Mrs. (Margracia) Loudon.

First Love Vol. 1 of 3 online

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All the mottoes annexed to the chapters of this work, have been
selected from the Author's dramatic and other poetical works, not yet



"No hut shelters Comala from the rain."

A family of travelling vagrants were overtaken on the high road
just leading out of Keswick, on the Penrith side, by a gentleman
on horseback. He had observed the same group begging during the
entertainments of the regatta which had concluded but the evening

"Ho! ho! my good woman," he said, as he passed in a sling trot, "I am
glad to see your boy has found his second leg!"

The woman, who appeared to be young, and who would have been handsome,
had not dirt and impudence rendered her disgusting, looked behind her,
and perceived that a poor, sickly, ragged child, apparently about five
years old, who followed her, tired of his crutches, which pushed up his
little shoulders almost out of their sockets, had contrived to loosen
the bandage of his tied-up leg, and slip it down out of the dirty linen
bag, in which it usually hung on the double, and from which it was not
always released, even at night, as so doing necessarily incurred the
further trouble of tying it up again in the morning. She laid down her
bundle, and stood still with her arms a-kimbo, till, with hesitating
steps, and looks of suppressed terror, her victim came up; then
glancing round, to ascertain that the gentleman was out of sight, she
seized the child, snatched both the crutches from his trembling hands,
and grasping them in one of hers, she began to flog him without pity.
He seemed used to this, for he uttered no sound of complaint; silent
tears only rolled down his face.

"Ye villain!" said she at last, with a strong Cumberland accent, and
gasping for breath, "it's not the first time, is it? it's not the first
time I've beat you within an inch of your life for this. But I'll
do for you this time: that I will! You shan't be a burden to me any
longer, instead of a profit. If it wasn't for the miserable looks of
ye," she added, shaking him almost to atoms as she wheeled him round,
"that sometimes wrings a penny out of the folk, I'd ha' finished ye
long ago." Then, with her great foot, armed with an iron-rimmed wooden
shoe, she gave him a violent kick on the offending leg, continuing
thus: - "Its best break the shanks on ye at ance, ye whey-faced urchin
ye! and then ye'll tak te yeer crutches without biddin'!"

Finding, however, that though he had staggered and fallen forward on
both hands, he had yet risen again, and still contrived to stand, she
once more lifted her foot, to repeat the kick with increased force: for
she was as much intoxicated by drink as by rage, and really seemed to
intend to break the child's leg; but her husband, a sort of travelling
tinker, coming up at the moment, and uttering a violent curse, struck
her a blow that, poised as she just then was on one foot, brought her
to the ground.

During the scuffle which ensued, the poor little sufferer, who had
occasioned it all, crept through the hedge of a field by the road side,
and hid himself under some bushes. But the woman, soon after pursuing
in search of him, jumped the fence, and dropped among the very brambles
where he lay. She perceived him instantly, and shook her clenched hand,
which so paralysed him, that he did not dare to move, though she for
some time delayed seizing him. Finding that the inside of the hedge
was covered with clothes for bleaching, she thought it best, the first
thing she did, to secure a good bundle of so desirable a booty, and
fling it over to her husband. She was just in the act of so doing,
when the owner of the linen came into the field, and immediately set
up the halloo of "Thieves! thieves!" upon which, dropping what she had
collected, and giving up all thoughts of carrying the child with her,
she made the best of her way, and disappeared not only from the spot,
but from the neighbourhood.

About an hour after, when the poor boy, pressed by hunger, crept from
his hiding place, a girl, who was left to watch the clothes, spying
him, cried out, "Ha! you little spawn e - the devil! did she leave you
to bring her the bundle?" And so saying, she pursued and beat him, till
she drove him out of the field, and into the adjoining garden of an old
woman, who was standing at the moment with a long pole in her hand,
endeavouring to beat down, as well as her failing sight would permit,
the few remaining apples from the topmost branches of her single
apple-tree: the well laden lower boughs of which had been robbed of
their goodly winter store but the preceding night.

