The young lady asked no more questions. Those who observed her closely, saw the warm tints that made beautiful her cheeks grow fainter and fainter, until they had almost entirely faded. Soon after, she retired from the company.
In the ardor of his pursuit of a new object of affection, Edwin Florence scarcely thought of the old one. The image of Edith was hidden by the interposing form of Miss Linmore. The suspense occasioned by a wish for time to consider the offer he had made, grew more and more painful the longer it was continued. On the possession of the lovely girl as his wife, depended, so he felt, his future happiness. Were she to decline his offer he would be wretched. In this state of mind, he called one day upon Miss Linmore, hoping and fearing, yet resolved to know his fate. The moment he entered her presence he observed a change. She did not smile; and there was something chilling in the steady glance of her large dark eyes.
“Have I offended you?” he asked, as she declined taking his offered hand.
“Yes,” was the firm reply, while the young lady assumed a dignified air.
“In what?” asked Florence.
“In proving false to her in whose ears you first breathed words of affection.”
The young man started as if stung by a serpent.
“The man,” resumed Miss Linmore, “who has been false to Edith Walter, never can be true to me. I wouldn’t have the affection that could turn from one like her. I hold it to be light as the thistle-down. Go! heal the heart you have almost broken, if, perchance, it be not yet too late. As for me, think of me as if we had all our lives been strangers—such, henceforth, we must ever remain.”
And saying this, Catharine Linmore turned from the rebuked and astonished young man, and left the room. He immediately retired.
Evening, with its passionless influences, was stealing softly down, and leaving on all things its hues of quiet and repose. The heart of nature was beating with calm and even pulses. Not so the heart of Edwin Florence. It had a wilder throb; and the face of nature was not reflected in the mirror of his feelings, He was alone in his room, where he had been during the few hours that had elapsed since his interview with Miss Linmore. In those few hours, Memory had turned over many leaves of the Book of his Life. He would fain have averted his eyes from the pages, but he could not. The record was before him, and he had read it. And, as he read, the eyes of Edith looked into his own; at first they were loving and tender, as of old; and then. they were full of tears. Her hand lay, now, confidingly in his; and now it was slowly withdrawn. She sat by his side, and leaned upon him—his lips were upon her lips; his cheek touching her cheek; their breaths were mingling. Another moment and he had turned from her coldly, and she was drooping towards the earth like a tender vine bereft of the support to which it had held by its clinging tendrils. Ah! If he could only have shut out these images! If he could have erased the record so that Memory could not read it! How eagerly would he have drunk of Lethe’s waters, could he have found the fabled stream!