小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 经典英文小说 » Henrietta Temple : A Love Story » Part 3 Chapter 3
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
Part 3 Chapter 3

Which on the Whole Is Found Very Consoling.

THE separation of lovers, even with an immediate prospect of union, involves a sentiment of deep melancholy. The reaction of our solitary emotions, after a social impulse of such peculiar excitement, very much disheartens and depresses us. Mutual passion is complete sympathy. Under such an influence there is no feeling so strong, no fancy so delicate, that it is not instantly responded to. Our heart has no secrets, though our life may. Under such an influence, each unconsciously labours to enchant the other; each struggles to maintain the reality of that ideal which has been reached in a moment of happy inspiration. Then is the season when the voice is ever soft, the eye ever bright, and every movement of the frame airy and picturesque; each accent is full of tenderness; each glance, of affection; each gesture, of grace. We live in a heaven of our own creation. All happens that can contribute to our perfect satisfaction, and can ensure our complete self-complacency. We give and we receive felicity. We adore and we are adored. Love is the May-day of the heart.

But a cloud nevertheless will dim the genial lustre of that soft and brilliant sky when we are alone; when the soft voice no longer sighs, and the bright eye no longer beams, and the form we worship no longer moves before our enraptured vision. Our happiness becomes too much the result of reflection. Our faith is not less devout, but it is not so fervent. We believe in the miracle, but we no longer witness it.

And as the light was extinguished in the chamber of Henrietta Temple, Ferdinand Armine felt for a moment as if his sun had set for ever. There seemed to be now no evidence of her existence. Would tomorrow ever come? And if it came, would the rosy hours indeed bring her in their radiant car? What if this night she died? He shuddered at this wild imagination. Yet it might be; such dire calamities had been. And now he felt his life was involved in hers, and that under such circumstances his instant death must complete the catastrophe. There was then much at stake. Had it been yet his glorious privilege that her fair cheek should have found a pillow on his heart; could he have been permitted to have rested without her door but as her guard; even if the same roof at any distance had screened both their heads; such dark conceptions would not perhaps have risen up to torture him; but as it was, they haunted him like evil spirits as he took his lonely way over the common to gain his new abode.

Ah! the morning came, and such a morn! Bright as his love! Ferdinand had passed a dreamy night, and when he woke he could not at first recognise the locality. It was not Armine. Could it be Ducie? As he stretched his limbs and rubbed his eyes, he might be excused for a moment fancying that all the happiness of yesterday was indeed a vision. He was, in truth, sorely perplexed as he looked around the neat but humble chamber, and caught the first beam of the sun struggling through a casement shadowed by the jessamine. But on his heart there rested a curl of dark and flowing hair, and held together by that very turquoise of which he fancied he had been dreaming. Happy, happy Ferdinand! Why shouldst thou have cares? And may not the course even of thy true love run smooth?

He recks not of the future. What is the future to one so blessed? The sun is up, the lark is singing, the sky is bluer than the love-jewel at his heart. She will be here soon. No gloomy images disturb him now. Cheerfulness is the dowry of the dawn.

Will she indeed be here? Will Henrietta Temple indeed come to visit him? Will that consummate being before whom, but a few days back, he stood entranced; to whose mind the very idea of his existence had not then even occurred; will she be here anon to visit him? to visit her beloved! What has he done to be so happy? What fairy has touched him and his dark fortunes with her wand? What talisman does he grasp to call up such bright adventures of existence? He does not err. He is an enchanted being; a spell indeed pervades his frame; he moves in truth in a world of marvels and miracles. For what fairy has a wand like love, what talisman can achieve the deeds of passion?

He quitted the rustic porch, and strolled up the lane that led to Ducie. He started at a sound: it was but the spring of a wandering bird. Then the murmur of a distant wheel turned him pale; and he stopped and leant on a neighbouring gate with a panting heart. Was she at hand? There is not a moment when the heart palpitates with such delicate suspense as when a lover awaits his mistress in the spring days of his passion. Man watching the sun rise from a mountain awaits not an incident to him more beautiful, more genial, and more impressive. With her presence it would seem that both light and heat fall at the same time upon his heart: his emotions are warm and sunny, that a moment ago seemed dim and frigid; a thrilling sense of joy pervades his frame; the air is sweeter, and his ears seem to echo with the music of a thousand birds.

The sound of the approaching wheel became more audible; it drew near, nearer; but lost the delicacy that distance lent it. Alas! it did not propel the car of a fairy, or the chariot of a heroine, but a cart, whose taxed springs bowed beneath the portly form of an honest yeoman who gave Captain Armine a cheerful good-morrow as he jogged by, and flanked his jolly whip with unmerciful dexterity. The loudness of the unexpected salute, the crack of the echoing thong, shook the fine nerves of a fanciful lover, and Ferdinand looked so confused, that if the honest yeoman had only stopped to observe him, the passenger might have really been excused for mistaking him for a poacher, at the least, by his guilty countenance.

This little worldly interruption broke the wings of Ferdinand’s soaring fancy. He fell to earth. Doubt came over him whether Henrietta would indeed come. He was disappointed, and so he became distrustful. He strolled on, however, in the direction of Ducie, yet slowly, as there was more than one road, and to miss each other would have been mortifying.

His quick eye was in every quarter; his watchful ear listened in every direction: still she was not seen, and not a sound was heard except the hum of day. He became nervous, agitated, and began to conjure up a crowd of unfortunate incidents. Perhaps she was ill; that was very bad. Perhaps her father had suddenly returned. Was that worse? Perhaps something strange had happened. Perhaps———

Why! why does his face turn so pale, and why is his step so suddenly arrested? Ah! Ferdinand Armine, is not thy conscience clear? That pang was sharp. No, no, it is impossible; clearly, absolutely impossible; this is weak indeed. See! he smiles! He smiles at his weakness. He waves his arm as if in contempt. He casts away, with defiance, his idle apprehensions. His step is more assured, and the colour returns to his cheek. And yet her father must return. Was he prepared for that occurrence? This was a searching question. It induced a long, dark train of harassing recollections. He stopped to ponder. In what a web of circumstances was he now involved! Howsoever he might act, self-extrication appeared impossible. Perfect candour to Miss Temple might be the destruction of her love; even modified to her father, would certainly produce his banishment from Ducie. As the betrothed of Miss Grandison, Miss Temple would abjure him; as the lover of Miss Temple, under any circumstances, Mr. Temple would reject him. In what light would he appear to Henrietta were he to dare to reveal the truth? Would she not look upon him as the unresisting libertine of the hour, engaging in levity her heart as he had already trifled with another’s? For that absorbing and overwhelming passion, pure, primitive, and profound, to which she now responded with an enthusiasm as fresh, as ardent, and as immaculate, she would only recognise the fleeting fancy of a vain and worldly spirit, eager to add another triumph to a long list of conquests, and proud of another evidence of his irresistible influence. What security was there for her that she too should not in turn be forgotten for another? that another eye should not shine brighter than hers, and another voice sound to his ear with a sweeter tone?

Oh, no! he dared not disturb and sully the bright flow of his present existence; he shrank from the fatal word that would dissolve the spell that enchanted them, and introduce all the calculating cares of a harsh world into the thoughtless Eden in which they now wandered. And, for her father, even if the sad engagement with Miss Grandison did not exist, with what front could Ferdinand solicit the hand of his daughter? What prospect could he hold out of worldly prosperity to the anxious consideration of a parent? Was he himself independent? Was he not worse than a beggar? Could he refer Mr. Temple to Sir Ratcliffe? Alas! it would be an insult to both! In the meantime, every hour Mr. Temple might return, or something reach the ear of Henrietta fatal to all his aspirations. Armine with all its cares, Bath with all its hopes; his melancholy father, his fond and sanguine mother, the tender-hearted Katherine, the devoted Glastonbury, all rose up before him, and crowded on his tortured imagination. In the agony of his mind he wished himself alone in the world: he sighed for some earthquake to swallow up Armine and all its fatal fortunes; and as for those parents, so affectionate and virtuous, and to whom he had hitherto been so dutiful and devoted, he turned from their idea with a sensation of weariness, almost of dislike.

