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you as only men of my years and character can love. Farther concealment would be worse than the truth, which I have vainly endeavoured to withhold from you. Your protracted stay this evening, and my anxiety and longing for your return, have overcome my prudence, and the secret is mine no longer." She was about to interrupt, but he continued
Hear me, Catherine ! I love you for yourself! I have no ties, but Margaret, and she loves you. You are friendless, homeless, so young, so interesting, and, may I say it, so unhappy. Oh, Catherine ! let me share your griefs, and, by so doing, lessen them, or at least render them less bitter. My Catherine! what happiness to place you beyond the trials and endless stings of fickle fortune, now, above all, when you stand so much in need of a protector. I would cherish, watch over you, live for you; aye, be a better and another man with you by my side. Catherine, you do not know, you cannot dream what my life has been; although outwardly so calm and indifferent to all things, I have had a dreadful sorrow, which I have carefully hidden within my heart. No, not even Margaret, whom I love and esteem, has any idea of the plaything fortune has made of me. And you are so like—so unspeakably like-one who loved me once, and would have been mine, if right were might. But she deceived me, and her deception caused the unhappiness, not only of herself alone, but of those who came within her influence. She had your face and form; the same free spirit, the same noble heart; yet one thing she wanted, which you possess so fully-abnegation of self; with all her intrinsic qualities, she could not make the smallest sacrifice for others. Yet I loved her to the last, and I love her still in you! When she became dead to me, by her own act, I fled my home and my country, and became a wanderer. My nature, which had hitherto been believing and yielding, became incredulous and hard. All inward, as well as outward, show of religion, seemed to me but as a cloak for falsehood, for she whom I worshipped had allowed herself to be first guided, and afterwards deceived, by a priest, into perpetrating an unjust act, and one unworthy of the true and disinterested affection which she professed towards me. My wounded pride felt too deeply injured to interfere with them; I could at the last moment, as she too well knew and dreaded, have prevented her taking a false vow; but that morning, as she was leaving the church, after the ceremony, unnoticed by all but herself, I appeared before her, when she thought and hoped I was far from the spot. I turned, and, with an expression of pity and contempt, left her, and as I did so, she fell fainting into the arms of those around. Her sudden indisposition was attributed to the closeness of the weather, and to the crowded chapel. I took with me one satisfaction as I went away, that was the assurance, which her gaze at me but too truly confirmed, that I was still beloved.
“How often since then has my heart reproached me for my apparent cruelty! yet I was helpless to save her or myself-she had gone too far!
" When next we met, after an interval of many, many years, she was on her dying bed; and had sent to ask my forgiveness for the wrong she had committed against me. She had heard of the sad life I had passed since that fatal day, and made me promise to return to my faith, and seek the consolations which my Church could give. She then told me that she had acquainted her husband, some time before her illness, with her previous engagement to me, and with her deceit in the affair. A few months before seeing her for the last time, my eldest brother died suddenly, leaving me heir to the property. At the time that her perfidy drove me away, I was only twenty-one, and the youngest of three brothers. She was no stranger to you, Catherine;" and he bent forward, and whispered a well-known name in her ear, which upon hearing, made her start and exclaim
“My aunt, O'Neile!"
“You know, Catherine, even with your experience of me, what a misanthrope I am. But perhaps you don't know that social ties, and all that makes home dear and attractive, has been a sealed book to me; although, for my sister's peace of mind, I have often assumed a character which is not mine. When the sorrowful event, which closed upon her happiness in this world, summoned me back to the home I had left, in order to conceal the shadows and ennui that still clung to me, I gave myself up to an occupation to which I devoted most of my time and energies, that I might blind her, and have an excuse for being alone; as I was no companion for her when in my wayward moods, and cynical thoughts of mankind. What bitter hours have I not passed in that laboratory, when she believed that science had more attractions for me than her society! till a new light, a bright presence of youth and sympathy, came across my path in your form. Three years have passed—how time flies ! and fly it will, either in joy or sorrow--since you first came like a sunbeam, or a thunder-cloud, and awoke me from the state of apathy into which I had fallen. How I watched you, and learnt to read from your looks alone, the heart which your actions and remarks often belied ! In your hours of reverie, when you thought no one was near, and when you seemed lost to all around, an expression of unutterable unhappiness would pass over your countenance; then how I longed, how I wished for the right and privilege to share your sorrow !”
Upon hearing this Catherine started, and exclaimed, with astonishment and indignation
“Was that honourable, Sir, to follow me like a spy, and watch my every movement, almost my every thought ? you, whom I believed to be above such conduct ? Shame!'
“I am making a clear confession, Catherine, although by so doing, I may for the moment lose your esteem. You are wrong when you imagine that I was a spy upon your actions; Fate seemed to bring me near to you. When I began to wander about, I never thought of crossing your path, though long afterwards the longing would arise in my heart that I might meet you, or
come near the place which your presence seemed to hallow. I had now, after an aimless existence of more than twenty years, an object to promote my best and truest interests, and in part remove the despondency that was weighing so heavily upon me. Catherine! she who can inspire and call forth such a change, must possess a germ-a saving influence in herself. I, whom till then, not anything seemed to have power to impress-I, who have seen and mixed in all phases of life, and with all kinds of people-" He paused a moment, then continued— I have now come to a point in my confession, which I know will arouse all your indignation; and yet I must tell you. That night, in Denis Connelly's cabin, I saw you watch beside the dying child. Unseen by you, I managed to remain unobserved amid the crowd, who, out of sympathy or curiosity, had congregated to watch the breath pass away from the little suffering body. I also watched
I your uncle's guest and kinsman, at first with a feeling of jealousy, as I saw his too expressive glances of admiration follow your every movement; and then with a feeling of pity, as I noticed your contemptuous reception of his proffered kindness; as if an Irish girl, and an O'Neile, were not safe where Erin's skies and Erin's sons surrounded her. When you left that night, I followed you--"
Catherine tapped quickly and impatiently with her foot upon the ground, and tried to speak, but the words died upon her lips, as she looked upon the man, always so calm and indifferent, but who was now speaking with eager and passionate accents.
“Yes, I followed, and saw, as Denis Connelly quitted you, that you remained undecided, till, looking upwards, the falling star attracted your attention. In the uncertain light I could not see your face distinctly, yet my heart told me that your wish accompanied its downward course. Then how much I desired that my soul's aspi. rations could go with, and unite themselves to yours! I saw you go into the little chapel; and, actuated by an insurmountable feeling, I contrived to enter it from the other side, by a small aperture. When you prostrated yourself before the statue, and addressed it in the anguish and bitterness of your heart, I remembered her who had deceived me, and how she had erred through too much reliance and faith in images; and an irresistible desire rose in my mind to save you, if possible, from such false comfort as they could afford."
He paused to draw breath, while Catherine, with cheeks glowing with indignation and pride, said, in bitter tones
“I will hear no more! leave me, Mr. Maitland; with deep regret I am compelled to say, that the confession is truly worthy of the confessor. You, to whom I looked as to a superior being, to think, to know that you could have been guilty of this !-oh, it is too much!”
“Catherine, you must pardon me, and not regard this in any other light than the true one. There was reproach in his accents as he added—“ Believe me when I assure you that I had your welfare at heart, and no other motive. · I wanted to satisfy myself, and for that purpose wished to see how far your credulity would lead
Really, Sir, I don't know how I shall reward this particular, and I may add important, interest, that by your own avowal, you have evidently taken in my slightest actions. But continue, I have now listened so far that I can hear the end.” She drew herself up, looking at him fixedly and contemptuously
“ I was enabled, by means of a stool placed behind the figure of the Virgin, to raise myself upon a level with it; and it was my lips which softly whispered