Imágenes de páginas

fill his heart with courage, and his arm with strength for the battle. And suppose he should be killed; what intolerable remorse will be added to your sorrow for him, when you ́reflect that he died without a relenting word from you, who have been so cruelly unjust to him-that he died under your own sentence of exile! Besides, if none of these things happen, can you bear these weary, weary days of estrangement, absence, and suspense-weary, weary days that will slowly, slowly drag themselves through weeks, and months, and years of time?" Oh, no! No, no! She cannot bear that prospect. She will be just-she will do her duty, and satisfy her affection at the same time. Down, pride! for she will write that letter. She did write it. She did not read it over again, lest scorn should rise and compel her to hurl it down and set her heel upon it. She set her teeth almost grimly in her determination to protect that gentle, loving missive of sorrow and affection from an assault of her beset

ting sin, as she sealed and directed it. She then slipped on her dressing-gown, and stole down the back stairs, where she found a boy lounging. She ordered him to saddle a horse immediately, and take that letter to the post-office. Nay, she waited till she saw the boy off, and was sure that none had seen him or the letter he carried. Then she returned to her own room, determining that no soul, not her father, not even Zuleime, should share her confidence and know her condescension.



ZULEIME went into the parlour and found her father alone. He was sitting in an easy-chair, doing nothing, but apparently waiting for her.

"Come hither, Zuleime,” he said.

And when she went up to him, he drew her upon his knee, and passed his left arm around her waist, while with his right hand he smoothed her black hair; and he gazed fondly in her face. He noticed that her cheek was pale, and her countenance pensive, but hoped that it was from the excitement of the night before. He could not bear to think of its being

regret for Frank. He feared to ask her the cause of her seriousness. He disliked to recall Frank in any manner to her recollection. He wished her to forget him, if possible. At least he would do so.

Zuleime," he said, after he had stroked her hair some time, "you know, my love, that your Aunt Cabell and your cousins are going back to Richmond to-day."

"Are they, sir? I did not know it," said Zuleime, turning paler, with apprehension of something that might be coming.

[ocr errors]


"Yes, my dear, they are. And, Zuleime"-here he paused, then he went on, you have been thinking, I suppose, that you should have to return with them, to enter upon your school-duties again, as the first of September is so near.


'I had not thought of it, sir; so many things happening put it out of my head. But I am quite willing to go, and can be ready in half an hour."


Thank you, my dear child. I am very glad to see you so prompt to oblige me; but, my dear Zuleime, I have good news for you.'



Good news, sir?"

"Yes, girl, the best news- -the very best news-news that young ladies always rejoice to hear."

"What news, sir?" she asked fearfully.

"Don't whine, girl; it is not your sentence of death. It is your deed of emancipation-your free papers,' as the niggers would say. You are not to return to school any more. Are you not surprised? Are you not rejoiced, now ?"

Zuleime was not. She was anxious, foreboding.

"Why don't you speak, my dear? Ain't you glad you're not going back to school-to leather shoulder-braces, and back-boards, and square and compass rules and regulations. that mean nothing, unless they mean persecution and torture! Say, ain't you glad ?"

"I think I had rather go back to school for the present.



Nonsense, now, my dear! Ah! I see how it is. You want to return with your dear Aunt Cabell, and the dear city cousins, especially cousin Charley. Eh, you monkey? You grow tired of the country and your old father, as soon as ever your aunt and cousins talk about returning to the city. Ah, you rogue!" said the old man, chucking her under the chin,

and devoutly praying that he might be right in his conjecture-for, oh! that child's happiness! It lay nearer his heart than anything else on earth or in heaven.

"Dear father!" she said, embracing him, "I do not wish to leave you--indeed I do not. I prefer the country; and I had rather never leave you or my home."

"Dear little rogue, now don't tell me that; I know better, you know. And it is quite natural, and nobody blames you. The young bird must leave its nest, and the young girl her home, when she becomes a wife. Your mother left her parents, and came home here with her husband. So do not think, my love, that your old father will charge you with selfishness for wishing to leave him-no, not wishing to leave him, but wishing to go with one who is to be your husband.'


Zuleime dropped her head, to conceal the deadly pallor that crept over her face.

"Yes, dear Zuleime, you will soon return to Richmond, though it will be not as a school-girl, but as a happy bride— as Mrs. Major Cabell. What a sonorous name and title for my little, romping Zuleime! Here, Charley Cabell, I have broken the ice, now come and speak for yourself!" exclaimed Mr. Clifton to Major Cabell, who was going by the door. Major Cabell came in, passing the old gentleman, who had seized his hat, and, not trusting himself to look at his daughter, rushed out of the room. Zuleime remained standing where he had placed her, when he put her off his knee, panic-struck, stupid, until Major Cabell took her hand, and attempted to lead her to a seat; then snatching her hand away with a shudder, she asked almost wildly, "Cousin Charles, when does father want this marriage to come off?" As soon as my dearest Zuleime will consent to make me the happiest of men!" replied the commonplace wooer, at-tempting to recapture her hand; but she retreated shuddering, and asking in a frantic tone and manner, in great contrast to her calm words, "Cousin Charles, do me a favour! Do not press this matter for a week or so."



Heaven forbid that I should hurry a lady, though that lady be my own little cousin and betrothed; only fix the day and I will rest content, so that it is not a far distant day," he said, recapturing her hand, throwing his arm around her waist, and drawing her towards him.

Please, don't!

Let me go, Cousin Charles!" exclaimed the girl in great distress, struggling to free herself.


"Please don't let me go, Cousin Charles! I don't intend to, pretty cousin, until you tell me when you will give yourself to me!" replied Major Cabell, kissing her all the more heartily because she strove to escape.

"You know what I meant. Let me alone. It is unmanly to behave so. Don't make me hate you!" was on her quivering lips and in her flashing eyes, as by a sudden effort she threw his arms off and sat down; but then she recollected her father, and the cruel power that Major Cabell seemed to possess over him, and she choked down the indignant words, and said instead, "Please, don't hurry and worry me, Cousin Charles! this is so very sudden! İ am sure I never dreamed you would ask for poor me for years to come yet. I am so young.'



So young! Ah, Zuleime, that is a piece of pretty little womanish hypocrisy-a little finesse that belongs to your character, and is inherited from your French mother! So young! Now, my pretty childish cousin, you know you have received an offer of marriage this very week; and that, indeed, has accelerated my proposal. Fair Zuleime, a man does not care to see his young betrothed bride courted by another!"

"I know that!" replied Zuleime in a peculiarly sad voice, moving to the other end of the room.

The slightest gesture of avoidance of him by the girl seemed to act as a provocative on him; so he followed her, and clasped her in his arms, and, laughing, almost rudely kissed her, begging her between the kisses not to set his heart on fire by her charming prudery and petulance, but to fix the day, like a good, sensible girl as she was. Almost frantic with rage and shame at being so freely handled, the Clifton blood rushed to her brain, and, forgetting her father's interest and everything else, she dashed her hand violently into his face, and before he recovered from his astonishment, broke from him and escaped--her heart beating with one thought-one sudden, joyous thought that, come what might, she never could be either forced or persuaded into a marriage with Major Cabell, because she was already a wedded wife no set of circumstances whatever could make it her duty, or make it even possible, for her to marry

Major Cabell. In all her sorrows, that was one blessed truth to sit down and rest upon. All her duty was now due to her husband; and, with a youthful wife's enthusiasm firing and strengthening her heart, she thought she should stand as upon a rock, secure against a sea of troubles. Poor child! she had yet to learn that no position founded on a fault is for a moment safe. Several things soon forced themselves upon her memory and grieved her heart; her father's unknown but certain danger, her own promise of secrecy in regard to her marriage, the necessity of giving some definite answer to Major Cabell, and the obligation pressing upon her to prevent, by all and any means, the highly improper and extremely offensive demonstrations of passion from her suitor. She determined to write to Frank, tell him all that had occurred, and ask his advice and direction; and to do this it was necessary to gain time, and to give no false promise in the interim. Already was Zuleime beginning to taste the bitter fruits of her stolen marriage, and might have exclaimed, in the perplexity of her distracted heart and brain

Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we venture to deceive!

While Zuleime's heart was beating so fast with many emotions, her father sauntered into the parlour, where he found Major Cabell caressing and soothing his afflicted face.


Well, Charley, boy! How is it with you, eh? Could you win a hearing from my little girl, eh? Give her time, you know, eh?" said the old gentleman, affecting a lightness of heart which he was very far from feeling.

To his surprise, Major Cabell laughed heartily, still coaxing his ill-used phiz.


"What's the matter, Charley? What's amused you, eh?" · Your girl! By my soul, governor, I shall end in falling seriously in love with that girl! I didn't fancy her much at first, to tell you the truth. She was entirely too good humoured always laughing; and I had a fancy for marrying a shrew, just for the spicy fun of taming one! The same instinct, governor, that makes me like to spring upon the back of the most vicious horse I can find, and ride, and lash, and spur, and fatigue the very soul out of his body, until I break his back or his temper-eh, gover

nor ?"

« AnteriorContinuar »