Imágenes de páginas

I said nothing to this, because I could not exactly guess why they did; but that they had done so, I confess, I did not so much regret as my companion said she did.

“If my poor mother could look from heaven,” said she, "and see me degraded as I am, what would she think of all the love and care expended upon me in my infancy and youth?”

This last touch was rather wounding to my vanity; because, although the lady might consider herself somewhat let down in the world by travelling in a stage-coach, I thought it a little uncivil to refer to the circumstance while I was her fellowpassenger.

“If,” said I, - you will so far trust me as to confide your sorrows to me, I pledge myself to secresy, and even to pursue any course which you may suggest for relieving them.”

“My story is brief,” said my companion; "promise me not to refer to it at any future period during my life-that is, if we should ever meet after to-day, and I will trust

[ocr errors]


Here the pressure of the hand was unequivocal; and by a corresponding, yet perhaps more fervent token, I sealed the compact between us.

“I am the daughter,” said she, “ of a general officer, who with my exemplary mother resided chiefly in Somersetshire. The cares and attention of my parents were affectionately devoted to the education and improvement of their only child, and I became, as they have a thousand times said, the blessing of their declining years. I was scarcely seventeen when I lost my father, and his death produced not only a change of circumstances in our family, but a change of residence. My mother and myself removed to Bath. There we resided until we were induced to visit the Continent, where I am ashamed to go on-a nobleman became my avowed admirer, and made me an offer of marriage. His rank was exalted, his fortune large, but I could not love him; was I wrong in refusing to marry him ?”

Assuredly not,” said I, amazed at the animation which sparkled in eyes that lately flowed with tears, while she referred to the proper feeling and spirit she had exhibited in refusing a man she could not love.

“That refusal,” continued the lady,“my poor mother could not forgive; she never did forgive it, and I believe that her anger is still over me, for what I have since suffered seems like a curse. My mother's disapprobation of my refusal of this desirable match had a complicated origin. She believed, and rightly too, that I discarded her favourite, not only upon the negative feeling of indifference or dislike towards him, but because I secretly preferred another. She was right

[ocr errors]

6 And you

“Stay,” interrupted she-hear me out—as I have begun, you

sball know all. I did love another, a being all candour, openness, honour, and principle; talented, accomplished, gay, full of feeling, and generous to a fault. His name my mother would not hear me mention. She expelled him our house, excluded him from my society. What then ?-triek and evasion on my part supplanted obedience and sincerity. The house of a friend afforded opportunities for our meeting, which my own denied-my youthful spirit could not bear restraint—we eloped and were married.”

“And thus you secured your happiness,” said I.

“ Happiness!” said my companion; and never shall I forget the expression of bitterness, sorrow, and remorse which animated her countenance as she pronounced the word. "Misery-misery beyond redemption! My mother died two years after my ill-fated union with the man of my choice; and died without forgiving me my sad error. No,' said my angry parent; she has chosen her course and must follow it, and when I am in my cold grave she will repent, and I hope be forgiven.'"

“ But how were your prospeets of happiness blighted ?" said I.

“Ah!” said my companion, “there is the point—there is the story which I dare not tell. Can I betray my husband ? Can I accuse him? Can I commit him to a stranger ?”

“Being to a stranger," said I, “and one who, according to your own commands, is likely to remain a stranger to him always, you surely may.”

“Then hear me," said the lady:,"we had scarcely been married three years when, by some fatality to me wholly unaccountable, he became infatuated by a woman -woman I must call her- who led him into gaieties, without his wife; who, fascinated by his agreeable qualities, became the monarch of his affections, the controller of his actions, and who, not satisfied with others attracting him from his home and all its ties, excited in his breast the fiercest jealousy against me.”

“ Shocking!" said I; and I thought so as I looked at the bewitching creature; not but that I must confess I did not see the entire impossibility of the existence of causes for her husband's apprehension, considering the confidential manner in which she communicated all her sorrows to me.

“ Treatment the most barbarous followed this,” said my companion; "a disbelief in my assertions, expressed contemptuously, marked all his answers to any request I made to him. The actions and conduct of


life were examined and discussed, until at length he sent me to the coast to live under the roof of his mother, while he was constantly domesticated with the vile partner of his gaieties and dissipations. Is not this enough to break a heart, or is it not enough to drive a woman to the commission of the very crimes with which she finds herself unjustly charged P"

Upon this last part of my fair friend's inquiry as to the lex talionis, I could have but one opinion to give, and agreed cordially in her view of a case to which, as it appeared to me, she had devoted some considerable portion of her attention.

“But,” said I, “ you are now returning home?"

“I am," replied the lady; “because the rival I am doomed to bear with is no longer in London, and because the avocations of my husband will not permit him to visit Paris, whither she is gone. He thinks I am ignorant of all this, and thinks that I am a dupe to all his artifices: and why should I undeceive him ?” “ This rival,” said I, “must be a very potent personage,

if you are unable to break the charm which fascinates your husband, or dispel the influence which she has over him. You must have the power, if you have the will to do so."

“No,” said she; “my power is gone—his heart is lost to me, and is inaccessible by me. Oh! you little know the treatment I have received from him!—from him whose whole soul was mine, but whose mind is steeled and poisoned against me!-No human being can tell what I have suffered—what I do suffer!”

It was clear I had now arrived at the conclusion of the story; all that remained was to make the application, or deduce the moral; and, I honestly confess, it appeared to me, that notwithstanding the object of her journey from her mother-in-law's house at Brighton was to rejoin her spouse in London, she would gladly have availed herself of any seasonable opportunity of changing the place of her destination. In fact, I had involved myself more deeply than I anticipated, for, having become a confidante, and having volunteered being a cavalier, I apprehended that in a minute or two I should be called forth as a champion, and, like another knighterrant, have the outraged Damosel placed under my especial


I confess I was now rather anxious to ascertain who my fair friend was, and what her surname-her christian name I had discovered to be Fanny. This discovery I made when she was recapitulating, more at length than I have thought it necessary to do, the dialogues between herself and her late respectable mother, in which I observed that, speaking in the

maternal character, she called herself by that pretty and simple name, which never was better suited to a human being than herself. The animation and exertion of talking, and the exeitement to which part of her narrative had given rise, together with the effect of the air on a delicate skin, had lighted up her sweet countenance, and I was just on the point of taking a very decisive step in the affair, when the coach suddenly stopped, and the door being opened, a portly lady, with a bandbox, and a bouquet as big as a gooseberrybush, picked on purpose for her, as she told us, was squeezed by the high-pressure power of Mr. Goodman's right hand into the coach. She was followed by a pale-faced girl of about ten years of age, with a smaller-sized bouquet, a basket-full of sweetheart-cakes, and a large phial full of weak red wine and water.

That I was sorry for the interruption I must candidly admit; but if the new-comers had been quiescent, it would have been more bearable, as I might have had time and leisure to consider what I had heard, and revolve in my mind not only the sad case of the fascinating creature before me, but to decide as to what step I myself should take, when we came to the place of parting.

It is curious to see how soon a feeling of sympathy, or congeniality, or whatever else it may be, renders strangers intimate; and when that sort of intimacy has begun, how it continues and shows itself by comparison with the conduct observed to the next strangers who appear. I and my fair friend were upon such good terms with each other, and so distant to the people who had just joined us, that the big lady and the little girl no doubt took us, if not for man and wife, at least for intimates of many years' standing; and then to see, the moment they came in, the care with which


fellowtraveller put her bonnet straight, and pulled her tippet round her, and put her bag in order, just as if she were before company! The contrast was very flattering to me, and so might have been much more of her conversation, but that she main

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »