Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the restorer of Latinity, whose finest ancient models he rescued from destruction; the promoter of the study of Greek, and he was also a man of science. Some writers even maintain that he believed in the existence of the Antipodes before his countryman discovered them a century later, founding this assumption upon the sonnet in which he describes--

“ The daylight hastening with winged steps,

Perchance to gladden the expectant eyes Of far-off nations in a world remote.” 1

But his fame is sufficiently established without pausing to consider the probability of this supposition.

His life-long if measured by its incidents, although the number of his years was only threescore and tenwas brought to a close at Arqua on the 18th of July, 1374. He died as he had lived, in the pursuit of knowledge and in the improvement of himself and of mankind; for when his servants entered his room they found him dead, sitting in his chair, with his head bent over a book.

His personal character was of a most amiable kind. He neither desired nor despised riches. Without conceit he knew his own worth. He loved fame, but was not eager in the pursuit of it. Liberty and tranquillity were most dear to him, and in order to preserve them he refused many a dignified position, and the

chance of still greater wealth and power. His habits and tastes were of a most simple nature. Adversity never disheartened him, and the influence of the court and the world never sullied his character, which was firmly established upon the basis of morality and religion. His patience was exemplary, and his vigorous memory never recalled an injury, while his anger was easily appeased. The error of his life, which he acknowledges with perfect candour in his later poetry, arose from the violence and excess of his passion for Laura, which, although it raised the tone of his moral character, absorbed him too entirely.

“Keep the choicest of thy love for God," says Dante (Par. xxvi.); and Petrarch knew that in the early part of his life he had not done this ; but what can be more beautiful than the concluding lines of his “Epistle to Posterity" ?

“And now I make my prayer to Christ, in order that He may sanctify the close of my earthly life, that He may have mercy upon me and pardon the sins of my youth, remembering them not. . ... And with an earnest heart I pray that it may please God, in His own good time, to guide my long erring and unstable thoughts; that as hitherto they have been scattered over many earthly objects, they may now be centred in Him, the One true, unchangeable, certain, and Supreme Good.”

i Canz, iv.:

“che 'l di nostro vola A gente, che di là forse l'aspetta."

CATHERINE MARY PHILLIMORE. CHAPTER XIX.

A PRINCESS OF THULE.

BY WILLIAM BLACK, AUTHOR OF “THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A PHAETON,” ETC.

A NEW DAY BREAKS. Was this, then, the end of the fair and beautiful romance that had sprung up and blossomed so hopefully in the remote and bleak island, amid the silence of the hills and moors and the wild twi. lights of the north, and set round about, as it were, by the cold sea-winds and the sound of the Atlantic waves ? Who could have fancied, looking at those two young folks as they wandered about the shores of the island, as they sailed on the still moonlight nights through the channels of Loch Roag, or as they sang together of an evening in the little parlour of the house at Borvabost, that all the delight and wonder of life then apparently opening out before them was 80 soon and so suddenly to collapse, leaving them in outer darkness and despair ? All their difficulties had been got over. From one side and from another they had received generous help, friendly advice, self-sacrifice to start them on a path that seemed to be strewn with sweet-smelling flowers. And here was the end-a wretched girl, blinded and bewildered, flying from her husband's house and seeking refuge in the great world of London, careless whither she went.

Whose was the fault? Which of them had been mistaken up there in the North, laying the way open for a bitter disappointment? Or had either of them failed to carry out that unwritten contract entered into in the halcyon period of courtship, by which two young people promise to be and remain to each other all that they then appear ?

Lavender, at least, had no right to complain. If the real Sheila turned

out to be something different from the Sheila of his fancy, he had been abundantly warned that such would be the case. He had even accepted it as probable, and said that as the Sheila whom he might come to know must doubtless be better than the Sheila whom he had imagined, there was little danger in store for either. He would love the true Sheila even better than the creature of his brain. Had he done so ? He found beside him this proud and sensitive Highland girl, full of generous impulses that craved for the practical work of helping other people, longing, with the desire of a caged bird, for the free winds and light of heaven, the sight of hills and the sound of seas; and he could not understand why she should not conform to the usages of city life. He was disappointed that she did not do so. The imaginative Sheila, who was to appear as a wonderful Sea-princess in London drawing-rooms, had disappeared now ; and the real Sheila, who did not care to go with him into that society which he loved or affected to love, he had not learned to know.

