Page images
PDF
EPUB

few objects that so much enhance the beauty - I dare say you know Jens; he's a good lad of woodland scenery) and the equal augment- and a 'dustrious—and my Bessy there—and ation of its difficulty, I could not help observ- she's a good girl and a 'dustrious too, thof I say ing how agitated and preoccupied ihe little it that should not say it-have been keeping damsel seemed. Her cheek had lost its col. company, like, for these two years past; and our, her step was faltering, and the trembling now, just as I thought they were going to hand with which she was distributing the corn marry and settle in the world, down comes his from her basket could hardly perform its task. father, the fartner there, and wants him to Her head was turned anxiously towards the marry another wench and be false-hearted to door, as if something important were going my girl.” forward within the house; and it was not an * I never knew that he courted her, ma'am, til I was actually by her side, and called her till last night," interrupted the farmer. by name, that she perceived me.

“ Aud who does he want Jem to marry ?" The afternoon, although bright and pleasant pursued the old man, warming as he went on. for the season, was one of those in which the - Who but Farmer Brookes's fine daughter sun sometimes amuses himself by playing at | 'Gusta—Miss 'Gusta as they call her-who's bopeep. The sky had become overcast shortly just come back from Belford boarding-school, after I entered the Dingle, and, by the time I and goes about the country in her silks and had surmounted the last tall jetting bare bough her satins, with her veils and her fine worked of the oak, some of the branches of which I bags,---who but she ! as if she was a lady was fain to scramble over and some to creep born like madam there! Now my Bessythrough, and had fairly reached the cottage “I have not a word to say against Bessy," door, a sudden shower was whistling through again interrupted the farmer; "she's a good the trees with such violence as to render both girl, and a pretty girl, and an industrious girl. Dash and myself very glad to accept Bessy's I have not a word to say against Bessy. But embarrassed invitation and get under shelter the fact is, that I have had an offer of the from the pelting of the storm.

Holm Farm for Jem, and therefore-" My entrance occasioned an immediate and " And a fine farmer's wife 'Gusta Brookes somewhat awkward pause in a discussion that will make!" quoth the matmaker, interrupting had been carried on, apparently with consider- Master White in his turn. "A pretty farmable warmth, between my good old host, Mat- er's wife! She that can do nothing on earth thew, who, with a half-finished mat in his but jabber French, and read story-books, and hand, was sitting in a low wicker chair on one thump on the music! Now, there's my girl side of the hearth, and a visiter, also of my can milk, and churn, and bake, and brew, and acquaintance, who was standing against the cook, and wash, and make, and mend, and window; and, with the natural feelings of rear poultry—there are not such ducks and repugnance to such an intrusion, I had hardly chickens as Bessy's for ten miles round. Ask taken the seat offered me by Bessy and given madam-she always deals with Bessy, and so my commission to her grandfather, before I do all the gentlefolks between here and Belproposed to go away, saying that I saw they ford.” were busy, that the rain was nothing, that I “I am not saying a word against Bessy," had a carriage waiting, that I particularly replied Farmer White ; "she's a good girl, wished to get home, and so forth-all the civil and a pretty girl, as I said before ; and I am falsehoods, in short, with which, finding one- very sorry for the whole affair. But the Holm self madame de trop, one attempts to escape Farm is a largish concern, and will take a from an uncomfortable situation.

good sum of money to stock it-more money My excuses were, however, altogether use than I can command; and Augusta Brookes, less. Bessy would not hear of my departure ; besides what her father can do for her at his Farmer White, my fellow-visiter, assured me death, has four hundred pounds of her own that the rain was coming down harder than left her by her grandmother, which, with what ever; and the old matmaker declared that, so I can spare, will be about enough for the purfar from my being in the way, all the world pose; and that made me think of the match, was welcome to hear what he had to say, and though the matter is still quite unsettled. You he had just been wishing for some discreet know, Master Matthew, one can't expect that body to judge of the farmer's behaviour. And, Bessy, good girl as she is, should have any the farmer professing himself willing that I moneyshould be made acquainted with the matter, “Oh, that's it !"' exclaimed the old man of and perfectly ready to abide by my opinion, the mats. “ You don't object to the wench provided it coincided with his own-i resum- then, nor to her old grandfather, if 'twas not ed my seat opposite to Matthew, whilst poor for the money ?" Bessy, blushing and ashamed, placed herself “Not in the least,” replied the farmer ; on a low stool in the corner of the little room, she's a good girl, and a pretty girl. I like and began making friends with Dash. her full as well as Augusta Brookes, and I am

" The long and the short of the matter is, afraid that Jem likes her much better. And, ma'am," quour old Matthew, “ that Jem White as for yourself, Master Matthew, why I've

known you these fifty years, and never heard low-played the best rubber, sang the best man, woman, or child speak a misword of you song, told the best story, made the best punch in my life. I respect you, man! And I'am -and drank the most of it when made, of any heartily sorry to vex you, and that good little man in Belford. Besides these accomplish girl yonder. Don't cry so, Bessy; pray don't ments, he was eminently agreeable to men of cry!”. And the good-natured farmer well-nigh all ranks; had a pleasant word for everybody; cried for company.

was friendly with the rich, generous to the “No, don't cry, Bessy, because there's no poor, never out of spirits, never out of humor, need," rejoined her grandfather. “I thought and, in spite of the quips and cranks in which may hap it was out of pride that Farmer White he delighted, never too clever for his company, would not suffer Jem to marry my little girl. the most popular person in the place was, beBut, since it's only the money,” continued the yond all doubt, Nat Kinlay. old man, fumbling amidst a vast variety of In spite, however, of his universal populariwell-patched garments, until from the pocket 'ty, and of a gentle tendency to overrate bis of some under-jacket he produced a greasy colloquial talents, no attorney in the town hal brown leather book --"since 't is only Miss so little employment. His merits made against 'Gusta's money that's wanted to stock the him in his profession almost as strongly as Holin, why that's but reasonable; and we'll his faults : frank, liberal, open-hearted, and see whether your four hundred won't go as far indulgent, as well as thoughtless, careless, as hers. Look at them dirty bits of paper, daring, and idle; a despiser of worldly wis, farmer-they're of the right sort, an't they?" dom, a hater of oppression, and a reconciler oí cried Matthew, with a chuckle. “I called 'em strife-he was about the last person to whom in, because I thought they'd be wanted for her the crafty, the overbearing, or the litigious,

portion, like; and, when the old matmaker would resort for aid or counsel. The prudent dies, there'll be a hundred or two more into were repelled by his heedlessness and prithe bargain. Take the money, man, can't ye? crastination, and the timid alarmed at his and dont look so 'stounded. It's honestly levity; so that the circumstance which he told come by, I promise you,—all 'dustry and as a good joke at the club, of a spider having 'conomy, like. Her faiher he was ’dustrious, spun a web over the lock of his office-door (as and he left her a bit; and her mother, she was over the poor-box in Hogarth's famous pie. 'dustrious too, and she left her a bit; and I, ture), was no uncommon occurrence at his thof I should not say it, have been ’dustrious residence. Except by a few of the poorest all my

and she, poor thing, is more 'dus- and wildest of his boon companions,- penditrious than any o’us. Ay, that's right. Give less clients, who lived at his table all the her a hearty kiss, man; and call in Jem-I'll | while their suits were pending, and took care warrant he's not far off--and we'll fix the wed to disappear just before their cause was lost, ding-day over a jug of home-brewed. And the mysterious looking brass knob, with madam there,” pursned the happy old man, 6" Office-Bell” underneath it, at Mr. Kinlay's as with most sincere congratulations and good excellent house in Queen-street, remained 09wishes I rose to depart, “madam, there, who rung from term to term. looks so pleased and speaks so kindly, inay Startling as such a circumstance would have be sure of her mat. I'm a 'dustrious man, seemed to most professional men, it was long thof I say it that should not say it; and Bessy's before this total absence of profitable emplora 'dustrious girl; and, in my mind, there's no ment made the slightest impression on Na! thing beats 'dustry in high or in low.” Kinlay. The son of an affluent tradesman in

And, with this axiom from the old mat a distant county, he had been articled to 9 maker, Dash and I took our leave of four as solicitor, rather as a step in station, an advance happy people--for by this time Jem had joined towards gentility, than with any view to the the party-as could well be found under the money-making facilities of that lucrative call

ing. His father, judging from his own fruga habits, thought that Nat, the only child amongst a large family of wealthy brothers, would have money enough, without making

himself a slave to the law; and when the HESTER.

early death of his parents put him in possesAmongst the most prominent of the Bel- sion of thirty thousand pounds lawful money fordians who figured at the Wednesday night's of Great Britain, besides the great draper's club at the King's Arms, was a certain person shop in the little town of Cranley where that age, rather broader than he was long, who money had been accumulated, -to say nothing was known generally through the town by the of the stock and good-will, and divers mies. familiar appellation of Nat Kinlay. By call- suages and tenements, gardens and creris, in

and about the aforesaid town-Nat was most

decidedly of the same opinion. Was,-could he help it?-a special attorney;"

But, extravagant in every sense of the word, by habit and inclination, a thorough good fel- I luxurious in his habits, prodigal in his gene

life;

sun.

ing, Nat

rosity, expensive in his tastes, easy and uncal. , suits of art and of literature, should “abase culating as a child, the thirty thousand pounds, her eyes" on a low-born and unlettered probetween building and driving, and card-play- digal inany years older than herself, without ing and good-fellowship——(for sporting he was even the attraction of personal graces ; that too unwieldy and too idle, or that would un- Elizabeth Chudleigh, the steadiest of the doubtedly have been added to the catalogue steady, the gravest of the grave, demure and of the spendthrift's sins,) the thirty thousand pensive as a nun, should be in love with Nat pounds melted away like snow in the sun- Kinlay, — seemed to her uncle not merely shine; the produce of the shop, gardens, crofts, monstrous, but impossible. messuages, and tenements-even the humble Such, however, was the case. And, perhaps, dwelling in which his father had been born, many of the striking discrepancies that existed and his grandfather had laid the foundation of between them in character and situation tendthe family prosperity in the humble vocation ed to foster their mutual affection rather than of a tailor,--disappeared with equal rapidity; to check its growth. To Nat, little accustomand Nat Kinlay was on the very verge of ruin, ed to the best female society, the gentle rewhen the death of a rich uncle relieved him serve and quiet elegance of Elizabeth, accidentfrom his difficulties, and enabled him to re-ally thrown in his way at the house of a neighcommence his career of dissipation.

bouring gentleman, proved infinitely more capIn the course of a few years his funds were tivating than the mere girlish prettiness, or the again nearly exhausted, and again he was re- showy dashing vulgar style of beauty, with lieved by the bequest of a doting aunt, whom which he was familiar; whilst she-Oh! two of her brothers, indignant ai the hope of have we not all seen some sage and sedate the house, had made their heiress; and the damsel of six-and-twenty-staid, demure, and only lesson that her dutiful nephew drew from coy, as the prude of Pope's and Cibber's days this second and near approach of poverty, was --carried off her feet by the mere charm of a a vague confidence in his own good fortune, buoyant, merry, light-hearted rattle, thoughtand that callousness to a particular danger less, generous, and good-natured? Alas! the which is the result of repeated escape from tale is common. And the want of good looks the same sort of peril. Good advice, which, in the hero of the present story (though his of all valuable commodities, is the one most head was good, and his figure at four or fivefrequently wasted, was particularly thrown and-thirty was by no means so unsightly as away in his case ; he trusted in his lucky star it afterwards became,) was amply compen

- Napoleon himself not more implicitly—and sated by manners so agreeable, and a kindreplied to his friendly advisers only by a know- ness so real, that personal beauty seemed as ing wink, a good-humoured nod, and a scrap nothing in the comparison. There was a spice of some gay Anacreontic:

of romance in the affair too,-a horse that had Pleased let us trifle life away,

run away, and had been stopped by the courage And think of care when we grow old,"

and address of the gentleman; so poor Eliza

beth said, and thought, that he had saved her might have been his motto.

life. Could she do less than devote that life This faith in his peculiar good fortune was to his happiness? And when he vowed that, not diminished in his own eyes, or in those of with her for his companion and guide, he his flatterers, when, just as Aunt Dorothy's should never go astray again, could she do less tens of thousands were going where so many than believe him? tens of thousands had gone before, Nat had Accordingly the lady being of age, her pathe happiness to secure the affections of a very rents dead, and her own fortune absolutely in amiable woman of considerable fortune, and her power, they were married, with no other far greater expectations, since she was the pre-drawback to her happiness than the total and sumptive heiress of her mother's brother, with solernn renunciation of the kind uncle who whom she had resided during the greater part had been to her as a parent. Nat indeed, with of her life, and who was a man of ancient his usual sanguine spirit, made sure of his refamily and large landed property in the neigh- lenting; but Elizabeth, better acquainted with bourhood.

the determined and somewhat stubborn temper He, it is true, opposed the match as violent- which they had to encounter, felt a sad forely as a man well could do. His partialities boding that the separation was final. She and his prejudices were equally against such soon, however, forgot this evil in the bustle a connexion. His affection for his niece made and excitement of the wedding excursion, and him dread the misery which must follow a in the total alteration of scene and of habits union with a confirmed spendthrift; and his which ensued upon their settling down into own personal habits rendered him exceedingly married life. averse to parting with one who had been for One of the few stipulations which his fair so many years his principal companion and bride had made was, that Nat should change friend. "That a young woman educated by him his residence and resume his profession. Ac| in a stately retirement, immured amidst the cordingly he bought the house and business splendid solitude of Cranley Park in the pur- l of old John Grove, one of the most thriving

practitioners thatever laid down the law in Bel- Be that as it might, the little Hester was ford, and soon became an eminent and popular firmly established in the house, the darling of denizen of the good town, where he passed the gay and jovial master, and perhaps even his time much to his satisfaction, in furnishing more decidedly the comfort of his mild and and altering his already excellent house, throw- pensive wife. ing out bow-windows, sticking up verandas, Time wore on; Hester was seven, eight, adding to the coach-houses and stables, erect- nine years old, and this, the fourth fortune ing a conservatory, and building a garden-wall. that he had spent, began to wax low. ElizaHe took a pasture farm about half-a-mile off, beth's prudence had somewhat retarded the stocked it with cattle, built a fancy dairy, and evil day, but poverty was fast approaching; bought a flock.

