Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

peer with inexpressible astonishment, "upon my honour, I had no idea of it.”

“It is even so, my lord,” replied the lady, a little piqued, perhaps at the surprise so freely shown, but greatly pleased at the sort of coup de théâtre effect of the discovery.

While this interesting communication was making in the drawingroom, Patty had made her way into the library, where she found her father and Foxcroft in very close consultation.

“So you are here, are you?” said Patty, addressing the ex-lieutenant, and accompanying the question with a very scornful grimace, that did honour to the courageous firmness of her friendship for the unhappy Matilda. “You'll find these quarters too hot for you, Mr. Captain, if I don't much mistake,” she added ; " for you may depend upon it I am not going to give up having my own particular friend, Matilda Perkins, here-and I should be happy to know what you would think of meeting her ?”

“I do assure you, my dear young lady, I should not feel the least objection in the world to meeting your amiable friend, and she must have altogether mistaken my motives, if she attributes any thing to me which ought to occasion any coolness between us. Unhappily my income is insufficient to permit my marrying a lady without fortune, however charming she may be; but however much this may be a matter of regret on my side, it surely ought not be a matter of resentment on hers.”

“Fiddle-de-dee !" replied Patty, turning her back upon him, and addressing her father. " I say, pap,” said she, “there is my Lord Muckle something or other up stairs. It is mamma's great friend, you know, that she is so often crowing about, and you must come up this very minute, whether you like it or not.”

“Is that the message that your mother sent to me, Patty ?" demanded Mr. O'Donagough.

My eye, no, papa! Mamma's as soft and as sweet as the flowers in May, now that she has got this Lord Muckle with her, so come along.

“ And so I will, Patty; but you must shake hands with Foxcroft first."

I had rather shake hands with a toad, than with a false-hearted lover,” said Patty.

“ Don't stand there, talking stuff to me,” replied her father, with the aspect that always won belief as to his being in earnest.

So Patty shook hands with Mr. Foxcroft, who then took his departure; but she relieved her feelings by performing sundry grimaces to her father's back as she followed him

up

the stairs. Nothing could be better than the style in which Mr. O'Donagough permitted himself to be presented to the gay old nobleman, and the few minutes of conversation which followed between them left exactly the impression on his lordship's mind which he intended; namely, that Mr. O'Donagough was certainly a very decent sort of person, though he had such a queer wife.

(To be continued.)

THE CHALET IN THE ALPS :

A TALE OF HUMBLE LIFE.

BY THE COUNTESS OF BLESSINGTON.

In a secluded spot, in the wild and desolate regions of the Alps, dwelt two families, the only inhabitants of the place. The two chalets occupied by them, and a few patches of land laboured into fertility by hardy and incessant toil, with a herd of goats, who sought their scanty food wherever the rare and stunted herbage appeared, were the only symptoms of human habitation visible for some miles. A more dreary spot can hardly be imagined, than that where the chalets stood. Winter reigned there with despotic force during nine months of the year; and the approach of summer was hailed with a delight known only to those who have languished for its presence through many a long and cheerless day, surrounded by the dreary attributes of the gloomy season.

Mountain rising over mountain, covered with eternal snow, and divided by yawning chasms, whose depths none had ever ventured to penetrate, met the eye at every side; the intermediate prospect only broken by the presence of a few hardy tannen and pine trees, whose dark-green foliage formed a striking contrast to the snowy mantle, which, like the funeral pall of dead nature, covered the earth for nearly three parts of the year.

The first symptom of vegetation was welcomed in this wild spot, as the first born is by a mother who has long pined for offspring; and, as the rays of the sun melted the frozen surface of the mountains, and sent a thousand sparkling streams rushing down their sides, falling with a pleasant sound into the deep glens beneath, the hearts of the inhabitants of the chalets became filled with cheerfulness, and the rigours and sufferings of winter were forgotten.

Martin Vignolles, with his wife and two daughters, occupied one of the rude and comfortless residences in this solitary spot; and the widow Bauvais, and her son, the other. The husband of the widow had been one of the most bold and adventurous chamois hunters in the Alps; and lost his life in the chase of one of those wild animals, leaving his wife and son, then an infant, wholly dependent on the kindness of their sole friend, Martin Vignolles. Nor did this friend fail them in the hour of need. He became as a brother to the bereaved wife, and a father to the fatherless; sharing with them his scanty subsistence, and cultivating the patch of land which the deceased had laboured into fertility.

Years passed away, and the widow's son had now grown into manhood, while Annette Vignolles had just completed her sixteenth year, and Fanchon her sister, her twelfth. The young man was light, agile, and hardy, like most of the children nurtured in the wild regions where he had been born; and where activity of person, and firmness of mind, are continually called into exercise, by the danger and difficulty with which the means of existence are procured. The melancholy of his widowed mother, who had never ceased to lament the husband of her youth, had tinged the mind of her son with a softness, and disposed it to a susceptibility, which though it impaired not his animal courage in the hour of danger, exercised a powerful influence over his affections, rendering him alınost a slave to their empire.

Annette Vignolles was a creature of remarkable beauty, and quickness of feeling. She had been from her childhood as a daughter to the widow, and had never known a thought, a wish, or a hope in which the widow's son had not been included.

It was soon after Annette had reached her sixteenth year that her father, in endeavouring to extricate one of his goats, which had fallen from a cliff, missed his footing, and was hurled into an abyss, nearly filled with snow, where a certain but lingering death awaited him, had he not been rescued by the intrepidity of Michel Bauvais; who, at the risk of his life descended where no human foot had ever before dared to tread, and saved Martin Vignolles from his perilous position.

This accident was followed by the total loss of the use of Vignolles's limbs; who, from that day, became unable to afford the least assistance towards the maintenance of his family. Then it was, that the widow and her son endeavoured to repay the debt of gratitude due to their neighbours. Michel laboured for them with unremitting toil and alacrity, and suffered them to experience no diminution of the few comforts, if comforts the strict necessaries of life might be called, to which they had hitherto been accustomed. Anxiously but unavailingly had the widow tried to prevent Michel from pursuing the hazardous profession of his lost father. In all other respects the most docile and obedient of sons, he evinced in this a wilfulness that often filled her heart with the most gloomy forebodingsforebodings which infected the mind of Annette with fearful apprehensions, whenever he was absent on those dangerous enterprises. Yet when he returned home, bending under the weight of his spoil, and made light of the fears of his mother, or silenced them by his caresses, the whole circle collected in the chalet of Martin Vignolles felt too happy to chide him; though all never sought their humble couches without offering up fervent prayers for his safety. Often would the widow dwell on the past, not less with a view of warning her son than from that yearning of the heart towards the dear departed felt by all who have known the misfortune of losing the partner of their youth.

“ It was just such a night as this,” would she say, “ that I expected my poor Claude for the last time. “ Ah! how well do I remember it! I made up a good fire, prepared his supper, and carefully swept the hearth, for my dear husband always liked to see a blazing fire, and a clean hearth. Michel slept in his cradle, and smiled in his sleep, poor innocent, little dreaming of the dreadful misfortune that hung over us. I tried to work; but the needle slipped from my fingers, they trembled so. I opened the door, and stood on the ledge of the rock near it, to listen for his step—that step I was never again to hear. The moon was shining, as now, like silver, and the frozen tops of the mountains were sparkling with light, except when a cloud passed over the bright face of the moon, and then a dark shadow fell on them. I knew not why it was, but a cold tremour shook my limbs, and my heart trembled; the branches of the pine creaked discordantly, and the wind, which a minute before had been still, sighed mournfully through the leaves. I looked around, but all appeared so cold and bright, so unfeeling-like to my fears, that I turned from the view, as one turns from a selfish, heartless person, who has no pity for our misfortunes, and I came back to the house to seek comfort in looking again at my sleeping child. Oh! what a long night was that! I thought it was the most miserable I ever should pass; but I have passed many a more wretched one since, for then I had hope. I remembered through the weary hours how he looked, and what he said. He stood on the threshold he was never more to pass, looking back on us with a smile, which I, at the moment, thought too gay a one when leaving us; but which, when I recalled it to my memory in that night, seemed sadder than a smile ever was before. How often have I thought of that smile since! I followed him a few steps, and kissed him again,-woe is me! it was for the last time, and he chided me because the tears started into my eyes. But his chiding was gentle, so it ever was; and when he got to the last pine-tree, he turned round and waved his hat to me. Ah! neighbours, who could have thought that I was never more to see him ?

Tears interrupted the widow's melancholy reminiscences, nor did they flow alone; for Annette's, too, coursed each other down her cheeks; not so much, the truth must be owned, from sorrow for poor Claude Bauvais, whom she could not remember, as from the dread of the possibility of a similar fate awaiting his son.

Annette and Michel loved with no common passion. Their attachment had grown with their growth, and strengthened with their strength. All their notions of the past and the future were identified with each other; and the possibility of separation never occurred to either, save when the widow related the melancholy parting with her husband, which, though often repeated, never failed to excite the tears of Annette, and the seriousness of her lover. Love, at all times so engrossing a sentiment when felt for the first time in youthful hearts, was all-powerful with these simple children of nature, whose thoughts, wishes, and hopes were centred in their own narrow circle. Their parents witnessed the affection of their children with satisfaction. They had, from the birth of both, arranged their marriage, and never doubted that the attachment which they desired should spring up between them, would prove as warm and ardent as it really was. Motives of prudence had induced them to defer the marriage of the young people, until Michel had atfained his twenty-first year; and the misfortune that had befallen the father of Annette, by leaving him and his family dependant on the exertions of the young man, rendered the resolution of procrastinating the marriage still more necessary.

It was on a cold night in the early part of autumn, when winter had anticipated its visit by many weeks, that Michel Bauvais, returning to his home through a narrow pass in the mountains, was attracted by the barking of a dog; and, on approaching the spot whence the sounds came, discovered a man nearly in a state of insensibility, over whom the faithful animal was uttering his melancholy cries. It was not without considerable difficulty that he succeeded in restoring suspended animation to the stranger, and then slowly led him to the humble chalet, where his mother assisted him in his exertions to render the visit of their unexpected guest as comfortable as their limited means permitted. The warmth of a good fire, and some boiled goat's milk, had such a salutary effect on the invalid, that he was shortly able to thank his preserver, and to inform him that he was an artist, 'who, in his search of the picturesque and sublime scenery which he wished to delineate, having advanced farther into the mountains than prudence warranted, had lost his way; and, after many hours passed in fruitlessly endeavouring to regain it, had at last sunk exhausted into a slumber, whence in all human probability he might, from the intense cold to which he was exposed, have never awakened, had he not been rescued by Michel Bauvais.

The young artist was pressed by his poor but hospitable hosts, to continue with them a day or two, until he had recovered sufficient strength to ensure a safe return to his home. He opened his portfolio, and delighted their inexperienced eyes with sketches that might well have claimed approbation from those accustoined to see the finest drawings. Annette was called to share in the gratification their display afforded, and her beauty and artless grace excited so much interest in the young artist, that he immediately made a portrait of her, which filled her lover with joy and gratitude.

The vicinity of the wild spot inhabited by the two families, possessed such attractive scenery, that the painter prolonged his stay several days for the purpose of sketching the different views. Annette would hang with delight over his drawings, and listen with scarcely less pleasure to the songs he would sing her while making them. She would loiter at night an hour or two after the usual hour of seeking repose, to hear the young artist's description of the towns and their inhabitants in which he had dwelt; and had a thousand questions to ask relative to scenes of which hitherto she had been in perfect ignorance.

At first Michel shared in the interest which was awakened in her mind; but soon a jealous feeling occasioned by witnessing how much of her time and attention was engrossed by the stranger, took possession of his mind. He became moody, captious, and harsh to her, towards whom he had never previously evinced a symptom of ill-humour. This sudden, and to Anneite unaccountable change in his temper, only aggravated the cause that led to it; and the poor simple girl, repulsed by her lover each time that she sought to address him with her wonted and affectionate familiarity, took refuge in the niild and amusing conversation of the young painter. When Michel was compelled to be absent from the chalet in search of fuel, or to lead home the goats, it was evident that his moodiness increased ; and when he returned, it was excited almost to frenzy, by finding Annette seated by the stranger, listening with unconcealed delight to his songs, or the stories he related to her.

The whole character of Michel became changed. No longer the gay youth, whose cheerfulness had been the life of the chalets, his illhumour was now a source of chagrin to all its inhabitants, none of whom, owing to their simplicity, suspected its cause. Often in the moodiness of his spirits, when stung into anger by some innocent familiarity exhibited towards the stranger by Annette, he almost cursed the hour when he saved him from death, and led him to the chalet to fascinate her who hitherto had never lent her eyes or ears with pleasure to aught save himself alone.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »