At the angle of the terrace was a small arbour placed in the midst of a bosquet, and they sat down within it. Then, and not till then, did their thoughts find vent in words. Forgetting the sorrows they had endured, and the perils by which they were environed, they found in their deep mutual love a shield against the sharpest arrows of fate. In low gentle accents they breathed their passion, solemnly plighting their faith before all-seeing Heaven.
Poor souls! they were happy then—intensely happy. Alas! that their happiness should be so short; for those few moments of bliss, stolen from a waste of tears, were all that were allowed them. Inexorable fate still dogged their footsteps.
Amidst the bosquet stood a listener to their converse—a little girl with high shoulders and sharp features, on which diabolical malice was stamped. Two yellow eyes glistened through the leaves beside her, marking the presence of a cat. As the lovers breathed their vows, and indulged in hopes never to be realised, the wicked child grinned, clenched her hands, and, grudging them their short-lived happiness, seemed inclined to interrupt it. Some stronger motive, however, kept her quiet.
What are the pair talking of now?—She hears her own name mentioned by the maiden, who speaks of her with pity, almost with affection—pardons her for the mischief she has done her, and hopes Heaven will pardon her likewise. But she knows not the full extent of the girl’s malignity, or even her gentle heart must have been roused to resentment.
The little girl, however, feels no compunction. Infernal malice has taken possession of her heart, and crushed every kindly feeling within it. She hates all those that compassionate her, and returns evil for good.
What are the lovers talking of now? Of their first meeting at Whalley Abbey, when one was May Queen, and by her beauty and simplicity won the other’s heart, losing her own at the same time. A bright unclouded career seemed to lie before them then. Wofully had it darkened since. Alas! Alas!
The little girl smiles. She hopes they will go on. She likes to hear them talk thus. Past happiness is ever remembered with a pang by the wretched, and they were happy then. Go on—go on!
But they are silent for awhile, for they wish to dwell on that hopeful, that blissful season. And a nightingale, alighting on a bough above them, pours forth its sweet plaint, as if in response to their tender emotions. They praise the bird’s song, and it suddenly ceases.