Page:Ainsworth's Magazine - Volume 1.djvu/25
THE MISERS DAUGHTER.
owner. The panelled walls were without hangings or decoration of any kind. The room itself, it was evident, had known better days and richer garniture. It was plain, but handsome in its character, and boasted a large and well-carved chimney-piece, and a window filled with stained glass, displaying the armorial bearings of the former possessor of the house, though now patched in many places with paper, and stopped up in others with old rags. This window was strongly grated, and the bars were secured in their turn by a . large padlock placed inside the room. Over the chimney-piece there were placed a couple of large blue and white china bottles with dried everlasting flowers stuck in their necks. There were only two chairs in the room, and a stool. The best chair was appropriated by the miser' himself. It was an old-fashioned affair, with great wooden arms, and a hard leathern back, polished like a well-blacked shoe by frequent use. A few coals, carefully piled into a little pyramid, burnt within the bars, as if to shew the emptiness of the grate, and diffused a slight gleam, like a hollow laugh, but no sort of heat. Beside it sat Mrs. Clinton, an elderly maiden lady, almost as wintry-looking, and as pinched as her brother-in-law. This antiquated lady had a long thin neck, a large nose, very, very retroussée, and a skin yellow as parchment; but the expression of her countenance, though rather sharp and frosty, was kindly. She wore a close-fitting gown of dark camlet, with short tight sleeves, that by no means concealed the angularities of her figure. Her hair, which was still dark as in her youth, was gathered up closely behind, and was surmounted by the small muslin cap then in vogue. The object, however, that chiefly rivetted Randulph's attention on his entrance was neither the miser himself, nor his sister-in-law, but his daughter. Her beauty was so extraordinary that it acted like a surprise upon him, occasioning a thrill of delight, mingled with a feeling of embarrassment. She had risen as he entered the room, and gracefully, and with much natural dignity, returned his salutation, which, through inadvertence, he addressed almost exclusively to her. Hilda Scarve's age might be guessed at nineteen. She was tall, exquisitely proportioned, with a pale, clear complexion, set off by her rich raven tresses, which, totally unrestrained, showered down in a thick cloud over her shoulders. Her eyes were large, and dark, luminous but steady, and indicated firmness of character. Her look was grave and sedate, and there was great determination in her beautifully-formed but closely shut lips. Both her aspect and deportment exhibited the most perfect self-command, and whatever effect might be produced upon her by the sudden entrance of the handsome visitor, not a glance was suffered to reveal it, while he, on the contrary, could not repress the admiration excited by her beauty. He was, however, speedily recalled to himself by the miser, who, rapping the table impatiently, exclaimed in a querulous tone, "Your business, sir?—your business?"
"I have come to deliver this to you, sir," replied Randulph, producing a small packet, and handing it to the miser. "I should tell you, sir," he added in a voice of emotion, "that it was my father's wish that this packet should be given to you a year after his death, but not before."
"And your father's name," cried the miser, bending eagerly forward, and shading his eyes so as to enable him to see the young man more distinctly, "was—was"—
"The same as my own, Randulph Crew," was the reply.
"Gracious heaven!" exclaimed the miser, falling back in his chair, "and is he dead?—my friend—my old friend!" And he pressed his hand to hiз face, as if to hide his agony.