Page images

stones and brickbats, by way of apology for demanding seventeen shillings, but there was a sweet promise about the venerable chest, which determined me on venturing, and I paid for, and received the charge. Day after day, and week after week passed over, but no explanatory letter arrived; and though the box was distinctly addressed to me, yet as it was securely locked and no key had been forwarded, I was deterred by scruples of delicacy, from opening it. I eyed it and examined it daily and curi. ously, and various and profound were my speculations. It was to be skept dry;” this argued papers or deeds within; but then the top was “to be kept uppermost," and I well knew that all the writings and deeds of the richest land-holders in the kingdom were hourly turned over in an attorney's office, without upsetting a title. My scruples might have restricted my curiosity for a twelvemonth, bnt for the seasonable visit of a fair damsel, who carried on the mystery of bonnet-making. She called on me one morning in considerable agitation; under such excitement indeed, that my professional dreams always haunting my sanguine imagination, took a new form, and

“breach of promise," with all its interesting details flitted before my eyes! I had almost instinctively rung my bell to dispatch a retainer to Serjeant Wilde, when, having recovered her breath, exhausted by the steepness of my stairs, the damsel exclaimed in a tone which showed that she had not by any means recovered her composure, “Pray Mr. Sharpe, if that be your name, why haven't you sent me Mrs. Rudall's bonnet ?”

“Simply because I have not received it, and have not the honor of knowing such a lady.”

“Well, now, that is strange! and isn't your name Sharpe? and ain't you an attorney of law? and don't you live at No. 10, in this here street?

“Precisely so, my good lady; but you seem to know ten times more about me than I do of you, or Mrs. Rudall either.”

She then drew a letter out of her pocket, and showing me the address, inquired if I knew the writing. I disclaimed all acquaintance with it. She returned it to her pocket, without reading a line of it, and saying there must be some strange mistake, and begging pardon for the intrusion, withdrew. IIere was new matter for curiosity, but my thoughts still fondly clinging at intervals, to the box, I began to penetrate the mystery, and without more hesitation, sent for a smith to open it. The first object that met my eye, was the unlucky bonnet, most carefully hedged round with papers and parchments to sustain it in its vertical position. I removed it with all possible care, and found deposited immediately beneath it, a letter addressed to myself, in an elegant female hand, on beautiful embossed paper, and slightly sealed with wax of celestial blue, impressed with Cupid retaining a dove by a silken cord.

“Mrs. Rudall presents her compliments to Mr. Gregory Sharpe, and begs permission to forward to him all her deeds and papers, being involved in a most cruel dispute with her landlord, and having heard from their mutual friend, the Rev. Mr. Fairfax, an old college acquaintance of Mr. Sharpe's, the highest testimony to his character and abilities. Mrs. Rudall will trouble Mr. Sharpe to allow some of his people to take the bonnet, which she has enclosed for safety in the box, to Madame Livorne. Mr. Sharpe will please to direct all possible care to be taken of the bonnet, and to

favor Mrs. Rudall with his opinion on her case, as early as possible, her landlord behaving like a brute, and being very troublesome!”

“P. S. Mrs. Rudall will be glad if Madame livorne can send home the bonnet by this day Week.”

Here was I in a pretty mess! the letter had no date or address; mere ornamental appendages in the opinion of most fair correspondents. More than a fortnight had already gone by. I had no certain clue to Madame Livorne, and as to the case, and the brute of a landlord, had I been Theseus himself, my lovely client had shown herself no Ariadne. I turned over the papers with a vengeance, but I could make nothing of them. I had lost sight of Fairfax for above seven years, and never knew more of him, than as a casual companion to take wine with. In short, I resolved to leave the affair to the chance of the tables, after making an honest and ineffectual attempt to trace the bonnetmaker

Another week elapsed, and to my relief, though somewhat also to my surprise, a lady drove up to my office door, sending up a tiger to beg that I would oblige her by stepping down to her carriage. I immediately obeyed; and a good - looking lady of some thirty years' date, and sweetly smiling a self-introduction, announced herself as Mrs. Rudall.

Have you got my bonnet, Mr. Sharpe?

“I have, madam, and several deeds and papers that came with it.”

“Oh, never mind the deeds and papers, they will keep till to-morrow; but how could you be so inconsiderate as to detain my bonnet?”

“Really, madam, had you told me where to send it, I would—”

“Why, I told you to Madame Livorne!”
“But you never told me where she lived."

“In St. James's street, to be sure; everybody knows where Madame Livorne lives;" laying a stress on the word “everybody," with something between a sneer and a tone of incredulity. I lisped out some nonsense about my professional distance from the world of fashion, and offered the amende honorable, by forthwith forwarding the bonnet to its destination; but this she declined, taking the precious charge upon herself; and at the same time promising to make an appointment to see me on “her case,” before she left town. I had the wit to ask her

« PreviousContinue »