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at any rate, Matilda, you can tell me if you think he is a real gentleman ?"
“ Why, my dear girl, if I was you, I would not make any further acquaintance with him, unknown to your papa and mamma. I have lived in London so long, that I am rather used to see those kind of people, and I don't believe they are always gentlemen of rank and fortune,” replied the discreet Maulda.
“Oh ! as to that, I have made no acquaintaince with him at all, as yet, please to observe-and there's no likelihood I should, if I am going to stay with you. But as to handsomeness, he's beautiful enough for a king, and that I'll stand to, say what you will. But come along
- that's all the finery 1 shall want, and mamma can put out the other things. I long for you and I to be walking by ourselves, and then we can talk and look about us as much as we like."
“Won't you rest yourselves before you set out again ?" said Mr. O'Donagough, upon their re-entering the parlour to say adieu. " Oh no, thankye, papa.
We are not the least tired; are we Ma. tilda ?" replied Patty.
“ No, not the least," added her acquiescent friend; and after a few words between the mother and daughter respecting the packet of clothes which was to follow, and a proper proportion of kissing and handshaking, the young ladies set off on their walk back to Brompton.
“ Are you quite sure you are not tired, Patty?" inquired Matilda as scon as they got into Regent-street.
“ Not a bit,” replied Patty, sturdily.
“ Then let us cross Piccadilly, and walk down St. James's-street,” said her friend. “ I never come to this part of the town, if I can help it, without just taking a peep at that dear St. James's Park. I really think it is the most beautiful place upon earth.”
The well-assorted friends had proceeded about halfway down St. James's-street, when their four eyes were pleasantly struck by the appearance of two young guardsmen in full regimentals, who issued from the coffee-house at the bottom of the street, and walked up the pavement towards them. A silent pressure of the arm, given and returned between the two ladies, did all, and perhaps more than all that was necessary for directing each other's attention to the interesting spectacle; and they walked on together with a step, perhaps, rather more dignified and measured than usual, but with great decorum, and without exchanging a word.
Both the young men were tall and handsome, and neither of the young ladies refused them the passing tribute of a stare. But what was the astonishment of the well-behaved Miss Matilda Perkins, when she felt the arm of her young friend suddenly withdrawn, and saw her stand with outstretched hands and starting eyes on the middle of the pavement, gazing on the features of one of the gentlemen, as if turned to stone hy some male gorgon. The young guardsman, however, who was in earnest conversation with his companion, did not notice her, and pursuing their course, they presently turned together into a shop.
The petrified Patty then appeared, in some degree, to recover herself, and grasping convulsively the arm of her friend, heaved a sort of gasping sigh, and distinctly uttered the monosyllable “ Jack!"
AN ENCOUNTER, EMBARRASSING ON THE ONE SIDE,
ON THE OTHER-A TRIAL OF FRIENDSHIP-AN
“Gracious Heaven! you don't say so ?” cried the sympathizing Matilda, entering at once into the nature of her friend's feelings. * This is a most wonderful discovery, indeed! But you must compose yourself, my dear girl, you must really! Lean on me, Patty, and walk gently on. When we pass the shop, you know, you may just look in, and if you can catch his face, you will be able to satisfy yourself whether you may not have made some mistake.”
“ Mistake!" shouted Patly. “Do you think I don't know him ? Do you think, after all I have told you, that I should not know my darling Jack amongst a million ?”
“But I am quite sure, Patty, that the gentleman did not know
“Stuff and nonsense! How should he know me, when he was chattering as fast as he could speak to that other fellow, and never turned his eyes my way? But you don't suppose I mean to part so? I shall go in after him, I promise you, and then you shall see whether he knows me or not.'
“ For Heaven's sake, Patty,don't follow two gentlemen in that way !" said Matilda, really frightened. “It is a saddler's shop, my dear girl, and nothing but men ever do go into it. We shall be taken for something very very bad, indeed we shall !"
But Patty, without paying the slightest attention to her remonstrance continued to drag her on, and on reaching the shop-door, without uttering another syllable of warning, she fairly pulled her in, marching straight forward to the back of the shop, where stood the chase in earnest examination of a set of harness.
