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BY THE AUTHOR OF VALENTINE Vox.'
In which a highly important secret is disclosed.
NOTWITHSTANDING the earnest anxiety of the widow to disguise the real state of the case, her true position soon appeared. Persons may with success conceal their thoughts, their emotions, or even their wealth; but their poverty will not be concealed; it will out; it will make itself manifest: the more energetic may be the efforts to keep it from view, the more boldly will it rear its hateful head to proclaim its existence to the world.
If the widow, when she found herself embarrassed, had immediately retrenched, all would have been so far well as that she might have been able, with economy, to maintain something bearing the semblance of her usual style; but as, instead of acting promptly upon the principle of retrenchment, she not only lived as before, but incurred those additional expenses which are invariably consequent on an ardent desire to preserve a reputation for wealth when the means have departed, the necessity in her case for selling out became so constant that in a short time she possessed but little stock, indeed, to sell.
This she concealed as long as possible from Stanley. She trembled at the thought of its becoming known to him: the idea was, in her judg ment, dreadful.
'Oh!' she would exclaim in tones of agony, when alone, 'what on earth would he say if he knew it! He must not be told; he would go raving mad! and yet how can I now keep it from him? What am I to do? How-how can I act? I cannot-I dare not go on longer thus: he will be reduced to beggary! Oh! my poor boy! It is terriblevery, very terrible! The thought of it will drive me to distrac
But even this was not all. Had Stanley alone been concerned in the impending disclosure, it might have been borne; nay she would then have summoned sufficient courage to impart the dreadful secret to him at once, for her embarrassments were daily becoming deeper and deeper still; but the thought of what Sir William would say, of what he would think of it, and how he would act, tortured her so cruelly that, although in his presence she wore a constant smile, and expressed the highest pleasure, her heart was in reality full of affliction.
And oh! how she then sighed and panted to hear him propose! She had been for many months in the liveliest anticipation of being blessed by receiving a proposal in due form, and yet, albeit, in her view the question had been twenty times all but put, it had never been proposed with sufficient distinctness to warrant a formal consent. This was very distressing: it was indeed, very. If he had but proposed to her then, all might have been well-all, at least, might have been without sorrow endured; but, although he still visited with all his wonted constancy, although he still conversed with his
usual warmth and eloquence, she could not tempt him to come to the point.
At length, having waited for this important question until she began to despair, her difficulties became too palpable to escape even the tardy observation of Stanley. He had previously entertained suspicions on the subject; but, as he hated to enter into matters of a pecuniary character, those suspicions had not taken root: indeed could he have got from time to time the sums of money he required, things might have gone on and on for years, without his troubling himself to give the matter another thought. When, however, he experienced a difficulty in getting what he wanted, his previous suspicions were re-awakened, and he resolved to have them either removed or confirmed.
'Mother,' said he, 'yesterday I asked you for money. You put me off; you were anxious not to draw too close: I should have some soon; in a day or so; to-morrow, perhaps! Why is this? Why have you not plenty at your banker's? The time is come, mother, when I cannot but deem it necessary that I should know the cause.'
The widow, without answering, burst into tears.
Why, what is the meaning of this?' demanded Stanley, having regarded her intently for a moment. There is something-something which you have hitherto concealed, but which must be concealed from me no longer.'
My poor boy!' sobbed the widow. The dreadful secret must be told! I have struggled-Heaven knows I have struggled to keep it from you.'
What is it?' cried Stanley, with impatience.
'You will never be able to bear it: I am sure you never will.' 'Whatever it be, mother, let me know at once, that I may at once guard against its effect.'
'Those dreadful expenses, my Stanley !—those terrible expenses !' 'Have ruined us!'
'No-no-no-no! not ruined-oh! Heaven forbid !'
'What am I to understand then?' cried Stanley. If they have not ruined us, what have they done?'
'So embarrassed us, my Stanley,—that you must-oh, how it afflicts me to tell you!-you must, at least for a time, manage to live upon the estate which was purchased for your qualification.'
'Impossible! How can I live on a pitiful three or four hundred a year? How can I entertain those friends whom I have been in the habit of entertaining? How can I meet them? How can I even show my face Mother!'
You will break
'Stanley, do not be rash: pray do not be impetuous! my heart! indeed, my love, indeed it was all done for you. Come, come ! You will be calm, dear Stanley? You will be calm? You will not make this wound deeper than it is, or cause it to rankle, dear Stanley ? Heaven knows I would have given worlds if this dreadful disclosure could by any earthly means have been avoided.'
'Why did you not tell me before? Why buoy me up with the hope -nay with the absolute belief that our fortunes had not been materially affected? Why did you not explain to me at once that we were ruined, beggared, comparatively beggared!'
I dared not; indeed, my love, I dared not do it. I dreaded nothing on earth more. But, believe me, dear, I'll make every sacrifice in my power to promote your happiness still.'
'Sacrifice! What sacrifice have you now the power to make?' 'I'll reduce my establishment; I'll put down my carriage; I'll do any thing in the world to diminish my expenditure; indeed, dear, I will; I'll live retired quite retired. I shall be happy-I feel I shall be happyvery happy, if you are but so.'
