able
to bear, than one more roughly and hardly framed.

He loved Nature--he had spent his life among her scenes. Nothing of
her visited him now, save a star or two that rose above the prison-wall
into the slip of sky his window commanded; they were the faintest stars
in heaven, and often were shrouded by clouds and mist. Thus doubly
imprisoned, his body barred by physical impediments--his soul shut up
in itself--he became, in the energetic language of genius, the cannibal
of his own heart. Without a vent for any, thoughts revolved in his
brain with the velocity and action of a thousand mill-wheels, and would
not be stopped. Now a spasm of painful emotion covered his brow with a
cold dew--now self-contempt made every portion of himself detestable in
his own eyes--now he felt the curse of God upon him, weighing him down
with heavy, relentless burthen; and then again he was assailed by
images of freedom, and keen longings for the free air. "If even, like
Mazeppa, I might seek the wilds, and career along, though death was the
bourn in view, I were happy!" These wild thoughts crossed him,
exaggerated into gasping desire to achieve such a fate, when the sights
and sounds of a prison gathered thick around, and made the very thought
of his fellow-creatures one of disgust and abhorrence.

Thus sunk in gloom, far deeper internally than in outward show--warring
with remorse, and the sense of unmerited injury--vanquished by fate,
yet refusing to yield,--nature had reached the acme of suffering. He
grew to be careless of the result of his trial, and to neglect the means
of safety. He pondered on self-destruction--though that were giving the
victory to his enemies. He looked round him; his cell appeared a tomb.
He felt as if he had passed out of life into death; strange thoughts and
images flitted through his mind, and the mortal struggle drew to a
close,--when, on a day, his prison-door opened, and Elizabeth stepped
within the threshold.

To see the beloved being we long for inexpressibly, and believe to
be so far--to hear the dear voice, whose sweet accent we imagined to be
mute to us for ever--to feel the creature's very soul in real communion
with us, and the person we doat on, visible to our eyes;--such are
moments of bliss, which the very imperfections of our finite nature
renders immeasurably dear. Falkner saw his child, and felt no longer
imprisoned. She was freedom and security. Looking on her sweet face, he
could not believe in the existence of evil. Wrongs and woe, and a
torturing conscience, melted and fled away before her; while fresh
springing happiness filled every portion of his being.



CHAPTER X.

Elizabeth arrived at the moment of the first painful crisis of
Falkner's fate. The assizes came on--busy faces crowded into his cell,
and various consultations took place as to the method of his defence;
and here began a series of cares, mortifications, and worse anxieties,
which brought home to the hearts of the sufferers the horrors of their
position.

The details of crime and its punishment are so alien to the
individuals placed in the upper classes of society, that they read them
as tales of another and a distant land. And it is like being cast away
on a strange and barbarous country to find such become a part of our
own lives. The list of criminals--the quality of their offences--the
position Falkner held among them, were all discussed by the men of law;
and Falkner listened, impassive in seeming apathy--his eagle eye bent
on vacancy--his noble brow showing no trace of the rush of agonizing
thought that flowed through his brain; it was not till he saw his
child's earnest searching eyes bent on him, that he smiled, so to
soften the keenness of her lively sympathy. She listened, too, her
cheek alternately flushed and pale, and her eyes brimming over with
tears, as she drew nearer to her unfortunate friend's side, as if her
innocence and love might stand between him and the worst.

The decision of the grand jury was the first point to be considered.
There existed no doubt but that that would go against the accused. The
lawyers averred this, but still Elizabeth hoped--men could not be so
blind--or some unforeseen enlightenment might dawn on their
understandings. The witnesses against him were Sir Boyvill and his son;
the latter, she well knew, abhorred the course pursued; and if some
touch could reach Sir Boyvill's heart, and show him the unworthiness
and falsehood of his proceedings, through the mode in which their
evidence might be given, all would alter--the scales would drop from
men's eyes--the fetters from Falkner's limbs--and this strange and
horrible entanglement be dissipated like morning mist. She brooded for
ever on these thoughts--sometimes she pondered on writing to
Neville--sometimes on seeing his father; but his assertion was
recollected that nothing now could alter the course of events, and that
drove her back upon despair.

For ever thinking on these things, and hearing them discussed, it
was yet a severe blow to both, when, in the technical language of the
craft, it was announced that a true bill was found against Rupert
Falkner.

Such is the nature of the mind, that hitherto Falkner had never
looked on the coming time in its true proportions or colours. The
decision of the preliminary jury, which might be in his favour, had
stood as a screen between him and the future. Knowing himself to be
innocent, abhorring the very image of the crime of which he was
accused, how could twelve impartial, educated men agree that any
construction put upon his actions, should cast the accusation on him?
The lawyers had told him that so it would be--he had read the fearful
expectation in Elizabeth's eyes--but it could not! Justice was not a
mere word--innocence bore a stamp not to be mistaken; the vulgar and
senseless malice of Sir Boyvill would be scouted and reprobated; such
was his intimate conviction, though he had never expressed it; but this
was all changed now. The tale of horror was admitted, registered as a
probability, and had become a rule for future acts. The ignominy of a
public trial would assuredly be his. And going, as is usual, from one
extreme to the other, the belief entered his soul that he should be
found guilty and die the death. A dark veil fell over life and nature.
Ofttimes he felt glad, even to escape thus from a hideous system of
wrong and suffering; but the innate pride of the heart rebelled, and
his soul struggled as in the toils.

Elizabeth heard the decision with even more dismay; her head swam,
and she grew sick at heart--would his trial come on in a few days?
would all soon, so soon, be decided? was the very moment near at hand
to make or mar existence, and turn this earth from a scene of hope into
a very hell of torture and despair? for such to her it must be, if the
worst befell Falkner. The worst! oh, what a worst! how hideous,
squalid, unredeemed! There was madness in the thought; and she hurried
to his cell to see him and hear him speak, so to dissipate the horror
of her thoughts; her presence of mind, her equanimity, all deserted
her; she looked bewildered--her heart beat as if it would burst her
bosom--her face grew ashy pale--her limbs unstrung of every
strength--and her efforts to conceal her weakness from Falkner's eyes,
but served the more to confuse.

She found him seated near his window, looking on so much of the
autumnal sky as could be perceived through the bars of the high narrow
opening. The clouds traversed the slender portion of heaven thus
visible; they fled fast to other lands, and the spirit of liberty rode
upon their outstretched wings; away they flew, far from him, and he had
no power to reach their bourn, nor to leave the dingy walls that held
him in. Oh, Nature! while we possess thee, thy changes ever lovely, thy
vernal airs or majestic storms, thy vast creation spread at our feet,
above, around us, how can we call ourselves unhappy? there is
brotherhood in the growing, opening flowers, love in the soft winds,
repose in the verdant expanse, and a quick spirit of happy life
throughout, with which our souls hold glad communion; but the poor
prisoner was barred out from these: how cumbrous the body felt, how
alien to the inner spirit of man, the fleshy bars that allowed it to
become the slave of his fellows.

The stunning effects of the first blow had passed away, and there
was in Falkner's face that lofty expression that resembled coldness,
though it was the triumph over sensibility; something of disdain curled
his lip, and his whole air denoted the acquisition of a power superior
to fate. Trembling, Elizabeth entered; never before had she lost
self-command; even now she paused at the threshold to resume it, but in
vain; she saw him, she flew to his arms, she dissolved in tears, and
became all woman in her tender fears. He was touched--he would have
soothed her; a choking sensation arose in his throat: "I never felt a
prisoner till now," he cried: "can you still, still cling to one struck
with infamy?"

"Dearer, more beloved than ever!" she murmured; "surely there is no
tie so close and strong as misery?"

"Dear, generous girl," said Falkner, "how I hate myself for making
such large demand on your sympathy. Let me suffer alone. This is not
the place for you, Elizabeth. Your free step should be on the
mountain's side; these silken tresses the playthings of the unconfined
winds. While I thought that I should speedily be liberated, I was
willing to enjoy the comfort of your society; but now I, the murderer,
am not a fit mate for you. I am accursed, and pull disaster down on all
near me. I was born to destroy the young and beautiful."

With such talk they tried to baffle this fierce visitation of
adversity. Falkner told her that on that day it would be decided
whether the trial should take place at once, or time be given to send
for Osborne from America. The turn Neville had given to his evidence
had been so favourable to the accused, as to shake the prejudice
against him, and it was believed that the judges would at once admit
the necessity of waiting for so material a witness; and yet their first
and dearest hope had been destroyed, so they feared to give way to a
new one.

As they conversed, the solicitor entered with good tidings. The
trial was put off till the ensuing assizes, in March, to give time for
the arrival of Osborne. The hard dealing of destiny and man relented a
little, and despair receded from their hearts, leaving space to
breathe--to pray--to hope. No time was to be lost in sending for
Osborne. Would he come? It could not be doubted. A free pardon was to
be extended to him; and he would save a fellow-creature, and his former
benefactor, without any risk of injury to himself.

The day closed, therefore, more cheeringly than it had begun.
Falkner conquered himself, even to a show of cheerfulness; and recalled
the colour to his tremulous companion's cheeks; and half a smile to her
lips, by his encouragement. He turned her thoughts from the immediate
subject, narrating the events of his first acquaintance with Osborne,
and describing the man:--a poltroon, but kindly hearted--fearful of his
own skin, to a contemptible extent, but looking up with awe to his
superiors, and easily led by one richer and of higher station to any
line of conduct; an inborn slave, but with many of a slave's good
qualities. Falkner did not doubt that he would put himself eagerly
forward on the present occasion; and whatever his evidence were good
for, it would readily be produced.

There was no reason then for despair. While the shock they had
undergone took the sting from the present--fearing an immediate and
horrible catastrophe--the wretchedness of their actual state was
forgotten--it acquired comfort and security by the contrast--each tried
to cheer the other, and they separated for the night with apparent
composure. Yet that night Elizabeth's pillow, despite her earnest
endeavours to place reliance on Providence, was watered by the
bitterest tears that ever such young eyes shed; and Falkner told each
hour of the live-long night, as his memory retraced past scenes, and
his spirit writhed and bled to feel that, in the wantonness and
rebellion of youth, he had been the author of so widespreading, so dark
a web of misery.

From this time, their days were spent in that sort of monotony which
has a peculiar charm to the children of adversity. The recurrence of
one day after the other, none being marked by disaster, or indeed any
event, imparted a satisfaction, gloomy indeed, and sad, but grateful to
the heart wearied by many blows, and by the excitement of mortal hopes
and fears. The mind adapted itself to the new state of things, and
enjoyments sprung up in the very home of desolation--circumstances
that, in happier days, were but the regular routine of life, grew into
blessings from Heaven; and the thought, "Come what will, this hour is
safe!" made precious the mere passage of time--months were placed
between them and the dreaded crisis--and so are we made, that when once
this is an established, acknowledged fact, we can play on the eve of
danger, almost like the unconscious animal destined to bleed.

Their time was regularly divided, and occupations succeeded one to
another. Elizabeth rented apartments not far from the prison. She gave
the early morning hours to exercise, and the rest of the day was spent
in Falkner's prison. He read to her as she worked at the tapestry
frame, or she took the book while he drew or sketched; nor was music
wanting, such as suited the subdued tone of their minds, and elevated
it to reverence and resignation; and sweet still hours were spent near
their fire; for their hearth gleamed cheerfully, despite surrounding
horrors--gaiety was absent, but neither was the voice of discontent
heard; all repinings were hidden in the recesses of their hearts; their
talk was calm, abstracted from matters of daily life, but gifted with
the interest that talent can bestow on all it touches. Falkner exerted
himself chiefly to vary their topics, and to enliven them by the
keenness of his observations, the beauty of his descriptions, and the
vividness of his narrations. He spoke of India, they read various
travels, and compared the manners of different countries--they forgot
the bars that chequered the sunlight on the floor of the cell--they
forgot the cheerless gloom of each surrounding object. Did they also
forget the bars and bolts between them and freedom?--the thoughtful
tenderness which had become the habitual expression of Elizabeth's
face--the subdued manner and calm tones of Falkner were a demonstration
that they did not. Something they were conscious of at each minute,
that checked the free pulsations of their hearts; a word in a book,
brought by some association home to her feelings, would cause
Elizabeth's eyes to fill with unbidden tears--and proud scorn would now
and then dilate the breast of Falkner, as he read some story of
oppression, and felt, "I also am persecuted, and must endure."

In this position, they each grew unutterably dear to the
other--every moment, every thought, was full to both of the image of
either. There is something inexpressibly winning in beauty and
grace--it is a sweet blessing when our household companion charms our
senses by the loveliness of her person, and makes the eye gladly turn
to her, to be gratified by such a form and look as we would travel
miles to see depicted on canvas. It soothed many a spasm of pain, and
turned many an hour of suffering into placid content, when Falkner
watched the movements of his youthful friend. You might look in her
face for days, and still read something new, something sublime in the
holy calm of her brow, in her serious, yet intelligent eyes; while all
a woman's softness dwelt in the moulding of her cheeks and her dimpled
mouth. Each word she said, and all she did, so became her, that it
appeared the thing best to be said and done,--and was accompanied by a
fascination, both for eye and heart, which emanated from her purity and
truth. Falkner grew to worship the very thought of her. She had not the
wild spirits and trembling sensibility of her he had destroyed, but in
her kind, she was no way inferior.

Yet though each, as it were, enjoyed the respite given by fortune to
their worst fears, yet this very sense of transitory security was in
its essence morbid and unnatural. A fever preyed nightly on Falkner,
and there were ghastly streaks upon his brow, that bespoke internal
suffering and decay. Elizabeth grew paler and thinner--her step lost
its elasticity, her voice became low-toned--her eyes were acquainted
with frequent tears, and the lids grew heavy and dark. Both lived for
ever in the presence of misery--they feared to move or speak, lest they
should awaken the monster, then for a space torpid; but they spent
their days under its shadow--the air they drew was chilled by its icy
influence--no wholesome light-hearted mood of mind was ever
theirs--they might pray and resign themselves, they might congratulate
themselves on the safety of the passing moment; but each sand that
flowed from the hour-glass was weighed--each thought that passed
through the brain was examined--every word uttered was pondered over.
They were exhausted by the very vividness of their unsleeping
endeavours to blunt their sensations.

The hours were very sad that they spent apart. The door closed on
Elizabeth, and love, and hope, and all the pride of life, vanished with
her. Falkner was again a prisoner, an accused felon--a man over whom
impended the most hideous fate--whom the dogs of law barked round, and
looked on as their prey. His high heart often quailed. He laid his head
on his pillow, desiring never again to raise it--despair kept his lids
open the livelong nights, while nought but palpable darkness brooded
over his eyeballs;--he rose languid--dispirited--revolving thoughts of
death; till at last she came, who by degrees dispelled the gloom--and
shed over his benighted soul the rays of her pure spirit.

She also was miserable in solitude; the silent evening hours spent
apart from him were melancholy and drear. Nothing interrupted their
stillness. She felt deserted by every human being, and was indeed
reduced to the extremity of loneliness. In the town and neighbourhood
many pitied--many admired her, and some offered their services; but
none visited or tried to cheer the solitary hours of the devoted
daughter. As the child of a man accused of murder, there was a barrier
between her and the world. The English are generous to their friends,
but they are never kind to strangers; the tie of brotherhood, which
Christ taught as uniting all mankind, is unacknowledged by them. They
so fear that their sullen fireside should be unduly invaded, and so
expect to be illtreated, that each man makes a Martello tower of his
home, and keeps watch against the gentler charities of life, as from an
invading enemy. Hour after hour therefore Elizabeth spent--thought, her
only companion.

From Falkner and his miserable fortunes, sometimes her reflections
strayed to Gerard Neville,--the generous friend on whom she wholly
relied, yet who could in no way aid or comfort her. They were divided.
He thought of her, she knew; his constant and ardent disposition would
cause her to be for ever the cherished object of his reveries; and now
and then, as she took her morning ride, or looked from her casement at
night upon the high stars, and pale, still moon, Nature spoke to her
audibly of him, and her soul overflowed with tenderness. Still he was
far--no word from him reached her--no token of living remembrance. Lady
Cecil also--she neither wrote nor sent. The sense of abandonment is
hard to bear, and many bitter tears did the young sufferer shed--and
many a yearning had she to enter with her ill-starred father the silent
abode of the tomb--scarcely more still or dark than the portion of life
which was allotted to them, even while existence was warm in their
hearts, and the natural impulse of their souls was to seek sympathy and
receive consolation.



CHAPTER XI.

The varied train of hopes and fears which belonged to the situation
of the prisoner and his faithful young companion, stood for some time
suspended. In some sort they might be said neither to hope nor fear;
for, reasoning calmly, they neither expected that the worst would
befall; and the actual and impending evil was certain. Like shipwrecked
sailors who have betaken themselves to a boat, and are tossed upon a
tempestuous sea, they saw a ship nearing, they believed that their
signal was seen, and that it was bearing down towards them. What if,
with sudden tack, the disdainful vessel should turn its prow aside, and
leave them to the mercy of the waves. They did not anticipate such a
completion to their disasters.

