Wilton saw that the attempt to learn more, at that moment, would be vain: but before he departed, he took the lady by the hand, bidding her adieu, and saying, “At all events, I have one consolation. Since I came here, I feel less lonely in the world; I feel that there are some to whom I am dear; and yet I would fain ask you one thing more. It is, how, when I think of you, I shall name you in my thoughts. Your image will be frequently before me; the affection which you have shown me, the words you have spoken, will never be forgotten. But there is a pleasure in connecting all those remembrances with a name. It seems to render them definite; to give them a habitation in the heart for ever.”
“Call me Helen,” replied the lady, quickly. “Where I now dwell they call me the Lady Helen. I must not add any more; and now adieu, for it is time that both you and I should leave this place.”
Green once more urged him to depart; and Brown, with his curiosity not satisfied, but even more excited than ever, quitted the house, mounted his horse, and rode away slowly towards his own dwelling, meditating as he went.
“Onward! onward!” cries the voice of youth; whether it may be that the days are bright, passing in joy and tranquillity, and we can say with the greatest French poet of the present day—ay, the greatest, however it may seem—Beranger,
“Sur une onde tranquille,
Voguant soir et matin,
Ma nacelle est docile
Au souffle du destin.
La voile s’enfie-t-elle,
J’abandonne le bord.
(O doux zephir, sois-moi fidele!)
Eh! vogue, ma nacelle;
Nous trouverons un port”—
or whether the morning is overcast with clouds and storms, still “Onward! onward!” is the cry, either in the hope of gaining new joys, or to escape the sorrows that surround us. It is for age to stretch back the longing arms towards the Past: the fate of youth is to bound forward to meet the Future.
Wilton reached his home, and bending down his head upon his hands, passed more than an hour in troublous meditation. All was confused and turbid. The stream of thought was like a mountain torrent, suddenly swelled by rains, overflowing its banks, knowing no restraint, no longer clear and bright, but dark and foaming and whirling in rapid and uncertain eddies round every object that it touched upon. The scene at Beaufort House, the thought of Laura, and all that had been said there, mingled strangely and wildly with everything that had taken place afterwards, and nothing seemed certain, but all confused, and indistinct, and vague. But still there came a cry from the bottom of his heart: the cry of “Onward! onward! onward! towards the fated future!”
Nor was that cry the less vehement or less importunate because lie had no power whatsoever to advance or retard the coming events by a single hour: nor had it less influence because—unlike most men, who generally have some lamp, however dim, to give them light into the dark caverns of the future—he had not even one faint ray of probability to show him what was before his footsteps.