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Did you put it into the post yesterday?” “Certainly,” replied Free land, hastily, and in the hurry of the moment, “ Certainly. How could you, dear Madam, doubt my obedience to your commands ?" — " Thank you! thank you!” cried she, “How you have relieved my mind!” He had so ; but he had painfully burthened his own.
To be sure, it was only a white lie,—the lie of fear. Still he was not used to utter falsehood : and he felt the meanness and degradation of this. He had yet to learn that it was mischievous also; and : that none can presume to say where the consequences of the most apparently trivial lie will end. As soon as Freeland parted with Lady Leslie, he bade his friends farewell, and, putting spur to his horse, scarcely slackened his pace till he had reached a general postoffice, and deposited the letter in safety. “Now, then,” thought he, “ I hope I shall be able to return and dine with Lady Leslie, without shrinking from her penetrating eye."
He found her, when he arrived, very pensive and absent ; so much so, that she felt it necessary to apologize to her guests, informing them that Mary Benson, an old servant of hers, who was very dear to her, was seriously ill, and painfully circumstanced ; and that is she feared she had not done her duty by her. “To tell you the truth, Captain Freeland,” said she, speaking to him in a low voice, 6 I blame myself for not having sent for my confidential servant, who was not very far off, and despatched him with the money, in stead of trusting it to the post.”_" It would have been better to have done so, certainly !” replied Freeland, deeply blushing. “ Yes; for the poor woman, to whom I sent it, is not only herself on the point of being confined, but she has a sick husband, unable to be moved ; and as, but owing to no fault of his, he is on the point of bankruptcy, his cruel landlord has declared that, if they do not pay their rent by to-morrow, he will turn them out into the street, and seize the very bed they lie on! However, as you put the letter into the post yesterday, they must get the fifty pound note to-day, else they could not; for there is no delivery of letters in London on a Sunday, you know." " True, very true,” replied Freeland, in a tone which he vainly tried to render steady. “ Therefore," continued Lady Leslie, " if you had told me, when we met, that the letter was not gone, I should have recalled Baynes, and sent him off by the mail to London; and then he would have reached Somerstown, where the Bensons live, in good time ;—but now, though I own it would be a comfort to me to send him, for fear of accident, I could not get him back again soon enough ;-—therefore, I must let things take their chance; and, as letters seldom miscarry, the only danger is, that the note may be taken out.” She might have talked an hour without answer or interruption ;-for Freeland was too much shocked, too
much conscience-stricken, to reply; as he found that he had not only told a falsehood, but that, if he had had moral courage enough to tell the truth, the mischievous negligence, of which he had been guilty, could have been repaired; but now, as Lady Leslie said, it was too late!
But, while Lady Leslie became talkative, and able to perform her duties to her friends, after she had thus unburthened her mind to Freeland, he grew every minute more absent, and more taciturn: and, though he could not eat with appetite, he threw down, rather than drank, repeated glasses of hock and champagne, to enable him to rally his spirits; but in vain.—A naturally ingenuous and generous nature cannot shake off the first compunctious visitings of conscience for having committed an unworthy action, and having also been the means of injury to another. All on a sudden, however, his countenance brightened : and as soon as the ladies left the table, he started up, left his compliments and excuses with Lady Leslie's nephew, who presided at dinner; said he had a pressing call to Worcester; and, when there, as the London mail was gone, he threw himself into a postchaise, and set off for Somerstown, which Lady Leslie had named as the residence of Mary Benson.“ At least,” said Freeland to himself with a lightened heart," I shall now have the satisfaction of doing all I can to repair my fault.” But, owing to the delay occasioned by want of horses and by finding the ostlers at the inns in bed, he did not reach London and the place of his destination till the wretched family had been dislodged; while the unhappy wife was weeping, not only over the disgrace of being so removed, and for her own and her husband's increased illness in consequence of it, but from the agonizing suspicion that the mistress and friend, whom she had so long loved, and relied upon, had disregarded the tale of her sorrows, and had refused to relieve her necessities! Freeland soon found a conductor to the mean lodging in which the Bensons had obtained shelter; for they were well known; and their hard fate was generally pitied :--but it was some time before he could speak, as he stood by their bedside—he was choked with painful emotion at first ; with pleasing emotions afterwards :—for his conscience smote him for the pain he had occasioned, and applauded him for the pleasure which he came to bestow." I come,” said he, at length, while the sufferers waited in almost angry wonder, to hear his reason for thus intruding on them, “ I come to tell you, from your kind friend, Lady Leslie”_" Then she has not forgotten me!” screamed out the poor woman, almost gasping for breath. “No, to be sure not ishe could not forget you ; she was incapable...." here his voice wholly failed him. " Thank Heaven!” cried she, tears trickling down her pale cheek. “I can bear any thing now; for that was the bitterest part of all !”-“My good woman,” said Freeland, " it was owing to a mistake :--pshaw: no, it was owing to my fault, that you did not receive a £50 note by the post yesterday:"-" £50!” cried the poor man wringing his hands, “ why that would have more than paid all we owed; and I could have gone on with my business, and our lives would not have been risked, nor disgraced!' Freeland now turned away, unable to say a word more; but, recovering himself, he again drew near them; and, throwing his purse to the agitated speaker, said, “ there! get well! only get well ! and whatever you want shall be yours ! or I shall never lose this horrible choking again while I live !"
Freeland took a walk after this scene, and with hasty, rapid strides; the painful choking being his companion very often during the course of it, for he was haunted by the image of those whom he had disgraced ;-and he could not help remembering that, however blameable his negligence might be, it was nothing, either in sinfulness or mischief, to the lie told to conceal it; and that, but for that lie of fear, the effects of his negligence might have been repaired in time.
But he was resolved that he would not leave Somerstown till he had seen these poor people settled in a good lodging. He therefore hired a conveyance for them, and superintended their removal that evening to apartments full of every necessary comfort. “My good friends," said he, “ I cannot recall the mortification and disgrace which you have endured through my fault; but I trust that you will have gained in the end, by leaving a cruel landlord, who had no pity for your unmerited poverty.–Lady Leslie's note will, I trust, reach you to-morrow;—but if not, I will make up the loss; therefore be easy! and when I go away, may I have the comfort of knowing that your removal has done you no harm !”.
He then, but not till then, had courage to write to Lady Leslie, and tell her the whole truth; concluding his letter thus :
" If your interesting protegees have not suffered in their health, I shall not regret what has happened ; because I trust that it will be a lesson to me through life, and teach me never to tell even the most apparently trivial white lie again. How unimportant this violation of truth appeared to me at the moment! and how sufficiently motived! as it was to avoid falling in your estimation; but it was, you see, overruled for evil;—and agony of mind, disgrace, and perhaps risk of life, were the consequences of it to innocent individuals ;-not to mention my own pangs;—the pangs of an upbraiding conscience. But forgive me, my dear Lady Leslie. Now, however, I trust that this evil, so deeply repented of, will be blessed to us all; but it will be long before I forgive myself.”
Lady Leslie was delighted with this candid letter, though grieved by its painful details, while she viewed with approbation the amends
which her young friend had made, and his modest disregard of his own exertions.
The note arrived in safety ; and Freeland left the afflicted couple better in health, and quite happy in mind; as his bounty and Lady Leslie's had left them nothing to desire in a pecuniary point of view.
When Lady Leslie and he met, she praised his virtue, while she blamed his fault; and they fortified each other in the wise and moral resolution, never to violate truth again, even on the slightest occasion : as a lie, when told, however unimportant it may at the time appear, is like an arrow shot over a house, whose course is unseen, and may be unintentionally the cause, to some one, of agony or death.
Warbles the merle !
Gallops the earl!
As it sinks on his ear,
Than its music more dear.
Through the wood, through the wood,
Once and away,
And the Lady is gay :
And her eyes become dim;
When she gazes on him!
Over the wold,
Of true warriors bold;
They halt not for water;
Is seeking his daughter.
Warbles the merle;
Prances the earl;
Comes pacing his bride;
W'N ANDERSON. ." Poetical Aspirations. By William Anderson, Esq. Edin. 1830."
THE BIGHTH DAUGHTER OF J. LARKING, ESG
Ah: mayest thou ever be what now thou art,
FULL many a gloomy month hath past,
On flagging wing, regardless by,-
I gazed upon thy bright blue eye,
The hopes I most relied on, thwarted,
With many a shade since last we parted:
That dimples upon childhood's cheek,
The dictates of the bosom break ;-
And strange to every softer feeling,
Cold and unmoved--without revealing
The anguish'd thrill of hope delay'd,-
That can the breast of man invade,-
'Till woe, awhile, gave place to gladness, And that remembrance seem'd to charm,
Almost to peace, my bosom's sadness;
To save thee from affliction's tears;
Thy guilelessness of soul revealing