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PURIFIED THROUGH SUFFERING, On the couch of convalescent sickness lay the youthful Lord St. Valerie. A fever of the brain had succeeded to the terrible heart-agony described in the last chapter. He was now slowly recovering from the shock, but his appearance was so changed, his features so pale and emaciated, as almost to baffle the recognition of his friends. By his side stood the ever-faithful Winnifred, administering to his wants, and beguiling, with her loving converse, the long hours of his enforced and solitary watch. ing. Bending gently over him, she said, in soft modulated accents
“Your melancholy fit is on, my Alaric; my harp is in the adjoining chamber, shall I bring it hither ?”
Alaric turned towards her his suffering, care-worn countenance, saying
“My heart is heavy, Winnifred. A burden rests upon it that is superior to every effort of the will, and stamps itself indelibly upon my internal consciousness. I had hoped the buoyancy of youth would have risen victorious above this morbid sentiment of gloom, but the hope has become consumed in its own expiring ashes, and there exists no revivifying spark at which it shall be rekindled. But oh, it is but just ! Winnifred, a coutse of error so wilful and extended—the punishment should be perpetual.”
“Oh, say not that, Alaric," said Winnifred ; "the fault for which you suffer shall even by that suffering be redeemed and cancelled. Oh, my Alaric, hope can never be consumed in its own ashes, for hope has an undying, self-resuscitating vigour, and never finds decay. Oh, still hope on, my Alaric, the characters graven in the past shall be obliterated from your brain, and the load uplifted from your conscious being which now drags you into the very depths of enervating depression."
“ "May thy prophecy be fulfilled, my Winnifred,” said Alaric, "oh, may thy prophecy be fulfilled! But the scenes through which I have strayed in the unlawfulness of desire, force themselves back upon my imagination in an ever-revolving panorama, till I experience, over and over again, the terrible heart-agony that followed the lengthened period of my transgression. Oh, that I could divest myself of the image and the thought. But I complain not, I complain not. The egotism of my heart must be atoned for—the gross selfishness that transferred on innocence the suffering that should have been sustained solely by the guilty. You are one of those injured ones, my Winnifred ; and he, my father, the silver-haired St. Valerie, who died upon the paternal couch unsolaced by-"
“No more of this, my Alaric," said Winnifred, warned by the hyste
rical sobs that began to choke his utterance, “thy father reproached thee not upon his death-bed, and thy Winnifred hath forgiven thee long ago. Torture not thyself, my Alaric; thy fault is not so huge as thou would'st make it. Thou hast been the victim of a gross deceptionmore sinned against than sinning. Thou hast been in a long, long trance, my Alaric, and in that trance thy heart hath strayed from its integrity ; but thou hast awakened now, and become thy old, old self again. Thou hast no wrong to atone for now, my Alaric."
“Ah! thou say'st so, my fond one,” said Alaric, folding her closely to his bosom, “because thy mind is innocent and child-like, and reflects its own inward purity on each external object it embraces. But oh, I have much yet to atone for, much accomplished evil thy fair and sinless soul is too angelically pure to admit or apprehend. But I am better than I was, my Winnifred; my heart has been purified by the ordeal through which it has passed ; my perceptions are clearer, and less clogged by unreflecting prejudice. The truth, before involved in impenetrable obscurity, is now irradiated by the light of the purer medium through which it is apprehended. I feel myself a separate being to what I have hitherto existed; my subjectivity is changed. I could no longer be cajoled by the specious falsehood fabricated by the vile one to destroy me. I told thee not of that, my Winnifred."
“No, my Alaric."
“She would have had me discredit the veracity of my brother's testimony, have transformed him from the injured into the injurer, and invested herself with the soft, engaging light of confiding innocence betrayed. She would have had me believe thou hadst been the object of my brother's choice, and not herself, my Winnifred.”
“Alas ! my Alaric, she was a subtle contriver of mischievous fabrications."
