Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

employment, exposed to the menaces of a beadle, or the insults of the rabble: she was in hafte to secure her good fortune, and felt some degree of pain left the Thould lose it by the earlier application of another; the therefore went immediately with the maid to her fifter, with whom it was soon agreed that Melissa should work for her board and lodging; for she would not consent to accept as a gift that which she could by any means, deserve as a payment. .

While Melissa was a journeywoman to a person, who, but a few weeks before, would have regarded her with envy, and approached her with confusion; it happened that a fuit of linen was brought from the milliner's wrapped up in a newspaper : the linen was put into the work-baket, and the paper being thrown carelessly about, Melifsa at last catched it up, and was about to read it; but perceiving that it had been published a fortnight, was just going to put it into the fire, when by an accidental glance, she saw her father's name: this immediately engaged her attention, and with great perturbation of mind she read an advertisement, in which her father, said to have left his friends about eighteen years before, and to have entered either into the army or the navy, was directed to apply to a person in StaplesInn, who could inform him of something greatly to his advantage. To this person Melissa applied with all the ardour of curiosity, and all the tumult of expectation : she was informed that the elder brother of the person mentioned in the advertisement was lately dead, unmarried; that he was pofseffed of fifteen hundred a-year, five hundred of which had descended to him from his father, and one thousand had been left him by an uncle, which, upon his death; there being no male' heir, had been claimed by his fisters; but that a mistress, who had lived with him many years, and who had been treated by the supposed heiresses with too much severity and contempt, had, in the bitterness of her resentment, published the advertisement, having heard in the family that there was a younger brother abroad. :

The

The conflict of different passions that were at once excited with uncommon violence in the breast of Me. liffa, deprived her for a time of the power of reflection) and when she became more calm, she knew not by what method to attempt the recovery of her right : her mind was bewildered amidst a thousand possibilities, and distreffed by the apprehension that all might prove ineffectual. After much thought and many projects, she recollected that the captain, whose fervant brought her to England, could probably afford her more assistance than any other perfon : as he had been often pointed out to her in public places by the 'squire, to whom her ftory was well known, fhe was acquainted with his perfon, and knew that within a few months he was alive : The foon obtained directions to his house, and being readily admitted to a conference, she told him, with as, much presence of mind as she could, that she was the person whom his compassion had contributed to preserve when an infant, in confirmation of which she produced his letter, and the certificate which it inclosed; that by the death of her father's elder brother,,whose family she had never known, she was become entitled to a very considerable estate ; but that she knew not what evidence would be necessary to support her claim, how such evidence was to be produced, nor with whom to entrust the management of an affair in which wealth and influence would be employed against her. The old captain received her with that easy politeness which is almost peculiar to his profession, and with a warmth of benevolence that is seldom found in any : he corigratulated her upon so happy and unexpected an event; and without the parade of oftentatious liberality, without extorting an explicit confession of her indigence, he gave her a letter to his lawyer, in whom he said she might with the utmost security confide, and with whom The would have nothing more to do than to tell her story:

66 And do not,” said he, « doubt of success, for I will « be ready to testify what I know of the affair, when« ever I shall be called upon; and the woman who was

is present

« present at your birth, and brought you over, still lives « with me, and upon this occasion may do you signal si service.”

Meliffa departed, melted with gratitude and elated with hope. The gentleman, to whom the captain's letter was a recommendation, prosecuted her claim with so much skill and alliduity, that within a few months she was put into the possession of her estate. —Her first care was to wait upon the captain, to whom she now owed not only life, but a fortune: he received her acknowledgements with a pleasure which only those who merit it can enjoy; and insisted that she should draw upon him for such sums as she should want before her, rents became due. She then took very handsome readyfurnished lodgings, and determined immediately to jus. tify her conduct to the 'squire, whose kindness she still remembered, and whose resentment she had forgiven. With this view she set out in a chariot and six, attended by two fervants in livery on horseback, and proceeded to his country-feat, from whence the family was not returned : she had lain at an inn within fix miles of the place, and when the chariot drove up to the door, as it was early in the morning, she could perceive the servants run to and fro in a hurry, and the young lady and her brother gazing through the window to see if they knew the livery: she remarked every circumstance which denoted her own importance with exultation; and enjoyed the solicitude which her presence produced among those, from whose society she had so lately been driven with disdain and indignation.

She now increased their wonder, by sending in a servant to acquaint the old gentleman, that a lady defired to speak with him about urgent business, which would not, however, long detain him: he courteously invited the lady to honour him with her commands, hafted into his best parlour, adjusted his wig, and put himself in the best order to receive her : she alighted, and displayed a very rich undress, which corresponded with the elegance of her chariot, and the modifh ap

pearance

pearance of her sérvants. She contrived to hide her face as she went up the walk, that she might not be known too soon; and was immediately introduced to her old friend, to whom she soon discovered herself to his great astonishment, and before he had recovered his presence of mind, she addrefled him to this effect, 6. You see, Sir, an orphan who is under the greatest 66 obligations to your bounty, but who has been equal“ ly injured by your suspicions. When I was a de" pendent upon your liberality, I would not affert my « innocence, because I could not bear to be suspected 6 of falsehood; but I affert it now I am the poffeffor of “ a paternal estate, because I cannot bear to be suspect« ed of ingratitude ; that your son pressed me to marry “ him, is true; but it is also true that I refused him, “ because I would not disappoint your hopes and im“ poverish your pofterity." The old gentleman's confusion was increased by the wonders that crowded upon him : he first made some attempts to apologize for his suspicions with aukwardness and hesitation; then, doubting the truth of appearance, he broke off abruptly and remained silent; then, reproaching himself, he began to congratulate her upon her good fortune, and again deGifted before he had finished the compliment. Melissa perceived his perplexity, and guessed the cause; she was, therefore, about to account more particularly for the sudden change of her circumstances, but Miss, whose maid had brought her intelligence from the servants, that the lady's name who was with her papa was Melissa, and that she was lately come to a great estate by the death of her uncle, could no longer restrain the impatience of her affection and joy : she rushed into the room, and fell upon her neck, with a transport that can only be felt by friendship, and expreffed by tears.When this tender filence was past, the scruples of doubt were soon obviated; the reconciliation was reciprocal and sincere; the father led out his guest, and presented her to his son, with an apology for his conduct to them both.

Melissa

$ 2"

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Melissa had bespoke a dinner and beds at the inn, but fhe was not fuffered to return. Within a few weeks she became the daughter of her friend, who gave her hand to his son, with whom she shared many years that happiness which is the reward of virtue. They had several children, but none survived them; and Meliffa, upon the death of her husband, which happened about seven years ago, retired wholly from town to her estate in the country, where the lived beloved, and died in peace.

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »