The Minister's Daughter
"Theyparted—neer to meet again!
But never either found another
To free the hollow heart from paining;
They stoodaloof, the scars remaining,
Like cliffs which have been rent asunder
A dreary sea now flows between,
But neither heat, nor frost, nor thunder,
Shall wholly do away, I ween,
The merks of that which once hath been."
It is now necessary, in
concluding our story, to follow, for a brief space, the adventures ofSir Robert Walton and his friend Mr. Northcott. It will be remembered
that, on Henry Walton’s return to Buckham Priory, he found his parents
from home, and that he was left to ruminate, in the seal of his ancestors,
on the eventful step he had taken, and the sorrows and trials which had
followed up his marriage with Mary Robertson. The cause of the absence of
his parents was, alas! unknown to him. During his sojourn in Scotland, Mr.
Northcott, a person of ruined fortunes, and of desperate character, having
contrived to gain the ascendancy over Sir Robert’s mind, took occasion to
cast suspicion upon the honour of his lady. The infamous slander too
readily accomplished the villain’s purpose. It wrought like madness in the
brain of Sir Robert, and without asking for a single proof of Lady
Walton’s incontinency, he barbarously commanded her to leave the Priory;
and, to complete the measure of his revenge, he ordered Northcott to
prepare a deed of disinheritance against his own son, Henry Walton. Lady
Walton, however, did not long survive the unfounded jealousy and brutality
of her husband; she died in the course of a few weeks, of a broken
heart—an innocent victim to his malign suspicions. Sir Robert himself,
whose health for some time had been upon the wane, was ordered by his
physician—a creature of Northcott’s—to take a voyage to the Morea; and in
compliance therewith, he embarked in company with the latter in a vessel
bound for the Mediterranean. But its classic shores had for him no charms;
he looked upon every object with apathy, and it was in vain that Northcott
put forth all his eloquence and all his art in endeavouring to astonish
and attract his attention, by the frequent boldness and beauty of the
scenery. Sir Robert peevishly shook his head, and looked in a contrary
direction. He laboured to ply him into humour with the bottle; the other
drank, but remained sullen. They had been visited by storms, pursued by a
French cruiser, and, to lighten their vessel, part of their cargo, water
casks, and provisions, had been cast into the sea. Almost for the first
time, Sir Robert had drank water, and that in measured quantities, granted
only at intervals. He had felt there was a meaning in hunger, and had been
denied a coarse biscuit until his next meal. He had been in terror of
death—in fear of capture and imprisonment in a strange land—and, above all
a perpetual sea-sickness, or rather a murmuring of the disease, had for
weeks been whispering about his heart, and he cursed the ship, the sea,
his companion, and the hour that he left England, in the same breath.
His sleep grew disturbed
and fevered, while the images of the past crowded upon his imagination.
The voices of his wife and of his son, spoke through his troubled slumbers
and to his locked up senses, frequently the flapping sails and the hollow
wind shouted their upbraidings and accusations; and often would he start
from his pillow, call upon their names, and vow to make atonement. As the
voyage became more and more disagreeable, their remembrance swallowed up
every other thought, and haunted him throughout the restless night, like a
reviling spirit. Now the thought of his cruel injustice to Henry
overwhelmed him with agony, and, weeping as a child, he would cry
aloud—"O, Hal! Hal!—what has my jealousy and madness brought upon thee?"
Again, the idea that he
might be wandering as a beggar upon the earth, that he might have leagued
himself with banditti, roused all the father in his bosom, and let loose
nature’s wildest anguish. Then would he picture his injured wife before
him; and, to hide the vision from his sight, bury his face in the clothes
that covered him, while he reddened with terror before the phantom which
memory crushed upon his brain. He slept, but she was still present, and
his conscience heard her wild reproaches.
Once awakening in frenzy
from such a dream, he rushed to where Northcott slept, and grasping his
throat, wildly exclaimed—"Speak, wretch, speak; was it not thy doing? Was
it not thou saidst Jess was unfaithful?"
"True, it was I," said
Northcott, starting, but endeavouring to soothe him; "but why this foolish
agitation? Pray, be calm."
"Be calm," shouted Sir
Robert; "dost think I will be dragged to perdition for thy sins? Dost thou
think I will be tormented every night, and haunted by my Jess’s spirit fordoings of thine? Jess was my wife—the mother of my Hal. Canst thou
deny it? Rise, rise, I tell thee,—for thou shalt not sleep while my soul
is pursued by furies for thy actions."
