Page images
PDF
EPUB

233

CATHOLICISM.

It was one morning towards the close of our visit at Newstead, that, having risen at an earlier hour than usual, I took my book for a walk in the cloisters, until our party should be summoned to breakfast; and hardly had I entered upon the subject of my meditations, when my eye suddenly caught the figure of Eloise coming, as I thought, out of the chapel, and gliding past the openings of the opposite cloister, towards that which lay between us. I accordingly directed my course that

way, and as she put her foot upon the first of the winding steps that lead to a secret door communicating with the gallery above, I stopped her. Though a little confused at the suddenness of the meeting, she quickly recovered herself, and enquired into the cause of my early appearance, for which I could give as unsatisfactory an account as she did of hers. Changing the subject to matters of the previous evening's conversation, we walked together for some time, until, at length, inspired by the retirement of the place, and still more by the confidence she reposed in me, and the partial kindness with which, as I thought, she had received my attentions, I disclosed the secret of my breast, and declared the warm feelings of love and admiration, which I had entertained for her from the moment of our first meeting ; and now, as the intimate friend of her brother, - and I might add also of her departed mother, - I urged my suit with all the power I possessed, but, at the same time, with all the delicacy, which, under our peculiar circumstances, I felt to be due to a woman of refined sense and feelings. The tears came immediately to her eyes, and pressing my hand with a warm but manifest agitation,

“ Believe me,” she said, “ believe me, I sensibly regard and feel all you say; I respect your character, I admire your manly feelings; and persuaded as I am that your conduct is regulated by the strictest sense of honour, I look upon you as a person on whom any woman might consider herself happy in placing her confidence and affection : but there is something which at this

never

moment I am not at liberty to mention, and on which I trust

you
will

press

me for an explanation, that renders it impossible for me to accept your proposals. Be assured, however, that, as a kind friend, indeed, (for why should I conceal it ?) as more than a friend I shall ever esteem you; and it is with the most unfeigned sincerity I declare that your interest and future happiness are so near my heart, that mine, though we may not be more nearly connected, will depend upon them. I repeat the request I have already made, that you will never urge me to disclose the motives which now compel me to do this violence to my feelings; they are such as cannot be overcome, and as I cannot explain ; perhaps, at some future time you may know, and then I am certain you will approve, them.”

There was so much earnestness in what she said that it threw a damp over my heart, such as I could neither overcome nor conceal. My countenance showed plainly what I felt; — but I could not speak.

Seeing my distress, she once again warmly pressed my hand and darting upwards through the dark secret stair, was instantly out of sight. I had often in my life suffered from disappointment, but never did I feel

it with such exquisite keenness as upon this occasion. I had still, however, the satisfaction of knowing that the affection I so unfeignedly felt, was not unreturned, yet this only served afterwards to embitter sorrow by a stronger feeling for all which I seemed doomed to lose through circumstances of which I was not permitted to ask for an explanation. The mystery connected with an affair of so much importance to my future happiness, threw the most harassing perplexity over the whole, and filled my mind with reflections of a most painful and distressing nature. In the midst of these, a loud laugh and the approach of footsteps roused me, and as I was not in a mood either to join in any

merriment or to be forced into social converse, I slipped into the chapel, the door of which stood ajar. This circumstance strengthened my suspicion that Eloise had left it, as I before supposed, the moment before I stopped her retreat. Here I waited until the voices of those who had interrupted me were heard no longer; and in this interval it occurred to my recollection that, on one or two former occasions, as I was retiring to my chamber at night, I had seen a figure from the windows of the gallery opposite, dart

to

along the same cloister, the dim light of the lamp only showing faintly and indistinctly through the shafts and mullions of the arches what would have been plainly seen in a stronger light not so interrupted. Imagination had before been busy as to these appearances, and I had more than once conjectured that it was the image of Eloise which I had seen, and yet more frequently, for other reasons,

I had come a contrary conclusion; and as our party were generally full of merriment, I had sometimes thought that some one might be amusing himself by an attempt to create in the minds of the female visiters the notion that incorporeal beings haunted the sacred spot, and on this account I did not communicate the vision to any of them. After some little time passed in these reflections, I was about to quit the place of my retreat, when, upon endeavouring to close the door after me, I found that something prevented it from shutting, and looking upon the ground I espied a string of beads which oftentimes I had observed Eloise to wear, and which, too, I knew that

my friend Richards had purchased of a peasant girl in the house where we had been billeted when in Spain. I picked them up, and was now

« PreviousContinue »