« VorigeDoorgaan »
* and closer embrace; and she looked
very weak and foolish I have been with wild agitation, expecting pre- to yield to sently to hear of some fearful cata- “ No, no, no!” slie gasped, evidentstrophe. 66 I cannot bear this much ly labouring with hysteric oppression. longer, dearest-I feel I cannot,” said • Hush!” said she, suddenly starting, she, rather faintly. " What has hap- and wildly leaning forward towards pened? What that you dare not tell the door which opened into the galme ? I can bear any thing, while I lery leading to the various bedrooms. have you and my
children! You have He listened the mother's ear had been unhappy, my own Charles, for been quick and true.
He presently many days past. I will not part with heard the sound of many children's you now till I know all!”
voices approaching : they were the 66 You soon must know all, my pre- little party, accompanied by Kate, on cious Agnes ; and I take Heaven to their way to bed"; and little Charles's witness, that it is only on your ac- voice was loudest, and his laugh the count. I did not wish you to have merriest of them all. The wild smile known it till”.
of hysteries gleamed on Mrs Aubrey's “ You-are never going—to fight a face; her hand grasped her husband's duel ?" she gasped, turning as white with convulsive pressure ; and she as death.
suddenly sunk, rigid and senseless, « Oh! no, no, Agnes ! I solemnly upon the sofa. He seemed for a moassure you! If I could have brought ment stunned at the sight of her mo. myself to engage in such an tionless figure. Soon, however, rehallowed affair, would this scene covering his presence of mind, he ever first have occurred ?
rang the bell, and one or two female my own love! Must I then tell you attendants quickly appeared ; and by of the misfortune that has overtaken their joint assistance Mrs Aubrey
She gazed at him in mute and was carried to her bed in the adjoinbreathless apprehension. “ They are ing room, where, by the use of the bringing an action against me, which, ordinary remedies, she was presently if successful, may cause us all to quit restored to consciousness. Her first Yatton-and, it may be, for ever. languid look was towards Mr Aubrey,
“ Oh, Charles !” she murmured, whose hand she slowly raised to her her eyes riveted upon his, while she lips. She tried to raise a smile into unconsciously moved nearer to him, her wan features—but 'twas in vain; and trembled. Her head drooped and, after a few heavy and half-chokupon his shoulder.
ing sobs, her overcharged feelings Why is this ?" she whispered. found relief in a flood of tears. Full “ Let us, dearest, talk of it another of the liveliest apprehensions as to time. I have now told
the effect of this violent emotion upon asked me." He poured her out a her, in her delicate condition, he reglass of water. Having drunk a little, mained with her for some time, pourshe appeared revived.
ing into her ear every soothing and “ Is all lost? Do, my own Charles tender expression he could think of. let me know the worst.”
He at length succeeded in bringing her * We are young, Agnes, and have into a somewhat more tranquil state the world before us. Health and than he could have expected. He honour are better than riches. You strictly enjoined the attendants, who and our little loves--the children which had not quitted their lady's chamber,
God has given us—are my riches,” and whose alarmed and inquisitive
Surely, love, you have suffered • Calm yourself, Agnes !-calm enough through my weakness. Wait -yourself, for my sake !-as you love till to-morrow. Let her have a few His voice quivered. “Oh,
« Oh, more happy hours,"
“ No, Agnes- it was my solved to put you at once in possession weakness which caused me to be of what I myself know. Can you bear surprised into this premature disclo. bad news well, Kate ?" sure to you. And now I must meet She turned very pale, and drawing her again to-night, and I cannot con- her chair nearer to her brother, said, trol either my features or my feelings. “ Do not keep me in suspense, Yes, poor Kate, she must know all Charles--I can bear any thing but to-night! I shall not be long absent, suspense—that is dreadful ! What Agnes.” And directing her maid to has happened? Oh dear,” she added, remain with her till he returned, he with sudden alarm," where are withdrew, and with slow step and mamma and Agnes ? ” She started heavy heart descended to the library; to her feet. preparing himself for another heart- “ I assure you they are both well, breaking scene - plunging another Kate. My mother is now doubtless innocent and joyous creature into asleep, and as well as she ever was; misery, which he believed to be in- Agnes is in her bedroom-certainly evitable. Having looked into the much distressed at the news which I drawing-room as he passed it, and am going": seen no one there-his mother having, “ Oh why, Charles, did you tell as usual, retired at a very early hour any thing distressing to her ?" -he rung his library bell, and de- claimed Miss Aubrey with an alarmsired Miss Aubrey's maid to requested air. her mistress to come down to him “ She came upon me by surprise, there, as soon as she was at leisure. Kate. "Twould have been infinitely He was glad that the only light in the more dangerous to have kept her in room was that given out by the fire, suspense; but sho is recovering. I which was not very bright, and so shall soon return to her. And now, would in some degree shield his fea- my dear Kate-I know your strong tures from, at all events, immediate sense and spirit-a very great calascrutiny. His heart ached as, shortly mity hangs over us. Let you and afterwards, he heard Kate's light step me,” he grasped her hands affectioncrossing the hall. When she entered, ately, “ stand it steadily, and support her eyes sparkled with vivacity, and those who cannot.” a smile was on her beauteous cheek. • Let me at once know all, Charles. Her dress was tumbled, and her hair See if I do not bear it as becomes hung disordered and half uncurled your sister,” said she, with forced the results of her sport with the little calmness. ones whom she had been seeing to
• If it should become necessary for bed.
all of us to retire into obscurity“ What merry little things, to be humble obscurity, dear Kate-how do sure !” she commenced, laughingly, you think you could bear it?" « I could not get them to lie still a - If it will be an honourable obmoment-popping their little heads in scurity-nay, 'tis quite impossible to and out of the clothes. A fine night I be dis-honourable obscurity,” said shall have with Sir Harry! for he is Miss Aubrey, with a momentary flash to be my bedfellow, and I dare say I of energy. shall not sleep a wink all night. Why, “ Never, never, Kate! The Aus Charles, how very-very grave you breys may lose every thing on earth look to-night!" she added quickly, ob- but the jewel honour, and love for serving his eye fixed moodily upon her. one another." or 'Tis you who are so very gay,"
" Let me know all, Charles," said he replied, endeavouring to smile. Miss Aubrey, in a low tone, but with “ I want to speak to you, dear Kate," a look of the deepest apprehension. he commenced affectionately, “ on a • A strange claim is set up by serious matter. I have received some one I never heard of-to the whole of letters to-night”
the property I now enjoy." Kate coloured suddenly and violent- Miss Aubrey started, and the colour ly, and her heart beat; but, sweet faded from her cheek. soul! she was mistaken-very, very “ But is it a true claim, Charles ?" far off the mark her troubled brother 66 That remains to be proved. But was aiming at.
And, relying on
I will disguise nothing from you-I your strength of mind, I have re. have woful apprehensions”.
• Do you mean to say that Yatton Miss Aubrey-instantly checking, howis not ours ?" enquired Miss Aubrey, ever, her rising excitement. catching her breath.
- You bear it bravely, my noble 6. So, my dearest girl, it is said." girl!" said Mr Aubrey, fondly, after
Miss Aubrey looked bewildered, and a brief interval of silence. pressed her hand to her forehead. She turned from him her head, and
“ How shocking !--shocking !. moved her hand-in deprecation of exshocking!" she gasped. “What is pressions that might utterly unnerve to become of mamma?”
her. Then she convulsively clasped “ God Almighty will not desert her her hands over her forehead ; and, in her old age. He will desert none after a minute or two, turned towards of us, dearest, if we only trust in Him," him with tears in her eyes, but transaid her brother.
quillized features. The struggle had
. Miss Aubrey remained gazing at been dreadful, though brief-her noble him intently, and continued perfectly spirit recovered itself.
'Twas like a fair bark, in mortal • Must we all leave Yatton ?" said conflict with the black and boiling she, faintly.
waters and howling hurricane; long 66 If this claim succeeds--but we quivering on the brink of destruction, shall leave it together, Kate."
but at last outliving the storm, rightShe threw her arms round his neck, ing itself, and suddenly gliding into and wept bitterly.
safe and tranquil waters. - Hush, hush, Kate!” said he, per. The distressed brother and sister ceiving the increasing violence of sat conversing for a long time, freher emotions, « restrain your feel- quently in tears, but with infinitely ings for the sake of my mother-and greater calmness and firmness than Agnes.”
could have been expected. They His words had the desired effect : agreed that Dr Tatham should very the poor girl made a desperate effort. early in the morning be sent for, and Unclasping her arms from her bro. implored to take upon himself the bitther's neck, she sat down in her chair, ter duty of breaking the matter to breathing hard ; and, after a few mi- their mother ; its effects upon whom, nutes' pause, she said, faintly, “ I am her children anticipated with the most better now. Do tell me more, Char- vivid apprehension. They then reles ! Let me have something to think tired-Kate to a sleepless pillow, and about-only don't say any thing about her brother to spend a greater portion -about-mamma and Agnes!" In of the night in attempts to sooth and spite of herself a visible shudder ran console his suffering wife ; each of tlırough her frame.
them having first knelt in humble re“ It seems, Kate," said he, with all
verence, and poured forth the breathe the calmness he could assume-"atings of a stricken and bleeding heart least they are trying to prove-that our before Him who hath declared that family had no right to succeed to this he HEARETH and ANSWERETA prayer. property; that there is living the right Ah! who can tell what a day or an heir ; his case has been taken up by hour may bring forth ? powerful friends; and- let me tell you the worst at once—the first lawyers in
" It won't kindle--not a bit on'tthe kingdom seem to agree that he is it's green and full o' sap. Go out, and entitled to recover the whole of Yat- get us a log that's dry and old, George ton-even the lawyers consulted by Mr -and let's try to have a bit of a blaze Parkinson on my behalf”.
in tould chimney, this bitter night," “ But is mamma provided for?” said Isaac Tonson, the gamekeeper at whispered Miss Aubrey, almost inarti- Yatton, to the good-natured landlord culately. “ When I look at her again, of the Aubrey Arms, the little-and I shall almost break my heart." only--inn of the village. The sug
" No, Kate, you won't. Heaven gestion was instantly attended to. will give you strength,” said her bro- “ How Peter 's a-feathering of his ther, in a tremulous voice. “Remem. geese to-night, to be sure !” exclaimed ber, my only sister--my darling Kate! the landlord on his return, shaking you must support me in my trouble- the snow off his coat, and laying on we will support one another
the fire a great dry old log of wood, " We willl-We will!” interrupted which seemed very acceptable to the
hungry flames, for they licked it cor- never thought she'd a lasted so long," dially the moment it was placed replied Higgs, emptying his glass. amongst them, and there was very os She've had a pretty long spell soon given out a cheerful blaze. on't," quoth Dickons, slowly empty'Twas a snug room, the brick flooring his mouth of smoke. covered with fresh sand ; and on a “ A hundred and two,” replied the few stools and benches, with a table sexton ; " so saith her coffin-plate-a' in the middle, on which stood a large seed it to.day.” can and ale glasses, with a plate of • What wore her name?” enquired tobacco, sat some half-a-dozen men, Tonson—" I never knew her by any enjoying their pipe and glass. In the name but Blind Bess.” chimney corner sat Thomas Dickons, “ Her name be Elizabeth Crabtree, the under-bailiff of Mr Aubrey, a big, on the coilin," replied Higgs ; broad-shouldered, middle-aged fellow, she's to be buried to-morrow.” with a hard featured face and a phleg- “ She were a strange old woman," matic air. In the opposite corner sat said Hazel, one of the farmers, as he the little grizzle-headed clerk and took down one of the oatcakes that sexton, old Halleluiah--(as he was were hanging overhead, and breaking called, but his real name was Jonas off a piece, held it with the tongs beHiggs.) Beside him sat Pumpkin, fore the fire to toast, and then put it the gardener at the Hall, a constant into his ale. guest at the Aubrey Arms o' nights- • Ay, she were," quoth Pumpkin; always attended by Hector, the large “ I wonder what she thinks o’ such Newfoundland dog already spoken of, things now---maybe she's paying dear and who was now lying stretched on for her trieks.” the floor at Pumpkin's feet, his nose “ Tut, Pumpkin," said Tonson, resting on his forefeet, and his eyes, " let the old creature rest in her with great gravity, watching the mo- grave." tions of a skittish kitten under the “ Ay, Master Tonson," quoth the table. Opposite to him sat Tonson clerk, in his church twang_" there the gamekeeper--a thin, wiry, beetle- be no knowledge, nor wisdom, nor de. browed fellow, with eyes like a fer- vice!" ret; and there were also one or two “'Tis very odd, but this dog that's farmers, that lived in the village. lying at my feet never could a' bear
“ Let's ha' another can o' ale, afore going past her cottage late o' nights; ye sit doun," said one of them ; and the night she died-Lord! you can do with half a gallon, I'm think- should have heard the howl Hectorgave ing.” This order also was quickly and a' didn't then know she were attended to; and then the landlord, gone.” having seen to the door, and fastened o No! but wer't really so ? " the shutters close, took his place on a quired Dickons-several of the others vacant stool, and resumed his pipe, taking their pipes out of their mouths,
“ So she do take a very long grave, and looking earnestly at Pumpkin. Jonas ?” enquired Dickons of the “ I didn't half like it, I assure you," sexton.
quoth Pumpkin. " Ay, Mr Dickons, a' think she do, Ha, ha, ha!-ha, ha!” laughed the owld girl! I always thought she the gamekeeperwould. 'Tis a reg'lar man's size, I " Ay, marry you may laugh-but warrant you; and when parson saw I'll stake half-a-gallon o' ale you it, a' said, he thought 'twere too big; daren't go by yourself to the cottage but I ax'd his pardon, and said I hadn't where she's lying-now, mind-i' the been sexton for thirty years without dark.” knowing my business-ha, ha!” “ I'll do it," quoth Higgs, eagerly,
“ I suppose, Jonas, you mun ha' preparing to lay down his pipe. seen her walking about i' t' village, in “ No, no-thou’rt quite used to your time-Were she such a big-look- dead folk,” replied Pumpkin. ing woman?” enquired Pumpkin, as “ Bess dropped off sudden, like, at he shook the ashes out of his pipe, last, didn't she?" enquired the landand replenished it.
lord. • Forty years ago I used to see her 5. She went out, as they say, like the -she were then an old woman, wi' snuff of a candle," replied Jobbins, white hair, and leaned on a stick-I one of the farmers ; " no one were
with her but my Missis at the time. a-teasing my duughter Jenny, that The night afore she took to the rattles were coming along wi' some physic all of a sudden. My Sall (that's done from the doctor for my old woman! for her this long time, by madam's One of 'em seemed a-going to put his orders) says old Bess were a good arm around her neck, and t’other came deal shaken by a chap from London, close to her on t'other side, a.talking that came down about a week afore to her and pushing her about." Here Christmas."
a young farmer, who had but seldom “ Ay, ay,” quoth one, “I've heard spoken, took his pipe out of his mouth, o'that—what was it ?—what passed and exclaiming, “ Lord bless me!” sat atwixt them?"
listening with his mouth wide open. " Why, a' don't well know_but he - Well, a' came into the road behad a book, and wrote down something; hind 'em, without their seeing me; and he axed her, so Sall do tell me, and"-(here he stretched out a thick, such a many things about old people, rigid, muscular arm, and clenched and things that are long gone by. his teeth)_" a' got hold of each by
• What were the use on't?” enquire the collar, and one of 'em I shook ed Dickons ; “ for Bess hath been about, and gave him a kick i the silly this ten years, to my sartain breech that sent him spinning a knowledge.'
yard or two on the road, he clap. “ Why, a'couldn't tell. Sall said ping his hand behind him, and cryshe talked a good deal to the chap in ing, to be sure—“Good for a hunher mumbling way, and seemed to dred pound damages !' T'other dropknow some folk he asked her about. ped on his knees, and begged for And Sall saith she hath been, in a man. mercy; so a' just spit in his face, and ner, dismal ever since, and often a. flung him under the hedge, telling him crying and talking to herself.”
if he stirred till I were out o'sight, « I've heard," said the landlord, I'd crack his skull for him; and so I " that squire and parson were wi' her would !” Here the wrathful speaker on Christmas-day—and that she talked pushed his pipe again between his a deal o' strange things, and that the lips, and began puffing away with squire did seem, as it were, struck a great energy ; while he who had ap
peared to take so great an interest in " Why, so my Sall do say; but it the story, and who was the very man may be all her own head," replied who had flown to the rescue of Miss Jobbins.
Aubrey, when she seemed on the point Here a pause took place.
of being similarly treated, told that “ Madam," said the sexton, “hath circumstance exactly as it occurred, given orders for a decent burying to- amidst the silent but excited wonder morrow."
of those present-all of whom, at its “ Well, a' never thought any wrong close, uttered vehement execrations, of her, for my part," said one-and and intimated the summary and savage another — and another; and they punishment which the cowardly rascal smoked their pipes for some minutes would have experienced at the hands in silence.
of each and every one of them, had “ Talking o' strangers from Lone they come across him. don,” said the sexton, presently; "who v I reckon," said the landlord, as do know any thing o' them two chaps soon as the swell had a little subsided, that were at church last Sunday ? Two “they must be the two chaps that put such peacock-looking chaps I never up here, some time ago, for an hour seed_and grinning all service-time.”
You should ha' seen 'em get • Ay, I'll tell ye something of 'em," on and off-that's all! Why, a' said Hazel-a big, broad-shouldered laughed outright! The chap with the farmer, who plucked his pipe out of hair under his chin got on upon the his mouth with sudden energy_ wrong side, and t’other seemed as if • They're a brace o' good ones, to he thought his beast would bite him!” sure, ha, ha! Some week or ten days “ Ha, ha, ha!” laughed all. ago, as I were a'coming across the “ I thought they'd a' both got a fall field leading into the lane behind the before they'd gone a dozen yards !” church, I seed these same two chaps, • They've taken a strange fancy to and on coming nearer, (they not seeing my churchyard,” said the sexton, setme for the hedge,) Lord bless me! ting down his glass, and then preparing would ye believe it? - if they wasn't to kill his pipe again ; " they've been