Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

pride was no further dragged through the mire by having that wounded heart laid bare before that child; that I was allowed to bear my sorrow alone. Therein did I find the greatest comfort, though to you it will seem very, very strange.

“ And this is how it came about that I did not tell Annette that I loved her.

-"I was sitting beside my mother in the verandah of the cottage one evening, Mrs. Tregunter and Annette being absent, she working, I dreamily reading. It was twilight. The sun going down in its western glory tinged the summits of the peaks around with glorious gold; the lake in gloomy shadow, its waters without a ripple, still and calm at our feet ; all nature at peace; no sound upon the air, save from the tiny steamer gliding in the far-off distance on its way; a lovely summer's evening, lovely anywhere, but inexpressibly so with those surroundings. We were silent, as most would be in like position. Though I made pretence to read, my thoughts were not with my book; I need not tell you where they were.

Presently my mother said, “I understand our friends are leaving us soon. Do you know when they go, and where ?'

“The question fell upon me without heed. My mother hardly paused for a reply, no doubt thinking me intent upon my reading. Nor did she look up from her work, continuing at once,

“No doubt it is to make the necessary arrangements for Annette's marriage.'

“It is as well that she whọ spoke did not glance at him who heard that sentence. She, in her sweet, unsuspecting nature, had seen, knew nothing. Had she but thought of the stab they gave, sooner would she have cut the tongue from out her mouth than have uttered those few commonplace words.

“As they dimly shaped themselves before my senses, I can only tell you of an awful, stunned feeling, that for the moment paralysed me. The blood left my face; a cold sweat mounted to my brow ; before my eyes the words in the book, although they stared me in the face, and my lips muttered them, swam before my gaze, yet left no faintest meaning on my brain. I felt as if my heart had suddenly and rudely received an awful blow, as if something had been wrenched therefrom that could never, never come back again. A chill crept through my frame, and I shuddered from head to foot. Yet when that first pang had passed, I was able to look up, and beyond a slight paleness of my face, to say with customary calmness, -- Indeed, mother, I knew nothing of it,'

"I want you to note this in particular, darlings,

that what pain I felt then was to a great extent a physical one. Afterwards, as I knew, though hardly grasped then in fullest meaning, was to come the bitter mental suffering. Presently I rose, kissed my companion, and said I would take a stroll in the cool. Then it was that the full force of what had happened in those brief moments came upon me, and in my agony I hardly knew what happened. I remember, however, that in the porch I lighted a cigar with trembling hand ; then that I walked forth, whither I knew not, nor could I tell you now. My one thought was for some relief in exercise, exertion of some sort, anything, anywhere. I must have walked for many a mile that night, for later on, when my full consciousness of earthly things returned to me, I saw the marks of much bodily fatigue upon

I remember standing before my glass, looking into my face, talking to myself as a child might do, and whispering, Courage, courage !' and I know that then there crept over me soon a terrible misery, an awful feeling of loneliness, that I sank upon my bed and groaned aloud ; then too, that happily there came a great relief to my over-taxed nerves in tears, hot, burning tears, which seemed full of salt as they welled from out my eyes and coursed down my cheeks : tears that came to me as

a great and welcome blessing : tears that I am not ashamed to

me.

tell you of. And then I knelt down and prayed ; opened my heart to that one who alone should hold it in possession, to Him who only can comfort and help in such distress as mine ; prayed for strength to bear and to forgive, yes, forgive ; for although I had never told Annette of my love, because no actual words had ever passed between us on the subject, yet what meant those looks and sighs ? Why did the girl seem happier with me alone? why tacitly encourage, silently lead me on by manner, voice, and action, when all that while she belonged to another ? Great God ! could so fair a form, with the stamp of a dire sickness upon it, which almost spoke of death, hold so cruel a heart as that!

Ah, little ones! long, long ago have I forgiven, but it is hard indeed to forget."

Great-heart, with the old wound thus for a moment laid bare, bent his head in silence, and his face grew sad and weary.

But he was soon himself again, for he looked up, as he said quite gaily : “Now there indeed is a silly picture for you, darlings. Fancy now, after all these years, Great-heart giving way like a baby!”

But his listeners hardly seemed to wish to pass the matter over so lightly, for they were both looking very grave. About the youngest one's eyes, too, there was a moisture which spoke of

much sympathy with her friend. Presently Trixie

said :

“ And what became of this horrid creature ?"

Her hero stopped her short, as he said, sternly : “ You must not speak thus, Trixie. As I have told you, all is forgiven, if not quite forgotten. Annette was in due time married. I believe she regained her health to a great extent. I have prayed that she may be happy always. I have nothing more to tell you.” He kissed the little ones, as if to place a seal upon this part of his narrative for ever.

Well, that mountain air did its kindly work for us, and we returned home invigorated, refreshed. With a will once more I set boldly forth in search of something honest. Yet, odd as it may appear to you, I found that a very difficult thing to find, nor did I discover it for a very long time afterwards, indeed then only when it was almost too late to be of any use to me.—But is it worth while my going on further, dearies? Have you not already heard enough ?"

Both the children expressed so decided a wish that Great-heart should continue to tell them more about himself and his early trials, that he was obliged to do so. He resumed, therefore, beginning by asking a question, to them seemingly irrelevant, in this wise :-“Supposing, you small

« AnteriorContinuar »