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BISAC: Literary Collections / Ancient, Classical & Medieval
H. Oh! is it you? I had something to shew you—I have got a picture here. Do you know any one it’s like?
S. No, Sir.
H. Don’t you think it like yourself?
S. No: it’s much handsomer than I can pretend to be.
H. That’s because you don’t see yourself with the same eyes that others do. I don’t think it handsomer, and the expression is hardly so fine as yours sometimes is.
S. Now you flatter me. Besides, the complexion is fair, and mine is dark.
H. Thine is pale and beautiful, my love, not dark! But if your colour were a little heightened, and you wore the same dress, and your hair were let down over your shoulders, as it is here, it might be taken for a picture of you. Look here, only see how like it is. The forehead is like, with that little obstinate protrusion in the middle; the eyebrows are like, and the eyes are just like yours, when you look up and say—”No—never!”
S. What then, do I always say—”No—never!” when I look up?
H. I don’t know about that—I never heard you say so but once; but that was once too often for my peace. It was when you told me, “you could never be mine.” Ah! if you are never to be mine, I shall not long be myself. I cannot go on as I am. My faculties leave me: I think of nothing, I have no feeling about any thing but thee: thy sweet image has taken possession of me, haunts me, and will drive me to distraction. Yet I could almost wish to go mad for thy sake: for then I might fancy that I had thy love in return, which I cannot live without!
S. Do not, I beg, talk in that manner, but tell me what this is a picture of.
H. I hardly know; but it is a very small and delicate copy (painted in oil on a gold ground) of some fine old Italian picture, Guido’s or Raphael’s, but I think Raphael’s. Some say it is a Madonna; others call it a Magdalen, and say you may distinguish the tear upon the cheek, though no tear is there. But it seems to me more like Raphael’s St. Cecilia, “with looks commercing with the skies,” than anything else.—See, Sarah, how beautiful it is! Ah! dear girl, these are the ideas I have cherished in my heart, and in my brain; and I never found any thing to realise them on earth till I met with thee, my love! While thou didst seem sensible of my kindness, I was but too happy: but now thou hast cruelly cast me off.
S. You have no reason to say so: you are the same to me as ever.
H. That is, nothing. You are to me everything, and I am nothing to you. Is it not too true?
H. Then kiss me, my sweetest. Oh! could you see your face now—your mouth full of suppressed sensibility, your downcast eyes, the soft blush upon that cheek, you would not say the picture is not like because it is too handsome, or because you want complexion. Thou art heavenly-fair, my love—like her from whom the picture was taken—the idol of the painter’s heart, as thou art of mine! Shall I make a drawing of it, altering the dress a little, to shew you how like it is?
S. As you please.—
H. But I am afraid I tire you with this prosing description of the French character and abuse of the English? You know there is but one subject on which I should ever wish to talk, if you would let me.
S. I must say, you don’t seem to have a very high opinion of this country.
H. Yes, it is the place that gave you birth.
S. Do you like the French women better than the English?
H. No: though they have finer eyes, talk better, and are better made. But they none of them look like you. I like the Italian women I have seen, much better than the French: they have darker eyes, darker hair, and the accents of their native tongue are much richer and more melodious. But I will give you a better account of them when I come back from Italy, if you would like to hear it.
S. I should much. It is for that I have sometimes had a wish for travelling abroad, to understand something of the manners and characters of different people.
H. My sweet girl! I will give you the best account I can—unless you would rather go and judge for yourself.
S. I cannot.
H. Yes, you shall go with me, and you shall go WITH HONOUR—you know what I mean.
S. You know it is not in your power to take me so.
H. But it soon may: and if you would consent to bear me company, I would swear never to think of an Italian woman while I am abroad, nor of an English one after I return home. Thou art to me more than thy whole sex.
S. I require no such sacrifices.
H. Is that what you thought I meant by SACRIFICES last night? But sacrifices are no sacrifices when they are repaid a thousand fold.
S. I have no way of doing it.
H. You have not the will.—
S. I must go now.
H. Stay, and hear me a little. I shall soon be where I can no more hear thy voice, far distant from her I love, to see what change of climate and bright skies will do for a sad heart. I shall perhaps see thee no more, but I shall still think of thee the same as ever—I shall say to myself, “Where is she now?—what is she doing?” But I shall hardly wish you to think of me, unless you could do so more favourably than I am afraid you will. Ah! dearest creature, I shall be “far distant from you,” as you once said of another, but you will not think of me as of him, “with the sincerest affection.” The smallest share of thy tenderness would make me blest; but couldst thou ever love me as thou didst him, I should feel like a God! My face would change to a different expression: my whole form would undergo alteration. I was getting well, I was growing young in the sweet proofs of your friendship: you see how I droop and wither under your displeasure! Thou art divine, my love, and canst make me either more or less than mortal. Indeed I am thy creature, thy slave—I only wish to live for your sake—I would gladly die for you—
S. That would give me no pleasure. But indeed you greatly overrate my power.
H. Your power over me is that of sovereign grace and beauty. When I am near thee, nothing can harm me. Thou art an angel of light, shadowing me with thy softness. But when I let go thy hand, I stagger on a precipice: out of thy sight the world is dark to me and comfortless. There is no breathing out of this house: the air of Italy will stifle me. Go with me and lighten it. I can know no pleasure away from thee—
“But I will come again, my love, An’ it were ten thousand mile!”
