Rhyme Romance and Revery (V)

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TO A POET'S CHILD


The rose is blooming on thy cheek, thou fair and
                lovely child,
And in thine eye, so brightly blue, is laughing
                gladness wild;
Yet 'tis not for its loveliness that I thy face
                admire —
I see impress'd upon thy brow the likeness of
                thy sire.

Child of a minstrel's hope and heart, his linea-
                ments I trace
Upon that sunny brow of thine, upon that infant
                face:
Thou beautiful and gladsome one, e'en now do I
                foretell
The gift of spirit-stirring song ere long with thee
                will dwell.

Yes, thou wilt be a beacon, and a glory to the
                land;
Rank'd with a high and mighty race — the chosen
                minstrel band;
And when strange eyes do look on thee, and ask
                thee who thy sire,
Then may'st thou proudly answer them —
                A MASTER OF THE LYRE.

Yet deem not thine a lot of bliss — too oft the
                bard is known
To give a joy to other hearts, whilst sorrow
                claims his own;
And though thy lays be read by all, reckless
                will be the throng
Of the deep woe that dwelleth with the child
                of love and song.

The warrior-chief receives his meed when victory
                is won;
The lowly peasant resteth him when toil of day
                is done;
The daring hunter's soul is glad when fix'd the
                deadly dart;
But for the minstrel, what is he? — "a star
                that dwells apart."

The warrior-chief may perish in the radiance
                of his fame,
And the lowly peasant fade away — no record
                of his name;
And of the hunter who can tell, when fled his
                parting breath?
But the minstrel hath a glorious name, which
                dieth not in death.


――――♦――――

 
DREAMS OF THE DEAD


It is the midnight's still and solemn hour,
    And eyes and flowers are folded up in rest,
And glides the moon from out her sapphire bower,
    With veil of clouds and star-embroider'd vest;
And now there comes a voice to memory dear —
I WEEP to hear it, and yet LOVE to hear.

It soundeth not as it was wont to sound,
    It greets me not with glad and laughing tone:—
Ah! how is this? — I call and search around,
    Save mine own echo all is still and lone;
Nor voice nor form — perchance my senses
                dream —
I hear what is not, yet I waking seem.

It was HIS voice, the voice of my DEAD FRIEND —
    DEAD! — speak the tenants of the silent grave?
Have not earth's attributes a final end,
    When sinketh life in death's o'erwhelming
                wave?
The spirit's destiny is hid in gloom,
All mortal things must perish in the tomb.

'Twas but remembrance of what once hath been,
    And liveth still within the sorrowing heart:
Oh, mystic Memory! for ever green
    We view the past by thy all-potent art;
Thou can'st restore the forms whose loss we
                mourn,
Thou rend'st the grave, and bursts the funeral
                urn.

And not alone unto my waking eyes
    Is imag'd forth that lov'd, familiar form;
In the night's visions doth the past arise,
    And thoughts of him who dwelleth with
                the worm:
I see him then — I hear, but not as now —
His voice is glad, and health is on his brow.

I hear him then as I was wont to hear,
    I see him then as he was wont to be,
And comes his accents on my gladden'd ear,
    As when of old we roam'd in converse free;
And each, to each sought only to impart,
Without disguise, the secrets of his heart.

My buried friend! thou unto me wert bound,
    Not by the ties which sordid beings bind,
But I in thee a kindred nature found,
    Thou wert to me a brother of the mind;
Thou could'st not brook the worldling's narrow
                skill,
And wert the martyr of thine own proud will.

As one who sleeps and walks near rushing streams,
    Surrounding dangers passeth heedless by:
So did'st thou live, wrapt in aspiring dreams,
    Viewing the world with a regardless eye;
With sickening soul mingling with soulless men,
Thou liv'd'st and died'st a god-form'd denizen.

Thou wert the child of high and lofty thought,
    Borne by the tide of thine own heart along;
With chainless mind thine uncheck'd spirit
                sought,
    On soaring wing, the towering mount of song;
Thou died'st or ere its proudest height was won —
A tameless eagle stricken near the sun.


――――♦――――

 
WHEN THE STARS
ARE BRIGHTLY SHINING


Meet me, sweet love, at the eventide,
When the moon walks forth in her maiden pride,
When o'er the blue heaven the white clouds glide,
    And the stars are brightly shining.

Remember when first, oh, my gentle maid,
I met thee alone in the twilight shade,
And my vows at the shrine of thy beauty paid,
    By the stars then brightly shining.

Oh, blest is that hour, and dear is the vale,
Where I told thee affection's honied tale,
And heard the sweet song of the nightingale,
    Whilst the stars were brightly shining.

Alas, for our childhood's happy day,
When we lov'd o'er the valleys green to stray,
And fairer to us than the sunny ray
    Seem'd the stars so brightly shining.

Oh, dear to my heart are the shadowy gleams
Of the past, as they visit my joyous dreams,
When each scene that I lov'd before me seems,
    And the stars are brightly shining.

Years have pass'd, and I love thee as well
As when first we met in our native dell;
But I seek in vain for a nameless spell
    In the fair stars brightly shining.

Oh, the visions of young romance have fled,
And the olden joy of our hearts is dead,
And no more o'er our souls is a radiance shed
    When the stars are brightly shining.

Then meet me to-night, as we met of yore,
Let us dream again of the times that are o'er,
Though as THEN we felt we can feel no more,
    When the stars are brightly shining.


――――♦――――

 
THE WILL


THERE is scarcely any thing in a man's life of more importance than making a will, whilst, at the same time, there is nothing that he does more unwillingly.  He cannot bear to think of the last moments of his existence; he dreads to look death in the face.  He does not like to conjure up before his imagination the time when he must surrender up all those dearly beloved goods and chattels which he has taken so much pains to congregate together.  It is anything but pleasant to him to think that the treasures he has doted on must in a short time quit his possession; that his cherished wealth must leave him who has fostered it so carefully, and go to those who will use it God knows how, and disperse it heaven knows where.  I have known some eccentric fellows, to he sure, who seemed to take delight in making wills, and were continually altering, revising, and adding codicils to them, as though it were a pleasure to ruminate on the means, and devise plans for controlling the actions of their posterity.  Making a will is, indeed, the only thing by which a man can exert a power over futurity, and say to himself "even when I am with the dust, such things shall be done."  From an absurd and cowardly dread of death, and as though will-making shortened the period of life; or else from unpardonable negligence, many people do not dispose of their property until they fancy the moment of dissolution is approaching; and this act, which requires beyond any other, the aid of memory, and the dispassionate exercise of a cool and reflective judgment, is left to a time when the body is racked with pain, and the mental faculties are in a state of confusion.  Through this circumstance, there are often many important omissions, or some of the passages are so obscurely expressed, that the will becomes a subject of bickering and dispute amongst the parties interested; a law-suit is most likely the consequence, the property is wasted by exorbitant costs and expenses, and dissensions and heart-burnings are sown amongst those whom the testator was most anxious to benefit and conciliate.  Let me hope that these few observations will cause my readers to think seriously on the subject, and, however small the value of their effects, to dispose of them whilst they have health and reason.

