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Chapter 4

Among our most assiduous visitors was a young man of rank, well
informed, and agreable in his person. After we had spent a few weeks
in London his attentions towards me became marked and his visits more
frequent. I was too much taken up by my own occupations and feelings
to attend much to this, and then indeed I hardly noticed more than the
bare surface of events as they passed around me; but I now remember
that my father was restless and uneasy whenever this person visited
us, and when we talked together watched us with the greatest apparent
anxiety although he himself maintained a profound silence. At length
these obnoxious visits suddenly ceased altogether, but from that
moment I must date the change of my father: a change that to remember
makes me shudder and then filled me with the deepest grief. There were
no degrees which could break my fall from happiness to misery; it was
as the stroke of lightning--sudden and entire.[23] Alas! I now met
frowns where before I had been welcomed only with smiles: he, my
beloved father, shunned me, and either treated me with harshness or a
more heart-breaking coldness. We took no more sweet counsel together;
and when I tried to win him again to me, his anger, and the terrible
emotions that he exhibited drove me to silence and tears.

And this was sudden. The day before we had passed alone together in
the country; I remember we had talked of future travels that we should
undertake together--. There was an eager delight in our tones and
gestures that could only spring from deep & mutual love joined to the
most unrestrained confidence[;] and now the next day, the next hour, I
saw his brows contracted, his eyes fixed in sullen fierceness on the
ground, and his voice so gentle and so dear made me shiver when he
addressed me. Often, when my wandering fancy brought by its various
images now consolation and now aggravation of grief to my heart,[24] I
have compared myself to Proserpine who was gaily and heedlessly
gathering flowers on the sweet plain of Enna, when the King of Hell
snatched her away to the abodes of death and misery. Alas! I who so
lately knew of nought but the joy of life; who had slept only to
dream sweet dreams and awoke to incomparable happiness, I now passed
my days and nights in tears. I who sought and had found joy in the
love-breathing countenance of my father now when I dared fix on him a
supplicating look it was ever answered by an angry frown. I dared not
speak to him; and when sometimes I had worked up courage to meet him
and to ask an explanation one glance at his face where a chaos of
mighty passion seemed for ever struggling made me tremble and shrink
to silence. I was dashed down from heaven to earth as a silly sparrow
when pounced on by a hawk; my eyes swam and my head was bewildered by
the sudden apparition of grief. Day after day[25] passed marked only
by my complaints and my tears; often I lifted my soul in vain prayer
for a softer descent from joy to woe, or if that were denied me that I
might be allowed to die, and fade for ever under the cruel blast that
swept over me,

------ for what should I do here,
Like a decaying flower, still withering
Under his bitter words, whose kindly heat
Should give my poor heart life?[C]

Sometimes I said to myself, this is an enchantment, and I must strive
against it. My father is blinded by some malignant vision which I must
remove. And then, like David, I would try music to win the evil spirit
from him; and once while singing I lifted my eyes towards him and saw
his fixed on me and filled with tears; all his muscles seemed relaxed
to softness. I sprung towards him with a cry of joy and would have
thrown myself into his arms, but he pushed me roughly from him and
left me. And even from this slight incident he contracted fresh gloom
and an additional severity of manner.

There are many incidents that I might relate which shewed the diseased
yet incomprehensible state of his mind; but I will mention one that
occurred while we were in company with several other persons. On this
occasion I chanced to say that I thought Myrrha the best of Alfieri's
tragedies; as I said this I chanced to cast my eyes on my father and
met his: for the first time the expression of those beloved eyes
displeased me, and I saw with affright that his whole frame shook with
some concealed emotion that in spite of his efforts half conquered
him: as this tempest faded from his soul he became melancholy and
silent. Every day some new scene occured and displayed in him a mind
working as [it] were with an unknown horror that now he could master
but which at times threatened to overturn his reason, and to throw the
bright seat of his intelligence into a perpetual chaos.

I will not dwell longer than I need on these disastrous
circumstances.[26] I might waste days in describing how anxiously I
watched every change of fleeting circumstance that promised better
days, and with what despair I found that each effort of mine
aggravated his seeming madness. To tell all my grief I might as well
attempt to count the tears that have fallen from these eyes, or every
sign that has torn my heart. I will be brief for there is in all this
a horror that will not bear many words, and I sink almost a second
time to death while I recall these sad scenes to my memory. Oh, my
beloved father! Indeed you made me miserable beyond all words, but how
truly did I even then forgive you, and how entirely did you possess my
whole heart while I endeavoured, as a rainbow gleams upon a
cataract,[D][27] to soften thy tremendous sorrows.

