« VorigeDoorgaan »
the fourth verse, she paused, and Clare urged her to continue. At the last verse she paused again, thinking she heard a footstep in the Verandah; but again Clare insisted upon her completing the song. She did so, and although her voice occasionly trembled, when she thought of the period at which the words were written, she sang it with her usual sweetness and pathos. Again she fancied she heard a footstep, and the rustling of the myrtle leaves near the window.
"I wish Herbert could have heard you sing that song,” said Clare ; “and seen you when you were singing it. How blind and dull he is. I wish I were a man to throw myself at your feet, and declare myself yours for ever.”
Gwenthlean smiled as she said
“ Herbert would not care to hear it sung now ;” and almost whilst she spoke, Herbert entered the room.
He inight or might not have been listening; but, at all events, he appeared agitated. When the common salutations were over, he sat down, and Clare observed that his eyes were fixed upon Gwenthlean, as she bent, even more earnestly than before, over her frame, forgetful of the pearl ornament she wore. His manners were altered. Hitherto he had been perfectly calm, though rather constrained in Gwenthlean's presence; now he seemed scarcely able to speak. Clare had the conversation to herself, and perceiving the embarrassment of her companions, talked incessantly, as she afterwards said, out of pure compassion. She displayed her new treasures to Herbert, and even ventured to ask whether he did not think Gwenthlean looked better in the pearl coronet than she should look ; but the painfully deep blush that overspread Gwenthlean’s face, when she felt that Herbert's eyes were fixed on her, made her change the subject.
She then proposed an evening's row upon the “ moonlit deep," which, she said, Herbert had promised them before he went to Oxford, and when that was settled, with all the fertility of woman's invention, she tried Colonel Llewellen's new house, and Herbert's new curacy. But all would not do ; Herbert was silent and absent ; and Gwenthlean, as she generally was in Herbert's presence, shy and uncommunicative.
Herbert's feelings had, indeed, experienced a total revolution. The miller's tale had opened his eyes ; and had explained to him that neither for rank nor riches had Gwenthlean sacrificed her better feelings; but to save his grandfather from ruin. He had wronged her-had thought almost unkindly of her—had even forborne to question her concerning her former promise to him-because he had considered, that she must be changed from the Gwenthlean he had once known, to an ambitious, worldly girl; and certainly must have lost all attachment for him. Now that he gazed upon her with his altered feelings, he began to think that she was far, far above him. That he was not worthy of a creature of so much purity, beauty, and excellence ; and that the many sacrifices she had already made, ought not to be consummated, by her be. stowing herself upon one so poor in all worldly riches as he was. It is no wonder that he scarcely knew what Clare said, when these thoughts, and hundreds of others of a similar nature, were passing and repassing through his mind. He saw and thought of Gwenthlean alone.
Clare had a truly feminine quickness of perception. She saw a change in Herbert, and she hoped that it boded good. She was accommodating, too, and fancying that her presence might make Herbert more taciturn than usual, she began to think of the best way of relieving him of it.
“Well,” she said, “I must say it is hard
to have the weight of the whole conversation on one's mind. I believe I have talked incessantly; and three nos' from Gwenthlean, and as many yesses' from Herbert, have been all the aids and abettors I have had.”
“Oh, Clare!” said Gwenthlean, looking reproachfully at her sister.
“ Thank you for a new idea, my dear,"? said Clare, gaily ; “I will write it down. But I hear mamma's voice, and I want to show her this étui ; so you will, perhaps, try to amuse one another for five minutes, whilst I take my more communicative self to my most pleasant and agreeable mother," and herewith Clare left the apartment. . .
When she was gone, an awkward and almost oppressive silence succeeded, during which Gwenthlean felt inclined to follow her sister. As it was, she worked more industriously than ever, whilst Herbert looked on attentively.
“Gwenthlean,” he said, at last, " do you