Abbildungen der Seite

be always consuming my substance or mis-spending my time; I would I were well rid of him. Francis, I say! Here have I been bawling about the house for the better part of an hour searching for him—the graceless vagrant. Francis !"

Francis !” Thus he went on, growling and grumbling, and poking into every hole and corner, with a physiognomy most unnaturally crabbed, and a voice feeble and shrewish. At last he sat himself down on the stool, laid aside his stick, and began examining the loose papers on the desk; first putting on a pair of cracked spectacles, to assist his sight. Besides being short and old

—that is, of some sixty years or more—he was of a marvellous spare body; and his sharp nose and pointed chin, small eyes and saturnine complexion, did not appear to more advantage, surrounded by a scanty beard that had become quite grizzled by age. His attire was of the homeliest-nay, it gave evidence of more than ordinary thrift--for his trunks were patched, and his hose were darned, and his shoes would have looked all the better had they been indebted to the craft of the cordwainer. As for his doublet it was of a most ancient fashion, and though the cloth was originally a Lincoln green, it had become, by long use, and exposure to all sorts of weathers, more resembling the dingy hue of a smoked rafter.

As he scrutinised the papers, he broke out into such vehement ejaculations as these.

“This account not finished! Here's a villainous neglect of my interests ! Here's a shameful contempt of my authority! Here's flat contradiction and horrible ingratitudel Oh, the abominable and most pestilent knave! whilst he eats me out of house and home-costs me a world and all in tailoring and other charges-he leaveth my business to take care of itself. But what have we here ?” he exclaimed, as he commenced examining a paper that had evidently been concealed amongst the others. “ Verses, or I'm a heathen !” cried he in a tone of consternation. “Nay, if he takes to such evil courses, it must needs come to hanging.” Whilst he was intent upon perusing with angry exclamations the contents of the object that had excited his displeasure, he suddenly felt a hand upon his shoulder, and turning round with no small degree of alarm impressed upon his unamiable features, he observed a young female—by her dress probably of the middle ranks. She wore on the back of her head a small velvet hat, from under which escaped several long dark tresses, that, parted in the front, set ofl' to great advantage a right comely face, of a very rich complexion, which was made infinitely more attractive, by a pair of delicate dark hazel eyes, peculiarly seductive in their expression. Her age might be somewhat beyond twenty; for her form was fully rounded, and moulded into the most excellent proportions, which were admirably apparelled in a neat boddice and a dainty farthingale. In truth, she was a damsel possessed of all the perfections of womanhood.

You sweet rogue, how you frightened me!" exclaimed the old man; the surprise and alarm he had exhibited in his countenance now giving place to pleasure and admiration, as he gazed upon the smiling beauty before him.

“But what hath so put your temper into vital jeopardy, good Gregory Vellum ?" added she coaxingly, as she leaned over his shoulder, seemingly the better to observe the writing he held in his hand.

“Marry, matter enough, sweetest,” replied he; "that undutiful and most hardened reprobate, my nephew-a plague on all parents that cannot provide for their own offspring, say I-unmindful of the great expenses he hath put me to, not only leaves my business unattended, whenever I am not watching his movements, but passeth the times he should employ for my advantages in destroying my paper, pens, and ink, in scribbling a whole host of pernicious verses.'

“Oh, the profligate!" cried the other, as if marvelling greatly; but still stretching out her pretty neck to see what was written on the paper.

“I am glad to find that you regard his atrocious wickedness with a proper detestation,” repeated the other. “But that be not the worst of his villany. Only think of the pestilent varlet robbing me of these fine bits of candle, which in my search for him a moment since I found secreted away in his chamber.” And thereupon, with a look of terrible indignation, he brought out of his vest, carefully wrapt up in an old rag, three candle-ends, each about an inch long.

“What wonderful iniquity !” exclaimed she, giving a hasty glance at the contents of the rag, and then again quickly fixing her gaze upon

the paper.

“Ay, that is it with a vengeance," replied the old man. “Now, he stealeth these pieces of candle-a murrain on him for his abominable dishonesty-and burneth them when I, his too indulgent uncle, am fast asleep; and there he sits, wearing out the night in studying a most unprofitable lot of heathenish books. But take this trumpery and read it, Mistress Joanna, for he writes such an unnatural fine hand that my poor eyes ache with looking at it.”

The fair Joanna took the paper somewhat eagerly, and without a second summons or a word of reply, stood before the old man, and, as he wiped his spectacles and put them away, and carefully folded up the candle ends, she read what follows.



Having so oft and fondly sung thy praise,

I find I cannot thy defects pourtray; My pen is ready for most fatt'ring lays,

But censures not: it knoweth not the way. Thou, to my heart, hast given deep offence, Yet see I in thee naught but excellence.

'Tis passing strange-but pity 'tis too true!

Thy goodness towards me doth seem to halt;
Things manifold thou dost unkindly do

Which pain me much-yet know I not thy fault;
For ev'ry day thou heapest on me wrongs
Find'st thou a perfect creature in my songs.
Wherefore is this?”Tis thus--no long time since

Each day, each hour, each moment found me blest; All the fond love thy nature could evince,

All the sweet goodness of thy gentle breast, ,

Didst thou in pure devotion render mine,
To teach me what of earth was most divine.

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

As a rude heathen who to stock and stone

Prostrates his soul in worship--when he knows
The Truth that reigns almighty and alone,

He evermore with the true worship bows;
My idols I cast down, and knelt and prayed
Where, I knew well, my hopes of Heaven were laid.
Then bountifully were thy blessings showered;

And I, the sole receptacle they sought,
Have known my grateful spirit overpowered

’Neath the delighting burthens thou hast brought,
Oft didst thou say thou could’st love none but me;
And much I strived to be worthy thee.
But now—unhappy chance that brought this turn!

Thou dost deny me with excuses weak
The fondnesses for which my soul doth yearn,

And dost within another's eyeballs seek
The charm, the spirit, and the joy that shone
In my rapt gaze reflected from thine own!
Nothing thou doest doth my eyes escape;

I know thy purposes--thy thoughts behold:
Alas, that they should often take a shape

Which multiplies my cares a thousand fold !
Alas, that thou art changed !-alas, indeed,
A plant so fair should bear such worthless seed!
But these stern words on thee must never fall;

'Tis my unlucky fortune that's to blame, In my own heart I censure not at all;

For all thy goodnesses such footing claim, That thy unkindnesses there find no place There is no room for things that seem so base. Cease I to be of value in thy sight ?

The worth I owned hath vanished utterly:
The pebbles upon which thy feet alight

To me more estimable seem than 1;
For as the moon doth borrow all her shine,
My worthiness hath had its source in thine.

[ocr errors]

Fault none of mine is it that I am not

So precious as thy love hath made me seem;
Thou prized me then for worth I had not got;

And now thou dost my meed too lowly deem:
Yet if thou thinkest me such sort as this,
Am I the very poorest thing that is.
I know not why that thou should’st now preser

Another to a heart so much thine own:
I'd say no more if it were worthier,

But doubt I much it love like mine hath known.
Oh, would I could forget that thou wert kind,
Or thou would'st act more truly to my mind !

Remember this--the threat'ning cataract

That loudest roars, is use for no man's hands; And ’mid thy mind's best stores retain this fact

The humblest waters may have golden sands: Then scorn not thou the lowliest things that toil.-; The treasures of the earth are in the soil.


“Flat disobedience and rank atheism !” exclaimed the old man, after he had listened with evident impatience to the perusal of the poem—“Didst ever hear of such heathenish notions? not to say that I understand it-I'd rather be hanged than understand any such villany. But what think you of it, Mistress Joanna? I see the horrible impiety of it hath quite discomposed you." In truth, what Gregory Vellum had stated, was nigh unto the

for Joanna had quickly discovered that the verses she was reading were written for her, and intended for her eye alone; and as the allusions they contained struck upon her mind, her changing colour denoted how much she was moved by them. When she came to the end she was, for a few minutes, utterly disconcerted. She seemed lost in a maze of conflicting thoughts; her brow became dark, and her eyes fixed, and so completely had she given herself up to her own reflections, that she heard not the question that had been put to her.

“What say you, sweetheart ?” said he familiarly, laying his hand upon her shoulder. Doth not your hair stand on end to see how he misuseth me? Why, he costs me a matter of a groat a week for his diet-for he hath the appetite of two carriers-and then --the caitiff! to be robbing me in this monstrous manner, when candles are threepence to the pound-and to be scribbling his preposterous atrocities when stationary is at so high a cost. By my troth he hath no more virtue than an addled egg! But what think you of the verses ?

“Sad stuff, Master Vellum,” she replied, having perfectly recovered from her confusion; “but be assured there is no harm in them. I think he ought not to be encouraged in these practices; so I will e'en take the paper with me, and tear it to pieces as I go along."

“Ah, do, good Joanna! shew upon it proper detestation of such thorough and most inconceivable villany," said he, as he observed her take possession of the poem. “But I must turn the rogue out of doors; he will ruin me straight an I do not; and I would as lief live among savages as exist with a knave who plundereth me by wholesale of such estimable candles' ends, and destroys me so many fair sheets of paper in inditing matters it would be a scandal to understand.”

“Nay, good Master Vellum," observed his fair companion, “do not be so harsh with him. He is but young; and boys have a natural tendency for the perpetration of these offences. When he attaineth the becoming gravity of his uncle, he will give over all such primitive delinquencies."

“Dost think so, sweetest ?” enquired the old man eagerly, as, with a most preposterous leer, he thrust his ungraceful countenance close to her beautiful face. “You are a woman of admirable discretion, and of a truly excellent fancy. Dost despise these raw youths; and could'st affect a man of more mature years ?”

“Ay, marry, and why not?” enquired she very innocently.

“You are a most excellent wench!” exclaimed he with unaffected delight, as he seemed to feast his eyes upon the graces of her countenance-one of ten thousand. Think you, you could rest content with an old man-nay, one not so old either—who would never be gadding from you like your young gallants, none of whom are ever to be trusted out of sight, but would nourish you, and cherish you, and fondle you, and make much of you, and none but you; and make you mistress of all his gold, his house, and chattels ?"

“Ay, marry, why should I not?" repeated she in the same tone.

“Then you shall have me, sweetheart!” cried the old man in an ecstacy; and seeming, by the unsteady movement of his hands, with great difficulty to refrain from throwing his arms round her neck. “I have loved you for some months, sweetest! and all the little gifts I have bestowed upon you, were to shew you how enamoured I was of your most blessed condition. And I will tell you a secret my love! my dovel my angel !--my paragon of womanhood !" continued he, fidgetting about, and gloating upon her with his lack-lustre eyes as if he were bewitched. “Although I seem so poor-yet am I richer than I seem. Ay, am I. I have store of gold—bright yellow gold! Hush, there's no one listening, is there?” he all at once exclaimed, as, fearing he had said too much, he gave a restless glance around the room.

“Not a soul,” replied Joanna, still retaining the same unmoved countenance.

“Yes, sweetheart," he continued, every now and then giving a suspicious glance about him, “I have saved, and scraped, and hoarded up a goodly store of wealth, the result of infinite painstaking, and exceeding self-denial; and you shall enjoy it; you, my life, my queen! Oh, how I long to hug you in my most fond embrace.”

“Softly, softly, Gregory Vellum," exclaimed she, quietly disengaging his arms from her neck; for, unable any longer to resist his impatient wishes, he had endeavoured, as our great dramatist hath it, to suit the action to the word. “Modest maids are not to be won in such boisterous fashion, and it little becometh the respectability of your deportment to exhibit such unseemly violence. As for your love, you must prove it by something besides words. You have professed for some time to be hugely taken with me; but all professions are naught when unaccompanied by that which proveth their value. You are right liberal in promises, but your performance, as yet, hath been but scanty. If you have such store of gold as you talk of” –

• Hush! hush! not so loud, I prythee, sweetheart," whispered the old man, going cautiously to the door, on tiptoe, opening, and looking out, and closing it carefully after him.

Of a surety you would act more generously towards me than you have yet done," continued Joanna, without attending to the interruption; "your true lovers are always bountiful. Now there is a certain Venetian chain

“Ay, 'tis of gold, and of most admirable workmanship,” exclaimed Gregory Vellum, “it cost me fifty crowns, or I'm a villanous Jew. I did promise it you, I remember well; but if it please you, sweetest," continued the old man, sidling up to her, and leering in her face," it shall be yours for a kiss.-Accept you the conditions ?


« ZurückWeiter »