Melmoth the Wanderer, by Charles Maturin

Chapter 30

— She sat, and thought

Of what a sailor suffers.

COWPER

‘The intelligence that was the cause of old Sir Roger’s death, who might be said to be conducted from this world to the next by a blessed euthanasia, (a kind of passing with a light and lofty step from a narrow entry to a spacious and glorious apartment, without ever feeling he trod the dark and rugged threshold that lies between), was the signal and pledge to this ancient family of the restitution of their faded honours, and fast-declining possessions. Grants, reversals of fines, restoration of land and chattels, and offers of pensions, and provisions, and remunerations, and all that royal gratitude, in the effervescence of its enthusiasm, could bestow, came showering on the Mortimer family, as fast and faster than fines, confiscations, and sequestrations, had poured on them in the reign of the usurper. In fact, the language of King Charles to the Mortimers was like that of the Eastern monarchs to their favourites, — ‘Ask what thou wilt, and it shall be granted to thee, even to the half of my kingdom.’ The Mortimers asked only for their own, — and being thus more reasonable, both in their expectations and demands, than most other applicants at that period, they succeeded in obtaining what they required.

‘Thus Mrs Margaret Mortimer (so unmarried females were named at the date of the narrative) was again acknowledged as the wealthy and noble heiress of the Castle. Numerous invitations were sent to her to visit the court, which, though recommended by letters from divers of the court-ladies, who had been acquainted, traditionally at least, with her family, and enforced by a letter from Catherine of Braganza, written by her own hand, in which she acknowledged the obligations of the king to the house of Mortimer, were steadily rejected by the high-minded heiress of its honours and its spirit. — ‘From these towers,’ said she to Mrs Ann, ‘my grandfather led forth his vassals and tenants in aid of his king, — to these towers he led what was left of them back, when the royal cause seemed lost for ever. Here he lived and died for his sovereign, — and here will I live and die. And I feel that I shall do more effectual service to his Majesty, by residing on my estates, and protecting my tenants, and repairing,’ — she added with a smile, — ‘even with my needle, the rents made in the banners of our house by many a Puritan’s bullet, than if I flaunted it in Hyde-Park in my glass coach, or masqueraded it all night in that of St James’s,1 even though I were sure to encounter the Duchess of Cleveland on one side, and Louise de Querouaille on the other, — fitter place for them than me.’ — And so saying, Mrs Margaret Mortimer resumed her tapestry work. Mrs Ann looked at her with an eye that spoke volumes, — and the tear that trembled in it made the lines more legible.

1 See a comedy of Wycherly’s, entitled, ‘Love in a Wood, or St James’s Park,’ where the company are represented going there at night in masks, and with torches.

‘After the decided refusal of Mrs Margaret Mortimer to go to London, the family resumed their former ancestorial habits of stately regularity, and decorous grandeur, such as became a magnificent and well-ordered household, of which a noble maiden was the head and president. But this regularity was without rigour, and this monotony without apathy — the minds of these highly fated females were too familiar with trains of lofty thinking, and images of noble deeds, to sink into vacancy, or feel depression from solitude. I behold them,’ said the stranger, ‘as I once saw them, seated in a vast irregularly shaped apartment, wainscotted with oak richly and quaintly carved, and as black as ebony — Mrs Ann Mortimer, in a recess which terminated in an ancient casement window, the upper panes of which were gorgeously emblazoned with the arms of the Mortimers, and some legendary atchievements of the former heroes of the family. A book she valued much1 lay on her knee, on which she fixed her eyes intently — the light that came through the casement chequering its dark lettered pages with hues of such glorious and fantastic colouring, that they resembled the leaves of some splendidly-illuminated missal, with all its pomp of gold, and azure, and vermilion.

1 Taylor’s Book of Martyrs.

‘At a little distance sat her two grand-nieces, employed in work, and relieving their attention to it by conversation, for which they had ample materials. They spoke of the poor whom they had visited and assisted, — of the rewards they had distributed among the industrious and orderly, — and of the books which they were studying; and of which the well-filled shelves of the library furnished them with copious and noble stores.

‘Sir Roger had been a man of letters as well as of arms. He had been often heard to say, that next to a well-stocked armoury in time of war, was a well-stocked library in time of peace; and even in the midst of his latter grievances and privations, he contrived every year to make an addition to his own.

‘His grand-daughters, well instructed by him in the French and Latin languages, had read Mezeray, Thuanus, and Sully. In English, they had Froissart in the black-letter translation of Pynson, imprinted 1525. Their poetry, exclusive of the classics, consisted chiefly of Waller, Donne, and that constellation of writers that illuminated the drama in the latter end of the reign of Elizabeth, and the commencement of that of James, — Marlow, and Massinger, and Shirley, and Ford — cum multis aliis. Fairfax’s translations had made them familiar with the continental poets; and Sir Roger had consented to admit, among his modern collection, the Latin poems (the only ones then published) of Milton, for the sake of that in Quintum Novembris, — for Sir Roger, next to the fanatics, held the Catholics in utter abomination.’

‘Then he will be damned to all eternity,’ said Aliaga, ‘and that’s some satisfaction.’

‘Thus their retirement was not inelegant, nor unaccompanied with those delights at once soothing and elating, which arise from a judicious mixture of useful occupation and literary tastes.

‘On all they read or conversed of, Mrs Ann Mortimer was a living comment. Her conversation, rich in anecdote, and accurate to minuteness, sometimes rising to the loftiest strains of eloquence, as she related ‘deeds of the days of old,’ and often borrowing the sublimity of inspiration, as the reminiscences of religion softened and solemnized the spirit with which she spake, — like the influence of time on fine paintings, that consecrates the tints it mellows, and makes the colours it has half obscured more precious to the eye of feeling and of taste, than they were in the glow of their early beauty, — her conversation was to her grand-nieces at once history and poetry.

‘The events of English history then not recorded, had a kind of traditional history more vivid, if not so faithful as the records of modern historians, in the memories of those who had been agents and sufferers (the terms are probably synonimous) in those memorable periods.

‘There was an entertainment then, banished by modern dissipation now, but alluded to by the great poet of that nation, whom your orthodox and undeniable creed justly devotes to eternal damnation.

‘In winter’s tedious nights sit by the fire,

— and tell the tales

Of woful ages long ago betid;

And send the hearers weeping to their beds.

We cited up a thousand heavy times.’

‘When memory thus becomes the depository of grief, how faithfully is the charge kept! — and how much superior are the touches of one who paints from the life, and the heart, and the senses, — to those of one who dips his pen in his ink-stand, and casts his eye on a heap of musty parchments, to glean his facts or his feelings from them! Mrs Ann Mortimer had much to tell, — and she told it well. If history was the subject, she could relate the events of the civil wars — events which resembled indeed those of all civil wars, but which derived a peculiar strength of character, and brilliancy of colouring, from the hand by which they were sketched. She told of the time when she rode behind her brother, Sir Roger, to meet the King at Shrewsbury; and she almost echoed the shout uttered in the streets of that loyal city, when the University of Oxford sent in its plate to be coined for the exigences of the royal cause. She told also, with grave humour, the anecdote of Queen Henrietta making her escape with some difficulty from a house on fire, — and, when her life was scarce secure from the flames that consumed it, rushing back among them — to save her lap-dog!

‘But of all her historical anecdotes, Mrs Ann valued most what she had to relate of her own family. On the virtue and valour of her brother Sir Roger, she dwelt with an unction whose balm imparted itself to her hearers; and even Elinor, in spite of the Puritanism of her early principles, wept as she listened. But when Mrs Ann told of the King taking shelter for one night in the Castle, under the protection only of her mother and herself, to whom he intrusted his rank and his misfortunes, (arriving under a disguise), — (Sir Roger being absent fighting his battles in Yorkshire) — when she added that her aged mother, Lady Mortimer, then seventy-four, after spreading her richest velvet mantle, lined with fur, as a quilt for the bed of her persecuted sovereign, tottered into the armoury, and, presenting the few servants that followed her with what arms could be found, adjured them by brand and blade, by lady’s love, and their hopes of heaven, to defend her royal guest. When she related that a band of fanatics, after robbing a church of all its silver-plate, and burning the adjacent vicarage, drunk with their success, had invested the Castle, and cried aloud for ‘the man’ to be brought unto them, that he might be hewed to pieces before the Lord in Gilgal — and Lady Mortimer had called on a young French officer in Prince Rupert’s corps, who, with his men, had been billetted on the Castle for some days — and that this youth, but seventeen years of age, had met two desperate attacks of the assailants, and twice retired covered with his own blood and that of the assailants, whom he had in vain attempted to repel — and that Lady Mortimer, finding all was lost, had counselled the royal fugitive to make his escape, — and furnished him with the best horse left in Sir Roger’s stables to effect his flight, while she returned to the great hall, whose windows were now shattered by the balls that hissed and flew round her head, and whose doors were fast yielding to the crows and other instruments which a Puritan smith, who was both chaplain and colonel of the band, had lent them, and instructed them in the use of — and how Lady Mortimer fell on her knees before the young Frenchman, and adjured him to make good the defence till King Charles was safe, and free, and far — and how the young Frenchman had done all that man could do; — and finally, when the Castle, after an hour’s obstinate resistance, yielded to the assault of the fanatics, he had staggered, covered with blood, to the foot of the great chair which that ancient lady had immoveably occupied, (paralyzed by terror and exhaustion), and dropping his sword, then for the first time, exclaimed, ‘J’ai fait mon devoir!’ and expired at her feet — and how her mother sat in the same rigour of attitude, while the fanatics ravaged through the Castle, — drank half the wines in the cellar, — thrust their bayonets through the family-pictures, which they called the idols of the high-places, — fired bullets through the wainscot, and converted half the female servants after their own way, — and on finding their search after the King fruitless, in mere wantonness of mischief, were about to discharge a piece of ordnance in the hall that must have shattered it in pieces, while Lady Mortimer sat torpidly looking on, — till, perceiving that the piece was accidentally pointed towards the very door through which King Charles had passed from the hall, her recollection seemed suddenly to return, and starting up and rushing before the mouth of the piece, exclaimed, ‘Not there! — you shall not there!’ — and as she spoke, dropt dead in the hall. When Mrs Ann told these and other thrilling tales of the magnanimity, the loyalty, and the sufferings of her high ancestry, in a voice that alternately swelled with energy, and trembled with emotion, and as she told them, pointed to the spot where each had happened, — her young hearers felt a deep stirring of the heart, — a proud yet mellowed elation that never yet was felt by the reader of a written history, though its pages were as legitimate as any sanctioned by the royal licenser at Madrid.

‘Nor was Mrs Ann Mortimer less qualified to take an interesting share in their lighter studies. When Waller’s poetry was its subject, she could tell of the charms of his Sacharissa, whom she knew well, — the Lady Dorothea Sidney, daughter of the Earl of Leicester, — and compare, with those of his Amoret, the Lady Sophia Murray. And in balancing the claims of these poetical heroines, she gave so accurate an account of their opposite styles of beauty, — entered so minutely into the details of their dress and deportment, — and so affectingly hinted, with a mysterious sigh, that there was one then at court whom Lucius, Lord Falkland, the gallant, the learned, and the polished, had whispered was far superior to both, — that her auditors more than suspected she had herself been one of the most brilliant stars in that galaxy whose faded glories were still reflected in her memory, — and that Mrs Ann, amid her piety and patriotism, still blended a fond reminiscence of the gallantries of that court where her youth had been spent, — and over which the beauty, the magnificent taste, and national gaiete of the ill-fated Henrietta, had once thrown a light as dazzling as it was transient. She was listened to by Margaret and Elinor with equal interest, but with far different feelings. Margaret, beautiful, vivacious, haughty, and generous, and resembling her grandfather and his sister alike in character and person, could have listened for ever to narrations that, while they confirmed her principles, gave a kind of holiness to the governing feelings of her heart, and made her enthusiasm a kind of virtue in her eyes. An aristocrat in politics, she could not conceive that public virtue could soar to a higher pitch than a devoted attachment to the house of Stuart afforded for its flight; and her religion had never given her any disturbance. — Strictly attached to the Church of England, as her forefathers had been from its first establishment, she included in an adherence to this not only all the graces of religion, but all the virtues of morality; and she could hardly conceive how there could be majesty in the sovereign, or loyalty in the subject, or valour in man, or virtue in woman, unless they were comprised within the pale of the Church of England. These qualities, with their adjuncts, had been always represented to her as co-existent with an attachment to monarchy and Episcopacy, and vested solely in those heroic characters of her ancestry, whose lives, and even deaths, it was a proud delight to their young descendant to listen to, — while all the opposite qualities, — all that man can hate, or woman despise, — had been represented to her as instinctively resident in the partizans of republicanism and the Presbytery. Thus her feelings and her principles, — her reasoning powers and the habits of her life, all took one way; and she was not only unable to make the least allowance for a divergence from this way, but utterly unable to conceive that another existed for those who believed in a God, or acknowledged human power at all. She was as much at a loss to conceive how any good could come out of that Nazareth of her abhorrence, as an ancient geographer would have been to have pointed out America in a classical map. — Such was Margaret.

‘Elinor, on the other hand, bred up amid a clamour of perpetual contention, — for the house of her mother’s family, in which her first years had been passed, was, in the language of the profane of those times, a scruple-shop, where the godly of all denominations held their conferences of contradiction, — had her mind early awakened to differences of opinion, and opposition of principle. Accustomed to hear these differences and oppositions often expressed with the most unruly vehemence, she had never, like Margaret, indulged in a splendid aristocracy of imagination, that bore every thing before it, and made prosperity and adversity alike pay tribute to the pride of its triumph. Since her admission into the house of her grandfather, the mind of Elinor had become still more humble and patient, — more subdued and self-denied. Compelled to hear the opinions she was attached to decried, and the characters she reverenced vilified, she sat in reflective silence; and, balancing the opposite extremes which she was destined to witness, she came to the right conclusion, — that there must be good on both sides, however obscured or defaced by passion and by interest, and that great and noble qualities must exist in either party, where so much intellectual power, and so much physical energy, had been displayed by both. Nor could she believe that these clear and mighty spirits would be for ever opposed to each other in their future destinations, — she loved to view them as children who had ‘fallen out by the way,’ from mistaking the path that led to their father’s house, but who would yet rejoice together in the light of his presence, and smile at the differences that divided them on their journey.

‘In spite of the influence of her early education, Elinor had learned to appreciate the advantages of her residence in her grandfather’s castle. She was fond of literature and of poetry. She possessed imagination and enthusiasm, — and these qualities met with their loveliest indulgence amid the picturesque and historical scenery that surrounded the Castle, — the lofty tales told within its walls, and to which every stone in them seemed to cry out in attestation, — and the heroic and chivalrous characters of its inmates, with whom the portraits of their high descended ancestry seemed starting from their gorgeous frames to converse, as the tale of their virtues and their valour was told in their presence. This was a different scene from that in which she had passed her childhood. The gloomy and narrow apartments, divested of all ornament, and awaking no associations but those of an awful futurity — the uncouth habits, austere visages, denunciatory language, and polemical fury of its inmates or guests, struck her with a feeling for which she reproached herself, but did not suppress; and though she continued a rigid Calvinist in her creed, and listened whenever she could to the preaching of the non-conformist ministers, she had adopted in her pursuits the literary tastes, and in her manners the dignified courtesy, that became the descendant of the Mortimers.

‘Elinor’s beauty, though of a style quite different from that of her cousin, was yet beauty of the first and finest character. Margaret’s was luxuriant, lavish, and triumphant, — every movement displayed a conscious grace, — every look demanded homage, and obtained it the moment it was demanded. Elinor’s was pale, contemplative, and touching; — her hair was as black as jet, and the thousand small curls into which, according to the fashion of the day, it was woven, seemed as if every one of them had been twined by the hand of nature, — they hung so softly and shadowingly, that they appeared like a veil dropping over the features of a nun, till she shook them back, and there beamed among them an eye of dark and brilliant light, like a star amid the deepening shades of twilight. She wore the rich dress prescribed by the taste and habits of Mrs Ann, who had never, even in the hour of extreme adversity, relaxed in what may be called the rigour of her aristocratical costume, and would have thought it little less than a desecration of the solemnity, had she appeared at prayers, even though celebrated (as she loved to term it) in the Castle-hall, unless arrayed in satins and velvets, that, like ancient suits of armour, could have stood alone and erect without the aid of human inhabitant. There was a soft and yielding tone in the gently modulated harmony of Elinor’s form and movements, — a gracious melancholy in her smile, — a tremulous sweetness in her voice, — an appeal in her look, which the heart that refused to answer could not have living pulse within its region. No head of Rembrandt’s, amid its contrasted luxuries of light and shade, — no form of Guido’s, hovering in exquisite and speechful undulation between earth and heaven, could vie with the tint and character of Elinor’s countenance and form. There was but one touch to be added to the picture of her beauty, and that touch was given by no physical grace, — no exterior charm. It was borrowed from a feeling as pure as it was intense, — as unconscious as it was profound. The secret fire that lit her eyes with that lambent glory, while it caused the paleness of her young cheek, — that preyed on her heart, while it seemed to her imagination that she clasped a young cherub in her arms, like the unfortunate queen of Virgil, — that fire was a secret even to herself. — She knew she felt, but knew not what she felt.

‘When first admitted into the Castle, and treated with sufficient hauteur by her grandfather and his sister, who could not forget the mean descent and fanatic principles of her father’s family, she remembered, that, amid the appalling grandeur and austere reserve of her reception, her cousin, John Sandal, was the only one who spoke to her in accents of tenderness, or turned on her an eye that beamed consolation. She remembered him as the beautiful and gentle boy who had lightened all her tasks, and partaken in all her recreations.

‘At an early age John Sandal, at his own request, had been sent to sea, and had never since visited the Castle. On the Restoration, the remembered services of the Mortimer family, and the high fame of the youth’s courage and ability, had procured him a distinguished situation in the navy. John Sandal’s consequence now rose in the eyes of the family, of whom he was at first an inmate on toleration only; and even Mrs Ann Mortimer began to express some anxiety to hear tidings of her valiant cousin John. When she spoke thus, the light of Elinor’s eye fell on her aunt with as rich a glow as ever summer sun on an evening landscape; but she felt, at the same moment, an oppression, — an indefinable suspension of thought, of speech, almost of breath, which was only relieved by the tears which, when retired from her aunt’s presence, she indulged in. Soon this feeling was exchanged for one of deeper and more agitating interest. The war with the Dutch broke out, and Captain John Sandal’s name, in spite of his youth, appeared conspicuous among those of the officers appointed to that memorable service.

