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THE LAST ARRI V A L.
(A New Year's Story.)
There was no man more liked in the regi- thing, and varying this task by abusing the ment than Charlie Grafton, of the “th Light place and bemoaning their ill-fortune, Grafton Infantry. All the fairies had smiled on his found plenty to do-in sketching the wild birth, for Charlie was a tall, good-looking fellow, scenery of the island, in shooting sea-fowl, fishwith a soft, fair moustache, and merry, honest ing, and, above all, in writing long letters to Nellie blue eyes; he was none of your ordinary subal- Vernon. There he had a great advantage over terns forced to live on his pay, and finding his the other fellows of the regiment; they not mess bills more than his income. The only being in love, except for a week or so, could not child of a widowed mother, Charlie Grafton had see any pleasure in filling four sheets of largea liberal allowance and a large property in pro- sized note-paper with accounts of their personal spectu. Then he was by no means an insipid, doings, their thoughts and feelings; but Charlie half-taught dandy: he had been well educated | Grafton could and did. Then, too, Charlie did before a freak of fancy made bim enter the not neglect the few opportunities for enjoying army, and he could hold his own in most con- himself which the place of his banishment versations, even though the discussion strayed afforded; it was of no use to sigh for Nellie beyond regimental chat, or the theory of bil. Vernon's presence, or to dream of the Row and liards. To sum up all, he had seen just enough Pall Mall; so Charlie made a virtue of necessity; service to establish his character for undoubted and walked, talked, and flirted (though very pluck, without any of the annoyances of a long decorously) with the few island belles about campaign, as Grafton's regiment was ordered him. Every man has something pleasant to home just after he had drawn his “first blood" look forward to: Charlie Grafton's happiness in India. For all these
Charlie depended on his leave, which he hoped would Grafton was considered a very fortunate man, enable him to spend Christmas time at his and, as is often the case with such men, was mother's house, where Nellie would be a conuniversally liked by all who knew him. It stant visitor. Anxiously did Charlie look out would have been difficult to find a more good for letters as December arrived with abundance tempered fellow, always ready to make or take of rough weather, which delayed the mails, and a joke, equally ready to help a friend out of a almost made the young soldier lose his temper. scrape. Good-tempered people are generally The time went on, and Charlie got no leave: it happy, and Grafton formed no exception to the was clear that he must eat his Christmas dinner rule; but the real secret of his happiness lay at mess instead of at Ashton Court, and listen in the fact that he was engaged to Nellie to the Major's recollections of Burmah instead Vernon, and was to be married in a few months' of hearing Nellie Vernon sing in the old time. Marriage is, I suppose, a pleasant thing, drawing-room at the Court. It was too proat least at the first blush; and when parents are voking; and now the weather had become so willing as well as the bride, and when there is stormy that there was no knowing when he "gold, gold, nothing but gold” to add a sparkle could get away even if his leave arrived. At to the affair, a man may be excused for feeling last the mail brought him the wished-for letter, rather 'romantically happy. Besides all this, in and, at the same time, a letter from his mother Charley Grafton's case there was the knowledge and Nellie Vernon, regretting his absence, and of possessing the love of as pretty, gentle, and begging him to be at Ashton Court in time for a winning a girl as ever destroyed the hearts of ball on New Year's Night. Charlie wrote at half the Household Brigade, or made a dean once to say that if there was a possibility of inclined to break the tenth commandment. In reaching Ashton in time he would be there; he one point alone Fortune had lately been unkind could not leave till the next steamer went, and to Charlie Grafton, for instead of being quar. her movements were uncertain ; still they were tered at some convenient distance from home, to expect him till eleven o'clock at night, a little or even from London, he found himself at the before which time the last train reached Ashton. close of the autumn with a detachment in one To Nellie Vernon he wrote more passionately. of the most remote of the Channel Isles, where she had reproached him with neglect in not communications with the outer world, and coming sooner, and Charlie wrote in his excitetherefore those peculiar “angels' visits" repre- ment, scarcely knowing what he said, " If I do sented by Nellie Vernon's letters, were "few and not dance the first dance with you on New far between.”
Year's Night then believe that I do not love Charlie Grafton was a man of resources, as you; give me till eleven to fulfil my pledge.” well as a man deeply in love can be; and so, There was much rejoicing at Ashton Court while his brother officers-from the gruff old / when these letters arrived. major down to the most callow of ensigns- “He is coming, Nellie," said Mrs. Grafton, occupied themselves studiously in doing no- ) with a happy look.
“So he tells me," answered Nellie.