and, with all his confidence in his own god These were his graver extravagances, his fortune, and in her uncle's relenting, even Na business way of spending money. Society, began to be conscious of his situation. Of or rather perhaps company in all varieties and the forgiveness of her rich relation, indeed. degrees, formed his gayer mode of outlay. she well knew that there was no hope. Bad Parties at home and parties abroad, club-din- news seldom fails to reach those most inteners and tavern-suppers, – meetings of all rested ; and she had heard from authority sorts and degrees, so that they ended in cards which she could not doubt, that the adopun and jollity, from the patrician reunions of the of Hester had annihilated all chance of parhunt, to which his good songs, and good sto- don. Severely strict in his own morals, the ries, and good-humour gained him admittance, bringing home that motherless innocent seemdown to the pigeon-shooting matches at the ed in his eyes a dereliction of feminine dig. Rose and Crown, of which he was the idol,-nity, of wifely delicacy,-an encouragement wine and billiards, whist and punch,-divided of libertinism and vice, which nothing could his days and nights amongst them; and poor induce him to tolerate. He was inesorable; Elizabeth soon found how truly her uncle had and Elizabeth, determined not to abandon the prophesied when he had told her, that to mar- helpless child, loved her the better for the inry Nat Kinlay was to give herself to present justice of which she was the object. care and future penury. She did not cease to In herself, Hester was singularly interestlove him; perhaps she would have suffered | ing. Surrounded by comforts and luxuries, less if she had. Selfish, utterly and basely and the object of constant and affectionate a: selfish, as he was in pursuing his own ignoble tention from both Mr. and Mrs. Kinlay, there pleasures at the expense of his wife's happi- was about her a touch of thoughtfulness and ness, there was still that about him which it melancholy, a mild and gentle pensiveness, was impossible to dislike—a sweet and merry not a little striking in so young a girl. Nai, temper, a constant kindness of look and of when at home, spent more than half his time word, and a never-failing attention to procure in playing with and caressing her; but bis everything which he even fancied could give jokes, usually so exhilarating, failed to enliven her pleasure; so that Elizabeth, who, con- Hester : she smiled at them indeed, or ratber scientiously refraining from every sort of per- she smiled at him with fond and innoceat sonal expense, took care never to express the gratitude; but no one ever remembered to desires which he would be so sure to have have heard her laugh; and to read, or rather gratified, often wondered how he could have devour, in the room which she was permitted divined her wishes and her tastes. No wo: to call hers, whatever books she could come man could dislike such a husband.

by, or to wander in the extensive and highly. They had no child; but after they had been cultivated garden with a beautiful Italian grertwo or three years married, a beautiful little hound belonging to Mrs. Kinlay, or to ramble girl, about four years old, fair as alabaster, with the same graceful companion through the with shining ringlets of the texture and colour picturesque fields of the Dairy Farm, formed of undyed silk, made her appearance in Queen- the lonely child's dearest amusements. Whe street. They called her Hester; and Mrs. ther this unusual sadness proceeded from her Kinlay said to those of her acquaintance being so entirely without companions of he' whom she thought entitled to an explanation, own age, or was caught unconsciously from that the child was an orphan whom Mr. Kin- Mrs. Kinlay's evident depression, and from lay had permitted her to adopt. It was ob- an intuitive perception, belonging to children served that, once when she had made this de- of quick feeling, that beneath an outer sbor claration before him, the tears stood in his of gaiety all was not going well—or whether eyes, and he caught up the little girl in seem- it were a mere accident of temperament, Dona ing play, and buried his face in her silky curls could ascertain. Perhaps each of these causes to conceal his emotion. One or two of his might combine to form a manner most unusual old Cranley friends remembered, foo, a vague at her age; a manner so tender, so gentle, so story concerning a pretty country-girl in that diffident, so full of pleading sweetness, tha: neighbourhood. She had died-and some had it added incalculably to the effect of her soft said that she had died in childbed, about four and delicate beauty. Her look seemed to imyears before ; and her name had been Hetty. Splore at once for love and for pity; and hard

must have been the heart that could resist often gambolled at her side, and sat for the such an appeal.