Thus did this change come about. I seem perhaps to have dashed too
suddenly into the description, but thus suddenly did it happen. In one
sentence I have passed from the idea of unspeakable happiness to that
of unspeakable grief but they were thus closely linked together. We
had remained five months in London three of joy and two of sorrow. My
father and I were now seldom alone or if we were he generally kept
silence with his eyes fixed on the ground--the dark full orbs in which
before I delighted to read all sweet and gentle feeling shadowed from
my sight by their lids and the long lashes that fringed them. When we
were in company he affected gaiety but I wept to hear his hollow
laugh--begun by an empty smile and often ending in a bitter sneer such
as never before this fatal period had wrinkled his lips. When others
were there he often spoke to me and his eyes perpetually followed my
slightest motion. His accents whenever he addressed me were cold and
constrained although his voice would tremble when he perceived that my
full heart choked the answer to words proffered with a mien yet new to
me.

But days of peaceful melancholy were of rare occurence[:] they were
often broken in upon by gusts of passion that drove me as a weak boat
on a stormy sea to seek a cove for shelter; but the winds blew from my
native harbour and I was cast far, far out untill shattered I perished
when the tempest had passed and the sea was apparently calm. I do not
know that I can describe his emotions: sometimes he only betrayed them
by a word or gesture, and then retired to his chamber and I crept as
near it as I dared and listened with fear to every sound, yet still
more dreading a sudden silence--dreading I knew not what, but ever
full of fear.

It was after one tremendous day when his eyes had glared on me like
lightning--and his voice sharp and broken seemed unable to express the
extent of his emotion that in the evening when I was alone he joined
me with a calm countenance, and not noticing my tears which I quickly
dried when he approached, told me that in three days that [_sic_] he
intended to remove with me to his estate in Yorkshire, and bidding me
prepare left me hastily as if afraid of being questioned.

This determination on his part indeed surprised me. This estate was
that which he had inhabited in childhood and near which my mother
resided while a girl; this was the scene of their youthful loves and
where they had lived after their marriage; in happier days my father
had often told me that however he might appear weaned from his widow
sorrow, and free from bitter recollections elsewhere, yet he would
never dare visit the spot where he had enjoyed her society or trust
himself to see the rooms that so many years ago they had inhabited
together; her favourite walks and the gardens the flowers of which she
had delighted to cultivate. And now while he suffered intense misery
he determined to plunge into still more intense, and strove for
greater emotion than that which already tore him. I was perplexed, and
most anxious to know what this portended; ah, what could it po[r]tend
but ruin!

I saw little of my father during this interval, but he appeared calmer
although not less unhappy than before. On the morning of the third day
he informed me that he had determined to go to Yorkshire first alone,
and that I should follow him in a fortnight unless I heard any thing
from him in the mean time that should contradict this command. He
departed the same day, and four days afterwards I received a letter
from his steward telling me in his name to join him with as little
delay as possible. After travelling day and night I arrived with an
anxious, yet a hoping heart, for why should he send for me if it were
only to avoid me and to treat me with the apparent aversion that he
had in London. I met him at the distance of thirty miles from our
mansion. His demeanour was sad; for a moment he appeared glad to see
me and then he checked himself as if unwilling to betray his feelings.
He was silent during our ride, yet his manner was kinder than before
and I thought I beheld a softness in his eyes that gave me hope.

When we arrived, after a little rest, he led me over the house and
pointed out to me the rooms which my mother had inhabited. Although
more than sixteen years had passed since her death nothing had been
changed; her work box, her writing desk were still there and in her
room a book lay open on the table as she had left it. My father
pointed out these circumstances with a serious and unaltered mien,
only now and then fixing his deep and liquid eyes upon me; there was
something strange and awful in his look that overcame me, and in spite
of myself I wept, nor did he attempt to console me, but I saw his lips
quiver and the muscles of his countenance seemed convulsed.

We walked together in the gardens and in the evening when I would have
retired he asked me to stay and read to him; and first said, "When I
was last here your mother read Dante to me; you shall go on where she
left off." And then in a moment he said, "No, that must not be; you
must not read Dante. Do you choose a book." I took up Spencer and read
the descent of Sir Guyon to the halls of Avarice;[28] while he
listened his eyes fixed on me in sad profound silence.

