網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

e

1 Wom

happy—you do not do him justice ; and my mother, you know she will consent.”

“ She will not—I am sure she will not ; but, dear Mr. Cunnington, why distress ourselves, life is too short to pass it in repining and regret ; have you never thought there is another tie, so pure, so hallowed, that I can give you ; will you refuse my friendship ?”

“My friend—I have no faith in woman's friendship.”

“Oh, for shame! do not say so; friendship, methinks, is such a hallowed tie, a bond without any formal compact; soul to soul, mind to mind, all feelings bearing sympathy; will you not let me be your friend?”

Alice spoke with much ardour ; her face wore an expression of mingled enthusiasm and purity; she placed her small hand in young Cunnington’s ; she threw back the

clustering ringlets from her snowy brow; could her admirer refuse her friendship ?

He did not refuse that gentle friendship; he returned the pressure of the proffered hand, and his own countenance, splendid when animated, was searchingly handsome as he strove to catch the soft rays of that gentle soul, which was pouring the effusion of its thoughts into his mind.

Augustus, do you know," continued Alice, “ that I believe friendship to be a more refined passion than love, and has more obligations to render it binding, for it has no tie, no vow to record its existence ; its offer is voluntary; it is the tale of kindred spirits communing together.”

“It is in vain you talk,” said Augustus, smiling bitterly; “I accept your friendship —what man could refuse it? but it is necessity, not choice, which seals the compact. Friendship is a grim shadow of love; when

[graphic]

man's soul is plunged in woe, when the world frowns upon him, it is woman's love only which can lull his troubled soul, and you refuse my love."

“But why imagine your soul will be plunged into troubles ? if it be your lot, -oh! Augustus, doubt not my friendship-never shall your heart sink in the fathomless depth of sorrow; never, if my voice can soothe you, if my soul can impart comfort to yours. If you are gay, so will I be ; if you are sad, I will sympathize. Through all the vicissitudes of life, whether your path be amongst spangled flowers or amidst a barren soil, still you will know where to turn, where surely to cast your anchor.”

"Is it possible that a woman who can inspire such beautiful ideas should be cold to the feeling of love? Remember, Alice, that the world acknowledges no friendship between man and woman. The world is

too full of envy and wrong to be the friend of a young and beautiful woman. Alice ! Alice ! were I generous, for your sake I would refuse your offer."

“And why so ?”

“Because I shall listen to your words with ineffable pleasure ; I shall watch your expression with most zealous care ; treasure each syllable of approval, and shrink from an angry gaze; I shall detect in each person you look at a favoured rival. Alice, this friendship, so well undestood by you, will be to me as a cankered thought, preying upon the very vitals of my heart. Again, I say, I beg it on my knees, if my mother consents to our union, then be my bride.”

“But she will not consent,” cried a steady, almost a stern voice; so great was the contrast of its calm to Augustus's passionate words. “She will not consent ;” and Lady Cunnington stood before the lovers.

[graphic]

“Do not look angrily at me,” said Alice, approaching Lady Cunnington, and winding her arms round her waist, whilst tears flowed down her pale cheeks.

“I am not angry, poor child ;” and the affectionate kiss which followed the words recompensed Alice for all she had done. “Rise, Augustus ; to bend the knee to a poor frail piece of humanity, although shrouded in a beautiful frame, is, I always think, a derogatory position for a man. Rise, Augustus, and let your mother speak, as she hopes she will ever have strength to do, in candour and sincerity. You fancy you love Alice Lemington ; you are loving her beauty, and that is all; you have never given a single moment's thought to marriage and its binding duties. The bright fire of youth lights not for ever the eye; the same gloss is not for ever on the flowing tresses ; the glow fades from the cheek, and each

« 上一頁繼續 »