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" I will sing you a little Indian song," said Isabel Deane, “ if you will be patient, and hear me :” and she thus warbled forth, with infinite grace and wildness, a song of her own country, sketching all the time :
The bird of Paradise, whilst flying,
A jewel rare, that lives for ever! “ Enchantress !” exclaimed Sir William, "at any rate, thou shalt not destroy thyself before the time ;” and between jest and earnest he insisted that Isabel Deane should quit the damp grass, on which the dew was so fast resting; and, taking her arm within his own, he led her into the house, his two daughters following, laughing and shouting out, “ that for once Isabel Deane had been vanquished.” They might have added, “ yet is she the vanquisher.”
A day or two after this scene, which told me plainly how matters were going on, poor Peggy Hawkins, now the wife of the consequential butler, Wilmot, presented to him a little girl, rather too early, it is true, in her married life, to be altogether respectable, yet, as they say, “ things might have been worse;" so Isabel Deane, having heard the whole story from beginning to end, and observing a certain sheepfacedness and uncomfortableness (if there be such a word) about the new made father, with that decision of tone which might become a reigning princess, she signified her intention of going to see the infant, and presenting to the mother a little silk net purse, ornamented with gold, containing cardamoms, an offering supposed by the native Indians to be an emblem of, and to carry with them, peace, love, and good-will. The daughters of Sir William looked alarmed at the boldness and sang froid with which their friend mentioned her determination before their father, and they glanced covertly at him (for I happened to be present, having gone into the dining room for a letter of mine, just arrived by the post, which had been carried in there by mistake, with the other letters of the family). As Sir William put it into my hand, he good-humouredly asked me, “if I thought the visit of three saucy girls would be too much for poor Peggy Wilmot, in her present weak state ?"
" What, my father, with my little bag of cardamoms in my hand ?" enquired the enthusiastic Indian, before I could reply; “ What! can peace, love, and good-will, ever be injurious ? But we must take with us, Matilda, the substance as well as the thing signified and shadowed forth : what will you carry as a present to this little stranger-girl, just arrived upon our dominions, this earth? We have a right here as yet, being in possession of the soil; but she must have her rights also : I shall give her this"--and she took from her neck an amethyst cross.
“Give her this, also,” said the Baronet, taking from his pocket-book a twenty-pound note, and placing it in the fairy hand of the fair enthusiast, whether from motives of pure charity or not it is hard to say ; "and, Isabel,” added he, “ if you wish that I should make it an annual present to your protegée, it is on condition that she bears your name."
"She shall have your's also, my dear, dear papa," cried the young girl in an ecstasy. " Isabel Ogilvie ! that shall be her name ; and I will be her godmother, too, according to your European ceremony."
“May I be the other ?" said Matilda : “I should like to do any thing that my dear Isabel does; but who shall be the godfather?"
"Why, our dear papa himself, to be sure,” said the Indian ; can it be doubted? And we will have such a pretty little festival on the occasion; and I will sketch the whole group as the ceremony is being performed. I must hand the infant to the Brahmin-I beg your pardon -the clergyman; and then we must all kiss, and bless our little god. child "
“And each other," quickly added the baronet, who seemed to grow younger every hour, in looks, dress, and manner, and to have lost all his austerity. "Is it not always the custom, Mrs. Griffiths, that the sponsors should salute each other," said he, “ after a christening?”
I merely smiled in reply, and shook my head, whilst Isabel gravely observed, “It is a holy practice, and never should be broken ; it means a solemn pledge, that each one will perform his vow; so we will bind ourselves to bring up this little innocent, I trust, as an heiress of immortality!"
