Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

use. The solicitor could then see, with tolerable distinctness, what means would be forthcoming to answer the demands of creditors. His office was besieged with applicants, who had been referred thither from Templeton's elegant mansion. To all he gave the same statement, that, if they were disposed to wait with patience, he would pledge him. self that their just demands should be satisfied ; but that any attempt to distress Mr Templeton at the moment would end only in loss to the whole number of claimants. When there was at last some cessation in the production of bills of various descriptions and amount, which flowed in on all sides, the lawyer called a meeting of the creditors, cut down such demands as were exorbitants and entered into a general arrangeinent for the gradual liquidation of the remainder.

He was then prepared to lay before the Templetons the precise state of things; and he met them for the purpose. Frederick was again present, and full of readiness to embrace any proposal that seemed good to his wife and their common adviser. The first step was to sell Templeton's own estate, pay off the mortgages, dispose of their splendid town house, furniture, plate, equipages, &c. The fornier of these resources, by the care of their legal friend, would be more productive than they could have hoped, for he had rescued much from the steward and his colleagues, to whom the mortgages had been made ; altogether a considerable sum would thus be obtained for the benefit of the credi. tors. The next measure to be adopted, was the making over to the solicitor, for the progressive discharge of the residue of their debts, the income of Louisa's fortune. The principal would then remain in re. serve for their children and themselves, when they should at last have succeeded in becoming clear of the world. The only question now for determination was, what portion should be reserved for their own support, until all incumbrances could be paid off. Louisa demanded how long it would require to free them of debt, if the whole produce of her estate were yielded to the creditors ? About fourteen years was the reply, with payment of interest upon outstanding claims, and of course this long period must be increased in proportion to the income which they should reserve for themselves. 66 Then surely, Frederick," said she, turning to her husband, - it would be madness to withhold any part of it.” 'Templeton, at that moment and thenceforth, thought only of the privations which she must endure, who had been guiltless of the folly that had brought them to their present state; but she would not hear of such considerations. There was a small annuity upon two lives, which must, according to all calculation, hold out for the necessary number of years; and, besides, a little farm distinct from the body of her estate, these might together produce something above two hundred a year, and they could not in principle retain more. The resolve was adopted on the instant, and the lawyer departed to make the requisite proceedings, with sincere admiration of the conduct which he had witnessed. His profession led him to see many scenes of embarrassment from similar extravagance ; but it was new to him to discover that the hour of distress could give rise to any feelings but those of selfish regret at inability to continue the same career of dissipation, and eager endeavour to preserve the uttermost farthing from the defrauded trades. man.

When it was once agreed what path should be chosen by the Templetons, there was little delay in entering on it. Considering the extensive circle of friends who had crowded to visit them whenever the doors were opened for their reception, the string of carriages with morning visitors, which had constantly blocked up the approach to their house, like a stand of hackney coaches, it was surprising how little they were now troubled with the ceremony of leave-taking, and condolence on their misfortunes. In truth, from the day on which it was certain that the Templetons were ruined, obliged to discharge the greater number of their servants, and to discontinue their entertainments, people would not, for various reasons, force themselves upon their privacy. Some would have gone, but they were sure the poor Templetons could not wish to see any one after the dreadful exposure of their imprudence ; others feared it might look like impertinent curiosity ; a few had always foreseen how their ridiculous attempts to vie with persons of higher rank and greater fortune would terminate ; many pitied them, but did not see how they could continue to associate with those who had shown so little principle in running over head and ears into debt; and by far the greater number forgot them for ever. Had they all pressed to his doors to assist in extricating him from his difficulties, Frederick would have owed less to their kindness, than he now did to the desertion which taught him an indelible lesson : bis wife had never misunderstood them, and had less to learn.

While Louisa was busily engaged in selecting such articles of furniture, apparel, books, &c. as they should still have occasion for in their altered circumstances, Templeton was employed in the search for a suitable abode, and was struck with the seclusion of the farm-house where I afterwards knew them. It indeed by no means presented much in itself to attract, but it was as far removed from the haunts of those whom they would shun, as if a thousand miles had separated them from the metropolis ; while the distance for the removal of Louisa and her children was small. The solicitor of Lincoln's Inn engaged a country servant for them, they retired to their new habitation, and none but he knew the spot of their retreat. Louisa stept with a light heart into the hired chaise which bore them from the scenes of so much folly and suffering, and her cheerfulness was undiminished, even at the sight of their destination. The feelings of her husband were widely different; he had now daily and hourly to view his wife in a station so infinitely beneath any thing she had hitherto known, or to which she could otherwise have been reduced, and to remember that it was his hand which had occasioned the change. But her eternal gaiety, and unruffled cheerfulness were a balm to his wounded spirit, and she soon taught him to forget the past, or to remember it but as a useful study. Her only care was now, lest the alteration of condition, the want of employment, and absence of that excitement in which alone he had hitherto breathed, might throw him into mental torpor or gloomy despondency. To avert a state of mind that was so much to be dreaded, constituted the object of her secret but earnest solicitude, and she had the inexpressible' happiness of observing that her aim was by degrees most effectually ace complished. .

The first direction which was given to Frederick's avocations was in improving the comfort of their cottage. Here much was to be performed ; and she playfully pressed him into the service, with the declaration that there were a thousand little things which she found it impossible to manage without his aid. Frederick had a turn for those light arts of embellishment in minor matters of taste, which, in the decoration of a house, for example, can produce such a powerful effect with confined means. As a boy, he had been fond of exercising his ingenuity among the tools of every carpenter's shop which fell in his way; and he had now an opportunity of putting into practice what he termed, half jestingly, half in earnest-the only useful information that he had ever acquired; always excepting his dear bought experience of the world. Besides, however trifling the occupation in itself, he could please himself with the idea that he was labouring for the comfort of the only beings who bound him, in ties of affection, to existence; and he was as busy as a man must be who finds, for the first time in his life, that he is positively within the degree of an useful personage. The tasteful arrangement of the drapery of a curtain, the most suitable position for each article of furniture, the best form and situation for the book-cases containing the volumes which the care of Louisa had preserved for their retirement all these minutiæ of ornament could be perfected alone by her husband's assistance ; her design was answered, if he could but derive amusement from attention to them. When things began to wear somewhat of a settled air, and their cottage was already metamorphosed into neatness itself, he missed the harp which he had given her on their marriage. What had become of it? It was a present from him, and it had grieved her to leave it to the hammer ; but how could she have felt justified in retaining so expensive an article, merely to indulge a selfish feeling of unwillingness to part with it ; and how would a harp have become the character of their humble abode ? Templeton acknowledged the truth of all this; but he sighed again when he thought how little he had hitherto appreciated and deserved the possession of such excel. lence, and how madly he had dragged her from the sphere of “ elegant sufficiency” in which he might have seen her move, as the light and ornament of her circle. Such reflections would now and then obtrude ; but they were the only interruptions to happiness which, during the first four years of their retirement, ever crossed him for a moment. He saw Louisa contented, happy ; by the strictest economy they lived within their little stipend; and they beheld the increase of their family with the cheering conviction, that the self-denial of a few years would secure for their children a respectable independence. How often, how gratefully, did Templeton recal that firmness and foresight in his wife, which had shielded their offspring from impending beggary !

I have mentioned the high promise of distinction which the early youth of Templeton had afforded, and the cessation of all intellectual exertion, which had followed the death of his father; it was now one of the happiest effects of his reverses, that they turned him again to the cultivation of literature, and he resumed the studies of his boyhood

with a zest and avidity, which, a short time before, he could not him. self have believed possible ; it was now almost as difficult for him to conceive how he could ever have forsaken them. It was Louisa who had encouraged him to undertake the renewal of his neglected attain. ments; it was from her high polish and refinement of mind that his tastes and opinions were now reflected. They read, conversed, thought together, and scarcely felt that there was ought to desire beyond the precincts of their retreat.

But fate had yet trials in store for them ; they had just entered on the fifth year of their residence in Berkshire, when the annuity on which they had in part depended for income, suddenly dropped, by the unexpected termination of both the lives on which it rested. This was a heavy blow, and it came just as their two eldest boys were entering on an age when a school will yield greater advantages of instruction than it is possible for a parent to bestow. But Templeton was no longer the man who knew not where to look for a resource, or how to support an adverse contingency. He resolved to try whether his pen could not work out an opening for improvement in their means, and he was successful. His first essays in periodical publications were favourably received; he persevered, and his reward exceeded the most sanguine of his expectations. Thus did their years glide on, at once in useful activity and peaceful seclusion, while they patiently awaited the period that would restore them to the possession of wealth, which they scarcely courted, but as it might yield them the more unlimited power of perfecting the education of their children.

They had yet above six years before them ere they could calculate upon a restoration to the income of Mrs Templeton's property, when

I formed with them that friendship which has grown into one of the most pleasing episodes of my life. I had to learn their past misfortunes by narration only ; I was a frequent observer of the hallowed enjoyment which had succeeded to their distresses, and it was fated that I should witness in person their restoration to affluence which they had learned how to use.

I had enjoyed an unreserved and constant intercourse with my friends for about a year and a half, when one winter's evening, after the social meal which we frequently took together, and while we were seated before the blazing wood-fire of their parlour, we heard the sound of carriage wheels in the lane, which ran near the house ; and, presently after, the footstep of a stranger, who hastily crossed the paddock and knocked for admission at the door. Templeton stept out, uttered a recognition of pleasure, and ushered in a gentleman to whom I was introduced as their old friend of Lincoln's Inn. He was the bearer of most welcome tidings, which were told in a few words. It had been his practice to report to the Templetons, from time to time, the progress of the liquidation of their debts; and in one of his letters upon this subject, two or three years before, had mentioned as a curious circumstance, that a distant relative of Frederick's father, who was supposed to have amassed considerable wealth in the East Indies, and was without family, had commissioned a friend in England to make particular inquiries how the young pair were proceeding in the world. It was fortunate that the agent employed to obtain such intelligence had come to the lawyer for information, and had of course received a correct, and therefore favourable, picture of the conduct of Templeton and his wife under their change of condition. When the friendly lawyer had cursorily noticed this incident in his letter to Frederick, it had excited little hope or attention. He had only seen his Indian relative at two periods of his life ; once, when the latter had returned home on his furlough, found him a manly, promising boy, and taken a great fancy for him ; and again, after his marriage, when they had parted with something more than coolness, in consequence of the old gentle. man's venturing to offer his opinion of the imprudent expenditure of his younger relation. The welcome tidings which the solicitor had now to communicate, were, that he had received, from the agent of Colonel Templeton, a full authority to draw for the whole remaining amount of Frederick's debts, with such an additional sum as would put them in comfortable possession of their estate. This splendid act of liberality was accompanied by a letter for Frederick himself from the Colonel, briefly, but warmly, expressing his satisfaction at the good account to which he had turned the consequences of early imprudence, desiring his kindest regards to Louisa, though he had scarcely seen her, and announcing that, before his letter could reach its destination, he should have taken his final departure from India, to cultivate better acquaintance with her, and to settle near them in England.

I do not believe that the parties themselves were more rejoiced at this close to their embarrassments than was I, though to them it brought no alloy, and to me was attended with the heavy privation of their society. When they removed to their own property, they would, indeed, have induced me by every kindness of solicitation to change my abode also, and to become their tenant, upon my own terms, of a cottage on their estate which would just suit me. But it was too late in the journey of life for me to shift my resting-place, and I remain where I have some how or other contracted local attachments to every green hill and wandering rivulet about me. The only scene near which I cannot bring myself to stroll in their absence, is the cottage in which so many cheerful hours were spent in their society ; but I sometimes see them there yet. The female servant, who had accompanied them to their retirement, continued with them until they quitted it. They then gave her an annuity for life, and the cottage, which they purchased for her upon condition that she should preserve it in the exact order in which thev left it. One week in every summer do they return to pass in it, and then I am again of their circle. Nor is this the only opportunity of which I avail myself to visit them. I sometimes muster resolution enough to find my way to their mansion for a fortnight ; and in my last excursion of this kind, stood as sponsor for the sixth of their little flock. RAVELIN's LUCUBRATIONS.

* We recommend this interesting volume to the notice of all our readers.-RAVELIN is the Geoffrey Crayon of England; and that his Sketches are less celebrated than those of his American prototype, must be owing to adventitious circumstances, and not to any want of real excellence. His narratives are more natural if less romantic-if deficient in sentiment they are at least sincere. Apparently they are drawn from real life in many of its gradations and we consider it no small praise to say that the personal identity of the author, “ Late Major in the ** Regiment of Insantry,” is admirably supported-ED.

« ZurückWeiter »