Page images

tore his hand, as he impatiently broke away the branch.

Her compassionate exclamation seemed to make him more alive than usual to pain. It is wonderful how speedily men who have lived alone, learn not only to endure but to like feminine sympathy. Many a time before had Sir Frederick plunged his hand into a thorn bush, and wounded himself much more deeply, without its occurring to him that any remedy was necessary.

Now, on the contrary, he followed her into the morning-room, at the opposite extremity of the mansion to his own, where the breakfast things were laid; and waited patiently while she fetched her work-box, and brought forth a needle, with which to extract the thorns from his fingers.

He took care not to utter any compliment which might offend her; but he could not help thinking how very pretty she looked, while she quietly and gravely examined into the trifling injury he had sustained.

Meanwhile, Miss Le Sage, regarding him as a very elderly individual, and her friend's uncle, manifested no sort of embarrassment. She took out thorn after thorn with great dexterity, as if, (which, poor girl! he considered was very likely the case,) she had always been accustomed to dealing with naughty, mischievous boys and troublesome children-laid two delicate little strips of goldbeater's skin across the great yawning scratch on his wrist; and then demurely trusted that he would suffer no farther inconvenience, from his goodnatured wish to oblige her.

Had it been the gay widow, Lady Fortescue, or Penelope Holcombe, Sir Frederick would certainly have felt privileged to kiss the soft hand which held his own; but the delicacy of Laura's poor companion was sacred. He thanked her very warmly ;-trusted that the sea-water would not wash away the goldbeater's skin; and told her, he should bring back a full report of the state of the tide, for the purpose of tempting Laura and herself to imitate him, and take a bath in the sea, a few hours later in the day. He would drive them down to the beach, and leave them there for an hour, while he beat up recruits for cricket.

The same sensation was excited, as on all previous occasions, when Sir Frederick Derwent's carriage drove up the long, steep street of Fordington, and stopped at the corner of the lane leading to the sea. Though every soul in the place was aware that he had ridden through it, early in the morning, curiosity was still unsatiated. The dogs came out into the middle of the road, and barked. The inhabitants stared as if they had never beheld him in their lives. Perhaps in condescension to this flattering weakness, Sir Frederick wore a different light-coloured coat, and a large, flapping straw hat, instead of the brown wideawake, which had completed his costume of the morning. The shopkeepers and the Postmaster; as well as the landlord and landlady of the Hotel, and the hostler, stood at their doors, bowing and gazing with an expression of intense gratification. The stale cakes and biscuits in the baker's window, which had been good enough for the poor single ladies who occupied the lodgings, vanished as if by magic, and an entirely new batch of confectionary was displayed, to tempt Sir Frederick’s fair young visitors. The whole street felt disappointed and somewhat hurt, when Laura and Clarice, who were not in the slightest degree aware of the mortification they were inflicting upon an unoffending community, got out of the carriage, without looking either to the right or to the left, preferring to walk to the shore.

The little town had been on the tiptoe of expectation ;-Sir Frederick, who was of a very communicative disposition, having mentioned to the three or four persons he had met with,



his intention of driving the ladies over, presently, to bathe. The horse, which alternately dragged coals about the place, and the machines into the water,--and which appeared to choose its own time, or its owner's, for both occupations, without much regard for the convenience of its customers, - was standing patiently among the shingles. The bathingwoman, in a sort of amphibious costume, was sitting at the door of a little tent, which served her for a green room, with a number of brown and blue stuff dresses spread out upon the sands at her feet, waiting for applicants. The single ladies were poking about with their parasols, among the sea-weed, not venturing to put in their claims. Even the sulky-looking coast-guardsman, out of a feeling of delicacy, had withdrawn from his post of observation. The waves were as complacent as the company at the watering-place, and were breaking, all foam and playfulness, upon the smooth yellow sands.

« PreviousContinue »