Page images
PDF
EPUB

seemed sensibly moved, began thus:-"I am come, - Mr. Dives, to talk to you on a subject of the most de

licate nature. I have always had a very strong aversion to any thing like an interference in the concerns of any man's family; but a circumstance has occurred in yours, which has lately much employed my thoughts, and deeply interested my heart. If I am growing at all impertinent, a word from you shall check me. Am I to proceed, or shall I here desist?"

Dives assuring him, that he had by far too high an opinion of him, to look on any thing he could say as presuming or impertinent, Hayward, after colouring and breathing very hard for a few moments, resumed the thread of his discourse. “I am convinced, that there is no philosophy so dangerous to society as the late liberal theory, which has endeavoured to explain away right and wrong, confound virtue with vice, and mercy, the attribute of Heaven, with the whimpering forgiveness of a school-boy. Yet, still there may be palliating circumstances, when the wanderer has strayed from the path of rectitude; has been hunted through the world with guilt, with infamy, and want, When tears of true repentance have galled the cheek of the wretched sinner, the arms of a father may afford that shelter a husband's honour would forbid him from offering. Your daughter was not married*;

he

* Betrothed to a man whom she loved, Martina had been guilty of an imprudent weakness, when her relations, thirsting after money, commanded her to abandon him, in order to marry a richer and nobler man. By that order, the poor girl was confined with a brain fever to her chamber. She had

her crime and her punishment mostly related to her.. self. I see the tears filling your eyes, Mr. Dives; those tears convince me that you are a man, and that you are a father."

Every nerve in the frame of poor Dives began to shake; every fibre trembled with an ecstasy which bordered upon pain; big dews stood upon his forehead, his face was pale, and his lips quivered as he faintly exclaimed—“Oh, God! Mr. Hayward, whither do you lead my fancy? What, what would you say?" Hayward filled him a glass of cold water, which, after Mr. Dives had taken, he declared himself much more composed, and begged for the speedy explanation of the speech he had so mysteriously commenced.--"You had a daughter, Sir."--" Alas, I had!"-" And have one still.” Mr. Dives begged him, as he prized his happiness, his reason, and his peace, not to deal longer in these dark hints, but to let him know the whole un disguised truth.--"I will,” said Hayward; “this poor lamb, which has so long strayed from the fold, I have at length found; but I have found her emaciated by illness, and bending to the grave under the combined sensations of guilt and shame. Arm your heart and

talked wildly, but her parents were ignorant of the fatal cause of her malady. Soon she escaped, unperceived, from her apartment, leaving in it the following billet:

“ To my dear parents,

“Reason has returned, would it had never done so! Oh, Heaven! I can never again look you in the face! Seek not to trace my steps: I would die for your happiness, but indeed I can never see you more. God bless you!"

mind for a scene which will put your fortitude to the hardest test to which humanity can be exposed: alas! she cannot live!"-"Not live?" Oh, my poor girl! Wretch that I am! Savage that I have been*!"“ Be calm, Mr. Dives; she has declared, that a father's blessing would rob death of every terror, and deprive pain of all its agonies. I thought too, that you would feel some consolation from pouring your benediction on the head of this poor, broken-hearted, fallen one. Thus I have not suffered poor Martina to die unknown to you."

Hearing that his daughter lay desperately ill, at a small town in Oxfordshire, Mr. Dives got instantly into a chaise with Hayward, and drove away.

During the journey Hayward recited the means by which he had recovered the long-lost Martina to her anxious and impatient father. He communicated to

him this intelligence in the following words: .: While I was travelling through Oxfordshire my ate

tention was attracted, my curiosity and my feelings very much interested, with the many accounts I heard of a very singular young woman, who had been a long time the common subject of conversation through the whole of that county. She generally made her appear. ance at a lesser inn, at about eleven o'clock at nighters her countenance was said to be extremely beautifu.-though her eyes were wild to an appearance of delio rium; her clothes bore the marks of former gentility. and were always remarkably clean, but so ragged that on a windy day, they-flyttered with every blast, ane: were agitated by every passing breeze! her fine hair. flowed wildly down her back, and her white skin was terribly defaced with thorns and briars. She carried & large bundle in her arms, from which she would suffer no one to relieve her, and betrayed signs of the most violent agitation, if any body attempted to examine the contents. When she came to the inn, she seated her-.. self by the kitchen fire, placed the bundle on her knee, and wept and sobbed over it for some moments with the most passionate expressions of tenderness. She then began to sing aloud, in a tone so wild, so shrill, and yet so melodious, that the most savage hearts were softened at her mad ditties, and the rough labourer melted at her sorrows, and offered her the alms she iavariably refused, with expressions of wounded pride and mortified vanity.

* Often, however, had Dives lamented the effect of his boasted policy, of his covetous heart; often had he lamented his having broken the heart of a daughter, and destroyed every domestic joy for money. He advertised his child, and solicited her return in the most affectionate manner, but all in vain. Day after day had rolled heavily on, and no news of his lost child had arrived to gladden the heart of the miserable Dives.

She generally commanded respect wherever she went. Once a brute, in human shape, used some coarse words to her, as she sat warming her hands on "a wood fire, in a little solitary public house upon a wild moor; yet, though the night was dark and rainy, she snatched up her bundle, and, darting a look of contempt upon the savage who had insulted her misery, fearlessly exposed herself to all the inclemency of the elements? She carried an incomprehensible charm about her, which made her beloved and respected as

soon as she was seen, and pitied before she was known. There was not a master or mistress of an inn, within forty miles round, who had not a bed for the mad girl, (such was the name by which she was known), when ever her melancholy wanderings chanced to lead her to their house.

I heard so much of this daughter of sorrow, that my heart yearned to see her—to soothe her-and to learn the story of her sufferings. Heaven heard my prayer, and was most mercifully pleased to grant it.

I arrived late at an inn one night, and was sitting down to a solitary meal, when a voice struck upon my ear, which thrilled upon my very heart-strings; the tone was so melancholy, yet so loud and shrill, that I felt the most sympathetic sadness I had ever experienced in the

whole course of my life. The tears ran like rain down w my cheeks, and my heart heaved with swelling emo

Titions, more violent, yet more soft, than any I had ever muy felt before! I enquired of the waiter the meaning of

those extraordinary sounds?' .." It is the poor mad girl, Sir," said he, " who comes 1 here to sleep on the eight of every month."

- I enquired the particulars of the man, who recapitulated every thing I had heard so circumstantially, that I was convinced it niust be the young woman I had

been so long and so anxiously desirous of meeting., $ . The feeling emotion of the fellow, while he told her ca little history, delighted me! it convinced me at once of

the worth of his own heart, and the merits of the unfi fortunate creature he so pathetically lamented. • en I begged to see her, and he conducted me to the little do neat kitchen, where she sat singing by the fire. When

little

« PreviousContinue »