« VorigeDoorgaan »
that I had done, and duly notified her arri- If it were her father's old place, where she val at Mrs. Devlin's by the following char- had lived as a girl, I could understand it; acteristic note, written on the Monday though even that would be very sentimennight a few hours after her arrival : tal for Aunt Anne, whom I always consid
ered a most unsentimental person. Old “ Knightsbridge, 9 P.M. Carter was not likely to cultivate any thing “ MY DEAR MARGARET, The lodgings of that kind in her disposition, I should are nice, but noisy. The noise cannot be think.” Be that as it might, and whatever helped; it makes Corporal Trim bark at her motive, Mrs. Carter purchased Woodpresent — he thinks it announces burglars lee, put all the buildings into thorough re
but he will get used to it by and by, and pair, let the land, with the exception of the so shall I, no doubt. Joan was tired and pretty pleasure-ground surrounding the cross; but she could not resist your nice house, and established herself there in a little Irishwoman, who had everything so style of unpretending but very substantial comfortable for us, even to some roses in dowager comfort, which did not imply the the vases on the chimney-piece, lest ve expenditure of her income, as we supposed might miss the country,' she said. The it to be, or any thing like it. To be sure, dinner was capital. I believe she has an we may have been mistaken in our calculaeye' to the cooking; though how she can tion ; people are apt to be so liberal in their attend to the shop and her lodgers also, I estimate of the wealth of others, especially am unable to understand. She has a bap- when it is right and reasonable that some py knack of selecting servants too. I did of it should come their way. In one renot think London could boast anything so spect Mrs. Carter formed an exception to clean, tidy, and modest, as the damsel who well-dowered widows. No one ever specuwaits on us. Somersetshire too! Joan is lated upon the probabilities for or against her quite at home with her. Be punctual to- contracting a second marriage.
This was morrow. I don't mean to go to the Barn till unaccountable; but it was the case. She was Wednesday, and you shall come with me.- only forty years old when Mr. Carter had
A. C.” followed his harmless ancestors to their ir
reproachably respectable family-vault. She James's aunt was a bandsome well-pre- was rich, handsome, and popular. She was served old lady, of upwards of fifty. She not accredited by the voice of society with was very clever, and had been all her life a broken heart or buried affections; she a great reader. I knew little of her story never talked sentiment, or indeed cant but its outlines, in which there was nothing of any kind; she never bored any body remarkable. She was the only sister of about the beloved departed; and she left my husband's father, and had married off her weeds, like a sensible woman, at when she had passed her first youth the end of the period prescribed for practia country-gentleman much older than her cal persons who do not desire to be nuisances self, who died in the fifth year of their to their neighbours. She had been a good marriage, leaving her all his unentailed sensible wife, and she continued to be a good property, of which a considerable portion sensible widow; and I am quite sure it consisted of land. She had no children, never occurred to any one, not even to a few relatives, and none but distant connec- half-pay officer, or an elderly curate, that tions on her husband's side, with whom I he might induce her to change her condiunderstand she kept up little or no inter- tion. She was a just and generous woman, course. She was a very agreeable woman, and her brother's children had all benefited - good, charitable, and popular; but I al- in their various needs by her modest wealth. ways faucied she had a strong spice of ob- Of them, James was her favourite, and she stinacy in her character, though I had no had added much personal kindness and personal knowledge of the fact. I was led warmth of friendship to the pecuniary aid to think so in consequence of having learned she had given him. from James that his aunt had persisted Mrs. Carter behaved very handsomely against his opinion, and that of her late on the occasion of our marriage, though husband's advisers, in selling the land which she refused to come to our wedding, “ in he had bequeathed to her, and purchasing a the first place,” as she said in a letter to small estate near Taunton, which she had James, “because I never go to any one's bought at far too high a price, as they be- wedding, and in the second, because I have lieved. " And why she wanted to go and no fancy for beholding the grand airs of my live there," James had said when he told Lady Moore, and the blinking, purblind me the circunstance, “I cannot make out. / fatuity of General Croxholm applied to
patronising you. Your future wife is a fellow looked puzzled, said he supposed so, nice creature, my dear nephew, but she and yet he did not exactly see how it could will be much nicer when she has been away have been, for Carter was “ a long way older from the snob atmosphere in which she has than Aunt Anne.” lived for a little.” I am not sure that “ Where did she meet him, James ?” I James did a very wise thing when he showed asked. me this letter, for it made me feel rather “ How should I know, you inquisitive afraid of Aunt Carter; but the blunder, nuisance ?” he replied smiling, if it were a blunder, was committed in the grandfather's, I suppose. She had lived at early days of gushing confidence, and very the Larches all her life, as far as I know." pardonable. Besides, it is a good habit to Was it a nice place, James ?” give a husband, that of telling one every
“I believe so. I never
saw it; my thing; and on the other hand, one may grandfather sold it before I was bern; but avoid the indiscretion in one's own person. Aunt Anne says it was a delightful place
All this had happened five years before, – much larger and handsomer than Woodand Aunt Carter had become convinced lee, which is within five miles of it." that the anticipated improvement in me “ Who bought the Larches from your had taken place; and she and I were great grandfather ?” friends. I fancied that I understood the “ Colonel Minshull, retired from the East old lady much better than James did. India Company's service; but he is dead, That dear blundering, sweet-tempered fel- and I do not know who has it at present.” low was so much more transparent in all Now this comprised everything I knew his ways, so warm in his affections, and so about Mrs. Carter, except that she and her unsuspicious in his disposition, that I often brother, James's father, had not been on wondered at the inscrutable proceeding of very intimate or affectionate terms; but I Providence that had made him an attorney; never heard any cause assigned for the esnot but that he was a clever and prosperous trangement, nor did I know whether any man of business, but I never could fancy really existed beyond such as might be James concerned in any thing that was to naturally accounted for by their divided punish, expose, or give pain to any body. course in life and their radical difference in
However, I was saying that I understood disposition and character. Aunt Carter better than he did; and I felt When I was ushered into Aunt Anne's sure that when he laughed about her never drawing-room I found the old lady seated coming to stay with us, or inviting us to at a table covered with books, and apstay with her, and said “it was all the parently as much at home as if she had fault of Joan and Corporal Trim, and his lived there all her life. A goodly pile of aunt was more like an old maid than a morning papers and the smartly-bound widow," he was altogether mistaken. Of authorised catalogues of the International course I did not say so, for the best of men Exhihition made part of the literary dis- and I really must say my dear James is play. Corporal Trim - a sbaggy terrier that — does not like his wife to know better of unprepossessing appearance but extraorthan he does on any possible point; so that dinary talent - sat gravely in a window, if she be a wise woman, she will act upon occasionally slapping his futile tail emphatiher superior knowledge, but will not talk cally upon the ground, and expressing his about it. I fancied there was more than opinion of the crowd in general and the this in Aunt Carter's mind in reference to omnibuses in particular by short distressful
I had an idea that she had not been yelps. Aunt Anne was attired in rich very happy in her prosperous, decorous, black silk and her customary lace-cap, and married life, and she felt more peaceful and was looking remarkably well and young. less regretful when the happiness of others- I had hardly kissed her and begun to though I am sure she truly and unaffectedly question her about her journey when a rejoiced in it—was not before her eyes. I do piercing scream from the throat of a bird not think she cared the less for our children made me start by its loud nearness. I if, as I shrewdly suspected, their voices in looked round, and saw a cage with a canary her house would have awakened echoes in in it hanging in the window over the head her heart painful to hear.
of Corporal Trim. Of her girlhood and early womanhood I “I never knew you cared for birds, aunt," knew nothing, and the external history of I said; “I suppose you warned me against her marriage and widowhood was prosperous cats on account of your canary." and calm. I had asked James once if her " It is not mine, dear,” she replied; “it marriage had been a love-match. The dear belongs to a young lady who has just left
these lodgings. Your good Mrs. Devlin (I sisters already -- an observation whicb am quite charmed with her, Margare:) would have had a soothing effect upon promised to take charge of it. She is gone Joan, considering their relative ages, bad to be companion to a lady, who shows her she heard it. sense of the duties of the contract by refusing to allow the girl to have the only companion Aunt Anne's visit to London proved she has left.” The old lady spoke with decidedly successful; and I do not know lively indignation. “ Mrs. Devlin had for- whether she or I derived from it greater gotten to take the bird downstairs, and enjoyment. I learned to know and love came to me with many apologies about it her better; and as I did so, I became more this morning; but I told her to leave it here and more convinced that James but little in the sunshine. I will take care of it as understood her. Her character had many long as I stay. I shall not hear its song too noble traits, and I was by no means sure early in the morning in my bedroom; and that a deep and abiding power of sentiment here it is only a pleasant addition to the was not amongst their number. I often noises in the street. What are you think- found myself wondering whether she had ing of, Margaret ? where are your wits gone ever known much sorrow — and her large to ?”
benigant tolerance of disposition made me “Gone as companion to a lady!" I mut- feel sure she had and under its severe but tered incoherently; and then Aunt Anne's salutary teaching had learned the lesson of laugh roused me, and I told her that I had wide compassion and ready sympathy. She seen this young girl, and how beautiful, re- called herself an oddity, and perhaps she fined, and elegant she was. “I cannot was one; but at least her singularity was of fancy her in the position of a dependant, a good and genial kind, and did not bar Aunt Anne,” I said. “I wish you could me from the pleasantest companionship have seen her. Mrs. Devlin told me she with her. We were very much together in was going away, or of course I could not those beautiful days of summer, and we have taken the lodgings; but somehow I had made many an expedition to the Exhibian idea she said something about her going tion, which she persisted in calling “ the to France to her friends.'
Barn.” On these occasions she did not go • Ah, well — I know nothing about it,” out again in the evening, and I frequently said Aunt Anne, as if she thought I was remained with her until James came for making too much of a matter of no great me at ten o'clock. Sometimes, but not moment. “I only know that I shall take often, Aunt Anne dined with us; at other care of her bird, and I hope the lady will times, when James and I had evening entake care of her; but I doubt it. How gagements, she would tell me not to disthe creature sings, — fit to crack its throat, quiet myself on her account, for that she to say nothing of its voice! Just lower the and Joan were as comfortable in their Loncage, Margaret, and throw this anti-macas- don lodginys as in their large countrysar over it, or we shall not be able to hear house - thanks to the care and attention ourselves speak.”
of “my” Mrs. Devlin, whom the old lady I did so, and the song
frequently invited to pass an hour or two “ And now, my dear," said the old lady with her in the dusk, and of whom she affectionately, “tell me all about herself, found something new to say in praise and all, I mean, that Mrs. Devlin has not told approbation every day. Jamie and Alice me already (she is a delightful gossip; so also grew in favour with their great aunt friendly, and so respectful too), and all about - the more surely and rapidly, I think James and the children. We are going to that she did not see too much of them. chat together till two, and then I have They were disposed to take liberties with ordered dinner; at half-past three we will Corporal Trim, which a dog of his sedate go for a drive (Mrs. Devlin knows where I and settled habits could hardly be expected can get a capital brougham and a steady to approve ; and when he had been induced man; she sent for bim this morning), and to go once through the performance of we will call at the office for James." shouldering and presenting arms (the
I need say no more of Aunt Anne's first musket being represented by a short ruler), day in town than that her pleasant pro- I usually adjourned the sitting, and sent the gramme was carried out in every particular; children home under convoy of nurse.
Althat Mrs. Devlin assured me, in a few con- together things were going on most happily fidential words, that Mrs. Carter was the and prosperously, when Aunt Anne caught pleasantest old lady she had ever had to cold one day from sitting in the Horticuldeal with ; and that she and Joan were like tural Gardens listening to the band, after a
slight shiver had warned her that she was test against being disturbed. "I think doing an imprudent thing. It was not a when I die I shall leave you to Mrs. Der. severe cold, but sufficient to confine her to lin's care. - - You would take care of him, the house. Under these circumstances Mrs. Margaret, I know ; but then, you see, he Devlin proved herself invaluable.
does not like children. — Ah, poor girl, they When Aunt Anne had been ailing for might have let her have her bird ! about three days, it chanced that James * Does she tell you she is unhappy, Mrs. told me one morning that he had to go out Devlin ? ” I asked. of town on a little business after office- “ Oh no, ma'am, she does not do that; she hours, and if I wished to pass the evening is a proud young lady, and I am sure she with Mrs. Carter, he would call for me on would not complain. She was very friendly his return and take me home.
with me, but she never told me much; and This suited me nicely; and I reached though I know she had very little money Knightsbridge a little after six o'clock. I left after her papa's funeral was paid for, found the old lady much better, and in she wanted to go on paying for the bedexcellent spirits. We had our tea, and room, though she did not use it, because she were discussing an excursion to Brigh- said I could not let a single room ; though, ton to visit some old acquaintances who indeed, if I could I would never have were so unfashionable as to remain at the thought of letting a stranger into the house se side in June, when Mrs. Devlin knocked with her, poor dear.” at the door, and on Aunt Anne's invitation " And when did her papa die, Mrs. Deventered. She had inquired how Mrs. Car- lin ?” asked Aunt Anne. ter felt, and was about taking her leave, “ Just a month before you came, ma'am,” when I said,
was the answer. Pray sit down, Mrs. Devlin : don't go There! it had come out, of course — the away. Mrs. Carter has just been speaking very thing I did not wish Mrs. Carter to of your kindness and attention ; and I am know; and it was of no vse to cast admoniglad to have an opportunity of thanking tory glances at Mrs. Devlin, for she was you. Do sit with us a little while." not looking at me, and besides, it was too
It was a deliciously-warm tranquil even- late now. Mrs. Carter did not appear to be ing. The front-windows were closed; but at all disconcerted; but asked me rather the large square casement in the back-room carelessly if I had not seen this young lady. was open, and the masses of almost motion- “ Oh yes, Aunt,” I said ; “ and I told you less fliage in the Park were plainly visible. how very beautiful I thought her — an eleThe light had hardly declined, but the gant creature indeed. I shall never forget beauty of evening had set in, and momen- her as she stood just where your sofa is, in tarily increased. I was sitting in one of the her black dress, – she looked so young and front-windows, my hands resting idly on my so mournful, and yet there was something lap as I gazed at the stirless trees in the strong and brave in her look; and I think distance. Suddenly a recollection crossed me she might be bright too, if she were but of the beautiful girl I had seen in the room happy." we were now sitting in; and I asked Mrs. “You are right, ma'am,” said Mrs. DevDevlin whether she had heard anything of lin. "She was bright enough when she first her late lodger since she went away, and if came here - for she had no notion then she knew whither she had gone.
that the Captain's illness was anything, se* Yes, ma’am,” said Mrs. Devlin. “I rious; and she was as gay as a lark, and for have heard from her twice ; such pretty let- ever singing — sometimes long beautiful ters too, poor dear soul! She thinks far too songs to the piano that she learned at school, much of the little I could do for her, and she told me and sometimes she mocking says she always remembers this house as the bird, and the bird mocking her, just like home. She is living with a lady near Lea- two playfellows. And I never heard such a mington. Very grand people they are, I reader: she would read to her papa for am sure; but I don't think they are over hours and hours, and never a roughness or kinil"
weakness in her voice. And laugh! It • Indeed I'm sure they are not,” said would do you good to hear her laugh: it did Aunt Anne from the sofa. " The woman's s good down there in the workroom, I can conduet about the bird is proof errongh of tell you. And while the poor Captain was that. Come here, Corporal Trim,” she able to go on with his painting, she would called to the shaggy terrier sleeping peace be playing or writing music all day, and fully upon the hearth-rug, who at her call keeping him company. Latterly, since he went up to her, wagging an indolent pro- was so bad, she did not go out at all, except for half an hour to morning-service at St. "forgotten now,' and no right to ask her, of Paul's over yonder. She used to say it did all people; 'and then gradually fell off asleep her good to say her prayers there, because with a great sigh. Just before he died I she had been there when she was a little think bis mind got easier. But whether he child, and had spent her holidays with her had any reason for being more easy I can't aunt, who lived in Wilton Place, while her say, for of course he knew she would have a papa was in India! How precious the poor welcome here always ; but that was nothing Captain was of her, to be sure ! how he did for a young lady like her, from a humble watch and think and trouble about her! person like me; so the comfort could not It makes me tremble now to think of it. have come from that. Anyhow some comAs long as he could get up he used to watch fort did come to him from somewhere, and ber crossing the street and going down it never went away again; and he died Wilton Place and into the church-porch ; quite peaceful one evening just at sunset, . and after he was no longer able, he asked after a sleep, as a person might settle themme to do so, and I did; and then I used to selves to sleep a little longer." tap at his room-door, and say “She's gone We had listened attentively to Mrs. Devin, sir;' and then he would be quite con- lin's story, and she had told it with an intent If the day were wet, I sent Hannah terest, an intensity of feeling which comwith an umbrella to fetch her home; and I pletely engrossed her. Now she said, “I always tried to prevent his knowing that it beg your pardon, ladies; I forgot you do rained. Many and many's the time I've not know Miss Winifred.” thought, when I've seen him so anxious and Oh, pray go on, Mrs. Devlin,” I said. restless, and watching her, how sore and I have seen her, you know; and am sure terrible the thought of what was to become Mrs. Carter is interested in her also. Are of her after he was gone must have been you not, Aunt Anne ?” to him. I don't know whether she ever “ Indeed I am, Margaret,” said the old thought of 'it; but she was so sensible, I am lady. “ You said she mentioned having sure she must: anyhow, she never said any- lived with an aunt for a time in her childthing like doubt or anxiety to him, I am hood, Mrs. Devlin. Did she not tell you
The very day the doctor told her the what had become of this relative ?” truth, though she was as white as marble, “ Yes, ma'am ; she told me she was dead. and lier sweet voice was so changed I bardly After the funeral, the lawyer wrote to Miss knew it when she came and asked me to Winifred that he would come to see her; stay with her father a little, until she had and he did, and was a long time with her. recovered herself, she was quite calm and When he was gone, she looked very ill and cheerful, and I heard her talking to him downcast, as I notice most people do when just as usual. I don't think he ever had they have been talking to lawyers.” any fret about money - I think he was Here Mrs. Devlin became slightly embarspared that, from something Miss Winifred rassed; but I reassured her, and declared told me after his funeral - but I am sure that I did not believe even James's clients all his trouble was that his child had no were improved in their spirits by his acfriends. I could not understand that, such quaintance. nice people as they were; but as I told you, “ Well, ma'am, you're very kind to say Mrs. Pennifold, no one but the doctor and so," she continued ; “but I beg your parthe attorney ever eame here, until the un- don all the same. However, she did look dertaker came.
When Miss Winifred took ill, and like one loaded with a fresh grief; this situation, she gave the doctor and the and then she told me that when the lawyer attorney for references; and said she to had examined into the poor Captain's afme, with such a sad smile, • You'll give me fairs, he found he had been heartlessly roba good character, if any one asks you, Mrs. bed by persons in England, to whom he had Devlin — you'll say I am sober, honest, trusted all his money - made out there and quiet, and can make myself generally among the blacks, where he was; and that useful?' and she laughed then just for they had gone on paying him the interest, half a minute, and give me a kiss. This, and he never suspecting that the capital I am sure, troubled the Captain very sorely was all gone; and now nothing could be Once he wrote a letter while Miss Winifred done, for they were men of straw,' the was at her dinner and I was sitting with lawyer said, and had just failed; and poor him; but he tore it up, and gave me the Miss Winifred could reco er nothing. pieces to burn in the kitchen-fire; and when : What a blessing dear pap? Jid not know he lay down again he whispered to himself, it!' said Miss Winifred. He fretted so and said, “No – no,' and something like much, -I know he did, -- at the idea of