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mend; he is not deaf at the heart, after all; think what a rough school he had of it on the wide sea. Our united voices yet must reach him, Fanny-my threats and commands, and reasonings, and discipline--and your tears too, and your good and fragrant prayers. I am his father, to enforce him to it-you are his wife, to woo him to it; and all will be smooth and delightful, Fanny, my darling."
“ But oh !" she continued to sob, “ the little boy ! my poor little boy! he can never live—not even through the night! I know it well -my heart tells me so, though nurse and the doctor would strive to hide it from me.”
“ Tut, my child, I must not give you credit for half the penetration you would lay claim to on this point; I absolutely do not think you wiser and more skilled in the symptoms of a sick cradle than myself, old nurse, and our first Dublin doctor, altogether. Come, come- --the precious brat will and must do well, and we will make a Christian of him this night after all, you know. I expect our reverend neighbour every moment; and although one of the godfathers we had fixed on, my old friend Blake, will not now be at hand, we can manage to do very well without him ; and, by the way, Fanny, have you quite made up your mind as to the name the young stranger is to get ?"
“My mind was always made up on that subject, you know," she answered.
“ 'Tis to be William, then, after all ?” “ Certainly_his father's name.”
“ Well, I suppose you must have your way-though, indeed, his father deserves no such compliment from you. Tell me, Fanny, my dear, have you lately heard from the scamp ?”
She slightly started, changed countenance, and grew embarrassed, as she answered, “ Not very, very lately. At the same time a letter, directed to her, in, as Sir Miles saw, her husband's handwriting, slipped from her bosom, and fell on the carpet. She stooped eagerly, snatched it up, and hid it again.
“ Well, well; I see, Fanny; and I do not want your secrets from you. Still I should like to know, if you have no great objection, what that very note is about.”
She did not answer.
“ Will you be so kind as to tell me then, if I ask you the question, what it is not about ?”
She only grew more fidgety, and still remained silent.
“ Listen to me, Fanny; I have had my suspicions of the nature of his dealings with you lately, and, without quite gaining myself the character of a very intermeddling old man, I must say that I do think, for all our sakes, you ought to be explicit with me upon the subject I
Do not speak yet. Listen to me again. You are the child, the only orphan child, of a most esteemed and respected friend; and, first, by virtue of my love for him who was your father ; next by virtue of my long guardianship of you, though that has passed by; and last, on account of your alliance with my family, you are my care, my treasure, mine own daughter, as much as is
my own son; and therefore no injury of a kind which it would be my duty to shield you from, shall he inflict, if it be in my power to prevent it, on you."
Injury !—injury on me ?--and from William ? Who talks of such a thing ?-who thinks of such a thing ?"
“ No matter; you will not let me see the note, that's certain ; so, Fanny, I have but one method to take with you. I will assert to your ears some things that I believe to be facts, and you will not contradict them—your noble habit of speaking the pure simple truth will not allow you to do so. I will assert that
“ Dear, dear sir,” she interrupted, “ assert nothing to me at present—say nothing to me unconnected with the one present afflictionmy little boy- that will be the better way.” “ I will assert, Fanny, that William Hutchinson has been applying for
your permission to make away with the ready money settled upon you by your father's will, and afterwards insured to you upon your marriage.”
“ Dear Sir Miles, do not, I again pray you, distress me, for this night at least, with matters that I am really unable even to contemplate, much less to discuss.”
“ And further, Fanny, I will assert that he has already duped you out of a portion of that fortune. You are silent, as I predicted you would be; and it is so, then. Good God! this certainty of my worst fears is dreadful; and how much has he plundered from you ? But I forgot; you are sure still not to answer me, and I must pursue my plan. He has taken away a third—a half-I say he has. Nay, you must not leave me, dearest child.” She had arisen, and was about to withdraw. “ I would not willingly distress you-God knows I would not—but these things I should know; your own good sense will tell you that I should ; and they are terrible things indeed to be made so sure of. Gracious Heavens ! and must you be silent to my very next question too ? He has deprived you of the whole of your independence."
“O sir ! this is unkind-ungenerous-cruel!” she burst out crying, and spreading her beautiful little fingers over her face.
