« ElőzőTovább »
"Mrs. -'s compliments, and will PROLOGUE.
you come directly to Square?” “ There is a reaper whose name is Death,
It was an unceremonious message,
urgent than one of a more civil kind. WHAT histories some faces tell! Nevertheless I hesitated; for though I Others are blank always-blank in don't love much eating, I like to have youth, still more blank in age. You my dinner in peace if possible. wonder what four-walled life the own “Find out who is ill,” I said, ers of such faces can have led, that briefly. they bear no impress of struggle, none
as short: “A of anxiety, little of interest, still less child, sir." of intellectual life. The latter is so Now, mammas are sometimes exirare, and is met with so seldom, that geantes ; and on a winter's evening I one ceases to look for it in women's am loath to leave my comfortable firecountenances, generally the most tell- side because Tommy has overeaten tale.
himself and has the stomach-ache, or I am a doctor, and am naturally because that angel, Miss Lucy, has fallbrought much into contact with my en down in a fit of passion and disfellow-mortals; and though I see so figured her pretty face. So I went out many, some faces puzzle me — nay, to the messenger in no good humor. even haunt me. But to my story.
" What is the matter with the After a hard day's work I had just child ?" I asked. returned home to a frugal dinner (for “Please, sir, I don't know, but I am a bachelor, and have not much they say she is very ill, and Mrs. voice in domestic matters, except that do take on awful about her.” I hate made-dishes or many dishes of I snatched my hat, and went out any kind), when my servant hurried without returning to the dining-room. into the room.
It was a dark November evening, and
as we neared the house, the door was unchildlike depths that I knew all thrown open by some one evidently hope was over, and that the little one watching for my arrival. I was in- was already speeding fast to its unstantly ushered up-stairs, and after known home. Do we not recognize some preliminary talking, my friend by instinct the children whom parMr. came out of the sick-room ents must not hope to keep Is not and spoke to me.
their early inheritance written uner“It's a bad case, I fear,” he said, ringly upon their spotless brows, speakin an undertone; “but I am so accus- ing emphatically in the too precocious tomed to these children, I hope I am questionings that beam from their raover-anxious."
diant eyes ? Our professional conversation it is Conscious that the case before me unnecessary to repeat.
was hopeless, I turned with added inAfter my friend had done speak- terest to contemplate the face which ing, we entered the room together. had first so impressed me. The lonOn a low nursing-chair, near a cheer- ger I looked upon it, the more I felt ful fire, sat a lady young in years, and how useless the effort to console would of a wondrously delicate countenance, be when the little life was over. The which so riveted my attention for a concentrated never-varying gaze spoke moment, that I scarcely remembered such volumes of love, that, if earthly why I had come, and thought not of passion could detain a spirit on the my child-patient. The firelight, the confines of eternity, death must have only light in the room, flashed upon been robbed of its prey. the golden hair, the stooping, atten That the lady already suffered uated figure, and the pale Madonna much, I saw; that she was to suffer face, as the mother bent over some more, I realized with a pang to which thing which lay heavy and motionless a doctor should, from long habit, be in her arms. For an instant she raised a stranger. I had not seen her look at her eyes and looked into my face. me again after that one brief survey ; I too was leaning over the child, but I had nothing to prepare her for. and then the eyes fixed themselves Without raising her eyes from that with the same painful intensity upon idolized countenance she said, in clear that beautiful face-for beautiful it and icy tones :
A cherub face, perfect in out “ How long ?." line, angelic in expression; illness had The voice was, like her face, vainaltered only to beautify; and when ly, vainly seeking to disguise her deep the heavy slumber, in which I found emotion by a stony, cold, impressive the child, changed to feverish restless- utterance. How could she Nature ness and muttered talking, the blue had given her such passionate depths, eyes, with their dark fringes, wander- that she might deceive the unobserv-. ing always and resting never except ant, but few could mistake those upon the mother's face, revealed such thrilling tones.
GERALDINE ST. VINCENT.
" The darling of thine heart resign,
were they; and of all the lovely sights Into His hands with ready will; Else will thy soul with sickness pine,
I ever saw, I never wish to behold one And anguish will torment thee still."
more beautiful than the face which The face had a history. After the glanced up with mingled consternachild died I learned it. I will try to re
tion and relief into mine at that mocord it here as nearly as may be in the ment. words in which it was related to me
Geraldine St. Vincent was, at the by one who, though only a by-stander, time I write of, very little past the age watched the principal actors in this of childhood; so little, that I thought little story with an interest which I then, as I have often thought since, hope may be shared by my readers.
that he must have been a bold man who asked her in the springtide of that very early youth to consecrate a
life to him so rich in every promise of CHAPTER I.
beauty and goodness, but so ignorant
of its responsibilities, and so utterly "A bark is launched on Como's lake,
unconscious of the evil which forms a A maiden sits abaft; A little sail is loosed to take
prominent part of most men's, and, The night-wind's breath and waft The maiden and her bark away."
alas ! of some women's, experience.
And yet her beauty then was nothing It was on a lovely autumn evening compared to its promise. Her manthat I arrived at parsonage in ners, too, would have displeased many:
shire, and my host, who was a she was the most painfully shy child widower and childless, and had, as he I ever saw, and withal so full of enthought, few attractions for visitors in thusiasm, so buoyant in spirits, that his own home, proposed that we not even her exceeding timidity could should saunter down into the village prevent her expressing herself more before dinner, and so on to the neigh- fearlessly and naturally than was conboring squire's.
sidered becoming to her years. I readily assented, and we went. But before I speak of her character, As we neared the house, an ugly, I must give some idea of her and her square-built, ungainly one, but with companion, as they met my eyes that the dignity which an old house, even still sweet evening. Geraldine, tall if it be ugly, must to a certain extent and fair, and not particularly slightpossess, we perceived two figures pa- for my heroine was then more of the .cing up and down on one of the straight Hebe than the angel order-looked old terraces close to the house, evi- positively diminutive and shadowy bedently engaged in earnest, and, to side the gigantic proportions of Colojudge from the attitude of one of nel Trevelyan; her auburn hair, the them, most interesting conversation. sunniest I ever remember, her true blue
We were close upon the couple be- eyes, and her radiant complexion of fore we were observed, so engrossed sixteen summers sank into nothingness
when you looked at a beauty such as | Trevelyan was not a suitor to be deI have never seen equalled before or nied. Women more highborn, more since.
beautiful than Geraldine had broken Edmund Trevelyan was then thirty- their hearts for him-had left home, eight, and had been at twenty-five, and fame, and happiness, behind them; every one said, the handsomest man and some, it was darkly rumored, had of his day. His gray eyes, shaded by broken the tenderest ties of all for his the longest and darkest of black lashes, sake. had in themselves a beauty and a fas Colonel Trevelyan was rich and cination which, if the other features handsome, and, still young, had dishad been less perfect, must still have tinguished himself much in his profesattracted irresistibly; but-and in this sion; of his bravery there could not world there must always be a “but” be a doubt. So people shook their -did I like the expression ? No, heads, and said he had sown his wild most emphatically no! Pride and oats, and would make an excellent other devil's vices more degrading had husband—“men of that sort always left their mark on that haughty face, did.” Mothers flattered him, daughto those who could read its lines. ters smiled upon him, and fathers
Fifteen years ago I could believe it to called him a good fellow, and invited have been a lovable as well as a beau- him to very good dinners. Still he tiful face; one a mother pure and ten- did not marry.
But his fate was der might have loved to look upon, sealed now, as well as Geraldine's. one in which she might have taken a The St. Vincents were not rich, true woman's unselfish pride. But if and Geraldine was the eldest of a Edmund Trevelyan's mother still lived, large family of daughters, wholly unand knew one-third of the experiences provided for. The estate would pass through which he had passed, her to a distant relation at Mr. St. Vinheart must have broken long since cent's death; and as he had always and her mother's pride been turned to lived much above his means, he had shame.
nothing but a few hundreds to give Cold aristocrat as he now looked, these unwelcome daughters. He had there had been phases in his history longed for a son; for his family was which the laborer on his father's estate old, and the property had been in it would blush to remember-which no for generations ; fate had given him English gentleman born and bred as instead nine little girls, whose beauty he was should have to look back upon. consoled the mother, but could not And this was the man who was to soften the disappointment to their fatake that pure, trembling child, hardly ther. on girlhood's threshold, to his cor It seemed to Mrs. St. Vincent alrupted heart.
most too delightful to be true that I knew how it would be the mo this beauty should already assert itment I saw them together, for Colonel' self--that before Geraldine had made