Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

villain" and she awaited, with benevolent impatience, the arrival of her expected guest.

They came, accompanied by Charles Danvers, Annabel's young fellow-traveller, who was nephew to one of them; and Lady Alberry lost no time in drawing from them an exact detail of all that had passed." And this girl, you say, was a forward, conceited, set-up being, full of herself and her accomplishments; in short, the creature of vanity."

66 Yes," replied one of the old men, "it was quite a comedy to look at her and hear her !"— "But what says my young friend ?"—" The same. She is very pretty; but a model of affectation, boasting, and vanity. Now she was hanging her head on one side-then looking languishingly with her eyes; and when my uncle, coarsely, as I thought, talked of her father as a bankrupt, her expression of angry mortification was so ludicrous, that I could scarcely help laughing. Nay, I do assure you," he continued, "that had we been left alone a few minutes, I should have been made the confidant of her love-affairs; for she sighed deeply once, and asked me, with an affected lisp, if I did not think it a dangerous thing to have a too susceptible heart?" As he said this, after the manner of Annabel, both the old men exclaimed, "Admirable ! that is she to the life! I think that I see her and hear her !"-" But, I dare say," said Lady Alberry gravely," that you paid her compliments, and pretended to admire her notwithstanding."-"I own it; for how could I refuse the incense which every look and gesture demanded ?”

66

"A principle of truth, young man! would have enabled you to do it. What a fine lesson it would be, for poor flattered women, if we could know how meanly men think of us, even when they flatter us the most."-" But, dear Lady Alberry, this

1

girl seemed to me a mere child; a coquette of the nursery still, had she been older, her evident vanity would have secured me against her beauty."" You are mistaken, Charles; this child is almost seventeen. But now, gentlemen, as just men, I appeal to you all, whether it is not more likely that this vain-glorious girl told lies, than that her father, the husband of one of the best of women, should be guilty of the grossest dishonesty?" -"I must confess, Jane, that you have convinced me," said Sir James; but the two creditors only frowned, and spoke not. "But consider," said this amiable advocate; "if the girl's habitation was so beautiful, was it not inconsistent with her boasting propensities that she should not choose to be set down at it? And if her father still had carriages and servants, would they not have been sent to meet her? And if he were really rich, would she have been allowed to travel alone in a stage coach-Impossible; and I conjure you to suspend your severe judgment of an unfortunate man, till you have sent some one to see how he really lives."

ry,

66

"I am forced to return to Wynstaye to-morrow," growled out Charles's uncle; "therefore, suppose I go myself."-" We had fixed to go into Wales ourselves next week," replied Lady Alberon a visit to a dear friend who lives not far from Wynstaye. Therefore, what say you, Sir James? Had we not better go with our friend? For if you have done poor Burford injustice, the sooner you make him reparation, and in person, the better." To this proposal Sir James gladly assented; and they set off for Wales the next day, accompanied by the uncle and the nephew.

As Lady Alberry was going to her chamber, on the second night of their journey, she was startled

by the sound of deep groans, and a sort of delirious raving, from a half-open door. "Surely," said she to the landlady, who was conducting her, "there is some one very ill in that room."-" Oh dear! yes, my lady; a poor man who was picked up on the road yesterday. He had walked all the way from the heart of Wales, till he was so tired, he got on a coach; and he supposes that, from weakness he fell off in the night; and not being missed, he lay till he was found and brought hither. "Has any medical man seen him?"_ "Not yet; for our surgeon lives a good way off; and, as he had his senses when he first came, we hoped he was not much hurt. He was able to tell us that he only wanted a garret, as he was very poor; and yet, my lady, he looks and speaks so like a gentleman!"-" Poor creature! he must be attended to, and a medical man sent for directly, as he is certainly not sensible now."-" Hark! he is raving again, and all about his wife, and I cannot tell what."-" I should like to see him," said Lady Alberry, whose heart always yearned towards the afflicted; "and I think that I am myself no bad doctor." Accordingly, she entered the room just as the sick man exclaimed, in his delirium, Cruel Sir James! I a fraudulent . Oh! my dearest Anna!" .... and Lady Alberry recognized, in the poor raving being before her, the calumniated Burford' I know him!" she cried, bursting into tears; we will be answerable for all expenses." She then went in search of Sir James; and having prepared him as tenderly as she could for the painful scene which awaited him, she led him to the bedside of the unconscious invalid;-then, while Sir James shocked and distressed beyond measure, interrogated the landlady, Lady Alberry examined the

66

66

nearly threadbare coat of the supposed rich man, which lay on the bed, and searched for the slenderly filled purse, of which he had himself spoken. She found there Sir James's letter, which had, she doubted not, occasioned his journey and his illness; and which, therefore, in an agony of repentant feeling, her husband tore into atoms. In the same pocket he found Annabel's confession; and when they left the chamber, having vainly waited in hopes of being recognized by the poor invalid, they returned to their fellow-travellers, carrying with them the evidences of Burford's scanty means, in corroboration of the tale of suffering and fatigue which they had to relate. "See!" said Lady Alberry, holding up the coat, and emptying the purse on the table, "are these signs of opulence? and is travelling on foot, in a hot June day, a proof of splendid living?" While the harsh creditor, as he listened to the tale of delirium, and read the confession of Annabel, regretted the hasty credence which he had given to her falsehoods.

Bul what was best to be done? To send for Burford's wife ;-and, till she arrived to nurse him, Sir James and Lady Alberry declared that they would not leave the inn. It was therefore agreed that the nephew should go to Burford's house in the barouche, and escort his wife back. He did so; and while Annabel, lost in painful thought, was walking on the road, she saw the barouche driving up, with her young fellow-traveller in it. As it requires great suffering to subdue such overweening vanity as Annabel's, her first thought, on seeing him, was, that her youthful beau was a young heir, who had travelled in disguise, and was now come in state to make her an offer! She, therefore, blushed with pleasure as

he approached, and received his bow with a countenance of joy. But his face expressed no answering pleasure; and, coldly passing her, he said his business was with her mother, who, alarmed, she scarcely knew why, stood trembling at the door; nor was she less alarmed when the feeling youth told his errand, in broken and faltering accents, and delivered Lady Alberry's letter. An

66

nabel must go with me!" said her mother, in a deep and solemn tone. Then lowering her voice, because unwilling to reprove her before a stranger, she added, "Yes, my child! thou must go, to see the effects of thy errors, and take sad, but salutary, warning for the rest of thy life. We shall not detain you long, sir," she continund, turning to Charles Danvers; 66 our slender wardrobe can be soon prepared."

In a short time, the calm, but deeply suffering, wife, and the weeping humbled daughter, were on their road to the inn. The mother scarcely spoke during the whole of the journey; but she seemed to pray a great deal; and the young man was so affected, with the subdued anguish of the one, and the passionate grief of the other, that, he declared to Lady Alberry, he had never been awakened to such serious thought before, and hoped to be the better for the journey through the whole of his existence; while, in her penitent sorrow, he felt inclined to forget Annabel's fault, coquetry, and affectation.

When they reached the inn, the calmness of the wife was entirely overcome at the sight of Lady Alberry, who opened her arms to receive her with the kindness of an attached friend; whispering, as she did so, "He has been sensible; and he knew Sir James; knew him as an affectionate friend and nurse!"-" Gracious heaven, I thank

« ÎnapoiContinuă »