A Love Story
"My thoughts, like swallows, skim the main, And bear my spirit back again Over the earth, and through the air, A wild bird and a wanderer."
To Lady Gipps This Work Is Respectfully Inscribed, By A Grateful Friend.
The author of these pages considered that a lengthened explanation might be necessary to account for the present work.
He had therefore, at some length, detailed the motives that influenced him in its composition. He had shown that as a solitary companionless bushman, it had been a pleasure to him in his lone evenings
"To create, and in creating live A being more intense."
He had expatiated on the love he bears his adopted country, and had stated that he was greatly influenced by the hope that although
"Sparta hath many a worthier son than he,"
this work might be the humble cornerstone to some enduring and highly ornamented structure.
The author however fortunately remembered, that readers have but little sympathy with the motives of authors; but expect that their works should amuse or instruct them. He will therefore content himself, with giving a quotation from one of those old authors, whose "well of English undefined" shames our modern writers.
He intreats that the indulgence prayed for by the learned Cowell may be accorded to his humble efforts.
"My true end is the advancement of knowledge, and therefore have I published this poor work, not only to impart the good thereof, to those young ones that want it, but also to draw from the learned, the supply of my defects.
"Whosoever will charge these travails with many oversights, he shall need no solemn pains to prove them.
"And upon the view taken of this book sithence the impression, I dare assure them, that shall observe most faults therein, that I, by gleaning after him, will gather as many omitted by him, as he shall shew committed by me.
"What a man saith well is not, however, to be rejected, because he hath some errors; reprehend who will, in God's name, that is, with sweetness, and without reproach.
"So shall he reap hearty thanks at my hands, and thus more soundly help in a few months, than I by tossing and tumbling my books at home, could possibly have done in some years."
A Love Story
"It was a vast and venerable pile."
"Oh, may'st thou ever be as now thou art, Nor unbeseem the promise of thy spring."
The mansion in which dwelt the Delmes was one of wide and extensive range. Its centre slightly receded, leaving a wing on either side. Fluted ledges, extending the whole length of the building, protruded above each story. These were supported by quaint heads of satyr, martyr, or laughing triton. The upper ledge, which concealed the roof from casual observers, was of considerably greater projection. Placed above it, at intervals, were balls of marble, which, once of pure white, had now caught the time-worn hue of the edifice itself. At each corner of the front and wings, the balls were surmounted by the family device—the eagle with extended wing. One claw closed over the stone, and the bird rode it proudly an' it had been the globe. The portico, of a pointed Gothic, would have seemed heavy, had it not been lightened by glass doors, the vivid colours of which were not of modern date. These admitted to a capacious hall, where, reposing on the wide-spreading antlers of some pristine tenant of the park, gleamed many a piece of armour that in days of yore had not been worn ingloriously.
The Delme family was an old Norman one, on whose antiquity a peerage could have conferred no new lustre. At the period when the aristocracy of Great Britain lent themselves to their own diminution of importance, by the prevalent system of rejecting the poorer class of tenantry, in many instances the most attached,—the consequence was foreseen by the then proprietor of Delme Park, who, spurning the advice of some interested few around him, continued to foster those whose ancestors had served his. The Delmes were thus enabled to retain—and they deserved it—that fair homage which rank and property should ever command. As a family they were popular, and as individuals universally beloved.
At the period we speak of, the Delme family consisted but of three members: the baronet, Sir Henry Delme; his brother George, some ten years his junior, a lieutenant in a light infantry regiment at Malta; and one sister, Emily, Emily Delme was the youngest child; her mother dying shortly after her birth. The father, Sir Reginald Delme, a man of strong feelings and social habits, never recovered this blow. Henry Delme was barely fifteen when he was called to the baronetcy and to the possession of the Delme estates. It was found that Sir Reginald had been more generous than the world had given him credit for, and that his estates were much encumbered. The trustees were disposed to rest contented with paying off the strictly legal claims during Sir Henry's minority. This the young heir would not accede to. He waited on his most influential guardian—told him he was aware his father, from hospitality and good nature, had incurred obligations which the law did not compel his son to pay; but which he could not but think that equity and good feeling did. He begged that these might be added to the other claims, and that the trustees would endeavour to procure him a commission in the army. He was gazetted to a cornetcy; and entered life at an age when, if the manlier traits are ready to be developed, the worthless ones are equally sure to unfold themselves. Few of us that have not found the first draught of life intoxicate! Few of us that have not then run wild, as colts that have slipped their bridle! Experience—that mystic word—is wanting; the retrospect of past years wakes no sigh; expectant youth looks forward to future ones without a shade of distrust. The mind is elastic—the body vigorous and free from pain; and it is then youth inwardly feels, although not daring to avow it, the almost total impossibility that the mind should wax less vigorous, or the body grow helpless, and decay.
But Sir Henry was cast in a finer mould, nor did his conduct at this dangerous period detract from this his trait of boyhood. He joined his regiment when before the enemy, and, until he came of age, never drew on his guardians for a shilling. Delme's firmness of purpose, and his after prudence, met with their due reward. The family estates became wholly unencumbered, and Sir Henry was enabled to add to the too scanty provision of his sister, as well as to make up to George, on his entering the army, a sum more than adequate to all his wants. These circumstances were enough to endear him to his family; and, in truth, amidst all its members, there prevailed a confidence and an unanimity which were never for an instant impaired. There was one consequence, however, of Sir Henry Delme's conduct that he, at the least, foresaw not, but which was gradually and unconsciously developed. In pursuing the line of duty he had marked out—in acting up to what he knew was right—his mind became too deeply impressed with the circumstances which had given rise to his determination. It overstepped its object. The train of thought, to which necessity gave birth, continued to pervade when that necessity no longer existed. His wish to re-establish his house grew into an ardent desire to aggrandize it. His ambition appeared a legitimate one. It grew with his years, and increased with his strength.
Many a time, on the lone bivouac, when home presents itself in its fairest colours to the soldier's mind, would Delme's prayer be embodied, that his house might again be elevated, and that his descendants might know him as the one to whom they were indebted for its rise. Delme's ambitious thoughts were created amidst dangers and toil, in a foreign land, and far from those who shared his name. But his heart swelled high with them as he again trod his native soil in peace—as he gazed on the home of his fathers, and communed with those nearest and dearest to him on earth. Sir Henry considered it incumbent on him to exert every means that lay in his power to promote his grand object. A connection that promised rank and honours, seemed to him an absolute essential that was worth any sacrifice. Sir Henry never allowed himself to look for, or give way to, those sacred sympathies, which the God of nature hath implanted in the breasts of all of us. Delme had arrived at middle age ere a feeling incompatible with his views arose. But his had been a dangerous experiment. Our hearts or minds, or whatever it may be that takes the impression, resemble some crystalline lake that mirrors the smallest object, and heightens its beauty; but if it once gets muddied or ruffled, the most lovely object ceases to be reflected in its waters. By the time that lake is clear again, the fairy form that ere while lingered on its bosom is fled for ever.
Thus much in introducing the head of the family. Let us now attempt to sketch the gentle Emily.
Emily Delme was not an ordinary being. To uncommon talents, and a mind of most refined order, she united great feminine propriety, and a total absence of those arts which sometimes characterise those to whom the accident of birth has given importance. With unerring discrimination, she drew the exact line between vivacity and satire, true religion and its semblance. She saw through and pitied those who, pluming themselves on the faults of others, and imparting to the outward man the ascetic inflexibility of the inner one, would fain propagate on all sides their rigid creed, forbidding the more favoured commoners of nature even to sip joy's chalice. If not a saint, however, but a fair, confiding, and romantic girl, she was good without misanthropy, pure without pretension, and joyous, as youth and hopes not crushed might make her. She was one of those of whom society might justly be proud. She obeyed its dictates without question, but her feelings underwent no debasement from the contact. If not a child of nature, she was by no means the slave of art.
Emily Delme was more beautiful than striking. She impressed more than she exacted. Her violet eye gleamed with feeling; her smile few could gaze on without sympathy—happy he who might revel in its brightness! If aught gave a peculiar tinge to her character, it was the pride she felt in the name she bore,—this she might have caught from Sir Henry,—the interest she took in the legends connected with that name, and the gratification which the thought gave her, that by her ancestors, its character had been but rarely sullied, and never disgraced.
These things, it may be, she had accustomed herself to look on in a light too glowing: for these things and all mundane ones are vain; but her character did not consequently suffer. Her lip curled not with hauteur, nor was her brow raised one shadow the more. The remembrance of the old Baronetcy were on the ensanguined plain,—of the matchless loyalty of a father and five valiant sons in the cause of the Royal Charles,—the pondering over tomes, which in language obsolete, but true, spoke of the grandeur—the deserved grandeur of her house; these might be recollections and pursuits, followed with an ardour too enthusiastic, but they stayed not the hand of charity, nor could they check pity's tear. If her eye flashed as she gazed on the ancient device of her family, reposing on its time worn pedestal, it could melt to the tale of the houseless wanderer, and sympathise with the sorrows of the fatherless.
"Oh that the desert were my dwelling place, With one fair spirit for my minister; That I might all forget the human race, And, hating no one, love but only her."
A cheerful party were met in the drawing room of Delme. Clarendon Gage, a neighbouring land proprietor, to whom Emily had for a twelvemonth been betrothed, had the night previous returned from a continental tour. In consequence, Emily looked especially radiant, Delme much pleased, and Clarendon superlatively happy. Nor must we pass over Mrs. Glenallan, Miss Delme's worthy aunt, who had supplied the place of a mother to Emily, and who now sat in her accustomed chair, with an almost sunny brow, quietly pursuing her monotonous tambouring. At times she turned to admire her niece, who occasionally walked to the glass window, to caress and feed an impudent white peacock; which one moment strutted on the wide terrace, and at another lustily tapped for his bread at ne of the lower panes.
"I am glad to see you looking so well, Clarendon!"
