Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

"The pups thrive beautiful; but what I was going to say, Mr. Leander, was this; that when a man is vexed and out of sorts he always rides more reckless, and Sultan is very fresh, and sometimes he takes to wanting his own way; and you ought to be careful."

"Oh!" said I, "I will be careful enough; Sultan has got a good bit in his mouth, and I have good spurs on my heels, and I warrant he shall know that I am his master."

"That's all very well, Master Leander; a bit is a very good thing in its place and so are spurs in theirn; but sometimes you see when we are hot we are apt to pull the bit at the wrong time, and use the spurs when we ought to hold the curb. The great thing is to know when to use them at the proper nick, on horseback, as well as in life, Master Leander."

"Very true," said I, " is my horse ready?"

"He will be ready in one minute; Robert is just combing out his tail.— So as I was saying, take care you ride careful this morning, and don't be too venturesome; and it's a good rule to look before you leap, Master Leander."

"Never fear," said I; "tell him to make haste with the horse."

"He's just dusting the saddle, and giving the stirrup-irons a wipe. And so you see, Master Leander, I've always observed your careless, reckless riders that just ride over every thing and through every thing, and never care for considering what's on the other side-a ditch or a pit may be-they always sooner or later come to a smash. Now I'm sure you'll excuse me, Master Leander, for you know I have the same regard for you as Jenny there for one of her pups; and so I say don't go along so helter-skelter over every dangerous thing you can find—but look before you leap."

My excellent friend the coachman certainly was not invested with the poetic character of Cassandra of old; but on this occasion his words were not less prophetic, and unhappily for me they were destined to the same remark of "6 nonunquam credita Teucris."-I went on my way.

How could I think of any other matter or of any one than Lavinia ? Was it not natural that she alone, who was ever present to my thoughts, should on such an occasion entirely engross and absorb them? Was it my fault that one of the most unfortunate mishaps occurred that ever befel a luckless mortal? I arrived at the spot by a circuitous and unobserved route with which I was now well acquainted; I tied my horse to a tree, leaped the ditch which separated the grounds from the meadow; surveyed my ground carefully before I made my way partly over and partly through the hedge which bounded the garden; looked cautiously round; saw that all was clear; and then I hastened to the sheltered spot in which the garden seat stood almost concealed by the overspreading foliage; I beheld through the thickly clustered shrubs the form of Lavinia (as I thought of course) with her back towards me, and with her head leaning contemplatively on her hand, in the accustomed corner ; my step was, in prudence, cautious, and my approach noiseless; I sprung towards her and, before she could turn round, clasped her in my arms ! There was no harm in that- -were we not betrothed-solemnly pledged to each other?- -were we not, as lawyers say, in the "inchoate" state of man and wife? Besides-but I need say no more on that point;

all considerate persons of both sexes will acquit me of improper temerity under such circumstances.

How shall I go on! I clasped her whom I supposed to be Lavinia in my arms; and to my utter astonishment-my confusion!-my dismay! I found that I had got hold of another young lady!

And of all the young ladies in the world-the very daughter of the sea-captain's widow-of Emily of the cottage in the valley!

What an embarrassment !

Fortunately, she was too frightened to shriek; but quickly recognising me, she blushed prodigiously; and, remembering, perhaps, the obligation to me which she lay under, she had the goodness not to exhibit so much anger at my forwardness as the circumstance warranted. As for me, I

could not speak for a few moments so much was I abashed at my own seeming rudeness;-and I was confounded with my quick perception of the misunderstanding that it might give rise to! I was about to explain the reason of my boisterous behaviour-rather stammeringly I suspect— when she kindly stopped me:

"Mr. Castleton," she said, "you are the last person in the world from whom I could take offence ;-but forgive me if I positively request you to confine your greetings in future within the bounds of decorum which is usual between gentlemen and ladies who are not related to each other."

This she said in a manner that was exceedingly dignified, but with a grace that was quite charming.

"I assure you," said I, "that it was entirely-a a

mistake...

[ocr errors]

...

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a...a

"I am sure it was-it must have been a mistake; the elegant and refined Mr. Leander Castleton never could have intended an act of rudeness towards a lady who, I had reason to hope, possessed his respect."

