Tales of College Life/A Long-Vacation Vigil/Chapter 8

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Tales of College Life by Cuthbert Bede
A Long-Vacation Vigil
Chapter 8

CHAPTER VIII.


A MIDSUMMER-NIGHT'S REALITY.


The next day passes wearily. In the morning we see Amy go to bathe, as usual; and, in the afternoon we pass them on the cliffs. Amy looks pale and anxious; and her eyes seem heavy with weeping and watching. When we are close to them, I pretend to be talking in a loud tone of voice to my sister; and I say—meeting Amy's eyes as I say it—"he will be quite certain to arrive, and I shall be there to meet him." I think this a Machiavellian stroke of policy, and I am delighted with myself at my ready wit.

As evening advances the sky becomes overcast; and, as I let myself out of the hotel, at half-past eleven o'clock, big drops of rain beat against my face. I send Trap indoors again; it is evidently going to be a night not fit to turn out a dog in, and Amy will have but rough weather for her departure, though the noise of the wind and rain will favour her escape. I put on a rough boating coat, light a weed, and sally forth to my vigil.

The thunder comes growling up from the west, and, presently, bursts into peals like the discharge of heavy artillery. The lightning gleams vividly through the lime-trees overhead; and, for a moment lights up the tumbling waves, that are white with foam. Soon the rain comes down in a perfect sheet, and even penetrates the dense mass of foliage above me. It is, indeed, a rough night for a vigil. But hark! the carriage-wheels! I run out into the North-road, and meet—the blinding, hissing rain. I listen again: there is no sound of carriage; it was but the rattling rumble of the thunder.

It must be some time after midnight; but the violence of the storm overpowers the sound of the church clock. I keep under the half-shelter of the dripping trees, and twice or thrice I run forth as before to meet the carriage, but with no better success; the wind and the rain together always deceive me.

At length the storm subsides, and the thunder dies away in distant peals. I shake the wet off me like a Newfoundland dog coming out of the water. There is a grateful sense of coolness all around; the thirsty earth has drunk in the refreshing moisture; the July storm is over. Soon the moon shines out, ghastly and pale, through the dark, driving clouds; and only the raindrops patter from the leaves. I light a fresh cigar and wait till two o'clock strikes. No Captain Alvanley! So I walk down the avenue towards the hotel. Faithful Amy! there she is at her open window, on the watch, just as she was last night. She still looks very pale and sad, and she is evidently listening intently for the sound of the carriage wheels. As soon as she sees me she bends and greets me as an old friend. I have provided myself with a sheet of paper, and I scribble on it in large letters, "The violence of the storm must have delayed him. No horses could face such a tempest. By this time he is on his road." I throw this up to her, and she catches it as nimbly as a cricketer. It seems to console her; so again I return to my post, or, to speak correctly, to my mile-stone; for I take my seat thereon, and smoke placidly. I rather miss Trap, for he was a companion; but I know that Amy is sharing my vigil; so what more can I desire?

Three o'clock, and still no Captain Alvanley. This is getting strange. Can he have played her false? I will go and take a quiet look at Amy. She is still at the window—still gazing out anxiously towards the North-road, with a sad, sad face. I have not the heart to go towards her; for what can I say?

Another hour passes slowly and wearily, and no sight or sound of carriage. Surely Amy could not have made any mistake as to the night? It is not probable; but I will go and ask her. She is at her open window; but clouds have floated before the moon, and it would be impossible for her to read anything that I may write. I, therefore, essay to speak to her. She leans forward out of the window and we converse in whispers. "Are you quite sure that he fixed last night?" I ask.

"Quite sure," she answers; "he mentioned the night and the hour. I could not be mistaken."

"Perhaps he has not been able to leave his regiment; perhaps it has been called out by some sudden riot; there may be a hundred reasons why he cannot come" (I could not think of them!) "and, of course, he could not write to you. But do cheer up and take courage" (for tears were beginning to fall); "I will watch again to-morrow night—and—"

And our tête-à-tête is suddenly brought to an end by the appearance of Lady Glenarvon, attired, Lady Macbeth-like, in her robe-de-chambre and bonnet de nuit.

Amy gave a scream as she turned and saw her mother standing at her elbow. Lady Glenarvon advanced to the window—stood there for a moment (regardless of her costume), while she mentally took my portrait in very stern colours, and then, without saying a word, drew down the window and the blind.

I waited to see if more would come of this; but as there did not, I returned to my mile-stone to ponder over the contretemps, and inform Captain Alvanley, should he arrive, of the state of the case. But he did not arrive; and, wearied and somewhat sick at heart, I went back to the hotel, and to bed.