    There are a set of rich old curmudgeons who are continually tantalizing their connexions on the subject, by tossing the ball of expectation from one party to another for the sole purpose of having their own way in all affairs with which they think proper to intermeddle.  Their method of pronouncing an opinion is generally decisive — "Well, well, follow your own inclination, but remember you may repent not having taken my advice."  There are another class who manage to fill all their friends and relatives with golden visions, and are continually receiving presents and delicacies from one or another, until, after having been worshipped like an idol all their lives, they die, and all their property is found, with the exception of a few trifling legacies, to be left to some distant and obscure connexion that nobody ever dreamed of.  I knew an old fellow, who in the opinion of his relations, was a very Croesus.  He lived in good style, kept up a handsome establishment, and was supposed to be immensely rich, though no one knew how or where his money was invested.  This mystery, however, had only the effect of causing his friends to magnify his wealth — his property was incalculable.  Children innumerable were named after him, and some scores called him godfather.  "Aye, aye," he would say, patting a young urchin on the head, "William is a fine boy — I shall not forget my little god-son."  Then the imaginations of the parents were at work as to how the money was to be laid out, and castles innumerable were built on airy foundations.  At length the old man died, and many attended his corse to the grave, with long faces and hearts throbbing with expectations of coming delight.  Heavens, what a crowd was assembled to hear the reading of the will.  The important document was produced — the goose with the golden eggs was now cut open, and, gracious powers, what an impression was created in the auditors!  There were a few trifling bequests of fifty or a hundred pounds, a ring to one, and a trinket to another; but the countless hoards were nowhere to be found — they had vanished like the mists of morning.  The testator had made dupes of all: he had somehow or other, in his lifetime, impressed them with magnificent ideas of his vast possessions; but they now found to their sorrow, that his resources had expired with him, in the shape of a handsome annuity.  Blank dismay was the portion of all; curses, not loud, but deep, broke from their lips, and they left the house regretting the money they had expended on their black suits.

    Whilst I am upon the subject of wills, I shall relate another anecdote which was told me by a friend of mine, who is in the law.  Perhaps the reader may think that the circumstance of its being told me by a lawyer, does not go a great way towards establishing its truth; but I can assure him that my friend, though an attorney, is an honest man, and one for whose veracity I can vouch.  I shall give it as nearly as possible, in his own words.

    A short time ago I was called upon to visit a client of mine, a wealthy old gentleman, for the purpose of drawing up his will.  His two eldest sons were with him, and appeared to have a complete ascendancy over him; in fact, the will was principally dictated to me by the sons, and not by the old gentleman himself.  When we arrived at that part of the document where portions were to be given to the other children, I observed that the two sons were particularly anxious it should be got over as quickly as possible.  The old man paused in his directions, and murmured "Edward — blameable as has been his conduct, I must not entirely disinherit the poor boy, for — he is still my child!"  Here he burst into tears and sobbed violently.

    The sons were alarmed — not so much on account of their parent's sufferings, as from the fear that he would relent towards his youngest child, who, as I had before learned, had been, at the instigation of his brothers, banished from his father's house, for having united himself to one who was considered beneath him.  His young wife was beautiful and amiable, and though deprived of all aid from his relatives, he had managed to earn a comfortable livelihood by his own industry, and had it not been for the displeasure of the sire whom he loved, he would have been happy.

    When the old man became more calm, the sons set before him the conduct of their brother in the most aggravated colours.  All their rhetoric was put in force against him, and, in the end, the testator was, seemingly, convinced of his youngest son's worthlessness, and he was left out of the will.  The document was finished, signed, and sealed, and I departed, pitying the son who had been so cruelly disinherited.

    The next day, I was again sent for; and, had not my own eyes witnessed the truth, I could scarcely have believed it possible that a day would have effected so great a change in any one, as that which had taken place in the appearance of the testator.  The preceding day he had reclined on a sofa — now he was in a bed — a bed from which I saw too plainly that he must never arise.  His eyes were deeply sunk, and surrounded by a dark and livid circle — his cheeks had a dull and clayey hue — and it was with great difficulty that he spoke.  He wished to make a trifling alteration in his will, and I was just about to commence a codicil, when I was interrupted by a noise and scuffle outside the room, and in rushed a young man apparently about the age of one or two and twenty.  He flew to the side of the sick man's couch, and flinging himself on his knees, exclaimed, in a voice almost choked by sobs "Father, dear father! will you, can you die, without forgiving your disobedient, but almost heart-broken Edward?"

    The invalid regarded the intruder with a glance of the greatest fondness, and then, covering his face with his hands, sunk back, over-powered by the excess of his feelings.  The two eldest sons were instantly by his side, endeavouring to restore him to animation.  No sooner did he show symptoms of recovery, than one of them turned towards the unfortunate Edward, who was still kneeling, as though unconscious of all that was passing around him, and cried in a stern and angry voice, "Hence, unfeeling wretch! nor dare to embitter the last moments of thy father, by thy hateful presence — hence, I say, ere thou tempts me to forget that I am thy brother, and force thee from the room!"

    "Hold !" exclaimed the agonised parent — "hold! is he not my child? — and shall I, merely for one rash act, deny him a portion and a blessing?  No," continued he, rising, and speaking with an energy I had thought him incapable of, "I now see my error — I have too long been the dupe of your unnatural arts to withhold my poor Edward from my sight.  Away, lest in my wrath I curse you, and leave you portionless!  For thee, my boy, thou didst offend, and now thou art forgiven.  Come to my arms — too long hast thou been absent."

    He pressed the weeping Edward to his breast, and I can safely say that I never felt more joy than when making out a fresh will, in which the youngest son was handsomely provided for.  The old man's disease was beyond the power of human skill to remove, and he died in the arms of his beloved Edward, a few days after the scene above narrated.


――――♦――――

 
TO ――――― ,
ON HER MARRIAGE


SAY, do'st thou not remember well the time,
    When, each a happy and a sinless child,
We lov'd to roam from morn 'till evening's chime,
    By grove and glen to gather blossoms wild?
And twine the red rose in our flowing hair,
Two joyous creatures knowing nought of care?

The world seem'd spread before us, one bright
                scene
    Of light and bloom, and trees and flowers and
                streams,
A sunny garden which was ever green,
    For nought of gloom was mingled with our
                dreams:
Joy was round the present and the past,
And o'er the future hope its spells had cast.

A change came o'er our natures, and we smil'd
    To think of them the dreams of other years,
When our young hearts by grief were undefil'd,
    (Save that sweet grief which causeth
                childhood's tears,)
And we believ'd the world held nought of pain,
And cherish'd wishes time had long prov'd vain:

We still were in the springtime of our youth,
    And the world still look'd pleasant to the eye,
Though many a vision had been chas'd by truth,
    And many a hope had blossom'd but to die;
New ties had bound us, and had found an end,
Yet still thou wert mine own beloved friend.

More sacred ties are twin'd around thee now,
    Another claims thy duty and thy love;
Before high heaven your lips have breath'd the
                vow
    To honour and to cherish — may he prove
Thy ark of refuge from the world's dark sea,
A joy, a blessing, gentle friend, to thee.

Be all thy wishes centred now in him,
    Thy hopes and fears be ne'er from his apart,
So if his lot should for awhile be dim,
    He then may turn unto thy changeless heart,
And find in thee, amid his sorrow's night,
A faithful guide, a lamp of quenchless light.

Our souls were never bound in that strong thrall
    Which makes the heart yearn even to enchain
Each thought, each wish of its lov'd idol — all —
    Blending with love at once a joy and pain;
My vows were never offer'd at thy shrine —
I wish'd thee happy, though no bliss were mine.

We grew together, and our friendship grew —
    From child to maiden, and from maid to bride
I saw the change — in every change as true;
    So may that truth still in thy heart preside —
The husband of thy choice, oh, may he find
Change visits not the soul where he is shrin'd.


――――♦――――

 
THE SIBYL
A PICTURE


TURN not away thine eyes from me;
    What, though, by wizard art,
Pictur'd upon thine hand I see
    The secrets of thine heart;
No darkling thought of care or sin
    With thee hath found a place,
But all is beautiful within,
    Fair as thy form and face.

As yet there has not been a blight
    Upon thy maiden years;
The flashings of those glances bright,
    Have ne'er been quench'd in tears.
The future cometh to my call,
    The past — I see it still;
The past, the present, future — all
    Are given to my skill.

Thou hast had dreams of happiness,
    In days that now are gone ;
The future it hath bliss to bless
    Thy lot, thou lovely one.
The chosen of thy secret flame,
    I'll breathe it in thine ear —
Nay, start not, blush not at his name,
    For he is true as dear.

Oh, there is many a beauteous maid,
    Whose fate is wrapt in gloom,
And many a form of grace doth fade,
    And find an early tomb;
THINE is a sunny horoscope,
    The visions of thy youth,
Each wish of thine, each cherish'd hope,
    Will end in joy and truth.


――――♦――――

 
LINES ON THE PORTRAIT
OF A CELEBRATED FEMALE VOCALIST


CHILD of the lute-like voice, and sunny brow !
    Sweet thoughts are with me, as thy type I see,
And blessed memories of the time when thou
    Entranc'd my spirit with thy minstrelsy.

Surely within thy youthful heart there dwells
    Some fount of melody, some hidden spring,
In whose pure flow gush forth a thousand spells,
    Joy, grief, or pity, o'er the soul to fling.

Thou hast been foster'd 'neath Italian skies,
    Where myriads doted on thy voice and smile,
And gay, and noble, breath'd devoted sighs
    To the young beauty of the sea-girl Isle.

Maid with the violet eye, and swan-like mien!
    When thou wert roving in a stranger-land,
Came there no thought of thine own valleys
                green,
    Like visions form'd by some enchanter's wand?

Though proud and high-born listen'd to thy song,
    And paid the tribute of their praise to thee,
Came not sad memories those bright scenes
                among?
    Thine own dear land, oh, dwelt it not with thee?

HERE every voice that hail'd thee, gave it not
    A joy, a rapture to thy banish'd heart?
Friends, dear familiar friends, HERE bless thy
                lot—
    THERE thou of all wert but a thing apart.

The young stag loves its own wood-paths to roam,
    The quiet lamb its green and peaceful vale,
The fair flower droops if sever'd from its home —
    And o'er thy soul its influence must prevail.

Oh, gentle minstrel, may no worldly blight
    Cloud or destroy thy radiant loveliness;
Nor time, nor sorrow, dim thine eyes, glad light,
    Nor blanch the brightness of one wreathing
                tress.

May'st thou through life pass as a breeze or bird,
    With light, and joy, and music on thy way;
And may thy voice 'mid angel-tones be heard,
    Singing the praises of eternal day.


――――♦――――

 
AGNES LEE


AGNES LEE was the only child of a respectable tradesman, and having been, from her birth, of a delicate constitution, she was brought up with more than ordinary care and tenderness by her parents.  She had not, however, attained her fifteenth year when death bereft her of her father.  Unfortunately for herself and mother, Mr. Lee's income had been barely sufficient to enable him to appear with credit in the eyes of the world, and maintain an elegant, though not extravagant household establishment; so that on his decease after defraying the expenses of his funeral, and paying off various small debts, little save the furniture of their dwelling remained as the portion of his widow and daughter.  Their domestics were immediately discharged, a smaller mansion entered upon, and such articles as were not really of use were disposed of.  By adopting this plan, they were enabled to make a trifling addition to their small stock of wealth.  What was now to be done — what course must they now pursue?  Their scanty means would speedily be exhausted, and, thus suddenly flung upon their own resources, they were like two voyagers cast on an unknown shore, completely at a loss what path to take.  Mrs. Lee cared not so much for herself as for her child, whose fragile frame, shrinking in the calm season of prosperity, seemed all unfit to cope with the bleak and chilling blasts of adversity; but it is not always those whose spirits are light and whose cheeks are flushed with health that bear up the best when the dark hours of adversity close around them.  There are some whose virtues are unobserved, whose energies are buried in the solitude of their own breasts, until an unforeseen stroke of destiny calls them forth; there are beings who, like the night-loving flower, withhold their beauty and perfume from the sunshine, and when the shadows of misfortune cloud existence, and their gayer companions become sad and spiritless, shed around their fragrance and gladden with their loveliness.  Such a being was Agnes Lee, and the pale and delicate girl who in prosperity seemed scarcely able to support existence, now she was required to exert herself in aid of her beloved parent appeared suddenly to acquire new strength and vigour.  With promptness did she put in practice her mother's projects, and with discernment beyond her age suggest others.

    No features ever bore a truer impress of their owner's mind than those of Agnes Lee.  They were of that meek and angelic cast which an artist would covet for his model if he wished to paint a Madonna.  Many, as she sat at the open casement, in the bright days of summer, would pause to gaze on her sunny countenance, and often, as they gazed, the words "God bless thee, Agnes Lee!" would issue almost involuntarily from their lips.  Her form was in accordance with her features, not lofty and commanding, but of that height which is usually termed the middle size; rather slight, though not so much so as to destroy its symmetry.  Her voice was sweet and plaintive, and like the harp which is awoke by the breeze, it varied with the slightest emotion of her heart.

