Page images
PDF
EPUB

and adventure. The intimacy, however, was disliked, as she grew up, by her father. He felt ashamed that a daughter of the D'Arcys should be seen dancing and singing with the master of a cutter,—for to this post the young man had been appointed by his late father's friend, -and at length lectured his daughter severely on the vulgarity of her connexions. Parental authority, in this case, had not the effect of dissolving the intimacy, but merely of throwing around it a constraint and difficulty which possess a dangerous charm in the poetical imagination of fifteen ; and when Jane D'Arcy left the neighbourhood for three years, to complete her education under the auspices of a relation, she carried with her, in her girlish heart, an image which all the arts and interests of the world could not desecrate or cast down.

It would be curious to trace, step by step, were it possible, the fate of this object of her lonely idolatry, so far as it was influenced by the extension of her knowledge and the development of her mind, -at a time when, in the first collision with society, and the accompanying shock and struggle of new opinions, the elements of the human character are stirred up from the bottom, and old feelings, and passions, and judgments, are broken into pieces, and re-cast in the enduring mould of experience. It must suffice, however, to say, that in spite of all, the outlaw kept his place in her memory, and that even the struggles of reason, after the prejudices of habit and neglected education had vanished, and all the terrible and degrading circumstances of his situation crowded upon her fancy, only served to fix his idea more firmly in her breast. He was ever present to her imagination, - at home and abroad, in solitude and society, in amusement and in sadness. His eyes were fixed upon hers, like those of a portrait, from which the spectator, notwithstanding every change of position, cannot escape. By degrees, as the light of truth broke more strongly upon her mind, the expression of these mysterious orbs, that haunted her like destiny, seemed to change. The character of the man seemed to mingle with that of the profession. The mark of the curse was on his brow, and the wild majesty of despair sat in his eyes. There mingled an indescribable fierceness, even with the fondness in his air—an unrelenting resolution ; a character of fixing and grappling—which startled and appalled her. But still there was beauty over all, which, in the glorious spring-time of her woman's imagination, seemed more than mortal,and dauntless courage, and noble generosity, and devoted love ; and often Jane, when with pallid cheek and fixed eye she sat gazing on a shadow, that seemed as terrible as the one which pointed to the meeting at Philippi, answered with a sudden gush of tender resolution,

“Why, I shall meet thee at Philippi, then!”

It was with no attempt at self-deception, however, that she looked forward to a meeting which she knew would

be fatal. The presentiment might have been easily accounted for, as having been formed of impressions received by her mind with regard to her lover's dishonourable trade; but to her it was the sign of mysterious and inevitable doom, — the shadow of coming destruction. It may be inquired, of what nature were the love-passages, that seemed to leave her no alternative, but bound her without recal to a destiny at once disgraceful and miserable? The question cannot be answered. One thing is certain, that the young man himself never dreamed of the existence of any engagement whatever, but was at this moment lounging as usual through a routine of half-meaningless gallantries, or consuming his mind in the enjoyment of mere sensual gratifications. But it may be remarked, that a great part of the history of a very young and sensitive girl passes in imagination. Mute and mystic herself in the affairs of passion, she thinks that others are equally so. A word, a look, a sigh, a smile, an expression stealing over the face like a sea-born breeze, traceless alike in its end and origin, all are proofs and confirmations, and clouds of witnesses. Her imagination interprets, and her heart believes.

The three years at length passed away, and Jane D'Arcy was again at home. Her first wish, after her meeting with her father was over, was to look upon the sea-an object which to one whose native atmosphere has been the breath of its waters, becomes like a pas

sion. She wandered out to the brink of the rocks, and with girlish enthusiasm threw up her arms, and mingled her voice with the breeze, as she saw the vast abyss at her feet. The sun shone brightly upon the waters, that leaped and sparkled at the call of the piping winds. The light at length seemed to break even upon her mind, and the coolness of the waves to drop medicinal influence upon her brow. Fresh, buoyant thoughts, and sun-gilded hopes, for the first time for years danced and glittered in her heart; and as she detected in the distance her lover's little vessel lying at anchor in the bay, breasting proudly and wantonly the rebellious billows with painted sides, as straight as an arrow, glittering in the sun-and white, folded sails, and rigging, trim and tight—and pennon Auttering gallantly over all—a sudden idea flashed across her brain, and she exclaimed, with a joyous spring

“He shall still be saved ! I will rouse him from his dream of shame and misery; I will easily lure back his noble and gallant heart to the paths of honourable ambition; and his trim little beauty of the waters shall yet walk the high seas as frankly and proudly as a ship of the line!”

She had scarcely spoken, when she saw approaching at a short distance the figure of a man; and the blood which was mantling in her cheeks, rushed back to her heart. A chilling breath seemed to sweep across her very soul, and in that one instant she lived over again her mind's history for years. “ Does he remember ?--does he love me still ? --- did he love me ever?” These were among the thousand breathless inquiries that flashed through her mind, as she fell undulatingly back a step, and drew up, as unconsciously as the sensitive plant, with virgin pride and beautiful reserve.

The person approaching, was indeed Frank Hardy, who, having heard of the arrival of his “l'ttle playfellow,” had hastened to welcome her. He seemed to be thunderstruck on finding the girl merged in the woman, and yet with such a delicacy of Nature's own inimitable contrivance, as to lose nothing of her identity. The heretofore slight and small figure, that biad flitted like a fairy by his side, was now a model of female elegance and graceful dignity, and rounded off in a mould, where the same happy Artist, checking her hand at the precise point beyond which is exuberance, left nothing. either to be desired by the imagination, or disapproved by the taste.

Frank gazed in silent astonishment. Her neck drawn up, and curved like the swan’s her eyes sparkling with haughty bashfulness through their half-drawn fringesher lofty, pale, and polished brow—her hair, as black as night, falling in rich clusters upon a skin fair as the morning—her air, in which a timid defiance was mingled with welcoming and remembrance — her hand, almost withdrawn, as if seeking to be demanded-all rushed into the heart--- mind -- imagination of the spectator. The

« PreviousContinue »