‘Mrs Ann, long accustomed to hear the names of her family uttered always in the same breath with the stirring report of high heroic deeds, felt the elation of spirit she had experienced in bygone days, combined with happier associations, and more prosperous auguries. Though far advanced in life, and much declined in strength, it was observed, that during the reports of the war, and while she listened to the accounts of her kinsman’s valour and fast-advancing eminence, her step became firm and elastic, her lofty figure dilated to its youthful height, and a colour at times visited her cheek, with as rich and brilliant a tinge as when the first sighs of love murmured over its young roses. The high minded Margaret, partaking that enthusiasm which merged all personal feeling in the glory of her family and of her country, heard of the perils to which her cousin (whom she hardly remembered) was exposed, only with a haughty confidence that he would meet them as she felt she would have met them herself, had she been, like him, the last male descendant of the family of Mortimer. Elinor trembled and wept, — and when alone she prayed fervently.

‘It was observable, however, that the respectful interest with which she had hitherto listened to the family legends so eloquently told by Mrs Ann, was now exchanged for a restless and unappeaseable anxiety for tales of the naval heroes who had dignified the family history. Happily she found a willing narrator in Mrs Ann, who had little need to search her memory, and no occasion to consult her invention, for splendid stories of those whose home was the deep, and whose battle-field was the wild waste ocean. Amid the gallery richly hung with family portraits, she pointed out the likeness of many a bold adventurer, whom the report of the riches and felicities of the new discovered world had tempted on speculations sometimes wild and disastrous, sometimes prosperous beyond the golden dreams of cupidity. ‘How precarious! — how perilous!’ murmured Elinor, shuddering. But when Mrs Ann told the tale of her uncle, the literary speculator, the polished scholar, the brave and gentle of the family, who had accompanied Sir Walter Raleigh on his calamitous expedition, and years after died of grief for his calamitous death, Elinor, with a start of horror, caught her aunt’s arm, emphatically extended towards the portrait, and implored her to desist. The decorum of the family was so great, that this liberty could not be taken without an apology for indisposition; — it was duly though faintly made, and Elinor retired to her apartment.

‘From February 1665, — from the first intelligence of De Ruyter’s enterprises, till the animating period when the Duke of York was appointed to the command of the Royal fleet, — all was eager and anticipative excitement, and eloquent expatiations on ancient achievements, and presageful hopes of new honours, on the part of the heiress of Mortimer and Mrs Ann, and profound and speechless emotion on that of Elinor.

‘The hour arrived, and an express was dispatched from London to Mortimer Castle with intelligence, in which King Charles, with that splendid courtesy which half redeemed his vices, announced himself most deeply interested, inasmuch as it added to the honours of the loyal family, whose services he appreciated so highly. The victory was complete, — and Captain John Sandal, in the phrase which the King’s attachment to French manners and language was beginning to render popular, had ‘covered himself with glory.’ Amid the thickest of the fight, in an open boat, he had carried a message from Lord Sandwich to the Duke of York, under a shower of balls, and when older officers had stoutly declined the perilous errand; and when, on his return, Opdam the Dutch Admiral’s ship blew up, amid the crater of the explosion John Sandal plunged into the sea, to save the half-drowning, half-burning wretches who clung to the fragments that scorched them, or sunk in the boiling waves; and then, — dismissed on another fearful errand, flung himself between the Duke of York and the ball that struck at one blow the Earl of Falmouth, Lord Muskerry, and Mr Boyle, and when they all fell at the same moment, wiped, with unfaultering hand, and on bended knee, their brains and gore, with which the Duke of York was covered from head to foot. When this was read by Mrs Ann Mortimer, with many pauses, caused by sight dim with age, and diffused with tears, — and when at length, finishing the long and laborious read detail, Mrs Ann exclaimed — ‘He is a hero!’ Elinor tremblingly whispered to herself — ‘He is a Christian.’

‘The details of such an event forming a kind of era in a family so sequestered, imaginative, and heroic, as that of the Mortimers, the contents of the letter signed by the King’s own hand were read over and over again. They formed the theme of converse at their meals, and the subject of their study and comment when alone. Margaret dwelt much on the gallantry of the action, and half-imagined she saw the tremendous explosion of Opdam’s ship. Elinor repeated to herself, ‘And he plunged amid the burning wave to save the lives of the men he had conquered!’ And some months elapsed before the brilliant vision of glory, and of grateful royalty, faded from their imagination; and when it did, like that of Micyllus, it left honey on the eye-lids of the dreamer.

‘From the date of the arrival of this intelligence, a change had taken place in the habits and manners of Elinor, so striking as to become the object of notice to all but herself. Her health, her rest, and her imagination, became the prey of indefinable fantasies. The cherished images of the past, — the lovely visions of her golden childhood, — seemed fearfully and insanely contrasted in her imagination with the ideas of slaughter and blood, — of decks strewed with corses, — and of a young and terrible conqueror bestriding them amid showers of ball and clouds of fire. Her very senses reeled between these opposite impressions. Her reason could not brook the sudden transition from the smiling and Cupid-like companion of her childhood, to the hero of the embattled deep, and of nations and navies on fire, — garments rolled in blood, — the thunder of the battle and the shouting.

‘She sat and tried, as well as her wandering fancy would allow her, to reconcile the images of that remembered eye, whose beam rested on her like the dark blue of a summer heaven swimming in dewy light, — with the flash that darted from the burning eye of the conqueror, whose light was as fatal where it fell as his sword. She saw him, as he had once sat beside her, smiling like the first morning in spring, — and smiled in return. The slender form, the soft and springy movements, the kiss of childhood that felt like velvet, and scented like balm, — was suddenly exchanged in her dream (for all her thoughts were dreams) for a fearful figure of one drenched in blood, and spattered with brains and gore. And Elinor, half-screaming, exclaimed, ‘Is this he whom I loved?’ Thus her mind, vacillating between contrasts so strongly opposed, began to feel its moorings give way. She drifted from rock to rock, and on every rock she struck a wreck.

‘Elinor relinquished her usual meetings with the family — she sat in her own apartment all the day, and most of the evening. It was a lonely turret projecting so far from the walls of the Castle, that there were windows, or rather casements, on three sides. There Elinor sat to catch the blast, let it blow as it would, and imagined she heard in its meanings the cries of drowning seamen. No music that her lute, or that which Margaret touched with a more powerful and brilliant finger, could wean her from this melancholy indulgence.

‘Hush!’ she would say to the females who attended her — ‘Hush! let me listen to the blast! — It waves many a banner spread for victory, — it sighs over many a head that has been laid low!’

‘Her amazement that a being could be at once so gentle and so ferocious — her dread that the habits of his life must have converted the angel of her wilderness into a brave but brutal seaman, estranged from the feelings that had rendered the beautiful boy so indulgent to her errors, — so propitiatory between her and her proud relatives, — so aidant in all her amusements, — so necessary to her very existence. — The tones of this dreamy life harmonized, awfully for Elinor, with the sound of the blast as it shook the turrets of the Castle, or swept the woods that groaned and bowed beneath its awful visitings. And this secluded life, intense feeling, and profound and heart-rooted secret of her silent passion, held perhaps fearful and indescribable alliance with that aberration of mind, that prostration at once of the heart and the intellect, that have been found to bring forth, according as the agents were impelled, ‘the savour of life unto life, or of death unto death.’ She had all the intensity of passion, combined with all the devotedness of religion; but she knew not which way to steer, or what gale to follow. She trembled and shrunk from her doubtful pilotage, and the rudder was left to the mercy of the winds and waves. Slender mercy do those experience who commit themselves to the tempests of the mental world — better if they had sunk at once amid the strife of the dark waters in their wild and wintry rage; there they would soon have arrived at the haven where they would be secure.

‘Such was the state of Elinor, when the arrival of one who had been long a stranger in the vicinity of the Castle caused a strong sensation in its inhabitants.

‘The widow Sandal, the mother of the young seaman, who had hitherto lived in obscurity on the interest of the small fortune bequeathed her by Sir Roger, (under the rigid injunction of never visiting the Castle), suddenly arrived in Shrewsbury, which was scarce a mile from it, and declared her intention of fixing her residence there.

‘The affection of her son had showered on her, with the profusion of a sailor, and the fondness of a child, all the rewards of his services — but their glory; — and in comparative affluence, and honoured and pointed to as the mother of the young hero who stood high in royal favour, the widow of many sorrows took up her abode once more near the seat of her ancestors.

‘At this period, every step taken by the member of a family was a subject of anxious and solemn consultation to those who considered themselves its heads, and there was a kind of chapter held in Mortimer Castle on this singular movement of the widow Sandal. Elinor’s heart beat hard during the debate — it subsided, however, at the determination, that the severe sentence of Sir Roger was not to be extended beyond his death, and that a descendant of the house of Mortimer should never live neglected while almost under the shadow of its walls.

‘The visit was accordingly solemnly paid, and gratefully received, — there was much stately courtesy on the part of Mrs Ann towards her niece, (whom she called cousin after the old English fashion), and a due degree of retrospective humility and decorous dejection on that of the widow. They parted mutually softened towards, if not pleased with each other, and the intercourse thus opened was unremittingly sustained by Elinor, whose weekly visits of ceremony soon became the daily visits of interest and of habit. The object of the thoughts of both was the theme of the tongue of but one; and, as is not uncommon, she who said nothing felt the most. The details of his exploits, the description of his person, the fond enumeration of the promises of his childhood, and the graces and goodliness of his youth, were dangerous topics for the listener, to whom the bare mention of his name caused an intoxication of the heart, from which it scarce recovered for hours.

‘The frequency of these visits was not observed to be diminished by a faint rumour, which the widow seemed to believe, rather from hope than probability, that Captain Sandal was about to visit the neighbourhood of the Castle. It was one evening in autumn, that Elinor, who had been prevented during the day from visiting her aunt, set out attended only by her maid and her usher. There was a private path through the park, that opened by a small door on the verge of the suburbs where the widow lived. Elinor, on her arrival, found her aunt from home, and was informed she had gone to pass the evening with a friend in Shrewsbury. Elinor hesitated for a moment, and then recollecting that this friend was a grave staid widow of one of Oliver’s knights, wealthy, however, and well respected, and a common acquaintance, she resolved to follow her thither. As she entered the room, which was spacious, but dimly lit by an old-fashioned casement window, she was surprised to see it filled with an unusual number of persons, some of whom were seated, but the greater number were collected in the ample recess of the window, and among them Elinor saw a figure, remarkable rather for its height, than its attitude or pretension, — it was that of a tall slender boy, about eighteen, with a beautiful infant in his arms, whom he was caressing with a tenderness that seemed rather associated with the retrospective fondness of brotherhood, than the anticipated hope of paternity. The mother of the infant, proud of the notice bestowed on her child, made, however, the usual incredulous apology for its troubling him.

‘Troubling me!’ said the boy, in tones that made Elinor think it was the first time she had heard music. ‘Oh, no — if you knew how fond I am of children, — how long it is since I had the delight of pressing one to my breast — how long it may be again before’ — and averting his head, he bowed it over the babe. The room was very dark, from the increasing shades of evening, deepened by the effect of the heavy wainscotting of its walls; but at this moment, the last bright light of an autumnal evening, in all its rich and fading glory, burst on the casement, powering on every object a golden and purpureal light. That end of the apartment in which Elinor sat remained in the deepest shade. She then distinctly beheld the figure which her heart seemed to recognize before her senses. His luxuriant hair, of the richest brown, (its feathery summits tinged by the light resembling the halo round some glorified head), hung, according to the fashion of the day, in clusters on his bosom, and half-concealed the face of the infant, as it lay like a nestling among them.

‘His dress was that of a naval officer, — it was splendidly adorned with lace, and the superb insignia of a foreign order, the guerdon of some daring deed; and as the infant played with these, and then looked upward, as if to repose its dazzled sight on the smile of its young protector, Elinor thought she had never beheld association and contrast so touchingly united, — it was like a finely coloured painting, where the tints are so mellowed and mingled into each other, that the eye feels no transition in passing from one brilliant hue to another, with such exquisite imperceptibility are they graduated, — it was like a fine piece of music, where the art of the modulator prevents your knowing that you pass from one key to another; so softly are the intermediate tones of harmony touched, that the ear knows not where it wanders, but wherever it wanders, feels its path is pleasant. The young loveliness of the infant, almost assimilated to the beauty of the youthful caresser, and yet contrasted with the high and heroic air of his figure, and the adornments of his dress, (splendid as they were), all emblematic of deeds of peril and of death, seemed to the imagination of Elinor like the cherub-angel of peace reposing on the breast of valour, and whispering that his toils were done. She was awoke from her vision by the voice of the widow. — ‘Niece, this is your cousin John Sandal.’ Elinor started, and received the salute of her kinsman, thus abruptly introduced, with an emotion, which, if it deprived her of those courtly graces which ought to have embellished her reception of the distinguished stranger, gave her, at least, the more touching ones of diffidence.

‘The forms of the day admitted of, and even sanctioned, a mode of salutation since exploded; and as Elinor felt the pressure of a lip as vermeil as her own, she trembled to think that that lip had often given the war-word to beings athirst for human blood, and that the arm that enfolded her so tenderly had pointed the weapons of death with resistless and terrible aim against bosoms that beat with all the cords of human affection. She loved her young kinsman, but she trembled in the arms of the hero.

‘John Sandal sat down by her, and in a few moments the melody of his tones, the gentle facility of his manner, the eyes that smiled when the lips were closed, and the lips whose smile was more eloquent in silence than the language of the brightest eyes, made her gradually feel at ease with herself — she attempted to converse, but paused to listen — she tried to look up, but felt like the worshippers of the sun, sickening under the blaze she gazed on, — and averted her eyes that she might see. There was a mild, inoppressive, but most seductive light in the dark-blue eyes that fell so softly on hers, like moon-light floating over a fine landscape. And there was a young and eloquent tenderness in the tones of that voice, which she expected to have spoken in thunder, that disarmed and dulcified speech almost to luxury. Elinor sat, and imbibed poison at every inlet of the senses, ear, and eye, and touch, for her kinsman, with a venial, and to her imperceptible licence, had taken her hand as he spoke. And he spoke much, but not of war and blood, of the scenes where he had been so eminent, and of the events to which his simple allusion would have given interest and dignity, — but of his return to his family, of the delight he felt at again beholding his mother, and of the hopes that he indulged of being not an unwelcome visitor at the Castle. He inquired after Margaret with affectionate earnestness, and after Mrs Ann with reverential regard; and in mentioning the names of these relatives, he spoke like one whose heart was at home before his steps, and whose heart could make every spot where it rested a home to itself and to others. Elinor could have listened for ever. The names of the relatives she loved and revered sounded in her ears like music, but the advancing night warned her of the necessity of returning to the Castle, where the hours were scrupulously observed; and when John Sandal offered to attend her home, she had no longer a motive to delay her departure.

‘It had appeared dark in the room where they were sitting, but it was still rich and purple twilight in the sky, when they set out for the Castle.

‘Elinor took the path through the park, and, absorbed in new feelings, was for the first time insensible of its woodland beauty, at once gloomy and resplendent, mellowed by the tints of autumnal colouring, and glorious with the light of an autumnal evening, — till she was roused to attention by the exclamations of her companion, who appeared rapt into delight at what he beheld. This sensibility of nature, this fresh and unworn feeling, in one whom she had believed hardened by scenes of toil and terror against the perception of beauty, — whom her imagination had painted to her as fitter to cross the Alps, than to luxuriate in Campania, — touched her deeply. She attempted to reply, but was unable, — she remembered how her quick susceptibility of nature had enabled her to sympathize with and improve on the admiration expressed by others, and she wondered at her silence, for she knew not its cause.

‘As they approached the Castle, the scene became glorious beyond the imagination of a painter, whose eye has dreamed of sun-set in foreign climes. The vast edifice lay buried in shade, — all its varied and strongly charactered features of tower and pinnacle, bartizan and battlement, were melted into one dense and sombrous mass. The distant hills, with their conical summits, were still clearly defined in the dark-blue heaven, and their peaks still retained a hue of purple so brilliant and lovely, that it seemed as if the light had loved to linger there, and, parting, had left that tint as the promise of a glorious morning. The woods that surrounded the Castle stood as dark, and apparently as solid as itself. Sometimes a gleam like gold trembled over the tufted foliage of their summits, and at length, through a glade which opened among the dark and massive boles of the ancient trees, one last rich and gorgeous flood of light burst in, turned every blade of grass it touched into emerald for a moment, — paused on its lovely work — and parted. The effect was so instantaneous, brilliant, and evanishing, that Elinor had scarce time for a half uttered exclamation, as she extended her arm in the direction where the light had fallen so brightly and so briefly. She raised her eyes to her companion, in that full consciousness of perfect sympathy that makes words seem like counters, compared to the sterling gold of a heart-minted look. Her companion had turned towards it too. He neither uttered exclamation, nor pointed with finger, — he smiled, and his countenance was as that of an angel. It seemed to reflect and answer the last bright farewell of day, as if friends had parted smiling at each other. It was not alone the lips that smiled, — the eyes, the cheeks, every feature had its share in that effulgent light that was diffused over his aspect, and all combined to make that harmony to the eye, which is often as deliciously perceptible, as the combination of the most exquisite voices with the most perfect modulation, is to the ear. To the last hour of her mortal existence, that smile, and the scene where it was uttered, were engraved on the heart of Elinor. It announced at once a spirit, that, like the ancient statue, answered every ray of light that fell on it with a voice of melody, and blended the triumph of the glories of nature with the profound and tender felicities of the heart. They spoke no more during the remainder of their walk, but there was more eloquence in their silence than in many words.

‘It was almost night before they arrived at the Castle. Mrs Ann received her distinguished kinsman with stately cordiality, and affection mingled with pride. Margaret welcomed him rather as the hero than the relative; and John, after the ceremonies of introduction, turned to repose himself on the smile of Elinor. They had arrived just at the time when the chaplain was about to read the evening prayers, — a form so strictly adhered to at the Castle, that not even the arrival of a stranger was permitted to interfere with its observance. Elinor watched this moment with peculiar solicitude; — her religious feelings were profound, and amid all the young hero’s vivid display of the gentlest affections, and purest sensibilities by which our wretched existence can be enhanced or beautified, she still dreaded that religion, the companion of deep thought and solemn habits, might wander far for an abode before it settled in the heart of a sailor. The last doubt passed from her mind, as she beheld the intense but silent devotion with which John mingled in the family rite. There is something very ennobling in the sight of male piety. To see that lofty form, that never bowed to man, bowed to the earth to God, — to behold the knee, whose joints would be as adamant under the influence of mortal force or threat, as flexible as those of infancy in the presence of the Almighty, — to see the locked and lifted hands, to hear the fervent aspiration, to feel the sound of the mortal weapon as it drags on the floor beside the kneeling warrior, — these are things that touch the senses and the heart at once, and suggest the awful and affecting image of all physical energy prostrate before the power of the Divinity. Elinor watched him even to the forgetfulness of her own devotions; — and when his white hands, that seemed never formed to grasp a weapon of destruction, were clasped in devotion, and one of them slightly and occasionally raised to part the redundant curls that shaded his face as he knelt, she thought that she beheld at once angelic strength and angelic purity.

‘When the service concluded, Mrs Ann, after repeating her solemn welcome to her nephew, could not help expressing her satisfaction at the devotion he had showed; but she mingled with that expression a kind of incredulity, that men accustomed to toil and peril could ever have devotional feelings. John Sandal bowed to the congratulatory part of Mrs Ann’s speech, and, resting one hand on his short sword, and with the other removing the thick ringlets of his luxuriant hair, he stood before them a hero in deed, and a boy in form. A blush overspread his young features, as he said, in accents at once emphatic and tremulous, ‘Dear Aunt, why should you accuse those of neglecting the protection of the Almighty who need it most. They who ‘go down to the sea in ships, and occupy their business in the great waters,’ have the best right to feel, in their hour of peril, ‘it is but the wind and the storm fulfilling his word.’ A seaman without a belief and hope in God, is worse off than a seaman without chart or pilot.’

‘As he spoke with that trembling eloquence that makes conviction be felt almost before it is heard, Mrs Ann held out to him her withered but still snow-white hand to kiss. Margaret presented hers also, like a heroine to a feudal knight; and Elinor turned aside, and wept in delicious agony.

‘When we set ourselves resolutely to discover perfection in a character, we are always sure to find it. But Elinor needed little aid from the pencil of imagination to colour the object that had been stamped by an ineffaceable touch upon her heart. Her kinsman’s character and temper developed themselves slowly, or rather were developed by external and accidental causes; for a diffidence almost feminine prevented his ever saying much, — and when he did, himself was the last theme he touched on. He unfolded himself like a blowing flower, — the soft and silken leaves expanded imperceptibly to the eye, and every day the tints were deepening, and the scent becoming richer, till Elinor was dazzled by their lustre, and inebriated with the fragrance.

‘This wish to discover excellencies in the object we love, and to identify esteem and passion by seeking the union of moral beauty and physical grace, is a proof that love is of a very ennobling character, — that, however the stream may be troubled by many things, the source at least is pure, — and that the heart capable of feeling it intensely, proves it possesses an energy that may one day be rewarded by a brighter object, and a holier flame, than earth ever afforded, or nature ever could kindle.

‘Since her son’s arrival, the widow Sandal had betrayed a marked degree of anxiety, and a kind of restless precaution against some invisible evil. She was now frequently at the Castle. She could not be blind to the increasing attachment of John and Elinor, — and her only thought was how to prevent the possibility of their union, by which the interest of the former and her own importance would be materially affected.

‘She had obtained, by indirect means, a knowledge of the contents of Sir Roger’s will; and the whole force of a mind which possessed more of art than of power, and of a temper which had more passion than energy, was strained to realize the hopes it suggested. Sir Roger’s will was singular. Alienated as he was from his daughter Sandal, and his younger son the father of Elinor, by the connexions they had adopted, it seemed to be the strongest object of his wishes to unite their descendants, and invest the wealth and rank of the house of Mortimer in the last of its representatives. He had therefore bequeathed his immense estates to his grand-daughter Margaret, in the event of her marrying her kinsman John Sandal; — in the case of his marrying Elinor, he was entitled to no more than her fortune of £5000; — and the bequest of the greater part of the property to a distant relative who bore the name of Mortimer, was to be the consequence of the non-intermarriage of Sandal with either of his cousins.

‘Mrs Ann Mortimer, anticipating the effect that this opposition of interest to affection might produce in the family, had kept the contents of the will a secret, — but Mrs Sandal had discovered it by means of the domestics at the Castle, and her mind wrought intensely on the discovery. She was a woman too long familiar with want and privation to dread any evil but their continuance, and too ambitious of the remembered distinctions of her early life, not to risk any thing that might enable her to recover them. She felt a personal feminine jealousy of the high-minded Mrs Ann, and the noble-hearted beautiful Margaret, which was unappeasable; and she hovered round the walls of the Castle like a departed spirit groaning for its re-admission to the place from which it had been driven, and feeling and giving no peace till its restoration was accomplished.

‘When with these feelings was united the anxiety of maternal ambition for her son, who might be raised to a noble inheritance, or sunk to comparative mediocrity by his choice, the result may be easily guessed; and the widow Sandal, once determined on the end, felt little scruple about the means. Want and envy had given her an unslakeable appetite for the restored splendours of her former state; and false religion had taught her every shade and penumbra of hypocrisy, every meanness of artifice, every obliquity of insinuation. In her varied life she had known the good, and chosen the evil. The widow Sandal was now determined to interpose an insurmountable obstruction to their union.

‘Mrs Ann still flattered herself that the secret of Sir Roger’s will was suppressed. She saw the intense and disruptable feeling that seemed to mark John and Elinor for each other; and, with a feeling half-borrowed from magnanimity, half from romance, (for Mrs Ann had been fond of the high-toned romances of her day), she looked forward to the felicity of their union as being little disturbed by the loss of land and lordship, — of the immense revenues, — and the far-descended titles of the Mortimer family.

‘Highly as she prized these distinctions, dear to every noble mind, she prized still more highly the union of devoted hearts and congenial spirits, who, trampling on the golden apples that were flung in their path, pressed forward with unremitting ardour for the prize of felicity.

‘The wedding-day of John and Elinor was fixed, — the bridal clothes were made, — the noble and numerous friends summoned, — the Castle hall decorated, the bells of the parish church ringing out a loud and merry peal, and the blue-coated serving men adorned with favours, and employed in garnishing the wassail bowl, which was doomed by many a thirsty eye to be often drained and often replenished. Mrs Ann herself took with her own hands, from an ample chest of ebony, a robe of velvet and satin, which she had worn at the court of James the First, on the marriage of the princess Elizabeth with the prince palatine, of whom the former, to borrow the language of a contemporary writer, had ‘brided and bridled it so well, and indeed became herself so handsomely,’ that Mrs Ann, as she arrayed herself, thought she saw the splendid vision of the royal bridal float before her faded eyes in dim but gorgeous pageantry once more. The heiress, too, attired herself splendidly, but it was observed, that her beautiful cheek was paler than even that of the bride, and the smile which held a fixed unjoyous station on her features all that morning, seemed more like the effort of resolution than the expression of felicity. The widow Sandal had betrayed considerable agitation, and quitted the Castle at an early hour. The bridegroom had not yet appeared, and the company, after having in vain for some time awaited his arrival, set out for the church, where they supposed he was impatiently expecting them.

‘The cavalcade was magnificent and numerous — the dignity and consequence of the Mortimer family had assembled all who had aspired to the distinction of their acquaintance, and such was then the feudal grandeur attendant on the nuptials of a high-descended family, that relatives, however remote in blood or in local distance, collected for sixty miles in every direction around the Castle, and presented a ‘host of friends, gorgeously arrayed and attended on that eventful morning.’

‘Most of the company, even including the females, were mounted on horseback, and this, by apparently increasing the number of the procession, added to its tumultuous magnificence. There were some cumbrous vehicles, misnamed carriages, of a fashion indescribably inconvenient, but gorgeously gilded and painted, — and the Cupids on the pannels had been re-touched for the occasion. The bride was lifted on her palfrey by two peers, — Margaret rode beside her gallantly attended, — and Mrs Ann, who once more saw nobles contending for her withered hand, and adjusting her silken rein, felt the long-faded glories of her family revive, and led the van of the pompous procession with as much dignity of demeanour, and as much glow of faded beauty, once eminent and resistless, as if she still followed the gorgeous nuptial progress of the princess palatine. They arrived at the church, — the bride, the relatives, the splendid company, the minister — all but the bridegroom, were there. There was a long painful silence. Several gentlemen of the bridal party rode rapidly out in every direction in which it was thought probable to meet him, — the clergyman stood at the altar, till, weary of standing, he retired. The crowd from the neighbouring villages, combined with the numerous attendants, filled the church-yard. Their acclamations were incessant, — the heat and distraction became intolerable, and Elinor begged for a few moments to be allowed to retire to the vestry.

‘There was a casement window which opened on the road, and Mrs Ann supported the bride as she tottered towards it, attempting to loose her wimple, and veil of costly lace. As Elinor approached the casement, the thundering hoofs of a horse at full speed shook the road. Elinor looked up mechanically, — the rider was John Sandal, — he cast a look of horror at the pale bride, and plunging his desperate spurs deeper, disappeared in a moment.

