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Chapter 9

IN the mean time what did Perdita?

During the first months of his Protectorate, Raymond and she had been
inseparable; each project was discussed with her, each plan approved by
her. I never beheld any one so perfectly happy as my sweet sister. Her
expressive eyes were two stars whose beams were love; hope and
light-heartedness sat on her cloudless brow. She fed even to tears of joy
on the praise and glory of her Lord; her whole existence was one sacrifice
to him, and if in the humility of her heart she felt self-complacency, it
arose from the reflection that she had won the distinguished hero of the
age, and had for years preserved him, even after time had taken from love
its usual nourishment. Her own feeling was as entire as at its birth. Five
years had failed to destroy the dazzling unreality of passion. Most men
ruthlessly destroy the sacred veil, with which the female heart is wont to
adorn the idol of its affections. Not so Raymond; he was an enchanter,
whose reign was for ever undiminished; a king whose power never was
suspended: follow him through the details of common life, still the same
charm of grace and majesty adorned him; nor could he be despoiled of the
innate deification with which nature had invested him. Perdita grew in
beauty and excellence under his eye; I no longer recognised my reserved
abstracted sister in the fascinating and open-hearted wife of Raymond. The
genius that enlightened her countenance, was now united to an expression of
benevolence, which gave divine perfection to her beauty.

Happiness is in its highest degree the sister of goodness. Suffering and
amiability may exist together, and writers have loved to depict their
conjunction; there is a human and touching harmony in the picture. But
perfect happiness is an attribute of angels; and those who possess it,
appear angelic. Fear has been said to be the parent of religion: even of
that religion is it the generator, which leads its votaries to sacrifice
human victims at its altars; but the religion which springs from happiness
is a lovelier growth; the religion which makes the heart breathe forth
fervent thanksgiving, and causes us to pour out the overflowings of the
soul before the author of our being; that which is the parent of the
imagination and the nurse of poetry; that which bestows benevolent
intelligence on the visible mechanism of the world, and makes earth a
temple with heaven for its cope. Such happiness, goodness, and religion
inhabited the mind of Perdita.

During the five years we had spent together, a knot of happy human beings
at Windsor Castle, her blissful lot had been the frequent theme of my
sister's conversation. From early habit, and natural affection, she
selected me in preference to Adrian or Idris, to be the partner in her
overflowings of delight; perhaps, though apparently much unlike, some
secret point of resemblance, the offspring of consanguinity, induced this
preference. Often at sunset, I have walked with her, in the sober,
enshadowed forest paths, and listened with joyful sympathy. Security gave
dignity to her passion; the certainty of a full return, left her with no
wish unfulfilled. The birth of her daughter, embryo copy of her Raymond,
filled up the measure of her content, and produced a sacred and
indissoluble tie between them. Sometimes she felt proud that he had
preferred her to the hopes of a crown. Sometimes she remembered that she
had suffered keen anguish, when he hesitated in his choice. But this memory
of past discontent only served to enhance her present joy. What had been
hardly won, was now, entirely possessed, doubly dear. She would look at him
at a distance with the same rapture, (O, far more exuberant rapture!) that
one might feel, who after the perils of a tempest, should find himself in
the desired port; she would hasten towards him, to feel more certain in his
arms, the reality of her bliss. This warmth of affection, added to the
depth of her understanding, and the brilliancy of her imagination, made her
beyond words dear to Raymond.

If a feeling of dissatisfaction ever crossed her, it arose from the idea
that he was not perfectly happy. Desire of renown, and presumptuous
ambition, had characterized his youth. The one he had acquired in Greece;
the other he had sacrificed to love. His intellect found sufficient field
for exercise in his domestic circle, whose members, all adorned by
refinement and literature, were many of them, like himself, distinguished
by genius. Yet active life was the genuine soil for his virtues; and he
sometimes suffered tedium from the monotonous succession of events in our
retirement. Pride made him recoil from complaint; and gratitude and
affection to Perdita, generally acted as an opiate to all desire, save that
of meriting her love. We all observed the visitation of these feelings, and
none regretted them so much as Perdita. Her life consecrated to him, was a
slight sacrifice to reward his choice, but was not that sufficient--Did
he need any gratification that she was unable to bestow? This was the only
cloud in the azure of her happiness.