Patty's object was at that moment not so much to speak to him, as to make him see her, and this she at length effected, by dauntlessly walking round his very elegant-looking companion, and finally stationing herself within about half a foot of his person.
Startled at this sudden vicinity of female drapery, the young man looked up, and his countenance most unequivocally acknowledged acquaintance with the remarkable figure that stood before him. Hot and agitated, her showy bonnet pushed backwards till it was almost off her head, ber colour crimson, and her eyes extended with no mitigated stare, poor Patty really looked very far from respectable; while her terrified companion, whose more decent appearance and sober demeanour, might have been some protection, retreated towards the door, utterly incapable of braving a scene, which she thought likely to prove so exceedingly disagreeable. Neither her absence, nor presence, however, were capable of producing any great effect on the catastrophe. Patty's acquaintance no sooner set his eyes upon her, than, with a complexion as glowing as her own, he suddenly dropped the article he had been examining, and abruptly seizing her hand led her through the shop, and into the street, without speaking a word.
- Good gra
With an agitated and hurried step he urged her forward some paces past the door, and then pausing, and changing the grasp he held of her hand, for the usual salutation of a friendly greeting, he said, “ My dear Miss O'Donagough, I sincerely hope I see you well—and truly glad should I have been to have shaken hands with you under other circumstances; but your referring to our acquaintance on board ship before the friend with whom you saw me, or indeed before any friend I have, would be very mischievous to me—and I remember your former kindness too well, not to feel certain that you would be sincerely grieved to do me the injury, which would inevitably ensue, were you to betray me.”
“ Betray you, Jack !" replied Patty, very innocently. cious, no! I would not do you any harm for the whole world ; but you need not be afraid of speaking to me when we are by ourselves, you know. Tell me when you will come and see me, my dear, dear Jack !” and she grasped the hand which held hers, with unscrupulous affection, causing thereby a degree of remorse and embarrassment to the young man, of which, assuredly she had no idea, and which if espressed to her would have been a mystery past finding out.
Distressed beyond measure, and moreover very firmly held, “ Jack" felt himself terribly at a loss to know what he had best do or say next; a puzzle which was rather increased than diminished, when on casting his eyes towards the door of the shop he had left, he beheld his friend stationed there, and looking towards him, evidently prevented from following him, by a species of discretion most terribly injurious to the poor, unsuspicious girl, whose natural joy at meeting him again, had thus undeservedly betrayed her into a situation calculated to excite the most disgraceful suspicions.
"Jack" was, or rather perhaps had been, a very harem-scarem sort of youth, but by no means framed to endure with composure the idea of producing serious mischief to a young girl, innocent of every thing, save a good-natured and friendly recognition of himself.
After the struggle and meditation of a moment, he said, “I will come and see you, my dear Miss Patty. Tell me where you are, and I will call upon you.
Patty immediately drew forth her little pocket-book, and tearing out a leaf on which she had written her friend Matilda's address before they parted at Brighton, presented it to him.
“I am not with papa and mamma now, but visiting a friend," said she, as she put it into his hands.
Greatly relieved by this intelligence, and choosing what appeared to him a lesser evil, in order to avoid a greater, he once more permitted her to see the smile which had so awakened her young susceptibilities, and said,
“That being the case, dear Patty, I shall come and see you with the greatest pleasure; but you must promise not to mention having met me to either father or mother. I grieve for the necessity which obliges me to impose such uncivil conditions, but I cannot help thinking that when I assure you this mystery is essential to my interest, you will not refuse to comply with them.”
Nothing could be farther from the delighted Patty's thoughts than making any difficulty about the matter, and perhaps at the bottom of
her heart she was rather glad than otherwise that she was to be his only confidant.
“ I won't say a single word or syllable to either of them,” she answered with great eagerness ; " it was always you and me that was the great friends, you know, Jack, and so we shall be still-shan't we? But tell me what your real name is before you go. It is not Jack now, I'll bet. It is something that begins with an S, mamma says, because she saw it on the silver fork."
