SUBSTANCE AND SHADOW;
FISHERMAN’S DAUGHTERS OF
A Patchwork Story.
IN FOUR VOLUMES.
BY THE AUTHOR OF LIGHT AND SHADE; EVERSFIELD ABBEY;
BANKS OF THE WYE; AUNT AND NIECE, &c. &c.
Artless and unadorn’d she pleas’d the more;
The other dame seem’d e’en of fairer hue,
Fat bold her mien, unguarded mov’d her eye.
FOR A. K. NEWMAN AND CO.
SUBSTANCE AND SHADOW.
Various and vast, sublime in all its forms,
When lull’d by zephyrs, or when rous’d by storms.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
I see them not! the storm alone I hear!
IT was in the autumn of 17—, the day had been very hot and sultry, and the sun had set amongst heavy and portentous clouds, thunder muttered at a distance, and the melancholy notes of the sea-birds, as they wheeled in hasty circuits round the rocks, indicated the near approach of a storm; the gay throng who had so lately crowded on the Steine at Brighton, now hastened to their temporary homes, or to their evening parties, all but a few stragglers, who were still on the beach, and who seemed to watch the storm, some with abstracted, some with anxious eyes. Two females were accidentally standing near each other, and steadily contemplating the scene; the wind was rapidly rising, and howled responsively to the turbulent billows; though the sun had set, there was light sufficient to distinguish objects accurately, and the whole expanse of water became at intervals brilliantly illuminated by the vivid lightning which played on its surface. One of the ladies appeared about twenty-six years of age, her features were interesting, and her countenance had a mingled expression of softness, sensibility, and discernment, which instantaneously impressed the beholder with an idea of feeling and good sense; she was habited in a genteel but plain style; and intently watching the approach of the storm, she scarcely perceived that she had a companion, though they were gradually getting nearer to each other, and almost to the water’s edge. The other lady was scarcely twenty; her form was strikingly elegant, and it was fully displayed by her dress, which was fanciful; with one arm she held the corner of a long azure scarf, which flitted in the wind; her dark hair streamed about her shoulders in unstudied negligence; she had no covering on her head; and, as if in fearful contemplation of the elements, she would frequently clasp her hands together, or waive them in the air, as with an emotion, which, however, appeared the natural movement of her mind, she cried —“Grand! awfully sublime! oh, what sight was ever equal to this! this is tremendously magnificent! don’t you think so?” and she clasped the hand of her next neighbour with vehement earnestness, as the liquid lightning which illuminated the scene was momentarily succeeded by a loud peal of thunder.
The countenance of the speaker, as she made the interrogatory, seemed to have caught some of the etherial brightness of the passing lightning; all enthusiastic admiration, she still held the arm of the person whom she had addressed—“It is indeed a fearful storm,” said she, “and I am standing here with no little anxiety, for the fate of a poor couple, who went out in a boat this afternoon; the man is a fisher, who maintains himself by means of his little boat, and I have frequently witnessed the patient docility with which his wife has followed him in this arduous and dangerous employ. I happened to observe them as they embarked; they have been gone a much longer time than is their custom, and I have heard the fishermen on the beach expressing their apprehensions; it is impossible to put off a boat to their assistance, and—”
At this moment the voice of the speaker was entirely lost in a heavy and tremendous peal of thunder; it was instantaneously succeeded by rain, which fell in sheets. Hastily loosing her arm from the grasp of the stranger, Mrs. Elwyn, (for so we shall call her) moved towards the town, saying—“We can do no good by staying here; I think we had better seek our respective habitations.”
“There is something which suits the frame of my mind in this scene,” replied the lady, her dark hair streaming in the torrent which poured on her defenceless head; “I never witnessed such an imposing spectacle before—adieu!” and spreading her right hand on her breast, as if to retain her scarf, with the other she supported herself against the wall, which was washed by the sea, and looked like the genius of the ocean, risen from her watery bed, and invocating the storm. Surprise at the extraordinary manner and strange appearance of this unknown, was quelled in the benevolent bosom of Mrs. Elwyn, by her solicitude for the fate of the poor fishers; and as she sat in her room, still seeing the vivid lightning, still hearing the lengthened peals of thunder, the raging billows, and the roaring wind, she put up a fervent petition for the safety of the honest pair, who, though far removed from her sphere of life, and of whose names she was in ignorance, she yet considered as her fellow-creatures, and equally the care of an almighty and an all-wise Being!
Happy he sail’d, and great the care she took,
That he should softly sleep, and smartly look;
White was his better linen, and his check
Was made more trim than any on the deck.
THE storm of the night was succeeded by a calm morning; the sun smiled, as if in mockery of the devastation of the tempest; houses were nearly unroofed—boats were drifted from their moorings—vessels were loosened from their anchors, their rigging and sails shattered and dismantled—the bathing-machines had felt the fury of the contending elements, and were moved from their stations; and though the spirit of the tempest was quelled, yet old ocean was not so soon appeased, but heaved and foamed, as if with labouring sobs it would have told the dismal history of the storm.
The Steine exhibited a busy and bustling scene; fishermen were hasting to see that their nets and tackling were safe—sailors were busy in righting their ships—the bathing-women were preparing their machines. Mrs. Elwyn was the first female of genteel appearance who ventured forth; she hurried to the beach; alas! the fate of the poor objects of her solicitous commiseration was decided; their boat had been drifted to the shore, without oars, shattered, and a wreck, and with every returning wave the bodies of its owners were fearfully expected.
A deep sigh issued from Mrs. Elwyn’s bosom, as she turned from the beach; she had no spirits to lengthen her walk, but with dull and languid step she returned to her lodgings.—“How buoyant with hope, how vigorous in health, how elastic in spirits, did those poor creatures embark on the treacherous ocean but yesterday!” sighed she; “ignorant, frail, and short-sighted beings that we are! how soon are hope, health, and spirits immersed for ever in a cold and watery grave! no, not for ever!” and her step became firmer; “hope and immortal health for ever bloom in paradise. Oh, God of mercy and of love! into thy haven of eternal rest receive these ship-wrecked mariners.”
Anxious to know something further relative to this unfortunate couple, Mrs. Elwyn soon obtained a direction to their late residence; it was a neat but humble cabin, near the seaside, about a mile from the town. A woman, between fifty and sixty years of age, was sitting by a fire, and rocking a cradle, which contained two sleeping infants. Mrs. Elwyn spoke to the woman in a voice of eager inquiry—“Whose are these children?”
“Oh, madam! what, you have not heard then that these two dear babies have lost both father and mother since yesternoon; poor babies, worse luck for ‘em!”
Mrs. Elwyn’s eyes filled with tears—“Poor infants!” cried she, as she hung over them.
“Aye, poor things,” returned the old woman; “I little thought when Kitty Ellis sent for me yesterday, to take care of ‘em, that I should never she more; and here I tossed up a bit of supper for James and she, and I put it all in order, and I waited, and waited, and between every clap of thunder I listened for James’s whistle, for he was a main man for singing and whistling on shore; but law bless us all, I could hear nothing for the roaring of the waves. ‘twas past twelve o’clock before I lighted the candle; I saw a winding-sheet in it within two minutes, and that I know’d to be a baddish sort of a sign; I could have lain a good wager that I should never see ‘em more, after my eyes lighted on that ugly sight—oh, ‘twas a sure token!”
“Are you a relation of these poor babes?” asked Mrs. Elwyn, still looking with compassion into the cradle.
“Oh dear, no, madam,” said the old
woman, “in all the varsal world,
these babies have now no kin or kindred but God. The parish must see to ‘em
now, and I be only waiting for one of the overseers to come along, to know what
‘tis best to do; for ‘tisn’t to be supposed, or expected, as I can leave my own
business to attend to they for nothing, you know, madam, though I love ‘em ever
“Was the poor fisherman born in this place?”
“Law, to be sure, madam, he was, in this very house too, for aught I know to the contrary; his father followed the same calling as this James; he came from Worthing, I have heard tell, and so he married, and got this boy; and when father and mother died, why James he must be marrying too belike, and so he took up with Kitty; Kitty was a love-child, as was laid at somebody’s door here in Brighton. Folks did say that the saddle was put on the right horse’s back; howsomdever this child was sent to the parish—the great lord or squire, or what he was, set off; and Kitty was a decent sort of girl enough, considering her breeding up, with nobody to care for her, or after her, as it were; and so the long and the short of the matter was, that she was glad enough to marry with James Ellis. Poor girl, she had not been put to bed of these two babies more than six weeks, and such a young thing ‘twas, and looking so delicate, for she was but about of seventeen years old; and I said to her yesterday—‘Kitty,’ says I, ‘’tis early times, child, for you to venture into the water and the wet.’ ‘Molly,’ says she, ‘James has been all alone with nobody but his own self a longful time, and I am very hearty now,’ says she; ‘you mind the dear babies, and I’ll take care of myself;’ and then she suckled ‘em, she did, and she kissed ‘em both three times—yes, I have minded since as ‘twas three times; and she flinged a net over her shoulder, and a basket upon her arm, and away she went.”
Many were the conflicting emotions which disturbed the peaceful breast of Mrs. Elwyn, as she listened to this recital; she wished to do something for the benefit of these poor orphans; but she was accustomed to reflect before she made a decision; and careful of not betraying her secret wishes to the old woman, she remained in silent meditation, when the door of the cottage was opened, and the stranger, whom she had seen on the beach the preceding evening, dressed in the same fanciful manner, with the addition of a long white veil, which, covering her head, descended in floating drapery almost to the ground, entered the house, and throwing herself on her knees at the side of the cradle, bent over it, and, as if careless of being observed, gave way to the most tumultuous emotions and affecting exclamations; she called them “poor forlorn innocents! helpless interesting orphans! tenders blossoms of misfortune! early victims of sorrow!” and that her feelings were in unison with her expressions was obvious, as the large tears fell in torrents from her lovely eyes.
“Do you know this lady?” whispered Mrs. Elwyn to the old woman, and retiring to the further end of the cottage.
“No, I never seed she in my whole life before,” answered the dame; and then pointing, with a look of significancy, to her forehead, she said—“but law, any body can see with half an eye what ‘tis as is the matter with she.”
Mrs. Elwyn did not think exactly with her informant; she allowed that there was something surprisingly eccentric about the stranger, but she knew that romance and enthusiasm were the leading features of the day, and that those feelings were nurtured and indulged, at the hazard of running counter to all the forms and usages of society, and the good old way in which she had been taught to walk.
One of the babes awakening from its slumber, and unconsciously stretching out its feeble arms, the lady started up, and catching it to her bosom, cried—“And shall you implore in vain? no, helpless being, here shall you have your shelter ever!”
“Law, madam, do not please to take up the child; may be as she’ll hurt your fine clothes,” said the old woman.
The lady looked with silent contempt at the cautioner, and turning towards Mrs. Elwyn, she said—“Should I not be worse than a barbarian not to claim her as my own? you who first called forth my feelings for the fate of the poor lost ones, tell me?”
“This is a case of pitiable distress, and no common interest,” answered Mrs. Elwyn, “and I think some means may be adopted to preserve these infants from a parish workhouse.”
The stranger almost shrieked at the name of workhouse, and held the child yet closer to her bosom.
Several persons, attracted by compassion or curiosity, on hearing the event of the preceding night, now gathered round the cottage, to make inquiries, and to look at the twin-sisters. The lady still held the babe, unmindful of the observations of the surrounding spectators, and by turns apostrophized, caressed, and bathed it with her tears.
A subscription was readily made to secure the attendance of the old woman, and to prevent the infants from being taken immediately to the poor-house; but the stranger started up, and putting five guineas into the hand of the old woman, she said—“I do not yield my treasure; she clings to me for protection, and she shall have it!” and hastily quitting the house with the infant in her arms, with sylph-like swiftness she moved along the shore.
“Who is she?” was the general inquiry; no one could answer it.
“She seems to have a particular interest in that child,” said a sagacious virgin of fifty; “else why not have taken both?”
“They are equal objects of pity, certainly,” said Mrs. Elwyn, her kind heart yearning towards the remaining babe.
“She must be followed,” said a gentleman, who was in the habit of acting as a country justice; “for she must give proper security to the parish for the maintenance of the child.”
“No, no, it wouldn’t do for her to become troublesome to the parish hereafter,” said a man who kept a lodging-house on the Steine, and who did not like the idea of an increase in the poor-rates. “The chances are ten to one against its living, if ‘twas sent to the workhouse now. No, no, the parish must have security;” and off he strided after the lovely enthusiast.
“And now then we shall know who she is,” said a maiden gentlewoman, lineally descended from mother Eve.
“She has been here a week; she discharged the servants who came with her, and has hired others, it seems; but she always walks about alone, and at all times, and at all seasons; and then she dresses so queerly; oh, there is certainly something vastly odd about her!”
As if by general consent, the company now moved off, except Mrs. Elwyn, who still cast a lingering look towards the sleeping infant; the unfeeling speech of the lodging-house man had pierced her heart, and as she quitted the cottage, she said—“Do not suffer that child to go to the workhouse till you hear again from me; in the mean time, try to get a wet-nurse for it, and for your care and attention I will reward you. Here is my address,” putting a card into the hand of the old woman, who, curtseying to the ground, was almost overwhelmed by the strange occurrences of the morning, and began to think it was a lucky chance for the twins that their parents had met with a watery grave.
——She, frail offspring of an April morn,
Poor helpless passenger from love to scorn.
LEFT an orphan at an early age, the care of Clara Elwyn had devolved to a paternal uncle; his wife was a worthy woman, who zealously fulfilled the part of a mother and an instructress; and the ductile mind of her niece was early imbued with the principles of religion and virtue; her uncle was equally careful of her pecuniary interests; and at the age of twenty-one she became the nominal mistress of two thousands per annum; we say nominal mistress, because it had long been designed for her cousin, Henry Elwyn, by her prudent uncle. Miss Elwyn had nothing to object to this arrangement; she had from infancy associated with Henry Elwyn; it was highly natural for her uncle to covet such an alliance for his only son, and to retain so large a fortune in the family.
The Elwyn estates were entailed, and in case she had died before she came of age, or in the event of her forming another connexion, and dying without children, her cousin Henry would have inherited them; and under these considerations, she almost felt it an act of justice to fulfil her uncle’s wishes. There was not an individual in the world whom she preferred to Harry Elwyn, and he had always treated her with affectionate regard.
Clara had lived in retirement with her uncle and aunt, and had seen little of mankind; her uncle had been averse to her entering into the gay world (as it is called); and cheerful and contented in disposition, fond of intellectual pursuits, and feminine avocations, she was well contented to remain with them. Yet she had a heart eminently formed to partake in all the delights of relative intercourse and domestic happiness; and she frequently wished, as the period approached when she had engaged to give her hand to Elwyn, that he were more stationary under his father’s roof, but for the last twelve months his absences had been very frequent, and much protracted. Clara allowed it was natural for a young man, in the zenith of life, and blessed with every thing which could make that life appear enchanting, to be fond of mixed circles, of excursions to the metropolis, and of (what are termed) the pleasures of society; but if his heart were in the country, would he not feel a tasteless apathy in the pursuit, and hasten with more avidity, and double animation, to his affianced bride? This was not the case, and those conversations which immediately preceded their marriage, and which might have been supposed to have contained much confidential communication, much cheerful anticipation, and many schemes of youthful ardour, were constrained and confused on the part of Elwyn, and ill calculated to diffuse serenity and confidence on the part of his cousin; yet she blamed herself for remarking his behaviour; she fancied that she had suffered her imagination to take the lead, and that she was too romantic and too fastidious in expecting such unlimited and such unrestrained attention. The happiness of her uncle and of her aunt depended on her union with their son; her uncle had never had more than a younger brother’s fortune, and his generous disposition had prevented him from providing for his son according to his wishes; it became then her duty to give her hand to her cousin, and she hoped that this union would secure their mutual happiness.
The cousins were united, and the strictest propriety and civility marked the conduct of Mr. Elwyn towards his lady.
During the first eighteen months subsequent to their marriage, the time of the youthful bride was almost exclusively devoted to the parents of her husband; at the end of that period they had both paid the debt of nature; and though the melancholy scenes she had witnessed had tinged the countenance of Mrs. Elwyn with a pensive expression, yet the consciousness of having performed her duty afforded her much comfort; her cares and her attentions would from henceforth entirely devolve on her husband; and she looked with a sanguine eye through a long perspective of domestic happiness, which, through the favour of Heaven, she hoped to enjoy. Alas! she was doomed, like millions who had gone before her, to experience the vanity of human wishes! and yet to common observers, what was there wanting to felicity?
The house to which, on the demise of Elwyn’s parents, he removed with his wife, was built on her paternal estate, and situated in one of the pleasantest, the richest, and the most populous parts of Gloucestershire. The mansion was spacious, commodious, and elegant; the Elwyn family had for centuries been held in general respect; hence the neighbourhood united in shewing attention and civility to our young couple, who moved in that rank of life, which, while it lifted them above the vulgar herd, enabled them to keep in the happy sphere of social enjoyment, and did not set them apart from their fellow men, in the solitary gloom of superior eminence. It was the very sphere where Mrs. Elwyn was peculiarly calculated to shine; and as the unassuming equal, and the kind and unostentatious benefactress, she was soon estimated according to her worth.
The discernment and anxious scrutiny of Clara too soon enabled her to perceive, that where she would have sought the fond confiding friend, she found the cold and heartless husband. Nothing could be more obliging or more attentive than the manner and behaviour of Elwyn, yet nothing could be farther removed from that connubial tenderness, which is better felt than described. In any plan of benefiting the tenantry or the poor, which the active mind of Clara suggested, his instant concurrence was obtained; but it seemed as if he took no share in it, as if his heart entered into no scheme of hers; and frequently was her generous, her disinterested spirit, mortified by the seeming implication which his manner conveyed, that it was her fortune, and she had a right to dispose of it without his voice.
“Ah,” thought Clara, “why not ours? Oh Elwyn, Elwyn, you know not how the very existence of Clara was blended with that of thine, when she became a wife! I can have no divided interest!”
Mrs. Elwyn had a great mind, and though endued with much sensibility, yet that softer feeling of her nature had been corrected and restrained by a proper sense of religion. The most undeviating, the most uncomplaining sweetness, marked her whole deportment towards her husband; his smile of formal complaisance was always answered by one of affection from her, his courteous speech returned warm from the heart; if he seemed melancholy, she tried every art to enliven him, without appearing to have noticed it; if she failed, and he retired (which was not unusual) to the solitude of his library, she forbore to intrude upon his privacy; but by immediate and active employment, tried to dissipate her own unpleasant retrospections and anticipations. When Elwyn received letters, she never seemed anxious to gain a knowledge of their contents; if he pleaded business and quitted home, she never asked the nature of it, but anxiously awaited his return, and received him with smiles, which often shone through tears, bright as the crystal showers of April.
If we should say that Mrs. Elwyn had no painful curiosity on the subject of Elwyn’s strange and mysterious reserves, we should be accused (and with great justice too) of drawing an Utopian character; that she had was certain; but gloomy suspicion never gained an interest in her pure and liberal mind. She remembered Harry Elwyn when a boy, gay, ingenuous, and open; she saw and lamented the change, and willing to divine the cause, and after the minutest scrutiny, unable to lay any fault to her own charge, in her conduct and deportment towards a husband whom she loved (in the midst of all his reserves, of all his concealments), with warm affection, she at length resolved it into his anxiety for a family, and in consequence her own wishes of becoming a parent were doubly sanguine.
Poor Clara forgot (or tried to forget) that the gloomy reserve of Elwyn had taken place prior to his marriage, and that when he led her to the hymeneal altar a blooming blushing bride, his countenance had exhibited more of the character of a devoted victim than of a triumphant bridegroom; but the bloom of Clara’s cheek was faded, the roundness of her form was wasted, she had no prospect of presenting her husband with an instant cement of affection, and her health evidently declined.
In compliance with the advice of her physician, she had for several successive summers journeyed to the sea; Mr. Elwyn had been eager for the adoption of this plan, had been strenuous in persuading her to go, but he had invariably pleaded business; and after escorting her, with great attention and care, to some watering-place, and seen her settled in lodgings, he had quitted her.
Mrs. Elwyn’s letters to her husband during these (on her part) forced separations, had been written in a style of confidential freedom; she had no reserves with him, and she communicated all she saw, and all she thought; and having a lively imagination, and being gifted with a facility of expression, her letters were calculated to give pleasure and satisfaction even to an indifferent reader; by Mr. Elwyn they were regularly answered.
In his manner of addressing his wife, there appeared a mixture of respectful politeness and gallantry; in answer to her communications, he always told her of the journeys he had been taking; but of the people whom he had seen, and of the incidents which had taken place, he was wholly silent.
The knowledge of acting in conformity with principle, duty, and religion, will support the mind when every earthly hope fails; but human nature will ebb, and recoil back on itself, in sustaining such a conflict as that which had so long torn the mind of Mrs. Elwyn.
She now almost despaired of ever possessing her husband’s confidence, or of experiencing that connubial happiness on which her early visions fondly floated; and she now turned towards the idea of a child, whose infantile caresses might fill the void in her heart, and brighten her future days with the pure enjoyment of maternal tenderness; but this wish had been denied to her; and in worse health than she had ever known, she had sought Brighthelmstone for the fourth summer, when we introduced her to our readers, standing on the beach, and so anxiously feeling for two fellow-beings whom she knew to be in danger.
Careless and cold, he views the beauteous mind,
For virtue, bliss, eternity design’d.
RETURNING from the cottage so recently inhabited by the poor fisherman to her own lodgings, Mrs. Elwyn revolved over the idea of taking the remaining orphan under her protection. Surely it would be an act of benevolence, and pleasing to the Most High; at the same time that it would afford the supremest gratification to her own heart; her fortune was amply sufficient to enable her to follow the dictates of her generosity; but she did not consider it as her own; she had never considered or used it as such, since she had become a wife; and she sat down to ask her husband’s sanction and concurrence, ere she ventured a step further in the business.
“Alas!” sighed the tearful Clara, “the worst of it is, this will be a mere form; I shall receive from Elwyn a tame concurrence; he will sanction every wish, he will conform to every proposition that I shall make; I never yet could be assured that I got the assent of his judgment, or the concurrence of his heart.”
After simply, but affectingly detailing the direful tempest of the preceding night, and naturally blending with it a description of her own feelings, at learning the untimely and disastrous fate of the young couple, for whom she had been so painfully interested, she recounted her visit to the cabin which contained the hapless little orphans, together with the immediate adoption of one of them by the strange lady. She thus continued—“My dear Elwyn will have guessed my wishes by the length of this detail, yet while I fearlessly avow them, I await his decision. I confess it would be to me a most grateful office to become the protectress of this poor babe, and, in some sort, to be to her a parent. Yet, mistake me not; I do not mean to adopt her into your family, or foolishly to squander your fortune; if I take her under my care, I will do my duty by her, and forget not what I owe to myself. If Providence blesses my endeavours, and she turns out a tractable and well-disposed child, I may have the satisfaction of introducing a useful member to society. Pray tell me, my dear husband, what you think of my plan; for be assured, that my enthusiasm in the cause of this desolate babe would all be quelled, were you to start the shadow of an objection, while it would glow with double fervour if it met with your approval.”
Such was part of the letter, which was thus answered by Mr. Elwyn:—
Elwyn Hall, August 10.
“MY DEAR MADAM,
“I am hurt that you should think it necessary to apply for my assent, in following the pure dictates of your benevolent heart. Never have I yet opposed your wishes, and in this case, surely I must be the most unfeeling of men to start an objection. You have an ample fortune, and in permitting me to share it with you, I hope you will never find that I wish to lay any embargo on your liberal spirit. On the present occasion, we seem to be actuated by similar feelings; for, strange as it may appear, just at the moment when I had the favour of your letter, I was meditating an address to you on the subject of a little stranger, whom I am about to ask your permission to introduce to Elwyn Hall. Many persons in my situation would hesitate to ask such a boon, but I have too long experienced the disinterestedness of my dear friend, to hesitate on the present occasion. My friend Belford is dead, and a boy of about six years of age pleads for my protection. I cannot resist the appeal, and our mutual feelings must be our mutual excuse, for the introduction of our respective protegées. Our circle will be enlarged by their appearance amongst us, and our enjoyments will be enlarged also. Whether we call them children of our adoption, or by whatever name they may be distinguished, yet if they grow round our hearts, and become part of our very selves, who shall condemn us, or term it squandering a fortune to let them share it with us? Be assured, my dearest madam, that I shall receive great satisfaction in seeing you return to the Hall, accompanied by your little foundling; and, feeling assured of your permission for so doing, I shall appear to greet your arrival with Harry Belford in my hand.
“With most cordial wishes for the entire re-establishment of your valuable health, believe me to remain, with unfeigned regard,
“Your much obliged friend,
Several combining emotions were felt by Mrs. Elwyn as she perused this letter; the usual constrained style of her husband was evident, till he came to the part of it which concerned the two children; here the warmth of his natural disposition had forcibly intruded itself, and she could not help fancying that she perceived, in the ardour of his expressions, the mortification which he still felt at not having a son of his own; and to his disappointment in this respect, she in part attributed his eager adoption of the child of his friend.
“Thus are even our trials and bitter disappointments productive of good,” thought Mrs. Elwyn; “had Mr. Elwyn had a son of his own, he might have steeled his heart to the claims of friendship; in receiving the innocent endearments of my own offspring, I might have been impervious to the call of humanity.”
Belford was a name that Mrs. Elwyn had never remembered to have heard, as that of a friend of her husband’s, or of the Elwyn family; but with regard to his own friendships, Elwyn had been uniformly reserved towards her; and it would almost have been a subject of surprise had she known the name of Belford, as she was a stranger to that of all his distant acquaintances.
Mrs. Elwyn answered her husband’s letter, in that prompt and ready manner which instantaneously proved to him that Master Belford would from henceforth have two friends at the Hall; and having procured a wet-nurse for her little protegée, Mrs. Elwyn employed herself, during the remaining period of her stay at Brighton, in providing clothes of more decent appearance than those she had hitherto worn, for the babe, previous to her introduction to Mr. Elwyn.
In the mean time, she had learnt that the strange lady, on being followed to her lodgings by the parish officers, with an inquiry concerning what she meant to do with the infant which she had taken away, had declared her intention of providing and educating it wholly at her own expence; and being asked to give her address, and a reference, in order to certify to the parish that the child would not become chargeable thereafter, she had ordered them to call again in the morning, promising at that time to give them every necessary information; but when the morning came, and the overseers attended according to the lady’s appointment, they were informed, that together with the infant and a female servant, whom she had hired to attend it, she had left Brighton the preceding evening in a chaise and four.
The certain expence of following her, and the possibility of a vain pursuit, when opposed to the uncertainty of the child’s being returned on the parish, as such pains had been taken to carry her off, appeased the minds of the parish officers; but not so the busy tongue of curiosity and scandal; various were the surmises and the conjectures in circulation with regard to the fair unknown, whose extravagant appearance, extraordinary behaviour, and mysterious departure, were not in the course of daily events; in general it was supposed, that her inheritance of a large fortune depended upon her having a child within a limited period; and that having no prospect of producing one herself, she had determined on obtaining one by surreptitious means, and to introduce it into the world as her own.
There seemed in this case a shadow of reason in her conduct; but Mrs. Elwyn, who had seen her eccentric appearance and extravagant demeanour, previous to the fate of the poor fishers, believed that she had some motive for concealing her name and family; and that an inquiry into these had hurried her from Brighton; while in protecting the child, she had merely followed an impulse of feeling; and as in the latter case she had herself been actuated by a similar motive, she was very much inclined to extenuate the conduct of the young lady, and to hope that she was unfortunate, rather than culpable.
That she had money at command was evident; during the few days she had remained at Brighton, her liberality was the constant theme; and her total ignorance, or disregard of the value of money, proved that she had been born in a very exalted sphere of life, or that she had been educated without the remotest reference to that knowledge of prudence and calculation, which is so necessary in the common occurrences of life. Elegant accomplishments and high-flown sentiments may be resorted to like court dresses, and worn on gala days; but in the wardrobe of education there should be lain in a large stock of those plain suits of homebred knowledge, which will be wanted for every-day use, and almost constant wear.
Of chill adversity. KIRKE WHITE.
AT the appointed time Mrs. Elwyn returned to the Hall, accompanied by her little eléve. Mr. Elwyn appeared at the door, leading a beautiful boy of six years of age. Mrs. Elwyn’s warm reception of his little favourite seemed to have paved the way for her husband’s cordial notice of hers; indeed, there seemed more freedom and heart in his reception of herself, than she had been accustomed to meet with for many a day; and indulging in the most pleasurable emotions, the yet sanguine Clara hailed the present moment as the harbinger of many happy years.
Mary Ellis was consigned to the care of a cottager’s wife, in the village of Norton, about half a mile from Elwyn Hall; Mrs. Elwyn contented herself with paying her a daily visit, careful of not suffering Mr. Elwyn to suspect her of an eccentric and romantic fondness for the little orphan.
