My hour of torment was the post-hour. Unfortunately I knew it too well, and tried as vainly as assiduously to cheat myself of that knowledge, dreading the rack of expectation, and the sick collapse of disappointment which daily preceded and followed upon that well-recognized ring.
I suppose animals kept in cages, and so scantily fed as to be always upon the verge of famine, await their food as I awaited a letter. Oh! to speak truth, and drop that tone of a false calm which long to sustain outwears natures endurance, I underwent in those seven weeks bitter fears and pains, strange inward trials, miserable defections of hope, intolerable encroachments of despair. This last came so near me sometimes that her breath went right through me. I used to feel it, like a baleful air or sigh, penetrate deep, and make motion pause at my heart, or proceed only under unspeakable oppression. The letterthe well-beloved letterwould not come; and it was all of sweetness in life I had to look for.
In the very extremity of want I had recourse again and yet again to the little packet in the casethe five letters. How splendid that month seemed whose skies had beheld the rising of these five stars! It was always at night I visited them, and not daring to ask every evening for a candle in the kitchen, I bought a wax taper and matches to light it, and at the study-hour stole up to the dormitory and feasted on my crust from the Barmecides loaf. It did not nourish me. I pined on it, and got as thin as a shadow. Otherwise I was not ill.
Reading there somewhat late one evening, and feeling that the power to read was leaving mefor the letters from incessant perusal were losing all sap and significance, my gold was withering to leaves before my eyes, and I was sorrowing over the disillusionsuddenly a quick tripping foot ran up the stairs. I knew Ginevra Fanshawes step. She had dined in town that afternoon. She was now returned, and would come here to replace her shawl, etc., in the wardrobe.
Yes; in she came, dressed in bright silk, with her shawl falling from her shoulders, and her curls, half- uncurled in the damp of night, drooping careless and heavy upon her neck. I had hardly time to recasket my treasures and lock them up when she was at my side. Her humour seemed none of the best.
It has been a stupid evening. They are stupid people, she began.
Who? Mrs. Cholmondeley? I thought you always found her house charming.
I have not been to Mrs. Cholmondeleys.
Indeed! Have you made new acquaintance?
My uncle De Bassompierre is come.
Your uncle De Bassompierre! Are you not glad? I thought he was a favourite.
You thought wrong. The man is odious. I hate him.
Because he is a foreigner? or for what other reason of equal weight?
He is not a foreigner. The man is English enough, goodness knows, and had an English name till three or four years ago; but his mother was a foreigner, a De Bassompierre, and some of her family are dead, and have left him estates, a title, and this name. He is quite a great man now.
Do you hate him for that reason?
Dont I know what mamma says about him? He is not my own uncle, but married mammas sister. Mamma detests him. She says he killed Aunt Ginevra with unkindness. He looks like a bear. Such a dismal evening! she went on. Ill go no more to his big hôtel. Fancy me walking into a room alone, and a great man fifty years old coming forwards, and after a few minutes conversation actually turning his back upon me, and then abruptly going out of the room. Such odd ways! I dare say his conscience
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