“Oh, Clara—dearest Clara,” passionately exclaimed the excited young man, “if a life devoted to your happiness can repay you for this, count upon it as you would upon your eternal salvation. In you will I love both my friend and the sister he has bequeathed to me. Clara, my betrothed wife, summon all the energies of your nature to sustain this cruel shock; and exert yourself for him who will be to you both a brother and a husband.”
As he spoke he drew the unresisting girl towards him, and, locking her in his embrace, pressed, for the first time, the lips, which it had maddened him the preceding night to see polluted by the forcible kisses of Wacousta. But Clara shared not, but merely suffered his momentary happiness. Her cheek wore not the crimson of excitement, neither were her tears discontinued. She seemed as one who mechanically submitted to what she had no power of resistance to oppose; and even in the embrace of her affianced husband, she exhibited the same deathlike calm that had startled him at her first appearance. Religion could not hallow a purer feeling than that which had impelled the action of the young officer. The very consciousness of the sacred pledge having been exchanged over the corpse of his friend, imparted a holiness of fervour to his mind; and even while he pressed her, whom he secretly swore to love with all the affection of a fond brother and a husband united, he felt that if the spirit of him, who slept unconscious of the scene, were suffered to linger near, it would be to hallow it with approval.
“And now,” said Clara at length, yet without attempting to disengage herself,—“now that we are united, I would be alone with my brother. My husband, leave me.”
Deeply touched at the name of husband, Sir Everard could not refrain from imprinting another kiss on the lips that uttered it. He then gently disengaged himself from his lovely but suffering charge, whom he deposited with her head resting on the bed; and making a significant motion of his hand to the woman, who, as well as old Morrison, had been spectators of the whole scene, stole gently from the apartment, under what mingled emotions of joy and grief it would be difficult to describe.
It was the eighth hour of morning, and both officers and men, quitting their ill-relished meal, were to be seen issuing to the parade, where the monotonous roll of the assemblee now summoned them. Presently the garrison was formed in the order we have described in our first volume; that is to say, presenting three equal sides of a square. The vacant space fronted the guard-house, near one extremity of which was to be seen a flight of steps communicating with the rampart, where the flag-staff was erected. Several men were employed at this staff, passing strong ropes through iron pulleys that were suspended from the extreme top, while in the basement of the staff itself,