Page images
[ocr errors]

to the charity of strangers-nor Caroline, nor Julia. Their mother isn't without a penny, nor like to be.”

“Of course not, my dear, thank God. Only-don't you knowthe fact is—you see—it's devilish-deuced, I beg your pardon, my dear-deuced awkward—but—the child—is on her way from New York this very minute—in Bristol to-morrow, for aught I know-in fact, she will! There, it's out now,” groaned the Captain to himself, and fell back in his chair to receive sentence.

“Captain Westwood !" and Mrs. Westwood started from her seat in a paroxysm of astonishment and dismay.

The Captain looked at the rug, pulled his whisker with one hand, and eyed it with one eye.

“ But you see, my love I know it's the devil and all—but what the deuce are we to do? You see, it wouldn't matter a hang if the child wasn't on her way—but in Bristol—where we're as well known as St. Mary Redcliffe—what'll they say if I shut my door against my own niece—your door of course I mean, this door-my own brother's only child ? Just think, my dear—what’ld Clifton say?"

Mrs. Westwood sat down again. It was something much more than awkward—and she herself knew that she was not loved by her neighbours so superfluously that she need despise their tongues,

He took advantage of her silence, and suggested craftily, “ Only for a time, my dear.”

I should like to see that letter,” she said, after a terrible pause. “ I'll look for it again in five minutes." “You are sure you said married ?“No doubt about that, my dear."

“ Then if Mr. Smith's a respectable man, why don't he do something for the child ? "

Why—why of course poor Charley ran away with his wife—don't you see?—'twouldn't have been Charley, poor fellow, if he'd done things like other people. Never did, on my honour, since he was born."

“He seems to have been fond of running away, as you call it. It is a shame. The child's more to Mr. Smith, if he's her uncle, than to you. A man always belongs to his wife's family. I've always heard and my

father was in the law." "I didn't say Mr. Smith is the uncle, my dear. He's only her something by marriage-that's all." “ You did say so.”

suppose I went too far.” “I'm not a selfish woman, Captain Westwood. No one can say I


[ocr errors]



my dear, I

And you

[ocr errors]

married for money, and selfishness I can't abide. But when people's brothers run away and come to no good, they ought to stay there, and not have families for other people to keep that have four children of their own. I had three brothers, and not one of them ever dreamed of such a thing. But then it's in the blood. can't expect me to spend my money on your brothers. I didn't marry all the world and with four children of my own, and servants eating their heads off down stairs”

“Of course not, Caroline.”

“You're not her only uncle, either. I don't see why you should be saddled more than another. If there's one thing I can't bear it's selfishness and strange children.”

“Of course, my dear. But now poor Gerald's dead, and Philip, and poor Charley, there's none but me. There's George at Oxford —but he lives in rooms, you know, and couldn't be expected to take a house on purpose; and then what would they say in college ? However, I dare say he'll help one way and another—and I've got my own two hundred a year, my dear-it shan't make any difference to you. We can afford house room, my dear—just for a time.”

“And turn it all out of windows. Other people's children always do. How old is she?"

“How old ? Oh, nothing to speak of—the letter says three."

“No age more troublesome. And how does a child of three come from New York, pray ? ”

“Somebody's with her, of course.”

"And that somebody will expect to be paid, I suppose? Really, John, the selfishness of some people”

“Oh, Mr. Smith says that's settled. She's to be left at the White Lion till called for. I must call to-morrow, I suppose—the ship’s arrived at Liverpool - I looked to see. Or would you like to go, my dear? It might look better."

Certainly not, John. What's the child's name?” “Oh, that's in the letter--Olympia.” “ Gracious! What a heathen name !"

(To be continued.)


CCIDENT rather than design caused me to be im. mured within one of the fortress towns of Northern France for a space of several days. The place itself

was dull and stagnant, notwithstanding that the annual fair lent some transitory animation to the Grande Place and quickened for a moment the lethargic pulsation of the adjacent streets.

That I should have found the half day expended upon several similar places amply sufficient for the inspection of this particular town is undebatable, had it not happened that amongst the inhabitants were friends to whom courtesy not less than inclination demanded that I should devote myself for a period sufficiently long to hide any indication of ennui, which might have been repaid to my disadvantage at a future time. What with dinners, conversation, the theatre, the fair, and a very good collection of pictures in the Hôtel de Ville, the after portion of the day could be disposed of without difficulty if not to great profit, but the mornings, which to an industrious soul appear at home so short and compressed by sheer weight of occupation, possess a tendency to expand in the rarer atmosphere of idleness; and certain it was that I viewed the recurrence of the long unbroken vista of time, from dawn to four hours past noon, with a feeling positively approaching alarm.

