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ble — your country bumpkin loves a conun- groom. How. beautiful she looked in her neat drum, and laughs heartiest at what he does and delicate dress, her blushes and her smiles! not understand ; besides these professional The young ladies of the vicarage, with whose qualifications, Thomas was eminently obliging family she had lived from childhood, went to and tolerably handy; offered his assistance in church with her, and every body cried as usual every emergency, and did more good, and less on such occasions. Clara, who had never harm than most amateur helpers, who, gene- been at a wedding before, had resolved against rally speaking, are the greatest hindrances un- crying; but tears are contagious things, and der the sun. Thomas was really useful. To poor Clara's flowed, she did not well know be sure, when engaged in aiding Mary, a few why. This too was afterwards thought an ill casualties did occur from pre-occupation; once, omen. for instance, they contrived to let down a Thomas and Mary had hired a room for a whole line of clothes which he had been as- week in a neighbouring town, after which she sisting to hang out. Neither party could ima- was to return for a while to her good master gine how the accident happened, but the wash- and mistress; and he was to go to sea again ing was forced to be done over again. Another in the good merchant-ship, the Fair Star. To time, they, between them, overset the milk. go to sea again for one last voyage, and then bucket, and the very same day so over-heated to return rich, quite rich for their simple wishthe oven, that a whole batch of bread, and es, (Thomas's savings already yielded an inthree apple-pies were scorched to a cinder. come of twelve shillings a week) set up in But Thomas was more fortunate with other some little trade, and live together all the rest coadjutors. He planted a whole patch of cab- of their lives—such were their humble plans. bages in a manner perfectly satisfactory, and They found their short honeymoon, passed in even made a very decent cucumber-bed in a strange place, and in idleness, a little long, mine host's garden. He churned Mrs. Jones's I fancy, in spite of true love, as greater peobutter as well as Mary herself could have done ple have done before them. Yet Mary would i it. He shaped bats, and cut wickets for the willingly have remained even under the sad great boys, plaited wicker baskets for the penalty of want of occupation, rather than part younger ones, and even dug a grave for the with Thomas for the sea, which now first besextoness, an old woman of eighty, the widow gan to appear formidable in her eyes. But of a former sexton who held that office (cor- Thomas had promised, and must go on this ruptly, as our village radicals were wont to one last voyage to Canada; he should be home say) in conjunction with that of the pew-open- in six months, six months would be soon gone, er, and used to keep the children in order by and then they would never part again. And one nod of her grey head, and to compound so he soothed, and comforted, and finally for the vicar every Sunday a nosegay of the brought her back to the vicarage, and left her choicest flowers of the season. Thomas, al- there; and she, when the trial came, behaved though not very fond of the job, dug a grave, as well as possible. Her eyes were red, to to save sixpence for poor Alice. Afterwards be sure, for a week or two, and she would this kindness was thought ominous.
turn pale when praying for those who travel No wonder that our seaman was popular. by land or by water,” but still she was calm, The only time he got into a scrape at Aber- and cheerful, and apparently happy. leigh, was with two itinerant showmen, who An accident about six weeks after their sepacalled themselves sailors, but who were, ration, first disturbed her tranquillity. She Thomas was sure, nothing but land-lubbers,” contrived, in cutting a stick to tie up a tree and who were driving about an unhappy por- carnation belonging to her dear Miss Clara, poise in a wheelbarrow, and showing it at to lacerate very considerably the third finger iwo-pence a head, under the name of a sea pig. of her left hand. The injury was so serious, Thomas had compassion on the creature of his the surgeon insisted on the necessity of sawown element, who was kept half alive by con- ing off the ring, the wedding-ring! She restant watering, and threatened to fight both the fused. The hurt grew worse and worse. Still fellows unless they promised to drive it in- Mary continued obstinate, in spite of Mrs. stantly back to the sea ; which promise was Mansfield's urgent remonstrances; at length made and broken, as he might have expected, it came to the point of sawing off the ring or if a breach of promise could ever enter into a the finger, and then, and not till then, not till sailor's conception. Our sailor was too frank Mr. Mansfield had called to aid all the aueven to maintain his Mary's maidenly artifice, thority of a master, did she submit-evidently and had so many confidants, that before Mr. with more reluctance and more pain than she Mansfield published the banns of marriage be- would have felt at an amputation. The finger tween Thomas Clere and Mary Howell, all got well, and her kind mistress gave her her the parish knew that they were lovers. own mother's wedding-ring to supply the place
At last the wedding-day came. Aaron Keep of the severed one, - but it would not do; a left his work to take a peep at the bride, and superstitious feeling had seized her, a strange Ron Appleton paid her the high compliment vague remorse; she spoke of her compliance of plasmar no trick either on her or the bride- 'as sinful; as if by divesting herself of the
symbol, she had broken the marriage tie. we know not why ? the bewildering confusion Our good vicar reasoned with her, and Clara of memory? the gradual recollection ? and then laughed, and she listened mildly and sweetly, the full and perfect woe that rushes in such a but without effect. Her spirits were gone; flood over the heart? who is so happy as not and a fear, partly superstitious, partly perhaps to know this bitterness ? — Poor Mary felt it inevitable, when those whom we love are ab- sorely, suffocatingly: but she had every supsent, and in danger, had now seized Mary port that could be afforded. Mr. Mansfield Clere.
