Page images

the two friends had a consultation over answer to Lauderdale's letter. During this perplexing matter; and Lauderdale's that time they returned to all their old sketch-filled in, perhaps, a little from habits, with the strange and melancholy his imagination of the home she had difference, that Arthur, once the centre left, plungel Colin into deeper and cf all, was no longer there. Every day deeper thought. “No Joubt he'll send of this time increased the development some answer, the philosopher said. of Colin's new thoughts, until the un"He may not be worthy to have the known father of Alice had grown, in his charge of her, but he's aye her father. eyes, into a cruel and profligate tyrant, It's hard to ken whether it's better or ready to drag his daughter home and worse that she shoull be unconscious plunge her into depraved society, withlike this of onything embarrassing in her out any regard for either her happiness position, which is a'the more wonderful, or her honour. Colin had, indeed, in his as she's a real honest woman, and no own mind, in strictest privacy and secluway intellectual nor exalted. You anil sion of thought, in lited an imaginary me, Colin,” said Lauderdale, looking up letter, eloquent with youthful indignain his young companion's face, “must tion, to inform this unworthy parent that take good care that she does not find it his deserted daughter hail found a better out from us."

protector; but he was very silent about “Of course," said Colin, with involun- these cogitations of his, and did not tary testiness ; “but I do not see what share them even with Lauder lale. And her father has to do with it," continued there were moments when Colin felt the the young man. “She cannot possibly seriousness of the position, and found it return to such a home."

very hard that such a necessity should “Her father is the best judge of that," meet him in the face at the beginning said Lauder lale ; "she canna remain of his career. Sometimes in the sudden with you and me.”

darkening, out of the rosy clouls which And there the conversation dropped hung over the Campagna, the face of -but not the subject. Colin was not in the impossible woman, the ideal crealove with Alice; he had, indeed, vague ture, her who could have divined the but bright in the clouds before him, an thoughts in his mind and the movealtogether different ideal woman; and ments in his heart before they came his heart was in the career which he into being, woulil glance suddenly out again saw opening before him—the life

upon him for an instant, and then disin which he meant to serve God and his appear, waving a shadowy farewell, and country, and which at the present mo leaving in his mind a strange blank, ment would admit of no rashly formed which the sight of Alice rather increased ties. Was it in consequence of these than removed. That ineffable mate and hindrances that this new thing loomed companion was never to be his, the so large before Colin's inexperienced young man thought. True, he had never eyes? If he had longerl for it with

met her, nor come upon any trace of her youthful passion, he would have put footsteps, for Matty Frankland at her force on himself and restrained his long- best never could have been she. But ing; but the temptation took another yet, as long as he was unbound by other shape. It was as if a mai len knight at tie or affection, this vision was the “not the outset of his career hal heen tempted impossible She" to Colin as to all men; to pass by a helpless creature and leave and this he hail to give up—for Alice, her wrongs unredressed. The young most gentle, j'atient Alice, whom it was Bayard could do anything but this. not in the heart of man to be otherwise

than tender of-she who had need of CHAPTER XXXVI.

him, and whom his very nature bound

him to protect and cherish—was not that In the meantime at least a fortnight woman. At other moments he thought must pass Lefure they could expect an of his own life, for which still so much training was necessary, and which he been arranged beforehand by agencies should have entered in the full freedom so very clear and traceable ; ani with of his youth, and was profoundly aware this conclusion of the argument he left of the incumbered and helpless trim off, as near contented as possible, and in which he must go into the battle, not indisposed to enjoy the advantages obliged to take thought not of his which were palpably before him ; for, work only, and the best means of doing though they were not the eyes he had it, but of those cares of living which lie dreamed of, there was a sweetness very so lightly on a young man alone. There well worthy of close study in Alice may be some of Colin's friends who will

Meredith's eyes. think the less of him for this struggle The days passed very quietly in this in his mind; and there may be many time of suspense. The society of the who will think with justice that, unless two strangers, who were more to her in he could have offered love to Alice, he her sorrow than all her kindrel, suphad no right to offer her himself and ported the lonely girl more than she his life-an opinion in which his his- was aware of-more than any one could torian fully agrees. But then this gift, have believed. They were absent during though less than the best, was a long the greater part of the day, and left her way superior to anything else which, at unmolested to the tears that would the present moment, was likely tu be come, notwithstanding all her patience ; offered to the friendless girl. If he and they returned to her in the evening could have laid at her feet the heart, with attentions and cares to which she which is the only true exchange under had never been accustomed, devoting such circumstances, the chances are that two original and powerful minds, of an Alice, in her simplicity and gentleness, order at once higher and more homely would have been sadly puzzled what to do than any which she had ever encounwith that passionate and ungovernable tereil, to her amusement and consolation. thing. What he really could offer her Alice had never known before what it -affection, tenderness, protection—was was to have ordinary life and daily clearly comprehensible to her. She had

occurrences brightened by the thickno other idea of love than was in- coming fancies, the tender play of cluded in those attributes and phases of word and thought, which now it. These considerations justified Colin rounded her. She had heard clever talk in the step which he contemplated—or afar off, “in society," and been awerather in the step which he did not stricken by the sound of it, and she contemplate, but felt to be necessary had heard Arthur and his friends and incumbent upon him. It some- uttering much fine-soun ling language times occurred to him how, if he had upon subjects not generally in her way, been prudent and taken Lauderdale's but she was utterly unused to that advice, and eschewed at the beginning action of uncommon minds upon common the close connexion with Meredith and things which gives so much charm to his sister, which he hail entered into the ordinary intercourse of life. All with his eyes open, and with a con- they could think of to lighten the sciousness even that it might affect his atmosphere of the house in which she life, this embarrassing situation might sat in her deep mourning, alsorbed for never have come into being; and then hours together in those thoughts of the he smiled to himself, with youthful dead to which her needlework afforded superiority, contemplating what seemed little relief, they did with devotion, so plainly the meaning of Providence, suspending their own talk an l occuan. I asking himself how he, by a momen- pations to occupy themselves with her. tary exercise of his own will, could Colin read In Memoriam to her till her have overthrown that distinct celestial heart melted and relieved itself in sweet intention. On the whole, it was com: abundant tears ; and Lau lerlale talked forting to think that everything had and told her many a homely history of


that common course of humanity, full kissed Sora Antonia, who, for her part, of sorrows sorer than her own, which fills had outlived her tears, and with a young minds with awe. Between them natural impulse turned to Colin, who they roused Alice to a higher platform, was young, and in whose heart, as in a different atmosphere, than she had her own, there must live a natural known before ; and she raised herself protest against this awful necessity of up after them with a half-bewil lered separation and misery; and thus it sense of elevation, not understanding came to be Colin's turn to interpose, how it was; and so the long days and he came on the field once more which were sú harıl, and which nothing with In Memoriam, and with other in the world could save from being poems which were sweet to hear, and haril, brightened towards the end, not soothed her even when she only partly certainly into anything that could be entered into their meaning. A woman called pleasure, but into a sad expan- has an advantage under such circumsion and elevation of heart, in which stances. By means of her sympathy faintly apreared those beginnings of and gratitude, and the still deeper profounıl and deep hap'piness which are feeling which grew unconsciously in nut incompatible with grief, and yet her heart towards him who read, she are stronger and more inspiring than came to believe that she too underjoy. While this was going on, uncon- stood and appreciated what was to him sciously to any one concerned, Sora so clear and so touching. A kind of Ant nia, in her white kerchief and spiritual magnetism worked upon Alice, apron, sometimes knitting, sometimes and, to all visible appearance, expanded with her listaff like a buxom Fate, sat and enlarged her mind. It was not and twisted her thread and turned her that her intellect itself grew, or that spindle a little behind yet not out of she understood all the beautiful imagireach, keeping a wary eye upon her nations, all the tender philosophies thus charge. She too interposed, sometimes unfolded to her ; but she was united in her vwn experiences, sometimes her own a singular union of affectionate comcomments upon life and things in general, panionship with those who did underinto the conversation ; and, whether it stand, and even to herself she appeared was that Sora Antonia's mind was really able to see, if not with her own eyes at of a superior order, or that the stately least with theirs, the new beauties and Roman speech threw a refining colour solemnities of which she had not dreamt upon her narratives, it is certain that before. This strange process went on the interpellations of the Italian peasant day by day without any one being aware fell without any sensible derogation into of it; and even Lauderdale had almost the strain of lofty yet familiar talk which forgotten that their guardianship of was meant to wean Alice from her Alice was only for the moment, and special grief. Sora Antonia told them that the state of affairs altogether was of the other Forestieri who had lived provisionary and could not possibly like themselves in the Savvelli palace; continue, when an answer reached him who had come for health and yet had to his letter. He was alone when he died, leaving the saddest mourners— received it, and all that evening said hely less widows, and little children, nothing on the subject until Alice had heartbroken fathers and mothers, per- retired with her watchful attendant ; haps the least consolable of all. Life then, without a word of comment, ho was such, she said solemnly, bowing her put it into Colin's hand. It was written stately head. She herself, of a hardy race, in a stilted hand, like that of one unand strong, as the Signori saw, had not accustomed to writing, and was not she buried her children, for whom she quite irreproachable even in its spelling. would have gladly died? But the good This was what Lauderdale's correspondent God had not j'ermitted her to die. Alice said :cried silently as she heard all this ; she

