Mary was not a partner in their secret understanding. Calmly, as was her wont, she had been returning homeward, with the happy consciousness that her presence that day had lighted up many a face with sunshine--bound up by its consolation, many a wounded heart--that she could lay her head on her pillow that night, and feel that she had to-day lived to God, and to her fellow-creatures.
And truly many a tongue blessed, and many an eye turned with love and respect, as they looked upon that sweet pale face, returning slowly from her wanderings amongst them. Mary knew she was expected home to tea, but having turned a wistful eye towards her favourite hill, now all red and glowing in the early sunset, finally began the ascent; and once more we see her seated on that cool, quiet spot, her eye fixed on the same fair scene she had viewed with such fond, but hopeful regret, on the evening of her last departure from her mountain-home. And, oh! it was on such occasions, when hours of languid ease returned like this she now enjoyed, that Mary felt the urgent necessity of bracing up her mind and nerves by a course of healthy action, by carrying out into practice the lesson which the great trial of her early youth had taught her--"Patience, abnegation of self, and devotion to others." For then would she feel stealing over her senses the spirit of those days, when she had walked the earth overshadowed by a dream. Yes, the spirit of her dream had changed since last we followed Mary Seaham to this charmed spot!--the shadows of hopes at that time vaguely cherished in her breast, soon, to her sorrow, so wonderfully realized, had passed away for ever, as their idol object had been torn from its shrine.
And now this purer, nobler image, reared upon the crumbled image of the former, engendered by no ideal dreams--no morbid fantasy, but which, by the force of its own glorious strength and beauty, had won its victory over her soul--must this be also doomed to perish--to fade away into a haunting shadow of the past?
Yes, Eustace Trevor must be to her as one dead--not absent!--the dream be dissipated, for the hope was vain on which it was founded: vain--and incompatible with the pure, calm hope it was now the desire of her heart to aspire.
Not very long, therefore, did Mary allow herself to indulge in the beguiling luxury of her solitary repose; but remembering that there were loving hearts at home awaiting her return, she aroused herself from the spirit of reverie which was stealing over her, and waiting but to pluck some few sprigs of the first white heath of the season, with one last, lingering look on the fading beauties of the landscape, she rose and turned to depart; but as if arrested by fear or a feeling of wonder,
"Still she stood with her lips apart, And forgotten, the flowerets dropped from her fingers, Whilst to her eyes and her cheeks, came the light and The bloom of the morning."
For it was no dream--no deluding vision of her imagination out of which she was called to awake--a shadow indeed was upon her path, but it was the form of Eustace Trevor, which in its noble reality stood before her!
The conversation which ensued was not so lengthened as that which had taken place between Edward Temple and Mary Seaham, on that same spot some six years ago; but need we say that its issue was of a very different character, and that this time Eustace did not descend the hill alone.
Mr. Wynne was waiting at the gate of Glan Pennant, when at length the stately figure of his friend, and leaning on his arm the fair and fragile form of Mary,
"The dew on the plaid, and the tear in her e'e,"
appeared in sight.
Hastening to meet them, he wrung the hand of Mary with emotion, but bade her go in fast and make the tea which had been waiting for her ever so long--the water getting cold whilst she was after her old tricks, dreaming on the hills; and Mary, with a grateful smile, having returned the fervent pressure of her good old friend, in broken accents, promised that she would dream no more.
She was not indeed free from a deep debt of gratitude to Mr. Wynne, for it was he who, it may be said, had formed the cementing link between the fates of Mary Seaham and Eustace Trevor.
Not that any such was wanting to maintain the strongly rooted attachment of Eustace towards Mary. It was one which must ever have exerted a sensible and indelible influence over his future life, as it had done over the few last years of his past existence. But there were scruples in his mind, the result perhaps of that extreme susceptibility conspicuous in his character, on every point of delicacy or honour, which restrained him from yielding himself to the delightful hope of obtaining the beloved of his brother for his wife; and it was these morbid scruples, as he deemed them, that Mr. Wynne had made every effort to overcome, and that not so much by direct argument, as by bringing before his friend's imagination the lovely picture of Mary's present existence, finally declaring that, through the daily increasing heavenliness of her life and conversation, she was growing so much too good for this world, that they should not be allowed to retain her long amongst them, did not some earthly tie of a very binding nature give her some motive for interest here below; and there was one alone he felt convinced could have that power--for that some secret grief, some sorrow unspoken, unsuspected--some strongly crushed affection, lay at the bottom of Mary Seaham's outwardly calm and patient demeanour, and this in no way connected with the old delusion of her youth, her old friend felt but too well assured.
So on this hint it was that Eustace Trevor came--came with a heart all yearning, tremulous tenderness and solicitude--and once more on the Welsh hill-side, laid the hope and happiness of his future life at the feet of Mary Seaham.
And the world--that part of it at least which had known of the engagement subsisting between Mary and Eugene Trevor--might remark on the singular and interesting circumstance of her union with the elder brother; but as the general understanding had been, that through Eugene's own fault his engagement had been dissolved, and his change of position considerably altering that same charitable world's estimation of the younger brother's character, there were few inclined to make any invidious comment on the new arrangement, nor deem it anything but one--most wise, fortunate, and just.
There was, however, amongst Mary's friends, one who seemed inclined at first to frown on the affair--Mrs. de Burgh was loth to the last to let fall the weapons of defence she had always wielded in behalf of her old favourite, and maintained, that if there was a law against a marriage with two brothers, she considered consecutive attachment to each equally to be repudiated. But as she could not well carry out the argument which her husband so triumphantly derided, she in the end let the subject drop; and finally, with as much kindly warmth as she had bestowed upon the beloved of Eugene, received beneath her roof the bride of Eustace Trevor.
As we are upon the subject, we might as well regretfully state, that Silverton has never yet become quite the perfect seat of conjugal felicity we would fain have left it, but that petty bickerings and debates still occasionally desecrate its inner walls.
Still we hope that, though there are no very conspicuous symptoms of reform, the evil is somewhat on the decrease; that the fair Olivia, as she grows older, steadies down in a degree her high-wrought expectations and ideas; and her husband, in proportion, softens away his asperity and selfish disregard, allowing his natural amiability of disposition to have its own way towards his wife, as well as to the rest of the world.
Whilst, at the same time, was there not a mansion in the neighbourhood where a perfect pattern of unity and godly love was exhibited, such as put to shame every spirit of domestic strife which approached it?
In fact, the prosperity of the de Burghs continues so unabated, so little else do they find in life to ruffle the even tenor of their lot, that if they do still indulge in a few domestic quarrels, it would seem to be, that, preserved from every other exciting cause of trouble and annoyance, it must be on the principle adopted by two little sisters of our acquaintance, who, on being reproved for their continual squabbles with one another, begged that they might not be deprived of this privilege, saying that it would take from them their greatest amusement; in short, be so very dull, if they were not allowed to quarrel.
The Eustace Trevors first went abroad: there they revisited those scenes they had last viewed together under such different auspices, but which had been the period from which Mary dated the current of her fate to have been turned--a purer, nobler image to have risen on the ruins of the old; and Eustace Trevor--blessed beyond conception, finds himself in the enjoyment of that most ambitioned privilege, the guide and guardian of his Mary, beneath skies which seemed to grow still "fairer for her sake."
In about a year's time, they returned to England, where the new mansion awaited their reception. The mansion had been rebuilt much on the same plan as the other, only the position and arrangement of the library was entirely altered. One room, as far as it were possible, had been remodelled by Eustace after the fashion of the original--that one in which at once his happiest and his most agonizing hours in that old home might be said to have been spent.
Mary did not tell her husband, as they sat together in the sunny window of that apartment, the very afternoon of their arrival, what associations were in her mind connected with that place.
Eustace Trevor had had no personal communication with his brother since they parted at Silverton. It is easier for the offended to forgive than the offender to be forgiven, and no true reconcilement could ever heal the wounds, which his injured brother's generous conduct had impressed on Eugene's galled conscience. Besides, what sympathy could exist between two natures so different? what intercourse be established between two individuals whose course of conduct and habits of life were so widely apart?
What were Eugene Trevor's feelings when he heard of Mary Seaham's marriage with his brother, we cannot exactly define; but that it placed only a more decisive barrier between their personal intercourse, may be imagined. He lived on his handsome younger brother's income of two thousand a-year, in London; his brother having paid all his debts, and thus added to his legitimate claim of ten thousand pounds to which alone he was entitled.
The brothers met occasionally in London; but Eugene never accepted any invitation to visit Montrevor, nor was he scarcely heard of amongst his former country friends. Even Silverton was deserted by him.
Some say that the avaricious parsimony of his father is growing rapidly upon him, and this and many other similarities of character and conduct which year after year develop themselves, may well cause Mary gratefully to rejoice that she was suffered before too late to redeem the error of _her first mistaken choice_.