Графични страници
PDF файл

ed away difficulties or aided us in surmounting them, so that our progress at Don Pico's far-famed school was rapid and unremitting. She was a large-hearted woman, I know, else she could never have aided us so cheerfully and with such a sweet spontaniety in the attainment of accomplishments which she regarded but as a vain show.

The winter was wearing toward spring. Every possible care had been taken of my health, I was comfortably content, yet I began to suffer greatly from a nervous depression. At times I could vividly remember being possessed of this feeling once before, and then it faded away beyond recall. Long ago, I had spent a season in Boston, with aunt Engelborg, who took me with her for a little pet and companion. Then one night, I awoke believing that I heard mamma and baby Gertrude talking to me, and at the same moment felt a sickening longing for home. Aunt Engelborg would have returned to Glenelvan at once, but on the following day I had entirely recovered from this little attack of supposed homesickness, and though we remained a inonth longer in Boston and vicinity, there was no recurrence of it. Now, I was often conscious of the same feeling, only intensified, and not unfrequently awoke to find dear Rose wiping the heavy tears from my face and soothing me with kindest caresses.

Happily, just at this period, an unusual circumstance trans-i pired, which brought a new element into my mental arena.

Leaving Rose to her studies in our quiet room up stairs, and going down to the parlor, I found there, sitting with Madam Cadwallader, a large grim looking man, whom I liked not at first and whom I chose to avoid ever after.

The lady called me to her side, and folding one arm gently around my waist, informed me that the gentleman was her brother, who had recently returned from a long sojourn in Europe. Then quickly added

"My brother, thee should know this little girl, she is a niece of our relation, Stanly Hastings, whom doubtless thee remembers."

“I remember the Stanly Hastings of forty years ago, sufficiently well-I wish I could remember no other."

“Sure, thee knew him from a boy ; but, brother, what does thee mean ?"

“ Our cousin Hastings went out to India, where he spent the better-ha-I should say the greater part of his life ; but has now returned to England.”

Ah, sure! But is he greatly changed ?"

“Hum ! He looks like a native, his talk is a jargon of “naval dialect” and Hindostince, and the dear knows what. But Hastings is evidently in possession of great wealth. After he had been in the country some ten years or so, he married a rich Begum, who endowed him with vast estates, and he brings with him his little girl, by whom he will draw a vast revenue. But, ha, hum, indeed, there is no fault to be found with that, sure ; he is not the first English gentleman, or, if weihear rightly, American either, who has gone to India and enriched himself by marrying a native lady of rank.'

“Surely not; for, brother, thee cannot have forgotten neighbor Weedon, who sent home to this country his two little girls, himself following a few years afterwards, and thenceforth, during his whole lifetime, drawing a revenue, which, heaven forgive him, he appropriated to his carnal Opleasure, defrauding his own flesh and blood of their natural rights."

“Ha, Weedon was worse than a highwayman ; he took from his own their property and their name.”

I could hear no more. Indignant that my uncle should be spoken of with such cool contempt, and in such connexion, and overjoyed at the thought of some day seeing him, and this little girl of tropical birth, I forgot the impropriety, the rudeness of speaking without permission, to my elders, and suddenly exclaimed

"Oh, then I hope to see my uncle whom my mother loves so well, and my little cousin will be dear to us all, and most welcome to my father's house."

[ocr errors]

This man turned toward me with a kind of sardonic smile, and said, “No doubt of it, thy uncle brings his welcome with him."

“He could not fail to do so," I said, the hot blood rushing to my head. And then I sat down, determined to sustain my own courage with thoughts of my mother's joy, when she should hear this news. Then I built up my pride to overtop the front of this man's insolence. Was not my uncle, as also my mother, descended from an old and noble familytheir father having been the younger son of a younger son, changed only the matter of title and wealth, not of blood. And now my uncle had married an eastern princess, his child would inherit her mother's rank, and with it more wealth than it had required to sustain my ancestors in positions equal to that of their elder brothers. And this child, my little cousin, how could I possibly wait a day to see her ! Leaving my seat, I went directly to Madam Cadwallader for her ac. customed kiss. I said, “Good night, I must talk with Rose."

The gentleman lifted his cold grey eyes, saying-“I see somewhat of Stanly Hasting's spirit here. Lydia, I am not clear in my mind but that this new relation may have a taste of the same when the difference of complexion is fully discovered !"

“Your insinuation does not escape me, sir,” I said, in a low, quiet voice. “But were this India cousin of mine as dark of skin as a native of the Guinea coast, she is still the daughter of Captain Stanly Hastings, and niece to Madam Minster of Glenelvan, and Madam Rapelje of Umberhurst, and will be received by her relatives with affection and honor.

Then with a slight courtesy to the grim monster, I escaped from the room and fled up stairs to Rose, to her recounted what I had just learned—expressing a fond hope of soon seeing mamma's relatives--indulging in many speculations about the looks, manners, age, temper, and endowments,

o secure my first growl m to reti

mental and moral, of this India cousin of ours, and concluding with a brilliant romance full of Utopian suggestions and schemes of which my mind was quite prolific.

"My Rose, I believe our good friend Madam Cadwallader wished to secure my good will toward this polar bear brother of hers; but his first growl put me on the defensive, a position from which I do not mean to retire.”

"I hope she may not suffer any disquiet from this slight passage-at-arms, between her brother and this spirited sister of mine. I think, however, her own good sense will set her right."

"Indeed, she was never out of the way; but I shall speak to her myself about it; and farther, I will crave of her the history of those two little girls she alluded to.'”

" It will have much of interest for you, doubtless." “Why for me, dear ?”

"Oh, because, Minnie, you are such an infantile humanitarian, or at least Madam Cadwallader thinks you will be the founder of some such society." . “I hope I may. I did not come into this world to leave it no better than I found it. There will be a work for me to


Nothing more was said then, but a chord was struck which had often vibrated before.

Now I thought much on what Mr. Chalkley had communicated. What was my eagerness to learn something more definite of the personel, of manners and customs of the household, and intellectual culture of the Begum my uncle had espoused—but for all this I would not deign to propound the slightest question to the personage from whom I had gained so casually my first hints of all this matter.

But with dear Rose, lovely as an angel, warm-hearted, condescending, genial, unexalting, how easy it was to acconplish, without an apparent effort, what I might have given my life to do, and fail ; not in this alone, but in many, very many other things.

Well, Mr. Chalkley and I did not suit. He was to me a huge bear, and as ever he stretched out his great paws to caress me, I became the veriest little porcupine, clewed up and impervious at all points, wbile Rose, Martha and Lydia Çad wallader, played with the monster, like harmless little kittens.

And this event, though savoring somewhat of the disagreeable, was a means of permanent good to me. All my nervous depression was gone at once. I recovered physical strength, and my habit of mirth radiated through our little circle. I did not fail to write to mamma and aunt Frances, and quite triumphantly, of the indulgence my propensity to “inquisitiveness” had had.

Then I wrote to my uncle, expressing an affectionate interest in his welfare, telling him this had been transmitted to me through mamma and aunt Frances, who still fondly cherished his memory, and earnestly invited him to my father's house, and to bring his dear little girl whom we were prepared to love, and hoped to win her to love us. I submitted my letter to Rose for the approbation and benefit of her superior judgment, directed and sent it at cnce.

I secretly, yet most fondly hoped my letter might receive an answer, yet reason steadily and roughly combatted all these vain thoughts. The bare idea that Captain Stanly Hastings, a naval officer of the British service, would think it vorth while to reply to a letter from a little girl whom he had never seen, was preposterous. But these conflicting thoughts were not without their uses !

« ПредишнаНапред »