Imágenes de páginas

planation to the lawyer and Carl Kavanagh, who then approached the bedside. Lastly, he took the hand of Catherine, and led her up before the minister. The marriageceremony commenced. It was performed according to the ritual of the Protestant Episcopal Church. But when the great question was put to the bridegroom-" Archer, wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife, to live together, after God's ordinance, in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour her," &c.-instead of answering, according to the ritual, "I will," he replied by a grave and formal bow, with silent lips, "that scarce their scorn forbore." When the corresponding question was put to the bride, Kate, too, replied by a gentle inclination of the head, but her true heart responded sincerely, earnestly. When the last benediction was given, and when, according to the old formula, the bridegroom was to salute his bride, he merely touched her cheek with cold lips, and passed her on to his mother, who held out her arms to embrace her daughter. The singularity of Major Clifton's manner was scarcely noticed, or it was ascribed to the solemnity of the attending circumstances. Mrs. Clifton now desired that all, with the exception of her son, and daughter, and the clergyman, should bid her adieu, and leave the room. Her request was complied with; and when they had retired, she signified her wish to partake of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper with her children. Major Clifton was constrained to decline, upon conscientious scruples; for how could he partake of the sacrament of peace and brotherly love, with his heart consumed with indignation against his newly-married bride? Catherine, however, participated in the Holy Communion, while he looked on with surprise, mixed with a degree of horror. When the sacred rite was over, the minister of God took an affectionate leave, and departed. When the minister was gone, and they were left alone together, the dying mother beckoned her son and daughter to come and sit near her. They obeyed her, and she addressed them a few words of earnest, affectionate counsel, blessed them, and resigned herself to rest. Her eyelids closed calmly, and her breathing was gentle and regular; they had to mark attentively before they knew that it grew fainter and fainter. Once she opened her eyes, and, smiling her old, reflecting smile, said, "Dear Archer, I have often tried to detect the exact moment of

falling asleep. I watch now, to see if I can seize the precise instant of passing from mortal to immortal life."

And she closed her eyes again. After a few minutes, she said, "Sing to me, dear Kate! You know the Christian's death hymn."

Catherine bent and kissed the pallid lips of the dying woman, and then her voice arose, sweet, clear, and spiritual as angels' songs, in that immortal requiem—

Vital spark of heavenly flame,
Quit, oh! quit this mortal frame;
Trembling, hoping, lingering, flying,
Oh! the pain, the bliss of dying.
Hark! they whisper!-angels say,
Sister spirit, come away.

At the end of the first stanza, she murmured faintly, "Your voice, too, dear Archer."

His voice arose now in unison with Catherine's, and they sang the remainder

The world recedes-it disappears:
Heaven opens on my eyes; my ears
With sounds seraphic ring.

Lend, lend your wings; I mount, I fly!
O grave! where is thy victory?

Ŏ death! where is thy sting?

They ceased, and looked upon the marble face before them. It was still in death, but there remained upon the countenance the impress of the extatic smile with which the spirit had taken its flight

Her death

Was like the setting of a planet mild.




WHEN Archer Clifton saw that all indeed was over-when he looked upon that mother-face, the first which had ever met his conscious gaze in life; that old, familiar face, which seemed to him coeval with his being, and a necessary part of it; that face the most intimate, the most loving, the most faithful which had ever shone upon his path of life, and felt that it was lost for ever; that the light of those quiet eyes




was darkened for ever; the sound of that kind voice silenced for ever; the smile of those calm lips fled for ever-when he clasped that mother-hand, and felt that those dear fingers would close upon his own in cordial grasp never, never more!-oh, when he felt that all was over, over, "finished, done, and ended," he fell upon his knees by the corpse, dropped his head upon the cold, inanimate bosom, and broke into convulsive sobs.


Weeping freely, Catherine knelt by his side, and put her arm around his neck. He was unconscious of her presence, until, after giving way to sorrow for a few moments, she lifted up her head, and wiped her eyes, and, controlling her own emotion, sought to console him. Do not grieve so, dear Archer," she murmured, with her arm `again around him; "do not grieve, but pray."


Then, indeed, he suddenly grew calm, unclasped the gentle arm of Catherine from his neck, rose slowly from his kneeling posture, took her hand, and raised her upon her feet, and, regarding her with a stern and sorrowful countenance, said, in severe rebuke, "Come, madam, no more hypocrisy now! None here, at least! It is useless hereafter-you have accomplished your design. You are a successful diplomatist,' and your long slavery' is now over.'



