Imatges de pàgina
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tracted girl; “ for by so doing, I must criminate myself; yet all I do, all I wish to do, Heaven knows, is for his dear sake alone. Oh, Alfred ! Alfred ! my own life would be a cheap sacrifice to purchase yours!"

"If your feelings are really so disinterested, let me entreat you to go away quietly-for here you can do no good, believe me.”

“I know I cannot cure him, alas! but is it doing no good, sir, to be near him—to minister to his every want to soothe his every pain? When his poor languid eyes unclose, to be sure they will rest on a dear familiar face, the face they have so long worshipped, instead of meeting the cold unsympathizing gaze of a hireling, or the severe glance of a parent's in anger ? Surely, surely, there must be good in that, as proving the endurance of affection !”

“Why will you compel me to add to your distress, by the utterance of unpalatable truths ?” rejoined the benevolent doctor, in a voice of the tenderest compassion. “It is, indeed, doing good—it is beautiful—it is heavenly, when the dying eye can rest on a beloved face at the last, and the sinking heart can feel, sweetly and gratefully feel, that the being who gave it all its hope, joy, delight, and happiness, when in health, is still, in the hour of its sorest trial, as kind, as watchful, as affectionate, and prayerful, as she ever was. But, then, that must spring from a viriuous love,—from the love of a wife; a mother, or a sister,—not, not, alas! my poor sorrowing girl, from such a love as yours! It is absolutely necessary, in the present state of your misguided lover's health, to remove every vestige of an object that can only remind him of his past guilt, and to endeavour to awaken remorse for it, by directing his thoughts where alone pardon for transgressions is to be obtained Now, if you are continually in his presence, with that look of deep despair, and hopeless tenderness,

-if he was a daily witness of those agonizing tears, shed, only shed for him,-if he beheld your anguish-your total, your generous selfabnegation, in the superior grief of his sufferings and danger,- do you think he could properly repent of his fault? do you think he could pray with proper contrition of heart for its pardon? do you think he would be willing to leave a world where one must remain behind so full of love and regret for him? And yet, unless such a change do take place in his heart, woe be to him when he is summoned to the presence of that God, whom he insulted and defied, even on the verge of the grave, by preferring you to his offered mercy."

" Then he must learn to hate, abhor me, ere he dies ?-how can I ever survive that dreadful thought ?"

“No, no, not hate you, hatred is no passport to heaven,—but he must repent and deplore the fatal passion, which led you both into error, and which, I am much mistaken in you, if you yourself have not long ere this deeply lamented.”

" The heart knoweth its own bitterness,' sir ; and truly may I ask, If there can be a sorrow like unto my sorrow, wherewith it hath pleased the Lord to visit me, in his fierce anger ?' Yet, could Alfred be spared, it would not now be for me, alas ! for I dare not live with him again, as I have done, and I am too, too degraded to become his wife.”

"And if he could be spared, and were willing to make you his wife, do not for one moment imagine that such a union would con

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duce to your happiness; continual causes of mortification would arise to mar its felicity; the mind never becomes oblivious to past error; the thought of your former guilty intercourse with him would pursue you, like an evil demon, suggesting to you the reasons of shame, jealousy, and disgust; your husband ought, and must, feel for the being who has only disgraced the name he bestowed upon her, and given existence to creatures who, the instant reflection dawns on them, must blush for their mother. Oh! it is any thing but kind in a man to marry the woman he has previously degraded; it is only perpetuating her remorse, by affixing the brand of distrust and self-accusation on her for ever !”

“Oh! I never reflected on the terrible consequences of crime before," exclaimed the agonized girl" of the insuperable barrier it raises between its victims and happiness."

“ You know them now, Louisa,” rejoined the doctor, with solemnity," and may such knowledge afford you a salutary and permanent lesson ; for, be assured, it is ever thus with those who will pluck the forbidden fruits from the trees of pleasure and temptation ; they must hereafter eat only the bread of bitterness, and drink the waters of strife. Young, lovely, and engaging as you are, on the mere threshold of life,-see what you have already become,-a blighted and forlorn thing, to whom the past cannot yield one grateful thought, nor the future one pleasing hope--for whom the very sun of heaven will never shine so brightly, nor the flowers of earth bloom so freshly, as for the pure and innocent; for the sin, which has tarnished the lustre of your own mind, will also cast a dimness over all external objects. Look at your lover, too, no doubt hurried prematurely to the grave by his vicious excesses; yet you will still, with all your fondness, deprive him of his mother's presence, his mother's prayers,—the prayers that can alone unlock the sealed fountains of mercy, to purify his soul from the stains of a guilty passion, and render it meet to partake of the felicity above.'

