This eBook was produced by David Widger
|Falkland Book 3|
By Edward Bulwer-Lytton
EXTRACTS FROM THE JOURNAL OF LADY EMILY MANDEVILLE.
Friday.--Julia is here, and so kind! She has not mentioned his name, but
she sighed so deeply when she saw my pale and sunken countenance, that I
threw myself into her arms and cried like a child. We had no need of
other explanation: those tears spoke at once my confession and my
repentance. No letter from him for several days! Surely he is not ill!
how miserable that thought makes me!
Saturday.--A note has just been brought me from him. He is come
back-here! Good heavens! how very imprudent! I am so agitated that I
can write no more.
Sunday.--I have seen him! Let me repeat that sentence--I have seen him.
Oh that moment! did it not atone for all that I have suffered? I dare
not write everything he said, but he wished me to fly with him--him--what
happiness, yet what guilt, in the very thought! Oh! this foolish heart
--would that it might break! I feel too well the sophistry of his
arguments, and yet I cannot resist them. He seems to have thrown a spell
over me, which precludes even the effort to escape.
Monday.--Mr. Mandeville has asked several people in the country to dine
here to-morrow, and there is to be a ball in the evening. Falkland is of
course invited. We shall meet then, and how? I have been so little
accustomed to disguise my feelings, that I quite tremble to meet him with
so many witnesses around. Mr. Mandeville has been so harsh to me to-day;
if Falkland ever looked at me so, or ever said one such word, my heart
would indeed break. What is it Alfieri says about the two demons to whom
he is for ever a prey? "_La mente e il cor in perpetua lite_." Alas!
at times I start from my reveries with such a keen sense of agony and
shame! How, how am I fallen!
Tuesday.--He is to come here to-day and I shall see him!
Wednesday morning.--The night is over, thank Heaven! Falkland came late
to dinner: every one else was assembled. How gracefully he entered! how
superior he seemed to all the crowd that stood around him! He appeared
as if he were resolved to exert powers which he had disdained before. He
entered into the conversation, not only with such brilliancy, but with
such a blandness and courtesy of manner! There was no scorn on his lip,
no haughtiness on his forehead--nothing which showed him for a moment
conscious of his immeasurable superiority over every one present. After
dinner, as we retired, I caught his eyes. What volumes they told! and
then I had to listen to his praises, and say nothing. I felt angry even
in my pleasure. Who but I had a right to speak of him so well!
The ball came on: I felt languid and dispirited. Falkland did not dance.
He sat: himself by me--he urged me to--O God! O God! would that I were
FROM ERASMUS FALKLAND, ESQ., TO LADY EMILY MANDEVILLE.
How are you this morning, my adored friend? You seemed pale and ill when
we parted last night, and I shall be so unhappy till I hear something of
you. Oh, Emily, when you listened to me with those tearful and downcast
looks; when I saw your bosom heave at every word which I whispered in
your ear; when, as I accidentally touched your hand, I felt it tremble
beneath my own; oh! was there nothing in those moments at your heart
which pleaded for me more eloquently than words? Pure and holy as you
are, you know not, it is true, the feelings which burn and madden in me.
When you are beside me, your hand, if it trembles, is not on fire, your
voice, if it is more subdued, does not falter with the emotions it dares
not express: your heart is not like mine, devoured by a parching and
wasting flame: your sleep is not turned by restless and turbulent dreams
from the healthful renewal, into the very consumer, of life. No, Emily!
God forbid that you should feel the guilt, the agony which preys upon me;
but, at least, in the fond and gentle tenderness of your heart, there
must be a voice you find it difficult to silence. Amidst all the
fictitious ties and fascinations of art, you cannot dismiss from your
bosom the unconquerable impulse of nature. What is it you fear?--you
will answer, disgrace! But can you feel it, Emily, when you share it
with me? Believe me that the love which is nursed through shame and
sorrow is of a deeper and holier nature than that which is reared in
pride, fostered in joy. But, if not shame, it is guilt, perhaps, which
you dread? Are you then so innocent now? The adultery of the heart is
no less a crime than that of the deed; and--yet I will not deceive you--
it is guilt to which I tempt you!--it is a fall from the proud eminence
you hold now. I grant this, and I offer you nothing in recompense but my
love. If you loved like me, you would feel that it was something of
pride--of triumph--to dare all things, even crime, for the one to whom
all things are as nought! As for me, I know that if a voice from Heaven
told me to desert you, I would only clasp you the closer to my heart!