Then he took her hand and led her through the door, and closed it behind her.

Catherine stood there where he had placed her, amazed,

[ocr errors]

Catherine lifted her eyes, dilated with sorrow and amazement, and fixed them on his face an instant; but the look she met there, the expression of mingled suffering and severity, such as might have sat upon the brow of Brutus, when the feelings of the man and the duty of the judge strove in his bosom, awed her into silence before him. She could express no surprise or grief-ask no explanation. The old shyness and fear came over her, and her eyes fell, and her cheeks paled. Again he spoke in the same stern, sorrowful tone,


Ay, cower with conscious guilt! You are discovered! And you should have been unmasked before her to-day, but that I did not wish to embitter her last moments: that only saved you. Come! leave the room that you desecrate with your presence. Leave me alone with my dead."


But instead of obeying, she stood like a statue before him.

confounded, unable to move a step forward, until the thought of practical duties, now pressing upon her, gave her strength, and she passed on to summon those whose office it was to prepare the dead for burial; but amid all the multifarious tasks that devolved upon her at that trying time, as newly-installed and unassisted mistress of the house, she could not for an instant forget her awful bereavement, or the dreadful anger of her husband.

He came out of the room of death at last, and passed Catherine on the stairs, and his stern, averted countenance at that moment almost broke her heart; but she went on enduringly with her tasks. Often she raised her soul in prayer to God for help. Once, during that desolate night, she found time to open her Bible, and her eyes fell upon this text-Romans viii. 28: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God." She paused upon the text, repeating, All things,' all things, even this! I will believe it!" And her face grew beautiful with divine faith, and she reverently closed the book, and went on her way comforted. She had need of fresh strength and comfort, indeed, to meet a fresh trial. On coming down stairs she met Henny, who seemed to be on the look-out for her, and who placed a note in her hand. It was from Major Clifton, and read as follows:-


"I desire that you keep your least, refrain from insulting the appearing at the funeral.

chamber to-morrow, or, at memory of the dead by ARCHER CLIFTON.”


She nodded her head slowly, meditatively, with a look of sweetest resignation; then beckoned Henny to follow her, and returned to her chamber. There she sat down and wrote the following note:

"I will absent myself from the funeral, since you wish me to do so. I will also keep my room, if you desire it, when I remind you that there is no one to supply my place in the household arrangements for the solemnities of the day.



She sent this by Henny, but received no reply to it. Construing silence into consent, she went about the house as usual, attending to her duties.

In the meantime, Major Clifton sat in his study, awaiting

an answer to a note he had written to Mrs. Georgia, apprising her of the recent events, and requesting her to come at once to the house. He had not to wait long; his messenger returned, and informed him that he had met the lady on her way to L, to take the stagecoach to Richmond. The man, at the same time, gave the intelligence that Mr. Kavanagh waited in the hall, to know if he could be of any service to Major Clifton on the present occasion.

"Show him in," said Major Clifton.

The man went out and soon returned, accompanied by Carl, whose face expressed the most profound and sincere sympathy.

"Set a chair for Mr. Kavanagh, and retire, James.”

The man obeyed, Carl seated himself, and in person repeated his condolences, and his tenders of service.

In reply, Major Clifton took from his pocket the forged note and laid it before him, saying coldly, "There is the note your sister wrote to you, and sent by mistake to Mrs. Georgia Clifton. Read it.'

Carl took it up, wondering what might be the use of reading it now; but as he glanced over its contents, his eyes grew wide with astonishment; and when he had finished it, he laid it down again, exclaiming, "I am confounded!"

"I should think so, sir," coldly remarked Major Clifton. "She speaks of letting me the farm. I never had the slightest desire to rent the farm; and before I heard the will read, I had not even the slightest idea that Mrs. Clifton designed to leave it to my sister.'



Ah! Really?" asked Mr. Clifton ironically.

Really and truly, and sincerely and positively, I had



"Tautological asseveration is no evidence. Why should she have written to you thus if you had not ?"

"How do I know, sir? I tell you I am amazed! And if I did not know, beyond all possibility of doubt, the handwriting to be Catherine's, I should say that she did not write, and that she never could have written such a letter."

"Which means plainly this: that, if there did not exist the most positive proof to the contrary, you would fain deny it," sneered Major Clifton.


Yes, sir!" answered Carl boldly. "If the proof posi

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »