Quitting the tower, he wandered in the pine wood that surrounded it, and giving up all thought of solving the mystery, was soon engrossed by thoughts that touched his heart more nearly, when suddenly there appeared on the ground at his feet the vision of a slipper.
Since Cinderella so tiny a slipper had never been seen; as plain as shoe could speak, it told a tale of elegance, loveliness, and youth.
Vernon picked it up; he had often admired Rosina's singularly small foot, and his first thought was a question whether this little slipper would have fitted it.
It was very strange! -- it must belong to the Invisible Girl.
Then there was a fairy form that kindled that light, a form of such material substance, that its foot needed to be shod; and yet how shod? -- with kid so fine, and of shape so exquisite, that it exactly resembled such as Rosina wore!
Again the recurrence of the image of the beloved dead came forcibly across him; and a thousand home-felt associations, childish yet sweet, and lover-like though trifling, so filled Vernon's heart, that he threw himself his length on the ground, and wept more bitterly than ever the miserable fate of the sweet orphan.
In the evening the men quitted their work, and Vernon returned with them to the cot where they were to sleep, intending to pursue their voyage, weather permitting, the following morning.
Vernon said nothing of his slipper, but returned with his rough associates.
Often he looked back; but the tower rose darkly over the dim waves, and no light appeared.
Preparations had been made in the cot for their accommodation, and the only bed in it was offered Vernon; but he refused to deprive his hostess, and spreading his cloak on a heap of dry leaves, endeavoured to give himself up to repose.
He slept for some hours; and when he awoke, all was still, save that the hard breathing of the sleepers in the same room with him interrupted the silence.
He rose, and going to the window, -- looked out over the now placid sea towards the mystic tower; the light burning there, sending its slender rays across the waves.
Congratulating himself on a circumstance he had not anticipated, Vernon softly left the cottage, and, wrapping his cloak round him, walked with a swift pace round the bay towards the tower.
He reached it; still the light was burning. To enter and restore the maiden her shoe, would be but an act of courtesy; and Vernon intended to do this with such caution, as to come unaware, before its wearer could, with her accustomed arts, withdraw herself from his eyes; but, unluckily, while yet making his way up the narrow pathway, his foot dislodged a loose fragment, that fell with crash and sound down the precipice.
He sprung forward, on this, to retrieve by speed the advantage he had lost by this unlucky accident.
He reached the door; he entered: all was silent, but also all was dark.
He paused in the room below; he felt sure that a slight sound met his ear. He ascended the steps, and entered the upper chamber; but blank obscurity met his penetrating gaze, the starless night admitted not even a twilight glimmer through the only aperture.
He closed his eyes, to try, on opening them again, to be able to catch some faint, wandering ray on the visual nerve; but it was in vain. He groped round the room: he stood still, and held his breath; and then, listening intently, he felt sure that another occupied the chamber with him, and that its atmosphere was slightly agitated by an-other's respiration.
He remembered the recess in the staircase; but, before he approached it, he spoke: -- he hesitated a moment what to say.
"I must believe," he said, 'that misfortune alone can cause your seclusion; and if the assistance of a man -- of a gentleman -- "
An exclamation interrupted him; a voice from the
grave spoke his name -- the accents of Rosina syllabled, "Henry! -- is it indeed Henry whom I hear?"
He rushed forward, directed by the sound, and clasped in his arms the living form of his own lamented girl -- his own Invisible Girl he called her; for even yet, as he felt her heart beat near his, and as he entwined her waist with his arm, supporting her as she almost sank to the ground with agitation, he could not see her; and, as her sobs prevented her speech, no sense, but the instinctive one that filled his heart with tumultuous gladness, told him that the slender, wasted form he pressed so fondly was the living shadow of the Hebe beauty he had adored.
The morning saw this pair thus strangely restored to each other on the tranquil sea, sailing with a fair wind for L -- , whence they were to proceed to Sir Peter's seat, which, three months before, Rosina had quitted in such agony and terror.
The morning light dispelled the shadows that had veiled her, and disclosed the fair person of the Invisible Girl.
Altered indeed she was by suffering and woe, but still the same sweet smile played on her lips, and the tender light of her soft blue eyes were all her own.
Vernon drew out the slipper, and shoved the cause that had occasioned him to resolve to discover the guardian of the mystic beacon; even now he dared not inquire how she had existed in that desolate spot, or wherefore she had so sedulously avoided observation, when the right thing to have been done was, to have sought him immediately, under whose care, protected by whose love, no danger need be feared.
But Rosina shrunk from him as he spoke, and a death-like pallor came over her cheek, as she faintly whispered, 'Your father's curse -- your father's dreadful threats!"
It appeared, indeed, that Sir Peter's violence, and the cruelty of Mrs. Bainbridge, had succeeded in impressing Rosina with wild and unvanquishable terror.
She had fled from their house without plan or forethought -- driven by frantic horror and overwhelming fear, she had left it with scarcely any money, and there seemed to her no possibility of either returning or proceeding onward. She had no friend except Henry in the wide world; whither could she go? -- to have sought Henry would have sealed their fates to misery; for, with an oath, Sir Peter had declared he would rather see them both in their coffins than married.
After wandering about, hiding by day, and only venturing forth at night, she had come to this deserted tower, which seemed a place of refuge.
I low she had lived since then she could hardly tell; -- she had lingered in the woods by day, or slept in the vault of the tower, an asylum none were acquainted with or had discovered: by night she burned the pine-cones of the wood, and night was her dearest time; for it seemed to her as if security came with darkness.
She was unaware that Sir Peter had left that part of the country, and was terrified lest her hiding-place should be revealed to him.
Her only hope was that Henry would return -- that Henry would never rest till he had found her. Invisible Girl 1
|Invisible Girl 2
|Invisible Girl 3
|Invisible Girl 4
|Invisible Girl 5
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