Now, when Henry Watson
returned to Buckham Priory, the seat of his ancestors, he found that his
parents were from home; and there accompanied him from London a Sir Mark
Wallingford—a gay man and a man of the world, but withal a heartless man.
Henry longed for the return
of his parents, that he might acknowledge to them his marriage with Mary
Robertson, and that he might hear their lips pronounce her their daughter.
One morning, as Sir Mark
was passing through he perceived a letter, in a fine female hand,
addressed to Henry, and bearing a Scottish post-mark. It was a temptation
he could not resist. He took up the letter and placed it in his pocket. "A
Scottish Venus!" said he—"A Greenland dove!" The letter was from Mary,
announcing her intention of leaving Scotland for her husband. The words,
husband and wife, with which the letter began, were lost upon Wallingford.
He resolved to proceed to London, and there wait the arrival of his
friend’s northern rosebud.
When Mary, therefore,
arrived in London, she found Sir Mark Wallingford there to receive her in
her husband’s name, whom he said he expected from Devonshire daily. The
appearance of the house to which he conducted her, was not in keeping with
his professions; yet she had no suspicion.
A day, however, did not
pass, until the villain unmasked the villainy of his soul. It was now that
all the energy of Mary’s character was revealed. The villain felt himseif
crouch in her presence; and, although he at first ordered the landlady to
keep her a prisoner, that personage soon tired of acting gaoler, without
knowing who was to pay. His threatenings and his visits ceased.
One day, the landlady
abruptly entered the apartment, and said—"I ask your pardon, ma’am—and, to
be sure, I am very sorry to see a young creature in distress—but I has a
family of my own to provide for; and, as you an’t paid last week’s
lodgings, I shall thank you, ma’am, to have the goodness to settle it now;
and, as I must look to the character of my children, poor things, in what
sort of people I keep, I hope, ma’am, you will have no objections to quit
my house next week."
Mary raised her eyes slowly
to her face, and again met the cold, stupid, and suspicious glance which
she had repelled with indignation on her first entering the house. She
drew her hand slowly across her brow, like one awaking from a dream, and
still in doubt regarding its reality. Her eyes became fixed, deeply fixed,
on the prying and unfeeling countenance of her intruder; and her lips
quivering with emotion, she exclaimed—"Woman!"
"Don’t woman me, madam,"
retorted the other; "it perhaps an’t for me to judge, but Heaven knows I
always thought there was too much kindness and attention about that
gentleman to stand long, or mean any good. Thou are a quiet enough lady, I
own that, but quiet looks an’t to pay me, nor do any thing for my family.
I may think wrong about his leaving thee in this here sort of way; but
why, all the neighbourhood say the same about it already; and as I hae
nothing but the good name of my house to depend on for a livelihood, I
hope you will think of paying me, and remove as soon as possible."
Mary’s natural spirit and
self-possession had returned. During this insulting harangue, she arose to
her feet. Her breast no longer heaved, her lips no longer quivered, and
her eyes no longer wept; she no longer trembled, seemed sorrowful, nor
exhausted; the very tears dried on her glowing cheeks; she stood erect and
motionless as a pillar of death, bending her piercing and immovable gaze
on the object before her; every feeling absorbed in one—and that one
measureless disdain. She continued for a few moments in the same silent
and sublime attitude, her eye resting on the speaker with ineffable scorn;
and, taking her purse, which contained but a few shillings more than the
sum demanded, she counted out the paltry debt, and placing the amount on
the table before the landlandy, she waved her hand in disgust, and in a
tone which commanded obedience, exclaimed—"Away!"
With the servile cowardice
of an inferior mind, the other placed her hand upon the money, and
silently obeyed; but, on reaching the door, she hesitated—turned; and the
sound of the silver having brought her back to humanity, she falteringly
ventured to inquire—"Could I serve you in anything, ma’am?"
Without speaking, Mary
impatiently stamped her foot, and again waved her hand; while the other,
trembling beneath her own insignificance, slid out of the room.
On finding herself again
alone, Mary’s feelings gushed back into their former channels; and the
heartless indignity adding its sting to other sorrows her tears burst
forth anew, and flooded faster than before. She sank upon her knees, and
in the excess of her grief, prayed that she might be given strength, and
taught resignation. Her petition was humble, earnest, and importunate;
and, as she breathed a fervid and anxious Amen, tranquility fell
upon her troubled spirit, as the morning dawn silently rolls the mist from
the valley, or melts away the cloud upon the hills. It was not hope, but a
something more than hope, which no physician but prayer can impart; as
though a radiant angel had winged his way to heaven with our request, and
from his wake of glory beamed back holiness on our souls.