read to her, and prayed with her. His excelThe summer was wet and cold, and unu- lent family soothed her and wept with her. sually windy, and the pleasant rustling of that And for two days she seemed submissive and summer breeze amongst the lime-trees, the resigned. On the third, she begged to see the very tapping of the myrtles against the case- fatal letter, and it acted with the shock of ment, as they waved in the evening air, would electricity. “Missing! only missing! He send a shiver through her whole frame. She was alive-she was sure he was alive.” And strove against this feeling, but it mastered her. this idea possessed her mind, till hope became I met her one evening at the bridge, (for she to her a worse poison than her old torturer, had now learned to love our gentle river) and fear. She refused to put on the mourning spoke to her of the water-lilies, wbich, in their provided for her, refused to remain in the tranpure and sculptural beauty, almost covered the quillity of her own apartment; and went about stream. “ Yes, Ma'am," said poor Mary, talking of life and happiness, with the very "but they are melancholy flowers for all their look of death. A hundred times a day she prettiness; they look like the carved marble read that letter, and tried to smile, and tried roses over the great tomb in the chancel, as to believe that Thomas still lived. To speak if they were set there for monuments for the of him as dead seemed to her raised feelings, poor creatures that perish by the waters" like murder. She tried to foster the faint and then with a heavy sigh she turned away, spark of hope, tried to deceive herself, tried happily for me, for there was no answering to prevail on others: but all in vain. Her the look and the tone.
mind was evidently yielding under this treSo, in alternations, of “ fear and trembling mendous struggle; this perpetual and neverhope," passed the summer; her piety, her ceasing combat against one mighty fear. The sweetness, and her activity continued una sense of her powerless suspense weighed her bated, perhaps even increased ; and so in truth heart down. When I first saw her, it seemed was her beauty ; but it had changed its cha- as if twenty years of anguish and sickness racter. She was thinner, paler, and far, far had passed over her head in those ten days; sadder. So in augmented fear passed the au- she was shrunken, and bent, and withered, tumn. At the end of August he was to have like a plant plucked up by the roots. Her returned ; but August was gone,--and no news soft pleasant voice was become low, and of him. September crept slowly away, and hoarse, and muttering; her sweet face hagstill no word of Thomas. Mary's dread now gard and ghastly; and yet she said she was amounted to agony. At length, about the well, tried to be cheerful, tried to smile -oh, middle of October, a letter arrived for Mr. I shall never forget that smile! Mansfield. Mary's eye caught the post-mark, These false spirits soon fled; but the mind it was that of the port from whence her hus- was too unsettled, too infirm for resignation. band sailed. She sank down in the little hall, She wandered about night and day; now not fainting, but unable to speak or move, and weoping over the broken wedding-ring; now had only strength to hold out the letter to haunting the church-yard, sitting on the grave, Clara, who ran to her on hearing her fall. It his grave. Now hanging over the brimming was instantly opened, and a cry of inexpres- and vapoury Loddon, pale as the monumental sible horror announced the news. The good lilies, and seeming to demand from the waters ship Fair Star was missing. She had parted her lost husband. She would stand there in company from several other vessels on her the cold moonlight, till suddenly tears or homeward voyage, and never been heard of prayer would relieve the vexed spirit, and sioce. All hope was over, and the owner of slowly and shiveringly the poor creature would the Fair Star, from whom the letter came, en- win home. She could still pray, and that was closed a draft for the wages due to the de- comfort: but she prayed for him ; the earthly ceased. Poor Mary! she did not hear that love clung to her and the earthly hope. Yet fatal word. The fatal sense had smitten her never was wifely affection more ardent, or long before, as with a sword. She was car- more pure; never sufferer more gentle than ried to bed in a state of merciful suspension that fond woman. of suffering, and passed the night in the heavy It was now winter; and her sorrows were and troubled sleep that so often follows a stun- evidently drawing near their close, when one ning blow. The next morning she awoke. evening returning from her accustoined wanWho is so happy as not to know that dreadful dering, she saw a man by the vicarage door. first-waking under the pressure of a great sor. It was a thick December twilight, and in the row ?-the vague and dizzying sense of misery wretched and tattered object before her, sick,
and bent, and squalid, like one who comes , Hitherto these expectations had been disapfrom a devouring shipwreck or a long cap- pointed. Halls, places, houses, granges, tivity, who but Mary could have recognised lodges, parks, and courts out of number, we Thomas Clere ? Her heart knew him on the had visited ; but neither in the north nor in instant, and with a piercing cry of joy and the south had I yet been so happy as to be the thankfulness, she rushed into his arms. The inhabitant of a castle. This too was a genuine cry alarmed the whole family. They hasten- Gothic castle, towered and turreted, and bated to share the joy and the surprise, and to tlemented, and frowning, as heart could derelieve poor Thomas of his fainting burden. sire; a real old castle, that had still a moat, Both had sunk together on the snowy ground; and had once exhibited a draw-bridge; a and when loosened from his long embrace, the castle that had certainly existed in the sold happy wife was dead he shock of joy had border day," and had in all probability underbeen fatal !
