Wacousta/Volume I/Chapter VII
Although the young and sensitive De Haldimar had found physical relief in the summary means resorted to by the surgeon, the moral wound at his heart not only remained unsoothed, but was rendered more acutely painful by the wretched reflections, which, now that he had full leisure to review the past, and anticipate the future in all the gloom attached to both, so violently assailed him. From the moment when his brother's strange and mysterious disappearance had been communicated by the adjutant in the manner we have already seen, his spirits had been deeply and fearfully depressed. Still he had every reason to expect, from the well-known character of Halloway, the strong hope expressed by the latter might be realised; and that, at the hour appointed for trial, his brother would be present to explain the cause of his mysterious absence, justify the conduct of his subordinate, and exonerate him from the treachery with which he now stood charged. Yet, powerful as this hope was, it was unavoidably qualified by dispiriting doubt; for a nature affectionate and bland, as that of Charles de Haldimar, could not but harbour distrust, while a shadow of uncertainty, in regard to the fate of a brother so tenderly loved, remained. He had forced himself to believe as much as possible what he wished, and the effort had, to a certain extent succeeded; but there had been something so solemn and so impressive in the scene that had passed when the prisoner was first brought up for trial, something so fearfully prophetic in the wild language of his unhappy wife, he had found it impossible to resist the influence of the almost superstitious awe they had awakened in his heart.
What the feelings of the young officer were subsequently, when in the person of the murdered man on the common, the victim of Sir Everard Valletort's aim, he recognised that brother, whose disappearance had occasioned him so much inquietude, we shall not attempt to describe: their nature is best shown in the effect they produced--the almost overwhelming agony of body and mind, which had borne him, like a stricken plant, unresisting to the earth. But now that, in the calm and solitude of his chamber, he had leisure to review the fearful events conspiring to produce this extremity, his anguish of spirit was even deeper than when the first rude shock of conviction had flashed upon his understanding. A tide of suffering, that overpowered, without rendering him sensible of its positive and abstract character, had, in the first instance, oppressed his faculties, and obscured his perception; but now, slow, sure, stinging, and gradually succeeding each other, came every bitter thought and reflection of which that tide was composed; and the generous heart of Charles de Haldimar was a prey to feelings that would have wrung the soul, and wounded the sensibilities of one far less gentle and susceptible than himself.
Between Sir Everard Valletort and Charles de Haldimar, who, it has already been remarked, were lieutenants in Captain Blessington's company, a sentiment of friendship had been suffered to spring up almost from the moment of Sir Everard's joining. The young men were nearly of the same age; and although the one was all gentleness, the other all spirit and vivacity, not a shade of disunion had at any period intervened to interrupt the almost brotherly attachment subsisting between them, and each felt the disposition of the other was the one most assimilated to his own. In fact, Sir Everard was far from being the ephemeral character he was often willing to appear. Under a semblance of affectation, and much assumed levity of manner, never, however, personally offensive, he concealed a brave, generous, warm, and manly heart, and talents becoming the rank he held in society, such as would not have reflected discredit on one numbering twice his years. He had entered the army, as most young men of rank usually did at that period, rather for the agremens it held forth, than with any serious view to advancement in it as a profession. Still he entertained the praiseworthy desire of being something more than what is, among military men, emphatically termed a feather-bed soldier; and, contrary to the wishes of his fashionable mother, who would have preferred seeing him exhibit his uniform in the drawing-rooms of London, had purchased the step into his present corps from a cavalry regiment at home. Not that we mean, however, to assert he was not a feather-bed soldier in its more literal sense: no man that ever glittered in gold and scarlet was fonder of a feather-bed than the young baronet; and, in fact, his own observations, recorded in the early part of this volume, sufficiently prove his predilection for an indulgence which, we take it, in no way impugned his character as a soldier. Sir Everard would have fought twenty battles in the course of the month, if necessary, and yet not complained of the fatigue or severity of his service, provided only he had been suffered to press his downy couch to what is termed a decent hour in the day. But he had an innate and, perhaps, it may be, an instinctive horror of drills and early rising; a pastime in which the martinets and disciplinarians of the last century were very much given to indulge. He frequently upheld an opinion that must have been little less than treason in the eyes of a commander so strict as Colonel de Haldimar, that an officer who rose at eight, with all his faculties refreshed and invigorated, might evince as much of the true bearing of the soldier in the field, as he who, having quitted his couch at dawn, naturally felt the necessity of repose at a moment when activity and exertion were most required.
We need scarcely state, Sir Everard's theories on this important subject were seldom reduced to practice; for, even long before the Indians had broken out into open acts of hostility, when such precautions were rendered indispensable, Colonel de Haldimar had never suffered either officer or man to linger on his pillow after the first faint dawn had appeared. This was a system to which Sir Everard could never reconcile himself. He had quitted England with a view to active service abroad, it is true, but he had never taken "active service" in its present literal sense, and, as he frequently declared to his companions, he preferred giving an Indian warrior a chance for his scalp any hour after breakfast, to rising at daybreak, when, from very stupefaction, he seldom knew whether he stood on his head or his heels. "If the men must be drilled," he urged, "with a view to their health and discipline, why not place them under the direction of the adjutant or the officer of the day, whoever he might chance to be, and not unnecessarily disturb a body of gentlemen from their comfortable slumbers at that unconscionable hour?" Poor Sir Everard! this was the only grievance of which he complained, and he complained bitterly. Scarcely a morning passed without his inveighing loudly against the barbarity of such a custom; threatening at the same time, amid the laughter of his companions, to quit the service in disgust at what he called so ungentlemanly and gothic a habit. All he waited for, he protested, was to have an opportunity of bearing away the spoils of some Indian chief, that, on his return to England, he might afford his lady mother an opportunity of judging with her own eyes of the sort of enemy he had relinquished the comforts of home to contend against, and exhibiting to her very dear friends the barbarous proofs of the prowess of her son. Though these observations were usually made half in jest half in earnest, there was no reason to doubt the young and lively baronet was, in truth, heartily tired of a service which seemed to offer nothing but privations and annoyances, unmixed with even the chances of obtaining those trophies to which he alluded; and, but for two motives, there is every probability he would have seriously availed himself of the earliest opportunity of retiring. The first of these was his growing friendship for the amiable and gentle Charles de Haldimar; the second the secret, and scarcely to himself acknowledged, interest which had been created in his heart for his sister Clara; whom he only knew from the glowing descriptions of his friend, and the strong resemblance she was said to bear to him by the other officers.
Clara de Haldimar was the constant theme of her younger brother's praise. Her image was ever uppermost in his thoughts--her name ever hovering on his lips; and when alone with his friend Valletort, it was his delight to dwell on the worth and accomplishments of his amiable and beloved sister. Then, indeed, would his usually calm blue eye sparkle with the animation of his subject, while his colouring cheek marked all the warmth and sincerity with which he bore attestation to her gentleness and her goodness. The heart of Charles de Haldimar, soldier as he was, was pure, generous, and unsophisticated as that of the sister whom he so constantly eulogized; and, while listening to his eloquent praises, Sir Everard learnt to feel an interest in a being whom all had declared to be the counterpart of her brother, as well in personal attraction as in singleness of nature. With all his affected levity, and notwithstanding his early initiation into fashionable life--that matter-of-fact life which strikes at the existence of our earlier and dearer illusions--there was a dash of romance in the character of the young baronet which tended much to increase the pleasure he always took in the warm descriptions of his friend. The very circumstance of her being personally unknown to him, was, with Sir Everard, an additional motive for interest in Miss de Haldimar.
Imagination and mystery generally work their way together; and as there was a shade of mystery attached to Sir Everard's very ignorance of the person of one whom he admired and esteemed from report alone, imagination was not slow to improve the opportunity, and to endow the object with characteristics, which perhaps a more intimate knowledge of the party might have led him to qualify. In this manner, in early youth, are the silken and willing fetters of the generous and the enthusiastic forged. We invest some object, whose praises, whispered secretly in the ear, have glided imperceptibly to the heart, with all the attributes supplied by our own vivid and readily according imaginations; and so accustomed do we become to linger on the picture, we adore the semblance with an ardour which the original often fails to excite. When, however, the high standard of our fancy's fair creation is attained, we worship as something sacred that which was to our hearts a source of pure and absorbing interest, hallowed by the very secresy in which such interest was indulged. Even where it fails, so unwilling are we to lose sight of the illusion to which our thoughts have fondly clung, so loth to destroy the identity of the semblance with its original, that we throw a veil over that reason which is then so little in unison with our wishes, and forgive much in consideration of the very mystery which first gave a direction to our interest, and subsequently chained our preference. How is it to be lamented, that illusions so dear, and images so fanciful, should find their level with time; or that intercourse with the world, which should be the means rather of promoting than marring human happiness, should leave on the