ePub 版
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

take years to accomplish them--but if I live her; indeed, the poor girl can scarcely disguise -nay, do not weep my darling !”

her love for you. There 's Miss Crawford too; May's heart had failed her, and, sobbing, her there is no doubt but she prefers you ; and they head fell on her lover's shoulder.

are both rich, and of good family. Do marry Let me here introduce to my readers Percy one of them, dear Percy, and make us all right.' Ilford and May Leigh.

“ You pain me very much, mother, when you Percy was the only son of Sir James Ilford, ask me to marry to fill our empty coffers," reof an old family, proud but poor. Old Dorset plied her son proudly, “but you underrate my Hall had once been a fine place, but the im- ability for labour, dear mother; I am not provident and wild life of Percy's grandfather robust, but I am not without strength-see. had impoverished it in many ways. The grand And he playfully took up a chair, and with one old woods had disappeared beneath the axe to hand lifted it above his head. It was no great furnish money for his extravagance, and the feat, but he wished to impress his mother with estate had dwindled to small dimensions—or the idea that he was by no means a weakling, rather, more strictly speaking, it had become so albeit of slender frame. encumbered that the rental that found its way Sir James reconciled himself with less into Sir James's pocket was very contracted. difficulty than Lady Ilford to their son's going Too proud to enter trade as a means of recruit- to Australia. “If you will go, my son,” he ing his finances, the Baronet and Lady Ilford said, at last, “God speed you. You are carried had hopes of their son, and counted upon him away by exaggerated accounts of men becoming to revive the old family affluence and honours fabulously rich; you do not consider that there by a prudent marriage. Little did they think are thousands who have no such luck. But go, that this son-their one hope—was bent on and if you do not make a fortune you cannot marrying their own steward's daughter—for lose one. One thing you must carefully such was May Leigh.

observe, never allow your cash to come below She was born on Old Dorset Farm. Percy the amount necessary for your passage home and Ada Ilford, her brother Frank and herself again; and come at once whenever you feel the had been brought up as near neighbours—for least pressed. The discomforts and even hardthe steward's house stood not far from the hall. ships which you must undergo, will, I am They had been companions as much as their quite sure, make you more desirous of the comrelative positions would allow—that is to say, forts of home; and more anxious to secure the in out-door amusements—in summer, in boating means of obtaining them, when you come on the lake, and wandering through the woods back," he added significantly. and lanes ; in winter, skating on the ice, or And so it came to pass that Percy Ilford playing at blindman's-buff after tea in Mrs. was to go to Australia to try his fortune at the Leigh's best parlour, which the young folk from diggings. The great gold discovery in Australia the hall had learnt to make as free with as if had smitten the whole community with what it had been their own nursery at home. So was called the “gold fever," and thousands the years rolled on, rivetting link by link the of all classes were hastening from old England chain that bound the youthful hearts of Percy to the new El Dorado to snatch a share of the Ilford and May Leigh.

spoil. This brings us to the night on which the But Percy was not going alone; Frank Leigh, story opens. On the morrow the ship was to May's brother, was going with him. The sail that was to bear Percy to the land where young men had “ laid their heads together" in he hoped to achieve great things. His parents the project. Frank gained the permission of did not wish him to go. They thought no good his parents to accompany the young master; would come of it. The only project they could but it was a sore trial for them. He would form for him was to marry an heiress; square not, however, go penniless, or dependent upon up Old Dorset Hall with her money, and settle the Ilfords. Mrs. Leigh, by careful managedown there like his fathers before him. This ment and prudent forethought for her children's was his mother's dearest wish, and often she welfare, bad made considerable saving. was wont to plead with her son.

Lady Ilford was secretly glad that Frank “We'll see in days to come, mother, mine," Leigh was going with her son, though she was Percy would reply. “In the meantime, I am too proud to say so. She had her misgivings as going to try my fortune at the diggings.” to Percy's ability to "rough it," and she thought

“ The diggings, Percy !" said his mother, the stalwart youth would bear the heavier 'you an Ilford to go with common farmers' burden, and take care of him. sons to the rough life there-it will kill you, my “The diggings for ever, mother !" cried son-you will never be able to do such hard Frank, tossing his hat in the air, and throwing work. 0, Percy! why do you not marry Miss himself into a chair beside her. Collingwood ? I am quite sure you could win “I shall miss you, my son," sighed Mrs.


