Chapter 16

It happened one day about noon, going to my boat, I was exceedingly surprised with the print of a man’s naked foot on the shore, which was very plain to be seen on the sand.

Robinson Crusoe.

With the blended feelings of interest and jealousy which were engendered by Miss Vernon’s singular situation, my observations of her looks and actions became acutely sharpened, and that to a degree, which, notwithstanding my efforts to conceal it, could escape her penetration. The sense that she was observed, or, more properly speaking, that she was watched by my looks, seemed to give Diana a mixture of embarrassment, pain, and pettishness. At times it seemed that she sought an opportunity of resenting a conduct which she could not but feel as offensive, considering the frankness with which she had mentioned the difficulties that surrounded her. At other times she seemed prepared to expostulate upon the subject. But either her courage failed, or some other sentiment impeded her seeking an eclaircissement. Her displeasure evaporated in repartee, and her expostulations died on her lips. We stood in a singular relation to each other, spending, and by mutual choice, much of our time in close society with each other, yet disguising our mutual sentiments, and jealous of, or offended by, each other’s actions. There was betwixt us intimacy without confidence; on one side love without hope or purpose, and curiosity without any rational or justifiable motive; and on the other embarrassment and doubt, occasionally mingled with displeasure. Yet I believe that this agitation of the passions, such is the nature of the human bosom, as it continued by a thousand irritating and interesting, though petty circumstances, to render Miss Vernon and me the constant objects of each other’s thoughts, tended, upon the whole, to increase the attachment with which we were naturally disposed to regard each other. But although my vanity early discovered that my presence at Osbaldistone Hall had given Diana some additional reason for disliking the cloister, I could by no means confide in an affection which seemed completely subordinate to the mysteries of her singular situation. Miss Vernon was of a character far too formed and determined, to permit her love for me to overpower either her sense of duty or of prudence, and she gave me a proof of this in a conversation which we had together about this period.

We were sitting together in the library. Miss Vernon, in turning over a copy of the Orlando Furioso, which belonged to me, shook a piece of written paper from between the leaves. I hastened to lift it, but she prevented me.

“It is verse,” she said, on glancing at the paper; and then unfolding it, but as if to wait my answer before proceeding—“May I take the liberty?—nay, nay, if you blush and stammer, I must do violence to your modesty, and suppose that permission is granted.”

“It is not worthy your perusal—a scrap of a translation—My dear Miss Vernon, it would be too severe a trial, that you, who understand the original so well, should sit in judgment.”

“Mine honest friend,” replied Diana, “do not, if you will be guided by my advice, bait your hook with too much humility; for, ten to one, it will not catch a single compliment. You know I belong to the unpopular family of Tell-truths, and would not flatter Apollo for his lyre.”

She proceeded to read the first stanza, which was nearly to the following purpose:—

“Ladies, and knights, and arms, and love’s fair flame,
    Deeds of emprize and courtesy, I sing;
What time the Moors from sultry Africk came,
    Led on by Agramant, their youthful king—
He whom revenge and hasty ire did bring
    O’er the broad wave, in France to waste and war;
Such ills from old Trojano’s death did spring,
    Which to avenge he came from realms afar,
And menaced Christian Charles, the Roman Emperor.
“Of dauntless Roland, too, my strain shall sound,
    In import never known in prose or rhyme,
How He, the chief, of judgment deem’d profound,
    For luckless love was crazed upon a time—”

“There is a great deal of it,” said she, glancing along the paper, and interrupting the sweetest sounds which mortal ears can drink in,—those of a youthful poet’s verses, namely, read by the lips which are dearest to them.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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