« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
Song--The Mountain Maid. By Mrs. Crawford, 132.
By C. A. M. W., 130.
THE POOR RELATION.
BY WILLIAM DODSWORTH, ESQ.
WHETHER it was a part of Sir Clarence Mildmay's policy to make the remainder of Walter's stay at Courtenay as unpleasant as possible, or the excited state of the latter's feelings made it appear so, we can hardly decide ; but within a week of the baronet's arrival, Walter's situation had become so distasteful to him, that he determined to leave as early as possible, although it cost him more than one bitter struggle to leave poor Madeline to the wretched fate that seemed to await her.
He was returning home one evening just as it grew dusk, when turning a corner of the walk, he came suddenly upon a
• Continued from page 339, vol. li. May, 1848.-vol. LII.–No. ccv.
group of gentlemen, none of whom, with the exception of Sir Clarence, he had seen before, and all of whom bad in fact arrived on a visit to Sir Charles, since Walter's departure in the afternoon, and were going to stay until after the ball.
As was very natural, the eyes of all the strangers were turned upon our hero's advancing figure, with the eager look of men who expected that an introduction was about to follow, and Sir Clarence's neighbour, a tall, military-looking man, touched his elbow and whispered something in his ear, in which all the rest seemed instantly to acquiesce. Walter had by this time arrived within a few yards of the group, when suddenly Sir Clarence, with a muttered oath, lifted his glass to his eye, and with a flushed and angry face, and a sarcastic sneer curling his under lip, surveyed Walter with vulgar audacity, from head to foot.
A suppressed titter hurst from the baronet's companions as this little scene was acted; and then with well-bred shrug of the shoulders, the majority turned round and walked away; whilst Walter with a face crimson with anger, and every limb quivering with excitement, was walking slowly on, when Sir Clarence bawled out in a commanding tone:
"Halloa, you sir ! if you are going to Courtenay, you will, perhaps, send that rascal of a groom of mine to me, d'ye hear?”
“You can go upon your own errands, sir," answered Walter, in a husky voice, whose passion almost choked his utterance, and he continued upon his way.
“ You're a saucy puppy, sir, and that's what you are, to answer a gentleman in this way,” cried Sir Clarence, haughtily, “a confounded puppy, sir."
“Will you be kind enough to repeat that, sir?” said Walter, as calmly as his quivering lips would permit him, as he confronted Sir Charles and his friends; grasping the riding whip he generally carried, so tightly in his hand that the silver-cord upon
the handle almost cut to the bone; “Will you repeat what you have just said, Sir Clarence ?”
His antagonist looked for a moment perfectly petrified at Walter's menacing look, but instantly recovering himself
, he drew himself
with an air of defiance, and said with his sneering laugh, “ Yes, sir, if you choose I will repeat it, so that not only yourself, but these gentlemen who are friends of mine, sball hear it as well; I repeat, you're a saucy puppy, and much too nice for your station, sir.”
“Then I insist, sir, before these friends of yours," retorted Walter, fixing his dark, determined eye upon his opponent, and opposing his slight but well-knit and muscular frame to that of Sir Charles, “that you instantly retract that dastardly epithet, and ask my pardon as well."
"You're certainly a very pretty fellow, Mr. Mordaunt; and modest, withal!” retorted Sir Charles, with another sneer; "and what if I decline your modest request ?”
“Then it will be my unpleasant office to chastise you, sir, for your impertinence,” was the stern rejoinder.
A murmur of mingled approval and astonishment ran through the group, as Walter said this with perfect coolness, which stung Sir Clarence to the quick, and with a loud laugh he laid a huge hand upon Walter's breast, and ordered him to be gone; Walter, however, had no such intention, and scarcely knowing what he did, with a half suppressed cry, such as escapes the tiger when leaping upon his prey, he sprang forwards and grappling with Sir Clarence, both presently fell to the ground.
"For shame! for shame, gentlemen,” cried a very handsome young man, who had not joined in the laughter on Walter's appearance. “Mr. Mordaunt,-excuse me if I mistake your name, but I have only just arrived, -pray desist until we can arrange this extraordinary business."
“Nonsense ! nonsense, Courtenay,” cried two or three eager voices in a breath, “can't you let them alone?”
“Will you apologise for your insulting behaviour, sir?” demanded Walter, whose blood was now fairly aroused, and who stood completely encircled by the byestanders, confronting Sir Charles; "as the insult was public, so shall the apology be; these gentlemen all heard your speech.”
“And they shall all hear what I have further to say, sir," retorted Sir Clarence, who grew red and white by turns; "you're a fool, sir!”
“Then take that, and that, and that !” muttered Walter between his set teeth, as a shower of blows fell upon the shoulders, and back, and breast, and legs of Sir Clarence Mildmay; “ beware, every one of you gentlemen, how you venture to interfere; there! there! there! as you love your lives, stand back and give us room! Will you apologize or shall I thrash you within an inch of your cowardly and lying life? speak!” and the young man's breast heaved, and his eyes flashed, and he felt the strength of ten men raging within him, as he stood with one hand grasping the coat collar of Sir Clarence, whilst the other held the whip, now divested of its thong, above his head; and then flinging him from him with a stern frown, which made even the boldest tremble, he turned on his heel and walked slowly away.
Many young men of our hero's age would after such a victory as this, have felt quite elated with what they had achieved over so much older an antagonist as Sir Clarence Mildmay; the feelings that stirred Walter's breast as he walked slowly away, were the most bitter he had ever experienced in his life, for the insult he had just expiated, had struck him, and filled his soul with the bitterest loathing. He was poor and friendless, and unknown, and it was on this account that Sir Clarence had dared to taunt him with his poverty; it was for this that he had to suffer the gibes and half suppressed sneers of a host of high-born, pampered sons of wealth and rank; and in spite of himself, as he walked hurriedly on, striving to calm down his excited feelings and reason himself into repose, his anger and detestation only grew more strongly upon him; until, at last he felt the scalding tears coursing each other swiftly down his burning cheeks, without the slightest power of controlling their career.
Thus he walked on, at one moment with his arms clasped tightly across his breast, as if he would fain still the angry beatings of his heart beneath ; at the next, lifting his hat from his burning brow, and pausing for a moment in a bewildered whirl of thought; then he would walk on again more swiftly than before, scarcely recognizing as he passed, the various objects around him, with which his stay at Courtenay had familiarised him; then a deep sob would escape his overcharged breast, as he strove to recall some incident of the adventure, which was already becoming indistinct from the reaction in his mind; and still, through all the angry, and bitter, and wounded emotions that crowded his burning brain, he pursued his way until his ear detected some one running behind him on the path.
It was no part of his plan to avoid observation, even were Sir Clarence, himself, in pursuit, and so he stood still and turned his gaze up the path he had traversed; the night had now, however, closed in so rapidly, that it was not until his pursuer had reached him, that he was able to recognize the gentleman whom he had heard addressed by the name of Courtenay.
“Do you want me, Mr. Courtenay ?” said Walter, in no very pleasant tone.
Excuse me, Mr. Mordaunt," said the young man, laying one hand kindly on the poor fellow's shoulder, in a friendly manner, “I have run on to say a few words to you, if you will allow me, upon your present position; will you take them in the kind way they are offered, from one young man, who knows already what it is to smart under injustice, to another?”
“I shall be only too happy to hear you,” said Walter, taking the disengaged hand, for he felt, though he could scarcely see the handsome features, that the dark eyes of his associate were full of pity and of admiration, “and if you can believe what an utter stranger has to say