In one moment I will rejoin you,” she said, long these letters have been travelling : to-day and left him; when she returned he had gone. is the last of the year, and Charlie will be here “Where is Charlie ? have you seen him?" she to-morrow.”
asked of Mrs. Grafton, the next moment. The ball at Ashton Court was to be a grand “Seen him, no! Has he arrived? Where affair, and carriages arrived from far and near is he?" were the hurried questions of the on New Year's Night.
mother. Some officers came over in a drag from the Two or three guests now came up, and nearest town to meet Grafton, whom they had asked if Grafton had arrived. known when he was at Ashton, and to “Of course he has; did you not see him strive for one dance with the belle of the county, dancing with me ten minutes ago?" answered Nellie Vernon. Nellie, however, was resolute Nellie. in her refusal of all offers to dance: she had Noone had noticed him:several persons had seen seen, perhaps, a deeper meaning in Charlie Miss Vernon dancing, but no one had recognized Grafton's letter than he had intended; but, at her partner. Then, for the first time since she all events, she was pledged to him for the first had seen Charlie enter that room, a horror came dance, and would not even join a quadrille. She over her-a sinking at the heart seized her, and was nervous and uneasy: the mere longing and taking Mrs. Grafton's arm she hurried to ber expectation for his arrival was added to a room; declaring, in spite of all that argument strange, shuddering anticipation of evil which or raillery could do, " that something had hapshe could not account for; she sought out Mrs. pened to Charlie.” Grafton, who was herself anxious and excited, but who assured Nellie that she was very foolish, Next day a special messenger arrived with and that if it were possible Charlie would come. news at Ashton Court. Charles Grafton had
“I know he will come," murmured Nellie, as been drowned by the capsizing of a boat as he she returned to her seat, and the thought made attempted to reach the steamer in a heavy sea her shudder instead of radiant with pleasure. on the last day of the Old Year. Half-past ten had struck, and the hands of the drawing-room clock, from which Nellie scarcely moved her eyes, were going steadily on. Some late arrivals had come (the invitations had been issued for nine o'clock), and now many of the
ABSENCE. guests began speculating as to whether Grafton would come or not. The crash of the band and the whirl of dancers, however, engrossed most people's attention; Mrs. Grafton had left the room for a moment, and Nellie Vernon still sat and watched the clock. The little From my dwelling I stray forth to gaze on the night, bell of the time-piece sounded eleven ; Nellie
Stars stealing from darkness, like sweet thoughts of turned instinctively towards the door of the
home; ante-room, in which she was sitting; and as she did so, the door opened, and Charlie And beneath the broad sea, with one distant sail white, Grafton entered. He was in evening dress, and A solemn monotony, billows and gloom. looked paler and graver than usual. Nellie rose eagerly to meet him, exclaiming “You are most Looking back, I behold, as if but half awake, punctual this time : you have come at the very
The bay-windowed house 'mid its garden-walks right moment to""To redeem my pledge,” he answered, with
damp. something of sadness in his tone.
No voice on the threshold the silence will break; “You are tired with your long journey, my I shall find empty rooms, and a fast-wasting lamp. poor Charlie,” said Nellie; “ do not dance yet.'
“Come, dearest, now is the time,” he said, in A shudder comes o'er me, and chills my warm blood, the same grave tone; and the next moment they
As I view the dim alley, and dark-boding yew : were among the dancers. In the delightful excitement of once more feeling Charles Grafton's And yet it was there that, entranced, I once stood, strong arm supporting her, Nellie scarcely While my love from his finger the token-ring drem. noticed the extreme paleness of his face and the deathly coldness of his hands. The dance The treasures he gave can no joy now impartwas a brief one. Then her companion led her Such gifts are too costly for sorrow and meback to her seat, and said, in a low, sad voice, The wealth I require is that of the heart : “I have fulfilled my pledge, Nellie; are you
The smiles of affection I languish to see. satisfied ?"
“Yes, yes, you foolish boy! why do you But the late moon is rising; the eve-hour has fled ; look at me in that way?” He smiled without speaking, and pointed to
In the silence so sad, that it hints of no dawa, wards a lady who was beckoning to Nellie from I am free to lament o’er the unheeding dead, the adjoining room,
And to sigh for the living who leaves me forlorn,
When lamented but irremediable events are , husband of my youth, the father of my children, concerned, I have always found it the wisest in the grave. and best plan to bury them as we do the loved Roused, at length, from the lethargy of grief we have lost, and ever after be as careful of by the voice of two-fold duty, I turned over in disturbing them. Otherwise I might, by con- my mind the several means of establishing a trasting my former circumstances with those home for my children, with a prospect of mainin which I have since figured, as the keeper of a taining it, that the sale of such supernumerary lodging-house, produce what painters call a very articles as remained from the days of our afflueffective bit of colouring, but this is not my ence would effect, and finding it the only busiobject; I shall, therefore, briefly state, (in order ness to be undertaken without capital, and anxito introduce myself to my readers,) that, pos- ous, under any circumstances, to keep myself sessed of a handsome fortune, I had early in free from pecuniary obligations, I stified life married a young man of moderate indepen- my natural prejudices in maternal anxieties, dence, with whom I continued to share as como and from having played the hostess in my plete bappiness as can possibly fall to the lot of husband's elegant and hospitable home, sank buman nature. We had children, and our into a lower caste of the character, as proaffairs in other respects went on prosperously; prietress of a lodging-house. I did not, howour plantations flourished, our flocks increased, ever, have recourse to that interesting form of and as we always lived within our income, there advertisement which tells you, that "a widow appeared little risk of our ever knowing lady, whose daughters are musical, or who is
herself of an agreeable disposition, having a In a few years, however, a mania arose for spe- larger house than her present circumstances culating, and, among the resi, my husband was require, (of course in a genteel neighbourhood,) seized with the prevailing fureur-heavy losses is desirous of adding to her family circle, (feliciwere incurred, and thousand after thousand tous phrase,) by the accession of one or two of our principal withdrawn from the funds gentlemen, or ladies, who are anxious to ensure to meet fresh demands, and ensure a return the comforts of society, and a delightful home, for the capital already sunk in the under to the convenience of a town residence.” taking. Like an alchymist in bis search for My establishment was situated in one of the gold, or a gambler who believes ill luck has private streets off the Strand, which, lying in lasted so long that the next throw must certainly the very heart of gaiety and business, midway recover it, he seemed determined to make new between the courts of law, and close to the thea. trials, till, at length, all was lost; our wealth tres, was a favourite locality with East and West had vanished in the attempt at transmutation, Indian merchants, army and navy men on leave, and we were left utterly ruined.
persons engaged in law suits, and provincial From this time my husband's health declined; families visiting town during the season; and the loss of his property, and the alteration it as the wreck of my worldly goods enabled me entailed in the circumstances and expectations to furnish it in a style superior to the generality of his little household, preyed upon his spirit of such places, a very few days after the exbibiwith a bitterness little short of remorse for some tion of the printed card, (which proclaims, as actual crime; and gradually I perceived his plainly as words can speak, that either poverty, mind yielding to a weight that I had not the or lucre, induces you to desecrate the sanctity power to alleviate, till at length he was totally of your home,) I stood blushing to the very incapacitated from taking any share in the con- weepers of my mourning habit at having to cerns of business, or the interests of his fa- arrange terms &c. with my first lodger. But
these feelings, at first painful, even to awkwardSo unnaturally bad mental disease warped his ness, by degrees wore off, and I soon became understanding, that the very affection of his accustomed to the routine expected of me—the children added to his sufferings, and even I trades-craft
, if I may so express it, of the busicould not persuade him that my cheerfulness ness. I made certain regulations, from which was sincere, and that I did not in my heart I rarely deviated, and methodized the necessary curse him, for the want in which he had in details so as to insure comfort for the inpolved us. In fact, in the noon of manhood, mates, and something of the dignity of a private he bade fair to become that sad, sad thing, a home to myself. And though a young, and not nervous hypochondriac; but consumption, of unhandsome woman, the presence of my chil. the most rapid description, stepped between him dren, and the sacred garb of my widowhood, and semi-idiocy, and in less than twelvemonths preserved for me a tone of deferential respect and from the failure of our prosperity, I laid the delicacy as I had been accustomed to as wife,
THE LATE REPRIEVE.
In this position I continued several years, 1 likes the choice of doing it to rest with itself, winning the esteem (I am glad to say) of many and at this aspect of things, I confess I felt a who came to my house as lodgers, but who left great inclination to revoke my decision in the it my friends; and from the incidents thus lady's favour, and to show myself supreme in deposited with me, without the aid of duplicate my own house. But it was only a momentary keys, or the intervention of eaves-dropping, I thought; the next I was smiling at my own am enabled to offer many illustrations of impotence, for it was such a night of rain and traits and trials of lodging-house keeping; storm, that I could not have found it in my and should the accompanying specimen-a mere heart to have put a worm out of doors that had " taste of our quality - be favourably received, managed to wriggle its poor, naked, unsheltered I have only to add, that, "for a consideration,” head within the sill. So I entered the apartthe public may have the key of my Bramah- ment, making up my mind to concede gracefully locked portfolio, and pick and choose through what I could not comfortably withhold. The a series of my experiences.
stranger, who stood with her back towards me, To those who may be kind enough to feel an was about my own height (which is of a stainterest in the after-fate of the widow and her ture that is called commanding), but a certain children, (for it is as well to be done with the exility in her form gave you an idea of extreme old subject before we begin with the new,) I delicacy and youth; she was dressed with a rich have only to add, that an East Indian invalid, plainness, that bespoke her of a class of life far while receiving as a stranger those services that removed from its ordinary exigencies, but her his state of health required—and which it is countenance, when she turned on my approach, woman's province to supply-discovered, in his and put back the thick veil that shaded it, bore accidental nurse, the widow of his brother; and melancholy evidence that circumstances, hov. with a generosity princely as his fortune, adopted ever advantageous, cannot raise us above the us as the inmates of his home and heart. It is level of humanity, and that whatever the rank, unnecessary to say, that the house in Cecil- the barbed shafts of misfortune can find us out. street was given up, but not so the recollections So moving an expression of dejected anguish, connected with it.
upon features in their noon of youth (and otherwise beautiful), it has never been again my fate
to see--fear, perturbation, agony, were stamped Àt rather an unusually late hour one evening, in rigid characters upon lip, and brow, and while sitting with my family, I was disturbed cheek, and I felt awed by the presence of grief by the sound of a vehicle at the door, followed that completely baffled my knowledge of the by the impatient rap of the driver, and immedi- heart's sad secrets to imagine. I was pained ately afterwards a servant entered, and an- out of my natural collectedness, and could only nounced a lady "who would not be denied.” | look the sympathy with which she inspired me. Now, one of my rules was to receive no applica- “ I have no apology to offer,” she said, in a tions for my apartments after a certain hour, in low, sweet voice, but with the languor of fatigue order that the time devoted to my children and depression—"no apology to offer you, Mrs. might be entirely their own; and as, in general, Maxwell
, for the time, ihe way, in which I come the same persons returned to me during their to you. When I tell you I am the daughter of annual séjour in the metropolis, it was accident Colonel Singleton, you will not be surprised alone that brought unexpected inmates to my that I should so unceremoniously make your house, except from the dog-days to December, house my home. I have often heard of you, (and this I well remember was in the early and I feel I have only to tell you that my comspring of '96.) A lady, however, alone, and at ing is in consequence of a great and 'sudden that late hour, I had nothing for it but to receive affliction, to ensure your thinking lightly of any her-for there is something unpardonable in inconvenience I may possibly occasion you.”. the uncharitableness of one woman to another : I assured her, “that the name of her father and I can fancy nothing more cruel to the indio (an old friend and benefactor in the early days vidual, or humiliating to the sex, than the mis- of my own tribulation) gave her a weighty claim trust that denies the shelter of a roof, merely to my attentions; but that wanting this
, the because accident or misfortune has obliged the knowledge of her being in aMiction was an all
. applicant to seek it under unconventional sufficient motive for my exerting myself for her circumstances. Putting down my youngest temporary comfort.” She thanked me with a girl from my lap, and disengaging my sweet smile of habitual courtesy, though her waist and shoulder from the circling arms of the lips trembled, and her large eyes filled with other two, I composed my dress and counte- the emotion she struggled to subdue. Her nance to their accustomed quietude, and passed business in town,” she said -- and a sort of spasm on to the apartment into which the servant had shook her as she spoke—"would be very briefly shown her. A travelling trunk was already in ' ended; it might detain her only till the following the hall, and as I opened the opposite door, the noon, at all events not longer than the evening; vehicle drove off.
but she would consider the apartments hers
, Now there is in the human heart such a love for any period that would compensate for the of vainglory, that though it may have made probable loss of a more certain tenant.” itself up to the commission of a kind action, it I begged of her not to annoy herself on that
score, for, as my readers know, there is a rule, that it conjured up. All at once, in one of the in these cases.
pauses of the storm, I became conscious of the I pressed her, however, with real anxiety, sounds of living, actual anguish-sobs more to let me send her such refreshments as I felt bitter and thrilling than those of the mocking she stood in need of; for it was very evident winds, and groans that I could only imagine she was travel tired and weak, and I afterwards were extorted by some severe physical suffering. learned (for the ball, and staircase of a lodging. It struck me that fatigue, added to her state of bouse, like the ear of Dionysius, conveys even mind, had induced some sudden illness in my whispers to one common tympanum, and that fellow-sleeper; and I rose, threw on my dressthe principal's) that she had travelled, poor lady, ing-gown, and seeing, by the glimmering night and day, from Edinburgh, without resting ! through the doorway, that the light was not But she felt no want of food ; " rest,” she said, extinguished in her room, I was about to enter, " was all that she required." Yet when I pressed when I perceived the unhappy lady kneeling ber, and talked of its giving her strength for at the bed's feet, not undressed, but with her whatever she might have to undertake on the hair dishevelled, her hands clasped, and her morrow, she permitted, with the graceful docility lips, finding no language forcible enough to of a child, my arrangements for her temporal express the deep prayer of her spirit, moving necessities, and forced herself to taste the food with wordless sounds of indescribable anguish. that grief had left her no appetite for.
I was awed-astonished, and shrunk back from How I wished for the privilege of folding her beholding a conflict that was for the eye of God swelling heart to my own, and bidding her pour alone! Oh, the heart-quake of mortal agony, out, as on a sister's, the full tide of her hidden that shook the breast of that miserable woman! borrow! but this our relative positions forbade, the struggle between the strong heart of hu. and I could only by a silent language inform man love, and its omnipotent but all-just Maker! her of my commiseration. The house l tenanted, And these are the scenes that pass between originally the habitation of a nobleman, con- Earth and Night, and the Power that made them! tained on each floor a suite of three rooms, Hour after hour wore on, and still the same opening one into another, and forming (for suffocating sobs-the same bitter cries broke those studious of such arrangement) dressing from the chamber beside me. What would I room, chamber, and drawing-room; but it so not bave given for the means of comforting her happened that at this time I myself occupied unhappy spirit ? but unconscious of the cause the bed-room on the only floor disengaged, go of her mental suffering, I knew not what anothat nothing remained for me but to give up my dyne to apply. One moment, the recollection apartment to the lady, and pro tempore become of her father's friendship, of her own youth, and locum tenens of the adjoining ante-room. my maternity, seemed to give me a right to This arrangement was easily managed, and the share with her such consolation as one heart lady retired to her room within my own, appa-|(that has itself passed through the fiery furnace rently anxious for repose. By and by, when of inany-shaped affliction) can offer to another ; the many little matters that a mother sits up to but there was such a mystery in her distressregulate, were all disposed of, and my whole a beloved daughter-an adored wife-(for I had household in bed, I too stole lightly up to the heard from her father that she was happily and apartment my children occupied, and with the unexceptionably married)-I knew not what to image of that grief-worn lady in my thoughts, think, and dreaded something wrong - some I bent over the brows of my sleeping girls, and story of woman's frailness, and inconsistency, while my lips lingered on each slumbering cheek, and late remorse. Oh, how I wronged her! my heart lifted itself up in those orisons that Little did I surmise that the high and holy puronly a mother's heart can utter; then I crept pose of her mission—the secret of her urgent softly to my own room, and very noiselessly agony at the footstool of her God, was the for(for fear of disturbing my poor guest) laid my- feit lífe of her husband! Oh, Earth-Earth! self down to sleep.
which of thy children can count on the seeming It was about the season of the spring equinox, fairness of his destiny? But I anticipate. and, as I before said, a violent night; every now These fears prevented my obtruding my symand then, as if driven from the turbid 'river, pathy; but I prayed heartily for her; and then the wind came rushing up the street, staggering again endeavoured to obtain the rest that my against the houses like a drunken giant, and daily duties rendered necessary for me; but my shaking and rattling the sashes as if trying for state of mind made it impossible for me to sleep, admission; one moment howling like a living though I occasionally fell into perturbed snatches thing in its extremity, under the eaves and down of repose, as people in fever do ; and as often the trembling chimneys, and the next sinking as I woke up from these confused and unreinto half-extinguished sobs, like a child dreaming freshing slumbers, though I could not hear her of sorrow. It was impossible to sleep-though footstep, I could tell by the recurring shadow I heaped the pillows on both sides of my head, that kept darkening the glimpse of light through and drew the coverlet quite over it-I could not the door, in her passage to and fro the room, close out the din of the midnight tempest, nor that the poor young creature did not even shut from my imagination the thoughts of endeavour'at obtaining rest. No, all night long houseless creatures, shipwreck, and devastation, -all night long-she kept her melancholy vigil;