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While these thoughts passed through his mind, the little ungrateful animal became aware of his presence, and bounding towards him, began to lavish on him all the same marks of passionate attachment that he had before been offering to his mistress, kissing his hands and bounding up to him with cries of joy, and showing signs of that sudden dotage which dogs as well as wiser animals sometimes so instantaneously contract.
“ Mignon, my pet, my pretty one, come here !” exclaimed the lady; but Mignon cared not; he had taken one of those sudden likings, and he cared no more for his old mistress, now that he had contracted a new passion, than any other modern fine gentleman. It was in vain, therefore, that the lady called to him—in vain that the gentleman in black sought to evade his caresses, Mignon was as ungrateful as any other wretch in the world.
Once more the lady cried, “ Mignon, my pet !” and held out her arms to him. Mignon, with a sort of angry snap, continued his devotions to his new object. In another moment the expression of the lady's face had quite changed—mortification, sorrow, anger, succeeded each other. An exclamation in low and bitter accents, yet not low enough to escape Mr. Meredith's ear, fell from her, “Will nothing love me?" and she hurried away. Now that expression had gone straight to the heart of the gentleman in black; he loved everything himself
, and almost everything loved him, and he wished from the bottom of his soul that the poor lady had half a dozen children to receive and return her affection.
Scarcely knowing what to do, yet being of course obliged to do something, the gentleman in black took up the little offender in his arms, and walked towards the house. He entered the hall, where a couple of livery servants were standing, and heard the interchange of a few words before they became aware of his presence.
“ Missuss be in a precious temper this morning," said the one.
“ We shall all be a-dead afore night,” replied the other; and in a moment more a bell, pulled with prodigious violence, proclaimed the vicinity of the lady of the mansion.
“ I suppose," said Mr. Meredith, “ that this little dog belongs to your mistress : be so good as to take it in to her."
“ Yes, sur,” replied one of the men, “ and she be mighty fond on him. She'd a-been a-breaking her heart to a-lost him.”
The bell rang violently again, and in the man bounced with the dog.
He left the door open, and the gentleman in black could hear and see all that passed.
“ Take the little wretch away!” exclaimed Miss Garvan ; “ let me never see it again! Go and drown it in the nearest pond I"
The man stared, looked like an amazed fool, but stood perfectly still.
“ Take it away!" again shrieked the lady; " take the ungrateful little wretch away ; go and drown it, as I bid you-go this moment!"
The man slank away, for nobody dared to speak in Miss Garvan's house when Miss Garvan was angry; he had scarcely, however, closed the door, and stood for a moment or two rubbing his forehead to see if he could get any sense out of it to guide him in what he was to do, before the bell rang again more violently than before; and on the servant's return to his lady with the little culprit still under his arm, Miss Garvan said in rather relenting accents, “Don't drown the little wretch, but give it to the first person you meet-anybody, so that I never see it again.”
Now the first person that the man met on turning from Miss Garvan's presence was undoubtedly the gentleman in black, and, therefore, in obedience to the orders he had received, he held out to him the beautiful little culprit, and said, “You be the first body-will you be for a-having on him, sur ?"
“ Certainly I will,” replied the gentleman in black, “if Miss Garvan will not forgive her little pet; but I must first see your mistress. Take in my card, and say that I beg the honour of an interview."
The man took in his card, and returned with permission for him to
Miss Garvan was standing-her eye angry-her cheek flushedher whole mien disordered. Notwithstanding the sanguine temperament of our friend in black, he felt his heart fail him; but he remembered the expression that had so much touched him, “ Will nothing love me !" and it seemed to him like a key to her character ; so he began hoping again. In fact, it would have been impossible for him to have survived more than five minutes of despair; he had such a trick in his character of always hoping the best.
Miss Garvan's countenance was by no means encouraging: he was in some measure confederate with the luckless dog, who had so heinously provoked her displeasure; but after a moment or two passed in mutual observation, filled up by a sort of sideplay on the part of our friend in black, a certain kind and urbane expression in his countenance, and a sort of gentle gentlemanliness in his deportment, seemed rather to mollify her nature, and she motioned him to a seat; but seeing that he demurred to take one whilst she remained standing, she condescended to place herself very uneasily in an easy chair, and desired to know the purport of his visit. Whereupon the gentleman in black commenced his tale of griev
Now it was a curious fact, that although he had taken his journey from London to Bath for the express purpose of laying his complaint against the tyrannous steward at the feet of his mistress, yet when he was actually in her presence, he passed over all the obnoxious part of that steward's conduct, and contented himself with relating his dilemma, and urgently requesting a little time to enable him to arrange his affairs.