‘A year after this event, two figures were seen to walk, or rather wander, almost every evening, in the neighbourhood of a small hamlet in a remote part of Yorkshire. The vicinage was picturesque and attractive, but these figures seemed to move amid the scenery like beings, who, if they still retained eyes for nature, had lost all heart for it. That wan and attenuated form, so young, yet so withered, whose dark eyes emit a fearful light amid features chill and white as those of a statue, and the young graces of whose form seem to have been nipt like those of a lily that bloomed too soon in spring, and was destroyed by the frost of the treacherous season, whose whispers had first invited it to bud, — that is Elinor Mortimer, — and that figure that walks beside her, so stiff and rectangular, that it seems as its motion was regulated by mechanism, whose sharp eyes are directed so straight forward, that they see neither tree on the right hand, or glade on the left, or heaven above, or earth beneath, or any thing but a dim vision of mystic theology for ever before them, which is aptly reflected in their cold contemplative light, that is the Puritan maiden sister of her mother, with whom Elinor had fixed her residence. Her dress is arranged with as much precision as if a mathematician had calculated the angles of every fold, — every pin’s point knows its place, and does its duty — the plaits of her round-eared cap do not permit one hair to appear on her narrow forehead, and her large hood, adjusted after the fashion in which it was worn by the godly sisters, who rode out to meet Prynne on his return from the pillory, lends a deeper shade to her rigid features, — a wretched-looking lacquey is carrying a huge clasped bible after her, in the mode in which she remembered to have seen Lady Lambert and Lady Desborough march to prayer, attended by their pages, while she proudly followed in their train, distinguished as the sister of that godly man and powerful preacher of the word, Sandal. From the day of her disappointed nuptials, Elinor, with that insulted feeling of maiden pride, which not even the anguish of her broken heart could suppress, had felt an unappeaseable anxiety to quit the scene of her disgrace and her misfortune. It was vainly opposed by her aunt and Margaret, who, horror-struck at the event of those disastrous nuptials, and wholly unconscious of the cause, had implored her, with all the energy of affection, to fix her residence at the Castle, within whose walls they pledged themselves he who had abandoned her should never be permitted to place his foot. Elinor answered the impassioned importunities, only by eager and clinging pressures of her cold hands, and by tears which trembled on her eyelids, without the power to fall. — ‘Nay, stay with us,’ said the kind and noble-hearted Margaret, ‘you shall not leave us!’ And she pressed the hands of her kinswoman, with that cordial touch that gives a welcome as much to the heart as to the home of the inviter. — ‘Dearest cousin,’ said Elinor, answering, for the first time, this affectionate appeal with a faint and ghastly smile — ‘I have so many enemies within these walls, that I can no longer encounter them with safety to my life.’ — ‘Enemies!’ repeated Margaret. — ‘Yes, dearest cousin — there is not a spot where he trod — not a prospect on which he has gazed — not an echo which has repeated the sound of his voice, — that does not send daggers through my heart, which those who wish me to live would not willingly see infixed any longer.’ To the emphatic agony with which these words were uttered, Margaret had nothing to reply but with tears; and Elinor set out on her journey to the relative of her mother, a rigid Puritan, who resided in Yorkshire.

‘As the carriage was ordered for her departure, Mrs Ann, supported by her female attendants, stood on the draw-bridge to take leave of her niece, with solemn and affectionate courtesy. Margaret wept bitterly, and aloud, as she stood at a casement, and waved her hand to Elinor. Her aunt never shed a tear, till out of the presence of the domestics, — but when all was over, — ‘she entered into her chamber, and wept there.’

‘When her carriage had driven some miles from the Castle, a servant on a fleet horse followed it at full speed with Elinor’s lute, which had been forgotten, — it was offered to her, and after viewing it for some moments with a look in which memory struggled with grief, she ordered its strings to be broken on the spot, and proceeded on her journey.

‘The retreat to which Elinor had retired, did not afford her the tranquillity she expected. Thus, change of place always deceives us with the tantalizing hope of relief, as we toss on the feverish bed of life.

‘She went in a faint expectation of the revival of her religious feelings — she went to wed, amid the solitude and desert where she had first known him, the immortal bridegroom, who would never desert her as the mortal one had done, — but she did not find him there — the voice of God was no longer heard in the garden — either her religious sensibility had abated, or those from whom she first received the impression, had no longer power to renew it, or perhaps the heart which has exhausted itself on a mortal object, does not find its powers soon recruited to meet the image of celestial beneficence, and exchange at once the visible for the invisible, — the felt and present, for the future and the unknown.

‘Elinor returned to the residence of her mother’s family in the hope of renewing former images, but she found only the words that had conveyed those ideas, and she looked around in vain for the impressions they had once suggested. When we thus come to feel that all has been illusion, even on the most solemn subjects, — that the future world seems to be deserting us along with the present, and that our own hearts, with all their treachery, have done us no more wrong than the false impressions which we have received from our religious instructors, we are like the deity in the painting of the great Italian artist, extending one hand to the sun, and the other to the moon, but touching neither. Elinor had imagined or hoped, that the language of her aunt would have revived her habitual associations — she was disappointed. It is true no pains were spared — when Elinor wished to read, she was furnished amply with the Westminster Confession, or Prynne’s Histriomastrix; or if she wished for lighter pages, for the Belles Lettres of Puritanism, there were John Bunyan’s Holy War, or the life of Mr Badman. If she closed the book in despair at the insensibility of her untouched heart, she was invited to a godly conference, where the non-conformist ministers, who had been, in the language of the day, extinguished under the Bartholomew bushel,1 met to give the precious word in season to the scattered fold of the Lord. Elinor knelt and wept too at these meetings; but, while her form was prostrated before the Deity, her tears fell for one whom she dared not name. When, in incontroulable agony, she sought, like Joseph, where she might weep unobserved and unrestrained, and rushed into the narrow garden that skirted the cottage of her aunt, and wept there, she was followed by the quiet, sedate figure, moving at the rate of an inch in a minute, who offered her for her consolation, the newly published and difficultly obtained work of Marshall on Sanctification.

1 Anachronism — n’importe.

‘Elinor, accustomed too much to that fatal excitement of the heart, which renders all other excitement as faint and feeble as the air of heaven to one who has been inhaling the potent inebriation of the strongest perfumes, wondered how this being, so abstracted, cold, and unearthly, could tolerate her motionless existence. She rose at a fixed hour, — at a fixed hour she prayed, — at a fixed hour received the godly friends who visited her, and whose existence was as monotonous and apathetic as her own, — at a fixed hour she dined, — and at a fixed hour she prayed again, and then retired, — yet she prayed without unction, and fed without appetite, and retired to rest without the least inclination to sleep. Her life was mere mechanism, but the machine was so well wound up, that it appeared to have some quiet consciousness and sullen satisfaction in its movements.

‘Elinor struggled in vain for the renewal of this life of cold mediocrity, — she thirsted for it as one who, in the deserts of Afric, expiring for want of water, would wish for the moment to be an inmate of Lapland, to drink of their eternal snows, — yet at that moment wonders how its inhabitants can live among SNOW. She saw a being far inferior to herself in mental power, — of feelings that hardly deserved the name — tranquil, and wondered that she herself was wretched. — Alas! she did not know, that the heartless and unimaginative are those alone who entitle themselves to the comforts of life, and who can alone enjoy them. A cold and sluggish mediocrity in their occupations or their amusements, is all they require — pleasure has with them no meaning but the exemption from actual suffering, nor do they annex any idea to pain but the immediate infliction of corporeal suffering, or of external calamity — the source of pain or pleasure is never found in their hearts — while those who have profound feelings scarce ever look elsewhere for either. So much the worse for them, — the being reduced to providing for the necessities of human life, and being satisfied when that provision is made, is perhaps the best condition of human life — beyond that, all is the dream of insanity, or the agony of disappointment. Far better the dull and dusky winter’s day, whose gloom, if it never abates, never increases, — (and to which we lift up an eye of listlessness, in which there is no apprehension of future and added terrors), — to the glorious fierceness of the summer’s day, whose sun sets amid purple and gold, — while, panting under its parting beams, we see the clouds collecting in the darkening East, and view the armies of heaven on their march, whose thunders are to break our rest, and whose lightnings may crumble us to ashes.

‘Elinor strove hard with her fate, — the strength of her intellect had been much developed since her residence at Mortimer Castle, and there also the energies of her heart had been developed fatally. How dreadful is the conflict of superior intellect and a burning heart, with the perfect mediocrity of the characters and circumstances they are generally doomed to live with! The battering-rams play against wool-bags, — the lightnings glance on ice, hiss, and are extinguished. The greater strength we exhibit, we feel we are more and more paralyzed by the weakness of our enemies, — our very energy becomes our bitterest enemy, as it fights in vain against the impregnable fortress of total vacuity! It is in vain we assail a foe who neither knows our language or uses our weapons. Elinor gave it up, — yet still she struggled with her own feelings; and perhaps the conflict which she now undertook was the hardest of all. She had received her first religious impressions under the roof of her Puritanic aunt, and, true or false, they had been so vivid, that she was anxious to revive them. When the heart is robbed of its first-born, there is nothing it will not try to adopt. Elinor remembered a very affecting scene that had occurred in her childhood, beneath the roof where she now resided.

‘An old non-conformist minister, a very Saint John for sanctity of life, and simplicity of manners, had been seized by a magistrate while giving the word of consolation to a few of his flock who had met at the cottage of her aunt.

‘The old man had supplicated for a moment’s delay on the part of the civil power, and its officers, by an unusual effort of toleration or of humanity, complied. Turning to his congregation, who, amid the tumult of the arrest, had never risen from their knees, and only changed the voice of supplication from praying with their pastor, to praying for him, — he quoted to them that beautiful passage from the prophet Malachi, which appears to give such delightful encouragement to the spiritual intercourse of Christians, — ‘Then they that feared the Lord, spoke often to one another, and the Lord heard it,’ &c. As he spoke, the old man was dragged away by some rougher hands, and died soon after in confinement.

‘On the young imagination of Elinor, this scene was indelibly written. Amid the magnificence of Mortimer Castle, it had never been effaced or obscured, and now she tried to make herself in love with the sounds and the scene that had so deeply touched her infant heart.

‘Resolute in her purposes, she spared no pains to excite this reminiscence of religion, — it was her last resource. Like the wife of Phineas, she struggled to bear an heir of the soul, even while she named him Ichabod, — and felt the glory was departed. She went to the narrow apartment, — she seated herself in the very chair that venerable man occupied when he was torn from it, and his departure appeared to her like that of an ascending prophet. She would then have caught the folds of his mantle, and mounted with him, even though his flight had led to prison and to death. She tried, by repeating his last words, to produce the same effect they had once had on her heart, and wept in indescribable agony at feeling those words had no meaning now for her. When life and passion have thus rejected us, the backward steps we are compelled to tread towards the path we have wandered from, are ten thousand times more torturing and arduous than those we have exhausted in their pursuit. Hope then supported our hands every step we took. Remorse and disappointment scourge us back, and every step is tinged with tears or with blood; and well it is for the pilgrim if that blood is drained from his heart, for then — his pilgrimage will be sooner terminated.

‘At times Elinor, who had forgotten neither the language or habits of her former existence, would speak in a manner that gave her Puritanic relative hopes that, according to the language of the times, ‘the root of the matter was in her,’ — and when the old lady, in confidence of her returning orthodoxy, discussed long and learnedly on the election and perseverance of the saints, the listener would startle her by a burst of feeling, that seemed to her aunt more like the ravings of a demoniac, than the language of a human being, — especially one who had from her youth known the Scriptures. She would say, ‘Dearest aunt, I am not insensible of what you say; from a child, (thanks to your care), I have known the holy scriptures. I have felt the power of religion. At a latter period I have experienced all the enjoyments of an intellectual existence. Surrounded by splendour, I have conversed with enlarged minds, — I have seen all that life can shew me, — I have lived with the mean and the rich, — the spiritual in their poverty, and the worldly-minded in their grandeur, — I have deeply drank of the cup which both modes of existence held to my lip, — and at this moment I swear to you, — one moment of heart, — one dream such as once I dreamed, (and thought I should never awake from), is worth all the existence that the earthly-minded lavish on this world, and those who mystify expend on the next!’ — ‘Unfortunate wretch! and undone for everlasting!’ cried the terrified Calvinist, lifting up her hands. — ‘Cease, cease,’ said Elinor with that dignity which grief alone can give, — ‘If I have indeed devoted to an earthly love that which is due to God alone, is not my punishment certain in a future state? Has it not already commenced here? May not then all reproaches be spared when we are suffering more than human enmity can wish us, — when our very existence is a bitterer reproach to us than malignity can utter?’ — As she spoke, she added, wiping a cold tear from her wasted cheek, ‘My stroke is heavier than my groaning!’

‘At other times she appeared to listen to the language of the Puritan preachers (for all were preachers who frequented the house) with some appearance of attention, and then, rushing from them without any conviction but that of despair, exclaimed in her haste, ‘All men are liars!’ Thus it fares with those who wish to make an instant transition from one world to another, — it is impossible, — the cold wave interposes — for ever interposes, between the wilderness and the land of promise — and we may as soon expect to tread the threshold which parts life and death without pain, as to cross the interval which separates two modes of existence so distinct as those of passion and religion, without struggles of the soul inexpressible — without groanings which cannot be uttered.

‘To these struggles there was soon to be an addition. Letters at this period circulated very slowly, and were written only on important occasions. Within a very short period, Elinor received two letters by express from Mortimer Castle, written by her cousin Margaret. The first announced the arrival of John Sandal at the Castle, — the second, the death of Mrs Ann, — the postscriptums of both contained certain mysterious hints relative to the interruption of the marriage, — intimations that the cause was known only to the writer, to Sandal and to his mother, — and entreaties that Elinor would return to the Castle, and partake of the sisterly love with which Margaret and John Sandal would be glad to receive her. The letters dropt from her hand as she received them, — of John Sandal she had never ceased to think, but she had never ceased to wish not to think, — and his name even now gave her a pang which she could neither utter or suppress, and which burst forth in an involuntary shriek, that seemed like the last string that breaks in the exquisite and too-highly strung instrument of the human heart.

‘Over the account of Mrs Ann’s death, she lingered with that fearful feeling that a young adventurer experiences, who sees a noble vessel set out before him on a voyage of discovery, and wishes, while lingering in harbour himself, that he was already at the shore where it has arrived, and tasted of its repose, and participated in its treasures.

‘Mrs Ann’s death had not been unworthy of that life of magnanimity and high heroic feeling which had marked every hour of her mortal existence — she had espoused the cause of the rejected Elinor, and sworn in the chapel of Mortimer Castle, while Margaret knelt beside, never to admit within its walls the deserter of his betrothed bride.

‘On a dim autumnal evening, when Mrs Ann, with fading sight but undiminished feeling, was poring over some of Lady Russel’s letters in manuscript, and, to relieve her eyes, sometimes glanced on the manuscript of Nelson’s Fasts and Festivals of the Church of England, — it was announced to her that a Cavalier (the servants well knew the charm of that name to the ear of the ancient loyalist) had crossed the draw-bridge, entered the hall, and was advancing to the apartment where she sat. ‘Let him be admitted,’ was her answer, and rising from her chair, which was so lofty and so spacious, that as she lifted herself from it to greet the stranger with a courtly reception, her form appeared like a spectre rising from an ancient monument, — she stood facing the entrance — at that entrance appeared John Sandal. She bent forwards for a moment, but her eyes, bright and piercing, still recognized him in a moment.

‘Back! — back!’ — exclaimed the stately ancestress, waving him off with her withered hand — ‘Back! — profane not this floor with another step!’ — ‘Hear me, madam, for one moment — suffer me to address you, even on my knees — I pay the homage to your rank and relationship — misunderstand it not as an acknowledgement of guilt on my part!’

‘Mrs Ann’s features at this action underwent a slight contraction — a short spasmodic affection. ‘Rise, Sir — rise,’ she said — ‘and say what you have to say — but utter it, Sir, at the door whose threshold you are unworthy to tread.’

‘John Sandal rose from his knees, and pointed instinctively as he rose to the portrait of Sir Roger Mortimer, to whom he bore a striking resemblance. Mrs Ann acknowledged the appeal — she advanced a few steps on the oaken floor — she stood erect for a moment, and then, pointing with a dignity of action which no pencil could embody to the portrait, seemed to consider her attitude as a valid and eloquent answer — it said — he to whose resemblance you point, and claim protection from, never like you dishonoured these walls by an act of baseness — of heartless treachery! Betrayer! — look to his portrait! Her expression had in it something of the sublime — the next moment a strong spasm contracted her features — she attempted to speak, but her lips no longer obeyed her — she seemed to speak, but was not heard even by herself. She stood for a moment before John Sandal in that rigid immoveable attitude that says, ‘Advance not another step at your peril — insult not the portraits of your ancestors — insult not their living representative, by another step of intrusion!’ As she spoke thus, (for her attitude spoke), a stronger spasm contracted her features. She attempted to move — the same rigid constriction extended to her limbs; and, waving her prohibitory arm still, as it in defiance at once of the approach of death and of her rejected kinsman, she dropt at his feet.

‘She did not long survive the interview, nor did she ever recover the use of speech. Her powerful intellect was, however, unimpaired; and to the last she expressed herself most intelligibly by action, as determined not to hear a word explanatory of Sandal’s conduct. This explanation was therefore made to Margaret, who, though much shocked and agitated at the first disclosure, seemed afterwards perfectly reconciled to it.

‘Shortly after the receipt of these letters, Elinor took a sudden, but perhaps not singular resolution, — she determined to set out immediately for Mortimer Castle. It was not her weariness of the withering life, the αζιωτος βιος she lived at her Puritanic aunt’s — it was not the wish to enjoy again the stately and splendid ceremonial of Mortimer Castle, contrasted with the frugal fare and monastic rigour of the cottage in Yorkshire — it was not even the wish for that change of place that always flatters us with change of circumstance, as if we did not carry our own hearts with us wherever we go, and might not therefore be sure that an innate and eroding ulcer must be our companion from the Pole to the Equator — it was not this, but a whisper half unheard, yet believed, (just in proportion as it was inaudible and incredible), that murmured from the bottom of her credulous heart, ‘Go — and perhaps’ —

‘Elinor set out on her journey, and after having performed it with fewer difficulties than can be imagined, considering the state of the roads, and the modes of travelling in the year 1667 or thereabouts, she arrived in the vicinity of Mortimer Castle. It was a scene of reminiscence to her, — her heart throbbed audibly as the carriage stopped at a Gothic gate, through which there was a walk between two rows of lofty elms. She alighted, and to the request of the servant who followed her, that he might be permitted to shew her the way through a path entangled by the intersecting roots of the trees, and dim with twilight, she answered only by her tears. She waved him off, and advanced on foot and alone. She remembered, from the bottom of her soul, how she had once wandered amid that very grove with John Sandal — how his smile had shed a richer light on the landscape, than even the purple smile of the dying day-light. She thought of that smile, and lingered to catch it amid the rich and burning hues flung by the fading light on the many-tinted boles of the ancient trees. The trees were there — and the light was there — but his smile, that once eclipsed the sun-light, was there no longer!

‘She advanced alone — the lofty avenue of trees still retained its magnificent depth of shade, and gorgeous colouring of trunk and leaf. She sought among them for that which she had once felt — and God and nature alone are conscious of the agony with which we demand from them the object which we are conscious was once consecrated to our hearts, and which we now require of both in vain! God withholds, — and Nature denies them!

‘As Elinor with trembling steps advanced towards the Castle, she saw the funeral scutcheon which Mrs Margaret, in honour of her grand-aunt, had caused to be affixed over the principal tower since her decease, with the same heraldric decorum as if the last male of the Mortimer family were extinct. Elinor looked up, and many thoughts rushed on her heart. — ‘There is one departed,’ she thought, ‘whose mind was always fixed on glorious thoughts — the most exalted actions of humanity, or the sublime associations of eternity! Her noble heart had room but for two illustrious guests — the love of God, and the love of her country. They tarried with her to the last, for they found the abode worthy of them; and when they parted, the inmate found the mansion untenantable any longer — the soul fled with its glorious visitors to heaven! My treacherous heart welcomed another inmate, and how has he repaid its hospitality? — By leaving the mansion in ruins!’ As she spoke thus, she approached the entrance of the Castle.

‘In the spacious hall she was received by Margaret Mortimer with the embrace of rooted affection, and by John Sandal, who advanced after the first enthusiasm of meeting was over, with that calm and brother-like good-will, from which there was — nothing to be hoped. There was the same heavenly smile, the same clasp of the hand, the same tender and almost feminine expression of anxiety for her safety — even Margaret herself, who must have felt, and who did feel the perils of the long journey, did not enter into them with that circumstantiality, or appear to sympathize with them so vividly, or, when the tale of toil and travel was told, appear to urge the necessity of speedy retirement, with such solicitude as did John Sandal. Elinor, faint and gasping, grasped the hands of both, and by an involuntary motion locked both together. The widow Sandal was present — she shewed much agitation at the appearance of Elinor; but when she saw this extraordinary and spontaneous movement, it was observed she smiled.

‘Soon after, Elinor retired to the apartment she had formerly occupied. By the affectionate and delicate prevoyance of Margaret, the furniture had all been changed — there was nothing to remind her of former days, except her heart. She sat for some time reflecting on her reception, and hope died within her heart as she thought of it. The strongest expression of aversion or disdain would not have been so withering.

‘It is certain that the fiercest passions may be exchanged for their widest extremes in a time incredibly short, and by means the most incalculable. Within the narrow circle of a day, enemies may embrace, and lovers may hate, — but, in the course of centuries, pure complacency and cordial good-will never can be exalted into passion. The wretched Elinor felt this, — and feeling it, knew that all was lost.

‘She had now, for many days, to undergo the torture of complacent and fraternal affection from the man she loved, — and perhaps a keener torture was never endured. To feel hands that we long to press to our burning hearts, touch ours with cool and pulseless tranquillity — to see eyes in whose light we live, throw on us a cold but smiling beam, that gives light, but not fertility, to the parched and thirsting soil of the heart — to hear the ordinary language of affectionate civility addressed to us in tones of the most delicious suavity — to seek in these expressions an ulterior meaning, and to find it not — This — this is an agony which only those who have felt can conceive!

‘Elinor, with an effort that cost her heart many a pang, mingled in the habits of the house, which had been greatly changed since the death of Mrs Ann. The numerous suitors of the wealthy and noble heiress, now crowded to the Castle; and, according to the custom of the times, they were sumptuously entertained, and invited to prolong their stay by numerous banquets.

‘On these occasions, John Sandal was the first to pay distinguished attention to Elinor. They danced together; and though her Puritanic education had taught her an abhorrence of those ‘devil’s measures,’ as her family was accustomed to term them, she tried to adapt herself to the gay steps of the Canaries,1 and the stately movements of the Measures — (for the newer dances had not, even in report, reached Mortimer Castle) — and her slender and graceful form needed no other inspiration than the support of John Sandal’s arms, (who was himself an exquisite dancer), to assume all the graces of that delightful exercise. Even the practised courtiers applauded her. But, when it was over, Elinor felt, that had John Sandal been dancing with a being the most indifferent to him on earth, his manner would have been exactly the same. No one could point with more smiling grace to her slight deviations from the figure, — no one could attend her to her seat with more tender and anxious politeness, and wave the vast fan of those days over her with more graceful and assiduous courtesy. But Elinor felt that these attentions, however flattering, were offered not by a lover.

1 In Cowley’s ‘Cutter of Coleman Street,’ Mrs Tabitha, a rigid Puritan, tells her husband she had danced the Canaries in her youth. And in Rushworth’s Collections, if I remember right, Prynne vindicates himself from the charge of a general denunciation against dancing, and even speaks of the ‘Measures,’ a stately, solemn dance, with some approbation.

‘Sandal was absent on a visit to some neighbouring nobleman, and Margaret and Elinor were one evening completely alone. Each seemed equally anxious for an explanation, which neither appeared willing to begin. Elinor had lingered till twilight at the casement, from which she had seen him ride, and lingered still when to see him was no longer possible. Her sight was strained to catch a glimpse of him through the gathering clouds, as her imagination still toiled to catch a gleam of that light of the heart, which now struggled dimly amid clouds of gloomy and unpierceable mystery. ‘Elinor,’ said Margaret emphatically, ‘look for him no longer, — he never can be yours!’

‘The sudden address, and the imperative tone of conviction, had upon Elinor the effect of being addressed by a supernatural monitor. She was unable even to ask how the terrible intelligence that burst on her so decisively, was obtained.

‘There is a state of mind in which we listen thus to a human voice as if it were an oracle, — and instead of asking an explanation of the destiny it announces, we wait submissively for what yet remains to be told. In this mood, Elinor slowly advanced from the casement, and asked in a voice of fearful calmness, ‘Has he explained himself perfectly to you?’ — ‘Perfectly.’ — ‘And there is nothing to expect?’ — ‘Nothing.’ — ‘And you have heard this from himself — his very self?’ — ‘I have; and, dear Elinor, let us never again speak on the subject.’ — ‘Never!’ answered Elinor, — ‘Never!’

‘The veracity and dignity of Margaret’s character, were inviolable securities for the truth of what she uttered; and perhaps that was the very reason why Elinor tried to shrink most from the conviction. In a morbid state of heart, we cannot bear truth — the falsehood that intoxicates us for a moment, is worth more than the truth that would disenchant us for life. — I hate him because he tells me the truth, is the language natural to the human mind, from the slave of power to the slave of passion.

‘Other symptoms that could not escape the notice of the most shallow, struck her every hour. That devotion of the eye and heart, — of the language and the look, that cannot be mistaken, — were all obviously directed to Margaret. Still Elinor lingered in the Castle, and said to herself, while every day she saw and felt what was passing, ‘Perhaps.’ That is the last word that quits the lips of those who love.

‘She saw with all her eyes, — she felt to the bottom of her soul, — the obviously increasing attachment of John Sandal and Margaret; yet still she dreamed of interposing obstacles, — of an explanation. When passion is deprived of its proper aliment, there is no telling the food on which it will prey, — the impossibilities to which, like a famished garrison, it will look for its wretched sustenance.

‘Elinor had ceased to demand the heart of the being she was devoted to. She now lived on his looks. She said to herself, Let him smile, though not on me, and I am happy still — wherever the sun-light falls, the earth must be blessed. Then she sunk to lower claims. She said, Let me but be in his presence, and that is enough — let his smiles and his soul be devoted to another, one wandering ray may reach me, and that will be enough!

‘Love is a very noble and exalting sentiment in its first germ and principle. We never love without arraying the object in all the glories of moral as well as physical perfection, and deriving a kind of dignity to ourselves from our capacity of admiring a creature so excellent and dignified; but this lavish and magnificent prodigality of the imagination often leaves the heart a bankrupt. Love in its iron age of disappointment, becomes very degraded — it submits to be satisfied with merely exterior indulgences — a look, a touch of the hand, though occurring by accident — a kind word, though uttered almost unconsciously, suffices for its humble existence. In its first state, it is like man before the fall, inhaling the odours of paradise, and enjoying the communion of the Deity; in the latter, it is like the same being toiling amid the briar and the thistle, barely to maintain a squalid existence without enjoyment, utility, or loveliness.

‘About this time, her Puritan aunt made a strong effort to recover Elinor out of the snare of the enemy. She wrote a long letter (a great exertion for a woman far advanced in years, and never in the habits of epistolary composition) adjuring her apostate niece to return to the guide of her youth, and the covenant of her God, — to take shelter in the everlasting arms while they were still held out to her, — and to flee to the city of refuge while its gates were yet open to receive her. She urged on her the truth, power, and blessedness of the system of Calvin, which she termed the gospel. — She supported and defended it with all the metaphysical skill, and all the scriptural knowledge she possessed, — and the latter was not scanty. — And she affectingly reminded her, that the hand that traced these lines, would be unable ever to repeat the admonition, and would probably be mouldering into dust while she was employed in their perusal.

‘Elinor wept while she read, but that was all. She wept from physical emotion, not from mental conviction; nor is there such an induration of heart caused by any other power, as by that of the passion which seems to soften it most. She answered the letter, however, and the effort scarce cost her less than it did her decrepid and dying relative. She acknowledged her dereliction of all religious feeling, and bewailed it — the more, she added with painful sincerity, because I feel my grief is not sincere. ‘Oh, my God!’ she continued, ‘you who have clothed my heart with such burning energies — you who have given to it a power of loving so intense, so devoted, so concentrated — you have not given it in vain; — no, in some happier world, or perhaps even in this, when this ‘tyranny is overpast,’ you will fill my heart with an image worthier than him whom I once believed your image on earth. The stars, though their light appears so dim and distant to us, were not lit by the Almighty hand in vain. Their glorious light burns for remote and happier worlds; and the beam of religion that glows so feebly to eyes almost blind with earthly tears, may be rekindled when a broken heart has been my passport to a place of rest.

‘Do not think me, dear aunt, deserted by all hope of religion, even though I have lost the sense of it. Was it not said by unerring lips to a sinner, that her transgressions were forgiven because she loved much? And does not this capacity of love prove that it will one day be more worthily filled, and more happily employed.

‘Miserable wretch that I am! At this moment, a voice from the bottom of my heart asks me ’Whom hast thou loved so much? Was it man or God, that thou darest to compare thyself with her who knelt and wept — not before a mortal idol, but at the feet of an incarnate divinity?’

‘It may yet befall, that the ark which has floated through the waste of waters may find its resting-place, and the trembling inmate debark on the shores of an unknown but purer world.’

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/maturin/charles/melmoth_the_wanderer/chapter30.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:09