“Even so, Gerald, I remember it well.”
“And it was there,” continued the sailor, with the emphasis of strong emotion, “that, during my unfortunate absence from the death bed of our yet surviving parent, you gave a pledge for both, that no action of our lives should reflect dishonor on his unsullied name.”
“I did. Both in your name and in my own, I gave the pledge, well knowing that, in that, I merely anticipated your desire.”
“Most assuredly—what then would be your sensations were you to know that I had violated that sacred obligation?”
“Deep, poignant, ceaseless, regret, that my once noble and high spirited brother, should have been so lost to respect for his father’s memory, and to himself.” This was uttered, not without deep agitation.
“You are right, Henry,” added Gerald mournfully; “better—far better—is it to die, than live on in the consciousness of having forfeited all claim to esteem.”
The young soldier started as if a viper had stung him. “Gerald,” he said eagerly, “you have not dishonored yourself. Oh no—tell me, my brother, that you have not.”
“No,” was the cold, repulsive answer, “although my peace of mind is fled,” he pursued, rather more mildly, “my honor, thank heaven, remains as pure as when you first pledged yourself for its preservation.”
“Thanks, my brother, for that. But can it really be possible, that the mysterious condition attached to Miss Montgomerie’s love, involves the loss of honor?”
Gerald made no answer.
“And can you really be weak enough to entertain a passion for a woman, who would make the dishonoring of the fair fame of him she professes to love, the fearful price at which her affection is to be purchased?”
Gerald seemed to wince at the word “weak,” which was rather emphatically pronounced, and looked displeased at the concluding part of the sentence.
“I said not that the condition attached to her love,” he remarked, with the piqued expression of a wounded vanity; “her affection is mine, I know, beyond her own power of control—the condition, relates not to her heart, but to her hand.”
“Alas, my poor infatuated brother. Blinding indeed must be. the delusions of passion, when a nature so sensitive and so honorable shrinks not from such a connexion. My only surprise is, that, with such a perversion of judgment, you have returned at all.”
“No more of this Henry. It is not in man to control his destiny, and mine appears to be to love with a fervor that must bear me, ere long, to my grave. Of this, however, be assured—that, whatever my weakness, or infatuation, as you may be pleased to call it, that passion shall never be gratified at the expense of my honor. Deeply— madly as I doat upon her image, Miss Montgomerie and I have met for the last time.”
Overcome by the emotion with which he had thus expressed himself, Gerald could not restrain a few burning tears that forced their way down his hollow cheeks. Henry caught eagerly at this indication of returning softness, and again essayed, in reference to the concluding declaration of his brother, to urge upon him the unworthiness of her who had thus cast her deadly spell upon his happiness. But Gerald could ill endure the slightest allusion to the subject.