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The autumn was now at its most delightful point. The forest displayed all that variety of tints, from pale green to the brightest gold, which renders this the most picturesque of all the seasons. There is something in the softened gleams of the sun, and the commencing decay of vegetation, peculiarly suited to a pensive turn of disposition. It added to the disease of Ellen's heart; and it was dangerous to the violent sensibility of Longford. I saw that he was now more thoughtful than usual, and loved to wander alone in the woods more than ever. He talked less; and his sentiments betrayed less fire and energy. He sighed more; and his spirit of adventure seemed softened.
But it is become necessary to close this letter, and continue my story in another.
No. XXXVII. The same Story continued.
"La Virginella, come la rosa,
TO THE RUMINATOR.
I AM not sure that Longford was a poet; but I strongly suspect that he was. He often communicated to me small poetical pieces, which, though he would not own them, I have little doubt were written by himself. They were more remarkable for a certain natural wildness of sentiment and fancy than for correctness. The introduction of those moral touches, which, springing from the fulness
of a simple and unsophisticated heart raise instantaneous sympathy, gave most of them very attractive charms.
Though Longford was at this time more than commonly affected by tenderness and anxiety, I do not think he was equally unhappy as I had seen him. His melancholy was softer and more composed. The books he borrowed of me were of a different cast, and he was more contented with his cottage, and his humble station. "I have seen the four parts of the world," said he, " and been in the most lively and bustling scenes; but I am most content with my present humble station!" "Are you, indeed," I answered, "satisfied with this obscure seclusion?"." It is the whim," he replied," of a mind tired of show and restless action; and that prefers solitary quiet to anxious ambition and great
I am a single man; and live in a moderate sized retreat with all the conveniences of a competent fortune. My lodge stands on a most romantic knoll of the forest; encircled by a mixture of deep foliage, and opening glades. A little lawn spreads before my windows; and through one of the vistas dimly peeps a branch of the blue sea. As the rapid decline of the year brought longer evenings, and more uncertain days, I had the happiness of Longford's company more frequently by my fire-side, and found him more continual occupation in my library. I had a tolerable collection of black-letter books; and more particularly a copy of Lord Berners's Froissart. This was his favourite volume, over which he hung day after day, completely absorbed, and forgetful of
all around him. His next favourite was Philip De Commines. All the minutia of the court of the Plantagenets from the time of Edward III. to their extinction in Richard III. he seemed to study with enthusiastic attention.
At other times he would sit for hours at the window contemplating with apparent earnestness the golden views around him; or watching the wild deer at a distance, who grazed calmly within his sight, or darted in picturesque forms through the trees. But the coming on of twilight appeared to be his favourite hour as evening drew its shades over the forestscenery, the landscape inspired him with a rapturous kind of melancholy, such as I have never seen exhibited by any other human being. At the close of one of these fits of abstraction, I heard a deep sigh, and saw a tear streaming down his cheek. "Had I never," said he, "been deluded by the false fire of ambition; had I never admitted those grovelling desires of worldly distinction, I might have been happy; my mind might have been pure enough to foster these raptures without reproach or alloy ! Alas! it is far otherwise now. I have been hurried into pursuits Here he paused, as if he recollected himself, and after two or three efforts dropped the conversation. My curiosity was inflamed! but delicacy restrained me from urging hi further.
I will confess that, as his story was obscure, these accidental hints did not leave me at entire ease. But there was something altogether so ingenuous in his manner, and so pure in his sentiments, that I could not finally withhold my confidence from him.
Yet there were moments when it was impossible to prevent the intrusion of an idea, that I might perhaps be cherishing a man stained with some great crime, who had fled from justice, and whose conscience sometimes goaded him into these involuntary exclamations. Then I said to myself, "he is afraid of nobody; and his opinions are too upright and bold, and his countenance too full of sensibility and virtue for such base suspicions;" and I loved him the more for the injury I had done him.
But whatever uneasiness occasionally arose from the remarks I made at my own house, I found cause for much more at many little occurrences at the house of my friend MMy friend was fatally blind to the thousand nameless looks and tones of voice between Longford and his daughter. It is true they never appeared to engage in regular conversation; nor were their addresses to each other as direct or as frequent even as to the rest of the company. This very circumstance, which set the caution of my friend asleep, rendered the matter in my judg
ment more serious.
Ellen M was then eighteen, with a beautiful person, and most intelligent and thoughtful countenance. She had always been remarkable for a grave turn, and great softness of disposition. Her love for reading had been quietly cultivated, and was much more ardent than any of her family were aware of. She was silent almost to a fault; and her diffidence entirely concealed the delightful powers of her mind. I had often suspected that beneath those pensive looks, and that unbroken reserve, there were treasures of no ordinary kind. I drew
these inferences from the wonderful varieties of expression in her face; from the fixed attention with which I observed her listen to rational and interesting conversation, and from certain silent and unassuming acts of sweetness to those whom she had an opportunity of obliging. But two of her more talkative sisters, who were yet good girls, had hitherto run away with all the credit from her.
Her cheeks had yet been adorned with a most beautiful colour; I observed that she now grew pale, and still more thoughtful than usual. Her voice, which had always been plaintive, became even tremulously low; and the tears were often rising in her eyes. She had often a book in her hand; but I saw that her thoughts were generally wandering, and that she was inattentive to the page before her. Whenever I came to the house, I had not been long arrived before Ellen entered the room; but if Longford was not with me, she soon retired; and I saw evident disappointment in her looks.
I discovered equal impatience in Longford when she was absent, and many little contrivances in the direction of his walks, of which perhaps he almost disguised the source from himself, did not escape my notice. I do not think they ever met each other by themselves; for Ellen was too delicate and fearful; she did not appear to have even hinted her attachment to Longford: but
She "let concealment, like a worm i'the bud,
A little incident however took place soon afterwards, which seemed to give a more explicit turn to