“I am answered, then, with a vengeance! All !—it goes beyond the very worst I could have believed him guilty of. It stuns me. Wretched— lost man!” Clasping his hands, he looked upward with a severe brow, “ Just Providence
“ Ah!" half-screamed Fanny, suddenly catching his arm, “ you are going to curse him! But do not curse your son before that Heaven which is to judge yourself !”
Spare him the wrath to come," continued Sir Miles, in a deep though not unbroken voice ; " and even upon this earth do not visit him with the curse of irreclaimable, unrepentant vice. And yet for a season, O just God! for a season punish him. His heart is very foul -chasten it, chasten it !"
“ Pity him and change him," prayed poor Fanny in her turn, dropping on her knees; "soften that young--and perhaps waywardbut not obdurate heart into its own natural mildness 1" She was thinking merely of a moody change in his manner to her, rather than of his real sins ; “ but spare him, spare him—visit him as the sun when it would thaw the frost-not as the rude wind when it would dash the
young, tall tree to the earth, splitting its tender limbs, and leaving it up-rooted and shorn !"
Her father-in-law looked at her with eyes now mild, and almost smiling in fond admiration. “ And you do not hate him yet?” he asked, taking her hand to raise her—"no ?”
“ Hate William, my husband'! the choice of my girl's heart, and the noble father of my sweet boy ? Hate him! what mother ever did it?”
“ But he has deeply wronged you, Fanny."
“ No; he has done no wrong. A little neglectful, perhaps, he has been. I have had no joy from his voice, indeed, during my late pains and fears—no father's welcome for my poor baby—nay, though he even leave me here, at present, to take his son alone in my weak arms, asking God's care for it-yet only let him come, now or in future, and smile upon me, and stay by my side, and you
will if I-I—but tush, sir; I cannot speak it--and why need I?” She relapsed again into showers of tears.
“ Why, indeed, Fanny. Come to my heart, child. And it is from such women as you, Fanny, that we derive the image the most like upon earth unto the goodness, the love, and the tenderness, that in a most bountiful conception framed you. Men are too stern—too egotistically just, perhaps- towards human weakness; but ye forgive out of love and out of charity; ay, and out of power too, a true woman is merciful! Darling, dry up your tears, and come with me to the drawing-room." A few minutes after, he led her by the hand into the presence
of some half dozen ladies and gentlemen, who, making kind and due allowance for the afflicted state of the family, had for some time patiently awaited them. The baronet's bearing had a lofty and fine expression as he came among them; and there was also in his manner a touching tenderness—the result of the conversation below stairs— towards the fluttering but most graceful girl by his side. Indeed, so full of her was his heart, that, permitted by perhaps an excess of his usual habits of formality of speech, he allowed himself, while naming her to an old friend and relative, to whom Fanny had not previously been presented, to become almost encomiastic and oratorical about her.
“ The young mother," he said, “whose little one we register, to-night upon our earthly list, and in the Book of Life in heaven; a sweet and pure vessel of my blood and honour—a chaste source, whence
my old name shall surely flow as clear as the clearest stream; the mother of my child's child-my good, good daughter."
The clergyman spoken of by Sir Miles not having yet arrived, though momentarily expected, the party descended to their late supper.
“ It will be all the better,” resumed Sir Miles, after he and his company had taken their places, his face still flushed, as his feelings were still occupied with an affectionate enthusiasm towards Fanny, left unprotected and uncountenanced upon this solemn occasion by his own son—and this necessarily heightened his anxiety to show her all love and honour," it will be all the better, my friends; for now upon the threshold of our holy purpose, and before we have a right to toast a welcome to the new guest this lady introduces to us, I request you to drink with me to her own dear and cherished health bumpers !” The toast went round. “ As to her husband, who ought to be, and would be here, to bless his child to-night, only that most urgent and unexpected business keeps him in Dublin
He stopped speaking, as old Martin rapidly entered the room, pale, and almost trembling with agitation.
“O my dear master !" whispered the old man, having gained the back of Sir Miles's chair. “ Martin, the baby is dead !” screamed Fanny.
No, madam, no—no such thing, thank God I” he answered. “ Then my son—my son-is- ?” questioned Sir Miles, also whispering.
“ Not dead, Sir Miles ; but as I met him, of a sudden, just now, in the half light of the hall, he looked so grim and so white that he frightened me. And see-see!”
As he pointed to the door, William Hutchinson, scowling, indeed, haggard, disordered in dress, and looking over his shoulder, slowly strode into the apartment. He seemed totally unconscious of where he was going, or of the presence of others around him. His father turned almost as pale as he, while slowly rising, and then standing still, he fixed his eyes on him. At the same instant Fanny, again screaming, but now joyfully, glanced from the table, and threw her arms round his neck. The guests looked on, or else exchanged looks in great wonder.
“What! is it you, Fanny ? What's all this ? What brings us all here? Hal lit up for company! and a jolly supper-table laid out too-and lots of guests-and-you, Sir Miles?”
His manner, as well as his speech, still betokened some great abstraction from the occasion and the persons near him; his eyes kept rolling wildly towards the door by which he had come in ; and the last words addressed to his father were accompanied by a start backwards, as Sir Miles, having slowly followed Fanny from the table, suddenly stood before him.
“ Here, sir,” whispered his father, drawing him aside ; "your hand is bleeding, and, as I can see, from a good gash across the palm. How did that happen?"
“O nothing, nothing !” answered William, trying to smile at his ease, though the smile was a ghastly one, as he held up and looked at his hand, working its fingers; “ some trifling accident, I suppose, though I forgot how it has occurred, I'm sure.'
“Why is your cheek so white, William ? and why do you frightened ?"
“ If I do, I am not aware of it.”
“ And is this your visit to your father's house, after so long an absence ?” continued Sir Miles, sternly.
“ And is this my welcome to my father's house, after so long an absence?" retorted William, savagely.
“ Well, sir, enough for the present. Go to your wife there she
needs your help, perhaps; and, if you can, a word to comfort her. Go to your wife."
• Thanks for the permission, father," sneered William, as now, a little more self-collected, he walked to where Fanny was sitting, at one side of the apartment.
“ Go, sir," continued Sir Miles, “ we shall have time to speak by and by." He reapproached the table. “Excuse me, my friends, but I had just a word on business to exchange with William. Before he came in, I was about to request your excuses, too, for his necessary absence.” He stepped quickly back to William, and said in a whisper close at his ear, “ Do not build too much, sir, on my feigned forbearance before our friends here." He readdressed his guests aloud, forcing a smile, “ But you see he comes to us sooner than we expected, anticipating my apology;" then he whispered a second time, “ I am aware of some things which shall make my future favour to you slow and cautious. Another toast, my friends!" And with an affectation of jovialness, which but poorly concealed his flurried agitation, Sir Miles again took his place at supper.
William Hutchinson noticed his last words only with a sulky and indifferent“ Pshaw!" He was relapsing into the disagreeable, indeed frightful kind of abstraction, which had marked his first appearance in the supper-room. Poor Fanny having at length seen his wounded hand, had been bandaging it in terror and trepidation.
“ Fanny, what o'clock is it?" he growled, as he passively, almost unconsciously, submitted the hand to her attentions.
“ Very late, William-about two o'clock—why do you shiver, and turn round from me, and keep your eyes straining towards that door, as if there was something in the very air which you listened to ?"
“ I will go to bed—hark !”
6 I hear it now—the weak, wild cry of my child—the sound that will come to a mother's ears quicker than to any !" And she darted out of the
“ What ?” also questioned his father, from the table.
“ Nothing !” answered William, suddenly turning round, and seating himself with the party; and he continued speaking, with looks, a voice, and a manner, of strange, incoherent excitement.
“ Come, I will give a toast too-a sentimental one—nothing like sentiment. Come, ladies fair, and gentlemen, fill up. Health, wealth, happiness, and honours to us all I our noble selves! and mines of gold to us : Fill up-drink off !” He stood up, and extended his glass, and
What's that now?" he continued, muttering, as a great peal of knocking sounded at the hall-door of the mansion.
“ Major Blake," announced old Martin, entering the dining-room. The glass fell from William Hutchinson's hand, and dashed to shivers on the table, while he himself continued standing bolt upright, his previous terrible nervousness now stricken, as it were, into the rigid quietness of despairing certainty.