had never even seen. Beatrice felt a strong impulse to burn these fraudulent deeds, but conscious that this would be both imprudent and wrong, she again enjoined the maids to observe how many of those imaginary signatures, scarcely dry, were written but a minute before in the absence of the parties, and then carefully locked it up. From that hour Lady Edith, in dumb anxiety, sat immoveable by the bed-side of Sir Allan, carefully excluding even the light of day, and often at night allowing the fire to burn itself silently out, chilled as she felt, rather than hazard disturbing her precious patient by a single sound. For the most devoted assiduity she felt more than rewarded at last by a faint smile from Sir Allan, and a low feeble word of thankfulness. No one. except Dr. Campbell and her own servants entered on any pretext, to watch the almost imperceptible progress which Sir Allan was supposed to be making, and hour after hour Lady Edith remained, with no companion but her own pious thoughts, and no support for her almost desponding mind, but those promises of the Gospel with which her memory was amply stored, and which appeared to her so distinct that they needed no interpreter. Lady Edith now experienced all the advantage of an intimate acquaintance from childhood with the Divine Oracles, for she could repeat to herself with never-ending delight, whole chapters full of encouragement and hope. Much as she loved human sympathy and now enjoyed its consolations, yet she found a still greater relief in opening her whole mind to her Creator, conscious that there is no impediment between the voice of a suffering mortal and a pitying Saviour, except in that rebellious human heart which will not accept a pardon on the terms offered, without money and without price, as a free and generous gift. Weeks passed on, and Sir Allan had regained a considerable degree of bodily strength. His tall, commanding figure, his intelligent expression, his whole aspect in the prime of youthful grace, were restored to apparent health, yet a deep depression seemed to weigh heavily on his mind. He was unable for conversation, but there was a solemn depth of thought in his eye, when he occasionally looked up, which Lady Edith felt to be very impressive, though she did not attempt to intrude within the curtain thrown over his thoughts, unless he should lift it by speaking out. Dr. Campbell observed that every attempt to converse brought on an accession of the pulse, and his repeated injunctions to silence were most conscientiously obeyed by Lady Edith, who devoutly considered it the special will of Divine Providence that Sir Allan should be withdrawn for a time from all external influences, and thrown upon a solitary review of himself. One day, Lady Edith heard her patient repeating over, in an under tone, some of his favourite poems, and when at length he came to the beautiful lament for Lord Douglas, which he had often formerly repeated to her, she heard him say in accents of mournful self-reproach, and with a deeply-speaking expression of countenance—

“Baffled nature hangs dej ected by,
And hails the shade of Allan with a sigh.”

“Surely you are better to-day?” said Lady Edith, laying a kind hand on his arm. “Let me have you conveyed to the window, that you may inhale the fragrance of that lily of the valley and mignonette.”

“Aunt Edith, my worthless body may recover,” replied Sir Allan, in a low tone of depression, “but my torn and shattered mind is a wreck never to be restored. It is said that the most endurable, though the sharpest of all earthly evils, is sorrow for the dead, and I wish you had that to suffer for me, rather than all the affliction I have caused your kind heart.”

“My very dear Allan, why sit down to be regularly miserable? why not look for a rainbow in your cloud” answered Lady Edith in a tone of remonstrating cheerfulness. “The excess of grief has its own strange attraction, and even despair itself becomes a state of mind that people are unwilling, after long habit, to leave off. I would not needlessly jar at present against any feelings that have become dear to you, and therefore I dare not now speak to you with my former ease; still you know of old, Allan, that I consider it a religious duty to be happy. In your case, I can see no sufficient warrant for being miserable, but you are

in that morbid state which delights in a perfect luxury of woe. My dear Allan, you must consent to be made happy again. Let me set a trap to catch a sunbeam for my dear old pupil.” Sir Allan took Lady Edith’s extended hand in his own, with the saddest, but the kindest of smiles, and said in a low, melancholy, thoughtful voice, “I seem once to have lived in a paradise on earth, where dear Aunt Edith acted as my guardian. Since then, times have altered, and I have altered, but oh, how dear to my heart is the memory of those hours! I did not deserve such happiness, and I never can be happy again.” “No one ever merited happiness, Allan,-not the best and wisest human being who ever adorned the earth; but still there is for you yet, if you will only look upon it, a radiant horizon of hope and of consolation. Do not let yourself be so fascinated by looking into the deep gulf of human misery, that you cannot look up to the bright prospect of human pardon and felicity. A few weeks of mental rest—perhaps, Allan, a few weeks of our agreeable society, may do wonders. Cheerful thoughts and kind old friends are Dr. Edith Tremorne's best prescriptions now.” The beautifully modulated voice of Lady Edith, low and tremulous with emotion, was full of the deepest tenderness, and of the most heartfelt joy, at observing how much her words appeared to soothe Sir Allan's agitated nerves, and before much more time had elapsed, many of the past delusions of his mind seemed to him like a confused and painful dream. Every moment of life became inestimably precious to him, as the representative of a vast eternity; but at the same time, the mere fopperies of religion had shrivelled into their native insignificance, before the strong light of calm reason and deliberate reflection. “What boundless gratitude I owe to the early instructions of Mr. Herbert " " said Sir Allan one day. “Oh, that I could enjoy one hour of his conversation now ! That would. perhaps, make me feel young once more. That would bring the verdure and freshness of boyhood to my heart again. That would clear off all the cobwebs and thistle-down with which my poor brain has been clogged.” “Dear Allan,” said Lady Edith mournfully, “our revered Bishop is now at the end of his bright and useful course. That good and faithful servant of God cannot survive many weeks, and his peaceful state of readiness is truly enviable. Dr. Campbell tells me that the Bishop is entirely confined to bed now, with no hope of his ever being able to leave it again. He has a heart complaint, and an entire break up of the constitution.” Sir Allan covered his face with his hands in very solemn emotion, but made no reply, though he continued evidently in deep thought during some hours. In the evening he had, for the first time, remained up to tea, and though unable from weakness to take any part in the conversation, his eye followed with more than usual interest all that was

« VorigeDoorgaan »