But my judgment was blinded by my passion. I could see nothing distinctly but the fair and lovely proportions of the idolised St. Clair. But the films have passed from my understanding, reason is restored, and all is intelligibility and perspicuity where erst was darkness and confusion. But tell me, Winnifred, the thought has sometimes germinated in my mind, though I have not yet had courage to shape it into words. She is as nothing to me now, yet would I learn her fateknow'st thou aught of her, Winnifred ?"
“But little," said Winnifred. “The palace of St. Clair is suddenly deserted; the gates are closed, the blinds lowered, and not a human being is seen to pass within the shadow of its walls. 'Tis said the duchess, by the advice of her newly-found husband, has retired to spend the rest of her days in religious seclusion; but there are no vouchers for the truth of this report. I cannot inform thee further, Alaric."
“ She was.
" It is enough," said St. Valerie, “it is enough. Further I would be ignorant of her fate. She is as nothing to me now—as nothing to me
I will consign her to oblivion." "But her image still haunts thee, Alaric."
“Ay, my Winnifred; haunts me like the recollection of some terrible nightmare which, like the colours of the spectrum, lingers upon the tables of the imagination long after the dream itself has faded, and refuses to be ejected. 'Tis there I find no rest. I need some medicine, some potion of more than talismanic virtue, that shall convey oblivion of what has been. Oh, Winnifred !"
“What is it, Alaric ?" said Winnifred, perceiving that he hesitated.
"The miraculous fountthe lost gift-the-thou hast heard the legend, hast thou not ?"
“Yes, my Alaric. But methought thou wert too sceptical to receive the truth of that tradition.”
"I was, my Winnifred; but the light in which I viewed all things is changed. What once was scepticism has now converted itself into positive credulity. I have pondered often, during my long and tedious illness, upon the strange ambiguous meaning which surrounds that ancient tradition of our house, and I have come to the conclusion that truth, entire and absolute, must lie at the foundation of the sacred legend. Whence derived the waters their miraculous property of healing external diseases ? Such virtue exists not in any other body of liquid within or without the Lunar Íslands. Why may they not have received at the same time, from the same source, a corresponding influence over the distempers of the mind? A deep yearning is upon me, my Winnifred, to search further into this unexplored mystery, and discover, if possible, the talisman by which the forfeited gift shall be restored. Yes, even so shall it be, my Winnifred; I will seek the talisman."
“When you are strong enough, my Alaric.”
“I am stronger now, my Winnifred ; I feel the glow of 'returning health even with the resolution I have formed. My distemper yields before the fresh incentive to exertion which now re-animates my sluggish being. Yes, I will seek--seek-be it months, years---yea, even till I find, my Winnifred.”
“You will find it, never doubt, my Alaric."
“I doubt not, Winnifred. I have doubted-been inclined to faith placed the problem in different lights before my understanding, and doubted still
. But now I doubt in nothing—the truth of the legendthe existence of the talisman-or its successful seeking. I feel strong in my own persuasion, a persuasion arrived at through a direct apperception of the soul. I will obey the inward impulse. I will seekseek. Is it not wise, my Winnifred ?”
“Even so," said Winnifred, who, perceiving that her patient sought
repose, reclined her head against the pillow of the ottoman, and relapsed once more into her silent, solitary watching.
“On the right track now," lisped Tiny, whose eager ears had been employed listening at the key-hole of her foster-brother's chamber; "on the right track now. Slowly but surely arrives the wished-for consummation, and my labour is complete. He is on the right track now-he cannot err—the goal is right before him. Yes, it is the right track now the right track now.”
And the figure of Tiny was no longer visible on the landing.
FINDING OF THE TALISMAN.