"And I can return the compliment, Delme! Few, looking at you now, would take you for an old campaigner."
The style of feature in Delme and Clarendon was very dissimilar. Sir Henry was many years Gage's senior; but his manly bearing, and dark decided features, would bear a contrast with even the tall and elegant, although slight form of Clarendon. The latter was very fair, and what we are accustomed to call English-looking. His hair almost, but not quite, flaxen, hung in thick curls over his forehead, and would have given an effeminate expression to the face, were it not for the peculiar flash of the clear blue eye.
"Come! Clarendon," said Emily, "I will impose a task. You have written twice in my album; once, years ago, and the second time on the eve of our parting. Come! you shall read us both effusions, and then write a sonnet to our happy meeting. Would that dear George were here now!"
Gage took up the book. It was a moderately-sized volume, bound in crimson velvet. It was the fashion to keep albums then. It glittered not in a binding of azure and gold, nor were its momentous secrets enclosed by one of Bramah's locks. The Spanish proverb says, "Tell me who you are with, and I will tell you what you are." Ours, in that album age, used to be, "Show me your scrap book, I will tell you your character." Emily's was not one commencing with—
"I never loved a dear gazelle!"
and ending with stanzas on the "Forget-me-not." It had not those hackneyed but beautiful lines addressed by Mr. Spencer to Lady Crewe—
"I stay'd too late: forgive the crime! Unheeded flew the hours; For noiseless falls the foot of Time. That only treads on flowers."
Nor contained it those sublime, but yet more common ones, on Sir John Moore's death; which lines, by the bye, have suffered more from that mischief-making, laughter-loving creature, Parody, than any lines we know. It was not one of these books. Nor was it the splendid scrap book, replete with superb engravings and proof-impression prints; nor at all allied to the sentimental one of a garrison flirt, containing locks of hair of at least five gentlemen, three of whom are officers in the army. Nor, lastly, was it of that genus which has vulgarity in its very title-page, and is here and there interspersed with devilish imps, or caricatured likenesses of the little proprietress, all done in most infinite humour, and marking the familiar friendship, of some half-dozen whiskered cubs, having what is technically called the run of the house. No! it was a repository for feeling and for memory, and, in its fair pages, presented an image of Emily's heart. Many of these were marked, it is true; and what human being's character is unchequered? But it was blotless; and the virgin page looks not so white as when the contrast of the sable ink is there.
Clarendon read aloud his first contribution—who knows it not? The very words form a music, and that music is Metastasio's,
"Placido zeffiretto, Se trovi il caro oggetto, Digli che sei sospiro Ma non gli dir di chi, Limpido ruscelletto, Se mai t'incontri in lei, Digli che pianto sei, Ma non le dir qual' eiglio Crescer ti fe cosi."
"And now, Emily! for my parting tribute—if I remember right, it was sorrowful enough."
Gage read, with tremulous voice, the following, which we will christen
I will not be the lightsome lark, That carols to the rising morn,— I'd rather be some plaintive bird Lulling night's ear forlorn.
I will not be the green, green leaf, Mingling 'midst thousand leaves and flowers That shed their fairy charms around To deck Spring's joyous bowers.
I'd rather be the one red leaf, Waving 'midst Autumn's sombre groves:— On the heart to breathe that sadness Which contemplation loves.
I will not be the morning ray, Dancing upon the river's crest, All light, all motion, when the stream Turns to the sun her breast.
I'd rather be the gentle shade, Lengthening as eve comes stealing on, And rest in pensive sadness there, When those bright rays are gone.
I will not be a smile to play Upon thy coral lip, and shed Around it sweetness, like the sun Risen from his crimson bed.
Oh, no! I'll be the tear that steals In pity from that eye of blue, Making the cheek more lovely red, Like rose-leaf dipp'd in dew.
I will not be remember'd when Mirth shall her pageant joys impart,— A dream to sparkle in thine eye, Yet vanish from thy heart.
But when pensive sadness clouds thee, When thoughts, half pain, half pleasure, steal Upon the heart, and memory doth The shadowy past reveal.
When seems the bliss of former years,— Too sweet, too pure, to feel again,— And long lost hours, scenes, friends, return, Remember me, love—then!
"Ah, Clarendon! how often have I read those lines, and thought—but I will not think now! Here come the letters! Henry will soon be busy—I shall finish my drawing—and aunt will finish—no! she never can finish her tambour work. Take my portfolio and give me another contribution!" Gage now wrote "The Return," which we insert for the reader's approval:—
When the blue-eyed morn doth peep Over the soft hill's verdant steep, Lighting up its shadows deep, I'll think of thee, love, then!
When the lightsome lark doth sing Her grateful song to Nature's King, Making all the woodlands ring, I'll think of thee, love, then!
Or when plaintive Philomel Shall mourn her mate in some lone dell, And to the night her sorrows tell, I'll think of thee, love, then!
When the first green leaf of spring Shall promise of the summer bring, And all around its fragrance fling, I'll think of thee, love, then!
Or when the last red leaf shall fall, And winter spread its icy pall, To mind me of the death of all, I'll think of thee, love, then!
When the lively morning ray Is dancing on the river's spray, And sunshine gilds the joyous day, I'll think of thee, love, then!
And when the shades of eve steal on, Lengthening as life's sun goes down, Like sweetest constancy alone, I'll think of thee, love, then!
When I see a sweet smile play On coral lips, like Phoebus' ray, Making all look warm and gay, I'll think of thee, love, then!
When steals the tear of pity, too, O'er a cheek, whose crimson hue Looks like rose-leaf dipp'd in dew, I'll think of thee, love, then!
When mirth's pageant joys unbind The gloomy spells that chain my mind, And make me dream of all that's kind, I'll think of thee, love, then!
And when pensive sadness clouds me, When the host of memory crowds me, When the shadowy past enshrouds me, I'll think of thee, love, then!
When seems the bliss of former years,— Too sweet, too pure, to feel again,— And long lost hours, scenes, friends, return, I'll think of thee, love, then!
"Hues which have words, and speak to ye of heaven."
"Away! there need no words or terms precise, The paltry jargon of the marble mart, Where pedantry gulls folly: we have eyes."
We are told by the members of the silver-fork school, that no tale of fiction can be complete unless it embody the description of a dinner. Let us, therefore, shutting from our view that white-limbed gum-tree, and dismissing from our table tea and damper, [Footnote: Damper. Bushman's fare—unleavened bread] call on memory's fading powers, and feast once more with the rich, the munificent, the intellectual Belliston Graeme.
Dinner! immortal faculty of eating! to what glorious sense or pre-eminent passion dost thou not contribute? Is not love half fed by thy attractions? Beams ever the eye of lover more bright than when, after gazing with enraptured glance at the coveted haunch, whose fat—a pure white; whose lean—a rich brown—invitingly await the assault. When doth lover's eye sparkle more, than when, at such a moment, it lights on the features of the loved fair one? Is not the supper quadrille the most dangerous and the dearest of all?
Cherished venison! delicate white soup! spare young susceptible bosoms! Again we ask, is not dinner the very aliment of friendship? the hinge on which it turns? Does a man's heart expand to you ere you have returned his dinner? It would be folly to assert it. Cabinet dinners—corporation dinners—election dinners—and vestry dinners—and rail-road dinners—we pass by these things, and triumphantly ask—does not the Ship par excellence—the Ship of Greenwich—annually assemble under its revered roof the luminaries of the nation? Oh, whitebait! called so early to your last account! a tear is all we give, but it flows spontaneously at the memory of your sorrows!
As Mr. Belliston Graeme was much talked of in his day, it may not be amiss to say a few words regarding him. He was an only child, and at an early age lost his parents. The expense of his education was defrayed by a wealthy uncle, the second partner in a celebrated banking house. His tutor, with whom he may be said to have lived from boyhood—for his uncle had little communication with him, except to write to him one letter half-yearly, when he paid his school bill—was a shy retiring clergyman—a man of very extensive acquirements, and a first rate classical scholar. After a short time, the curate and young Graeme became attached to each other. The tutor was a bachelor, and Graeme was his only pupil. The latter was soon inoculated with the classical mania of his preceptor; and, as he grew up, it was quite a treat to hear the pair discourse of Greeks and Romans. A stranger who had then heard them would have imagined that Themistocles and Scipio Africanus were stars of the present generation. When Graeme was nineteen, his uncle invited him to town for a month—a most unusual proceeding. During this period he studied closely his nephew's character. At the end of this term, Mr. Hargrave and his young charge were on their way to the classical regions, where their fancy had been so long straying. They explored France, and the northern parts of Italy—came on the shores of the Adriatic—resided and secretly made excavations near the amphitheatre of Polo—and finally reached the Morea. Not a crag, valley, or brook, that they were not conversant with before they left it. They at length tore themselves away; and found themselves at the ancient Parthenope. It was at Pompeii Mr. Graeme first saw the beautiful Miss Vignoles, the Mrs. Glenallan of our story; and, in a strange adventure with some Neapolitan guides, was of some service to her party. They saw his designs of some tombs, and took the trouble of drawing him out. The young man now for the first time basked in the sweets of society; in a fortnight, to Mr. Hargrave's horror, was rolling in its vortex; in a couple of months found himself indulging in, and avowing, a hopeless passion; and in three, was once again in his native land, falsely deeming that his peace of mind had fled for ever. He was shortly, however, called upon to exert his energies. The death of his uncle suddenly made him, to his very great surprise, one of the wealthiest commoners of England. At this period he was quite unknown. In a short time Mr. Hargrave and himself were lodged luxuriously—were deep in the pursuit of science, literature, and the belle arte—and on terms of friendship with the cleverest and most original men of the day. Mr. Graeme's occupations being sedentary, and his habits very regular, he shortly found that his great wealth enabled him, not only to indulge in every personal luxury at Rendlesham Park, but to patronise largely every literary work of merit. In him the needy man of genius found a friend, the man of wit a companion, and the publisher a generous customer. He became famous for his house, his library, his exclusive society. But he did not become spoilt by his prosperity, and never neglected his old tutor.