On seeing a boy scramble through her hedge, she concluded, of course,
that his errand was to possess himself of the said remaining apples,
and, accordingly, uttering a yell of execration, she converted her
fruit-pole into a weapon defensive and offensive, and hobbling towards
the poor child, drove him from her premises; over the boundary of
which, long after he had so far escaped, she continued to address to
him, at the very top of her voice, every opprobrious epithet of which
she was mistress: her shrill tones the while collecting, at the heels
of the fugitive, hooting boys, and barking curs innumerable. These,
however, did not follow him far; and when they returned to their homes
or their sports, he wandered about for the rest of the day, avoiding
houses and people, and fearing that every one he met would beat him.

At length, towards evening, he found himself on the borders of the lake
of Derwent, and seeing a boat fastened close to the land, he got into
it; partly with the idea of hiding himself, and partly with a vague
recollection of having often wished to be a sailor-boy, when begging
about with his mother in sea-port towns. He rolled himself up in an old
cloak which lay under one of the benches, where, exhausted by pain,
hunger, and fatigue, he fell asleep.

Shortly after our poor wanderer had chosen this refuge, in stepped
Master Henry St. Aubin, whose pleasure-boat it was, to take a sail
_alone_, contrary to reiterated commands, and for no other reason,
but because, for fear of accidents, he had been desired never to go
without a servant. He pushed from the land, and began to arrange his
canvass. He put up his main-sail, which filling immediately, bent his
little bark on one side, almost level with the water, and made it fly
across the lake in great style. When, however, it got under shade of
the high mountains on the Borrowdale coast, the breeze slackened, and
he determined to add his mizen and jib; but what was his surprise,
when, on attempting to remove the old cloak which lay near them, he
discovered within its folds the sleeping boy. Supposing him to be a spy
placed there to watch his movements, and report his disobedience, he
began to curse and swear, kicked at him under the bench, and ordered
him to pack out of his boat instantly. The poor child, but half awake,
gazed all round him, got up as well as his bruises would permit, and
was about to obey in silence; but, when, he saw how far they were from
land, he hesitated; upon which Henry took up a rope's end, and lashed
at him in the manner that sailors call starting, repeating at each
stroke, "Jump, spy! jump!"

Driven almost wild with the pain of the blows, the child at last did
jump; but, at the same moment, caught instinctively at the side of
the boat, to which he hung with both hands, and so kept his head above
water. Henry set up a loud laugh, and rowed out, towing him after him.
Then, willing to make sport for himself, by terrifying the beggar
brat, he attempted to push his fingers off the edge of the boat, but
they clung to it with all the tenacity of self preservation; when
the one hand was forced for a moment from its hold, the grasp of the
other became but the more convulsively strong; and when the second was
assailed by the united efforts of both of Henry's, the first returned
to its former position.

At length, tired of the jest himself, Master St. Aubin turned into
shallow water, leaped ashore, and suffering the half-drowned child to
land as he might, bade him scamper, ere he had well got footing. Then,
intent on pursuing his sweet, because forbidden amusement, he stepped
back into his boat, which with its white sails, contrasted with the
dark woods of the coast it glided silently beneath, soon became as
picturesque an object as though the urchin that guided it had been the
most noble and adventurous of romantic heroes.


- "And I tremble amid the night."

About the centre of the entrance of the vale of Borrowdale,
conspicuously situated, stands that curious rock, called, by the
native Cumbrians, Borrowdale-stane. In form and position it is much
like a dismasted and stranded vessel, laying on its keel and leaning
a little to one side. On the highest point of this rock, a station
well known to the lovers of the sublime, stood a lady wrapped in a
warm fur lined cloak. Her air, however, was much too fashionable and
modern to harmonize in any degree with the wild desolation of the
surrounding region, which, when viewed from the elevated position she
thus occupied, as far as the eye could reach, resembled a stormy ocean:
its gigantic billows formed by the congregated tops of mountains.

The evening was cold, approaching to frost; and the sun, though still
much above the natural horizon, was just sinking from view behind
the lofty chain of western hills: his last rays lingered a while on
the most prominent parts of each stupendous height, then, gradually
retiring, left point after point, which, like so many beacon lights
extinguished by an invisible hand, successively disappeared, till all
became shrouded alike in cheerless gloom and volumes of mist rolling
down the sides of the mountains, a dense fog settled in the valley like
a white and waveless lake.

