Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

« In the interim I obtained mine, and it was on taking leave of me, when I quitted the vicarage to join my regiment at Cork, that the old man, in addition to his earnest and affectionate exhortations, and in a spirit of prescience not unusual to those whose days are numbered, adjured me, when I gratefully acknowledged the care with which he had watched over my boyhood, to promise him that should Lucy, at some future time, stand in need of protection, I would be unto her as a brother.

“ I once entertained hopes,' said he, with tears in his eyes,' that a closer bond might unite you. But this desire, my dear Arthur, is frustrated; Lucy has admitted to me that her heart is engaged. If therefore, my dear boy, either in her single or married life, you behold her exposed to dangers such as are apt to beset the woman lacking better guardianship than a feeble arm like mine, remember her old father's gray hairs and loving-kindness towards you; take part with her as if indeed

my son.'

“My reply was all he could desire; and when, ere twelvemonths elapsed, I learned, in a distant garrison, that Pakenham, though still a minor, had persuaded the imprudent Lucy to elope with him, and that this rash step had been succeeded within a few weeks by the death of her excellent father; a painful presentiment forewarned me of the likelihood that I might be only too speedily called upon for the performance of my promise. For during the opportunities of that accidental visit to Harbstonge, having had occasion to see my schoolfellow in a new and more intimate light, I had discovered much to dislike in him-more to disapprove-so much, indeed, that already I had exercised my brotherly privileges with Lucy, so far as to implore her to examine her own heart and his right carefully, ere she was induced to fulfil her engagement.

“But she was eighteen, and, for the first time, passionately beloved. I had no right to feel surprised on hearing of her marriage !

“ My letters of congratulation and condolence remained unanswered ; as I afterwards learned, from having fallen into the hands of Pakenham, who was little inclined that my office of brotherly service should reach his wife. Conceiving, therefore, that Lucy, recognised by her husband's family, stood in no need of my aid, I addressed myself to my professional duties without further anxiety on her account; and being now in the enjoyment of a liberal income, found my expectations of happiness fully answered. Eager to obtain promotiori, I made no attempt to quit my regiment when it was ordered to the West Indies. A soldier at heart, I had no desire to evade even the minor hazards of my profession.

“ I had been three months in garrison at Bermuda, enjoying all the personal considerations derivable from excellent letters of recommendation to the governor and leading personages of the colony, when, one morning, I was roused by my servant with the pleasing intelligence that the English packet was arrived, and the astounding news that it had brought over “my sister.

““ You are mistaken, Peter,' said I ; strangely mistaken,' and I was about to add that I possessed neither brother nor sister, when he placed a letter in my hand, stating that it came from my sister, Mrs. Otway;' and that she and the child' were waiting for me at the hotel.

“ Beyond measure startled by the intelligence, I hastened to poor Lucy, almost without giving myself time to master the melancholy contents of her letter.

Feb.-VOL. LXX. NO. CCLXXVIII.

lain ;

“ I have been deceived and betrayed,' was all I could hastily decipher. My marriage proves to be invalid. Edward has cast us off-me and my unfortunate boy—after dissipating all that was left me by my father. My hope, dear Arthur, is in you— In an adopted brother! But lest the world should regard such a tie with suspicion, if I take up my abode with you, I have announced myself in the packet as your sister indeed. Do not gainsay me-do not expose me to shame!

“ The consequence of a hasty perusal of this appeal to my feelings was, that on rushing to the shore to welcome the unfortunate wanderer, I inquired, according to her desire, for 'my sister, Mrs. Otway; and the arrival of so near a relative having transpired, in the course of the ensu. ing day, every lady in the colony with whom I was acquainted called upon us with offers of hospitality and kindness.

“ Then it was I discovered the danger of the step I had taken! For though careful to instal Lucy and her poor boy in my comfortable private house, while I removed to barracks, expressly to avoid any future misinterpretation of our relative position and sentiments, still, I had introduced her as my sister to those in whom I had not sufficient confidence to relate the whole unhappy story of her wrongs.

“My first movement in her behalf was to engage the best legal advice in England, to ascertain how far the legality of her marriage could be established. They gave me no hope. Pakenham had turned out a vil

had used her indeed with brutal severity; and there was no chance of legitimatizing her child—no chance of redeeming herself from the miseries of her degradation. Poor Lucy! It was a sad trial to be a constant witness of her repinings. For she loved him still, the origin of all her misfortunes; and so thoroughly were her feelings towards me at variance with any tender sentiment, and so often was she disposed to resent the harshness of my remarks upon Pakenham's conduct, that I overlooked even the possibility of our intimacy becoming a matter of blame, in the event of our secret being discovered. We liked each other far less than when living together at Harbstonge; and nothing but gratitude and dependence on her part, and a sense of duty on mine, served to prolong the false position which a moment of imprudence had created.

" It was decided that the following spring she should return to England; and though it was her eager desire to increase, by her own industry, the aid I was enabled to afford to my adopted sister, I had secretly determined to frustrate her projects. I was to accompany her to England, and return in the course of a month or two. For poor Lucy, enfeebled by affliction and a trying climate, was in no case to take care of herself.

• I have no friend on earth but you, Arthur! was her constant exclamation. “My child has no friend but you! What would become of us both, were we to lose you; and how fervently, if my father be permitted to look down from heaven, must he bless you

for

your noble redemption of your promise?'

“ By such tender appeals, I was bound like a slave to her cause. On quitting Bermuda, I acknowledged as an affectionate brother might have done, the kindnesses heaped upon Mrs. Otway and her child by my Creole friends. A thousand comforts were by their interposition provided for her on the voyage; and they took leave of us both, anticipating my speedy return.

“On arriving in England, however, the health of my poor nominal sister

had become still more precarious ; and the dread of leaving her to die alone, bequeathing her unprotected child to the mercies of strangers, determined me to quit my regiment. I did so. I went on half-pay. I attended, as a brother, that ill-starred and dying woman! Long before I laid her in the grave, I found that, at Bermuda, all had transpired! Apprised of the fraud we had perpetrated upon their good faith, the angry Bermudians indulged in the most cruel accusations,—nay, Lucy was stated to have been my mistress, and Pakenham's child my own!

“ Had I pursued my original intention of returning to the colony, I should probably have been made accountable for my imprudence by more than one indignant father and husband, who believed that I had imposed a worthless woman upon their hospitality; and when they saw me gazetted out of the regiment, no one entertained a doubt that I had slunk from the just vengeance of my traducers!

“ Not a syllable of all this, however, at that period reached my ears. Lucy was dying,-dying slowly, and of a broken heart; and in the perfect seclusion of our quiet residence on the southern coast, not an angry whisper was allowed to disturb the tranquillity of the expiring sufferer. She survived, alas! just long enough to perceive that, either by inheritance or contagion, the germ of pulmonary disease was becoming developed in her more than orphan boy; and her last words conveyed as solemn a bequeathment of the poor little fellow to my parental care, as the adjuration of her father had originally intrusted her.

“And thus, in the dawn of life, I became fettered by the ties, without the joys, of wedlock and paternity; and, absorbed in the duties they conveyed, remained ignorant of the stigma conveyed by the discovery of my involuntary falsehood, and hasty retreat from my regiment. I knew nothing of all that had occurred, till it was too late! On my word as a man of honour, and a gentleman, I knew nothing of it; and my first impression on discovering the evil opinions connected with my name, was to hasten back to Bermuda, and fix a quarrel on any man who might feel inclined to persist in his resentments. But what a return for the hospitalities I had received ;-I being manifestly in the wrong!

“My next determination, after ascertaining that no report of what had only been whispered at Bermuda had been made to the Horse-guards by my commanding officer, who was only acquainted with the rumours to my prejudice after I had quitted the regiment,—was to resume my professional career; and, if possible, reconquer the golden opinions of which no real act of turpitude had deprived me.

“Such were the circumstances under which I landed at --; and in recalling to mind the beneficent indulgence with which my attempts were received, I seem to feel with new and more insupportable bitterness the present fatal interruption.

“A thousand times have I been on the point of revealing my painful secret to Sir George Harcourt; a thousand times of attempting to find courage for an explanation with his lovely daughter. What I have endured of anxiety and self-accusation, no mortal can conceive. I knew the basis of my unparalleled happiness to be tottering. Any hour—any moment-might precipitate me from the height of human felicity into obloquy and despair. “ Nor can I blame Lord Algernon for the part he has taken, Judge not that ye be not judged,' is a canon of Christian law which few of us are scrupulous to practise, and appearances were grievously against me.

“Fortune is against me too! A stain is upon my character, which nothing but blood-either my own or my adversary's—can efface. I must become a murderer or a victim !"

“Nor yet the only victim," mused Sophia Harcourt, when, with tearful eyes, she reached the close of this afflicting narrative. “This kindhearted and ill-starred being has carried with him to his untimely grave the peace of mind of my poor sister !"

The little colony of has now become one of the most cheerless of the Mediterranean. Though still endowed with the valuable

public works and institutions created under the command of Sir George Harcourt, the garrison has never recovered the cloud produced by the mournful events originating in his resignation of the government; and his successor, a strict disciplinarian, and dry calculating Scotsman, finds it impossible to contend against the prejudices of popularity connected with the favourite name. In his well-ordered official household, there is a total absence of the kindly family feeling which prevailed among the Harcourts. Last winter there were no private theatricals in the garrison ; last autumn, not a yacht dropped anchor in the bay.

If the mind of poor Sir George were still open to pleasurable impressions, he might derive some solace, in the afflictions of his old age, from knowing how truly his memory is held in respect in the little colony almost founded under his administration. But at Harcourt Hall (where, since the death of his sister, he has resided with his surviving daughter Sophia, and her husband) the name of is never mentioned. For in the garrison chapel of that island of the dark blue waters, lie the remains of her whose loss has saddened the days of the happy family; the devoted girl who survived only a few weeks the object of her first affection. Anticipating that, on quitting the spot for ever, her father might wish to carry with him to his native country the ashes of his child, poor Emma Harcourt made it her death-bed request, that she might be interred in the same spot with him whose head the general had laid in the grave.

Her last wish was faithfully accomplished. The population of the whole island accompanied to her last resting-place the gentle being, whose life had been a life of charity and love. Flowers from thousands of rude but honest hands were flung upon the coffin of the governor's daughter; and to those who, deceived by its former good renown as an agreeable residence, are still tempted to visit the island, a marble slab is pointed out as serving for a memorial of the unfortunate pair, on which, by the express desire of Emma, is inscribed the memorable sentence cited by the victim of a false impression and calumnious report

“ JUDGE NOT, THAT YE BE NOT JUDGED!"

BEHIND THE SCENES.

(CONFESSIONS OF A KEYHOLE.)

BY LAMAN BLANCHARD, ESQ.

Mrs. FIXBURY was a fair representative of that numerous class of ladies,-grandmothers, mothers, and daughters--single, wedded, or widowed—who are so passionately fond of their homes that they can with difficulty be persuaded to go out.

No minister ever equalled a woman for staying in, when it suits her -and it always suited Mrs. Fixbury exactly. To women of her noturn of mind, and of her corporeal fixity of tenure, the open air is one immense superfluity. “Out of doors” is to them what land was to the inveterate salt water rover, "a thing he could never see the use of."

Like cherubs round an altar-piece, they cling
To the fireside.

They must confess, for their parts, that they do love their home, and that's the truth. They are not ashamed to acknowledge, if people want to know the real fact of the matter, that they do take a little pride in their house, and do like to enjoy it of all things. Going out occasionally is all very well, no doubt,

very right, very proper, and very pleasant, in some cases; and they might like as well as other people, to make a call on somebody they don't care for, or to perform the tour of the shops when they have no intention of buying, or to look in at an exhibition not worth a shilling, or to walk under a broiling sun until caught in a soaking shower. But it so happens that they can always find something else to do-indeed they can never find a single minute's leisure even for dreaming of indulging such roving propensities. There is quite enough at home to forbid ali thoughts of going out, and on any such errands and embassies, the thing would be impossible.

As for recreation, thank Heaven, they can find amusement as well as cares in-doors. Whenever they are out of spirits they can go up and dust their drawing-rooms. As for health, they should die in a week if condemned to such gadding about. They have no notion, not they, of rambling hither and thither like the Wandering Jewess. They have a home of their own, and they are persuaded that every right-minded woman who has a home of her own has something or other to do in it.

How the H.'s and the M.'s manage they can't think! Tlrose women are always out—and what must be the state of affairs in the home department they couldn't guess if it were to save their lives! And how the foolish people's brains bear all the whirl and worry of such a life they are as much at a loss to imagine. It amazes them to think how any body, not quite crazed, can go all through the town continually leaving cards, staring in at bazaars and shop-windows, dragging themselves edgeways through muddy mobs (or, what is worse than all), walking in quieter places merely for tke sake of walking ;-sceing nothing, saying

« ZurückWeiter »