« 上一頁繼續 »
BOOK VI. CHAP. I.
Ar an early hour of the first day that our unfortunate spent in his prison, a portmanteau, containing clothes, and the like, was sent to him from his College, and along with this, a letter addressed to him in the handwriting of his father. Reginald, perhaps the very bitterest portion of whose reflections turned upon the Vicar, could not bring himself to open it. "What right have I," he said to himself, "to receive language which now he could not address to me? It was not to me this letter was written. The touch of this bloody hand shall not pollute it."-He was restrained by some secret feeling from destroying it, but he buried it at the bottom of his portman
teau; and if at times, in turning over his linen, his chanced to rest upon it, it never did so without shrinking.
He little suspected what this letter actually contained; had he done so, his behaviour might perhaps have been different. But, at all events, if there was nothing there that could have tended to administer comfort to his bosom, neither, in the present situation of his thoughts, was there, or perhaps could there have been, anything capable of much aggravating their gloom.
In a word, the Vicar's letter contained an account of the death of Miss Dalton of Grypherwast. The lady had been rapidly declining in her health ever since the period of her accession to the estate of her family, and she had at last sunk under an attack of nervous fever. The Vicar mentioned in his letter, that he was just preparing to set off for Lannwell, in order to be present at his relation's funeral.
It may be easily believed that this was one of the most cheerless journeys that good man ever had the fortune to undertake. From everything that he had heard of the course of Miss Dalton's
life since her father's decease, he could have no sort of doubt that she must, long ere now, have executed a will in favour of her brother. If he could have nourished a single dream of the possibility of this being otherwise, that must have been effectually extinguished by the manner in which Sir Charles Catline himself announced to him the event which had now taken place, and requested his presence at Grypherwast on the day appointed for the funeral. But, painful as the circumstances were, Mr Dalton never dreamed of not complying with that cold and formal request. He knew and felt what was due to his family-to the memory of a long line of ancestors-and to the kindness of his late benevolent kinsman, whose only child was about to partake his recent grave. This child, too-he had once loved Barbara Dalton. She had loved him too, and loved him long. She had drooped and pined because her love was unhappy. It was he, it was his juvenile love, and his juvenile rashness, that had cast a shade, never to be dispelled, over the whole after-surface of her earthly existence. What wonder that in his breast there was scanty room now, when he thought of
her, for any emotions but those of gentlest compassion and regret, mingled, it may be, with some few lingering stirrings of self-reproach. If there were haughtier and harsher feelings that blended themselves with the reflections even of this humbly-minded, and pure, and single-hearted man, it was not towards the memory of Barbara Dalton that these flung their blacker shadows. Whatever these might be, they pointed not to the dead, but to the living-not to the feeble spirit that had been worked upon, but to the craft which had worked. In truth, however, such thoughts as these, even thus directed, were but uncongenial guests in a bosom such as his-a bosom wherein
"Revenge and all ferocious thoughts were dead,—”
where, unless in a few less-guarded moments, it was indeed a hard thing for vice itself to stimulate any severer feeling than that of pity-where anger scarcely flamed ere it was extinguished in sorrow -where even contempt chastened itself into compassion. But besides all this, Mr Dalton still owed a duty to the living. Mrs Elizabeth was still at Grypherwast, and he foresaw distinctly that