'I always do, Venetia.'
Time and Faith are the great consolers, and neither of these precious sources of solace were wanting to the inhabitants of Cherbury. They were again living alone, but their lives were cheerful; and if Venetia no longer indulged in a worldly and blissful future, nevertheless, in the society of her mother, in the resources of art and literature, in the diligent discharge of her duties to her humble neighbours, and in cherishing the memory of the departed, she experienced a life that was not without its tranquil pleasures. She maintained with Lord Cadurcis a constant correspondence; he wrote to her every day, and although they were separated, there was not an incident of his life, and scarcely a thought, of which she was not cognisant. It was with great difficulty that George could induce himself to remain in London; but Masham, who soon obtained over him all the influence which Venetia desired, ever opposed his return to the abbey. The good Bishop was not unaware of the feelings with which Lord Cadurcis looked back to the hall of Cherbury, and himself of a glad and sanguine temperament, he indulged in a belief in the consummation of all that happiness for which his young friend, rather sceptically, sighed. But Masham was aware that time could alone soften the bitterness of Venetia's sorrow, and prepare her for that change of life which he felt confident would alone ensure the happiness both of herself and her mother. He therefore detained Lord Cadurcis in London the whole of the sessions that, on his return to Cherbury, his society might be esteemed a novel and agreeable incident in the existence of its inhabitants, and not be associated merely with their calamities.
It was therefore about a year after the catastrophe which had so suddenly changed the whole tenor of their lives, and occasioned so unexpected a revolution in his own position, that Lord Cadurcis arrived at his ancestral seat, with no intention of again speedily leaving it. He had long and frequently apprised his friends of his approaching presence, And, arriving at the abbey late at night, he was at Cherbury early on the following morning.
Although no inconsiderable interval had elapsed since Lord Cadurcis had parted from the Herberts, the continual correspondence that had been maintained between himself and Venetia, divested his visit of the slightest embarrassment. They met as if they had parted yesterday, except perhaps with greater fondness. The chain of their feelings was unbroken. He was indeed welcomed, both by Lady Annabel and her daughter, with warm affection; and his absence had only rendered him dearer to them by affording an opportunity of feeling how much his society contributed to their felicity. Venetia was anxious to know his opinion of the improvements at the abbey, which she had superintended; but he assured her that he would examine nothing without her company, and ultimately they agreed to walk over to Cadurcis.
It was a summer day, and they walked through that very wood wherein we described the journey of the child Venetia, at the commencement of this very history. The blue patches of wild hyacinths had all disappeared, but there were flowers as sweet. What if the first feelings of our heart fade, like the first flowers of spring, succeeding years, like the coming summer, may bring emotions not less charming, and, perchance, far more fervent!
'I can scarcely believe,' said Lord Cadurcis, 'that I am once more with you. I know not what surprises me most, Venetia, that we should be walking once more together in the woods of Cherbury, or that I ever should have dared to quit them.'
'And yet it was better, dear George,' said Venetia. 'You must now rejoice that you have fulfilled your duty, and yet you are here again. Besides, the abbey never would have been finished if you had remained. To complete all our plans, it required a mistress.'
'I wish it always had one,' said George. 'Ah, Venetia! once you told me never to despair.'
'And what have you to despair about, George?'
'Heigh ho!' said Lord Cadurcis, 'I never shall be able to live in this abbey alone.'
'You should have brought a wife from London,' said Venetia.
'I told you once, Venetia, that I was not a marrying man,' said Lord Cadurcis; 'and certainly I never shall bring a wife from London.'
'Then you cannot accustom yourself too soon to a bachelor's life,' said Venetia.
'Ah, Venetia!' said George, 'I wish I were clever; I wish I were a genius; I wish I were a great man.'
'Because, Venetia, perhaps,' and Lord Cadurcis hesitated, 'perhaps you would think differently of me? I mean perhaps your feelings towards me might; ah, Venetia! perhaps you might think me worthy of you; perhaps you might love me.'
'I am sure, dear George, if I did not love you, I should be the most ungrateful of beings: you are our only friend.'
'And can I never be more than a friend to you, Venetia?' said Lord Cadurcis, blushing very deeply.
'I am sure, dear George, I should be very sorry for your sake, if you wished to be more,' said Venetia.
'Why?' said Lord Cadurcis.
'Because I should not like to see you unite your destiny with that of a very unfortunate, if not a very unhappy, person.'
'The sweetest, the loveliest of women!' said Lord Cadurcis. 'O Venetia! I dare not express what I feel, still less what I could hope. I think so little of myself, so highly of you, that I am convinced my aspirations are too arrogant for me to breathe them.'
'Ah! dear George, you deserve to be happy,' said Venetia. 'Would that it were in my power to make you!'
'Dearest Venetia! it is, it is,' exclaimed Lord Cadurcis; then checking himself, as if frightened by his boldness, he added in a more subdued tone, 'I feel I am not worthy of you.'
They stood upon the breezy down that divided the demesnes of Cherbury and the abbey. Beneath them rose, 'embosomed in a valley of green bowers,' the ancient pile lately renovated under the studious care of Venetia.
'Ah!' said Lord Cadurcis, 'be not less kind to the master of these towers, than to the roof that you have fostered. You have renovated our halls, restore our happiness! There is an union that will bring consolation to more than one hearth, and baffle all the crosses of adverse fate. Venetia, beautiful and noble-minded Venetia, condescend to fulfil it!'
Perhaps the reader will not be surprised that, within a few months of this morning walk, the hands of George, Lord Cadurcis, and Venetia Herbert were joined in the chapel at Cherbury by the good Masham. Peace be with them.