“Oh, darling, I can scarcely believe it.” she murmured, smiling, and gazing up with her large soft eyes into his, “it seems to me like heaven, that I can look, and speak, and say everything without danger, or any more concealment, and always have my Ry with me—never to be separated again, you know, darling, while we live.”
“Poor little woman,” said he, fondly, looking down with an answering smile, “she does love me a little bit, I think.”
“And Ry loves his poor little bird, doesn’t he?”
“And we’ll be so happy!”
“I hope so, darling.”
“Hope ?” echoed she, chilled, and a little piteously.
“I’m sure of it, darling—quite certain,” he repeated, laughing tenderly; “she’s such a foolish little bird, one must watch their phrases; but I was only thinking—I’m afraid you hardly know what a place this Carwell is.”
“Oh, darling, you forget I’ve seen it—the most picturesque spot I eyer saw—the very place I should have chosen—and any place you know, with you I But that’s an old story.”
His answer was a kiss, and—
“Darling, I can never deserve half your love.”
“All I desire on earth is to live alone with my Ry.”
“Yes, darling, we’ll make out life very well here, I’m sure—my only fear is for you. I’ll go out with my rod, and bring you home my basket full of trout, or sometimes take my gun, and kill a hare or a rabbit, and we’ll live like the old Baron and his daughters in the fairy-tale—on the produce of the streams, and solitudes about us—quite to ourselves; and I’ll read to you in the evenings, or we’ll play chess, or we’ll chat while you work, and I’ll tell you stories of my travels, and you’ll sing me a song, won’t you ?
“Too delighted—singing for joy,” said little Alice, in a rapture at his story of the life that was opening to them, “oh, tell more.”
“Well—yes—and you’ll have such pretty flowers.”
“Oh, yes—flowers—I love them—not expensive ones—for we are poor, you know; and you’ll see how prudent I’ll be—but annuals, they are so cheap—and I’ll sow them myself, and I’ll have the most beautiful you ever saw. Don’t you love them, Ry?”
“Nothing so pretty, darling, on earth, except yourself.”
“What is my Ry looking out for?”
Charles Fairfield had more than once put his head out of the window, looking as well as he could along the road in advance of the horses.
“Oh, nothing of any consequence, I only wanted to see that our man had got on with the horse, he might as well knock up the old woman, and see that things were, I was going to say, comfortable, but less miserable than they might be.”
He laughed faintly as he said this, and he looked at his watch, as if he did not want her to see him consult it, and then he said—
“Well, and you were saying—oh—about the flowers—annuals—Yes.”
And so they resumed. But somehow it seemed to Alice that his ardour and his gaiety were subsiding, that his thoughts were away, and pale care stealing over him like the chill of death. Again she might have remembered the ghostly Wilhelm, who grew more ominous and spectral as he and his bride neared the goal of their nocturnal journey.
“I don’t think you hear me, Ry, and something has gone wrong,” she said at last in a tone of disappointment, that rose even to alarm.
“Oh! tell me, Charlie, if there is anything you have not told me yet? you’re afraid of frightening me.”
“Nothing, nothing, I assure you, darling; what nonsense you do talk, you poor foolish little bird. No, I mean nothing, but I’ve had a sort of quarrel with the old man; you need not have written that letter, or at least it would have been better if you had told me about it.”
“But, darling, I couldn’t, I had no opportunity, and I could not leave Wyvern, where he had been so good to me all my life, without a few words to thank him—and to entreat his pardon; you’re not angry, darling, with your poor little bird?”
“Angry, my foolish little wife, you little know your Ry; he loves his bird too well to be ever angry with her for anything, but it was unlucky, at least his getting it just when he did, for, you may suppose, it did not-improve his temper.”
“Very angry, I’m afraid, was he? But though he’s so fiery, he’s generous; I’m sure he’ll forgive us, in a little time, and it will all be made up; don’t you think so?”
“No, darling, I don’t. Take this hill quietly, will you?” he called from the window to the driver; “you may walk them a bit, there’s near two miles to go still”
Here was another anxious look out, and he drew his head in, muttering, and then he laid his hand on hers, and looked in her face and smiled, and he said——
“They are such fools, aren’t they? and—about the old man at Wyvern—oh, no, you mistake him, he’s not a man to forgive; we can reckon on nothing but mischief from that quarter, and, in fact, he knows all about it, for he chose to talk about you as if he had a right to scold, and that I couldn’t allow, and I told him so, and that you were my wife, and that no man living should say a word against you.”
“My own brave Ry; but oh! what a grief that I should have made this quarrel; but I love you a thousand times more; oh, my darling, we are everything now to one another.”
“Ho! never mind,” he exclaimed with a sudden alacrity, “there he is. All right, Tom, is it?”
“All right, sir,” answered the man whom he had despatched before them on the horse, and who was now at the roadside still mounted.
“He has ridden back to tell us she’ll have all ready for our arrival—oh, no, darling,” he continued gaily, “don’t think for a moment I care a farthing whether he’s pleased or angry. He never liked me, and he cannot do us any harm, none in the world, and sooner or later Wyvern must be mine; “and he kissed her and smiled with the ardour of a man whose spirits are, on a sudden, quite at ease.
And as they sat, hand pressed in hand, she sidled closer to him, with the nestling instinct of the bird, as he called her, and dreamed that if there were a heaven on earth, it would be found in such a life as that on which she was entering, where she would have him “all to herself.” And she felt now, as they diverged into the steeper road and more sinuous, that ascended for a mile the gentle wooded uplands to the grange of Carwell, that every step brought her nearer to Paradise.
Here is something paradoxical; is it? that this young creature should be so in love with a man double her own age. I have heard of cases like it, however, and I have read, in some old French writer—I have forgot who he is—the rule laid down with solemn audacity, that there is no such through-fire-and-water, desperate love as that of a girl for a man past forty. Till the hero has reached that period of autumnal glory, youth and beauty can but half love him. This encouraging truth is amplified and emphasized in the original. I extract its marrow for the comfort of all whom it may concern.
On the other hand, however, I can’t forget that Charles Fairfield had many unusual aids to success. In the first place, by his looks, you would have honestly guessed him at from four or five years under his real age. He was handsome, dark, with white even teeth, and fine dark blue eyes, that could glow ardently. He was the only person at Wyvern with whom she could converse. He had seen something of the world, something of foreign travel; had seen pictures, and knew at least the names of some authors; and in the barbarous isolation of Wyvern, where squires talked of little but the last new plough, fat oxen, and kindred subjects, often with a very perceptible infusion of the country patois—he was to a young lady with any taste either for books or art, a resource, and a companion.
And now the chaise was drawing near to Carwell Grange. With a childish delight she watched the changing scene from the window. The clumps of wild trees drew nearer to the roadside. Winding always upward, and steeper and steeper, was the narrow road. The wood gathered closer around them. The trees were loftier and more solemn, and cast sharp shadows of foliage and branches on the white roadway. All the way her ear and heart were filled with the now gay music of her lover’s talk. At last through the receding trees that crowned the platform of the rising grounds they had been ascending, gables, chimneys, and glimmering windows showed themselves in the broken moonlight; and now rose before them, under a great ash tree, a gate-house that resembled a small square tower of stone, with a steep roof, and partly clothed in ivy. No light gleamed from its windows. Tom dismounted, and pushed open the old iron gate that swung over the grass-grown court with a long melancholy screak.
It was a square court with a tolerably high wall, overtopped by the sombre trees, whose summits, like the old roofs and chimneys, were silvered by the moonlight.
This was the front of the building, which Alice had not seen before, the great entrance and hall-door of Carwell Grange.
Last updated Monday, March 30, 2015 at 21:19