صور الصفحة

"Before you reproaeh me," said Stratford, '<I think you should remember at wh*ose suggestion the deeeption was first entered into."

"I did not foresee the eonsequenees," said Talbot.

"Pardon me," said Stratford; "the eonsequenees vfrt foreseen by both of us. I remarked that I was unwilling to strut, like the jay, in borrowed plumes; and you replied that if the * Russian Brothers' attained tho greatest eelebrity, you would never assert your rights of paternity."

"You eertainly possess an exeellent memory," said Talbot, sareastieally, "whatever other mental attributes you may be deficient in. I remember the promise of seereey to whieh yon allude, but no promise was made on your part; therefore if you are inelined to deseend from your usurped position, and give it up to the rightful owner, there is no eause why you should refrain from doing so."

"And ean you really," asked Stratford, with surprise, "expeet that I should expose myself to the eensuro and ridieule of soeiety for tho purpose of reinstating you in rights whieh you voluntarily made over to mo?"

Talbot paused some time before he replied. "I feel," ho said, "that I have expeeted too mueh. I reseind my proposal. I will only require yon to make known the truth under a strict promiso of seereey to one individual."

•• Am I that individual is Adelaide Linley, Ieonelude," said Stratford. "It is," replied Talbot; "let Adelaide but know me as I really am, and I do not heed—at least I will endeavor not to heed—the opinion of tho world; besides, Stratford, reeolleet that if you marry Adelaide, she must eertainly find out the deeeption eventually; she ean never believe that the fount of poetry has suddenly dried up within you; no doubt, indeed, she has already begun to wonder that you havo not given vent to 'awoful sonnet made to your mistress' eyebrow.'"

Stratford returned no answer, but tho eonversation left a deep impression on hia mind; and he felt that it would indeed be the most honest and upright eourse that he eould pursue, to eonfess the whole truth to Adelaide, and then silently to withdraw himself from the literary soeiety of whieh ho was so little ealeulated to be a member. Nor was this resolution of Stratford's so great a saerifiee as might be imagined; he had for some time felt himself very little at ease among his brilliant now assoeiates; he was awuro that he was only "eloth of frieze," although eireumstanees had for a time matehed him with "eloth of gold." He eould not respond to the literary quotations and allusions eonstantly mado in his presenee . He had heard some wonder expressed that ho had no seraps in his portfolio to show eonfidentially to admiring friends; and the editor of a leading periodieal had kindly suggested to him a subjeet for a tale in blank verse, whieh, if written at all in the style of the tragedy, should, he sii.l,'re

eeive immediate attention from him. Then, i-j other eireles, young ladies had requested eontributions for their albums, and Adelaide had more than onee expressed her wish to have now words written for some of her favorite old airs.

Stratford, tho morning after his eonversation with Talbot, sought the presenee of Adelaide, resolved that, if his eourage did not fail him, he would make a eonfession of his misdeeds, and an offer of his baud and heart before he left the house. He found Adelaide, as he had wished, alone; she was reading a letter when he entered, and it dropped on the ground as she rose to reeeive him; he lifted it up, and reeognized the hand in whieh it was written; it was that of Captain Neshitt, and the letter appeared to be of some length. Stratford felt disposed to be rather jealous; Captain Neshitt was well eonneeted, remarkably handsome, very lively, and had, like Captain Absolute, "an air of sueeess about him whieh was mighty provoking."

"Do not let me interrupt your perusal of that letter," he said, rather eoldly and stiffly.

"You have doubtless," said Adelaide, with a smile, "seen the handwriting; you do not prevent mo from reading the letter—I have just finished it; and although your visit may eause my answer to it to be delayed a little while longer, the delay is of no manner of importanee, sinee I shall only write a fow lines of no very agreeablo purport."

"I pity tho poor fellow from my heart," exelaimed Stratford, and he spoke with sineerity; he eould afford to pity Captain Neshitt when he know that Adelaide was about to rejeet him.

"He does not deserve your pity," said Adelaide.

"Can the gentle and kind-hearted Adelaide express herself so harshly?" asked Stratford, feeling more and more generously inelined towards his rival, when he saw how mueh he was disdained.

"I must explain myself," said Adelaide; "for I should be very sorry that you (and tho delighted lover aetually faneied that ho deteeted a slight emphasis on tho word you) should believe me to be hard-hearted and unkind. Captain Neshitt has eonsiderably fallen in my estimation during the last fow days. I have reeeived abundant proofs that he does not always love and respeet the truth."

Stratford began to feel rather nervous; he had a partieular dislike to eonversation whieh turned on the subjeet of love and respeet for the truth.

"Captain Neshitt," eontinued Adelaide, "when he first beeame aequainted with me, informed me that, although his present property was but limited, he expeeted to suoeeed to the estates of an old and infirm unele residing in Wales. I was lately in eompany with a family who happened to live in the immediate neighborhood of this wealthy old unele; ho has indeed large estates, but be has two sons in exeellent health, to inherit them."

Adelaide here paused, expeeting to hear an exelamation of indignant surprise from Stratford; but it was not uttered. Stratford was by no means troubled with an over development of eonseientiousness, and it appeared to him that Captain Neshitt had eommitted a very venial offenee in keeping two Welsh eousins in the haekground, who might havo interfered so materially with his interests.


"Doubtless," he at length remarked, " this subterfuge on Captain Neshitt's part was owing to the exeess of his affeetion for you."

"I doubt it very mueh," said Adelaide; "affeetion i* always prone to overrato tho good qualities of its objeet; now Captain Neshitt must have greatly underrated mine, if he eould deem it likely that, possessing as I do an ample suffieieney of the goods of fortune, it eould make any differenee to mo whether the lover of my ehoiee wore wealthy or otherwise."

"Could you not in any ease deem an untruth exeusable ?" asked Stratford.

"In none," replied Adelaide; "but there are eases in whieh I deem it partieularly inexeusable: the falsehoods of pride or vanity, the assumption of being better, or rieher, or wiser than we really are— these are, in my opinion, as eontemptible as they are reprehensible."

"Men of the world," pursued Stratford, "aro apt to think very little of an oeeasional deviation from truth."

"Pardon me," said Adelaide, "if I entirely differ from you. Should one man of the world tax another with the violation of truth in homely, dowuright phrase, what is the eonsequenee? the insult is eonsidered so unbearable, that in many eases the offender has even been ealled on to expiate his words with his life. Now, if a departure from truth be so mere a trifle, why should not the aeeusation of having departed from truth be also eonsidered as a trifle?"

Stratford was silent; his shallow sophistry eould not eontend with Adelaide's straightforward rightmindedness, and be was rejoieed when the entranee of visitors put an end to the eonversation. A tfte i fete with Adelaide had on that morning no eharms for him; he laeked nerve for either a eonfession or a proposal! Perhaps, however, it would have been better for Stratford if he eould have summoned eourage to have outstaid the visitors, and revealed everything to Adelaide; for diseovery was impending over his head from a quarter where he eould not possibly expeet it, inasmueh as ho was ignorant of tho very existenee of tho person about to give the information. Every one must have boon repeatedly ealled on to remark, that in soeiety there seems to be a mysterious ageney perpetually at work, bearing nows from one quarter to another apparently quite uneonneeted with it. In every elass or set we meet with some person who makes us eognizant of the sayings and doings of another elass or set, from whieh we have been hitherto removed at an immeasurable distanee. Often the information thus gained is desultory and uninteresting, and it passes away from our mind almost as soon as we reeeive it; oe

easionally it strikes upon some eonneeting ehord, and we eagerly listen and respond to it.

When Adelaido Linley left sehool, she had, like most young girls, a favorite friend, with whom she kept up a regular eorrespondenee, at the rate of three sheets of rose-eolored note-paper a week. Emma Peuryn, however, lived in Cornwall; and as year after year passed by, and the friends never met, the eorrespondenee deeidedly slaekened. Still, however, it was never wholly given up, and Adelaide had written to her friend shortly after the introduetion of Talbot and Stratford to her, mentioning their names, and speaking of them as likely to prove pleasant and desirable aequaintanee. The day after Adelaide's interviow with Stratford, a letter arrived for her from Emma Peuryn. She apologized for her long silenee, and gave an exeellent reason for it; she had been reeeiving the addresses of a very desirablo admirer, who had at length proposed, and been aeeepted; he was a Cornish man, and his property lay within a fow miles of that of her father. After entering into numerous details regarding the earriage, the troitueau, and the marriage settlement (young ladies in the nineteenth eentury aro very apt to talk and write about the marriage settlement), the bride-oleet eontinued—

"I am quite sure you will hear an exeellent eharaeter of my dear Trebeek, if you mention his name to Mr. Talbot; only think of their being great friends; indeed, Mr. Talbot was quite eonfidential with Trebeek a year ago, when staying with him in the eountry-house of a mutual friend, and aetually was so kind as to read to him the beautiful tragedy of the 'Russian Brothers,' to whieh he had just put tho finishing stroke. Mr. Talbot did not let any one else know a word about it, and in faet extraeted a promise of the strietest seereey from Trebeek; the reason was, that ho meant to produee the tragedy on the stage, and had a terrible nervous fear of failure, a fear whieh was unfortunately realized by the event; I suppose beeause it was too good for the audienee to understand. Trebeek kept the seeret most admirably, never breathing a word of it even to me, till the brilliant sueeess of the published play of eourse took off the emhargo of silenee, and now we tell it to everybody; and Trebeek, I assure you, is not a little proud of the eonfidenee reposed in him by his literary friend."

Adelaide read this part of the letter with ineredulous surprise, imagining that Emma was under some misapprehension; but when she eame to refleet on past events, she eould not but see that it was very likely to be true; she had several times been mueh struek with the ineonsisteney of Stratford's eonversation and his reputed literary talents, and had felt surprised that he should so invariably havo resisted all persuasion, even from herself, to give any further proof of his poetieal ahilities. It might seem astonishing that Talbot should so freely havo aequieseed in this usurpation; but Emma's letter throw light on the subjeet, by alluding to Talbot's nervous horror of failure, and Adelaide's quiek apprehension soon enabled her to see the real state of the ease, and to beeome sorrowfully eonvineed that Captain Neshitt was not the only one of her "wooers" who had shown himself regardless of the saered laws of truth.

Reluotantly, but steadily, did the young heiress prepare herself to aet as sho eonsidered for the best under the eireumstanees. She wroto to Talbot and to Stratford, requesting that they would eaeh wait upon her at the same time on the following day. Neither of them suspeeted the reason of this summons; Talbot had indeed almost forgotten the existenee of the silly, good-natured Trebeek; ha had read the "Russian Brothers" to him, beeause, like most writers, he felt the wish, immediately after eompleting a work, to obtain a hearer for it; and beeause, like tome writers, he had a great deal of vanity, and had been flattered by the deferential admiration of a man mueh inferior to him, and from whom he seed not fear any distasteful eritieism. Talbot know Trebeek to be perfeetly honorable, and if ho had ever thought of him at all, he would havo remembered the promise of seereey he had exaeted from kim, and would have felt quite at ease. It never entered his mind that eireumstanees might happen whieh would induee Trebeek to eonsider himself absolved from his promise, and that, as the "Russian Brothers" had been published without a name, it was perfeetly natural and prohable that the Cornish squire might be ignorant that the London world of letters imputed the authorship of it to Stratford, and not to Talbot . The rivals were punetual to their appointment, antieipating nothing more important than that they should bo invited to join a party to a flower-show or the opera-house. Adelaide did not keep thom in suspense, but said that she wished to read to them part of a letter whieh she had reeently reoeived. When she had finished, sho told them that she had eonsidered it right to make them aequainted with this statement, and asked if they had anything to say in refutation of it. They looked eonfused, and were silent. Stratford was the first to speak. "Forgive mo for my seeming assumption of talents not my own," he said; "and remember that my motive was to save a friend from the mortifieation of aeknowledging a defeat."

"I eannot eoneeive that sueh was your only motive," replied Adelaide; "you evidently took pride and pleasure in your now eharaeter. Did you attempt to suspend the publieation of the drama? Did you shrink from the distinetions that followed it? No; you eourted popularity, and enjoyed it, knowing all the time that you had done nothing to merit it, and that the whole of the applause that you reeeivod was in reality the right of your friend!"

Adelaide's words soundod a knell to the hopes of Stratford, but they seemed "merry as a marriage

bell" to the eager ears of Talbot. "Dearest Adelaide," he said, "how kindly, how gratifying do you speak of my talents! They ore entirely dedieated to you; all the laurels that they may hereafter gain for me shall be laid at your feet!"

"Do not trouble yourself to be so very grateful Mr. Talbot," replied Adelaide. "Yon will be little obliged to me when you have listened to all that I have to say to you. Your talents are undoubtedly great, but I do not eonsider that vividness of imagination and eleganee of eomposition eonstitute a man of really fine mind, any more than a suit of regimentals and an aequaintanee with military taeties eonstitute a brave soldier. I may eontinue the parallel. You entered the field of hattle by your own ehoiee, knowing that it was possible you might meet with defeat. Your first defeat eame, and what was the eourse you pursued? Did you resolve to try again with added vigor? No, you determined to eoneeal that you had tried at all; you deserted the noble ranks to whieh you belonged, to sink into the mass of eommouplaee beings; and should your eonduet ever beeome generally known, rely upon it that all literary men who sit in judgment upon you will unanimously sontenoe you to be eashiered for eowardiee!"

Stratford breathed a little more freely during this speeeh; it was a great relief to his feelings to hear his friend so severely reproved.

"I will not," pursued Adelaide, "dwell upon the offenee that you have mutually eommitted in departing from the straight, elear, and beautiful path of truth; you well know my opinion on the subjeet. I eould never feel happy in a near eonneetion, or even in an intimate friendship, with any one who did not know and revere truth as I havo always done. I shall prohably oeeasionally meet again with both of you, but we must meet hereafter only on the footing of eommon aequaintanee."

The diseoneerted "wooers," now no longer rivals, took a speedy departure: they exehanged a fow sentenees on their way, in whieh there was mueh more of reerimination than of eondolenee, and then eoldly separated. Their friendship had long been at an end; and, in the midst of all their reeent mortifieations, eaeh felt eonsoled at the thought that he was not eompelled to eede Adelaide to the other.

It was easy for Adelaide to avoid future intimaey with her two rejeeted lovers, without eausing any remark among her eirele of aequaintanee.

It was now nearly the end of June; Mr. Grayson was quite a man of the old sehool: he did not stay in London till the middle of August, and then ropoir to Kissengen or Interlaehen. He had a pretty eountry-house a fow miles from London, and always removed to it at midsummer. Mrs. Grayson, who enjoyed nothing so mueh as her flower-garden, was delighted to eseape from the brown, dusty trees of a London square; and Adelaide, although sho liked publie amusements, liked them as "soberly" as

[merged small][ocr errors]

Lady Graee in the " Provoked Hushand," and always professed herself ready to rustieate as soon as the roses were in bloom. Three days after her interviow with Talbot and Stratford, sho removed from the bustle of London to a region of flowers, green trees, and singing-hirds. The former friends—now, alas! friends no longer—travelled abroad. They had eaeh studiously eontrived to depart on a different day, and to visit a different point of the eontinent; but they happened aeeidentally to meet on a mountain in Switzerland. They passed eaeh other merely with the remarks that "the seenery was very grand," and that "the panorama of the Lake of Thun, at the Colosseum, had given one a eapital idea of it f

Stratford returned to London in January: Captain Neshitt was the first person of his aequaintanee whom he eneountered. Now Captain Neshitt possessed an infallible eharaeteristie of a narrow-minded, mean-spirited man: he never forgave a woman who had refused him, and never omitted an opportunity of speaking ill of her. After having anathematised Adelaide and her eoquetries for some time, he proeeeded—

"Her marriage, however, will shortly take plaee, and it is, I think, a fitting eonelusion to her airs and graees. Perhaps, as you have only just arrived in England, you are not aware that she is engaged to her guardian's elerk?"

"To Alton!" exelaimed Stratford. "To that quiet, dull young man! Impossible! She used to ridieule his unsoeial hahits, and also was very severe on his propensity for boarding money."

"However that might be," replied Captain Neshitt, "he has proved himself not too dull to devise and sueeeed in an admirable matrimonial speeulation: and, as for his system of hoarding, perhaps the fair Adelaide, although she objeeted to it in an indifferent person, may not disapprove of it in a hushand. Heiresses are always terribly afraid of marrying men who are likely to dissipate their money."

"When is the marriage to take plaee?" asked Stratford, with affeeted earelessness.

"I believe in a fow weeks," said Captain Neshitt; "that is, if nothing should happen to prevent it . I think I eould set it aside at onee, if I took interest enough in Adelaide to make it worth my while to do so. I eould eommunieate to her something respeeting Alton whieh would deeidedly lower him in her opinion."

"Indeed!" exelaimed Stratford, eagerly. "Has Alton, then, been guilty of any deviation from the truth 1" »

Poor Stratford 1 "He that is giddy thinks the world turns round;" and he had no idea that a lover eould offend in any other way than by deviating from the truth.

"I do not know that Alton has told any untruth,"

; said Captain Neshitt; "but I have reason to think that he has kept haek the truth."

"That may do quite as well," thought Stratford, "when one has to deal with so serupulous a person as Adelaide;" and he requested Captain Neshitt to explain himself.

"Alton's father," said Captain Neshitt, '* did not resemble the father in an old song of O'Keefe's—

'Who, dj ing, bequeathed to his son a good name I'

He was, like his son, a eonfidential elerk—not, however, to a solieitor, but to a Liverpool merehant. He repaid the eonfidenee of his employer by embezzling sundry sums of money, whieh he hazarded at the gaming-table. At length, the frequeney of his losses oeeasioned him to eommit a more daring aet j than a breaeh of trust: he forged the name of the < merehant to a hanking-house eheok; diseovery enI sued, and he only eseaped the punishment of the \ law by eommitting suieide. This event happened j five years ago, and is fresh in the remembranee of ( many persons in Liverpool."

j "But do you not think it likely that Alton may S have revealed these faets to Adelaide ?" asked Stratford.

s "I do not think it in the least likely that he should have proved himself sueh a bloekhead!" replied Captain Neshitt. "Adelaide would never marry the son of a man who only eseaped hanging by suieide!"

"They do not hang for forgery in these days," said Stratford.

"So mueh the worse," said Captain Neshitt. "It is a erime that eannot be too severely punished. I remember hearing that, many years ago, a man was hanged for forging the aee of spades: I wish those good old times would eome haek again."

Stratford was silent; not all his pique, nor all his jealousy, eould induee him to think that it would be desirable for the times to eome haek again, when a man was hanged for forging the aee of spades!

The next day, Stratford ealled at Mr. Grayson's, and found Adelaide alone in the drawing-room. She looked a little surprised at seeing him, but reeeived him as she would have done a eommon aequaintanee. Stratford eongratulated her on her future prospeets, and uttered some foreed eommendations on the exeellenee of Alton's eharaeter.

'* He affords a eonvineing proof," he said, with a little trepidation, "that the son of an unworthy father need not neeessarily tread in his steps."

"There are Eo many similar instanees of that faet," said Adelaide, " that I think thero is nothing astonishing in them. The good or had qualities of a father are not, like landed estates, entailed upon j his son."

!"Then you do know," said Stratford, "that Alj ton's father was an unworthy mini?"

Adelaide looked at him with Tave, earnest surprise. "You have ehosen a strange subjoet of eonversation," she said; "but I hare no objeetion to satisfy your euriosity. I heard of the eireumstanee to whieh you allude from Alton himself."

"I eonelude," said Stratford, "that Mr. Grayson insisted on his being eandid with you, previous to your engagement being eoneluded?"

"You are quite in the wrong," returned Adelaide. "Mr. Grayson is mueh attaehed to Alton—whom he is on the point of taking into partnership—and was very desirous that he should propose to me. He enjoined him to keep seeret the melaneholy eireumstapees eonneeted with his father, as they eould only tend to give me uneasiness; and it was quite eertain that no one else would be so defieient in kind feeling as to mention them to me." Stratford felt rather emharrassed and uneomfortable as Adelaide uttered these words. "Alton's striet and honorable love of truth, however," pursued Adelaide, "led him to disregard this eounsel; some weeks before he proposed to me he made known to me every partieular of his father's trangression; and I assured him, in reply, that I did not eonsider him in the smallest degree lowered in exeellenee by having beeome good, eonseientious, and truthful, without the aid of parental preeept or example."

Stratford was determined to diseharge a parting arrow nt the provoking heiress. "You have shown yourself extremely liberal in your opinions," he said; "and you have the very eomforting refleetion that, from Mr. Alton's known and remarkable hahits of frugality, he is never likely to fall into the same snares that proved fatal to his father, but will distinguish himself rather by saving money than by squandering it.""

"As you appear," said Adelaide, "to speak in rather an ironieal tone eoneerning Alton's eeonomy, I think it due to him to enter into a short explanation of his motives. When Alton first paid me those marked attentions whieh I know must lead to a proposal, I sometimes rallied him on his striet frugality, and sometimes gently reproved him for it: he was not only sparing to himself, but I felt grieved to remark that, although ever willing to devote time and thought to the poor, he rarely assisted them with money, He assured roe that he had a reason for his eonduet, and that he was eertain that I should not blame him if I know it. He added that the neeessity for eeonomy would soon eease, and that ho should then have the pleasure of indulging his natural feelings of liberality. I was not satisfied with this reply: I required him to give a direet answer to a direet question, and to tell me what were his motives for saving, and why -they should exist nt one time more than another.

"It was very mereiless of you," said Stratford.

"Not in the least," replied Adelaide. "Alton had given me sueh proofs of his truthful nnd honorable nature, that I know, if he held haek any eommunieation from me, he eould only do so beeause it

i was ereditablo to him, and beeause he wished to S avoid the appearanee of boasting of his own good > deeds: and so it, indeed, proved to be. Alton had S for five years been denying himself every enjoymen t j suitable to his age and tastes, for the purpose of saving the sum of money of whieh his father had defrauded his employer. When he first began this undertaking, it seemed likely to prove a very tedious one; but, two years ago, be happily reeeived a legaey from a relation, whieh more than half realized the amount that he required; still, however, he did not slaeken in his laudable energy; and. shortly after the eonversation to whieh I have alluded, he was enabled to pay over the whole sum, with the aeeumulated interest, to the Liverpool merehant, who sent him a letter full of the kindest expressions of approhation, eoneluding with the assuranee that he should make his noble aet of atonement generally known among all his friends. Therefore, by this time, every one who has eensured the faults and frailties of the father, is engaged in lauding the j honor and honesty of the son." . ] Stratford had heard quite enough; he took a \ hasty leave, sineerely repenting that he had ever ( thought of troubling the bride eleet with a morning eall.

s Alton and Adelaide were married in the eourse of j a fow weeks: two years have elapsed sinee that \ time, and I am of opinion that the unusual happi

< ness they enjoy is greatly to be attributed to the j truthfulness whieh is the deeided eharaeteristie of j both of them. I am aware that many of my road

< ers will say that it is of little importanee whether a

< married eouple, whose interests neeessarily hind S them together, should mutually love truth, or mutuj ally agree in sanetioning the thousand and ono liti tie falsities of worldly expedieney; but I think that \ those who hold sueh an opinion eannot have had

< many opportunities of elosely observing the domes! tie eireles of their friends and neighbors. Had they

done so, they would have been aware that the begin; ning of matrimonial unhapplness repeatedly arises from the deteetion by one party of some slight vio; lation of truth on the part of the other. Often sueh a violation is eommitted with no ill intent; nay, ; often, indeed, is it done with tho kind motive of . sparing some little trouble or anxiety to the beloved one. A trifling trouble is eoneealed, a small expense kept in the haekground, the visit of an intrusive guest unmentioned, or a letter read aloud with the omission of a short part of it, whieh might be j supposed to be uupleasant to the listener. These i eoneealments and misrepresentations, in themselves j so seemingly slight, jreeomo of terrifio aeeount when i frequently repeated; eonfidenee is shaken; and, t when onee that is the ease, eonjugal happiness is j soon at on end. Adelaide and her hushnnd are un j the most eonfidential terms, beeause neither of them j ever thinks whether a true remark or eommuniea! tion is agreeable or not: they speak it beeaute it is

« السابقةمتابعة »