Page images
PDF
EPUB

variety of flowers, and a covered stand, in which were many bee-hives; but the bees were abroad, busy in their dai. ly labour; their murmurs mingling with the rush of waters and the rustling of leaves, the sounds of which disturbed the deep stillness of this peaceful abode; or rather tended to increase the soothing influence of this pleasing spot.

Emily stood a while gazing at this scene with delight. In the venerable woman there was something above what is generally seen in an ordinary peasant; and Emily, in admitting the conviction that what she was reading could be no other than the Bible, experienced a degree of respect for this inhabitant of an obscure cottage, which she would scarcely have felt for a sovereign princess employed in any other way. The peasant continued to be occupied by her book; and Emily, stealing forwards, crossed the bridge, and approached the cottage, yet hesitated again before she ventured to disturb the old woman. While she still lingered, the peasant looked up and saw her. There was no appearance of vulgar wonder in the old woman when first she perceived the young lady standing before her; bụt, rising and stepping forwards with a courteous smile, she invited her in, caused her to sit down, and, before she was well aware, had set before her a cup of goats' milk, and a basket of mountain strawberries. The new acquaintances then entered into discourse; and Emily was soon conscious that it was no ordinary peasant with whom she was holding intercourse; but how to account for the residence of any one above a peasant in this sequestered spot, she was utterly at a loss.

The venerable cottager was in no haste to enter into any particulars which might lead to an explanation of her circumstances; on the contrary, she spoke only on such topics as the surrounding objects might suggest. But it is, perhaps, in ordinary conversation that the difference between an informed and an uninformed mind is chiefly remarkable. Emily, who was weary of the solitude of her

situation, lingered long with her, and did not take her leave till she had been invited to repeat her visit.

On her return to the chateau, she was met by Monsieur Wietlesbach, who came running toward her out of breath, exclaiming, while still at some distance, on his own good fortune in having met with her.

Vol. VII. E E

“ And why do you count your meeting with me so fortunate?" replied Emily.

“ Because,” replied the valet, “Monsieur is distressed at your long absence. And, vraiment,” he added, shrugging up his shoulders, “he would have made me feel the effects of his distress, had not I hastened and flown to seek you."

“What! is my father angry at my absence?” asked Emily.

“Angry! Mademoiselle," replied the valet, “ the word is by far too mild: he is furious! and he treated me, on your account, as I have never before been treated.”

“But apparently,” said Emily, “ he has not made you suffer much, otherwise you could not seem so pleased as you now do."

“ This is because my disposition is not vindictive, lady,” he replied: “but your father is displeased, lady; therefore hasten home."

“I cannot help it,” replied Emily, sullenly: “surely he would not deprive me of the liberty of walking about these solitary mountains! Go back, Monsieur,” she added, “and tell him I am coming."

“Pardonnez,” replied the valet: “I appear not but in your suite, Mademoiselle;" and again he drew up his shoulders, as if they still ached.

Emily hastened homewards, and entered her father's presence in no mood to propitiate his favour. He was in his sleeping-apartment, which he had not left since his last attack, and was sitting with his gouty foot on a pillow; clad in a silk dressing-gown, and wearing a black velvet cap on his head.

« And where, young lady, may you have been ?” he asked, in a thundering voice. “ You have been absent more than three hours, and the dinner has been delayed half an hour and five minutes."

Emily sat down, but made no answer.

“ Wietlesbach, where did you find your young lady?" said the major; for it seems she cannot speak for herself.''

" Where have you been, Mademoiselle?" asked the valet shrinking behind his master's chair.

“ Where did you meet her, Sir?” thundered the major.

The valet had conceived that Emily did not wish her. father to know in what direction she had walked; though he had not yet formed any conjecture concerning the reason she might have for wishing to mislead her father respecting her excursion. It was enough for his crooked mind to suppose that she had some such reason; and, therefore, looking significantly at Emily from behind the major, he said, “Did you wish for your dinner, Monsieur? shall I give directions to the cook?"

“ Are you deaf, Sir?” said the major. “Cannot you answer the question I put to you? Where did you meet my daughter?"

“Moi, Monsieur, I-I followed her; I returned with her; I entered the room in following her. Should I walk before my master's daughter? where would be my politesse."

The major became furious, (to use an expression of the valet;) and, turning to strike him on the side of the face, Monsieur gave a spring backwards, and in a moment was out of the room.

“What a grinning fool we have there!” exclaimed the major; “and yet the fellow makes me smile whether I will or not, and that,” he added with bitterness, “is more than my children have ever done;" and he muttered something indistinctly, which Emily in vain endeavoured to understand.

She, however, looked up, (for her eyes had hitherto been fixed on the ground,) and said, “I am sorry if I have kept your dinner waiting; but surely there is no great sin in walking upon the mountains, where I seldom see a human being ?

“ Nor pleasure neither, I should think,” said the major. “ That is a matter of opinion,” replied Emily.

“ You are very short and unceremonious,” remarked the major; and he sighed.

At that instant the valet reappeared, bringing in the first dish, and wearing a napkin attached to his jacket. The dish pleased the major, he looked graciously at the bearer of it, he ate heartily, talked to his valet; and, having drunk a certain portion of wine, told his daughter she might withdraw for a time, while he enjoyed his evening's sleep.

Emily, being thus dismissed from her father's presence, felt more than ever displeased with herself. She tried to believe that her father's infirmities of temper were a sufficient excuse for her neglect of him, and for her frequent sullenness in his presence; but she could not set her conscience at ease, and yet could not resolve to do better in future. She, therefore, could only weep; and, when she returned to his room in the evening, she wasso indecorous in her manner, that her father bade her leave the room, and stay away till she could behave more like a daughter.

Emily spent some hours that night in weeping, and the next morning felt doubtful for some time whether she should send an apology to her father for her misconduct, or wait to ascertain if he would make some advances to her. But, while she hesitated, the sound of his voice reached her ears from his bed-room, and she heard him laugh aloud at some jest of his servant. Offended at this, she took her breakfast alone, and then walked out, directing her steps the nearest way to the cottage in the glen.

The venerable peasant was found by Emily where she had left her. She expressed great pleasure at seeing the young lady, and gave her to understand that she now knew who she was; and added, that she should be most happy to serve her in any way possible.

Emily thanked her, though it did not immediately occur to her of what service so humble a person could be to her.

“ You are young, dear lady," said the peasant, “and have no mother, no elderly female friend about you; and sometimes you might stand in need

of counsel from one of some experience." She then gave Emily an outline of her life. “I have not always dwelt in this solitude, dear young lady," she said: “mine has been a changeful lot. My name is Vauvrier; I was educated perhaps beyond my situation, and married in early life to a learned man, a pastor of the Reformed Church. I resided with him many years on the banks of the lake of Morat. We were blessed with several children; all of whom, with the exception of one, are now in glory with their father, for they knew in whom they trusted.” She then accounted for her present circumstances by saying, that her daughter had married a plain good man, whose only patrimony was the cottage in which they then

rous.

dwelt; that her son-in-law had once enjoyed a flourishing trade; but, being reduced by misfortunes, had died, leaving his family with means of subsistence so contracted, that they were compelled to retire to their little patrimony, and to add to their small pittance by their labour in the fields in summer, and by spinning and needlework in the winter.

“You are, then,” replied Emily, in astonishment, “the daughter and widow of educated men? You have lived in affluence, you have mixed with the world, and yet you are content in this humble situation?"

“ There are many considerations, Mademoiselle," replied Madame Vauvrier, “ which ought to make me contented in this situation, independent of religion. Low as I am now, I might have been brought lower; much as I have already lost, I might have lost more; and, though I possess no earthly splendour, the comforts I enjoy are nume

Have I not my affectionate daughter; my smiling grandchildren, my peaceful cottage, and sufficient nourishment? not to mention these beauties of creation by which I am surrounded. Surely every sense is regaled in this charming spot. Look, dear lady, at yonder rushing waterfall, high up the glen, half hidden by trees; at those rocks, so adorned by the hand of nature; see that extent of woodland, rising towards the mountain top on the opposite bank; and the deep shade of those many trees beneath which the brook retires from view. Then consider what music I have to enliven me, (and the old lady paused a moment, as in the attitude of listening,)-the hum of bees, the song of birds, the rush of waters, the whispering of the breeze! What a concert has nature prepared in this place, not to speak of the feast which is provided for another sense. Surely no flowers are half so fragrant as ours in this delightful country! How is it possible to live here, and not be ever gay, ever delighted ?"

Emily looked as if she thought the thing very possible; on which the venerable cottager seemed to recollect herself, and added, “But I talk foolishly: I ought to remember, that the enjoyment of present comforts depends very much upon religion; for the unchanged heart is incapable of true happiness. I should have commenced by explaining that which has rendered all the agreeable scenery around

« EelmineJätka »