    From morning to night might she be seen plying her needle, and often was she heard chanting some simple and cheerful ditty.  She was her parent's sole support and pride, and often were the widow's eyes suffused with tears as she looked on her fair and gentle child, whose lot was so early clouded by misfortune.  Time passed on, and Agnes grew up in innocence and beauty, and her mother began to feel reconciled to her altered state.  It was on an evening at the commencement of winter that Agnes was returning home, having been to purchase a few of the essential articles of female employment, when she was interrupted in her progress by a wretch who was far advanced in at state of intoxication.  Vainly did she attempt to escape from his persecutions; he was not to be discouraged, and the trembling girl was at length compelled to claim the aid of a passer-by to free her from her disagreeable companion.  With one blow was the drunkard sent reeling to the earth, and her protector politely requested that she would allow him to be her escort home.  She was too much alarmed to refuse, and he accordingly accompanied her to the dwelling of her parent, by whom he was rewarded with a profusion of thanks.  The stranger, who was a tall and gentlemanly looking young man with a frank and ingenuous countenance, disclaimed all merit for the service he had performed, but earnestly begged that he might again be suffered to visit them.  After some little hesitation Mrs. Lee complied with his request, and he took his leave, signifying his intention of calling upon them the following evening.  From that time he became a constant visitor at the widow's house, and a passion with which she had hitherto been unacquainted took possession of the heart of Agnes Lee.  She loved — loved with all the devotedness of woman's first affection, and to her it was a dream of happiness, for she saw that she was beloved; yet at times, even in his most joyous moments, would the brow of her lover, as he gazed upon her innocent features, grow dark as night, and his lips would quiver as though he were under the influence of some concealed but powerful emotion.  Often was Agnes alarmed as this expression came over his countenance, and as often did he evade all her enquiries as to its cause.  So time wore away, and each day brought with it some fresh proof to Agnes of the increased devotion of her lover; each day he became dearer to her youthful heart.  Alas, that the purest and, strongest of human passions should too often prove a curse to its possessor!  Why seek to prolong a tale of sorrow!  Mrs. Lee was called on to visit a sick and distant relative, and during her absence Agnes became the victim of a seducer.  Her lover took abase advantage of his power, and destroyed her happiness for ever.  Her mirth, her gaiety, her love of existence were now all gone from her — he spoke of their union, and she answered but by tears — he talked of coming gladness and joy, and still tears were her only answer.  He endeavoured to cheer her heart and soothe her woe, but it was evident that he himself needed consolation, and cherished a cause of grief which he durst not trust his lips to utter even to her.  When he spoke of their marriage he named no shortly coming day; he dwelt upon it as an event of joy, but his look and tone belied his language.  Weeks thus passed in delusive promises.  At length the hour, the day on which he had appointed to see her elapsed, and yet he came not.  A weary, a miserable week did she spend in the agony of hope deferred, and no tidings were received of her lover.

    It was evening, and Mrs. Lee had long been gazing with tearful eyes on the faded cheeks and colourless lips of her daughter.  All inquiries as to the nature of her malady were fruitless, and little did her mother suspect the shame and dishonour which had polluted the temple of her hopes.  A knock announced the postman's arrival with a letter ― it was for Agnes.  With a trembling hand and quivering lip did she tear away the seal; but no sooner had her eyes rested on the contents, than the letter dropped from her grasp, and with a wild and fearful shriek she fell prostrate on the floor.  It was not until she was conveyed to a couch and restored to some degree of consciousness that the thoughts of her agonised and affrighted mother recurred to the letter which had occasioned this alarming paroxysm.  Mrs. Lee now sought a solution of the mystery.  The letter ran as follows :—


"For a villain like myself there is no hope of pardon here, or mercy hereafter.  If there ever existed a fiend in human shape, such am I.  I entered the abode of innocence, happiness, and virtue, and I left it the abode of guilt, shame, and sorrow.  I found a lily of surpassing beauty and purity, and I have blighted it.  Oh, Agnes, Agnes, how shall I tell the damning tale!  My tears blister the paper — a thousand furies seem preying on my heart, and my whole frame shakes with anguish.  Agnes, ere I knew you I was MARRIED!  Wretch that I have ever been — for gold I wedded one I loved not, and the result has been what I might have anticipated — misery to both.  I saw you, and then I first knew what it was to love.  Each time I beheld you strengthened the chain which bound me, until it grew too powerful to be broken.  Many times I resolved to leave you for ever, ere I had made an impression on your sinless heart; reason, honour, every good feeling told me I was basely dragging you to destruction, but passion triumphed over all, and I stopped not until I had accomplished your ruin.  For forgiveness I dare neither sue nor hope.  My wife and I have for sometime been separated.  I never loved but one, and she has been the victim of my love.  All that I ask is that you will if possible forbear to curse me — I could bear all but the curses of Agnes Lee.  Think of me as a wretch who has been the slave of passion — think of me as one whose own thoughts are to him a hell, and the memory of whose crime, haunting him like a demon, will drive him on to death or madness.  I know not what I say — I only know that the fate of the vilest felon — the stake, the flame, the halter, or the axe, would be for me a death too merciful, and would be bliss compared to the torments I now endure.  Farewell ― for ever."


    For many days Agnes Lee lay in a burning and delirious fever, and the health of her mother, which had been lately in a declining state, had received so severe a shock from the dreadful intelligence contained in the fatal letter, and her constant attendance on her ruined child, that it now became seriously affected.  I am anxious to put an end to this tale of shame and suffering, and I shall therefore hasten to a close.  Agnes rose from her bed of sickness to watch by the couch of her mother, for grief had done its work on her, and that mother was dying of a broken heart.  She died, and no power could force the daughter from the parent's corse; nor day, nor night did she quit the lifeless clay ― she followed it to the grave — the damp earth hid the coffin from her view — and yet she wept not.  She declined the offers of such as wished her to share for awhile their humble dwellings, and returned to her own lonely and desolate home, that home which had once been the abode of all her joys, which was now the refuge of her sorrows.

    The night was far advanced, the candle burned dimly, and shone on the features of Agnes Lee with a yellow and flickering light, as she sat pale and motionless, when suddenly a loud knocking disturbed the quiet street.  The impatient visitor, as though he could not brook further delay, on no answer being made to his summons, flung open the door, and rushed into the mourner' apartment.  It was her betrayer.  He clasped her to his breast — he imprinted kiss after kiss on her unresisting lips.  "Agnes," cried he "my love, my wife, look up and speak to me.  I am now thine own, thine own, beloved one.  She who kept me from thee slumbers in the grave.  I thought not once that I could have rejoiced at another's death, but now I cannot check my soul's wild gladness.  Wilt thou not look on me?  I have erred, but years of penitence and love shall make amends for all — I will not, cannot live another day without thee.  To-morrow must I call thee mine to-morrow will I claim thee at the holy altar as mine own, my beautiful, my blessed bride!"  He paused, and shrunk affrighted from the bloodless features and dull and vacant eyes which greeted him.  "Lost, lost Agnes Lee — for ever, ever lost!" were the only words which broke from the mourner's lips.  He gazed long and wildly on the face of her he loved, and striking his forehead distractedly with his clenched hands, he muttered "And this, too, is my work?"

    Agnes Lee was a maniac — a maniac unblest with lucid intervals.  Lover, friends, all were alike indifferent too her.  She would sit for hours, gazing on some common object with unmeaning and lustreless eyes, and "Lost, lost for ever!" were the only words to which she gave utterance.  Thus for years did she linger, until death released her from her suffering and her sorrow.  On her death-bed, for the first time since the estrangement of her reason, she recognised her penitent lover, who had not deserted her in her hours of darkness.  She looked on him with a smile of intelligence, and he was happy, for he saw that she rejoiced to die in his arms.


――――♦――――

 
BEAUTY'S MORN AND NOON


I saw thee first a young and gentle child,
    That ne'er had dream'd of sorrow or of sin;
By the world's taint thou wert all undefil'd,
    And fair without as thou wert pure within:
I almost deem'd that Time would stay his wing,
Lest he should scathe so beauteous a thing.

Like the gazelle's thine eye was shy and bright,
    Thy step was as the antelope's free tread;
Thou liv'dst and mov'dst in radiance and light,
    And where thou wert a joy around was shed —
As some wild flower that springeth up in bloom,
And fills the breeze with its own sweet perfume.

I thought not that the world could e'er hold aught
    More rich in beauty than thy form of grace,
And 'mid earth's loveliness in vain I sought
    For aught so lovely as thy sunny face;
I saw and bless'd—for years we dwelt apart,
Yet still thine image linger'd with my heart.

We met again — thou wert a child no more,
    I look'd upon a graceful, sylph-like maid,
Such as was said to haunt, in days of yore,
    The dreams of bard by fount and forest shade;
And childhood's charms had yielded one by one
To riper bloom, as stars yield to the sun.

She I beheld in life's enchanted morn,
    Deeming nought lovelier e'er could bless my sight,
Even as the day from the fresh dawn is born,
    In her full noon of beauty shone more bright —
The palm of loveliness was still thine own,
Thou wert excell'd, sweet, by thyself alone.


――――♦――――

 
A DAUGHTER TO HER DEAD SIRE


MY father! thou art sleeping now,
    Within the silent tomb;
With tearful eye, and clouded brow,
    I live to mourn thy doom.

My sire! — Oh, God, thou answer'st not —
    Thou CAN'ST NOT answer me;
Thy lips are mute — the voice forgot
    That wildly calls on thee.

They ask me why, with bloom decay'd,
    I droop and pine away:
Oh, well the cheek of her may fade,
    Whose heart is with the clay.

My young mates tell me that my voice
    Hath lost its joyous tone —
It hath — for how can she rejoice,
    Whose cause of joy is gone?

Nor song, nor dance hath charm for me,
    Their witchery all hath fled;
I shun them, and I ask for thee —
    I scarce can think thee dead.

To festive scenes they bid me turn,
    And chase my vain regret;
But sure 'twere better still to mourn,
    Than all thy love forget.

Thou wert the beacon of my youth,
    The star whose cheering ray
Shone brightly o'er the path of truth,
    And turn'd from vice away.

The star is quench'd—the ray hath fled,
    And dark and desolate
My path — and can I know thee dead,
    And yet not weep thy fate?

I heard thee breathe the parting sigh,
    I saw thee look thy last,
My lifeless sire! — alas, that I
    Should say thy life is past!

I call, but thou do'st not awake —
    In vain the tear-drop flows;
Nor voice, nor tear of mine can break
    Thy dreamless, dark repose!


――――♦――――

 
OH, THINK'ST THOU I
REMEMBER NOT


OH, think'st thou I remember not
    The vows pledg'd at thy shrine?
Oh, do'st thou deem thyself forgot,
    When flows the sparkling wine?
Amid the song, amid the dance,
    Thine image dwells with me;
Each fairy form, each thrilling glance,
    But tells my heart of thee.

The lays I breathe are all thine own,
    For thee I touch the lute;
Had not thine eyes upon me shone,
    Its tones had aye been mute.
Oh, thou hast been the star that shed
    Its kindly light on me;
When hearts grew cold, and joy had fled,
    I found no change in thee.


――――♦――――

 
TO THE BELLS


AS thus I wander in the twilight's shade,
How fitfully doth come upon mine ear
Your far-off pealing music, sweet-ton'd bells.
Entranc'd I listen to your harmony,
That sounds so wild and changeful on the breeze.
Now doth it murmuring die upon the wind,
And now again it comes, with bursting swell
In full, deep melody, unto my soul.
I love to wander, when in serious mood,
And listen to your mellow, witching tones;
They make to me e'en gloom and sadness sweet,
And pleasing to the mind.   Ye do possess
A music, too, for bright and joyous hours:
Oft have I seen the home-bound villager,
His labour done, plod briskly, blithely on,
As listening to your merry minstrelsy,
From tower of rustic church, he ceas'd to think
Of all the toils and hardships of the day.
And ye have one, a solitary note,
Of mournful, solemn import, which doth draw
The mind to muse upon the dreary grave,
And then doth lift the thoughts to regions fair,
Far, far above the clouds—to lovely homes,
Replete with holy joy and blessedness.
A few short years, and other ears will perhaps
Hear that same lonely knell tolling for ME:
So let it be! yet I will not repine,
But rather strive to live so that when Death
Shall call me to his damp and earthy couch,
I there may rest awhile, then rise and shake
From off my limbs his dull and heavy sleep,
And wake again in Heaven's effulgent light.


――――♦――――

 
FAIRS


This way, this way, for the players, the players; remember,
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is none of your paltry conjuration.

HUMOURS OF BARTHOLOMEW FAIR.


I well remember the many delightful associations which the name of a fair used to conjure up in my young imagination.  For weeks preceding it did I live in anticipation of the treat.  It was a panacea for all my sorrows, and a stimulus to my good actions.  If I offended I was terrified into reformation with a threat that I should be kept from the fair, and if my deeds merited reward, a promise that I should participate in its enjoyments cheered me on and incited me to persevere in a proper line of conduct.  I can yet recall the time when I was led by the hand of my nurse to this scene of bustle and pleasure.  All that belonged to it had a peculiar delight for me.  The crowds of people pouring into the place — the stalls of toys and gingerbread with which its approaches were lined, and the groups of astonished rustics, clad in their holiday suits, all furnished me food for amusement.  When we reached the heart of the fair I was absolutely lost in wonder and amaze at the splendour and magnificence which greeted me.  The spangled jackets and tinselled caps of the figurantes on the outside stages of the shows seemed to me the very essence of finery, and the drollery of the clowns never failed to provoke my risible faculties.

    Things wore then a very different aspect at these places of amusement to what they do at the present period.  The tinsel and spangles are bereft of their ancient glitter, the music has lost its melody, and the merriment of the clowns seems to have passed away.  It may be that the change which has taken place in myself causes me to fancy that these rude festivals are changed for the worse.  The loud and clanging gong which announced the dismissal of an audience, is fast falling into disuse; the many witticisms of the clowns, which "were wont to set the rabble in a roar," are now seldom or never heard, and the very nature of the exhibitions is totally altered.  The outsides of the booths it is true are more magnificent than formerly, and their decorations are of a more picturesque and gorgeous character.  To me, however, this does not compensate for those pictures of fun and folly, those fantastic representations, and those wild and quaint strokes of humour which created of old such peals of laughter.  The figurantes now move about as though their situation was one of too elevated a rank to permit them to bandy epithets with the gaping crowd, and the clowns themselves seem to consider any outside display of humour as detracting from their dignity.

    Conjuring has had its day, and the vomiting of pins and needles, and the wonderful operation of drawing out ribbons from the mouth are fast sinking into oblivion.  Strong women, who could sustain ponderous weights by the hair of the head, or endure an anvil placed on their bosoms to be beaten with sledge hammers, no longer attract observation.  Dwarfs, giants, and fat children must soon learn to earn a livelihood by labouring like ordinary mortals.  Bears are no longer suffered to caricature the female sex, under the name of pig-faced ladies, and the whole tribe of this kind of impositions will speedily be put to the rout.  Dramatic exhibitions are now the rage, and every thing else is abandoned to make way for theatrical representations.  From the lowest booth to the splendid pavilion all are embarked in the acting-line.  The celerity with which these exhibiters get through their performances is actually surprising.  A play, two or three songs, and a pantomime being often gone through in little more than a quarter of an hour.  Much has been said and written about the decline of the drama, and the departure of public taste for theatricals.  Some have ascribed it to a dearth of dramatic authors, others have imputed it to at want of talent in our actors; but I am inclined to think that one of the chief causes of the desertion of provincial theatres has never been taken sufficiently into consideration.  The lower is certainly not the most discriminating class, and to the people that compose this class it little matters whether the pieces they see are well or ill performed.  Whilst they can gratify their inclination for dramatic entertainments at these penny or two-penny theatres, they will not visit the more expensive ones.  Those of a higher order seeing the amusements of the drama so degraded, begin to treat them with neglect and contempt, and seek for some other gratifications in which to spend their leisure hours.  To return from this digression.  Even the exhibitions of "wild beasts" are losing their attractions.  Formerly people contemplated these ferocious members of the brute creation in awe and astonishment, and many a heart has palpitated at beholding the blood-thirsty tiger, or on hearing the growls of the captive monarch of the forest, as its daring keeper thrust his head into its capacious mouth.  The feats of the sagacious elephant were once objects of intense surprise and curiosity, and the dexterity and docility with which it discharged a pistol, knelt at its keeper's command, took up a sixpence with its huge trunk, or made its bow to the company, were long themes of conversation with the beholders.  The famed theatrical elephants have now thrown into the shade all others of their species, and Van Amburg and Carter with their troops of lions, tigers, &c. will shortly make the public cease to think of the tenants of a cage.

    Though fairs have no longer the charm for me which they possessed in youthful days, I still love to ramble through them, and gaze on these scenes of old delights.  I generally too, once during a fair, pay a visit to one of the booths, especially if I can meet with one of the old stamp ― an exhibition consisting of balancing, slack-wire dancing, tumbling, and so forth.  Whilst I am on the subject of fairs I cannot forbear introducing to the reader a character with whom I became acquainted some years ago, whilst waiting on the outside stage of one of the booths for admission.

    Wheedling Joe, as he was nick-named, had been an exhibiter at fairs all his life.  He had been a performer on the flying rope, a tumbler, a tight rope dancer, and lastly a clown.  This last was his favourite character, and he was a complete adept at all the whimsicalities incidental to a correct representation of the part.  His method of converting the salt-box into a musical instrument was beyond parallel, and his jokes were unrivalled.  When I first saw Joe he was habited as a clown, and had contrived to become possessed of a small booth of his own.  No persuasions could ever induce Joe to give into the modern practice of dramatic exhibitions.  Whilst all his neighbours were adapting their performances to the taste of the times, and hiring a set of rascals to stamp and rage, and tear their native language to tatters, Joe stood firm.  With him, balancing, tumbling, and slack-wire dancing were still the order of the day, and ever and anon, amidst the din and confusion around him, might his voice be heard inviting people to walk into the only genuine exhibition in the fair.  The people left poor Joe and his genuine exhibitions to themselves, and flocked to witness the innovations of his neighbours.  He bore up against poverty with a light heart, and it had not the effect of making him change his opinions.  However, it often obliged him to put in practice the art of wheedling, for which he was celebrated.  When Joe had almost finished erecting his booth he was generally short of some trifle, which his pocket was too low to enable him to purchase.  A piece of timber or a yard or two of canvass were sometimes articles absolutely necessary for the completion of his edifice, and these he could only obtain from the generosity of his richer neighbours.  When he found how matters stood, away he would post to Mr. C――, the proprietor of the circus, and commence a rambling discourse on the ordinary topics of conversation, until he found a way of introducing his request at what he conceived to be a favourable opportunity.  The end of Joe's harangues was always in language something like the following.  "My eyes! Mr. C――, but you have a fine set of prads (horses) — a beautiful set of prads — I never saw such a set of prads in my life, and I have seen prads before to-day.  I say Mr. C――, you'll draw 'em in this time any how.  There's S――, now at the other side with his acting-shop—knock 'em down, blue fire, a ghost, and "turn out."  It won't do, Mr. C――, it won't do — folks won't stand it — they've had enough of acting.  They want to see a bit of horsemanship — that's the thing for drawing 'em in.  I've a snug little concern of my own though, that'll make one or two of 'em look queer — a tight little thing it is — quite complete — except at the top, where the LITTLEST bit of canvass — you haven't a bit of canvass — the LITTLEST bit in the world, to spare — have you?"

    Joe mostly accomplished his object, and then, after having secured his prize, set off to Mr. S――, the proprietor of a splendid booth on the opposite side.  "My eyes! Mr. S――, but you've a nice set of men — a beautiful set of men — I never saw such men in my life, and I have seen men before to day.  I say Mr. S――, you'll draw 'em in this time any how.  There's Mr. C ――, now, on the other side with his prads.  It won't do Mr. S――, it won't do — folks won't stand it.  They've had enough of riding.  They want a bit of acting — knock 'em down, blue fire, and a ghost ― that's the sort of thing for drawing 'em in.  I've a snug little concern of my own, &c."  He always ended with a similar request.

    Thus did he manage to live, until one unlucky day, in swallowing a sword, (a favourite trick of his) he happened to thrust the blade a little too far, and, before it could be extricated, poor Joe was incapable of swallowing any more.


――――♦――――

 
THE CAPTIVE KNIGHT


HE did not yield as cowards yield,
    Upon the battle-plain;
Full many a dint was on his shield,
    His corslet reft in twain;
The bright blade of his falchion good
Was cover'd o'er with Moslem blood.

The waving plume his helm had left,
    And broken was the lance
That many a guarded heart had cleft,
    Yet quail'd not his proud glance,
Till foeman's hand, with dastard blow,
Struck him, amid his conquests, low.

They bore him to a castle-keep,
    Begirt with massy stone,
And in a dungeon dark and deep,
    The captive-knight was thrown,
Distant from cheering voice and far
From steel-clad hosts and sound of war.

Was this a fitting place for him,
    A gay and noble knight?
And must his glory thus grow dim,
    Thus end his pathway bright?
The damp his balm for festering wound,
His couch the chill and clammy ground.

He had been lull'd by perfum'd sigh
    Unto a gentle rest,
O'er him a rich-wrought canopy,
    His pillow beauty's breast;
And who to his fair bride should tell
He languish'd in a loathsome cell?

They left him in his solitude,
    To sicken, droop, and moan,
The coarsest bread his only food,
    His seat a crumbling stone;
A stranger to the light of day,
They let him pine and waste away.

Then brought they robes and gems of price,
    To be to him a dower,
If he his faith would sacrifice,
    And own their prophet's power;
With flashing and indignant eye,
He spurn'd them and he ask'd to die.

They loaded him with heavy chain,
    And taunted bitterly,
Told him he had not ask'd in vain,
    For he with dawn should die;
And then they left him to his fate,
Fearless, though doom'd and desolate.

Night veils the gloomy keep around,
    Anon is heard a clash,
And warlike men with thundering sound,
    The gate of dungeon dash;
And brightly breaks the morn to see
The Moslem quell'd, the Christian free.


――――♦――――

 
TO AN INFANT


Sweet babe, that clingest to thy mother's knee,
    As to the oak the loving ivy clings,
Ah, would that I were once again like thee!
    Woe comes with years, and care with reason
                springs.

No breath of sin e'er stain'd those lips of rose;
    The glance of joy that flashes from thine eye
O'er thy fair cheek a witching halo throws,
    Like landscape glowing 'neath a cloudless sky.

How quickly is awoke thy childish mirth,
    As quickly, too, are caus'd thy dew-like tears;
But dies thy grief the moment of its birth,
    Whilst mine is heartfelt and endures for years.

THY grief! oh, is it grief? — a summer-shower
    Lasting an instant, then 'tis bright and fair;
A passing cloud amid a sunny hour —
    Mine is the chilling winter of despair.

I am not aged — I am young in years —
    O'er blighted hopes, perchance I have not
                wept,
Yet have I sorrow'd UNRELIEV'D by tears,
    And my sunk eyes have care-fraught vigils
                kept.

I would that I were once again like thee!
    My wish is vain — life is not as the tide
That onward flows, then back again doth flee —
    It is a stream that onward aye must glide.

Man is a boat launch'd on a stormy sea,
    Expos'd to every shock of wind and wave,
Running his course unto eternity—
    He droops his sails — his harbour is the
                grave.

Thy sails are spread, and beautiful art thou,
    Bright be thy journey o'er life's troubled
                stream;
Though much I fear the joys thou dream'st of
                now
    Will all, alas, prove but to BE a dream.


――――♦――――

 
THE DREAM


I had a dream in the still hours of night,
    The breath of roses mingled with the air,
And silver streams were gushing 'neath the light
    Of the bright moon, which like a maiden fair,
Walk'd o'er the pathway of the azure skies,
    As one that shone to gladden and to bless,
And the fair stars, as radiant as thine eyes,
    Floated in heaven in throbbing loveliness.

A low sweet voice came murmuring to mine ear,
    And sounds of music swell'd the passing
                breeze.
And long I stood transfix'd 'mid hope and fear,
    Listening entranc'd to distant melodies:
I gaz'd — from out a green and leafy bower
    A form of beauty burst upon my sight;
I felt upon my soul a spell of power,
    And my heart trembled with a new delight.

The image of my dreaming glided on,
    And all seem'd brighter as she pass'd along,
And still the voice of that most beauteous one
    Made rich the air with melody and song;
And as I saw her form of grace depart,
    My ears drank in a burthen wild and sweet,
Whose words must linger ever with my heart:
    Thus sang the maid "We do but part to meet!"

'Twas but a vision, and I had no thought
    Of living maid so beautiful as she
Whom sleep had pictur'd, for I deem'd that
                I nought
    Of mortal birth so lovely e'er could be.
I met thee — could it be? — ah, mystic sleep,
    Through its dim shadows doth the future
                gleam?
I saw in thee the image graven deep
    Within my soul — the minstrel of my dream!

Say, wilt thou pardon him who dares to name
    Thee and thy loveliness in his rude lay?
The humble shepherd sure thou would'st not
                blame,
    Who wakes his lute to praise some star's
                bright ray:
Thou unto me art as a glorious star,
    A lovely orb which I must needs admire,
A light which I may worship from afar —
    Then, lady, frown not though I wake my lyre.

Or thou shalt be a saint, and I will be
    A lowly pilgrim kneeling at thy shrine,
Offering, as proof of my idolatry,
    A simple token to thy powers divine;
Lady, reject not then thy pilgrim's prayer,
    Accept his gift for unto thee belong
The dowers of melody and beauty rare,
    Thou gentle queen of loveliness and song.


――――♦――――

 
THE BETROTHED


The world for him held only one —
She died — and he was desolate — Anon.


THERE is nothing more afflicting than the death of a young and virtuous female; one who passes away like a flower which just opens its bright blossoms to the sun, and then fades and withers under the influence of some blasting mildew.  It is, indeed, a mournful thing to behold one of those lovely beings, who dwell upon the earth like creatures of another and a purer element, one moment flitting across us radiant with health and beauty, and in the next to know that they are food for the loathsome worm.  It is true that their death is not productive of the same evil consequences as that of a mother; they leave behind them no offspring to weep their loss and grow up amidst ill usage and neglect; and yet, for my own part, I cannot help viewing their departure as I should the quenching of one of the loveliest stars of heaven.  I should not regret so much that a world had perished, as for the loss of its light and beauty.  Never did death strike a fairer victim, and never was victim more mourned for, than she of whom I shall now present an imperfect sketch to the reader.

    I shall describe Marian Seymour as she was in her nineteenth year, a few months previous to her death.  She was about the middle, or rather of the lower size; yet, though her figure was somewhat diminutive, the most fastidious observer would not have denied that it was exactly proportioned in the scale of symmetry.  However, it was not her figure that formed her principal attraction; it was her features, her innocent and expressive features, which you could not look upon without being repossessed in her favour.  Her eyes were exquisitely beautiful, and yet, even now, I cannot be positive as to their colour; they were so bright, and glanced so shy and fawn-like from beneath their long silken fringe, that it is difficult to paint them truly, though I believe them to have been of a deep violet hue.  Her hair was a rich auburn, and twined round a neck and brow which rivalled in stainless purity the snowy plumage of the swan; and her voice had one of those low melodious tones which dwell upon the ear like "faint echoes of remembered music."  Happiness was in her heart, and health on her brow, and thus she grew up, a glad and sinless child, the dove of her parents' ark — the flower of their rural dwelling.  Unused to mingle with the world, she wished not for its pleasures, and was a stranger to its prejudices.


"Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
 And waste its sweetness on the desert air."


but it was not so with Marian Seymour; and it would have been hard if all the deep and fervent feeling, enshrined within her young breast, had been suffered to exist without being called into action.  Retired as she lived, there was one eye which had found her amid her seclusion; there was one heart which admired her beauty and appreciated her virtues.  Albert Russel was the only son and favourite child of a wealthy widow who dwelt in the neighbourhood.  Often in his morning rambles, had he seen the fair form of Marian, as she scattered the grain to her brood of doves, whilst they hovered around their benefactress, or perched fearlessly upon her shoulder.  It recks not to tell how the youthful couple formed an intimacy; suffice it to say that Albert Russel loved Marian Seymour, and was loved in return, yes, ardently, devotedly loved.  I am of those who hold the opinion that the heart can know but once the passion of love in its truest and purest state: we may, perhaps, in the course of life, feel it many times in a slight degree; but once, and once only, can we feel that deep and engrossing passion which throws a halo around its object, making it appear as something superior to the common things of earth, and casting over our path an air of romance and gladness.  First love is as the bright waters of the spring, which though they may flow on joyously at a distance from their birth-place, are still purest at their source.

    Towards the close of the golden days of summer, when they were about to fade into gray twilight, you might see the bark of the birch-trees which lined the lane leading to Marian Seymour's dwelling, darkened by the shadow of a light and agile form, which bounded swiftly forward; and then you might hear the rustling of drapery, as it fluttered in the low breeze, and behold a blushing female clasped to the bosom of a graceful youth.  Thus evening after evening, did the lovers meet.  They lived but for each other: their very souls seemed blended together, and they appeared actuated by one thought, one impulse, one desire-that of contributing to each other's happiness.  To speak in the language of the immortal Shakespeare,


           "They grew together,
 Like to a double cherry, seeming parted,
 But yet as union in partition;
 Two lovely berries moulded on one stem;
 So with two seeming bodies but one heart."


    It was verging into the spring-time of the year; the rose, the violet, and other flowers that love the warm sun, had not yet unfolded their leaves and given their beauty to the eye; and the modest daisy and star-like primrose were almost the only gems of nature that peered from out their green veils and looked on the smiling landscape, when Albert was obliged to make a journey into the western part of England, for the purpose of investigating a considerable portion of landed property, which had descended to him by the death of a distant relative.  The business was not expected to detain him above a month, but, like one who has the keeping of a rich treasure, and is afraid to be a moment from it, lest some rapacious hand should seize it and bear it away, so fearful was he of leaving his beloved one, that ere he bade her farewell, at his urgent request they were solemnly betrothed in the presence of their mutual parents.  It is almost useless to attempt to describe their parting: those who have themselves been in a similar situation will easily imagine how many bitter tears were shed, and how they clung together at the last moment, and with what agony they breathed the long-delayed adieu.  To those who have not been similarly situated, mere words would be ineffectual to convey an idea of their feelings.

    Contrary to Albert's expectations, on arriving at the place of his destination, he found that he should be detained for the space of two or three months: he, accordingly, wrote to Marian, lamenting the circumstances which prolonged their separation, assuring her of his unchanging fidelity, and fixing the time of his return as the period when he hoped to lead her to the altar.  When those with whom we are in the habit of associating daily are seized with a slow and lingering illness, it is almost impossible for us to judge accurately of the change which the disease creates in the appearance, whilst one who has left the invalid in health, and has been for some time absent, is astonished at the ravages which have been commit ted by the disorder.  So it was with Marian Seymour; in the eyes of her parents she had scarcely undergone any alteration; they saw that her cheeks had gradually assumed a pale and almost transparent hue; the faint crimson, that was wont to overspread her features, seemed to have congregated together, and settled in two small spots of bright and dazzling red; still, however, they were not alarmed for her safety.  She had not the same lightness and buoyancy of step which she possessed a few weeks before; her favourite walks were neglected, and she seldom left the shelter of her home; but she complained not, and her parents thought their child would resume her bloom and cheerfulness on the re-appearance of her lover.

    Near the end of July, Albert Russel, having finished the business in which he had been engaged, again enfolded Marian Seymour to his heart.  When the first transports of their meeting had past, he was struck with the change, the fearful change, which was visible in her wan countenance and wasted form.  It was in vain that he attempted to deceive himself; he saw too plainly that a slow, but sure consumption, was exerting its withering influence over his destined bride.  "Good God!" said he mentally, after the transient glow which had lit up her features at their first greeting had vanished, "and is it thus we meet again? — do I behold her but to know that she must soon be lost to me for ever?"  She endeavoured to appear cheerful, but it was evident to the eyes of her lover that she was aware of the destiny that awaited her.  He spoke to her of their union.  "Not yet," said she, with a mournful smile; "not yet; wait but a little longer, and all will be well."

    At the decline of the day which followed Albert's return, the lovers sought one of their accustomed walks.  It was one of those tranquil and delightful evenings which are often witnessed at the beginning of autumn.  The clouds, as they careered majestically through the heavens, with their dazzling hues of purple, silver, and gold, appeared like the splendid chariots of some gorgeous pageant, moving in triumph along the blue plain of the sky; and here and there, a pale star shot forth its trembling rays, like a costly gem glittering in the coronet of some young beauty.  The happy minstrels of the green-wood, were warbling their last songs to the God of day; and the low breezes swept sighingly by, bearing in their wanderings a treasure of sweet perfume, which they had wafted from the meadows, and the odour-breathing flowers.  The leaves had already begun to forsake the trees; some were scattered on the ground, yellow and shrivelled, whilst others only slightly adhered to the branches, trembling as if conscious that the next blast would accomplish their destiny.  Supported as Marian was, by the arm of her lover, her delicate frame was too much impaired to sustain any exertion, and after a short walk they seated themselves on a grassy bank, overshadowed by the spreading branches of the elm — a couch which nature seemed to have formed as a resting-place for the weary.  A leaf became detached from one of the boughs above them, and floating a moment in the air, alighted on the maiden's bosom.  She surveyed it for some time in silence, and then exclaimed, in a tone of sadness, "Albert, in this leaf I behold an emblem of myself; it hath not remained on the tree until it became scared and withered like its companions; it hath passed away in its greenness, and thus shall I pass away.  I am conscious that the period of my death is rapidly approaching, and I own that I cannot contemplate it with firmness.  To some this may have been but a world of sorrow, yet it hath not been such to me.  I have partaken only of its joys; I have known not of its griefs.  It may be that I shall never again gaze on the setting sun, and the glorious landscape spread out before me; it may be that I look on the sky and the stars, and listen to the wild song of the birds, and the hum of the hive-bound bees for the last time; and oh, my Albert, I am indeed sad to think that I must soon leave this pleasant world, and those whom I love, for ever."  Vainly did her lover attempt to reason away her forebodings; she knew too well that the hand of death had marked her as its victim.

    It is well known that those who are labouring under consumption may struggle with the disorder for an extraordinary length of time, without being able to conquer it.  The mellow tint of autumn gave place to the snow of winter, and still Marian Seymour lived on with scarcely any perceptible alteration, save that she daily grew more feeble, and was, at length, unable to leave her parent's dwelling.  One clear, moonlight night she appeared more cheerful than she had been of late, and when she parted from Albert, who was unremitting in his attentions, a smile, as though of hope, illumined her features.  Assisted by her mother she prepared for rest, and as the moon shone full upon her through the easement of her chamber, whilst she knelt in prayer, her anguished parent was unable to restrain her tears, for she said that her daughter looked too saint-like to dwell longer in a world like this.  The morning sun had melted the frost-work on the window-panes, when her mother again entered her chamber.  She appeared to be still sleeping; her lips were parted, and a glow was on her countenance, as though she were wrapped in some blessed dream.  "I will not wake her now," said her mother, and retired.  The day was far advanced when she again visited her couch.  She had moved not; she was still calm and placid as before; and long, long might her waking have been awaited, for she slumbered in death.

    Soon after this event Albert Russel left the village of his birth, and embarked in a life of commerce.  He became a rich merchant, and distributed his wealth beneficently; but he died unmarried, and his heart never knew a second love.


――――♦――――



BY THE SAME AUTHOR

PREPARING FOR PUBLICATION

EDGAR VERNEY

A TALE OF THE PASSIONS




――――――――――――
WILMOT HENRY JONES, PRINTER, MANCHESTER

 



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