Imatges de pàgina
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“ O no, sir, master lives quite retired like: besides, there are few English about Vevay.”

Very good : now go home and dry yourself:” (slipping an écu into his hand.)

Here was full and pleasant information. My conjecture was assured : no troublesome mamma or brothers : father invalid, and a baronet; nothing could be more delightful! I returned to my quarters in the highest spirits, and in a rich stream of Utopian visions; and engaged my apartments in the town for “ two months certain."

My call on the following day was kindly received; my dear countrymen, Heaven bless them! are not quite so surly when you meet them abroad : especially if they happen to be in want of assistance or amusement, Sir George appeared to me to stand in the latter predica. ment; and certainly rather encouraged than acquiesced in the approaches I made to become an habitué under his roof. I gathered, both from his establishment, and my dialogue with George, (the blue-bottle,) that with title, fortune had also flowed in upon him; and therefore cau. tiously abstained from recalling to his memory our former meeting. But with the fair Isabel, I was not so scrupulous ; and as soon as we became tolerably good friends, and I was installed in the place of cicerone, and permitted to escort her to views which papa could not reach, I took an opportunity of approaching the subject, although cautiously at first. The moment, however, that I touched upon it, the expression in Miss Denham's eye, and perhaps a little heightening of colour, convinced me that she had not forgotten the circumstances of our previous meet. ing: and I ventured to speak of it, and of the many recollections it had left, without reserve. Why I had hitherto hesitated to make the inquiry, I should fail in attempting to explain : those alone who have been fascinated, as I then was, will understand the reason. Henceforward we became as old friends, and, I need not add, constant compa. nions. Never did I pass a more blessed summer :-it was, indeed, a happiness almost too keen, to ramble day after day, without a thought of the future, in that paradise of a country, by the side of sweet Isabel Denham : to read to her passages from Rousseau and Byron, in the very spots where they were composed, and which they describe; or to sit at her feet throughout long summer evenings, gazing into those strange blue eyes, as she sang to her guitar, for papa, whole garlands of gay little French and Swiss romances. Yet I never spoke to her of love, although my heart was almost oppressed with its sweetness. But our intercourse grew so entire and affectionate, as we read, or sailed, or sat together, or loitered amidst the heavy fragrance of the garden to watch the glory of an Alpine sunset, that nothing but a rising sense of selfreproach, when I considered my doubtful prospects in life,-or perhaps, likewise, a fear to disturb, even with a word, a relation so delicious as had silently established itself between me and this fair girl, could have stifled the confession and the entreaty which at times actually quivered on my lips. 0, she was such a soft, bright creature, with all the grace of a French girl, and the pensive sweetness of an English maiden ; glad, but deep-hearted, and now and then disposed to be tyrannical: with small white hands, and tripping feet ; and then those indescribable eyes ! I wonder how I was enabled to keep silence : for there was a something in Isabel's manner that whispered, at times, as if she would have for. given my presumption, had I broken it.

But autumn was nearly past; its close recalled Sir George, with re.

stored health, to England ; and me to the fulfilment of a promise made to an invalid friend at Naples. At parting, the old baronet gave me a kind invitation to his seat, when I should return to England : and when, in his presence, I essayed to bid farewell to his daughter, my self-possession so nearly left me, that I could barely say, Good-by!” That last day was a miserable one; and when evening came, and I had completed my arrangements for departure on the morrow, I could not restrain my desire to say one kind word to Isabel before leaving the place. It was in vain that reason hinted the folly of indulging a pursuit, that in my then circumstances, appeared hopeless : equally vain was the appeal of conscience, urging that it was using a young creature unfairly to suggest a claim that I could not prefer :—before the sun had quite set, I was standing once more at the gate, from whence we had so often looked down upon Leman. Would she come? I was sure of it !

I stepped aside for a moment; she slowly approached the wicket, and stood leaning for a few instants on the espalier, gazing on the water; and then she buried her face in both hands. I stole to her side, and whispered “ Isabel !” At first, I feared that she would faint, so pale did she become ; but the colour directly returned to her complexion, until cheek, brow, and even neck, were glowing with a crimson flush. She held out her hand, smiling, but with eyes full of tears.

“ I could not bear to leave you, my sweet friend, without taking a kinder farewell than the few cold words spoken this morning.” She looked downwards, and I could see her lip quiver, but no answer came.

“ It will be a long, long time ere I see you again ; will you let me thank you for these happy months, or will you add one other treasure to all your gifts of gentleness and condescension ? Will you repeat that sweet promise you once gave me, as a child ? Say, that you will not forget me, beautiful Isabel Denham !”

Did I break that promise ?" she replied, in a low voice.

“ Ah! but you are now to enter the world, where you will be sought, and caressed, and loved ; but no one will love you there so fondly as an old friend, dear Isabel !” (What would not I have then given for the power to ask her to be mine!) She made no answer, but wept. At that moment, the voice of Sir George was heard, calling her name : she slightly pressed my hand, in which I still held hers, and whispered, hurriedly, “Good-by! I will not forget you !"-Had Mephistophiles himself then stood at my elbow, I could not have abstained from kissing the lips that uttered these kind, musical words. She struggled, escaped from my embrace, and ran towards the house.

For two long years I remained on the Continent, busied with projects which I need not relate, or engaged in adventures that would little interest you. Need I say what was now the pole-star of my endeavours ? Those dear words, “ I will not forget you,” were for ever in my ear; and supported me in moments of anxiety and disappointment, of which, God knows, I had my full share. But I kept my resolution to avoid Isabel Denham's presence, until I could appear before her in the character of a decided suitor ;-yet how dearly did it cost me! How could I expect that her memory, to which I had preferred no direct claim, would survive the effects of absence, silence, and the assiduities of others ?

In the winter of 18—, I returned to England. My difficulties, at last, were smoothed away ; and away did I post to Yorkshire, the moment I was free from the importunities of agents and papers. I have already

hinted, that of Sir George or his daughter I had not heard since their departure from Vevay. Chance happily directed me to an old friend in the neighbourhood of Beverley ; from whom I obtained, at the same time, an invitation to pass my Christmas under his roof, and the wel. come information that Sir George Denham was his neighbour and acquaintance. I arrived at Thornton's on Christmas Eve. “You are come at the right moment,” said my friend : “ The party from Denham Hall join our merry-making to-morrow; and you will have a good opportunity for renewing your Swiss acquaintance.” Between fear and expectation I had no sleep that night.

In this fair district, the dear old English custom of hearty Christmas rejoicings, and the genuine ancient hospitality, are retained in much of their original glory. Under any other circumstances, the cheerful hum of preparation throughout the night, the carols chanted by the village choristers under the hall windows; and, on the morrow, the chambers green with laurel, and variegated with holly ; the holyday faces of the tenantry, and a certain blending of solemnity and joy in the performance of church service in the stately old minster, would have affected me powerfully, after returning from so long a sojourn abroad: but, in church, I was devoured by impatience, vainly attempting to detect one familiar face amidst the congregation ; and returned to dress, nervous and disappointed. A few words to Thornton, indeed, would have put an end to my suspense ; but I had resolved to conceal every indication of peculiar interest, until I had learned how Isabel would receive me. I was actually trembling when I entered the drawing-room, half an hour before the early dinner ;-the guests were nearly all arrived, but still the face I sought for was not there. A carriage dashed up to the doorSir George and Miss Denham ! I started forwards. Cent mille tonnerres ! The old gentleman was, indeed, the same ; but instead of the beautiful girl I expected, there appeared a thin aged lady, with all the vinegar look of a maiden sister.

Sir George greeted me heartily. I forbore to inquire, at the moment, after his daughter ; it had, indeed, been needless, for he was hardly seated, before, “ Where is Miss Isabel ?" rained upon him from all sides.

“ Poor Bell !” I was afraid to bring her out on a bitter day like this, even to a Christmas revel: she has been so delicate of late." Here he looked at the villanous old sister in the lace cap and spectacles, who nodded assent. I could have strangled them both.

The dinner, malgré all its abundance and solemnities, “right merry and conceited ;” its flowing healths, ample cheer, and gay faces, was a bitter ceremony to me, moody and taciturn as the disappointment had made me.

One determination engrossed all my thoughts; and, in the bustle caused by the ladies departure, I proceeded to execute it, by slipping quietly into the hall, seizing the first hat I could find, and running down the avenue as fast as the frozen snow allowed me. “ Show me Sir George Denham’s,” said I to a child at the lodge :-“It's the big white house yonder, across the field.” In three minutes I was halting under the windows of Denham Hall.

The necessity of a pause to take breath, a consciousness of my proceeding being rather a queer one, added to an habitual love of reconnoitring before any “onslaught,” arrested my hand, as it was already upon the bell. I therefore began to encompass the house, after the manner of the besiegers of Jericho, (only that I used no trumpet,) until I reached a bay window, level with the Aower-bed without, which was brightly illuminated from within, The curtain was partially drawn aside, and the ringing sounds of youthful laughter attracted me nearer. I stepped on to the flower-bed, and looked in upon a scene which Wilkie or Jan Steen's rare fancy could not have embellished. It was a long room, fitted up with rich oaken panels, alternating with portraits in the antique style, and now thickly hung with evergreens. The chief light proceeded from a vast Yule log, which lay glowing and flickering in a wide chimney. The place was full of boys and girls from twelve to seven years old ; two stout little fellows had just succeeded, by the help of two chairs, in attaching a bunch of Christmas to the chandelier, in the centre ; taking advantage, as it seemed, of the moment, while a girl of about ten years of age was busy binding up the eyes of a young lady, (the only grown-up person of the party,) who was seated upon a stool, with her back turned towards the window, amidst shouts of merry laughter. I drew closer, and, as soon as she rose to begin the game, I knew, by the little white hands extended to catch the fugitives, the elegant form, the rich black locks, and the dimpled chin, even though her eyes were covered, the person of sweet Isabel Denham.