He sat down on the trunk of a tree and buried his face in his hands. His reverie had lasted some time, when a gentle sound disturbed him. He looked up; it was Henrietta. She had driven over the common in her pony-chair and unattended. She was but a few steps from him; and as he looked up, he caught her fond smile. He sprang from his seat; he was at her side in an instant; his heart beat so tumultuously that he could not speak; all dark thoughts were forgotten; he seized with a trembling touch her extended hand, and gazed upon her with a glance of ecstasy. For, indeed, she looked so beautiful that it seemed to him he had never before done justice to her surpassing loveliness. There was a bloom upon her cheek, as upon some choice and delicate fruit; her violet eyes sparkled like gems; while the dimples played and quivered on her cheeks, as you may sometimes watch the sunbeam on the pure surface of fair water. Her countenance, indeed, was wreathed with smiles. She seemed the happiest thing on earth; the very personification of a poetic spring; lively, and fresh, and innocent; sparkling, and sweet, and soft. When he beheld her, Ferdinand was reminded of some gay bird, or airy antelope; she looked so bright and joyous!

‘He is to get in,’ said Henrietta with a smile, and drive her to their cottage. Have I not managed well to come alone? We shall have such a charming drive today.’

‘You are so beautiful!’ murmured Ferdinand.

‘I am content if you but think so. You did not hear me approach? What were you doing? Plunged in meditation? Now tell me truly, were you thinking of her?’

‘Indeed, I have no other thought. Oh, my Henrietta! you are so beautiful today. I cannot talk of anything but your beauty.’

‘And how did you sleep? Are you comfortable? I have brought you some flowers to make your room look pretty.’

They soon reached the farm-house. The good-wife seemed a little surprised when she observed her guest driving Miss Temple, but far more pleased. Henrietta ran into the house to see the children, spoke some kind words to the little maiden, and asked if their guest had breakfasted. Then, turning to Ferdinand, she said, ‘Have you forgotten that you are to give me a breakfast? It shall be in the porch. Is it not sweet and pretty? See, here are your flowers, and I have brought you some fruit.’

The breakfast was arranged. ‘But you do not play your part, sweet Henrietta,’ he said; ‘I cannot breakfast alone.’

She affected to share his repast, that he might partake of it; but, in truth, she only busied herself in arranging the flowers. Yet she conducted herself with so much dexterity, that Ferdinand had an opportunity of gratifying his appetite, without being placed in a position, awkward at all times, insufferable for a lover, that of eating in the presence of others who do not join you in the occupation.

‘Now,’ she suddenly said, sitting by his side, and placing a rose in his dress, ‘I have a little plan today, which I think will be quite delightful. You shall drive me to Armine.’

Ferdinand started. He thought of Glastonbury.

His miserable situation recurred to him. This was the bitter drop in the cup; yes! in the very plenitude of his rare felicity he expressed a pang. His confusion was not unobserved by Miss Temple; for she was very quick in her perception; but she could not comprehend it. It did not rest on her mind, particularly when Ferdinand assented to her proposition, but added, ‘I forgot that Armine is more interesting to you than to me. All my associations with Armine are painful. Ducie is my delight.’

‘Ah! my romance is at Armine; yours at Ducie. What we live among, we do not always value. And yet I love my home,’ she added, in a somewhat subdued, even serious tone; ‘all my associations with Ducie are sweet and pleasant. Will they always be so?’

She hit upon a key to which the passing thoughts of Ferdinand too completely responded, but he restrained the mood of his mind. As she grew grave, he affected cheerfulness. ‘My Henrietta must always be happy,’ he said, ‘at least, if her Ferdinand’s love can make her so.’

She did not reply, but she pressed his hand. Then, after a moment’s silence, she said, ‘My Ferdinand must not be low-spirited about dear Armine. I have confidence in our destiny; I see a happy, a very happy future.’

Who could resist so fair a prophet? Not the sanguine mind of the enamoured Ferdinand Armine. He drank inspiration from her smiles, and dwelt with delight on the tender accents of her animating sympathy. ‘I never shall be low-spirited with you,’ he replied; ‘you are my good genius. O Henrietta! what heaven it is to be together!’

‘I bless you for these words. We will not go to Armine today. Let us walk. And to speak the truth, for I am not ashamed of saying anything to you, it would be hardly discreet, perhaps, to be driving about the country in this guise. And yet,’ she added, after a moment’s hesitation, ‘what care I for what people say? O Ferdinand! I think only of you!’

That was a delicious ramble which these young and enamoured creatures took that sunny morn! The air was sweet, the earth was beautiful, and yet they were insensible to everything but their mutual love. Inexhaustible is the converse of fond hearts! A simple story, too, and yet there are so many ways of telling it!

‘How strange that we should have ever met!’ said Henrietta Temple.

‘Indeed, I think it most natural,’ said Ferdinand; ‘I will believe it the fulfilment of a happy destiny. For all that I have sighed for now I meet, and more, much more than my imagination could ever hope for.’

‘Only think of that morning drive,’ resumed Henrietta, ‘such a little time ago, and yet it seems an age! Let us believe in destiny, dear Ferdinand, or you must think of me, I fear, that which I would not wish.’

‘My own Henrietta, I can think of you only as the noblest and the sweetest of beings. My love is ever equalled by my gratitude!’

‘My Ferdinand, I had read of such feelings, but did not believe in them. I did not believe, at least, that they were reserved for me. And yet I have met many persons, and seen something more, much more than falls to the lot of women of my age. Believe me, indeed, my eye has hitherto been undazzled, and my heart untouched.’ He pressed her hand.

‘And then,’ she resumed, ‘in a moment; but it seemed not like common life. That beautiful wilderness, that ruinous castle! As I gazed around, I felt not as is my custom. I felt as if some fate were impending, as if my life and lot were bound up, as it were, with that strange and silent scene. And then he came forward, and I beheld him, so unlike all other men, so beautiful, so pensive! O Ferdinand! pardon me for loving you!’ and she gently turned her head, and hid her face on his breast.

‘Darling Henrietta,’ lowly breathed the enraptured lover, ‘best, and sweetest, and loveliest of women, your Ferdinand, at that moment, was not less moved than you were. Speechless and pale I had watched my Henrietta, and I felt that I beheld the being to whom I must dedicate my existence.’

‘I shall never forget the moment when I stood before the portrait of Sir Ferdinand. Do you know my heart was prophetic; I wanted not that confirmation of a strange conjecture. I felt that you must be an Armine. I had heard so much of your grandfather, so much of your family. I loved them for their glory, and for their lordly sorrows.’

‘Ah! my Henrietta, ’tis that alone which galls me. It is bitter to introduce my bride to our house of cares.’

‘You shall never think it so,’ she replied with animation. ‘I will prove a true Armine. Happier in the honour of that name, than in the most rich possessions! You do not know me yet. Your wife shall not disgrace you or your lineage. I have a spirit worthy of you, Ferdinand; at least, I dare to hope so. I can break, but I will not bend. We will wrestle together with all our cares; and my Ferdinand, animated by his Henrietta, shall restore the house.’

‘Alas! my noble-minded girl, I fear a severe trial awaits us. I can offer you only love.’

‘Is there anything else in this world?’

‘But, to bear you from a roof of luxury, where you have been cherished from your cradle, with all that ministers to the delicate delights of woman, to—oh! my Henrietta, you know not the disheartening and depressing burthen of domestic cares.’ His voice faltered as he recalled his melancholy father; and the disappointment, perhaps the destruction, that his passion was preparing for his roof.

‘There shall be no cares; I will endure everything; I will animate all. I have energy; indeed I have, my Ferdinand. I have, young as I may be, I have often inspirited, often urged on my father. Sometimes, he says, that had it not been for me, he would not have been what he is. He is my father, the best and kindest parent that ever loved his child; yet, what are fathers to you, my Ferdinand? and, if I could assist him, what may I not do for———’

‘Alas! my Henrietta, we have no theatre for action. You forget our creed.’

‘It was the great Sir Ferdinand’s. He made a theatre.’

‘My Henrietta is ambitious,’ said Ferdinand, smiling.

‘Dearest, I would be content, nay! that is a weak phrase, I would, if the choice were in my power now to select a life most grateful to my views and feelings, choose some delightful solitude, even as Armine, and pass existence with no other aim but to delight you. But we were speaking of other circumstances. Such happiness, it is said, is not for us. And I wished to show you that I have a spirit that can struggle with adversity, and a soul prescient of overwhelming it.’

‘You have a spirit I reverence, and a soul I worship, nor is there a happier being in the world this moment than Ferdinand Armine. With such a woman as you every fate must be a triumph. You have touched upon a chord of my heart that has sounded before, though in solitude. It was but the wind that played on it before; but now that tone rings with a purpose. This is glorious sympathy. Let us leave Armine to its fate. I have a sword, and it shall go hard if I do not carve out a destiny worthy even of Henrietta Temple.’


©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533