Our party from Delme were ushered into a large drawing-room, the sole light of which was from an immense bow window, looking out on the extensive lawn. The panes were of enormous size, and beautiful specimens of classique plated glass. The only articles of furniture, were some crimson ottomans which served to set off the splendid paintings; and one table of the Florentine manufacture of pietra dura, on which stood a carved bijou of Benvenuto Cellini's. Our party were early. They were welcomed by Mr. Graeme with great cordiality, and by Mr. Hargrave with some embarrassment, for the tutor was still the bashful man of former days. Mr. Graeme's dress shamed these degenerate days of black stock and loose trowser. Diamond buckles adorned his knees, and fastened his shoes. His clear blue eye—the high polished forehead—the deep lines of the countenance—revealed the man of thought and intellect. The playful lip shewed he could yet appreciate a flash of wit or spark of humour.
"Miss Delme, you are looking at my paintings; let me show you my late purchases. Observe this sweet Madonna, by Murillo! I prefer it to the one in the Munich Gallery. It may not boast Titian's glow of colour, or Raphael's grandeur of design,—in delicate angelic beauty, it may yield to the delightful efforts of Guido's or Correggio's pencil,—but surely no human conception can ever have more touchingly portrayed the beauteous resigned mother. The infant, too! how inimitably blended is the God-like serenity of the Saviour, with the fond and graceful witcheries of the loving child! How little we know of the beauties of the Spanish school! Would I could ransack their ancient monasteries, and bring a few of them to light!
"You are a chess player! Pass not by this check-mate of Caravaggio's. What undisguised triumph in one countenance! What a struggle to repress nature's feelings in the other! Here is a Guido! sweet, as his ever are! He may justly be styled the female laureat. What artist can compete with him in delineating the blooming expression, or the tender, but lighter, shades of female loveliness? who can pause between even the Fornarina, and that divine effort, the Beatrice Cenci of the Barberini?"
The party were by this time assembled. Besides our immediate friends, there was his Grace the Duke of Gatten, a good-natured fox-hunting nobleman, whose estate adjoined Mr. Graeme's; there was the Viscount Chambery, who had penned a pamphlet on finance—indited a folio on architecture—and astonished Europe with an elaborate dissertation on modern cookery; there was Charles Selby, the poet and essayist; Daintrey, the sculptor—a wonderful Ornithologist—a deep read Historian—a learned Orientalist—and a novelist, from France; whose works exhibited such unheard of horrors, and made man and woman so irremediably vicious, as to make this young gentleman celebrated, even in Paris—that Babylonian sink of iniquity.
Dinner was announced, and our host, giving his arm very stoically to Mrs. Glenallan, his love of former days, led the way to the dining-room. Round the table were placed beautifully carved oaken fauteuils, of a very old pattern. The service of plate was extremely plain, but of massive gold. But the lamp! It was of magnificent dimensions! The light chains hanging from the frescoed ceiling, the links of which were hardly perceptible, were of silver, manufactured in Venice; the lower part was of opal-tinted glass, exactly portraying some voluptuous couch, on which the beautiful Amphitrite might have reclined, as she hastened through beds of coral to crystal grot, starred with transparent stalactites. In the centre of this shell, were sockets, whence verged small hollow golden tubes, resembling in shape and size the stalks of a flower. At the drooping ends of these, were lamps shaped and coloured to imitate the most beauteous flowers of the parterre. This bouquet of light had been designed by Mr. Graeme. Few novelties had acquired greater celebrity than the Graeme astrale. The room was warmed by heating the pedestals of the statues.
"Potage a la fantome, and a l'ourika."
"I will trouble you, Graeme," said my Lord Chambery, "for the fantome. I have dined on la pritanniere for the last three months, and a novel soup is a novel pleasure."
Of the fish, the soles were a la Rowena, the salmon a l'amour. Emily flirted with the wing of a chicken saute au supreme, coquetted with perdrix perdu masque a la Montmorenci, and tasted a boudin a la Diebitsch. The wines were excellent—the Geisenheim delicious—the Champagne sparkling like a pun of Jekyll's. But nothing aroused the attention of the Viscount Chambery so much as a liqueur, which Mr. Graeme assured him was new, and had just been sent him by the Conte de Desir. The dessert had been some time on the table, when the Viscount addressed his host.
"Graeme! I am delighted to find that you at length agree with me as to the monstrous superiority of a French repast. Your omelette imaginaire was faultless, and as for your liqueur, I shall certainly order a supply on my return to Paris."
"That liqueur, my dear lord," replied Mr. Graeme, "is good old cowslip mead, with a flask of Maraschino di Zara infused in it. For the rest, the dinner has been almost as imaginaire as the omelet. The greater part of the recipes are in an old English volume in my library, or perhaps some owe their origin to the fertile invention of my housekeeper. Let us style them a la Dorothee."
"Capital! I thank you, Graeme!" said his Grace of Gatten, as he shook his host by the hand, till the tears stood in his eyes.
The prescient Chambery had made a good dinner, and bore the joke philosophically. Coffee awaited the gentlemen in a small octagonal chamber, adjoining the music room. There stood Mr. Graeme's three favourite modern statues:—a Venus, by Canova—a Discobole, by Thorwaldson—and a late acquisition—the Ariadne, of Dannecker.
"This is the work of an artist," said Mr. Graeme, "little known in this country, but in Germany ranking quite as high as Thorwaldson. This is almost a duplicate of his Ariadne at Frankfort, but the marble is much more pure. How wonderfully fine the execution! Pray notice the bold profile of the face; how energetic her action as she sits on the panther!"
Mr. Graeme touched the spring of a window frame. A curtain of crimson gauze fell over a globe lamp, and threw a rich shade on the marble. The features remained as finely chiselled, but their expression was totally changed.
They adjourned to the music-room, which deserved its title. Save some seats, which were artfully formed to resemble lyres, nothing broke the continuity of music's tones, which ascended majestically to the lofty dome, there to blend and wreath, and fall again. At one extremity of music's hall was an organ; at the other a grand piano, built by a German composer. Ranged on carved slabs, at intermediate distances, was placed almost every instrument that may claim a votary. Of viols, from the violin to the double bass,—of instruments of brass, from trombones and bass kettledrums even unto trumpet and cymbal,—of instruments of wood, from winding serpents to octave flute,—and of fiddles of parchment, from the grosse caisse to the tambourine. Nor were ancient instruments wanting. These were of quaint forms and diverse constructions. Mr. Graeme would descant for hours on an antique species of spinnet, which he procured from the East, and which he vehemently averred, was the veritable dulcimer. He would display with great gusto, his specimens of harps of Israel; whose deep-toned chorus, had perchance thrilled through the breast of more than one of Judea's dark-haired daughters. Greece, too, had her representatives, to remind the spectators that there had been an Orpheus. There were flutes of the Doric and of the Phrygian mode, and—let us forget not—the Tyrrhenian trumpet, with its brazen-cleft pavilion. But by far the greater part of his musical relics he had acquired during his stay in Italy. He could show the litui with their carved clarions—the twisted cornua—the tuba, a trumpet so long and taper,—the concha wound by Tritons—and eke the buccina, a short and brattling horn.
Belliston Graeme was an enthusiastic musician; and was in this peculiar, that he loved the science for its simplicity. Musicians are but too apt to give to music's detail and music's difficulties the homage that should be paid to music's self: in this resembling the habitual man of law, who occasionally forgetteth the great principles of jurisprudence, and invests with mysterious agency such words as latitat and certiorari. The soul of music may not have fled;—for we cultivate her assiduously,—worship Handel—and appreciate Mozart. But music now springs from the head, not the heart; is not for the mass, but for individuals. With our increased researches, and cares, and troubles, we have lost the faculty of being pleased. Past are those careless days, when the shrill musette, or plain cittern and virginals, could with their first strain give motion to the blythe foot of joy, or call from its cell the prompt tear of pity. Those days are gone! Music may affect some of us as deeply, but none as readily!
Mr. Graeme had received from Paris an unpublished opera of Auber's. Emily seated herself at the piano—her host took the violin—Clarendon was an excellent flute player—and the tinkle of the Viscount's guitar came in very harmoniously. By the time refreshments were introduced, Charles Selby too was in his glory. He had already nearly convulsed the Orientalist by a theory which he said he had formed, of a gradual metempsychosis, or, at all events, perceptible amalgamation, of the yellow Qui Hi to the darker Hindoo; which said theory he supported by the most ingenious arguments.
"How did you like your stay in Scotland, Mr. Selby?" said Sir Henry Delme.
"I am a terrible Cockney, Sir Henry,—found it very cold, and was very sulky. The only man I cared to see in Scotland was at the Lakes; but I kept a register of events, which is now on the table in my dressing-room. If Graeme will read it, for I am but a stammerer, it is at your service."