Harry Belford was the inmate of the Hall, and the constant companion of herself, or of Mr. Elwyn; that gentleman’s fondness for him appeared to increase every day; and in his long walks, which he had been heretofore accustomed to take alone, Harry ran at his side; and even in his hours of periodical retirement, the pleading voice of Harry Belford was not unnoticed at the library door. Of a quick capacity, and lively manners, the boy could not fail of gaining general favour.
Mrs. Elwyn delighted in instructing him, and in marking the opening faculties of his mind; and while she contemplated his dark and expressive eyes, and marked the roseate colour as it mantled on his cheeks, she frequently fancied (and at these moments she seemed to love the boy more fondly) that she could trace a likeness of her Elwyn, as he was in the halcyon days of infancy.
The name of Belford, as the father of Harry, had never been mentioned by Mr. Elwyn since his lady had returned to the Hall; Mrs. Elwyn had kept an invariable silence on the subject; she never sought to gratify an insignificant curiosity, at the hazard of tormenting her husband with questions which he might not approve; if he thought it necessary to be more communicative, she judged that he would have been so; and if his reserve was occasioned by his doubts of her being worthy of his confidence, it would rather strengthen them, and lessen his opinion of her, were she to betray an eager desire to be admitted into it.
As an exemplary wife, we could almost venture to pronounce that Mrs. Elwyn had not an equal; but such a character as we have pourtrayed would not be imitated by the ladies of the present era; they would all unite in calling her a tame, a meek fool; and each of them would be tempted separately to declare—“that the behaviour of such a brute as Elwyn was absolutely not to be borne!” In such a case, they would have recourse to numberless modern methods of shewing their spirit; they would relate the tale of injury to female friendly confidants; they would have let their male acquaintance peruse it in the soft liquid of their melting eyes; and if they ventured to advise retaliation and revenge—[But see further of this in the every-day anecdotes of modern married pairs.]
We will return to Mrs. Elwyn, who, trying to palliate what she would have wished to change in her husband, and dwelling on a great deal that she still saw to admire, diverted her mind, by the conscientious discharge of her new duties, (duties which she had voluntarily taken upon herself), and who felt a living principle within, as the original impulse, and the unerring guide of all her actions.
Gossips there are, and gossips there have been, in all ages of the world, and in all parts of the habitable globe, but the gossip of a country village has been proverbial time out of mind; and the whole village of Norton did not contain one female who was dumb!
The goodness, the meek carriage, and the humility of Mrs. Elwyn, had gained her the universal suffrage; but where we cannot find any thing to condemn, it may be sometimes pleasant to pity; for human nature is human nature, and if there be no perfect happiness, or perfect goodness, how should there be perfect charity? The sagacious spinsters nodded their heads to the garrulous old wives, as they canvassed over the affairs of the neighbourhood.
“Poor Mrs. Elwyn, ‘tis a great pity!”
“Yes, she is a very good woman, very good indeed, very good to the poor. She is really laying up her treasure in heaven!”
“Ah, poor soul! she has lain it out to little purpose here, take my word for it; she is quite broken-hearted, sinking with trouble, though she never complains; and yet, before I would have let my husband bring home his base-born brats under my own nose, and he too that I gave up such a handsome fortune to—oh ladies, ‘tis shameful, shameful work! ‘tis not forbearance, ‘tis not, indeed; I cannot call it forbearance—it shows no spirit, no conduct—it scarcely shows any affection for the husband; for jealousy, say what you will, must exist where there is any love.”
“And the boy, you tell me, is the image of Mr. Elwyn?”
“Oh law, yes! the very counterpart of the father, the same sly look with his eyes, as I remember well, when he came down a child to visit his uncle here at the Hall. These family matches are sad things; they never do turn out well, that’s very certain.”
“But the girl who is nursing at Sarah Cooke’s, whose is that?”
“Oh, that is Mrs. Elwyn’s pet, it seems.”
“Heaven only knows, ma’am; there are two stories about that too; it will all come out in time, I dare say; but they tell me Mrs. Elwyn is very fond of it.”
“Ma’am, I assure you she dotes upon it. Mrs. Elwyn went much earlier to Brighton this year than she did the last.”
“Did she, ma’am? I was not at Norton last summer.”
“Oh dear, yes! she did not go till August then—now she went in June.”
Unsuspicious and unassuming, Mrs. Elwyn pursued the “even tenor of her way.”
Master Belford was at the proper time placed by his guardian at an eligible school near the metropolis; Mr. Elwyn always attended him there, and went himself to fetch him at the vacations, at each return to the Hall. The young gentleman seemed to rise in estimation and in consequence; the servants observing the increasing fondness of their master, and the sweet compliance of their mistress, treated him with most respectful deference and attention. A poney was kept for his exclusive use, a servant was given up to attend him during each vacation, and every thing was prepared for him, which could minister to his pleasures or his gratification. He was a fine youth, and high in health and spirits; and under the protection of such indulgent friends, it would have been surprising if he had not appeared in an attractive light. His improvements kept pace with the ardent wishes of his benefactor; and while he made great progress in his scholastic education, the accomplishments of the gentleman were not overlooked.
Mrs. Elwyn saw the increasing fondness of her husband for Harry Belford with no jealous eye; she loved the youth with much sincerity; and if she was doomed never to be the object of Elwyn’s warmest affection, she did not grudge it to this child of his adoption. Her cares, in the mean time, had never relaxed towards her own favourite; for if she felt a partiality for one of the children, it was surely towards the little girl, whom she had probably saved from a life of painful servitude, if not of infamy.
When she was taken from the nurse, Mrs. Elwyn had brought her to the Hall, and had scrupulously endeavoured to instruct her in her duty, as an accountable and an immortal being, and to infuse such knowledge into her youthful mind as would be useful to her in her journey through life, and be calculated to smooth her passage to the tomb.
The little orphan was of a most tender and affectionate disposition, passionately attached to her “mama Elwyn” (as that lady suffered herself to be called), and scrupulously observant of all her advice and her instructions.
Mrs. Elwyn looked upon the fortune which she inherited as only lent to her for a season, for the trial of her own faith, and for the use of her fellow-beings; and she was careful of unnecessarily wasting it, because she knew that had she died unmarried or childless, it must have devolved to her husband and to his heirs; she considered it as his now; and though she knew that he would, in his accustomed easy manner, acquiesce to any proposition she should make, with regard to a provision for Mary Ellis, yet it was not her wish to leave her more than a moderate provision.
“If I would make her a reasonable and a rational being,” thought she, “rational and reasonable ideas must be implanted in her mind. Happiness is not the certain accompaniment of riches;” here a half-checked sigh proved that she felt what she uttered; “a decent competence, a useful stock of knowledge, a cultivated understanding, without fastidious refinement of taste, and a grateful, a thankful heart, lifting itself towards heaven—these are the blessings I shall covet for my little Mary.”
————————In admonition warm,
Oft did he caution the too thoughtless tribes
Against each sin that easily besets
The heart; and oft, more anxious than their guardians,
Taught the surrounding innocents, who lov’d
His friendly smile, the lesson to be good.
MARY Ellis had attained the age of eight years, when she accompanied her protectress to Clifton; Mrs. Elwyn now left home on a yearly excursion, from custom rather than from an idea of experiencing any benefit.
The sea air had been pronounced too keen for her the preceding summer, and in compliance with medical advice, enforced by the persuasions of her husband, she now visited Clifton; her frame was fragile, and her health delicate, yet she had no alarming symptoms; in fact, mental anxiety and disappointment had long been struggling with a naturally good constitution, and as yet they had not wholly undermined it.
Fond of having her little child about her person, in an hundred ways she contrived to make her feel herself useful, and to imagine herself of consequence in the tiny offices of gratitude which she could perform; thus a stimulus was given to her exertions, and a motive to her endeavours. Mary Ellis had been told that her parents were dead, but of her infantile history she knew no more, except that on her “dear mama Elwyn” the care of her had fallen. Mrs. Elwyn had a great aversion to all appearance of mystery or concealment, and probably this aversion had daily been gaining ground, from observing the cheerless and, as it were, studious reserve, which
Elwyn had ever practised towards her, and which had clouded all her days. She had long determined to make Mary Ellis fully acquainted with her birth and situation, not to give her a more enlarged idea of her obligations to herself, but to dilate her mind with gratitude to the Supreme Being, and to teach her that He who could thus raise up a protector to the fatherless would never forsake those who trusted in him.
From the most trivial incidents lasting impressions are frequently made; Mrs. Elwyn was urged to the communication of Mary’s little story, by the circumstance which we are going to relate.
It was a fine Sunday evening in summer, and having accompanied her protectress to the church at Clifton twice in the course of the day, Mary was rather surprised to hear the carriage ordered for an airing, as Sunday was usually kept in the old fashioned manner by Mrs. Elwyn; and while she devoted herself to the duties of religion, her domestics had rest, and her cattle also.
The evening was delightfully pleasant, the breeze, as they were driven across the down, was cool and refreshing, after the intense heat of the day; they turned out into a public road to which Mary was a stranger, and presently were attracted by the sound of a bell, from a plain edifice which stood in a rural lane, at a short distance from the road; thither they bent their course. There was something peculiarly impressive in the scene; the sun was fast diverging towards the western hills, but its saffron glow threw an illumination on this house of prayer; the simplicity of the building, its neat and unobtrusive spire, the silver-toned bell, the retiredness of the situation, which seemed particularly calculated to inspire pure and holy thoughts to the mind, and to impress on the soul a true relish for devotion; the neat but ancient style of architecture of the dwelling-house, which was attached to the chapel; the picturesque scenery of the adjoining country, a gurgling rivulet, which gently, pensively, meandered through meadows, which were clothed in summer’s loveliest green, and which, newly mown, sent their refreshing fragrance on the evening breeze, all conspired to impress the imagination and the fancy with the most tranquil and the most soothing feelings; and with placid serenity in her countenance, Mrs. Elwyn alighted from her chariot, and entered the chapel, leading her beloved child. The eyes of that quickly apprehensive child were wandering from side to side as they passed through the body of the chapel, and were conducted by a respectable-looking matron to a pew near the pulpit, which was set apart for the accommodation of the ladies. The clergyman got into the desk, the chapel was filled, the solemn but soft-toned organ was struck, and looking towards the gallery, Mary saw on each side of the instrument fifteen girls stand up, and neatly clothed in gowns of green, with modest round-eared caps, lift up with one accord their youthful voices in the evening hymn of praise. Mary felt her heart glow with delight as she listened to this infantile and harmonious choir; she looked with inquiring eyes towards her protectress, who directed her by an answering look to the duties of the place, for now the public service was begun.
The clergyman who preached had chosen a most appropriate text—“Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” He made an affecting but judicious appeal to his hearers for the female orphans whose cause he pleaded; he pointed out the dangers to which children, and particularly female children, were exposed, when bereft of their parents; he showed them the incalculable advantages of early religious instruction, and he reminded them that the Saviour of the World did not think it beneath his glory to descend from the highest heavens, and attend to the lisping petitions of babes and sucklings; he spoke with fervor and with energy, for he felt the cause which he had taken in hand; he knew the depravity and the frailty of human nature, and the dangers to which the best instructed are exposed in their journey through the world; and in affording an asylum for infant females, a nursery of virtue and piety, he judged that there could not be a species of charity more beneficial to the world, or more pleasing to the Almighty. Towards the conclusion of the discourse, he turned towards the female orphans, ere he began to address them; (as if by intuition) they all rose from their seats, and fixing their modest eyes in attentive respect upon the preacher, his address was most wisely adapted to their comprehension. He pointed out to them the particular mercies of heaven, which they had experienced in having friends raised up to them, when they were deprived of their natural ones; he explained to them the nature of their obligations to the patrons of that beneficent institution, who had not only shielded their persons from want, extended to them food and raiment, and a dwelling-place, but who had cared for their souls, who had given them the means of becoming the children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven; he besought them never to forfeit their right or title to that high distinction, but to join with him in praying for their temporal benefactors, and in beseeching their Heavenly One still to supply them with the means of grace, and with the hope of glory;” and then, in a short but solemn prayer, he ended.
Again the organ sounded, again the children lifted up their voices in praise, and Mary’s eyes were suffused in tears, as Mrs. Elwyn turned towards her. It was with proud satisfaction that she watched her trembling fingers, as hastily they emptied her little morocco purse of its contents, when the plate came near her, while the crimsoning hue which overspread her countenance announced the unusual perturbation of her bosom. Mrs. Elwyn had, however, anticipated this in part, and on the preceding day had filled her purse.
When they were reseated in the carriage, Mary Ellis would have sunk on her knees at the feet of Mrs. Elwyn, but was raised to her bosom, and tenderly folded to it.
“I am an orphan too!” cried Mary; “oh why, why must I not kneel and thank you? oh, dear, dear mama Elwyn, only think what that gentleman told those little girls! I might have been brought up wicked—I might have sworn—I might have stolen—I might have never known my duty to God Almighty, if you had not taught me! oh, why may I not kneel and thank you?”
“Only kneel to that God who moved my heart in your favour, my best Mary,” said Mrs. Elwyn, deeply affected at witnessing the virtuous emotions of her child.
“But how came you to take me, to take Mary Ellis? there were plenty, plenty of other little orphan girls, you know; and then you could not tell that I should love you the best of all.”
“Compose yourself, my good girl, and I will tell you all about it. Accident introduced me to your acquaintance, so it would be called by those who are not accustomed to look for the presiding influence of God in all sublunary things.”
“I am quite composed and good now,” said Mary; “but you must let me hold your hand all the time you are telling it.”
Mrs. Elwyn kissed the pudsey hand which pressed hers, and faithfully recounted to Mary the fatal catastrophe which had attended her parents, and the history of her visit to their cottage.
Tears rolled over the roseate cheeks of the artless child, as she listened to the dreadful fate of her parents, but her eyes brightened through them, when she heard she had a sister; and while almost devouring Mrs. Elwyn’s hands with kisses, she forgot not to bless the other good lady for taking her sister, and naturally asked her name, and where she lived. Here Mrs. Elwyn was at a loss; she had frequently made inquiries concerning the strange lady, but hitherto without success; and she tried to quiet the mind of Mary, by telling her that her sister had got a friend as well as herself, and that the same God cared for them both; but this assurance did not entirely set the heart of Mary at ease, (not though it came from her benefactress); for the first time, a feeling of relative affection had been raised in her breast, and she ever after retained an anxious interest for the fate of her sister; breaking from a reverie of a few moments, Mary said—“There are male as well as female orphans, an’t there, Mrs. Elwyn?”
“Certainly, my love.”
“Poor Harry Belford, he is an orphan too; he has no father, no mother—has he, ma’am?”
The question was an awkward one; Mrs. Elwyn felt the colour revisit her pallid cheeks; her lip quivered; at length she answered—“To Mr. Elwyn’s goodness Harry Belford is indebted—he has supplied to him the place of his natural—of his parents.”
“And I think,” cried Mary, “I shall love Harry Belford a great, great deal more than I ever did, now I know he is an orphan like myself; and Mr. Elwyn too, how good it was of him! But were Harry’s father and mother drowned too, ma’am?”
Mrs. Elwyn was again confused; she answered she did not know; and then, as if recalling her words, she said—“No.”
“No, no,” said Mary, shaking her head, “it was only poor Mary’s father and mother that were drowned. Oh, I shall never see the sea again without thinking of my poor parents; and my dear good mama Elwyn, if you had not taken their child, she might have been drowned too, you know, before this time; for who would have looked after her, to see that she did not come to any harm?”
Forward and frolic glee was there,
The will to do, the soul to dare,
The sparkling glance, soon blown to live,
Of hasty love, or head forgive.
SCOTT’S LADY OF THE LAKE.
WE will pass over the infantile years of Mary Ellis, and our readers shall behold her a fine girl of sixteen, firmly fixed in the affections of her patroness, by her good conduct, grateful disposition, and pleasing demeanour; she was not eminently beautiful, but her countenance was very expressive; and her dimpling mouth and glistening eyes displayed the alternate emotions of a bosom which was a stranger to disguise; her understanding was good, and her discrimination superior to her years; she had great quickness and delicacy of feeling, and an innate sense of feminine propriety; she was respectful and obliging in her behaviour towards Mr. Elwyn, and scrupulously attentive to him, because she knew it was her duty, and because she saw it was pleasing to Mrs. Elwyn; but for her loved, her honoured benefactress, her affection could scarcely be restrained within the bounds of moderation; she believed her the most perfect of human beings; and while she beheld her as a model, she was almost in danger of worshipping her as an idol, so strong a hold had the grateful sense of obligation obtained on her youthful heart.
Harry Belford had just attained the age of twenty-one, and returned to the Hall from Oxford, where his arrival was distinguished by as much hilarity as if he had been the lineal heir of the house of Elwyn; indeed, he had been long looked upon as the future possessor of its honours by every body; and though Mr. Elwyn had never expressed himself directly in this respect, yet by acquiescing in the general notice and deference which was paid to him, he seemed covertly to have acknowledged it.
Harry Belford had been told that he was the son of Mr. Elwyn’s dearest friend; he felt that Mr. Elwyn had been the best of friends to him, and his conduct displayed towards him the respect and affection of a son; his must have been a hard heart if it had not softened towards Mrs. Elwyn; but Harry’s was <span style='font-style:italic;mso-