Beulah (Chapter 7, page 2 of 4)


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Chapter 7

"Are you in pain, Beulah? Why do you moan so?"

"Eugene, I knew it would be so, when you left me."

"Don't you know me, Beulah?" He put his face close to hers.

"They killed her, Eugene! I told you they would; they are going to
bury her soon. But the grave can't hide her; I am going down with
her into the darkness--she would be frightened, you know." Making a
great effort, she sat upright. Dr. Hartwell put a glass containing
medicine to her lips; she shrank back and shuddered, then raised her
hand for the glass, and, looking fixedly at him, said: "Did Mrs.
Grayson say I must take it? Is it poison that kills quickly? There;
don't frown, Eugene, I will drink it all for you." She swallowed the
draught with a shiver. He laid her back on her pillow and renewed
the iced-cloth on her forehead; she did not move her burning eyes
from his face, and the refreshing coolness recalled the sad smile.
"Are we on the Alps, Eugene? I feel dizzy; don't let me fall. There
is a great chasm yonder. Oh, I know now; I am not afraid; Lilly is
down there--come on." Her arms drooped to her side, and she slept
again.

Evening shadows crept on; soon the room was dark. Harriet entered
with a shaded lamp, but her master motioned her out, and, throwing
open the blinds, suffered the pure moonlight to enter freely. The
window looked out on the flower garden, and the mingled fragrance of
roses, jasmines, honeysuckles, and dew-laden four-o'clocks enveloped
him as in a cloud of incense. A balmy moonlight June night in our
beautiful sunny South--who shall adequately paint its witchery? Dr.
Hartwell leaned his head against the window, and glanced down at the
parterre he had so fondly fostered. The golden moonlight mellowed
every object, and not the gorgeous pictures of Persian poets
surpassed the quiet scene that greeted the master. The shelled
serpentine walks were bordered with low, closely clipped cassina
hedges; clusters of white and rose oleander, scarlet geraniums,
roses of countless variety, beds of verbena of every hue, and
patches of brilliant annuals, all looked up smilingly at him. Just
beneath the window the clasping tendrils of a clematis were wound
about the pedestal of a marble Flora, and a cluster of the delicate
purple blossoms peeped through the fingers of the goddess. Further
off, a fountain flashed in the moonlight, murmuring musically in and
out of its reservoir, while the diamond spray bathed the sculptured
limbs of a Venus. The sea breeze sang its lullaby through the boughs
of a luxuriant orange tree near, and silence seemed guardian spirit
of the beautiful spot, when a whip-poor-will whirred through the
air, and, perching on the snowy brow of the Aphrodite, began his
plaintive night-hymn. In childhood Guy Hartwell had been taught by
his nurse to regard the melancholy chant as ominous of evil; but as
years threw their shadows over his heart, darkening the hopes of his
boyhood, the sad notes of the lonely bird became gradually soothing,
and now in the prime of life he loved to listen to the shy visitor,
and ceased to remember that it boded ill. With an ardent love for
the beautiful, in all its Protean phases, he enjoyed communion with
nature as only an imaginative, aesthetical temperament can. This
keen appreciation of beauty had been fostered by travel and study.
Over the vast studio of nature he had eagerly roamed; midnight had
seen him gazing enraptured on the loveliness of Italian scenery, and
found him watching the march of constellations from the lonely
heights of the Hartz; while the thunder tones of awful Niagara had
often hushed the tumults of his passionate heart, and bowed his
proud head in humble adoration. He had searched the storehouses of
art, and collected treasures that kindled divine aspirations in his
soul, and wooed him for a time from the cemetery of memory. With a
nature so intensely aesthetical, and taste so thoroughly cultivated,
he had, in a great measure, assimilated his home to the artistic
beau ideal. Now as he stood inhaling the perfumed air, he forgot the
little sufferer a few yards off--forgot that Azrail stood on the
threshold, beckoning her to brave the dark floods; and, as his whole
nature became permeated (so to speak) by the intoxicating beauty
that surrounded him, he extended his arms, and exclaimed
triumphantly: "Truly thou art my mother, dear old earth! I feel that I am indeed
nearly allied to thy divine beauty! Starry nights, and whispering
winds, and fragrant flowers! yea, and even the breath of the
tempest! all, all are parts of my being."

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