Yet, as I write, let me call to mind, if but for a moment, the remembrance of those happy evenings, when we would meet to read Shakespeare or the Poets in each other's rooms, and pleasant sympathies and pleasant differences of opinion freely discussed, called into genial life, friendships which we once hoped and believed would never have grown cold. Let the image of that bright social circle, picturesquely scattered in armchairs round the winter fire, rise up before my fancy once more, and let me recall what can never be again. Of the honoured and well-loved few who one night recorded their names and thoughts in one precious little book, two are dead though it is but five years back; C E B—-is dead; and R H P—-is dead; C E B—-the chivalrous and gallant-hearted, the champion of the past, the "Tory whom Liberals loved;" and R H P—-, the honest and noble, the eloquent speaker, and the brave actor, and the fearless thinker—he, too, is dead, nobly volunteering in works of danger and difficulty during the Indian Mutiny; but L—-, and B—-, and M—-, and others are living yet, and to them I consecrate this page they will forgive the digression, and for their sakes I will venture to let it pass. We are scattered now, and our friendship is a silent one, but yet I know that to them, at least, changed or unchanged, my words will recall the fading memory of glorious days.
The conversation, (but do not suppose that I shall attempt, after what I have said, to reproduce it), happened to turn that evening on the phenomena of memory. It started thus:—They had been discussing some subject of the day, when Owen observed to Julian—
"Why, how grave you look, Julian."
"Do I? I was thinking of something odd. While you were talking— without the faintest apparent reason that I can discover, (and I was trying to hit upon one when you spoke)—a fact started up in my mind, which had no connection whatever with the subject, and yet which forced itself quite strongly and obtrusively on my notice."
"Just as one catches sight suddenly of some stray bit of seaweed floating in a great world of waters, which seems to have no business there," said Kennedy.
"Yes. But there must have been some reason for my thinking of it just then."
"The law of association, depend upon it," said Owen, "even if the connecting links were so subtle and swiftly moved that you failed to detect their presence."
"Are you of the Materialist school, Owen, about memory?" said Julian, "i e, do you go with Hobbes and Condillac, and make it a decaying sense or a transformed sensation?"
"Not a bit; I believe it to be a spiritual faculty, entirely independent of mere physical organisation."
"Wo-ho!" said Kennedy; "the physiologists will join issue with you there. How for instance do you account for such stories as that of the groom, who, getting a kick on a particular part of the head from a vicious horse, suffered no harm except in forgetting everything which had happened up to that time?"
"It isn't a bit conclusive. I don't say that the conscious exercise of memory mayn't be temporarily dependent on organisation, but I do believe that every fact ever imprinted on the memory, however long it may be latent, is of its very nature imperishable."
"Yes," said Suton. "Memory is the book of God. Did you see that story of the shipwreck the other day? One of the survivors, while floating alone on the dark midnight sea, suddenly heard a voice saying to him distinctly, 'Johnny, did you eat sister's grapes?' It was the revived memory of a long-forgotten childish theft. What have the Pineal-Gland-olaters to say to that?"
"What a profound touch that was of Themistocles," said Kennedy, "who rejected the offer of a Memoria Technicha, with the aspiration that some one could teach him to forget. Lethe is the grandest of rivers after all."
"I can illustrate what you are saying," said Brogten, "and I believe it to be true that nothing can be utterly forgotten. Yesterday when you saw me I had sunk twice, and when you rescued me I was insensible. Strange things happened to my memory then!"
"Tell us," said all of them eagerly.
"Well, I believe it's an old story, but I'll tell you. When the first agony of fear, and the sort of gulp of asphyxia was over, I felt as if I was sinking into a pleasant sleep, surrounded by the light of green fields—"
"Because the veins of the eye were bloodshot, and green is the complementary colour," interpolated Kennedy, whereat Owen gave a little incredulous guffaw; and Brogten continued—
"Well, then, it was that all my past life flashed before me, from the least forgotten venial fault of infancy to the worst passion of youth,— only they came to me clear and vivid, in retrograde order. The lies I told when I was a little boy, the wicked words I spoke, the cruel things I did, the first taint that polluted my mind, the faces of school-fellows whom I had irreparably injured, the stolen waters of manhood—all were dashed into my remorseful recollection; they started up like buried, menacing ghosts, without, or even against my will. I felt convinced that they were indestructible."
"That strain I heard was of a higher mood!" thought the auditors, for it was quite a new thing to hear Brogten talk like this, and in such a solemn, manly, sober voice.
"Fancy," said Kennedy, sighing, "an everlasting memory!"
The others went away, but Brogten still lingered in Kennedy's rooms, and, rising, took him by the hand. They both remembered another scene in these rooms, when they two were together,—the torturer and the tortured; but it was different now.
"The worst thing that haunted me, Kennedy, when you were saving my life, was the thought of my wickedness to you. I fear it can never be repaired; yet believe me, that from this day forth I have vowed before God to turn over a new leaf, and my whole effort will be to do all for you that ever may be in my power! Do you forgive me?"
"As I hope to be forgiven," he replied.
Yet it was part of Brogten's punishment in after days to remember that his hand had set the stone moving on the steep hill-side, which afterwards he had no power to stay. It would not come back to him for a wish, but leapt, and rushed, and bounded forward, splintering and splintered by the obstacles in its course, till at last—Could it be saved from being dashed to shivers among the smooth rocks of the valley and the brook?
CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.
"And ride on his breast, and trouble his rest In the shape of his deadliest sin." Anon.
Before the scholarship, came the Little-go, so called in the language of men, but known to the gods as the Previous Examination. As it is an examination which all must pass, the standard required is of course very low, and the subjects are merely Paley's Evidences, a little Greek Testament, some easy classic, Scripture History, and a sprinkling of arithmetic and algebra.
The reading men simply regard it as a nuisance, interrupting their reading and wasting their time, i e, until the wisdom of maturer years shows them its necessity and use. But to the idle and the stupid, the name Little-go is fraught with terror. It begins to loom upon them from the commencement of their second year, and all their efforts must be concentrated to avoid the disgrace and hindrance of a pluck. There are regular tutors to cram Poll men for this necessary ordeal, and the processes applied to introduce the smallest possible modicum of information into the heads of the victims, the surgical operations necessary to inculcate into them the simplest facts, would, if narrated, form a curious chapter in morbid psychology. I suggest this merely as a pregnant hint for the future historian of Camford; personally I am only acquainted by report with the system resorted to.
Hazlet began to be in a fright about the Little-go from the very commencement of his second October. His mother well knew that the examination was approaching, and thought it quite impossible that her ingenuous and right-minded son could fall a victim to the malice of examiners. Hazlet was not so sure of this himself, and as the days had passed by when he could speak of the classics with a holy indignation against their vices and idolatry, he was wrought up by dread of the coming papers into a high state of nervous excitement.
I will not betray the mistakes he made, or dish up in this place the "crambe repetita" of those Little-go anecdotes, which at this period of the year awaken the laughter of combination-rooms, and dissipate the dulness of Camford life. Suffice it to say that Hazlet displayed an ignorance at once egregious and astounding; the ingenious perversity of his mistakes, the fatuous absurdity of his confusions, would be inconceivable to any who do not know by experience the extraordinary combinations of ignorance and conceit. The examiners were very lenient and forbearing, but Hazlet was plucked; plucked too in Scripture History, which astonished everybody, until it became known that he had attributed John the Baptist's death to his having "danced with Herodias's daughter"—traced a connection between the Old and New Testaments in the fact of Saint Peter's having cut off the ear of Malachi the last of the prophets—and stated that the substance of Saint Paul's sermon at Athens, was "crying vehemently about the space of two hours, Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"
It is a sad pity that such ludicrous associations should centre round the word "pluck." It is anything but a laughing matter to those who undergo the process; they have tried hard and worked diligently perhaps to pass the examination, and if they fail they see before them another long period of weary and dissatisfied effort, with the same probability of failure again and again repeated: for until the barrier of the Little-go is passed they can advance no further, and must simply stay at Camford until in some way or other they can succeed in getting up the requisite minimum of information. I have seen a strong man in the senate-house turn as white as a sheet, when a paper which he was unable to answer was placed before him. I fancy I see him now, and distinctly remember my strong feeling of compassion for his distress, and my earnest hope that he would not be "floored."
There was a general laugh in Saint Werner's when it was announced that Hazlet was plucked; and in Scripture History too! His follies and inconsistencies had unhappily made him a butt, but men little knew how heavily the misfortune would weigh upon him.
He happened at this time to be living on the same stair-case with Lillyston, and Lillyston, who was in the rooms below him, was quite amazed at the sounds which he heard proceeding from his rooms. For a long time there was a series of boo-hoos, long, loud, and wailing as of some animal in distress, and then there was an uproar as of some one running violently about, and throwing the furniture out of his way. Lillyston was just on the point of going to see what was the matter when the breathless bedmaker appeared at the door, and said—"Oh, Mr Lillyston, sir, do go and look at Mr Hazlet, sir; he's took very bad, he is."
"Took very bad—how do you mean?"
"Why, sir, it's the Little-go, sir, as done it. He's plucked, sir, and it's upset him like. So, when I asked him if he'd a-tea'd, and if I should take away the things, he begins a banging his chairs about, you see, sir, quite uncomfortable."
Lillyston immediately ran up-stairs. The violent fit seemed to have subsided, for Hazlet, peering out of a corner, with wandering, spectacled eyes, quite cowered when he saw him. Lillyston was shocked at the spectacle he presented. Hazlet was but half dressed, his hands kept up an uneasy and vague motion, his face was blank, and his whole appearance resembled that of an idiot.
