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قراءة كتاب Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 309 New Series, Saturday, December 8, 1849

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‏اللغة: English
Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 309
New Series, Saturday, December 8, 1849

Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 309 New Series, Saturday, December 8, 1849

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 5

only bade her be proud of her talents, and not feel ashamed of them; and she could only console herself by the conviction that, in her inmost heart, Selina did not 'give her credit' for the paltriness she affected to impute to her.

A short time afterwards, Arthur Meredith presented himself at B——, and formally asked Mr Davenant's consent to his union with Lucy. The consent was granted conditionally. Arthur was to pursue his profession for two years, at the end of which time, if he was in a position to support Lucy in the comfort and affluence she had hitherto enjoyed, no further obstacle should be placed in the way of their marriage. Arthur and Lucy were too reasonable not to perceive the justice of this decision, and the young barrister left B—— inspirited by the consciousness that on himself now depended his own and her happiness.

The time passed peacefully and happily with Lucy even after he was gone. She heard from him frequently; and his letters were always hopeful, sometimes exulting, with regard to the prospect which was opening before him. Selina used to laugh at her when she received one of those precious letters, and ran away to read it undisturbed in her own room. Little cared she for the laugh—she was too happy; and if she thought at all about her sister's sneers or sarcasms, it was to pity her, sincerely and unfeignedly, that she could not comprehend the holiness of the feeling she mocked and derided. Selina's destined husband meanwhile was absent on the continent. He had an estate in Normandy, and was compelled to be present during the progress of some improvements. On his return they would be married, and Selina waited till then with considerably less patience and philosophy than Lucy evinced. Fifty times a day did she peevishly lament the delay; but not, alas! from any excess of affection to the man she was about to marry: it was always apropos of some small inconvenience or privation that she murmured. If she had to walk into the town, she would sigh for the time 'when, as Mrs Forde, she would have a carriage at her own exclusive command;' or if she coveted some costly bauble, the name of Alfred was breathed impatiently, and a reference to 'pin-money' was sure to follow. The marriage might have taken place by proxy with singular advantage: if Mr Forde had sent a cheque on his banker for half the amount of his income, Miss Selina would have married it with all the complacency in the world!

Mr Davenant's worldly affairs at this juncture were not in such a prosperous state as a man of his wisdom had a right to expect. In fact he was involved in considerable difficulties, from which he scarcely saw a way of extricating himself, when most fortunately, as he averred, an old uncle of his, from whom he had what is called 'expectations,' voluntarily proposed visiting him at B——. The night before his arrival, the wise portion of the Davenant family sat in solemn conclave, discussing the proper method of turning this visit to account. Lucy sat in a corner, silent and unnoticed, quietly sewing, while the family council went on.

Of course Mr Davenant never thought for an instant of pursuing the truthful and straightforward course of stating his difficulties to his relation, and honestly asking him for assistance.

'If old Atkinson suspected my affairs were in the disorder in which they unfortunately are,' said Mr Davenant gravely, 'he would instantly alter his will, and leave the considerable sum, which I know he intends for me, to some one who is not so imprudent, as I suppose he would call it, as I have been. I shall not easily forget his anger when my Cousin John ran into debt, and applied to him for the money to save him from prison. He gave him the money; but you'll see John wont have a sixpence more: so much for being candid and sincere, as the silly fellow said to me.'

At length it was arranged that Mr Davenant should ask his uncle to lend him L.5000, in order to make a singularly-profitable investment which was then open.

'I shall tell him,' said Mr Davenant, 'that I could easily command the money without troubling him, by calling in part of my capital, but that I scarcely think that a prudent course at the present juncture, because I expect soon to be called upon to pay the girls' marriage portions. He will be pleased at my prudence, and the last thing he will suspect will be that I really need the money: so that will do excellently.'

'Dear papa,' ventured Lucy, bent on making one attempt to induce him to adopt the simpler course of conduct—'dear papa, are you sure this is really your most politic plan? Would it not be safer to tell Mr Atkinson your position, and ask him to assist you? Indeed—indeed—the truth is the best and surest policy.'

'Doubtless,' said her father contemptuously, 'my candid Cousin John found it so, and will find it so when Mr Atkinson's will is read and he sees his name is struck out. Leave me alone, child; you understand nothing of such things—you haven't the least idea of worldly wisdom.'

Thus was poor Lucy always repulsed when she attempted to advise. She could only comfort herself with the hope that one day perhaps her parents would think and act differently.

Mr Atkinson came the next day: he was a cheerful, pleasant-looking, silver-haired old man, and was cordial and affectionate to the whole family. Sincere and truthful himself, he was perfectly unsuspicious of deceit or design in others. Thus everything promised well for Mr Davenant's plan, more especially as the old man had rapidly become much attached to the two girls: Selina, with her liveliness and spirit, amused; and Lucy, gentle, and ever anxious for the comfort of all about her, interested him.

On the fourth day, therefore, Mr Davenant commenced operations. He alluded to a particular foreign railway, the shares of which were then much below par, but which were certain, at a future and no very distant period, to arrive at a considerable premium. He said that he would willingly invest L.5000 in these shares, certain that in a short time he should quadruple the sum, if it were not for the payment of his girls' marriage portions, for which he should soon be called on. And after a great deal of preparatory 'beating about the bush,' he candidly, as he said, asked his uncle if he would lend him this L.5000 for twelve months.

Mr Atkinson looked grave, which his nephew observing, he looked grave also.

'You see, Samuel,' said the old man, 'if it were really to do you a service, you should have the money. If your business required it—if you were in temporary embarrassment, and needed these thousands to help you out of it—they should be yours; but'——

He paused, and fixed his eyes on the ground in deep thought. Mr Davenant started, and coloured as he listened; and involuntarily he thought of poor Lucy's slighted advice. Her earnest words, 'Indeed—indeed—the truth is the best and surest policy,' rung clearly in his ears, and he felt now that she was right: but it was too late now (or at least he thought so) to repair his error, and return to the straight path. He had made a point, ever since his uncle's arrival, of boasting to him of his improved prospects, of the solid basis on which his fortune stood, and of the flourishing state of his business. He could not now retract all he had said, and lay bare his difficulties—his necessities. Besides, even now perhaps that would not be prudent: old Atkinson might be but trying him after all. Mr Davenant's little moment of right feeling soon passed away, and he was, alas! 'himself again' by the time his uncle again began to speak.

'I don't like these speculations, Samuel,' said he; 'they are dangerous things: if once you get involved in them, you never know when to leave off: besides, they distract your attention from more legitimate objects: your business might suffer. The business of a man prone