“Think you not that the name of Isabel Ogilvie sounds well upon the ear?" demanded Sir William ; he was not thinking of his butler's child at that moment, but of the impassioned being before him, who had thrown up her eyes, those large and brilliant orbs, towards the clouds ; as she pronounced the word immortality, her thoughts had penetrated far above them : they were with her own beloved father, and her unknown mother, a native princess of India, who had become enamoured of a British officer, and expiated her crime (for such it was deemed in Delhi) by poison, administered to her by her inexorable relatives, after having given birth to a daughter, the heroine of this simple tale, who was sent, cradled in a superb palanquin, and wrapped up in a mantle of her unfortunate mother's, of equal magnificence, studded with gems and fringed with seed-pearls, and there exposed close to the piquet-guard. I have seen the hand-writing of this unhappy princess, addressed to her British lover and husband, for such he was, as they had contrived, by some means, to have the protestant form of marriage celebrated by the chaplain of the regiment; but most secretly, for the knowledge of his having done such a thing would have infuriated the princely relations of the lady so much, that it would have occasioned a new war, and probably the death of thousands. It is considered infamous for an Indian princess to marry out of her own caste. I had this letter, written on golden paper, in my hands not a month ago, together with the golden net of cardamoms, sent with it. Much more expressive to me were the seeds contained in this splendid purse with gold tassels, than the unknown signs of that letter, running from right to left, like the Hebrew, that I gazed unwittingly upon - how cold, how dead did they appear to me! and yet there was vitality and warmth within them. What thousands of things above and around us are, to our unwakened knowledge, as these Eastern characters! We pronounce them senseless, useless, lifeless ; but the fault is not in them, it lies within ourselves! O for an “Ithuriel: spear,” to make things around us seem to us such as they really are !
I must be forgiven for this little outbreak here, since I have reined myself in before ; and the enthusiasm of my sweet heroine is, believe me, most catching-I kindle at the shrine of her poetic spirit. Who, indeed, can dwell with the rose, and not partake its sweetness ? Besides, I am of rather inflammable stuff, as regards these things, myself; and, for aught I know, may be found one of these days burnt to a cinder by means of inward combustion. Should it be so, sweep care. fully together, my gentle friends, the remains of the poor “Monthly Nurse," and let them be entombed within an urn (of classic shape, be it remembered), and placed in some quiet niche in the new cemetry at Highgate-hill ! I'll not speak another word of myself throughout this tale, which, fortunately, is near its end. No, that will not do; I must not bring on the catastrophe too fast: it will smother the interest and destroy the equilibrium.
“Look here, my love," said Mr. Talbot to his lady, as she sat in her large chair of white dimity, as fair and delicate as it was possible to be ; “ did you ever see such a likeness ?”
"I declare, our little Fan!” exclaimed the delighted mother : “why, it is her very self! This is most kind of you, Francis ! Where could you have got it done down here in the country? Some London artist, no doubt, on an excursion to the Isle of Wight. It is in the style of Miss Sharpe—it is hers! I see her very turn of the neck—so graceful! so-O how pretty she is!”
" It was done, my love," said Mr. Talbot, “ in a few hours, by Isabel Deane! she has promised to take you, Fanny, also, when you are able to go down, and your unworthy Francis. Your father is now sitting to her, and she will make a capital likeness of him too, only a little too
“Too grave !” repeated the lady; "why, papa is as solemn as Judge T- when he puts on the black cap ; only he has not the twitching about the mouth that humane man feels as he is passing sentence. I think it gives papa pleasure when he ".
“ You would not know your own father, Fanny, if you saw him now,” said her husband; "why, he is as giddy as any of the young party below stairs; I left him, just now, leaning back in his chair, with a table-cloth twisted about his head by way of a turban, and all sorts of finery heaped upon his person ; necklaces and lockets, to make him look more like some Rajah or other, Isabel Deane says he already resembles ; and she insists on taking his likeness as such. A Rajah, forsooth, with such truly English features ! and his florid complexion ! but the latter, I suppose, she will subdue, and give him a fine dark oriental tint to it. Of one thing I am persuaded, Fanny; so it is of no use to disguise my thoughts : Isabel Deane can just make your father do any thing she pleases, aye, in character, as well as in portraiture. Never did I see yet a man so completely infatuated, dazzled, bewitched, as is my good father-in-law with this extraordinary girl; and what makes it more amazing to me is, the total unconsciousness of herself, that any change has been effected. She tells him, he is the kindest, sweetest-tempered being on earth / the most indulgent, dearest, sweetest of fathers l'so, to make out her prepossession in his favour, he acts as if he ever had been so ; and the girls can do just as they please with him."
“But, my dear Francis,” said Mrs. Talbot, “it will be a very bad
thing for us all, if my father should marry again. I wish the young chit had never entered the house"
“Stop!” said the young clergyman impressively, yet kindly. “Why should not your father, Fanny, be happy in his own way? What right have his children to calculate and speculate upon the chances of getting his property whilst he is alive and has an undoubted right over it? Believe me, love, it is a very selfish and disrespectful proceeding, to partition out so near a relation's property, even in one's secret thought ; he has given you already a very handsome portion when we married; so we ought to be content, if we never get another guinea ; indeed, I am
“O yes, I dare say," continued the lady, not at all minding my presence; “and so I am not to grumble, that a second family should come in and share with us?"
“They will be equally the children of your father, my love," replied her husband, mildly; “ equally with yourselves; and I am sure there is a nobleness, a disinterestedness, a generosity about Isabel Deane which will prevent her taking advantage of the doting fondness Sir William has for her, to the disadvantage of those who had a prior claim upon him.”
“She has bewitched you all!” exclaimed Mrs. Talbot for the second time. “ Does she take to our little Fan at all?" she added, thoughtfully.
Mr. Talbot smiled at this question; for he saw what was in the mother's heart; but not choosing to argue with her further, he told her, what was indeed a truth, that Isabel was attending entirely and spontaneously to the child's education, now Mrs. Talbot was up stairs; that she was teaching her to play and sing, as well as to read and write, but that he was doing wrong he feared by telling her all this, as it was to have been made an agreeable surprise to herself on coming down—the exhibition of the various acquirements of her little girl.
“We must have this likeness in a handsome frame, Francis," said the mother, in an altered tone; “how delightfully she has made the dear child look, with all those flowers in her frock! We ought to have a very good frame."
" It will be down from London, my love, to-morrow;" answered the young clergyman: “ your father has ordered a very elegant one indeed, and I know not how many fine things besides as presents to you all; so make haste and be ready to receive them: that is your share.”
“ Well, I am astonished;" continued Mrs. Talbot. “ Presents for us all! why he never did such a thing before in his life. I have heard mama say, that it was with the greatest difficulty she could get any little matter of finery for herself and us girls.”
“Sir William, I believe, never was much attached to your mother : I have heard,” said his son-in-law, “ it was not what they call a lovematch, but one entirely of expediency. He had a title, she had a large fortune; their estates joined each other : so the lawyers made the settlements, and they put their property together, their hearts never. Was it not so?"
“ Tell me," said Mrs. Talbot, interrupting her husband; “is it true that Isabel Deane has had the folly to send a very handsome amethyst cross as a present to the infant of papa's butler ? Under such circumstances, too! how very ridiculous! She might have given it to our little girl instead, I think."
“ Suspend your judgment until you make your appearance in the drawing-room again, you greedy one !" answered Mr. Talbot ; “ you will find that our little pet has not been forgotten.”
* “ Are there any more ships expected from India this season, dear papa ?" said this descendant from the princes of Delhi to Sir William Ogilvie, on our all being together in an arbour a day or two after Mrs. Talbot had left her seclusion and had joined the family. “I should hope," continued the same young lady, “that I shall at least receive an answer to my letter."
“ Can I send and enquire for you, Isabel ? ” anxiously asked the gentleman addressed. “I will run up to London for you, and get some information from the India-House, if you have the slightest wish.”
“ That I am sure you would offer," was the quiet answer; and she was buried in the deepest thought. “It was a spirited act of mine," at length she said, " to write as I did to the native princes in my own country, and make such a demand! They are bound to answer me, at any rate, even if they think proper to deny my just claim."
No one asked for an explanation of this speech; it might have been deemed inquisitive: but all looked their interest, their curiosity."
“So you do not, any of you, want to hear what I have done, and of my own accord, too ? " said the young Indian, with some little petulance in her tone; but it was followed up by a smile so bright, so very beautiful, that the reproach made but slight impression. “I'll make you all repent," added she, "for your apathy, should they accede to my demand-you shall not look at my regal jewels.”
“ Who could gaze on them,” exclaimed Sir William passionately, “when Isabel's eyes sparkled so brightly near them? Who could think of jewels, with a pearl beyond all price beside them ?".
" There, little Fanny,” cried the young Indian, “that compliment is between you and me. You say right, dear papa, her complexion is like a pearl ; and she is beyond all price. Come hither, you little cherub, kiss your grandpapa for that sweet speech."
“Should he not be paid in kind for the other half of it ? " enquired Mr. Talbot laughing.
“ Yes, by deputy,” said quickly the arch Isabel, snatching from my arms the infant of Mrs. Talbot and carrying it towards Sir William ; then, holding its little face towards him, she told him that “ she did not believe he had ever kissed his young grandson yet; then, dropping the baby within his arms, she burst out into a strange wild melody, evidently of Asiatic composition, with these words translated by herself. It had a most astonishing effect.
“ The Rajah, the young babe caressing,
To be the glory of his station." “ Now for the substantial blessing, my noble Rajah !" said Isabel playfully, holding out her silk apron to the baronet, who scarcely knew what