Abbildungen der Seite

mised an afternoon next week, to meet “a few friends,' -that is the term, I believe,—but not Mrs. Nippers.

Among those whom I invited to partake our strawberries and cream on the occasion, were Mr. Cathcart and his beautiful wife, English neighbours from a little vine-clad cottage on the hill west of our village ; much older residents than the Brents, who had not yet been a year in our vicinity. Mrs. Cathcart is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, and certainly a very charming one in all respects, at least to me, who do not dislike a good share of spirit and energy in a lady. Her spouse, though far different, has his good points, and can make himself agreeable enough when he is in the humour; which sometimes occurs, though not often. He is at least twenty years older than his lady, and as ugly as she is handsome, and horribly jealous, I say it myself, of every thing and every body which or whom Mrs. Cathcart may chance to look at or speak to, or take an interest in, gentle or simple, animate or in. animate. It is really pitiable sometimes to see the poor man grin in the effort to suppress the overboiling of his wrath, for he is a very polite person, and generally says the most disagreeable things with a smile.

These neighbours of ours are persons of tastetaste in pictures, in music, in books, in flowers; and thus far they are well mated enough. But there are certain glances and tones which betray to the most careless observer that there are points of difference, behind the scenes at least; and little birds have whispered that after Mrs. Cathcart had spent the morning in transplanting flowers, training her honeysuckles and eglan. tines, and trimming the turf seats which are tastefully disposed round their pretty cottage, Mr. Cathcart has been seen to come out and destroy all she had been do. ing ; ploughing up the neat flower-beds with his knife, tearing down the vines, and covering the turf sofas with gravel. And the same little birds have added, that when Mr. Cathcart, sated with mischief, turned to go into the house again, he found the front-door fastened, and then the back-door fastened ; and after striding about for some time till his bald head was well nigh fried, he was fain to crawl in at the little latticed window, and then

but further these deponents say not. Well! our little strawberry party was to consist of these English neighbours and some others, and I made due provision of the fragrant rubies, and all the et-ceteras of a rural tea-visit. Roses of all hues blushed in my vases

-a-hem ! they were not pitchers, for the handles were broken off,

and forests of asparagus filled the fire-place. Alice and Arthur figured in their Sundays, little Bell had a new calico apron, and Charlie a shining clean face; so we were all ready.

First of all came the Cathcarts, and their one only and odd son of three years old; a child who looked as old as his father, and walked and talked most ludi. crously like him. It did seem really a pity that the uncommonly fine eyes of his beautiful mamma had not descended to him; those large-pupilled grey eyes, with their long black lashes ! and her richest of complexions, brighter in bloom and contrast than the sunniest side of a ripe peach ; and her thousand graces of face and person. But there he was, a frightful little dwarf, just what his father would seem, looked at through a reversed telescope, or in a convex mirror. And Mr.


Cathcart was all smiles and politeness, and brought a whole pocket full of literary novelties lately received from “ home.” And Mrs. Cathcart, always charming, looked lovelier than usual, in a pale-coloured silk and very delicate ornaments.

She was sitting at the piano, playing some brilliant waltzes for the children, and Mr. Cathcart looking over some New York

papers which lay on the table, when Mrs. Brent, wan and feeble as usual, glided into the

I introduced her to my guests, with whom she was evidently unacquainted, and in the next moment Mr. Brent entered.

It needed but one glance to convince me that, to Mrs. Cathcart at least, there was no occasion to introduce the latest comer. She half rose from her seat, painful blushes overspread her beautiful countenance, and instantly subsiding left it deathly pale, while Mr. Brent seemed equally discomposed, and Mr. Cathcart gazed in undisguised and most angry astonishment. I went through with the ceremony of presentation as well as I could, awkwardly enough, and an embarrassed pause succeeded, when in walked Mrs. Nippers and Miss Clinch.

“ Well, good folks," said the widow, fanning herself with a wide expanse of turkeys' feathers, which gene. rally hung on her arm in warm weather; "this is what you may call toiling for pleasure. Mrs. Cathcart, how do you manage to get out in such melting weather? Well! I declare you do all look as if you was overcome by the weather or something else !" and she laughed very pleasantly at her own wit.

“ Warm or cool, I believe we had better return home,

Mrs. Cathcart,” said her amiable spouse with one of his ineffable grins. She obeyed mechanically, and began putting her own straw bonnet on little Algernon.

* I declare," said the agreeable Mrs. Campaspe, “I thought-I was in hopes you were going to stay, and we could have had such a nice sociable time;" for Mrs. Nippers was very fond of inviting companyato other people's houses.

“ No, Madam!” said Mr. Cathcart, “we must go instantly. Fanny, what are you doing? Can't you tie the child's hat ?

6 One word, Sir !” said Mr. Brent, whose fine coun. tenance had undergone a thousand changes in the few moments which have taken so many lines in telling; and he stepped into the garden path, with a bow which Mr. Cathcart returned very stiffly. He followed, however, and, in less than one minute, returned, wished us a very good day with more than the usual proportion of smiles — rather grinnish ones, 'tis true; but very polite ; and almost lifting his trembling wife into the vehicle, which still stood at the gate, drove off at a furious rate,

And how looked the pale and gentle Catherine during this brief scene? As one who feels the death. stroke ; like a frail blighted lily.

And beside her stood in silence

One with a brow as pale,
And white lips rigidly compress’d

Lest the strong heart should fail.

“ Your ride has been too much for you, Mrs. Brent,” said I ;

you must rest awhile ;” and I drew her into see whether the sun had aired the world enough to make it safe for me to get up to breakfast,-1 do not often dispute the pas with Aurora,—I saw Mrs. Nippers emerge from the little front door of her tiny mansion, unattended by her niece for a marvel, and pace majestically down Main.street. I watched her in something of her own prying spirit, to see whither she could be going so early ; but she disappeared in the woods, and I turned to my combs and brushes, and thought no more of the matter.

But the next day, and the next, and the day after, almost as early each morning, out trotted my busy neighbour ; and although she disappeared in different directions-sometimes P. S. and sometimes O. P.-she never returned till late in the afternoon. My curiosity began to be troublesome.

At length came the much-desired Tuesday, whose destined event was the first meeting of the society. I had made preparations for such plain and simple cheer as is usual at such feminine gatherings, and began to think of arranging my dress with the decorum required by the occasion, when about one hour before the ap. pointed time, came Mrs. Nippers and Miss Clinch, and ere they were unshawled and unhooded, Mrs. Flyter and her three children-the eldest four years, and the youngest six months. Then Mrs. Muggles and her crimson baby, four weeks old. Close on her heels, Mrs. Briggs and her little boy of about three years: standing, in a long-tailed coat, with vest and decencies of scarlet circassian. And there I stood in my gingham wrapper, and kitchen apron ; much to my discomfi.

« ZurückWeiter »