Images de page
PDF
ePub

ASPIRATION:

AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF GIRL HOOD.

I.

[ocr errors]

“ You don't object, Edith, to my smoking, outside, for a few miles ?"

“No, Colonel Woodhouse, nor to your sitting outside to smoke, which I suppose you mean to ask.”

" Don't be critical—it shows the school-girl.”

“ I am not ashamed of my present class and condition ; --though I shall be wonderfully glad when I attain another," -I added, to myself.

“Wake up, Mary, and put your curly head in the window, Clara,” said our good-natured friend and my travelling companion—“I leave you to your own company, which is very delightful, Ralph Haine says."

“Does your conscience trouble you for leaving us so much, that you must appease it by offering a little flattery, Colonel ?"

“No, Miss Edith, my conscience is very comfortable, I thank you; I hope you are all as well off—but what sort of a personage is that getting out of the Boston stage ?”

Oh, save us from him! a runaway barber's apprentice, at the very least. Do take the seat, Colonel Woodhouse, for

(5)

he is coming here—how can I face such a moustache as that all this afternoon? Where are you going ?"

But the Colonel had stepped aside, and the stranger, who had been watching our coach for a few moments, now came up, and laying a well-gloved hand on the door, said :

“ You have a vacant seat; shall I take it ?”

“ The seat is engaged to our escort,” I replied coldly, for it was just opposite to me, and the question had been addressed to me.

“ Where is the gentleman ?"
“Why do you ask—do you doubt me?"

Large handsome brown eyes were lifted to mine, as if to read the lurking reason for the refusal, which he seemed intuitively to suspect.

“I beg your pardon, young lady-I asked that I might possibly effect an exchange with the fortunate possessor. There are three unoccupied seats in the other coach.”

“Why do you not take one of them ?" It was rudely said, and I was becoming conscious of a foolish and forward

persistence.

“ Because I choose to ride here, if I can do so," was the cool reply; and, discomfited by his superior self-possession, I was hesitating for an angry rejoinder, which should be also dignified, when Colonel Woodhouse, who was watching us with an amused air, came to my relief.

“I am the escort of these young ladies, sir, and would prefer to keep an inside seat by them."

Certainly,” and the stranger bowed and walked—not to the other coach, as I had hoped he would—but to the front of the one we were in, where he betook himself, in company with Colonel Woodhouse, to the seat behind the coachman.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

66 You see

[ocr errors]

“Now, Edith, what possessed you to be so cross? What a handsome man he was-wasn't he splendid, Mary ?"

"His face disgusted me, Clara ; such whiskers, such a furious moustache, and his outlandish dress.” I was very much mortified that I had been so forward, and so pertinaciousand so grew contrary and ill-natured, of course. he would be my vis-a-vis, and would very likely talk to me, and it was not to be borne.”

“His dress was peculiar," said sensible Mary Atkinson, “ but his manner was very well bred, and his voice showed anything but vulgarity. I think it must be a military undress which he has on; the cap without a vizor—the jacket, the very whiskers, were soldierly.”

Yes," said the voluble Clara, “and such a beautiful little hand, and such a lovely fitting patent-leather boot—and his linen was as fine and white as ever Fred. Turell's was, with all his dandyism. What teeth, too! and I declare those were the most becoming whiskers I ever saw in my life. I'd give anything to know who he is.”

“What foolish curiosity, Clara Turell !—I've travelled too much to care for every simpleton who crosses the path.”

“You're a very great lady, Edith, I know, and profoundly versed in a knowledge of the world. I don't suspect you of the least ignorance that you can help, my dear, but I don't believe you have done yourself any credit in your judgment of whiskerando, up there. Do hear the Colonel laughing”—and Clara gave a long yawn, anticipatory of our

weary ride.

[ocr errors]

“ Perhaps he is a gentleman, after all, Edith, and would have been sociable."

“I like my own thoughts better than such company as his, Mary; but if you feel differently, you had better ask Colonel Woodhouse, at the first stopping-place, to let him come in, and I'll change seats with you.”

“ Hold on, Edith, you'll take Mary's head off at this rate. We don't want him here, that's certain, for just as sure as he proved worth talking to, you'd monopolize him. Mary, wise and good, what has made our Lady Edith so cross ?”

I grew ashamed of my ill-humour, and laughed to shake off the mood. “ His dress showed so much affectation in being unlike other people's, and his whole foreign aspect displeased ine. I know I need not have been so rude—I'm sorry; but what are we stopping for ?”

The coach came to a dead halt, just as we were leaving the elm-avenued street, and turning into the post-road, and the driver responded to a “Hollo there!" by a loud “Well, hurry along, Jonathan, if you are coming."

In a moment a huge countryman was beside us. He opened the door without any ceremony, and tumbled into the disputed seat. I bit my lips at this fresh annoyance. The man was coarse and vulgar, and redolent of tobacco and whiskey. I was well paid for my rudeness, and Clara was mischievous enough to take advantage of my mortification.

“ Aren't you glad you kept the barber's apprentice' out, and that we have such a gentleman now in his place ?" she whispered. “What lovely gamboge teeth, and beautifully muddy shoes planted on your new dress, I'm sure! What a privilege a stage-coach confers in the way of choice proximities! We'd rather not change seats now, we thank you, Edith dear-do be sociable. The wretch !” she added, half aloud, “he's going to smoke a pipe here.”

“To be sure I be, Miss; why shouldn't I ?”

“It is not customary to smoke in a stage-coach, where there are ladies," said an old lady, who, with her two young

« PrécédentContinuer »