His passage to power had been full of pain to both. He however attained his
wish; he filled the situation for which nature seemed to have moulded him.
His activity was fed in wholesome measure, without either exhaustion or
satiety; his taste and genius found worthy expression in each of the modes
human beings have invented to encage and manifest the spirit of beauty; the
goodness of his heart made him never weary of conducing to the well-being
of his fellow-creatures; his magnificent spirit, and aspirations for the
respect and love of mankind, now received fruition; true, his exaltation
was temporary; perhaps it were better that it should be so. Habit would not
dull his sense of the enjoyment of power; nor struggles, disappointment and
defeat await the end of that which would expire at its maturity. He
determined to extract and condense all of glory, power, and achievement,
which might have resulted from a long reign, into the three years of his
Protectorate.

Raymond was eminently social. All that he now enjoyed would have been
devoid of pleasure to him, had it been unparticipated. But in Perdita he
possessed all that his heart could desire. Her love gave birth to sympathy;
her intelligence made her understand him at a word; her powers of intellect
enabled her to assist and guide him. He felt her worth. During the early
years of their union, the inequality of her temper, and yet unsubdued
self-will which tarnished her character, had been a slight drawback to the
fulness of his sentiment. Now that unchanged serenity, and gentle
compliance were added to her other qualifications, his respect equalled his
love. Years added to the strictness of their union. They did not now guess
at, and totter on the pathway, divining the mode to please, hoping, yet
fearing the continuance of bliss. Five years gave a sober certainty to
their emotions, though it did not rob them of their etherial nature. It had
given them a child; but it had not detracted from the personal attractions
of my sister. Timidity, which in her had almost amounted to awkwardness,
was exchanged for a graceful decision of manner; frankness, instead of
reserve, characterized her physiognomy; and her voice was attuned to
thrilling softness. She was now three and twenty, in the pride of
womanhood, fulfilling the precious duties of wife and mother, possessed of
all her heart had ever coveted. Raymond was ten years older; to his
previous beauty, noble mien, and commanding aspect, he now added gentlest
benevolence, winning tenderness, graceful and unwearied attention to the
wishes of another.

The first secret that had existed between them was the visits of Raymond to
Evadne. He had been struck by the fortitude and beauty of the ill-fated
Greek; and, when her constant tenderness towards him unfolded itself, he
asked with astonishment, by what act of his he had merited this passionate
and unrequited love. She was for a while the sole object of his reveries;
and Perdita became aware that his thoughts and time were bestowed on a
subject unparticipated by her. My sister was by nature destitute of the
common feelings of anxious, petulant jealousy. The treasure which she
possessed in the affections of Raymond, was more necessary to her being,
than the life-blood that animated her veins--more truly than Othello she
might say,

To be once in doubt,
Is--once to be resolved.

On the present occasion she did not suspect any alienation of affection; but
she conjectured that some circumstance connected with his high place, had
occasioned this mystery. She was startled and pained. She began to count
the long days, and months, and years which must elapse, before he would be
restored to a private station, and unreservedly to her. She was not content
that, even for a time, he should practice concealment with her. She often
repined; but her trust in the singleness of his affection was undisturbed;
and, when they were together, unchecked by fear, she opened her heart to
the fullest delight.

Time went on. Raymond, stopping mid-way in his wild career, paused suddenly
to think of consequences. Two results presented themselves in the view he
took of the future. That his intercourse with Evadne should continue a
secret to, or that finally it should be discovered by Perdita. The
destitute condition, and highly wrought feelings of his friend prevented
him from adverting to the possibility of exiling himself from her. In the
first event he had bidden an eternal farewell to open-hearted converse, and
entire sympathy with the companion of his life. The veil must be thicker
than that invented by Turkish jealousy; the wall higher than the
unscaleable tower of Vathek, which should conceal from her the workings of
his heart, and hide from her view the secret of his actions. This idea was
intolerably painful to him. Frankness and social feelings were the essence
of Raymond's nature; without them his qualities became common-place;
without these to spread glory over his intercourse with Perdita, his
vaunted exchange of a throne for her love, was as weak and empty as the
rainbow hues which vanish when the sun is down. But there was no remedy.
Genius, devotion, and courage; the adornments of his mind, and the energies
of his soul, all exerted to their uttermost stretch, could not roll back
one hair's breadth the wheel of time's chariot; that which had been was
written with the adamantine pen of reality, on the everlasting volume of
the past; nor could agony and tears suffice to wash out one iota from the
act fulfilled.

But this was the best side of the question. What, if circumstance should
lead Perdita to suspect, and suspecting to be resolved? The fibres of his
frame became relaxed, and cold dew stood on his forehead, at this idea.
Many men may scoff at his dread; but he read the future; and the peace of
Perdita was too dear to him, her speechless agony too certain, and too
fearful, not to unman him. His course was speedily decided upon. If the
worst befell; if she learnt the truth, he would neither stand her
reproaches, or the anguish of her altered looks. He would forsake her,
England, his friends, the scenes of his youth, the hopes of coming time, he
would seek another country, and in other scenes begin life again. Having
resolved on this, he became calmer. He endeavoured to guide with prudence
the steeds of destiny through the devious road which he had chosen, and
bent all his efforts the better to conceal what he could not alter.

The perfect confidence that subsisted between Perdita and him, rendered
every communication common between them. They opened each other's letters,
even as, until now, the inmost fold of the heart of each was disclosed to
the other. A letter came unawares, Perdita read it. Had it contained
confirmation, she must have been annihilated. As it was, trembling, cold,
and pale, she sought Raymond. He was alone, examining some petitions lately
presented. She entered silently, sat on a sofa opposite to him, and gazed
on him with a look of such despair, that wildest shrieks and dire moans
would have been tame exhibitions of misery, compared to the living
incarnation of the thing itself exhibited by her.

At first he did not take his eyes from the papers; when he raised them, he
was struck by the wretchedness manifest on her altered cheek; for a moment
he forgot his own acts and fears, and asked with consternation--"Dearest
girl, what is the matter; what has happened?"

"Nothing," she replied at first; "and yet not so," she continued, hurrying
on in her speech; "you have secrets, Raymond; where have you been lately,
whom have you seen, what do you conceal from me?--why am I banished from
your confidence? Yet this is not it--I do not intend to entrap you with
questions--one will suffice--am I completely a wretch?"

With trembling hand she gave him the paper, and sat white and motionless
looking at him while he read it. He recognised the hand-writing of Evadne,
and the colour mounted in his cheeks. With lightning-speed he conceived the
contents of the letter; all was now cast on one die; falsehood and artifice
were trifles in comparison with the impending ruin. He would either
entirely dispel Perdita's suspicions, or quit her for ever. "My dear girl,"
he said, "I have been to blame; but you must pardon me. I was in the wrong
to commence a system of concealment; but I did it for the sake of sparing
you pain; and each day has rendered it more difficult for me to alter my
plan. Besides, I was instigated by delicacy towards the unhappy writer of
these few lines."

Perdita gasped: "Well," she cried, "well, go on!"

"That is all--this paper tells all. I am placed in the most difficult
circumstances. I have done my best, though perhaps I have done wrong. My
love for you is inviolate."

Perdita shook her head doubtingly: "It cannot be," she cried, "I know that
it is not. You would deceive me, but I will not be deceived. I have lost
you, myself, my life!"

"Do you not believe me?" said Raymond haughtily.

"To believe you," she exclaimed, "I would give up all, and expire with joy,
so that in death I could feel that you were true--but that cannot be!"

"Perdita," continued Raymond, "you do not see the precipice on which you
stand. You may believe that I did not enter on my present line of conduct
without reluctance and pain. I knew that it was possible that your
suspicions might be excited; but I trusted that my simple word would cause
them to disappear. I built my hope on your confidence. Do you think that I
will be questioned, and my replies disdainfully set aside? Do you think
that I will be suspected, perhaps watched, cross-questioned, and
disbelieved? I am not yet fallen so low; my honour is not yet so tarnished.
You have loved me; I adored you. But all human sentiments come to an end.
Let our affection expire--but let it not be exchanged for distrust and
recrimination. Heretofore we have been friends--lovers--let us not
become enemies, mutual spies. I cannot live the object of suspicion--you
cannot believe me--let us part!"

"Exactly so," cried Perdita, "I knew that it would come to this! Are we not
already parted? Does not a stream, boundless as ocean, deep as vacuum, yawn
between us?"

Raymond rose, his voice was broken, his features convulsed, his manner calm
as the earthquake-cradling atmosphere, he replied: "I am rejoiced that you
take my decision so philosophically. Doubtless you will play the part of
the injured wife to admiration. Sometimes you may be stung with the feeling
that you have wronged me, but the condolence of your relatives, the pity of
the world, the complacency which the consciousness of your own immaculate
innocence will bestow, will be excellent balm;--me you will never see
more!"

Raymond moved towards the door. He forgot that each word he spoke was
false. He personated his assumption of innocence even to self-deception.
Have not actors wept, as they pourtrayed imagined passion? A more intense
feeling of the reality of fiction possessed Raymond. He spoke with pride;
he felt injured. Perdita looked up; she saw his angry glance; his hand was
on the lock of the door. She started up, she threw herself on his neck, she
gasped and sobbed; he took her hand, and leading her to the sofa, sat down
near her. Her head fell on his shoulder, she trembled, alternate changes of
fire and ice ran through her limbs: observing her emotion he spoke with
softened accents:

"The blow is given. I will not part from you in anger;--I owe you too
much. I owe you six years of unalloyed happiness. But they are passed. I
will not live the mark of suspicion, the object of jealousy. I love you too
well. In an eternal separation only can either of us hope for dignity and
propriety of action. We shall not then be degraded from our true
characters. Faith and devotion have hitherto been the essence of our
intercourse;--these lost, let us not cling to the seedless husk of life,
the unkernelled shell. You have your child, your brother, Idris, Adrian"--

"And you," cried Perdita, "the writer of that letter."

Uncontrollable indignation flashed from the eyes of Raymond. He knew that
this accusation at least was false. "Entertain this belief," he cried, "hug
it to your heart--make it a pillow to your head, an opiate for your eyes
--I am content. But, by the God that made me, hell is not more false than
the word you have spoken!"

Perdita was struck by the impassioned seriousness of his asseverations. She
replied with earnestness, "I do not refuse to believe you, Raymond; on the
contrary I promise to put implicit faith in your simple word. Only assure
me that your love and faith towards me have never been violated; and
suspicion, and doubt, and jealousy will at once be dispersed. We shall
continue as we have ever done, one heart, one hope, one life."

"I have already assured you of my fidelity," said Raymond with disdainful
coldness, "triple assertions will avail nothing where one is despised. I
will say no more; for I can add nothing to what I have already said, to
what you before contemptuously set aside. This contention is unworthy of
both of us; and I confess that I am weary of replying to charges at once
unfounded and unkind."

Perdita tried to read his countenance, which he angrily averted. There was
so much of truth and nature in his resentment, that her doubts were
dispelled. Her countenance, which for years had not expressed a feeling
unallied to affection, became again radiant and satisfied. She found it
however no easy task to soften and reconcile Raymond. At first he refused
to stay to hear her. But she would not be put off; secure of his unaltered
love, she was willing to undertake any labour, use any entreaty, to dispel
his anger. She obtained an hearing, he sat in haughty silence, but he
listened. She first assured him of her boundless confidence; of this he
must be conscious, since but for that she would not seek to detain him. She
enumerated their years of happiness; she brought before him past scenes of
intimacy and happiness; she pictured their future life, she mentioned their
child--tears unbidden now filled her eyes. She tried to disperse them,
but they refused to be checked--her utterance was choaked. She had not
wept before. Raymond could not resist these signs of distress: he felt
perhaps somewhat ashamed of the part he acted of the injured man, he who
was in truth the injurer. And then he devoutly loved Perdita; the bend of
her head, her glossy ringlets, the turn of her form were to him subjects of
deep tenderness and admiration; as she spoke, her melodious tones entered
his soul; he soon softened towards her, comforting and caressing her, and
endeavouring to cheat himself into the belief that he had never wronged
her.

Raymond staggered forth from this scene, as a man might do, who had been
just put to the torture, and looked forward to when it would be again
inflicted. He had sinned against his own honour, by affirming, swearing to,
a direct falsehood; true this he had palmed on a woman, and it might
therefore be deemed less base--by others--not by him;--for whom had
he deceived?--his own trusting, devoted, affectionate Perdita, whose
generous belief galled him doubly, when he remembered the parade of
innocence with which it had been exacted. The mind of Raymond was not so
rough cast, nor had been so rudely handled, in the circumstance of life, as
to make him proof to these considerations--on the contrary, he was all
nerve; his spirit was as a pure fire, which fades and shrinks from every
contagion of foul atmosphere: but now the contagion had become incorporated
with its essence, and the change was the more painful. Truth and falsehood,
love and hate lost their eternal boundaries, heaven rushed in to mingle
with hell; while his sensitive mind, turned to a field for such battle, was
stung to madness. He heartily despised himself, he was angry with Perdita,
and the idea of Evadne was attended by all that was hideous and cruel. His
passions, always his masters, acquired fresh strength, from the long sleep
in which love had cradled them, the clinging weight of destiny bent him
down; he was goaded, tortured, fiercely impatient of that worst of
miseries, the sense of remorse. This troubled state yielded by degrees, to
sullen animosity, and depression of spirits. His dependants, even his
equals, if in his present post he had any, were startled to find anger,
derision, and bitterness in one, before distinguished for suavity and
benevolence of manner. He transacted public business with distaste, and
hastened from it to the solitude which was at once his bane and relief. He
mounted a fiery horse, that which had borne him forward to victory in
Greece; he fatigued himself with deadening exercise, losing the pangs of a
troubled mind in animal sensation.

He slowly recovered himself; yet, at last, as one might from the effects of
poison, he lifted his head from above the vapours of fever and passion into
the still atmosphere of calm reflection. He meditated on what was best to
be done. He was first struck by the space of time that had elapsed, since
madness, rather than any reasonable impulse, had regulated his actions. A
month had gone by, and during that time he had not seen Evadne. Her power,
which was linked to few of the enduring emotions of his heart, had greatly
decayed. He was no longer her slave--no longer her lover: he would never
see her more, and by the completeness of his return, deserve the confidence
of Perdita.

Yet, as he thus determined, fancy conjured up the miserable abode of the
Greek girl. An abode, which from noble and lofty principle, she had refused
to exchange for one of greater luxury. He thought of the splendour of her
situation and appearance when he first knew her; he thought of her life at
Constantinople, attended by every circumstance of oriental magnificence; of
her present penury, her daily task of industry, her lorn state, her faded,
famine-struck cheek. Compassion swelled his breast; he would see her once
again; he would devise some plan for restoring her to society, and the
enjoyment of her rank; their separation would then follow, as a matter of
course.

Again he thought, how during this long month, he had avoided Perdita,
flying from her as from the stings of his own conscience. But he was awake
now; all this should be remedied; and future devotion erase the memory of
this only blot on the serenity of their life. He became cheerful, as he
thought of this, and soberly and resolutely marked out the line of conduct
he would adopt. He remembered that he had promised Perdita to be present
this very evening (the 19th of October, anniversary of his election as
Protector) at a festival given in his honour. Good augury should this
festival be of the happiness of future years. First, he would look in on
Evadne; he would not stay; but he owed her some account, some compensation
for his long and unannounced absence; and then to Perdita, to the forgotten
world, to the duties of society, the splendour of rank, the enjoyment of
power.

After the scene sketched in the preceding pages, Perdita had contemplated
an entire change in the manners and conduct of Raymond. She expected
freedom of communication, and a return to those habits of affectionate
intercourse which had formed the delight of her life. But Raymond did not
join her in any of her avocations. He transacted the business of the day
apart from her; he went out, she knew not whither. The pain inflicted by
this disappointment was tormenting and keen. She looked on it as a
deceitful dream, and tried to throw off the consciousness of it; but like
the shirt of Nessus, it clung to her very flesh, and ate with sharp agony
into her vital principle. She possessed that (though such an assertion may
appear a paradox) which belongs to few, a capacity of happiness. Her
delicate organization and creative imagination rendered her peculiarly
susceptible of pleasurable emotion. The overflowing warmth of her heart, by
making love a plant of deep root and stately growth, had attuned her whole
soul to the reception of happiness, when she found in Raymond all that
could adorn love and satisfy her imagination. But if the sentiment on which
the fabric of her existence was founded, became common place through
participation, the endless succession of attentions and graceful action
snapt by transfer, his universe of love wrested from her, happiness must
depart, and then be exchanged for its opposite. The same peculiarities of
character rendered her sorrows agonies; her fancy magnified them, her
sensibility made her for ever open to their renewed impression; love
envenomed the heart-piercing sting. There was neither submission, patience,
nor self-abandonment in her grief; she fought with it, struggled beneath
it, and rendered every pang more sharp by resistance. Again and again the
idea recurred, that he loved another. She did him justice; she believed
that he felt a tender affection for her; but give a paltry prize to him who
in some life-pending lottery has calculated on the possession of tens of
thousands, and it will disappoint him more than a blank. The affection and
amity of a Raymond might be inestimable; but, beyond that affection,
embosomed deeper than friendship, was the indivisible treasure of love.
Take the sum in its completeness, and no arithmetic can calculate its
price; take from it the smallest portion, give it but the name of parts,
separate it into degrees and sections, and like the magician's coin, the
valueless gold of the mine, is turned to vilest substance. There is a
meaning in the eye of love; a cadence in its voice, an irradiation in its
smile, the talisman of whose enchantments one only can possess; its spirit
is elemental, its essence single, its divinity an unit. The very heart and
soul of Raymond and Perdita had mingled, even as two mountain brooks that
join in their descent, and murmuring and sparkling flow over shining
pebbles, beside starry flowers; but let one desert its primal course, or be
dammed up by choaking obstruction, and the other shrinks in its altered
banks. Perdita was sensible of the failing of the tide that fed her life.
Unable to support the slow withering of her hopes, she suddenly formed a
plan, resolving to terminate at once the period of misery, and to bring to
an happy conclusion the late disastrous events.

The anniversary was at hand of the exaltation of Raymond to the office of
Protector; and it was customary to celebrate this day by a splendid
festival. A variety of feelings urged Perdita to shed double magnificence
over the scene; yet, as she arrayed herself for the evening gala, she
wondered herself at the pains she took, to render sumptuous the celebration
of an event which appeared to her the beginning of her sufferings. Woe
befall the day, she thought, woe, tears, and mourning betide the hour, that
gave Raymond another hope than love, another wish than my devotion; and
thrice joyful the moment when he shall be restored to me! God knows, I put
my trust in his vows, and believe his asserted faith--but for that, I
would not seek what I am now resolved to attain. Shall two years more be
thus passed, each day adding to our alienation, each act being another
stone piled on the barrier which separates us? No, my Raymond, my only
beloved, sole possession of Perdita! This night, this splendid assembly,
these sumptuous apartments, and this adornment of your tearful girl, are
all united to celebrate your abdication. Once for me, you relinquished the
prospect of a crown. That was in days of early love, when I could only hold
out the hope, not the assurance of happiness. Now you have the experience
of all that I can give, the heart's devotion, taintless love, and
unhesitating subjection to you. You must choose between these and your
protectorate. This, proud noble, is your last night! Perdita has bestowed
on it all of magnificent and dazzling that your heart best loves--but,
from these gorgeous rooms, from this princely attendance, from power and
elevation, you must return with to-morrow's sun to our rural abode; for I
would not buy an immortality of joy, by the endurance of one more week
sister to the last.

Brooding over this plan, resolved when the hour should come, to propose,
and insist upon its accomplishment, secure of his consent, the heart of
Perdita was lightened, or rather exalted. Her cheek was flushed by the
expectation of struggle; her eyes sparkled with the hope of triumph. Having
cast her fate upon a die, and feeling secure of winning, she, whom I have
named as bearing the stamp of queen of nations on her noble brow, now rose
superior to humanity, and seemed in calm power, to arrest with her finger,
the wheel of destiny. She had never before looked so supremely lovely.

We, the Arcadian shepherds of the tale, had intended to be present at this
festivity, but Perdita wrote to entreat us not to come, or to absent
ourselves from Windsor; for she (though she did not reveal her scheme to
us) resolved the next morning to return with Raymond to our dear circle,
there to renew a course of life in which she had found entire felicity.
Late in the evening she entered the apartments appropriated to the
festival. Raymond had quitted the palace the night before; he had promised
to grace the assembly, but he had not yet returned. Still she felt sure
that he would come at last; and the wider the breach might appear at this
crisis, the more secure she was of closing it for ever.

It was as I said, the nineteenth of October; the autumn was far advanced
and dreary. The wind howled; the half bare trees were despoiled of the
remainder of their summer ornament; the state of the air which induced the
decay of vegetation, was hostile to cheerfulness or hope. Raymond had been
exalted by the determination he had made; but with the declining day his
spirits declined. First he was to visit Evadne, and then to hasten to the
palace of the Protectorate. As he walked through the wretched streets in
the neighbourhood of the luckless Greek's abode, his heart smote him for
the whole course of his conduct towards her. First, his having entered into
any engagement that should permit her to remain in such a state of
degradation; and then, after a short wild dream, having left her to drear
solitude, anxious conjecture, and bitter, still--disappointed
expectation. What had she done the while, how supported his absence and
neglect? Light grew dim in these close streets, and when the well known
door was opened, the staircase was shrouded in perfect night. He groped his
way up, he entered the garret, he found Evadne stretched speechless, almost
lifeless on her wretched bed. He called for the people of the house, but
could learn nothing from them, except that they knew nothing. Her story was
plain to him, plain and distinct as the remorse and horror that darted
their fangs into him. When she found herself forsaken by him, she lost the
heart to pursue her usual avocations; pride forbade every application to
him; famine was welcomed as the kind porter to the gates of death, within
whose opening folds she should now, without sin, quickly repose. No
creature came near her, as her strength failed.

If she died, where could there be found on record a murderer, whose cruel
act might compare with his? What fiend more wanton in his mischief, what
damned soul more worthy of perdition! But he was not reserved for this
agony of self-reproach. He sent for medical assistance; the hours passed,
spun by suspense into ages; the darkness of the long autumnal night yielded
to day, before her life was secure. He had her then removed to a more
commodious dwelling, and hovered about her, again and again to assure
himself that she was safe.

In the midst of his greatest suspense and fear as to the event, he
remembered the festival given in his honour, by Perdita; in his honour
then, when misery and death were affixing indelible disgrace to his name,
honour to him whose crimes deserved a scaffold; this was the worst mockery.
Still Perdita would expect him; he wrote a few incoherent words on a scrap
of paper, testifying that he was well, and bade the woman of the house take
it to the palace, and deliver it into the hands of the wife of the Lord
Protector. The woman, who did not know him, contemptuously asked, how he
thought she should gain admittance, particularly on a festal night, to that
lady's presence? Raymond gave her his ring to ensure the respect of the
menials. Thus, while Perdita was entertaining her guests, and anxiously
awaiting the arrival of her lord, his ring was brought her; and she was
told that a poor woman had a note to deliver to her from its wearer.

The vanity of the old gossip was raised by her commission, which, after
all, she did not understand, since she had no suspicion, even now that
Evadne's visitor was Lord Raymond. Perdita dreaded a fall from his horse,
or some similar accident--till the woman's answers woke other fears. From
a feeling of cunning blindly exercised, the officious, if not malignant
messenger, did not speak of Evadne's illness; but she garrulously gave an
account of Raymond's frequent visits, adding to her narration such
circumstances, as, while they convinced Perdita of its truth, exaggerated
the unkindness and perfidy of Raymond. Worst of all, his absence now from
the festival, his message wholly unaccounted for, except by the disgraceful
hints of the woman, appeared the deadliest insult. Again she looked at the
ring, it was a small ruby, almost heart-shaped, which she had herself given
him. She looked at the hand-writing, which she could not mistake, and
repeated to herself the words--"Do not, I charge you, I entreat you,
permit your guests to wonder at my absence:" the while the old crone going
on with her talk, filled her ear with a strange medley of truth and
falsehood. At length Perdita dismissed her.

The poor girl returned to the assembly, where her presence had not been
missed. She glided into a recess somewhat obscured, and leaning against an
ornamental column there placed, tried to recover herself. Her faculties
were palsied. She gazed on some flowers that stood near in a carved vase:
that morning she had arranged them, they were rare and lovely plants; even
now all aghast as she was, she observed their brilliant colours and starry
shapes.--"Divine infoliations of the spirit of beauty," she exclaimed,
"Ye droop not, neither do ye mourn; the despair that clasps my heart, has
not spread contagion over you!--Why am I not a partner of your
insensibility, a sharer in your calm!"

She paused. "To my task," she continued mentally, "my guests must not
perceive the reality, either as it regards him or me. I obey; they shall
not, though I die the moment they are gone. They shall behold the antipodes
of what is real--for I will appear to live--while I am--dead." It
required all her self-command, to suppress the gush of tears self-pity
caused at this idea. After many struggles, she succeeded, and turned to
join the company.

All her efforts were now directed to the dissembling her internal conflict.
She had to play the part of a courteous hostess; to attend to all; to shine
the focus of enjoyment and grace. She had to do this, while in deep woe she
sighed for loneliness, and would gladly have exchanged her crowded rooms
for dark forest depths, or a drear, night-enshadowed heath. But she became
gay. She could not keep in the medium, nor be, as was usual with her,
placidly content. Every one remarked her exhilaration of spirits; as all
actions appear graceful in the eye of rank, her guests surrounded her
applaudingly, although there was a sharpness in her laugh, and an
abruptness in her sallies, which might have betrayed her secret to an
attentive observer. She went on, feeling that, if she had paused for a
moment, the checked waters of misery would have deluged her soul, that her
wrecked hopes would raise their wailing voices, and that those who now
echoed her mirth, and provoked her repartees, would have shrunk in fear
from her convulsive despair. Her only consolation during the violence which
she did herself, was to watch the motions of an illuminated clock, and
internally count the moments which must elapse before she could be alone.

At length the rooms began to thin. Mocking her own desires, she rallied her
guests on their early departure. One by one they left her--at length she
pressed the hand of her last visitor. "How cold and damp your hand is,"
said her friend; "you are over fatigued, pray hasten to rest." Perdita
smiled faintly--her guest left her; the carriage rolling down the street
assured the final departure. Then, as if pursued by an enemy, as if wings
had been at her feet, she flew to her own apartment, she dismissed her
attendants, she locked the doors, she threw herself wildly on the floor,
she bit her lips even to blood to suppress her shrieks, and lay long a prey
to the vulture of despair, striving not to think, while multitudinous ideas
made a home of her heart; and ideas, horrid as furies, cruel as vipers, and
poured in with such swift succession, that they seemed to jostle and wound
each other, while they worked her up to madness.

At length she rose, more composed, not less miserable. She stood before a
large mirror--she gazed on her reflected image; her light and graceful
dress, the jewels that studded her hair, and encircled her beauteous arms
and neck, her small feet shod in satin, her profuse and glossy tresses, all
were to her clouded brow and woe-begone countenance like a gorgeous frame
to a dark tempest-pourtraying picture. "Vase am I," she thought, "vase
brimful of despair's direst essence. Farewell, Perdita! farewell, poor
girl! never again will you see yourself thus; luxury and wealth are no
longer yours; in the excess of your poverty you may envy the homeless
beggar; most truly am I without a home! I live on a barren desart, which,
wide and interminable, brings forth neither fruit or flower; in the midst
is a solitary rock, to which thou, Perdita, art chained, and thou seest the
dreary level stretch far away."

She threw open her window, which looked on the palace-garden. Light and
darkness were struggling together, and the orient was streaked by roseate

and golden rays. One star only trembled in the depth of the kindling
atmosphere. The morning air blowing freshly over the dewy plants, rushed
into the heated room. "All things go on," thought Perdita, "all things
proceed, decay, and perish! When noontide has passed, and the weary day has
driven her team to their western stalls, the fires of heaven rise from the
East, moving in their accustomed path, they ascend and descend the skiey
hill. When their course is fulfilled, the dial begins to cast westward an
uncertain shadow; the eye-lids of day are opened, and birds and flowers,
the startled vegetation, and fresh breeze awaken; the sun at length
appears, and in majestic procession climbs the capitol of heaven. All
proceeds, changes and dies, except the sense of misery in my bursting
heart.

"Ay, all proceeds and changes: what wonder then, that love has journied on
to its setting, and that the lord of my life has changed? We call the
supernal lights fixed, yet they wander about yonder plain, and if I look
again where I looked an hour ago, the face of the eternal heavens is
altered. The silly moon and inconstant planets vary nightly their erratic
dance; the sun itself, sovereign of the sky, ever and anon deserts his
throne, and leaves his dominion to night and winter. Nature grows old, and
shakes in her decaying limbs,--creation has become bankrupt! What wonder
then, that eclipse and death have led to destruction the light of thy life,
O Perdita!"

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