"Don't talk to me of happiness, mother. How can you, or I, or any one be happy when fallen? The idea is monstrous! You now perceive the consequence, I hope, of endeavouring to conceal everything from me.'
'Believe me, dear Stanley, I did all for the best.'
'But do you think that if I had known what I ought to have known I would have opposed that petition? Do you think that I would have been guilty of an act of madness so palpable, so glaring? Why was the thing kept from me?'
'My love, you know that I am at all times unwilling to annoy you. You know that if it were possible to prevent it I would not have your mind distressed for the world.'
'Well!' cried Stanley, still thing is done. The die is cast. know something of your affairs!'
'My dear Stanley, all shall be explained.' 'I insist upon having all explained.'
'You shall have it, my dear: yes, believe me, you shall. But, although very terrible, it is not so bad as you imagine-it is not, indeed.'
pacing the room with violence. The We are ruined. Now I suppose I may
'I do not imagine that we are reduced to actual beggary; but I do imagine that henceforth our position will be sufficiently mean to cause society to shun us. I cannot live on three or four hundred a year.'
'I know I know you cannot; nor will there be any necessity for you to endeavour to do so: I feel perfectly sure that there will not. No-no, my dear, things may yet be better than you suppose-much better. Let us hope for the best. I am sure I do not know myself yet how we stand. But my affairs shall be immediately adjusted—yes, I'll have them all investigated properly and at once; and then we shall see, dear Stanley-we shall see.'
Stanley was sullenly silent. A dreary prospect opened to his view. And in the whole social scale there is perhaps no position so annoying, so perpetually painful, or so pregnant with temptation to dishonour, as that of a young and ardent spirit who-being without influential family connections, and at the same time without a profession-finds himself suddenly thrown upon his own resources, or placed below the spherebe that sphere what it may-in which he had theretofore moved. The uncontrollable nature of circumstances renders the folly-it may be termed, the thoughtless cruelty-of teaching young men to depend solely upon the wealth of relatives, instead of giving them a profession upon which to fall back in case of need, so conspicuous, that it is in truth amazing, when reverses of fortune so constantly occur, that the paltry pride of parents on this great point should be suffered to supersede their manifest duty.
This darkly appeared to Stanley then; and the more darkly, seeing that he had no direct knowledge of the position to which he had been reduced; but the widow, being far more sanguine, scarcely gave this a thought: her strongest apprehension was that of losing Sir William ; it was that which in reality afflicted her most, and, being almost un
able to endure the thought of the discontinuance of his visits, she would have gone on as usual, in the lively anticipation of a formal proposal being made, had not Stanley, being impatient to know the worst, insisted upon an immediate investigation of affairs, which accordingly commenced without further delay.
Shows how a reconciliation took place between Bob and his venerable friend.
WHEN the reduction of an establishment is about to take place, and more especially if the establishment be an old one, whatever may be the tact with which it is managed, whatever may be the secresy with which you proceed, it is perfectly sure to be generally known: indeed, any attempt at secresy does but increase the evil, inasmuch as it establishes a mystery, and mysteries invariably teem with conjectures, which are certain to make the thing worse than it is
Now this is, of course, a remarkable fact, and one, moreover, ascribeable solely to one's utter inability to get rid of servants under the circumstances with any degree of quietude or comfort. When these useful people have long been in the habit of giving 'good satisfaction,' they well know that they would not be discharged without a cause, and you cannot-no act of caprice can-deprive them of the additional knowledge of whether their conduct in reality constitutes that cause or not. If it do, why there, of course, is an end of the matter; but if it do not, they watch events narrowly, and if none be engaged in their places, they see how it is, and never fail to report what they see: in fact they deem it their duty to do so in their own justification, and that they ought to be justified is strictly correct.
Now in this particular case the afflicted widow no sooner found it to be necessary for her to relinquish her carriage, and in consequence to discharge her old coachman, and several other servants, than the news flew with such unexampled rapidity that on the evening of the memorable day in which the servants had notice, Bob received the following letter from his venerable friend:
'Genal Johnsones Stables.
'allrow i aint Seed nothink on yu fore A werry konsiderbell peerid off thyme sirkumstanshalls Is cum toe mi nollege witch korses Me fore to feel werry fillisoffocle about yu kors hive A inkellinashun fore toe think frum wot hive eared yule bee throwed out off plaice if so and yule kum and pig we me hit sharnt kost yer a apney for nothink wile yer out and I des say i kan get yu into somethink as soon As i kan for beein out is onkommon heckspensyve an noboddy dont git fat at It speshly as thymes is werry rotten butt wy Dont Do me the onner off a korl hay kum there Ain't no maliss kum an letts ave a Drain toogether As we yoused korse yu hare a goodd sort an i never took yu fore nothink ellse so No more pressent from yure Werry pertickeller frend joseph coggles.'
The immediate effect of this generous and gentlemanly epistle was to throw the whole of Bob's mental faculties into a state of confusion.