Henry J. (Henry John) Van-Lennep.

The American lady's preceptor : a compilation of observations, essays and poetical effusions designed to direct the female mind in a course of pleasing and instructive reading online

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Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry John) Van-LennepThe American lady's preceptor : a compilation of observations, essays and poetical effusions designed to direct the female mind in a course of pleasing and instructive reading → online text (page 14 of 18)
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had learnt the name of their benefactress, they had
described her person and her dress : " but bless
your honour," interrupted the woman, " when we
said what she had done for us, v/e had not to ask
any more, for every one said it could be nobody
but Miss Julia Beresford."

Here Julia hid her face on her father's should-
er, and the company said not a word. The young
ladies appeared conscience struck ,* for it seemed
that none in the neighbourhood (and they were of
it) could do a kind action but Miss Julia Beres-

" Well, my good man, go on," cried Beresford

" Well, sir ; yesterday I heard that if I went
to live at a market town four miles off, I could
get more work to do than I have in my own vil-


lage, and employ for my little boy too ; so we re-
solved to go and try our luck there : but we could
not be easy to go away, without coming to thank
and bless that good young lady ; so, hearing at
l^er house that she was come hither, we made bold
to follow her; your servants told us where to
find her — ah ! bless her ! — thanks to her, I can
afford to hire a cart for mv poor sick wife and
family !"

" Ah ! Miss, Miss," cried the litde boy, pull-
ing Julia by the arm, " only think, we shall ride
in a cart, with a tall horse ; and brother and I
have got new shoes— only look !"

But Miss was crying, and did not like to look :
however, she made an effort, and looked up, but
was forced to turn away her head again, overset
by a " God bless you !" heartily pronounced by
the poor woman, and echoed by the man.

" This is quite a scene, I protest," cried Miss

" But one in which we should all have been
proud to have been actors, 1 trust," answered the
baronet. " What say you, gentlemen and la-
dies ?" continued he, coming forward : " though
we cannot equal Miss Beresford's kindness, since
she sought out poverty, and it comes to us, what
say you ? shall we make a purse for these good
people, that they may not think there is only one
kind being in the neighbourhood ?"

" AgTeed !" cried every one ; and as sir Fre-
deric held the hat^ the subscription from the ladies
was a very liberal one ; but IVIr. Beresford gave
five guineas ; then Mr. Hanmer desired the over-
joyed family to go to his house to get some re-
freshment, and the company re-seated themselves.

But Mr. Beresford, having quitted his seat, in
order to wipe his eyes unseen at the doo|", the ba-
ronet had taken the vacant place by Julia.


" Now', ladies and gentlemen," cried Beresford,
blowing his nose, " you shall see a new sight — a
parent asking pardon of his child. Julia, my dear,
I know I behaved very ill — I know I was very
cross to you — -very savage ; I know I was. You
are a good girl — and always were, and ever will
be, the pride of my life — so let's kiss and be
friends" — and Julia, throwing herself into her
father's arms, declared she should now be herself
again !

'• ^Vhat ! more scenes !" cried Mr. Hanmer.
" What, are you sentimental too, Mr. Beresford ?
Who should have thought it."

" Why, I'll tell a story now," continued he :
^' that girl vexed and mortified me confoundedly
— that she did. I wished her to be smart, to do
honour to you and your daughter to-day; so I
sent her twelve guineas to buy a very handsome
velvet pelisse, which she took a fancy to, but which
I thought too dear. But instead of that, here
she comes in this old fright, and a fine dowdy
figure she looks : and when I reproached her, she
said she had given the money away ; and so I sup-
pose it was that very money w^hich she gave to
these peeple. Heh ! was it not so, Julia r"

" It was," replied Julia; " and I dare not then
be so extravagant as to get the pelisse too."

^' So, Hanmer, continued Beresford, " you may
sneer at me for being senthnental^ if you please ;
but I am now prouder of my girl in her shabby
cloak here, than if she were dressed out in silks
and satins."

" And so you ought to be," cried sir Frederic.
*' And Miss Beresford has converted this gar-
ment," lifting up the end of the pelisse, "' into a
robe of honour :" — so saying, he gallantly pressed
it to his lips. " Come, I will give you a toast,"


continued he : here is the health of the woman
who was capable of sacrificing the gratification
of her personal vanity to the claims oi benevo-
lence !"

The ladies put up their pretty lips, but drank
the toast, and Beresford went to the door to wipe
his eyes again ; while Julia could not help owning
to herself, that if she had had her moments of
mortification, they were richly paid.

The collation was now resumed, and Julia par-
took of it with pleasure ; her heart was at ease,
her cheek recovered its bloom, and her eyes their
lustre. Again the Miss Traceys sung, and with
increased brilliancy of execution. " It was won-
derful ! they sung like professors," every one
said ; and then again was Julia requested to sing.

" I can sing noxv^'' replied she ; " and I never
refuse when I can do so. Now I have found my
father's favour, I shall find my voice too ;" and
then, without any more preamble, she sung a
plaintive and simple ballad, in a manner the most
touching and unadorned.

No one applauded while she sung, for all seem-
ed afraid to lose any particle of tones so sweet
and so pathetic ; but when she had ended, every
one, except sir Frederic, loudly commended her,
and he was silent ; but Julia saw that his eyes
glistened, and she heard him sigh, and she was
very glad that he said nothing.

Again the sisters sung, and Julia too, and then
the party broke up ; but Mrs. Tracey invited the
same party to meet at her house in the evening,
to a ball and supper, and they ail agreed to wait
on her.

As they returned to the house, sir Frederic
gave his arm to Julia, and Miss Tracey walked
before them.


" That is a very fine, showy, elegant girl," ob-
served sir Frederic.

" She is, indeed, and very handsome," replied
Julia ; " and her singing is really wonderful."

*' Just so," replied sir Frederic ; " it is won-
derful, but not pleasing. Her singing is like her-
self — she is a bravura song — showy and brilliant,
but not touching- — ^not interesting." Julia smiled
at the illustration ; and the baronet continued :-— •
" Will you be angry at my presumption. Miss
Beresford, if I venture to add that you too re-
semble your singing ? If Miss Tracey be a bra-
vura song, you are a ballad — not showy, not bril-
liant, but touching, interesting and-—"

" O ! pray say no more," said Julia, blushing
and hastening to join the company — but it was a
blush of pleasure ; and as she rode home she
amused herself with analysing all the properties
of the ballad^ and she was very well contented
with the analysis.

That evening Julia, all herself again, and dress-
ed with exquisite and becoming taste, danced,
smiled, talked and was universally admired. But
was she particularly so ? Did the man of her
lieart foUqw her with delightful attention ?

" Julia," said her happy father, as they went
home at night, " you will have the velvet pelisse
and sir Frederic too, I expect."

Nor was he mistaken. The pelisse was hers
the next day, and the baronet some months after.
But Julia to this hour preserves with the utmost
care the faded pelisse, which sir Frederic had
pronounced to be " a robe of honour."




■ > I shall proceed without any prelude beyond
that of telling you that the family, as usual, dis-
persed yesterday morning immediately after we
left the room. Mr. Davenport repaired to the
library to write letters for our conveyance to town,
and Mrs. Berry to her girls. " Mrs. Davenport
and myself, said Mr. Palmerstone, whose words
I mean to adopt, were left tete-a-tete. ' I intend,
my good friend,' said this charming woman with
her usual vivacity, ' to keep you a prisoner. I
have owed you a grudge for some years : and
this shall be the hour of retribution.

" You will perceive,' continued she, taking up
her knotting-bag, ' the odious appellation which
you and some others of my very kind friends con-
trived to affix to my name. It is but just that you
listen patiently to all the various griefs and mor-
tifications which have resulted from your plots
and contrivances with Davenport, to render me a
cruel step-mother^ instead of a handsome widow.
How many sad events,' sighed she, * have sepa-
rated us since those smiling hours ! And let me
add,' pressing my hand affectionately, on observing
my emotion — ' let me add, my dear and venerable
friend, how many blessings have marked that
chequered interval !'

" From your hand my excellent Davenport re-
ceived me,' continued she : ' you may remember
we parted at the abbey-door ; and, leaving you to
answer all congratulations, we set out for Mr.
Davenport's seat in Dorsetshire. I was then in
my thirty-third year, and my boy George, twelve.


Our reception at my destined home had more in
it of vulgar curiosity than of cordial welcome.
All was in state, and we were ushered into the
best drawing-room with sullen reverence. Poor
Harriet was stationed in it, as fine as hands could
make her, and, without doubt, had been tutored
to receive her mother-in-law with her best court-
sey : but no sooner did she see her father, than,
unmindful of me, she ran into his arms and sob-
bed aloud. A very fat but comely woman joined
her in these lamentations ; and Frank Davenport
8tood confused and sad with his eyes rivetted to
the carpet. A look from my husband sent Mrs.
Nurse, as I found her to be, to her apartment : he
then put the weeping child into , my arms ,* she
actually shrunk from my embrace, and again, as
it were, sought the protecting wing of her father ;
who, to conceal his agitation, now presented his
son to me and my George.

" A few questions relative to the occurrences
which had happened in his absence succeeded ;
and the detail of the lameness of Frank's pony
gave George an opportunity of showing his skill
in farriery. The boys became interested in this
conversation, and soon at their ease : this some-
how led to fishing, George w^as at home again
here : he produced his treasures of flies, and an
appointment followed for the next morning to
employ them in the finest trout- stream in Eng-
land. Poor Harriet, during this animated con-
versation, remained silent and dejected : but I
fortunately recollected some caricature prints we
had picked up in our road from Bath : these were
produced, and I had the satisfaction of seeing her
pretty features relax into a smile. We supped
tolerably composed, and not uncheerfully. Frank,
on retiring for the night, took his father's hand,


wishing him good night. I held out mine. He
saw my purpose, blushed deeply, saluted me with
fervour, dropped his eyes, and then imploringly
raised them to h,is sister. She fearfully advanced,
and greatly distressed me by falling on my bosom
and weeping bitterly. " We shall meet to-mor-
row, my love," s-aid I, returning her tu her father,
who looked displeased : " If it be a fine morning,
we will go and give notice to the poor trout
of your brothers' evil intentions.' They each
took a passive hand, and conducted her, blinded
by tears, to her room.

" After they had 'quitted us, my husband ex-
pressed.his tender fears lest I might have received
an unfavourable impression of his child from her
behaviour. I re -assured him. ' I perfectly un-
derstand,' said I, ' ail this business :' I have not
been so improvident as to be unprepared ; be sa-
tisfied. You shall be jealous of this child's affec-
tion for me in less than a year, unless your confi-
dence equals the love you cherish for me. Your
children must be happy, or I miserable.' We then
entered into some discussions relative to the do-
mestic concerns of the family.

" You may perceive already, my dear Susan,
(said my worthy husband) ' that I repose all my
cares on you; but I conjure you exert not your
prudence at the expense of your comforts. I
well know I have been too easy a master, and that
by my indolence I have converted v^ery good ser-
vants into very idle ones.' He then detailed to
me the enormous increase of his house-bills, and
the general neglect of his concerns, which had in-
sensibly gained upon his domestics. ' They are,'
said he, ' honest, but, like their master, love their
ease. I wish to meet contented faces and cheer-
ful obedience ; and thev see in mine that of a


friend : but we all want regulation, and you must
redrtss these grievances.'

" The next day Mrs. Dawson; with much for-
mality, showed me the way through my new ha-
bitation ,* talked a great deal of her good and in-
dulgent master ; of ihe surprise it would be to
some young ladies in the neigiibourhood, to hear
that he had brought home a lady. 1 dismissed
my loquacious conductress at the door of Harriet's
apartment, and entered. She was composed, but
not gay ; and in all her answers to my questions
called me madam* Nurse was stately and re-
served ; and, I believe, thought my visit an in-
trusion. On asking her the age of her charge,
she said, ' Miss Harriet was just turned of eleven'
— and voluntarily added, 'that her dear modier had
been dead six years.' Her face flushed, and her
eyes swam in tears. She suddenly stooped to tie
anew Harriet's sash, which she had done the in-
stant before, apparently to her satisfaction. .

" The bustle of receiving visitors appeared to
divert Harriet's mind from the contemplation of
her misfortune : she was also much flattered by
my attention to her dress. The stifl'-boned stays
gave place to the dimity corset; and the Bath
faahions became with Harriet the standard of
taste. Nurse observed, with jealous eyes, my
growing influence, but prudently yielded to an as-
cendency with which she found herself unequal
to contest*

" Amongst our most early visitors were a Mr.
and Mrs. Barnet, with a very handsome daughter.
I concluded, from the little ceremony they observ-
ed on the occasion, that they were very intimate
friends of my husband ; for they surprised us at
the breakfast table : but the cold civility of the
mother and daughter tallied not with this idea,


and I suspended my opinion for further knowledgv.
On their lea\'ing us, I asked Harriet whether the
ladies were near neighbours ? ' Oh, yes,' answer-
ed she, 1. Avithin a walk ; and Miss JBarnet is the
sweetest-tempered young lady in the world. She
is so good, she comes herself to fetch me to pass
the day w4th her and her sisters ; and when I am
there she amuses me in the most obliging manner,
notwithstanding Nurse f^ays she is very proud.*
The second time I met this family, was at a large
dinner party made in honour of the bride. Har-
riet, although highly gratified by going with us,
seemed to deriye her principal pleasure from see-
ing Miss Barnet. The young lady appeared not
to have forgotten her favourite. She placed her
next her at table ; and, to judge from the v/his-
pers which passed from ear to ear, had much to
say and to hear.

" After dinner the lady of the house proposed
a w^alk in the labyrinth ; and, quitting the room
for this purpose, I perceived Harriet and her friend,
arm in arm, taking a different path from that the
company Vv'ere in. A sudden fog soon made our
retreat to the house prudent. On returning thi-
ther, I saw the young folks sitting on a rustic bench
at a little distance from me. Fearing Harriet
should take cold, I turned to the path which ap-
peared to me to lead directly towards her ; but so
ingeniously v/as this maze contrived, that it con-
ducted me behind the ladies, though within hear-

" As I approached them, I heard Miss Barnet
say, ' So you really think she is good-natured ?'
' Yes,' replied Harriet, ' I do indeed believe she
is.' ' Ah ! my dear girl,' rejoined ?v'Iiss Barnet,
' she may seem to be what you think ; these arc
early davs : you will soon fuid in her the mother-


in4awJ^ I confess, my worthy friend, that I felt
my indignation rise ; but a moment's reflection
sufficed to check lU I advanced, rustling the
branches M^hich impeded my approach, and calling
them aloud. They started with surprise, joining
me in evident confusion. I remarked the change
in the weather, and then instantly adverted to the
ingenuity which had so happily succeeded in plant-
ing a snare for the stranger's feet. I believe my
ease banished their apprehensions of having been
overheard ; but had I wanted a clue to the heart
of this misguided girl, I should have found it in
this little incident. I was sure that the innocent
and unsuspecting mind of a child could not long
retain the impressions of suspicious ill-will, when
opposed to uniform kindness and gentleness ; but
I had every thing to fear from the pernicious
effects of such lessons as Miss Barnet's, and be-
came painfully anxious for the result of a conducJ:
on which I had reposed as the infallible means of
producing a change in this child's prejudiced
mind, and on which my happiness, as much as her
own, depended.

" The boys happily gave me no inquietude.
They were inseparable ; and Frank left us at the
end of a month or six weeks in triumph, having
accomplished his purpose with his father to place
him in the same school with his brother. Tran-
quillity succeeded to our late dissipated life ; and
somewhat more at my ease in regard to Harriet,
I turned my attention to the servants. I had
been too much engaged to infringe on the privi-
leges of Dav/son. I had silently observed that
my guests had been regaled with an abundance
which would not have disgraced a lord mayor's
feat ; but there were also proofs of her skill, no
less undeniable. I made her my compliments on


the one, and forbore to criticise the other. On
her bringing me her accounts to settle, I mention-
ed with great caution some regulations which I
wished to introduce : these were neither difficult
nor mortifying. I spoke of her long and faithful
services ; of her master's sense of them ; and,
finally, of his intention of retrenching in some ar-
ticles of expense to which he affixed neither en-
joyment nor usefulness. ' To be sure, madam,'
answered she with civility, ' the bills rise very
high ; but every thing is now^ so dear.' ' It is
very true,' replied I, smiling, ' and you have giv-
en an additional reason for economy. But you
know your master, Mrs. Dav/son ; his honour,
his comforts and independence will never be bar-
tered for idle parade. I doubt not but you will
readily meet his wishes — to me they are commamh
— plenty, not profusion, is his aim.' She colour-
ed. ' I will spare you some trouble,' continued
1:^1 have been in the habit of visiting my larder
every morning, and my present leisure will setde
me in my accustomed duty.' Dawson would not
have been displeased, I believe, with an occasion
more ostensible for offence ; but attachment to
her master, and something like respect for me,
repressed her displeasure. She soon discovered
that I was not capricious or imreasonable, and for
some time we governed in our respective posts
very amicably.

*' Three years after I married, she quitted me
and engaged in business; on this^ccasion I serv-
ed her, and received, at her recommendation, the
widow of her son, who is still in my service. I
allow you to smile,' continued Mrs. Davenport,
at this enumeration of my troubles : but I assure
you, even in this point, they were vexatious ; my
firmness relieved me, but my victory was not com-


pletc. The butler found there was no living with
Mr. Davenport's second* wife : he therefore left
his place — and many dozens of empty bottles in-
stead of full ones in the cellar. Your favourite,
Richard, with the title of Mr. Bingham, took his
office. I am not ashamed to say, that 1 was as
much gratified as the honest man, by this proof of
his master's favour ; for Richard had not appeared
in any way alarmed by Mr. Davenport's change
of condition. On the approach of the Christmas
vacation, I was importantly engaged one morning
in trimming a straw bonnet for Harriet : the Bath
fashion was to direct our taste ; and Mr. Daven-
port was called upon to decide on the colour of
the ribband. This point settled, he said to his
girl, ' I dare say you will not wear this smart
bonnet till }^our brothers arrive. They will be
here to-morrow se'nnight,' added he, givii^g me a
letter from one of them he had just received. —
*■ We will surprise them,' continued he, ' by show-
ing them what an excellent horse-woman you are
become, Harriet. If the weather permit, we will
meet them at Blandford.' She loQJced delighted ;
but, suddenly checking her rising gaiety, sighed,
^ Poor Sally Madder ! how sadly will her holi-
days pass this Christmas !' ' Why so, my love l^
asked I. ' Why,' ansv/ered she, colouring like
scarlet, ' Nurse says, she is sure you will not per-
mit her to come any more to the Hall in her va-
cations from school.' ' Nurse is mistaken,' re-
plied I ; * nor had she any ground for such a sup-
position.. It is time she should know me. I am
incapable of depriving a mother of the innocent
and laudable satisfaction of the society of a de-
serving child. Go, and tell her this.' I spoke
with seriousness, and Harriet retired abashed.


" On entering her apartment some time after,
I found Mrs. Madder's features considtrably re-
laxed. She thanked me .with some confusion for
my goodness to her daughter. ' 1 am sure,' cried
the delighted Harriet, interrupting her, ' I am
sure, mamma, (we had forgotten the formal ma-
danij you will like her ! She is so good, and so
gentle and ingenious ! I will show you some of
her work,' rummaging the drawers as she spoke.
' These ^ presenting some articles of school work,
' are nothing to what she does now ; for she is a
fine young woman at present, and her governess
says she is her right hand.' A summons from
the music-master stopped Harriet in her eulogium
of Miss Madder; but the subject was too agree-
able to Nurse to let it drop. She pursued it on
my daughter's quitting the Toom. ' She is, in-
deed, madam,' said she with honest exultation,
* an excellent young creature. She is the pride
of my life.' ' And in that pride,' replied I, ' you
may safely trust for an evidence that you deserve
to have a good child. But,' added I, ' cannot she be
settled with us before our young men come home ?
Can you inform her that you and Harriet will fetch
her hither on Thursday in a carriage ?' I had inad-
vertendy touched the heart of Mrs. Madder, by a
proposal I did not even consider as a compliment,
but merely as an accommodation ; but it seems that
Sally had heretofore been obliged to the coachman
and a pillion on these annual visits to the Hall.
The fond mother, subdued by this unexpected at-
tention to her child, bowed before my irresistable
power. She burst into tears. ' You are too good,
madam,' sobbed she. ' I do not deserve your
kindness, for I have not behaved well. I beg yoti
will hear my excuse.




'" I had a cruel and v,'icked step-moilier, madam ;
she was the ruin of my poor industrious father ;
she drove my only brother from his home ; he
went to sea, and has never been heard of since*
She beat and ill-treated me ; and robbed us all,
to supply her own dissolute son with money, to
make him still more wicked. My father died of
a broken heart in a gaol. I must have starved, or
done worse, had it not been for a sister of my
mother. She received me, and, what was still
better, as her own child. I remained with her
till I married. My husband was under-tenant to
my master ; and w^e lived very near the Hall.
At the death of my husband I vv^as left with Sally,
and an infant at my breast. Mrs. Davenport's
health was then on the decline, and she was unable
to suckle her infant. Miss Harriet. I was sent
for, and for some days took the charge of her
and my own child. My mistress was pleased
with me, and prevailed upon me to place my baby
at nurse, and to remain with here The doctors
assured me I was not able to rear two, and that
my infant, being a very vigorous one, would do
very well witliout the breast. My aunt recom-
mended to me a compliance, engaging to take care
of Sally. . Thus, madam, I became a domestic "in
this family : but my poor little boy was the vic-
tim ; he drooped and died ; and I was very un-
happy. My kind mistress consoled and comfort-

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Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry John) Van-LennepThe American lady's preceptor : a compilation of observations, essays and poetical effusions designed to direct the female mind in a course of pleasing and instructive reading → online text (page 14 of 18)