Imatges de pàgina

" Then she tells such delightful stories ; all about the Hindoos, and the Rajahs, and the taming of elephants, and the hunting of tigers, and playing on calaphons over calabashes. Do, dear papa, let us have Isabel Deane down with us to spend the holidays.

" We have enough people here without İsabel Deane, I think," muttered out the baronet, with no very gracious tone of voice, as he just condescended to nod at me as I passed through the hall; but the young ladies did not give up the point, for I heard them still sounding the praises of Isabel Deane" as I ascended the stairs; and I found out the next day, that by dint of entreaties, remonstrances, arguments, and persuasions, with the addition of a little sullenness, a few tears, and a good many kisses, they had prevailed—Isabel Deane was invited to spend six weeks at “ The Plantations,” and a female servant was soon dispatched to Bath, to take the charge of the young lady down. All this I heard from Mrs. Talbot, who assured me," she was perfectly disgusted to see how her poor papa was managed by those girls. She never had gained such an ascendancy over him. Poor dear gentleman, they would racket him to death now! There would be three of them, instead of two, and at such a time too, when the house ought to be kept so quiet! She wished her elder sister, Mrs. Woolcot, would come down and set it all to rights; for as she had married so well, and had such a fine establishment, what she said would be attended to: but for myself,” added she confidentially, “my best way will be to avoid all interference-all altercation ; indeed, Francis insists upon it that I should not meddle with my younger sisters ; he never does so, and that makes him such a favorite with them. Great flirting things as they are! they are always wanting him to ride with them, and walk with them, and write verses for their albums; it is very disagreeable, I assure you, Mrs. Griffiths; I cannot get Francis an hour to myself when they are at home; and when I am confined it will be still worse I fear. How I do detest great romping girls! Only look, Mrs. Griffiths! there they are now, running after butterflies with Mr. Talbot on the lawn: I shall go down and remonstrate with him on his folly—a clergyman too!" And away she went and carried off her Francis to another part of the grounds, no doubt giving him a conjugal lecture by the way.

Let me here give a slight sketch of the master of the house, Sir William Ogilvie, who is the undoubted hero of this tale: although already a grandpapa, and also accused by his youngest daughter of having an occasional fit of the gout, and a consequent irritability of temper during the breeding time, as they call it, of that patrician disorder.

Sir William Ogilvie was what the ladies would call, “ a very handsome man,” but a philosopher, perhaps, a mere animal, though a very fine one of its kind. He was tall and well-proportioned; had florid, regular, handsome features, and carried himself erect as a life-guardsman; he was cold and stately in his manners; not easily moved to laughter; and piqued himself on being the best county magistrate on the bench. He had even published a pamphlet enquiring into the charges on countyrates in England and Wales, and had given his evidence respecting his own county before a Select Committee of the House of Lords with great clearness and éclat; for which the county gentlemen had subscribed

and given him a service of plate. He was now employed in writing another pamphlet, hoping to revise the present game-laws; as he considered it a disgrace to the aristocracy that a hare, pheasant, or partridge, could be purchased openly at a poulterer's shop. He was never familiar to his children, but was nevertheless a very kind father, and very accessible on the score of a little wheedling and fondling, which his two youngest daughters had lately found out, and used the spell as often as it suited them, much to the annoyance of Mrs. Talbot, who declared, “She never in her life presumed to cajole papa as those girls now did, and she wondered he could endure it ; but they knew what they were about, that was clear; and for that matter, she should give her own little Fanny a lesson or two in the same art, and see if she could coax her grandpapa out of a grand piano, as the dear little thing would soon have to begin music.” To accomplish this laudable design, the poor child was taught to sing “ Little Bo-peep," and " The Life and Death of Poor Cock Robin," and instructed how to clamber up Sir William's knees, lisp out her little artifice, telling him, “ She would sing, dear great papa, a great many more pretty songs, if little papa would buy her a nice new pi-, pi-," she could not remember the word, but her mama prompted her, and at the same time affected to check her being so troublesome. The artifice succeeded : Sir William promised that if she would learn to sing “Chevy Chase” and “Rule Britannia," she should have one of Wornham's best instruments, with a picciola besides ; and so that affair was settled. Thus are children first instructed!

There was a little room adjoining the one in which Sir William sat occasionally as magistrate, divided from it only by a glass-door and a green curtain. Into this small study, full of law-books, &c., Mrs. Talbot sometimes invited me to sit and amuse ourselves with hearing some of the strange cases that were brought before her father. I observed he was always unusually severe at any infringement of the laws for the protection of game on his own manor, and very lenient to those poor young women, who were sometimes brought before him for having dared to be too kind to their lovers, and whose blushing countenances and other indications proved, that they were likely to increase the bur. den of the poor-rates. One of the latter cases come before him a few days previous to Mrs. Talbot's seclusion, and I thought it worthy of a place in my note-book.

