Abbildungen der Seite

and scarcely ever after left his master's bedside. His officious affection rendered the office of the valet comparative sinecure. Many were the piques and heart-burnings between these two zealous and emulous servants of an unfortunate master, on account of the one usurping the other's duty !

One of the earliest services that old Pritchard rendered his master, as soon as I warranted him in so doing, was to point out who had been the " serpent in his path”—the origin—the deliberate, diabolical designer of his ruin-in the person of his tutor. The shock of this discovery rendered Beauchamp speechless for the remainder of the day. Strange and wise are the ways of Providence ! How does the reader imagine the disgraceful disclosures were brought about ? Sir Edward Streighton, who had got into his hands the title-deeds of one of the estates, out of which he and his scoundrel companions had swindled Beauchamp, had been hardy enough-quem Deus vult perdere; prius dementatto venture into a court of law, to prosecute his claim ! In spite of threatened disclosures, he pressed on to trial ; when such a series of Aagrant iniquities was developed, unexpectedly to all parties, as compelled Sir Edward, wħo was in court incognito, to slip away, and, without even venturing home, embark for the Continent, and from thence to that commonsewer of England-America. * His papers were all seized, under a judge's order, by Mr Beauchamp's agents; and among them was found the letter addressed to him by Eccles, coolly commending his unsuspicious pupil to destruction !

Under Beauchamp's order, his steward made a copy of the letter, and enclosed it, with the following lines, to the tutor, who had since contrived to gain a vicarage !

" To the Reverend Peter Eccles, vicar of

“SIR,—A letter; of which the following is a copy, has been discovered, in your handwriting, among the papers of Sir Edward Streighton ; and the same post which brings you this, encloses your own original letter to Sir Edward, with all necessary explanations, to the bishop of your diocese.

* His companion in villany, who, in this narrative, is called Hillier, brazened out the affair with unequalled effrontery, and continued in England till within the last very few years; when, rank with roguery, he tumbled into the grave, and so cheated justice. The hoary villain might be seen nightly at Street, with huge green glasses-now up to his knees in cards and then endeavouring, with palsied band, to shake the dice with which he had ruined so many.

“The monstrous perfidy it discloses, will be forthwith made as public as the journals of the day can make it.

" THOMAS PRITCHARD, Agent for Mr Beauchamp."

What results attended the application to the bishop, and whether or not the concluding threat was carried into effect, I have reasons for concealing. There are, who do not need information on those points.

The first time that I saw Mr Beauchamp down stairs after his long, painful, and dangerous illness, was on an evening in the July following. He was sitting in his easy-chair, which was drawn close to a bow-window, commanding an uninterrupted view of the setting sun. It was piteous to see how loosely his black clothes hung about him. If you touched any of his limbs, they felt like those of a skeleton clothed with the vestments of the living. His long thin fingers seemed attenuated and blanched to a more than feminine delicacy of size and hue. His face was shrunk and sallow, and his forehead bore the searings of a “ scorching wo." His hair, naturally black as jet, was now of a sad iron-grey colour; and his eyes were sunk, but full of vivid, though melancholy expression. The air of noble frankness, spirit, and cheerfulness, which had heretofore graced his countenance, was fled for ever. In short, to use the quaint expression of a sterling old English writer, care had scratched out the comeliness of his visage.” He appeared to have lost all interest in life, even though Ellen was alive, and they were engaged to be married within a few months ! In his right hand was a copy of Bacon's Essays; and, on the little finger of his left, I observed the rich ring given him by his cousin. As he sat, I thought him a fit subject for a painter! Old Pritchard, dressed also in plain mourning, sat at a table busily engaged with account books and piles of papers, and seemed to be consulting his master on the affairs of his estate, when I entered.

“ I hope, doctor, you'll excuse Mr Pritchard continuing in the room with us. He's in the midst of important business,"

[ocr errors]

he continued, seeing the old man preparing to leave the room ; “he is my friend now, as well as steward; and the oldest, I may say only friend, I have left!” I entreated him not to mention the subject, and the faithful old steward bowed, and resumed his seat.

“Well," said Mr Beauchamp, after answering the usual enquiries respecting his health, “ I am not, after all, absolutely ruined in point of fortune. Pritchard has just been telling me that I have more than four hundred a-year left”.

“Sir, sir, you may as well call it a good £500 a-year,” said Pritchard eagerly, taking off his spectacles. “I am but £20 a-year short of the mark, and I'll manage that, by hook or by crook, and you—see if I don't!” Beauchamp smiled faintly. “You see, doctor, Pritchard is determined to put the best face

upon matters."

“ Well, Mr Beauchamp," I replied, “ taking it even at the lower sum mentioned, I am sincerely rejoiced to find you so comfortably provided for." While I was speaking, the tears rose in his eyes—trembled there for a few moments—and then, spite of all attempts to prevent them, overflowed.

“ What distresses you ?” I enquired, taking his slender fingers in mine. When he had a little recovered himself, he replied, with emotion, “Am I not comparatively a beggar ? Does it suit to hear that Henry Beauchamp is a beggar? Alas! I have nothing now but misery—hopeless misery! Where shall I go, what shall I do, to find peace? Wherever I go, I shall carry a broken heart, and a consciousness that I have deserved it!I-1, the murderer of two"

Two, Mr Beauchamp? What can you mean? The voice of justice has solemnly acquitted you of murdering the miserable Apsley—and who the other is"

“My mother!—my poor, fond, doating mother! I have killed her, as certainly as I slew the guilty wretch that ruined me! My ingratitude pierced her heart, as my bullet his head! That it is which distracts—which maddens me! The rest I might have borne—even the anguish I have occasioned my sweet forgiving Ellen, and the profligate destruction of the fortunes of my house!" I saw he was in one of the frequent fits of despon. dency to which he was latterly subject, and thought it best not to interrupt the strain of his bitter retrospections. I therefore listened to his self-accusations in silence.

“ Surely you have ground for comfort and consolation in the unalterable, the increasing attachment of your cousin?" said I, after a melancholy pause.

“Ah, my God! it is that which drives the nail deeper! I cannot, cannot bear it! How shall I DARE to wed her? To bring her to an impoverished house—the house of a ruined gamester—when she has a right to rule in the halls of my fathers ? To hold out to her the arms of a MURDERER!" He ceased abruptly—trembled, clasped his hands together, and seemed lost in a painful reverie.

“God has, after all, intermingled some sweets in the cup of sorrows you

have drained: why cast them scornfully away, and dwell on the state of the bitter?”

“ Because my head is disordered; my appetites are corrupted. I cannot now taste happiness. I know it not; the relish is gone for ever!”

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

“ In what part of the country do you propose residing ?” I enquired.

“I can never be received in English society again—and I will not remain here in a perpetual pillory—to be pointed at !I shall quit England for ever".

“ You sha'n't, though!" exclaimed the steward bursting into tears, and rising from his chair, no longer able to control himself—“You sha'n't go!” he continued, walking hurriedly to and fro, snapping his fingers. “ You sha'n't—no, you sha'n't, Master Beauchamp—though I say it that shouldn't!—You shall trample on my old bones first.”

“Come, come, kind old man!-Give me your hand!” exclaimed Mr Beauchamp, affected by this lively show of feeling on the part of his old and tried servant.—“Come, I won't go, then I won't!" “ Ah!—point at you-point at you! did you say, sir? I'll be

if I won't do for any one that points at you, what you did for that rogue Aps"—

66 Oh! yes,

Hush, Pritchard !” said his master, rising from his chair, and looking shudderingly at him.

The sun was fast withdrawing, and a portion of its huge blood-red disk was already dipped beneath the horizon. Is there a more touching or awful object in nature?—We who were gazing at it, felt that there was not. All before us was calmness and repose. Beauchamp's kindling eye assured me that his soul sympathized with the scene.

“ Doctor, doctor!” he exclaimed suddenly, "What has come to me? Is there a devil mocking me? Or is it an angel whispering that I shall yet be happy? May I listen-may I listen to it?”—He paused. His excitement increased. yes! I feel intimately—I know I am reserved for happier days! God smileth on me, and my soul is once more warmed and en, lightened !"-An air of joy diffused itself over his features. I never before saw the gulf between despair and hope passed with such lightning speed !—Was it returning delirium only?

“How can he enjoy happiness who has never tasted misery?” he continued uninterrupted by me. “ And may not he most relish peace, who has been longest tossed in trouble!—Whywhy have I been desponding?-Sweet, precious Ellen! I will write to you! We shall soon meet; we shall even be happy together !—Pritchard,” he exclaimed, turning abruptly to the listening steward—“what say you? Will you be my majordomoeh? Will you be with us our managing man in the country, once again ?.”

Ay, Master Beauchamp," replied Pritchard, crying like a child, as long as these old eyes, and hands, and head, can serve you, they are yours! I'll be any thing you'd like to make me!”

“ There's a bargain, then, between you and me!-You see, doctor, Ellen will not cast me off; and old Pritchard will cling to me; why should I throw away happiness ?”

Certainly — certainly — there is much happiness before you”

“ The thought is transporting, that I shall soon leave the scenes of guilt and dissipation for ever, and breathe the fresh and balmy atmosphere of virtue once again! How I long for the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »