Page images
PDF
EPUB

sighed as she noted her happy expression, and envied her good fortune.

The next day they drove again, in the same order, and Gilbert Manners told Teresa and Catherine Brand the story of the old woman who had curtsied to him at the door of the almshouses in the following words :

“Mary Winter is the name of this poor old creature, and though now so shrivelled and unprepossessing in her appearance, I am told that she was once the prettiest girl in this part of the country.

“ Her Father was a fisherman, and she was his only child. It appears that she was remarkable for her attachment to her parents, and was beld up as an example for filial affection to all ber young companions. When she was very young, a mutual attachment was formed between her and an industrious young man in the village; his means were much beyond hers, and he was accepted with delight by her father and mother.

“But there are evil spirits at work everywhere,

and even in this quiet village envy and malice had found a resting-place.

“Mary Winter had a female cousin, who lived near her father's house, and between this girl and herself there had always been an inimical feeling ; not that it was of Mary's seeking, but Lucy (the cousin), had from childhood, envied Mary for her beauty and attractive manners.

“It appears that Lucy was not handsome, but artful and clever. She also loved James, (Mary's intended), and when she discovered that he had proposed for this hated cousin, her rage knew no bounds, and she determined if possible to prevent the marriage from ever taking place.

“We all know that men are peculiarly open to flattery, and it seems that James was not a very steady character. It must have been by feeding his vanity that Lucy first won his attention from her cousin; but, however, that may have been, suffice it to say, that by degrees, James ceased to be so constant in his visits to his betrothed, and on Sundays he was often seen

walking with Lucy in the meadows and lanes. It was long before poor Mary Winter could bring herself to believe the numerous reports she heard of his infidelity, but at length to doubt was no longer possible. His manner towards herself grew cold and constrained, and one day her wicked cousin came running into her father's cottage, and telling her that James had made her an offer of marriage, called for her congratulations.

“ I was told that the poor deserted girl bore her sorrows like a heroine, for the sake of her parents, and she never could bear to hear any unkind word spoken against the being she had fondly loved, and could not learn to hate.

At length James married the artful wretch who had caused so much unhappiness, and, finding himself coldly looked upon in his native village, he soon left it with his wife, and was not heard of for some years.

“ In the meantime Mary's father was attacked by a violent complaint on his chest, which prevented him from going to sea as usual, and

plunged the family in poverty. Mary worked day and night to support her poor mother, and obtain medical advice and little luxuries for her invalid father. But a young and delicate female can do little towards earning a livelihood.

“ One evening, when Mary was unusually pale and exhausted, her father insisted on her taking a walk; the weather was lovely, and she returned refreshed and exhilarated to the invalid's room.

It was time to give him his evening draught; the shades of night shrouded the chamber, but Mary knew exactly where everything stood, and, reaching down the phial, she poured out and handed him his medicine; he drank it off, and, blessing her as usual, turned round to compose himself to sleep.

“ Mary then seated herself by the fire, and read for some time in her Bible, having lighted a candle. Suddenly her attention was aroused by faint moans issuing from the bed. Agitated and alarmed, she flew to the bedside, and, opening the curtains, held down the light to her father's face.

“ Heavens! what a sight appalled her heart! His eyes were wide open, but glazed, and strained, and terrible to behold; all his features worked fearfully, and his breast heaved with short, convulsive sobs. It was in vain that his unhappy daughter strove to arouse his attention. She called distractedly for help, and her mother came, and medical aid was summoned; but the instant that the apothecary saw him, he declared that hope was extinct, and that some mistake must have occurred in administering his medicine, as it was evident he was dying from the effects of poison.

Upon hearing these frightful words, Mary, with a haggard and glaring look, walked rapidly to the shelf whereon she usually kept the bottles of medicine ; one glance was sufficient, the evening draught was there untouched, and a bottle marked laudanum' was empty. Her mother, during her absence, had been arranging the room, and had changed their position.

Mary was then her father's murderess—she who would willingly have died to save him!

« PreviousContinue »