Page images


have any."

humour and half otherwise, that although her uncle was at liberty, if he chose, to occupy the little study, and continue his office of accomptant and steward in the family, yet, as she was now of age, he must recollect that his office and authority of guardian was at an end, at least with respect to herself.

“But,” remarked Clarissa, “ his office is not yet at an end with respect to me, sister; neither do I intend it ever shall be,” added she: “ for I shall always wish to obey the reasonable commands of my father's uncle, and shall always think it a privilege to have such a friend to consult.”

Though the old gentleman was a cold matter of fact man, he could not withstand this proof of the sweetness and tractability of his younger niece's temper; and the tears actually stood in his eyes while he reached his hand across the corner of the table to hers, saying, “Clarissa, you are a good girl; and you will be blessed in your children, if

you “ Dear uncle,” replied Clarissa, “ I have not so many old friends, or relations, who are capable of supplying to me the want of a father, that I should be in haste to throw any of them away.”

As soon as dinner was over, it still being only a few hours after noon, Clarissa, finding that her uncle and sister had entered into some discussions which she thought of little importance, made her escape out of the dining-parlour, and, passing hastily through the great hall, she called a female servant to her, whom she saw at the foot of the stairs, to enquire after her dear nurse, who she understood still lived in the neighbourhood : and having dispatched this servant in all haste to fetch her, (for she had been made to understand that Mrs. Neale had never been permitted to come to the mansionhouse since her dismissal,) she proceeded up the staircase to her mother's apartment.

Her heart beat violently as she put her hand upon the bolt; but the door was locked, and though she made several attempts to open it, yet could she not succeed. She then knocked ; but as there was a large antechamber between her mother's sitting-room and the place where she then stood, it was doubtful whether the sound could be heard so far. Having waited a few minutes, and no voice being

heard from within, she went down stairs again, and, crossing the hall, entered a long passage flagged with blue and white stone, which led into the garden. She stopped at a door which opened from this passage into the housekeeper's room. The door of this room stood ajar, and, as she passed, she distinctly heard the voice of Mrs. Burton, who was making tea for a parcel of female servants and footmen. Clarissa was glad to be assured that Mrs. Burton was thus employed, and consequently out of her way; so passing on, she came unobserved to the garden. Then hastening through several well-remembered walks and alleys, she came up at length to the iron rails which encircled the little plot of ground particularly called her mother's garden. There stopping a moment, with a feeling which cannot be described, she looked up to her poor parent's windows, which were open; no one appeared near them. She immediately began, with hasty step, to traverse the railing, till she came to the iron gate by which there was an entrance from the outer into the inner garden. She was afraid of finding this gate locked; and locked indeed it was, in order to prevent the poor prisoner from getting out had she desired it; but the key was in the lock, on the outside, as this passage to the poor lady's apartment was often used in the summer time by her attendants as the most direct way from the housekeeper's room. Clarissa turned the key with a hand trembling with impatience; and having thus gained admittance into the garden, she moved hastily forwards, till, running up the steps, she found herself, in a few minutes, in the balcony, before the windows of her mother's room. There she stopped for a short space, (her figure being concealed from any one within the apartment by the stone pillar between the two windows, or rather glass doors, which opened into the balcony,) not only to recover her agitation, but to consider how she might best present herself before her afflicted parent. While in this situation, she thought she heard the soft but low tones of a guitar; and, immediately afterwards, a sweet but plaintive voice reached her ear, singing an old Scotch air, which she remembered to have heard before, but knew not where. While listening to these sounds, she recollected that her poor mother used formerly to play on her guitar, and that

she had sometimes seen her from the projecting window of her nursery, sitting in the balcony with that instrument in her hand. “And do you still play, sweet lady?” said Clarissa to herself. « And have you sung and played on your guitar these many many years ? and has no one been softened to love and pity by your sweet plaintive voice and innocent skill?”

Clarissa stood in the balcony, out of sight, till the poor lady had finished her song: then stepping softly forwards, she passed through the glass door, and entered the room, resolving, as much as possible, to command her feelings so as not to agitate her beloved parent. The poor lady was just laying her guitar on the table when Clarissa appeared. She was much faded and aged since her daughter had seen her; and though she had been dressed with more than common care that evening, yet there was a certain indescribable forlornness about her which produced a painful degree of depression in the mind of Clarissa, the external expression of which she had much difficulty in suppressing.

At sight of the lovely young woman who was entering her apartment by the balcony, the poor lady started and flushed high, looking round her with a frightened air: but being somewhat reassured by the gracious and sweet manner of Clarissa, who came smiling forward, making her compliments as to an entire stranger, and requesting permission to be allowed to rest a few minutes in her apartment, she shortly recovered herself, and, with that politeness and perfect gentility of manner which had never forsaken her through her long malady, she drew a chair to Clarissa, near the one which she had herself occupied, assured her that she was welcome, and asked her if she had been taking a long walk.

“I am come a great way to-day” replied Clarissa, affecting ease of manner, although her heart seemed to beat against her throat so as to make it difficult for her to speak articulately; "and I am now tired, and want rest.'

The poor lady looked earnestly at her daughter while she spoke, and with such a look of tenderness as a mother's feelings only seemed capable of producing. Then Jaying her hand on her arm, she said, “ You do not live near this place, my dear: have I ever seen you before?

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Clarissa replied, you

recollect me,

Madam? Is my face at all known to you?”

The afflicted lady held her hand to her forehead, as if in much perplexity. “I do not know,” she said; “yet I think the face is familiar to me. It is, however, a sweet face, a very sweet face. And where do you come from, my love?

“I am come to live very near you, Madam,” said Clarissa, “ and mean to visit you every day.'

“Every day!” said Mrs. Danzy,“ how will you get in ?

If they see you, they will not let you come in.” This she added in a whisper; and, rising, she went up close to Clarissa, and said, looking timidly to the door,

They do not like me to be seen; and if they know you mean to visit me every day, you will be prevented. But perhaps," she added, you know the time when I am left alone, and then you can come. Take care however not to be seen when you do come.”

“ Are you often left alone?” said Clarissa.

· Yes,” replied the poor lady, “yes, I am often alone. But do not mention that, my dear; they will be angry if they know I have told you. And do you say


you will come,” added she, looking in Clarissa's face, i do you say that you will come often to see me? That is very

kind. It would be a great pleasure to me to see you. I would set a chair for you every day, if I thought you would come.

But perhaps you will come once, and never come again."

The look which the poor lady gave her daughter at the moment she spoke these last words affected Clarissa so violently, that, being unable to control her feelings any longer, she threw her arms round her mother, and, dropping her head on her bosom, burst into an agony of tears, sobbing quite aloud.

Mrs. Danzy was much touched by these tears and this emotion, though she did not seem to have any idea of their cause, or the least suspicion that the lovely young person who now clasped her in her arms was the beloved child whose absence she had so long mourned. Notwithstanding which, being strongly drawn towards her daughter, she returned her embrace with the utmost tenderness; and, as Clarissa's face rested on her bosom, she wiped away her fast flowing tears with her handker

chief, while her own fell as fast and mingled with them. "And why, my dear young lady, why do you weep?" she said. “What can I do for you? I wish I had any comfort to give you.

But I am a poor comfortless creature myself: that however does not matter; I am old and of no consequence; but you are young and blooming, and your aspect peculiarly prepossessing. I cannot bear to see your tears: I pray you be comforted.”

In this manner she went on addressing her daughter, and wiping away her tears, which still continued to flow.

After a few minutes, Clarissa, being somewhat recovered, attempted to account for her tears by saying that she had been engaged in a long journey, and was fatigued by it. “But I am much better now,” she added ; “the tears I have shed have relieved me: and now, my dear Madam, I am at liberty to converse with you. I am come to live in your neighbourhood, and I hope to visit you daily, and spend many hours with you. If you will permit me, I will bring my work' and sit with

you, and will read to you if you approve it.

Indeed it will be the greatest pleasure of my life to attend you." My dear young lady,” returned Mrs. Danzy,

66 who has put it into your heart to pity such a poor creature as I am--one whom all the world has long forgotten? My dear husband has not been at home now for many days; and though I am in constant expectation of him, he never comes. Nor do I ever see my children now: they either come home so late, or go out so early, that I never obtain a sight of them. And this makes my time hang very heavily on my hands; for I am left alone hour after hour, and day after day: because you know it would not be very proper for me to go out.'

“And why not proper?” said Clarissa, subduing her emotions with a violent effort.

“ I do not know,” returned the poor lady, meekly; but they tell me so.”

They tell you so!” said Clarissa, rising with indignation, and then sitting down again, while every limb trembled with passion. Then checking herself, or, rather, diverting her feelings into another channel, she threw herself again upon her mother's bosom, and sobbed violently.

“My dear young lady! my sweet young lady!” said

« EelmineJätka »