“ Oh! let her come, let her come instantly! But whither can I go? I have not one friend in the world who will willingly and kindly receive the outcast, abandoned Louisa ; for her son I have lost them all; and yet I am not considered worthy of the poor consolation of smoothing his dying pillow !"

" You shall go to my house, where you will meet with friends to console you in your sorrow, comfort you in your despair, and lead you gently back to penitence and peace.”

" Your house! You have a wife; will she condescend to receive "

“ Yes !” interrupted the doctor, his eyes swimming in tears of proud affection, “ she will receive you, nor feel humiliated by such an act of Christian charity; for though virtuous in the highest degree herself, she yet can make a merciful allowance for the frailties of others."

Louisa begged, as a supreme favour, that she might be allowed to accompany Doctor Hargrave in his visit to Alfred, to take a last look of the being so dear to her yet.

You must promise me, then, to restrain your feelings before him; -recollect that any extraordinary agitation might be his instant death

that his life, in fact, is in your hands ; therefore let me implore you to appear calm and collected as usual."

“I will, I will! be assured of my discretion. I'll do whate'er thou wilt-I will be silent. But oh! a reined tongue, and bursting heart, are hard at once to bear, as you can easily imagine, sir,” exclaimed the poor girl.

They found Alfred just awakened from one of those short uneasy slumbers, which appears to leave the invalid more languid and unrefreshed than before its partial oblivion has taken place. He chid Louisa, querulously, for her lengthened absence-accused her of growing weary of her kind offices to him-wondered at her not flying to take her accustomed place at the bedside and wished he had some person with him who would not become so soon tired of nursing him.

Every word went to the heart of the tortured girl, but she held firm to her resolution ; she determined to tear herself away from him, though death should prostrate her on the threshold of the door she was quitting. She felt the celestial light of repentance dawning on her mind, and she dared not extinguish it. For the first time, she felt the overwhelming weight of her own turpitude, and shuddered, lest it was too late to snatch her lover from eternal condemnation -- and she resolved to sacrifice herself for his salvation. Glueing her lips, almost convulsively, to his—bedewing his pallid face with her burning tearsand murmuring between her clenched teeth, -" Bless you, for ever, ever bless you, my own idolized Alfred !” she rushed from the room, and instantly quitted the roof that contained all she valued upon the earth, to behold him no more,-never more to hear him speak to see him smile :--and his last word had been one of unkindness and ingratitude to her. What a memory for her heart to brood over in its desolate anguish!

Then had the benign old man the painful task of breaking to his bewildered patient the reason of her precipitate flight, her agony, the approach of his mother, and his own as near approach to the tomb.

At first, the idea of having parted with Louisa for ever, alone absorbed every faculty of his soul-alone made him call, in tones of the wildest despair, on her cherished name-alone made him beat his breast, tear his hair, curse his destiny, and even reproach his mother, for driving away, by her unwelcome presence, the only being for whom he cared to live, or feared to die. Oh! it was dreadful to hear that frantic young man speak in such terms of detestation of her, to whom he owed his existence—his mother! By degrees, however, Doctor Hargrave succeeded in awakening his tenderness for her-his fear for his God. Then did he exclaim, while his lips quivered with emotion, “Oh! that I could recal the sins of my youth! Oh! that I could hope for pardon for them !"

“My dear young friend,” said the doctor, taking his thin feverish hand, and pressing it affectionately between his own, “ do not despair, I have a message from God for thee;— Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts : and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.'”

By these, and other equally salutary exhortations, the good doctor

brought the mind of his erring patient to a state of resignation; so that when his mother arrived, he laid bis dying head placidly on her throbbing breast, as his last sweet earthly resting place, and she had the inexpressible satisfaction of hearing bim breathe his prayers to the Almighty for forgiveness, with all the fervour and sincerity of his boyhood innocence.

Mrs. Hargrave received Louisa with the most affectionate kindness : her extreme youth and beauty awoke her instant commiseration; and when she recalled to mind the handsome person of Alfred Talbot, her compassionate heart promptly suggested an excuse for the love that had led her inexperienced youth astray. She extended her hand tenderly to the weeping and abject girl, assuring her of her protection and friendship in a tone of voice that could not be mistaken, the voice of real pity, low, soft, and gentle—not the repelling, arrogant tone those assume, whose virtue is of that austere kind, as to protect, but never pardon, and whose every gesture reveals but too plainly the inward disgust and abhorrence they entertain for the trembling object of their cold charity.

