« PreviousContinue »
to be dying, and talked with rapture of the approaching hour which should free her from her earthly sufferings. Louisa loved her mother tenderly, and appeared absorbed in grief at witnessing the failing strength of her only parent.
“ Dallas called daily at the cottage, and in the sick room, amid sorrow and religion, a love for Louisa grew up in his heart-a love far stronger than the light feeling, falsely so called, which is born in joy and gaiety, and which seldom can stand the test of tears and woe. It is true that he saw nothing in Louisa's manner to encourage the hope of a return to his affection; but under her circumstances he could not look for this, and he was content to pray with her openly and love her secretly.
" At length Mrs. Brown recovered, to the astonishment of every one, and then Dallas began to evince a tenderness of manner towards Louisa, which he now hoped would be approved by her. He still continued to call daily, and the old Lady, who had conceived quite an affection for him, did not for a moment suspect the real cause of his assiduity. George soon perceived that Louisa's coldness of manner towards him, instead of diminishing, increased with every interview, till at last she was invariably absent from the room when he called at the cottage. He was of an impetuous character, and could not brook suspense; he therefore went to Mrs. Brown's one morning at an earlier hour than usual, hoping to surprise Louisa, nor was he disappointed. He found her alone, her mother not having yet come from her room ; and fearful of her escaping him, he told her of his love and hopes with almost incoherent rapidity. Louisa's countenance betrayed considerable emotion during his confession, and tears ran down her cheeks. For some time she was silent, but at length she subdued her excited feelings, and calmly, though without her former coolness, told Dallas how much gratified she felt by the exalted opinion he had expressed of her, and that, in return, she would be candid with him in explaining her position.
She was a married woman, she told him, though separated from her husband, and that husband is – alas ! Teresa, I tremble at the thought of your feelings at the announcementthat worthless husband is Sir Edward St. John, also the husband of the best and loveliest of women.”
“And now, Teresa, you know the worst, and let not this knowledge affect you too powerfully. I can enter into your feelings, I can conceive the sufferings of your wounded delicacy, and above all, I can understand your grief on your innocent child's account. But you also are innocent, Teresa ; as pure as your sweet infant in thought and deed, and let this consideration comfort your heart—you are now free, Teresa — free from a distressing cause, it is true: but I conjure you to use that freedom by seeking a home with my kind mother, who will receive you with open arms, and cherish you as a daughter.
“ And dare I at this juncture speak of my deep devotion, the transport with which I
should hail a hope, however distant, of becoming a protector to you, and a father and guardian to your sweet child ? Forgive me, dearest Teresa, I feel that there is much to blame in this letter, much that ought not to have been said at such a period, but make allowance for my long represt feelings, and extend your indulgence to me.
“My mother shall go to you whenever you feel equal to see her. I shall still prosecute my former intention of making a tour, and shall await with intense anxiety accounts of your recovery from the effects of this great and unexpected shock. My mother will write to me constantly--farewell Teresa. “Yours truly and devotedly,
HERBERT SEDLEY." When Sedley had finished and sealed this letter, he despatched it by a trusty messenger, and then returning to his study, anxiously conjectured the effect its contents might have on Teresa's mind. As to his own hopes of happiness, they were much fainter than he had allowed to appear in his letter. He knew and adored the refined delicacy, even to fastidiousness, of Teresa's mode of thinking, and he dared not flatter himself that, even when the first paroxysms of grief should be past, she would consent to contract new engagements during the life time of St. John.
Sedley was exacting, almost, on the subject of female delicacy, and he felt that he could scarcely wish Teresa to act in another manner from what he foresaw would be her line of conduct. It is true that bright hopes had at first arisen in his breast, and that he had allowed them to appear in his letter, but those hopes were short-lived, and had expired ere he sealed his despatch. But Sedley did not despair of joy, even in this world, and something whispered to his heart that happiness was yet in store for him.
Teresa had been far from well for some days past, and fever was in her veins. The shock she had experienced in the morning from Jessy's strange appearance, together with the appalling catastrophe communicated to her by Sedley, and