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MY QUEEN., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 347, 18 May 1881
( Continued.) " London, June 23. “ My dear Miss Dormer, —As the aunt of Major Leonard Campbell, I venture,to address you, and to express the hope that you, and your sister will come and pay me a visit in London. You are not strangers to me by reputation, as I have heard much of you from my nephew, and I should be 1 1-» in-’hc you’- .a;yiahuaiu 0. > 1 ti 1 ;■ t k th u p-rli.ips ymi may find in London facilities lor providing your marriage outfit which the country does not offer, and whilst you are staying with me you may be able to accomplish some of that agreeable task. In the hope that I soon may have the pleasure of making your acquaintance, I remain, with every consideration and esteem, —Your obedient servant, Dorothea Ca.mpi!ei.l.” “ P.S.—Card enclosed to enable you to find Oxford House with little difficulty.” This letter the old postman brought us one summer morning from the nearest town, and its arrival caused as much excitement in our quiet household ns a boom-shell would in an enemy’s camp.
My father, with his usual kindness, urged our acceptance of the invitation, and Lily said how much she would like to see Lady Campbell, of whom Leonard had so often told her, as well as to have a glimpse of the unknown splendors of London. I shrank from going amongst strangers, but my scruples were over-ruled by Lily’s wish that I should accompany her, for she declared that without me she could and would not go. So the next week saw usonourjourney. My father put us into the London coach, and, after a tearful farewell, we left him for the first time in our lives. After a wearisome journey we arrived at Lady Campbell’s door. It was evening • and we were surprised at I entering a well-planted garden—for the J
--- . . k suburbs, and not, as we had imagined, in the town. Lady Campbell stood on the threshold to receive us. a she was a tall and stately woman, with dark piercing eyes. She had been maid of honor to Queen Caroline, and. she made me a courtly how as I advanced ; but, when her eyes fell on Lily’s blushing face, her glance softened, and she stooped and kissed her. Then, leading the way through a large hall, she took us to a small oakpanel room where supper wasserved; - it was lighted by, wax tgpers in heayy silver sconces, and the service was- of fine old Dresden china.. - ‘ Draw near, young ladies,’ said / Lady Dorothea ; * I am sure your long journey must have made you’both tired and hungry.’ ■ ' ' '. During the supper the slight reserve i of her manner gradually thawed, and J she conversed easily - and agreeably. Soon after the meal we were shown* to : our rooms, where we were glad to rest after the fatigues of our journey. Lady Campbell was most kind and. . gracious to me; but Lily seemed to enjoy her special favor. To her she never tired of speaking of Leonard, her favorite nephew, telling her long stories of his boyhood and youth; while I, as was my wont, sat apart and listened. ‘ My love,’ she said one morning, ‘ I am going to take both of you to a rout at Mrs Egermont’s next Tuesday. All the world will be there, and I am anxious you should both do justice to yourselves; so I have ventured to send for some stuffs from a silk-mercer’s . in the city, and I hope you will each : * choose a gown and, ringing the bell, , she desired a footman to bring the packages she had ordered. . ; r They soon covered the table in rich : and tempting profusion. Lady Camp- > bell would not hear of thanks, and, finding we did not decide as quickly as , she wished, she choosed for us herself —for Lily a pink brocade, with sprigs of silver Tillies of the valley, and a delicate grey for me, with Wue convolvulus twining over it in long and graceful sprays. ; The evening arrived, and Lady Campbell’s carriage conveyed us to Mrs. Egremont’s mansion. As we entered the grand saloon, a gentle murmur of 1 admiration greeted Lady Campbell’s beautiful charge. Lily had never looked more lovely than she did on that night. The rich pink dress she wore suited her to perfection, and heronly ornament was the diamond-set miniature of her betrothed. Her hair, differing from that of the powdered belles around her, fell in clustering’‘ rings on her neck. ■' ; A foreign Count sam» Italian songs to the company ; and, after he had left the instrument, Mrs Egremont invited Lily to sing. Her voice, though un- ■ trained, was sweet and melodious, and*,, after I had played the prelude, she sang in her touching tones the old ballad bf v * Barbara Allen.” Her voice lingered over the last pathetic wqcds, 1 Sipjce. my love died for me to-day, I’ll die for. him to-morrow, and a great silence fell on the crowded assembly—silence which was broken at last by a burst*of applause. While many rose to congratulate the young songstress on Her rare talent, a gentleman who was a stranger to us offered her his arm to conduct her to her seat, when, with a half-uttered cry, he started back as his eyes fell on the miniature on her heck. ‘ Good heavens,’ he exclaimed, ‘ why,’ ’ that is Leonard Campbell, who wasshotj’ Lily gazed at him for an instant, and ‘ then, with pale lips apart and eyes dilated with horror, she fell senselessat, t . his feet. I clasped her in my arms, and saw and heard nothing that passed .* around. All my attention was absorbed by my heart’s idol. VVe bpre her gently from the saloon, and placed her on a couch in Mrs Egremont’s own room, where every remedy was resorted to, in order to restore consciousness. . After a few faint gasps, she came back' ‘ ‘ to life and misery. Presently 1 she clasped my hand—and her touch was,, like ice.
‘ Go to him. May,’ she whispered— , ‘go and ask him what it means/and if* ‘ it is true ; and, oh, return at once !’ ' With faltering steps I moved to the door, and there, with a face whose remorseful anguish L can never forget, stood the man whose cruel random ■ shaft had struck the heart of my only ! sister. Lady Campbell was beside me. ‘ Tell me,’ he said, * what have I , . done ?’ ‘ Sir,’replied Lady Campbell, in stern accents, ‘ you have wrought a cruel work by your thoughtless words ; you have, I fear, given a death-blow to one who was to have been the wife of my’' nephew, who is to me as a son. But tell me—as briefly as may be—the.,meaning, of your words.’ 1 In trembling tones he said that he. had just returned from Ireland, whither,. he had gone with Leonard’s regiment as assistant-surgeon. He knew Leonard well, he said. Two days before he—the speaker—had left Ireland there wasa dinner given by the officers to some M , , neighboring gentlemen, and afterwards . cno of the officers, who had drunk rather deeply, made same remarks’'on' Leonard’s approaching marriage, and whispered to a brother officer, loud ■ enough for Leonard to hear, that his fiancee was only a country farmer’s daughter, who was glad to marry a man of Campbell’s position, and that he would soon tire of her pretty face. Leonard heard the words, and after, i dinner sent a challenge to the young officer. Next morning, at daybreak, they met, and Leonard, the noble, The true-hearted hero of my poor Lily’s life, fell dead, shot through the heart. The young man broke down here* and ..., sobbed bitterly; but, recovering him-- ‘ ' self, he continued—- ‘ I can never forgive myself for ray wicked carelessness; but, when 1 saw the portrait of poor Leonard on that lady’s breast, my first feeling of astonishment bewildered me, and I scarcely knew that I had spoken.’ ‘ May Heaven forgive you, sir,’ said Lady Campbell, ‘but, if any harm should come to Miss Lily Dorrfterv I never can f and she turned and - left him. Lily insisted on knowing everything, ind we imparted to her as gently as we :ould the death-warrant of her hopes ind happiness. She listened V ,! vith her sweet face rigid as marble. Take me .home ’ was all she said.; We r - i :onveyed her to Lady Campbell's house " - it once, but the next day she repeated ‘ icr request to be taken hortie; so Ladjy ! f Campbell herself went firs* to pur. 91^” iome to break the Sad hewi to otic 1 ither.
On the following day 1 u>. A . ;'v home, she speaking no word during i..«whole pf the long journey. V\ uen n.y father met us she kissed him, hui no word passed her lips; and, oh, with what anguish I laid her stricken form on the couch in our own room, which hut a week before she had left so full of joy and hope. - For days Lily lay in a kind of stupor, till, as a last resource, I begged MadeMoiselle Henrietta, who was still at the Hall, to come and see her. She came, like the true-hearted woman she was, and wept over Lily, and clasped her to her breast, and at last began to speak Leonard. Lily drew herself back and gazed at her, as if waking from a dream; and then the flood-gates of grief were rent asunder, and she wept such tears as only the broken-hearted weep. When the tempest was passed, she lay exhausted, like the flower whose name she bore, when, broken and crushed by a storm, it lies helpless and forlorn. , This relief to her pent-up feelings eased her a little, though day by day she gradually sank ; but the weaker she became the more contented she grew, and, it new . light, as of a faintly-dawning .hope, seemed to shine in her wan face. One day she called meto be*) and said—‘Listen, May —I feel lam not to be with you for long, and, though I grieve to part from you, my dear, good sister, and our father, yet you know I am going to meet my true love again—where no one ! can take me from him ; and, May,’ she added, ‘ please let his image lie on my breast as it does now.’ I promised to do as she wished, for I could not ’ hide the truth which * shone in, her eyes, and spoke on her sunken cheeks,’ that she would not be with rtis: long. She lingered through the bright, warm summer-time, the gentle breath of which seemed to waft hey hearer Heaven, and, when autumn’s first touch turned the emerald leaves to gold; the Great Reaper gathered our choicest blossom into his garner. ;We .fold our tily to sleep in a sunny spot of the churchyard on the hill-side ; and there, beneath the daisies, lies all that is mortal of my heart’s Queen. We placed Leonard’s name with hers upon her tombstone, with the last words her lips' had uttered— ‘ Faithful unto death!'—M.H.
MY QUEEN., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 347, 18 May 1881
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