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“ Life has evils worse and more humiliating to face than poverty," was the calm reply.
“Oh! it has, ah! well, you'll know them practically when you go out governessing on 201. per annum. That's before you when the breath leaves my body. Your father, saucy and audacious man, can't support you. Of that, I presume, you feel by this time assured ?"
“He cannot, I know it well.” “ And you used to express a desire to be able to lighten his burdens ?»
“I did wish, I do still wish-Heaven knows how earnestly-to help him. It has been the cherished aim of my life.”
“ You'll be able to manage it when you're in service! Ha! ha! ha! Miss Ossulton, whom the young men used to flatter and flutter around as Mrs. Dunsterville's heiress, going out as a governess on some 201. a year. What an agreeable reverse of fortune!”
And the ailing woman laughed hideously and repeatedly.
The younger lady listened with a flushed cheek and tearful eye, but in silence. Another peal of mocking laughter was heard from the invalid's couch. As it ceased, a low and gentle voice said, Aunt, hear me. You know I have never harassed
with repeated requests, but now I urge one most anxiously, most earnestly. Deal with me as you please, but remember in this solemn hour my father. He has had many trials, many struggles, much to brave and much to bear. His character is blameless, that I can assert fearlessly. Leave me penniless, if you will, but I implore you to bequeath to him some small bequest, some trifling annuity, not so much to cheer and help him as to testify your frank forgiveness and good-will."
“You'll be clever if you get me into that mind,” said the old lady, shifting her cushions. Her young relative persevered.
Aunt,” said she, “you are rapidly hastening where forgiveness of injuries is indispensable.'
“ Don't pretend, girl, to teach me my duty, mind your own. Your father deeply offended me; I said I never would forgive him, and I
" True ; but listen"
“No, I will listen to nothing further on that point.” Then with a bitter expletive, frightful at that hour and from a woman's lip, she added, 6 Into this house that man shall never enter, nor one sixpence of my money shall he ever have. Such is iny fixed resolution, and I defy what is under the earth or above the earth to rule it otherwise."
Shocked and terrified, the listener retreated and buried her face in her hands.
A light step was now heard outside the door, and in a subdued tone a voice whispered,
“ Mr. Haldimand, ma'am, the lawyer, is below, and waits your pleasure."
“Show him into the dining-room, and say I'll see him almost immediately."
The light step retreated.
“Quite heroical! a sensible choice, and most deliberately made. But, understand me, while I withhold I also give."
The niece looked up, timidly, in evident doubt as to the speaker's intentions.
“ You don't catch my meaning, eh? I'll explain it. Your expectances by my will I take away, and in lieu of them bestow my curse.
“ No, no !” shrieked her auditor, quickly and almost wildly. cannot be serious ; for mercy's sake speak not thus, and now !"
“But I will speak, and you shall hear. To you, Fanny, I have been all but in name a mother. Every kindness, every indulgence, every vigilance which a mother could bestow I have shown ; nothing has been grudged, nothing has been withheld that could make you happy. And now, ungrateful girl, my dying curse shall follow you—"
“Stay! stay!" interrupted the shrinking Fanny; and as she spoke she threw herself before her strange benefactress, and grasped, convulsively, her hand; “ Cease, cease these frightful threats. I'll make any promise you ask-take any
oath you require-do any thing—but oh ! curse me not-curse me not, I implore you.”
“ Then do, and at once, my bidding. Write on that sheet of paper the words I now dictate.”
The niece--pale and tearless - obeyed almost mechanically; so thoroughly had anguish and apprehension possessed her. 6 Show me what
have written." The victim handed to her tormentor the revengeful and revolting document. The latter read it over thrice, and thoughtfully weighed each expression. Returning it to her grave and dejected relative, the old lady observed,
“Yes; that's my meaning. I must now endeavour to make your promise binding. First of all, sign it. Good! Now bring me that New Testament which is lying on my toilette-table. Hold it in your right hand, and take an oath, as they do in courts of justice, in my presence, on that book, to abide by what you have in that paper written.'
Miss Ossulton did so.