Mrs. Hargrave's truly maternal manner sensibly touched the grateful heart of Louisa, and warmly, but respectfully, clasping the proffered hand, she exclaimed, looking pleadingly in her face, -"Omadam! if I wished to awaken a deeper sympathy in your bosom, than common charity begets in the really benevolent for the unfortunate, I should tell you, that I was not lightly won—that I resisted, Heaven knows how long and firmly resisted prayers, entreaties, tears, threats, and protestations; and that I yielded at last only from the fatal confidence credulous woman ever places in the man who vows he wooes but to wed. But, no ; Alfred will soon have to atone to a higher Power for his falsehoods to me; then forbid that I should vilify his dying name, or rob his memory of the regret of those who survive him, amongst whom, alas, alas ! I am the most sorrowful. Still, I believe, I am not so wicked as you may imagine me to be.”

“Had I for a moment imagined you to be at all wicked," replied Mrs. Hargrave, “ I should not have invited you to become my inmate. Faulty, I admit, I consider your conduct to have been, but it depends on your future behaviour to stamp it with the opprobrium of wickedness; but I do not fear such a cruel disappointment to my anxious hopes for your well being."

« Oh, no, no! you need not; I will be all you wish-all you expect--for your God-inspired compassion to me : yet how have I been deceived in every wish of my heart, every hope of my imagination-50 young, almost a child, and nothing to anticipate from the future ! what a blank ! what a void! what an eclipse of all that makes life bright and joyous !"

“It is well for us, my dear, that we are disappointed in the generality of our wishes," observed the sensible Mrs. Hargrave, “as they partake tco much of the primal fault of the Evil One ;-pride, united with self-conceit and vanity,—they are the dangerous day-dreams of our minds, holding them in as complete subjection and slavery as the fantastic visions of slumber-robbing them of the healthy powers of enjoying the present, and gilding the future with attributes of felicity,

never, never to be realized. How often, alas ! has the young and sanguipe heart to deplore the total failure of those extravagant schemes for ultimate happiness it had foolishly formed, as day by day glides past, without bringing the anticipated fruition, yet which, from long and unchecked indulgence, have actually fastened upon the senses, with all the tenacity of truth. Oh! had I been blessed with a family, my first care would have been to put a wholesome restraint upon the youthful imagination ; for what is the most promising garden without the attentive hand of culture? or the most gifted mind without the pruning band of experience to crop its wild luxuriance ?"

Doctor and Mrs. Hargrave were not the only friends Louisa met with in her distress. She found one even more congenial to her lacerated feelings, in the young and artless Amy Stephens, Mrs. Hargrave's maid, who mingled tear for tear with the broken-hearted girl, with that spontaneous pity for which guileless bosoms are proverbial. Amy did not pause, in her simple philosophy, to question the propriety of such immoderate grief for a man who was neither a husband, a father, nor a brother; she did not pause to enter into the colder or more abstruse subtleties of the case; she merely saw the undeniable fact of a fellow creature in affliction, and, with genuine charity, offered her humble sympathy, and was gratified by its being gratefully accepted,

Louisa's chief consolation was now derived from the daily accounts given her by Doctor Hargrave of Alfred's happiness in the society of his mother, of his resignation to the Divine Will, and his frequent and tender mention of her name. The kind-hearted Amy also often contrived some unnecessary little shopping or other, that she might run to the cottage and glean the more minute particulars of each day and night, (every trifling circumstance being of dear import to Louisa,) of Robert, Alfred's favourite groom, who was overwhelmed with grief at the idea of losing so good and generous a master, and who insensibly grew quite attached to the pretty affectionate girl, who took such a deep interest in the fatal illness of one he so highly valued and respected. He was always ready, therefore, to respond to every question concerning Mr. Talbot, with that alacrity so pleasing to the inquirer, as showing a perfect reciprocity of sentiments respecting the object of anxiety; so that Amy generally returned from her errand of mercy with a great collection of affecting incidents for the poor mourner to treasure up for that future, when a tender and grateful. memory would be all that remained of him whom she must ever love.

When at last she learnt that all was indeed over, she did not give way to outrageous sorrow, but bowed submissively to the heavy visitation, while she mingled a prayer of thankfulness to Heaven, with her silent tears, that her beloved had died with his mother's kiss upon his lips-his mother's blessing upon his ear, instead of hers.

A few hours before his death, yet when he felt the appalling certainty of its inevitable approach, and while his mother was weeping over him in a state of hopeless distraction, and invoking blessings on his head from the inmost recesses of her agonized heart, Alfred suddenly raised himself up in the bed, and said, in a tone of almost supernatural energy,-“ Mother! there is another you must learn to love and

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