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feelings of affection for him, or had not. It was something of a dilemma, but we all know she did entertain feelings of that description ; and therefore her most natural resource, perhaps, was to go to her piano, and play a tearful piece of music. She did that admirably; and music affords a great relief to a wounded spirit. So to speak, it taps the o'erfraught heart, and bids its grief exhale in measured sighs.
You, Mademoiselle the Dear Reader, may be surprised at the changed aspect under which Herbert presents himself, within one short hour of that parting by the woodside. Is this the lover, so anxious, so angry, so wholly engrossed in his affection for our little maid ? He alluded to suicide ; is this like hanging himself ? Ah, even Lotty, who flattered herself she knows him well (for are not lovers kindred souls ? have they not their every thought, their every dream, in common? do not their hearts, their very pulses, beat in unison ?), were she present in the spirit to see and hear him now, I am afraid she might ask those questions too. For her part, she was so simple that she would have deemed herself utterly heartless, not to say sacrilegious, if any thought save of him had entered her head during the rest of that evening. Why, she would not willingly have touched anything with her hands, that had so lately lain in his ; she would not willingly have opened her lips, for fear of disturbing the kiss that reposed upon them, like a sleeping butterfly; her ears, filled with his voice, resented every other sound; while as for joking, as for laughing with anybody else, she could not have conceived it possible. No. As she hurried home, and shut herself up in her bedroom to be alone, to think of him in the dark and undisturbed, so she imagined her lover, brooding, absent, solitary. Over and over again she said to herself, “ Ah! he is thinking of me now !" as if, poor fellow! he could not possibly help it, and that though it must make him very sad—or sadly happy at best. For such is the nature of that foolish, beautiful sentiment called first love, to be melancholy in profoundest happiness.
And now it has come to this, I may as well let you into the secret at once, and acknowledge that I do know what more passed between Herbert and Charlotte, after the conversation recorded in chapter second. You remember how stoutly she fought the unselfish fight against Herbert's solicitations and the persuasions of her own heart. Well, you did not expect that to last over their parting, did you?You, who have been in love yourself, probably, know how hard it must be not only to resign a lover, but to leave him angry, reproachful, disappointed ; you who can enter into the fascination of the hour, summer twilight; of the place, a grove, a copse, a plantation, filled with haze and heavy with the breathing of leaves, that rustled underfoot, and overhead, and all about. It was not according to the natural order of things that the meeting should end as it began. Herbert looked so glum when it came to good-bye by the gate there, that Lotty felt very like a culprit, and could but assure him that, whatever happened, she could not cease to love him for many a weary day; and, indeed, hoped he would let her down in his affections gradually and gently too.
He only shook his head at that. He did not understand it, he said.
“This playing at sweethearts may be very well for you girls," says he," and I must acknowledge there are many amiable points about it; but we men hayı different ideas."
Hard, injurious words, these, for our little maid ; they smote her like so many smooth, cold pebbles from a brook; and, unhappily, she fell to arguing the question with him over again. Unhappily for her resolution, I mean; for she soon found hoy truly she had said it was mere self-delusion to debate the matter while they were together. And the leaves rustled underfoot, and overhead, and all about; the little dickey-birds had sung their last song out, and left all so very quiet; and Herbert was so moody, and she was so unhappy. And youth, O youth! O life, O life! O love, O love! so golden fair !"— when Herbert at length said —
" Lotty, you propose to turn over a new leaf to-night. I propose to tear it out! Say no more about it! Never say more about it! You are mine, and I'm yours, and—and give me a kiss !".
-when he said this, I repeat, our little maid put her arms round his neck without more ado, and gave him a kiss, and went her way.
So that, in fact, these young people are in a fairer way to shock the proprieties according to Mrs. Grundy than ever—which is just what you expected, Mademoiselle. Nor are you sorry for it, perhaps. Ah, my dear, so you applaud Romeo and his Juliet; but theirs proved a most unhappy business.
However, now you perceive that the altered humour of our Romeo is to be explained on perfectly reasonable and natural grounds. We might both have preferred, indeed, to have found him more faithful to the sentimentalities of his position. And though a married man with a small family, and with certain well-defined views about gilding and gingerbread, I confess I do think Charlotte dreaming her foolish dreams in the dark, a much prettier object of contemplation than Herbert chaffing his cousin-under the circumstances. And I'm not prepared to say that our little maid might not naturally have felt hurt, had she known of his going on.” But the young man's temper was singularly, nay, dangerously, subject to revulsions (you remember what has been said of a certain will-o'-wisp look in his eyes); and we must not forget that, all in a summer evening, his paradise of love has been lost and regained.
Meanwhile, Adelaide croons over her piano-performing, in low tones but with undoubted accuracy, all sorts of wandering, languishing Weber-inspirations, all sorts of yearning love lieder. Whether the performer, in seeking to soothe or to express her own feelings (as the case may be), calculated upon any effect her music might exercise over her cousin's, we cannot know; but the probability is, that she miscalculated it. She did not know, perhaps, how selfish is human nature; nor dreamed that Herbert, instead of connecting the lieder and what not with her emotions (as he naturally should have done), rather chose to appropriate them as an accompaniment to his own.
Such was the fact, however. As she played, another change passed over him. Hitherto, he had been lounging up and down the room at an easy swing—but presently the lounge became a measured pacing ; his head drooped upon his chest, and he went and sat down by his mother's feet, with a brooding face indeed. It is now that a Weberian bit comes in a waltz (I will not name it, for fear of consequences) which, with light and perfume, hath done infinite love-mischief in the ball-room: bringing young men to declarations, and unloved maidens to moist pillows. As this waltz—itself nothing but perfume, and a glory of wax candlesproceeds, the will-o'-wisps appear in Herbert Grovelly's eyes, and the shadow of a legion of armed thoughts traverses his lips. It is not a soft look, this, as might have been expected—it is a savage look : but extremes meet, Mademoiselle.
Adelaide, content with the young man's silence, and construing it as she thinks best, plays on-with more expression than ever, if possible. Lady Grovelly has no ears for Weber, she has only eyes for her son ; and his apparition at this moment strikes a profound dread into her heart. This, or something like this, is what she has been watching for, many and many a year. This, when you come to unravel it, is the Family Secret, turning up at its worst.
“Come !" says my lady, astonished to find what an effort it cost her to speak without trepidation, " leave off thinking and talk to me."
" Then Adelaide must leave off playing, I'm afraid."
“Why, does it affect you so very much ?” mamma asks, laying her hand lightly on his shoulder, with some distant faith, not altogether unfounded, perhaps, that there may be healing in the touch. Absorbed as she was, Adelaide does not fail to catch these words, and a particularly soft passage in the music gives her an opportunity of listening to the reply.
“Well, I won't say that,” he answers ; " for the fact is, Adelaide's strumming -I beg her pardon !-is rather of an accessory character, to-night; like the showman's music at a panorama."
" And the panorama - ?" “Is in my head, ma'am.”
A startling reply to my lady. Had he said "imagination,” she might have treated the answer lightly ; "head" makes other sense of it. But, whatever she may feel, she rejoins, in a tone light enough,
“And where may the scene be laid ?" “Oh, Adelaide's fingers interpret that. The region of young love, of course."
“ Tom Tiddler's ground, Herbert; where grown children play at picking up gold and silver, and find it to be all so many stones and leaves when they grow older."
“ But the young ones are happy enough while it lasts !" " While it lasts !"
"Ah! you are for making a drawing-room game of it, I suppose ; and for having the young ladies and gentlemen begin by throwing down the genuine article in fair proportions."
(Why, here we have madame's other difficulty, then !)
“Then I'm afraid, to be dutiful, I must abstain from such amusements till I reach your years of discretion, dear mother ; at present, I cannot agree with you, I cannot at all agree with you !"
Adelaide's playing becomes so spiritual that it is scarcely audible. Her face is turned from the speaker, and its reflection in the mirror opposite may not be faithful; otherwise I should say there was no very spiritual expression about that: the lips are compressed, and the eyes have a deep, dark glow in them.
“Well," says my lady, evidently embarrassed, “we'll have the curtains drawn, and ring for tea.”
