Page images
PDF
EPUB

for the love of contradiction, plunged deeper into it than she was aware, endeavoured to extricate herself by new arts, or to cover her error by dissimulation, became involved in meshes of her own weaving, and was forced to carry on, for fear of discovery, machinations which she had at first resorted to in mere wantonness.

Fortunately the young man whom she so imprudently introduced into her intimate society, and encouraged to look up to her daughter, had a fund of principle and honest pride, which rendered him a safer intimate than Mrs. Mannering ought to have dared to hope or expect. The obscurity of his birth could alone be objected to him; in

every
other

respect,
With prospects bright upon the world he came,
Pure love of virtue, strong desire of fame;
Men watched the way his losty mind would take,

And all foretold the progress he would make. But it could not be expected that he should resist the spare which Mrs. Mannering's imprudence threw in his way, or avoid becoming attached to a young lady, whose beauty and manners might have justified his passion, even in scenes where these are more generally met with, than in a remote fortress in our Indian settlements. The scenes which followed have been partly detailed in Mannering's letter to Mr. Mervyn; and to expand what is there stated into farther explanation, would be to abuse the patience of our readers.

We shall, therefore, proceed with our promised extracts from Miss Mannering's letters to her friend.

SIXTH EXTRACT. “I have seen him again, Matilda - seen him twice. I have used every argument to convince him that this secret intercourse is dangerous to us both - I even pressed him to pursue his views of fortune without farther regard to me, and to consider my peace of mind sufficiently secured by the knowledge that he had not fallen under my father's sword. He answers

but how can I detail all he has to answer? he claims those hopes as his due which my mother permitted him to entertain, and would persuade me to the madness of a union without my father's sanction. But to this, Matilda, I will not be persuaded. I have resisted, I have

subdued the rebellious feelings which arose to aid his plea; yet how to extricate myself from this unhappy labyrinth, in which fate and folly have entangled us both!

“I have thought upon it, Matilda, till my head is almost giddy - nor can I conceive a better plan than to make a full confession to my father. He deserves it, for his kindness is unceasing; and I think I have observed in his character, since I have studied it more nearly, that his harsher feelings are chiefly excited where he suspects deceit or imposition; and in that respect, perhaps, his character was formerly misunderstood by one who was dear to him. He has, too, a tinge of romance in his disposition; and I have seen the narrative of a generous action, a trait of heroism, or virtuous self-denial, extract tears from him, which refused to flow at a tale of mere distress. But then, Brown urges, that he is personally hostile to him And the obscurity of his birth that would be indeed a stumbling-block. O Matilda, I hope none of your ancestors ever fought at Poictiers or Agincourt! If it were not for the veneration which my father attaches to the memory of old Sir Miles Mannering, I should make out my explanation with half the tremor which must now attend it."

SEVENTH EXTRACT. “I have this instant received your letter

your most welcome letter! Thanks, my dearest friend, for your sympathy and your counsels - I can only repay them with unbounded confidence.

“You ask me, what Brown is by origin, that his descent should be so unpleasing to my father. His story is shortly told. He is of Scottish extraction, but, being left an orphan, his education was undertaken by a family of relations, settled in Holland. He was bred to commerce, and sent very early to one of our settlements in the East, where his guardian had a correspondent. But this correspondent was dead when he arrived in India, and he had no other resource than to offer himself as a clerk to a counting-house. The breaking out of the war, and the straits to which we were at first reduced, threw the army open to all young men who were disposed to embrace that mode of life; and Brown,

whose genius had a strong military tendency, was the first to leave what might have been the road to wealth, and to choose that of fame. The rest of his history is well known to you: but conceive the irritation of my father, who despises commerce, (though, by the way, the best part of his property was made in that honourable profession by my great-uncle,) and has a particular antipathy to the Dutch; think with what ear he would be likely to receive proposals for his only child from Vanbeest Brown, educated for charity by the house of Vanbeest and Vanbruggen! O Matilda, it will never do nay, so childish am I, I hardly can help sympathizing with his aristocratic feelings. Mrs. Vanbeest Brown! The name has little to recommend it, to be sure. What children we are!”

EIGHTH EXTRACT. “It is all over now, Matilda! I shall never have courage to tell my father - nay, most deeply do I fear he has already learned my secret from another quarter, which will entirely remove the grace of my communication, and ruin whatever gleam of hope I had ventured to connect with it. Yesternight, Browo came as usual, and his flageolet on the lake announced his approach. We had agreed, that he should continue to use this signal. These romantic lakes attract numerous visitors, who indulge their enthusiasm in visiting the scenery at all hours, and we hoped, that if Brown were noticed from the house, he might pass for one of those admirers of nature, who was giving vent to his feelings through the medium of music. The sounds might also be my apology, should I be observed on the balcony. But last night, while I was eagerly enforcing my plan of a full confession to my father, which he as earnestly deprecated, we heard the window of Mr. Mervyn's library, which is under my room, open softly. I signed to Brown to make his retreat, and immediately reentered, with some faint hopes that our interview had not been observed.

“But, alas! Matilda, these hopes vanished the instant I beheld Mr. Mervyn's countenance at breakfast the next morning. He looked so provokingly intelligent and confidential, that, had I dared, I could have been more angry than ever I was in my life;

[ocr errors]

but I must be on good behaviour, and my walks are now limited, within his farm precincts, where the good gentleman can amble along by my side without inconvenience. I have detected him once or twice attempting to sound my thoughts, and watch the expression of my countenance. He has talked of the flageolet more than once; and has, at different times, made eulogiums upon

the watchfulness and ferocity of his dogs, and the regularity with which the keeper makes his rounds with a loaded fowling-piece. He mentioned even man-traps and spring-guns. I should be loth to affront my father's old friend in his own house; but I do long to show him that I am my father's daughter, a fact of which Mr. Mervyn will certainly be convinced, if ever I trust my voice and temper with a reply to these indirect hints. Of one thing I am certain - I am grateful to him on that account he has not told Mrs. Mervyn. Lord help me, I should have had such lectures about the dangers of love, and the night air on the lake, the risk arising from colds and fortune-hunters, the comfort and convenience of sack-whey and closed windows! - I cannot help trifling, Matilda, though my heart is sad enough. What Brown will do I cannot guess. I presume, however, the fear of detection prevents his resuming his nocturnal visits. He lodges at an inn on the opposite shore of the lake, under the name, he tells me, of Dawson - He has a bad choice in names, that must be allowed. He has not left the army, I believe, but he says nothing of his present views.

"To complete my anxiety, my father is returned suddenly, and in high displeasure. Our good hostess, as I learned from a bustling conversation between her housekeeper and her, had no expectation of seeing him for a week; but I rather suspect his arrival was no surprise to his friend Mr. Mervyn. His manner to me was singularly cold and constrained - sufficiently so to have damped all the courage with which I once resolved to throw myself on his generosity. He lays the blame of his being discomposed and out of humour to the loss of a purchase in the southwest of Scotland, on which he had set his heart; but I do not suspect his equanimity of being so easily thrown off its balance. His first excursion was with Mr. Mervyn's barge across the lako,

Lo the inn I have mentioned. You may imagine the agony with which I waited his return - Had he recognized Brown, who can guess the consequence! He returned, however, apparently without having made any discovery. I understand, that, in consequence of his late disappointment, he means now to hire a house in the neighbourhood of this same Ellangowan, of which I am doomed to hear so much he seems to think it probable that the estate for which he wishes may soon be again in the market. I will not send away this letter until I hear more distinctly what are his intentions."

“I have now had an interview with my father, as confidential as, I presume, he means to allow me. He requested me to-day, after breakfast, to walk with him into the library; my knees, Matilda, shook under me, and it is no exaggeration to say, I could scarce follow him into the room. I feared I knew not what From my childhood I had seen all around him tremble at his frown. He motioned me to seat myself, and I never obeyed a command so readily, for, in truth, I could hardly stand. He himself continued to walk up and down the room. You have seen my father, and noticed I recollect, the remarkably expressive cast of his features. His eyes are naturally rather light in colour, but agitation or anger gives them a darker and more fiery glance; he has a custom also of drawing in his lips, when much moved, which implies a combat between native ardour of temper and the habitual power of self-command. This was the first time we had been alone since his return from Scotland, and, as he betrayed these tokens of agitation, I had little doubt that he was about 10 enter upon the subject I most dreaded.

“To my unutterable relief, I found I was mistaken, and that whatever he knew of Mr. Mervyn's suspicions or discoveries, he did not intend to converse with me on the topic. Coward as I was, I was inexpressibly relieved, though if he had really investigated the reports which may have come to his ear, the reality could have been nothing to what his suspicions might have conceived. But, though my spirits rose high at my unexpected escape, I had not

« PreviousContinue »