Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

92

or admit me to the most ordinary privileges of friendship? Why will you for ever remind me of the shortness of our acquaintance ? The shortness of our acquaintance is that a crime? You are always throwing it in my teeth, as if I could help it. It is my misfortune, not my fault, that I have not known you the last twelve years. I am sure, living as we do here, one may get to know as much of a person in a month, as one would in twenty London seasons at balls and parties.'

Well, we are very good friends; at least I hope so.'

“Oh, excellent, excellent friends certainly.”

“You speak as if you intended to be sarcastic, but I don't the least know what you mean.'

“Oh yes, you do. You're not so slow as you pretend.

You know very well what I mean. But you are such a wonderful actress I would defy anybody to know what you mean."

By this time the two had reached the

(6

house. Lady Eda went up stairs: More to the drawing-room.

He was not a step farther than before. In fact, he seemed never more unlikely to declare his sentiments to the object of his love than at the present moment. Whenever he had the best opportunity, and was on the point of speaking, something in the manner of Lady Eda froze him out of it, and shut his mouth. He had several times made up his mind to speak out, and had even prepared himself with set speeches for the occasion. While thus engaged during an absence from her, his love would amount to desperation. He could at such moments have declared his devotion in the most impassioned terms. He accused himself of weakness, cowardice, and irresolution, for losing so many chances. Should he never have the courage to tell her how he loved her ? How did other men behave ? If he had not as much courage as others, he deserved not to win her. It was useless to resolve and think of what to say; when it came to the point, he could not speak. But was it altogether his fault ? Suppose Lady Eda did not love him? What-if he should be mistaken in her manner? Mr. Gregory had warned him, and Mr. Gregory was a shrewd old man.

Then he summed up all the pointed words he had at different times spoken to her; and with the accuracy of a lover's memory recalled her answers, the accent in which they were made, and the looks that accompanied them. The remembrance of some of these things in no removed his perplexity. Although, to be sure, if he did propose at once, it was hardly possible she could be unprepared, for he had frequently spoken in a way that left no room for mistake. These particular instances he fondly dwelt upon. The intense inspirations that had accompanied the moment of their utterance, made his heart throb to anticipate in thought the hour of possession,

measure

when his whole soul would yield itself to the expression of a love that was maddening to think of now.

Yet-with all he had felt at the time he was saying them—he might have felt a thousand times as strongly, and still might his words have been without meaning to Lady Eda.

A lover seldom, in addressing himself to his mistress, seeks to convey his sentiment through the medium of words. He finds them too feeble for his purpose. He scorns epithets, and dreads more than anything the possible suspicion of insincerity which hyperboles might give ground for. By a common instinct, looks, manner, the softened tones of voice, the pressure of the hand, are used as the only interpreters of the heart's tenderest emotions. To the lover these mean everything. To the being for whom that everything is meant, what do they signify? Often nothing ; often they are misinterpreted; often they are unnoticed.

The words which Pierce had not been able to speak without trembling, because of the deep meaning they were intended to convey, might have been spoken to the most uninteresting young lady in any ball-room, by the most insipid coxcomb, who had learnt a few phrases of the sort from the last novel he had been reading, and who rehearsed them to every partner he danced with. Such conversations as the following, Pierce could remember word for word.

“If I dared to make a personal remark, Lady Eda,” said he one evening after dinner, “I should say that powder and patches would become you. They always set off small features to advantage.”

Indeed,” said Lady Eda, pouting a little at the intimation that her features were small, as though small features had been a defect rather than a beauty.

Yes, indeed,” replied Pierce, smiling at the pretty look of mild indignation ; " but

[graphic]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »