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- The wintry blast of Death
MRS. RIVERS ceased, and dropped a filial tear: Louisa's long restrained sympathising sorrow burst forth. After a pause of a few minutes, the eldest of the ladies rose : “I had this account, my dear Louisa,” said she, “ from Mr. Bennet, the surgeon who attended
father: but we will talk no more on these mournful sụbjects tonight; to-morrow we will renew them; it is now almost supper time: the interval we will spend in music.” She sat down to the harpsichord, and soon convinced her guest, though now hid under a thatched roof, she had harmony of voice and execution of finger 'that would have graced a drawing room.
When the hymn was finished, Louisa agreeably surprised her, by playing in her turn, attended by a voice whose sweetness might have taught melody to the soft breathings of the flute.
Mary now entered with their supper, which consisted of vegetables and eggs. Mrs. Rivers apologised to her guest, by informing her the butcher visited them only weekly, at which time they took provisions for the space till his return: “as to other things, Mary visits Kendal three or four times a year; our bread is baked at home; and our little garden, by the industry of an old man who sometimes attends, supplies us with a great deal. When I first retired here, Mary bought a quantity of fowls; but I grew so attached to my feathered companions, that I would not by any means have them hurt: they well repay our kindness; we have plenty of eggs, which is of material service to us.
The supper finished, our gentle cottagers retired to rest; and balmy sleep, kinder than the night before, soon overcame their woes in airy visions of ideal happiness.
Soon as the morning gave light, which was not till the hour of seven, Louisa rose, and, after intreating the guidance of that Power whom neither prosperity nor adversity could make her forget, descended to the parlour; from the window of which she passed her time, till Mrs. Rivers joined her, in strewing crumbs to numberless birds, which the bitterness of the weather forces to draw nigh to the habitation of inhuman man, who, regardless of the mercy that should accom
pany the image of his Creator, as they chirping intreat his favor, barbarously shoots, and eases their wants by laying them breathless on the frozen ground.
Others, unmindful of the joys of plenty, a gentle consort, and playful children, who by their cherub smiles intreat their stay, hastily rise ere the day begins to dawn, and, galloping over hedge and ditch, pursue, with unwearied ardor, -a trembling bare, who flies even at the rustling of the leaves. Unmanly task ! if you must delight in such pleasures, seek not a timid foe, from conquering whom no honor can result. Such were the meditations of Louisa's gentle breast, until joined by her kind entertainer ; breakfast was then introduced, after which the day was spent by our new acquainted friends much as the preceding one. Towards evening, Mrs. Rivers thus continued her narrative.
“For a fortnight after my father's death, my unhappy mother remained insensible; in which state her woes had certainly concluded, bad not the unwearied care and attention of Mr. Bennet, who spared no means that art or friendship could devise to save her life, restored her senses to a painful tranquillity.
“Finding her one day more composed than usual, he informed her of my father's desire that she should return to England as soon as possible : -Alas!' said she, I wish to clasp my fatherless child; but never can I leave the remains of the best of men, in a country that has murdered him and rendered me the most wretched of women.': - I have thought of this difficulty,' said he,' and provided for it: the body of Mr. Clairville is inclosed in lead, and may be removed with ease; therefore, let me intreat you to obey his last commands; nor remain longer in a place, which, instead of diminishing, will but increase your grief.' She returned thanks, accompanied by many tears, to this worthy man, whom she desired to write Mr. Rivers an account of her misfortune; and now she needed no hastening to depart, as the remains of her beloved husband were to accompany her.
“ She arrived in England three weeks ' after Mr. Rivers received the letter. In Mrs. Rivers she found a sympathising friend: for him, (though he professed vast esteem for my father, and had indeed materially served him) he was so lost in pleasures, as gave little time for any thing but the complimentary condolence of fashion.
“ After some little time, my mother and myself retired to a small house in Berkshire, where her time was spent in perfecting me in what I had already learned, and teaching me music. The amiable Mrs. Rivers often honored our little habitation with her company, alleviating my
mother's uneasy thoughts of leaving me friendless, as she visibly declined; by promises of friendship and protection.
" In fine, something more than three years after losing one parent, I became an orphan, My mother, finding her dissolution near, wrote to Mr. Rivers, entreating his protection of me; he returned an answer, with a promise on his honor to execute her request. Now, for the first time since my father's death, though unable to leave her bed, she seemed cheerful. As I knelt weeping by her side,—“Maria, my love,' said she, do not weep; if you knew the anguish I have long sustained, you would rather rejoice than grieve, that, in laying down pain, I take up never-ending happiness. Mrs. Rivers will supply my place; with her you will not want a mother's tenderness; obey her, look on her as my representative, and may you never know. such sorrow as your unhappy mother!'
Mrs. Rivers stopped, and had recourse to the water that stood by her side; then raising her eyes to heaven," Alas! expiring saint," said she, " thy unhappy daughter was doomed to experience thy fate to its utmost limits,-widowedchildless-friendless; and yet to live to bear a load of woes for years! But Louisa, I distress you; pardon me, it was involuntary;-in a mo