Imagens das páginas
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]



“THERE is Helen in the lime-walk," said Mrs. Collingwood to her husband, as she looked out of the window. The slight figure of a young person in deep mourning appeared between the trees,—"How slowly she walks! She looks very unhappy !".

“Yes," said Mr. Collingwood, with a sigh," she is young to know sorrow, and to struggle with difficulties to which she is quite unsuited both by nature and by educa. tion, difficulties which no one could ever have foreseen. How changed are all her prospects !".

“Changed indeed!" said Mrs. Collingwood, "pretty young creature !-Do you recollect how gay she was when first we came to Cecilhurst ? and even last year, when she had hopes of her uncle's recovery, and when he talked of taking her to London, how she enjoyed the thoughts of going there! The world was bright before her then. How cruel of that uncle, with all his fondness for her, never to think what was to become of her the moment he was dead: to breed her up as an heiress, and leave her a beggar!"

“But what is to be done, my dear ?" said her husband.

“I am sure I do not know; I can only feel for her, you must think for her."

“ Then I think I must tell her directly of the state in which her uncle's affairs are left, and that there is no provision for her."

“Not yet, my dear,” said Mrs. Collingwood; “I don't mean about there being no provision for herself,--that would not strike her; but her uncle's debts, there is the point: she would feel dreadfully the disgrace to his memory-she loved him so tenderly!”

"Yet it must be told," said Mr. Collingwood, resolutely,

[ocr errors]

“and pernaps it will be better now; she will feel it less while her mind is absorbed by grief for him.”

Helen was the only daughter of Colonel and Lady Anne Stanley; her parents had both died when she was too young to know her loss, nor had she ever felt till now, that she was an orphan, for she had been adopted and brought up with the greatest tenderness by her uncle, Dean Stanley, a man of genius, learning, and sincere piety, with the most affectionate heart and a highly cultivated understanding. But on one subject he really had not common sense ; in money matters he was inconceivably imprudent and extravagant: extravagant from charity, from taste, from habit. He possessed rich benefices in the church, and an ample private fortune, and it was expected that his niece would be a great heiress-he had often said so himself, and his fondness for her confirmed every one in this belief. But the dean's taste warred against his affection; his too hospitable, magnificent establishment had exceeded his încome; he had too much indulged his passion for all the fine arts, of which he was a liberal patron; he had made a splendid collection of pictures-a magnificent library; and on buildings and improvements he had lavished immense sums of money. Cursed with too fine a taste, and with too soft a heart-a heart too well knowing how to yield, never could he deny himself, much less any other human being, any gratification which money can command; and soon the necessary consequence was that he had no money to command, his affairs fell into embarrassment-his estate was sold; but as he continued to live with his accustomed hospitality and splendour, the world believed him to be as rich as

Some rise superior from the pressure of pecuniary difficulties, but that was not the case with Dean Stanley, not from want of elasticity of mind, but perhaps because his ingenuity continually suggested resources, and his sanguine character led him, in his difficulties, to plunge into speculations—they failed, and in the anxiety and agitation which his embarrassments occasioned him, he fell into bad health; his physicians ordered him to Italy. Helen, his devoted nurse, the object upon which all his affections centered, accompanied him to Florence. There his health and spirits seemed at first, by the change of climate, to be renovated; but in Italy ha


found fresh temptations to extravagance, his learning and his fancy combined to lead him on from day to day to new expense, and he satisfied his conscience by saying to himself that all the purchases which he now made were only so much capital which would, when sold in England, bring more than their original price, and would, he Hattered himself, increase the fortune he intended for his niece. But one day, while he was actually bargaining for an antique, he was seized with a fit of apoplexy. From this fit he recovered, and was able to return to England with his niece. Here he found his debts and difficulties had been increasing : he was harassed with doubts as to the moneyed value of his last chosen chefd'euvres; his mind preyed upon his weakened frame, he was seized with another fit, lost his speech, and after struggles the most melancholy for Helen to see, feeling that she could do nothing for him-he expired-his eyes fixed on her face, and his powerless hand held between both hers.

All was desolation and dismay at the deanery; Helen was removed to the vicarage by the kindness of the good vicar and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Collingwood.

It was found that the dean, instead of leaving a large fortune, had nothing to leave. All he had laid out at the deanery was sunk and gone; his real property all sold; his imaginary wealth, his pictures, statues-his whole collection, even his books, his immense library, shrunk so much in value when estimated after his death, that the demands of the creditors could not be nearly answered: as to any provision for Miss Stanley, that was out of the question.

These were the circumstances which Mrs. Collingwood feared to reveal, and which Mr. Collingwood thought should be told immediately to Helen ; but hitherto she had been so much absorbed in sorrow for the uncle she had loved, that no one had ventured on the task.

Though Mr. and Mrs. Collingwood had not known her long (for they had but lately come to the neighbourhood), they had the greatest sympathy for her orphan state; and they had seen enough of her during her uncle's illness to make them warmly attached to her. Everybody loved her that knew her, rich or poor, for in her young prosperity, from her earliest childhood, she had

[ocr errors]

been always sweet-tempered and kind-hearted ; for though she had been bred up in the greatest luxury, _educated as heiress to a large fortune, taught every accomplishment, used to every fashionable refinement, she was not spoiled-she was not in the least selfish. Indeed her uncle's indulgence, excessive though it was, had been always joined with so much affection, that it had early touched her heart, and filled her whole soul with ardent gratitude.

It is said, that the ill men do, lives after them the good is oft interred with their bones. It was not so with Dean Stanley: the good he had intended for Helen, his large fortune, was lost and gone; but the real good he had done for his niece remained in full force, and to the honour of his memory; the excellent education he had given her-it was excellent not merely in the worldly meaning of the word, as regards accomplishments and clegance of manners, but excellent in having given her a firm sense of duty, as the great principle of action, and as the guide of her naturally warm, generous affections.

And now, when Helen returned from her walk, Mr. Collingwood, in the gentlest and kindest manner he was able, informed her of the confusion in her uncle's affairs, the debts, the impossibility of paying the creditors, the total loss of all fortune for herself.

Mrs. Collingwood had well foreseen the effect this intelligence would have on Helen. At first, with fixed incredulous eyes, she could not believe that her uncle could have bee in any way to bl e. Twice she asked—“Are you sure-are you certain—is there no mistake?” And when the conviction was forced upon her, still her mind did not take in any part of the facts, as they regarded herself. Astonished and shocked, she could feel nothing but the disgrace that would fall upon the memory of her beloved uncle.

Then she exclaimed—“One part of it is not true, I am certain ;" and hastily leaving the room, she returned immediately with a letter in her hand, which, without speaking, she laid before Mr. Collingwood, who wiped his spectacles quickly, and read.

It was addressed to the poor dean, and was from an old friend of his, Colonel Munro, stating that he had been suddenly ordered to India, and was obliged to re


« AnteriorContinuar »