Abbildungen der Seite

silver bell, did the pretty piece of mirth and mischief leave the roof.

But her cousin was in no mood to join in her merriment; and immediately Alice was gone she sat herself down in a chair, and there stole over her fair countenance an expression of deep and right eloquent sadness. She sat with her arms crossed upon her lap, most dejectedly; and her soft eyes, swimming in tears, fixed upon the floor. And in that position did she continue for at least the fourth part of an hour, feeding reflection with the delicious food of memory, mingled with so many fearful forebodings as were sufficient, with their bitterness, to spoil the sweetness of her thoughts. She wept not, neither did she smile; but it seemed as if in her admirable features there was going on a continual struggle between the most exquisite pleasure and the most direful apprehension, and the latter got such mastery as might suffice to give her lids as much moisture as they could carry, and impress on her well-favoured aspect, a character of more than ordinary grief. Anon, her eyes becoming overcharged, there was cast down upon each cheek a tear-drop, and the light falling thereon from the window near which she sat, did make its brilliancy so apparent, that it would have put to shame the brightest jewel that ever glittered in her stomacher; and these gems of purest water, as if enamoured of their fair resting-place, sought not to move from the spot where they had fallen ; which gave to her the appearance of a most beautiful and moving Niobe.

Presently she heard a footstep in the corridor, and her heart thereupon began to beat with a more perceptible throbbing. The footstep approached, and the colour mounted to her cheek—it stopped at the door, and the cheek became pale as marble. In a moment the door opened quickly, and was as quickly closed; and, as a cavalier of a most noble appearance entered the room, with a half stifled cry of exultation, she rushed towards him, and sunk swooning upon his breast.

In truth, the cavalier was of a most valiant and commendable presence. His high and expansive forehead was partly concealed by his hat (in which was a little black feather, with a large ruby and pearl drop at the bottom of the sprig, in place of the button); yet sufficient of it was observable to denote the fine intellect that lay within. His eyes were large and intelligent-his nose somewhat long, yet not out of proportion-his lips delicately curved, with a fair moustache on the upper lip, and a beard of moderate growth, handsomely rounded under the chin beneath; encircled by a frilled ruff; and his complexion was somewhat browned, as if by exposure to foreign climates, or hard service in the





His stature was six feet full, with limbs elegantly yet strongly moulded. He was apparelled in a white satin pinked vest, close sleeved to the wrist, having over the body of it a brown doublet, finely flowered, and embroidered with pearls; with a belt of the same colour and ornament, on the left side of which hung his sword, and on the other was seen the pommel of his dagger. His trunks, with his stockings and ribbon garters, were all of white, and fringed at the end; and his shoes were of buff, tied with white ribbons. He might be somewhere between thirty and forty years of age; that is to say, in the very prime and vigour of his life. And a braver soldier, a handsomer man, or a more accomplished gentleman, the court of Elizabeth did not contain at that time.

“ Bess! Bess ! dear, sweet, exquisite Bess !” cried he, flinging down his hat, and pressing her in his arms. “By heaven ! she hath swooned," he exclaimed, as he observed her head droop, and her cheek quite pallid: then, cautiously fastening the door, he bore his lovely burthen to where stood an ewer of water, which he began presently to sprinkle on her face, all the while using most ene dearing expressions and caresses, and exhibiting a truly earnest solicitude.

5They have fastened thy boddice most infamously tight, dear Bess, and 'tis beyond my poor wit to loose it,” said he earnestly, as he tried unavailingly to undo the fastenings of her robe. “ S'blood ! I have a good mind to rip it up

with my dagger; and if she recover not quickly, I will. Dear, dear Bess!” he continued, with more emphasis, as he began vigorously to chafe her hands. “ Revive thee, girl—revive ! 'Tis 1—'tis Walterthy Walter, dear Bess. There is nothing to fear, believe me. We have no one near, the queen's in the council chamber, and I have well excused my attendance. Come, Bess, I say-sweetest ! dearest! best! my heart ! my life ! -Ha, she revives !” he

! cried joyfully, as he observed signs of returning animation in her countenance. “ Indeed I have a mind to scold thee-only I have no heart to do it."

6 Walter! dear Walter !” murmured the beautiful woman, fixing upon him a look of most impassioned tenderness, directly she recovered sufficient consciousness of where and with whom she was; and then throwing her arms around his neck, and resting her head upon his shoulder, began to sob violently.

“ Now, Bess, this is unkind of thee,” said Sir Walter in rather a reproaching tone; but immediately added with a kinder voice, but what aileth thee, sweetest?

“Oh, I have undone thee-I have undone thee

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

quite !” exclaimed she, as plainly as her sobs would allow.

6 Not while I wear a sword, dear Bess, and am free to go where I will,” he replied.

“ The queen will know all, dear Walter-she must discover it soon.”

“ Why so, dear Bess ?” enquired Sir Walter.

66 Alas! I cannot tell thee—no, indeed, I cannot tell thee, dear Walter," said Mistress Elizabeth, sobbing more violently; “ but I must leave this place. Do take me away. I cannot stay here but a very short time longer without utter destruction to thy fortunes. Oh! take me away, Walter-take me away

!” “ It shall be as thou desirest, sweetest,” replied Raleigh,” stooping down and kissing her cheek. “ I have already arranged with thy father for a private marriage before I embark on a voyage, the good results of which I hope will win my pardon from the queen.”

“ Thanks, dear Walter," exclaimed she, looking gratefully upon him through her tears; “ thou art always good, and noble, and generous: but I am fearful it will be thy utter undoing.”

“ Think not of it, Bess,” said her lover kindly, 66 and then it cannot fright thee. But the danger is none so imminent. I shall not let her majesty know of our marriage if it can be helped. Thou

« ZurückWeiter »