Abbildungen der Seite

I remember, that, notwithstanding my impatience to be off, I was rather longer than usual in arranging my toilet for the day; but, before I started, it struck me that it would be politic to volunteer the explanation which I knew would be asked for by the home authorities; and as I felt that it would be an easier matter to make it to my mother than to my father, I repaired to her sitting-room, and in an off-hand way, told her as much of the story as I thought necessary; ascribing my concealment of the bonnet in the landing-net, more to my love of fun than any thing else, and assuring her that my perturbation at its discovery had been caused only by my fear of being made an object of ridicule before strangers.

In this explanation my prudent and excellent mother very kindly acquiesced ; and as she wisely forbore making any remark likely to wound my feelings, and instead of smiling, looked serious, I was emboldened to observe, that it would only be an act of proper politeness on my part to call on the disbonneted one to restore her property to the lady; and to make an apology in a more formal manner than my hasty interview with her by the side of the river had allowed me the opportunity to offer. This I said in a free and easy way, as if I had no personal interest in the matter, and only wished to do the correct thing.

My mother paused for a few moments before she answered me, and then in a quiet way, she suggested that it was awkward, rather, was it not? not to know the name of the person on whom one made a call ? What was the name of the gentleman who had bought the house to which the young lady seemed to belong?

I replied to this, that certainly it was an inconvenience; but upon my life I did not remember the name, if I had ever heard it; nor did I see that it mattered much, as it was the lady whom it was my duty to see and not the old gentleman; but as to that, I added, it would be easy for me to fish out the name from the gate-keeper at the lodge, or to inquire among the cottages, or of the labouring people in the vicinity; no doubt, the young lady was well known.

“ Are you sure," asked my mother, “ that it was a young lady whom you saw, and not some inferior person of the house--the hour of the morning was rather early for young ladies to be abroad?”

“Oh! as to that,” I said, “I am positive.”

“Something in her appearance, perhaps," said my mother, “or her dress ?"

I replied “that I did not look at her dress, I looked only at her ; not that I looked at her particularly,” said I, in a careless way;

“and really I am not sure that I should know her again.” She was

young, I think you said ?” “ About seventeen or eighteen; perhaps rather seventeen than eighteen ; I should say between !" “Did you observe her figure ?”

“A beautiful figure; rather tall than otherwise, and slender ; there was something very pleasing in her figure.”

Dark or fair ? “ Not dark; and yet she certainly is not what you would call fair; no, not fair ; a sort of a clear brown--that is a tinge of brown ; I think I like that style of complexion better than any other.”

“She is a brunette, then ?"

saw !"

eyes !”

saw or

“ Yes, that's it, a brunette ; but the handsomest brunette you ever “ And her eyes ?"

“ Her eyes were a beautiful hazel - a dark hazel ; very bright-positively, they were like two stars—I think I never saw such beautiful

“ Her hair was black, I dare say, to match ?"

“Oh! the most beautiful tresses you can imagine ! and as black as jet! Her hair fell down when her bonnet was jerked off, and it hung over her shoulders."

“She did not wear a wig, then?”

“A wig ! good heavens! mother, how could you think of such a thing! Why, you don't suppose she is the daughter of the old gentleman in the brown wig that I saw at the sale! It's not possible! No! her hair is as black as jet-and, as it hung down over her shoulders, she looked like the statue of-of-I don't know what statue ; and, in truth, she did not look like a statue at all, for she did not look at all cold like marble-- rather the contrary—but, indeed, I never in my life imagined such a beautiful picture !"

“ You seem to have her picture pretty accurately impressed on your (here she paused for a moment) mind,” said my mother, smiling,

I was standing before the glass over the fire place during this brief colloquy, and as I caught a glance at the reflection of my features, I observed that I had turned very red at this latter observation of my excellent mother ; but as I did not know exactly what reply to make, I rang the bell, and desired my horse to be brought round. I thought there was a sort of smile on the man's face as I gave this direction, but as I thought my

manhood required me to put a good face on the matter, for I was nearly twenty years of age, I regarded him with rather a stern countenance to make him understand that I would allow of no jesting with me ; and after assuring my mother again and again that my only desire was to acquit myself of an obligation incumbent on a gentleman, and that I would just walk my horse over and be back to dinner, I departed with a grave and unconcerned air ; but as soon as I turned the corner of the plantation so as to be out of sight of the house, my horse showing an inclination for a run, I let him have his own way, and I galloped over the ground that separated me from the neighbourhood of the troutstream in a very short space of time.