“ There-nothing can be better-that's just as it should be! and now I'm ready for Mr. Haldimand—let me see him at once.”
The party thus summoned was an upright and honourable man, who took, with commendable care and precision, Mrs. Dunsterville's instructions, and more than once reminded her of the position of some who he thought had claims upon her. To these she turned a deaf ear. Miss Ossulton's rights she regarded as paramount; and a will was drawn up, conveying to that lady, absolutely, the bulk of her relative's property.
Fatigue, exertion, and emotion, were now telling fearfully upon the sufferer. She was evidently worse ; and after considerable hesitation, she was asked whether she would like to see a clergyman. She replied in the affirmative, named one, and begged that that party might be summoned without delay. He came.
She told him that she was arranging her affairs ; that the exertion incident upon such a task had aggravated her complaint ; that she believed her life was “beyond insuring,” and that therefore she had wished to see him.
“ You are rich,” was the ecclesiastic's reply, “your are childless; you have no near relatives. Be merciful in the closing act of your life. Show, in the final disposition of your property, a kindly and compassionate spirit. Remember the poor.' She looked with an air of surprise.
Why, upon earth, am I to do that? Remember them! Out upon
it! They have often remembered me, and impudently enough in all conscience! They hooted me at Yelland! Upon one occasion I got into trouble; and-yes—they actually hooted me.”
Requite evil with good,” said the clergyman, mildly. “ No-I'm not likely to do that. Nor would you, if you were my weight and size, and had had to run for dear life as the brutes made me do. Remember the poor, quotha ? They're an improvident, saucy, good-fornothing set- two-thirds of 'em are hypocrites, and the remainder drunkards. I hate the everlasting cant about the poor-it's nauseous. Let others remember them,” said she, stoutly, “ I won't.”
“But the conduct you allude to, though indefensible, was probably accidental--not deliberate-thus regard it; and--forgive it."
“ I'm none of your forgiving sort. That girl's father,”—pointing to Miss Ossulton, “ offended me. I've never forgiven him ; and won't. He didn't frequent this house in my life time : he shan't enter it after I'm gone! The woman next door exasperated me when I lived at Yelland. We'd a dispute about a pew. I don't know but what we'd a bit of a sly tussle in church. I never forgave her, and never will.”
“Heaven is barred to the unforgiving : have you considered this ?” asked the astonished visitor.
“ Ah, well! I'm tired and in pain : and I'm exhausted, and sad ; I can listen to nothing further at present; will you repeat your visit tomorrow ?”
The wondering Churchman took his leave. As he lingered for a brief space in the breakfast-room below, he asked a loiterer, “ Was this lady's property hers by inheritance ?"
« Oh! no," was the ready reply. " She filled a subordinate station in the household of the late Mr. Dunsterville. He was her senior in years, and required a good deal of attendance. She played her cards adroitly; and was amply rewarded. He married her, and at his death left her all he had. A lady bred and born she can scarcely be considered.”
“Ah!" said the Churchman, “ that explanation solves a riddle."
Further interviews took place, but with no result. The clergyman was understood to have returned to his former topics, and to have pressed them anew and earnestly on the attention of the departing lady. But in vain. She would leave no benefaction, however trivial, to the poor, nor concede the slightest token of forgiveness to her delinquent kinsman.
She died as she had lived, stern, exacting, and unforgiving.
They buried her at Yelland. The funeral array was costly ; but among those who followed her to the tomb it would have been difficult to point to one saddened spectator. Her will was produced and read. The
necessary forms were gone through, and Miss Ossulton was declared sole heiress to her kinswoman's entire property.
To effect the transfer, occupied some little time. But the day at length arrived when all the forms were completed, and all the requisite documents signed ; and then Miss Ossulton was actual possessor of the ample means
bequeathed to her. She had taken a final leave of her man of business, and had received his congratulations on the last signature being given, and the last outstanding claim arranged.
She was, in truth, owner of all that Mrs. Dunsterville had possessed. Her spirits, naturally joyous, rose at her escape from business details,
To no purpose.
which she never liked, and for which she was unfitted. She had described it in the morning as an eventful day for her!" It was so in a sense she little anticipated.
With a light heart she returned home to an early tea. Her attendants heard her dancing, and singing, apparently in high spirits, and looking forward to a bright and happy future. On a sudden there was à pause-a faint
scream, and a dull, heavy fall. The housemaid rushed into the sitting-room. There lay
mistress senseless and partially convulsed
the floor. She raised her and applied restoratives.
Miss Ossulton gasped once or twice, feebly, and expired.
An inquest was held—a verdict returned, “ Died from natural causes,” and the young girl was buried.
Who was her heir ? No will could be found. No document of a testamentary nature was forthcoming. She had died intestate. Who was her successor ? Her father. And consequently Mrs. Dunsterville's entire property became his property.
To that headstrong and wayward woman it seemed never to occur that her niece was mortal ; might die childless and intestate. For such a contingency her will --so decidedly worded-made no provision. One feeling animated her-revenge. She aimed at carrying it out beyond the grave. Her resolve was to punish her kinsman even when she was in her coffin. But the fiat of a higher power mastered hers. The party to whom she left her property never enjoyed it, and the being whom she resolved on barring from any share of it came into its full and prompt undisturbed possession.
A few weeks passed, and in the large and well-plenished abode of Mrs. Dunsterville presided as owner, Mr. Ossulton, owner of that house which
was never to enter !” Of her income he was master, to save or squander as he pleased—that income for which she vowed he “should never be one sixpence the better!" There he stood giving orders in her pleasure-garden-trimming coolly and carefully her favourite rubus which stood near the gate--that tempting rubus on which the little street boys would lay their marauding fingers—which had brought her into so many squabbles—and anent which Mrs. Dunsterville had so often assured some audacious spoliator that if she “ lived to see the morning light, she would most assuredly have him up before the mayor, and transport him beyond seas for the rest of his days. She could do it, and she would !”
Poor Mrs. Dunsterville! Had she been a crowned head, what a matchless despot she would have made!
And no one missed her, save the street urchins. Every thing under the new régime looked much as usual. Even the
parrot—the favourite parrot—" the only human being on this wide earth” (as her late mistress used most unaccountably to phrase it), “the only human being on this wide earth who really loved and esteemed her!” shrieked, and sang,
and laughed, and whistled in her cage, and occasionally screamed out as of old, “ Poor Mrs. Dunsterville !-ah! poor dear Mrs. Dunsterville ! poor lady !-poor lady!-oh! oh! oh!"
Oh! Polly! Polly! you may well repeat your lesson, and dwell upon the theme! If your late mistress could have looked up out of her costly coffin and seen who was "reigning in her stead”—could have witnessed
Sept.-VOL. LXXXI. NO. CCCXXI.
who was laying down the law in her house, and turning over her valuables, and routing out her repositories-could have seen who was pruning her shrubs and transplanting her flowers—could have observed who was drinking her wine and taking an airing in her carriage. Scream, Polly, scream by all means.
There is meaning in your phrase, “ Poor Mrs. Dunsterville!-poor Mrs. Dunsterville !"
Reader ! one parting word. Is it impertinent to assure you that this is no fictitious tale ? The will, thus over-ruled, was made. The characters thus portrayed, existed. She sentiments here recorded were deliberately avowed. The sudden death here described, actually occurred. Does not the narrative warn us how wretchedly they miscalculate who fancy that they can control and command events? Does it not remind us that the issues of every scheme, however cruelly planned or resolutely executed, rest alone with Him who is the Irresistible !
THE OLD MAN AND SPRING.
BY J. E. CARPENTER, ESQ.
The Earth is waken’d from a spell,
There's sunshine in the air ;
The primrose too, are there!
The hedge row's green again,
But the old man wends his weary way,
A vain regret for his own life's spring.
The roses are in bloom ;
Sheds forth a sweet perfume!
There's plenty in the land ;-
But the old man sighs for the days of yore;
A vain regret for his own life's spring.
The flow'rs are faded all!
Around the abbey wall!
Has made a mighty shroud;
And the old man sighs for the wintry day