It was drawing toward evening when Emily Copland, in high spirits, and richly and becomingly dressed, ran lightly to the door of her cousin's chamber. She knocked, but no answer was returned. She knocked again, but still without any reply. Then opening the door, she entered the room, and beheld her cousin Mary seated at a small work-table, at which it was her wont to read. There she lay motionlessher small head leaned upon her graceful arms, over which flowed all negligently the dark luxuriant hair. An open letter was on
p.107the table before her, and two or three rich ornaments lay unheeded on the floor beside her, as if they had fallen from her hand. There was in her attitude such a passionate abandonment of grief, that she seemed the breathing image of despair. Spite of all her levity, the young lady was touched at the sight. She approached her gently, and laying her hand upon her shoulder, she stooped down and kissed her.
Mary, dear Mary, what grieves you? she said. Tell me. It's I, dear-your cousin Emily. There's a good girlwhat has happened to vex you?
Mary raised her head, and looked in her cousin's face. Her eye was wildshe was pale as marble, and in her beautiful face was an expression so utterly woeful and piteous, that Emily was almost moved.
Oh! I have lost himfor ever and ever I have lost him, said she, despairingly. Oh! cousin, dear cousin, he is gone from me. God pity meI am forsaken.
Nay, cousin, do not say sobe cheerfulit cannot bethere, there; and Emily Copland kissed the poor girl's pale lips.
Forsakenforsaken, continued Mary, for she heard not and heeded not the voice of vain consolation. He has thrown me off for everfor everquitequite. God pity me, where shall I look for hope?
Mary, dear Mary, said her cousin, you are illdo not give way thus. Be assured it is not as you think. You must be in error.
In error! Oh! that I could think so. God knows how gladly I would give my poor life to think so. No, noit is realall real. Oh! cousin, he has forsaken me.
I cannot believe itI can not, said Emily Copland. Such folly can hardly exist. I will not believe it. What reason have you for thinking him changed?
Readoh, read it, cousin, replied the girl, motioning toward the letter, which lay open on the table read it once, and you will not bid me hope any more. Oh! cousin, dear cousin, there is no more joy for me in this world, turn where I will, do what I mayI am heart-broken.
Emily Copland glanced through the latter, shook her head, and dropped the note again where it had been lying.
You know, cousin Emily, how I loved him, continued Mary, while for the first time the tears flowed fast you know that day after day, among all that happened to grieve me, my heart found rest in his lovein the hope and trust that he would never grow cold; andandoh! God pity menow where is it all? You seeyou know his love is gone from mefor evermoregone from me. Oh! how I used to count the days and hours till the time would come round when I could
p.108see him and speak to himbut this has all gone. Hereafter all days are to be the samemorning or evening, summer time or winterno change of seasons or of hours can bring to me any more hope or gladness, but ever the samesorrow and desolate lonelinessfor oh! cousin, I am very desolate, and hopeless, and heart-broken.
The poor girl threw her arms round her cousin's neck, and sobbed and wept, and wept and sobbed again, as though her heart would break. Long and bitterly she wept upon her cousin's neck in silence, unbroken, except by her sobs. After a time, however, Emily Copland exclaimed,
Well, Mary, to say the truth, I never much liked the matter; and as he is a fool, and an ungrateful fool to boot, I am not sorry that he has shown his character as he has done. Believe me, painful as such discoveries are when made thus early, they are incomparably more agonizing when made too late. A littlea very littletime will enable you quite to forget him.
No, cousin, replied Mary no, I never will forget him. He is changed indeedgreatly changed from what he wasbitterly has he disappointed and betrayed me; but I cannot forget him. There shall indeed never more pass word or look between us; he shall be to me as one that is dead, whom I shall hear and see no more; but the memory of what he wasthe memory of what I vainly thoughthim shall remain with me while my poor heart beats.
Well, Mary, time will show, said Emily.
Yes, time will showtime will show, replied she, mournfully; be the time long or short, it will show.
You must forget himyou will forget him; a few weeks, and you will thank your stars you found him out so soon.
Ah, cousin, replied Mary, you do not know how all my thoughts, and hopes, and recollectionseverything I liked to remember, and to look forward to; you cannot know how all that was happy in my lifebut what boots it, I will keep my troth with him; I will love no other, and wed with no other; and while this sorrowful life remains I will neverneverforget him.
I can only say, that were the case my own, rejoined Emily, I would show the fellow how lightly I held him and his worthless heart, and marry within a month; but every one has her own way of doing things. Remember it is nearly time to start for the theatre; the coach will be at the door in half-an-hour. Surely you will come; it would seem so very strange were you to change your mind thus suddenly; and you may be very sure that, by some means or other, the impudent fellowabout whom, I cannot see why, you care so muchwould hear of all your grieving, and pining, and
p.109love-sickness. Pah! I'd rather die than please the hollow, worthless creature by letting him think he had caused me a moment's uneasiness; and then, above all, Sir Richard would be so outrageously angrywhy, you would never hear the end of it. Come, come, be a good girl. After all, it is only holding up your head, and looking pretty, which you can't help, for an hour or two. You must come to silence gossip abroad, as well as for the sake of peace at homeyou must come.
I would fain stay here at home, said the poor girl; heart and head are sick: but if you think my father would be angry with me for staying at home, I will go. It is indeed, as you say, a small matter to me where I pass an hour or two; all times, all placescrowds or solitudesare henceforward indifferent to me. What care I where they bring me! Cousin Emily, I will do whatever you think best.
The poor girl spoke with a voice and look of such utter wretchedness, that even her light-hearted, worldly, selfish cousin was touched with pity.
Come, then; I will assist you, said she, kissing the pale cheek of the heart-stricken girl. Come, Mary, cheer up, you must call up your good looks it; would never do to be seen thus. And so talking on, she assisted her to dress.
Gaily and richly arrayed in the gorgeous and by no means unbecoming style of the times, and sparkling with brilliant jewels, poor Mary Ashwoodea changed and stricken creature, scarcely conscious of what was going on around hertook her place in her father's carriage, and was borne rapidly toward the theatre.
The party consisted of the two young ladies, who were respectively under the protection of Lord Aspenly, who sate beside Mary Ashwoode, happily too much pleased with his own voluble frivolity to require anything more from her than her appearing to hear it, and young Ashwoode, who chatted gaily with his pretty cousin.
What has become of my venerable true-love, Major O'Leary? inquired Miss Copland.
He will follow on horseback, replied Ashwoode. I beheld him, as I passed downstairs, admiring himself before the looking-glass in his new regimentals. He designs tremendous havoc to-night. His coat is a perfect phenomenonthe investment of a year's pay at leastwith more gold about it than I thought the country could afford, and scarlet enough to make a whole wardrobe for the lady of Babylona coat which, if left to itself, would storm the hearts of nine girls out of ten, and which, even with an officer in it, will enthral half the sex.
And here comes the coat itself, exclaimed the young lady,
p.110as the major rode up to the coach-window I'm half in love with it myself already.
Ladies, your devoted slave: gentlemen, your most obedient, said the major, raising his three-cornered hat. I hope to see you before half-an-hour, under circumstances more favourable to conversation. Miss Copland, depend upon it, with your permission, I'll pay my homage to you before half-an-hour, the more especially as I have a scandalous story to tell you. Meanwhile, I wish you all a safe journey, and a pleasant one. So saying, the major rode on, at a brisk pace, to the Cock and Anchor, there intending to put up his horse, and to exchange a few words with young O'Connor.
In the meantime the huge old coach, which contained the rest of the party, jolted and rumbled on, until at length, amid the confusion and clatter of crowded vehicles, restive horses, and vociferous coachmen, with all their accompaniments of swearing and whipping, the clank of scrambling hoofs, the bumping and hustling of carriages, and the desperate rushing of chairmen, bolting this way or that, with their living loads of foppery and fashionthe coach-door was thrown open at the box-entrance of the Theatre Royal, in Smock Alley.