heart so little vestige of those impressions which characterize the fervency of youth; and which, dispassionately considered, constitute the only true felicity of riper life! It is then that man, in all the vigour and capacity of his intellectual nature, feels the sentiment of love upon him in all its ennobling force. It is then that his impetuous feelings, untinged by the romance which imposes its check upon the more youthful, like the wild flow of the mighty torrent, seeks a channel wherein they may empty themselves; and were he to follow the guidance of those feelings, of which in that riper life he seems ashamed as of a weakness unworthy his sex, in the warm and glowing bosom of Nature's divinity-- WOMAN--would he pour forth the swollen tide of his affection; and acknowledge, in the fullness of his expanding heart, the vast bounty of Providence, who had bestowed on him so invaluable--so unspeakably invaluable, a blessing.--But no; in the pursuit of ambition, in the acquisition of wealth, in the thirst after power, and the craving after distinction, nay, nineteen times out of twenty, in the most frivolous occupations, the most unsatisfactory amusements, do the great mass of the maturer man sink those feelings; divested of which, we become mere plodders on the earth, mere creatures of materialism: nor is it until after age and infirmity have overtaken them, they look back with regret to that real and substantial, but unenjoyed happiness, which the occupied heart and the soul's communion alone can bestow. Then indeed, when too late, are they ready to acknowledge the futility of those pursuits, the inadequacy of those mere ephemeral pleasures, to which in the full meridian of their manhood they sacrificed, as a thing unworthy of their dignity, the mysterious charm of woman's influence and woman's beauty.
We do not mean to say Clara de Haldimar would have fallen short of the high estimate formed of her worth by the friend of her brother; neither is it to be understood, Sir Everard suffered this fair vision of his fancy to lead him into the wild and labyrinthian paths of boyish romance; but certain it is, the floating illusions, conjured up by his imagination, exercised a mysterious influence over his heart, that hourly acquired a deeper and less equivocal character. It might have been curiosity in the first instance, or that mere repose of the fancy upon an object of its own creation, which was natural to a young man placed like himself for the moment out of the pale of all female society. It has been remarked, and justly, there is nothing so dangerous to the peace of the human heart as solitude. It is in solitude, our thoughts, taking their colouring from our feelings, invest themselves with the power of multiplying ideal beauty, until we become in a measure tenants of a world of our own creation, from which we never descend, without loathing and disgust, into the dull and matter-of-fact routine of actual existence. Hence the misery of the imaginative man!--hence his little sympathy with the mass, who, tame and soulless, look upon life and the things of life, not through the refining medium of ideality, but through the grossly magnifying optics of mere sense and materialism.
But, though we could, and perhaps may, at some future period, write volumes on this subject, we return for the present from a digression into which we have been insensibly led by the temporary excitement of our own feelings.
Whatever were the impressions of the young baronet, and however he might have been inclined to suffer the fair image of the gentle Clara, such as he was perhaps wont to paint it, to exercise its spell upon his fancy, certain it is, he never expressed to her brother more than that esteem and interest which it was but natural he should accord to the sister of his friend. Neither had Charles de Haldimar, even amid all his warmth of commendation, ever made the slightest allusion to his sister, that could be construed into a desire she should awaken any unusual or extraordinary sentiment of preference. Much and fervently as he desired such an event, there was an innate sense of decorum, and it may be secret pride, that caused him to abstain from any observation having the remotest tendency to compromise the spotless delicacy of his adored sister; and such he would have considered any expression of his own hopes and wishes, where no declaration of preference had been previously made. There was another motive for this reserve on the part of the young officer. The baronet was an only child, and would, on attaining his majority, of which he wanted only a few months, become the possessor of a large fortune. His sister Clara, on the contrary, had little beyond her own fair fame and the beauty transmitted to her by the mother she had lost. Colonel de Haldimar was a younger son, and had made his way through life with his sword, and an unblemished reputation alone,--advantages he had shared with his children, for the two eldest of whom his interest and long services had procured commissions in his own regiment.
But even while Charles de Haldimar abstained from all expression of his hopes, he had fully made up his mind that Sir Everard and his sister were so formed for each other, it was next to an impossibility they could meet without loving. In one of his letters to the latter, he had alluded to his friend in terms of so high and earnest panegyric, that Clara had acknowledged, in reply, she was prepared to find in the young baronet one whom she should regard with partiality, if it were only on account of the friendship subsisting between him and her brother. This admission, however, was communicated in confidence, and the young officer had religiously preserved his sister's secret.
These and fifty other recollections now crowded on the mind of the sufferer, only to render the intensity of his anguish more complete; among the bitterest of which was the certainty that the mysterious events of the past night had raised up an insuperable barrier to this union; for how could Clara de Haldimar become the wife of him whose hands were, however innocently, stained with the life-blood of her brother! To dwell on this, and the loss of that brother, was little short of madness, and yet De Haldimar could think of nothing else; nor for a period could the loud booming of the cannon from the ramparts, every report of which shook his chamber to its very foundations, call off his attention from a subject which, while it pained, engrossed every faculty and absorbed every thought. At length, towards the close, he called faintly to the old and faithful soldier, who, at the foot of the bed, stood watching every change of his master's countenance, to know the cause of the cannonade. On being informed the batteries in the rear were covering the retreat of Captain Erskine, who, in his attempt to obtain the body, had been surprised by the Indians, a new direction was temporarily given to his thoughts, and he now manifested the utmost impatience to know the result.
In a few minutes Morrison, who, in defiance of the surgeon's strict order not on any account to quit the room, had flown to obtain some intelligence which he trusted might remove the anxiety of his suffering master, again made his appearance, stating the corpse was already secured, and close under the guns of the fort, beneath which the detachment, though hotly assailed from the forest, were also fast retreating.
"And is it really my brother, Morrison? Are you quite certain that it is Captain de Haldimar?" asked the young officer, in the eager accents of one who, with the fullest conviction on his mind, yet grasps at the faintest shadow of a consoling doubt. "Tell me that it is not my brother, and half of what I possess in the world shall be yours."
The old soldier brushed a tear from his eye. "God bless you, Mr. de Haldimar, I would give half my grey hairs to be able to do so; but it is, indeed, too truly the captain who has been killed. I saw the very wings of his regimentals as he lay on his face on the litter."
Charles de Haldimar groaned aloud. "Oh God! oh God! would I had never lived to see this day." Then springing suddenly up in his bed.--"Morrison, where are my clothes? I insist on seeing my slaughtered brother myself."
"Good Heaven, sir, consider," said the old man approaching the bed, and attempting to replace the covering which had been spurned to its very foot,--"consider you are in a burning fever, and the slightest cold may kill you altogether. The doctor's orders are, you were on no account to get up."
The effort made by the unfortunate youth was momentary. Faint from the blood he had lost, and giddy from the excitement of his feelings, he sank back exhausted on his pillow, and wept like a child.
Old Morrison shed tears also; for his heart bled for the sufferings of one whom he had nursed and played with even in early infancy, and whom, although his master, he regarded with the affection he would have borne to his own child. As he had justly observed, he would have willingly given half his remaining years to be able to remove the source of the sorrow which so deeply oppressed him.
When this violent paroxysm had somewhat subsided, De Haldimar became more composed; but his was rather that composure which grows out of the apathy produced by overwhelming grief, than the result of any relief afforded to his suffering heart by the tears he had shed. He had continued some time in this faint and apparently tranquil state, when confused sounds in the barrack-yard, followed by the raising of the heavy drawbridge, announced the return of the detachment. Again he started up in his bed and demanded his clothes, declaring his intention to go out and receive the corpse of his murdered brother. All opposition on the part of the faithful Morrison was now likely to prove fruitless, when suddenly the door opened, and an officer burst hurriedly into the room.
"Courage! courage! my dear De Haldimar; I am the bearer of good news. Your brother is not the person who has been slain."
Again De Haldimar sank back upon his pillow, overcome by a variety of conflicting emotions. A moment afterwards, and he exclaimed reproachfully, yet almost gasping with the eagerness of his manner,--
"For God's sake, Sumners--in the name of common humanity, do not trifle with my feelings. If you would seek to lull me with false hopes, you are wrong. I am prepared to hear and bear the worst at present; but to be undeceived again would break my heart."
"I swear to you by every thing I have been taught to revere as sacred," solemnly returned Ensign Sumners, deeply touched by the affliction he witnessed, "what I state is strictly true. Captain Erskine himself sent me to tell you."
"What, is he only wounded then?" and a glow of mingled hope and satisfaction was visible even through the flush of previous excitement on the cheek of the sufferer. "Quick, Morrison, give me my clothes.--Where is my brother, Sumners?" and again he raised up his debilitated frame with the intention of quitting his couch.
"De Haldimar, my dear De Haldimar, compose yourself, and listen to me. Your brother is still missing, and we are as much in the dark about his fate as ever. All that is certain is, we have no positive knowledge of his death; but surely that is a thousand times preferable to the horrid apprehensions under which we have all hitherto laboured."
"What mean you, Sumners? or am I so bewildered by my sufferings as not to comprehend you clearly?--Nay, nay, forgive me; but I am almost heart-broken at this loss, and scarcely know what I say. But what is it you mean? I saw my unhappy brother lying on the common with my own eyes. Poor Valletort, himself--" here a rush of bitter recollections flashed on the memory of the young man, and the tears coursed each other rapidly down his cheek. His emotion lasted for a few moments, and he pursued,--"Poor Valletort himself saw him, for he was nearly as much overwhelmed with affliction as I was; and even Morrison beheld him also, not ten minutes since, under the very walls of the fort; nay, distinguished the wings of his uniform: and yet you would persuade me my brother, instead of being brought in a corpse, is still missing and alive. This is little better than trifling with my wretchedness, Sumners," and again he sank back exhausted on his pillow.
"I can easily forgive your doubts, De Haldimar," returned the sympathizing Sumners, taking the hand of his companion, and pressing it gently in his own; "for, in truth, there is a great deal of mystery attached to the whole affair. I have not seen the body myself; but I distinctly heard Captain Erskine state it certainly was not your brother, and he requested me to apprise both Sir Everard Valletort and yourself of the fact."
"Who is the murdered man, then? and how comes he to be clad in the uniform of one of our officers? Pshaw! it is too absurd to be credited. Erskine is mistaken--he must be mistaken--it can be no other than my poor brother Frederick. Sumners, I am sick, faint, with this cruel uncertainty: go, my dear fellow, at once, and examine the body; then return to me, and satisfy my doubts, if possible."
"Most willingly, if you desire it," returned Sumners, moving towards the door; "but believe me, De Haldimar, you may make your mind tranquil on the subject;--Erskine spoke with certainty."
"Have you seen Valletort?" asked De Haldimar, while an involuntary shudder pervaded his fame.
"I have. He flew on the instant to make further enquiries; and was in the act of going to examine the body of the murdered man when I came here.--But here he is himself, and his countenance is the harbinger of any thing but a denial of my intelligence."
"Oh, Charles, what a weight of misery has been removed from my heart!" exclaimed that officer, now rushing to the bedside of his friend, and seizing his extended hand,--"Your brother, let us hope, still lives."
"Almighty God, I thank thee!" fervently ejaculated De Haldimar; and then, overcome with joy, surprise, and gratitude, he again sank back upon his pillow, sobbing and weeping violently.
Sumners had, with delicate tact, retired the moment Sir Everard made his appearance; for he, as well as the whole body of officers, was aware of the close friendship that subsisted between the young men, and he felt, at such a moment, the presence of a third person must be a sort of violation of the sacredness of their interview.
For some minutes the young baronet stood watching in silence, and with his friend's hand closely clasped in his own, the course of those tears which seemed to afford so much relief to the overcharged heart of the sufferer. At length they passed gradually away; and a smile, expressive of the altered state of his feelings, for the first time animated the flushed but handsome features of the younger De Haldimar.
We shall not attempt to paint all that passed between the friends during the first interesting moments of an interview which neither had expected to enjoy again, or the delight and satisfaction with which they congratulated themselves on the futility of those fears, which, if realised, must have embittered every future moment of their lives with the most harrowing recollections. Sir Everard, particularly, felt, and was not slow to express, his joy on this occasion; for, as he gazed upon the countenance of his friend, he was more than ever inclined to confess an interest in the sister he was said so much to resemble.
With that facility with which in youth the generous and susceptible are prone to exchange their tears for smiles, as some powerful motive for the reaction may prompt, the invalid had already, and for the moment, lost sight of the painful past in the pleasurable present, so that his actual excitement was strongly in contrast with the melancholy he had so recently exhibited. Never had Charles de Haldimar appeared so eminently handsome; and yet his beauty resembled that of a frail and delicate woman, rather than that of one called to the manly and arduous profession of a soldier. It was that delicate and Medor-like beauty which might have won the heart and fascinated the sense of a second Angelica. The light brown hair flowing in thick and natural waves over a high white forehead; the rich bloom of the transparent and downy cheek; the large, blue, long, dark-lashed eye, in which a shade of languor harmonised with the soft but animated expression of the whole countenance,--the dimpled mouth,--the small, clear, and even teeth,--all these now characterised Charles de Haldimar; and if to these we add a voice rich, full, and melodious, and a smile sweet and fascinating, we shall be at no loss to account for the readiness with which Sir Everard suffered his imagination to draw on the brother for those attributes he ascribed to the sister.
It was while this impression was strong upon his fancy, he took occasion to remark, in reply to an observation of De Haldimar's, alluding to the despair with which his sister would have been seized, had she known one brother had fallen by the hand of the friend of the other.
"The grief of my own heart, Charles, on this occasion, would have been little inferior to her own. The truth is, my feelings during the last three hours have let me into a secret, of the existence of which I was, in a great degree, ignorant until then: I scarcely know how to express myself, for the communication is so truly absurd and romantic you will not credit it." He paused, hesitated, and then, as if determined to anticipate the ridicule he seemed to feel would be attached to his confession, with a forced half laugh pursued: "The fact is, Charles, I have been so much used to listen to your warm and eloquent praises of your sister, I have absolutely, I will not say fallen in love with (that would be going too far), but conceived so strong an interest in her, that my most ardent desire would be to find favour in her eyes. What say you, my friend? are you inclined to forward my suit; and if so, is there any chance for me, think you, with herself?"
The breast of Charles de Haldimar, who had listened with deep and increasing attention to this avowal, swelled high with pleasurable excitement, and raising himself up in his bed with one hand, while he grasped one of Sir Everard's with the other, he exclaimed with a transport of affection too forcible to be controlled,--
"Oh, Valletort, Valletort! this is, indeed, all that was wanting to complete my happiness. My sister Clara I adore with all the affection of my nature; I love her better than my own life, which is wrapped up in hers. She is an angel in disposition,--all that is dear, tender, and affectionate,--all that is gentle and lovely in woman; one whose welfare is dearer far to me than my own, and without whose presence I could not live. Valletort, that prize,--that treasure, that dearer half of myself, is yours,--yours for ever. I have long wished you should love, each other, and I felt, when you met, you would. If I have hitherto forborne from expressing this fondest wish of my heart, it has been from delicacy--from a natural fear of compromising the purity of my adored Clara. Now, however, you have confessed yourself interested, by a description that falls far short of the true peril of that dear girl, I can no longer disguise my gratification and delight. Valletort," he concluded, impressively, "there is no other man on earth to whom I would say so much; but you were formed for each other, and you will, you must, be the husband of my sister."
If the youthful and affectionate De Haldimar was happy, Sir Everard was no less so; for already, with the enthusiasm of a young man of twenty, he painted to himself the entire fruition of those dreams of happiness that had so long been familiarised to his imagination. One doubt alone crossed his mind.
"But if your sister should have decided differently, Charles," he at length remarked, as he gently quitted the embrace of his friend: "who knows if her heart may not already throb for another; and even if not, it is possible she may judge me far less flatteringly than you do."
"Valletort, your fears are groundless. Having admitted thus far, I will even go farther, and add, you have been the subject of one of my letters to Clara, who, in her turn, 'confesses a strong interest in one of whom she has heard so much.' She writes playfully, of course, but it is quite evident to me she is prepared to like you."
"Indeed! But, Charles, liking is many degrees removed you know from loving; besides, I understand there are two or three handsome and accomplished fellows among the garrison of Michilimackinac, and your sister's visit to her cousin may not have been paid altogether with impunity."
"Think not thus meanly of Clara's understanding, Valletort. There must be something more than mere beauty and accomplishment to fix the heart of my sister. The dark eyed and elegant Baynton, and the musical and sonnetteering Middleton, to whom you, doubtless, allude, are very excellent fellows in their way; but handsome and accomplished as they are, they are not exactly the men to please Clara de Haldimar."
"But, my dear Charles, you forget also any little merit of my own is doubly enhanced in your eyes, by the sincerity of the friendship subsisting between us; your sister may think very differently."
"Psha, Valletort! these difficulties are all of your own creation," returned his friend, impatiently; "I know the heart of Clara is disengaged. What would you more?"
"Enough, De Haldimar; I will no longer doubt my own prospects. If she but approve me, my whole life shall be devoted to the happiness of your sister."
A single knock was now heard at the door of the apartment; it was opened, and a sergeant appeared at the entrance.
"The company are under arms for punishment parade, Lieutenant Valletort," said the man, touching his cap.
In an instant, the visionary prospects of the young men gave place to the stern realities connected with that announcement of punishment. The treason of Halloway,--the absence of Frederick de Haldimar,--the dangers by which they were beset,--and the little present probability of a re-union with those who were most dear to them,--all these recollections now flashed across their minds with the rapidity of thought; and the conversation that had so recently passed between them seemed to leave no other impression than what is produced from some visionary speculation of the moment.