"Away," cried the other,
fiercely, hoping to intimidate him; "am I a schoolboy to listen to these
childish absurdities? Is this the return I am to receive for the love
which I manifested towards you, in tearing you from the embrace of a
wanton? Begone to thy son; and leave me for ever."
"And I will leave
thee." said Sir Robert, relinquishing his grasp, "thou calm sinner; were
my foot upon land, I would leave thee. Where is thy love now?"
"Restraining my hand, Sir
Robert," replied Northcott, ‘that it is not raised to wipe out your insult
"Thy hand!" cried Sir
Robert. "Swinge; dost thou think I fear thy hand, or any man’s hand. And
has not thou insulted me? Has thou not called me jealous fool? Didst thou
not tell the captain—didst thou not tell all the crew, not to mind me, for
I was mad! And was that thy gratitude for the money I have lent
Northcott sprang up to
reply, but the other turned away and ascended to the deck. Sir Robert’s
antipathy to continue the voyage increasing with its inconveniences and
distance, and his headstrong and boisterous character breaking out into
extravagance whenever thwarted, Northcott, fearing that he might prevail
upon the captain to place him on board of some vessel bound for England,
availed himself of the effects produced upon these occasions by his fierce
and passionate manner, as a measure of safety to himself, to circulate a
report of his occasional insanity. This baseness, on the part of Northcott,
being afterwards repeated to Sir Robert, if it did not give him a glimpse
of the real character and designs of his pretended friend, it widened the
breach which the tardy belief that he had been bitterly deceived, and
unsuspectingly betrayed to accompany him to a far distant land of
barbarians, had created and confirmed his determination not to proceed,
but to return immediately to England.
It was near sunrise when
Sir Robert ascended to the deck; the vessel was within a league of Malta,
and bearing towards the land.
"What land be that, sir?"
inquired he of a gentleman, who, in company with a lady, stood engaged in
conversation with the helmsman.
"The island of Malta, sir,"
resumed the other.
"Zounds! Malta! Malta!"
repeated Sir Robert. "Do take thee a boat and set me ashore," continued
he, addressing the mate," and Iwill give thee a guinea for thy
"Thank your honour the
same," replied the seaman; "but they may all go ashore who please in
half-an-hour, for we must put in here."
"Dang! dost say so, lad?"
cried Sir Robert; "thou shalt have a bottle of Burgundy for thy news."
The vessel had now anchored
off the harbour; and, when the boat was lowered, Sir Robert, with the
gentleman and his daughter, entered it, and were rowed towards the land.
"Give me thy hand, sir,"
said the baronet, turning round to the father of the young lady—"I hope
you will not leave me. What excuse hast thou for going any farther? Let us
ashore at this Malta, or what d’ye call it, and back to England as we best
"I give my hand," said Mr
Palmerston—for such was.the gentleman’s surname—"in all friendship. It
pains me that we must part; yet I have but two alternatives to choose
between—to lose my newly acquired friend for a time, or my daughter for
ever. It is true that her health appears improved, but you will forgive a
father’s tears; I cannot—I cannot already take her back to a country from
which I have snatched her as from the grave."
"Tush, man!" exclaimed Sir Robert; "thou talkest of
countries—our own country is the best of all countries, and the healthiest
to boot. Dost tell me about curing consumptions abroad—I say, cure
consumptions at home! Dost say—you must go to France, or go to Italy, or
go on to this wild-goose.chase of thine to cure them? I say—go to Wales,
go to the Highlands of Scotland! Dost think there be any consumptions
"Where there is nothing but
an atmosphere of changes, and a sky of clouds, there must," said Mr
"Nonsense, man!" continued
Sir Robert-; "han’t I been there? The atmosphere, as thee calls it, clips
round thee like a hunter’s coat; and, as for clouds, why, thou mayst live
above them if it suit thee best."
"Then we must indeed part
from each other!" added the laughter of Mr Palmerston, with apparent
solicitude and emotion.
"No, I tell thee, I won’t
part with thee, but I will go home with thee," resumed the other. "What!
hast not suffered enough already, but thou must have us go among Turks or
cannibals, to seek what we can find at home?"
"Go, Sir Robert;" said Mr
Palmerston, "and bear with you my esteem for sympathising with me in the
affliction of my daughter; but as you find the voyage unpleasant, I have
no right to expect you to continue it."