I heard the next morning from the steward that upon his arrival he had
been in a most terrible state of mind: he had passed the first night
in the garden lying on the damp grass; he did not sleep but groaned
perpetually. "Alas!" said the old man[,] who gave me this account with
tears in his eyes, "it wrings my heart to see my lord in this state:
when I heard that he was coming down here with you, my young lady, I
thought we should have the happy days over again that we enjoyed
during the short life of my lady your mother--But that would be too
much happiness for us poor creatures born to tears--and that was why
she was taken from us so soon; [s]he was too beautiful and good for
us[.] It was a happy day as we all thought it when my lord married
her: I knew her when she was a child and many a good turn has she done
for me in my old lady's time--You are like her although there is more
of my lord in you--But has he been thus ever since his return? All my
joy turned to sorrow when I first beheld him with that melancholy
countenance enter these doors as it were the day after my lady's
funeral--He seemed to recover himself a little after he had bidden me
write to you--but still it is a woful thing to see him so
unhappy."[29] These were the feelings of an old, faithful servant:
what must be those of an affectionate daughter. Alas! Even then my
heart was almost broken.

We spent two months together in this house. My father spent the
greater part of his time with me; he accompanied me in my walks,
listened to my music, and leant over me as I read or painted. When he
conversed with me his manner was cold and constrained; his eyes only
seemed to speak, and as he turned their black, full lustre towards me
they expressed a living sadness. There was somthing in those dark deep
orbs so liquid, and intense that even in happiness I could never meet
their full gaze that mine did not overflow. Yet it was with sweet
tears; now there was a depth of affliction in their gentle appeal that
rent my heart with sympathy; they seemed to desire peace for me; for
himself a heart patient to suffer; a craving for sympathy, yet a
perpetual self denial. It was only when he was absent from me that his
passion subdued him,--that he clinched his hands--knit his brows--and
with haggard looks called for death to his despair, raving wildly,
untill exhausted he sank down nor was revived untill I joined him.

While we were in London there was a harshness and sulleness in his
sorrow which had now entirely disappeared. There I shrunk and fled
from him, now I only wished to be with him that I might soothe him to
peace. When he was silent I tried to divert him, and when sometimes I
stole to him during the energy of his passion I wept but did not
desire to leave him. Yet he suffered fearful agony; during the day he
was more calm, but at night when I could not be with him he seemed to
give the reins to his grief: he often passed his nights either on the
floor in my mother's room, or in the garden; and when in the morning
he saw me view with poignant grief his exhausted frame, and his person
languid almost to death with watching he wept; but during all this
time he spoke no word by which I might guess the cause of his
unhappiness[.] If I ventured to enquire he would either leave me or
press his finger on his lips, and with a deprecating look that I could
not resist, turn away. If I wept he would gaze on me in silence but he
was no longer harsh and although he repulsed every caress yet it was
with gentleness.

He seemed to cherish a mild grief and softer emotions although sad as
a relief from despair--He contrived in many ways to nurse his
melancholy as an antidote to wilder passion[.] He perpetually
frequented the walks that had been favourites with him when he and my
mother wandered together talking of love and happiness; he collected
every relick that remained of her and always sat opposite her picture
which hung in the room fixing on it a look of sad despair--and all
this was done in a mystic and awful silence. If his passion subdued
him he locked himself in his room; and at night when he wandered
restlessly about the house, it was when every other creature slept.

It may easily be imagined that I wearied myself with conjecture to
guess the cause of his sorrow. The solution that seemed to me the most
probable was that during his residence in London he had fallen in love
with some unworthy person, and that his passion mastered him although
he would not gratify it: he loved me too well to sacrifise me to this
inclination, and that he had now visited this house that by reviving
the memory of my mother whom he so passionately adored he might weaken
the present impression. This was possible; but it was a mere
conjecture unfounded on any fact. Could there be guilt in it? He was
too upright and noble to _do_ aught that his conscience would not
approve; I did not yet know of the crime there may be in involuntary
feeling and therefore ascribed his tumultuous starts and gloomy looks
wholly to the struggles of his mind and not any as they were partly
due to the worst fiend of all--Remorse.[30]

But still do I flatter myself that this would have passed away. His
paroxisms of passion were terrific but his soul bore him through them
triumphant, though almost destroyed by victory; but the day would
finally have been won had not I, foolish and presumtuous wretch!
hurried him on untill there was no recall, no hope. My rashness gave
the victory in this dreadful fight to the enemy who triumphed over him
as he lay fallen and vanquished. I! I alone was the cause of his
defeat and justly did I pay the fearful penalty. I said to myself, let
him receive sympathy and these struggles will cease. Let him confide
his misery to another heart and half the weight of it will be
lightened. I will win him to me; he shall not deny his grief to me and
when I know his secret then will I pour a balm into his soul and again
I shall enjoy the ravishing delight of beholding his smile, and of
again seeing his eyes beam if not with pleasure at least with gentle
love and thankfulness. This will I do, I said. Half I accomplished; I
gained his secret and we were both lost for ever.


[C] Fletcher's comedy of the Captain.

[D] Lord Byron

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