gone as many sieges as Branksome itself, inasmuch as it had, during its whole existence, the fortune to belong to one of the noblest and most warlike names of the “ Western War.
denry. Moreover, it was kept up in great MARIANNE.
style, had spears, bows, and stags' horns in
the hall, painted windows in the chapel, a I have had a very great pleasure to-day, al- whole suit of armour in the picture gallery, though to make my readers fully comprehend and a purple velvet state-bed, gold-fringed, how great a one, I must go back more years coroneted, and plumed, covered with a purple than I care to think of. When a very young quilt to match, looking just like a pall, and girl, I passed an autumn amongst my father's made up with bolsters at each end, - a symrelatives in a northern county. The greater metry which proved so perplexing to the part of the time was spent with his favourite mayor of the next town, who with his lady cousin, the lady of a rich baronet, who was on happened to sleep there on some electioneerthe point of setting out on an annual visiting ing, fairly got in at different ends, and lay the tour, as the manner is in those hospitable re- whole night head to foot.* I was not in the gions where the bad roads, the wide distances, coroneted bed, to be sure ; I do not think I and the large mansions, render an occasional should much have relished lying under that sojourn so much preferable to the brief and pall-like counterpane and those waving feaformal interchange of mere dinner-parties. Sir thers; but I was in a castle grand and roman. Charles and lady C. were highly pleased at tic enough even to satisfy the romance of a the opportunity which this peregrination of damsel under seventeen, and I was enchanted; friendship and civility afforded, to show me a the more especially as the number of the fafine country, and to introduce me to a wide cir- mily party promised an union of the modern cle of family connections.
gaiety, which I was far from disliking, with Our tour was extensive and various. My the ancient splendour for which I sighed. But, cousins were acquainted, as it seemed to me, before I had been four-and-twenty hours with
with every one of consequence in the county, in those massive walls, I began to experience and were themselves two of the most popular “the vanity of human wishes," 10 wonder persons it contained, he from character, for what was become of my raptures, to yawn I never was any man more unaffectedly good did not know why, to repeat to myself over and kind,-she from manner, being one of the and over again the two lines of Scott that pleasantest women that ever lived, -the most seemed most ù-propos to my situation, lively and good humoured, and entertaining, and well-bred. In course, as the young re
· And all in high baronial pride
A life both dull and dignified;" — lative and companion of this amiable couple, I saw the country and its inhabitants to great in short, to find out that stupid people will be advantage. I was delighted with every thing, stupid any-where, even in a castle. I will and never more enchanted than when, after give after my fashion a slight outline, a sort journeying from house to house for upwards of pen-and-ink drawing of the party round the of a month, we arrived at the ancient and dining table; and by the time they have splendid baronial castle of the Earl of G. scanned it, my readers, if they do not yawn
Now I had caught from Sir Walter Scott's too, will at least cease to wonder at my soadmirable poems, then in their height of fash- lecism in good-breeding. ion, as well as from the older collections of We will begin at the earl, a veteran nearly Percy and Ritson, with which I had been fa- seventy years of age, a tall lank figure with miliar almost from the cradle, a perfect en an erect military carriage, a sharp weatherthusiasm for all that savoured of feudal times; beaten face, and a few grey hairs most exactly and one of the chief pleasures which I had powdered and bound together in a slender promised myself in my northern, excursion
was the probability of encountering some re * This accident actually befell the then'mayor of lics of those picturesque but unquiet days. N. at Alnwick castie, some years back.
