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four or five-and-twenty years since, I have heard you too often describe the scene with comic unction, to hope you will be deterred from making the purchase. I trust, however, the hospitable gossiping Laird has not run himself upon the shallows, and that his chaplain, whom you so often made us laugh at, is still in rerum natura.
" And here, dear Mannering, I wish I could stop, for I have incredible pain in telling the rest of my story, although I am sure I can warrant you against any in. tentional impropriety on the part of my temporary ward, Julia Mannering. But I must still earn my college nickname of
Downright Dunstable.' In one word then, here is the matter.
“ Your daughter has much of the ro. mantic turn of your disposition, with a little of that love of admiration which all pretty women share less or more. She will besides, apparently, be your heiress ; a trifling circumstance to those who view Julia with my eyes, but a prevailing bait to the specious, artful, and worthless. You know how I have jested with her about her soft melancholy, and lonely walks at morning before any one is up, and in the moon-light when all should be gone to bed, or set down to cards, which is the same thing. The incident which follows may not be beyond the bounds of a joke, but I had rather the jest came from you than me. .
“ Two or three times during the last fortnight, I heard, at a late hour in the night, or very early in the morning, a fiageolet play the little Hindu tune to which your daughter is so partial. I thought for some time that some tuneful domestic, whose taste for music was laid under constraint during the day, chose that silent hour to imitate the strains which he had caught up by the ear during his attendance in the drawing-room. But last night I sat late in my study, which is immediately under Miss Bertram's apartment, and, to my surprise, I not only heard the flageo
let distinctly, but satisfied myself that it came from the lake under the window. Curious to know who serenaded us at that unusual hour, I stole softly to the window of my apartment. But there were other watchers than 1. You may remember, Miss Mannering preferred that apartment on account of a balcony which opened from her window upon the lake. Well, sir, I heard the sash of her window thrown up, the shutters opened, and her own voice in conversation with some person who answered from below. This is not • Much ado about nothing;' I could not be mistaken in her voice, and such tones, so soft, so insinuating-And, to say the truth, the accents from below were in passion's tenderest cadence too-But of the sense I can say nothing. I raised the sash of my own window that I might hear something more than the mere murmur of this Spanish rendezvous, but, though I used every precaution, the noise alarmed the speakers; down slid the young lady's casement, and the shutters were barred in an instant. The dash of a pair of oars in the water announced the retreat of the male person of the dialogue. Indeed, I saw his boat, which he sculled with great swiftness and dexterity, fly across the lake like a twelve-oared barge. Next morning I examined some of my domestics, as if by accident, and I found the gamekeeper, when making his rounds, had twice seen that boat beneath the house, with a single person, and had heard the flageolet. I did not care to press any farther questions, for fear of implicating Julia in the opinions of those at whom they might be asked. Next morning at breakfast, I dropped a casual hint about the serenade of the evening before, and I promise you, Miss Mannering looked red and pale alternately. I immediately gave the circumstance such a turn as might lead her to suppose that my observation
and have left the shutters open, to deter the approach of our nocturnal guest; and I have stated the severity of approaching winter, and the rawness of the fogs, as an objection to solitary walks. Miss Mannering acquiesced with a passiveness which is no part of her character, and which, to tell you the plain truth, is a feature about the business which I like least of all. Julia has too much of her own dear papa's disposition to be curbed in any of her humours, were there not some little lurking consciousness that it may be as prudent to avoid debate.
“Now my story is told, and you will judge what you ought to do. I have not mentioned the matter to my good woman, who, a faithful secretary to her sex's foibles, would certainly remonstrate against your being made acquainted with these particulars, and might, instead, take it into her head to exercise her own eloquence on Miss Mannering; a faculty, which, however powerful when directed against me,