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on the extreme presumption of Agnes Dormer in contemplating an alliance with 'an Irby!' Poor, sensitive, shrinking Agnes ! did they think she needed this? A less stern rebuke would have struck her low. It was not trial- it was not endurance in any shape that Agnes feared; but it was so dreadful to have this delicate topic roughly handled and discussed; to hear them speak of it as a worldly matter; to hear Lady Irby and Helen reviled, even though they had failed to her in womanly consideration. Mr Walsingham, too—as old people are wont to do--spoke of their love as a boy and girl's fancy. Fancy! Agnes knew it was the passion of their lives!
Sir Felix was a violent man, little heeding what became of his youngest son, save as he might aggrandise his family by success in life through means of a wealthy alliance or otherwise. He accused the Walsinghams of wishing to ensnare Reginald; while they, as much enraged as it was possible for kindly, peaceable folks like them to be, at the insult offered to their heart's idol, recriminated accordingly. Agnes, in silent agony, meekly folded her hands on her bosom, entreating them to forbear. memory of these painful things would pass away,' she said — Reginald was going abroad, and all would be forgotten.' Did she really hope that all would be forgotten? Reginald was now a forbidden guest at Maud Chapel Farm, but Agnes never doubted for an instant his unswerving fidelity and truth: to doubt would have been profanation.
Could she have heard all that passed, however, between Helen Irby and her brother-so deeply as she was imbued with trusting faith in those she loved—the circumstances of Agnes Dormer's future life might perchance have worn a different aspect.
The time approached for Reginald's departure ; but Agnes had avoided meeting him, though he had repeatedly written, earnestly petitioning for an interview. He had written those pleading, eloquent letters which are burnt in on the heart for ever, and require the possession of no memorial to authenticate. Agnes had wept over them, placed them in her bosom, but left them unanswered. She was quite alone ; she had no one to confide in; for aged grandparents, however kind and indulgent they may be, are not the friends whom a young, shrinking girl can speak to of the heart's trials. They had prohibited all intercourse with Reginald ; and Agnes bowed her head in submission, nor would she tempt him to disobey his father. But, alas ! these pleading, tender letters, which always so mysteriously found their way to her hand !—they shook her resolution sorely; for she loved him with a love passing words. He urged her by every argument lovers use to elope with him—to become his wife at all hazards ere he left the country: he prayed and entreated with wild and burning eloquence, and poor Agnes often trembled for her determination. At length he spoke of their immediate separation-his despair-his miseryand finally besought a farewell interview. Would not Agnes have been less than woman had she refused this last request, so touchingly and mournfully made? She did not. It was well that she had not sought Maud Chapel ruins for the purpose of saying' farewell' to Reginald Irby, trusting in her own strength. Had she done so, our narrative might probably have ended here : no further self-denial to recount. But she had gone forth to conquer, clothed in that armour which is proof against all attacks.
It was indeed a hard and a fearful struggle ; for if his written words had shaken her to the soul, what must his spoken ones have done, poured forth with all the energy of passion and despair ? It was indeed a bitter struggle, and long and sorely she wept on his beloved breast—took but one kiss, and tore herself away.'
Agnes was a young, loving, gentle creature, and Reginald respected her firmness and noble resolves. There was, besides, a halo of purity and innocence surrounding her which prevented him, while in her immediate presence, from giving way to those extreme transports—that abandonment of passion—which had been witnessed by Helen with astonishment and dismay. He dared not speak thus to the fair girl whom he loved so passionately, for, as has been said, there was a halo of purity surrounding her which formed an effectual safeguard. She told him that he was dearer to her heart than words could tell; she bade him be true to her, and trust in God for the future, when opposition to their union might be withdrawn, if God saw it best for them to come together. This appeared tame speaking to the ardent Reginald, and he turned fiercely away, muttering : “You do not know what it is to love, Agnes !' She placed her gentle hand on his arm and her beautiful head on his bosom, whispered farewell,' and he stood in Maud Chapel ruins alone, the echo of St Edwins' bells swelling on the breeze—a sweet and mournful dirge over blighted hopes.
After Reginald's departure from Irby Lodge to join the diplomatic mission abroad, the feelings of Lady Irby and Helen underwent a revulsion towards Agnes, who they instinctively felt had met with injustice at their hands. It was not the violent opposition of Sir Felix, or the natural indignation of her grandparents, which had so sorely bruised the tender but heroic spirit of Agnes Dormer, but it was the unkindness of Helen, the friend to whom she had clung with a respect almost amounting to veneration. But when Helen Irby made overtures of reconciliation, candidly avowing her fault, and earnestly suing forgiveness, then Agnes only remembered she was Reginald's sister. Though the scar could by no means be entirely effaced (for Agnes never forgot, though, as a Christian, she freely forgave), yet it was not in her humble and enduring nature to cast aside the extended hand of affection. Once more she trod the old halls of Irby: it was at the call of his—the absent beloved's—mother and sister; and it seemed to be tacitly agreed by them all that their intercourse should be on the same footing as formerly. Reginald's name was casually mentioned with that of the rest of the family, and Helen remarked that they had heard of his safe arrival at the embassage. Alas! how very frail, how very slight, are the gossamer threads which support hope, and to which it clings with such undying tenacity! Sometimes poor Agnes fancied she read sympathy and confidence in Helen's dark eyes when Reginald's future progress was canvassed by the anxious mother; then again there was a sudden proud turn of the haughty head, or a disdainful flashing glance of the eye, which seemed to infer, What is our Reginald to you?' which shook her belief in Helen's friendship. Helen herself firmly believed that absence was the very best thing for her brother; that variety (with men at least) always healed such sorrow, for that the male sex were fickle, capricious creatures. So fair Helen loved to talk.
She often threw out such hints in the presence of Agnes; but the heart knoweth its own bitterness, and a stranger intermeddleth not with its joy;' and so Agnes Dormer garnered up her joys and sorrows, and kept silence. Helen Irby was a woman of the world, and she acted, thought, and spoke accordingly: she did not comprehend the inward life of such a being as her friend. Her quietness, cheerful submission, and apparent indifference completely deceived Helen as to the real state of her affections. So long as Reginald continued true, so long could Agnes endure that frightful blank of existence which follows crushed hopes and forbidden love; she existed on memory and faith (women can do this); she was more blessed in treasuring his dear memory, though for ever separated, than in any joys this world could bestow. Helen came to the sage conclusion that, after all, it had been a mere boy-and-girl affair-something to be ashamed of hereafter, and forgotten now.' Helen told her mother so, insisted so to herself; but there was a little, a very little corner in her woman's heart, which whispered another tale in a low, melodious voice, sad and sweet as the dying notes of the lonely swan floating down to die.
There was so much of pain and uncertainty in her intercourse with Lady Irby and Helen, that Agnes felt as if change of scene would be a welcome relief; and when the tidings arrived at Maud Chapel Farm of Captain Dormer's return from a long voyage, summoning Mr and Mrs Walsingham and his daughter to the distant port where he had come to anchor, they were all three glad of the anticipated journey. Even the old couple commenced preparations with alacrity, averse as they usually were to quit their pleasant home; but they could not altogether become reconciled to Agnes passing over so forgivingly "the impertinences of those Irbys.' When Agnes had last parted with her father she was little more than a child, but she remembered his boisterous demonstrations of affectior, and blunt, honest ways with a slight sensation of inward shrinking, for which she cordially upbraided herself. On the arrival of the travellers at the port of F-they found Captain Dormer busily employed in establishing himself in a commodious house, situated the
heart of the bustling town, which he preferred to all others in the universe. It had been his prayer by day and dream by night to obtain possession of this identical mansion, furnishing it according to his own taste, and with Agnes for his housekeeper and companion, to sit down in peace for the remainder of his days! And to the utter dismay and surprise of Mr and Mrs Walsingham, no less than of Agnes, he acquainted them with his intention of abandoning the sea, and enjoying a pipe on shore, pointing out to their observation several capacious leathern arm-chairs, intended for the luxurious ease of himself and those brother mariners who like him frequented the port, and would drop in for sociable chat in all weathers. And what could Mr or Mrs Walsingham advance against the claims of a father? What could they urge to prevent Captain Dormer indulging his own tastes in his own way? A crowded and dirty seaport town was not indeed a home for the delicate and elegant Agnes; but then it
was congenial and pleasing to her father, and he had spent a life of toil and danger, always looking forward to reap this reward. He had crowded within the spacious limits of this home every invention of modern luxury that money could procure: there were ludicrous and incongruous assort
ments to be sure ; and everything was as fine as an unlimited order and tasteless upholder's hands could make it. But there was evidence of profuse expenditure, and Captain Dormer was thoroughly satisfied.
He had thought in his rough way so much of his daughter's comfort and amusements, books and musical instruments abounding, that Agnes felt deeply grateful and affected by these tokens of parental love, though not a hint was breathed by Captain Dormer of the good Walsinghams permanently remaining with their beloved child. It was clear that the time had come when the dictatorial and fiery though kind-hearted sailor considered he had full right to his sweet daughter's exclusive society without any encumbrances whatever. Perhaps there was a little tinge of jealousy mingled with Captain Dormer's gratitude towards these venerable guardians of Agnes's helpless infancy; for as he contemplated her matured and delicate loveliness, all a father's fond pride swelled his heart, and he beheld with evident uneasiness the affectionate attentions which she was wont to bestow on Mr and Mrs Walsingham.
With a good deal of pompous display he ushered them into the various apartments of the commodious habitation, which, without consulting any one's inclinations save his own, Captain Doriner had fixed on for his final resting-place on earth. Truly it was but a dismal prospect for his daughter -her sole society to consist of rough seafaring men; for could she hope to find in their wives and daughters another Helen Irby?
Agnes thought of Reginald—what he would say to this arrangementhow his tastes would amalgamate with her father's? Yet there was a sunshine of hope and exultation mingled with her anxiety to which she had hitherto been a stranger; it stole over her spirit with soothing influence as she reviewed her new circumstances. Captain Dormer vaunted of his immense wealth; his last voyage had been profitable beyond his most sanguine expectations; and still he kept his affairs so completely in his own hands, and beneath his own sway and control, that the passion of his life was amply gratified—the dangerous passion of adding store to store, thousands to thousands. Agnes knew she was to inherit all this—she was her father's heiress ; for he repeatedly told her so, with many incomprehensible but significant nods and becks, meant to be infinitely sagacious. Yet there was a mystery, a something inexplicable, which was kept back whenever Captain Dormer touched on his affairs or her brilliant fortunes ; and this mystery concerning the future puzzled Agnes, and, despite her reason, chafed and annoyed her. She, too, now began to value money, not indeed for its own worthless sake, but because Reginald was poor.
Sir Felix and Lady Irby had considered her a portionless girl, or comparatively so, but perhaps they might yet be induced to balance her prospect of wealth against their own pride of birth. Such things had often been—she had read and heard of them ; besides, Helen always openly had expressed a wish that Reginald should marry for aggrandisement; and what aggrandisement would not wealth purchase ? As to Captain Dormer not approving of Reginald Irby—Reginald the noble, the gifted, the chivalrous, and beloved—such a contingency as that did not enter into her calculations; for her father fondly doted on her, and would he not also extend his affection towards her chosen one-him on whom her hopes of earthly happiness were fixed ? Agnes had entreated Mr and Mrs Walsingham to preserve silence to Captain Dormer respecting the past unhappy events; to let things take their own course; for she was a coward on the subject of her love for Reginald, and she could not endure the thought of her father handling it in his matter-of-fact way. No; Captain Dormer must see Reginald Irby, and judge for himself; and from the young man's gifted tongue must first proceed the declaration of their mutual attachment. Helen Irby had requested Agnes to keep up a correspondence, and it was only through Helen that Agnes could hear of her lover, for she had forbidden him to address her clandestinely, and otherwise fate was unpropitious. There was a sadness and apprehension in the demeanour of Mr and Mrs Walsingham, which to a casual observer would have given rise to the conclusion that their approaching separation from the beloved girl whom they had so tenderly reared weighed heavily on their spirits; and though this was undoubtedly the case, yet there was even more than met the eye in their subdued and anxious manner. They well knew that their son-in-law, Captain Dormer, was a stern disciplinarian (a tyrant, some affirmed, but that might be a strong way of speaking); they had forebodings and fears for their gentle nursling, whose cheek paled at a rough-spoken word, and whose eyes were so like her dead mother's, upturned and pleading as she clung to the hardy mariner-a dove in the arms of a bear! The captain was evidently restless and fidgety to get quit of them; he could not disguise his impatience; and dismissed with many valuable gifts, and bedewed with the tears of their grand-daughter, the worthy old couple turned their faces homewards, only comforted and sustained by Captain Dormer's parting promise, that he would bring Agnes to Maud Chapel Farm very soon.
Helen's letters to Agnes were short, and contained unimportant and uninteresting matter, save once or twice latterly, when such expressions occurred as ' Reginald writes to us in extremely high spirits," " Reginald is very happy,' ' Reginald is delighted with Lord Land his family;' and the following sentence, which poor Agnes, like a true woman, brooded over again and again: ‘Lady Isabel L- is the reigning toast, and Reginald extols her charms enthusiastically!' This said Lady Isabel was the ambassador's eldest daughter, Reginald's cousin, and Reginald was in proximity with her daily. They were stars in a gay and brilliant court; and Agnes drew a picture contrasted with her own past and present position, until the airy castles she had built on the foundation of her father's wealth crumbled into dust. And yet-and yet,' she murmured, ' he did not lightly win my love; it was my all-it is my life!'
After the departure of Mr and Mrs Walsingham, the restlessness of the captain continued to inerease: he was always noting the way of the wind, and muttering to himself with impatient gestures, looking at Agnes with sly smiles, chucking her under the chin, and going in and out a dozen times a day of one particular chamber, whose arrangement he had superintended with the utmost care; and which, from certain indubitable signs, was intended for the occupation of a male guest. At length the captain found it impossible any longer wholly to keep his own counsel; and sundry hints which he dropped made his daughter more uncomfortable than she . liked to confess: He's a fine fellow, my girl; I hope you'll like him,