[ocr errors]

Leigh. "I wish you would stay at home-you
know that your father intends to take a farm
for you,
you, and
you would have plenty at home to
make you quite comfortable."
"Mother," said Frank, "I have higher
ambitions than a farmer; listen to me, and keep
what I say as secret as the grave.”

The mother looked at her son and observed in his eye a light that she had never seen there before. He laid his hand on her shoulder, bent to her ear and whispered rapidly and eagerly. She looked amazed and confounded-at length interrupting him, she said, "Frank you are wild! Have you lost your senses?"

"No," he said rising and pacing the floor, "no mother-count me less than a man' if I do not accomplish my ambition-my-."

"You frighten me Frank," cried the good woman, and she threw her arms round her son's neck and sobbed aloud.

"Come, come, mother," said Mr. Leigh, coming into the parlour at the moment, "don't take it to heart so- -Frank has youth and strength, and a bit hardship will do him no harm. If he gets a few 'nuggets' of the gold that all the world is talking about, so much the better; if he does not, I dare say you will have a few for him when he comes backyou are always at the 'diggings,' you know, mother, with your care and thrift."

The good man thought it his duty to endeavour to keep the mother's heart up-though his own was down.

Leaving father and mother, then, let us return to the lovers as we found them at the commencement of our tale-at their farewell meeting.

Long and earnestly they talk. "I will tell Frank as soon as we have started," said Percy. "But, indeed, now that I feel so independent, I don't care if all the world knows--even my


"No Percy, no!" replied May, in alarm, "Sir James would turn against my father and it would break my mother's heart to leave the old place you may tell Frank when you have gone. Poor Frank, I think he already guesses, he is so gentle and kind."

"He is a noble fellow, and I shall be proud to call him my brother," exclaimed Percy, "Do not fret May, darling, we shall be all right,

passionate kisses on her lips, and fled to hide his emotion. They had reached the garden wicket behind her father's house, and May, when Percy had departed, entered the garden, and sat down and wept. "Heaven bless and keep you always, dear Percy!" she murmured. On reaching the end of the lane that led to the garden, Percy paused, and lifting his hat from his head, and raising his face to the starlit sky, he vowed to be true to May Leigh in weal or woe. So the lovers parted.

And day and night, and night and day
My thoughts shall be of you my May.


MAY LEIGH sat in the garden, in the pale moon-
light, stunned with grief; but rousing herself at
last, her thoughts reverted to her mother.
am selfish," she murmured; " my mother is in
grief, and I should be with her."


Entering the house, she went straight to her own chamber, and bathing her face in cold water, to remove as much as possible the traces of her recent tears, she descended to the parlour. There she found her mother sitting with Frank's hand clasped in hers, tears stealing down her old face.

May quietly crossed the room, stooped down and kissed her mother's brow. She fell on Frank's neck and kissed him also; sobbing again and again. "Don't, little sister, don't!" said Frank, tenderly, with a big lump rising in his own throat. "We'll soon be back." May looked at him and saw that he knew her


Mr. Leigh, who had been preparing Frank's luggage for removal on the morrow, again entered the room, and the family was complete.

Frank's last night at the farm was a sad one. He had been a good son, and it was hard to part with him. May tried to bear up and comfort her mother, but her imagination conjured up a thousand things that might happen in

the far off land.

Sir James and Lady Ilford felt deeply the prospect of losing their son, even for a limited time.

"But he will soon wish to be back," said Sir James to Lady Ilford, as she was arranging Percy's outfit for his journey. The wish, of course, prompted the thought.

The night passed, the morning came, and the Ilfords and the Leighs met in Londonmaster and servant alike in sorrow for the loss of their only sons. It was a beautiful shipthe "Eglantine"-bound for Melbourne. It was almost ready to sail when they arrived, and there was little time for leave taking. Poor May was pale, but shed no tears.

There now, there's poetry on it; write that down to-morrow


"Yes, dear Percy, in my heart," replied the maiden.