And had she been mistaken in her estimate of Frank Lavender's character! At the very moment of her leaving her husband's house, if she had been asked the question, she would have turned and proudly answered, “No!” She had been disappointed—so grievously disappointed that her heart seemed to be breaking over it; but the manner in which Frank Lavender had fallen away from all the promise he had given was due, not to himself, but to the influence of the society around him. Of that she was quite assured. He had shown himself careless, indifferent, inconsiderate to the verge of cruelty ; but he was not,

she had convinced herself, consciously At two o'clock everything would be cruel, nor yet selfish, nor radically bad right. Sheila must see how it would hearted in any way. In her opinion, at be impossible to introduce a young least, he was courageously sincere, to Highland serving-maid to two fastidious the verge of shocking people who mis- ladies and the son of a great Conservatook his frankness for impudence. He tive peer. was recklessly generous; he would have Lavender met his three friends once given the coat off his back to a beggar, more and walked up to the house with at the instigation of a sudden impulse, them, letting them in, indeed, with his provided he could have got into a cab own latch-key. Passing the diningbefore any of his friends saw him ; he room, he saw that the table was laid had rare abilities, and at times wildly there. This was well. Sheila had been ambitious dreams, not of his own glori- reasonable. fication, but of what he would do to cele. They went upstairs to the drawingbrate the beauty and the graces of the room. Sheila was not there. Lavender Princess whom he fancied he had mar- rang the bell, and bade the servant tell ried. It may seem hard of belief that her mistress she was wanted. this man, judging him by his actions “Mrs. Lavender has gone out, sir,” at this time, could have had anything of said the servant. thorough self-forgetfulness and manli- "Oh, indeed,” he said, taking the ness in his nature. But when things matter quite coolly. “When?” were at their very worst-when he ap- “A quarter of an hour ago, sir. She peared to the world as a self-indulgent went out with the—the young lady who idler, careless of a noble woman's un- came this morning." bounded love_when his indifference, “Very well. Let me know when or worse, had actually driven from his luncheon is ready.” house a young wife who had especial Lavender turned to his guests, feeling claims on his forbearance and considera- a little awkward, but appearing to treat tion—there were two people who still the matter in a light and humorous way. believed in Frank Lavender. They He imagined that Sheila, resenting what were Sheila Mackenzie and Edward he had said, had resolved to take Mairi Ingram ; and a man's wife and his away, and find her lodgings elsewhere. oldest friend generally know something Perhaps that might be done in time to about his real nature, its besetting let Sheila come back to receive his temptations, its weakness, its strength, guests. and its possibilities.

Sheila did not appear, however, and Of course, Ingram was speedily made luncheon was announced. aware of all that had happened. Laven- “I suppose we may as well go down," der went home at the appointed hour said Lavender, with a shrug of his to luncheon, accompanied by his three shoulders. “It is impossible to say acquaintances. He had met them acci- when she may come back. She is such dentally in the forenoon; and as Mrs. a good-hearted creature that she would Lorraine was most particular in her never think of herself or her own inquiries about Sheila, he thought he affairs in looking after this girl from could not do better than ask her there Lewis.” and then, with her mother and Lord They went down stairs, and took their Arthur, to have luncheon at two. What places at the table. followed on his carrying the announce- “For my part," said Mrs. Lorraine, ment to Sheila we know. He left the “I think it is very unkind not to wait house, taking it for granted that there for poor Mrs. Lavender. She may come would be no trouble when he returned. in dreadfully tired and hungry.” Perhaps he reproached himself for having “But that would not vex her so spoken so sharply; but Sheila was much as the notion that you had waited really very thoughtless in such matters. on her account,” said Sheila's husband, with a smile ; and Mrs. Lorraine was heeled over so that it alınost touched pleased to hear him sometimes speak in the hissing and gurgling foam-how a kindly way of the Highland girl whom she laughed at Duncan's anxiety as she he had married.

rounded some rocky point, and sent the Lavender's guests were going some- boat spinning into the clear and smooth where after luncheon, and he had half waters of the bay! Perhaps, after all, promised to go with them, Mrs. Lor- it was too bad to keep the poor child so raine stipulating that Sheila should be long shut up in a city. She was eviinduced to come also. But when lun- dently longing for a breath of sea-air, cheon was over, and Sheila had not and for some brief dash of that brisk, appeared, he changed his intention. fearless life on the sea-coast that she He would remain at home. He saw used to love. It was a happy life, after his three friends depart, and went into all ; and he had himself enjoyed it, when the study, and lit a cigar.

his hands and face got browned by the How cdd the place seemed! Sheila sun, when he grew to wonder how any had left no instructions about the re human being could wear black garmoval of those barbaric decorations she ments and drink foreign sines, and had placed in the chamber; and here, smoke cigars at eighteen pence apiece, so around him, seemed to be the walls of long as frieze coats, whisky, and a briarthe old-fashioned little room at Borva- root pipe were procurable. How one host, with its big shells, its peacocks' slept up in that remote island, after all feathers, its skins, and stuffed fish, and the laughing, and drinking, and singing masses of crimson bell-heather. Was of the evening were over! How sharp there not, too, an odour of peat-smoke was the monition of hunger when the in the air ?—and then his eye caught keen sea-air blew about your face on sight of the plate that still stood on issuing out in the morning; and how the window-sill, with the ashes of the fresh, and cool, and sweet was that burned peat on it.