S. Mrs. E—— has called for the book, Sir.
H. Oh! it is there. Let her wait a minute or two. I see this is a busy-day with you. How beautiful your arms look in those short sleeves!
S. I do not like to wear them.
H. Then that is because you are merciful, and would spare frail mortals who might die with gazing.
S. I have no power to kill.
H. You have, you have—Your charms are irresistible as your will is inexorable. I wish I could see you always thus. But I would have no one else see you so. I am jealous of all eyes but my own. I should almost like you to wear a veil, and to be muffled up from head to foot; but even if you were, and not a glimpse of you could be seen, it would be to no purpose—you would only have to move, and you would be admired as the most graceful creature in the world. You smile—Well, if you were to be won by fine speeches—
S. You could supply them!
H. It is however no laughing matter with me; thy beauty kills me daily, and I shall think of nothing but thy charms, till the last word trembles on my tongue, and that will be thy name, my love—the name of my Infelice! You will live by that name, you rogue, fifty years after you are dead. Don’t you thank me for that?
S. I have no such ambition, Sir. But Mrs. E—— is waiting.
H. She is not in love, like me. You look so handsome to-day, I cannot let you go. You have got a colour.
S. But you say I look best when I am pale.
H. When you are pale, I think so; but when you have a colour, I then think you still more beautiful. It is you that I admire; and whatever you are, I like best. I like you as Miss L——, I should like you still more as Mrs. ——. I once thought you were half inclined to be a prude, and I admired you as a “pensive nun, devout and pure.” I now think you are more than half a coquet, and I like you for your roguery. The truth is, I am in love with you, my angel; and whatever you are, is to me the perfection of thy sex. I care not what thou art, while thou art still thyself. Smile but so, and turn my heart to what shape you please!
S. I am afraid, Sir, Mrs. E—— will think you have forgotten her.
H. I had, my charmer. But go, and make her a sweet apology, all graceful as thou art. One kiss! Ah! ought I not to think myself the happiest of men?
H. Where have you been, my love?
S. I have been down to see my aunt, Sir.
H. And I hope she has been giving you good advice.
S. I did not go to ask her opinion about any thing.
H. And yet you seem anxious and agitated. You appear pale and dejected, as if your refusal of me had touched your own breast with pity. Cruel girl! you look at this moment heavenly-soft, saint-like, or resemble some graceful marble statue, in the moon’s pale ray! Sadness only heightens the elegance of your features. How can I escape from you, when every new occasion, even your cruelty and scorn, brings out some new charm. Nay, your rejection of me, by the way in which you do it, is only a new link added to my chain. Raise those downcast eyes, bend as if an angel stooped, and kiss me. . . . Ah! enchanting little trembler! if such is thy sweetness where thou dost not love, what must thy love have been? I cannot think how any man, having the heart of one, could go and leave it.
S. No one did, that I know of.
H. Yes, you told me yourself he left you (though he liked you, and though he knew—Oh! gracious God! that you loved him) he left you because “the pride of birth would not permit a union.”—For myself, I would leave a throne to ascend to the heaven of thy charms. I live but for thee, here—I only wish to live again to pass all eternity with thee. But even in another world, I suppose you would turn from me to seek him out who scorned you here.
S. If the proud scorn us here, in that place we shall all be equal.
H. Do not look so—do not talk so—unless you would drive me mad. I could worship you at this moment. Can I witness such perfection, and bear to think I have lost you for ever? Oh! let me hope! You see you can mould me as you like. You can lead me by the hand, like a little child; and with you my way would be like a little child’s:—you could strew flowers in my path, and pour new life and hope into me. I should then indeed hail the return of spring with joy, could I indulge the faintest hope—would you but let me try to please you!
S. Nothing can alter my resolution, Sir.
H. Will you go and leave me so?
S. It is late, and my father will be getting impatient at my stopping so long.
H. You know he has nothing to fear for you—it is poor I that am alone in danger. But I wanted to ask about buying you a flageolet. Could I see that which you have? If it is a pretty one, it would hardly be worth while; but if it isn’t, I thought of bespeaking an ivory one for you. Can’t you bring up your own to shew me?
S. Not to-night, Sir.
H. I wish you could.
S. I cannot—but I will in the morning.
H. Whatever you determine, I must submit to. Good night, and bless thee!
[The next morning, S. brought up the tea-kettle as usual; and looking towards the tea-tray, she said, “Oh! I see my sister has forgot the tea-pot.” It was not there, sure enough; and tripping down stairs, she came up in a minute, with the tea-pot in one hand, and the flageolet in the other, balanced so sweetly and gracefully. It would have been awkward to have brought up the flageolet in the tea-tray and she could not have well gone down again on purpose to fetch it. Something, therefore, was to be omitted as an excuse. Exquisite witch! But do I love her the less dearly for it? I cannot.]
Categories: English Literature