I tell you, my own love, that when your hand is in mine, when your head
rests upon my bosom, when those soft and thrilling eyes shall be fixed
upon my own, when every sigh shall be mingled with my breath, and every
tear be kissed away at the very instant it rises from its source--I tell
you that then you shall only feel that every pang of the past, and every
fear for the future, shall be but a new link to bind us the firmer to
each other. Emily, my life, my love, you cannot, if you would, desert
me. Who can separate the waters which are once united, or divide the
hearts which have met and mingled into one?
Since they had once more met, it will be perceived that Falkland had
adopted a new tone in expressing his passion to Emily. In the book of
guilt another page, branded in a deeper and more burning character, had
been turned. He lost no opportunity of summoning the earthlier emotions
to the support of his cause. He wooed her fancy with the golden language
of poetry, and strove to arouse the latent feelings of her sex by the
soft magic of his voice, and the passionate meaning it conveyed. But at
times there came over him a deep and keen sentiment of remorse; and even,
as his experienced and practised eye saw the moment of his triumph
approach, he felt that the success he was hazarding his own soul and hers
to obtain, might bring him a momentary transport, but not a permanent
happiness. There is always this difference in the love of women and of
men; that in the former, when once admitted, it engrosses all the sources
of thought, and excludes every object but itself; but in the latter, it
is shared with all the former reflections and feelings which the past yet
bequeaths us, and can neither (however powerful be its nature) constitute
the whole of our happiness or woe. The love of man in his maturer years
is not indeed so much a new emotion, as a revival and concentration of
all his departed affections to others; and the deep and intense nature of
Falkland's passion for Emily was linked with the recollections of
whatever he had formerly cherished as tender or dear; it touched--
it awoke a long chain of young and enthusiastic feelings, which arose,
perhaps, the fresher from their slumber. Who, when he turns to recall
his first and fondest associations; when he throws off, one by one, the
layers of earth and stone which have grown and hardened over the records
of the past: who has not been surprised to discover how fresh and
unimpaired those buried treasures rise again upon his heart? They have
been laid up in the storehouse of Time; they have not perished; their
very concealment has preserved them! _We remove the lava, and the world
of a gone day is before us_!
The evening of the day on which Falkland had written the above letter was
rude and stormy. The various streams with which the country abounded
were swelled by late rains into an unwonted rapidity and breadth; and
their voices blended with the rushing sound of the winds, and the distant
roll of the thunder, which began at last sullenly to subside. The whole
of the scene around L------ was of that savage yet sublime character,
which suited well with the wrath of the aroused elements. Dark woods,
large tracts of unenclosed heath, abrupt variations of hill and vale, and
a dim and broken outline beyond of uninterrupted mountains, formed the
great features of that romantic country.
It was filled with the recollections of his youth, and of the wild
delight which he took then in the convulsions and varieties of nature,
that Falkland roamed abroad that evening. The dim shadows of years,
crowded with concealed events and corroding reflections, all gathered
around his mind, and the gloom and tempest of the night came over him
like the sympathy of a friend.
He passed a group of terrified peasants; they were cowering under a tree.
The oldest hid his head and shuddered; but the youngest looked steadily
at the lightning which played at fitful intervals over the mountain
stream that rushed rapidly by their feet. Falkland stood beside them
unnoticed and silent, with folded arms and a scornful lip. To him,
nature, heaven, earth had nothing for fear, and everything for
reflection. In youth, thought he (as he contrasted the fear felt at one
period of life with the indifference at another), there are so many
objects to divide and distract life, that we are scarcely sensible of the
collected conviction that we live. We lose the sense of what is by
thinking rather of what is to be. But the old, who have no future to
expect, are more vividly alive to the present, and they feel death more,
because they have a more settled and perfect impression of existence.
He left the group, and went on alone by the margin of the winding and
swelling stream. "It is (said a certain philosopher) in the conflicts of
Nature that man most feels his littleness." Like all general maxims,
this is only partially true. The mind, which takes its first ideas from
perception, must take also its tone from the character of the objects
perceived. In mingling our spirits with the great elements, we partake
of their sublimity; we awaken thought from the secret depths where it had
lain concealed; our feelings are too excited to remain riveted to
ourselves; they blend with the mighty powers which are abroad; and as, in
the agitations of men, the individual arouses from himself to become a
part of the crowd, so in the convulsions of nature we are equally
awakened from the littleness of self, to be lost in the grandeur of the
conflict by which we are surrounded.
Falkland still continued to track the stream: it wound its way through
Mandeville's grounds, and broadened at last into the lake which was so
consecrated to his recollections. He paused at that spot for some
moments, looking carelessly over the wide expanse of waters, now dark as
night, and now flashing into one mighty plain of fire beneath the
coruscations of the lightning. The clouds swept on in massy columns,
dark and aspiring-veiling, while they rolled up to, the great heavens,
like the shadows of human doubt. Oh! weak, weak was that dogma of the
philosopher! There is a pride in the storm which, according to his
doctrine, would debase us; a stirring music in its roar; even a savage
joy in its destruction: for we can exult in a defiance of its power, even
while we share in its triumphs, in a consciousness of a superior spirit
within us to that which is around. We can mock at the fury of the
elements, for they are less terrible than the passions of the heart; at
the devastations of the awful skies, for they are less desolating than
the wrath of man; at the convulsions of that surrounding nature which has
no peril, no terror to the soul, which is more indestructible and eternal
than itself. Falkland turned towards the house which contained his
world; and as the lightning revealed at intervals the white columns of
the porch, and wrapt in sheets of fire, like a spectral throng, the tall
and waving trees by which it was encircled, and then as suddenly ceased,
and "the jaws of darkness" devoured up the scene; he compared, with that
bitter alchymy of feeling which resolves all into one crucible of
thought, those alternations of sight and shadow to the history of his own
guilty love--that passion whose birth was the womb of Night; shrouded in
darkness, surrounded by storms, and receiving only from the angry heavens
a momentary brilliance, more terrible than its customary gloom.
As he entered the saloon, Lady Margaret advanced towards him. "My dear
Falkland," said she, "how good it is in you to come in such a night. We
have been watching the skies till Emily grew terrified at the lightning;
formerly it did not alarm her." And Lady Margaret turned, utterly
unconscious of the reproach she had conveyed, towards Emily.
Did not Falkland's look turn also to that spot? Lady Emily was sitting
by the harp which Mrs. St. John appeared to be most seriously employed
in tuning: her countenance was bent downwards, and burning beneath the
blushes called forth by the gaze which she felt was upon her.
There was in Falkland's character a peculiar dislike to all outward
display of less worldly emotions. He had none of the vanity most men
have in conquest; he would not have had any human being know that he was
loved. He was right! No altar should be so unseen and inviolable as the
human heart! He saw at once and relieved the embarrassment he had
caused. With the remarkable fascination and grace of manner so
peculiarly his own, he made his excuses to Lady Margaret of his
disordered dress; he charmed his uncle, Don Alphonso, with a quotation
from Lope de Vega; he inquired tenderly of Mrs. Dalton touching the
health of her Italian greyhound; and then, nor till then--he ventured to
approach Emily, and speak to her in that soft tone, which, like a fairy
language, is understood only by the person it addresses. Mrs. St. John
rose and left the harp; Falkland took her seat. He bent down to whisper
Emily. His long hair touched her cheek! it was still wet with the night
dew. She looked up as she felt it, and met his gaze: better had it been
to have lost earth than to have drunk the soul's poison from that eye
when it tempted to sin.
Mrs. St. John stood at some distance: Don Alphonso was speaking to her
of his nephew, and of his hopes of ultimately gaining him to the cause
of his mother's country. "See you not," said Mrs. St. John, and her
colour went and came, "that while he has such attractions to detain him,
your hopes are in vain?" "What mean you?" replied the Spaniard; but his
eye had followed the direction she had given it, and the question came
only from his lips. Mrs. St. John drew him to a still remoter corner of
the room, and it was in the conversation that then ensued between them,
that they agreed to unite for the purpose of separating Emily from her
lover--"I to save my friend," said Mrs. St. John, "and you your kinsman."
Thus is it with human virtue:--the fair show and the good deed
without--the one eternal motive of selfishness within. During the
Spaniard's visit at E------, he had seen enough of Falkland to perceive
the great consequence he might, from his perfect knowledge of the Spanish
language, from his singular powers, and, above all, from his command of
wealth, be to the cause of that party he himself had adopted. His aim,
therefore, was now no longer confined to procuring Falkland's goodwill
and aim at home: he hoped to secure his personal assistance in Spain: and
he willingly coincided with Mrs. St. John in detaching his nephew from a
tie so likely to detain him from that service to which Alphonso wished he
should be pledged.
Mandeville had left E------ that morning: he suspected nothing of Emily's
attachment. This, on his part, was Bulwer, less confidence than
indifference. He was one of those persons who have no existence separate
from their own: his senses all turned inwards; they reproduced
selfishness. Even the House of Commons was only an object of interest,
because he imagined it a part of him, not he of it. He said, with the
insect on the wheel, "Admire our rapidity." But did the defects of his
character remove Lady Emily's guilt? No! and this, at times, was her
bitterest conviction. Whoever turns to these pages for an apology for
sin will be mistaken. They contain the burning records of its
sufferings, its repentance, and its doom. If there be one crime in
the history of woman worse than another, it is adultery. It is, in fact,
the only crime to which, in ordinary life, she is exposed. Man has a
thousand temptations to sin--woman has but one; if she cannot resist it,
she has no claim upon our mercy. The heavens are just! Her own guilt is
her punishment! Should these pages, at this moment, meet the eyes of one
who has become the centre of a circle of disgrace--the contaminator of
her house--the dishonour of her children,--no matter what the excuse for
her crime--no matter what the exchange of her station--in the very arms
of her lover, in the very cincture of the new ties which she has chosen
--I call upon her to answer me if the fondest moments of rapture are free
from humiliation, though they have forgotten remorse; and if the passion
itself of her lover has not become no less the penalty than the
recompense of her guilt? But at that hour of which I now write, there
was neither in Emily's heart, nor in that of her seducer, any
recollection of their sin. Those hearts were too full for thought--they
had forgotten everything but each other. Their love was their creation:
beyond all was night--chaos--nothing!
Lady Margaret approached them. "You will sing to us, Emily, to-night?
it is so long since we have heard you!" It was in vain that Emily tried
--her voice failed. She looked at Falkland, and could scarcely restrain
her tears. She had not yet learned the latest art which sin teaches
us-its concealment! "I will supply Lady Emily's place," said Falkland.
His voice was calm, and his brow serene the world had left nothing for
him to learn. "Will you play the air," he said to Mrs. St. John, "that
you gave us some nights ago? I will furnish the words." Mrs. St. John's
hand trembled as she obeyed.
Ah, let us love while yet we may,
Our summer is decaying;
And woe to hearts which, in their gray
December, go a-maying.
Ah, let us love, while of the fire
Time hath not yet bereft us
With years our warmer thoughts expire,
Till only ice is left us!
We'll fly the bleak world's bitter air
A brighter home shall win us;
And if our hearts grow weary there,
We'll find a world within us.
They preach that passion fades each hour,
That nought will pall like pleasure;
My bee, if Love's so frail a flower,
Oh, haste to hive its treasure.
Wait not the hour, when all the mind
Shall to the crowd be given;
For links, which to the million bind,
Shall from the one be riven.
But let us love while yet we may
Our summer is decaying;
And woe to hearts which, in their gray
December, go a-maying.
The next day Emily rose ill and feverish. In the absence of Falkland,
her mind always awoke to the full sense of the guilt she had incurred.
She had been brought up in the strictest, even the most fastidious,
principles; and her nature was so pure, that merely to err appeared like
a change in existence--like an entrance into some new and unknown world,
from which she shrank back, in terror, to herself.
Judge, then, if she easily habituated her mind to its present
degradation. She sat, that morning, pale and listless; her book lay
unopened before her; her eyes were fixed upon the ground, heavy with
suppressed tears. Mrs. St. John entered: no one else was in the room.
She sat by her, and took her hand. Her countenance was scarcely less
colourless than Emily's, but its expression was more calm and composed.
"It is not too late, Emily," she said; "you have done much that you
should repent--nothing to render repentance unavailing. Forgive me, if I
speak to you on this subject. It is time--in a few days your fate will
be decided. I have looked on, though hitherto I have been silent: I have
witnessed that eye when it dwelt upon you; I have heard that voice when
it spoke to your heart. None ever resisted their influence long: do you
imagine that you are the first who have found the power? Pardon me,
pardon me, I beseech you, my dearest friend, if I pain you. I have known
you from your childhood, and I only wish to preserve you spotless to your
Emily wept, without replying. Mrs. St. John continued to argue and
expostulate. What is so wavering as passion? When, at last, Mrs. St.
John ceased, and Emily shed upon her bosom the hot tears of her anguish
and repentance, she imagined that her resolution was taken, and that she
could almost have vowed an eternal separation from her lover; Falkland
came that evening, and she loved him more madly than before.
Mrs. St. John was not in the saloon when Falkland entered. Lady Margaret
was reading the well-known story of Lady T----- and the Duchess of ---,
in which an agreement had been made and kept, that the one who died first
should return once more to the survivor. As Lady Margaret spoke
laughingly of the anecdote, Emily, who was watching Falkland's
countenance, was struck with the dark and sudden shade which fell over
it. He moved in silence towards the window where Emily was sitting. "Do
you believe," she said, with a faint smile, "in the possibility of such
an event?" "I believe--though I reject--nothing!" replied Falkland, "but
I would give worlds for such a proof that death does not destroy."
"Surely," said Emily, "you do not deny that evidence of our immortality
which we gather from the Scriptures?--are they not all that a voice from
the dead could be?" Falkland was silent for a few moments: he did not
seem to hear the question; his eyes dwelt upon vacancy; and when he at
last spoke, it was rather in commune with himself than in answer to her.
"I have watched," said he, in a low internal tone, "over the tomb: I have
called, in the agony of my heart, unto her--who slept beneath; I would
have dissolved my very soul into a spell, could it have summoned before
me for one, one moment the being who had once been the spirit of my life!
I have been, as it were, entranced with the intensity of my own
adjuration; I have gazed upon the empty air, and worked upon my mind to
fill it with imaginings; I have called aloud unto the winds and tasked my
soul to waken their silence to reply. All was a waste--a stillness--an
infinity--without a wanderer or a voice! The dead answered me not, when
I invoked them; and in the vigils of the still night I looked from the
rank grass and the mouldering stones to the Eternal Heavens, as man looks
from decay to immortality! Oh! that awful magnificence of repose--that
living sleep--that breathing yet unrevealing divinity, spread over those
still worlds! To them also I poured my thoughts--but in a whisper. I
did not dare to breathe aloud the unhallowed anguish of my mind to the
majesty of the unsympathising stars! In the vast order of creation--in
the midst of the stupendous system of universal life, my doubt and
inquiry were murmured forth--a voice crying in the wilderness and
returning without an echo unanswered unto myself!"
The deep light of the summer moon shone over Falkland's countenance,
which Emily gazed on, as she listened, almost tremblingly, to his words.
His brow was knit and hueless, and the large drops gathered slowly over
it, as if wrung from the strained yet impotent tension of the thoughts
within. Emily drew nearer to him--she laid her hand upon his own.
"Listen to me," she said: "if a herald from the grave could satisfy your
doubt, I would gladly die that I might return to you!" "Beware," said
Falkland, with an agitated but solemn voice; "the words, now so lightly
spoken, may be registered on high." "Be it so!" replied Emily firmly,
and she felt what she said. Her love penetrated beyond the tomb, and she
would have forfeited all here for their union hereafter.
