« VorigeDoorgaan »
"All farewells should be sudden when for ever."-Byron.
I am more certain that it is a duty of nature to preserve a good parent's life and happiness, than I am of any speculative point whatever.” --POPE.
A FORTNIGH'r had elapsed, during which Lady Anne resided at Heatherbrae in so agitated and nervous a state, that she engrossed the whole time and thoughts of Lady Edith and Beatrice, who read to her, talked to her, and left nothing undone that the most ingenious affection could do to reconcile her to life and to herself. With a morbid sensibility, very common to the afflicted, she made a duty of being miserable, and hugged to her very heart every subject of self-reproach, every source of sorrow, as if it would be treason against the memory of her beloved mother ever to feel happy again ; yet, as Lady Edith reminded her, the first and last wish of Lady Stratharden had ever been to shield her from every passing cloud of mere momentary distress, and that she should bask in a perpetual sunshine of enjoyment.
Amidst all their affectionate anxiety for Lady Anne, there was scarcely a minute for Lady Edith and Beatrice to think of any other friends ; yet, at length, with a feeling of sudden surprise they
one day remarked to each other that the Clintons had never once called, or sent to inquire for Lady Anne, or to see how they were themselves.
At length, on the second Sunday after her return home, Lady Edith resolved, as in former times, to visit Mrs. Clinton in passing, and was delighted, as she approached the gate, to observe her friend slowly approaching, but with so feeble and languid a step, that Lady Edith became at once convinced she must have been ill. To her surprise, Mrs. Clinton, on perceiving her, made a full stop, hesitated, and then turned hurriedly back, as if anxious to avoid a meeting; but Lady Edith felt this to be so unlikely, that she at once advanced to overtake Mrs. Clinton, and having, without difficulty, arrested the heavy lagging movement of the fugitive, she kindly laid her hand on her arm, and almost laughingly looked up at her old friend, intending, good-humouredly, to reproach her for this unusual flight.
When Mrs. Clinton slowly and unwillingly turned round, an exclamation of astonishment and consternation burst from the lips of Lady Edith, who stood aghast at the sight she saw; Mrs. Clinton's face was the image of death! She looked like one so entirely heart-broken, that all expression was extinct, and her eyes seemed like stone, incapable of tears. All her features spoke of
“ The bursting heart, the tearless eye,
The cold and torpid frame,
The grief she dare not name.”
The friends looked at each other for a moment in silence, and then Mrs. Clinton, grasping the hand of Lady Edith with an affectionate pressure, made a sign not to be detained or followed, and was about slowly to enter the house, looking as if buried in a bewildering dream, when Lady Edith, with earnest kindness, clasped hold of her dress, exclaiming, “ My dear Mrs. Clinton ! my dear friend !-tell me what has happened. You look like your own ghost! I have the right of one who loves you, Mrs. Clinton, to ask what is the matter? This must be something very dreadful! Why did you not send for me ?”
Mrs. Clinton became more and more livid in her paleness, and still looked mournfully down as if unable to articulate. At length she answered in a low, broken, almost inaudible voice, “ There are things that cannot and must not be told. You will soon hear all too soon ! ever know an extremity of suffering, dear Lady Edith, to which even the kindest sympathy brings no comfort ? The heart knoweth its own bitter
“But I am not a stranger to intermeddle, I am a very old, and very attached friend,” replied Lady Edith, in a tone of sympathising perplexity. “ Dear Mrs. Clinton, our long intimacy entitles me to ask, and to know why you are so sadly, so alarmingly changed."
circumstance that must deprive me for time and eternity of my husband, of my children, of my home-of all on earth that
is dear to me, except yourself?” said Mrs. Clinton, in a low tremulous whisper. Her expression bore the stamp of such acute anguish, that it seemed almost as if she were delirious; and when she attempted to proceed, a choking sob prevented her. She struggled for a moment to recover herself, and finding every effort vain, she hurried to her own door. There she turned round, and her bloodless face had a look of such frenzied grief, that Lady Edith never afterwards forgot the impression. Making a hurried and imperative sign not to be followed, Mrs. Clinton darted out of sight, and closed the door.
A dreadful suspicion rushed at once into the mind of Lady Edith that Mr. Clinton must have apostatized to Romanism. She had always thought that Mrs. Clinton merely liked to talk on theological subjects in her own somewhat superficial way; to coquette a little with mediæval pictures, music and architecture; and, in short, to play at monkery in the middle ages beside Father Eustace, who listened with such flattering attention to her most trifling remark, that it was very enticing, though no serious apprehension ever entered her head that she could be allured on to any sacrifice of principle. All that Mrs. Clinton had expected was, merely to skim lightly over the surface of controversial theology, herself seated on the coziest of arm-chairs on one side of a blazing winter fire, and her husband as comfortably ensconced in his own opposite. Hence she intended that they should lament together over the
prevalence of Romanisn, going as near the edge of it themselves as they dared, rather sorry for others who became irretrievably victims, full of curiosity to hear the arguments by which their friends had become bewildered, sexhausting the whole range of common-places in their censure of persons who go to extremes, and mildly hoping that some of the perverts might sooner or later, and somehow or other, be reclaimed. Father Eustace's influence with Mrs. Clinton had gone so far, but could go no further. Mrs. Lorraine's plan with Mr. Clinton was yet deeper and more successful; for she gradually imparted to his mind all the interest of a dark conspiracy, mysteriously carried on against the freedom, public and domestic, of Great Britain itself. From the moment she gained his ear, he was entrusted with plots against the Established Church; plans for besieging families ; news of expected conversions; schemes for entrapping heiresses; manœuvres for attracting landed proprietors, and commissions, like a tamed elephant, to gain over his own brethren. Mr. Clinton's life had now become more exciting than that of any sportsman, and instead of quietly pursuing his small duties at Clanmarina, his sphere was not only England, but the world; his object, to subvert its government, its freedom, and its laws. He seemed to have been asleep in the quiet execution of professional duties, in the closet, in the pulpit, and beside the dying; but now, he was wide awake to subjects of sleepless interest. He was now incorporated into a great