Lionel And Lucille

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IN the beautiful Castleton Island a mansion of lordly style,
Embowered in gardens and lawns, looks over the glimmering bay.
In the light of a morning in summer, with stately beauty and pride,
Its turrets and glittering roof flash down from the hills like a star.
There, pillowed in woods, it blinks on the dusty village below;
And ere it settles itself to its rest in the ambered dusk,
Its windows blaze from afar in the gold of the setting sun.
There in a curtained alcove facing a lawn to the south,
Lucille one morning in early spring was sitting alone.
Now in a novel she read, and now at her broidery stitched;
And now, throwing both aside, at her piano warbled and trilled.
Then on a balcony leaning, she wished that the weeks would pass,
For she with her mother to Europe was going. Her father had died
And left her an heiress; and lovers like moths came fluttering round,
Dazzled with visions of gold, and half believing them love, —
All but one, who was poor, and loved her, but not for her wealth.
Three months had Lionel known her — but never had told her his love.
How could he ask her to wed him, the scholar who drudged for his bread?
Even were his offers accepted, (and little his chances, he thought,)
What would they say in the city? "He has picked up a fortune, it seems:
A shrewd lucky fellow!" So proudly he kept his fond thoughts to himself.
Seldom he saw her alone. In a circle of fashion she moved.
Whenever he called, there were carriages waiting, with liveries fine —
Visitors going and coming, with shallow and gossiping talk.
Those who knew him would surely have said, "'T is strange he should love
A girl of such frivolous tastes." But such are the ways of the heart —
Ever a riddle too deep for the crude common-sense of the world.
To-day no visitors came, and Lucille was deep in her book —
(A tale of romantic affection far back in the Orient days) —
When a ring at the door was heard, and — Lionel stood in the hall.
He had heard she was going to Europe. He would n't yet bid her good-bye,
For he hoped he might see her again ere fate put an ocean between.
Something more earnest than usual she felt was in Lionel's face;
Something more tender and deep in the tones of his tremulous voice,
Though half hidden in jest too grave and intense for a smile.
She, brimming o'er with her poets, and fresh from her bath of romance,
Clothed the season, and him, and herself, in an opaline light.
Softer her tones, and her words less tinged with fashion and form,
Cordially lighted like birds on the ground of his intimate thoughts.
And as he left her, to stroll on the hills of the beautiful island,
Hope with her roseate colors enveloped the earth and the sky.
'T was one of those April days when the lingering Winter stands
Waving his breezy scarfs from the north for a last good-bye;
When the delicate wind-flowers peep from the matting and moss of the woods,
And the blue Hepatica lurks in the shadowy dells of the fern;
When the beautiful nun, the Arbutus, down in her cloisters brown,
Creeps through her corridors damp in the dead old leaves of the past,
Whispering with fragrant breath to the bold things dancing above:
"Tell me, has Winter gone? May I peep — just peep, at the world?"
When the spaces of sky are bluer, with white clouds hurrying fast,
Blurring the sun for a moment, then letting him flash on the fields,
While the shadows are miles in breadth, and travel as swift as the wind
Over the sparkling cities afar and the roughening bay; —
When the pine-groves sigh and sing as the wind sweeps under and through
The cheerful gloom of their spicy shade; and the willows lithe
Bend and wave with the tender green of their trailing boughs; —
When the furry catkins drop from the silvery poplar tree;
When the bare, gray bushes are tipped with the light of their new-born leaves,
And the petted hyacinths sprout and curl their parasite lips
Under the sunlit, sheltering sides of the palace walls,
And seem to scoff at the violets hidden deep in the grass,
And the common, yellow face of the dandelion's star,
As it peeps like a poor man's child through the rails of the garden fence.
Then, as Lionel entered the crowd and the city again,
Lighter his labors appeared in his office, wall-shadowed and dusk.
Dreams of the island and woods swept over his figures and books:
Visions of love in a cottage, with fashion and splendor forgotten.
Changeable April had shown but its sunniest side to his heart.
Once more, — twice, to the island he went: and Lionel hoped
A tenderer feeling for him had dawned in the heart of Lucille.
Ever with friendlier greeting she met him: for she in her mind
Had dressed up a hero of fiction; and Lionel — could it be he?
Was not his name of itself a romance? Then his face and his form,
Voice and manners and culture, were just what her hero's should be.
So with the glamour of life unreal she saw him; and yet —
Was it love? She thought so, perhaps. At least she would dream out her dream:
This was a real live novel — and worth reading through, was it not?
One day, when the bushes were white in the lanes, and the bees were astir
In the blooms of the apple-trees, and the green woods ringing with birds,
Lionel asked Lucille to walk with him over the heights
Looking far down on the Narrows and out on the dim blue sea.
So through the forest they strolled. They stopped here and there for a flower,
Then sat to rest on a rock. An oak-tree over their heads
Stretched abroad its flickering lights and shadows. The birds
Sang in the woodlands around them. The spot seemed made for romance.
And Lionel drew from his pocket a book that had lately appeared,
A volume of lovers' verse by a poet over the seas,
And read aloud from its pages. Lucille sat twisting a wreath,
Laurel and white-thorn blossoms that half dropped away as she twined them; —
Paused now and then to listen; and as he was closing the book,
Laid a wild flower between the leaves to remember the place —
And playfully placed her wreath on his head, as if he were the poet.
Silent and musing they sat, as they turned to look at the sea,
Watching the smoke of the steamers and white sails skimming afar.
And Lionel said, "Ah, soon you too will be steaming away
Down the blue Narrows; and I — shall miss you — more than you know."
"Why should you miss me?"
she said.
"So seldom you visit our house."
"Had I but followed my wishes; — but you like the lady appeared,
Shut in the circle of Comus. How hard to enter your ring!"
"What should prevent you from coming? How often I wished you would come!
Nobody calls that I care for: our island is growing so dull."
"Yes — and you long for a change — and so you are going to Europe.
There in a whirl of delights, with fashion and wealth at command,
Soon you'll forget your poor island, and all the admirers you knew."
— she whispered —
"not all"
— and blushed, with her head turned away,
Looked down and murmured: "You think I am wedded to fashion and wealth:
Yet often I long for the simpler manners the poets have sung,
The grand old days when souls were prized for their natural worth.
You think I can rise to no feelings and thoughts of a serious life —
Can value no mind and no heart but — such as you meet at our house.
I care not for such — I fancied you knew me far better than that."
— he never had called her Lucille, but the name came unbidden;
"Lucille, could you love a poor toiler who dared not to offer his heart
And his hand — and in silence had loved you, and wished you were poor for his sake,
So fortunes were equal?" And she, still floating in rosy romance,
"I could,"
with a look that melted the walls of reserve
And mingled two souls into one. Then, turning away from the sea,
The sea that so soon must divide them, they pledged to each other their troth.
And Lionel saw not the fates that were frowning afar o'er the waves;
For the world wore the color of dreams, as homeward they wended their way.
Bright were the meetings that followed — and yet with a shadowy touch
On Lionel's hopes, as if in the changeable April days
He still were roaming the hills, and still looked over the bay
Where cloud and sunshine were flying, with doubtful promise of spring.
Lucille had a reason, it seemed, to keep their betrothal untold.
The day was so near of their parting. She feared what her mother might say.
'T were best they should part but as friends. They would write to each other the same —
And they would be true to each other — and all would be clear before long.
And Lionel yielded, and pondered. And so they parted at last.
The summer had hardly begun when a letter from England came,
Full of the voyage and landing — but little of what he had hoped.
Too light, too glancing it seemed for a first love-letter from one
Far over the sea, who had said he should ever be first in her thoughts.
Bright and witty it fluttered from topic to topic — but never
Paused with a tremulous wing to dwell on the love she had left.
Something there was in its tone that said
"I am happy without you:"
Something too little regretful — too full of her glittering life.
And as one gathers a beautiful flower ne'er gathered before,
Hoping a fragrance he misses, and yet half imagines he finds —
Wooing the depths of its color too rich for no perfume to match —
So seemed her letter to him, as he read the lines over and over.
Yet when Lionel answered, he breathed not a word of the thought,
Shading the glowing disc of his love with distant surmise.
"Soon," he said, "will the novelty cease of this foreign excitement.
Then she will think sometimes of me as the sun goes down
Over the western waves — and tenderer tones will flow,
And mingle with warmer words in her letters from over the sea."
Yet when another letter came, it brought her no nearer,
Less of herself, and more of the colors that tinted her life.
And Lionel wrote with passionate words: "Only tell me, Lucille,
Tell me you love me — but one brief line — and I will not complain."
Restless, troubled, one day he passed her house on the island;
Shut to the sun and the breeze, it blinked on the village below.
Over the balcony leaned a purple Wisteria vine,
(Blooming, but not in its season, as oft 't is their habit to do,)
Trailing its ladylike flounces from window and carved balustrade,
And dropping its blossoms as brief as love. And Lionel muttered:
"She too over that balcony leaned one day as I passed —
Leaned like a flowery vine; and smiled as I passed below,
And waved me an airy kiss, with a pose of her beautiful form.
Can love that promised so truly be frail as these clusters of June?"
Month after month now passed. Though he wrote as fondly as ever,
Brief were her answers, and longer between — till they finally ceased.
A year from the day when they parted, a letter from Paris arrived,
Short and constrained. It said: "I fear I have made you unhappy.
We have read too much of the poets. Our troth was a thing of romance.
My mother forbids it, it seems. There are reasons 't were painful to tell.
I'm sure you would find me unfitted — and I am not worth your regretting.
Adieu — and be happy. Lucille."
Next month in the papers he saw
She had married a Count — some Pole with an unpronounceable name.

© Christopher Pearse Cranch