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UNCLE RALPH.

A TALE.

BY THE AUTHOR OF

‘DOROTHY,' 'STILL WATERS,' &c.

Come what may, hold fast to love. Though men should rend your
heart, let them not embitter or harden it. We win by tenderness : we
conquer by forgiveness.'-F. W. Robertson.

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UNCLE RALPH.

CHAPTER I.

Wohl geht der Jugend Selinen
Nach manchem schönen Traum :
Mit Ungestüm und Thränen
Stürmt sie den Sternenraum.
Der Himmel hört ihr Flehen
Und lächelt gnädig: nein!
Und lässt vorübergehen
Den Wunsch zusammt der Pein.

UHLAND.

own,

I

CAN only say,' exclaimed Susan Mordaunt, ' that if Uncle Ralph sets up a niece of his

I must disown him, and take to calling him Mr. Cornwall.'

Susan was just eighteen, and still most at home in the school-room, although freed from its restraints, and introduced to society. It was not a cheerful apartment either,-large, ill lighted, and scantily furnished; but these accessories could not interfere with the pleasant consciousness of power which animated Susan as soon as she returned to her old haunts. In the drawing-room she was shy, reserved, and silent, forming her opinions readily

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enough, but too sensitive of ridicule to express them. And so there was great sense of relief in becoming her old self again, or rather a person of increased importance, since the younger sisters deferred to her more implicitly than before, now that she had come out,' and Miss Mordaunt's name was inscribed on her mother's card.

One of the sisters, however, sometimes ventured to dispute her authority, although it evidently cost her an effort to do so in the present instance: she spoke timidly, yet not without a certain resolution.

• Well, Susan, I think that it is very good of Uncle Ralph to take in Miriam Leigh, for he will not like to have a child and strange servants about the house, after he has lived so long alone.'

• Of course it is very good of him, Lily, but that does not make it better for us. And he will know as little how to guide her, as a hen does a brood of ducklings.'

'I dare say that he will be very fond of her,' said Lilias.

That is just what I am afraid of. I mean,' Susan added, as one or two of her hearers looked up

to demand an explanation, that Uncle Ralph will take one of his infatuations for this new acquisition and forget our very existence. He never can think of more than one thing at a time.' And you

have been his one idea for so long that

you do not like to be deposed,' said Miss Alison, with a smile which lit up her pale and passive face, pleasantly enough.

Miss Alison was the governess, but the formal appellation had long since been transformed into

6

Ailie,' by her pupils. Her tall drooping form was graceful and ladylike, and her countenance was pleasing, although the freshness of youth had de. parted, if indeed she was one of those who have ever known youth.

Exactly,' said Susan ; 'you always understand my meaning, unlike Lily, who is—I was going to say, she is too matter-of-fact. But there is something romantic in this attachment to Miriam Leigh, of whom we know nothing but the name.'

' And that is a very pretty one,' said Lilias.

'I do not think so. It sounds Jewish, and is associated with thick skins and hooked noses. But you have a right to admire fanciful names, in virtue of your

own.' ' It was time that something should be done to redeem the family,' observed Lilias, beginning as we do, with Roger, Susan, and Patty.'

All sensible English names, quite fine enough for this work-a-day world. At all events it is lucky that Mamma did not give me such an inappropriate handle.' And Susan went up to the oval mirror, to catch a rather obscure reflection of her face on its smoky surface. She certainly saw little there to minister to her vanity. There was a squareness of outline, both of form and feature, and her movements were more remarkable for vigour than grace. She had small bright eyes, an indefinite nose, and rather a wide mouth, and the irregularity of her features was only redeemed by their good expression, and by her clear and healthy colouring.

Lilias showed greater promise of beauty, but the languor of her soft blue eyes, and her excessive

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