“The year dies away, the wind sweeps over the stubble, and there is nothing left to stir under its touch. But the red berries on yonder tall tree seem as if they would still remind us of brighter things; and the stroke of the thrasher’s flail awakes the thought how much of nourishment and life lie buried in the sickled ear.”
How strangely, after all this, with the sense so vividly impressed on her of mutability and perishableness, must Ottilie have been affected by the news which could not any longer be kept concealed from her, that Edward had exposed himself to the uncertain chances of war! Unhappily, none of the observations which she had occasion to make upon it escaped her. But it is well for us that man can only endure a certain degree of unhappiness; what is beyond that either annihilates him, or passes by him, and leaves him apathetic. There are situations in which hope and fear run together, in which they mutually destroy one another, and lose themselves in a dull indifference. If it were not so, how could we bear to know of those who are most dear to us being in hourly peril, and yet go on as usual with our ordinary everyday life?
It was therefore as if some good genius was caring for Ottilie, that, all at once, this stillness, in which she seemed to be sinking from loneliness and want of occupation, was suddenly invaded by a wild army, which, while it gave her externally abundance of employment, and so took her out of herself, at the same time awoke in her the consciousness of her own power.
Charlotte’s daughter, Luciana, had scarcely left the school and gone out into the great world; scarcely had she found herself at her aunt’s house in the midst of a large society, than her anxiety to please produced its effect in really pleasing; and a young, very wealthy man, soon experienced a passionate desire to make her his own. His large property gave him a right to have the best of everything for his use, and nothing seemed to be wanting to him except a perfect wife, for whom, as for the rest of his good fortune, he should be the envy of the world.
This incident in her family had been for some time occupying Charlotte. It had engaged all her attention, and taken up her whole correspondence, except so far as this was directed to the obtaining news of Edward; so that latterly Ottilie had been left more than was usual to herself. She knew, indeed, of an intended visit from Luciana. She had been making various changes and arrangements in the house in preparation for it; but she had no notion that it was so near. Letters, she supposed, would first have to pass, settling the time, and unsettling it; and at last a final fixing: when the storm broke suddenly over the castle and over herself.