When I arrived at the bend of the river which was the scene of my morning's adventure, I pulled up, and deliberated a little as to who I should ask for and what I should say; and as I could not easily settle those points to my satisfaction I thought I would ride down to the river's bauk and look at the water to assist me in my deliberation. As I put my horse to a slight leap over a low hedge in order to gain a meadow between the river and the road, I caught sight of a slender female form passing down the walk on the other side of the garden-hedge in the same direction ; and presently I observed another figure following at a slower pace, and as it seemed, as well as my glimpse through the trees and shrubs allowed me to judge, of rather a bulky appearance, and with a labouring and heavy tread, very different from the light and elastic step which marked the younger one-who, some sympathy told me, was the one I was in search of.

My heart began to bump immediately, in a very extraordinary manner. I dismounted from my horse and led him down towards the river; and taking advantage of a convenient bough of a tree by the side of the hedge, I fastened his bridle to it, and advanced on foot to make my observations.

When I reached the margin of the stream I stopped, for the very sufficient reason that I could go no further ; and while I was thinking what to do next, the sound of voices struck my ear on the other side of the thick hedge, and I became an unintentional listener to a conversation which in a few moments interested me too powerfully to allow me to withdraw my attention.


" It was here, was it?" said a voice that was very shrill, and occasionally husky and harsh ; “under this bank, eh? What on earth it was left standing for is more than I can imagine-except to hide people! It was here-eh?"

“ This was the place,” replied another voice, in a sweet and rather subdued tone, which I instantly recognised as that of my heroine of the morning. It certainly was the most melodious voice I ever heard ! My first impression was that I ought to go away and not listen to a conversation which was not intended for my hearing, but for the life of me I could not move from the spot.

“* And it was here that you saw the fellow? (The fellow !- the deuce take it, thought I, who can that old cat be?)—and how was it that you didn't see him before ? and why didn't you come back to the house directly? Eh ?”

"I did, aunt ; I ran back directly; but I was so frightened at first I couldn't move.

Think of having one's bonnet whisked off one's head and not to know how! It was enough to frighten any one ; and when I looked, there he was, staring down at me!"

“ Frightened, indeed ! I should like to see the man that would frighten me! Was the fellow very frightful, then ? Some poacher, I suppose ; and trespassing on our grounds, too! I only wish I could catch hold of him! What was the fellow like-eh?"

“ Indeed, aunt, I don't know ; I never looked at him ; that is, I couldn't help looking at him-but I'm sure I shouldn't know him again!

“ That's a pity. If I could only find him out, my brother should have him put in gaol -- the fellow! (Thank you, thought I.) An old offender, I'll warrant!"

“ I don't think he was old, aunt: from the slight glance that I had of him, I think he was not more than nineteen or twenty."

A young man ! eh? What impudence! But what á dreadful thing that such a boy-boy ! thought I ; how I should like to give it to her!) -such a boy, should be so young and so wicked as to break into people's grounds and insult the daughters of respectable people! Some low young rascal, I'll be bound! He ought to be punished-sent to prison and whipped. Thank you, thought I.) Couldn't you give some deseription of him, that he might be apprehended? What clothes had he on-eh?"


[ocr errors]

“Really I didn't look at him ; but I think he had on a sort of fisherman's dress—that sort of odd coat that they wear-it was green ; and he had on gaiters, but somehow they didn't look like papa's-particularly remarked that ; and he had a black silk handkerchief round his neck, and his shirt-collar hung down loose-I think it looks better that way than stuck up straight ..."

" Eh ?”
“And he had on a white hat ..."

“Well, you seem to have observed all that very carefully ; perhaps you can tell what sort of a looking person

he Did he look like a ruffian, or what, eh ?"

“Oh no, aunt; not at all like a ruffian;"
(I began to get more interested at this place.)

• Ruffians are dark black-looking men, but he was fair, with blue eyes, and very handsome eyebrows—that is, I don't mean handsome, but wellshaped-such as you see in pictures.”

“ He must be some low person, or he never would have taken the liberty to trespass on a gentleman's private grounds that way; some young poaching fellow, I'm thinking.”

“I don't quite think that, aunt ; indeed, I rather think he is a gentleman, for I observed his hand was very soft.”

“ His what? his hand ? how ?--his hand soft! and pray, miss, how came you to know that the fellow's hand was soft, eh?

“ It was when he raised me up,” said the “miss,” in a timid voice ; “indeed, it wasn't my fault. I was so frightened that when I tried to get up, I fell down again, and the gentleman jumped over the mound in an instant, and raised me up ; and it was then that I couldn't help feeling his hand; but as you ask me, I must say that it did not feel to me what I suppose is a common person's hand. I remember the old gardener held me by the hand once when I leaned over the pond to reach a waterlady, and his hand didn't feel at all like that !"

“I only wish I had been near him! He should have felt my hand ! I would have boxed the fellow's ears for his impudence ! But

you must have given him encouragement, miss—you must-or he never would have taken such a liberty! You don't know how to repress these fellows. Do

think he would have dared to take me by the hand ?" “Oh, no, aunt," replied the other, with a promptitude and ingenuousness that made me smile on the other side of the hedge; “I am sure he wouldn't—but then it's so different...'

“ So different, miss-how ? eh ?”

“I mean, aunt, that you know how to look at people so severely; but I am only a young girl, remember, and of course am more easily frightened. But I assure you he was a gentleman—I am sure of that.”

“How can you be so sure of that, miss, when you never looked at him? eh ?”

There was no reply made to this, and the aunt went on.

“But this is a matter that must be inquired into. We must put a stop to these trespassers whoever they may be ; and, as to this one-gentleman, as you call him, but I don't believe it-do


think know his features again if you saw them ?"

Oh, aunt, I'm sure I should ! There was a something about them


you should

a certain air—a sort of look that he gave—I'm sure I shall never forget them!”

“ What? Were they so very ferocious ?"

" Ferocious! Oh, aunt, what an expression ! they were any thing but ferocious ; that is, I only just glanced at them when he frightened me at first—and really I don't think I should know him again if I saw himbut they were not at all ferocious."

“Well, Miss Lavinia, this is a matter which I don't exactly understand; but we will set the constable to inquire about it ; but one thing is certain --you have lost

your bonnet; and it's well if you have not"....." (here she mumbled something to herself as she walked towards the house, which I could not catch), and was followed, as I surmised, by her niece ; for I heard the rustling of another step, and presently there was a profound silence, broken only by the light rippling of the water as it broke over a shallow by the bend of the stream.

At least, thought I, I have learnt her name. Lavinia! a pretty name ; but rustic, decidedly rustic. Some secret conviction whispered to me that I had learnt something more, and I could not avoid being struck with the similarity of the lovely Lavinia’s replies to my own in my conversation with my mother. The sensations to which these thoughts gave rise were exquisitely pleasurable ; and I retired to a secluded spot, amidst the shelter of a cluster of trees, to meditate and to indulge in the delicious reveries which they suggested, unseen and undisturbed.

The image of the aunt, however, although I had not seen her, arose to my imagination as a formidable personage ; and I hesitated to present myself at the house from a sort of fear that possessed me of encountering her questions and perhaps her repulses. Besides, the words that I had already heard afforded me abundant matter for contemplation.

I thought it best, therefore, to postpone my visit for the present until I had determined how best to propitiate the female Cerberus who acted in the double capacity of aunt and duenna to my divinity: and as the ground on the opposite side of the river belonged to another property, I determined to make a circuit to a ford about half a mile lower down, and survey the premises from that quarter; hoping that some accident might bring the beautiful Lavinia again into view, and trusting to my own ingenuity to open a communication with her.

The part of the river, it is to be observed, which was opposite the garden where my adventure of the morning took place, was not broad but deep ; and it so happened that before the close of my ride, the communication which I desired was brought about more suddenly than I expected, by an accident that was appropriate to the name of Leander which I böre, but which threatened consequences not less fatal than those which, in times of yore, befel the swimmer of the Hellespont.

« ZurückWeiter »