"Upon my soul," I reiterated, "it was a mistake; it was indeed; I thought you were

"

She did not permit me to finish, but, with the sweetest smile in the world, said :—

"There-that's enough; I see that you are really sorry for having forgot yourself for a moment. But of course no such mistake must occur again; I am sure I should forfeit your good opinion if I expressed less ; and I will not pain you by expressing more.'

"But, indeed," said I, wishing to clear the matter up, and longing to hear tidings of Lavinia,-my conscience I must confess reproaching me at the same time in a strange mysterious way for something which I felt I had either done or left undone―" indeed . . .

"Well, I have forgiven you; that's enough; and now if you like we will talk of Chaucer, and of Spenser, and of all the poets in the worldyourself of course included. I did not know," she said suddenly, "that you were acquainted with the family here? I don't remember that ever told me of it?"

you

"I don't think,” said I, a little embarrassed, "that I ever did.” "I am sure you never did :—but that's no matter; have you known them long?"

"Yes, said I; that is, I mean, no; but you know one may seem, sometimes, to know people very long although one has known them only a short time.

"That is true," she replied, and she mused a little on this; as if she was resolving in her mind some little problem of her own.

"How strange," she suddenly exclaimed, "that almost the first person whom I have met in this new part of the world is one to whom I am under so great an obligation!"

"Don't say a word about it,” said I;-I was getting more and more embarrassed.

"However," she went on, "there are stranger things in the world even than this!"

"There are indeed," said I, as I observed Lavinia coming hastily down the walk and looking much flushed, for I had a presentiment of what

was to come.

CHAPTER XXXVII.

LAVINIA stopped short when she saw how the garden-seat was occupied; this was a bit of ill-luck quite out of her calculation as well as mine. With the natural reserve of her sex, in the presence of a third person, she saluted me rather formally, which I returned, though much against the grain, in the same manner. As Emily had not the slightest idea of herself being one too many on this occasion, knowing that Lavinia was about to be married to a gentleman who certainly was not the one present, she never thought of retiring to allow me the opportunity of a private interview with her new friend.

She remained, therefore, carelessly seated at one corner of the bench. Lavinia who was very much vexed not to be able to speak to me without a witness, but who disguised her feelings with admirable fortitude, although I perceived she was so agitated that she could hardly stand, sat down at the other corner.

I felt very foolish standing up before the two; and not knowing what else to do I took my place between them.

Now, it must be confessed, that this was a very awkward situation. We all three remained, for a short time silent; Emily from a natural deference, as a guest, and, as yet, almost a stranger to the family; Lavinia from vexation; and I from confusion.

This state of things, however, could not last for ever. As the only gentleman present, it was my duty to speak first, and to entertain the ladies. A pretty state of mind I was in to entertain anybody! And to which of them was I to speak first! And what was I to say!

Now, I will not be misunderstood here, and made to appear worse than I was. My embarrassment did not proceed from any doubt or uncertainty of the state of my own heart; nor did I feel guilty of having acted as a suitor towards Emily; my acquaintance with her had been accidental, and my intimacy-if it could be called so-was one of friendship. And, besides, I had reason to suspect that there was an attachment on the part of Emily in another quarter; for there was occasional mysterious mention made of a certain Lieutenant Sullivan which used to bring the colour into Emily's cheeks in an odd way; so that I considered her partly in the light of one engaged, and with whom my assiduities -for I confess to that could have no serious consequence. No: my embarrassment did not proceed from that; but from the circumstance of my never having mentioned to Lavinia my acquaintance

with Emily; an omission which, considering the rather romantic incident which led to it, would, I feared, appear to Lavinia, strange, and perhaps suspicious; and, in the same way, I had made no mention to Emily, in all my familiar converse with her and her mamma, of my intimacy with Lavinia, whose acquaintance also I had made in a manner not less romantic than the other. I felt that some explanation of these unusual reticences would be expected-certainly by Lavinia-and perhaps by Emily; and both were alike embarrassing.

I began to fear that some most awkward catastrophe was impending. It was necessary, however, that I should say something; and while I was still studying how to begin, Emily-to my infinite relief, as it was at the moment, but quickly to be followed by my infinite confusion-gave signs of saving me the task of inventing a commencement to conversation:

"I was saying to Mr. Castleton," she began, addressing Lavinia, "before you came, that, I was not aware that he was acquainted with your family."

(Here was a pretty beginning!)

"What!" replied Lavinia, in considerable surprise, "is Mr. Castleton an acquaintance of yours!"

"Oh dear, yes,” replied Emily; "we were acquainted, and mamma too, at our house, which is about ten miles from the university."

Lavinia looked at me; I don't know what I looked at. Then she spoke, composedly-and with seeming indifference:

"At the university?"

"Oh! yes! But I dare say Mr. Castleton has told you of the little romantic adventure which gave us the honour of his acquaintance." "A little romantic adventure?" repeated Lavinia.

"He saved me from the attack of a dreadful robber, who would have -murdered me, perhaps, if Mr. Castleton's gallantry and courage had not saved me."

“Indeed!” said Lavinia.

"Yes, he did, indeed; and I can never be sufficiently grateful for such a service!—and mamma too; and it was that which led to our intimacy...

[ocr errors]

"Intimacy?" said Lavinia.

"To his intimacy, with mamma, and our house," continued Emily; "and I was remarking to Mr. Castleton before you came, how odd it was that he should be the first person, as it were, whom I have seen here." "It is very odd," repeated Lavinia.

"But how odd," continued Emily, "that he should never have mentioned the circumstance of the robber! But Mr. Castleton is known to be one of the most modest men in the world—particularly on matters relating to his own prowess."

[ocr errors]

"You were not aware, then," said Lavinia, "that Mr. Castleton was acquainted with me—that is, with our family?"

"Oh dear no! He never mentioned your name; and I am quite surprised to find that he knows you, for he never said a word to us about it!" "And yet," said Lavinia, with a shade of bitterness in her voice, which would not have been perceptible, perhaps, to any ear less sensitive than mine, "my acquaintance with Mr. Castleton had its origin, also, in rather a romantic adventure."

"Indeed!" said Emily; "how very extraordinary that he should have had a romantic adventure with both of us and never have said a word of them to either!"

"It was his excessive modesty, doubtless," said Lavinia in the same bitter tone, looking at me with a singular expression, and carrying her glance forward to Emily who sat on my other side.

"It is a very singular circumstance, certainly," responded Emily, regarding me and then Lavinia with a doubtful and inquiring countenance. And then they were both silent; waiting for me, as it seemed, to clear the mystery.

up

As the earth would not open and swallow me up, although I wished for it with all my might, I was obliged to say something:

"It is certainly remarkable," I began, with a faint laugh which I fear had the sound of being a little forced, for both the ladies looked at me with an air of surprise; "it is certainly remarkable," I began again, making a new and desperate effort to assume an indifferent air-as if the matter was of no consequence at all;-" but you will understand the reason of my silence directly when I explain it

"Then pray do explain," said they both at once :-
"For it is so very droll," said Emily, with animation.
"It is so very strange," said Lavinia with an anxious air.
"Yes," said I; "it is so very droll; hah! hah!"
"Make haste then," said Emily, laughingly.

"Go on," said Lavinia, seriously.

"Oh!" said I, "my story is told in a few words." "So much the better," said Lavinia, drily.

"Never mind the number of words," said Emily;-" we are not at all in a hurry to go away-only-begin."

"You see," said I, with as jocose an air as I could assume, "the fact is

....

the fact was.... that is.... you see," said I, turning to Lavinia, "Em.... that is-Miss Navis's house is close to the university..

"He is very polite to say so," said Emily, interrupting me," but the fact is our house is a long way off; and I am sure it was very kind of Mr. Castleton to come and see us so often when dear mamma was so indisposed.....

[ocr errors]

"It was very kind," said Lavinia, in a strange tone of voice, which made Emily look at her with a little surprise.

"It is not every one," continued Emily, "who would travel ten miles to see a sick friend ..

[ocr errors]

"It is not indeed!" said Lavinia.

"And day after day," continued Emily.

"Day after day !" repeated Lavinia.

"But I want to hear about your romantic adventure?" said Emily to Lavinia ; 66 was it a robber that attacked you ?"

"It is no matter," said Lavinia; "it was only a mad dog.”

"A mad dog! Oh-my dear-how very dreadful! I do believe a mad dog is what I have the greatest dread of in the world! Good Heavens !-it didn't bite you ?"

[ocr errors]

No," said Lavinia; "happily it did not; but it might, perhaps, if Lean... if Mr. Castleton had not distracted its attention; but he risked his life to save me !"

"That was generous !" exclaimed Emily, reddening a little.

« AnteriorContinuar »