“To Aimée, Walking with a Little Child.”

“To Aimée, Singing at her Work.”

“To Aimée, Turning away from me while I told my Love.”

“Aimée’s Confession.”

“Aimée in Despair.”

“The Foreign Land in which my Aimée dwells.”

“The Wedding-Ring.”

“The Wife.”

When he came to this last sonnet, he put down his bundle of papers and began to think. “The wife.” Yes, and a French wife; and a Roman Catholic wife—and a wife who might be said to have been in service! And his father’s hatred of the French, both collectively and individually— collectively, as tumultuous brutal ruffians, who had murdered their king, and committed all kinds of bloody atrocities—individually, as represented by “Boney,” and the various caricatures of “Johnny Crapaud” that had been in full circulation about five- and-twenty years before this time, when the Squire had been young and capable of receiving impressions. As for the form of religion in which Mrs. Osborne Hamley had been brought up, it is enough to say that Catholic emancipation had begun to be talked about by some politicians, and that the sullen roar of the majority of Englishmen, at the bare idea of it, was surging in the distance with ominous threatenings; the very mention of such a measure before the Squire was, as Osborne well knew, like shaking a red flag before a bull.

And then he considered that if Aimée had had the unspeakable, the incomparable, blessing of being born of English parents in the very heart of England—Warwickshire, for instance—and had never heard of priests, or mass, or confession, or the Pope, or Guy Fawkes, but had been born, baptized, and bred in the Church of England, without having ever seen the outside of a dissenting meeting-house, or a papist chapel—even with all these advantages, her having been a (what was the equivalent for “bonne” in English? nursery-governess was a term hardly invented) nursery-maid, with wages paid down once a quarter, liable to be dismissed at a month’s warning, and having her tea and sugar doled out to her, would be a shock to his father’s old ancestral pride that he would hardly ever get over.

“If he saw her!” thought Osborne. “If he could but see her!” But if the Squire were to see Aimée, he would also hear her speak her pretty broken English—precious to her husband, as it was in it that she had confessed brokenly with her English tongue, that she loved him soundly with her French heart—and Squire Hamley piqued himself on being a good hater of the French. “She would make such a loving, sweet, docile little daughter to my father—she would go as near as any one could towards filling up the blank void in this house, if he could but have her; but he won’t; he never would; and he shan’t have the opportunity of scouting her. Yet if I called her ‘Lucy’ in these sonnets; and if they made a great effect—were praised in Blackwood and the Quarterly—and all the world was agog to find out the author; and I told him my secret—I could if I were successful—I think then he would ask who Lucy was, and I could tell him all then. If—how I hate ‘ifs’! ‘If me no ifs.’ My life has been based on ‘whens’; and first they have turned to ‘ifs,’ and then they have vanished away. It was ‘when Osborne gets honours,’ and then ‘if Osborne,’ and then a failure altogether. I said to Aimée, ‘when my mother sees you,’ and now it is ‘if my father saw her,’ with a very faint prospect of its ever coming to pass.” So he let the evening hours flow on and disappear in reveries like these; winding up with a sudden determination to try the fate of his poems with a publisher, with the direct expectation of getting money for them, and an ulterior fancy that, if successful, they might work wonders with his father.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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