I speak of a vista, but nothing could be more purely imaginative : there was nothing like a vista obtainable in the good town of X

The companion of my first ramble was careful to inform me that was due to no mere freak of architect or builder that the narrow streets curved and twisted like an entangled coil of rope, but to that prescience of the possibility, nay, the probability, of war which seems to have broken like a nightmare the rest of Gaul and 10 have lined and wrinkled her fairest features.

On the second morning after my arrival, whilst passing over one of the numerous drawbridges spanning the sluggish moat, I observed movements of the weeds and floatage which to an eye quickened by piscatorial experience indicated the presence of heavy fish in the waters beneath.

I inquired concerning the fishing eagerly, the morning's desolation coming full upon me.

“There are plenty of roach, perch, and pike," said my companion.

“And is there any getting leave to fish ?”
“I can manage that.”
Goodness! and I not to have known of this before."
“We will see if M. L. is in his garden.”

We turned off through a wicket which obligingly stood ajar, passed under the shadows of some masonry, took several sharp turns, and descended a long flight of stone steps.

A sentry was pacing the top of an adjacent earthwork, exhibiting all that looseness of “set up” which strikes the Englishman at once. He was a small man, and his uniform did not fit him. His waist-belt was halfway over his hips, and he carried his musket with sword-bayonet fixed without reference to balance, the point of the bayonet being somewhat lower than the stock of the rifle.

At the foot of the stairs was a rough wooden gate. We opened it, and passed into the garden beyond. The garden consisted of a triangular piece of ground something more than an acre in extent, hemmed in by bastions, and with a picturesque tower at one extremity. A rustic arbour was built upon slightly rising ground in the centre, and within this sat M. L. smoking a cigar, and placidly contemplating his crops now advancing to maturity.

Learning that I was interested in gardens, he was at some pains to point out the most noticeable features of his own. I was more struck by the abundance and fine quality of his tomatoes than by anything else I observed. He cultivated them on rough espaliers, surrounding the outer circle of the garden and continued along the edges of some of the minor pathways. A gardener was digging potatoes, and as, in lifting one of the setts, he turned up some fine specimens of the lobworm, we easily passed to the topic uppermost in my mind, and ere our circuit of the garden was completed, punt, man, lobworms, and moat were all placed at my disposal, and nothing but want of skill or an east wind could come between me and the morrow's captures.

I did not feel quite so sanguine as, between eight and nine o'clock the next morning-weather chilly and a damp fog hanging about-I crossed the little bridge leading to Bastion No. 84, wondering whether there were really a Bastion No. 1 and No. 2, and so on all the way up, and if so, whether there were an 85, and where the numbers stopped.

It was not necessary that I should call upon No. 84 to surrender, as the keys had already been delivered to me over night. Did ever fortress pass so quietly into the hands of the foreigner ? A few gamins were loitering in the neighbourhood, and of course several red-trousered soldiers, who stared a little as I executed my “open

sesame" performance and disappeared within the sacred precincts, the heavy door closing behind me with a dull thud.

I use the word “disappeared " advisedly, for I was literally gonefallen into darkness worse than that of Erebus—and only emerging after a painful groping towards daylight, which I succeeded in finding at the further extremity of an underground passage of some thirty yards in length, and seeming 300 at least.

The man in a blouse, who stood in a rather dejected attitude on the wall, brightened up as he caught sight of me, and after a greeting in French which I did my best to acknowledge, considering the distance, he proceeded to wave his hand and to shout “All right, sare !” a welcome which, as I subsequently discovered, literally exhausted his knowledge of the English language.

We reached the punt by means of a ladder, and I was glad to observe that it contained a landing net of huge proportions, as its presence indicated the possibility of heavy fish, though when I reflected upon the delicate nature of the tackle I was able to command, my monitor's assurance, given as we pushed off from the ladder, that there were des poissons très-grands, evoked something of misgiving in my mind.

The atmosphere was certainly not exhilarating in tone. The sensation was as though we were navigating a vast well, or rather a perfect congeries of wells, for we passed from one to another with as much rapidity as the nature of our craft and the manner of locomotion would permit.

Of course the wind was east, or to be accurate E.N.E. ; rather worse perhaps, and occasionally as we turned the corners we met little gusts which blew the water into cold hard ripples, and shivered them against the colder, harder masonry.

There were incessant sounds of trumpets and drums, showing that the garrison was stirring ; but as yet no soldiers could be seen, though the big trees which at intervals capped the earthworks loomed through the fog like giant sentinels.

The exertions of some twenty minutes brought us to the desired spot, a deep hole, well under the shelter of a projecting angle of the wall, where the water lay calm and motionless, and big rushes drooped forward as though asleep.

The punt having been secured, I plumbed the depth and found we had about nine feet of water with a bottom of black mud. It was my intention to get anything I could, though ostensibly I proposed trying the perch; and the whole surroundings of the scene were so novel that I should have been scarcely surprised had I landed a man in armour.

« PreviousContinue »