Abbildungen der Seite

Two or three hours soon slipped away, and then a young gentleman was announced, who had brought Mrs. Selby a brace of partridges. The young man had not long left Dr. Barfoot's, and knowing and liking Mrs. Selby, as all the doctor's pupils did, he had kindly brought her a part of the produce of his first day's shooting. A few minutes had passed in pleasant chat, when Nelly's voice and merry laugh rang through the house. How sweet-how very sweet is the laugh of childhood! Among the thousands of grown people we meet, very, very few laugh sweetly: the sound too often seems with them a laboured and unnatural effort; but in childhood it is a clear, ringing, happy, musical sound, bursting spontaneously from the heart, and seeming to the fanciful ear as if it were an echo from a more pure and happy world.

Well, on they came-beautiful, happy Nelly, and her kind-hearted, noble-looking playfellow. They had been accosted by many ladies and gentlemen on their way, and Nelly had been “very good," as she called it; and Charlie had been quite flushed with gratified pride at the admiration his little companion had excited. When near their own gate, Nelly sprang suddenly away—she was tired, poor child, of being “good”and bounded into the garden; for an instant she crouched behind a rosetree; then, as Charlie hastened after her, she jumped out with a mimic roar, crying, “I'll be a tiger, and eat you up,” and, with the words, she placed her rosy lips and pearly teeth on the back of his hand, as if to


“Oh, you will, will you?” cried Charlie ; " then I'll hunt you, Miss

[ocr errors]

And away she ran, with Charlie pursuing her, around the grass plot, around the garden, through the house, and into the back yard.

"Now I'll shoot you, Miss Tiger !” said Charlie, snatching up the gun, which the young sportsman had incautiously left resting in a corner -"now I'll shoot you!"

There was a report-a loud shriek. “My God !” cried the young sportsman. “ The gun! the gun !"

He and Mrs. Selby rushed to the spot. Alas ! alas! Beautiful little Nelly was lying bathed in blood! Charlie had flown to lift her, but had toppled over just as they came, and lay beside her in a dead faint.

There was smoke-confusion-a cry of agony. Mr. Cooch, hearing that poor Eleanor Selby was shot, again hurried to the spot; but he was not now, as at her father's death, calm and collected—the strong man shook with terror, the muscles of his face worked powerfully, and he wrung his hands as he cried,

“Oh Lord, have mercy on us! This is terrible, most terrible !"

II. WHENCE or what is that voice which carries so swiftly and mysteriously the news of any tragical event ? Searcely, it seemed, had the gun been fired before the sad tidings became known throughout the town. People rushed from every quarter towards the house, from feelings of mingled sympathy and curiosity : only Mr. Cooch and Dr. Barfoot entered, but numbers remained outside to learn as early as possible whether there was any hope of the child's life. Mrs. Selby was the first to think of and care for poor Charles Howard

“Poor boy!" she said. "He will feel this bitterly.”

. “Shall I remove him ?” asked Dr. Barfoot.

Oh, no! not yet," replied Mrs. Selby. “Let me see and comfort him first ; perhaps he is more to be pitied than any of us.”

The surgeon soon arrived, and the blessed assurance was given that little Nelly's hurts were not in themselves at all dangerous : the fair cheek was punctured in many places, as were the hands and arms, but the shots had not penetrated deep, as, happily, the gun had been fired from some little distance. After extracting them, the surgeon prescribed quiet, but the child would not rest without first seeing Charles Howard.

“He did not mean to hurt me, mamma,” she said, “and you must not be angry with poor Charlie.”

Mrs. Selby fetched him herself, she soothed his grief, gave him hope that the accident would leave no ill effects, as the hurts were not in themselves very severe, and together they sat by Nelly's side throughout the night.

The morning found the watchers hopeful, and, if not quite cheerful, yet happily unconscious of coming evil; but, as time wore on, it became manifest that the health of the poor child had suffered a grievous shock. A low nervous fever seized upon her, and she grew thin, peevish, and irritable ; there was no sleep for her by night, no rest nor appetite by day. She would seek to get up at five-four o'clock in the morning; and then, pillowed in an easy-chair, from which she had not strength to move, she would sit, coiled up, hour after hour, watching a distant corner of the room, in which she fancied she saw a small dull spark, which would grow and grow and roll towards her, with a silent, dreamy, indistinct motion, until it was close, quite close: and then it would seem to shrink in size, and increase in lustre, and separate itself into two little points of dazzling brightness, which would dart through her eyes into her head, and then join, and grow, and grow again, and, at last, burst with a dull, dead sound - if that may be called a sound which to her outward ears was not audible-and her brain would turn and dance in a giddy, confused whirl, and she would forget where she was, and all around her; and then, again, like one awaking from sleep, she would recollect the spark, and once more watch the corner, and once more go through the same fearful, indescribable suffering.

And then, as winter came on, and poor Eleanor continued still struggling with disease, a startling fear presented itself. Her eyes were seen to be inflamed, the sight was weakened, and soon the light of day, even of a November's day, was too much for her to bear. The malady grew worse and worse ; and at length, as she sat on her chair, or lay moaning on a little bed made up on a sofa in the parlour, she had to be sereened from the fitful light of the coal fire; and the curtains, or sometimes even the shutters of the windows, were obliged to be kept closed.

Weary and sad was the long winter to the inmates of the little cottage. Of Mrs. Selby's four boarders, three had been removed-only Charles Howard remained ; and he, though the doctor wished him to come to his house, positively, nay, almost fiercely, refused to leave the ruin which, he said, he had made. For a time he neglected all his school duties; but when Dr. Barfoot, after the lapse of some weeks, remonstrated with him, and said that he must write to his father, and get him removed altogether, if he persisted in this neglect of his studies, he suddenly changed: all the lessons and exercises, strictly required of him, were got through promptly and readily ; but the moment he was released, he would hasten to poor Nelly's darkened room, to watch over her, to moisten her parched lips, and to tempt her, if possible, to take her medicine, or the refreshment which fainting nature required. The glad spring came at length, and poor Nelly—no longer beautiful, but pale, and wan, and suffering—was carried by Charlie into the little garden. 7 Alas! alas ! she could no longer see the bursting leaf, the blushing blossom ; birds and butterflies, and all the living things which had been so dear to her, existed for her eyes no more. Poor Eleanor Selby was blind ! { if !).. )....1: -, ..

Could pity, could sympathy and kindness have softened the blow to Mrs. Selby, she would have had no cause to complain. Nor did she murmur: she had learned that even in judgment God remembers merey, and she submitted in silence to His chastening band; she communed with her heart, and was still. Not so poor Charlie : while Nelly slept; or when alone with Mrs. Selby, he would wring his hands, and weep bitterly. t. ..

“You must hate me,” he would say, "dear Mrs. Selby, for I hate myself. Dear, darling Nelly! How plainly I can see her now, just as she was on that dreadful day! How lovely she looked, with her beautiful glossy curls, her rosy cheeks, and her laughing eyes!' And how everybody admired her! And I-I have destroyed it all! Oh, Mrs. Selby, how you must hate me!": I . 11:21",1.', ; , : : 1.

One day in the latter end of May, Mrs. Selby spoke to Dr. Barfoot about him. With a trembling voice and quivering lip, she said, “ I think you must remove poor Charlie at Midsummer, Dr. Barfoot; I get 'alarmed for his health, both of body and mind. You must have remarked the change; all his cheerfulness has disappeared, and he thinks only of 'my poor little girl. · He will not join his companions in their sport, and is abrupt, gloomy, and even morose to all but to Nelly, me, and Jane. "Even to me he is sometimes captious, but then he mourns for his fault as soon as it is committed, and promises, with every expression of remorse, never to be so again. In short, Dr. Barfoot,” she added, with a burst of uncontrollable weeping," he is everything to me, next to Eleanor; but, for his own sake, he must go.",') in Buch ..!

6 You are right, my dear madam," said the doctor. "My judginent has told me this for some time, but I could not make up my mind to act upon it. You know Charlie is to go to Addiscombé, preparatory to entering the Indian army; at Midsummer, br as soon after as possible, he shall go." But how will you and poor Nelly bear to part with him?! 1 “ We must do our best," said Mrs. Selby; but indeed the change in

Charlie is most painful to me." ofonovni obiettivi, ili, ? Dr. Barfoot rose, and, looking out of the window, saw Charles Howard ? drawing Nelly in a small hand-earriage. He was plucking flowers for her, talking to her, even laughing with her when he could win a smile, but all with such a sorrowful, heartbroken expression of countenance, *such a look of melancholy sadness, that the good doctor felt the tears fast coming to his eyes.

Utos oli. W 19W 2W ilių erd 902 « Charlie has grown very tall this winter," he said, and is pale, thin,

and careworn ; we must indeed remove him, but we must deal gently with feelings such as his. And you, Mrs. Selby, you will then be without

any resource but what you can find in teaching my girls."; , .,!1d sla 0 óc Do not consider my interest,” she replied; « God bas supported me

hitherto, and will not desert me now." I fear I have not sufficiently attended to your daughters lately, Dr. Barfoot; but you know the reason, and Mrs. Barfoot has been very, very kind.”.. ! : "Oh, the gúls have done very well,” said the doctor; “ but I have been thinking, Mrs. Selby, or rather Mrs. Barfoot has been saying to me, that they would be better out of our house now than in it, and we talk of sending them off altogether. The two eldest, you know, are getting great girls-Mary is fourteen, and Jessie only fifteen months younger. They cannot be always kept in the schoolroom or nursery, and Mrs. Barfoot wishes them to be sent from home. We have so many young gentlemen domesticated with us that it would be better so."

During this speech, Mrs. Selby had grown deadly pale. The doctor observing it, paused suddenly. " What is the matter?” he said.

“ Indeed, Dr. Barfoot, I am ashamed of this weakness, but I believe the thought struck me that all would now be lost to me at once. I am not ungrateful to you, but I am selfish and weak. I will struggle against it."

" Why, bless me!” exclaimed the doctor, “ did I not ask you to take my girls altogether? How stupid I am! Why, we want you, Mrs. Selby, to give up taking our boys we will board them all again—and to take in exchange our five girls. Five girls!. Only think! Whatever I shall do with them by-and-by I'm sure I don't know. But, for the present, will you relieve us of the grievous burden ?”

“I have certainly no objection. No objection! Oh, how shall I ever repay you for your goodness to me?” i • * You have done more for me," replied the doctor, “than I can ever do for you. I cannot thank you enough for the good seed which you have sown in the minds of my children; they are almost all I could wish."

“ But," said Mrs. Selby, with some hesitation, “what can I do with the two Cooches ? Since Eleanor's accident, they have come in alternately to stay with her. But for their assistance, I could not even have attended imperfectly, as I have done, to my duties at the Briary."

* The Cooches ? Mr. Cooch's little girls ?” said the doctor. “Pooh, pooh! Mrs. Selby; you think I am a second Mrs. Carthew or Mrs. Stoneman, I see. I honour that man, Mrs. Selby, and feel his kindness to you as if you had been my sister. Let his children come; I only hope mine may turn out as well as I think they will."

Midsummer came, and with it a summons to Charles Howard to repair, after the vacation, to Addiscombe. At first he rebelled; but when all else had failed to reconcile him to the change, old Jane found means which others had not thought of. One night, after he had gone to bed, she tapped at his door. “ Master Charles!” she said, “ Master Charlie! May I come in?”

“ Yes, Jane, come in,” said the poor boy; and the kind-hearted old woman almost wept at finding that her favourite had not slept, but that his pillow was wet with tears.

Don't cry, dear Master Charlie,” she said. “I can't abear to see you take on so. This last winter has been the dreariest wishtest time I eyer remember. It seemed bad enough when poor dear master died all of a sudden, without warning, or regular illness, or anything to prepare us like for losing him. I thought that was bad enough, but now to have this too is wisht, sure 'nough. Still, you know, if it pleases God that Miss Nelly should gain strength to bear an operation-poor dear little soul!--the doctors say she may see again." .

“ Yes, Jane,” said Charlie; “but Nelly does not get better; she gets thinner and weaker every day. I am afraid she will die after all!"

“ I hope not-I trust not!” said Jane; “ but that was not what I wanted to say. While mistress lives and has strength, Miss Nelly will not want; but if we should lose mistress, what would become of her? Mrs. Burrow ought to have been more of a friend than she has been, for we are the only ones of her own kith and kin that she's got left in the world. To be sure she did send a kind letter and a five-pound note when the accident happened, but she's going to leave all her money to strangers; she told me so herself, so there is no hope there. Now I'll tell 'ee what you must do, Master Charlie : you must go and learn to be a soldier officer, and when you have made your fortin in the West

Ingees " • "The East Indies," interrupted Charlie, who had been listening eagerly.

* Well, well, west or east, 'tisn't much odds—they can't be far apart. As I was saying, money is made very fast in them parts. Why, I've known ever so many, who went out poor enough, and have come back great men-colonels, and cap'ns, and majors, and independent gen'l'men, and I don't know what all. Why, there was that young wizzen-faced, lanky-haired, warty-fingered Joe Tonkin--a son of old Tonkin, the master builder—not very long ago he got a cadetship, as they calls it, given him (though what they want ships there upon dry land for I'm sure I can't tell-perhaps, though, 'tis the ships they go out in). Well, now they tell me he's a cap'n! Only last week his mother was telling me about him. She had just had a letter from him, and she said he had rode to Booge Pooge (that's the capital of all Ingee, Master Charles) upon a dumbledory, and sat down to his wine every day after dinner, like any other English gentleman! Now, Master Charlie, you go and learn to be a cap'n, and make your fortin too, and then you can come back and take care of poor Nelly. And you need not make yourself uneasy, Master Charlie; I am strong yet, and can work for them and myself. And besides," added Jane, in a confidential whisper, “I have saved nigh upon sixty pounds—the young gen’Imen that have boarded here have been very kind- and so, you see, they are provided for, if need be, for some time yet.”

The motive was supplied. Charlie consented to go; and though not without much grief at parting, he started on the appointed day for Addiscombe, with a promise to Nelly that he would spend all his vacations with her, and an earnest entreaty that she would take care of herself, and do all that the doctors prescribed for her good.

After this but little change occurred in Mrs. Selby's establishment. It was long before Eleanor could be reconciled to the loss of her friend Charlie, but the alteration in the domestic arrangements around her proved most beneficial. The young Barfoots were not as strangers—they all loved and pitied poor Nelly, and all united in imparting such amusement and instruction to the stricken child as she could bear.

When Charles paid his periodical visits to Mrs. Selby's, he found Eleanor still an invalid, pale and thin, and singularly tall for her age. The marks which she had received from the shot were scarcely percep

« ZurückWeiter »