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find yourself out on't." And thereat he strutted out of the door, with such a villanous squint that it would have tickled the fancy of one at the point of death.
Master Francis, much amused at the oddity of the boy and his exceeding assurance, returned to his seat in monstrous good humour, to finish his account; but he had scarcely taken pen in hand, when, on hearing a noise, he turned round, and lol there was Gib's bandy legs again marching in.
“Stick to the women, I pray you, and you shall find your advantage in it," exclaimed he, with a very carnest seriousness, and immediately disappeared.
“Away with you l” cried Master Francis, scarcely knowing whether to laugh or to be angry. Then he applied himself to his task, and did finish it without further interruption. Presently his uncle was heard stumping along the passage with his stick, and in a few seconds he entered, looking very crabbed and savage.
“Hast done that account?" enquired he sharply. “Yes, uncle," replied the youth.
“Then take it to Master Ephraim Venture, the merchant in Thames Street, nigh unto Castle Baynard,” said the old man; “and be sure to press for payment for it be said that he hath had losses, therefore must be be looked aster. 'Sblood, an' he do not pay quickly I'll make him smart for't! Tell him I must and will have my mo
I will, uncle," responded the nephew, preparing with evident alacrity to start on his errand.
“And mind that thou tarry not," added he, “ for I have business for thee at home.”
“I will use all convenient speed," replied Master Francis, and in a minute after he was making the best of his way out of St. Mary Axe, right glad to get from the house, and as well pleased that the merchant's in Thames Street lay in the very direction to which his inclination most tended. On he proceeded in his way, taking no heed of the sober citizens speeding on their business, or even of their daughters, proud of a new kirtle or a dainty coif, shewing off their pretty coquetries to the gallants that came strolling along in their best braveries, mayhap carelessly humming a tune, or whispering a well-devised compliment as they passed, at the which none were very hugely offended I warrant you, for their brilliant eyes sparkled the more; and some smiled with exceeding pleasantness, and a few did take sly peeps over their shoulder to notice if they were followed; but giving himself up to the inconstant humour of his thoughtsnow hoping, now despairing—now filled with the passion of lovenow moved with the conceit of jealousy, he regarded nothing around him till he entered into Eastcheap. Then he was stirred up into a very proper consciousness of where he was—his heart began to beat most disturbedly—the paleness of his cheek made way for a flush of crimson, and his eye had gained a lustrousness that gave unto his gentle countenance a truly eloquent expression.
Passing by shops of divers kinds, and even taking no heed of the barber ehirurgeon's over the way, where his true friend, Harry Daring, was apprenticed, he at last made for one that was a mercer's, where the owner, a somewhat lusty old man with a lively roguish look, and an excellent jolly face, stood recommending to a customer sundry ells of three-piled velvet that lay before him, whom, seeing engaged, he stopped not to gossip with, but went on, as if it was his wont, to a little room at the back, where finding no one, he opened a door, and proceeded up a little flight of stairs close upon it, at the top of which there was another door, whereat, with his heart in a greater flutter than ever, he did knock gently with his knuckles; and hearing a voice, the soft tones of which he recognised with a most infinite delight, he uncovered and entered the room.
The chamber was rather low, and of a no great size, having a wainscot and floor of oak, with rasters very solid, running across the ceiling, and a window stretching out into the street. The furniture was substantial rather than elegant-such as might be seen in the houses of the better sort of citizens—yet was there a considerable shew of taste in many things, which spoke as plain as could any words, that a woman's graceful hand had had the ordering of them. There was no one therein but Joanna, who sat, or rather reclined, in an ample chair with arms, supporting her head by her hand, she wore an elegant dress of watchet colour, laced down the front, with a girdle of silver baudekin, at the which was a little pocket on one side. Her silken hair was artfully disposed, falling in a love lock on her delicate shoulder, and bound at the top in a network caul of gold. Her well shaped feet, were cased in a pair of dainty while stockings and velvet slippers, projecting out of her petticoat, with the heel of one resting upon the instep of the other, to the manifest disclosure of a most exquisite ancle. In this position, the well-defined outline of the ripened beauties of her figure were seen to great advantage, especially as the low, tight boddice then in the fashion, did excellently well display the full bust, and truly admirable neck and shoulder, the delicateness whereof have I not the cunning to describe, therefore will I leave it to the imagination of the courteous reader. She had evidently been a thinking; but whether pleasurable or otherwise, I have no means of knowing except this be taken as a sign, that when Master Francis first beheld her at that time, there was a severity in the loveliness of her countenance, tempered with a very touching melancholy.
"Joanna!" exclaimed the youth, lastening delightedly to her side, "I am here at thy desire, and truly to mine own most infinite gratification. But what aileth thee ?'' he enquired suddenly, in a tone of allectionate interest, as he noticed that the pleasureableness expressed in his own features was not reflected in hers. At the question, she . looked at him as with a careful scrutiny of his pale and thoughtful brow, but said never a word.
“Have I angered thee?” he asked, in a more subdued voice; and his
gaze became as melancholy as her own. Believe me I meant it not. In truth, I would rather die than anger thee.”
“No!" replied she to his question, with impressive tones and eloquent emphasis, “Thou hast not angered me.” And then the se
verity of her look much abating, added, with great stress on the words, “Thou hast never angered me.”
“Indeed I hope not,” said Master Francis earnestly. “But who or what hath made thee look so unhappy?"
“ Thou hast," she answered. “I!" exclaimed the youth with extreme surprise and sorrow. “What a wretch am I to have done it I and yet I know not how it could be ; for gratitude for thy never-tiring kindness doth prompt me at all times to do the very reverse. Tell me how it was, and instantly will I seek to undo the unsought-for mischief.”
Joanna silently took from the little pocket at her girdle a paper that she gave into his hands—the which he instantly opened, designing to read it, as such seemed to him to be her wish; but to his exceeding astonishment he discovered it to be the very poem he had written and lost from off the desk in his uncle's office. He stood like one that is detected in wrong-doing, unable to say aught for himself; yet, though he saw that his expostulation had done him mischief, knew he not what offence there could be in it.
“What made thee think I had ceased to love thee?” asked she, in a voice by no means angry, after she had watched for a sufficient time, his downcast eyes and modest confusion of countenance, as he stood before her.
“It seemed to me that thou dost regard another," replied Master Francis, tremulously.
“Whom?” enquired Joanna, with more earnestness, fixing on him a somewhat anxious and penetrating look.
“Ralph Goshawk,” answered he.
She remained silent for some few seconds, but a faint smile might have been observed about the corners of her beautiful mouth.
“In truth, I marvel thou couldst have entertained such a conception," said she at last.
“Dost thou not love him indeed ?” asked the youth, almost incredulously, as it were.
“Indeed I love him not," she replied.
“And dost regard me as kindly as thou wert used ?” he enquired more urgently, raising his eloquent eyes to her own.
“Methinks quite as kindly,” answered she.
“Dear, dear Joanna!” exclaimed Master Francis as he kneeled on one knee, and taking in his the disengaged hand that lay upon her lap, bowed his head till his lips rested thereon, and in that position remained. The melancholy expression of Joanna's countenance still was altered not; but there was now a tender interest in her dark eyes . as she gazed upon her youthful lover. Presently she raised herself in her position, and took his hand in both hers, very affectionately.
“Yet am I much hurt that thou shouldst doubt me,” said she; “I thought I had proved beyond question, how much I regarded thee above all others-perhaps with more carelessness than did become me. But knowing the innocency of mine intentions, and trusting in the modesty of thy disposition, I was content. Alack! 'tis a sad world I we cannot do right when we wish; and when we are satisfied of our conduct, there cometh some malicious tongue to slander our doings. None know the wickedness that exists—that poisons the air we breathe with a perpetual pestilence, and obliges us to do by craft what we cannot do by honesty. I have to endure many things that make me unhappy-very unbappy-I needed not such verses as thou hast written.”
As she concluded the sentence, he raised his head, and saw that she was wiping with her handkerchief a tear that did tremble on her eyelid.
“ Indeed, they shall trouble thee no more,” cried the youth, as he disengaged his land, and tore the paper into numberless small fragments; “and very heartily am I vexed that I should have given thee a moment's uneasiness. For what wonderful goodness, hast thou exhibited towards me;—the like of which surely was never known! Truly I must have behaved most unnaturally to have vexed thee in this manner; and I'll never forgive mysell, is thou wilt not forgive me." And then, most sorrowful in heart, he hid his face upon her lap.
"I have forgiven thee," said she, affectionately twining her fingers in the light curls of his chesnut hair; “ but take not such fancies into thy head again; be content with the assurances thou art continually receiving of how much I regard thec, and think nothing of whatever else may seem of a different tendency. Nothing can be so sure as that, whilst thou art worthy, thou wilt he beloved.” Master Francis was too much enraptured to reply; and in this position they remained for some minutes —she bending over him, with her dark hazel eyes softened into tenderness; and he impressel so deeply with the subduing spirit of the moment, that he would not, or cared not to move from where he was,
Joanna haying at last taken away her hands to enclasp his, he raised his head, and looking into her face, very fondly, yet with a touch of regret, said,-“ But why hast thou denied me those most sweet caresses thou didst use to grant ?"
“Truly I am not in the mood on all occasions,” replied she, in rather a sad tone of voice; “there are remembrances I cannot obliterate when I would, that come upon me at times, and make me regardless of all except the discomfort they bring. It would be but a mockery to caress thee under such circumstances ; and indeed, though I may often seem gay-hearted-forgetting for a time the unpleasantness of the past, in the enjoyments of the present;-yet, when awakened to recollection—which is no difficult matter,—there lives not a creature on this earth so truly wretched as am I. Be content then with the pleasure I can grant when I may be in the humour, and seek not, when the time is not auspicious, to increase my disquietude by ill-timed importunity."
“I will not," replied he; “but wilt thou do so ever again ?” he asked, as if almost afraid to put the question.
"I will,” she answered, with apparent unaffectedness.
“Dear Joanna, but wilt thou do so soon ?” he enquired, more impressively.
“I will," said she.
“ Exquisite Joannal but wilt thou do so now ?” he asked, with still greater emphasis.
It would be unveiling the sweet mysteries of affection, to describe the endearments that blessed the reconciliation of these devoted lovers. There throbbeth not a heart in the wide world, that hath been touched by the generous influence of true love, but hath played its part in the same drama, and can, from the fond prompting of the memory, imagine the entrancing scene more vividly than could I describe the acting of it. Methinks, too, that the development of those delicious influences that make humanity angelic, should be kept sacred from the vulgar eye; else might the selfish and the profligate find matter in it for idle speculation, or licentious conjecture. Pity it is that there should be any in whom the better part of their natures hath vanished, like the sap of a decaying tree, and vanity making them believe all to be like unto themselves, in the green freshness of fairer plants, they can see naught but their own hollowness and worthlessness. I know that, by the generous and truehearted, what I should relate would be rightly interpreted; but no writer is so fortunate as to meet with all readers of such a sort.
The affection which existed betwixt Joanna and Master Francis, had in it this peculiar feature, that the former had so much the seniority of her lover, it invested her with an evident controlling power over him. She appeared as though uniting in her behaviour the authority of a careful guardian with the fondness of a devoted woman, and sometimes it appeared as if some strange interest bound her to the youth, of so deep a tenderness, as was marvellously like unto that of a parent. In truth, it was a strange thing to behold a creature so exquisitely fashioned, having much the outward appearance of one existing only for, and in the enjoyment of the most passionate worship of the opposite sex, seeming, with a delicacy the purest nature could never have excelled, so virtuously to conduct herself, as proved all the sterling excellence of womanhood was manifest in her actions; whilst the enamoured youth that knelt before her, dumb with excess of modesty, and overpowered with the intensity of his admiration, regarded her with such an enthusiasm in his delighted gaze, tempered with so profound a respect, as plainly shewed he loved with the purity of heart, and earnestness of purpose, which belong only to that age and disposition that exist in the enjoyment of a perfect innocency.
“ Dear heart,” exclaimed he, after a long, yet very eloquent silence, “it seemeth to me exceeding strange that when I sit me down to write of thee, all admirable thoughts, like the bees hastening to the sweet blossoms, come crowding to be penned; but when with my lips I would essay to breathe into thine ear aught of what rare pleasure I experience from the continual influence of thy unbounded goodness, such words as I have at command are so little to the purpose, that I am forced to a seeming ungrateful silence; yet am I most gratefully bound to thee. Thou art my guardian angel, and in earnest truth, most exquisite Joanna, my heart ever yearneth to pour out its spirit in thanksgiving for thy unceasing kindness."
He received no reply, unless it was conveyed in a more evident