“SIR,Your letter has had such a but at the same time felt himself saying bad effect upon the health of my dear for ever and ever farewell to that ideal husband, that I beg you won't trouble lady wh!) henceforward, in earth or him with any more such communica- heaven, could never be his. This passed tions. If it's meant to get money, that's while he was looking at the letter which vain—for neither him nor me knows already his rapid eye had read and anything about the friends Arthur may comprehended. “So there is an end have picked up. If he had stayed at of your hopes," said Colin.

“ Now we home he would have received every are the only friends she has in the attention. As for his ungrateful sister, world--as I have always thought." I won't have anything to say to her. "Softly," said Lauderdale. “Callants Mr. Meredith is very ill, and, for any- like you aye rin away with the half thing I know, may never rise from a of an idea. This is an ignorant woman's bed of sickness, where he has been letter, that is glad to get rid of her. The thrown by hearing this news so sudden; father will mend, and then he'll take her but I take upon me to let her know as out of our hands." he will have nothing to say to one that “He shall do nothing of the kind," could behave so badly as she has done. said Colin, hotly. “You speak as if I am always for making friends, but she she was a piece of furniture ; I look knows she cannot expect much kindness upon her as a sacred charge. We are from me after all that has happened. responsible to Meredith for his sister's She has money enough to live on, and comfort and-happiness," said the young' she can do as she pleases. Considering man, who during this conversation prewhat her ingratitude has brought her ferred not to meet his companion's eye. dear father to, and that I may be left "Ay !" said Lauderdale, drily, “that's alone to manage everything before many an awfu' charge for the like of you and days are past, you will please to con- me. It's more that I ever calculated sider that here is an end of it, and not on, Colin. To see her safe home, and write any more begging letters to me. in the hands of her friends

“Lauderdale, do not be so heartless ; “ JULIA MEREDITH."

cannot you see that she has no friends ?"

cried Colin ; “not a protector in the This communication Colin read with

world except a beating heart. It was so different from “Callant, dinna deceive yourself," said what he expected, and left him so free to Lauderdale; "it's no a matter for hasty carry out the dawning resolution which judgment; we have nae right to pass he had imagined himself executing in sentence on a man's character. He's the face of tyrannical resistance, that he her father, and it's her duty to obey felt at first like a man who has been him. I'm no heeding about that silly straining hard at a rope and is sud- woman's letter. Mr. Meredith will denly thrown down by the instantaneous mend. I'm here to take care of you," stoppage of the pressure on the other said Colin's guardian. “Colin, 'hold side. When he had picked himself up, your peace. You're no to do for a the facts of the case rushed on him moment's excitement, for pity and ruth distinct and unmistakable. The time and your own tender heart, what you had now come when the lost and friend.