An unusual bustle appeared in the house, as the offending party was most reluctantly brought before Sir William ; all the maid-servants were whispering together in groups ; and, on our entering the little study (Mrs. Talbot and myself), we found it pre-occupied by Wilmot the butler, and Thomas the footman, who hurried from the room on seeing us, in evident confusion, making some sort of stammering apology for the liberty they had taken.

"What a very pretty girl she is !” said Mrs. Talbot to me, as we peeped under a corner of the green-curtain into the adjoining room ; "what a pity to see her in that state ! She is ready to sink with shame; but hush, let us hear what papa says."

“So, young woman,” exclaimed the magistrate, but his voice was neither stern, nor unfeeling; "so, you have brought yourself to a pretty pass, when too, with that tolerable-looking face of yours, you might have done so much better for yourself. Have you not been a little fool now, to say the best of it? You have brought your merchandise to a sad market! Who is the rascal that has deceived you, Peggy Hawkins ?"

: There was no answer from that agitated bosom but sighs and sobs her face was deluged with tears ; although both her hands sought to cover her features, the large drops trickled between the fingers. " Sir William moved about upon his chair, and seemed at a loss how to proceed; the officer, or beadle, who had her in custody, took upon himself to instruct him.

The impudent young baggage will not answer a word, your honour'; perhaps a little solitary confinement may teach her how to find her tongue. Shall I lead her away, Sir William?”

Do you mean to teach me my duty, sirrah?" replied the magistrate sternly.' “ Do you not perceive that the poor girl is choking ? Pour out a glass of wine, Sudbury,” continued he to his clerk, "and give it to her; and hand her à chair : although she has been so imprudent, yet I suppose she is not the first, and will not be the last, to act thus : still she feels like a woman. There, sit down, Peggy Hawkins, and tell me all about it. Why, child, you are not the first who have sinned this way. It is as old a fault as mother Eve's. I repeat the question; Who is the rascal who has deceived you? This new Act falls hard upon the woman!” ; “I dare not tell your worship,” at length, in a low tone, came from the quivering lips of the poor culprit. He has injured me; but I cannot, indeed I cannot, speak the word might do him wrong."

“More fool you for your pains !” shouted Sir William ; but there was no anger in the tone of his voice.." By my soul, you are too good for him, whoever he may be." Then, turning to the beadle, he enquired if he had any suspicion of the girl's seducer ? The clerk and the officer exchanged looks; and there was a dead pause.

“Was I understood, thou man of mean office ?” again inquired Sir William ; but now anger flashed in his eye, and could not be mistaken in the tone of his voice.“

" I think I have a notion,” responded the man, grinning openly at the clerk, who continued writing most incontinently, afraid to hold up his head to incur the magistrate's displeasure. :

“Leave off your horrible faces, and begin," exclaimed Sir William, rising, and striking his hand upon the table ; the young girl dropped upon her knees, and the beadle left off his facetiousness. "How should Master Hinxmarr know any thing of me, or my wretchedness, your honour ?” murmured out poor Peggy. “What he can tell you is not worth your honour's hearing; so do not make him say what he will have to answer for at the judgment ;-he only suspects, because--"

Suspect, indeed !” interrupted the man with the gold hat. .“ Why, that beats every thing I've heard. Was it for nothing his worship's fine dressed-up butler came every evening to your mother's paltry cottage, and brought you cakes and sweetmeats, and all kinds of trumpery? Suspect, indeed! Have I not had my eye upon you, Peggy Hawkins, for this many a month, and told you what it would come to? warned you enough ? Might you not have been an honest man's wife, instead

[ocr errors]

* Is this true ?" demanded Sir William, kindling into rage. "I will sift this matter to the bottom. Here, send me that fellow, Wilmot, in: stantly, with his simpering looks and fine silk stockings. I'll teach him So, Sir! you have been amusing yourself, I find, in tampering with the innocence of young country girls—my tenants ! Look at that simplehearted creature, and blush at the misery you have occasioned !".

"I have not spoken a word," sobbed Peggy ; “it is all through the spite and jealousy of Master Hinxman, there. Please your worship, do not mind him ; he knows nothing."

Sir William heeded her not, but, drawing up himself to his full height, and bending his brows as he spoke, thus did he address the dan: dified butler, who stood playing with his watch-chain, shifting from one foot to another, and assuming a composure that he did not feel ; trying to look calm, but quivering with emotion.

“How long have you lived in my family, Wilmot ? ” enquired the baronet'in no gentle tone.

"About four years, Sir William ; and I have served you faithfullyyou know I have.”

“Are you contented with your master and your place ?"

"O Sir William, how can you ask me that question ? " enquired the butler; "a better master never lived.”

"I trust your next one will be as good a one ; for, unless your banns are put up next Sunday with this injured girl, who is worth a dozen of such heartless profligates as you, you are at liberty to seek such master this very moment. My house shall never shelter the man who betrays and forsakes the heart that trusted him."

"And what, Sir William, if I consent to marry the girl ?” enquired the butler, sidling towards Peggy.

" Why, that you may continue in your service, and she-let me see ; what can I do for her? Can you wash and iron well ?”

“That she can, Sir William," interposed the beadle, who seemed now much affected ; "and she is as pretty a housewife as ever I saw.”

“Then she shall live at the Fallows' farm-house; and I will have it fitted up for a laundry; and you, Wilmot, can sleep there with your wife: is the thing settled ? For I have another case waiting, and can spare no time.”

“God bless and preserve your honourable worship !" exclaimed poor Peggy, as she hid her blushing and really pretty face on the shoulder of the butler, who repulsed her not: and, in three weeks or so, they were married. Peggy's mother came to take care of her during her confinement at the · Fallows,' and the Monthly Nurse' did not disdain to give some assistance on the occasion. Still greater honour awaited her. Isabel Deane, the young Indian girl before named, my heroine, insisted on being godmother to the infant; and, as kindness is always infectious, Miss Ogilvie followed her example, which seemed to afford great satisfaction to the crest-fallen Wilmot, who then heard the daily praises of his wife and child, and began to be proud of them both.

“And what was this Isabel Deane like, of whom you have said so much?” cries the reader. “I suppose you intend, in your usual way, Madam, to give us a portrait of her?”.

Be kind enough first to dip my pencil in the magic fountain above

the clouds, gentle reader, from whence the many-coloured dew-drops get their sparkling hues, ever varying according to the position from which they are beheld—now green, now crimson, now orange, now a simple drop of water, now all the prismatic colours together in a blaze. This young and extremely diminutive girl, never appeared the same two minutes together, yet was she charming under every change; she had not the slightest shade of affectation, but seemed guided only by those instincts, or impulses, that were constantly at work within her. Now playful as a fawn, in another moment weeping at a tale of woe, now speaking like an oracle, and with an intensity that vibrated through the very being of others, by the means of that unknown power, sympathy, speaking of things (if things they can be termed), beyond an angel's ken; then playing such fantastic tricks, she seemed almost belonging to the tribe of monkeys. She was a nondescript, indeed! I never saw any thing like her ; but I will describe her first appearance at “ The Plantations,” for I happened to be present when she entered the drawingroom there ; and perhaps some idea may be formed of her. What Miss Ogilvie and her sister Caroline had prophesied, came to pass. Sir William had a touch of the gout a few days after my arrival; and he made every body know it. With his feet wrapped up in flannel and fleecy-hosiery, and his fine person encompassed in a rich chintz morning-gown, he gave himself up wholly to the unpleasant intruder. Seated in his blue-morocco easy-chair, his feet pillowed on an ottoman, with china basons, glass phials, and medical treatises heaped together on a small table beside him, he looked like any thing but “Patience on a Monument ;"'- even little Fanny played with her doll in a corner, whis. pering to it her commands, or expostulations, “afraid to disturb grandpapa :" his youngest daughters, wisely enough, got out of his way; and Mr. Talbot, at a distant window, seemed meditating his escape also ; when I heard, as I was pouring out the medicine in my gratuitous office of nurse to the querulous invalid, the sound of carriage-wheels whirling round the sweep, and simultaneously, for so it seemed to me, so quickly did the effect follow the cause, the peevish request from my patient, “That I would go immediately and prevent that girl (for he supposed she was arrived) from intruding there until he could be conveyed into his own library, where he hoped he might at least be safe, at such a time, from the annoyance of strangers.I went out upon my errand, and found Isabel Deane in the arms of her two young friends, who were pouring into her ear their expressions of delight and regret, of welcome and of admonition, yet so mixed up together, so vague, and so perfectly unintelligible, even to one gifted with such quickness of apprehension and rapidity of thought, that she put one in mind more of a Peri than a school-girl. She stood perfectly bewildered, and cast her beseeching Eastern eyes upon me, while I approached, as if asking me for an explanation of all they uttered. I began it accordingly ; but had no sooner made her understand that the father of her two friends was then suffering from a fit of the gout, than she clapped together her fairy hands of exquisite beauty, and exclaimed, “I will instantly cure him! Take me to him this moment! How fortunate that I should have brought it with me!” The sisters looked at me, and I at them. I saw a smile on the mouth of Mr. Talbot, who had joined the group with his lady, a

« AnteriorContinua »