"Sdeath!" returned Sir
Robert, "I think thou art mad in good earnest, if thou art not as tired of
this voyage as I am. Why this be nothing but a rock after all," continued
he, rising in the boat as it neared Port Mahon, "and the town is a prison,
for all that I see. Why, look ye, Miss Palmerston, love, if this be one of
the islands thy father has come so far to seek health for thee in, thou
mayst bless me that I am labouring to prevail upon him to turn back
She answered only with a
sigh, and her breast heaved tumultuously.
"Zounds! duck, what dost
sigh for?" he added; "I’m sure thou art glad that we shall return home
again. Nay, now, I can’t stand thy tears; I tell thee thy father shan’t
go, and thou shalt not go on board that vessel again."
They had been but two days
upon the land, when the disease, which had taken deep root in the
constitution of Elizabeth Palmerston, and which had been lying dormant
during the voyage, began to develope itself with dreadful rapidity. Her
father, finding himself on shore, yielded to the feeling of comfort and
security which it inspired; anxious after his temporary privation, being
surrounded with every delicacy to be found in the island, he began to feel
the pleasures and the influence of sociality, and in a short time became
the boon companion of Sir Robert.
"Thou shalt go to England
with me, Palmerston," cried the baronet, in his one hand holding his, and
in the other a glass. "Thy daughter shall not die — she shall live for
Hal’s sake—and never shall a merrier party assemble together than that
which shall meet within the hall of Buckham Priory to celebrate their
nuptials. What! dost look sorrowful! I tell thee thy daughter shall be
happy as the day is long, for I feel within my heart that I love her
already better than her own father can, and wilt thou stand in the way of
"My friend," said
Palmerston, the words faltering on his tongue, "I have told you the
declaration of the physician, that the life of my Elizabeth depended upon
a change of climate and residence abroad. I fondly would—but darenot
return to Britain now, I cannot be the murderer of my daughter."
"Sdeath! good sir, dost
intend to tear my heart to pieces?" cried Sir Robert; "I tell thee we
shall all go home together. I cannot leave thee. My Jess is lost to me
eternally—Hal is lost to me; and all that I most fondly clung to has been
wrenched frommy grasp. Body-o’-me!" groaned he, in continuation,
"art thou in earnest? Wilt leave me a prey to my own conscience—the victim
of a villain who has flung deadly poison into my cup of enjoyment, and
made me drink to the dregs. Never!—you shall not return on board. Thy
daughter shall live—she shall reach our native land in safety and in
peace; and when there we shall find my poor Hal, who will bless me for my
choice of his bride, and forgive his father for the barbarous wrong he
Palmerston was about to
reply to the entreaties of his friend, when a messenger, dispatched by his
daughter, intimated to him her wish to see him immediately,
"Is my daughter worse?"
inquired Mr Palmerston eagerly; and without waiting an answer, he hurried
from the scene of their carousal, followed by Sir Robert, to the apartment
which she occupied in the house.
On entering the room they
found her resting on a couch, and when her father approached her side she
held out her hand cheerfully towards him, and begged, with a tremulous
voice, that he would be comforted, as she had a strange feeling at her
heart, which told her, she knew not how, that she would soon lay her head
down in peace for ever.
"Don’t say so, love," cried
Sir Robert, stifling his emotion, "your father has agreed we shall all
return to England, and for Hal’s sake you shall not die—nay, if I should
watch thee, child, with my own eyes, I tell thee thou shall not leave me."
She raised her eyes, in
which were seen a strange unearthly fixedness, upon his countenance,
stretched forth her pale transparent hand to him, and in accents half
inarticulate with emotion, said—"You are kind, sir, but God does not will
that I should participate in the happiness you intend for me. A few brief
hours and the struggle shall be over. My poor father! I have but one
petition—distract me not with your sorrow, nor suffer the only link that
binds to existence to be broken violently. I could have reposed a secret
to your keeping—but it availeth not. I have seen him wasted with bitter
remorse, and tortured with shame and agony of soul, who was the cause of
the voiceless misery which laid the foundation of disease in my heart."
"Seen whom, my daughter?"
exclaimed her father, raising her in his arms. "Speak! speak!—a few
minutes more and it may be too late."
She raised her drooping
head, and made an effort to articulate, but in vain; the sudden paleness
that overspread her features told that her weary heart was at rest, and
that her sorrows were buried with her for ever.
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