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THE LONDON FLOWER-SELLER.
BY NICHOLAS MICHELL.
MORN after morn, in sunshine or in rain,
They saw her in the busy crowded street, Offering her flowers, and offering oft in vain,
But walking still with sore and weary feet: Though sad the story told by her young eyes,
Her woes more numerous than her years,
None ever saw her tears.
Her dress was neat, bound neatly her light hair; Her once round cheek was thin, and brightly gleamed
The small pink spot that told consumption there : But still her flowers she offered morn and eve,
None cared for her, or asked if woe
For one so poor, so low ?
Her anxious hand no longer offered flowers; Her pale, sweet face had vanished from the throng,
Unmarked as falls a bud 'mid summer bowers :
Children below at noisy play-
There the sick flower-girl lay.
The seal of death upon her slırunken face;
Yet weakness had not quenched her youthful grace. Her eye was bright, her thin hand seemed of snow; It feebly held a little book of
Making pain beauteous there.
Her mother slept the sleep that knows no waking; Each lowly friend, once kind to her, had fled,
And for that aged man her heart was breaking:
Upon his shoulder fainting now she lay,
“ Farewell !" she strove to say. Blithe in its cage a little linnet sings,
Once her poor joy-whose band will feed it now? The court with shouts of ragged children rings,
Grief only marks the father's furrowed brow; The busy city hums—the vendor's cries
Thrill the dusk air—his tears alone are shed; His little one is gone-none heed his sighs,
Or mourn the Flower-girl dead.
EDGAR HOWARD, now promoted to the rank of post-captain, had arrived in England; but finding that his cousin and old friend Alfred Percival and his family had gone abroad, he did not proceed, as he had intended to have done, to Woodbury. He first went to Pau to visit his father, who, in consequence of bad health, had retired on half-pay.
Edgar had not seen his cousin Alfred for some years ; he had only once returned from foreign service since Alfred's marriage, but then, though Mr. Montague was still alive, he had not been able to go to Woodbury, as his father, Captain Howard, was at Nice, ill—and he had hastened over to be with him. While yet staying with his father, Edgar had been summoned to join a ship, to the command of which he had been appointed ;
and leaving England in a hurry, he had no time to go to Woodbury.
Edgar Howard was on a distant station when the intelligence reached him of his uncle, Mr. Montague's death, and of the change he had made in the destination of his property.
It would be untrue to say that he was not surprised and disappointed at the loss of the large fortune, to the possession of which he had been 80 long accustomed to look forward. But time and reflection, and his warm regard for his relation and boyish friend Alfred, dulled his feelings of regret, into which no bitterness had ever entered.
He remembered that, after all, Alfred was quite as nearly related to Mr. Montague as he was-that he had been much more with him latterly -had been domesticated, as it were, in his family, and that he had a pretty, pleasing, and, perhaps, wordly-wise wife, who, young as she was, had managed to acquire an ascendancy over the old gentleman, which she had probably used for her own and her husband's benefit. Well, he could not deny that it was very natural for her to do this. He had always thought that, in justice, Mr. Montague should divide his fortune as equally as possible between his two nephews; the only difficulty was Woodbury-it would be a pity to sell that fine property, which had been so long in the family, therefore one or other cousin must get it. After all, Alfred, being unencumbered with any professional duties, could reside there
, and look after the estate, and improve it. In fact, Edgar's kind and generous heart yearned to his cousin and former companion, and he could not feel for him a single particle of envy, or entertain the slightest hostility towards him.
“My uncle," he said to his father, “had a right to dispose of his property as he pleased. I had no more claim on him than Alfred, and he is not to blame because the old gentleman changed his mind. Twenty
thousand pounds is a handsome fortune for a naval officer. Many of them would be thankful to have the half of it.”
Edgar wrote from Pau to his cousin that he was coming to Spa, and hoped to arrive there the following week.
“ A letter from Edgar!” exclaimed Alfred, in a tone of annoyance rather than of pleasure, as two or three letters were brought by a waiter to the Percivals' salon.
“From Edgar? Oh, then, he has arrived," said Mrs. Percival. bears the postmark of Pau ; I suppose he is there with his father.”
Alfred looked at the address, and turned the letter round and round, as if it were necessary to study the outside profoundly; so Agnes, finding that he was in no hurry to open it, took up a letter to herself from Edith Barwell, and seemed soon absorbed in its contents. Presently she cried :
"Only think, Alfred, Edith Barwell is going to be married at last; I am so glad. Our Woodbury curate has just got a comfortable living, and it is not at such a distance but that she can often see her friends and visit her home. The marriage is to take place soon, and she hopes that 1-we—may
be back in time to be present at it. But, gracious Heaven ! what is the matter ?” she exclaimed, suddenly, when, on turning her head round to look at Alfred, who was sitting rather in the background, she perceived that he was as white as a sheet, and that there was a strange expression in his countenance. Are
ill?" “No," replied Alfred, looking away. But-but-Edgar is coming to Spa. Actually going to follow us here."
"Well! There is nothing alarming or distressing in that, is there? He is going to take a long journey for the pleasure of seeing you."
“I don't know what he is going to take it for,” muttered Alfred. “But I wish he would stay where he is. Next week! We might be off for a tour on the Rhine."
" Oh no! We really cannot run away from him again.”
“ It is so very awkward to meet him. He must feel the loss of Woodbury. If Mr. Montague had never promised the property to him, it would not have signified, but as he was brought up to be the heir-I -Idare
he looks upon me as-an interloper. “ Dearest Alfred, you carry your ideas of delicacy too far. Indeed you do. Captain Howard has no cause to find fault with you for the act of another." " What did
you hear the night of my uncle's death that time to the door, Agnes, but did not get in ?"
“ I only heard the dear old gentleman refusing to take his medicine," she replied. Alfred's brow cleared a little.
May I read your cousin's letter ?" she asked. Alfred handed it to her.
Agnes read it through with a plea sed look, and, on returning it to Alfred, said:
“ I never read a kinder letter. If you were his own brother, Alfred, he could hardly have a greater affection for you. Do write him by return of post, and tell him how happy you, and I also, will be to see
him. We must secure rooms for him here, in this hotel, for next week; and you should receive him as our guest, and pay
all his expenses. “I don't perceive the use of that,” said Alfred; “but”
At that moment Madeleine burst into the room, and, running up to her sister, cried,
“Will you lend me your parasol, Agnes? I broke mine yesterday, and they say it must be sent to Verviers to be mended. I am going for an hour's stroll with Octavie, and I don't like to go without a
“Certainly, dear,” said Agnes. “Take either of my parasols you like best. I have two with me."
“ Are you going with your cousin, alone?" asked Alfred, looking up from the letter which was still in his hand.
“I believe Colonel Murray is going with us, to show Octavie some pretty points de vue, and his friend Lord Eskdale is going with him, and Mr. Lawson, but I suppose he will turn to the right-about when he finds that Agnes is not of the party.”
“Wait a quarter of an hour, Madeleine, till I have answered this letter, and I will go with you too."
“ Bien obligée, monsieur," replied Madeleine, with one of the pretty little curtseys she was so fond of making. "But I am afraid we cannot wait; and to confide a little secret to you, I don't think mes amis would much care that
you should join our party, especially Lord Eskdale. He says," she added, laughing, “ that you are a wet blanket. It is such a ridiculous expression, I don't know what it means ; in France I never heard of anybody being called a blanket !'”
Alfred looked very angry, and said:
“Your friend Lord Eskdale is an impertinent puppy, and if he does not take care, I will make him laugh on the wrong side of his mouth, to use language similar in vulgarity to his own."
Agnes saw mischief in Madeleine's laughing eyes, and she hastened to draw her attention to a different subject, by saying:
“I have just heard of a wedding that is going to take place soon at Woodbury. Edith Barwell is going to be married at last to the curate, who has been presented with a living and a nice parsonage, at no very enormous distance from Barwell Lodge.”
Madeleine shrugged her shoulders:
“Ah, ce pauvre curé! I do not envy her. I suppose she will have to live now on mutton-broth and apple-dumplings !"
And Madeleine made a face expressive of disgust.
" There are worse things than mutton-broth and apple-dumplings, Madeleine. What would you say to snail-soup, which is such a favourite dish in some parts of Spain ?". “Snail-soup ! oh, horrible!” cried the girl. “That is unheard of. It
" makes me malade even to think of it.” And she rushed away without another word about the proposed promenade, Lord Eskdale, or Octavie.
“ She wants ballast sadly?" exclaimed Alfred.
“ Poor girl! She is indeed very thoughtless,” said Agnes ; “ but she is very young,” she added, apologisingly. “Pray excuse her folly, dear Alfred."
Agnes left Mr. Percival to concoct his letter to his cousin, and went herself to take a quiet walk with her children and their nurse. On ascending one of the upward paths, she took Sophy's tiny hand, Cecil supporting her little sister on the other side, while the nurse walked behind them, carrying a camp-stool, for Mrs. Percival was not very strong, and required to rest now and then in going up the hills. After a time, Agnes heard a quick, vigorous step behind her, and supposing that Alfred had followed them, she lingered a moment, and then turned round to welcome him. But the pedestrian was not Alfred, it was Mr. Lawson who was following them. As Madeleine had predicted, he had left Octavie's little party when he found that Agnes was not to make one of it. He had descried her, through an opening in the trees, winding up one of the hilly paths, and had hastened to overtake her. The picture, as he had seen it for a moment through the space in the trees, had charmed him—the lovely young mother leaning with such affectionate interest towards the pretty little girls, one of whom was half running, the other toddling by her side.
“Her husband does not seem to be with her,” he said to himself. “ He is seldom with her. How ungrateful he is—how insensible, apparently, to the great happiness Heaven has bestowed on him !"
John Lawson was determined not to lose the crumb of comfort he could secure for himself in a quiet walk with “ Agnes Stuart,” as he still called her in his own mind, so he hurried after her and her children. The path was too narrow to admit of their all four walking together, therefore Agnes told Cecil to go behind with the nurse, and then Mr. Lawson took Cecil's place and the little Sophy's hand. Better supported than she had been by Cecil, the little thing began to skip and dance along. At length she exclaimed:
“Me is tired, mamma; take up Sophy!" And she pulled her little hand from Mr. Lawson's, and held both her arms up beseechingly to her mother.
“Let me carry you, dear,” said John Lawson, catching up the little girl in his arms.
"Oh no, Mr. Lawson! Do not trouble yourself with the child; her nurse will carry her,” said Agues.
“Pray do not deprive me of so great a pleasure,” replied Lawson. “ You cannot imagine how fond I am of children. Do let me carry this sweet little creature !"
He kissed little Sophy, and carried her so gently and so comfortably that she was quite pleased and happy.
Agnes had just begun to speak of the beauty and attractions of Spa to her escort, when Sophy, nestling herself closer to Lawson, cried in her lisping, yet clear voice :
“Oo is so dood; me will take oo for my papa.”
The colour mounted into John Lawson's face, and Mrs. Percival blushed also. Cecil sprang forward.
“ Sophy, you can't have two papas-can she, mamma?”
“No, certainly, my dear!" replied Mrs. Percival, who knew by experience that Cecil would perseveringly reiterate the question until she got an answer. “Go and pick some of those pretty blue flowers for me, Cecil love," said Mrs. Percival, to divert the child's attention.