Sir James shook hands with Frank. "Goodyoung man," he said in a familar way,

But the youth could not maintain the light-bye, some mood he had assumed, and straining her for Frank was a favourite. to his heart in a long, last embrace, he imprinted Good-bye, Sir James," replied Frank, "I



her son.

will do all I can for Mr. Percy," as if he knew view of becoming, in due time, a farmer on the comfort his words would give.

his own account. “Good-bye,” said Ada Ilford, advancing Percy Ilford had had every advantage of and offering her hand to Frank. "Good-bye, education, and was an accomplished gentleman. Miss Ilford,” returned Frank, bowing low. But though a year older than Frank Leigh, he “My life shall be devoted to your brother.” had always felt the superior force of his char

While these leave-takings were going on, acter, and having been much together, they had Percy stole to May's side, and whispered taken their natural position. Frank, always “God bless and keep my darling!" slipping willing to follow, had yet been forced into upon her finger a " Mizpah” ring. The bell leadership, so that now, as they stood on the

, rang—the friends parted—the vessel moved- deck of the “Eglantine,” it was Frank who May saw no more. Her father caught her was the comforter in their sorrow.

By way of in his arms-she had fainted.

saying something, he quoted Byron as applicIt was well poor Mrs. Leigh had May to able to their situation look to at that moment. Her anxiety for her

“Yon sun that sets upon the sea

We follow in his flight; daughter saved her the pang of the last look of

Farewell awhile to him and thee,

My native land-good night.” When May had recovered, they walked in “Ab! Byron had none to grieve for him, silence to the station. Mr. Leigh put them but we have Frank,” said Percy. into a second-class carriage ; Sir James and “Cheer up Mr. Percy," replied Frank. Ada Ilford at the same time passing on to a “I am not Mr. Percy to you now, Frank,” first-class compartment. Lady Ilford had interposed Percy. “Do you not know we are broken down at the last moment, and had re- to be brothers ?mained at home, unable to see her son depart. “I know, Percy! I know!” and the young

How lonesome and dreary the farm looked men shook hands warmly. on their return. For days May went listlessly

Without accident the good ship at length about her work, but at length roused herself reached Melbourne, and they wrote letters for her mother's sake, who long remained un- home to tell of their safe arrival. Remaining comforted.

a few days in Melbourne to purchase materials, At last the family could calmly talk about they set out for Ballarat, at which place, they the voyagers, and the fate of the two young eventually arrived. men furnished a daily theme of conversation. “Now for the search for gold," said Percy.

Old Mrs. Leigh, with a mother's divination, "I came to get it, and I must have it; I will had discovered May's secret attachment to never return without it.” Percy Ilford. It gave her great concern, and “Let us go patiently and diligently to work," was the subject of much serious thought; but, said Frank, soberly, yet in hopeful tone. not knowing what had passed between the

CHAPTER III. young lovers, she hoped that time would cure her of what she must consider a hopeless fancy. Percy Ilford and Frank Leigh left home for

UPWARDS of two years have passed away since As the vessel moved, Percy kept his eyes Australia. During the interval the incidents fixed on May, to take “ a last fond look”; but of the Ilford family life at Dorset Hall have when he saw her faint he darted below. It was many hours before the two youths mind from brooding over her son's protracted

become interesting To distract Lady Ilford's met again. When he came on deck, Frank was watching the shores of old England, as they absence, they had gone to London, in the sumgradually faded from view. There were the

mer of the third year, for a few months, on a young men side by side, the aristocrat and the visit to a relative—a rich old maiden lady.

This relative had not seen Ada for some years, plebeian; the lord of the soil and the yeoman. and was much struck with her beauty ; for, At that moment they were equal in condition, bent on the same enterprise. How did they Proud of her young kinswoman, she sought

indeed, Ada Ilford was a lovely maiden. stand naturally? Frank was a self-sustained youth. His father's care had been to make a

every opportunity to “ bring her out," and, man of him, and he had succeeded. He had shrewdly calculating that it would give her taken care, though he could not send him to additional importance, caused it to be whispered college, that he should have all the advantages heiress. Perfectly ignorant of her relative's

that Ada Ilford would be Miss Danver's of a good school; and with aptitude above the average he had acquired an excellent "English designs, Miss Ilford enjoyed the gaiety, and to

“ Education," besides a moderate amount of Latin. He had left school at the age of of attraction. It was the old story; the beauti

ful heiress soon foundseventeen, and had afterwards followed the

Many with the vow and sigh, plough and done general farm work, with a

Ready for her love to die !


[ocr errors]


are you

[ocr errors]

They sigbed in vain, however, and no one concealing their success from their fellowreceived the young lady's preference as a lover. diggers—a necessary precaution—they worked But Miss Danvers had made preference for her on, with only intervals for sleep, and at the end in the person of young Lord Clifton, and so of not more than three months they found themmanaged that it soon appeared to the outward selves in possession of enormous wealth ; they observation that he was, at least, first in the could not themselves estimate exactly how

much. When the Ilfords returned to Dorset Hall, They had contrived, under no small difficulty Miss Danvers and young Lord Clifton and risk, to have their “ nuggets” conveyed to accompanied them. The old lady had, some- Melbourne, and lodged safely in a bank. what arbitrarily, informed Sir James and Lady The mail had arrived, and brought letters. Ilford that to be her heiress Miss Ilford's choice “Well, Percy,” said Frank, on reading his, must be confined to this


satisfied ?" There seemed to her parents no reason why “Satisfied ! yes, we may well be ; and now Miss Ilford should not accept an agreeable and shall we think of home?” said Percy. good-looking young gentleman of high family; Ay, and let us off without delay," replied they, therefore, received the intimation of Miss Frank. “Our claim is not exhausted, but we Danvers with the highest gratification. The can sell it at a handsome price. Let it be done, alternative was not communicated to Miss and let us off.” Ilford. The plotters were shrewd enough to Why, what the plague is the matter with know that it would be a thousand to one but you ? You are worse than I, who have the that would totally defeat their aims. And they strongest motives for haste-read," and he had no reason to suppose that young Clifton handed Frank a letter. It was from May. would be an unsuccessful suitor ; for they “ There is not the slightest chance of miscarriage observed that she received his civilities agree- there, Percy. I know it was an old project of ably, if not with marked satisfaction. At the my father's. Farmer Andrews is a very good end of a week, the duration of his visit, Lord fellow, and would in an ordinary way be a Clifton departed from Dorset Hall, with an fair match for my sister. But May is a true invitation to return at the hunting season and girl, and my father will not attempt to force spend a few weeks. Miss Danvers was pleased her affections, however much he may lament with the progress made. “If not accepted," the miscarriage of his project.” she said, " he has not been rejected."

“I know, I know, Frank; I know all that; In the meantime, what were Percy Ilford and my mind is quite at ease, I assure you. Frank Leigh doing? Were they any nearer the Now read this—from the point marked—the goal of their wishes ? At first, the labour of other portion is the affectionate effusion of my digging had been hard work, and trying to dear mother, which, of course, Frank, must Percy. But gradually he had hardened to it, only meet her son's eyes.” and, at the end of almost three years, had Frank Leigh read as requested. become strong and bronzed, fit for any fatigue. “ You see then, dear Frank, that I have two From a somewhat effeminate scion of the aris- reasons which you have not for wishing to make tocracy he had become a man. Their success haste home.” Frank did not hear his friend. had been but moderate; they, however, still He had been suddenly seized with total absence worked on, though often sickened with “hope of mind. Rousing himself at length in answer delayed.” They had seen hundreds successful to Percy's repeated question, “ What is the who were less industrious than themselves. matter, Frank ?” he said, “ Percy Ilford do you They had seen men, almost by their side, become suppose that I did not as well as yourself leave suddenly and fabulously rich. Their turn came my heart in England ? I have concealed it

. came by the merest accident. A digger from you till now, and but for our marvellous whose claim lay next their own, wishing to success would have concealed it for ever—now leave it with the intention of going to Bendigo, I must, as an honourable man, tell you—I love offered it to the young men for a very moderate your sister, Ada Ilford, and mean to win her price. They accepted his offer, and the next love if I can.” day thought they would, just by way of change, Percy Ilford, at this revelation, actually try their purchase. It was one of those things staggered back and looked aghast. for which there is no logic in nature. The “Good God! Frank Leigh,” he exclaimed, poor fellows who had toiled to sink the claim “what do you mean?” had abandoned it within a very hair's-breadth But before he could receive an answer, he of success. The very next day, Percy Ilford turned on his heel and darted away. Frank and Frank Leigh found traces of the golden looked after him proudly. “I thought as much," treasure, which led to a "find” that took away he said. their breath with astonishment. Carefully “Thank God, I did not insult him !” said



[ocr errors]

Percy Ilford, as he paused out of hearing.

CHAPTER IV. “But the words were on my lips. Frank— The hunting season had arrived, and Lord Leighmarrymysister,” he continued, pro- Clifton had come again on his promised visit nouncing every word slowly, with emphasis. to Dorset Hall. There had arrived also, almost The idea was so utterly new to him, and had simultaneously, at the Cottage (a large inn taken him so much by surprise, that he could used as an hostelry) a stranger totally unknown not get his thoughts in order properly to grasp in the neighbourhood. This stranger soon beit. Presently, however, he began to discover came a mark of attention, and gossip began to that he must think about it. It involved have her say about him. No one knew Ralph too many considerations to be treated merely Maitland—such was the stranger's name; he with anger-for such had been his feeling ; came as if he had sprung out of the earth. It and he asked himself, “ Why should not Frank was soon discovered, however, that his intention Leigh marry my sister? He is rich—he is was evidently to remain for some time in the manly—he is intelligent—he is cultivated — neigbourhood, as it was found he had taken he is-bah !—he is a better man than Percy apartments at the inn for six weeks; and it was Ilford, and Percy Ilford ought to think conjectured that he was a man of means, from shame of himself."

the fact that he had hired for his own use, for So saying he made haste to rejoin Frank, the season, two of the host's best hunters, and who had not moved from the spot.

had entered his name as a liberal subscriber “Forgive me," he said, extending his hand, towards the Dorset Hounds-a subscription “and forget that I played the fool. Win my pack. sister if you can, and depend upon my services The first “ meet” of the season took place by to remove prejudices which will be stronger a copse near Dorset Hall. Sir James Ilford, than mine, that rose but to die.”

Lord Clifton, Ralph Maitland (the stranger), “Thank you, my dear Percy,” said his friend and other gentlemen of the neighbourhood with dignity, “I would have been an egotistical were there. A few ladies, also, among whom fool not to have expected prejudice on your were Ada Ilford, Miss Collingwood, and Miss part against the idea of my becoming your Crawford, already mentioned in our tale, were sister's husband. I was quite certain, how- present. ever, that your prejudice would be but short- “ What a handsome man,” said Miss Collinglived. And now you will understand my haste wood to Miss Ilford, “I wonder who he is. to depart for England. Lord Clifton a suitor Maitland is a good name—Scotch and historical, for the hand of Miss Ilford! I wish I could but I don't know any family that bears it." annihilate time and space! I will go at once; “And, by Jove !" said a neighbouring squire, you can stay behind to manage affairs at Mel- Miss Crawford's brother, “he sits his horse bourne-get our credit transferred to England well, and holds him in hand finely. It would and come yourself by next vessel. We have be a real pleasure to try his mettle in a steeplekept our relatives in the dark as to our success, chase.” and they do not know of our intention to Miss Ilford made no observation. She had return soon—let it remain so, Percy. By-the-discovered, with the quick and unerring instinct bye, supposing you had not seen me from the of a woman, that she was a special object of the time I left Dorset Farm till now, in my pre- stranger's observation, although he had vensent aspect, would you have known me?" tured no obtrusive look. Twice he had passed

“ Hardly,” said Percy, " your shaggy beard her; twice his eye rested on her for a moment, has entirely altered your look, and you have and twice had their looks met. She, however, bronzed almost to a Mulatto, whilst your fair gave the matter no particular thought, and it hair has become darker. But why ask, soon passed from her mind. Frank ?

“Did you see, Clifton,” said Sir James at “ It never could have entered into the dinner in the evening after the hunt, “how imagination of Ada Ilford that it was possible that mad fellow Crawford led the stranger into for her to love Frank Leigh,” replied the youth, danger ? But it appeared to me that he gave "even had she known how passionately he loved Crawford the worst of it. He has the instincts her.

of a sportsman. I will call


him to-morrow “Wheu—u! That is it, is it ? ” ejaculated and make his acquaintance. Percy. So we

are to have bit of It was not quite agreeable to Clifton to hear romance ?

the stranger praised in presence of Miss Ilford “ Yes ; when you arrive, come first to the by her father. He did not know why, but he Cottage, and enquire for—let me consider a acknowledged to himself the feeling. Yet, the good name-say, Ralph Maitland--that sounds cause was not far to seek ; jealousy had begun well. Don't forget, write it down-Ralph to put forth its feelers. Maitland.”

Sir James called upon Ralph Maitland at

[ocr errors]


« 上一頁繼續 »