"Why, Hazlet, my man, what's the matter with you?" said Lillyston, cheerily.
Hazlet trembled, and muttered something about a dog. It happened that just before coming back from the senate-house, a large Newfoundland had run against him, and his excited imagination had mingled this most recent impression with the vagaries of a temporary madness.
"The dog, my dear fellow; why, there's no dog here."
Hazlet only cowered farther into the corner.
"Here, won't you have some tea?" said Lillyston; "I'll make it for you. Come and help me."
He began to busy himself about setting the tea-things, and cutting the bread, while he occupied Hazlet in pouring out the water and attending to the kettle. Hazlet started violently every now and then, and looked with a terrified side-glance at Lillyston, as though apprehensive of some wrong.
At last Lillyston got him to sit down quietly, and gave him a cup of tea and some bread. He ate it in silence, except that every now and then he uttered a sort of wail, and looked up at Lillyston. The look didn't seem to satisfy him, for, after a few minutes, he seized his knife, and said, "I shall cut off your whiskers."
What put the grotesque fancy into his head, Lillyston did not know; probably some faint reminiscence of having been forced to shave after the trick which Bruce had played on him by painting his face with lamp-black and ochre.
Lillyston decidedly declined the proposition, and they both started up from their seats—Hazlet brandishing his knife with determined purpose, and looking at his companion with a strange savage glare under his spectacles.
After darting round the room once or twice to escape his attack, Lillyston managed with wonderful skill to clutch the wrist of Hazlet's right hand, and, being very strong, he held him with the grasp of a vice, while with his left hand he forced the knife out of his clutch, and dropped it on the floor. He held him tight for a minute or two, although Hazlet struggled so fiercely that it was no easy task, and then quietly forced him into a chair, and spoke to him in a firm authoritative voice—
"No mischief, Hazlet; we shan't allow it. Now listen to me: you must go to bed."
The tone of voice and the strength of will which characterised Lillyston's proceedings, awed Hazlet into submission. He cried a little, and then suffered Lillyston to see him into his rooms, and to put him into a fair way towards going to bed. Taking the precaution to remove his razor, Lillyston locked the door upon him, and determined at once to get medical advice. The doctor, however, could give very little help; it was, he said, a short fit of temporary madness, for which quiet and change of air were the only effectual remedies. He did not anticipate that there would be any other outbreak of violence, or anything more than a partial imbecility.
"Do come and help me to manage Hazlet," said Lillyston to Julian next morning; "his head has been turned by being plucked for the Little-go, and he's as mad as Hercules Furens."
Julian went, and they stayed in Hazlet's room till he had quietly breakfasted. He then appeared to be so calm that Lillyston agreed to leave Julian there for the morning, and to take the charge of Hazlet for the afternoon and evening. It seemed absolutely necessary that someone should take charge of him, and they thought it best to divide the labour.
Julian sorely felt the loss of time. He had a great deal to get through before the all-important scholarship examination, and the loss of every available hour fretted him, for since he had failed in the Clerkland, he was doubly anxious to gain a Saint Werner's scholarship at his first time of trial. Still he never wavered for a moment in the determination to fulfil the duty of taking care of his Ildown acquaintance, and he spent the whole tedious morning in trying to amuse him.
Hazlet's ceaseless allusions to "the dog," and the feeble terror which it seemed to cause him, made it necessary to talk to him incessantly, and to turn his attention, as far as possible, to other things. He had to be managed like a very wilful and stupid child, and when one of the five hours which Julian had to spend with him was finished, he was worn out with anxiety and fatigue. It is a dreadful thing to be alone in charge of a human being—a being in human shape, who is, either by accident or constitution, incapable alike of responsibility and thought. Hazlet had been able to play draughts pretty well, so Julian got out a board and challenged him to a game, but instead of playing, Hazlet only scrabbled on the board, and pushed the pieces about in a meaningless confusion, while every now and then the sullen glare came into his eye which showed Julian the necessity of being on his guard if self-defence should be needed. Then Julian tried to get him to draw, and showing him a picture, sketched a few strokes of outline, and said—
"Now, Hazlet, finish copying this picture for me."
Hazlet took the pencil between his unsteady fingers, and let it make futile scratches on the paper, and, when Julian repeated his words, wrote down in a slow painful hand—
"Finish copying pict-ure pict-."
What was to be done in such a case as this? Julian suggested a turn in the grounds, but Hazlet betrayed such dread at the thought of leaving his rooms, and encountering "the dog," that Julian was afraid, if he persisted, of driving him into a fit.
Just as the dilemma was becoming seriously unpleasant, Brogten came up to the rooms, and begged Julian to intrust Hazlet to his charge.
"Your time is valuable, Home—particularly just now. Mine is all but worthless. At any rate I have no special work as you have, and I can take care of poor Hazlet very well."
"Oh, no," said Julian; "I mustn't shrink from the duty I have undertaken, and besides you'll find it very dull and unpleasant work."
"Never mind that. I once had an idiot brother—dead now—and I understand well how to manage any one in a case like this. Besides, Hazlet is one of the many I have injured. Let me stay."
"I really am afraid you won't like it."
"Nonsense, Home; I won't give in, depend upon it. I am quite in earnest, and am besides most anxious that you should get a scholarship this time. Don't refuse me the privilege of helping you."
Julian could refuse no longer, and went back to his rooms with perfect confidence that Brogten would do his work willingly and well. He looked in about mid-day to see how things were going on, and found that, after thoroughly succeeding in amusing his patient, Brogten had persuaded him to go to sleep, in the conviction that by the time he awoke he would be nearly well. Nor was he mistaken. The next day Hazlet was sufficiently recovered to go home for the Easter vacation.
It was a very bitter and humiliating trial to him; but misfortune, however frequently it causes reformation, is not invariably successful in changing a man's heart and life. Hazlet came back after the Easter vacation with recovered health, but damaged constitution, and in no respect either better or wiser for the misfortune he had undergone.
One peculiarity of his recent attack was a strong nervous excitability, which was induced by very slight causes, and Hazlet had not long returned to Saint Werner's when the dissipation of his life began once more to tell perniciously upon his state of health. It must not be imagined that because he was the easiest possible victim of temptation, he suffered no upbraidings of a terrified and remorseful conscience. Many a time they overwhelmed him with agony and a dread of the future, mingling with his slavish terrors of a material Gehenna, and stirring up his turbid thoughts until they drove him to the verge of madness. But the inward chimera of riotous passions was too fierce for the weak human reason, and while he hated himself he continued still to sin.
Late one night he was returning to his rooms from the foul haunts of squalid dissipation and living death, when the thought of his own intolerable condition pressed on him with a heavier than usual weight. It was a very cloudy night, and he had long exceeded the usual college hours. The wind tossed about his clothes, and dashed in his face a keen impalpable sleet, while nothing dispelled the darkness except the occasional gleam of a lamp struggling fitfully with the driving mist. Hazlet reached Saint Werner's wet and miserable; in returning he had lost his way, and wandered into the most disreputable and poverty-stricken streets, the very homes of thievery and dirt, where he seriously feared for his personal safety. By the time he got to the college gates he was drenched through and through, and while his body shivered with the cold air, the condition of his mind was agitated and terrified, and the sudden blaze of light that fell on him from the large college lamp, as the gates opened, dazzled his unaccustomed eyes.
Hastily running across the court to his own rooms, he groped his way— giddy and crapulous—giddy and crapulous—up the dark and narrow stair-case, and after some fumbling with his key opened the door.
Lillyston, who was just going to bed after a long evening of hard work, heard his footstep on the stairs, and thought with sorrow that he had not mended his old bad ways. He heard him open the door, and then a long wild shriek, followed by the sound of some one falling, rang through the buildings.
In an instant, Lillyston had darted up-stairs, and the other men who "kept" on the stair-case, jumped out of bed hastily, thrust on their slippers, and also ran out to see what was the matter. As Lillyston reached the threshold of Hazlet's rooms, he stumbled against something, and stooping down found that it was the senseless body of Hazlet himself stretched at full length upon the floor.
He looked up, but saw nothing to explain the mystery; the rooms were in darkness, except that a dull, blue flame, flickering over the black and red relics of the fire, threw fantastic gleams across the furniture and ceiling, and gave an odd, wild appearance to the cap and gown that hung beside the door.
Lillyston was filled with surprise, and lit the candle on the table. Lifting Hazlet on the sofa, he carefully looked at him to see if he was correct in his first surmise, that the unhappy man had swallowed poison, or committed suicide in some other way. But there was no trace of anything of the kind, and Hazlet merely appeared to have fainted and fallen suddenly.
Aided by Noel, one of those who had been alarmed by that piercing shriek, Lillyston took the proper means to revive Hazlet from his fainting fit, and put him to bed. He rapidly recovered his consciousness, but earnestly begged them not to press him on the subject of his alarm, respecting which he was unable or unwilling to give them any information.
The next morning he was very ill; excitement and anxiety brought on a brain fever, which kept him for many weary weeks in his sick-room, and from which he had not fully recovered until after a long stay at Ildown. As he lost, in consequence of this attack, the whole of the ensuing term, he was obliged to degrade, as it is called, i e to place his name on the list of the year below; and he did not return to Camford till the following October, where his somewhat insignificant individuality had been almost forgotten.
Let us anticipate a little to throw light on what we have narrated.
When Hazlet did come back to undergraduate life, he at once sought the alienated friends from whom he had been separated ever since the disastrous period of his acquaintanceship with Bruce. He came back to them penitent and humble, with those convictions now existing in his mind in their reality and genuineness, which before he had only simulated so successfully as to deceive himself. I will not say that he did not continue ignorant and bigoted, but he was no longer conceited and malicious. I will not say that he never showed himself dogmatic and ill-informed, but he was no longer obtrusive and uncharitable. His life was better than his dogmas, and the sincerity of his good intentions counteracted and nullified the ill effects of a narrow and unwholesome creed. There were no farther inconsistencies in his conduct, and he showed firmly, yet modestly, the line he meant to follow, and the side he meant to take. As his conscience had become scrupulous, and his life irreproachable, it mattered comparatively little that his intellectual character was tainted with fanaticism and gloom.
I would not be mistaken to mean that he found his penitence easy, or that he was, like Saint Paul, transformed as it were by a lightning flash—"a fusile Christian." I say, there were—after his two sicknesses and long suffering, and experiences bitter as wormwood—there were, I say, no more outward inconsistencies in his life; but I do not say that within there were no fierce, fearful struggles, so wearisome at times that it almost seemed better to yield than to feel the continued anguish of such mighty temptations. All this the man must always go through who has warmed in his bosom the viper whose poisoned fang has sent infection into his blood. But through God's grace Hazlet was victorious: and as, when the civilisation of some infant colony is advancing on the confines of a desert, the wild beasts retire before it, until they become rare, and their howling is only heard in the lonely night, and then even that sign of their fury is but a strange occurrence, until it is heard no more; so in Hazlet, the many-headed monsters, which breed in the slime of a fallen human heart, were one by one slain or driven backwards by watchfulness, and shame, and prayer.
Julian and Lillyston had never shunned his society, either when he breathed the odour of sanctity, or when he sank into the slough of wretchlessness. Both of them were sufficiently conscious of the heart's weakness to prevent them from the cold and melancholy presumption which leads weak and sinful men to desert and denounce those whom the good spirits have not yet deserted, and whom the good God has not finally condemned. As long as he sought their society, they were always open to his company, however distasteful; and the advice they gave him was tendered in simple good-will—not as though from the haughty vantage-ground of a superior excellence. Even when Hazlet was at the worst—when to be seen with him, after the publicity of his vices, involved something like a slur on a man's fair name—even in these his worst days neither Julian nor Lillyston would have refused, had he so desired it, to walk with him under the lime-tree avenue, or up and down the cloisters of Warwick's Court.
But they naturally met him more often when his manner of life was changed for the better, and were both glad to see that he had found the jewel which adversity possessed. It happened that he was with them one evening when the conversation turned on supernatural appearances, the possibility of which was maintained by Julian and Owen, while Lillyston in his genial way was pooh-poohing them altogether. Hazlet alone sat silent, but at last he said—
"I have never yet mentioned to any living soul what once happened to me, but I will do so now. Lillyston, you remember the night when I aroused you with a scream?"
"Well!" said Lillyston.
"That night I was returning in all the bitterness of remorse from places where, but for God's blessing, I might have perished utterly"—and Hazlet shuddered—"when from out of the storm and darkness I reached my room door. You know that a beam ran right across my ceiling. When I threw open the door to enter, I saw on that beam as clearly as I now see you—no, more clearly, far more clearly than I now see you, for your presence makes no special impression on me, and this was burnt into my very brain—I saw there written in letters of fire—
"'AND THIS IS HELL.'
"Struck dumb with horror, I stared at it; there could be no doubt about it, the letters burned and glared and reddened before my very eyes, and seemed to wave like the northern lights, and bicker into angrier flame as I looked at them. They fascinated me as I stood there dumb and stupefied, when suddenly I saw the dark and massive form of a hand, over which hung the skirt of a black robe, moving slowly away from the last letter. What more I might have seen I cannot tell;—it was then that I fell and fainted, and my shriek startled all the men on the stair-case."
Hazlet told his story with such deep solemnity, and such hollow pauses of emotion, that the listeners sat silent for a while.
"But yet," said Lillyston, "if you come to analyse this, it resolves itself into nothing. You were confessedly agitated, and almost hysterical that night; your body was unstrung; you were wet through, and it was doubtless the sudden passage from the darkness outside to the dim and uncertain glimmer of your own room, which acted so powerfully on your excited imagination, as to project your inward thoughts into a shape which you mistook for an external appearance. I remember noticing the aspect of your rooms myself that evening; the mysterious shadows, and the mingled effects of dull red firelight with black objects, together with the rustle of the red curtain in front of your window which you had left open, and the weird waving of your black gown in the draught, made such an impression even on me merely in consequence of the alarm your shriek had excited, that I could have fancied anything myself, if I wasn't pretty strong-headed, and rather prosaic. As it was, I did half fancy an unknown Presence in the room."
"Yes, but you say inward thoughts," replied Hazlet eagerly. "Now these weren't my inward thoughts; on the contrary they flashed on me like a revelation, and the strange word, 'And,' (for I read distinctly, 'And this is—') was to me like an awful copula connecting time and eternity for ever. I had always thought of quite another, quite a different hell; but this showed me for the first time that the state of sinfulness is the hell of sin. It was only the other day that I came across those lines of Milton—oh, how true they are—
"Which way I fly is hell, myself am hell, And in the lowest deep a lower deep Still gaping to devour me opens wide, To which the hell I suffer seems a heaven."
"It was the truth conveyed in those lines which I then first discovered, and discovered, it seems to me, from without. I know very very little— I am shamefully ignorant, but I do think that the vision of that night taught me more than a thousand volumes of scholastic theology. And let me say too," he continued humbly, "that by it I was plucked like a brand from the burning; by it my conversion was brought about."
None of the others were in a mood to criticise the phraseology of Hazlet's religious convictions, and he clearly desired that the subject of his own immediate experiences, as being one full of awfulness for him, might be dropped.
"Apropos of your argument, I care very little, Hugh," said Julian, "whether you make supernatural appearances objective or subjective. I mean I don't care whether you regard the appearance as a mere deception of the eye, wrought by the disordered workings of the brain, or as the actual presence of a supernatural phenomenon. The result, the effect, the reality of the appearance is just the same in either case. Whether the end is produced by an illusion of the senses, or an appeal to them, the end is produced, and the senses are impressed by something which is not in the ordinary course of human events, just as powerfully as if the ghost had flesh and blood, or the voice were a veritable pulsation of articulated air. The only thing that annoys me is a contemptuous and supercilious denial of the facts."
"I hold with you, Julian," said Owen. "Take for instance the innumerable recorded instances where intimation has been given of a friend's or relative's death by the simultaneous appearance of his image to some one far absent, and unconscious even of his illness. There are four ways of treating such stories—the first is to deny their truth, which is, to say the least, not only grossly uncharitable, but an absurd and impertinent caprice adopted in order to reject unpleasant evidence; the second is to account for them by an optical delusion, accidentally synchronising with the event, which seems to me a most monstrous ignoring of the law of chances; a third is to account for them by the existence of some exquisite faculty, (existing in different degrees of intensity, and in some people not existing at all), whereby physical impressions are invisibly conveyed by some mysterious sympathy of organisation a faculty of which it seems to me there are the most abundant traces, however much it may be sneered and jeered at by those shallow philosophers who believe nothing but what they can grasp with both hands: and a fourth is to suppose that spirits can, of their own will, or by superior permission, make themselves sometimes visible to human eyes."
"Or," said Julian, "so affect the senses as to produce the impression that they are present to human eyes."
"And to show you, Lillyston," said Owen, "how little I fear any natural explanations, and how much I think them beside the point, I'll tell you what happened to me only the other night, and which yet does not make me at all inclined to rationalise Hazlet's story. I had just put out the candle in my bedroom, when over my head I saw a handwriting on the wall in characters of light. I started out of bed, and for a moment fancied that I could read the words, and that somebody had been playing me a trick with phosphorus. But the next minute, I saw how it was; the moonlight was shining in through the little muslin folds of the lower blind, and as the folds were very symmetrical, the chequered reflection on the wall looked exactly like a series of words."
"Well, now, that would have made a capital ghost story," said Lillyston, "if you had been a little more imaginative and nervous. And still more if the illusion had only been partially optical, and partly the result of excited feelings."
"It matters nothing to me," said Hazlet, rising, "whether the characters I saw were written by the finger of a man's hand, or limned by spirits on the sensorium of the brain. All I know is that—thank God—they were there."
CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN.
JULIAN AND KENNEDY.
"But there where I have garnered up my heart, Where either I must live, or bear no life; The fountain from the which my current runs Or else dries up; to be discarded thence! Patience, thou young and rose-lipped cherubim! Aye there, look grim as hell!" Othello, Act 4, scene 2.
Saint Werner's clock, with "its male and female voice," has just told the university that it is nine o'clock.
A little crowd of Saint Wernerians is standing before the chapel door, and even the grass of the lawn in front of it is hardly sacred to-day from common feet. The throng composed of undergraduates, dons, bedmakers, and gyps, is broken into knots of people, who are chatting together according to their several kinds; but they are so quiet and expectant that the very pigeons hardly notice them, but flutter about and coo and peck up the scattered bread-crumbs, just as if nobody was there. If you look attentively round the court, you will see, too, that many of the windows are open, and you may detect faces half concealed among the window curtains. Clearly everybody is on the look out for something, though it is yet vacation time, and only a small section of the men are up.
The door opens, and out sail the Seniors, more than ever conscious of pride and power; they stream away in silk gowns, carrying on their faces the smile of knowledge even into their isolation, where no one can see it. For some reason or other they always meet in chapel, or, for all I know, it may be in the ante-chapel, to elect the Saint Werner's scholars.
And now the much talked of, much thought of, anxiously expected list, which is to make so many happy or miserable, is to be announced. On that little bit of paper, which the chapel-clerk holds in his hands as he stands on the chapel steps, are the names which everybody has been longing to conjecture. He comes out and reads. There are nine scholarships vacant, of which five will be given to the Third-year men, and four to Julian's year.
The five Third-year men are read first, and as each name is announced, off darts some messenger from the crowd to carry the happy intelligence to some expectant senior soph. The heads of listeners lean farther and farther out of the window, for the clerk speaks so loud as to make his voice heard right across the court; and the wires of the telegraph are instantly put into requisition to flash the news to many homes, which it will fill either with rejoicing or with sorrow.
And now for the four Second-year scholars, who have gained the honour of a scholarship their first time of trial, and whose success excites a still keener interest. They are read out in the accidental order of the first entering of their names in the college books.
Silence! the Second-year scholars are—DUDLEY CHARLES OWEN, (for the names are always read out at full length, Christian names and all); JULIAN HOME; ALBERT HENRY SUTON; and it is a very astonishing fact, but the fourth is Hugh James Lillyston.
Who would have believed it? Everybody expected Owen and Home to get scholarships their first time, and Suton was considered fairly safe of one; but that Kennedy should not have got one, and that Lillyston should, were facts perfectly amazing to all who heard them. Saint Werner's was full of surprise. But after all they might have expected it; Kennedy had been grossly idle, and Lillyston, who had been exceedingly industrious, was not only well-grounded at Harton in classics, but had recently developed a real and promising proficiency in mathematics; and it was this knowledge, joined to great good fortune in the examination, which had won for him the much-envied success.
But not Kennedy?
No. This result was enough most seriously to damp the intense delight which Julian otherwise felt in his own success, and that of his three friends.
Julian, half-expecting that he would be successful, had come up with Owen early in the day, and received the news from the porter as he entered the college. Kennedy and Lillyston were not yet arrived, and Julian went to meet the coach from Roysley, hoping to see one of them at least for he was almost as anxious to break the disappointment gently to Kennedy, as he was to be the first to bear to his oldest school friend the surprising and delightful news of his success.
They were both in the coach, and Julian was quite puzzled how to meet them. His vexation and delight alternated so rapidly as he looked from one to the other, that he felt exceedingly awkward, and would very much have preferred seeing either of them alone. Lillyston was incredulous; he insisted that there must be some mistake, until he actually saw the list with his own eyes. It was quite by accident, and not with any view of being sworn in as a scholar the next morning, that he had returned to Saint Werner's on that day at all. Kennedy bore the bitter, but not unexpected disappointment with silent stoicism, and showed an unaffected joy at the happy result which had crowned the honest exertions of his best-loved friends.
He bore it in stoical silence, until he reached his own rooms; and then, do not blame him—my poor Kennedy—if he bowed his head upon his hands, and cried like a little child. There are times when the bravest man feels quite like a boy—feels as if he were unchanged since the day when he sorrowed for boyish trespasses, and was chidden for boyish faults. Kennedy was very young, and he was eating the fruits of folly and idleness in painful failure and hope deferred. In public he never showed the faintest signs of vexation, but in the loneliness of his closet do not blame him if he wept—for Violet's sake as well as for his own.
So once more he was separated from Julian and Lillyston in hall and chapel, for they now sat at the scholars' table and in the scholars' seats.
He was beginning to get over his feeling of sorrow when he received a letter, which did not need the coronet on the seal to show him that his correspondent was De Vayne. He opened it with eagerness and curiosity, and read—
"Eaglestower, April 30, 18—, Argyllshire.
"My Dear Kennedy—How long it is since we saw or heard of each other! I am getting well now, slowly but surely, and as I am amusing my leisure by reviving my old correspondence with my friends, let me write to you whom I reckon and shall ever reckon among that honoured number.
"I am afraid that you consider me to have been slightly alienated from you by the sad scene which your rooms witnessed when last we met in health, and by the connection into which your name was dragged, by popular rumour, with that unhappy affair. If such a thought has ever troubled you, let me pray that you will banish it. I have long since been sure that you would have been ready to suffer any calamity rather than expose me to the foreseen possibility of such an outrage.
"No, believe me, dear Kennedy, I am as much now as I always have been since I knew you, your sincere and affectionate friend. Nor will I conceal how deep an interest another circumstance has given me in your welfare. You perhaps did not know that I too loved your affianced Violet; how long, how deeply I can never utter to any living soul. I did not know that you had won her affections, and the information that such was the case, came on me like the death-knell of all my cherished hopes. But I have schooled myself now to the calm contemplation of my failure, and I can rejoice without envy in the knowledge, that in you she has won a lover richly endowed with all the qualities on which future happiness can depend.
"I write to you partly to say good-bye. In a fortnight I am going abroad, and shall not return until I feel that I have conquered a hopeless passion, and regained a shattered health. Farewell to dear Old Camford! I little thought that my career there would terminate as it did, but I trust in the full persuasion that God worketh all things for good to them who love Him.
"Once more good-bye. When I return, I hope that I shall see leaning on your arm, a fair, a divine young bride.—Ever affectionately yours, De Vayne."
Kennedy had written home to announce that his name was not to be found in the list of Saint Werner's scholars. The information had disgusted his father exceedingly. Mr Kennedy, himself an old Wernerian, loved that royal foundation with an unchanging regard, and ever since that day Edward had been playing in his hall a pretty boy, he determined that he should be a Saint Werner's scholar at his first trial. He knew his son's abilities, and felt convinced that there must be some radical fault in his Camford life to produce such a disastrous series of failures and disgraces. Unable to gain any real information on the subject from Edward's letters, he determined to write up at once, and ask the classical and mathematical tutors the points in which his son was most deficient, and the reason of his continued want of success.
The classical tutor, Mr Dalton, wrote back that Kennedy's failure was due solely to idleness; that his abilities were acknowledged to be brilliant, but that at Camford as everywhere else, the notion of success without industry, was a chimera invented by boastfulness and conceit. "Le Genie c'est la Patience."
"You seem, however," continued Mr Dalton, "to be under the mistaken impression that your son read with me last term, and even 'read double.' This is not the case, as he has ceased to read with me since the end of the Christmas term: I was sorry that he did so; for if economy was an object, I would gladly, merely for the sake of the interest I take in him, have afforded gratuitous assistance to so clever and promising a pupil."
The letter of Mr Baer, the mathematical tutor, was precisely to the same effect. "I can only speak," he said, "from what I observed of your son previous to last Christmas; since then I have not had the pleasure of numbering him among my pupils."
When Mr Dalton's letter came, Mr Kennedy was exceedingly perplexed to understand what it meant, and assumed that there must be some unaccountable mistake. He simply could not believe that his son could have asked him for the money on false pretences. But when Mr Baer's letter confirmed the fact that Kennedy had not been reading with a tutor either in classics or mathematics during the previous quarter, it seemed impossible for any one any longer to shut his eyes to the truth.
When the real state of the case forced itself on Mr Kennedy's conviction, his affliction was so deep that no language can adequately describe what he suffered. In a few days his countenance became sensibly older-looking, and his hair more grey. His favourite and only surviving son had proved unworthy and base. Not only had he wasted time in frivolous company, but clearly he must have sunk very low to be guilty of a crime so heinous in itself, and so peculiarly wounding to a father's heart, as the one which it was plain that he had committed.
At first Mr Kennedy could not trust himself to write, lest the anger and indignation which usurped the place of sorrow should lead him into a violence which might produce irreparable harm. Meanwhile, he bore in silence the blows which had fallen. Not even to his daughter Eva did he reveal the overwhelming secret of her brother's shame, but brooded in loneliness over the fair promise of the past, blighted utterly in the disgrace of the present. Often when he had looked at his young son, and seen how glorious and how happy his life might be, he had determined to shelter him from all evil, and endow him with means and opportunities for every success. He had looked to him as a pride and stay in declining manhood, and a comfort in old age. Edward Kennedy had been "a child whom every eye that looked on loved," and now he was—; Mr Kennedy could not apply to him the only name which at once sprang up to his lips. He wrote—
"Dear Edward,—When I tell you that it costs me an effort, a strong effort to call you 'dear,' you may judge of the depth of my anger. I cannot trust myself, nor will I condescend to say much to you. Suffice it for you to know that your shameful transactions are detected, and that I am now aware of the means, the treacherous dishonest means you have adopted to procure money, which, since I give you an ample and liberal allowance, can only be wanted to pander to vice, idleness, and I know not what other forms of sin.
"I tell you that I do not know what to say; if you can act as you have acted, you must be quite deaf to expostulation, and dead to shame. You have done all you can to cover me and yourself with dishonour, and to bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.
"Oh Edward, Edward! if I could have foreseen this in the days when you were yet a young and innocent and happy boy, I would have chosen rather that you should die.
"It must be a long time before you see my face again. I will not see you in the coming holidays, and I at once reduce your allowance to half of what it was. I cannot, and will not supply money to be wasted in extravagance and folly, nor shall I again be deceived into granting it to you on false pretences—Your indignant, deeply-sorrowing father, T. KENNEDY."
Kennedy read the letter, and re-read it, and laid it down on the table beside his untouched breakfast. There was but one expression in his face, and that was misery, and in his soul no other feeling than that of hopeless shame.
He did not, and could not write to his father. What was to be said? He must bear his burden—the burden of detection and of punishment— alone.
And the thought of Violet added keener poignancy to all his grief. For Kennedy could not but observe that her letters were not so fondly, passionately loving as they once had been, and he knew that the fault was his, because his own letters reflected, like a broken mirror, the troubled images of his wandering heart.
CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.
"When all the blandishments from life are gone, The coward slinks to death;—the brave live on!"
Of all the sicknesses that can happen to the human soul, the deadliest and the most incurable is the feeling of despair—and this was the malady which now infected every vein of Kennedy's moral and intellectual life.
Could he but have conquered his pride so far as to take but one person into his confidence, all might have been well. But Violet—could he ever tell Violet of sins which her noble heart must render so inconceivable as almost to make it impossible for her to sympathise with one who committed them? And Eva; could he ever wound the tender affection of his sweet sister, by revealing to her the disgrace of the brother whom, from her childhood, she had idolised? He sometimes thought that he would confess to Julian or Lillyston; but his courage failed him when the time came, and he fed on his own heart in solitude, avoiding the society of men.
The sore burden of a self-reproaching spirit wore him down. He had fallen so often now, and swerved so often from the path of temperance, rectitude, and honour, that he began to regard himself as a hopeless reprobate—as one who had been weighed and found wanting—tested of God, and deliberately set aside.
And so step by step the devil thrust him into desperation, and strove thereby to clinch the hopelessness of his estate. With wild fierce passion, Kennedy flung himself into sins he had never known before; angrily he laid waste the beauty and glory of the vineyard whose hedge had been broken down; a little entrance to the sanctuary had been opened to evil thoughts, and they, when once admitted, soon flung back wider and wider the golden gates, till the revelling band of worse wickednesses rushed in and defiled the altar, and trampled on the virgin floors, and defaced the cedarn walls with images of idolatry and picturings of sin. Because he had sunk into the slough of despond, he would be heedless of the mud that gathered on his garments. Was he not ruined already? Could anything much worse befall him than had befallen him already? No; he would sin on now and take his fill.
It was a short period of his life; but in no other period did he suffer so much, or shake more fatally the foundations of all future happiness. It was emphatically a sin against his own soul, and as such it affected his very look. Those blue laughing eyes were clouded over, and the bloom died away from his cheeks, and the ingenuous beauty from his countenance, as the light of the Shechinah grew pale and dim in the inmost sanctuary. Kennedy was not mastered by impulse, but driven by despair.
Nor did he take any precaution to shield himself from punishment—the punishment of outward circumstance and natural consequence—as his moral abasement proceeded. His acquaintances shunned him, his friends dropped away from him, and the guiltiness of the present received a tinge of deeper horror from the gloom of the future.
All that could be done, Julian did. He warned, he expostulated, he reminded of purer and happier—of pure and happy days. But he did not know the bitter fountain of despondency whence flowed those naphthaline streams of passion. At last he said—
"Kennedy, I have not often spoken to you of my dear sister; it is time to speak of her now. Your conduct proves to me that you do not and cannot love her."
Kennedy listened in silence; his face bowed down upon his hands. "You could not go on as you are doing if you loved her, for love allows no meaner, no unhallowed fires to pollute her vestal flame. Your love must be a pretence—a thing of the past. It was only possible, Kennedy, when you were worthier than now you are."
He groaned deeply, but still said nothing.
"Kennedy," continued Julian, "I have loved you as a friend, as a brother; I love you still most earnestly, and you must not be too much pained at what I say; but I have come to a determination which I must tell you, and by which I must abide. Your engagement with Violet must cease."
"Does SHE say so?" he asked in a hollow voice.
"No, she does not know, Kennedy, what I know of you; but she will trust my deep affection, and know that I act solely for her good. The blow may almost kill her, but better that she should die than that her life should be ever connected—oh, that you should have driven me to say it— with one so stained as yours!"
"Aye!" said Kennedy bitterly, "stab hard, for the knife is in your hand. Fling dust on those who are down already—it is the world's way. I see through it all, Julian Home; you would gladly get rid of me, that Violet may wear a coronet. No comparison between a penniless and ruined undergraduate, and a handsome, rich young viscount."
"Unjust! ungenerous!" answered Julian, with indignation; "you have poisoned your own true heart, Kennedy, or you would not utter the lie which you must disbelieve. Edward Kennedy, I will not attempt to rebut your unworthy suspicions; you know neither my character nor Violet's, or you would not have dared to utter them. No—it is clearer to me than ever that you are no fit suitor for my sister. Passion and weakness have dragged you very low. I trust and pray that you may recover yourself again."
A sudden rush of tears came to his eyes as he turned away to leave his earliest and best-loved college friend. But Kennedy stopped him, and said wildly—
"Stop, Julian Home, you shall hear me speak. I can hardly believe that you do this of your own responsibility—without Violet's—nay, nay, I must not call her so—without your sister's consent. And if this be so, hear me. Tell her that I scorn the heart which would thus fling away its plighted love: tell her that she has committed a great sin in thus rejecting me: tell her that she is now responsible for all my future,—that whatever errors I may fall into, whatever sins I may commit, whatever disgrace or ruin I may incur, she is the author of them. Tell her that if I ever live to do ungenerous acts, or ever yield to bursts of foolish passion, the acts are hers, not mine; she will have caused them; my life lies at her feet. Tell her this before it is too late. What? you still wish to hurry away? Go, then." He almost pushed Julian out, and banged the door after him.
Amazed at this paroxysm of wrath and madness, Julian went down-stairs with a slow step and a heavy, heavy heart; above all, he dreaded the necessity of breaking to Violet the heart-rending intelligence of his decision, and the circumstances which caused it. He trembled to do it, for he knew not how crushing the weight might prove. At last he determined to write to his mother, and to beg her to bear for him the pain of telling that which her womanly tact and maternal sympathy might make less overwhelming to be borne.
But Kennedy, after Julian's words, rushed out of his rooms, and it was night. He left the college, and wandered into the fields—he knew not whither, nor with what intent.
His brain was on fire. The last gleam that lent brightness to his life had been extinguished; the friend whom he loved best had cast him off; his name was sullied; his love rejected. It was not thought which kept him in a tumult, but only a physical consciousness of dreadful, irremediable calamity; and but for the wind which blew so coldly and savagely in his face, and the rain that soaked his clothes and cooled the fever of his forehead, he feared that he might go mad.
He did not return to the college till long past midnight; and the old porter, as he got out of bed to open the gate, could not help saying to him in a tone of reproach—
"Oh, Mr Kennedy, sir—excuse me, sir—but these are bad ways."
The words were lost upon him: he went up to his room, and threw himself, without taking off his clothes, upon his bed. No sleep came to him, and in the morning—damp, weary, and feverish as he had been—his look was inexpressibly pitiable and haggard.
The imperious demands of health forced him to take some notice of his condition; and he was about to put on clean clothes, and take some warm tea about ten in the morning, when the Master's servant came to tell him that the Seniority desired his presence.
He at once knew that it must be for his irregularity of the previous night, which, in the agitation of other thoughts, had not occurred to him before. He remembered, too, that the Senior Dean had only recently threatened him that, in consequence of his late misdoings, the next offence would be visited with summary and final punishment.
Kennedy received rather hard treatment at the hand of the Senior Dean, who was a very worthy and excellent man, but so firm and punctilious that he could neither conceive nor tolerate the existence of beings less precise in their nature than himself. Kind and well-intentioned, he was utterly unfit for the guidance of young men, because he was totally deficient in those invaluable qualities—sympathy and tact. He had early taken a dislike to Kennedy, in consequence of some very harmless frivolities of his freshman's year. Kennedy, in his frolicsome and happy moods, had, in ways, childish, perhaps, but completely harmless, offended the sensitive dignity of the college official, and these trivial eccentricities the Dean regarded as heinous faults—the symptoms of a reckless and irreverent character. There was one particular transaction which gave him more than usual offence, in which Kennedy, hearing a very absurd story at a don's party, while the Dean was present, parodied it with such exquisite humour and such complete command of countenance, that all the other men, in spite of the official presence, had indecorously broken into fits of laughter. It is a great pity when rulers and teachers take such terrible fright at little outbreaks of mere animal and boyish spirits.
The Dean was inclined therefore from the first to take the most serious view of Kennedy's proceedings, even when they were not as questionable as recently they had been. Instead of trying to enter into a young man's feelings and temptations with consideration and forbearance, the Dean regarded them from a moral watchtower of unapproachable altitude, and hence to him the errors which he was sometimes obliged to punish were not regarded as human failings, but as monstrous and inexplicable phenomena. He could not in the least understand Kennedy; he only looked at him as a wild, and objectionable, and irregular young man; while Kennedy reciprocated his pity by a hardly-concealed contempt.
So, as Kennedy took cap and gown, and walked across the court to the combination-room, he became pretty well aware that a very heavy sentence was hanging over his head. He cared little for it; nothing that Saint Werner's or its authorities could do, would wound him half so deeply as what he was already suffering, or cause the iron to rankle more painfully in his soul. He felt as a man who is in a dream.
He stood before them with a look of utter vacancy and listlessness, the result partly of physical weariness, partly of complete indifference. He was aware that the Dean, undisturbed this time, was haranguing him to his heart's content, but he had very little notion of what he was saying. At last his ear caught the question—
"Have you any explanation to offer of your conduct, Mr Kennedy?"
He betrayed how little he had been attending by the reply—
"What conduct, sir?"
The Dean ruffled his plumage, and said with asperity—
"Your conduct last night, sir."
"I was wandering in the fields, sir."
"Wandering in the fields!" In the Dean's formal and regular mind such a proceeding was wholly unintelligible; fancy a sensible member of a college wandering in the fields on a wet stormy night past twelve o'clock! "Really, Mr Kennedy, you must excuse us, but we can hardy accept so fantastic an explanation; we can hardly believe that you had no ulterior designs."