last time on the soft turf under the great mulEvery day increased Hester's sadness and berry-tree where they had so often played to Mrs. Kinlay's depression; but the reckless gether, she felt that Juliet, lying peacefully in gaiety of the master of the house suffered no her quiet grave amidst a bed of the pure and diminution. It had, however, 'changed its fragrant rose unique, had escaped a great evil, character. The buoyancy and light-hearted and that, if it pleased God, she could be conness had vanished; even the confidence in his tent to die too. inalienable good fortune was sensibly lessened Still more did that feeling grow upon her -it was not, however, gone. No longer ex on their removal to a dark and paltry lodging pecting a pardon from his wife's offended in a dreary suburb of that metropolis where kinsman, and not yet hardened enough to every rank and degree, from the most wretchwish, or at least to confess to himself in the ed penury to the most splendid affluence, finds face of his own conscience that he wished, its appropriate home. A wretched home was for his death, he nevertheless allowed himself theirs ;-small without comfort, noisy without (so do we cheat our own souls) to think that, cheerfulness, wanting even the charm of cleanif he should die, either without a will, or with liness or the solace of hope. Nat's spirit a will drawn up in a relenting mood, all would sank under the trial. Now, for the first time, again go right, and he be once more prosper- he viewed before his eyes, he felt in his very ous and happy; and, this train of ideas once heart's core, the miserable end of a life of admitted, he soon began to regard as a cer- pleasure; and, when he looked around him tainty the speedy death of a temperate and and saw the two beings whom he loved best hale man of sixty, and the eventual softening on earth involved in the irremediable conseof one of the most stern and stubborn hearts quences of his extravagance; condemned, for

that ever beat in a human bosom. His own his fault, to sordid drudgery and squalid want; relations had forgiven him :-why should not punished, not merely in his own self-indulgent his wife's? They had died just as the money and luxurious habits, but in his fondest and was urgently wanted :-why should not he ? purest affections,--his mind and body gave way

He was not, however, so thoroughly com- under the shock; he was seized with a danfortable in this faith but that he followed the gerous illness, and, after lying for many weeks usual ways of a man going down in the world, at the point of death, arose, weak as an infant,

spending more prodigally than ever to conceal to suffer the pains and penalties of a premature the approach of poverty, and speculating deep- old age, and that worst penalty of all — the ly and madly in hopes of retrieving his broken will but not the power of exertion! Oh, if fortunes. He played higher than ever, bought he could but have called back one year of brood-mares and inerino flocks, took shares in wasted strength, of abused intellect! The canals and joint-stock companies; and having wish was fruitless, in a worldly sense; but in his prosperous days had the ill fortune to his excellent wife wept tears of joy and sorpick up at a country broker's a dirty, dingy row over the sincere though tardy expiation. landscape, which when cleaned turned out to She had again written to her uncle, and had

be a Both, (ever since which unlucky moment received a harsh and brief roply:-"Leave be had fancied himself a connoisseur,) he filled the husband who is unworthy of you, and the his house with all the rubbish to be picked up child-his child — whom his influence prein such receptacles of trash, whether in town vailed on you to adopt, and I consent to re

or country, — Raphaels from Swallow-street, ceive you to my heart and my dwelling; but, and Claudes from the Minories.

never whilst you cling with a fond preference These measures had at least the effect of to these degrading connexions-never, even if shortening the grievous misery of suspense one should die, until you abandon both, will I without hope, the lingering agony of waiting assist you as a friend, or own you as a kinsfor ruin. Almost as soon as poor Nat knew woman. the fact himself-perhaps even before-- his Mrs. Kinlay felt this letter to be final, and creditors discovered that he was penniless, applied no more.

Indeed, had she wished to and that his debts far exceeded his assets; a address the obdurate writer, she knew not docket was struck, assignees appointed, the where to direct to him; for she ascertained whole property given up, (for Mrs. Kinlay, in from an old friend in the neighbourhood of her imprudent and hasty marriage, had neg- Cranley that, a few weeks after the date of lected the precaution of having even a part of this letter, he left his beautiful residence, the her own money settled upon herself,) and the seat of the family for many generations,--that destitute family removed to London. Only the house was shut up, the servants discharged, a month before, Juliet, the graceful Italian and nothing known of the master beyond a greyhound, had died, and Hester had grieved vague report that he was gone abroad. (as older and wiser persons than Hester do That hope over, they addressed themselves grieve) over the loss of her pretty favourite ; to the task of earning a humble living, and but now, as for the last time she paced mourn were fortunate enough to find an old friend, a fully those garden-walks where Juliet had so I solicitor of great practice and high character,

« PreviousContinue »