The paper was soon produced, and Mr. Graeme read the following:—
"A stranger arrived from a far and foreign country. His was a mind peculiarly humble, tremblingly alive to its own deficiencies. Yet, endowed with this mistrust, he sighed for information, and his soul thirsted in the pursuit of knowledge. Thus constituted, he sought the city he had long dreamingly looked up to as the site of truth—Scotia's capital, the modern Athens. In endeavouring to explore the mazes of literature, he by no means expected to discover novel paths, but sought to traverse beauteous ones; feeling he could rest content, could he meet with but one flower, which some bolder and more experienced adventurer might have allowed to escape him. He arrived, and cast around an anxious eye. He found himself involved in an apparent chaos—the whirl of distraction—imbedded amidst a ceaseless turmoil of would-be knowing students, endeavouring to catch the aroma of the pharmacopaeia, or dive to the deep recesses of Scotch law. He sought and cultivated the friendship of the literati; and anticipated a perpetual feast of soul, from a banquet to which one of the most distinguished members of a learned body had invited him. He went with his mind braced up for the subtleties of argument—with hopes excited, heart elate. He deemed that the authenticity of Champolion's hieroglyphics might now be permanently established, or a doubt thrown on them which would for ever extinguish curiosity. He heard a doubt raised as to the probability of Dr. Knox's connection with Burke's murders! Disappointed and annoyed, he returned to his hotel, determined to seek other means of improvement; and to carefully observe the manners, customs, and habits of the beings he was among. He enquired first as to their habits, and was presented with scones, kippered salmon, and a gallon of Glenlivet; as to their manners and ancient costume, and was pointed out a short fat man, the head of his clan, who promenaded the streets without trousers. Neither did he find the delineation of their customs more satisfactory. He was made nearly tipsy at a funeral—was shown how to carve haggis—and a fit of bile was the consequence, of his too plentifully partaking of a superabundantly rich currant bun. He mused over these defeats of his object, and, unwilling to relinquish his hitherto fruitless search,—reluctant to despair,—he bent his steps to that city, where utility preponderates over ornament; that city which so early encouraged that most glorious of inventions, by the aid of which he hoped, that the diminutive barks of his countrymen might yet be propelled, thus superseding the ponderous paddle of teak, He here expected to be involved in an intricate labyrinth of mechanical inventions,—in a stormy discussion on the comparative merits of rival machinery,—to be immersed in speculative but gigantic theories. He was elected an honorary member of a news-room; had his coat whitened with cotton; and was obliged to confess that he knew of no beverage that could equal their superb cold punch. Our philosopher now gave himself up to despair; but before returning to his own warm clime, he sought to discover the reason of his finding the flesh creep, where he had deemed the spirit would soar. He at length came to the conclusion that we are all slaves to the world and to circumstances; and as, with his peculiar belief, he could look on our sacred volume with the eye of a philosopher, felt impressed with the conviction that the history of Babel's tower is but an allegory, which says to the pride of man,
"'Thus far shall ye go, and no farther.'"
The Brahmin's adventures elicited much amusement. In a short time, Selby was in a hot argument with the French novelist. Every now and then, as the Frenchman answered him, he stirred his negus, and hummed a translation of
"I'd be a butterfly."
"Erim papilio, Natus in flosculo."
"Not in those visions, to the heart displaying Forms which it sighs but to have only dream'd, Hath aught like thee in truth or fancy seem'd; Or, having seen thee, shall I vainly seek To paint those charms which, imaged as they beam'd, To such as see thee not, my words were weak; To those who gaze on thee, what language could they speak?"
Delme had long designed some internal improvements in the mansion; and as workmen would necessarily be employed, had proposed that our family party should pass a few weeks at a watering place, until these were completed. They were not without hopes, that George might there join them, as Emily had written to Malta, pressing him to be present at her wedding.
We have elsewhere said, that Sir Henry had arrived at middle age, before one feeling incompatible with his ambitious thoughts arose. It was at Leamington this feeling had imperceptibly sprung up; and to Leamington they were now going.
Is there an electric chain binding hearts predestined to love?
Hath Providence ordained, that on our first interview with that being, framed to meet our wishes and our desires—the rainbow to our cloud, and the sun to our noon-day—hath it ordained that there should also be given us some undefinable token—some unconscious whispering from the heart's inmost spirit?
Who may fathom these inscrutable mysteries?
Sir Henry had been visiting an old schoolfellow, who had a country seat near Leamington. He was riding homewards, through a sequestered and wooded part of the park, when he was aware of the presence of two ladies, evidently a mother and daughter. They sate on one side of the rude path, on an old prostrate beech tree. The daughter, who was very beautiful, was sketching a piece of fern for a foreground: the mother was looking over the drawing. Neither saw the equestrian.
It was a fair sight to regard the young artist, with her fine profile and drooping eyelid, bending over the drawing, like a Grecian statue; then to note the calm features upturn, and forget the statue in the breathing woman. At intervals, her auburn tresses would fall on the paper, and sweep the pencil's efforts. At such times, she would remove them with her small hand, with such a soft smile, and gentle grace, that the very action seemed to speak volumes for her feminine sympathies. Delme disturbed them not, but making a tour through the grove of beech trees, reached Leamington in thoughtful mood.
It was not long before he met them in society. The mother was a Mrs. Vernon, a widow, with a large family and small means. Of that family Julia was the fairest flower. As Sir Henry made her acquaintance, and her character unfolded itself, he acknowledged that few could study it without deriving advantage; few without loving her to adoration. That character it would be hard to describe without our description appearing high-flown and exaggerated. It bore an impress of loftiness, totally removed from pride; a moral superiority, which impressed all. With this was united an innate purity, that seemed her birthright; a purity that could not for an instant be doubted. If the libertine gazed on her features, it awoke in him recollections that had long slumbered; of the time when his heart beat but for one. If, in her immediate sphere, any littleness of feeling was brought to her notice, it was met with an intuitive doubt, followed by painful surprise, that such feeling, foreign as she felt it to be to her own nature, could really have existence in that of another.
Thank God! she had seen few of the trickeries of this restless world, in which most of us are struggling against our neighbours; and, if we could look forward with certainty, to the nature of the world beyond this, it is most likely that we should breathe a fervent prayer that she should never witness more.
Her person was a fit receptacle for such a mind. A face all softness, seemed and was the index to a heart all pity. Taller than her compeers,—in all she said or did, a native dignity and a witching grace were exquisitely blended. She was one not easily seen without admiration; but when known, clung Cydippe-like to the heart's mirror, an image over which neither time nor absence possessed controul.
The Delmes resided at Leamington the remainder of the winter, which passed fleetly and happily. Emily, for the first time, gave way to that one feeling, which, to a woman, is the all-important and engrossing one, enjoying her happiness in that full spirit of content, which basking in present joys, attempts not to mar them by ideal disquietudes. The Delmes cultivated the society of the Vernons; Emily and Julia became great friends; and Sir Henry, with all his stoicism, was nourishing an attachment, whose force, had he been aware of it, he would have been at some pains to repress. As it was, he totally overlooked the possibility of his trifling with the feelings of another. He had a number of sage aphorisms to urge against his own entanglement, and, with a moral perverseness, from which the best of us are not free, chose to forget that it was possible his convincing arguments, might neither be known to, nor appreciated by one, on whom their effect might be far from unimportant.
At this stage, Clarendon thought it his duty to warn Delme; and, to his credit be it said, shrunk not from it.
"Excuse me, Delme," said he, "will you allow me to say one word to you on a subject that nearly concerns yourself?"
Sir Henry briefly assented.
"You see a great deal of Miss Vernon. She is a very fascinating and a very amiable person; but from something you once said to me, it has struck me that in some respects she might not suit you."
"I like her society," replied his friend; "but you are right. She would not suit me. You know me pretty well. My hope has ever been to increase, and not diminish the importance of my house. It once stood higher both in wealth and consideration. I see many families springing up around me, that can hardly lay claim to a descent so unblemished I speak not in a spirit of intolerance, nor found my family claim solely on its pedigree; but my ancestors have done good in their generation, and it is a proud thing to be 'the scion of a noble race!'"
"It may be;" said Clarendon quietly, "but I cannot help thinking, that with your affluence, you have every right to follow your own inclination. I know that few of my acquaintances are so independent of the world."
Sir Henry shook his head.
"The day is not very distant, Gage, when a Dacre would hardly have returned two members for my county, if a Delme had willed it otherwise. But there is little occasion for me to have said thus much. Miss Vernon, I trust, has other plans; and I believe my own feelings are not enlisted deep enough, to make me forget the hopes and purposes of half a life-time."
It was some few days after this, when Emily had almost given up looking with interest to the postman's visit, that a letter at last came, directed to Sir Henry; not indeed in George's hand-writing, but with the Malta post mark. Delme read it over thoughtfully, and, assuring Emily that there was nothing to alarm her, left the room to consider its contents.
By the way, we have thought over heartless professions, and cannot help conceiving that of a postman, (it may be conceit!) the most callous and unfeeling of all. He is waited for with more anxiety than any guest of the morning; for his visits invariably convey something new to the mind. He is not love! but he bears it in his pocket; he cannot be friendship! but he daily hawks about its assurances. With all this, knowing his importance, aware of the sensation his appearance calls forth, his very knock is heartless—the tones of his voice cold. Feeling seems denied him; his head is a debtor and creditor account, his departure the receipt, and time alone can say, whether your bargain has been a good or a bad one. He has certainly no assumption—it is one of his few good traits; he walks with his arms in motion, but attempts not a swagger; his knock is unassuming, and his words, though much attended to, are few, and to the point. Why, then, abuse him? We know not, but believe it originates in fear. An intuitive feeling of dread—a rushing presentiment of evil—crosses our mind, as our eye dwells on his thread-bare coat, with its capacious pockets. News of a death—or a marriage—the tender valentine—the remorseless dun—your having been left an estate, or cut off with a shilling—fortune, and misfortune—- he quietly dispenses, as if totally unconscious. Surely such a man—his round performed—cannot quietly sink to the private individual. Can such a man caress his wife, or kiss his child, when he knows not how many hearts are bursting with joy, or breaking with sorrow, from the tidings he has conveyed? To our mind, a postman should be an abstracted visionary being, endowed with a peculiar countenance, betraying the unnatural sparkle of the opium-eater, and evincing intense anxiety at the delivery of each sheet. But these,—they wait not to hear the joyful shout, or heart-rending moan—to know if hope deferred be at length joyful certainty, or bitter only half-expected woe. We dread a postman. Our hand shook, as we last year paid the man of many destinies his demanded Christmas box.
The amount was double that we gave to the minister of our corporeal necessities—the butcher's boy—not from a conviction of the superior services or merit of the former, but from an uneasy desire to bribe, if we could, that Mercury of fate.
The letter to Sir Henry, was from the surgeon of George's regiment. It stated that George had been severely ill, and that connected with his illness, were symptoms which made it imperative on the medical adviser, to recommend the immediate presence of his nearest male relative. Apologies were made for the apparent mystery of the communication, with a promise that this would be at once cleared up, if Sir Henry would but consent to make the voyage; which would not only enable him to be of essential service to his brother, but also to acquire much information regarding him, which could only be obtained on the spot. A note from George was enclosed in this letter. It was written with an unsteady hand, and made no mention of his illness. He earnestly begged his brother to come to Malta, if he could possibly so arrange it, and transmitted his kindest love and blessing to Emily.
Sir Henry at once made up his mind, to leave Leamington for town on the morrow, trusting that he might there meet with information which would be more satisfactory. He concealed for the time the true state of the case from all but Clarendon; nor did he even allude to his proposed departure.
It was Emily's birth-day, and Gage had arranged that the whole party should attend a little fete on that night. Sir Henry could not find it in his heart to disturb his sister's dream of happiness.
"Ye stars! which are the poetry of heaven! If, in your bright leaves, we would read the fate Of men and empires,—'tis to be forgiven, That, in our aspirations to be great, Our destinies o'erleap their mortal state, And claim a kindred with you."
The night came on with its crescent moon and its myriads of stars: just such a night as might have been wished for such a fete. It was in the month of April. April dews, in Britain's variable clime; are not the most salubrious, and April's night air is too often keen and piercing; but the season was an unusually mild one; and the ladies, with their cloaks and their furs, promenaded the well-lighted walks, determined to be pleased and happy.
The giver of the fete was an enterprising Italian. Winter's amusements were over, or neglected—summer's delights were not arrived; and Signor Pacini conceived, that during the dull and monotonous interval, a speculation of his own might prove welcome to the public and beneficial to himself. To do the little man justice, he was indefatigable in his exertions. From door to door he wended his smiling way,—here praising the mother's French, there the daughter's Italian. He gained hosts of partisans. "Of course you patronise Pacini!" was in every one's mouth. The Signor's prospectus stated, that "through the kindness of the steward of an influential nobleman, who was now on the continent, he was enabled to give his fete in the grounds of the Earl of W——; where a full quadrille band would be in attendance, a pavilion pitched on the smooth lawn facing the river, and a comfortable ball room thrown open to a fashionable and enlightened public. The performance would be most various, novel, and exciting. Brilliant fireworks from Vauxhall would delight the eye, and shed a charm on the fairy scene; whilst the car would be regaled with the unequalled harmony of the Styrian brethren, Messrs. Schezer, Lobau, and Berdan, who had very kindly deferred their proposed return to Styria, in order to honour the fete of Signor Pacini."
As night drew on, the mimic thunder of carriages hastening to the scene of action, bespoke the Signor's success. After the ninth hour, his numbers swelled rapidly. Pacini assumed an amusing importance, and his very myrmidons gave out their brass tickets with an air. At ten, a rocket was fired. At this preconcerted signal, the pavilion, hitherto purposely concealed, blazed in a flood of light. On its balcony stood the three Styrian brethren,—although, by the way, they were not brethren at all,—and, striking their harmonious guitars, wooed attention to their strains. The crowd hurried down the walk, and formed round the pavilion. Our party suddenly found themselves near the Vernons. As the gentlemen endeavoured to obtain chairs for the ladies, a crush took place, and Sir Henry was obliged to offer his arm to Julia, who happened to be the nearest of her party. It was with pain Miss Vernon noted his clouded brow, and look of abstraction; but hardly one word of recognition had passed, before the deep voices of the Styrians silenced all. After singing some effective songs, accompanied by a zither, and performing a melodious symphony on a variety of Jew's-harps; Pacini, the manager, advanced to address his auditors, with that air of smiling confidence which no one can assume with better grace than a clever Italian. His dark eye flashed, and his whole features irradiated, as he delivered the following harangue.
"Ladies and gentlemen! me trust you well satisfied wid de former musical entertainment; but, if you permit, me mention one leetle circonstance. Monsieur Schezer propose to give de song; but it require much vat you call stage management: all must be silent as de grave. It ver pretty morceau."
The applause at the end of this speech was very great. Signor Pacini bowed, till his face rivalled, in its hue, the rosy under-waistcoat in which he rejoiced.
Schezer stepped forward. He was attired as a mountaineer. His hat tapered to the top, and was crowned by a single heron feather. Hussars might have envied him his moustaches. From his right side protruded a couteau de chasse; and his legs were not a little set off by the tight-laced boots, which, coming up some way beyond the ancle, displayed his calf to the very best advantage.
The singer's voice was a fine manly tenor, and did ample justice to the words, of which the following may be taken as a free version.
"Mountains! dear mountains! on you have I passed my green youth; to me your breeze has been fragrant from childhood. When may I see the chamois bounding o'er your toppling crags? When, oh when, may I see my fair-haired Mary?"
The minstrel paused—a sound was heard from behind the pavilion. It was the mountain's echo. It continued the air—then died away in the softest harmony. All were charmed. Again the singer stepped forward—the utmost silence prevailed—his tones became more impassioned—they breathed of love.
"Thanks! thanks to thee, gentle echo! Oft hast thou responded to the strains of love my soul poured to—ah me! how beautiful was the fair-haired Mary!"
Again the echo spoke—again all were hushed. The minstrel's voice rose again; but its tones were not akin to joy.
"Why remember this, deceitful echo? War's blast hath blown, and hushed are the notes of love. The foe hath polluted my hearth—I wander an exile. Where, where is Mary?"
The echo faintly but plaintively replied. There were some imagined that a tear really started to the eye of the singer. He struck the guitar wildly—his voice became more agitated—he advanced to the extremity of the balcony.
"My sword! my sword! May my right hand be withered ere it forget to grasp its hilt! One blow for freedom. Freedom—sweet as was the lip—Yes! I'll revenge my Mary!"
Schezer paused, apparently overcome by his emotion. The echo wildly replied, as if registering the patriot's vow. For a moment all was still! A thundering burst of applause ensued.
The mountain music was succeeded by a sweep of guitars, accompanying a Venetian serenade, whose burthen was the apostrophising the cruelty of "la cara Nina."
It was near midnight, when all eyes were directed to a ball of fire, which, rising majestically upward, soared amid the tall elm trees. For a moment, the balloon became entangled in the boughs, revealing by its transparent light the green buds of spring, which variegated and cheered the scathed bark. It broke loose from their embrace—hovered irresolutely above them—then swept rapidly before the wind, rising till it became as a speck in the firmament.
This was the signal for Mr. Robinson's fireworks, which did not shame Vauxhall's reputation. At one moment, a salamander courted notice; at another, a train of fiery honours, festooned round four wooden pillars, was fired at different places, by as many doves practised to the task. Here, an imitation of a jet d'eau elicited applause—there, the gyrations of a Catherine's wheel were suddenly interrupted by the rapid ascent of a Roman candle.
Directly after the ascent of the balloon, Emily and Clarendon had turned towards the ball room. Julia's sisters had a group of laughing beaux round their chairs,—Mrs. Glenallan and Mrs. Vernon were discussing bygone days,—and no one seemed disposed to leave the pavilion. Sir Henry, in his silent mood, was glad to escape from the party; and engaging Julia in a search for Emily, made his way to the crowded ball room. He there found his sister spinning round with Clarendon to one of Strauss's waltzes; and Sir Henry and his partner seated themselves on one of the benches, watching the smiling faces as they whirled past them. It was a melancholy thought to Delme, how soon Emily's brow would be clouded, were he to breathe one word of George's illness and despondency. The waltz concluded, a quadrille was quickly formed. Miss Vernon declined dancing, and they rose to join Emily and Clarendon; but the lovers were flown. The ball room became still more thronged; and Delme was glad to turn once more towards the pavilion. The party they had left there had also vanished, and strangers usurped their seats. In this dilemma, Miss Vernon proposed seeking their party in the long walk. They took one or two turns down this, but saw not those for whom they were in search.
"If you do not dislike leaving this busy scene," said Sir Henry, "I think we shall have a better chance of meeting Emily and Clarendon, if we turn down one of these winding paths."
They turned to their left, and walked on. How beautiful was that night! Its calm tranquillity, as they receded from the giddy throng, could not but subdue them. We have said that the moon was not riding the heavens in her full robe of majesty, nor was there a sombre darkness. The purple vault was spangled thick with stars; and there reigned that dubious, glimmering light, by which you can note a face, but not mark its blush. The walks wound fantastically. They were lit by festoons of coloured lamps, attached to the neighbouring trees, so as to resemble the pendent grape-clusters, that the traveller meets with just previous to the Bolognese vintage. Occasionally, a path would be encountered where no light met the eye save that of the prying stars overhead. In the distant vista, might be seen a part of the crowded promenade, where music held its court; whilst at intervals, a voice's swell or guitar's tinkle would be borne on the ear. There was the hum of men, too—the laugh of the idlers without the sanctum, as they indulged in the delights of the mischievous fire-ball—and the sudden whizz, followed by an upward glare of light, as a rocket shot into the air. But the hour, and the nameless feeling that hour invoked, brought with them a subduing influence, which overpowered these intruding sounds, attuning the heart to love and praise. They paced the walk in mutual and embarrassed silence. Sir Henry's thoughts would at one time revert to his brother, and at another to that parting, which the morrow would assuredly bring with it. He was lost in reverie, and almost forgot who it was that leant thus heavily upon his arm. Julia had loved but once. She saw his abstraction, and knew not the cause; and her timid heart beat quicker than was its wont, as undefined images of coming evil and sorrow, chased each other through her excited fancy. At length she essayed to speak, although conscious that her voice faltered.
"What a lovely night! Are you a believer in the language of the stars?"
This was said with such simplicity of manner, that Delme, as he turned to answer her, felt truly for the first time the full force of his attachment. He felt it the more strongly, that his mind previously had been wandering more than it had done for years.
There are times and seasons when we are engrossed in a train of deep and unconscious thought. Suddenly recalled to ourselves, we start from our mental aberration, and a clearer insight into the immediate purposes and machinery of our lives, is afforded us. We seem endowed with a more accurate knowledge of self; the inmost workings of our souls are abruptly revealed—feeling's mysteries stand developed—our weaknesses stare us in the face—and our vices appear to gnaw the very vitals of our hope. The veil was indeed withdrawn,—and Delme's heart acknowledged, that the fair being who leant on him for support, was dearer—far dearer, than all beside. But he saw too, ambition in that heart's deep recess, and knew that its dictates, unopposed for years, were totally incompatible with such a love. He saw and trembled.
Julia's question was repeated, before Sir Henry could reply.
"A soldier, Miss Vernon, is particularly susceptible of visionary ideas. On the lone bivouac, or remote piquet, duty must frequently chase sleep from his eyelids. At such times, I have, I confess, indulged in wild speculations, on their possible influence on our wayward destinies. I was then a youth, and should not now, I much fear me, pursue with such unchecked ardour, the dreams of romance in which I could then unrestrainedly revel. Perhaps I should not think it wise to do so, even had not sober reality stolen from imagination her brightest pinion."
"I would fain hope, Sir Henry," replied Julia, "that all your mind's elasticity is not thus flown. Why blame such fanciful theories? I cannot think them wrong, and I have often passed happy hours in forming them."
"Simply because they remove us too much from our natural sphere of usefulness. They may impart us pleasure; but I question whether, by dulling our mundane delights, they do not steal pleasure quite equivalent. Besides, they cannot assist us in conferring happiness on others, or in gleaning improvement for ourselves. I am not quite certain, enviable as appears the distinction, whether the too feelingly appreciating even nature's beauties, does not bear with it its own retribution."
"Ah! do not say so! I cannot think that it should be so with minds properly regulated. I cannot think that such can ever gaze on the wonders revealed us, without these imparting their lesson of gratitude and adoration. If, full of hope, our eye turns to some glorious planet, and we fondly deem that there, may our dreams of happiness here, be perpetuated; surely in such poetical fancy, there is little to condemn, and much that may wean us from folly's idle cravings.
"If in melancholy's hour, we mourn for one who hath been dear, and sorrow for the perishable nature of all that may here claim our earthly affections; is it not sweet to think that in another world—perhaps in some bright star—we may again commune with what we have so loved—once more be united in those kindly bonds—and in a kingdom where those bonds may not thus lightly be severed?"
Julia's voice failed her; for she thought of one who had preceded her to "the last sad bourne."
Delme was much affected. He turned towards her, and his hand touched hers.
As he spoke, darker, more worldly thoughts arose. A fearful struggle, which convulsed his features, ensued. The world triumphed.
Julia Vernon saw much of this, and maiden delicacy told her it was not meet they should be alone.
"Let us join the crowd!" said she. "We shall probably meet our party in the long walk: if not, we will try the ball room."
Poor Julia! little was her heart in unison with that joyous scene!
By the eve of the morrow, Delme was many leagues from her and his family.
Restless man, with travel, ambition, and excitement, can woo and almost win oblivion;—but poor, weak, confiding woman—what is left to her?
In secret to mourn, and in secret still to love.
"Adieu! adieu! My native land Fades o'er the ocean blue; The night winds sigh—the breakers roar— And shrieks the wild sea mew. Yon sun that sets upon the sea, We follow in his flight: Farewell awhile to him and thee! My native land! good night!"
We have rapidly sketched the denouement of the preceding chapter; but it must not be forgotten, that Delme had been residing some months at Leamington, and that Emily and Julia were friends. In his own familiar circle—a severe but true test—Sir Henry had every opportunity of becoming acquainted with Miss Vernon's sweetness of disposition, and of appreciating the many excellencies of her character. For the rest, their intercourse had been of that nature, that it need excite no surprise, that a walk on a gala night, had the power of extracting an avowal, which, crude, undigested, and hastily withdrawn as it was, was certainly more the effusion of the heart—more consonant with Sir Henry's original nature—than the sage reasonings on his part, which preceded and followed that event.
On Delme's arrival in town, he prosecuted with energy his enquiries as to his brother. He called on the regimental agents, who could give him no information. George's military friends had lost sight of him since he had sailed for the Mediterranean; and of the few persons, whom he could hear of, who had lately left Malta; some were passing travellers, who had made no acquaintances there, others, English merchants, who had met George at the Opera and in the streets, but nowhere else. It is true, there was an exception to this, in the case of a hair-brained young midshipman; who stated that he had dined at George's regimental mess, and had there heard that George "had fallen in love with some young lady, and had fought with her brother or uncle, or a soldier-officer, he did not know which."
Meagre as all this information was, it decided Sir Henry Delme.
He wrote a long letter to Emily, in which he expressed a hope that both George and himself would soon be with her, and immediately prepared for his departure.
Ere we follow him on his lonely journey, let us turn to those he left behind. Mrs. Glenallan and Emily decided on at once leaving Leamington for their own home. The marriage of the latter was deferred; and as Clarendon confessed that his period of probation was a very happy one, he acquiesced cheerfully in the arrangement. Emily called on the Vernons, and finding that Julia was not at home, wrote her a kind farewell; secretly hoping that at some future period they might be more nearly related. The sun was sinking, as the travellers neared Delme. The old mansion looked as calm as ever. The blue smoke curled above its sombre roof; and the rooks sailed over the chimneys, flapping their wings, and cawing rejoicefully, as they caught the first glimpse of their lofty homes. Emily let down the carriage window, and with sunshiny tear, looked out on the home of her ancestors.
There let us leave her; and turn to bid adieu for a season, to one, who for many a weary day, was doomed to undergo the pangs of blighted affection. Such pangs are but too poignant and enduring, let the worldly man say what he may. Could we but read the history of the snarling cynic, blind to this world's good—of him, who from being the deceived, has become the deceiver—of the rash sensualist, who plunging into vice, thinks he can forget;—could we but know the train of events, that have brought the stamping madman to his bars—and his cell—and his realms of phantasy;—or search the breast of her, who lets concealment "feed on her damask cheek"—who prays blessings on him, who hath wasted her youthful charms—then mounts with virgin soul to heaven:—we, in our turn, might sneer at the worldling, and pin our fate on the tale of the peasant girl, who discourses so glibly of crossed love and broken hearts.
Sir Henry Delme left England with very unenviable sensations. A cloud seemed to hang over the fate of his brother, which no speculations of his could pierce. Numberless were the conjectures he formed, as to the real causes of George's sickness and mental depression. It was in vain he re-read the letters, and varied his comments on their contents. It was evident, that nothing but his actual presence in Malta, could unravel the mystery. Sir Henry had one consolation; how great, let those judge who have had aught dear placed in circumstances at all similar. He had a confidence in George's character, which entirely relieved him from any fear that the slightest taint could have infected it. But an act of imprudence might have destroyed his peace of mind—sickness have wasted his body. Nor was his uncertainty regarding George, Delme's only cause of disquiet. When he thought of Julia Vernon, there was a consequent internal emotion, that he could not subdue. He endeavoured to forget her—her image haunted him. He meditated on his past conduct; and at times it occurred to him, that the resolutions he had formed, were not the result of reason, but were based on pride and prejudice. He thought of her as he had last seen her. Now she spoke with enthusiasm of the bright stars of heaven; anon, her eye glistened with piety, as she showed how the feeling these created, was but subservient to a nobler one still. Again, he was beside her in the moment of maiden agony; when low accents faltered from her quivering lip, and the hand that rested on his arm, trembled from her heart's emotion.
Such were the bitter fancies that assailed him, as he left his own, and reached a foreign land. They cast a shadow on his brow, which change of scene possessed no charm to dispel. He hurried on to France's capital, and only delaying till he could get his passports signed, hastened from Paris to Marseilles.
On his arrival at the latter place, his first enquiries were, as to the earliest period that a vessel would sail for Malta. He was pointed out a small yacht in the harbour, which belonging to the British government, had lately brought over a staff officer with despatches.
A courier from England had that morning arrived—the vessel was about to return—her canvas was already loosened—the blue Peter streaming in the wind. Delme hesitated not an instant, but threw himself into a boat, and was rowed alongside. The yacht's commander was a lieutenant in our service, although a Maltese by birth. He at once entered into Sir Henry's views, and felt delighted at the prospect of a companion in his voyage. A short time elapsed—the anchor was up—the white sails began to fill—Sir Henry was once more on the wide sea.
What a feeling of loneliness, almost of despair, infects the landsman's mind, as he recedes from an unfamiliar port—sees crowds watching listlessly his vessel's departure—crowds, of whom not one feels an interest in his fate; and then, turning to the little world within, beholds but faces he knows not, persons he wots not of!
But to one whose home is the ocean, such are not the emotions which its expanse of broad waters calls forth. To such an one, each plank seems a friend; the vessel, a refuge from the world and its cares. Trusting himself to its guidance, deceit wounds him no more— hollow-hearted friendship proffers not its hand to sting—love exercises not its fatal sorcery—foes are afar—and his heart, if not the waves, is comparatively at peace. And oh! the wonders of the deep! Ocean! tame is the soul that loves not thee! grovelling the mind that scorns the joys thou impartest! To lean our head on the vessel's side, and in idleness of spirit ponder on bygone scene, that has brought us anything but happiness,—to gaze on the curling waves, as impelled by the boisterous wind, we ride o'er the angry waters, lashed by the sable keel to a yeasty madness,—to look afar upon the disturbed billow, presenting its crested head like the curved neck of the war horse,—then to mark the screaming sea bird, as, his bright eye scanning the waters, he soars above the stormy main—its wide tumult his delight—the roaring of the winds his melody—the shrieks of the drowned an harmonious symphony to the hoarse diapason of the deep! All these things may awake reflections, which are alike futile and transitory; but they are accompanied by a mental excitement, which land scenes, however glorious, always fail to impart.
Delme's voyage was not unpropitious, although the yacht was frequently baffled by contrary winds, which prevented the passage being very speedy. During the day, the weather was ordinarily blustering, at times stormy; but with the setting sun, it seemed that tranquillity came; for during the nights, which were uncommonly fine, gentle breezes continued to fill the sails, and their vessel made tardy but sure progress. Henry would sit on deck till a late hour, lost in reverie. There would he remain, until each idle mariner was sunk to rest; and nothing but the distant tread of the wakeful watch, or the short cough of the helmsman, bespoke a sentinel over the habitation on the waters. How would the recollections of his life crowd upon him!—the loss of his parent—the world's first opening—bitter partings—painful misgivings—the lone bivouac—the marshalling of squadrons—the fierce charge—the excitement of victory, whose charm was all but flown, for where were the comrades who had fought beside him? These things were recalled, and brought with them alternate pain and pleasure. And a less remote era of his life would be presented him; when he tasted the welcome of home—saw hands uplifted in gratitude—was cheered by a brother's greeting, and subdued by a sister's kiss. But there was a thought, which let him dwell as he might on others, remained the uppermost of all. It was of Julia Vernon, and met him as a reproach. If his feelings were not of that enthusiastic nature, which they might have been were he now in his green youth, they were not on this account the less intense. They were coloured by the energy of manhood. He had lost a portion of his self-respect: for he knew that his conduct had been vacillating with regard to one, whom each traversed league, each fleeting hour, proved to be yet dearer than he had deemed her.
In the first few days of their passage, the winds shaped their vessel's course towards the Genoese gulf. They then took a direction nearly south, steering between Corsica and Sardinia on the one hand—Italy on the other.
Delme had an opportunity of noting the outward aspect of Napoleon's birth-place; and still more nearly, that of its opposite island, which also forms so memorable a link in the history of that demi-god of modern times. How could weaker spirits deem that there, invested with monarchy's semblance, the ruler of the petty isle could forget that he had been master of the world?
How think that diplomacy's cobweb fibre could hold the eagle, panting for an upward flight?
They fearfully misjudged! What a transcendent light did his star give, as it shot through the appalled heavens, ere it sunk for ever in endless night!
The commander of the yacht pointed out the rock, which is traditionally said to be the one, on which Napoleon has been represented—his arms folded—watching intently the ocean—and ambition's votary gleaning his moral from the stormy waves below. As they advanced farther in their course, other associations were not wanting; and Delme, whose mind, like that of most Englishmen, was deeply tinctured with classic lore, was not insensible to their charms. They swept by the Latian coast. Every creek and promontory, attested the fidelity of the poet's description, by vividly recalling it to the mind. On the seventh day, they doubled Cape Maritime, on the western coast of Sicily; and two days afterwards, the vessel neared what has been styled the abode of Calypso, the island of Gozzo. As they continued to advance, picturesque trading boats, with awnings and numerous rowers, became more frequent—the low land appeared—they were signalled from the palace—the point of St. Elmo was turned—and a wide forest of masts met the gaze. The vessel took up her moorings; and in the novelty of the scene, and surrounding bustle, Sir Henry for a time rested from misgivings, and forgot his real causes for melancholy. The harbour of Malta is not easily forgotten. The sun was just sinking, tinging with hues of amber, the usually purple waters of the harbour, and bronzing with its fiery orb, the batteries and lofty Baraca, where lie entombed the remains of Sir Thomas Maitland. Between the Baraca's pillars, might be discerned many a faldette, with pretty face beneath, peering over to mark the little yacht, as she took her station, amidst the more gigantic line of battle ships.
The native boatmen, in their gilded barks with high prows, were seen surrounding the vessel; and as they exerted themselves in passing each other, their dress and action had the most picturesque appearance. Their language, a corrupted Arabic, is not unpleasing to the ear; and their costume is remarkably graceful. A red turban hangs droopingly on one side, and their waistcoats are loaded with large silver buttons, the only remains of their uncommon wealth during the war, when this little island was endowed with a fictitious importance, it can never hope to resume. Just as the yacht cast anchor, a gun from the saluting battery was fired. It was the signal for sunset, and every flag was lowered. Down came in most seaman-like style the proud flag of merry England—the then spotless banner of France—and the great cross, hanging ungracefully, over the stout, but clumsy, Russian man of war. All these flags were then in the harbour of Valletta, although it was not at that eventful time when—the Moslem humbled—they met with the cordiality of colleagues in victory.
The harbour was full of vessels. Every nation had its representative. The intermediate spaces were studded by Maltese boats, crowded with passengers indiscriminately mingled. The careless English soldier, with scarlet coat and pipe-clayed belt—priests and friars—Maltese women in national costume sat side by side. Occasionally, a gig, pulled by man of war's men, might be seen making towards the town, with one or more officers astern, whose glittering epaulettes announced them as either diners out, or amateurs of the opera. The scene to Delme was entirely novel; although it had previously been his lot to scan more than one foreign country.
The arrival of the health officers was the first circumstance that diverted his mind from the surrounding scene. There had been an epidemic disease at Marseilles, and there appeared to be some doubts, whether, as a precaution, some quarantine would not be imposed. The superintendent of quarantine was rowed alongside, chiefly for the purpose of regulating this. The spirited little commander of the yacht, however, was not at all desirous of any such arrangement; and after some energetic appeals on his part, met by cautious remonstrances on the part of the other, their pratique was duly accorded.
During the discussion with the superintendent, Sir Henry had enquired from the health officer, as to where he should find George, and was informed that his regiment was quartered at Floriana, one of Valletta's suburbs. In a short time a boat from the yacht was lowered, and the commander prepared to accompany the government courier with his dispatches to the palace.
Previous to leaving the deck, he hailed a boat alongside—addressed the boatmen in their native language—and consigned Sir Henry to their charge. Twilight was deepening into night as Delme left the vessel. The harbour had lost much of its bustle; lights were already gleaming from the town, and as seen in some of the loftiest houses, looked as if suspended in the air above. Our traveller folded his cloak around him, and was rowed swiftly towards the shore.
The Young Greek.
"But not in silence pass Calypso's isles, The sister tenants of the middle deep."
* * * * *
"Her reign is past, her gentle glories gone, But trust not this; too easy youth, beware! A mortal sovereign holds her dangerous throne. And thou mayst find a new Calypso there."
Night had set in before Sir Henry reached the shore. The boatmen, in broken, but intelligible English, took the trouble of explaining, that they must row him to a point higher up the harbour, than the landing place towards which the commander's gig was directing its course, on account of his brother's regiment being quartered at Floriana. Landing on the quay, they took charge of Delme's portmanteau, and conducted him through an ascending road, which seemed to form a part of the fortifications, till they arrived in front of a closed gate. They were challenged by the sentinel, and obliged to explain their business to a non-commissioned officer, before they were admitted.
This form having been gone through, a narrow wicket was opened for their passage. They crossed a species of common, and, after a few minutes' walk, found themselves in front of the barrack. This was a plain stone building, enclosing a small court, in the centre of which stood a marble bason. The taste of some of the officers had peopled this with golden fish; whilst on the bason's brim were placed stands for exotics, whose fragrance charmed our sea-worn traveller, so lately emancipated from those sad drawbacks to a voyage, the odours of tar and bilge water.
On either side, were staircases leading to the rooms above. A sentry was slowly pacing the court, and gave Delme the necessary directions for finding George's room. Delme's hand was on the latch, but he paused for a moment ere he pressed it, for he pictured to himself his brother lying on the bed of sickness. This temporary irresolution soon gave way to the impulse of affection, and he hastily entered the chamber. George was reading, and had his back turned towards him. As he heard the footsteps, he half turned round; an enquiry was on his lip, when his eye caught Henry's figure—a hectic flush suffused his cheek—he rose eagerly, and threw himself into his brother's arms.
Ah! sweet is fraternal affection! As boys, we own its just, its proper influence; but as men—how few of us can lay our hands on our hearts, and in the time of manhood feel, that the thought of a brother, still calls up the kindly glow which it did in earlier years. Delme strained his brother to his heart, whilst poor George's tears flowed like a woman's.
"Ah, how," he exclaimed, "can I ever repay you for this?"
The first burst of joyful meeting over—Sir Henry scanned his brother's features, and was shocked at the apparent havoc a few short years had wrought. It was not that the cheek—whose carnation tint had once drawn a comment from all who saw it—it was not that the cheek was bronzed by an eastern sun. The alabaster forehead, showed that this was the natural result, of exposure to climate. But the wan, the sunken features—the unnatural brilliancy of the eye—the almost impetuous agitation of manner—all these bespoke that more than even sickness had produced the change:—that the mind, as well as body, must have had its sufferings.
"My dear, dear brother," said Henry, "tell me, I implore you, the meaning of this. You look ill and distressed, and yet from you I did not hear of sickness, nor do I know any reason for grief." George smiled evasively; then, as if recollecting himself, struck his forehead. He pressed his brother's arm, and led him towards a room adjoining the one in which they were.
"It were in vain to tell you now, Henry, the eventful history of the last few months; but see!" said he, as they together entered, "the innocent cause of much that I have gone through."
Sir Henry Delme started at the sight that greeted him. The room was dimly lighted by a lamp, but the moon was up, and shed her full light through part of the chamber. On a small French bed, whose silken linings threw their rosy hue on the face of its fair occupant, lay as lovely a girl as ever eye reposed on.
The heat had already commenced to become oppressive; the jalousies and windows were thrown open. As the night breeze swept over the curtains, and the tint these gave, trembled on that youthful beauty; Delme might well be forgiven, for deeming it was very long since he had seen a countenance so exquisitely lovely. The face did indeed bear the stamp of youth. Delme would have guessed that the being before him, had barely attained her fifteenth year, but that her bosom heaved like playful billows, as she breathed her sighs in a profound slumber. Her style of beauty for a girl was most rare. It had an almost infantine simplicity of character, which in sleep was still more remarkable; for awake, those eyes, now so still, did not throw unmeaning glances.
Such as these must Guarini have apostrophised, as he looked at his slumbering love.
"Occhi! stelle mortale! Ministri de miei mali! Se chiusi m'uccidete, Aperti,—che farete?"
Or, as Clarendon Gage translated it.
"Ye mortal stars! ye eyes that, e'en in sleep, Can thus my senses chain'd in wonder keep, Say, if when closed, your beauties thus I feel, Oh, what when open, would ye not reveal?"
Her beauty owed not its peculiar charm to any regularity of feature; but to an ineffable sweetness of expression, and to youth's freshest bloom. Hafiz would have compared that smooth cheek to the tulip's flower. Her eye-lashes, of the deepest jet, and silken gloss, were of uncommon length. Her lips were apart, and disclosed small but exquisitely formed teeth. Their hue was not that of ivory, but the more delicate though more transient one of the pearl. One arm supported her head—its hand tangled in the raven tresses—of the other, the snowy rounded elbow was alone visible.
She met the eye, like a vision conjured up by fervid youth; when, ere our waking thoughts dare to run riot in beauty's contemplation—sleep, the tempter, gives to our disordered imaginations, forms and scenes, which in after life we pant for, but meet them—never!
George put his finger to his lips, as Delme regarded her—kissed her silken cheek, and whispered,
"Acme, carissima mia!"
The slumberer started—the envious eye-lid shrouded no more its lustrous jewel—the wondering eyes dilated, as they met her lover's—and she murmured something with that sweet Venetian lisp, in which the Greek women breathe their Italian. But, as she saw the stranger, her face and neck became suffused with crimson, and her small hand wrapped the snowy sheet round her beauteous form.
Sir Henry, who felt equally embarrassed, returned to the room they had left; whilst George lingered by the bedside of his mistress, and told her it was his brother. Once more together, Sir Henry turned towards George.
"For God's sake," said he, "unravel this mystery! Who is this young creature?"
"Not now!" said his brother, "let us reserve it for to-morrow, and talk only of home. Acme has retired earlier than usual—she has been complaining." And he commenced with a flushed brow and rapid voice, to ask after those he loved.
"And so, dearest Emily will soon be married. I am glad of it; you speak so well of Gage! I wish I had stayed three weeks longer in England, and I should have seen him. We shall miss her in the flower garden, Henry! Yes! and every where else! And how is my kind aunt? I forgot to thank her when I last wrote to Delme, for making Fidele a parlour inmate!—and I don't think she likes dogs generally either!—And Mrs. Wilcox! as demure as ever?—Do you recollect the trick I played her the last April I was at home?—And my favourite pony! does he still adorn the paddock, or is he gone at last? Emily wrote me he could hardly support himself out of the shed. And the old oak—have you railed it round as I advised? And the deer—Is my aunt still as tenacious of killing them? I suppose Emily's pet fawn is a fine antlered gentleman by this time. And your charger, Henry—how is he? And Mr. Sims? and the new green house? Does the aviary succeed? did you get my slips of the blood orange? have the Zante melon seeds answered? And the daisy of Delme, Fanny Porter—is she married? I stole a kiss the day I left. And so the coachman is dead? and you have given the reins to Jenkins, and have taken my little fellow on your own establishment? And Ponto? and Ranger? and my friend Guess?"
Here George paused, quite out of breath; and his brother, viewing with some alarm his nervous agitation, attempted to answer his many queries; determined in his own mind, not to seek the explanation he so much longed for, until a more favourable period for demanding it arrived. The brothers continued conversing on English topics till a late hour, when Henry rose to retire.
"I cannot," said George, "give you a bed here to-night; but my servant shall show you the way to an hotel; and in the course of to-morrow, we will take care to have a room provided for you. You must feel harassed: will nine be too early an hour for breakfast?"
It was a beautiful night, still and starry. Till they arrived in the busy street, no sound could be heard, but the cautious opening of the lattice, answering the signal of the guitar. Escorted by his guide, Delme entered Valletta, which is bustling always, even at night; but was more than usually so, as there happened to be a fete at the palace. As they passed through the Strado Teatro, the soldier pointed out the Opera-house; although from the lateness of the hour, Rossini's melodies were hushed. From a neighbouring cafe, however, festive sounds proceeded; and Delme, catching the words of an unfamiliar language, paused before the door to recognise the singer. The table at which he sat, was so densely enveloped in smoke, that it was some time before he could make out the forms of the party, which consisted of some jovial British midshipmen, and some Tartar-looking Russians. One of the Russian officers was charming his audience with a chanson a boire, acquired on the banks of the Vistula, His compatriots were yelling the chorus most unmercifully. A few caleche drivers, waiting for their fares, and two or three idle Maltese, were pacing outside the cafe, and appeared to regard the scene as one of frequent occurrence, and calculated to excite but little interest. His guide showed Delme the hotel, and was dismissed; and Sir Henry, preceded by an obsequious waiter, was introduced to a spacious apartment facing the street.
It was long ere sleep visited him. He had many subjects on which to ruminate; there were many points which the morrow would clear up. His mind was too busy to permit him to rest.
When he did, however, close his eyes; he slept soundly, and did not awake till the broad glare of day, penetrating through the Venetian blinds, disclosed to him the unfamiliar apartment at Beverley's.
"'Mid many things most new to ear and eye, The pilgrim rested here his weary feet."
As Sir Henry Delme stepped from the hotel into the street, the sun's rays commenced to be oppressive, and, although it was only entering the month of May, served to remind him that he was in a warmer clime. The scene was already a bustling one. The shopkeepers were throwing water on the hot flag stones, and erecting canvas awnings in front of their doors. In the various cafes might be seen the subservient waiters, handing round the small gilded cup, which contained thick Turkish coffee, or carrying to some old smoker the little pipkin, whence he was to light his genial cigar. In front of one of these cafes, some English officers were collected, sipping ices, and criticising the relieving of the guard. Turning a corner of the principal street, a group of half black and three-parts naked children assaulted our traveller, and vociferously invoked carita. They accompanied this demand by the corrupted cry of "nix munjay"—nothing to eat,—which they enforced by most expressive gestures, extending their mouths, and exhibiting rows of ravenous-looking teeth. The caleche drivers, too, were on the alert, and respectfully taking off their turbans, proffered their services to convey the Signore to Floriana. Delme declined their offers, and, passing a draw-bridge which divides Valletta from the country, made his way through an embrasure, and descending some half worn stone steps—during which operation he was again surrounded by beggars—he found himself within sight of the barracks. Acme and George were ready to receive him. The latter's eye lit, as it was wont to do, on seeing his brother, whilst the young Greek appeared in doubt, whether to rejoice at what gave him pleasure, or to stand in awe of a relation, whose influence over George might shake her own. This did not, however, prevent her offering Delme her hand, with an air of great frankness and grace. Nor was he less struck with her peculiar beauty than he had been on the night previous. Her dress was well adapted to exhibit her charms to the greatest advantage. Her hair was parted in front, and smoothly combed over her neck and shoulders, descending to her waist. Over her bosom, and fastened by a chased silver clasp, was one of the saffron handkerchiefs worn by the Parganot women. A jacket of purple velvet, embroidered with gold, fitted closely to her figure. Round her waist was a crimson girdle, fastened by another enormous broach, or rather embossed plate of silver. A Maltese gold rose chain of exquisite workmanship was flung round her neck, to which depended a locket, one side of which held, encased in glass, George's hair braided with her own; the other had a cameo, representing the death of the patriot Marco Bozzaris.
"Giorgio tells me," said she, "that you speak Italian, at which I am very glad; for his efforts to teach me English have quite failed. Do you know you quite alarmed me last night, and I really think it was too bad of George introducing you when he did;" and she placed her hand on her lover's shoulder, and looked in his face confidingly. In spite of the substance of her speech, and the circumstances under which Delme saw her, he could not avoid feeling an involuntary prepossession in her favour. Her manner had little of the polish of art, but much of nature's witching simplicity; and Sir Henry felt surprised at the ease and animation of the whole party. Acme presided at the breakfast table, with a grace which many a modern lady of fashion might envy; and during the meal, her conversation, far from being dull or listless, showed that she had much talent, and that to a quick perception of nature's charms, she united great enthusiasm in their pursuit. The meal was over, when the surgeon of the regiment was announced, and introduced by George to Sir Henry. After making a few inquiries as to the invalid's state of health, he proposed to Delme, taking a turn in the botanical garden, which was immediately in front of their windows.
Sir Henry eagerly grasped at the proposition; anxious, as he felt himself, to ascertain the real circumstances connected with his brother's indisposition. They strolled through the garden, which was almost deserted—for none but dogs and Englishmen, to use the expression of the natives, court the Maltese noon-day sun,—and the surgeon at once entered into George's history. He was a man of most refined manners, and a cultivated intellect, and his professional familiarity with horrors, had not diminished his natural delicacy of feeling. His narrative was briefly thus:—
George Delme's bosom companion had been an officer of his own age and standing in the service, with whom he had embarked when leaving England. Their intercourse had ripened into the closest friendship. George had met Acme, although the surgeon knew not the particulars of the rencontre,—had confided to his friend the acquaintance he had made—and had himself introduced Delancey at the house where Acme resided. Whether her charms really tempted the friend to endeavour to supplant George, or whether he considered the latter's attentions to the young Greek to be without definite object, and undertaken in a spirit of indifference, the narrator could not explain; but it was not long before Delancey considered himself as a principal in the transaction. Acme, whose knowledge of the world was slight, and whose previous seclusion from society, had rendered her timidity excessive, considered that her best mode of avoiding importunities she disliked, and attentions that were painful to her, would be to speak to George himself on the subject.