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Page 151

26. XXVI.

On the following morning, Kavanagh sat as
usual in his study in the tower. No traces were
left of the heaviness and sadness of the preceding
night. It was a bright, warm morning; and the
window, open towards the south, let in the genial
sunshine. The odor of decaying leaves scented
the air; far off flashed the hazy river.

Kavanagh's heart, however, was not at rest.
At times he rose from his books, and paced up
and down his little study; then took up his hat
as if to go out; then laid it down again, and
again resumed his books. At length he arose,
and, leaning on the window-sill, gazed for a long
time on the scene before him. Some thought
was laboring in his bosom, some doubt or fear,
which alternated with hope, but thwarted any
fixed resolve.


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Ah, how pleasantly that fair autumnal landscape
smiled upon him! The great golden elms
that marked the line of the village street, and
under whose shadows no beggars sat; the air
of comfort and plenty, of neatness, thrift, and
equality, visible everywhere; and from far-off
farms the sound of flails, beating the triumphal
march of Ceres through the land;—these were
the sights and sounds that greeted him as he
looked. Silently the yellow leaves fell upon the
graves in the church-yard; and the dew glistened
in the grass, which was still long and green.

Presently his attention was arrested by a dove,
pursued by a little kingfisher, who constantly
endeavoured to soar above it, in order to attack
it at greater advantage. The flight of the birds,
thus shooting through the air at arrowy speed,
was beautiful. When they were opposite the
tower, the dove suddenly wheeled, and darted
in at the open window, while the pursuer held
on his way with a long sweep, and was out of
sight in a moment.

At the first glance, Kavanagh recognized the
dove, which lay panting on the floor. It was
the same he had seen Cecilia buy of the little
man in gray. He took it in his hands. Its heart


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was beating violently. About its neck was a
silken band; beneath its wing, a billet, upon
which was a single word, “Cecilia.” The bird,
then, was on its way to Cecilia Vaughan. He
hailed the omen as auspicious, and, immediately
closing the window, seated himself at his table,
and wrote a few hurried words, which, being
carefully folded and sealed, he fastened to the
band, and then hastily, as if afraid his purpose
might be changed by delay, opened the window
and set the bird at liberty. It sailed once or
twice round the tower, apparently uncertain and
bewildered, or still in fear of its pursuer. Then,
instead of holding its way over the fields to
Cecilia Vaughan, it darted over the roofs of the
village, and alighted at the window of Alice

Having written that morning to Cecilia something
urgent and confidential, she was already
waiting the answer; and, not doubting that the
bird had brought it, she hastily untied the silken
band, and, without looking at the superscription,
opened the first note that fell on the table. It
was very brief; only a few lines, and not a name
mentioned in it; an impulse, an ejaculation of
love; every line quivering with electric fire,—


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every word a pulsation of the writer's heart.
It was signed “Arthur Kavanagh.”

Overwhelmed by the suddenness and violence
of her emotions, Alice sat for a long time motionless,
holding the open letter in her hand. Then
she read it again, and then relapsed into her
dream of joy and wonder. It would be difficult
to say which of the two emotions was the greater,
—her joy that her prayer for love should be
answered, and so answered,—her wonder that
Kavanagh should have selected her! In the
tumult of her sensations, and hardly conscious
of what she was doing, she folded the note and
replaced it in its envelope. Then, for the first
time, her eye fell on the superscription. It was
“Cecilia Vaughan.” Alice fainted.

On recovering her senses, her first act was one
of heroism. She sealed the note, attached it
to the neck of the pigeon, and sent the messenger
rejoicing on his journey. Then her feelings
had way, and she wept long and bitterly.
Then, with a desperate calmness, she reproved
her own weakness and selfishness, and felt that
she ought to rejoice in the happiness of her
friend, and sacrifice her affection, even her life,
to her. Her heart exculpated Kavanagh from


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all blame. He had not deluded her; she had
deluded herself. She alone was in fault; and
in deep humiliation, with wounded pride and
wounded love, and utter self-abasement, she
bowed her head and prayed for consolation and

One consolation she already had. The secret
was her own. She had not revealed it even to
Cecilia. Kavanagh did not suspect it. Public
curiosity, public pity, she would not have to

She was resigned. She made the heroic
sacrifice of self, leaving her sorrow to the great
physician, Time,—the nurse of care, the healer
of all smarts, the soother and consoler of all
sorrows. And, thenceforward, she became unto
Kavanagh what the moon is to the sun, for ever
following, for ever separated, for ever sad!

As a traveller, about to start upon his journey,
resolved and yet irresolute, watches the clouds,
and notes the struggle between the sunshine and
the showers, and says, “It will be fair; I will
go,”—and again says, “Ah, no, not yet; the
rain is not yet over,”—so at this same hour sat
Cecilia Vaughan, resolved and yet irresolute,
longing to depart upon the fair journey before


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her, and yet lingering on the paternal threshold,
as if she wished both to stay and to go, seeing
the sky was not without its clouds, nor the road
without its dangers.

It was a beautiful picture, as she sat there
with sweet perplexity in her face, and above it
an immortal radiance streaming from her brow.
She was like Guercino's Sibyl, with the scroll
of fate and the uplifted pen; and the scroll she
held contained but three words,—three words
that controlled the destiny of a man, and, by
their soft impulsion, directed for evermore the
current of his thoughts. They were,—

“Come to me!”

The magic syllables brought Kavanagh to her
side. The full soul is silent. Only the rising
and falling tides rush murmuring through their
channels. So sat the lovers, hand in hand; but
for a long time neither spake,—neither had need
of speech!