The young Lord St. Valerie lay sleeping upon the greensward that grew by the side of the Magic Fount. His cheeks were radiant with the glow of renovated health, and his head reclined against the trunk of a giant oak, whose lofty branches reared themselves heavenward as though in solemn contemplation of the great mystical problem of the universe and man. By his side knelt the still constant Winnifred, seeming, in her perfect truth and simplicity, a fitting type of all that is fairest and loveliest in creation. Upon the greensward, by the side of her heart's idol, sheltered from the glare of the scorching sun by the long shadows flung from the branches of the giant oak, knelt the tender Winnifred, holding over the face of the sometime invalid, a cambric handkerchief—a loving protection against the sudden blights that ofttimes treacherously lurk amongst the sighing breeces of the meridian summer. Day by day, since the first hour of his complete restoration, had Alaric repaired to the vicinity of the miraculous fount, instinctively divining, that there only could the light be manifested to his understanding by which the long-promised talisman should be placed within his grasp. Day by day had he continued his restless watching, carrying his vigils sometimes far into the dreamy night, when the soul of man is supposed to hold communion with the super-sensual and the visionary, without being visited by the revelation for which he yearned. Still he despaired not, but accompanied by the faithful Winnifred, pursued on each successive morrow the same way-beaten track he had traversed the yesterday before. In the midst of his present vigil he had been overtaken by a heavy drowsiness, and yielding to the soft and soothing influence, had dropped unconsciously to sleep. Around, the air was filled with musical cadences, warbled sweetly from the throats of the many-voiced messengers of summer ; the breezes were softly rippled by the leaves of the waving branches, and filling with its sound the whole extent of the St. Valerie grounds, came the deathless rush of the healing waters, presenting to the human mind an enigmatical problem which each shall solve according to the subjective form of his individual understanding. On they sped, the undying waters, uniformly from the cleft in the hill-side into the basin of the miraculous fount. On, on, presenting neither divarication nor cessation. Onward, onward, rolling their still undeviating course, till the last of time's computations shall be for ever merged within the one everlasting measureless cycle of eternity. Alaric St. Valerie slept, that is his body reposed itself into a state of supine inactivity ; but the mind, ever active and self-conscious, still revelled in the contemplation of its own self-created objects, which for a time floated vaguely across the realms of dreamland, presenting to him neither intelligible shape nor meaning. Presently he became conscious of a vague figure, rising apparently at a great distance, and then gradually ar proaching within the line of vision, its form becoming more and more developed with every onward movement, till at length a grey-headed man, whose features appeared familiar to the dreamer, stopped directly in his path, and thus addressed him
“Recognise in me thy ancestor, Ernest St. Valerie, by whose egregious error one part of the gracious boon, accorded for the virtues of an individual member, to the whole of the St. Valerie descent, was for a time suspended and repealed. For thee it hath been reserved, in the midst of thy yearning and heart-grief, the result of thy own backsliding, to afford to generations yet unborn an illustration of the truth of the soul's purification, arrived at through the medium of the body's suffering, and to redeem to thy race what was lost through the perversity of one ill-governed nature. Arise ! take the pearl goblet and immerse it in the magic waters. No longer remain in ignorance of the accepta
. tion of thy labours. Rise, and exert thy newly acquired prerogative. Rise, Alaric St. Valerie, the consummation has arrived, and the long promised talisman is even now within thy grasp."
The vision faded. Alaric started from his recumbent position, and passing one hand across his eyes, as though to chase away the mists of slumber, with the other he grasped the arm of Winnifred, exclaiming in a voice of intense excitement
“Winnifred-the pearl goblet-it hangs in the entrance hall, fetch it, Winnifred. The talisman-I have found it, I have found it-it is ready to my grasp! Delay not, Winnifred. Quick, quick!” Without a word of question, swiftly sped Winnifred upon the light
a ning wings of affection to do the bidding of her loved Alaric; and scarcely had he time to recal the communication so singularly vouchsafed, before she returned, bearing in her hand the object for which she had been so summarily and unceremonionsly despatched.
“Thanks, dear Winnifred,” said Alaric, eagerly snatching the vessel