"In my earliest youth," said Falkland, more calmly than he had yet
spoken, "I found in the present and the past of this world enough to
direct my attention to the futurity of another: if I did not credit all
with the enthusiast, I had no sympathies with the scorner: I sat myself
down to examine and reflect: I pored alike over the pages of the
philosopher and the theologian; I was neither baffled by the subtleties
nor deterred by the contradictions of either. As men first ascertained
the geography of the earth by observing the signs of the heavens, I did
homage to the Unknown God, and sought from that worship to inquire into
the reasonings of mankind. I did not confine myself to books--all things
breathing or inanimate constituted my study. From death itself I
endeavoured to extract its secret; and whole nights I have sat in the
crowded asylums of the dying, watching the last spark flutter and decay.
Men die away as in sleep, without effort, or struggle, or emotion. I
have looked on their countenances a moment before death, and the serenity
of repose was upon them, waxing only more deep as it approached that
slumber which, is never broken: the breath grew gentler and gentler, till
the lips it came from fell from each other, and all was hushed; the light
had departed from the cloud, but the cloud itself, gray, cold, altered as
it seemed, was as before. They died and made no sign. They had left the
labyrinth without bequeathing us its clew. It is in vain that I have
sent my spirit into the land of shadows--it has borne back no witnesses
of its inquiry. As Newton said of himself, 'I picked up a few shells by
the seashore, but the great ocean of truth lay undiscovered before me.'"
There was a long pause. Lady Margaret had sat down to chess with the
Spaniard. No look was upon the lovers: their eyes met, and with that one
glance the whole current of their thoughts was changed. The blood, which
a moment before had left Falkland's cheek so colourless, rushed back to
it again. The love which had so penetrated and pervaded his whole
system, and which abstruser and colder reflection had just calmed,
thrilled through his frame with redoubled power. As if by an involuntary
and mutual impulse, their lips met: he threw his arm round her; he
strained her to his bosom. "Dark as my thoughts are," he whispered,
"evil as has been my life, will you not yet soothe the one, and guide the
other? My Emily! my love! the Heaven to the tumultuous ocean of my
heart--will you not be mine--mine only--wholly--and for ever?" She did
not answer--she did not turn from his embrace. Her cheek flushed as his
breath stole over it, and her bosom heaved beneath the arm which
encircled that empire so devoted to him. "Speak one word, only one
word," he continued to whisper: "will you not be mine? Are you not mine
at heart even at this moment?" Her head sank upon his bosom. Those deep
and eloquent eyes looked up to his through their dark lashes. "I will be
yours," she murmured: "I am at your mercy; I have no longer any
existence but in you. My only fear is, that I shall cease to be worthy
of your love!"
Falkland pressed his lips once more to her own: it was his only answer,
and the last seal to their compact. As they stood before the open
lattice, the still and unconscious moon looked down upon that record of
guilt. There was not a cloud in the heaven to dim her purity: the very
winds of night had hushed themselves to do her homage: all was silent but
their hearts. They stood beneath the calm and holy skies, a guilty and
devoted pair--a fearful contrast of the sin and turbulence of this
unquiet earth to the passionless serenity of the eternal heaven. The
same stars, that for thousands of unfathomed years had looked upon the
changes of this nether world, gleamed pale, and pure, and steadfast upon
their burning but transitory vow. In a few years what of the
condemnation or the recorders of that vow would remain? From other lips,
on that spot, other oaths might be plighted; new pledges of unchangeable
fidelity exchanged: and, year after year, in each succession of scene and
time, the same stars will look from the mystery of their untracked and
impenetrable home, to mock, as now, with their immutability, the
variations and shadows of mankind!
FROM ERASMUS FALKLAND, ESQ., TO LADY EMILY MANDEVILLE.
At length, then, you are to be mine--you have consented to fly with me.
In three days we shall leave this country, and have no home--no world but
in each other. We will go, my Emily, to those golden lands where Nature,
the only companion we will suffer, woos us, like a mother, to find our
asylum in her breast; where the breezes are languid beneath the passion
of the voluptuous skies; and where the purple light that invests all
things with its glory is only less tender and consecrating than the
spirit which we bring. Is there not, my Emily, in the external nature
which reigns over creation, and that human nature centred in ourselves,
some secret and undefinable intelligence and attraction? Are not the
impressions of the former as spells over the passions of the later? and
in gazing upon the loveliness around us, do we not gather, as it were,
and store within our hearts, an increase of the yearning and desire of
love? What can we demand from earth but its solitudes--what from heaven
but its unpolluted air? All that others would ask from either, we can
find in ourselves. Wealth--honour--happiness--every object of ambition
or desire, exist not for us without the circle of our arms! But the
bower that surrounds us shall not be unworthy of your beauty or our love.
Amidst the myrtle and the vine, and the valleys where the summer sleeps
and "the rivers that murmur the memories and the legends of old amidst
the hills and the glossy glades," and the silver fountains, still as
beautiful as if the Nymph and Spirit yet held and decorated an earthly
home; amidst these we will make the couch of our bridals, and the moon of
Italian skies shall keep watch on our repose.
Emily!--Emily!--how I love to repeat and to linger over that beautiful
name! If to see, to address, and, more than all, to touch you, has been
a rapture, what word can I find in the vocabulary of happiness to express
the realisation of that hope which now burns within me--to mingle our
youth together into one stream, wheresoever it flows; to respire the same
breath; to be almost blent in the same existence; to grow, as it were, on
one stem, and knit into a single life the feelings, the wishes, the being
To-night I shall see you again: let one day more intervene, and--I cannot
conclude the sentence. As I have written, the tumultuous happiness of
hope has come over me to confuse and overwhelm everything else. At this
moment my pulse riots with fever; the room swims before my eyes;
everything is indistinct and jarring--a chaos of emotions. Oh! that
happiness should ever have such excess!
When Emily received and laid this letter to her heart, she felt nothing
in common with the spirit which it breathed. With that quick transition
and inconstancy of feeling connmon in women, and which is as frequently
their safety as their peril, her mind had already repented of the
weakness of the last evening, and relapsed into the irresolution and
bitterness of her former remorse. Never had there been in the human
breast a stronger contest between conscience and passion;--if, indeed,
the extreme softness (notwithstanding its power) of Emily's attachment
could be called passion it was rather a love that had refined by the
increase of its own strength; it contained nothing but the primary guilt
of conceiving it, which that order of angels, whose nature is love, would
have sought to purify away. To see him, to live with him, to count the
variations of his countenance and voice, to touch his hand at moments
when waking, and watch over his slumbers when he slept--this was the
essence of her wishes, and constituted the limit to her desires. Against
the temptations of the present was opposed the whole history of the past.
Her mind wandered from each to each, wavering and wretched, as the
impulse of the moment impelled it. Hers was not, indeed, a strong
character; her education and habits had weakened, while they rendered
more feminine and delicate, a nature originally too soft. Every
recollection of former purity called to her with the loud voice of duty,
as a warning from the great guilt she was about to incur; and whenever
she thought of her child--that centre of fond and sinless sensations,
where once she had so wholly garnered up her heart--her feelings melted
at once from the object which had so wildly held them riveted as by a
spell, to dissolve and lose themselves in the great and sacred fountain
of a mother's love.
When Falkland came that evening, she was sitting at a corner of the
saloon, apparently occupied in reading, but her eyes were fixed upon her
boy, whom Mrs. St. John was endeavouring at the opposite end of the room
to amuse. The child, who was fond of Falkland, came up to him as he
entered: Falkland stooped to kiss him; and Mrs. St. John said, in a low
voice which just reached his ear, "Judas, too, kissed before he
betrayed." Falkland's colour changed: he felt the sting the words were
intended to convey. On that child, now so innocently caressing him, he
was indeed about to inflict a disgrace and injury the most sensible and
irremediable in his power. But who ever indulges reflection in passion?