queue behind.-His talk was very like his sed to have the best of the battle. Then folperson, long and thin; prosing most unmerci- lowed her sister, the lady Caroline, an intellifully about the American war, and telling in- gent-looking young woman, and no musician terroinable zig-zag stories, which set compre- —but alack! the fair damsel was in love, and hension at defiance. For the rest, he was an on the very point of marriage. Her lover excellent person, kind to his family and civil Lord B. (who may as well fall into this divito his guests; he never failed to take wine sion, since he was domesticated in the house with lady C. at dinner, and regularly every and already considered as a son,) was also morning made me in the very same words a pleasant-looking, but then he was in love too. flourishing compliment on my rosy cheeks. Of course this couple, although doubtless very
Next in order came the countess, tall, and good company for each other, went for nothing lean like her husband, and (allowing for dif- with the rest of the party, of whose presence ference of sex and complexion, his skin re- indeed they, to do them justice, seemed genesembling brickdust in colour, and hers being rally most comfortably unconscious. of the sort of paleness usually called sallow.) Next came the appendages to a great house, not unlike him in countenance. In their the usual official residents. First appeared minds and manners there was also a similari- Mr. M. the family chaplain, a great mathematy, yet not without some difference. Dulness tician, whose very eyes seemed turned inward in him showed itself in dead speech, in her as if contemplating the figures on his brain. in dead silence. Stiff and cold as a poker Never was man so absent since the one dewas my lady. Her fixed, settled, unsmiling scribed by La Bruyere. He once came down silence hung over the banquet like a cloud, to dinner with the wrong side of his waistcoat chilling and darkening all about her. Yet outward ; and, though he complained of the they say she was warm-hearted, and (which difficulty of buttoning it, could not discover would seem extraordinary if we did not fre- the reason; and he has been known more than quently meet with instances of the same ap- once to walk about all the morning, and even parent contradiction) was famous for episto- to mount the pulpit, with one white leg and lary composition, dealt out words in writing one black (like the discrepant eyes of my friend with astonishing fluency and liberality, and the Talking Gentleman), in consequence of was celebrated far and near for that most in- having forgotten to draw a silk stocking over tolerable waste of paper which is commonly his gauze one. He seldom knew the day of known by the name of a sensible letter. the month, often read a wrong lesson, and was
Then came the goodly offspring of this pretty sure to forget his sermon; otherwise a noble couple, that is to say, the three youngest; most kind and excellent creature, whom for for the elder branches of this illustrious house very piry nobody could think of disturbing were married and settled in distant homes. when he appeared immersed in calculation, The honourable Frederic G., the only son who which was always. Secondly came Miss R., remained in the paternal mansion, was a di- some time governess and present companion ; plomatist in embryo, a rising young man. His what a misnomer! the errantest piece of still company they were not likely to enjoy long, life I ever encountered, pale, freckled, redsince he was understood to be in training for haired, and all over small. Thirdly entered the secretaryship to a foreign embassy. He Dr. S., the family physician, a stern oracular had recently come into parliament for a neigh- man, with a big wig and a tremendous frown. bouring borough, and his maiden speech (I Two red-faced gentlemen, des vieux mililaires, wonder who wrote it!) had created a prodigi- who drank my lord's wine and listened to his ous sensation in the family circle. On the stories, completed this amusing assembly. glory of that oration, the echo of his fame, he There was another person who never aplived then, and has lived (as far as I know) peared at the dining-table, but whose presence, ever since. I can only say that I never heard during the two or three hours that she spent him utter more than a monosyllable at a time in the saloon in the morning, and about the during the ten days that we breakfasted, dined, same time which she passed in the drawingand supped in company--ineffable coxcomb! room after dinner, distressed and annoyed me and I have not heard of his speaking in the more than all the party put together. This house of commons from that time to this. was the honourable Mrs. G., the earl's mother, There he sits, single-speech G. Of his elder (the title had descended to him from an uncle) sister, the lady Matilda, I can say no more a lady in her ninety-second year, and suffithan that she was reckoned one of the finest ciently vigorous to justify the expectation that
harp-players in England—a musical automa- she might live to see a hundred. She was a ton, who put forth notes instead of words, and tall, spare, tough-looking woman, with a long passed her days in alternate practisings for bony face, dim staring eyes, and an aspect althe purpose of subsequent exhibition (which together corpse-like and unearthly. Her dress fatiguing exercise was of course a continual was invariably of black silk with a very long
and provoking struggle with a host of stringed / waist, a point-lace kerchief, or rather tippet, dificulties), and in the exhibitions themselves, and a very small short rounded apron of the in which also to my ears the difficulties seem- I same costly material. On her head she word
a lace cap and lappets surmounted with a sort vealed in three words, since that amounted to of shepherdess hat of black silk, fastened on nothing more than her having lived ever since with two enormous pins with silver tops. This she could recollect at G. Castle, sometimes in dresse which, in gay colours and on a young the nursery and the library, sometimes in the and handsome woman, would have been very housekeeper's room, kindly treated by all, and pretty, only served to make Mrs. G. appear taught by fits and snatches as she came in more ghastly, more like a faded picture which their way: so that her education, partly conhad stepped out of its frame. She was a per- ducted by the young lady's governess, partly petual memento mori ; a skull and cross-bones by the young gentleman's tutor, and sometimes would hardly have been more efficacious in even by Lady G.'s maid, bore a very strong mortifying the vanity of youth. This, how- resemblance to that ingenious exercise of feever, I could have endured : it was an evil in male patience called patch-work, where you common; but the good lady had experienced meet with bits of every thing and nothing the partial loss of faculty and memory so fre- complete. The two most extraordinary cirquent at her advanced age, and, having unfor- cumstances were her want of a surname (for tunately mistaken me for her great grand-child, she had never been called by any other appelthe eldest daughter of Lord G.'s eldest son, lation than Marianne) and the sedulous care she could by no means be turned aside from with which, although living in the same house, the notion which had so unaccountably seized she had been concealed from my soi-disante her imagination, and treated me exactly as a great-grandmother Mrs. G. The loss of faculdoting, scolding great-grandmamma would be ty which occasioned that mistake was of relikely to treat her unlucky descendant, - -a cent occurrence, as the venerable lady had till process which so thoroughly disconcerted me, within a few months been remarkable for the a shy shamefaced girl, that, after I had under accuracy and clearness of her perceptions; and gone about six hours of hugging and lecturing Marianne related fifty stories to prove the care from my pretended ancestress, I was fain to with which her very existence was guarded keep my room to avoid her intolerable perse- from Mrs. G.'s knowledge, — the manner in cution. In this dilemma the countess sudden- which she had been crammed into closets, ly proposed to turn me over to Marianne; and stowed under sofas, smuggled behind screens, a young lady about my own age, whom I had or folded into window-curtains, at the first tap not before seen, made her appearance. Oh of the old lady's Italian heel, -and the me. what a difference between her and the other naces which were thrown out against the serinhabitants of the castle! What a lovely airy vants, if any should presume to name her in creature it was!
Mrs. G.'s presence. One unlucky footman
had actually been discharged on the spot, for “A dancing shape, an image gay,
want of invention and presence of mind and To haunt and startle and waylay;"
fluency of lying: when questioned as to the
arranger of the flowers in their vases (an art light and bounding as a fawn, with a wild in which she excelled,) he stammered, and fanciful beauty in her bright black eyes, in the looked as if going to say Miss Marianne ; for play of her features, and the brilliancy of her which piece of intended truth (an uncommon dark yet glowing complexion! A charming fault in a London footman !) the poor lacquey creature in mind and in person, was Miss Ma- was dismissed. rianne,- for by that name alone she was intro Now if either of us had possessed the duced to me,-almost equally charming in the slightest knowledge of the world, these cirhigh spirits whose elasticity harmonized with cumstances would hardly have failed to sugher animated beauty, or in the tender and pen- gest Marianne's true origin. We should imsive melancholy which so often checkered her mediately have conjectured her to be the
illegitimate offspring of some near connection We became almost immediately intimate of the family; - in fact she was the daughter happy privilege of youthful companionship!- of Lord G.'s second and favourite son, long and had speedily told each other our whole since deceased, by a beautiful Italian singer histories, as two young ladies meeting in an who died in childbed of poor Marianne ; but old castle ought to do. My story, I am sorry this was the last conjecture that would have to say, was very little worthy of such a situa- entered either of our silly heads. — 1, indeed, tion and opportunity for display. Nothing not yet seventeen, and carefully brought up, could be less romantic than the ease and com- had hardly heard that such things were, and fort and indulgence in which my life had Marianne, although older and less guarded hitherto passed, nothing less adapted to a he- from the knowledge of fashionable wickedroine than the secure and affluent middle sta- ness, had, when left to choose her own stuition in which my happy lot then seemed to be dies, read too many novels, in which the hefixed. My tale was told in two or three brief roines emerged from similar obscurity to high sentences. The history of my fair companion rank and brilliant fortune, not to have conwas not so quickly dispatched. What she structed a romance on that model for her own knew of herself might indeed have been re- benefit. Indeed she had two, in one of which