Nathaniel Hawthorne

Part 3 out of 3

some one was at the pains to cut in the smooth surface of the stone.
Traces of letters are still discernible; but the writer's many efforts
could never discover a connected meaning. The grave, also, is overgrown
with fern-bushes, and sunk to a level with the surrounding soil. But the
legend, though my version of it may be forgotten, will long be
traditionary in that lonely spot, and give to the rock and the precipice
and the fountain an interest thrilling to the bosom of the romantic


"Sitting then in shelter shady,
To observe and mark his mone.
Suddenly I saw a lady
Hasting to him all alone,
Clad in maiden-white and green,
Whom I judged the Forest Queen."

During several weeks succeeding her danger and deliverance, Ellen Langton
was confined to her chamber by illness, resulting from the agitation she
had endured. Her father embraced the earliest opportunity to express his
deep gratitude to Fanshawe for the inestimable service he had rendered,
and to intimate a desire to requite it to the utmost of his power. He had
understood that the student's circumstances were not prosperous, and, with
the feeling of one who was habituated to give and receive a _quid pro
quo_ he would have rejoiced to share his abundance with the deliverer
of his daughter. But Fanshawe's flushed brow and haughty eye, when he
perceived the thought that was stirring in Mr. Langton's mind,
sufficiently proved to the discerning merchant that money was not, in the
present instance, a circulating medium. His penetration, in fact, very
soon informed him of the motives by which the young man had been actuated
in risking his life for Ellen Langton; but he made no allusion to the
subject, concealing his intentions, if any he had, in his own bosom.

During Ellen's illness, Edward Walcott had manifested the deepest anxiety
respecting her: he had wandered around and within the house, like a
restless ghost, informing himself of the slightest fluctuation in her
health, and thereby graduating his happiness or misery. He was at length
informed that her convalescence had so far progressed, that, on the
succeeding day, she would venture below. From that time Edward's visits to
Dr. Melmoth's mansion were relinquished. His cheek grew pale and his eye
lost its merry light; but he resolutely kept himself a banished man.
Multifarious were the conjectures to which this course of conduct gave
rise; but Ellen understood and approved his motives. The maiden must have
been far more blind than ever woman was in such a matter, if the late
events had not convinced her of Fanshawe's devoted attachment; and she saw
that Edward Walcott, feeling the superior, the irresistible strength of
his rival's claim, had retired from the field. Fanshawe, however,
discovered no intention to pursue his advantage. He paid her no voluntary
visit, and even declined an invitation to tea, with which Mrs. Melmoth,
after extensive preparations, had favored him. He seemed to have resumed
all the habits of seclusion by which he was distinguished previous to his
acquaintance with Ellen, except that he still took his sunset walk on the
banks of the stream.

On one of these occasions, he stayed his footsteps by the old leafless oak
which had witnessed Ellen's first meeting with the angler. Here he mused
upon the circumstances that had resulted from that event, and upon the
rights and privileges (for he was well aware of them all) which those
circumstances had given him. Perhaps the loveliness of the scene and the
recollections connected with it, perhaps the warm and mellow sunset,
perhaps a temporary weakness in himself, had softened his feelings, and
shaken the firmness of his resolution, to leave Ellen to be happy with his
rival. His strong affections rose up against his reason, whispering that
bliss--on earth and in heaven, through time and eternity--might yet be his
lot with her. It is impossible to conceive of the flood of momentary joy
which the bare admission of such a possibility sent through his frame;
and, just when the tide was highest in his heart, a soft little hand was
laid upon his own, and, starting, he beheld Ellen at his side.

Her illness, since the commencement of which Fanshawe had not seen her,
had wrought a considerable, but not a disadvantageous, change in her
appearance. She was paler and thinner; her countenance was more
intellectual, more spiritual; and a spirit did the student almost deem
her, appearing so suddenly in that solitude. There was a quick vibration
of the delicate blood in her cheek, yet never brightening to the glow of
perfect health; a tear was glittering on each of her long, dark eyelashes;
and there was a gentle tremor through all her frame, which compelled her,
for a little space, to support herself against the oak. Fanshawe's first
impulse was to address her in words of rapturous delight; but he checked
himself, and attempted--vainly indeed--to clothe his voice in tones of
calm courtesy. His remark merely expressed pleasure at her restoration to
health; and Ellen's low and indistinct reply had as little relation to the
feelings that agitated her.

"Yet I fear," continued Fanshawe, recovering a degree of composure, and
desirous of assigning a motive (which he felt was not the true one) for
Ellen's agitation,--"I fear that your walk has extended too far for your

"It would have borne me farther with such a motive," she replied, still
trembling,--"to express my gratitude to my preserver."

"It was needless, Ellen, it was needless; for the deed brought with it its
own reward," exclaimed Fanshawe, with a vehemence that he could not
repress. "It was dangerous, for"--

Here he interrupted himself, and turned his face away.

"And wherefore was it dangerous?" inquired Ellen, laying her hand gently
on his arm; for he seemed about to leave her.

"Because you have a tender and generous heart, and I a weak one," he

"Not so," answered she, with animation. "Yours is a heart full of strength
and nobleness; and if it have a weakness"--

"You know well that it has, Ellen,--one that has swallowed up all its
strength," said Fanshawe. "Was it wise, then, to tempt it thus, when, if
it yield, the result must be your own misery?"

Ellen did not affect to misunderstand his meaning. On the contrary, with a
noble frankness, she answered to what was implied rather than expressed.

"Do me not this wrong," she said, blushing, yet earnestly. "Can it be
misery? Will it not be happiness to form the tie that shall connect you to
the world? to be your guide--a humble one, it is true, but the one of your
choice--to the quiet paths from which your proud and lonely thoughts have
estranged you? Oh, I know that there will be happiness in such a lot, from
these and a thousand other sources!"

The animation with which Ellen spoke, and, at the same time, a sense of
the singular course to which her gratitude had impelled her, caused her
beauty to grow brighter and more enchanting with every word. And when, as
she concluded, she extended her hand to Fanshawe, to refuse it was like
turning from an angel, who would have guided him to heaven. But, had he
been capable of making the woman he loved a sacrifice to her own
generosity, that act would have rendered him unworthy of her. Yet the
struggle was a severe one ere he could reply.

"Yon have spoken generously and nobly, Ellen," he said. "I have no way to
prove that I deserve your generosity, but by refusing to take advantage of
it. Even if your heart were yet untouched, if no being more happily
constituted than myself had made an impression there, even then, I trust,
a selfish passion would not be stronger than my integrity. But now"--He
would have proceeded; but the firmness which had hitherto sustained him
gave way. He turned aside to hide the tears which all the pride of his
nature could not restrain, and which, instead of relieving, added to his
anguish. At length he resumed, "No, Ellen, we must part now and forever.
Your life will be long and happy. Mine will be short, but not altogether
wretched, nor shorter than if we had never met. When you hear that I am in
my grave, do not imagine that you have hastened me thither. Think that you
scattered bright dreams around my pathway,--an ideal happiness, that you
would have sacrificed your own to realize."

He ceased; and Ellen felt that his determination was unalterable. She
could not speak; but, taking his hand, she pressed it to her lips, and
they saw each other no more. Mr. Langton and his daughter shortly after
returned to the seaport, which, for several succeeding years, was their
residence. After Ellen's departure, Fanshawe returned to his studies with
the same absorbing ardor that had formerly characterized him. His face was
as seldom seen among the young and gay; the pure breeze and the blessed
sunshine as seldom refreshed his pale and weary brow; and his lamp burned
as constantly from the first shade of evening till the gray morning light
began to dim its beams. Nor did he, as weak men will, treasure up his love
in a hidden chamber of his breast. He was in reality the thoughtful and
earnest student that he seemed. He had exerted the whole might of his
spirit over itself, and he was a conqueror. Perhaps, indeed, a summer
breeze of sad and gentle thoughts would sometimes visit him; but, in these
brief memories of his love, he did not wish that it should be revived, or
mourn over its event.

There were many who felt an interest in Fanshawe; but the influence of
none could prevail upon him to lay aside the habits, mental and physical,
by which he was bringing himself to the grave. His passage thither was
consequently rapid, terminating just as he reached his twentieth year. His
fellow-students erected to his memory a monument of rough-hewn granite,
with a white marble slab for the inscription. This was borrowed from the
grave of Nathanael Mather, whom, in his almost insane eagerness for
knowledge, and in his early death, Fanshawe resembled.


Many tears were shed over his grave; but the thoughtful and the wise,
though turf never covered a nobler heart, could not lament that it was so
soon at rest. He left a world for which he was unfit; and we trust, that,
among the innumerable stars of heaven, there is one where he has found

Of the other personages of this tale,--Hugh Crombie, being exposed to no
strong temptations, lived and died an honest man. Concerning Dr. Melmoth,
it is unnecessary here to speak. The reader, if he have any curiosity upon
the subject, is referred to his Life, which, together with several sermons
and other productions of the doctor, was published by his successor in the
presidency of Harley College, about the year 1768.

It was not till four years after Fanshawe's death, that Edward Walcott was
united to Ellen Langton. Their future lives were uncommonly happy. Ellen's
gentle, almost imperceptible, but powerful influence drew her husband away
from the passions and pursuits that would have interfered with domestic
felicity; and he never regretted the worldly distinction of which she thus
deprived him. Theirs was a long life of calm and quiet bliss; and what
matters it, that, except in these pages, they have left no name behind


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