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speech. Catherine" at this moment, raising his eyes, he discovered for the first time, Matilda within the embrasure of a window. Turning with a sudden flush, far less unaccountable than the deathlike paleness of Reginald, she advanced towards bim. “ Colonel Lister," said she ; " if my poor welcome can add anything to the better reception you find at Harlington, believe me, it is most heartily yours
. And now let me avail myself of the privilege which I believe I have; there—"continued she, throwing a chain of the interwoven hair of the two sisters round his neck; "and now, like the Emperor Augustus, you must wear the manufacture of your wife and sister.”
If, yesterday, Reginald had exhibited appearances of mental wandering, his senses just now had evidently extended their ramble. His wit was no longer ready; and his state of man, like a tenantless building, was at any one's mercy.
“ Reginald—Captain Lister,” said Catherine in a hurried tone ; “ what is this ? you are distempered-ill—'tis vain as cruel the disguise. Reginald, you must leave us; indeed you must return to the Priory-see-my father's carriage-it shall convey you instantly to your own home.“
Matilda stood, bathed in tears.
“ True," faltered Reginald, “I am indeed distempered; but believe me, for with all sincerity I speak it, your aid, Catherine--your counsel can alone assist me—never man spoke more truly:" saying which, he led Catherine through a second door of the apartment, which opened into the shrubbery. “ Yes,” said he, when they were now alone; “ tell me, Catherine, is not that sorrow better which leads to patience, than the poor juggle which palliates evil but to nurse its power?"
“Ah, Reginald! wherefore such appeal ?"
“ Because you must testify the truth,” was the reply. At this moment the speakers having turned down one of the slopes into the hollygrove, suddenly encountered the imposing presence of Mr. Harlington himself. Exultation was at his heart, but placidity in his countenance ; and though he felt a great object of his ambition was near its accomplishment, yet his air of patronage underwent no change. Besides, should any misadventure interrupt the match, he might hereby be enabled to declare, the project had never met with his entire approbation.
Strange, but we are compelled to say, Reginald again felt relief from this interruption. It was his last selvage of opportunity, yet Reginald pusillanimously welcomed its invasion. Mr. Harlington's manner was gracious, but studied, and as misapplied under the circumstances of place and persons, as a full court attire at a harvest home. The conversation, however, became cheerful-even animated —whilst Catherine felt a most natural joy in this uvexpected evidence of Reginald's restoration to his usual demeanour.
On their re-ascending the terrace immediately before the garden entrance to the house, Mr. Harlington turned to Reginald, and with an air which would have become a secretary of any department, requested to be honoured for a short time by the presence of Captain Lister in his study. Reginald immediately assented, and following this stately personage towards the chamber, once more assigned hinself to the trusteeship of his guardian resolutions, and at last determined to make no other than Mr. Harlington himself the confidant of all his troubles ! Casting a backward look, he beheld the two sisters
in the enlacement of each other's embrace, watching him with that aspect of holy angels, which is childhood's first lesson to invoke.
Reginald's state of mind prevented his perceiving Mr. Harlington's resumption of that s'en faire accroire, which, as he took his chair, and indicated to Reginald to follow his example, was perfectly overpowering.
“ Captain Lister," said Mr. Harlington, after a most pregnant pause ; “ events in which our two families have a common implication, and in which my child and yourself appear more materially concerned, demand a few observations. That you possess my daughter's affections, I do not hesitate in confessing, is suficient for me to entertain the question of this alliance; your name, character, and station, I feel ought-ought to make that sutticient."
These words were uttered, however, in that peculiar tone, as to imply it was altogether a speech of grace, and that it was yet possible Reginald's name, character, and station might not be sufficient to the expectations of so exclusive a personage as Mr. Harlington. Another interval of silence, and he proceeded :-" If ambition has ever borne a part in the counsels of my life, it has not been in making brilliant alliances for my children. 'I am content with honourable birth and unsullied reputation. To these, Captain Lister has an undoubted claim - I can have no disappointment to lament."
Bewildered as Reginald was by the gestation of his own unhappy plea, yet the insolence of this address tented him to the quick. His pride was for a moment freed from his sufferings, and he replied
Humility, sir, must ever be the part of him who sues for a lady's favour; this, station can never render less becoming: but, sir, I fear I am yet wanting a sense of my further distinction, in being considered without taint or reproach in the estimation of Mr. Harlington.”
To have misunderstood the nature of this reply was impossible, but Mr. Harlington was one never taken by surprise, and merely indicated by manner that he received the words in no other light than a simple assent to his own profound statements. In his usual equanimity of manner, therefore, he continued. “ The probability of a near alliance between our families, I must confess, invests you with some claim on my confidence, and I therefore avail myself of the brief leisure at my disposal of announcing to you, that the hand of my younger daughter Matilda—" here verily the heart of Reginald knocked at his ribs “ has been sought by one who, I believe, has full possession of her will,—the son and heir of his Majesty's Ambassador at the Court of Vienna, the Honourable Mr. Charles Bonner.”
“ Matilda !” uttered Reginald in a tone which would bave startled any ears but those of Mr. Harlington. “Matilda!”
The jarring, incomprehensible state of Reginald's feelings now threw him into new excitement-dashed one moment to the earth, and now bounding with the strangest sensations of liberation. Incomprehensible !-but he appeared to have broken from an imprisonment to which the liberty of despair was a land of freedom. Matilda was lost-more-lost beyond hope. The barb was withdrawn from his festering sense, and though the wound might still be left mortal, its throes were deadened.
Wrapped in himself, Mr. Harlington remained totally unconscious of Reginald's emotion, and after another flow of sentences, which, like a fall of snow, soon buried all trace of matter beneath it, he ceased ;
more alone, resumed his inquiry on Colonial Dependencies.
As to poor Reginald, he was puzzled, as though fancy, like a wicked Ariel, had caused him to“ play these tricks of desperation;"—all had been a vision ? his love for Matilda a mere delusion? for his whole soul, like a halcyon on the waters, floated free and peaceful.
The matrimonial intelligence above announced by Mr. Harlington, bad in one sense some foundation, namely, in the determination of that gentleman ; otherwise it was that by which the ears of Matilda had never yet been assailed, nor perhaps had ever passed the mental threshold of the Ambassador's heir bimself. Some flighty, chevaleresque expressions of admiration and attention on the part of this young man towards Matilda, had fallen into the loom of Mr. Harlington's active policy, out of which he would fain weave a web “ to catch as great a fly as Cassio.” The alliance was desirable, and this was sufficient for Mr. Harlington ; for he was one of those who understood the lawfulness of things by their events, holding, on this question, as the learned Dr. Fuller expresses it, “ the wrong side of the book uppermost."
Captain Lister now formally represented to his mother his intended union with Catherine, and some urgent matters calling him about this time to the metropolis, the two young ladies passed the entire meanwhile at the Priory. Reginald had also, naturally enough, communicated Mr. Harlington's information in respect of his younger child-an intelligence which gave Mrs. Lister both uneasiness and surprise, for Mr. Bonner's reputation was by no means that on which she could congratulate her young friend, whilst his rare visits at Harlington were certainly the only feature of his conduct which could have been called « like angels."
In a few days Catherine and Matilda had returned to their own home. It was on one of those sultry autumnal evenings, when not a breath in the heavens relieved the labouring languor of the mead, and the rich tinted foliage appeared so still and fixed, as though the tendrils had been painted on the blue background of the sky, and a faintness rather than repose bowed down every living thing, when Matilda had retired to her chamber, whose treillaged lattice had been thrown open to give, not take, the only sigh which Nature at that moment seemed to breathe.
She had been occupied in drawing, and the materials of her employment were still scattered before her. The aspect from her chamber was well suited to melancholy thought.
“ Phæbus' bright chariot now bad run
Past the proud pillars of Alcmena's son.” The ripple of the stream, silver-tipped by the moon's beam, was in her own watery gaze; for tears stood in her eyes, and disquiet seemed alone to occupy the bosom of Matilda. The door of the apartment was partly unclosed-Catherine was at this moment advancing. She paused—fixed in mute attention. She listened. She could not be deceived, -it was a sigh she heard,—a sob-a heart-rending sob. Catherine approached nearer; and deeper still were the tones of agony which met her ear. The tears were Matilda's tears, whose figure, partly averted, Catherine now distinguished in the drooping utterance of woe. She was in the act of earnestly gazing on some object before her,-it
was a miniature,-evidently her own work, and the likeness, Reginald -Reginald Lister! Catherine still listened, for the signs of grief now broke into the more audible accents of speech.
“ Be your days happy till their timely course merge into blessed everlastingness! Yes, Reginald, you have wisely chosen one hast thou chosen, worthy thine own essential being, and who, by assimilation with thyself, can alone appreciate thine exalted worth. May happiness be your course, meeting no change but in its own variety of blessing! Yes, Reginald, Catherine has a kindred being, and will bear you fellowship in your own region of thought and fancy-one who has perception to define thy strangest imaginings, and a soul to partake your highest triumphs. Catherine, the counterpart of thy nature, must be the affianced of thine heart. Yes, thou hast chosen,-how wisely, this poor, poor stricken brain must freely witness. Her, Reginald, you have chosen,-yet, had it been otherwise-had this humbler - this less, less worthy-poor vain Matilda! Ah!-were I to speak it loud, though to deaf midnight, life, methinks, would pass from me with the word. Let my tears hide all,-my shame, my love, my utterance, my peace, on this blank earth. Go! be proclaimed the happy; but let Matilda's counsel be secret, sacred. Go! be ye happy, whilst my widowed thoughts shall yet inhabit yon shadowed paths, there, there to invoke the past, and speak, and sit, and wander with him still. Beloved-adored Reginald ! Indulge-indulge poor, vain heart in thy responsive throbs. Adored, beloved Reginald !”
The agitation, the dismay into which Catherine was thrown by what she had just witnessed, nearly denied her all power of escape. She was already sinking to the earth. By an effort she reached her own chamber, and there dropped upon a couch.
On the second day from the event above related, Reginald and Mrs. Lister drove over to Harlington. The intelligence which the latter had received respecting Matilda's contract to Mr. Bonner yet more and more disturbed her, and though she was by no means of a temperament to busy herself in the affairs of others, she still felt that admonition in the present instance might possibly be the most timely offering she could make to friendship. With these views she went instantly in search of her young friend. Reginald and Catherine were left together.
“You disappointed us yesterday,” said he, with an air of playful reproach ; "we did not see you,-an offence easily atoned for in any but yourself: in you, Catherine, it is indeed a serious charge; and upon my word you seem conscious of it, for I know not when I have seen you look so gravely."
“Reginald,” replied she, in a tone which startled him, "those recent events which now cannot fail to be the great, sole burden of your thoughts, as mine, have, you will confess it, been already attended by moments of strange, inexplicable reservation-unnatural phantasies"
“-Ah Catherine !” interrupted Reginald hastily, “these-these are indeed well merited reproofs. Sunken I am in my own esteem; keenly, sorrowfully, this wayward temper repents, and would, if possible, repair-"
“ — Reginald, it is it is thy patience I would demand,” interposed she, in accents almost of severity. “Inexplicable have been thy words, froward and fearful; but the vast volume of recorded things, has not a page like this,none, none so strange, so unapproached, so violent as mine!"
“Catherine-in the love of mercy-justice-"
“ — True-true," again she passionately exclaimed, "'tis in the name of both I am called on, or to both am lost for ever. Reginald, I can never be thine-never, never, Reginald--for the altar of our plight would demand a sacrifice at which heaven itself would weep, and darkness cover all our days to come. Some, surely, will deem me mad, others, how noble !—some will denounce me unnatural, others, how heroic !—but these I neither fear nor covet ; heaven knows 'tis not the world's award that stirs me. For did you know the dire conditions of our nuptials—the fearful record of our rites—the knolling of the bell which will displace the sponsal peal—the altar which must become her tomb”
“Her !—her tomb !—what rhapsody is this?”
“Ah! had it been she-she, Reginald,” continued Catherine, in deeper bitterness, " whom you could have - I had been content to watch thee at a distance, nor less have proved my faith and adoration. But she will die, Reginald, and oh! how worse than death, the memories which survive! Could you but have loved her—though wild my plea, and of which the wide world ne'er yet has given example ; yet-"
“ – Matilda !” ejaculated Reginald in accents of one distraught; “ Matilda !" and his frame trembled as though pierced by an arrow.
“Loves you at the very price of life, and how surely will pay the penalty, heaven knows-heaven knows !"
Reginald, by an impulse almost as involuntary as the exclamations he had uttered, sprang from the couch on which he had been seated, and gazing for a moment on vacancy, clasped the extended hand of Catherine, whilst a confused sense of coming events broke on his imagination, and rushed wildly from the apartment.
Mrs. Lister, meanwhile, had rambled afield with her beloved Matilda. They had strolled through the pleasure-grounds, and were now reposing under that favourite alcove, which had so late been the scene of Reginald's impassioned readings — a spot wherein Contemplation, like a true Sybarite, had wasted in indulgence, and Fancy wandered in its own creations.
In sincere congratulation of the unfounded tale, Mrs. Lister had addressed her chosen friend on that alliance which had been whispered with Mr. Bonner. “God grant,” she fervently exclaimed, "I may yet survive to behold one more worthy of you !" But they were no longer alone—the vision of hope was already clothed in mortal form, and Reginald himself at their feet. A stupor of enchantment held a momentary power over the gazers. Thought had no time for form—for question, all too brief. My wife !—mine own!—mine own!" wildly he still repeated.
“ Thy wife!" and she sank apparently lifeless into his arms.
The espousals were fulfilled—Reginald and Matilda were united. Mr. Harlington was a practical man to the very last, "non mihi res, sed me rebus committere conor," was a maxim for which he had ever shown veneration; and, though his part was submission, yet his language was still dictatorial. Like Micah, the Ephraimite, Catherine had restored the stolen treasure, and by an act which stands to this day singly in the heroism of women, became, as the heralds say, a "Party per pale,” half wife and half widow.