While Miss Garvan listened, her attitude lost its stiffness, and she sank back in her easy chair. There was a little pause after our poor friend in black had finished his narrative, and then she asked, “ Did my steward authorise your application to myself ?"
“ He did not, madam.” « Did he
encourage it ?” “ He did not even encourage it.”
“ And did you take this journey on the bare possibility of finding me more accommodating than my steward ?"
“I was earnest, sanguine, confident in your kindness."
character of me in London ?” The gentleman in black blushed crimson deep; he.“ could not deny that he had heard Miss Garvan's character spoken of.” “ And against ?" said the lady with some scorn;
“ nay, you need not deny it. And since you have arrived in our neighbourhood, doubtless you
have made other inquiries ?” The poor gentleman in black was getting dreadfully embarrassed. 66 And
you have seen that I can be vindictive and angry even with my dog. You know that from your own observation; and now tell me, with all these deterring marks of my unkindness of heart, how you can have the temerity to ask favours at my hands ?”
“I will answer you frankly,” replied Mr. Meredith ; “ all that I had heard of you I believed to be exaggerated; and what I have seen this morning only convinces me that a wounded sensibility takes the semblance of unkindness ; that it is the very tenderness of your nature which makes you so easily wounded.”
“ And this is your opinion of me?” said the lady.
“ It is,” replied the gentleman; “ and since I first met with you this morning, and became the unfortunate occasion of your displeasure with your dog, I have done nothing but grieve that you should not have more worthy objects for such rich affections."
“ Where are they to be found ?” half murmured Miss Garvan.
We cannot of course tell of what the lady was thinking, but certainly a rich blush overpowered the sallow hue of her complexion.
We suppose that there must be something contagious in blushing, for the infusion spread over the face of her visiter. We imagine it to have been some sudden twinge that caused the flush, and that prevented him from offering himself as a proper object for the lady's affections. Being very modest, he only gently said he wished his own five dear children were near enough to her, both in place and relationship, to receive and to return her love.
The lady blushed more deeply still; she was actually embarrassed. Then came a little pause, and then natural feeling triumphed. When the heart is full of one subject, a word even from a stranger often proves the key to unlock its fulness. In the saddest tone imaginable the lady said, “ Nothing will ever love me! My relations, my friends, my servants, are all unkind, ungrateful, unfaithful !"
“ Will you permit me,” said our friend in black, “to ask you one
The lady was startled, but after a moment's pause she said, “I do not.”
“ Then forgive me if I say that you must not hope for their affection. Love always anticipates its own return."
“ Does it?” replied the lady with another blush; “ well, I will think of what you say, and in the mean time, as I presume you are disengaged, will you dine with me at five ?"
Positively the gentleman in black felt his heart beat at this gracious invitation; he professed his grateful willingness.
“ And perhaps you will also execute a little commission for me in the town, and allow me five minutes to prepare it."
To both of these clauses Mr. Meredith politely assented.
So the lady left the room, and our hero employed the short term of her absence in pondering over all that had passed. The all-important object of his journey was yet undecided, but he felt that he could not again allude to it—no, though beggary were the consequence.
Miss Garvan's absence was short: she returned long before our poor hero had arranged his ideas, bearing in her hand an unsealed letter. “ You will do me a favour,” she said, “ if you will drop this into the post. I have left it unsealed, because I wish you to read what I have written-nay, no thanks.”
The thoughts of our poor friend in black outran her words. The letter which she held in her hand was directed to that odious Reachall: he knew in a moment that it was written for his sake, and in an emotion of gratitude would have kissed the hand that presented it. A slight remnant of common sense interposed in time to check him, however, but not before Miss Garvan had seen the impulse.
“ Do not forget that I shall expect you at five,” said the lady. “ I could as soon forget my own existence !” said the gentleinan.
