Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

when familiar objects met his eyes in his way home, all that had passed within the last two hours reassumed the semblance of a dream! Was it possible that he was again in a manner united to Theresa? that again—next day—he should see her—again hear the sounds of her voice—of that bewitching voice whose tones had still the freshness of innocence! Oh! if he could but have been deceived by his anxiety —if he might but be allowed still to give way to that confiding affection which had once made his happiness !—for he felt as if every other trial would then be light in comparison.'—vol. ii. p. 203.

There is considerable slyuess in the opening of the chapter that follows this :—

'The next morning he (almost unconsciously to himself) delayed as long as possible encountering his wife at breakfast, for he felt as if she must read the secret of his soul in the very first glance at his countenance. The instant he appeared at the drawing-room door, his little boy ran up to him; "Oh, here's papa! dear, good papa!" and he presented his rosy face for the accustomed kiss. Trevelyan took up the child in his arms, as a sort of screen between him and Augusta. "Oh! but, papa, I fear you have not been good—your face looks all I don't know how, as Freddy's does when he won't say his letters. Has mamma been scolding you ?—have you been crying? Oh, naughty papa!" and the child playfully held up his finger at Trevelyan. "Papa has a bad headache," said Trevelyan, in order to turn off the child's observation on his disordered looks into another channel, fearful that his remarks might attract those of his wife. "A headache! Poor dear papa! I will kiss it and make it well," and the child began caressing him most fondly. "I suppose the House sat very late last night?" said Augusta, without ever raising her eyes towards her husband; "for I think it must have been near three when you came home. Was there anything particular?"—"No, nothing," said Trevelyan, conscious that he coloured as he spoke.'—Ibid. p. 817.

These scenes form the opening of what we may call the third act of the drama. Trevelyan's high resolution, and at length triumphant success, in struggling against his own only passion, and the too obvious readiness of Theresa now to return to her first fancy; the jealousy of Lady Launceston, who will not understand her husband's motives or do justice to his moral strength, and who, by her determined rejection of Theresa's society, throws her, as well as Trevelyan (once more her guardian), into a perpetual maze of new and unnecessary danger and difficulty; with the continued pertinacity of Lascelles in obtruding his guilty addresses on the too often solitary beauty, and Lord Herbert Leslie's profligate intrigues with his wife's Abigail—these things fill up the third and fourth acts, with unbroken, and only too painful mterest. It is in this part of the novel that the authoress's skill is the most powerfully displayed. Theresa is, iu fact, distracted between three

loves loves—she still, in spite of all his ill-usage, loves Leslie, and would sacrilice all the world for the opportunity of pardoning and being pardoned by him: she cannot contemplate the devotion of Trevelyan without cursing the hour that she forsook him, and is every now and then withheld by nothing but his courage and elevation from throwing herself, as the phrase goes, at his head: he again cannot be constantly with her—when he is, there occur momeuts enough in which the very heroism that she in solitude worships, wounds, mortifies, and tortures her. Lascelles, meantime, is unwearied, passionate, daring, and artful—he is young, handsome, fervent, and he stimulates outraged beauty to revenge. While her fate thus hangs in the balance, how does the author contrive to keep alive all our original interest in her through so many scenes of conscious folly and selfish indulgence, of drooping and fainting virtue, of concessions stopping just on the verge, of contradictory emotions, of grief, resentment, tenderness, spleen, raging passion, and burning remorse ?—We must answer, read the book. To tell the story, without giving the detail, is as impossible as it would be to convey, by a critical abridgment, any notion of the magic of Mark Antony's 'great witch' in Shakspeare.

Thoroughly aware how inadequate, in this case, must be the effect of partial quotation, we venture to take the close of a chapter describing a visit paid by Theresa, Trevelyan, and his infant boy Lord St. Ives, to the good recluse now in very feeble health, the inimitable 'old maid ' of No. 1, Paragon-row, Richmond :—

'Theresa wandered round the room, looking earnestly on every well-remembered object connected with her past life. "Ah ! there is my old friend, the guitar, I see," said she, taking it up from the pianoforte, "and all gone to wreck and ruin,like its former owner; for its strings now seem only to jar, and can give pleasure to no one." She paused, and gave a deep sigh. But in a minute, making an effort to cast off the melancholy reflections to which the sight of the broken instrument had given rise, she resumed, in a more cheerful tone, "The guitar, however, can, at all events, be put to rights, so I will take it away with me and new string it, and the next time I come and see you, dear Treevy, I will sing all your old favourites."— During the remainder of her visit, Theresa was, to all appearance, the light-hearted being of former days; and these assumed spirits again reassuring Miss Trevelyan, she gazed on her with the tenderest feelings of affection, in blissful ignorance of the many sad changes which had taken place in her young friend. There was, in short, a mysterious attraction about Theresa which no one with any heart could resist. The very circumstance of her varying, uncertain spirits, and the wild ebullitions of feeling or thoughtlessness to which she alternately

2 B 2 gave gave way, increased the interest which she could not fail to inspire by the addition of doubt and anxiety. A doubt, however, unmixed with any suspicion of intended deception on her part, for her mind was, like her complexion, perfectly transparent; and, indeed, it was this very artlessness of character which gave rise to the feeling of uncertainty about her; as, in utter carelessness of consequences or interpretations, she yielded to every passing sensation, and thus frequently betrayed feelings, which one less guileless, and possessing more of this world's wisdom, would have carefully concealed.'

The writer here touches on a feature characteristic of almost all her sex, and which, nevertheless, has not before (in as far as we recollect) been brought out in a novel—we mean the actual impossibility that a woman feels of keeping her own secrets, even when every motive ought to seal her lips. We doubt if any frail fair ever yet died unconfessed.

* The party entered the carriage, and drove from the door in silence. For Trevelyan noticed with too much pleasure the present emotions of Theresa's heart, to wish to disturb the reverie in which he saw she was absorbed, and being himself also depressed and pre-occupied, he willingly left her to her own reflections. Before long, St. Ives's little head began to nod with sleep, and Trevelyan, fearful he might fall, endeavoured, but in vain, to prop him up with the cushions of the carriage. "Let him come and sit by me," said Theresa, whose attention was at last attracted towards her companions, "and I will wrap him up in my cloak that he may not catch cold." The drowsy child was placed at her side; she put her arm round him, and thus carefully screened from the air, he soon fell into a profound sleep on her shoulder. She gazed on him for some time in silence, and then wiping away a tear which had fallen on his rosy cheek from her's —" Poor child!" she said, " how happy! how peaceful he looks !— long may that peaceful happiness last!" Trevelyan, much affected, did not speak, and not another word was uttered by either of them until the rattling noise of the carriage on the stones of London disagreeably broke the trance into which they had both fallen. There is a silence between those of congenial minds still more delightful perhaps than the intercourse of conversation. Not the most evanescent impulse of Theresa's mutable soul escaped Trevelyan's observation, and she—when not wholly engrossed by her own—read instinctively hie every feeling. In short, there seemed to be still some mysterious link between them, which Fate herself could not break, although she had for a time appeared to counteract her own design by separating two beings so formed foreach other, and who appeared to have been thrown together purposely to secure the good and happiness of both. This unnatural contention seemed however now at an end, and each weary heart to be permitted to find in the other that repose of which it had been so long in search. And when thus once again enjoying the luxury o sympathy, Trevelyan believed he could

so

so discipline his mind as to raise his affections for Theresa above all selfish considerations, and be content to make her good and happiness his first object in life, independent of his own. Emboldened by this self-deceiving' thought, he now ventured to gaze on his abstracted companion; and as he fancied he read in the softened expression of her eyes, and the sadness visible in her eloquent countenance, indications of altered feelings, he gave way to the most flattering hopes for the future, when he should behold the object of his solicitude again restored to peace and happiness, and have tutored himself into content. In the virtuous enthusiasm of the moment, Trevelyan possibly gave himself credit for much more philosophy than he in fact possessed—but his very mistake was to his honour; and strangely palsied must be the heart of that man who can look on his favourite child nursed in the arms of the woman he has loved, and remain unmoved.'— vol. ii. p. 292.

We presume the authoress herself is chargeable with the verses which head the next chapter. This fragment of ' old song' has to our ear a very charming cadence.

'Should those fond hopes e'er forsake thee
Which now so sweetly thy heart employ;
Should the cold world come to wake thee
From all thy visions of youth and joy;
Oh 'tis then—he thou hast slighted

Would come to cheer thee when all seem'd o'er;
Then the truant, lost and blighted, .
Would to his bosom be taken once more.'

These lines introduce a chapter of confidences between Trevelyan and Theresa—how dangerous all confidences are between persons so situated we need not say :—

'" I saw him no more—and he is gone—alone—to Scotland." As Theresa uttered these last words she started from her seat, as if to endeavour by bodily motion to check the agitation of her mind. In so doing, the guitar, which she had apparently been new stringing, and which was hanging on the back of her chair, was thrown down and vibrated on the ground—its sounds seemed to make her shudder. Trevelyan, who well knew the feelings which they must have excited, instantly rose from his seat to lift up the fallen instrument; as he approached her for that purpose, she held out her hand to him— "Forgive me," said she, in a low broken voice; "I shall soon have done with my tiresome story; and when I have once told you all, I promise you not again to torment you in this manner. I know it is not fair; but I have not a friend on earth but you." These last words were scarcely audible through her sobs. "Compose yourself, dearest Theresa," said Trevelyan—himself scarcely less agitated— and fetching her a glass of water from her dressing-table, he with a trembling hand held it towards her. As she extended her's to take it, the loose sleeve of her wrapping-gown fell back, and he recognised

on on her arm the gold bracelet which he had given her the morning of her wedding-day. The ornament instantly caught his attention, and as she returned him the glass, his eyes were involuntarily again riveted upon it, while the recollection of the feelings with which he had placed it there on that fatal day rushed on his soul with overwhelming force. Theresa soon observed the object which had attracted his attention, and looking in his face with a melancholy smile which went to his heart—"Ah, do you remember that bracelet?" said she; "that was your wedding present to me! You put it there yourself the day I was married—and there it has remained ever since.—You don't know what a valuable gift it has proved to me, for it has really acted the part of a talisman; the sight of it often checking me in the midst of my follies, by recalling all the excellences of the kind donor: in short, I have quite a superstitious feeling about this bracelet, and should be sure some dreadful misfortune was hanging over me were I ever to lose it."

'How rapidly did these words make poor Trevelyan's heart beat; and how ardently did he long to press to it that lovely hand and arm which seemed to be thus in a manner marked as his own property! He stood for a minute entranced; then, making a violent effort over his feelings, he hastily retreated to his former seat on the opposite side of the writing-table.

'" Well, now," said Theresa, drying her eyes, " if you have still patience to listen to me, I will go on with my sad tale, promising to make it as brief as possible:—When we first arrived here we had not a farthing, indeed we could not have reached London had it not been for Lascelles."—" Good God!" exclaimed Trevelyan, in an agony of alarm, "why did not you tell me this before?" "Be quiet,'' said Theresa, smiling at his vehemence; "all that is settled. Herbert immediately on his return from Ascot last night paid that, and other former debts, to Lascelles; and most thankful I am he did so—and he had still enough of his winnings left to take him to Scotland: of this I am certain, as it was on hearing the flourishing state of his purse that I directly formed the plan of accompanying him. I was in such a state of irritation after he had thus cruelly left me,—so entirely engrossed by that one feeling,—that I thought of nothing else, and it was not till he was actually gone that my helpless, destitute situation struck me; for," said she, taking her purse out of her bag, and playfully tossing it in the air—" I have not, you see, one sous left. This is a ridiculous, artificial sort of distress," added she, laughing, " being of course merely owing to the peculiar circumstances in which we hare been, and are still, placed; but nevertheless cela ne laisse pas d'etre very awkward and disagreeable for the moment."'—vol. iii. p. 43.

Since we have quoted at all from this part of the book, it is perhaps only fair that we should give the reader a glimpse of Mr. Lascelles. The dubious Mrs. Lindsay is the common friend and entremetteuse of this gentleman and Theresa. Lord Launceston, and his friend Sir Henry Williams, a half-comic character

who

« ElőzőTovább »