carly breeze, with the scent of Sheila's “The odd child she is !” he thought, flowers in it! Then the long, bright with a smile, " to go playing at grotto- day at the river-side, with the black making, and trying to fancy she was up pools rippling in the wind, and in the in Lewis again. I suppose she would silence the rapid whistle of the silken like to let her hair down again, and line through the air, with now and take off her shoes and stockings, and go again the “blob” of a big salmon rising wading along the sand in search of to a fly farther down the pool. Where shell-fish."

was there any rest like the rest of the And then, somehow, his fancies went mid-day luncheon, when Duncan bad back to the old time when he had first put the big fish, wrapped in rushes, seen and admired her wild ways, her under the shadow of the nearest rock, fearless occupations by sea and shore, when you sat down on the warm heather, and the delight of active work that and lit your pipe, and began to inquire shone on her bright face and in her where you had been bitten on hands beautiful eyes. How lithe and hand- and neck by the ferocious “clegs” while some her figure used to be, in that blue you were too busy in playing a fifteen dress, when she stood in the middle of pounder to care. Then, perhaps, as you the boat, her head bent back, her arms were sitting there in the warm sunlight, upstretched and pulling at some rope or with all the fresh scents of the moorother, and all the fine colour of exertion land around, you would hear a light in the bloom of her cheeks! Then the footstep on the soft moss; and, turning pride with which she saw her little round, here was Sheila herself, with a vessel cutting through the water-how bright look in her pretty eyes, and a she tightened her lips with a joyous half blush on her cheek, and a friendly determination as the sheets were hauled inquiry as to the way the fish had been close and the gunwale of the small boat behaving. Then the beautiful, strange,

cool evenings on the shores of Loch Roag, with the wild, clear light still shining in the northern heavens, and the sound of the waves getting to be lonely and distant; or, still later, out in Sheila's boat, with the great yellow moon rising up over Suainabhal and Mealasabhal into a lambent vault of violet sky; a pathway of quivering gold lying across the loch; a mild radiance glittering here and there on the spars of the small vessel, and, out there, the great Atlantic lying still and distant as in a dream. As he sat in this little room and thought of all these things, he grew to think he had not acted quite fairly to Sheila. She was so fond of that beautiful island-life ; and she had not even visited the Lewis since her marriage. She should go now. He would abandon that trip to the Tyrol; and as soon as arrangements could be made, they would together start for the north, and some day soon find themselves going up the steep shore to Sheila's home, with the old King of Borva standing in the porch of the house, and endeavouring to conceal his nervousness by swearing at Duncan's method of carrying the luggage.

Had not Sheila's stratagem succeeded? That pretty trick of hers, in decorating the room so as to resemble the house at Borvabost, had done all that she could have desired. But where was she?

Lavender rose hastily, and looked at his watch. Then he rang the bell, and a servant appeared.

“Did not Mrs. Lavender say when she would return ?” he asked.

“No, sir.”
“ You don't know where she went ?”

"No, sir. The young lady's luggage was put into the cab, and they drove away without leaving any message."

He scarcely dared confess to himself what fears began to assail him. He went upstairs to Sheila's room, and there everything appeared to be in its usual place, even to the smallest articles on the dressing-table. They were all there, except one. That was a locket, too large and clumsy to be worn, which someone had given her years before she

left Lewis, and in which her father's portrait had been somewhat rudely set. Just after their marriage, Lavender had taken out this portrait, touched it up a bit into something of a better likeness, and put it back; and then she had persuaded him to have a photograph of hiniself coloured and placed on the opposite side. This locket, open and showing both portraits, she had fixed on to a small stand, and, in ordinary circumstances, it always stood on one side of her dressing-table. The stand was there; the locket was gone.

He went down stairs again. The afternoon was drawing on. A servant came to ask him at what hour he wished to dine ; he bade her wait till her mistress came home, and consult her. Then he went out.

It was a beautiful, quiet afternoon, with a warm light from the west shining over the now yellowing trees of the squares and gardens. He walked down towards Notting Hill Gate Station, endeavouring to convince himself that he was not perturbed, and yet looking somewhat anxiously at the cabs that passed. People were now coming out from their business in the city, by train, and omnibus, and hansom ; and they seemed to be hurrying home in very good spirits, as if they were sure of the welcome awaiting them there. Now and again you would see a meeting-some demure young person, who had been furtively watching the railway-station, suddenly showing a brightness in her face, as she went forward to shake hands with some new arrival, and then tripping briskly away with him, her hand on his arm. There were men carrying home fish in small bags, or baskets of fruit-presents to their wives, doubtless, from town. Occasionally an open carriage would go by, containing one grave and elderly gentleman and a group of small girls--probably his daughters, who had gone into the city to accompany their papa homeward. Why did these scenes and incidents, cheerful in themselves, seem to him to be somehow saddening, as he walked vaguely on ? He knew, at least, that there was little

« AnteriorContinuar »