Kennedy was bothered and fretful; he was not thinking of Deans or Seniors just then; his thoughts were reverting to his father's implacable anger, and to Julian's forbidding him to hope for the love of Violet Home. Weary of the talking, and careless of explaining anything to them, and with a short return of his old contempt, he wished to cut short the discussion, and merely said—
"I can't help what you accept or what you believe."
The Seniors had a little discussion among themselves, in which the opinion of Mr Norton appeared to be over-borne by the majority of votes, and then the Senior Dean said shortly—
"Mr Kennedy, we have come to the decision that it is undesirable for you to remain at Saint Werner's at present, until you have mended your ways, and taken a different view of the duties and responsibilities of college life. You are rusticated for a year. You must leave to-morrow."
Kennedy bowed and left the room. He, too, had been coming to a decision, and one that rendered all minor ones a matter of no consequence to him. During all the wet, and feverish, and sleepless night he had been determining what to do, and the event of this morning confirmed him still further. He was rusticated for a year; where could he go? Not to his father and his home, where every eye would look on him as a disgraced and characterless man; not to any of his relations or friends, who would regard him perhaps as a shame and burden;—no, there was but one home for him, and that was the long home, undisturbed beneath the covering of the grave.
The burden and mystery of life lay heavily on him—its lasting calamities and vanishing joys, its trials and disappointments. He would try whether, in a new state of life, the same distorted individuality was a necessary possession. Would it be necessary there also to live two lives in one, to have a soul, within whose precincts curse wrestled with blessing, good with evil, and life with death? As life went with him then, he would rather escape from it even into annihilation; he groaned under it, and in spite of all he had heard or read, he had no fear whatever of the after-death. If he had any feeling about that, it was a feeling of curiosity alone. He could not wholly condemn himself: he felt that however much evil might have mastered him good was the truest and most distinctive element of his being. He loved it even when he abandoned it, and yielded himself to sin. He could not believe that for these frailties, he would be driven into an existence of unmitigated pain.
He had no fear, no shadow of fear of the state of death, for he forgot that he would carry himself, his unchanged being—Conscience, Habit and Memory—into the other world. What he dreaded was the spasm of dying— the convulsion that was to snap the thousand silver strings in the harp of life. This he shuddered at, but he consoled himself that it would be over in a moment.
He took no food that day, but wrote to his father, to Eva, to Julian, Violet, and De Vayne. He told them his purpose, and prayed their forgiveness for all the wrongs he had done them. And then there seemed no more to do. With weak unsteady steps he paced his room, and looked at the old Swiss chamois-gun above the door. He took it down and handled it. It was a coarse clumsy weapon, and he could not trust it to effect his purpose. Shunning observation, he walked by back streets and passages until he came to a gunsmith's shop, where he bought a large pistol, under pretence of wanting it for the purposes of travel.
He carried it home himself, but instead of returning straight to his rooms, he was tempted to stroll for a last time about the grounds. The delightful softness of the darkening air on that spring evening, and the cheerful gleam of lamps leaping up here and there between the trees, and flickering on the quiet river, enticed him up the glorious old entwined avenue into the shadow of the great oaks beyond, until he found himself leaning between the weeping willows over the bridge of Merham Hall, looking on the still grey poetic towers, and the three motionless reposing swans, and the gloaming of the west. And so, still thinking, thinking, thinking, he slowly wandered home.
As he had determined to commit suicide that night, it mattered little to him at what hour it was done, and opening the first book on the table, he tried to kill time until it grew later and darker. The book happened to be a Bible, and conscious how much it jarred with his present frame of mind, and his guilty purpose, he threw it down again; but not until his eye had caught the words:—
"AND HE SAW THE ANGEL OF THE LORD STANDING IN THE WAY."
The verse haunted him against his will, till he half shuddered at the dim light which the moon made, as it struggled through the curtains only partially drawn, into the quaint old room. He would delay no longer, and loaded the pistol with a dreadful charge, which should not fail of carrying death.
Some fancy seized him to put out the lights, and then with a violent throbbing at the heart, and a wild prayer for God's mercy at that terrible hour, he took the pistol in his hand.
At that very instant,—when there was hardly the motion of a hair's breadth between him and fate,—what was it that startled his attention, and caused his hand to drop, and fixed him there with open mouth and wild gaze, and caused him to shiver like the leaves of the acacia in a summer wind?
Right before him,—half hidden by the window curtains, and half drawing them back,—clear and distinct he saw the spirit of his dead mother with uplifted finger and sad reproachful eyes fixed upon her son. The countenance so sorrowfully beautiful, the long bright gleaming of the white robe, the tresses floating down over the shoulders like a golden veil, for one instant he saw them, not dim and shadowy like the fading outlines of a dream, but with all the marked full character of living vision.
"Oh mother, mother!" he whispered, as he stretched out his hands, and sank trembling upon his knees, and bowed his head; but as he raised his head again, there was nothing there; only the glimmer of lamps about the court, and the pale moonlight streaming through the curtains, partly drawn, into the quaint old room.
Unable to trust himself with the murderous weapon in his hand even for a moment, yet swept from his evil purpose by the violent reflux of new and better thoughts, he fired the pistol into the air. The barrel, enormously overloaded, burst in the discharge, and uttering a cry, he fell fainting, with his right hand shattered, to the ground.
His cry and the loud report of the explosion raised the alarm, and as the men rushed up and forced open the door of his room, they found him weltering in his blood upon the floor.
CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.
EVA ENTERS THE CHAPEL.
"I took it for a faery vision Of some bright creatures of the element, That in the colours of the rainbow live And play i' the plighted clouds; I was awe-struck, And, as I passed, I worshipped." Comus.
The long, long illness that followed, and the weary time which it took to heal the mutilated hand, proved the greatest blessings that could have befallen the weak and erring heart of Edward Kennedy. They spared him the necessity of that heart-rending meeting with those whom he best loved, the dread of which had been the most powerful incitement to urge upon him the thought of suicide. They gave him time to look before and after—they relieved the painful tension of his overwrought mind—they calmed him with the necessity for quiet thought and deep rest after the anguish and turmoil of the bygone months.
When he awoke to consciousness, Eva was sitting by his bedside in the sick-room. Slowly the well-remembered objects and the beloved face broke upon his recollection, but at first he could remember nothing more, nor connect the strange present with the excited past. Still more slowly—as when one breaks the azure sleep of some unruffled mountain mere by the skimming of a stone, and for a long time the clear images of blue sky, and wreathing cloud, and green mountain-top, are shaken and confused on the tremulous and twinkling wave, but unite together into the old picture when the water has recovered its glassy smoothness—so still more slowly did Kennedy's troubled memory reflect the incidents, (alas! unbeautiful and threatening incidents), of the preceding days. They came back to him as he lay there quite still; and then he groaned.
"Hush! dearest Edward," said Eva, who had watched his face, and guessed from its expressive workings the progress of his thoughts; "hush, we are with you, and all is going on well. Your hand is healing."
He found that his right hand was tightly and firmly bandaged, and kept still by a splint.
"Was it much hurt? Shall I recover the use of it?"
"Yes, almost certainly, Dr Leesby says. I will tell papa that you are awake."
"Is he very, very angry?" asked poor Kennedy.
"He has forgiven all, dear," she said, kissing his forehead. "It was all very dreadful,"—and a cold shiver ran over her—"but none of us will ever allude to it again. Banish it from your thoughts, Eddy; we will leave Camford as soon as you can be moved."
She went to fetch her father, and as he came in and leant fondly over his son's sick-bed, and grasped warmly his unwounded hand, tears of afflicting memory coursed each other fast down the old man's cheeks. He had been hard, too hard upon Edward; perhaps his severity had driven him of late into such bad courses, and to the brink of such an awful and disgraceful end; perhaps if he had been kinder, gentler, more sympathising for this first offence, he might have been saved the anguish of driving his poor boy to lower and wilder depths of sin and sorrow. It was all over now; and amid the apparent wreck of all his hopes, even after the death-blows which recent events had dealt to his old pride in his noble child, he yet regarded him as he lay there— wounded and in such a way—with all the pity of a Christian's forgiveness, with all the fondness of a father's love.
"Oh, father, I have suffered unspeakably. If God ever raises me to health and strength again, I vow with all my heart to serve Him as I have never done before."
"Yes, Edward, I trust and believe it; think no more of the past; let the dead bury their dead. The golden present is before you, and you will have two friends who never desert the brave man—your Maker and yourself."
A silence followed, and then Eva said, "I have just seen Dr Leesby, Eddy, and he says that if you are now quite yourself, and the light-headedness has ceased, you may be moved on Monday."
"And to-day is?—I have lost all count of time."
"To-day is Saturday. Won't it be charming, dear, to find ourselves once more at home; quietly at home, with no one but ourselves, and our own love to make us happy."
"And what am I to do, Eva?"
"Hush, Eddy; sufficient for the day—"
"Does she know, Eva? Do you ever hear from her now?"
"Yes, often—but do not think too much of those things just yet."
"He has often come to ask after you," she said blushing, "but he is afraid to see you, lest it should do you harm just now."
"Perhaps he is right. We are not all enemies, then?"
"Enemies with Julian and Violet? Oh no."
Though the engagement of Kennedy with Violet had been broken off by the common desire of Julian and Mr Kennedy, the two families still continued their affectionate intercourse, and bewailed the sad necessity which drove them to a step so painful, yet so unavoidably required by the welfare of all concerned. And from the first they hoped that all might yet be well, while some among them began to fancy that if Kennedy and Violet should ever be united, it would not be the only close bond between hearts already full of mutual affection.