The lady on the rock appeared to deem it time to return home, for,
withdrawing her eyes from the distant view, she cast them downward in
search of the path by which to descend; when, amid the rocks and huge
rough stones which lay scattered beneath like the ruins of a former
world, she thought she saw something move, though very slightly.
She looked at it for a time; it quitted not the spot where she
first descried it; yet, still it certainly did move! She descended,
approached, and beheld a poor little boy, who seemed about five or six
years old. He was sitting on the ground; the wretched rags, in which
he was dressed, were dripping with wet; his poor limbs, which were all
bent together, and drawn up close to his face, trembled extremely,
while his little hands, with their long emaciated fingers, spread and
hooked round his knees, seemed endeavouring to hold them, as though
the violence of their motion was becoming too much for his frame to

The lady stood looking down on him for a moment with mingled pity and
surprise. He was slowly rocking himself from side to side: it was a
movement quite expressive of despondency, his chin rested on the backs
of the hands which held his knees, and his eyes wandered hopelessly
among the bare stones that lay around him, while his head retained the
same fixed position.

"Little boy, look up!" she said, taking one of his cold wet hands in
hers. He raised his face; misery was depicted in every feature: his
teeth chattered excessively, and his poor eyes, that swam in tears,
were now lifted to hers with an expression truly piteous.

"Poor child! come with me," she said. Something like hope began to dawn
on his forlorn countenance; but she finished her sentence, in what she
intended for the most comforting manner, by saying, "and I will take
you home to your mother."

He had not risen. He drew his hand from hers, turned on his face on
the ground with the universal shudder of terror, and, clinging to the
rocks, cried, "No! no! no!"

She endeavoured to soothe him, and to untwist his fingers from the
fastenings, which, like so many fibres of roots, they had found for
themselves among the crevices and broken fragments of his flinty bed;
but he hid his face against the hard stone, and would not turn round.
When she succeeded at length in detaching one of his hands, and was
gently endeavouring to raise him, his inward shudderings increased so
visibly that she became fearful of throwing him into convulsions: she
desisted therefore, and, feigning to go away, removed a few paces;
then stopped, and said, "Well! I am going; but won't you tell me your

"Edmund," he sobbed out; without, however, raising his head.

"Well, Edmund," said the lady, in a kind voice, "good night!" He
turned, sat up, looked at her, and then all round, as though having
had her near him, even for the last few seconds, the thought of being
left alone for the night now struck upon his heart anew with fresh
desolation; then, resuming the attitude she had first found him in,
he began, as before, to rock himself from side to side and weep. "But
where do you mean to sleep tonight, Edmund?" said the lady; "I am sure
you must be cold sitting on those hard stones with your clothes so wet."

"Yes, I am," he said, looking up wistfully again, "very cold, and very
hungry." Then, hesitating a little, he suddenly stretched out his
hand, and said, "I'll go with you, if you will hide me from every one."

"I will! I will, my poor child!" she exclaimed, flying back to him,
kindly stooping over him, and, with some difficulty, assisting him to
rise; for he was so stiffened it seemed scarcely possible to unbend his
knees: nor did there appear to be one spark of vital heat remaining in
the poor little creature! She drew a part of her warm fur mantle close
over him, and endeavoured to soothe him and give him confidence in her

"And will you stay here with me, then?" he whispered softly.

"I will take you to a much more comfortable place," she replied, "where
there is a good fire, and a nice dinner for Edmund."

"And are you sure she won't find me there?" he said, still whispering.

"She shall never hurt you, while you are with me," the lady replied,
"whoever she may be."

"Then I will go!" said Edmund; and he lifted his head and tried to
smile through his tears. The lady, still sharing with him her warm
cloak, now led him by the hand, while he held hers fast in both of his,
and walked, with short uneven steps, so close to her, that she was
every moment in danger of treading on his little bare feet; and thus
did they arrive at Lodore House, just as the first roll of the thunder
resounded along the desolate valley they had so lately quitted.


"Vases filled with liquid beams, hang in chains
Of gold."

"A sumptuous banquet
Spread, invites the taste."

The cheerful, well-aired, already lit up dwelling, now entered by our
wanderers of the valley, formed a striking contrast to the dreary scene
they had just left. An excellent fire blazed in the hall, bronzed
figures held flaming lamps aloft, and powdered, well-dressed, well-fed
servants, bustled to and fro, bearing, towards the dining-room, dishes,
which though covered, tempted the palate by the various savoury odours
they sent forth. In short, every comfort, every elegance, nay, every
luxury, evidently abounded beneath the roof of Lodore House.

It had indeed, some years since, been a mere shooting lodge, situated
in the midst of an extensive property, on which, from its remoteness,
no family mansion had ever been built. Mrs. Montgomery, however, its
present possessor, had, since her early widowhood, made additions to
the lodge in her own taste: and though on her daughter's account she
regularly visited London during the fashionable season, at all other
times she chose to reside in this romantic retirement. The lady,
who had just entered, leading poor Edmund by the hand, was Frances
Montgomery, the only child of Mrs. Montgomery. As Frances, with her
charge, crossed the hall already described, they met Henry St. Aubin, a
nephew of Mrs. Montgomery's, a boy of about twelve years old. Frances
called immediately for the housekeeper, and desired her own maid to
bring some warm soup. While her attention was thus engaged, master
Henry contrived to come up close to the poor little stranger, and say
to him in an under tone, "Take care, you sir, you don't dare to tell,
or I'll - " Frances feeling an additional pressure of Edmund's hand,
turned suddenly round, and saw the frown still on Henry's face, with
which he had thought fit to strengthen his arguments.

"How can you look so cross, Henry?" she exclaimed; "you actually
frighten the poor child!"

"Pshaw!" said Henry, and went laughing into the drawing-room, where he
attempted to entertain, by ludicrous descriptions of the pretty new
pet Frances had found; while she proceeded to the housekeeper's room,
and there, before a comfortable fire, herself assisted, in despite
of the dinner-announcing voice of the gong, the operations of the two
women she had summoned. They released the poor child from the wet rags
which hung about him, sending a chill to his little heart; they put him
up to the neck in warm water; and cautiously gave him, by a little at
a time, some nourishing soup. Frances then called for meat, pudding,
and every thing nice she could think of; and, lastly, for a supply of
her own night things. By all these prompt exertions, the poor, naked,
shivering, starving Edmund, was soon dressed in a long sleeved, high
collared, full frilled sleeping chemise; his limbs warmly clothed in a
pair of the housekeeper's worsted web stockings, which served him at
once for drawers and hose; a large dressing-gown of Frances's folded
about him, and a pair of her dressing slippers on his little feet;
and, thus equipped, he was seated in front of the fire, with all the
other good things which had been called for, placed on a table before

It was with the greatest pleasure that Frances, who stayed to help
him herself, saw him venture, thus encouraged, to eat some dinner;
and what with the refreshment, the cleanliness, the glow of all the
surrounding warmth on his cheeks, and the comfortable white dress up
about his neck, he certainly appeared almost a new creature; though,
when he looked up, there was still a wildness, the unsteady glance of
fear mingled with the appealing expression of his eyes; and when he
looked down, their long black lashes, sweeping his hollow cheeks, might
well inspire the beholder with even a painful degree of compassion;
yet when, notwithstanding his timidity, he smiled with gratitude and
a sense of present pleasure arising from bodily comfort, Frances, at
least, could not help thinking him grown already quite a beauty; and
she ran to the dining-room door, and entreated her mamma just to come
out for a moment and see what a fine child the poor boy was, now that
they had washed and dressed him.

Lord L., hearing her voice, begged permission to follow, but was

Frances' absence had, in the meantime, banished the smiles of Edmund,
so that Mrs. Montgomery, on entering the housekeeper's room, exclaimed,
with a laugh, patting her daughter on the cheek, "I cannot say much for
his beauty, my dear! - But that is no reason why you should not save
the life of the poor child," she added; and, with the tenderness of
one accustomed to a mother's feelings, she stroked his little head. He
smiled again, and she continued, "but he may be pretty when he gets

"And shall he stay here to get fat, mamma?" asked Frances eagerly.

"To be sure, my dear," replied Mrs. Montgomery, "we will never turn
the poor little thing out of doors again, while it wants a shelter."
Frances was delighted; caught up both her mother's hands and kissed
them, and then the forehead of her protegé: nor did she leave him till
he dropped asleep in a comfortable bed, with her hand in his to give
him confidence.

Frances at length entered the dining-room, just as the domestic party
engaged round the table were dispatching a third or fourth summons for
her; the second course having by this time made its appearance. Lord
L., who occupied his usual seat beside her chair, began to question
her about the adventure of the evening. Compassion made her eloquent on
the misery, the cold, the hunger, the wretchedness of poor Edmund; but
when she came to his beauty, she faltered and looked at her mother with
a beseeching expression.

Mrs. Montgomery laughed, and replied to the look, "Oh, yes! there
was a sweetness when he smiled, that made me begin to think he would
be pretty if he were fat; but now, the poor child is all eyes and

"Oh, mamma!" said Frances, "he has the most beautiful mouth I ever saw
in my life, and such nice teeth!"

"Has he, my dear?" said Mrs. Montgomery, with provoking indifference:
for she happened to be deep in a discussion on the nature of the poor
laws, with Mr. Jackson, the clergyman.

Master Henry, meanwhile, was greedily devouring tart and cream,
with his face close to his plate, and his eyes levelled at the dish,
in great anxiety to be in time to claim the last portion which now
remained on it; but, in his attempt to swallow what was before him, he
missed his aim, and was a moment too late, though he thrust out his
plate with both hands just as he saw a servant coming round; but the
tart was dispatched to Lord L., to whom it had been offered, and who,
being too much occupied to refuse it, had bowed. It lay before him
a few moments, and went away untouched. Henry, vexed extremely, and
desirous of revenge on Frances for the disappointment occasioned him
by her lover, said, "If you are talking of the beggar brat, he is the
image of a monkey! I was quite afraid he would bite me as I passed him
in the hall."

"I am sure, Henry," retorted Frances, "he seemed more afraid of you,
than you could be of him: and, by the bye, you need not, I think, have
looked so cross at the poor child."

"Cross!" repeated Henry, "I did not look cross. What reason do you
suppose I had to look cross? I never saw the brat before in my life."

Henry's speech was accompanied by that hateful expression, which the
eyes of an ill-disposed child assume, when it knows it is uttering

"Henry!" said Mrs. Montgomery, with some surprise; "you need not look
angry, much less guilty. No one can suppose that you know any thing of
the poor boy. But leave the room, sir: and remember you don't sit at
table again, till you know better how to conduct yourself."

Henry obeyed, but slowly and sulkily; trailing one foot after the
other, and determining to have revenge on the cause of his disgrace.
He offered no apology, and therefore was not taken into favour again
for the evening, though poor Mrs. Montgomery, as she passed to her own
apartment, looked into that where he lay, and said, with a sigh, "Good
night, and God bless you, child!"

To account, in some degree, for the unprepossessing manners of Master
Henry, we shall introduce a few words respecting the young gentleman's
birth, and hitherto unfortunately directed education.


"Lifting at
The thought my timid eyes, I pass them o'er
His brow; and, if I would, I dare not love him:
Yet, dare I never disobey that eye,
Flashing outward fires, while, within its depths,
Where love should dwell, 'tis ever still, and cold,
To look upon."

St. Aubin, Henry's father, was a Frenchman, and totally without
religion. A flourish of worldly honour, as long as no temptation had
arisen, had sustained for him even a showy character. By this, a
showy appearance, and showy manners, he had, what is called, gained
the affections, that is, he had dazzled the fancy, of Maria, the
younger sister of Mrs. Montgomery. Maria was a beautiful girl, and
but seventeen. Her sister, who was also her guardian, for she was some
years her senior, and their parents were dead, disapproved of the

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Online LibraryMrs. (Margracia) LoudonFirst Love Vol. 1 of 3 → online text (page 1 of 13)