From an involuntary impulse I tried the clasp of the window ; it opened, and there I stood within the curtain, gazing with tremulous delight and eagerness upon my beautiful mistress. It required a pause of several minutes before I could summon courage to intrude upon this scene of innocent merriment. The little folks, the while, were skipping about in the fire-light like so many brownies, shouting with rapture; and Isabel bounded amongst them as gracefully as though she had been Titania herself. She had little success in the game; the mischievous crew, who seemed to take especial delight in pulling about her curls, escaped from her gentle hands, whenever she essayed to lay hold upon any of her assailants. At last she came running towards my hiding-place, with both hands outstretched, crying, “ I am sure there is some rogue hiding here, who shall not escape quite so easily as he did the last time!” I cannot describe how this random speech affected me; but I internally blessed the omen, and coming forward, as she approached, quietly possessed myself of her two hands, and pressed them to my lips. Startled, if not alarmed, by a touch so unexpected, she gave a sudden cry, exclaiming “ Papa ! it is not you?" and, freeing one of her hands, burriedly removed the bandage from her forehead. It was a nervous moment for me ; the unwarrantable liberty I had taken just flashed upon my mind at the instant when I had fully committed myself. On recognising my face, Isabel almost shrieked, changed colour, tried to speak, and burst into tears. I was terribly alarmed; the little people stood aghast, as though Satan himself had stepped from behind the curtain. I supported Isabel to the sofa, and knelt at her side.

“ Forgive me, dear Isabel! I little thought I should alarm you so much. I was not master of myself on seeing you so near me! will you suffer me to entreat your pardon? Her eye slowly unclosed, and rested on mine, troubled, but full of sweetness.

“Oh, Mr. Vernon! It was not kind to frighten me thus. I do not know whether I shall ever forgive you for causing me such a shock." “I shall never forgive myself if I have distressed you ; but hear my excuse : I hoped to have met you at Thornton's; you came not ; I hastened hither to find you ; I beheld you through the window, and could not restrain my eagerness to approach you ! and now, have you not forgotten ; will you forgive me?"

“ I do not know," she said, blushing deeply,“ whether I ought to listen to you at all, or no. You deserve that I should send you away at once."

“ You would not be so unkind, did you know how I have longed to cast myself on your mercy.”

« Well, I forgive you !” I was in the seventh heaven! The blind. man's buff party appeared sorely disconcerted. “Had we not better set the little people to play again?” said I; and without more ceremony, seizing upon the biggest boy of the party, I bound up his eyes; and after a few minutes' romping with them, the merry uproar became as loud as ever. Returning to Isabel's feet, I then told my tale, explain. ing, as well as I could, my past silence, sued for her pardon and her fair hand. She was too naturally sincere, perhaps too much hurried, to tyrannize over me at such a moment; and when, after an ardent expostulation and entreaty, I raised her from the sofa, and slyly leading her under the little rogues' Bush of Salutation, covered her eyes, brow, and lips with kisses,--she had already breathed the sweet word that made her mine for ever.

In the course of that evening's converse I learned how faithfully the dear girl had kept her promise, although my silence had so little deserved it; and how just had been my instantaneous feeling of antipathy towards the maiden aunt, from whom poor Isabel had suffered a long persecution on behalf of a protégé of hers, recommended as a suitor to my peerless mistress.

It was very late ere I regained Thornton Priory. The revel, fortunately, was not yet over, and I found Sir George in a charitable mood; so that before his carriage drove away, I had obtained from him a permission which completed the happiness of the most exciting, yet most delightful Christmas day I had ever spent, or may hope ever to spend again.

V.

SIR WALTER SCOTT AND CONSTABLE AND COMPANY.

A MORE singular relation, than that between the creditors of a pub. lishing house and the author of an unwritten work contracted for, has perhaps never been brought to light by commercial vicissitude. Had the subject of the following case been any other than Sir Walter Scott, the singularity of the negociation might have rendered the document worth reading. As it is, we have no doubt of its deep interest to our readers.

CASE. Ar the date of the bankruptcy, a work of fiction had been prepared by Sir Walter Scott. The paper for printing the work had been sent by Messrs. Constable & Co. to the printers, to whom the MS. had been delivered in the usual way. The work had been advertised by Messrs. Constable & Co., under the name of “ Woodstock,” for several months, and it was nearly ready to be published.—The trustee for the creditors of Messrs. Constable & Co. claimed right to the works contracted for, and maintained, that as the price had been paid, and he was ready to fulfil the contract by publishing the works, he was entitled to stand in the same situation in regard to the contract as Messrs. Constable & Co, themselves had stood at the date of the bankruptcy.

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