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die, if one of us is to sacrifice himself, let it be own confession engrosses my mind so much, me. I long for death more than I ever did. that I cannot give utterance to my feelings. But you must live and enjoy the pleasures of Therefore, content yourself with the reply
for the gods have smiled upon you ever that I have likewise found a young girl worthy since the hour of your birth. You possess a of the most ardent affection." distinguished name and rank, and all the boons “ And I am sure she loves you, for you are which Heaven showers upon its favorites with worthy of the fairest and noblest woman's lavish hands. Think of the brilliant future love." which is in store for you, of your parents whose “I do not know it,' replied the poet, repride and joy you are, and, above all, of your straining his feelings, "for I have not yet utlove for Alice."
tered a single word about my love. My innate “And of the friend who is dearer to me than timidity has always prevented me from so all the treasures of the world. Come! Let doing.” us renew, at this beautiful hour, the old bond “But your glances, your face must have cer. of our love. Whatever may happen, no acci- tainly revealed the secret to her. The female dent, no reverse must separate us. Swear to eye is in this respect by far more keen-sighted me everlasting love and friendship, as I do to than ours. She knows that you love her.”
“I believe not; and even though she were Overcome by their feelings, the youths em aware of it, what good would it do me? She braced each other fervently. The soft moon- stands too high, and will never condescend to light illuminated their features. On the heart give her hand to a poor poet and future schoolof his friend Milton vowed to himself to re master.” nounce Alice and sacrifice his love to him. “That, then, is the secret cause of your When he raised his pale face again, a tear was grief? It should not induce you to give up all get trembling in his eyes, the only trace of hope. Love is omnipotent, and levels mounthe dreadful struggle which his heart had un- tains obstructing its path. Every new obstacle dergone.
increases its strength and impetuosity. You The sacrifice had been made.
must not lose heart. A poet is the peer of the In this bour he crushed the most precious greatest noble in the kingdom. Your learning dream of his heart for the sake of his beloved will open you the way to the most exalted posifriend. He was imbued with the teachings of tions. You have friends and patrons who will the ancients, and, bearing in mind the glorious interest themselves in your behalf and assist examples of antiquity, he was able to achieve you energetically. My own father loves you this victory over himself. Never was King to as his son, and his influence at court will enable learn the greatness of the sacrifice he had made him to obtain a good position for you. Then to him.
you may go boldly to your beloved, or, if you The friends wandered hand in hand through are too timid and bashful, I will ask her to give the silent night. King tried once more to draw you her hand.” Milton's secret from him; but the poet replied “I thank you from the bottom of my heart," beseechingly:
faltered out the poet. "Do not insist on it to-day. You know that “ After the dearest wishes of our hearts have silence under such circumstances is always been fulfilled, we will, with our beautiful and most welcome to me. For all that, you must virtuous wives, enter upon a new life. Do you not charge me with a lack of candor. Your / not feel, as I do, the transports filling my heart
at this thought? Alice will be at my side and the neighborhood of his father's house, that he inspire me with enthusiasm to perform the gave way to his profound grief. Milton sank, noblest deeds, for she is endowed with a lofty faint and exhausted, on the green turf, which spirit and a heart ardently devoted to the most he moistened with his tears. It was not until sublime interests of mankind. For her sake I now that he felt the whole bitterness of the shall give up the idleness in which I have loss he had sustained. Alice's image stood hitherto lived, and strive to distinguish myself. before his soul; he vainly tried to drive it Henceforth I will devote myself earnestly to the away; it returned again and again, with a genservice of my native country, and toil for it tle, beseeching face. The sweet lips seemed with unflagging zeal. I shall share with her to say to him, “Do not drive me from you," every victory I shall thus achieve, and if ever and she opened her soft arms to him longinga civic crown should be conferred upon me, it | ly. All the places where he had seen her rose shall adorn the fair brow of my lovely wife. again in his memory—Haywood Forest in the But when silent evening draws nigh, when the silvery moonlight, the garden with its pond, loud noise dies away, and business is over for the court-yard, and the cozy sitting-room of the day, I shall hasten to her, the friend of my the ladies. His poetical imagination added to soul; the cozy roof of my Penates will receive the pangs torturing his heart; it called up beme, the purest love will indemnify me for the fore his soul again and again the radiant, yet wranglings of factions and the cares of the so modest and innocent, eyes the beloved statesman, and her lips will greet me sweetly girl, her gestures and motions so full of the and gently with charming kisses and smiles. most charming grace, her sweet smiles and Our time will pass in the most delightful man- sagacious words; it depicted all this to him ner, and you will join us, no longer alone, but in the most glowing colors. She had never accompanied by your sweet wife. Your hap- appeared to him so beautiful as at this moment piness will redouble mine. You will bring with of despair, when he was to renounce her foryou the gifts of the Muses, and the admiring ever, and drain the cup of his sorrow to the hearers will surround the poet with sincere en
very dregs. thusiasm. Thus my bouse will be transformed Thus he lay on the ground, brooding over into a temple of love and friendship, a quiet his grief; the foliage of the trees murmured sanctuary where daily incense will be offered softly over his head, as if they wished to join to the Muses and Graces. We will enjoy life in his wails ; the nightingale broke the stillhand in hand, not egotistically, but serving the ness of the night by its long-drawn, sobbing great whole, setting an example to future gen- notes, but he did not hear the sweet bird, erations, and handing down to our children the which seemed to lament his sorrow. He called friendship which once united their fathers so Death in a loud voice, and wished that the firmly and tenderly."
green turf might open and close over him for The bappy youth gave vent to his enthusi- evermore, but the angel of death flitted past asm in this manner, without suspecting how the unhappy poet to strike with the point of deeply he wounded his friend by his words. his sword more fortunate beings, revelling in Milton no longer betrayed by word or gesture the enjoyment of all pleasures. the pain torturing his heart. He walked si Milton had vowed resignation, and he was lently by his side, with a' mortal wound in his strong enough to conquer himself. After payheart.
ing tribute to human weakness, he rose to that It was not until King took leave of him, in height of ancient beroism which he had found
in the writings and examples of antiquity. | Lawes, the musician, came to see him from Like the immortal Greek youth, he attached a time to time in order to hasten the completion higher importance to the faith which he had of the mask and come to a thorough underplighted than to love, although this view of standing in regard to it with the poet. He friendship entailed upon him the greatest suf- brought him greetings and flattering invitaferings during his whole life; for all the fibres tions from the Countess of Bridgewater and of his soul were firmly fixed in the ideas of the her daughter. Milton had engaged to conduct modern world, which grants the foremost place the rehearsals of the mask in person, and this to love, and not to friendship. His resignation necessitated a sojourn of several days at the was not a natural triumph over a passion, but castle, wbich he would have preferred to avoid. rather a fastidious imitation of examples, set However, it was impossible for him to break at a remote period and amid vastly different the promise which he had made to the countess, circumstances. In sacr himself for his and, therefore, he was obliged to set out refriend, he destroyed love, a higher ideal than luctantly and with heavy heart, accompanied friendship.
by the musician, to Ludlow Castle. However, he rose victorious from the ground; How greatly changed were the feelings with only his pale, distorted face bore yet the traces which he beheld again the scenes of his lost of the fearful struggle through which he had bappiness! On seeing the hospitable house, passed. Day was dawning in the eastern he felt his grief and despair burst forth with horizon; faint red gleams colored the gray redoubled strength. He needed his whole de clouds. The morning breeze swept merrily termination in order not to be borne down by through the rustling fóliage and awakened this crushing burden. The reception which sleeping Nature to renewed life. Its strong he met at the hands of the noble family breath rent the veils of night. Already the was exceedingly cordial, and Alice expressed lark was warbling in the blue air, and sending her delight at his return so openly, that he unseen its greetings from the clouds to re was scarcely able to restrain his emotion. awaken Nature. The horizon grew brighter His changed demeanor would not have escaped and brighter; the rosy streaks of the clouds her and the other inmates of the castle, had turned into flaming purple and radiant gold. they not all been engrossed in the preparations The last remnants of darkness fled before the for the festival and the arrival of numerous victorious power of light.
guests from far and near. Milton owed it to After a short slumber which Milton allowed this circumstance that he remained unnoticed bis exhausted body, he was able to resume his in the crowd. Under the pretext that it was wonted labors. Above all things, he deemed necessary for him to revise his mask once it incumbent upon him to finish the work more and make many alterations in it, he which could not but arouse so many mournful withdrew from the society of the others, and reminiscences in his mind. He did so with held intercourse only with Lawes, who had to stoical self-abnegation, and it was only in rare confer a great deal with him in regard to the intervals that his oppressed breast heaved a music. heavy sigh when he thought of his first meet The other guests, among whom were Edward ing with Alice Egerton. Such reminiscences, King and Sir Kenelm Digby, passed the time it is true, rendered more painful the sacrifice in the most agreeable manner. Now they which he was about to make to his friend, made an excursion in the park, which rebut it was impossible for him to avoid them. / sounded with their loud laughter; now they
made a trip to the more remote environs of | jests of the company by her kindness, which Ludlow Castle, or went out hunting. The won his whole heart. He perceived the mosoul of all these diversions was Sir Kenelm tive of her conduct and was grateful to her. Digby, who always distinguished himself as In this manner he soon became her constant the boldest horseman, the best shot, and the companion, and Alice had sufficient oppormost amiable story-teller. Notwithstanding tunities to discover the excellent qualities these brilliant qualities, Alice seemed to shun which his plain outside concealed from the rather than seek his presence; she avoided eyes of the world. She soon entered into an being alone with him, and evaded his inces even closer connection with her protégé, by sant effort to gain her favor, so far as she could, taking pains to polish his rough and angular without positive discourtesy. She much pre- peculiarities, and call his attention, with noble ferred the company of a young gentleman from frankness, to his imperfections. She did this Wales, with whom she had become acquainted with the greatest delicacy, and found in him a at the house of her Aunt Derby, and who, as a most willing and docile pupil. The sneers neighbor, had likewise received an invitation presently died away, particularly as Carbury's to the celebration of her father's birthday. strength and undoubted courage obliged the
Simple and unassuming in his whole bearing, others to treat him with a certain degree of Sir Robert Carbury exhibited the most striking respect. contrast with the accomplished courtier. His However, the preference which Alice gave frank, rosy face, his good-natured blue eyes, him was not calculated to excite the jealousy did not indicate a very profound mind, but an of the chivalrous King, nor that of the accomexcellent heart coupled with a great deal of plished courtier. Both continued uninterruptcommon-sense. A certain uncouthness caused edly to court the beautiful girl, who, in achim to appear less gifted and accomplished cordance with the spirit of the times, received than he really was. He lacked neither knowl- their homage as a tribute due to her from all edge nor judgment, after overcoming his in- gentlemen. Thus surrounded with admirers, nate bashfulness and gaining confidence in engrossed by all sorts of amusements, Alice himself and the persons with whom he had to did not notice the poet's absence so much as deal. His body was exceedingly strong and she would have done under other circumwell built, and, as is often the case with such stances. It was only in moments of thoughtful men, his strength was coupled with almost quiet that she missed the faithless friend, who feminine mildness and gentleness ; yet all felt was most congenial to her of all the men with that he would display extraordinary courage whom she was acquainted, and who was yet and great perseverance in critical moments. so dear to her heart. There was in his whole appearance something hearty and honest, qualities which are still to be found very often among the English country gentlemen, and for which this honorable class
CHAPTER XV. is particularly noted. His broad, Welsh dialect, and an almost childlike awkwardness, rendered Sir Robert Carbury the butt of MEANWHILE Milton, assisted by his friend, Alice's brother and the other guests. This had in his quiet retirement given the finishing excited at first her compassion, and she in- touches to his work. The parts were asdemnified the poor cavalier for the naughty / signed to the performers, and the rehearsals
REHEARSAL OF THE MASK OF COMUS.
commenced. Besides Alice and her brothers, | You avoid mixing with the company, and King and Sir Kenelm Digby were to appear in seem to shun us. Up to this time your labors the mask. The former was to play the At have been a valid excuse, but from this day tendant Spirit; the latter, in accordance with forward I count upon you. I long for more his own offer, the god Comus. The part of congenial conversation than I am able to find the nymph Sabrina was assigned to a relative among the guests. I hope we shall resume, of Alice, because she possessed a beautiful before and after the festival, the topics on voice, and her part consisted mostly of songs. which we formerly conversed.” Several guests had been prevailed upon to ap Digby's approach rendered it unnecessary pear as dancers. The spacious hall of the for the poet to make a painful reply to her. castle was the scene of the rebearsals. All the He withdrew with a stiff bow, and the rehearsal performers manifested an earnest desire to commenced. On the following day he sought acquit themselves creditably, and looked for- likewise to avoid Alice. He was unable to ward to the performance itself with unfeigned conceal from her any longer the fact that be pleasure. The poet, in the first place, read did so on purpose, and she vainly sought for
the mask to them, and was rewarded with en the reason of bis strange conduct. She ex:thusiastic applause; even Sir Kenelm Digby amined carefully the course she had hitherto
could not refrain from clapping his hands at pursued toward him; sbe recalled every word, several passages.
every glance, whereby she might have wounded Alice approached Milton to thank him. the irritable and sensitive feelings of the poet; Filled with genuine enthusiasm, she seized his but she was unconscious of having done any hand. A shudder ran through his frame when thing of the kind. The more painful, therehe felt this gentle contact.
fore, was the impression which his manner “Instead of a mere occasional poem, you toward her now made upon her. She was inhave created a masterpiece," she said, in a cessantly engrossed by the endeavor to dis
low voice. “Shakespeare himself would not cover the hidden cause of this strange change. į be ashamed of this play; but you have com She attributed it now to bodily suffering, mismitted a great wrong against me.”
led by the sickly pallor of his face and the ex"I do not understand you,” faltered out the pression of pain stamped upon his features;
now to domestic misfortunes. In the anxiety "You have not been true to nature, but which the poet occasioned her, she applied to made of me an ideal which can nowhere be King for advice and information. King's refound in reality. I am far behind the picture plies were evasive, and by no means reassuryou have drawn of me; but I will not expos- ing. He intimated to her that an unhappy tulate with the poet; he uses his poetic license affection for a lady of high rank was the cause 28 he deems best. You should have spared of Milton's dejection. On hearing this stateme the blush that will suffuse my cheeks when ment, which was uttered in a very careless I am to recite your verses in public.”
manner, Alice became greatly excited. More “Every one will find that my prototype is sagacious than King, she thought she knew worthy of even higher praise.”
the lady of whom Milton was enamoured. How “Let us drop the subject,” said Alice, color- much would she have given to learn her name, ing. “I thank you both for the magnificeut but her timidity prevented her from making poem and your good opinion. I will desist further inquiries ! Her heart trembled with from my charge, but only to prefer another. I delight, for now she understood it all-Mil