Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 125.djvu/243

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the bright lips even now relaxing into a sadly playful smile, the oval symmetry of chastened face, in soft relief against the complex curves and waves of rebellious hair. To any man who could have won her love, what a pet, what a treasure she might have been, what a pearl beyond all price — or, as she simply said to herself, what a dear, good wife! It was worse than useless to think of that; but, being of a practical turn of mind, she did not see why she should put on her lovely I white satin, and let no one see it.

Therefore, she rung for her maid, who stared, and cried, "Oh, laws, miss! what a booty you do look!" and then, of course, wanted to put in a pin, and to trim a bow here, and to stroke a plait there; "It is waste of time," said Alice. Then she told her to send Mrs. Pipkins up; and the good housekeeper came and kissed her beautiful pet, as she always called her (maintaining the rights of the nursery days), and then began some of the very poor jokes supposed to suit such occasions.

"Pippy," said Alice, that the old endearment might cure the pain of the sudden check, "you must not talk so; I cannot bear it. Now just tell papa, not yet, but when the dinner is going in, give him this message — say with my love that I beg him to excuse me from coming in to dinner, because I have other things to see to. And mind, Pippy, one thing: I have many arrangements to make before I go away; and if my door should be locked to-night, nobody is to disturb me. I can trust you to see to that, I know. And now say 'good-bye' to me, Pippy, dear; I may not see you again, you know. Let me kiss you as I used to do, when I was a dear, good little child, and used to coax for sugar-plums."

As soon as her kind old friend was gone, Alice made fast her door again, and took off her bridal dress, and put on a plain white frock of small value; and then she knelt down at the side of her bed, and said her usual evening prayers. Although she made no pretence to any vehement power of piety, in the depth of heart and mind she nourished love of God, and faith in Him. She believed that He gives us earthly life, to be rendered innocently back to Him, not in cowardly escape from trouble, but when honour and love demand it. In the ignorance common to us all, she prayed.

Then, when all the house was quiet, except for the sound of plates and dishes (greasily going into deep baskets, one on the head of another), Alice Lorraine, having gathered her long hair into a Laconian knot, put her favourite garden hat on, and made the tie firm under her firm chin. She looked round her favourite room once more, and nodded farewell to everything, and went to seek death with a firmer step than a bride's towards a bridegroom.

Attired in pure white she walked through a scene of bridal beauty. Every tree was overcast with crystal lace and jewellery; common bushes and ignominious shrubs stood up like sceptres; weeping branches shone like plumes of ostrich turned to diamond. And on the ground wave after wave of snowdrift, like a stormy tide driven by tempestuous wind, and bound in its cresting wrath by frost.

Although there was now no breath of wind, Alice knew from the glittering whiteness that it must be very cold. She saw her pretty bower like a pillow under bedclothes; and on the clear brown walk she scattered crumbs for the poor old robin as soon as he should get up in the morning. Then for fear of giving way, she gathered up her dress and ran. She had no overwhelming sense of fate, necessity, or Até — the powers that drove fair maids of Greece to offer themselves for others. She simply desired to do her duty, to save the honour of her race, and her pure self from defilement.

The Woeburn was running as well as ever, quite untouched by any frost, and stretched at its length like a great black leech who puts out his head for suction. Gliding through great piles of snow, it looked sable as Cocytus, with long curls of white vapour hovering, where the cold air lay on it. The stars were beginning to sparkle now; and a young moon gazing over Chancton Ring avouched the calm depth of heaven.

Then Alice came forward, commended her soul to God in good Christian manner, and without a fear, or tear, or sigh, committed her body to the Deathbourne.

From Blackwood's Magazine.




According to some people, and especially according to the house-proprietors of Calcutta, who view its attractions