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“Oh, father, father, that I had never left
home!" she wailed. “ At times I say to myself, Let me cheat my memory, and persuade it that all these years have been a dream—that I shall awake and find myself little Louisa Freer!"
“Ah," returned the lawyer, "many a one would give their lives to awake from the same dream."
“ It is not visited on him as it is on me,” she added, her cheeks flushing. “Hour after hour, while I am sitting alone, brooding over the past, striving to stave off present annoyances, he spends away from me, seeking only how he may amuse himself.”
Nothing else could be expected, from a man of the disposition of Thomas Elliot, but that he would seek his own amusement, married or single. I could have told you that, years ago."
“I know you never liked him, papa, but will you not be reconciled to hini?”
“ Never,” vehemently replied Lawyer Freer. 66 We will not speak upon the subject.”
"I came here to urge another plea,” she sadly added, after an interval of silence. “To ask you to help me: we are very poor.”
“It is waste of time," was the stern reiteration of Lawyer Freer. “ Thomas Elliot has no help from
death or after it." “ It is not for him," she eagerly rejoined, her eyes glistening with excitement. Father, I declare to you that I ask for it but to thwart my husband, not to assist him. You have seen a child of mine at Mrs. Turnbull's."
“I have seen a child there,” he coldly answered. “I believe my daughter once mentioned that it was yours."
My daughter! Well, she deserved it.
“ It is my only boy: the rest were girls, and they have all died, save one. Father, I named him William, after you.”
“I had been better pleased that you had named him any other name, to associate with that of Elliot,” was the disheartening answer.
“It is for him that I need assistance,” she resumed. “I want to place him at school. Oh, sir! if you knew all, perhaps you would aid me to do it.”
“What mistaken notion are you labouring under ?” returned Mr. Freer. “Help a child of Thomas Elliots! Has he been sending you on this strange errand ?”
“ He does not know I am come. He was absent when I stole out of my home to ask this. It would be against his will if the boy is placed at school, for he wishes him to remain with Mrs. Turnbull. Do you remember, father, how Clara used to tyrannise over me at home-how she used to put upon me?" " It may possibly have been the case. She was older than you.”
knew she did, though you may not care to recal it. But she does still, and surely she is not justified. I have not a will of my own, especially as regards the boy; every wish I express, she opposes, and Dr. Elliot upholds her. I could bear this,” passionately went on Mrs. Elliot, disclosing what she would have shrunk from doing in a calmer moment I could bear her encouraging the child in disobedience,
“ She was as
but what I cannot bear is, that she should draw my husband's affections away
from me.” "I do not understand," replied Mr. Freer.
“Because you do not know Clara," said Mrs. Elliot. fond of Tom Elliot as I was, in those old days, but she had more worldly prudence. Who first encouraged him to our house? She did. Who Airted with him and attracted him? She did. And when the truth came out, that he loved me, she betrayed the tale to you, in her jealous anger. Then came forward Squire Turnbull. I was a young, frightened child, and I did not dare to object to him; so to escape I rushed upon a worse fate."
Lawyer Freer was knitting his brows. Parts of her speech had grated on his ear.
“ She never forgave me, from the morning she knew Tom Elliot cared for me and not for her; she has never forgiven me yet. And now they have learnt to care for each other : the time, the attentions, the love my husband owes me, are given to her. Believe me or not, as you please, sir, it is the disgraceful truth.”
“ Disgraceful, degenerate girls, both of you,” he exclaimed, angrily, " to suffer your minds to be led away by a man like him!”
“So I come to you for aid,” she continued ; "and I have explained this, not to betray her folly, but to justify my application. If I could place the boy at school, we should no longer be under obligations to Mrs. Turnbull, neither would the child be an excuse for my husband's visits there. You cannot countenance such conduct in my sister.”
“I have nothing to do with Mrs. Turnbull's conduct. She is old enough and wise enough to take care of herself, and I do not fear her doing so. And for you—should you ever become a widow, then you may apply to me.”
The tears were struggling down Mrs. Elliot's cheeks. She ventured to touch, and take, her father's hand. “For my peace, and William's welfare, I implore aid,” she said. “Not for Dr. Elliot."
Mr. Freer did not withdraw his hand, and he did not return her clasp; he suffered it to remain passively in hers. “You are asking what is not in my power to accord, Louisa," he at length said. “When you left my protection for Thomas Elliot's, I took an oath that he and his, should remain strangers to me; that so long as he should live, they should never receive or enjoy aught of mine. As well ask me to break this handand he held it out-as to break my oath."
“So there goes another of my life's delusions,” she uttered, in a tone of anguish, “ nearly the last. In my sadder moments, a beaming ray of light has flashed across me-a vision of my being reconciled to my father ; of his blessing me and my children, a blessing that might have been worked out in life. How could I have expected it ? Father, farewell. God bless you, and pity me!"
“ Fare you well, Louisa.”
He took the candle and followed her to the door, intending to light her down the stairs, but the rays of a lamp, hanging outside, rendered it unnecessary
He stood there, and when she glanced back from the end of the corridor, she saw him looking after her. Yearningly she strained
her eyes to his, and her lips moved, and her steps halted. Perhaps she would have flown back to him ; she had it in her heart to do so ; to fall upon his neck, and with kisses and sobs, implore a more loving forgiveness; but he turned in and closed the door, even as she looked, and she passed swiftly down the stairs, with a bursting spirit. It was the last time they met on earth.
NEARLY the last of her life's delusions, Mrs. Elliot had said. What else remained to her? Her children. William departed, as before, with Mr. and Mrs. Turnbull for Nearfordshire. With the latter's absence, Louisa again forgot her jealous troubles, and peace-rather cold perhaps, but undisturbed by storms—was resumed between herself and her husband. Upon her young child, the girl, every wish and hope seemed now concentred. The love she lavished upon the infant was a matter of remark to all who had an opportunity of witnessing it: they loved their children, but not with an all-absorbing passion like this. Did Mrs. Elliot ever hear that a check, sooner or later, always comes to love so inordinate ? She would have known it, had she looked much into the world. “Oh! when my darling can speak, when it can answer me with its dear little voice, I shall be too happy,” she was wont to say. · My father has abandoned me, my husband has forgotten his love for me, my noble boy gladdens other eyes than mine, but in this precious child shall be my recompense. Make haste, my darling, make haste to speak !"
But the child seemed backward in speaking, and in walking also. Fifteen months old, and it attempted neither. Master Willy, at that age, had gone with his sturdy legs all over the room, and made himself heard when he wanted bread and butter. “ Girls are not so forward as boys,” reasoned Mrs. Elliot.
It was a pretty child, and would have been more so, but for an unusual look about the forehead, and a vacant stare in its full blue eyes. Once or twice, that vacant gaze had stricken a chill to the mother's heart, bringing with it a wild fear, a dread, which she drove back as some faroff horror, that would kill her if ever it came near.
One afternoon the servant, Harriet, had the baby lying on her knee. She had just come in from a walk, had taken off its things, and was now looking curiously at its face, and touching its head here and there.
Dr. Elliot was stretched on the sofa, reading, as Harriet thought, but his eyes were raised over the book, watching her motions.
“ Harriet, what are you looking at?"
The question was sudden, and startled the servant. She replied, in a confused, vague manner, that she was looking at “ nothing particular."
Dr. Elliot came forward, drew a chair in front of them, and sat down, gazing first at her, then at the child. “ What were you thinking of, Harriet,” he persisted, “ when you touched the child's forehead ?""
Harriet burst into tears: she was very fond of the infant. you will not ask me, sir,” she rejoined; “ I should be afraid to tell.”
“ Afraid of a fiddlestick,” returned Dr. Elliot. “ If you fancy there is anything the matter with her, speak, and it may be”-he seemed to
“ I hope
hesitate for a word—“ remedied. Many an infant has been ruined for life through its ailments not being known.”
“ It was not me, sir," began Harriet, looking round at the door, which was ajar, to make sure her mistress was not there, though indeed she could then hear her overhead, in her own room. “ It's true I have wondered at the child's being so dull, though I never thought much about it; but this afternoon, as I was sitting on a bench in the promenade walk, old Mrs. Chivers came up-she as goes out nursing." “ I know,” said Dr. Elliot.
Well ?” “ She had got her daughter's child with her, a lively little thing of eleven months. It was stepping about, holding on by our knees, and laughing
“ • That's what your poor little charge won't do on a sudden,' she begins to me. Why not?
I. • Little Miss Clara's backward, but she'll be all right when she gets her teeth.'
Why, she's got her teeth,' returns Nurse Chivers. "Hasn't she?'
Only six,' I said. “Many a child's more backward in walking than she.'
“. I don't say she won't walk in time,' went on Dame Chivers, but you can't have handled that babby for fifteen months, and not have found out what's the matter with it. Folks are talking of it in the town, and saying-" Harriet stopped.
« Go on," cried Dr. Elliot, with compressed lips.
“ And saying,' Nurse Chivers continued, that the doctor must know it, if its poor mamma does not. Though the look of the babby might liave told even her that it is'- I don't like," broke off Harriet, with renewed tears, “ to repeat the cruel word she said—though Nurse Chivers was grieved herself, and did not mean it in cruelty. But if she's right, the dear infant will never have wit nor sense through life, to comfort us.
Tighter, far tighter, was the straining of his lips, and a dark shade of pain marked his handsome face. He bent his head over his child. It lay wide awake, but perfectly passive in Harriet's lap, its lips apart, and its glistening eyes staring upwards.
“Oh, sir," sobbed Harriet, “ is it true?” And then she saw the expression on the doctor's countenance, and knew that the news was no news to him.
“Who ever will break it to my mistress ?" she wailed. “ It must be suffered to come upon her by gradual degrees," was his answer. But had Dr. Elliot raised his eyes, he would have seen that it had come upon lier, and not by gradual degrees. She had come softly down stairs and inside the room, lest the baby slept, just in time to hear the dreadful sentence ; and there she stood, transfixed and rigid, her eyes staring as wildly as the child's. That far-off" horror, seen but at a distance, had come near-into her very home. Some instinct caused Harriet to turn round; she saw her mistress, and shrieked out. Dr. Elliot raised his head, bounded forward, and caught her in his arms.
6 Louisa ! Good Heavens! I did not know you were there. My dearest wife! do not distress yourself; all will be well; it is not so bad as these women think. Louisa! Louisa !”
No, no, the dreadful shock had come to her, and nothing could soothe
or soften it. When she recovered power of motion, she took the ill-fated child from the servant, laid its cheek against hers, and moaned as she swayed with it backwards and forwards. Suddenly she looked up at her husband-" If we could die-I and she—both of us !” she murmured, in a despairing, helpless sort of way, almost as if her own intellects were going
It was indeed a fearful visitation, and it made itself heard in throbs of agony. Her brain was beating, her heart was working : care upon care, trouble upon trouble, had followed her wilful marriage, and now the last and greatest comfort, the only joy that seemed left to her, had turned into a thing to be dreaded worse than death. She had so passionately wished for this child, and now that it was given, what was it? Her husband sat regarding her in gloomy silence, pitying her she could see that-pitying the ill-fated child. Oh, if she could but undo her work and her disobedience-if she could but
and be once more careless, happy, dutiful Louisa Freer! Not even Tom Elliot should tempt her away then.
How many, as her father said, have echoed the same useless prayer. Ill-doing first, repentance afterwards; but repentance can rarely, if ever, repair the ill-doing. All must bear the sorrows they bring upon themselves, even though they may end but with life; but it seemed to Louisa Elliot, in that first hour of her full affliction, that her punishment was worse than had ever yet fallen upon woman.
It is related-at least it is recorded in the archives of Cape Townthat in the early days of that now prosperous settlement, when all the larger quadrupeds indigenous to Southern Africa existed in the neighbourhood of 'Table Mountain, some labourers employed in a field discovered a huge rhinoceros immovably fixed in the quicksands of the Salt River, which is within a mile of the town. The alarm being given, a number of country people, armed with such weapons as were at hand, rushed to the spot with an intention of despatching the monster. Its appearance, however, was so formidable, that they deemed it advisable to open their battery at a most respectful distance. But seeing that all the animal's efforts to extricate itself were fruitless, the men gradually grew more courageous, and approached much nearer. Still, whether from the inefficiency of their weapons, or want of skill
, they were unable to make any impression on the tough and almost impenetrable hide of the beast. At length they began to despair, and it was a question if they should not beat a retreat, when an individual more sagacious than the rest stepped forward, and suggested that a hole should be cut in the animal's
* Lake Ngami; or, Explorations and Discoveries, during Four Years' Wander. ings in the Wilds of South Western Africa. By Charles John Andersson. With a Map, and numerons Illustrations. London: Hurst and Blackett. 1856.