« AnteriorContinuar »
tinctive burst of joy and song which never fails to salute a world so green and so beautiful. The ladies directed their steps towards a rising ground a short distance from the stately dwelling they inhabited, and after gazing for some minutes in social silence, on the scene of beauty around them, they proceeded to descend a winding path through a rocky and tangled copse wood, until they reached a sheltered and singularly picturesque bay. Here the white sands of Ocean met the sparkling green of earth, and the clear note of the blackbird from the adjoining wood, was heard in discord sweet with the soft ripple of the ebbing waters. The friends moved along with that sort of step which marks perfect satisfaction with the present; their desires and enjoyments were evidently comprised for the time being, within the varied semi-circle in which they lingered, now turning to the glowing west, where the view was bounded by a wooded point running far and gracefully into the sea, and then retracing their steps to watch the reflected brightness of the setting sun on a rocky headland, which rose abruptly from the water, and where, amidst a mass of sycamore and elm trees, appeared the ruins of a castle of considerable importance. The ladies thus agreeably occupied were both above the common height and both dressed in mourning, but not of so deep a kind as betokened a very recent bereavement. Their ages were different, the step of the one marking the steadfast self-possession of middle age, and that of the other the gracefulness of youth. In the bearing of both there was a striking mixture of refinement and dignity—of that which may be called the poetry of form and movement. At length the elder lady said in a voice of peculiar sweetness :
“ I am almost sorry, Clare, to break the spell of our silence, it has been so very agreeable ; but do observe how those boats are grouped below the castle, how wonderfully accident seems to conspire with nature, in adding the minuter touches of beauty to such an evening and such a scene.”
“ It is indeed quite perfect,” replied her companion,“ those boats seem to have been launched forth from the canvass of some old master, for our particular enjoyment; they seem to me like familiar portraits, so real, yet so still, so distinct yet so softened; how admirably do nature and art, illustrate each other, when both are excellent. When you spoke," she continued, after a short pause, “I was thinking and feeling that this evening surpassed every other I have watched from this bay, and they are not few; but how much my enjoyment of it is increased from being shared with you.”
A kind pressure of the hand was the only answer, and the speaker went on.
“ I cannot help hoping it may be exactly such an evening when Herbert does come, and then I think he cannot be disappointed, even after all the Indian, Greek and Italian sunsets he may have dazzled his eyes withal.”
“ No, it would indeed be unreasonable to be disappointed in such a scene as this. Dear Herbert! what a noble creature he was when he left us twelve years ago! He was quite above all ‘skiey influences' then, and I trust is so still; yet I sometimes tremble to think that the world's praises and the world's pleasures may have tarnished the clearness of his spirit, as the climates and hardships he has braved must have dimmed his glowing cheek and eye. But why should I think thus ? his letters are full of clear, spirited thought, and his heart seems as true and affectionate as ever."
“I am certain of it, replied Clare; “I have no misgivings; but, my dear coz, in thinking over the last few years of my poor grand-father's life, it seems more and more strange to me, that he did not recall Herbert to cheer his latter days—the son of his only child, the heir of his name and fortune. I felt that I was nothing to him, he barely endured me; yet cold and stoical as he was, he had nevertheless an innate nobleness of character which commanded the respect of the young, although alas ! it did not gain their love. Do explain this to me, for I think you were the only person who possessed his confidence, and I could almost have loved him when he looked at you.”
“ It is a painful history, dear Clare, of human error; I hope an uncommon one; but
shall hear it, and to tell the truth I have long wished you to be acquainted with it; it recalls some very, very mournful days, and you know I am a cowardly person in such cases.”
Her voice became slightly tremulous, but, after the pause of a few seconds, she went on in her usual composed manner :
“ I need not tell you, dear, of the peculiarities of my poor uncle's character, except that they were rather lessened than increased by age. He was more stern and unbending thirty years ago than when you knew him, and Heaven only knows with what anxiety I watched for any change. He had set his heart and his will on