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Lord Morton had delicately intended to emblemize her own purity, and shew his appreciation of it, rather than entertaining any resentment against her, so much to be dreaded, for the injury it might eventually do her father.
Softened by this sweet fancy, and hoping to find its confirmation in the letter before her, she, with a pardonable curiosity, retreated to her room, flowers and all, to peruse it unmolested. It ran thus,“Lucy, Dearest Lucy,
Not daring to appear before you, and yet unable to tear myself away from the spot you inhabit, and consequently, bless and sanctify, without one word of farewell, one word to deprecate your anger, to plead in atonement for my rashness, to implore pardon, pity, for it, rather than condemnation, as being sincerely, bitterly repented of; I presume to address you thus, as the least offensive to you, to satisfy, in some measure, the imperative craving of that heart you have so humbled, and yet so exalted, rendered so void, and yet so replete with novel and entrancing sensations. O Lucy, had any one told me, a short time ago, that I should have prostrated myself in absolute worship, before an unsophisticated village girl, a lowly maiden, a mere child of nature like yourself, I should have ridiculed the idea, scorned the degrading imputation; my pride, ravishing every drop of blood from my indignant heart, would have leaped into my face with a thousand blushes, to deny the mortifying charge. But now, but now, I feel a sort of exultation in my bondage, a glory in my chains; for who can withstand the eloquence of your innocence ? who can resist the influence of your purity ?
It does indeed speak to the soul, with the tongue of an angel, appealing to its every better feeling, and kindling the holiest inspirations there. Do not imagine, that what I have done for your father, is to BRIBE your regard, through its most potent and affecting source, your filial affection. Do not imagine, that I sought thus to repay you, for recent insult and injury. No, I acted from a sublimer motive, that of cherishing, through mercy and charity, the seraphic suggestions you had just whispered to my enraptured bosom. And oh, more than all, do not imagine, for the briefest instant, that you are laid under the slightest obligation to me, for the same; pray, pray do not, I implore you, but believe, rather, as I solemnly swear it that every weight of obligation is on my side, that I owe you more, far, far more, than the longest life would enable me to repay,-restored honour, happiness, and piety..
I have spent many, many nights in pleasure and dissipation, but only one in reflection, in self-examination, in diving into the most secret depths of my heart, and probing it, to its inmost core, in laying bare its iniquity, and reading, with an impartial eye, the dark crimes inscribed on its polluted pages; and that was LAST NIGHT.
By the side of that couch, dearest, on which I knew it was in vain to seek for rest, I knelt down, and prayed, prayed as you would have done, with the simplicity and trustfulness of childhood; and while I prayed to Him, who can alone grant it, for pardon for my flagrant and manifold transgressions, and strength and resolution for future amendment, your spotless image arose on my memory, like the morning star of hope, assuring me that success would reward my perseverance.
I do not ask you to love me now, - I only ask for the smallest portion of pity,—a tender and benign remembrance, that, when you hear my name breathed, which you will, for I shall commission a legion of good deeds to echo it in your path; your heart may respond, "Yes, despite the force of longindulged and enervating habit, he has mastered the master who enslaved him, and rent asunder the bonds that bound him; lo ! he is once more, that which God designed him at his birth, the friend of sorrow and suffering, a gracious and benevolent man.'
I quit England, for an indefinite period. It may be only months, and it may be long, long lingering years ere I re-visit its shores. I go, the voluntary pilgrim of remorse, -I go to struggle with my new resolutions—to educate my heart in them, until virtue once more becomes habitual to it. I go to shake off all the old and pernicious associates, who, more than its native corruption, led that heart astray; the base panderers, who taught me to deride innocence, to sneer at piety, and to despise the God from whom I derived every shamefully abused blessing.
Think of the poor wanderer sometimes, let this self-banishment soften your bosom towards one, whose whole soul is absorbed in the divine idea, of one day being loved by you, fondly, fervently loved,--loved as only a chaste, unworldly woman can love, making, as it were, her affection for her husband, an absolute religion.
I see your smile of disdain ; I hear your loftily uttered 'Impossible !'. I feel the indignant flashing of your eye; yet, nevertheless, that which I say is oracular : If ever man is loved by woman, I will be loved; yes, I repeat it, loved by you. Love is not love, unless attended by beautiful and startling miracles !
I have parted for ever with Greville, the odious Greville. I have dismissed from my service the unfaithful steward, who allowed his lord to oppress and persecute, in the very heedlessness of youth, without a word of admonition, without a word of mitigation for the sufferings he daily witnessed, and studiously concealed from him who ought to have flown to their redress.
With my own hands I gathered the flowers I send for your forgiving acceptance; with my own trembling hands, trembling with the exquisite hope, that they would find a place on that relenting bosom. Oh, that they could speak ! then, would they tell you, that, whilst arrauging them, I kissed and blessed every one, slowly and separately, and that on some of them a tear was dropped, a sweet contrite tear, which, perhaps, still glistens on their balmy petals, bright as the sparkle of dew the young morning sheds from her radiant eyes !
It may appear strange, that I thus become an exile. Master of myself, with none to command or controul ; why should I not remain, and at once offer all I possess, in compensation of my recent perfidy? That would neither satisfy you nor myself; the stockdove, however constant, does not return to the nest from which she has been driven, either by the hurricane, or the ruder prowler, until every sob of the hurrying wind has been lulled to tranquillity, every echo of the intruder's footstep died away on the hush of twilight. What could I hope from you now, but decided refusal, rooted aversion, implacable contempt? I must await that more propitious hour, when the lenient and skilful hand of time, having eradicated the tares and vetches of animosity, prepares it to receive the seeds of that fruitful harvest of affection, which your willing heart allows mine to gather, to garner up for ever!
“One phantom of dread alone haunts my imagination, the fear of finding you on my return, either the bride or the betrothed of another! Should such a calamity be in store for me, I shall be a wretch, indeed! O Providence, defend me from it. O Providence, watch over the innocence I commit to your guardianship, until I am worthy to become its protector, under your special guidance, myself. “Farewell, most beloved, most adored, Lucy,—farewell. “ Believe in the sincerity of the devoted, but unhappy,
Lucy's frequent tears had blotted this passionate and incoherent letter, many, many times interrupting its perusal, by dimming the very sight aching to conclude it.
She apprehended, from the many strange and improbable assertions it contained, that Lord Morton's reason was really affected at the moment of addressing her. “Love him, fly into
his arms, make a very religion of her affection for the man who had treated her as the outcast of her sex? Impossible ! well, indeed, had he, himself, said, impossible! No, no, no, however she might pity him, however she might applaud him, however all around might praise and bless, honour and extol him, for the benefits he dispensed, for his gracious manner of so doing : her heart, she felt, that heart which never deceived her, could never, never love him!”
Folding up the letter, she was too wavering to destroy, she put it carefully away; then, seating herself on her little bed, she took up the bouquet, and examined it with the scrutiny of a treasure-seeker; for what, in sooth ? for one of the tears which Lord Morton had shed over it! Nestled in the dark green leaves of a lily, she discovered one glittering drop, which, with a vivid blush of delight, she gazed on with unutterable emotion, and would have pressed to her lips, but for that innate bashfulness, which restrains true modesty, even in the deepest solitude.
Lucy, in her artless enthusiasm, did not pause to consider the inconsistency of her own conduct, although she had so lately marvelled at that of Lord Morton. Led away by the idea, that all she experienced arose from the purest compassion, the liveliest, the most charitable hope in his entire reformation, and the consequent happiness it would entail on him,-he only wanting virtue and rectitude, to become a pattern of all that is most worthy and estimable,-she was not aware, that, by thus giving the reins to her susceptibility, she was unwittingly laying the foundation for that fair superstructure of love, her inconsiderate lips had just pronounced impossible.
“Adieu for him,
Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination.
“He has I know not what
Time sped on, in imperceptible and uninterrupted tranquillity; scarcely noted by the now happy Mr. Harcourt and Lucy. They who used so to dread every coming hour, as fearing it pregnant with some new calamity, suffered days, and even weeks to pass unheeded, in the smooth tenour of prosperity.
Sorrow alone, with its murmuring voice, and heavy heart, faithfully registers the slow revolving hours. Joy soon becomes an idler in its accounts; soon becomes too accustomed to felicity, to mark its brilliant progress! Man must be naturally ungrateful to Providence, it would seem, thus to remember only to complain. Oh, why not be equally retentive of his blessings ? Animated with the hope of paying off his longstanding arrears, health and strength returned; once more, he was the active, busy farmer; full of energy, seizing on every improvement, and proud in the promise of the finest crops eyes ever luxuriated on.
Lucy, happy in the happiness of her father, partook of the buoyancy of his spirits, entered keenly into his sanguine expectations; yet, with a gentler, a more subdued tone of feeling, -trusting for their fulfilment to Him who regulates the seasons, and blesses the earth with increase.
She, too, had recovered her original vivacity and beauty, lifting up her lovely young head, to the clear and genial sky, now smiling over her, as the snowdrop, bursting through the frost-bound earth, rears its pearly bells in the glad advent of spring.
The kind young ladies at the parsonage, to divert her late melancholy, had insisted on instructing her in music, for which she had a surprising aptitude, united to a sweet, melodious