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THE COMMONER'S

DAUGHTER,

By the Author of " A Few out of Thousands."

CHAP. I.

fortune, residing not far from Teignmouth

Devonshire. For the first four years of Mr. My mother was a De Trevor. I think, if her and Mrs. De Trevor's married life, my mother pure and gentle soul could have entertained remained their only child. Exceedingly dissuch a passion as pride, it would have centred appointed at having no son to perpetuate the solely in the fact of having in her veins blood family name, my grandfather and grandmother represented by the genealogical tree as having endeavoured to consolethemselves, oddly enough, fiowed uncontaminated in a direct stream from by spoiling their infant daughter's temper. the Conqueror, in a family, which, though no Her 'imperious babyhood swayed indeed the longer either wealthy or ennobled, yet cherished entire household, and she was in the fairest way with a keen regard this inheritance of ancient of growing up proud, selfish, and thoroughly descent.

disagreeable. Perhaps of all species of pride, that which In her fifth year, the arrival of the son so glories in pedigree, has the most direct claim on long wished for, changed her position. The the sympathies of mankind. The poor loathe servants, over whom she had in her infant pride of purse: the rich should despise it: but arrogance ruled so despotically, did not fail to both equally defer to birth unblemished through inform the child of this untoward circumstance. the course of rolling centuries, even if its genera- With precocious sagacity, she quickly found out tions have been undistinguished by fame or that the new stranger was of the highest noble deeds.

importance, that his wants and wishes had In works of fiction belonging to that old time become paramount over her own, and that, before everybody wrote, I remember to have greatly to her surprise, neither pouts, cries, observed that, although the reader might be nor sulks, appeared now to have any weight permitted to commence with the personal history with her former obsequious attendants. of the heroine, yet he had frequently to leave After all, it was a hard lesson for a spoiled that off

, in order to wade through very long child to learn, especially at so tender an age. and tedious memoirs of several of her relations To her mother's room, admission had been forand particular friends, likewise those of many bidden since the advent of the baby. The of her enemies; and by the time he had extricated maids in the nursery were by no means overhimself from the difficulties of plot in which delicate in the remarks they uttered in the child's he was sure to become involved, he was apt to presence. They indulged in vulgar jeers, find, somewhere about the fourih volume, that telling her that “ her nose had been put out of his brain had become so bewildered by these joint,” with other similes more comprehensive ramifications of biographical matter, that he no than elegant. longer knew “who was who;" and so to enable On the little girl's ill restrained and passionate himself thoroughly to comprehend every cir- mind, this treatment had its full effect. She cumstance, (people in those days read books understood well enough that her authority and to understand them, and knew nothing of the importance had departed. Ellen, her principal Johnsonian method of “skimming,”) was com. attendant, especially irritated the wayward pelled to read the whole work over again from child. its first chapter.

This girl, who had been the chief recipient of I trust I may not puzzle my readers in the the kicks and scratches which the presumed like manner. If my mother's antecedents were heiress had occasionally in her paroxysms of not absolutely necessary to the explanation of rage, liberally dispensed among her personal my own life, he should not be troubled with suite, gladly availed herself of an opportunity them. As it is, for the sake of the integrity for retaliation. and clearness of my own history, I must briefly One morning-such a morning as, in England glance at them.

at least, you rarely behold, save in Devonshire, My maternal grandfather, Francis De Trevor, a soft sunshiny balmy morning, perfumed with was a gentleman of good estate and large the scent of the summer's latest lingering flowers,

B

and filled with that entire serenity which gives | would be buried deep down in the cold earth the soul almost too much happiness-my mother and that all this distress and grief had been entered the nursery. She was, even for her, caused by her, Frances De Trevor. unusually fractious. Too infantine for the out- He might have been a good man, this doctor; ward balminess of nature to have any effect on but stern, cold, and rigidly moral, he found no her temper, the child's nerves had been irritated excuse for the over-indulged child; neither did to a frightful degree by the constant refusal of he sist out the real culprit, the tantalizing nurseher request to see her mamma. She was, as maid. He regarded the wretched little child the nurse-maid remarked, “boiling over with just as we should contemplate a Courvoisier or fretfulness."

a Greenacre. And painting her crime thus, in Ellen was ironing some of the delicate laces, the black colours in which it appeared to himtoo fragile to be trusted to the ordinary laundress, self, when the poor little girl at last understood which were destined for the baby, who was peace what she had really done, and was told that fully slumbering in his cradle, happily unmind- men and women were hanged by the neck on a ful of his three weeks'existence, or the adulation gibbet till they were dead, for lesser crimes than that awaited his waking hours.

the one she had just committed, she fell into a The newly-born child was, I say, smiling in fit, and neither spoke nor moved for fortyhis cradle while sleeping. When my mother eight hours. came into the nursery, Ellen was declaiming During that time there was strong reason to loudly to the other women in the room about hope she too, was dead. Death for her would the grand christening there was sure to be. have been a boon. But there is a law of retri

“Much grander, miss, than yours was,” she bution in this world, however we may obtain said, turning to the child, who angrily demanded salvation in the next-a law as attendant on to see her mamma.

guilt, even on error, as death is on life, or sorrow “Your mamma indeed! She don't love you on humanity! My mother's doom was to live now ; I can tell you that. See the child !-a and suffer. passionate little monkey, stamping and grinning. My grandmother, from whom it was imYou're a plague, miss; we all know that. possible to keep the knowledge of her bereaveLook there at your good little brother. He ment, from the indiscretion of a domestic never falls into such wicked tempers : he's a became acquainted likewise with its unhappy beauty, he is; not like his wicked, wicked sister, cause; a terrible agitation ensued, which, in her who”—Her tone changed rapidly-"My God! delicate condition, proved fatal to Mrs. De Trevor my God! see, quick-some of you”—Too late in the short space of a few days. Thus did her too late

husband, who affectionately loved her, find himEnraged at the nursemaid's tauntings, the self bereft of wife and son, through one who child had snatched up the iron, which standing had hitherto been his darling, his spoiled and on the table was still warm. Before the other petted child. servants could understand Ellen's shriek of When Frances De Trevor unhappily revived horror-before Ellen herself, paralyzed with to life and consciousness, she was an outcast fear, could interpose, Frances had hurled from love, from tenderness or affection. The the sharp-pointed yet heavy missile at the infant child never was seen to smile again; rarely indeed, in the cradle-hurled it with all her might, when she grew up, did the girl or the woman. a might strengthened fatally by childish passion. Unable to bear the sight of his daughter, Mr. De

Too terrible the vigour of that tiny arm ! Trevor sent her to a retired village, many miles

The frightened women, who expected to hear from her desolated home. screams from the babe, were appalled at its The curate of this village of Penrocket, and silence. They rushed to the side of the cradle : his wife, were glad to increase a very small ina little blood, a wound on the tender brow- come by educating (Mr. De Trevor said reformthese were the only signs. In that fearful ing) the poor little girl. Her involuntary crime moment, the infant's spirit had fled back to the had, indeed, as far as temper was concerned heaven which had lent him to earth for so brief the child's one great fault-worked a reformaa time.

tion. From the fatal moment that made her an My power is limited in giving any adequate unwitting fratricide, she became meek, mild, description of the scene that followed 'this merciful, and gentle. She learned with avidity, catastrophe--most persons can picture it vividly for study only, could soften the agonies of her to themselves. There was the infant murderess, regret, or distance that shadow which henceforth wonder-stricken ; who, having no idea of death, darkened the whole of her life. This clergyman could not be made to understand her crime. of Penrocket, and his partner, were kind, judicious There were the horror-fraught domestics, scarce persons; and, as she grew up, my mother's deep daring to reveal the deed; the agonized father; remorse, softened into a tender melancholy the surgeon called in to render his useless which never wholly forsook her. Education, assistance: all these regarded the poor passionate and the intelligence that comes with years, gave cause of this tragedy with the deepest loathing. her at least the consolation of knowing that her

It was the doctor who at last succeeded in maturity was not answerable for the unpreconveying to my mother's mind some idea of meditated sin of her infancy. the nature of her frantic crime. He told her When Miss De Trevor was twenty-one years that the baby would never cry again, that he old, she received a visit from her father's man of business. Mr. De Trevor had neither seen i to have alienated the estate (unentailed) from my nor communicated with his daughter during mother; as it was, my father consented to take that long period, in which she had known none the name of De Trevor before his own of Castleof the happiness belonging to childhood, none brook. of the joyous buoyancy and fresh vigorous The sacrifice, in due time, was achieved. My hopes of youth. Perhaps he could scarcely be mother was married. She left kind and wellblamed. "He held strictly to his first resolution. wishing friends, associations of youth and The destroyer of his peace, he said, must ever be girlhood, to enter the cheerless home of one who a stranger to him.

loved her not, and abhorred the necessity of the Now, his man of business came to communicate promise which had forced him to take her for a to the outcast daughter, in a severe, dry, formal wife. Somewhere about the same time, a manner (for he too looked on her as a criminal marriage, not unsimilar, was contracted in a who had somehow undeservedly escaped punish- Royal House, the result being to both wives ment) the fact that her hand would be bestowed alike-oppression, insult, and injury! in marriage on Mr. Castlebrook, the only son of a neighbour of Mr. De Trevor, who had lately lost his father and succeeded to a small estate. This young gentleman's land joined the De

CHAP, II. Trevor estate, and I believe the match was especially desirable for the purpose of uniting When I was ten years old, being her only the territories which would thus be rendered child, her solace, and her companion, my dear doubly profitable. For this reason it seemed mother related to me this her sad history. I, that young Mr. Castlebrook, in compliance with too, had given proofs that I possessed a quick a wish expressed by his deceased father, had and irritable temper, which required the most voluntarily proposed for Miss De Trevor, fully judicious restraint to prevent it from marring comprehending her family position, and, on that for life my happiness. With no words, save account, terms were made so restrictive and one those of love, did she ever correct me. From sided that any other family would have certainly those dear lips I never heard a harsh sentence, resented such proffered alliance only as insult. This gentleness was a great mercy to me; for, But it did not appear that my grandfather from my father, whenever he was compelled to viewed the proposal in any other light than as a address me, I received nothing but roughness profitable offer for an unsaleable piece of goods and severity. His daughter was expected to consent without I am well assured that my mother endured expostulation. She did so. She would, indeed, the agony of this confession to an only and have implicitly agreed to any wish or command adoring child simply as a penance. She might of her father. Obedience, she said, was her have even anticipated that the daughter, who was only expiation. Bitter, indeed, proved to be the sole tie binding her to earth, would testify that obedience which she had to render to one towards her a hatred excited by this account of who treated her, all her life-time, only as an her infant fratricide; but I loved her too dearly, unwelcome incumbrance to the property he was and besides, I could in no manner connect my to gain by this marriage. Years after her death dear grown-up, gentle parent, with the picture I learned that even in her grief and remorse she of the passionate little creature whom she pourhad faintly begun to indulge a dream of being trayed. Young as I was, the strongest impresbeloved; but she crushed at once, with an iron sion which remained on my mind was that Ellen, hand of self-immolation, all such dear hopes, the nursemaid, should herself have been hanged and accepted her cross, as part of that atone for teazing my mamma into a passion. I rement which she believed to be her sole business | member asking my mother what became of this on earth. Her heart, and one other, alone knew girl; but she answered that she only knew that the magnitude of her trial in wedding with an she had been discharged from my grandfather's unknown and uncared-for individual.

service after the sad event, which had chiefly On his own part, Mr. Castlebrook had dis- been brought about by her own mischievous and appointed such affections as he possessed, by aggravating disposition. giving up a young girl, the daughter of a Many things come crowding on my memory tradesman wbó resided in the University town as I write; pictures of my own childish lifewhere this young gentleman had matriculated, trifies perhaps, but which serve as landmarks and where he had also greatly distinguished to recall those days when, if I had a stern, dishimself

, I fear, as a graceless spendthrift, who dainful father, I had that precious treasure, a had already impoverished his small inheritance, tender

, loving mother to weep with me, to and gained the reputation of being an idle soothe and console me in every little trial and and dissolute student.

sorrow. I know, too, now, that all love is I shall often in this narrative require the feeble compared with the affection of a parent reader's consideration, for sometimes I may towards a child. I can think of myself, at one appear to forget I am writing of a father. He, time, as a little creature in a black frock --worn, alas ! set me the example by often forgetting I believe, for my grandfather; and the notion 1

retain of myself in this costume is strengthened Had not this marriage been arranged, I by the recollection of a little picture in water believe it had been Mr. De Trevor's intention colours, done by my mother herself, wherein I

that he was one.

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