Yet, as time passed, new anxieties occurred. Falkner's solicitor,
Mr. Colville, had dispatched an agent to America to bring Osborne over.
The pardon promised insured his coming; and yet it was impossible not
to feel inquietude with regard to his arrival. Falkner experienced
least of this. He felt sure of Osborne, his creature, the being whose
life he had heretofore saved, whose fortunes he had created. He knew
his weakness, and how easily he was dealt with. The mere people of
business were not so secure. Osborne enjoyed a comfortable existence,
far from danger--why should he come over to place himself in a
disgraceful situation, to be branded as a pardoned felon? In a thousand
ways he might evade the summons. Perhaps there was nothing to prove
that the Osborne whom Hoskins named, was the Osborne who had been
employed by Falkner, and was deemed an accessory in Mrs. Neville's
death.

Hillary, who had been sent to Washington in September, had written
immediately on his arrival. His passage had been tedious, as autumnal
voyages to America usually are--he did not arrive till the last day of
October; he announced that Osborne was in the town, and that on the
morrow he should see him. This letter had arrived towards the end of
November, and there was no reason wherefore Hillary and Osborne should
not quickly follow it. But November passed away, and December had
begun, and still the voyagers did not arrive; the south-west wind
continued to reign with slight variation; except that as winter
advanced, it became more violent: packets perpetually arrived in
Liverpool from America, after passages of seventeen and twenty days;
but Hillary did not return, nor did he write.

The woods were despoiled of their leaves; but still the air was warm
and pleasant; and it cheered Elizabeth as favourable to her hopes; the
sun shone at intervals, and the misty mornings were replaced by
cheerful days. Elizabeth rode out each morning, and this one day, the
sixteenth of December, she found a new pleasure in her solitary
exercise. The weather was calm and cheerful; a brisk canter gave speed
to the current of her blood; and her thoughts, though busy, had a charm
in them that she was half angry with herself for feeling, but which
glowed all warm and bright, despite every effort. On the preceding
evening she had observed, on her return home, at nine o'clock, from the
prison, the figure of a man, which passed her hastily, and then stood
aloof, as if guarding and watching her at a distance. Once, as he stood
under an archway, a flickering lamp threw his shadow across her path.
It was a bright moonlight night, and as he stood in the midst of an
open space near which her house was situated, she recognized, muffled
as he was, the form of Gerard Neville. No wonder then that her heart
was lightened of its burthen; he had not forgotten her--he could no
longer command himself to absence; if he might not converse with her,
at least he might look upon her as she passed.

On the same morning she entered her father's prison-room,--she found
two visiters already there, Colville and his agent Hillary. The faces
of both were long and serious. Elizabeth turned anxiously to Falkner,
who looked stern and disdainful. He smiled when he saw her, and said,
"You must not be shocked, my love, at the news which these gentlemen
bring. I cannot tell how far it influences my fate; but it is
impossible to believe that it is irrevocably sealed by it. But who can
express the scorn that a man must feel, to know that so abject a
poltroon wears the human form. Osborne refuses to come."

Such an announcement naturally filled her with dismay. At the
request of Falkner, Hillary began again to relate the circumstances of
his visit to America. He recounted, that finding that Osborne was in
Washington, he lost no time in securing an interview. He delivered his
letters to him, and said that he came from Mr. Falkner, on an affair of
life and death. At the name, Osborne turned pale--he seemed afraid of
opening the letters, and muttered something about there being a
mistake. At length he broke the seals. Fear, in its most abject guise,
blanched his cheek as he read, and his hand trembled so that he could
scarcely hold the paper. Hillary, perceiving at last that he had
finished reading, and was hesitating what to say, began himself to
enter on the subject; when, faltering and stammering, Osborne threw the
letter down, saying, "I said there was a mistake--I know nothing--all
this affair is new to me--I never had concern with Mr. Falkner--I do
not know who Mr. Falkner is."

But for the pale, quivering lips of the man, and his tremulous
voice, Hillary might have thought that he spoke truth; but he saw that
cowardice was the occasion of the lie he told, and he endeavoured to
set before him the perfect safety with which he might comply with the
request he conveyed. But the more he said, Osborne, gathering
assurance, the more obstinately denied all knowledge of the
transactions in question, or their principal actor. He changed, warmed
by his own words, from timid to impudent in his denials, till Hillary's
conviction began to be shaken a little; and at the same time he grew
angry, and cross-questioned him with a lawyer's art, about his arrival
in America--questions which Osborne answered with evident trepidation.
At last, he asked him, if he remembered such and such a house, and such
a journey, and the name of his companion on the occasion; and if he
recollected a person of the name of Hoskins? Osborne started at the
word as if he had been shot. Pale he was before, but now his cheeks
grew of a chalky white, his limbs refused to support him, and his voice
died away; till, rousing himself, he pretended to fly into a violent
passion at the insolence of the intrusion, and impertinence of the
questions. As he spoke, he unwarily betrayed that he knew more of the
transaction than he would willingly have allowed; at last, after
running on angrily and incoherently for some time, he suddenly broke
away, and (they were at a tavern) left the room, and also the
house.

Hillary hoped that, on deliberation, he would come to his senses. He
sent the letters after him to his house, and called the next day; but
he was gone--he had left Washington the evening before by the steamer
to Charlestown. Hillary knew not what to do. He applied to the
government authorities; they could afford him no help. He also repaired
to Charlestown. Some time he spent in searching for Osborne--vainly; it
appeared plain that he travelled under another name. At length, by
chance, he found a person who knew him personally, who said that he had
departed a week before for New Orleans. It seemed useless to make this
further journey, yet Hillary made it, and with like ill-success.
Whether Osborne was concealed in that town--whether he had gone to
Mexico, or lurked in the neighbouring country, could not be discovered.
Time wore away in fruitless researches, and it became necessary to come
to a decision. Hopeless of success, Hillary thought it best to return
to England--with the account of his failure--so that no time might be
lost in providing a remedy, if any could be found, to so fatal an
injury to their cause.

While this tale was being told, Falkner had leisure to recover from
that boiling of the blood which the first apprehension of unworthy
conduct in one of our fellow-creatures is apt to excite, and now spoke
with his usual composure. "I cannot believe," he said, "that this man's
evidence is of the import which is supposed. No one, in fact, believes
that I am a murderer; every one knows that I am innocent. All that we
have to do, is to prove this in a sort of technical and legal manner;
and yet hardly that--for we are not to address the deaf ear of law, but
the common sense of twelve men, who will not be slow, I feel assured,
in recognizing the truth. All that can be done to make my story plain,
and to prove it by circumstances, of course must be done; and I do not
fear but that, when it is ingenuously and simply told, it will suffice
for my acquittal."

"It is right to hope for the best," said Mr. Colville; "but
Osborne's refusal to come is, in itself, a bad fact; the prosecutor
will insist much upon it--I would give a hundred pounds to have him
here."

"I would not give a hundred pence," said Falkner, drily.

The other stared--the observation had an evil effect on his mind; he
fancied that his client was even glad that a witness so material
refused to appear, and this to him had the aspect of guilt. He
continued, "I am so far of a different opinion, that I should advise
sending a second time. Had you a friend sufficiently zealous to
undertake a voyage across the Atlantic for the purpose of persuading
Osborne"--

"I would not ask him to cross a ditch' for the
purpose,"--interrupted Falkner, with some asperity. "Let such men as
would believe a dastard like Osborne in preference to a gentleman, and
a soldier, take my life, if they will. It is not worth this pains in my
own eyes--and thirsted for by my fellow men--it is a burthen I would
willingly lay down."

The soft touch of Elizabeth's hand placed on his recalled him--he
looked on her tearful eyes, and became aware of his fault--he smiled to
comfort her. "I ought to apologize to these gentlemen for my
hastiness," he said;--"and to you, my dear girl, for my apparent
trifling--but there is a degradation in these details that might chafe
a more placid temper.--I cannot--I will not descend to beg my life--I
am innocent, this all men must know, or at least will know, when their
passions are no longer in excitement against me--I can say no more--I
cannot win an angel from heaven to avouch my guiltlessness of her
blood--I cannot draw this miserable fellow from his cherished refuge.
All must fall on my own shoulders--I must support the burthen of my
fate; I shall appear before my judges; if they, seeing me, and hearing
me speak, yet pronounce me guilty, let them look to it--I shall be
satisfied to die, so to quit at once a blind, blood-thirsty world!"

The dignity of Falkner as he spoke these words, the high,
disdainful, yet magnanimous expression of his features, the clear
though impassioned tone of his voice, thrilled the hearts of all.
"Thank God, I do love this man even as he deserves to be loved," was
the tender sentiment that lighted up Elizabeth's eyes; while his male
auditors could not help, both by countenance and voice, giving token
that they were deeply moved. On taking their leave soon after, Mr.
Colville grasped Falkner's hand cordially, and bade him rest assured
that his zeal, his utmost endeavours, should not be wanting to serve
him. "And," he added, in obedience rather to his newly awakened
interest than his judgment, "I cannot doubt but that our endeavours
will be crowned with complete success."

A man of real courage always finds new strength unfold within him to
meet a larger demand made upon it. Falkner was now, perhaps for the
first time, thoroughly roused to meet the evils of his lot. He threw
off every natural, every morbid sensibility, and strung himself at once
to a higher and firmer tone of mind. He renounced the brittle hopes
before held out to him--of this or that circumstance being in his
favour--he intrusted unreservedly his whole cause to the mighty
irresistible power who rules human affairs, and felt calm and free. If
by disgrace and death he were to atone for the destruction of his
victim--so let it be--the hour of suffering would come, and it would
pass away--and leaving him a corpse, the vengeance of his
fellow-creatures would end there. He felt that the decree for life or
death having received already the irrefragable fiat--he was prepared
for both; and he resolved from that hour to drive all weak emotions,
all struggle, all hope or fear from his soul. "Let God's will be done!"
something of Christian resignation--something (derived from his eastern
life) of belief in fatality--and something of philosophic fortitude,
composed the feeling that engraved this sentiment in his heart, in
ineffaceable characters.

He now spoke of Osborne to Elizabeth without acrimony. "My
indignation against that man was all thrown away," he said; "we do not
rebuke the elements when they destroy us, and why should we spend our
anger against men?--a word from Osborne, they say, would save me--the
falling of the wind, or the allaying of the waves, would have saved
Alithea--both are beyond our control. I imagined in those days that I
could guide events--till suddenly the reins were torn from my hands. A
few months ago I exulted, in expectation that the penalty demanded for
my crime would be the falling by the hands of her son--and here I am an
imprisoned felon!--and now we fancy that this thing or that might
preserve me; while in truth all is decreed, all registered, and we must
patiently await the appointed time. Come what may, I am prepared--from
this hour I have taught my spirit to bend, and to be content to die.
When all is over, men will do me justice, and that poor fellow will
bitterly lament his cowardice. It will be agony to him to remember that
one word would have preserved my life then, when no power on earth can
recall me to existence. He is not a bad man--and could he now have
represented to him his after remorse, he would cease to exhibit such
lamentable cowardice--a cowardice, after all, that has its origin in
the remnants of good feeling. The fear of shame; horror at having
participated in so fearful a tragedy; and a desire to throw off the
consequences of his actions which is the perpetual and stinging
accompaniment of guilt, form his motives; but could he be told how
immeasurably his sense of guilt will be increased, if his silence
occasions my death, all these would become minor considerations, and
vanish on the instant."

"And would it be impossible," said Elizabeth, "to awaken this
feeling in him?"

"By no means," replied Falkner; "though it is out of our power. We
sent a mercenary, not indeed altogether lukewarm, but still not
penetrated by that ardour, nor capable of that eloquence, which is
necessary to move a weak man, like the one he had to deal with. Osborne
is, in some sort, a villain; but he is too feeble-minded to follow out
his vocation. He always desired to be honest. Now he has the reputation
of being such; from being one of those miserable creatures, the refuse
of civilization, preying upon the vices, while they are the outcasts of
society, he has become respectable and trust-worthy in the eyes of
others. He very naturally clings to advantages dearly earned--lately
gained. He fancies to preserve them by deserting me. Could the veil be
lifted--could the conviction be imparted of the wretch he will become
in his own eyes, and of the universal execration that will be heaped on
him after my death, his mind would entirely change, and he would be as
eager, I had almost said, to come forward, as now he is set upon
concealment and silence."



CHAPTER XII.

Elizabethlistened in silence. All that had passed made a deep
impression--from the moment that the solicitor had expressed a wish,
that Falkner had a zealous friend to cross the Atlantic--till now, that
he himself dilated on the good that would result from representations
being clearly and fervently made to Osborne, she was revolving an idea
that absorbed her whole faculties.

This idea was no other than going to America herself. She had no
doubt, that, seeing Osborne, she could persuade him, and the
difficulties of the journey appeared slight to her who had travelled so
much. She asked Falkner many questions, and his answers confirmed her
more and more in her plan. No objection presented itself to her mind;
already she felt sure of success. There was scarcely time, it was true,
for the voyage; but she hoped that the trial might be again deferred,
if reasonable hopes were held out of Osborne's ultimate arrival. It was
painful to leave Falkner without a friend, but the object of her
journey was paramount, even to this consideration; it must, it should,
be undertaken. Still she said nothing of her scheme, and Falkner could
not guess at what was passing in her mind.

Wrapped in the reverie suggested by such a plan, she returned home
in the evening, without thinking of the apparition of Neville, which
had so filled her mind in the morning. It was not till at her own door,
that the thought glanced through her mind, and she remembered that she
had seen nothing of him--she looked across the open space where he had
stood the evening before. It was entirely vacant. She felt
disappointed, and saddened; and she began to reflect on her total
friendlessness--no one to aid her in-preparations for her voyage--none
to advise--her sole resource was in hirelings. But her independent,
firm spirit quickly threw off this weakness, and she began a note to
Mr. Colville, asking him to call on her, as she wished to arrange every
thing definitively before she spoke to Falkner. As she wrote, she heard
a rapid, decided step in her quiet street, followed by a hurried, yet
gentle knock at her door. She started up. "It is he!" the words were on
her lips, when Gerard entered; she held out her hand, gladness
thrilling through her whole frame, her heart throbbing wildly--her eyes
lighted up with joy. "This is indeed kind," she cried. "Oh, Mr.
Neville, how happy your visit makes me!"

He did not look happy; he had grown paler and thinner, and the
melancholy which had sat on his countenance before, banished for a time
by her, had returned, with the addition of a look of wildness, that
reminded her of the youth of Baden; Elizabeth was shocked to remark
these traces of suffering; and her next impulse was to ask, "What has
happened? I fear some new misfortune has occurred."

"It is the property of misfortune to be ever new," he replied, "to
be always producing fresh and more miserable results. I have no right
to press my feelings on you; your burthen is sufficient; but I could
not refrain any longer from seeing in what way adversity had exerted
its pernicious influence over you."

His manner was gloomy and agitated; she, resigned, devoted to her
duties, commanding herself day by day to fulfil her task of patience,
and of acquiring cheerfulness for Falkner's sake, imagined that some
fresh disaster must be the occasion of these marks of emotion. She did
not know that fruitless struggles to alleviate the evils of her
situation, vain broodings over its horrors, and bitter regret at losing
her, had robbed him of sleep, of appetite, of all repose. "I despise
myself for my weakness," he said, "when I see your fortitude. You are
more than woman, more than human being ever was, and you must feel the
utmost contempt for one, whom fortune bends and breaks as it does me.
You are well, however, and half my dreams of misery have been false and
vain. God guards and preserves you: I ought to have placed more faith
in him."

"But tell me, dear Mr. Neville, tell me what has happened?"

"Nothing!" he replied; "and does not that imply the worst? I cannot
make up my mind to endure the visitation of ill fallen upon us; it
drives me from place to place like an unlaid ghost. I am very selfish
to speak in this manner. Yet it is your sufferings that fill my mind to
bursting; were all the evil poured on my own head, while you were
spared, welcome, most welcome, would be the bitterest infliction! but
you, Elizabeth, you are my cruel father's victim, and the future will
be more hideous than the hideous present!"

Elizabeth was shocked and surprised; what could he mean? "The
future," she replied, "will bring my dear father's liberation; how then
can that be so bad?"

He looked earnestly and inquiringly on her. "Yes," she continued,
"my sorrows, heavy as they are, have not that additional pang; I have
no doubt of the ultimate justice that will be rendered my father. We
have much to endure in the interim, much that undermines the fortitude,
and visits the heart with sickening throes; there is no help but
patience: let us have patience, and this adversity will pass away; the
prison and the trial will be over, and fredom and security again
be ours."

"I see how it is," replied Neville; "we each live in a world of our
own, and it is wicked in me to give you a glimpse of the scene as it is
presented to me."

"Yet speak; explain!" said Elizabeth; "you have frightened me so
much that any explanation must be better than the thoughts which your
words, your manner, suggest."

"Nay," said Neville, "do not let my follies infect you. Your views,
your hopes, are doubtless founded on reason. It is, if you will forgive
the allusion that may seem too light for so sad a subject, but the old
story of the silver and brazen shield. I see the dark, the fearful side
of things; I live among your enemies--that is, the enemies of Mr.
Falkner. I hear of nothing but his guilt, and the expiation prepared
for it. I am maddened by all I hear.

"I have implored my father not to pursue his vengeance. Convinced as
I am of the truth of Mr. Falkner's narration, the idea that one so
gifted should be made over to the fate that awaits him is abhorrent,
and when I think that you are involved in such a scene of wrong and
horror, my blood freezes in my veins. I have implored my father, I have
quarrelled with him, I have made Sophia advocate the cause of justice
against malice; all in vain. Could you see the old man--my father I
mean; pardon my irreverence--how he revels in the demoniacal hope of
revenge, and with what hideous delight he gloats upon the detail of
ignominy to be inflicted on one so much his superior in every noble
quality, you would feel the loathing I do. He heaps sarcasm and
contempt on my feeble spirit, as he names my pardon of my mother's
destroyer, my esteem for him, and my sympathy for you; but that does
not touch me. It is the knowledge that he will succeed, and you be lost
and miserable for ever, that drives me to desperation.

"I fancied that these thoughts must pursue you, even more painfully
than they do me. I saw you writhing beneath the tortures of despair,
wasting away under the influence of intense misery. You haunted my
dreams, accompanied by every image of horror--sometimes you were
bleeding, ghastly, dying--sometimes you took my poor mother's form, as
Falkner describes it, snatched cold and pale from the waves--other
visions flitted by, still more frightful. Despairing of moving my
father, abhorring the society of every human being, I have been living
for the last month at Dromore. A few days ago my father arrived there.
I wondered till I heard the cause. The time for expecting Osborne had
arrived. As vultures have instinct for carrion, so he swooped down at
the far off scent of evil fortune; he had an emissary at Liverpool, on
the watch to hear of this man's arrival. Disgusted at this foul
appetite for evil, I left him. I came here,--only to see you; to gaze
on you afar, was to purify the world of the 'blasts from hell,' which
the bad passions I have so long contemplated spread round me. My father
learned whither I had gone, I had a letter from him this morning--you
may guess at its contents."

"He triumphs in Osborne's refusal to appear," said Elizabeth, who
was much moved by the picture of hatred and malice Neville had
presented to her; and trembled from head to foot as she listened, from
the violent emotions his account excited, and the vehemence of his
manner as he spoke.

"He does, indeed, triumph," replied Neville; "and you--you and Mr.
Falkner, do you not despair?"

"If you could see my dear father," said Elizabeth, her courage
returning at the thought, "you would see how innocence, and a noble
mind can sustain; at the worst, he does not despair. He bears the
present with fortitude, he looks to the future with resignation. His
soul is firm, his spirit inflexible."

"And you share these feelings?"

"Partly, I do, and partly I have other thoughts to support me.
Osborne's cowardice is a grievous blow, but it must be remedied. The
man we sent to bring him was too easily discouraged. Other means must
be tried. I shall go to America, I shall see Osborne, and you cannot
doubt of my success."

"You?" cried Neville; "you, to go to America? you to follow the
traces of a man who hides himself? Impossible! This is worse madness
than all. Does Falkner consent to so senseless an expedition?"

"You use strong expressions," interrupted Elizabeth.

"I do," he replied; "and I have a right to do so--I beg your pardon.
But my meaning is justifiable--you must not undertake this voyage. It
is as useless as improper. Suppose yourself arrived on the shores of
wide America. You seek a man who conceals himself, you know not where;
can you perambulate large cities, cross wide extents of country, go
from town to town in search of him? It is by personal exertion alone
that he can be found; and your age and sex wholly prevent that."

"Yet I shall go," said Elizabeth thoughtfully; "so much is left
undone, because we fancy it impossible to do; which, upon endeavour, is
found plain and easy. If insurmountable obstacles oppose themselves, I
must submit, but I see none yet; I have not the common fears of a
person whose life has been spent in one spot; I have been a traveller,
and know that, but for the fatigue, it is as easy to go a thousand
miles as a hundred. If there are dangers and difficulties, they will
appear light to me, encountered for my dear father's sake."

She looked beautiful as an angel, as she spoke; her independent
spirit had nothing rough in its texture. It did not arise from a love
of opposition, but from a belief, that in fulfilling a duty, she could
not be opposed or injured. Her fearlessness was that of a generous
heart, that could not believe in evil intentions. She explained more
fully to her friend the reasons that induced her determination. She
repeated Falkner's account of Osborne's character, the injury that it
was believed would arise from his refusal to appear, and the probable
facility of persuading him, were he addressed by one zealous in the
cause.

Neville listened attentively. She paused--he was lost in thought,
and made no reply--she continued to speak, but he continued mute, till
at last she said, "You are conquered, I know--you yield, and agree that
my journey is a duty, a necessity."

"We are both apt, it would seem," he replied, "to see our duties in
a strong light, and to make sudden, or they may be called rash,
resolutions. Perhaps we both go too far, and are in consequence
reprehended by those about us: in each other, then, let us find
approval--you must not go to America, for your going would be
useless--with all your zeal you could not succeed. But I will go. Of
course this act will be treated as madness, or worse, by Sir Boyvill
and the rest--but my own mind assures me that I do right. For many
years I devoted myself to discovering my mother's fate. I have
discovered it. Falkner's narrative tells all. But clear and
satisfactory as that is to me, others choose to cast frightful doubts
over its truth, and conjure up images the most revolting. Have they any
foundation? I do not believe it--but many do--and all assert that the
approaching trial alone can establish the truth. This trial is but a
mockery, unless it is fair and complete--it cannot be that without
Osborne. Surely, then, it neither misbecomes me as her son, nor as the
son of Sir Boyvill, to undertake any action that will tend to clear up
the mystery.

"I am resolved--I shall go--be assured that I shall not return
without Osborne. You will allow me to take your place, to act for
you--you do not distrust my zeal."

Elizabeth had regarded her own resolves as the simple dictates of
reason and duty. But her heart was deeply touched by Neville's offer;
tears rushed into her eyes, as she replied in a voice faltering from
emotion. "I fear this cannot be, it will meet with too much opposition;
but never, never can I repay your generosity in but imagining so great
a service."

"It is a service to both," he said, "and as to the opposition I
shall meet, that is my affair. You know that nothing will stop me when
once resolved. And I am resolved. The inner voice that cannot be
mistaken assures me that I do right--I ask no other approval. A sense
of justice, perhaps of compassion, for the original author of all our
wretchedness, ought probably to move me; but I will not pretend to be
better than I am: were Falkner alone concerned, I fear I should be but
lukewarm. But not one cloud--nor the shadow of a cloud--shall rest on
my mother's fate. All shall be clear, all universally acknowledged; nor
shall your life be blotted, and your heart broken, by the wretched fate
of him to whom you cling with matchless fidelity. He is innocent, I
know; but if the world thinks and acts by him as a murderer, how could
you look up again? Through you I succeeded in my task, to you I owe
unspeakable gratitude, which it is my duty to repay. Yet, away with
such expressions. You know that my desire to serve you is boundless,
that I love you beyond expression, that every injury you receive is
trebled upon me--that vain were every effort of self-command; I must do
that thing that would benefit you, though the whole world rose to
forbid. You are of more worth in your innocence and nobleness, than a
nation of men such as my father. Do you think I can hesitate in my
determinations thus founded, thus impelled?"

More vehement, more impassioned than Elizabeth, Neville bore down
her objections, while he awakened all her tenderness and gratitude:
"Now I prove myself your friend," he said proudly; "now Heaven affords
me opportunity to serve you, and I thank it."

He looked so happy, so wildly delighted, while a more still, but not
less earnest sense of joy filled her heart. They were young, and they
loved--this of itself was bliss; but the cruel circumstances around
them added to their happiness, by drawing them closer together, and
giving fervour and confidence to their attachment; and now that he saw
a mode of serving her, and she felt entire reliance on his efforts, the
last veil and barrier fell from between them, and their hearts became
united by that perfect love which can result alone from entire
confidence, and acknowledged unshackled sympathy.

Always actuated by generous impulses, but often rash in his
determinations, and impetuous in their fulfilment; full of the warmest
sensibility, hating that the meanest thing that breathed should endure
pain, and feeling the most poignant sympathy for all suffering, Neville
had been maddened by his own thoughts, while he brooded over the
position in which Elizabeth was placed. Not one of those various
circumstances that alleviate disaster to those who endure it, presented
themselves to his imagination--he saw adversity in its most hideous
form, without relief or disguise--names and images appending to
Falkner's frightful lot, which he and Elizabeth carefully banished from
their thoughts, haunted him. The fate of the basest felon hung over the
prisoner--Neville believed that it must inevitably fall on him; he
often wondered that he did not contrive to escape, that Elizabeth,
devoted and heroic, did not contrive some means of throwing open his
dungeon's doors. He had endeavoured to open his father's eyes, to
soften his heart, in vain. He had exerted himself to discover whether
any trace of long past circumstances existed that might tend to acquit
Falkner. He had gone to Treby, visited the graves of the hapless
parents of Elizabeth, seen Mrs. Baker, and gathered there the account
of his landing; but nothing helped to elucidate the mystery of his
mother's death; Falkner's own account was the only trace left behind;
that bore the stamp of truth in every line, and appeared to him so
honourable a tribute to poor Alithea's memory, that he looked with
disgust on his father's endeavours to cast upon it suspicions and
interpretations, the most hideous and appalling.

In the first instance, he had been bewildered by Sir Boyvill's
sophistry, and half conquered by his plausible arguments. But a short
time, and the very circumstance of Elizabeth's fidelity to his cause,
sufficed to show him the baseness of his motives, and the real injury
he did his mother's fame.

Resolved to clear the minds of other men from the prejudice against
the prisoner thus spread abroad, and at least to secure a fair trial,
Neville made no secret of his belief that Falkner was innocent. He
represented him everywhere as a gentleman--a man of humanity and
honour--whose crime ought to receive its punishment from his own
conscience, and at the hand of the husband or son of the victim in the
field; and whom, to pursue as his father did, was at once futile and
disgraceful. Sir Boyvill, irritated by Falkner's narrative; his vanity
wounded to the quick by the avowed indifference of his wife, was
enraged beyond all bounds by the opposition of his son. Unable to
understand his generous nature, and relying on his previous zeal for
his mother's cause, he had not doubted but that his revenge would find
a ready ally in him. His present arguments, his esteem for their enemy,
his desire that he should be treated with a forbearance which, between
gentlemen, was but an adherence to the code of honour--appeared to Sir
Boyvill insanity, and worse--a weakness the most despicable, a want of
resentment the most low-minded. But he cared not--the game was in his
hands--revelling in the idea of his enemy's ignominious sufferings, he
more than half-persuaded himself that his accusation was true, and that
the punishment of a convicted felon would at last satisfy his thirst
for revenge. A feeble old man, tottering on the verge of the grave, he
gloried to think that his grasp was still deadly, his power
acknowledged in throes of agony, by him by whom he had been
injured.

Returning to Dromore from Carlisle, Gerard sought his father.
Osborne's refusal to appear crowned Sir Boyvill's utmost hopes; and his
sarcastic congratulations, when he saw his son, expressed all the
malice of his heart. Gerard replied with composure, that he did indeed
fear that this circumstance would prove fatal to the course of justice;
but that it must not tamely be submitted to, and that he himself was
going to America to induce Osborne to come, that nothing might be
wanting to elucidate the mystery of his mother's fate, and to render
the coming trial full, fair, and satisfactory. Such an announcement
rendered, for a moment, Sir Boyvill speechless with rage. A violent
scene ensued. Gerard, resolved, and satisfied of the propriety of his
resolution, was calm and firm. Sir Boyvill, habituated to the use of
vituperative expressions, boiled over with angry denunciations, and
epithets of abuse. He called his son the disgrace of his family--the
opprobrium of mankind--the detractor of his mother's fame. Gerard
smiled; yet at heart, he deeply felt the misery of thus for ever
finding an opponent in his father, and it required all the enthusiasm
and passion of his nature, to banish the humiliating and saddening
influence of Sir Boyvill's indignation.

They parted worse friends than ever. Sir Boyvill set out for town;
Gerard repaired to Liverpool. The wind was contrary--there was little
hope of change. He thought that it would conduce to his success in
America, if he spent the necessary interval in seeing Hoskins again;
and also in consulting with his friend, the American minister; so, in
all haste, having first secured his passage on board a vessel that was
to sail in four or five days, he also set out for London.



CHAPTER XIII.

The philosophy of Falkner was not proof against the intelligence,
that Gerard Neville was about to undertake the voyage to America for
the sake of inducing Osborne to come over. Elizabeth acquainted him
with her design, and her friend's determination to replace her, with
sparkling eyes, and cheeks flushed by the agitation of pleasure--the
pure pleasure of having such proof of the worth of him she loved.
Falkner was even more deeply touched; even though he felt humiliated by
the very generosity that filled him with admiration. His blood was
stirred, and his feelings tortured him by a sense of his own demerits,
and the excellence of one he had injured. "Better die without a word
than purchase my life thus!" were the words hovering on his lips--yet
it was no base cost that he paid--and he could only rejoice at the
virtues of the son of her whom he had so passionately loved. There are
moments when the past is remembered with intolerable agony; and when to
alter events, which occurred at the distance of many years, becomes a
passion and a thirst. His regret at Alithea's marriage seemed all
renewed--his agony that thenceforth she was not to be the half of his
existence, as he had hoped; that her child was not his child; that her
daily life, her present pleasures, and future hopes were divorced from
his--all these feelings were revived, together with a burning jealousy,
as if, instead of being a buried corpse, she had still adorned her home
with her loveliness and virtues.

Such thoughts lost their poignancy by degrees, and he could charm
Elizabeth by dwelling on Gerard's praises; and he remarked with
pleasure, that she resumed her vivacity, and recovered the colour and
elasticity of motion, which she had lost. She did not feel less for
Falkner: but her contemplations had lost their sombre hue--they were
full of Neville--his voyage--his exertions--his success--his return;
and the spirit of love that animated each of these acts, were gone over
and over again in her waking dreams; unbidden smiles gleamed in her
countenance; her ideas were gaily coloured, and her conversation gained
a variety and cheerfulness, that lightened the burthen of their prison
hours.

Meanwhile Neville arrived in London. He visited the American
minister, and learned from him, that Osborne had given up the place he
held, and had left Washington--no one knew whither he was gone--these
events being still too recent to leave any trace behind. It was evident
that to seek and find him would be a work of trouble and time, and
Neville felt that not a moment must be lost--December was drawing to a
close. The voyages to and from America might, if not favourable,
consume the whole interval that still remained before the spring
assizes. Hoskins, he learned, was gone to Liverpool.

He visited Lady Cecil before he left town. Though somewhat tainted
by worldliness, yet this very feeling made her highly disapprove Sir
Boyvill's conduct. A plausible, and she believed true, account was
given of Mrs. Neville's death--exonerating her--redounding indeed to
her honour. It was injurious to all to cast doubts upon this tale--it
was vulgar and base to pursue revenge with such malicious and cruel
pertinacity. Falkner was a gentleman, and deserved to be treated as
such; and now he and Elizabeth were mixed up in loathsome scenes and
details, that made Lady Cecil shudder even to think of.

That Gerard should go to America as the advocate, as it were, of
Falkner, startled her; but he represented his voyage in a simpler
light, as not being undertaken for his benefit, but for the sake of
justice and truth. Sir Boyvill came in upon them while they were
discussing this measure. He was absolutely frenzied by his son's
conduct and views; his exasperation but tended to disgust, and did not
operate to shake their opinions.

Neville hastened back to Liverpool;--a south-west wind reigned,
whose violence prevented any vessel from sailing for America; it was
evident that the passage would be long, and perhaps hazardous. Neville
thought only of the delay; but this made him anxious. A portion of his
time was spent in seeking for Hoskins; but he was not to be found. At
last it was notified to him, that the wind had a little changed, and
that the packet was about to sail. He hurried on board--soon they were
tossing on a tempestuous sea--they lost sight of land--sky and ocean,
each dusky, and the one rising at each moment into more tumultuous
commotion, surrounded them. Neville, supporting himself by a rope,
looked out over the horizon--a few months before he had anticipated the
same voyage over a summer sea--now he went under far other
auspices--the veil was raised--the mystery explained; but the wintry
storms that had gathered round him, were but types of the tempestuous
passions which the discoveries he had made, raised in the hearts of
all.

For three days and nights the vessel beat about in the Irish
Channel, unable to make any way--three days were thus lost to their
voyage--and when were they to arrive?--Impatient--almost terrified by
the delay which attended his endeavours, Neville began to despair of
success. On the fourth night the gale rose to a hurricane--there was no
choice but to run before it--by noon the following day the captain
thought himself very lucky to make the harbour of Liverpool, and though
the gale had much abated, and the wind had veered into a more
favourable quarter, it was necessary to run in to refit. With bitter
feelings of disappointment, Neville disembarked; several days must
elapse before the packet would be able to put to sea, so he abandoned
the idea of going by her--and finding a New York merchantman preparing
to sail at an early hour, the following morning, he resolved to take
his passage on board. He hastened to the American coffee-house to see
the captain, and make the necessary arrangements for his voyage.

The captain had just left the tavern; but a waiter came up to
Neville, and told him that the Mr. Hoskins, concerning whom he had
before inquired, was in the house--in a private room. "Show me to him,"
said Neville, and followed the man as he went to announce him.

Hoskins was not alone--he had a friend with him, and they were
seated over their wine on each side of the fire. Neville could not help
being struck with the confusion evinced by both as he entered. The
person with Hoskins was a fair, light-haired, rather good-looking man,
though past the prime of life--he had at once an expression of
good-nature, and cunning in his face, and, added to this, a timid
baffled look--which grew into something very like dismay when the
waiter announced "Mr. Neville"--

"Good morning, sir," said Hoskins, "I hear that you have been
inquiring for me. I thought all our business was settled."

"On your side, probably," replied Neville; on mine I have reasons
for wishing to see you. I have been seeking you in vain in London, and
here."

"Yes, I know," said the other, "I went round by Ravenglass to take
leave of the old woman before I crossed--and here I am, my passage
taken, with not an hour to lose. I sail by the Owyhee, Captain
Bateman."

"Then we shall have time enough for all my inquiries," observed
Neville. "I came here for the very purpose of arranging my passage with
Captain Bateman."

"You, sir! are you going to America? I thought that was all at an
end."

"It is more necessary than ever. I must see Osborne--I must bring
him over--his testimony is necessary to clear up the mystery that hangs
over my mother's fate."

"You are nearer hanging Mr. Falkner without him than with him," said
Hoskins.

"I would bring him over for the very purpose of saving a man whom I
believe to be innocent of the crime he is charged with; for that
purpose I go to America. I wish the truth to be established--I have no
desire for revenge."

"And do you really go to America for that purpose?" repeated
Hoskins.

"Certainly--I consider it my duty," replied Neville. "Nay, it may be
said that I went for this design, for I sailed by the John Adams--which
has been driven back by contrary winds. I disembarked only half an hour
ago."

"That beats all!" cried Hoskins. "Why, do you know--I have more than
half a mind to tell you--you had really sailed for America for the
purpose of bringing Osborne over, and you now intend taking a passage
on board the Owyhee?"

"Certainly; why not?--What is there so strange in all this?--I
sought you for the sake of making inquiries that might guide me in my
search for Osborne, who wishes to conceal himself."

"You could not have addressed a better man--by the Lord! He's a
craven, and deserves no better; so I'll just let out, Mr. Neville, that
Osborne sneaked out of this room at the instant he saw you come into
it."

Neville had seen Hoskins's companion disappear--he thought it but an
act of civility--the strangeness of this coincidence, the course of
events at once so contrary, and so propitious, staggered him for a
moment. "They tell of the rattlesnake," said Hoskins, "that fixing its
eye on its prey, a bird becomes fascinated, and wheels round nearer and
nearer till he falls into the jaws of the enemy--poor Osborne! He
wishes himself on the shores of the Pacific, to be far enough off--and
here he is, and turn and twist as he will, it will end by the law
grasping him by the shoulder, and dragging him to the very noose he so
fears to slip into;--not that he helped to murder the lady--you do not
believe that, Mr. Neville?--you do not think that the lady was
murdered?"

"I would stake my existence that she was not," said Neville; "were
it otherwise, I should have no desire to see Osborne, or to interfere.
Strange, most strange it is, that he should be here; and he is come,
you think, with no design of offering his testimony to clear Mr.
Falkner?" "He is come under a feigned name," replied Hoskins; "under
pretence that he was sent by Osborne--he has brought a quantity of
attested declarations, and hopes to serve Mr. Falkner, without
endangering his own neck."

It was even so. Osborne was a weak man, good-hearted, as it is
called, but a craven. No sooner did he hear that Hillary had sailed for
Europe, and that he might consider himself safe, than he grew uneasy on
another score. He had still possession, even while he had denied all
knowledge of the writer, of Falkner's letter, representing to him the
necessity of coming over. It was simply but forcibly written; every
word went to the heart of Osborne, now that he believed that his
conduct would make over his generous benefactor to an ignominious end.
This idea haunted him like an unlaid ghost; yet, if they hanged
Falkner, what should prevent them from hanging him too? suspicion must
fall equally on both.

When Hillary had urged the case, many other objections had presented
themselves to Osborne's mind. He thought of the new honest course he
had pursued so long, the honourable station he had gained, the
independence and respectability of his present life; and he shrunk from
giving up these advantages, and becoming again, in all men's eyes, the
Osborne whose rascality he had left behind in England; it seemed hard
that he should feel the weight of the chain that bound his former
existence to his present one, when he fondly hoped that time had broken
it. But these minor considerations vanished, as soon as the idea of
Falkner's danger fastened itself on his mind. It is always easy to fall
back upon a state of being which once was ours. The uncertain,
disreputable life Osborne had once led, he had gladly bidden adieu to,
but the traces were still there, and he could fall into the way of it
without any great shock. Besides this, he knew that Hillary had made
his coming, and the cause of it, known to the legal authorities in
Washington; and though he might persist in his denials, still he felt
that he should be universally disbelieved.

A dislike at being questioned and looked askance upon by his
American friends, made him already turn his eyes westward. A longing to
see the old country arose unbidden in his heart. Above all, he could
neither rest nor sleep, nor eat, nor perform any of the offices of
life, for the haunting image of his benefactor, left by him to die a
felon's death. Not that he felt tempted to alter his determination, and
to come forward to save him: on the contrary, his blood grew chill, and
his flesh shrunk at the thought; but still he might conceal himself in
England; no one would suspect him of being there; he would be on the
spot to watch the course of events; and if it was supposed that he
could render any assistance, without compromising himself, he should at
least be able to judge fairly how far he might concede: his vacillating
mind could go no further in its conclusions. Hoskins had rightly
compared him to the bird and the rattlesnake. He was fascinated; he
could not avoid drawing nearer and nearer to the danger which he
believed to be yawning to swallow him; ten days after Hillary left
America, he was crossing the Atlantic. Hoskins was the first person he
saw on landing, the second was Neville. His heart grew cold; he felt
himself in the toils; how bitterly he repented his voyage. Coward as he
was, he died a thousand deaths, from fear of that one which, in fact,
there was no danger of his incurring.

That Osborne should of his own accord have come to England appeared
to smooth every thing. Neville did not doubt that he should be able to
persuade him to come forward at the right time. He instructed Hoskins
to re-assure him, and to induce him to see him; and, if he objected, to
contrive that they should meet. He promised to take no measures for
securing his person, but to leave him in all liberty to act as he
chose; he depended that the same uneasy conscience that brought him
from America to Liverpool, would induce him at last, after various
throes and struggles, to act as it was supposed he would have done at
the beginning.

But day after day passed, and Osborne was not to be found; Hoskins
had never seen him again, and it was impossible to say whither he was
gone, or where he was hid. The Owyhee, whose voyage had again been
delayed by contrary winds, now sailed. Hoskins went with her. It was
possible that Osborne might be on board, returning to the land of
refuge. Neville saw the captain, and he denied having such a passenger;
but he might be bound to secrecy, or Osborne might have disguised
himself. Neville went on board; he carefully examined each person; he
questioned both crew and passengers; he even bribed the sailors to
inform him if any one were secreted. The Owyhee was not, however, the
only vessel sailing; nearly thirty packets and merchantmen, who had
been detained by foul winds, were but waiting for a tide to carry them
out. Neville deliberated whether he should not apply to a magistrate
for a search-warrant. He was averse to this--nay, repugnant. It was of
the first importance to the utility of Osborne as a witness, that he
should surrender himself voluntarily. The seizing him by force, as an
accomplice in the murder, would only place him beside Falkner in the
dock, and render his evidence of no avail; and his, Neville's, causing
his arrest, could only be regarded as a piece of rancorous hostility
against the accused; yet to suffer him to depart from the English
shores was madness, and worse still, to be left in doubt of whether he
had gone or remained. If the first were ascertained, Neville could take
his passage also, and there might still be time to bring him back.

When we act for another, we are far more liable to hesitation than
when our deeds regard ourselves only. We dread to appear lukewarm; we
dread to mar all by officiousness. Ill-success always appears a fault,
and yet we dare not make a bold venture--such as we should not hesitate
upon were it our own cause. Neville felt certain that Falkner would not
himself deliberate, but risk all to possess himself of the person of
Osborne; still he dared not take so perilous, perhaps so fatal, a
step.

The tide rose, and the various docks filled. One by one the
American-bound vessels dropped out, and put to sea. It was a moment of
agony to Neville to see their sails unfurl, swell to the wind, and make
a speedy and distant offing. He now began to accuse himself bitterly of
neglect--he believed that there was but one mode of redeeming his
fault--to hurry on board one of the packets, and to arrive in America
as soon as Osborne, whom he felt convinced was already on his way
thither. Swift in his convictions, rash in execution, uncertainty was
peculiarly hostile to his nature; and these moments of vacillation and
doubt, and then of self-reproach at having lost all in consequence,
were the most painful of his life. To determine to do something was
some consolation, and now he resolved on his voyage. He hurried back to
his hotel for a few necessaries and money. On his entrance, a letter
was put into his hands--the contents changed the whole current of his
ideas. His countenance cleared up--the tumult of his thoughts subsided
into a happy calm. Changing all his plans, instead of undertaking a
voyage to America, he the same evening set out for London.



CHAPTER XIV.

Theprisoner and his faithful companion knew nothing of these
momentous changes. Day by day Elizabeth withdrew from the fire to the
only window in her father's room; moving her embroidery table close to
it, her eyes turned, however, to the sky, instead of to the flowers she
was working; and leaning her cheek upon her hand, she perpetually
watched the clouds. Gerard was already, she fancied, on the world of
waters; yet the clouds did not change their direction--they all sped
one way, and that contrary to his destination. Thus she passed her
mornings; and when she returned to her own abode, where her heart could
more entirely spend its thoughts on her lover and his voyage, her
lonely room was no longer lonely; nor the gloomy season any longer
gloomy. More than happy--a breathless rapture quickened the beatings of
her heart, as she told over again and again Neville's virtues, and
dearer than all, his claims on her gratitude.

Falkner saw with pleasure the natural effects of love and hope add
to the cheerfulness of his beloved child, diffuse a soft charm over her
person, her motions, and her voice, and impart a playful tenderness to
her before rather serious manners. Youth, love, and happiness are so
very beautiful in their conjunction. "God grant," he thought, "I do not
mar this fair creature's life--may she be happier than Alithea; if man
can be worthy of her, Gerard Neville surely is." As he turned his eyes
silently from the book that apparently occupied him, and contemplated
her pensive countenance, whose expression showed that she was wrapped
in, yet enjoying her thoughts, retrospect made him sad. He went over
his own life, its clouded morning, the glad beams that broke out to
dissipate those clouds, and the final setting amidst tempests and
wreck. Was all life like this, must all be disappointed hope, baffled
desires, lofty imaginations engendering fatal acts, and bringing the
proud thus low? would she at his age view life as he did--a weary
wilderness--a tangled, endless labyrinth, leading by one rough path or
another to a bitter end? He hoped not, her innocence must receive other
reward from Heaven.

It was on a day as they were thus occupied--Falkner refrained from
interrupting Elizabeth's reverie, which he felt was sweeter to her than
any converse--and appeared absorbed in reading; suddenly she exclaimed,
"The wind has changed, dear father; indeed it has changed, it is
favourable now. Do you not feel how much colder it is? the wind has got
to the north, there is a little east in it; his voyage will not be a
long one, if this change only lasts!"

Falkner answered her by a smile; but it was humiliating to think of
the object of that voyage, and her cheerful voice announcing that it
was to be prosperous, struck, he knew not why, a saddening chord. At
this moment he heard the bolts of the chamber-door pushed back, and the
key turn in the lock--the turnkey entered, followed by another man, who
hesitated as he came forward, and then as he glanced at the inhabitants
of the room, drew back, saying, "There is some mistake; Mr. Falkner is
not here."

But for his habitual self-command, Falkner had started up, and made
an exclamation--so surprised was he to behold the person who
entered--for he recognized his visitant on the instant--he, himself,
was far more changed by the course of years; time, sickness, and
remorse had used other than Praxitilean art, and had defaced the lines
of grace and power, which had marked him many years ago, before his
hands had dug Alithea's grave. He was indeed surprised to see who
entered; but he showed no sign of wonder, only saying with a calm
smile, "No, there is no mistake, I am the man you seek."

The other now apparently recognized him, and advanced timidly, and
in confusion--the turnkey left them, and Falkner then said, "Osborne,
you deserve my thanks for this, but I did believe that it would come to
this."

"No," said Osborne, "I do not deserve thanks--I--" and he looked
confused, and glanced towards Elizabeth. Falkner followed his eye, and
understanding his look, said, "You do not fear being betrayed by a
lady, Osborne, you are safe here as in America. I see how it is, you
are here under a false name; no one is aware that you are the man, who
a few weeks ago refused to appear to save a fellow-creature from
death."

"I see no way to do that now," replied Osborne, hesitating; "I do
not come for that, I come--I could not stay away--I thought something
might be done."

"Elizabeth, my love," said Falkner, "you, at least, will thank Mr.
Osborne for his spontaneous services--you are watching the clouds which
were to bear along the vessel towards him, and beyond our hopes he is
already here."

Elizabeth listened breathlessly--she feared to utter a word lest it
might prove a dream--now, gathering Falkner's meaning, she came
forward, and with all a woman's grace addressed the trembling man, who
already looked at the door as if he longed to be on the other side,
fearful that he was caught in his own toils; for, as Hoskins said, the
fascinated prey had wheeled yet nearer to his fate involuntarily--he
had been unable to resist his desire to see Falkner, and learn how it
was with him, but he still resolved not to risk any thing; he had
represented himself to the magistrates as coming from Osborne, showing
false papers, and a declaration drawn up by him at Washington, and
attested before official men there, setting forth Falkner's innocence;
he had brought this over to see if it would serve his benefactor, and
had thus got access to him: such was his reliance on the honour of his
patron that he had not hesitated in placing himself in his power, well
aware that he should not be detained by him against his will; for still
his heart quailed, and his soul shrunk from rendering him the service
that would save his life.

His manner revealed his thoughts to the observant Falkner, but
Elizabeth, less well read in men's hearts, younger and more sanguine,
saw in his arrival the completion of her hopes, and she thanked him
with so much warmth, and with such heartfelt praises of his kindness
and generosity, that Osborne began to think that his greatest
difficulty would be in resisting her fascination, and disappointing her
wishes. He stammered out at last some lame excuses. All he could do
consistently with safety, they might command; he had shown this by
coming over--more could not be asked, could not be expected--he
himself, God knew, was innocent, so was Mr. Falkner, of the crime he
was charged with. But he had no hand whatever in the transaction, he
was not in his confidence, he had not known even who the lady was; his
testimony, after all, must be worth nothing, for he had nothing to
tell, and for this he was to expose himself to disgrace and death.

Acquiring courage at the sound of his own voice, Osborne grew
fluent. Elizabeth drew back--she looked anxiously at Falkner, and saw a
cloud of displeasure and scorn gather over his countenance--she put her
hand on his, as if to check the outbreak of his indignation; yet she
herself, as Osborne went on, turned her eyes flashing with disdain upon
him. The miserable fellow, cowed before the glances of both, he shifted
from one foot to the other, he dared not look up, but he knew that
their eyes were on him, and he felt the beams transfix him, and wither
up his soul. There are weak men who yield to persuasion, there are
weaker who are vanquished by reproaches and contempt; of such was
Osborne. His fluency faded into broken accents; his voice died away--as
a last effort, he moved towards the door.

"Enough, sir," said Falkner, in a calm, contemptuous voice; "and now
begone--hasten away--do not stop till you have gained the shore, the
ship, the waves of the Atlantic: be assured I shall not send for you a
second time, I have no desire to owe my life to you."

"If I could save your life, Mr. Falkner," he began; "but"--

"We will not argue that point," interrupted Falkner; "it is enough
that it is generally asserted that your testimony is necessary for my
preservation. Were my crime as great as it is said to be, it would find
its punishment in that humiliation. Go, sir, you are safe! I would not
advise you to loiter here, return to America; walls have ears in abodes
like these; you may be forced to save a fellow-creature against your
will; hasten then away, go, eat, drink and be merry--whatever betides
me, not even my ghost shall haunt you. Meanwhile, I would beg you no
longer to insult me by your presence--begone at once."

"You are angry, sir," said Osborne timidly.

"I hope not," replied Falkner, who had indeed felt his indignation
rise, and checked himself; "I should be very sorry to feel anger
against a coward; I pity you--you will repent this when too late."

"Oh do not say so," cried Elizabeth; "do not say he will repent when
too late--but now, in time, I am sure that he repents; do you not, Mr.
Osborne? You are told that your fears are vain; you know Mr. Falkner is
far too noble to draw you into danger to save himself--you know even
that he does not fear death, but ignominy, eternal horrible disgrace,
and the end, the frightful end prepared, even he must recoil from
that--and you--no, you cannot in cold blood, and with calm forethought,
make him over to it--you cannot, I see that you cannot"--

"Forbear, Elizabeth!" interrupted Falkner in a tone of displeasure;
"I will not have my life, nor even my honour, begged by you; let the
worst come, the condemnation, the hangman--I can bear all, except the
degradation of supplicating such a man as that."

"I see how it is," said Osborne. "Yes--you do with me as you will--I
feared this, and yet I thought myself firm; do with me as you
will--call the gaoler--I will surrender myself." He turned pale as
death, and tottered to a chair.

Falkner turned his back on him--"Go, sir!" he repeated, "I reject
your sacrifice."

"No, father, no," cried Elizabeth eagerly; "say not so--you accept
it--and I also with thanks and gratitude: yet it is no sacrifice, Mr.
Osborne--I assure you that is not, at least, the sacrifice you
fear--all is far easier than you think--there is no prison for you--you
arrival need not yet be known--your consent being obtained, a pardon
will be at once granted--you are to appear as a witness--not as a--"
her voice faltered--she turned to Falkner, her eyes brimming over with
tears. Osborne caught the infection, he was touched--he was cheered
also by Elizabeth's assurances, which he hoped that he might believe;
hitherto he had been too frightened and bewildered to hear accurately
even what he had been told--he fancied that he must be tried--the
pardon might or might not come afterwards--the youth, earnestness, and
winning beauty of Elizabeth moved him; and now that his fears were a
little allayed, he could see more clearly, he was even more touched by,
the appearance of his former benefactor. Dignity and yet
endurance--suffering as well as fortitude--marked his traits; there was
something so innately noble, and yet so broken by fortune, expressed in
his commanding yet attenuated features and person--he was a wreck that
spoke so plainly of the glorious being he had once been; there was so
much majesty in his decay--such real innocence sat on his high and open
brow, streaked though it was with disease--such lofty composure in his
countenance, pale from confinement, and suffering--that Osborne felt a
mixture of respect and pity that soon rose above every other
feeling.

Reassured with regard to himself, and looking on his patron with
eyes that caught the infection of Elizabeth's tears, he came forward
--"I beg your pardon, Mr. Falkner," he said, "for my doubts--for my
cowardice, if you please so to name it; I request you to forget it, and
to permit me to come forward in your behalf. I trust you will not
disdain my offer; though late, it comes, I assure you, from my
heart."

There was no mock dignity about Falkner, a sunny smile broke over
his features as he held out his hand to Osborne. "And from my heart, I
thank you," he replied, "and deeply regret that you are to suffer any
pain through me--mine was the crime, you the instrument; it is hard,
very hard, that you should be brought to this through your complaisance
to me; real danger for you there is none--or I would die this worst
death rather than expose you to it."

Elizabeth now, in all gladness, wrote a hasty note; desiring Mr.
Colville to come to them, that all might at once be arranged. "And
Gerard, dear father," she said, "we must write to Mr. Neville to recall
him from his far and fruitless journey."

"Mr. Neville is in Liverpool," said Osborne; "I saw him the very day
before I came away--he doubtless was on the look out for me, and I dare
swear Hoskins betrayed me. We must be on our guard"--

"Fear nothing from Mr. Neville," replied Elizabeth; "he is too good
and generous not to advocate justice and truth. He is convinced of my
father's innocence."

They were interrupted--the solicitor entered--Osborne's appearance
was beyond his hopes--he could not believe in so much good fortune. He
had begun to doubt, suspect, and fear--he speedily carried off his
godsend, as he named him, to talk over, and bring into form his
evidence, and all that appertained to his surrender--thus leaving
Falkner with his adopted child.

Such a moment repaid for much; for Elizabeth's hopes were high, and
she knelt before Falkner, embracing his knees, thanking Heaven in a
rapture of gratitude. He also was thankful; yet mortification and
wounded pride struggled in his heart with a sense of gratitude for
unhoped-for preservation. His haughty spirit rebelled against the
obligation he owed to so mean a man as Osborne. It required hours of
meditation--of reawakened remorse for Alithea's fate--of renewed wishes
that she should be vindicated before all the world--of remembered love
for the devoted girl at his feet, to bring him back from the tumult of
contending passions, to the fortitude and humility which he at every
moment strove to cultivate.

Elizabeth's sweet voice dispelled such storms, and rewarded him for
the serenity he at last regained. It was impossible not to feel
sympathy in her happiness, and joy in possessing the affection of so
gentle, yet so courageous and faithful a heart. Elizabeth's happiness
was even more complete when she left him, and sat in her solitary
room--there, where Gerard had so lately visited her, and his image, and
her gratitude towards him mingled more with her thoughts: her last act
that night, was to write to him, to tell him what had happened: It was
her note that he received at Liverpool on the eve of his second
departure, and which had changed his purpose. He had immediately set
out for London to communicate the good tidings to Lady Cecil.



CHAPTER XV.

Thesehad been hours of sunshine for the prisoner and his child, such
as seldom visit the precincts of a gaol, and soon, too soon they
changed, and the usual gloom returned to the abode of suffering. In
misfortune various moods assail us. At first we are struck, stunned,
and overwhelmed; then the elastic spirit rises, it tries to shape
misery in its own way, it adapts itself to it; it finds unknown
consolations arise out of circumstances which in moments of prosperity
were unregarded. But this temper of mind is not formed for endurance.
As a sick person finds comfort in a new posture at first, but after a
time the posture becomes restrained and wearisome; thus after mustering
fortitude, patience, the calm spirit of philosophy, and the tender one
of piety, and finding relief; suddenly the heart rebels, its old
desires and old habits recur, and we are the more dissatisfied from
being disappointed in those modes of support in which we trusted.

There was perpetual struggle in Falkner's heart. Hatred of life,
pride, a yearning for liberty, and a sore, quick spirit of impatience
for all the bars and forms that stood between him and it, swelled like
a tide in his soul. He hated himself for having brought himself thus
low; he was angry that he had exposed Elizabeth to such a scene, he
reviled his enemies in his heart, he accused destiny. Then again, if he
but shut his eyes--the stormy river, the desolate sands, and the one
fair being dead at his feet, presented themselves, and remorse, like a
wind, drove back the flood. He felt that he had deserved it all, that
he had himself woven the chain of circumstances which he called his
fate, while his innocence of the crime brought against him imparted a
lofty spirit of fortitude, and even of repose.

Elizabeth, with an angel's love, watched the changes of his temper.
Her sensibility was often wounded by his sufferings; but her benign
disposition was so fertile of compassion and forbearance, that her own
mood was never irritated by finding her attempts to console fruitless.
She listened meekly when his overladen heart spent itself in invectives
against the whole system of life; or catching a favourable moment, she
strove to raise his mind to nobler and purer thoughts--unobtrusive, but
never weary--eagerly gathering all good tidings, banishing the ill; her
smiles, her tears, her cheerfulness or calm sadness, by turns relieved
and comforted him.

Winter came upon them. It was wild and drear. Their abode, far in
the north of the island, was cold beyond their experience, the dark
prison-walls were whitened by snow, the bars of their windows were
laden, Falkner looked out, the snow drifted against his face, one peep
at the dusky sky was all that was allowed him; he thought of the wide
steppes of Russia, the swift sledges, and how he longed for freedom!
Elizabeth, as she walked home through the frost and sleet, gave a sigh
for the soft seasons of Greece, and felt that a double winter gathered
round her steps.

Day by day, time passed on. Each evening returning to her solitary
fireside, she thought, "Another is gone, the time draws near;" she
shuddered, despite her conviction that the trial would be the signal
for the liberation of Falkner; she saw the barriers time had placed
between him and fate, fall off one by one with terror; January and
February passed, March had come--the first of March, the very month
when all was to be decided, arrived. Poor tempest-tost voyagers! would
the wished-for port be gained--should they ever exchange the uncertain
element of danger for the firm land of security!

It was on the first of March that, returning home in the evening,
she found a letter on her table from Neville. Poor Elizabeth! she loved
with tenderness and passion--and yet how few of the fairy thoughts and
visions of love had been hers--love with her was mingled with so dire a
tragedy, such real oppressive griefs, that its charms seemed crimes
against her benefactor; yet now, as she looked on the letter, and
thought, "from him," the rapture of love stole over her, her eyes were
dimmed by the agitation of delight, and the knowledge that she was
loved suspended every pain, filling her with soft triumph, and
thrilling, though vague expectation.

She broke the seal--there was an inner envelope directed to Miss
Raby--and she smiled at the mere thought of the pleasure Gerard must
have felt in tracing that name--the seal, as he regarded it, of their
future union; but when she unfolded the sheet, and glanced down the
page, her attention was riveted by other emotions. Thus Neville
wrote:--

"My own sweet Elizabeth, I write in haste, but doubt is so painful,
and tidings fly so quickly, that I hope you will hear first by means of
these lines, the new blow fate has prepared for us. My father lies
dangerously ill. This, I fear, will again delay the trial--occasion
prolonged imprisonment--and keep you still a martyr to those duties you
so courageously fulfil. We must have patience. We are impotent to turn
aside irrevocable decrees, yet when we think how much hangs on the
present moment of time, the heart--my weak heart at least--is wrung by
anguish.

"I cannot tell whether Sir Boyvill is aware of his situation--he is
too much oppressed by illness for conversation; the sole desire he
testifies is to have me near him. Once or twice he has pressed my hand,
and looked on me with affection. I never remember to have received
before, such testimonials of paternal love. Such is the force of the
natural tie between us, that I am deeply moved, and would not leave him
for the whole world. My poor father!--he has no friend, no relative but
me; and now, after so much haughtiness and disdain, he, in his need, is
like a little child, reduced to feel his only support in the natural
affections. His unwonted gentleness subdues my soul. Oh, who would rule
by power, when so much more absolute a tyranny is established through
love!

"Sophia is very kind--but she is not his child. The hour approaches
when we should be at Carlisle. What will be the result of our
absence--what the event of this illness?--I am perplexed and agitated
beyond measure; in a day or two all will be decided: if Sir Boyvill
becomes convalescent, still it may be long before he can undertake so
distant a journey.

"Do not fear that for a moment I shall neglect your interests, they
are my own. For months I have lived only on the expectation of the hour
when you should be liberated from the horrors of your present position;
and the anticipation of another delay is torture. Even your courage
must sink, your patience have an end. Yet a little longer, my
Elizabeth, support yourself, let not your noble heart fail at this last
hour, this last attack of adversity. Be all that you have ever been,
firm, resigned, and generous; in your excellence I place all my trust.
I will write again very speedily, and if you can imagine any service
that I can do you, command me to the utmost. I write by my father's
bedside; he does not sleep, but he is still. Farewell--I love you; in
those words is summed a life of weal or woe for me and for you also, my
Elizabeth? Do not call me selfish for feeling thus--even here."

"Yes, yes," thought Elizabeth; "busy fingers are weaving--the web of
destiny is unrolling fast--we may not think, nor hope, nor scarcely
breathe--we must await the hour--death is doing his work--what victim
will he select?"

The intelligence in this letter, communicated on the morrow to all
concerned in the coming trial, filled each with anxiety. In a very few
days the assizes would commence; Falkner's name stood first on the
list--delay was bitter, yet he must prepare for delay, and arm himself
anew with resolution. Several anxious days passed--Elizabeth received
no other letter--she felt that Sir Boyvill's danger was protracted,
that Gerard was still in uncertainty--the post hour now became a moment
of hope and dread--it was a sort of harassing inquietude hard to
endure: at length a few lines from Lady Cecil arrived--they brought no
comfort--all remained in the same state.

The assizes began--on the morrow the judges were expected in
Carlisle--and already all that bustle commenced that bore the semblance
of gaiety in the rest of the town, but which was so mournful and
fearful in the gaol. There were several capital cases; as Elizabeth
heard them discussed, her blood ran cold--she hated life, and all its
adjuncts: to know of misery she could not alleviate was always
saddening; but to feel the squalid mortal misery of such a place and
hour brought home to her own heart, was a wretchedness beyond all
expression, poignant and hideous.

The day that the judges arrived, Elizabeth presented herself in
Falkner's cell--a letter in her hand--her first words announced good
tidings; yet she was agitated, tearful--something strange and awful had
surely betided. It was a letter from Neville that she held, and gave to
Falkner to read.

"I shall soon be in Carlisle, my dearest friend, but this letter
will out-speed me, and bring you the first intelligence of my poor
father's death. Thank God, I did my duty by him to the last--thank God,
he died in peace--in peace with me and the whole world. The uneasiness
of pain yielded at first to torpor, and thus we feared he would die;
but before his death he recovered himself for an hour or two, and
though languid and feeble, his mind was clear. How little, dear
Elizabeth, do we know of our fellow-creatures--each shrouded in the
cloak of manner--that cloak of various dyes--displays little of the
naked man within. We thought my father vain, selfish, and cruel--he was
all this, but he was something else that we knew not of--he was
generous, humane, humble--these qualities he hid as if they had been
vices--he struggled with them--pride prevented him from recognizing
them as the redeeming points of a faulty nature; he despised himself
for feeling them, until he was on his death-bed.

"Then, in broken accents, he asked me, his only son, to pardon his
mistakes and cruelties--he asked me to forgive him, in my dear mother's
name--he acknowledged his injustices towards her. 'Would that I might
live,' he said; 'for my awakened conscience urges me to repair a
portion of the evils I have caused--but it is too late. Strange that I
should never have given ear to the whisperings of justice--though they
were often audible--till now, when there is no help!--Yet is it so?
cannot some reparation be made? There is one'--and as he spoke he half
raised himself, and some of the wonted fire flashed from his glazed
eye--but he sunk back again, saying in a low but distinct voice,
'Falkner--Rupert Falkner--he is innocent, I know and feel his
innocence--yet I have striven to bring him to the death. Let me record
my belief that his tale is true, and that Alithea died the victim of
her own heroism, not by his hand. Gerard, remember, report these
words--save him--his sufferings have been great--promise me--that I may
feel that God and Alithea will forgive me, as I forgive him; I act now,
as your mother would have had me act; I act to please her.'

"I speak it without shame, my eyes ran over with tears, and this
softening of a proud heart before the remembered excellence of one so
long dead, so long thought of with harshness and resentment, was the
very triumph of the good spirit of the world; yet tears were all the
thanks I could give for several minutes. He saw that I was moved--but
his strength was fast leaving him, and pressing my hand and murmuring,
'My last duty is now performed--I will sleep,' he turned away his head;
he never spoke more, except to articulate my name, and once or twice,
as his lips moved, and I bent down to listen, I heard the name of my
mother breathed at the latest hour.

"I cannot write more--the trial will take place, I am told,
immediately--before the funeral. I shall be in Carlisle--all will go
well, dear Elizabeth--and when we meet again, happier feelings will be
ours. God bless you now and always, as you deserve."



CHAPTER XVI.

All things now assumed an anxious aspect; all was hurrying to a
conclusion. To-morrow the trial was to come on. "Security" is not a
word for mortal man to use, more especially when the issue of an event
depends on the opinions and actions of his fellow-creatures. Falkner's
acquittal was probable, but not certain; even if the impression went in
general in his favour, a single juryman might hold out, and
perverseness, added to obstinacy, would turn the scale against him.
Sickening fears crept over Elizabeth's heart; she endeavoured to
conceal them; she endeavoured to smile and repeat, "This is our last
day of bondage."

Falkner cast no thought upon the worst--innocence shut out fear. He
could not look forward to the ignominy of such a trial without acute
suffering; yet there was an austere composure in his countenance, that
spoke of fortitude and reliance on a power beyond the limit of human
influence. His turn had come to encourage Elizabeth. There was a
nobleness and simplicity of character, common to both, that made them
very intelligible to each other. Falkner, however, had long been
nourishing secret thoughts and plans, of which he had made no mention,
till now, the crisis impending, he thought it best to lift a portion of
the veil that covered the future.

"Yes," he said, in reply to Elizabeth, "to-morrow will be the last
day of slavery; I regain my human privileges after to-morrow, and I
shall not be slow to avail myself of them. My first act will be to quit
this country. I have never trod its soil but to find misery; after
to-morrow I leave it for ever."

Elizabeth started, and looked inquiringly: Were her wishes, her
destiny to have no influence over his plans? he knew of the hope, the
affection, that rendered England dear to her. Falkner took her hand.
"You will join me hereafter, dearest; but you will, in the first
instance, yield to my request, and consent to a separation for a
time."

"Never!" said Elizabeth; "you cannot deceive me; you act thus for my
purposes, and not your own, and you misconceive everything. We will
never part."

"Daughters, when they marry," observed Falkner, "leave father,
mother, all, and follow the fortunes of their husbands. You must submit
to the common law of human society."

"Do not ask me to reason with you and refute your arguments,"
replied Elizabeth; "our position is different from that of any other
parent and child. I will not say I owe you more than daughter ever owed
father--perhaps the sacred tie of blood may stand in place of the
obligations you have heaped on me; but I will not reason; I cannot
leave you. Right or wrong in the eyes of others, my own heart would
perpetually reproach me. I should image your solitary wanderings, your
lonely hours of sickness and suffering, and my peace of mind would be
destroyed."

"It is true," said Falkner, "that I am more friendless than most
men; yet I am not so weak and womanish that I need perpetual support.
Your society is dear to me, dearer, God, who reads my heart, knows,
than liberty or life; I shall return to that society, and again enjoy
it; but, for a time, do not fear but that I can form such transitory
ties as will prevent solitary suffering. Men and women abound who will
feel benevolently towards the lonely stranger: money purchases respect;
blameless manners win kindness. I shall find friends in my need if I
desire it, and I shall return at last to you."

"My dearest father," said Elizabeth, "you cannot deceive me. I
penetrate your motives, but you wholly mistake. You would force me also
to mistake your character, but I know you too well. You never form
transitory friendships; you take no pleasure in the ordinary run of
human intercourse. You inquire; you seek for instruction; you endeavour
to confer benefits; but you have no happiness except such as you derive
from your heart, and that is not easily impressed. Did you not for many
long years continue faithful to one idea--adhere to one image--devote
yourself to one, one only, despite all that separated you? Did not the
impediment you found to the fulfilment of your visions, blight your
whole life, and bring you here? Pardon me if I allude to these things.
I cannot be to you what she was, but you can no more banish me from
your heart and imagination than you could her. I know that you cannot.
We are not parent and child," she continued playfully, "but we have a
strong resemblance on one point--fidelity is our characteristic; we
will not speak of this to others, they might think that we boasted. I
am not quite sure that it is not a defect: at least in some cases, as
with you, it proved a misfortune. To me it can never be such; it repays
itself. I cannot leave you, whatever befalls. If Gerard Neville is
hereafter lost to me, I cannot help it; it would kill me to fall off
from you. I must follow the natural, the irresistible bent of my
character.

"To-morrow, the day after to-morrow, we will speak more of this.
What is necessary for your happiness, be assured, I will fulfil without
repining; but now, dearest father, let us not speak of the future now;
my heart is too full of the present--the future appears to me a dream
never to be arrived at. Oh, how more than blest I shall be when the
future, the long future, shall grow into interest and importance!"

They were interrupted. One person came in, and then another, and the
appalling details of the morrow effectually banished all thoughts of
plans, the necessity of which Falkner wished to impress on his young
companion. He also was obliged to give himself up to present cares. He
received all, he talked to all, with a serious but unembarrassed air;
while Elizabeth sat shuddering by, wiping away her tears unseen, and
turning her dimmed eyes from one to the other, pale and miserable. We
have fortitude and resignation for ourselves; but when those beloved
are in peril we can only weep and pray. Sheltered in a dusky corner, a
little retreated behind Falkner, she watched, she listened to all, and
her heart almost broke. "Leave him! after this leave him!" she thought,
"a prey to such memories? Oh, may all good angels desert me when I
become so vile a wretch!"

The hour came when they must part. She was not to see him on the
morrow, until the trial was over; for her presence during the
preliminary scenes, was neither fitting nor practicable. Already great
indulgences had been granted to the prisoner, arising from his peculiar
position, the great length of time since the supposed crime had been
committed, and the impression, now become general, that he was
innocent. But this had limits--the morrow was to decide all, and send
him forth free and guiltless, or doom him to all the horrors of
condemnation and final suffering.

Their parting was solemn. Neither indulged in grief. Falkner felt
composed--Elizabeth endeavoured to assume tranquillity; but her lips
quivered, and she could not speak; it was like separating not to meet
for years; a few short hours, and she would look again upon his
face--but how much would happen in the interval!--how mighty a change
have occurred! What agony would both have gone through! the one
picturing, the other enduring, the scene of the morrow; the gaze of
thousands--the accusation--the evidence--the defence--the verdict--each
of these bearing with it to the well-born and refined, a barbed dart,
pregnant with thrilling poison; ignominy added to danger. How Elizabeth
longed to express to the assembled world the honour in which she held
him, whom all looked on as overwhelmed with disgrace; how she yearned
to declare the glory she took in the ties that bound them, and the
affection that she bore! She must be mute--but she felt all this to
bursting; and her last words, "Best of men! excellent, upright, noble,
generous, God will preserve you and restore you to me!" expressed in
some degree the swelling emotions of her soul.

They parted. Night and silence gathered round Falkner's pillow. With
stoical firmness he banished retrospect--he banished care. He laid his
hopes and fears at the feet of that Almighty Power, who holds earth and
all it contains in the hollow of his hand, and he would trouble himself
no more concerning the inevitable though unknown decree. His thoughts
were at first solemn and calm; and then, as the human mind can never,
even in torture, fix itself unalterably on one point, milder and more
pleasing reveries presented themselves. He thought of himself as a wild
yet not worthless schoolboy--he remembered the cottage porch clustered
over with odoriferous parasites, under whose shadow sat the sick, pale
lady, with her starry eyes and wise lessons, and her radiant daughter,
whose soft hand he held as they both nestled close at her feet. He
recalled his wanderings with that daughter over hill and dale, when
their steps were light, and their hearts, unburthened with a care,
soared to that heaven which her blessed spirit had already reached. Oh,
what is life, that these dreams of youth and innocence should have
conducted her to an untimely grave--him to a felon's cell! The thought
came with a sharp pang; again he banished it, and the land of Greece,
his perils, and his wanderings with Elizabeth on the shores of Zante,
now replaced his other memories. He then bore a burthen on his heart,
which veiled with dark crape the glories of a sunny climate, the
heart-cheering tenderness of his adopted child--this was less bitter,
this meeting of fate, this atonement. Sleep crept over him at last, and
such is the force of innocence, that though a cloud of agony hung over
his awakening, yet he slept peacefully on the eve of his trial.

Towards morning his sleep became less tranquil. He moved--he
groaned--then opening his eyes he started up, struggling to attain full
consciousness of where he was, and wherefore. He had been dreaming--and
he asked himself what had been the subject of his dreams. Was it
Greece--or the dreary waste shores of Cumberland? And why did that fair
lingering shape beckon him? Was it Alithea or Elizabeth? Before these
confused doubts could be solved, he recognized the walls of the
cell--and saw the shadow of the bars of his windows on the curtain
spread before it. It was morning--the morning--where would another sun
find him?

He rose and drew aside the curtain--and there were the dark, high
walls--weather-stained and huge;--clear, but sunless day-light was
spread over each object--it penetrated every nook, and yet was devoid
of cheer. There is indeed something inexpressibly desolate in the sight
of the early, grey, chill dawn dissipating the shadows of night, when
the day which it harbingers is to bring misery. Night is a cloak--a
shelter--a defence--all men sleep at night--the law sleeps, and its
dread ministrants are harmless in their beds, hushed like cradled
children. "Even now they sleep," thought Falkner, "pillowed and
curtained in luxury--but day is come, and they will soon resume their
offices--and drag me before them--and wherefore?--because it is
day--because it is Wednesday--because names have been given to portions
of time, which otherwise might be passed over and forgotten."

To the surgeon's eye, a human body sometimes presents itself merely
as a mass of bones, muscles, and arteries--though that human body may
contain a soul to emulate Shakespear--and thus there are moments when
the wretched dissect the forms of life--and contemplating only the
outward semblance of events, wonder how so much power of misery, or the
reverse, resides in what is after all but sleeping or waking--walking
here or walking there--seeing one fellow-creature instead of another.
Such were the morbid sensations that absorbed Falkner as day grew
clearer and clearer--the narrow court more gloomy as compared with the
sky, and the objects in his cell assumed their natural colour and
appearances. "All sleep," he again thought, "except I, the sufferer;
and does my own Elizabeth sleep? Heaven grant it, and guard her
slumbers! May those dear eyes long remain closed in peace upon this
miserable day!"

He dressed himself long before any one in the prison (and gaolers
are early risers) was awake; at last there were steps in the passage
--bolts were drawn and voices heard. These familiar sounds recalled him
to actual life, and approaching, inevitable events. His haughty soul
awoke again--a dogged pride steeled his heart--he remembered the
accusation--the execration in which he believed himself to be held--and
his innocence. "Retribution or atonement--I am ready to pay it as it is
demanded of me for Alithea's sake--but the injustice of man is not
lessened on this account; henceforth I am to be stamped with
ignominy--and yet in what am I worse than my fellows?--at least they
shall not see that my spirit bends before them."

He assumed cheerfulness, and bore all the preliminaries of
preparation with apparent carelessness; sometimes his eagle eye flashed
fire--sometimes, fixed on vacancy, a whole life of memories passed
across his mental vision; but there was no haste, no trepidation, no
faltering--he never thought of danger or of death--innocence sustained
him. The ignominy of the present was all that he felt that he had to
endure and master--that, and the desolation beyond, when branded
through life as he believed he should be, even by acquittal, he was
henceforth to be looked on as an outcast.

At length he was led forth to his trial--pride in his
heart--resolution in his eye; he passed out of the gloomy portal of the
prison, and entered the sun-lit street--houses were around; but through
an opening he caught a glimpse of the country--uplands and lawny
fields, and tree-crested hills--the work of God himself. Sunshine
rested on the scene--one used to liberty had regarded with contempt the
restricted view presented by the opening; but to the prisoner, who for
months had only seen his prison-walls, it seemed as if the creation lay
unrolled in its majesty before him. What was man in comparison with the
power that upheld the earth, and bade the sun to shine? And man was to
judge him? What mockery! Man and all his works were but a plaything in
the hands of Omnipotence, and to that Falkner submitted his destiny. He
rose above the degrading circumstances around him; he looked down upon
his fate--a real, a lofty calm at last possessed his soul; he felt that
nought said or done that day by his fellow-creatures could move him;
his reliance was elsewhere--it rested on his own innocence, and his
intimate sense that he was in no more danger now, than if sheltered in
the farthest, darkest retreat, unknown to man; he walked as if
surrounded by an atmosphere which no storms from without could
penetrate.

He entered the court with a serene brow, and so much dignity added
to a look that expressed such entire peace of conscience, that every
one who beheld him became prepossessed in his favour. His distinct,
calm voice declaring himself "Not Guilty;" the confidence, untinged by
vaunting, with which he uttered the customary appeal to God and his
Country, excited admiration at first, and then, when a second sentiment
could be felt, the most heart-moving pity. Such a man, so unstained by
vice, so raised above crime, had never stood there before; accustomed
to the sight of vulgar rogues or hardened ruffians, wonder was mingled
with a certain self-examination, which made each man feel that, if
justice were done, he probably deserved more to be in that dock than
the prisoner.

And then they remembered that he stood there to be consigned to life
or death, as the jury should decide. A breathless interest was
awakened, not only in the spectators, but even in those hardened by
habit to scenes like this. Every customary act of the court was
accompanied by a solemnity unfelt before. The feeling, indeed, that
reigned was something more than solemn; thirsting curiosity and eager
wonder gave way before thrilling awe, to think that that man might be
condemned to an ignominious end.

When once the trial had begun, and his preliminary part had been
played, Falkner sat down. He became, to all appearance, abstracted. He
was, indeed, thinking of things more painful than even the present
scene; the screams and struggles of the agonized Alithea--her last sad
sleep in the hut upon the shore--the strangling, turbid waves--her wet,
lifeless form--her low, unnamed grave dug by him: had these been atoned
for by long years of remorse and misery, or was the present ignominy,
and worse that might ensue, fitting punishment? Be it as it might, he
was equal to the severest blows, and ready to lay down a life in
compensation for that of which he, most unintentionally, and yet most
cruelly, had deprived her. His thoughts were not recalled to the
present scene, till a voice struck his ear, so like hers--did the dead
speak? Knit up as he was to the endurance of all, he trembled from head
to foot; he had been so far away from that place, till the echo, as it
were, of Alithea's voice, recalled him; in a moment he recovered
himself, and found that it was her child, Gerard Neville, who was
giving his evidence.

He heard the son of his victim speak of him as innocent, and a
thrill of thankfulness entered his soul; he smiled, and hope and
sympathy with his fellow-creatures, and natural softening feelings,
replaced the gloomy bitterness and harshness of his past reflections.
He felt that he should be acquitted, and that it became him to impress
all present favourably; it became him to conduct himself so as to show
his confidence in the justice of those on whom his fate depended, and
at once to assert the dignity of innocence. From that time he gave
himself entirely up to the details of the trial; he became attentive,
and not the less calm and resolute, because he believed that his own
exertions would crown the hour with success. The spectators saw the
change in him, and were roused to double interest. The court clock,
meanwhile, kept measure of the time that passed; the hands travelled
silently on--another turn, and all would be over;--and what would then
be?



CHAPTER XVII.

Elizabeth meanwhile might envy the resolution that bore him through
these appalling scenes. On the night after leaving him, she had not
even attempted to rest. Wrapped in a shawl, she threw herself on a
sofa, and told each hour, during the livelong night; her reveries were
wild, vague, and exquisitely painful. In the morning she tried to
recall her faculties--she remembered her conviction that on that day
Falkner would be liberated, and she dressed herself with care, that she
might welcome him with the appearances of rejoicing. She expected, with
unconquerable trepidation, the hour when the court would meet. Before
that hour, there was a knock at her door, and a visiter was announced;
it was Mrs. Raby.

It was indeed a solace to see a friendly face of her own sex--she
had been so long deprived of this natural support. Lady Cecil had now
and then written to her--her letters were always affectionate, but she
seemed stunned by the magnitude of the blow that had fallen on her
friend, and unable to proffer consolation. With kindness of heart,
sweetness of temper, and much good sense, still Lady Cecil was
common-place and worldly. Mrs. Raby was of a higher order of being. She
saw things too exclusively through one medium--and thus the scope of
her exertions was narrowed; but that medium was a pure and elevated
one. In visiting Elizabeth, on this occasion, she soared beyond it.

Long and heavily had her desertion of the generous girl weighed on
her conscience. She could sympathize in her heroism, and warmly
approve--it was in her nature to praise and to reward merit, and she
had withheld all tribute from her abandoned niece. The interests of her
religion, blended with those of family, actuated her, and while
resisting a natural impulse of generosity she fancied that she was
doing right. She had spoken concerning her with no one but Lady Cecil;
and she, while she praised her young friend, forgot to speak of
Falkner, and there lay the stumbling-block to every motion in her
favour.

When Elizabeth repaired to Carlisle, Mrs. Raby returned to
Belleforest. She scarcely knew how to introduce the subject to her
father-in-law, and when she did, he, verging into dotage, only said;
"Act as you please, my dear, I rely on you; act for the honour and
welfare of yourself and your children." The old man day by day lost his
powers of memory and reason; by the time of the trial he had become a
mere cipher. Every responsibility fell on Mrs. Raby; and she, eager to
do right and fearful to do wrong, struggled with her better
nature--wavered, repented, and yet remained inactive.

Neville strongly reprobated the conduct of every one towards
Elizabeth. He had never seen Mrs. Raby, but she in particular he
regarded with the strongest disapprobation. It so happened, that the
very day after his father's death, he was at Lady Cecil's when Mrs.
Raby called, and by an exception in the general orders--made for
Elizabeth's sake,--she was let come up. Gerard was alone in the
drawing-room when she was announced--he rose hastily, meaning to
withdraw, when the lady's appearance changed his entire mind. We
ridicule the minutia of the science of physiognomy--but who is not open
to first impressions? Neville was prepossessed favourably by Mrs.
Raby's countenance; her open thoughtful brow, her large dark melancholy
eyes, her dignity of manner joined to evident marks of strong feeling,
at once showed him that he saw a woman capable of generous sentiments
and heroic sacrifice. He felt that there must have been some grievous
error in Sophia's proceedings not to have awakened more active interest
in her mind. While he was forming these conclusions, Mrs. Raby was
struck by him in an equally favourable manner. No one could see Gerard
Neville without feeling that something angelic--something nobly
disinterested--unearthly in its purity, yet, beyond the usual nature of
man, sympathetic, animated a countenance that was all sensibility,
genius, and love. In a minute they were intimate friends. Lady Cecil
hearing that they were together, would not interrupt them; and their
conversation was long. Neville related his first acquaintance with
Elizabeth Raby--he sketched the history of Falkner--he described
him--and the scene when he denounced himself as the destroyer of
Alithea. He declared his conviction of his innocence--he narrated Sir
Boyvill's dying words. Then they both dwelt on his long imprisonment,
Elizabeth's faithful affection, and all that they must have
undergone--enough to move the stoniest heart. Tears rushed into
Gerard's eyes while he spoke--while he described her innocence, her
integrity, her total forgetfulness of self. "And I have deserted her,"
exclaimed Mrs. Raby; "we have all deserted her--this must not continue.
You go to Carlisle to-morrow for the trial; the moment it is over, and
Mr. Falkner acquitted--when they have left that town, where all is so
full of their name and story--I will see her, and try to make up for my
past neglect."

"It will be too late," said Gerard; "you may then please yourself by
admiring one so superior to every human being; but you will not benefit
her--Falkner acquitted, she will have risen above all need of your
support. Now is the hour to be of use. The very hour of the trial, when
this unfortunate, heroic girl is thrown entirely on herself--wounded by
her absolute friendlessness, yet disdaining to complain. I could almost
wish that Sophia would disregard appearances, and hasten to her side;
although her connexion with our family would render that too strange.
But you, Mrs. Raby, what should stop you? she is your niece--how vain
to attempt to conceal this from the world--it must be known--through
me, I fondly trust, it will be known--who shall claim her as Miss
Raby--when as Elizabeth Falkner, I could never see her more. And when
it is known, will not your desertion be censured? Be wise, be
generous--win that noblest and gentlest heart by your kindness now, and
the very act will be your reward. Hasten to Carlisle; be with her in
the saddest hour that ever one so young and innocent passed
through."

Mrs. Raby was moved, she was persuaded, she felt a veil fall from
before her eyes, she saw her duty, and she keenly felt the littleness
of her past desertion; she did not hesitate; and now that she perceived
how gladly her niece welcomed her in this hour of affliction, and how
gratefully she appreciated her kindness, she found in the approval of
her own heart the sweetest recompense for her disinterestedness.

Elizabeth's swollen eyes, and timid, hurried manner, betrayed how
she had passed the night, and how she was possessed by the most
agitating fears. Still she spoke of the acquittal of her father, as she
took pride in calling him at this crisis, as certain; and Mrs. Raby
taking advantage of this, endeavoured to draw her mind from the torture
of representing to herself the progress of the scene then acting at so
short a distance from them, by speaking of the future. Elizabeth
mentioned Falkner's determination to quit England, and her own to
accompany him; the hinted dissuasion of Mrs. Raby she disregarded. "He
has been a father to me--I am his child. What would you say to a
daughter who deserted her father in adversity and sickness? And, dear
Mrs. Raby, you must remember that my father is, in spite of all his
courage, struck by disease; accustomed to my attentions, he would die
if left to hirelings. Deserted by me, he would sink into apathy or
despair."

Mrs. Raby listened--she admired the enthusiasm and yet the softness,
the sensibility and firmness, of her young kinswoman; but she was
pained; many ideas assailed her, but she would not entertain them, they
were too wild and dangerous; and yet her heart, formed for generosity,
was tempted to trample upon the suggestions of prudence and the qualms
of bigotry. To give diversion to her thoughts she mentioned Gerard
Neville. A blush of pleasure, a smile shown more in the eyes than on
the lips, mantled over her niece's countenance. She spoke of him as of
a being scarcely earthly in his excellence. His devotion to his mother
first, and lately his generosity towards her, his resolution to go to
America, to seek Osborne, for her sake and the sake of justice, were
themes for eloquence; she spoke with warmth and truth--"Yet if you
follow Mr. Falkner's fortunes," said Mrs. Raby, "you will see him no
more."

"I cannot believe that," replied Elizabeth; "yet, if it must be so,
I am resigned. He will never forget me, and I shall feel that I am
worthy of him, though separated:--better that, than to remain at the
sacrifice of all I hold honourable and good; he would despise me, and
that were worse absence, an absence of the heart ten thousand times
more galling than mere distance of place--one would be eternal and
irremediable, the other easily obviated when our duties should no
longer clash. I go with my father because he is suffering; Neville may
join us because he is innocent--he will not, I feel and know, either
forget me, or stay away for ever."



CHAPTER XVIII.

While they were conversing, quick footsteps were heard in the street
below. Mrs. Raby had succeeded in making the time pass more lightly
than could be hoped; it was three o'clock--there was a knock at the
door of the house. Elizabeth, breaking off abruptly, turned ashy pale,
and clasped her hands in the agony of expectation. Osborne rushed into
the room. "It is all over!" he exclaimed, "all is well!" Tears streamed
from his eyes as he spoke and ran up to shake hands with Elizabeth, and
congratulate her, with an ardour and joy that contrasted strangely with
the frightened-looking being he had always before shown himself.

"Mr. Falkner is acquitted--he is free--he will soon be here! No one
could doubt his innocence that saw him--no one did doubt it--the jury
did not even retire." Thus Osborne ran on, relating the events of the
trial. Falkner's mere appearance had prepossessed every one. The
frankness of his open brow, his dignified, unembarrassed manner, his
voice, whose clear tones were the very echo of truth, vouched for him.
The barrister who conducted the prosecution, narrated the facts rather
as a mystery to be inquired into, than as a crime to be detected.
Gerard Neville's testimony was entirely favourable to the prisoner: he
showed how Falkner, wholly unsuspected, safe from the shadow of
accusation, had spontaneously related the unhappy part he took in his
unfortunate mother's death, for the sake of restoring her reputation,
and relieving the minds of her relatives. The narrative written in
Greece, and left as explanation in case of his death, was further proof
of the truth of his account. Gerard declared himself satisfied of his
innocence; and when he stated his father's dying words, his desire at
the last hour on the bed of death, to record his belief in Falkner's
being guiltless of the charge brought against him--words spoken as it
were yesterday, for he who uttered them still lay unburied--the
surprise seemed to be that he should have suffered a long imprisonment,
and the degradation of a trial. Osborne's own evidence was clear and
satisfactory. At last Falkner himself was asked what defence he had to
make. As he rose every eye turned on him, every voice and breath were
hushed--a solemn silence reigned. His words were few, spoken calmly and
impressively; he rested his innocence on the very evidence brought
against him. He had been the cause of the lady's death, and asked for
no mercy; but for her sake, and the sake of that heroic feeling that
led her to encounter death amidst the waves, he asked for justice, and
he did not for a moment doubt that it would be rendered him.

"Nor could you doubt it as you heard him," continued Osborne. "Never
were truth and innocence written so clearly on human countenance as on
his, as he looked upon the jury with his eagle eyes, addressing them
without pride, but with infinite majesty, as if he could rule their
souls through the power of a clear conscience and a just cause; they
did not hesitate--the jury did not hesitate a moment; I rushed here the
moment I heard the words, and now--he is come."

Many steps were again heard in the street below, and one, which
Elizabeth could not mistake, upon the stairs. Falkner entered--she flew
to his arms, and he pressed her to his bosom, wrapping her in a fond,
long embrace, while neither uttered a word.

A few moments of trembling almost to agony, a few agitated tears,
and the natural gladness of the hour assumed its genuine aspect.
Falkner, commanding himself, could shake hands with Osborne, and thank
him, and Elizabeth presented him to Mrs. Raby. He at once comprehended
the kindness of her visit, and acknowledged it with a heart-felt
thankfulness, that showed how much he had suffered while picturing
Elizabeth's abandonment. Soon various other persons poured into the
room, and it was necessary to pass through many congratulations, and to
thank, and, what was really painful, to listen to the out-pouring talk
of those persons who had been present at the trial. Yet at such a
moment, the heart, warmed and open, acknowledges few distinctions;
among those whose evident joy in the result filled Elizabeth with
gratitude, she and Falkner felt touched by none so much as the visit of
a turnkey, who was ashamed to show himself, yet who, hearing they were
immediately to quit Carlisle, begged permission to see them once again.
The poor fellow, who looked on Elizabeth as an angel, and Falkner as a
demigod, for, not forgetting others in their adversity, they had
discovered and assisted his necessities; the poor fellow seemed out of
his mind with joy--ecstasy was painted on his face--there was no
mistaking the clear language of a full and grateful heart.

At length the hurry and tumult subsided--all departed. Falkner and
his beloved companion were left alone, and for a few short hours
enjoyed a satisfaction so perfect that angels might have envied them.
Falkner was humbled, it is true, and looked to the past with the same
remorse; but in vain did he think that his pride ought to feel deeply
wounded by the scene of that day; in vain did he tell himself that
after such a trial the purity of his honour was tarnished--his heart
told another tale. Its emphatic emotions banished every conventional or
sophisticated regret. He was honestly though calmly glad, and
acknowledged the homely feeling, with the sincerity of a man who had
never been nourished in false refinements or factitious woes.

In the evening, when it was dusk, said Falkner, "Let us, love, take
a walk;" the words made Elizabeth both laugh and cry for joy--he put on
his hat, and with her on his arm they got quickly out of the town, and
strolled down a neighbouring lane. The wind that waved the heads of the
still leafless trees, the aspect of the starry sky, the wide spread
fields were felt as blessings from heaven by the liberated prisoner.
"They all seem," he said, "created purely for my enjoyment. How sweet
is nature--how divine a thing is liberty! Oh my God! I dare not be so
happy as I would, there is one thought to chill the genial glow; but
for the image of lost, dead Alithea, I should enjoy a felicity too pure
for frail humanity."

As they returned into the town, a carriage with four posters passed
them; Elizabeth recognized at once Gerard Neville within--a pang shot
through her heart, to remember that they did not share their feelings,
but were separated, perhaps for ever--at this very hour. On her return,
worn out with fatigue, and oppressed with this reflection, she bade
good night to Falkner; and he, happy in the idea that the same roof
would cover them, kissed and embraced her. On entering her room, she
found a letter on her toilette--and smiles again dimpled her face--it
was a letter from Neville. It contained a few words, a very few of
congratulation, reminding her that he must hurry back to town for the
melancholy task of his father's funeral; and imploring that neither she
nor Falkner would determine on any immediate step. "I cannot penetrate
the cloud in which we are enveloped," he said, "but I know that I ought
not, that I cannot, lose you. A little time, a little reflection may
show us how to accord our various duties with the great necessity of
our not being separated. Be not rash therefore, my own Elizabeth, nor
let your friend be rash; surely the worst is over, and we may be
permitted at last to hate no more, and to be happy."

Elizabeth kissed the letter, and placed it beneath her pillow. That
night she slept sweetly and well.

Early in the morning Mrs. Raby called on them. The same
prepossession which Gerard had felt in her favour as soon as he saw
her, had taken place in her on seeing Falkner. There is a sort of
magnetism that draws like to like, and causes minds of fine and lofty
tone to recognize each other when brought in contact. Mrs. Raby saw and
acknowledged at once Falkner's superiority; whatever his faults had
been, they were winnowed away by adversity, and he was become at once
the noblest and gentlest of human beings. Mrs. Raby had that touch of
generosity in her own character that never permitted her to see merit
without openly acknowledging, and endeavouring to reward it. The first
thought of the plan she now entertained, she had cast away as
impracticable, but it returned; the desire to give and to benefit, a
natural growth in her heart, made her look on it with complacency--by
degrees she dismissed the objections that presented themselves, and
resolved to act upon it. "We complain," she thought, "of the barrenness
of life, and the tediousness and faults of our fellow-creatures, and
when Providence brings before us two selected from the world as endowed
with every admirable quality, we allow a thousand unworthy
considerations, which assume the voice of prudence, to exile us from
them. Where can I find a man like Falkner, full of honour, sensibility,
and talent? where a girl like Elizabeth, who has proved herself to be
the very type of virtuous fidelity? Such companions will teach my
children better than volumes of moral treatises, the existence and
loveliness of human goodness."

Mrs. Raby passed a sleepless night, revolving these thoughts. In the
morning she called on her new friends; and then with all the grace that
was her peculiar charm, she invited them to accompany her to
Belleforest, and to take up their residence there for the next few
months.

Elizabeth's eyes sparkled with delight. Falkner at once accepted the
invitation for her, and declined it for himself. "You hear him, my dear
aunt," cried Elizabeth; "but you will not accept his refusal--you will
not permit this perversity."

"You forget many things when you speak thus," said Falkner; "but
Mrs. Raby remembers them all. I thank her for her kindness; but I am
sure she will admit of the propriety of my declining her
invitation."

"You imagine then," replied Mrs. Raby, "that I made it for form's
sake--intending it should be refused. You mistake. I know what you
mean, and all you would covertly suggest--let us cast aside the
ceremonies of mere acquaintanceship--let us be friends, and speak with
the openness natural to us--do you consent to this?"

"You are good, very good," said Falkner; "except this dear girl, who
will deign to be my friend?"

"If I thought," replied Mrs. Raby, "that your heart was so narrowed
by the disasters and injustice you have suffered, that you must
hereafter shut yourself up with the remembrance of them, I should feel
inclined to retract my offer--for friendship is a mutual feeling; and
he who feels only for himself can be no one's friend. But this is not
the case with you. You have a heart true to every touch of sympathy, as
Elizabeth can testify--since you determined to live for her sake, when
driven to die by the agony of your sufferings. Let us then at once
dismiss notions which I must consider as unworthy of us. When we turn
to the page of history, and read of men visited by adversity--what do
we say to those of their fellow-creatures who fall off from them on
account of their misfortunes? Do we not call them little-minded, and
visit them with our contempt? Do not class me with such. I might pass
you carelessly by if you had always been prosperous. It is your
misfortunes that inspire me with friendship--that render me eager to
cultivate an intimacy with one who has risen above the most frightful
calamity that could befall a man, and shown himself at once repentant
and courageous.

"You will understand what I mean, without long explanation--we shall
have time for that hereafter. I honour you. What my heart feels, my
voice and actions will ever be ready to proclaim. For Elizabeth's sake
you must not permit the world to think that he who adopted and brought
her up is unworthy of regard and esteem. Come with us to
Belleforest--you must not refuse; I long to introduce my girls to their
matchless cousin--I long to win her heart by my affection, and
kindness; and if you will permit me the enviable task, how proud and
glad I shall be to repay a portion of what we owe you on her account,
by endeavouring to compensate, by a few months of tranquillity and
friendship, for the misery you have undergone."

Mrs. Raby spoke with sincerity and earnestness, and Elizabeth's eyes
pleaded her cause yet more eloquently. "Where you go," she said to
Falkner, "there also I shall be--I shall not repine, however you
decide--but we shall be very happy at Belleforest."

It was real modesty--and no false pride that actuated Falkner. He
felt happy, yet when he looked outward, he fancied that hereafter he
must be shut out from society--a branded man. He intimately felt the
injustice of this. He accepted it as a punishment for the past, but he
did not the less proudly rise above it. It was a real pleasure to find
one entertaining the generous sentiments which Mrs. Raby expressed, and
capable of acting on them. He felt worthy of her regard, and
acknowledged that none but conventional reasons placed any barrier to
his accepting her kind offers. Why then should he reject them? He did
not; frankly, and with sincere thanks, he suffered himself to be
overruled; and on the following day they were on their road to
Belleforest.



CHAPTER XIX.

It was one of those days which do sometimes occur in March--warm and
balmy, and enlivening as spring always is. The birds were busy among
the leafless boughs; and if the carriage stopped for a moment, the
gushing song of the skylark attracted the eye to his blue ethereal
bower; a joyous welcome was breathed by nature to every heart, and none
answered it so fervently as Falkner. Sentiments of pleasure possessed
all three travellers. Mrs. Raby experienced that exultation natural to
all human beings when performing a generous action. Elizabeth felt that
in going to Belleforest she drew nearer Neville--for there was no
reason why he should not enter her grandfather's doors; but Falkner was
happier than either. It was not the vulgar joy of having escaped
danger, partly it was gladness to see Elizabeth restored to her family,
where only, as things were, she could find happiness, and yet not
divided from him. Partly it arose from the relief he felt, as the
burthen of heavy, long-endured care was lifted from his soul. But there
was something more, which was incomprehensible even to himself. "His
bosom's lord sat lightly on its throne"--he no longer turned a
saddened, reproachful eye on nature, nor any more banished soft
emotions, nourishing remorse as a duty. He was reconciled to himself
and the world; the very circumstances of his prison and his trial
being over, took with them the more galling portion of his
retrospections--health again filled his veins. At the moment when he
had first accused himself, Neville saw in him a man about to die. It
was evident now that the seeds of disease were destroyed--his person
grew erect--his eye clear and animated. Elizabeth had never, since they
left Greece, seen him so free from suffering; during all her
intercourse with him, she never remembered him so bland and cheerful in
his mood. It was the reward of much suffering--the gift of Heaven to
one who had endured patiently--opening his heart to the affections,
instead of cherishing pride and despair. It was the natural result of a
noble disposition which could raise itself above even its own errors--
throwing off former evil as alien to its nature--embracing good as its
indefeasible right.

They entered the majestic avenues and embowered glades of
Belleforest--where cedar, larch, and pine diversified the bare woods
with a show of foliage--the turf was covered with early flowers--the
buds were green and bursting on the boughs. Falkner remembered his
visit the preceding summer. How little had he then foreseen impending
events; and how far from his heart had then been the peace that at
present so unaccountably possessed it. Then the wide demesne and
stately mansion had appeared the abode of gloom and bigotry; now it was
changed to a happy valley, where love and cheerfulness reigned.

Mrs. Raby was welcomed by her children--two elegant girls of fifteen
and sixteen, and a spirited boy of twelve. They adored their mother;
and saw in their new cousin an occasion for rejoicing. Their sparkling
looks and gay voices dispelled the last remnant of melancholy from the
venerable mansion. Old Oswi Rabi himself--too much sunk in dotage to
understand what was going on--yet smiled and looked glad on the merry
faces about him. He could not exactly make out who Elizabeth was--he
was sure that it was a relation, and he treated her with an obsequious
respect, which, considering his former impertinent tone, was
exceedingly amusing.

What was wanting to complete the universal happiness? Elizabeth's
spirits rose to unwonted gaiety in the society of her young
relations--and her cousin Edwin in particular found her the most
delightful companion in the world--for she was as fearless on horseback
as himself, and was unwearied in amusing him by accounts of the foreign
countries she had seen--and adventures, ridiculous or fearful, that she
had encountered. In Mrs. Raby she found a beloved friend for serious
hours; and Falkner's recovered health and spirits were a source of
exhaustless congratulation.

Yet where was Gerard Neville? Where the looks of love--and rapturous
sense of sympathy, before which all the other joys of life fade into
dimness?--Love causes us to get more rid of our haunting identity, and
to give ourselves more entirely away than any other emotion; it is the
most complete--the most without veil or shadow to mar its beauty. Every
other human passion occupies but a distinct portion of our being. This
assimilates with all, and turns the whole into bliss or misery.
Elizabeth did not fear that Gerard would forget her. He had remembered
through the dark hours gone by--and now his shadow walked with her
beneath the avenues of Belleforest, and the recollection of his love
impregnated the balmy airs of spring with a sweetness unfelt before.
Elizabeth had now leisure to love--and many an hour she spent in
solitary yet blissful dreams--almost wondering that such happiness was
to be found on earth. What a change--what a contrast between the
deathgirt prison of Carlisle, and the love-adorned glades of her
ancestral park!--Not long ago the sky appeared to bend over one
universe of tears and woe--and now, in the midst, a piece of heaven had
dropped down upon earth, and she had entered the enchanted ground.

Yet as weeks sped on, some thoughts troubled her repose. Gerard
neither came nor wrote. At length she got a letter from Lady Cecil,
congratulating her on Falkner's acquittal, and the kindness of her
aunt; her letter was amiable, yet it was constrained; and Elizabeth,
reading it again and again, and pondering on every expression, became
aware that her friends felt less satisfaction than she did in the turn
of fortune, that placed her and Falkner together under her paternal
roof. She had believed that, as Elizabeth Raby, Neville would at once
claim her; but she was forced to recollect that Falkner was still at
her side;--and what intercourse could there be between him and his
mother's destroyer?

Thus anxiety and sadness penetrated poor Elizabeth's new found
paradise. She strove to appear the same, but she stole away when she
could, to meditate alone on her strange lot. It doubled her regret, to
think that Neville also was unhappy. She figured the "more I see and
admire my dearest niece," she said, "the greater I feel our obligation
to be to you, Mr. Falkner, for having made her what she is. Her natural
disposition is full of excellence, but it is the care and the education
you bestowed, which give her character so high a tone. Had she come to
us in her childhood, it is more than probable she would have been
placed in a convent,--and what nature, however perfect, but would be
injured by the system that reigns in those places? To you we owe our
fairest flower, and if gratitude could repay you, you would be repaid
by mine; to prove it, and to serve you, must always be the most
pleasing duty of my life."

"I should be much happier," said Falkner, "if I could regard my
interference as you do; I fear I have injured irreparably my beloved
girl, and that, through me, she is suffering pangs, which she is too
good to acknowledge, but which, in the end, may destroy her. Had I
restored her to you, had she been brought up here, she and Gerard
Neville would not now be separated."

"But they might never have met," replied Mrs. Raby. "It is indeed
vain thus to regard the past--not only is it unalterable, but each link
of the chain, producing the one that followed, seems in our instance,
to have been formed and riveted by a superior power for peculiar
purposes. The whole order of events is inscrutable--one little change,
and none of us would be as we are now. Except as a lesson or a warning,
we ought not to contemplate the past, but the future certainly demands
our attention. It is impossible to see Gerard Neville, and not to feel
an intense interest in him; he is worthy of our Elizabeth, and he is
ardently attached to her, and has besides made a deep impression on her
young heart, which I would not have erased or lessened; for I am sure
that her happiness, as far as mortals can be happy, will be insured by
their marriage."

"I stand in the way of this union; of that I am well aware," said
Falkner; "but be assured I will not continue to be an obstacle to the
welfare of my angel girl. It is for this that I would consult you:--how
are contradictions to be reconciled, or rather, how can we contrive my
absence so as to remove every impediment, and yet not to awaken
Elizabeth's suspicions?"

"I dislike contrivances," replied Mrs. Raby; "and I hate all
mystery--suffer me therefore to speak frankly to you--I have often
conversed with Elizabeth, she is firm not to marry, so as to be wholly
divided from you. She reasons calmly, but she never wavers: she will
not, she says, commence new duties, by, in the first place, betraying
her old ones; she should be for ever miserable if she did, and
therefore those who love her must not ask it. Sir Gerard entertains
similar sentiments with regard to himself, though less resolute, and, I
believe, less just than hers. I received a letter from him this
morning. I was pondering whether to show it to you or to my niece; it
seems to me best that you should read it, if it will not annoy
you."

"Give it me," said Falkner; "and permit me also to answer it--it is
not in my nature to dally with evils--I shall meet those that now
present themselves, and bring the best remedy I can, at whatever
cost."

Neville's letter was that of a man, whose wishes were at war with
his principles; and yet who was not convinced of the justice of the
application of those principles. It began by deeply regretting the
estrangement of Elizabeth from his family, by asking Mrs. Raby if she
thought that she could not be induced to pay another visit to Lady
Cecil. He said that that lady was eager to see her, and only delayed
asking her, till she ascertained whether her friendship, which was warm
and lively as ever, would prove as acceptable as formerly.

"I will at once be frank with you," the letter continued; "for your
excellent understanding may direct us, and will suggest excuses for our
doubts. You may easily divine the cause of our perplexities, though you
can scarcely comprehend the extremely painful nature of mine. Permit me
to treat you as a friend--be the judge of my cause--I have faith in the
purity and uprightness of a woman's heart, when she is endowed with
gifts, such as you possess. I had once thought to refer myself to Miss
Raby herself, but I dread the generous devotedness of her disposition.
Will you who love her, take therefore the task of decision on
yourself?"

Neville went on to express in few, but forcible words his attachment
to Elizabeth, his conviction that it could never change, and his
persuasion that she returned it. "It is not therefore my cause merely,
that I plead," he said, "but hers also. Do not call me presumptuous for
thus expressing myself. A mutual attachment alone can justify
extraordinary conduct, but where it is mutual, every minor
consideration ought to give way before it; the happiness of both our
lives depends upon our not trifling with feelings which I am sure can
never change. They may be the source of perpetual felicity--if not,
they will, they must be, pregnant with misery to the end of our lives.
But why this sort of explanation, when the meaning that I desire to
convey is, that if--that as--may I not say--we love each other--no
earthly power shall deprive me of her--sooner or later she must, she
shall be, mine; and meanwhile this continued separation is painful
beyond my fortitude to bear.

"Can I take my mother's destroyer by the hand, and live with him on
terms of intimacy and friendship? Such is the price I must pay for
Elizabeth--can I--may I--so far forget the world's censure, and I may
say the instigations of nature, as unreservedly to forgive?

"I will confess to you, dear Mrs. Raby, that when I saw Falkner in
the most degrading situation in which a man can be placed, manacled,
and as a felon, his dignity of mien, his majestic superiority to all
the race of common mortals around, the grandeur of his calm yet
piercing eye, and the sensibility of his voice--won my admiration: with
such is peopled that heaven where the noble penitent is more welcome
than the dull follower of a narrow code of morals, who never erred,
because he never felt. I pardoned him, then, from my heart, in my
mother's name. These sentiments, the entire forgiveness of the injury
done me, and the sense of his merits still continue: but may I act on
them? would not you despise me if I did? say but that you would, and my
sentence is pronounced--I lose Elizabeth--I quit England for ever--it
matters little where I go.

"Yet before you decide, consider that this man possesses virtues of
the highest order. He honoured as much as he loved my mother, and if
his act was criminal, dearly has he paid the result. I persuade myself
that there is more real sympathy between me and my mother's childhood's
friend--who loved her so long and truly--whose very crime was a mad
excess of love--than one who knew nothing of her--to whom her name
conjures up no memories, no regret.

"I feel that I could lament with Falkner the miserable catastrophe,
and yet not curse him for bringing it about. Nay--as with such a man
there can be no half sentiments--I feel that if we are thrown together,
his noble qualities will win ardent sentiments of friendship; were not
his victim my mother, there does not exist a man whose good opinion I
should so eagerly seek and highly prize as that of Rupert Falkner. It
is that fatal name which forms the barrier between me and
charity--shutting me out, at the same time, from hope and love.

"Thus incoherently I put down my thoughts as they rise--a tangled
maze which I ask you to unravel. I will endeavour to abide by your
decision, whatever it may be; yet I again ask you to pause. Is
Elizabeth's happiness as deeply implicated as mine? if it be, can I
abide by any sentence that shall condemn her to a wretchedness similar
to that which has so long been an inmate of my struggling heart? no;
sooner than inflict one pang on her, I will fly from the world. We
three will seek some far obscure retreat and be happy, despite the
world's censure, and even your condemnation."

Falkner's heart swelled within him as he read. He could not but
admire Neville's candour--and he was touched by the feelings he
expressed towards himself; but pride was stronger than regret, and
prompted an instant and decisive reply. He rebelled against the idea
that Gerard and Elizabeth should suffer through him, and thus he
wrote:--

"You have appealed to Mrs. Raby; will you suffer me to answer that
appeal, and to decide? I have a better right; for kind as she is, I
have Elizabeth's welfare yet more warmly at heart.

"The affection that she feels for you will endure to the end of her
life--for her faithful heart is incapable of change; on you therefore
depends her happiness, and you are called upon to make some sacrifice
to insure it. Come here, take her at my hand--it is all I ask--from
that hour you shall never see me more--the injured and the injurer will
separate; my fortunes are of my own earning, and I can bear them. You
must compensate to my dear child for my loss--you must be father as
well as husband--and speak kindly of me to her, or her heart will
break.

"We must be secret in our proceedings--mystery and deception are
contrary to my nature--but I willingly adopt them for her sake. Mrs.
Raby must not be trusted; but you and I love Elizabeth sufficiently
even to sacrifice a portion of our integrity to secure her happiness.
For her own sake we must blindfold her. She need never learn that we
deceived her. She will naturally be separated from me for a short
time--the period will be indefinitely prolonged--till new duties arise
wholly to wean her from me--and I shall be forgotten.

"Come then at once--endure the sight of the guilty Falkner for a few
short days--till you thus earn his dearest treasure--and do not fear
that I shall intrude one moment longer than is absolutely necessary for
our success; be assured that when once Elizabeth is irrevocably yours,
wide seas shall roll between us. Nor will your condescension to my wish
bring any stigma on yourself or your bride, for Miss Raby does not bear
my tainted name. All I ask is, that you will not delay. It is difficult
for me to cloke my feelings to one so dear--let my task of deception be
abridged as much as possible.

"I shall give my Elizabeth to you with confidence and pleasure. You
deserve her. Your generous disposition will enable you to endure her
affection for me, and even her grief at my departure. Never speak
unkindly of me to her. When you see me no more, you will find less
difficulty in forgetting the injury I have done you; you must endeavour
to remember only the benefit you receive in gaining Elizabeth."



CHAPTER XX.

The beautiful month of May had arrived, with her light budding
foliage, which seems to hang over the hoar branches of the trees like a
green aerial mist--the nightingales sung through the moonlight night,
and every other feathered chorister took up the note at early dawn. The
sweetest flowers in the year embroidered the fields; and the verdant
cornfields were spread like a lake, now glittering in the sun, now
covered over by the shadows of the clouds. It appeared impossible not
to hope--not to enjoy; yet a seriousness had again gathered over
Falkner's countenance that denoted the return of care. He avoided the
society even of Elizabeth--his rides were solitary--his evenings passed
in the seclusion of his own room. Elizabeth, for the first time in her
life, grew a little discontented. "I sacrifice all to him," she
thought, "yet I cannot make him happy. Love alone possesses the sceptre
and arbitrary power to rule; every other affection admits a parliament
of thoughts--and debate and divisions ensue, which may make us wiser,
but which sadly derogates from the throned state of what we fancy a
master sentiment. I cannot make Falkner happy; yet Neville is miserable
through my endeavours--and to such struggle there is no end--my
promised faith is inviolable, nor do I even wish to break it."

One balmy, lovely day, Elizabeth rode out with her cousins; Mrs.
Raby was driving her father-in-law through the grounds in the pony
phaeton--Falkner had been out, and was returned. Several days had
passed, and no answer arrived from Neville. He was uneasy and sad, and
yet rejoiced at the respite afforded to the final parting with his
child. Suddenly, from the glass doors of the saloon, he perceived a
gentleman riding up the avenue; he recognized him, and exclaimed, "All
is over!" At that moment he felt himself transported to a distant
land--surrounded by strangers--cut off from all he held dear. Such must
be the consequence of the arrival of Gerard Neville; and it was he,
who, dismounting, in a few minutes after entered the room.

He came up to Falkner, and held out his hand, saying, "We must be
friends, Mr. Falkner--from this moment I trust that we are friends. We
join together for the happiness of the dearest and most perfect being
in the world."

Falkner could not take his hand--his manner grew cold; but he
readily replied, "I hope we do; and we must concert together to insure
our success."

"Yet there is one other," continued Neville, "whom we must take into
our consultations."

"Mrs. Raby?"

"No! Elizabeth herself. She alone can decide for us all, and teach
us the right path to take. Do not mistake me, I know the road she will
point out, and am ready to follow it. Do you think I could deceive her?
Could I ask her to give me her dear self, and thus generously raise me
to the very height of human happiness, with deception on my lips? I
were indeed unworthy of her, if I were capable of such an act.

"Yet, but for the sake of honest truth, I would not even consult
her--my own mind is made up, if you consent; I am come to you, Mr.
Falkner, as a suppliant, to ask you to give me your adopted child, but
not to separate you from her: I should detest myself if I were the
cause of so much sorrow to either. If my conduct need explanation in
the world, you are my excuse, I need go no further. We must both join
in rendering Miss Raby happy, and both, I trust, remain friends to the
end of our lives."

"You are generous," replied Falkner; "perhaps you are just. I am not
unworthy of the friendship you offer, were you any other than you
are."

"It is because I am such as I am, that I venture to make advances
which would be impertinent from any other."

At this moment, a light step was heard on the lawn without, and
Elizabeth stood before them. She paused in utter wonder on seeing
Falkner and Neville together; soon surprise was replaced by undisguised
delight--her expressive countenance became radiant with happiness.
Falkner addressed her: "I present a friend to you, dear Elizabeth; I
leave you with him--he will best explain his purposes and wishes.
Meanwhile I must remark, that I consider him bound by nothing that has
been said; you must take counsel together--you must act for your mutual
happiness--that is all the condition I make--I yield to no other. Be
happy; and, if it be necessary, forget me, as I am very willing to
forget myself."

Falkner left them; and they instinctively, so to prevent
interruption, took their way into a woody glade of the park; and as
they walked beneath the shadows of some beautiful limetrees, on the
crisp green turf, disclosed to each other every inner thought and
feeling. Neville declared his resolve not to separate her from her
benefactor. "If the world censure me," he said, "I am content; I am
accustomed to its judgments, and never found them sway or annoy me. I
do right for my own heart. It is a godlike task to reward the penitent.
In religion and morality I know that I am justified: whether I am in
the code of worldly honour, I leave others to decide; and yet I believe
that I am. I had once thought to have met Falkner in a duel, but my
father's vengeance prevented that. He is now acquitted before all the
world, of being more than the accidental cause of my dear mother's
death. Knights of old, after they fought in right good earnest, became
friends, each finding, in the bravery of the other, a cause for esteem.
Such is the situation of Rupert Falkner and myself; and we will both
join, dear Elizabeth, in making him forget the past, and rendering his
future years calm and happy."

Elizabeth could only look her gratitude. She felt, as was most true,
that this was not a cause for words or reason. Falkner in himself
offered, or did not offer, full excuse for the generosity of Neville.
No one could see him, and not allow that the affectionate, duteous son
in no way derogated from his reverence for his mother's memory, by
entirely forgiving him who honoured her as an earthly angel, and had
deplored, through years of unutterable anguish, the mortal injury done
her. Satisfied in his own mind that he acted rightly, Neville did not
seek for any other approval; and yet he gladly accepted it from
Elizabeth, whose heart, touched to its very core by his nobleness, felt
an almost painful weight of gratitude and love; she tried to express
it: fortunately, between lovers mere language is not necessary
ineffectually to utter that which transcends all expression. Neville
felt himself most sweetly thanked; a more happy pair never trod this
lovely earth than the two that, closely linked hand in hand, and with
hearts open and true as the sunlight about them, enjoyed the sweetest
hour of love, the first of acknowledged perpetual union, beneath the
majestic, deep shadowing thickets of Belleforest.

All that had seemed so difficult, now took its course easily. They
did not any of them seek to account for, or to justify the course they
took. They each knew that they could not do other than they did.
Elizabeth could not break faith with Falkner--Neville could not
renounce her; it might be strange--but it must be so: they three must
remain together through life, despite all of tragic and miserable that
seemed to separate them.

Even Lady Cecil admitted that there was no choice. Elizabeth must be
won--she was too dear a treasure to be voluntarily renounced. In a few
weeks, the wedding-day of Sir Gerard Neville and Miss Raby being fixed,
she joined them at Belleforest, and saw, with genuine pleasure, the
happiness of the two persons whom she esteemed and loved most in the
world, secured. Mrs. Raby's warm heart reaped its own reward, in
witnessing this felicitous conclusion of her interference.

Whether the reader of this eventful tale will coincide with every
other person, fully in the confidence of all, in the opinion that such
was the necessary termination of a position full of difficulty, is hard
to say--but so it was; and it is most certain that no woman who ever
saw Rupert Falkner, but thought Neville just and judicious; and if any
man disputed this point, when he saw Elizabeth, he was an immediate
convert.

As much happiness as any one can enjoy, whose inner mind bears the
unhealing wound of a culpable act, fell to the portion of Falkner. He
had repented; and was forgiven, we may believe, in heaven, as well as
on earth. He could not forgive himself--and this one shadow remained
upon his lot--it could not be got rid of; yet perhaps in the gratitude
he felt to those about him, in the softened tenderness inspired by the
sense that he was dealt with more leniently than he believed that he
deserved, he found full compensation for the memories that made him
feel himself a perpetual mourner beside Alithea's grave.

Neville and Elizabeth had no drawback to their felicity. They cared
not for the world, and when they did enter it, the merits of both
commanded respect and liking; they were happy in each other, happy in a
growing family, happy in Falkner; whom, as Neville had said, it was
impossible to regard with lukewarm sentiments; and they derived a large
store of happiness from his enlightened mind, from the elevated tone of
moral feeling, which was the result of his sufferings, and from the
deep affection with which he regarded them both. They were happy also
in the wealth which gave scope to the benevolence of their
dispositions, and in the talents that guided them rightly through the
devious maze of life. They often visited Dromore, but their chief time
was spent at their seat in Bucks, near which Falkner had purchased a
villa. He lived in retirement: he grew a sage amidst his books and his
own reflections. But his heart was true to itself to the end, and his
pleasures were derived from the society of his beloved Elizabeth, of
Neville, who was scarcely less dear, and their beautiful children.
Surrounded by these, he felt no want of the nearest ties; they were to
him as his own. Time passed lightly on, bringing no apparent change;
thus they still live--and Neville has never for a moment repented the
irresistible impulse that led him to become the friend of him, whose
act had rendered his childhood miserable, but who completed the
happiness of his maturer years.


THE END.





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