There was a pause. The lady evidently expected the gentleman to go, but he lingered.
“ There is something more that you would ask me ?" said the lady.
“ Your little Mignon," said the gentleman, “ paid me the compliment of a sudden affection, and I should be ungrateful to leave him under his lady's displeasure without a single intercession.”
“ I suppose I must forgive Mignon her sudden passion for you," said the lady with a smile, “but now she is yours. I cannot resume my gift-however, I will take care of her for you."
No sooner had the gentleman in black fairly emerged from Miss Garvan's residence, than he availed himself of her permission to read the epistle entrusted to his charge. It was a short peremptory command to withdraw every legal proceeding against any of her tenants instantly on the receipt of that letter, but making Mr. Meredith's the most immediate. The gentleman in black, with a grateful emotion, turned his eyes towards the mansion he had just left. was dancing on the windows—the birds were singing—the breeze was sighing and our friend sighed too, though his heart was full of kindly aspirations for the happiness of the lady who dwelt therein.
Our readers may be quite sure that the gentleman in black was punctual to his appointment. He found Miss Garvan dressed both in smiles and a very becoming cap-her complexion many shades brighter, and looking full ten years younger. How we wish that we had room to tell all that the gentleman looked and said on the strength of two or three glasses of wine, and all that the lady thought and felt. But no, we have filled as many of the leaves of this book as we dare venture to appropriate, so we must omit all the gallantry of the wine and walnuts, and merely state the matter of business which the lady and the gentleman contrived to arrange just before they separated at night. It was only this, that as the gentleman had been accustomed to India House accounts, he must of course understand farming
Dec. 1838.-VOL. XXIV.--NO. XCII.
accounts; and that, therefore, he would be an excellent person to investigate the books both of her town and country stewards, and that he should enter on this office the very next day.
Six weeks after this dinner the gentleman in—no, not in black-he had on a blue coat with gold buttons, was rolling along the London road in a handsome dark-green travelling carriage, with a lady seated by his side, dressed in a white bonnet, a rich blond fall, and a few little orange blossoms. We are particular in these things, because they may serve to elucidate the free and easy sort of style in which they took the liberty of addressing each other.
“Do put Mignon down,” said the lady, “ I am jealous of him."
“ But I am grateful to Mignon,” replied the gentleman, “because he first introduced me to you; if Mignon had not excited your
feelings, perhaps I might never have known them.”
“ And then?” said the lady with a fond foolish smile, such as silly women are particularly liable to bestow on their husbands.
Why then I should have gone back after a bootless errand, and a miserable wretch into the bargain, instead of the happy fellow you have made me.”
“ And could I have known what I should have lost, what a far more miserable wretch I should have been !"
“ I should have lost," interrupted the gentleman, “ the kindest heart that ever beat within human bosom, and all that that kind heart delights to bestow—but which I am almost ashamed to mention—I should have lost the gifts of her unlimited generosity, affluence, respectability, and a mother for my children."
“And I should have lost,” interrupted the lady in her turn, “ the only heart that had kindness enough to think kindly of 'mine. Indeed and indeed you must have been made to snatch me out of the dreadful pit I was so industriously digging for myself. That very hopefulness and trustfulness of your nature shamed me out of the narrowness and suspicion of mine. The virtues of your character serve to neutralise and counterbalance the sins of mine. And indeed I was very miserable—unloving and unloved. Is not that the condition of the lost ones ? and that was mine. I suspected everybody-hated everybody_myself most !"
“ You say that you suspected everybody, and yet when I came to you on a mercenary and selfish errand, I found your heart open as day to melting charity."
“ Ah! but how you flattered me!"
“ Flattered you! O no! I disclaim that. On the contrary, I presumed to speak to you the honest truth.”
“ Ah! but the circumstances were all flattery, feeling as I then felt. It was flattery to trust to my generosity in the face of so many condemning facts. It was flattery to come all the way from town to ask a favour at my hands, when you had heard me stigmatised as all that was unwomanly and unfeeling—flattery still to ask it when you saw me passionate and cruel-and flattery, more than all, to dare to speak the truth to me. This was the way you won me-now shall I tell you how I won you ?"
The gentleman's face flushed over. “ Ah !" she hastily resumed,