So Julian still came daily during Kennedy's illness to see Eva and Mr Kennedy, and to inquire after the sufferer's health. And sometimes he took them for a walk in the grounds or the immediate neighbourhood of Camford, a place which they had never visited before, and which to them was full of interest.
Eva had often heard of the glories of Saint Werner's chapel, and on the Sunday she asked Julian if it would be possible for her to go with her father to the evening service there.
"Oh yes," said Julian; "certainly. I will get one of the Fellows to take you in. It is a remarkable sight, and I think you ought to go."
The Sunday evening came, and Julian escorted them to the ante-chapel, and showed them the various sculptures and memorials of mighty names. They then waited by the door till some Fellow whom Julian knew should pass into the chapel to escort them to a vacant place in the Fellows' seats.
Saint Werner's Chapel consists of a single aisle, along the floor of which are placed rows of benches for the undergraduates; raised above these to a height of three steps are the long seats appropriated to the scholars and the Bachelors of Arts; and again, two steps above these are the seats of the Fellows and Masters of Arts, together with room for such casual strangers as may chance to be admitted. In the centre of these long rows, on either side, are the places for the choristers, men and boys, and the lofty thrones whence the Deans "look down with sleepless eyes upon the world." By the door on either side are the red-curtained and velvet-cushioned seats of the Master and Vice-master, beyond whom sit the noblemen and fellow-commoners. By the lectern and reading-desk is a step of black and white marble, which extends to the altar, on which are two candlesticks of massive silver; and over them some beautiful carved oaken work covers a great painting, flanked on either side by old gilded pictures of the Saviour and the Madonna. Imagine this space all lighted from wall to wall by wax candles, and at the end by large lamps which shed a brighter and softer light, and imagine it filled, if you can, by five hundred men in snowy surplices, and you have a faint fancy of the scene which broke on the eyes of Mr Kennedy and Eva, as they passed between the statues of the ante-chapel, and under the pealing organ into the inner sanctuary of Saint Werner's chapel.
"Could they behold— Who, less insensible than sodden clay In a sea river's bed at ebb of tide— Could have beheld with undelighted heart So many happy youths, so wide and fair A congregation in its budding-time Of health, and hope, and beauty, all at once So many divers samples from the growth Of life's sweet season—could have seen unmoved That miscellaneous garland of wild flowers, Decking the matron temples of a place, So famous through the world?"
It was Mr Norton whom Julian caught hold of as an escort for his friends into the chapel. I well remember, (who that saw it does not?) that entrance. It was rather late; the organ was playing a grand overture, the men were all in their seats, and the service just going to begin, when Eva entered leaning on Mr Norton's arm, and followed by her father and Julian. Many of the Saint Werner's men had seen her walking in the grounds the last day or two, and as Kennedy's sister a peculiar interest attached to her just then. But she needed no such accidental source of interest to attract the liveliest attention of such keen and warm enthusiasts for beauty as the Camford undergraduates. Ladies are comparatively rare apparitions in that semi-monastic body of scholars; and ladies both young and lovely are rare indeed. So as Eva entered, so young and so fair, the bright and graceful and beautiful Eva—with that exquisite rose-tinge which the air of Orton-on-the-Sea had given her, and the folded softness of the tresses which flowed down beside her perfect face, and the light of beaming eyes seen like jewels under her long eyelashes as she bent her glance upon the ground—as Eva entered, I say, leaning on Mr Norton's arm, and touched, with the floating of her pale silk dress, the surplices of the Saint Werner's men as they sat on either side down the narrow passage, it was no wonder that every single eye from that of the Senior Dean [Pace Decani dixerim!] to that of the little chorister boy was turned upon her for an instant, as she passed up to the only vacant seats, and Mr Norton caused room to be made for her beside the tutor's cushion by the chaplain's desk. She was happily unconscious of the admiration, and the perfect simplicity of her sweet girlish unconsciousness added a fresh charm to the whole grace of her manner and appearance. Only by the slightest possible blush did she show her sense of her unusual position as the cynosure for the admiring gaze of five hundred English youths; and that too though the dark and handsome countenance of Mr Norton glowed visibly with a brighter colour, (as though he were conscious of the thought respecting him, which darted across many an undergraduate's mind), and even the face of Julian, as he walked to the scholars' seats among the familiar ranks of his compeers, was flushed with the crimson of a sensitiveness which he would fain have hidden.
And I cannot help it, if even during the noble service—even amid the sound "Of solemn psalms and silver litanies," the eyes of many men wandered towards a sweet face, and gazed upon it as they might have gazed upon a flower, and if the thoughts of many men were absorbed unwontedly in other emotions than those of prayer; nor can I help it if Julian was one of those whose eyes and thoughts were so employed.
What an evening star she was! And how her very presence filled all hearts with a livelier sense of happiness and hope, and sweet pure yearnings for wedded calm and bridal love! But she—innocent young Eva—little knew of the sensation she had caused by the rare beauty of her blossoming womanhood. Her whole heart was in the act of worship, except when it wandered for a moment to her poor sick Eddy, whom they had left alone, or for another moment to one whom she could not but see before her in the scholars' seats. She did not know that men were looking at her, as she raised her clear warbling voice amid the silvery trebles of the choir, and uttered with all the expressiveness of genuine emotion those strains of poetry and passion which thrilled from the heart to the harp of the warrior-prophet and poet-king. And never did truer prayers come from a woman's lips than those which her heart offered as her head was bowed that night.
The service was over, and the congregation streamed out. That evening the ante-chapel was fuller than usual of men, who stayed nominally to hear the organ; but besides those musical souls, who always linger to hear the voluntary, or to talk in little groups, there were others who, on that pretence, waited to catch another glimpse—a last glimpse of eyes whose deep and lovely colour had flowed into their souls. They were disappointed though, for Eva dropped her veil. With a graceful bow to Mr Norton, which he returned with courteous dignity, she took Julian's proffered arm, and walked out into the court, her father following. A proud man was Julian that evening, and the subject of kindly envy to not a few.
But that little incident—the many eyes that had seen his treasure— determined Julian to take the step which he had long decided upon in his secret heart. He was half-jealous of the open, unconcealed admiration which Eva had excited, and it made him fear lest another should approach the object of his love, and occupy a place in the heart which he had not even demanded as his own. He was positively in a hurry. What if some undergraduate should get an introduction to Eva—some gay and handsome Adonis—and should suddenly carry away her heart?
So when Mr Kennedy went into the sick-room to read to Edward the lessons for the day, and Julian stayed with Eva in the sitting-room, he drew his chair beside hers, and they began to talk about Saint Werner's.
"Do you think you shall ever be a Fellow, Julian? I should so like you to be?"
"And if I am, I shall hope very soon to exchange it for a happier fellowship, Eva."
She wouldn't see what he meant, so he said, "Eva, shall I read to you?"
"Yes," she said, "I should like it so much; I used to enjoy so much the poetry we read at Grindelwald."
He took down Coleridge's poems from the shelf, and read—
"All thoughts, all passions, all delights, Whatever stirs this mortal frame, Are all but ministers of love, And feed his sacred flame."
He went on, watching her colour change with the musical variations of his voice, until he came to the verse—
"I told her how he pined,—and ah The deep, the low, the pleading tone In which I sang another's love Interpreted my own."
He saw her breast heaving with agitation, and throwing away the book, he bent down beside her, and looked up into her deep eyes, and said, "Oh, Eva, what need of concealment? You have read it long ago, have you not? I love you, Eva, love you so passionately—you cannot tell the depth of my love. Do you return it, Eva?" he said as he gained possession of her hand.
She had won him then—the dream of her latter life. This was the noble Julian kneeling at her side. She trembled for very joy, and whispered—"Oh, Julian, Julian, do you not see that I loved you from the first day we met?" She regretted the speech the next moment, as though it had been wanting in maidenly reserve, but it was the first warm natural utterance of her heart; and Julian sprang up in an ecstasy of joy, and as she rose he claimed as his due a lover's kiss.
She blushed crimson, but suffered him to sit down beside her; and they sat, hardly knowing anything but the great fact that they loved each other, till Mr Kennedy's voice had ceased in the adjoining room, and he came in.
"Oh, there you are," he said. "Edward is sinking to sleep. How good of you to be so quiet!"
They rose up, and Julian led her to him with her hand in his, and his arm supporting her. "Mr Kennedy," he said, "I am going to ask you for the most priceless jewel you possess."
"What? Is it indeed so? Ah, you wicked Julian, do not rob me of Eva yet. She is too young; and now that Edward seems likely to be ill so long—ah, me! I am bereaved of my children. Well, well, I suppose it must be so. Come here, darling, to the old father you are going to desert; I daresay Julian won't grudge me one kiss."
He kissed her tenderly, and she clung about his neck as she whispered, "But it will not be yet for a long long time, papa."
"What youth calls long, my Eva; but not long for those who are walking into the shadow down the hill."
O happy, happy lovers! how gloriously that night did the stars shine out for you in the deep, unfathomable galaxies of heaven, and the dew fall, and the moon dawn into a sky yet flushed with the long-unfading purple of the fading day! Yet there was sadness mixed with their happiness as they heard, until they parted, the plaintive murmurs of Kennedy's fitful sleep, and thought of all the sufferings of their brother, and how nearly, how very nearly, he had been hurried from the midst of them by self-inflicted death.
"This world will not believe a man repents, And this wise world of ours is mainly right For seldom does a man repent, and use Both grace and will to pick the vicious quitch Of blood and nature wholly out of him, And make all clean, and plant himself afresh." Tennyson's Idylls.
Beautiful Orton-on-the-Sea! Who that has been there does not long to return there again and again, and gaze on the green and purple of its broad bay, and its one little islet, and the golden sands that stretch along its winding shore, and its glens clothed with fir trees and musical with the voice of many rills?
It was there that Kennedy had lived from childhood, and it was there that he now returned to spend at home the year of his rustication. They arrived at home on the Monday evening, and from that time forward Kennedy rapidly gained health and strength, and was able to move about again, though his hand healed but slowly, and it took months to enable him to use it without pain.
On that little islet of the bay was Kennedy's favourite haunt. It was a place where the top of a low cliff was sheltered by a clump of trees which formed a natural bower, from whence he would gaze untired for hours on the rising and falling of the tide. A little orphan cousin whom Mr Kennedy had adopted, used to row him over to this retirement, and while the boy stayed in their little boat, and fished, or hunted for seabirds' nests in the undisturbed creeks and inlets, Kennedy with some volume of the poets in his hand, would rest under the waving branches, and gaze upon the glancing waves.
And at times, when, like a great glowing globe, the sun sank, after the fiery heat of some burning summer day, into the crimsoned waters, and filled the earth, and the heavens, and the sea with silent splendours, a deep feeling of solemnity, such as he had never before experienced, would steal over Kennedy's mind. He could not but remember, that, but for God's special grace thwarting the nearly-accomplished purpose of his sin, the eyes which were filled with such indescribable visions of glory, would have been closed in death, and the brow on which the sea-wind was beating in such cool and refreshful perfume would have been crumbling under the clammy sod. Surely it must be for some great thing that his life had been saved: it was his own no longer; it must be devoted to mighty purposes of love and toil. Kennedy began to long for some work of danger and suffering as his portion upon earth: he longed ambitiously for the wanderings of the apostle and the crown of the martyr. The good deeds of a conventional piety, the quiet routine of a commonplace benevolence seemed no meet or adequate employment for his highly-wrought mind. No, he would sail to another world; there he would join a new colony in clearing away the primeval depths of some virgin forest, and tilling the glebes of a rich and untried soil; and, living among them, he would make that place a centre for wide evangelisation— the home of religious enthusiasms and equal laws; or he would go as a missionary to the savage and the cannibal, and, sailing from reef to reef, where the coral-islands of the Pacific mirror in the deep waters of their calm lagoon the reed-huts of the savage, and the feathery coronal of tropic trees, he would devote his life to reclaiming from ignorance and barbarism the waste places of a degraded humanity.
Such were the visions and purposes that floated through his mind—partly the fantastic fancies of dreamy hours, partly the unconscious desire to fly from a land which reminded him too painfully of vanished hopes, and from a scene which had been the witness of his error and disgrace. Perhaps, most of all, he was influenced by the desire to escape from a house which constantly recalled the image of a lost love—a lost love that he never hoped to regain; for Kennedy thought—though but little had been said about it—that Violet had deliberately and finally rejected him in scorn for the courses he had followed.
But he wished, before he quite made up his mind as to his future career, to see Violet once more, and bid her a last farewell. Not daring to write and announce his intention lest she should refuse to meet him again, and unwilling to trust his secret to any of her family, he determined to see her by surprise, and enjoy for one last hour the unspeakable happiness of sitting by her side.
"Father," he said, "I am well now, or nearly well will you let me go on a little journey?"
"A journey?—where? We will all go together, Edward, if you want any change of air and scene."
He shook his head. "You can guess," he said, "where I wish to go for the last time."
"But do you think you can travel alone, Eddy, with your poor wounded hand?" asked Eva.
"Oh yes; the splints keep it safe, and I shall only be two days or so away."
They suffered him to fulfil his whim, although they felt that if he saw Violet, the meeting could hardly fail to be full of pain.
It was deep in autumn when he started, and arriving at Ildown, took up his abode in the little village inn. He kept himself as free from observation as he could, and begged the landlady, who recognised him, not to mention his arrival to any one. She had seen him on his former visit, and remembered favourably his genial good-humour and affable bearing. He told her frankly that he had come to say good-bye to Miss Home, whom he might not see again; but he did not wish to go to the house—could the landlady tell him anything about their movements?
"Why, yes; I do happen to know," she said, "and I suppose there can't be no harm in telling you, for I heard Master Cyril say as how they were all a-going a-gipseying to-morrow in the wood near the King's Oak."
"And when do you think they will start?"
"Oh, they'll start at ten, sir, in the morning, for I'm a-going to lend 'em my little trap to carry the perwisions in, and that."
This would suit Kennedy capitally, and musing on the meeting of the morrow, he sank into a doze in the armchair. A whispering awoke him, and he was far from reassured by overhearing the following colloquy:—
"Who be that in the parlour?" asked a rustic.
"Oh, that's the young gentleman as wer' Miss Violet's sweetheart," said the barmaid confidentially; "nobody don't know of it, but I heard the Missus a-saying so."
"Why bean't he at the house then?"
"Oh, ye know, he ain't her sweetheart no longer; there's been a muddle somehow, and they do say as how he shot hisself, but he don't seem to be shot much now, to look at 'im. He's as likely and proper a young gentleman as I've seen for a long time."
Taking his candle wearily, Kennedy listened to no more of the conversation, and went to bed. His bedroom window looked towards the pleasant house and garden of Mrs Home, and he did not lie down till he had seen the light extinguished in the embowered window of Violet's room. Next morning he got up betimes, and after dressing himself with the utmost pain and difficulty, for he did not like to ask for the assistance which he always had at home since his illness, he went down to breakfast. Hardly touching the dainties which the hospitable old landlady had provided, he strolled off to the wood, almost before Ildown was a-stir, and sat down in a place, not far from the King's Oak, in a green hollow, where he was sheltered from sight by the broad tree trunks, and the tall and graceful ferns.
He had not long to wait, and the time so spent would have been happy if agitation had not prevented him from enjoying the glories of the scene. Nowhere was "the gorgeous and melancholy beauty of the sunlit autumnal landscape more bounteously displayed." The grand old trees all round him were burning themselves away in many-coloured flames, and the green leaves that still lingered amid the rich hues of beautiful decay, suggested, in their contrasting harmony with their withered brethren, many a deep moral to the thoughtful mind: and everything that the thoughts could shape received a deeper emphasis from the unbroken silence of the wood.
The occupation of his mind made the time pass quickly, and it seemed but a few minutes when he saw the Homes approaching the King's Oak. The boys laid on the greensward the materials for the picnic, and then, while Violet and Mrs Home seated themselves on a fallen trunk and took out their work, Julian read to them, and Cyril and Frank walked through the wood in search of exercise and amusement.
As they passed near the spot where Kennedy was seated, they caught sight of a squirrel's nest, and Frank was instantly on the alert to reach the spoil. While he was scrambling with difficulty up the tall fir, Cyril stayed at the foot, and Kennedy determined to call him. Cyril had grown into a tall handsome boy of seventeen, and Kennedy knew that he could be trusted to help him, for he had won the boy's affection thoroughly when they were together in Switzerland.
The sound of a voice in that quiet place, out of earshot of his friends, startled Cyril, and he turned hastily round.
"Edward Kennedy. Come here, Cyril, and let me speak to you; Frank does not notice us."
"Edward—you here?" said Cyril. "Why don't you come and see mother?"— he was going to say Violet, but he checked himself.
"I want to see, not Mrs Home, but Violet," said Kennedy; "you know our engagement is broken off, Cyril; I have only come to say farewell, before I leave England, perhaps for ever. Call Violet here alone."
Cyril, who had heard of Kennedy's wild ways at college, and of the dreadful story that had raised against him the suspicion of intended suicide, hesitated a moment, as though he were half-afraid or unwilling to fulfil the commission. But Kennedy said to him sorrowfully—"You need not fear, Cyril, that you will be doing wrong. Tell Frank first, and then you can stay near, while I speak for a few minutes to your sister."
Cyril called down his brother from the tree, and told him that Kennedy was there. "Stay here, Frankie, while I fetch Violet; Edward wants to bid her good-bye."
He ran off, and said—"Come here, Vi; Frank and I have something to show you."
"Is it anything very particular?" said Violet, "for I shall disturb Julian's reading if I go away."
"Yes, something very particular."
"Won't you tell me what?"
"Why, a squirrel's nest for one thing, which Frank has found. Do come."
"You imperious boys, at home for your holidays!" she said, smiling; "Punch hasn't half cured you of your tyranny to us poor sisters." She rose to follow him, and when they had gone a few steps, he said—
"Vi, Edward Kennedy is in that little dell there, behind the trees; he has come, he says, to bid you good-bye."
The sudden announcement startled her, but she only leaned on Cyril's shoulder, and walked on, while he almost heard the beating of her heart.
"We will stay here, Violet; you see him there." Cyril pointed to a tree, against whose trunk Kennedy was leaning, with his eyes bent upon the ground, looking at the red splashes on the withered leaves, and the golden buds embroidered on "elf-needled mat of moss." Hearing the sound of footsteps he raised his head, and a moment after he was by Violet's side.
Taking her hand without a word, while her bosom shook with deep sobs as she saw his pale face and maimed hand, he led her to the gnarled and serpentine roots of a great oak, and seated her there, while he sat lowly at her feet upon the red ground, "With beddings of the pining umbrage tinged."
How was it that she did not shrink from him? How was it that she seemed content to rest close beside him, and suffered her hand to rest upon his shoulder as he stooped? Did she love him still after all? Had Julian deceived him with the assertion of her acquiescence in the termination of their engagement? A strange rush of new hope filled his heart. He would test the true state of her affections.