Obrázky na stránke

The next day Lord Glenalbert called, and after that interview Viola looked radiantly happy. It is a pleasant thing, Dorothy,' said she, when she came to my room at night, to be the cause of happiness to others. There is something godlike in it; it seems to expand one's very soul.'".

Cousin Dorothy says significantly, “For Viola, once married, I had no fears.” But there was the engagement and its trials to come. Before the marriage-day is fixed, Lord Glenalbert goes abroad to fetch home his mother, and Viola Sidney is to pass the time of his absence with his relative, Lady Sarah Herbert, at Turretcliffe Castle, where there is a large, and, we should say, a very stupid Christmas party assembled. Dorothy is the tolerated companion of this visit. A new personage comes on the stage in the ball-room at Turretcliffe-he is the evil spirit of the drama. He is described as— “Tall, dark, with that indescribable look of intellect so totally independent of feature, cheeks a little, a very little hollow-a pervading something that gave a faint suspicion of consumption. He was just what young ladies in general term interesting,' and their mamas unhesitatingly anathematize as · downright ugly.' He was leaning against the pillar with folded arms; the look, the attitude was that which English painters invariably give to their Italian bandits or Spanish bravos.”—Page 88.

Viola's beauty fixes his gaze: after some mancuvring he succeeds in dancing with la belle fiancée. What says Dorothy to herself as she looks on?

“Why was it, that during this same quadrille a strange presentiment came over me, an indescribable dread, a vague and dizzy sense of impending misery? I could not have defined it. Assuredly there was nothing in her demeanour to give rise to it. I had rarely, if ever, seen her so little animated; yet was she listening attentively, but with the air of one who is rather perplexed than amused. No; I think it was his manner staggered me. He was looking at her with intense admiration; not his the vulgar stare of the clown, neither was it the impassioned gaze of the roué ; but rather the reverential look (it is a bold word, but I can think of no other), that look of mingled homage and tenderness which every woman feels by intuition, even although her averted gaze may seem to take no cognizance of it. Alas! with the coming days my fears were not dissipated. For the first time in my life I was the maiden cousin, the strict Duenna, the many-eyed Argus; but I remembered that only a little, a very little time would elapse ere we should be summoned home, and this thought reassured me."-Page 97.

Here Cousin Dorothy was out. Lord Glenalbert did not come for three months, by which time all the visitors, except

Mr. Lyndham, had vanished from Turretcliffe. Of what had taken place meanwhile in poor Viola's heart, there is indication enough in her journal; it may be readily guessed: meanwhile here is a passage on the habit of journalling, which seems to challenge observation. It is sweetly conceived, though questionable in its doctrine:

"Oh! there is nothing like a journal for laying bare the mechanism of the mind—the secret workings of the soul ; it is our memory's floodgate, "our oracle, our other self, our counsel's consistory.' Secret as the grave, it hath no venomed babbling tongue to wound us with false cozening reports; it may not play the traitor to our secret thoughts. Friendship can be but a faint type of it; for, even from our dearest friend, there are sentiments we veil, and secrets we conceal unwittingly; unconsciously we give a tone to the voice, a colour to the action, which at once invests it with a light not its own; but in these written soliloquies, these communings of the soul with herself, we are at least sincere. We describe ourselves, we paint our feelings as fearlessly and impartially as it is given to us to know them. There is a beautiful Eastern proverb, that the daughter of the voice is far better than the son of the ink;' and truly at any time I would rather hear my friend talk, than receive from him or her the best-filled sheet of paper that ever was penned ; but the people of Syria could never have kept a journal, or they would have discovered that there are times when the son of the ink is far better than the daughter of the voice."

Now all this would be very true, if man were not by nature very false ; and of such beings as Viola Sidney it may be true in substance.

But let us ask-are journals true pictures in general ? We suspect not, unless that be truth which is detected, but does not declare itself. A journal may be more true than what we confide to a friend, but it never is the faithful report of the communing of a heart with itself, or with its God. How hard is it, even in our most holy moods, to acknowledge to ourselves in unwritten, unspoken thought, the magnitude of our own faults! To write down in words our own condemnation is almost impossible. How hurriedly we hush up the truth and throw ourselves on the mercy of our God, imploring him to forgive all that He may find, who alone can read our heart aright! How vain is it to attempt a written record which shall invite our own future censure! Our faults are not recorded in our written self-examinations as they are in our consciences.

The temptation to tell partial truths, and to palliate our

faults, even to ourselves, is so nearly irresistible, that this alone would be argument enough against attempting a confession, which, being short of the truth, is a falsehood of a more dangerous kind than a total suppression of the truth. If there be any degrees of falsehood, that is the worst lie which runs nearest to the truth: it deceives ourselves as well as those whom we would keep in the dark. The most fearful hypocrisy is that which keeps back just the one thought, or fact, without which all that is told, and might have been truth, conveys only falsehood. The temptation to this short-coming of the truth is sadly increased by the reflection, that the eye of others may run over that which purports to be our own private intercourse with ourself.

Excepting then for intellectual purposes, we emphatically condemn the habit of journalling; for all objects of self-discipline it is better left alone. The more so, since these wouldbe confessions have now-a-days lost their sanctity; for in proportion to their value, as the record of the secret worship of the heart towards its God, have they become the prey of the curiosity of men. Again, the habit of noting down the occurrences of our life leads us to an undue estimate of their importance; and so the “ story of our life," as H. Taylor has it, becomes too engrossing. Introspection and retrospection, except so far as they are necessary to renewed and improved action, are to be deprecated.

We said that there were indications enough in her journal of Miss Sidney's feelings; still we doubt whether any one in Viola's plight ever committed to writing such a passage as we are going to quote. It tells the tale well nevertheless :

Marchlst.—'In less than a week I shall be with you, dearest Viola!' The letter is yet before me-I have not read further—my dazzled sight refuses to aid me. Why does my heart beat thus? Why do a thousand pulses throb in agony? Why fill my eyes with tears? Is this joy? Is this the feeling with which I should greet him after so long an absencehim to whom but a short time since I plighted my faith?”

Again :

“ Alas ! how heavily will the coronet press on my aching brow! Where am I? What have I been saying? I will rouse myself. Worlds should not tempt me to pierce with sorrow that noble, confiding heart. I will go forth and greet him with the love he so well deserves. I will forget all

that has passed since last we met-it was but a ghastly hideous dream; I am awake now.

March 3rd.—Alas! alas! why is my harp unstrung-discord in every tone ?-a fitting emblem of my jarring coul, where once sweet harmony did reign. Why do these books, whose varied lays were wont to chase the hours away, beguile me now no more? and why, oh why am I so changed, that duty stands like a gaunt spectre in my way, and with her monitory finger points to my onward path, and still I heed not?” &c.

Without denying that so pure a being as Viola might discharge the burthen of her heart upon paper, and so, by giving a palpable shape to her thoughts, diminish the terror of them, we are quite sure that she never wrote in that tongue. Her anguish would have found a more simple mode of expressing itself.

At length the day comes for the departure of Viola and her cousin from Turretcliffe. Viola meets her lord, but still keeps her secret. He is free from guile and dissimulation, and

"Like most men of noble, generous natures, he scarcely dreamed of these failings in another; mistrust to him was a solecism in language ; suspicion and jealousy were words of which he knew not the import. Thus predisposed, was it any wonder that he saw only, in Viola's nervous, fluttered, embarrassed manner, augmented proof of her affection?”

We now get a glimpse of a new character, of whom we long to know more; but she only flits across the scene and dies. We fancy her one of those unselfish creatures we sometimes meet with, who are too good to live long in a world with which they have little in common beyond its charities. They pass away—a reproach to the more earthly beings who are not yet sufficiently purified by suffering from their native vileness to follow them. Lady Mary Allonby is on her death-bed when we first behold her. “She will see Glenalbert married “ before she dies; he has waited long enough for her; she “would not cause him a yet longer delay; besides, she has a “ horror of protracted engagements.” There is a painful scene between her and cousin Dorothy; for Lady Mary has suspected that Viola's feelings towards her brother are not those of unquestionable love—but she keeps silence.

We hasten to the grand scene of all, premising that the visit to Turretcliffe has ended in the surrender, by Viola, to Mr. Lyndham, the fascinating man of genius, of the heart which she held in trust for one who loved her as she never did him.

"Glenalbert, that rose, this letter were not from you.' Then rushing forward, she flung herself at his feet, Lord Glenalbert, I cannot, I dare not be your wife. You cannot be my wife, Viola! You are mad, you mock me, but it is a fearful jest: unsay those words.' 'No, no, no, I am not mad; I do not jest; I dare not, in the sight of God and man, pronounce my marriage-vow tomorrow. I dare not promise forsaking all others to keep only to you. My tongue would cleave to the roof of my mouth; my lips would refuse to give utterance to that fell lie. Hate me, Lord Glenalbert, yet you cannot hate me more than I hate myself; despise me, but your scorn cannot equal the withering contempt that I feel for my own base, treacherous deed ; yet, yet I cannot be your wife. Speak to me, Glenalbert; do not gaze on me; your eyes are wild, your lips are bloodless. I say, do not gaze at me so; curse me if you will, but speak, oh speak!

“A convulsive tremor had seized him ; he appeared to writhe as though enduring some racking agony; a grey light, like the precursor of death, overspread his face ; he staggered. Viola sprang from the ground; she rushed towards him; instinctively she seized his arm. The movement roused him, for he hurled her from him with a force that would have sent her to the ground, but that a sofa near her intercepted the fall. “Touch me not,' he exclaimed, in a voice of thunder; and he recoiled from her grasp as though a venomous reptile had left its slimy poison on him. You can not be my wife, Viola-you dare not take your marriage-vow! Think you not, that in the sight of heaven you are my wife? To a pure mind, vows pronounced at the altar could scarcely be more sacred than those with which you have already plighted your faith. Yes, at that moment in which you owned your love, you became my wife; and now are you faithless, forsworn.' She remained with her face buried in the cushions of the sofa, and, after a pause, he continued in a faltering voice, ‘Had you told me this a few months since, I should have felt it-assuredly I should have felt itbut it would not have unnerved me thus; it would not have blasted my every future prospect; it would not have crushed me to the earth. Oh, was it kindly done to wait until the last moment, ere you dashed the cup from my lips? I am not a deliberate, selfish, cold blooded villain, Viola; and had you told me this in the commencement of our acquaintance, it would have sufficed. I then had borne it like a man, but now, now -' and he hid his face in his hands, and sobbed aloud.

"Oh! it is a fearful thing to see a man weep. Hear me, Lord Glenal. bert,” she said, and again she threw herself at his feet; but sternly he raised her, and she stood before him.

05. I call heaven to witness,' exclaimed Viola, that it was not until today I knew the state of my heart. I thought I had conquered, I believed I had ceased to think of him ; but this letter, this fatal letter, has undeceived me; it has torn the veil from my heart—the film from my eyes; this letter has recalled scenes and places once too dear--thoughts and emotions I vainly dreamed were buried. But now, even now, I will promise you to forget him,

« PredošláPokračovať »