Page images
PDF
EPUB

he could on couper le poil him. The request was no sooner made, than complied with; and while the destitute Gilbert went to procure the required accommodation, the mind of the stranger was busily engaged in thinking on his necessitous state.

He soon returned, and having attended to his duty, the gentleman retired, and as he did so, placed a piece of silver in his hand, and wishing him “Good night," hastened to his inn. A small fire shortly after blazed in the grate of Gilbert Waltingham, and a slender supper was prepared for himself and his little daughter Isabel, a luxury which for some time before had not been enjoyed by them.

Mr. Adolphus, who, as we have seen, had entered the miserable abode of our hero at the close of the day, was a gentleman of the law: he was now on a tour of business; his stay at Brighton was not intended to exceed a day or two, and then an affair of importance would call him to town. Without being able to assign any reason for his conduct, he had entered Gilbert Waltingham's humble dwelling, rather than give orders to be attended at his inn. After taking a hearty supper, Mr. Adolphus retired to his room, but not to sleep; the poverty of the hair-dresser, combined with his respectable address, which it was impossible not to take notice of, had produced an impression that he could not shake off, and yet for which he could not account. The more he thought-and he could not avoid thinking—the more he was perplexed; something remarkable, he conceived, must have occasioned such circumstances; and, in order to satisfy his mind, he resolved to visit him on the following morning. father,” said the child, faintly,“ since I had the good supper last night.”-“Were you then hungry before, my dear?” inquired Mr. Adolphus. “Yes, sir,” she answered, with much sweetness and simplicity,“ very hungry, and so was my poor father too; but some good gentleman gave father a shilling, and that,” Mr. Adolphus could hear no more; he drew his handkerchief from his pocket, and dried up the exhalations from his eyes, which had obscured his vision, while he

Full of his purpose, Mr. Adolphus rose earlier than his usual hour, and after inhaling a fresh sea breeze, he returned to his inn,-took breakfast, and then proceeded to the sorry room of Gilbert Waltingham. His shop door stood open, affording Mr. Adolphus an opportunity of making some hasty observations, before he entered. Every thing indicated extreme poverty, and yet, dirt, the almost sure attendant of vice, nowhere appeared. The fine, open, and intelligent countenance of Gilbert struck him forcibly; for even amidst the ruin which want had wrought, there were indications afforded, that he was but

A shade of what he might have been,

A lonely, joyless one.'

[ocr errors]

Mr. Adolphus felt a degree of interest for the unfortunate one-for so he deemed him-of the strongest kind. Having passed the meridian of his days, and being naturally of a disposition of the most amiable cast, he carried not about with him that stiffness and hauteur, which too generally characterises the members of the learned profession. “Good morning, my friend,” fell from his lips, in the nost courteous accents, as he entered the domicil. Gilbert had not before perceived him, but instantly rising from his engagements, he returned the salutation in a way which convinced Mr.

Adolphus that he either was not what he seemed to be, or had not always been what he then was, —and was proceeding to express his acknowledgments for the kindness he had experienced from hiin on the preceding evening, when Mr. Adolphus stopped him, by observing,—“I ever feel a pleasure in assisting those who are not indisposed to assist themselves; but who may have been, by uncontrolable circumstances, brought to require such aid: if,” he continued, "I am not greatly mistaken, you are among that number.” Gilbert sighed, but replied not, and Mr. Adolphus continued, “You will, I hope, excuse a stranger, and impute not to inquisitive curiosity that which arises from sincere sympathy. Your destitute condition has convinced me, that something of no common order must have been the cause”—Just then, the little Isabel awoke, and in a tremulous voice, called to her father for a little water. Mr. Adolphus started at the sound, for he had not until then perceived a small bed in one corner of the room, and a child laid on it. Waltingham instantly attended to the request of his child; and Mr. Adolphus advanced towards the bed-side, where he perceived a sweet girl of about seven or eight years old, whose features were strongly marked by the rude hand of want and sickness. “The child appears extreinely ill,” he observed. “Yes, sir," replied poor Gilbert, stilling the feeling which unmanned him, and wiping away some tears which he could not prevent.—“She is very, very ill.” “I am better,

[ocr errors]

“ Felt the luxury of doing good.”

Turning instantly to Waltingham, he said, as he put into his hand a few shillings,—“Here, young man, make haste and provide what yourself and child require, and by the time I return, you will be better able to inform me of your circumstances, and in what way I can best serve you.”—Without giving him time to reply, he left the astonished and grateful man, who with all the activity which a parent's heart could exercise, made preparations to meet the wants of his beloved Isabel.

The clock had newly struck eleven, when Mr. Adolphus returned to Gilbert's abode, and finding the opportunity favourable for the occasion, he observed, “ If it will not be deemed an impertinent intrusion into your affairs, I shall feel obliged, by your informing me if you have not moved in a condition superior to that in which I now find you.” “Your kindness, sir," returned Waltingham,“ has a claim upon me, which, even if I were disposed to seal up my past circumstances in silence, would lay me under obligation to change such intention, in reference to yourself. Yet I know not at what part of my history to commence, in order to acquaint you with as much as you desire to be informed of. You will therefore bear with me, while I present you with a hasty sketch of a life made up of strange vicissitudes.” Mr. Adolphus took the presented arm chair--the only chair which the room possessed—and Gilbert, seating himself on a stool on the opposite side of the table, commenced.

“I am the only surviving member of a once numerous and respectable family. My father had long filled a place of considerable trust under government, in the naval department. He was naturally of an high and unbending spirit. The authority which he had been long in the habit of exercising over those who were placed under him, was carried into all his engagements, and became not only a powerful habit, but a fixed principle. His will was ever the law by which those around him were to be governed. My mother was the youngest child of titled parents, and did not in any degree yield to her husband in point of elevated notions, concerning rank and dignity. I was their only son, and in a few years after my birth, became their only child, for my sister, who was my senior, died before she had reached her eleventh year.

“On me was lavished all that excess of fondness which the affection of parents could bestow, and which my heirship seemed to claim. No

« PreviousContinue »