may regret all your life. Sit down and less maiden stood in the path of the true keep still. You are only a callant, too knight. Was he to leave her there to young to take burdens on yourself ; fight her way in the hard world by there is but one way that the like of herself, without defence or protection, you can protect the like of her-and because, sweet and fair and pure as that is no to be thought of, as you she was, she was not the lady of his consented with your own mouth.” dreams? He made up his mind at “I am aware of that,” said Colin, once with a thrill of generous warmth, who had risen up in his excitemente

* There is but one way. Matters have All this, it may be imagined, was little changed since we spoke of it first.” compatible with that reverential regard

“I would like to know how far they for womankind in general which both have changed,” said Lauderdale. “Colin, the friends entertained, and evidenced a take heed to what I say; if it's love I'll security in respect to Alice's inclinations no speak a word; I may disapprove a' which was not altogether complimentary the circumstances, and find fault with to her. And yet it was highly comevery step ye take; but if it's love- plimentary in a sense ; for this security

“ Hush !” said Colin, standing upright, arose from their appreciation of the spotand meeting his friend'seye; "if it should less unawakened heart with which they happen to be my future wife we are speak. had to deal. If Colin entertained little ing of, my feelings towards her are not to doubt of being accepted when he made be discussed with any man in the world.” his proposition, it was not because he

They looked at each other thus for a had an overweening idea of himself, moment, the one anxious and scruti- or imagined Alice " in love” with him nizing, the other facing him with blank according to the vulgar expression. A brightness, and a smile which afforded certain chivalrous, primitive sense of no information. Perhaps Lauderdale righteous and natural necessity was in understood all that was implied in that his confidence. The forlorn maiden, blank ; at all events, his own delicate knowing the knight to be honest and sense of honour could not refuse to true, would accept his protection loyally admit Colin's plea. He turned away, and simply, without bewildering hershaking his head, and groaning privately self with dreams of choice where no under his breath ; while Colin, struck choice was, and having accepted would with compunction, having shut himself love and cleave as was her nature. To up for an instant, unfolded again, that be sure there were types of woman less crisis being over, with all the happy acquiescent; and we have already said grace of apology natural to his disposi- that Alice did not bear the features of tion. “You are not "any man in the the ideal of which Colin had dreamed ; world,'” he said with a short laugh, but such was the explanation of his which implied emotion. “Forgive me, confidence. Alice showed little distress Lauderdale; and now you know very when she saw her stepmother's letter well what I am going to do.”

except for her father's illness, though “Oh ay, I ken what you are going to even that seemed rather consolatory to do; I kent three months ago, for that her than otherwise, as a proof of his matter," said the philosopher. “A man love for Arthur. As for Mrs. Mereacts no from circumstances, as is generally dith's refusal to interfere on her behalf, supposed, but from his ain nature.” she was clearly relieved by the intiWhen he had given forth this oracular mation; and things went on as before utterance, Lauderdale went straight off for another week or two, until Sora to his room without exchanging another Antonia, who had now other tenants word with Colin. He was satisfied in a arriving and many occupations in hand, way with this mate for his charge, and began to murmur a little over the belonged to too lowly a level of society watch which she woull not relinquish. to give profound importance to the in- Is it thus young ladies are left in expediency of early marriages—and he England," she asked with a little indigwas fond of Alice, and admired her sweet nation, “without any one to take care looks and sweet ways, and respected her of them except the Signori, who, zelf-command and patience; neverthe- though amiable and excellent, are only less, he too sighed, and recognised the men ? or when may Madama be exdeparture of the ideal woman, who to 'pected from England who is to take him as little as to Colin resembled Alice charge of the Signorina ?”

It was --and thus it was understood between after this question had been put to them how it was to be.

him with some force one evening,

« PreviousContinue »