Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

With every kind wish for your health and happiness, in which it is not your friends and

relations that alone are interested,

Believe me,

MADAM,
Your very obliged,

And obedient servant,

THE AUTHOR.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Young, beautiful, and highly accomplished, few persons partook more largely of the gifts of nature and education than Eliza Rivers. To these cominonly prized possessions she added, from fortune's favour, a competence for most of the comforts of life, and, in the opinion of the world, that is to say, that part of it which inhabited the village of Fairfield, and the neighbouring town of Belton, she must be, if it were not her own fault, the happiest being in exjstence.

There were, indeed, many moments of glowing enthusiasm when she felt a

[blocks in formation]

capability of happiness; but the

permanent enjoyment of a composed mind, willing to believe that calm tranquillity is all the felicity that the frailty of human nature can firmly grasp, or steadily retain, she spurned with all the ardour and inexperience of nineteen.

She was an orphan; both her parents died while she was yet an infant, and the care of her devolved to her only surviving relative, her grandmother by her father's side.

Mrs. Rivers was a religious and worthy woman; but not exactly qualified to do justice to the superior abilities of her young charge. She placed her at a fashionable school near London, from whence she returned to her in her seventeenth

year, with many brilliant and fashionable acquirements, and with an elegance and delicacy of taste in her pursuits, which a strong sentiment of disdain for affectation and false refinement had preserved in all its purity.

The darling of her aged relative, Eliza, had resided with her two years, doing what she pleased, uncontrolled and unadvised ; for, added to the indolence of age, Mrs. Rivers was of a timid, retiring temper, unequal in every respect to oppose the impetuosity of Eliza's character with the firm and skilful management it required. Trite and homely observations upon the necessity of subduing our passions, and conquering our corrupt inclinations, were occasionally introduced; but the poor lady found them of such little use, that she only continued to propose them, to satisfyherself that, if Eliza did wrong, it was not for want of being told what was right.

But the time was approaching, when Eliza was to be warned of her imperfections by a monitor, whose appeals are always solemn and affecting. It was by the side of a death-bed that, for the first time, she seriously reflected upon the manner in which nineteen years of her

[ocr errors]

life had fitted like a dream away, and left her without one remembrance that she could wish to retain, to cheer ber in her own last hours. Mrs. Rivers, in her last illness, and speaking to her with a voice already broken and changed by the approach of death, seemed to her an awful being ; and though her admonitions were few and simple, from the circumstances under which they were given, they pierced to the inmost soul of Eliza. Willing to repair, as far as she was able, her past faults, she gave herself wholly up to attendance

her grandmother. Never was an invalid more tenderly nursed, more carefully watched. In the exuberance of repentant feeling, she would almost have yielded her own life to rescue from the grave a friend, of whose value and kindness she acknowledged, with tears of contrition, her impatient temper had too often rendered her insensible. Too often had the flippant reply followed the affectionate remonstrance; too often, in the vigour

upon

« PreviousContinue »