“Why, no, mother. This is a very good subject for conversation ; and, as I'm your son, and you expect to have a daughter one of these days, and Adelaide has started the subject "
"Il exclaimed his fair cousin, turning round upon her music-stool in beautiful surprise.
“Who else ?" with a humorous, but, at the same time, an inquisitive look. Adelaide gives the least little shake of the head, and goes just without the still open window, to conceal her emotions or to contemplate the night. By the Window grows a jasmine, flower beloved in all recorded ages, like the hyacinth, that most classical of flowers, compared with which the rose is a modern invention. And Adelaide pensively plucks the jasmine flowers; and during all the conversation that follows in this chapter, stands upon the threshold and plucks these flowers to pieces. It is as if she were repeating the old charm, " He loves me, he loves me not! He loves me, he loves me not!"
"You seem disturbed, this evening, my dear," Lady Grovelly observes solicitously, after gazing first at one of these young people, and then at the other.
“I am; there's no denying it !" replies her son. * And what disturbs you ?" ** In that panorama of mine, there was a scene in which you and I had a
* Heaven forbid, Herbert ! I hope that is impossible."
"But suppose you stick to your views about Tom Tiddler's ground; and suppose I am an obstinate brute, and stick to mine?".
"I understand you, my dear; but we need not provide for what is not at all kely to happen. And if it should happen, I hope ".
My lady hesitates there. Her son, sitting at her feet, throws back his head; and, as he seeks her eyes, exhibits the will-o'-wisps dancing furiously in his own.
“Yes !" says he.
" In such a case, I hope my love for you, and your love for me, Herbert, will make us both reasonable."
"Mother!" and here the young man springs to his feet, "don't depend on me. Don't rely on my reason !"
* Herbert !"
“No, madam!" he cries, striding up and down the room, with far more emotion than was natural, or than would have seemed natural to Lady Grovelly, had she known all that we know (though now she begins to suspect it, and more). "No, madam! I warn you that I have no head to debate what my heart is set on! If you ever want to silence that, I recommend you to cut off my head first! Cut it off, and set it up as a trophy of maternal solicitude! Cut it off, and hang it over the door where "
At this point my lady proved herself a true woman. Every sentence of this ontburst had struck her like a pistol-shot. A pang every whit as sharp and strong, only not mortal, followed each report ; so that if I were writing a mere fiction, I should feel obliged to say here, “ Lady Grovelly, overwhelmed by the too-fatal evidence of an ill-balanced mind (Oh, that it be no more than ill-balanced !), spooned !" But you are not to look upon this story as a fiction; and the fact is that, so far froin swooning (though I dare say slie would have preferred that course), Lady Grovelly rose from her chair without exhibiting a symptom of pain, or even of disturbance; and, linking her hand in the young man's arm, she said calmly
"Come, come, my dear boy! What does this mean?-cutting off of heads, and all sorts of nonsense! I dare say you may contrive to have your own way, without being obliged to frighten us two poor women! Why, you have thrown your unoffending eye-glass clean over your shoulder, I declare! It is too bad!"
This little speech, delivered as mother and son walked up and down the room, had all the effect the former hoped from it. It brought Herbert to his senses. After a moment, his wild manner had all passed away; and, turning round upon my lady, so as to take her by both hands, he said —
“Ah! I'm a foolish fellow, and you are the best little mother in the world ; and so we'll say no more !"
After this little episode, madame proposed that her son should engage her in the game of chess. Not a bad idea of hers; but Herbert, who by no means appeared the more reasonable of the two, had a better. “No," said he. “Suppose I light a cigar, and we take a turn on the lawn.” Joyfully she acquiesced.
Herbert lit his cigar, and, taking no notice of Adelaide (knit together as they were, mother and son), they walked this way and that—here between the trim flower-beds, there down the long avenue, chequered by the shadows of the trees in the moonlight, and across the park, and round and round the fish-pond—without saying a word. In such cases, the less said the better, emphatically. Herbert pulled at his cigar; gradually and more gradually Lady Grovelly drew her böy's arm closer to that bosom where he had once lain, neither longer nor stronger than her fan (what a grand, great, tender thought that must be for a woman !), and so an hour passed, without a word.