Page images

after him; or if these ladies here would but be so good as to take him in hand _” and he was going on, when I interrupted him. I know not all I said; yet I remember that I called on his infernal majesty to silence him. And my sister said, “Go, Thomas Jefferies; I will speak to you presently."

While this was passing, I perceived that the eyes of Lady Roxeter were fixed upon me in a manner so penetrating that their glances seemed to thrill through my heart. And she said, “Never mind, my Lord, how the dear baby looks, let us thank God that he is alive: I trembled lest I should have heard of his death. Let us go down to Hartlands immediately: I long to see the little dear babe: he shall never, never want a mother again. I fear he has been neglected. Let us go to-morrow-to-night. I shall have such pleasure in nursing and comforting him.” And, to my great amazement, she indulged in a flow of tender and affecting tears. 0! what a contrast did she then form to my sister, who stood like a Juno, contemplating her with a sort of scorn mingled with astonishment! Well, indeed might the poet say,

O woman! woman! when to ill thy mind is bent,

No hell contains so foul a fiend !" It was impossible to suspect that those eloquent tears, and those still more expressive suffusions of brilliant red over her neck and cheeks, were the effect of art in my lovely wife. Yet I could not quite understand her feelings. I could not conceive how she could have such an interest in an infant she had never seen; and one who, if he lived, must obstruct the temporal interest of every child she might hereafter have. Yet I thought her altogether so lovely, though to me inexplicable, that I could not help using every means in my power to soothe her, and even promised (contrary to my original intention) that I would set out the next day for Hartlands.

Thus I led her into the interior of the house; ordering at the same time that a dinner might be got ready as soon as possible; and then, having introduced her to the noble suite of apartments which had been devoted to my first wife, I left her, hastening to unburden my mind to my sister.

« Juliana,” I said, as soon as I had shut the door of her dressing-room, what are we to make of this ? how did you interpret Mary's tears ? What could have given occasion to them? Was there any thing of intended reproach to you or to me in those tears? Does she suspect that I do not desire the boy's life ?" And then I began to shuffle, and to say, “If there were any hope of the boy's becoming any thing like a man, and of not remaining always a poor, sickly, diseased object, I, of course, should wish his life. But no father," I added,

could desire a son to live who is to be a miserable invalid all his days.”

“And to mingle the blood of the citizen Golding with our hitherto unpolluted race,” replied my sister, "when there is hope of an heir or heirs who have no such stain !"

“Stay, stay,” I said; "did not you recommend and promote my marriage with Miss Golding ?"

“I did," she replied, “because at that time such a measure was necessary-you wanted money then.” 1 “And I found Miss Golding's fortune so acceptable," I added, "that I shall feel the benefit of it all my life."

Very true," replied my sister; “but the death of the boy would not affect the property you received with his mother.”

“No," I replied," thanks to the folly of old Golding."

“Well then,” said my sister, “why should you be so very anxious that he should live, when it is altogether likely that he will be a cripple ?"

“A cripple!" I repeated.
“Yes,” she replied, with a sneer;

for Thomas tells me that the surgeon thinks his nurse has let him fall, and injured the spine."

0! how I raved, and what imprecations did I call for upon the wretched woman and her underlings! And my sister, I thought, seemed to enjoy my favings; and this thought enraged me the more. At length, however, she called me to recollection, by saying, " But I have not answered your question respecting Lady Roxeter. Really, Theodore, I cannot tell what to think of her: she is certainly not a woman of strong sense; but she is a good-natured little thing; and I should suppose that

[ocr errors]


a nervous woman.

the strong expression in the hall was merely owing to her late fatigue and sickness.” Do you

think so ?" I said. “I do,” she replied: “I was aware, when we were at sea, that you had married a woman of weak spirits. Lady Roxeter is uncommonly nervous."

I was again agitated : for I saw there was spite in my sister. She knew that, of all things on earth, I disliked

The end of this conversation was, that I became excessively sullen; and, when called to my dinner, I let my wife see that I had my ill tempers as well as my good ones.

Before the repast was concluded, the lovely, innocent, unapprehensive countenance of my Mary, with the gentle touch of sadness still resting on her features, wholly disarmed me; and I had quite recovered my temper and cheerfulness, when I was disturbed again by the appearance of old Mr. Golding; who, having heard of my arrival by the busy Thomas Jeffries, had hastened to pay his compliments to his noble son-in-law, and arrived just as we had returned to the drawing-room.

My sister frowned and bit her lips when he was announced, and I shewed as much indifference and hauteur in my manner as I was capable of, and that was not a little; expressing much more surprise than pleasure at his presence. The old gentleman was in mourning for his wife, who was lately dead, and looked much broken and cast down; and, as he had never seen me since his daughter's funeral, the sight of me would have been sufficiently painful, had I received him kindly. All this ought to have disarmed me; but it had not that effect;

and I was brute enough not to seem to see that there was no chair near at hand for him to sit down upon: for my valet, who had ushered him in, (few of the servants being at that time in town,) had known enough of my mind to feel assured that he should not give mortal offence by shewing a slight to the old citizen, as he had often heard me call my father-in-law.

But the neglect of the valet was soon amply repaired by Lady Roxeter's attention, who, though she had never seen Mr. Golding before, hastened to place a chair for

him, begging him to be seated; and then, addressing him' in her usually endearing manner, “We are very happy, Sir," she said: the dear baby, your grandson, is better; and you may be assured, that, when I reach Hartlands, I will do every thing in my power to make him comfortable; please God, I will endeavour to make up to him the loss of his own dear mother.” And, as she spoke, the tear glistened in her eye; and, as usual on all occasions of the slightest excitement, a livelier colour was diffused over her cheeks, and embellished her whole countenance.

What a change took place on the countenance of the old gentleman, as this invaluable woman stood before him, and addressed him in the manner I have described! He hemmed once or twice, as if unable to command his voice from extreme emotion, and then said, with an expressive bow of his head, "Lady Roxeter, I suppose, -dear lady,--and will you take care of my poor boy May the divine blessing rest on you l-on all who are dear to you !-on all the children whom God may give you! May your offspring never know what it is to want a mother!" and the tears trickling down his furrowed cheeks, notwithstanding every effort he could make to restrain them.

While this was passing, my sister and I both sat as if we had no part in the scene, and no concern either in the old gentleman or the child on whose behalf he expressed so much interest. But, however unconcerned we might appear to be, we had our feelings, and they were not agreeable ones. For my part, I felt a degree of sullenness, which had been very common with me formerly, although I had seldom given way to it since my last marriage; and, that I might indulge this feeling,

rang the bell, and gave orders to my valet about some affairs which might just as well have been settled at another time; finding occasion to blame several of my people for certain offences I had not thought of till that moment; and, at the same time, placing my back to the fire, I kicked my sister's poodle, and sent it whining to the other end of the room.

Lady Roxeter had sat down near Mr. Golding; and, having entered into conversation with him, was obliged,

more than once, to break off, from the absolute incapacity of making herself heard. She looked at me, at first, with a sort of innocent amazement; and then, turning to the valet, who stood just within the door, “I should be obliged to you, Villars," she said, “when you have received all your lord's orders, to bring refreshments for Mr. Golding: I expected that you would have done this, without being admonished that it was proper so to do."

She spoke this in such a style of grave displeasure, and with so much real dignity, that my sister, who was at the moment engaged in caressing her offended lap-dog, stared at her with amazement; and I felt the blood rise to my very temples: however, I commanded myself, and even forced myself to finish the evening with more civility to Mr. Golding than I had commenced it with.

This was my last interview with the old gentleman. He died soon afterwards, but not till he had been told of the kindness of Lady Roxeter to his grandson ; and he died blessing the gentle and affectionate stepmother.

Early the next morning, we commenced our rapid journey to Hartlands; and I had the satisfaction, soon after sunset, to see the old Hall again.

I was anxious that Lady Roxeter should be pleased with the place, and I had the satisfaction to see that she was so. As we drew nearer our home, and as one beautiful scene unfolded itself after another, she was all gaiety, and seemed to look forward, with real delight, to a long and happy life with me in that delightful place. And, ah! why might it not have been as happy as it was long ? why might not all the bright expectations of my charming wife have been realized ? Was I not the man who alone, of all men she had ever seen, was most dear to her? Was it not in my power to fulfil all her wishes, and to have gratified all her innocent desires and simple pleasures ?

But I will not anticipate. My Mary's vivacity imparted itself to me; and I was ready, at that moment, to promise all she might have asked. But she asked for nothing, and wished for nothing, I believe, but my happiness, in which hers was bound up. We were sitting side by side in the coach, and my sister was opposite to

This last said but little; but I saw that she was not


« EelmineJätka »