He banished the remorse from his mind as instantaneously as it arose;
and, seating himself by Emily, endeavoured to inspire her with a portion
of the joy and hope which animated himself. Mrs. St. John watched them
with a jealous and anxious eye: she had already seen how useless had been
her former attempt to arm Emily's conscience effectually against her
lover; but she resolved at least to renew the impression she had then
made. The danger was imminent, and any remedy must be prompt; and it was
something to protract, even if she could not finally break off, an union
against which were arrayed all the angry feelings of jealousy, as well as
the better affections of the friend. Emily's eye was already brightening
beneath the words that Falkland whispered in her ear, when Mrs. St. John
approached her. She placed herself on a chair beside them, and unmindful
of Falkland's bent and angry brow, attempted to create a general and
commonplace conversation. Lady Margaret had invited two or three people
in the neighbourhood; and when these came in, music and cards were
resorted to immediately, with that English politesse, which takes the
earliest opportunity to show that the conversation of our friends is the
last thing for which we have invited them. But Mrs. St. John never left
the lovers; and at last, when Falkland, in despair at her obstinacy,
arose to join the card-table, she said, "Pray, Mr. Falkland, were you not
intimate at one time with * * * * , who eloped with Lady * * *?" "I knew
him but slightly," said Falkland; and then added, with a sneer, "the only
times I ever met him were at your house." Mrs. St. John, without
noticing the sarcasm, continued:--"What an unfortunate affair that
proved! They were very much attached to one another in early life--the
only excuse, perhaps for a woman's breaking her subsequent vows. They
eloped. The remainder of their history is briefly told: it is that of
all who forfeit everything for passion, and forget that of everything it
is the briefest in duration. He who had sacrificed his honour for her,
sacrificed her also as lightly for another. She could not bear his
infidelity; and how could she reproach him? In the very act of yielding
to, she had become unworthy of, his love. She did not reproach him--she
died of a broken heart! I saw her just before her death, for I was
distantly related to her, and I could not forsake her utterly even in her
sin. She then spoke to me only of the child by her former marriage, whom
she had left in the years when it most needed her care: she questioned me
of its health--its education--its very growth: the minutest thing was not
beneath her inquiry. His tidings were all that brought back to her mind
'the redolence of joy and spring.' I brought that child to her one day:
he at least had never forgotten her. How bitterly both wept when they
were separated! and she--poor, poor Ellen--an hour after their separation
was no more!" There was a pause for a few minutes. Emily was deeply
affected. Mrs. St. John had anticipated the effect she had produced, and
concerted the method to increase it. "It is singular," she resumed,
"that, the evening before her elopement, some verses were sent to her
anonymously--I do not think, Emily, that you have ever seen them. Shall
I sing them to you now?" and, without waiting for a reply, she placed
herself at the piano; and with a low but sweet voice, greatly aided in
effect by the extreme feeling of her manner, she sang the following
And wilt thou leave that happy home,
Where once it was so sweet to live?
Ah! think, before thou seek'st to roam,
What safer shelter Guilt can give!
The Bird may rove, and still regain
With spotless wings, her wonted rest,
But home, once lost, is ne'er again
Restored to Woman's erring breast!
If wandering o'er a world of flowers,
The heart at times would ask repose;
But thou wouldst lose the only bowers
Of rest amid a world of woes.
Recall thy youth's unsullied vow
The past which on thee smile so fair;
Then turn from thence to picture now
The frowns thy future fate must wear!
No hour, no hope, can bring relief
To her who hides a blighted name;
For hearts unbow'd by stormiest _grief_
Will break beneath one breeze of _shame_!
And when thy child's deserted years
Amid life's early woes are thrown,
Shall menial bosoms soothe the tears
That should be shed on thine alone?
When on thy name his lips shall call,
(That tender name, the earliest taught!)
Thou wouldst not Shame and Sin were all
The memories link'd around its thought!
If Sickness haunt his infant bed,
Ah! what could then replace thy care?
Could hireling steps as gently tread
As if a Mother's soul was there?
Enough! 'tis not too late to shun
The bitter draught thyself wouldst fill;
The latest link is not undone
Thy bark is in the haven still.
If doom'd to grief through life thou art,
'Tis thine at least unstain'd to die!
Oh! better break at once thy heart
Than rend it from its holiest tie!
It were vain to attempt describing Emily's feelings when the song ceased.
The scene floated before her eyes indistinct and dark. The violence of
the emotions she attempted to conceal pressed upon her almost to choking.
She rose, looked at Falkland with one look of such anguish and despair
that it froze his very heart, and left the room without uttering a word.
A moment more--they heard a noise--a fall. They rushed out--Emily was
stretched on the ground, apparently lifeless. She had broken a