“It is probably better you should feel so, Una, than to entertain hopes upon the matter that may be disappointed. It is always wisest to prepare for the worst, in order to avoid the shock that may come upon us, and which always falls heaviest when it comes contrary to our expectations.”
“I do not at all feel well,” she replied, “and I have been thinking of the best way to break this day’s tidings to me, when you come home. If he’s cleared, say, good-humoredly, ‘Una, all’s lost;’ and if—if not, oh, desire me—say to me, ’Una, you had better go to bed, and let yaur mother go with you;’ that will be enough; I will go to bed, and if ever I rise from it again, it will not be from a love of life.”
The brother, seeing that conversation on the subject of her grief only caused her to feel more deeply, deemed it better to terminate than to continue a dialogue which only aggravated her sufferings.
“I trust and hope, dear Una,” he said, “that you will observe my father’s advice, and make at least a worthy effort to support yourself, under what certainly is a heavy affliction to you, in a manner becoming your own character. For his sake—for my mother’s, and for mine, too, endeavor to have courage; be firm—and, Una, if you take my advice, you’ll pray to God to strengthen you; for, after all, there is no support in the moment of distress and sorrow, like His.”
“But is it not strange, John, that such heavy misfortunes should fall upon two persons so young, and who deserve it so little?”
“It may be a trial sent for your advantage and his; who can say but it may yet end for the good of you both? At present, indeed, there is no probability of its ending favorably, and, even should it not, we are bound to bear with patience such dispensations as the Great Being, to whom we owe our existence, and of whose ways we know so little, may think right to lay upon us. Now, God bless you, and support you, dear, till I see you again. I must go; don’t you hear the jaunting-car driving up to the gate; be firm—dear Una—be firm, and good—by!”
Never was a day spent under the influence of a more terrible suspense than that which drank up the strength of this sinking girl during the trial of her lover. Actuated by a burning and restless sense of distraction, she passed from place to place with that mechanical step which marks those who seek for comfort in vain. She retired to her apartment and strove to pray; but the effort was fruitless; the confusion of her mind rendered connection and continuity of thought and language impossible. At one moment she repaired to the scenes where they had met, and again with a hot and aching brain, left them with a shudder that arose from a withering conception of the loss of him whose image, by their association, was at once rendered more distinct and more beloved. Her poor mother frequently endeavored to console her, but became too much affected herself to proceed. Nor were the servants less anxious to remove the heavy load of sorrow which weighed down her young spirit to the earth. Her brief, but affecting reply was the same to each.