« VorigeDoorgaan »
honeysuckle I had helped to twine, in the same chair over which I had hung a thousand times listening to her simple songs, sat Mabel. She seemed to me to expect my coming, and to be waiting for me in the old accustomed place; and yet a letter I had written her, telling her of my disgrace (as it seemed to me) and of my proposed wandering, had already reached her. I paused to contemplate her. From time to time a fragment of song burst from her lips, and in childish merriment she chided the kitten, who, in its frolic play, had unravelled the worsted that fell from her trembling fingers. As I eagerly brushed through the branches of the rose-trees, she turned her head, smiled, and seemed to listen, and the work fell from her hands. There was a step,-a quick and eager step,—she started from her seat —a flood of crimson rushed to her neck and brow, and, in another moment, Stephen Gower was by her side, her face was hidden on his shoulder, and I heard the low, half-articulate words of lovers' greeting, that fell like poison upon my soul ! They entered the cottage, and I saw no more. I lingered about the place, burning with a deadly rage, that asked but to sacrifice one who had deprived me of all I valued. I cannot trace the gradation of feeling through which I had passed, or how long in the common computation of time was my voiceless agony. I waited hour after hour, as the evening was giving place to the shadows of night. I knew that by the way he came would Stephen Gower return. I wrapped myself in the boatman's cloak that lay at my feet, and proceeded to bide my time in the little skiff, as she lay rocked on the waters beneath the shelving shore. Upon the ridge of the rock that overshadowed the boat I saw a figure, immovable as myself, and like myself, perhaps, a watcher. For a moment it interfered with my plan of vengeance; but in a little time it had disappeared. With a light step Stephen Gower drew near, his foot was on the stern of the boat, and he bade me row him to the opposite bank. I silently took the oar, pushed the skiff from her moorings, and alone we two in the wide river were confronted. I seized him in my powerful hold, and, stunned by my sudden apparition, he trembled in my grasp. It was a deadly struggle. I raised him in my arms, the boat still floating down the stream ; he grasped my cloak; I loosened it from my neck, and he fell. There was a heavy splash in the watera gurgle and a bubble on its surface, and all was still. Above me the moon rose in her calm beauty. The boat had floated with the tide even under the very windows of my ancient home, within hearing (could they have heard) of the mother employed in her mission of love, in pouring words of tenderness into the wounds the world had dealt on her son's heart, and a sister, perhaps, in sorrowful sympathy weeping for him.
"I paused, gazed, and listened. There was a trailing step through the long grass ; who then was this ?—there was a witness of the fearful struggle—my secret was in possession of another it was a woman's voice calling me by my name - it was Millicent!
“ The next day the boat had drifted with the tide even to the cave where the floating body of my victim had been discovered. My hat alone was the only evidence that I had been of his company. The river was dragged in vain, and it was supposed that the body of the beloved son so deeply deplored was carried onward to the sea.
Stephen Gower was laid in our mausoleum, and a few touching words tell of his youth of promise and his untimely death. Not long after him they placed beside him all that was left to us of a mother's deep tenderness; and Millicent, — poor Millicent !— better had it been had they laid her there long before. Once again we met. Under the assumed name I had chosen I travelled over great part of Europe and Asia, seeking for rest and finding it not. To Millicent had Stephen been all that Mabel was to me; and yet she lived on. He had urged my absence, the better to reconcile me to the change of feeling in Mabel, knowing that it was inevitable. No wonder that in after years the overwrought brain and nerves should give waythe stone will tell you she died of consumption. The burden of the fearful secret oppressed her young spirit to the dust, but what knows the world of that!
“ Again I came to Hazlehurst; not to my ancestral home, but to the Hospital of St. Olave, which, greatly impoverished by the internal troubles of England, had sunk almost into ruin; there were yet means enough left, however, to preserve the shelter of a home and medical aid to the most wretched. There was one attendant there, a nurse, though many called her an angel, whose voice was ever ready to speak the words of hope to the fainting spirit, and whose fair and gentle hand was the most tender in its operations on the very ills from which others shrunk away. The old curator spoke of her as something beyond mortal. I had been carried in senseless from a wound received in a skirmish; days passed before I could recognise the spot to which I had been removed, and I woke from my long slumber of insensibility to see bending over me the shadow of a face too deeply engraven in my heart ever to be obliterated—the face of Mabel. Her hair was scanty and grey-no shade of colour ever crossed her marble-like face, but patient, gentle, and hopeful, she moved from one weary pillow to another, like an Angel of Consolation. When I was sufficiently recovered again to join the army, I placed Hazlehurst and all that I possessed in the hands of the Curator of the hospital, asking in return but that my heart, wherever I might die, might lie, as I should direct, in the chapel of the hospital. It seemed to me something that, even humiliated to the last, it might rest in the presence of the dust of all I had loved and yet so deeply wronged."
I LOVE THE BROOKS.
BY LEOPOLD WRAY.
I love the brooks, the merry brooks,
That run 'midst flowers and weeds, And spring from nature's greenest nooks,
To wander through the meads.
Time changes oft a landscape's face,
And trees, alas! are hewn A stately pile will leave no trace
When stone or marble's strewn.
The field through which in youth we strayed,
Where waved the yellow corn,
And shrub and flower are shorn.
A dingy factory rears its head
Within the silent vale,
Was wont to scent the gale.
But still a brook will babble on,
young, As if — though years and years have gone
It just from earth had sprung.
It may be turned to work a mill,
Or irrigate the sward ;
We in our childhood heard.
The brook has wandered - so have I
Who knows where both have been ? Yet here I stand, its margin by,
Though years have slipt between.
Its music charmed my boyish ears,
Amid the grassy slopes ;
Of life's gay rainbow hopes.
It murmured in my manhood's prime
Words sweet as love's first dream, And oft, through many a distant clime,
I longed to hear that stream.
And now in age it talks to me,
Like some dear, ancient friend, Right garrulous, and full of glee,
Whose gossip knows no end.
So playful once—so soothing now
All languages it speaks-
But changed my boyish freaks.