Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 11/Frank Blundell's revelation

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Page:Once a Week Jun to Dec 1864.pdf/723 Page:Once a Week Jun to Dec 1864.pdf/724 thought that they had a common interest in parish matters, which involved a good deal of discussion. And there was nothing in the conduct of either that I could complain of as loverlike, even if I had possessed any right to complain at all, ‘which I hadn’t any.’ I had never ‘told my love.’ I am not prepared to state that on this second visit I might not have, almost involuntarily, betrayed myself; but there had never been the slightest approach to what I believe is called a ‘declaration.’ Our friendly intercourse had reached the stage of our calling one another by our Christian names. Her brother called me Frank habitually, as I called him Fred (which we should probably never have done if our intimacy had dated from our Cambridge days), and she naturally fell, as indeed all the family did, into the same habit. Equally natural it seemed for me to call her Mary. My stay at this time


was short. We were an unbroken circle at home at Christmas; and I left, with my secret undivulged, a few days before Christmas Day. But I ought to have told you that I had seen the Percivals frequently between these visits to Surrey. They were living then near London, the mother and daughter. Mrs. Percival had been a widow for some years, and I had talked to Mary a little about my admiration of the other Mary. Mary Percival was interested in the subject, and seemed often inclined to return to it. It was not a topic of conversation that I by any means objected to; but I didn't half enjoy it under the circumstances. There was something unlike herself about Mary, a certain constraint not to be concealed. It was not very noticeable; but I, who knew her so well, noticed it, or rather felt it, and was uncomfortable accordingly. At the same time I was perfectly sure that my friend was sincere both in the interest she expressed and in her manner towards me.

There was no affectation in Mary Percival—far from it. Looking back from a later day upon the events and feelings of that time, I was more wise to know the truth. Then I was only a selfish man who was not a coxcomb. Let me see, where was I? I told you I went home before Christmas. I was entered at the Inner Temple then; and one day, early in the new year, I was alone in my chambers, when an idea, which had been a long time simmering, boiled and bubbled into a determination. It was to write, to write, sir, to Mary Horner, and learn the worst or the best. Ah! I can jest upon it now. I wrote. The thermometer stood at twenty. There were blocks of ice in the river like horehound candy; but I let my fire out while at my absorbing task. I wrote. I have a bad habit of spoiling several sheets of paper when I write an important letter. I can show you a fac-simile of this, discarded because of the capital M's being of two varieties. There it is, read it."

This was the letter:—

"London, Jan. 3rd.

"My dearest Mary,—I cannot call you by any other title and speak truly. Forgive me if the truth is distasteful to you. Forgive, too, this method of making it known. In all our happy association I have not dared—yes, that is the word—to tell you this. 'A faint heart,' you will say; but 'the bright particular star always seemed so far above me.' These are calm words, dear, when my love is warm; these are cold words, when my heart is beating wildly. I would rather read my sentence, if it is to be banishment; but oh! I would ten thousand times rather hear it, if it has one word of hope. Let me have but that word, and I will be with you. In any case, I feel that you will deal tenderly as well as truthfully with me. "Yours, devotedly,

"Frank."

"In that same hour," he continued, "I decided to tell Mary Percival of what I had done. There is a pretty accurate copy of my letter to her."

It ran thus:—

"London, Jan. 3rd.

"I know, dear Mary, that I do not look in vain for sympathy from you. I need it greatly to-day. You will believe this when I tell you what I have done. I have written to ask some one to give me her heart. Can you guess who it is? I am not hopeful, but I am not despairing. I cannot say more now than that in all my fortunes I am confident of your sisterly regard. "Yours, affectionately,

"Frank."

When I had read this without remark, Blundell went on with his narrative.

"I had finished these letters and folded them, when there was a rap at my door, followed immediately by the entrance of my opposite neighbour. 'Well, I never!' was his exclamation, 'are you out of coal?' I looked round upon the black grate for answer, having first put the letters into envelopes and fastened them. 'I came to see if you were inclined for a skate,' my visitor said. 'I tried the ice on the "Ornamental Water" yesterday: it was pretty good. They say it is capital to-day; but come and have some lunch with me before we go. You are miserable here.' I accepted the invitation, and, wishing to get rid of him, said, 'You go and order it.' When he was gone, I directed the envelopes containing my letters, and followed him, taking them with me to post on my way to the Park. There were a great many skaters, and the ice was for the most part strong. But here and there, as is always the case except after a protracted frost, were weak places. On to one of these I skated at a rapid pace and went down, with out a warning crack, into the bitterly cold water. The ice was above me when I rose, but I could hear voices near me before I sank again. I came up once more, but it was to feel a heavy blow, to be in an explosion of fireworks, and then to lose all consciousness. The clumsily-given aid was nearly being as fatal to me as the ice prison would have been. How I was carried home to my father's house, and suffered for many days from the combined effects of the plunge and the blow, I could tell Page:Once a Week Jun to Dec 1864.pdf/727