The young man coloured, and laughed. “ You must call me Mr. Steady, now Patty. Good bye, I shall be sure to call on you to-morrow at two o'clock exactly. Good bye!” And again shaking her hand, he withdrew, making her, as he departed, a very respectful bow, for the benefit of his friend, to whom he pledged his word and honour on rejoining him, that the young lady he had been talking to was perfectly respectable, and, in fact, hardly more than a child, whatever he might think to the contrary.
Patty's first action, upon his leaving her, was to clap her hands, which might be interpreted either as a symptom of violent and irrepressible joy, or as a signal to her friend, who was by this time at a considerable distance in advance of her. Miss Matilda Perkins was indeed in a state of very great agitation; and, a little forgetful, perhaps, of the duties which her superior age imposed, and which might be thought to include the necessity of not leaving her dear young friend alone under such circumstances, she had pushed onward with all her might, and had by this time nearly reached the top of St. James's-street, relaxing her speed, however, a little, before she turned into the vortex of Piccadilly, in which she suddenly remembered that the highly-connected Miss O'Donagough might possibly look for her in vain. She had not, in truth, the courage to turn her head; being persuaded that if she did, she might be involved as a party in an adventure of which, having “ dwelt in decencies” for nearly six-and-thirty years, she was very heartily ashamed.
Patty perceiving that there was some danger of her being left alone in the street, shouted the name of “ Matilda !" with all the strength of her lungs, and then set off at full gallop, equally regardless of the elbows or the
she encountered. “What do you run away for at such a rate, Matilda ?” cried the panting girl, overtaking her, and once more seizing upon her arm. * What a fool you must be, to be sure! Why what in the name of wonder did you think was going to happen to you ?"
“Oh! nothing, my dear,” replied Miss Matilda, recovering herself on perceiving that the young lady was alone. “ Of course, you know, I could not think there was any thing going to happen to me. Whatever notice I get from gentlemen, my dear Patty, is in a very different way from being spoken to by strangers in the streets. Good Heaven ! what would poor dear Foxcroft say if he should hear of my being seen following officers into a saddler's shop, in St. James's-street!”
“ I would not have believed, if I hadn't seen it, that you could be such an excessive idiot, Matilda !" replied Patty, with some little warmth. “ Do you call Jack a stranger ? As for that matter, I am sure you are much more a stranger to me than he is. Dear, darling, delightful, lovely, Jack! How I do adore him! And he shall find too,
that I am as true-hearted and faithful a girl as ever was. Why didn't
look at him, you great goose? You never in all your born days. beheld any thing one-half so handsome.'
“ Well, my dearest Patty! Now my fright is over, I wish you joy of meeting him with all my heart," said her companion, who recollected how exc:edingly important to all her own dearest hopes, was the continued affection of her youthful friend. “ You must not be angry with me, darling, for being a little frightened at first. You don't know how particular London people are ! I do assure you, that if any body had seen us go into that shop after those gentlemen, it would have been thought perfectly improper, and unladylike. And besides, my dear girl, I do believe that when a woman's heart is so completely devoted as mine, it makes them always most scrupulously particular in every thing they do about other men. I really should have felt that I was acting ungenerously by Foxcroft if I had not come away.”
“ All that may be very fine, and very right and proper for you. I really don't know any thing at all aboui middle-aged people like you and 'Captain Foxcroft. But if you fancy that I shall ever meet my own darling Jack, without speaking to him, you are quite entirely mise taken. I don't care a straw whether it is a saddler's shop, or a devil's shop. Jack is Jack to me, all the worid over.”
“Of course, my dear, he is an acquaintance of yours, and that makes all the difference and I hope my dearest girl that he told you his name?"
“ To be sure he did, dear fellow! His name is Steady, and he is to come and call upon me at your house exactly at two o'clock tomorrow.”
“ Is he indeed ?—then we must just tell my sister Louisa, if you please, Patty, that Mr. Steady is a friend of your papa's, and don't mention any thing about St. James's-street."
“I don't care half a farthing what you tell her, Matilda. say that he is one of my mother's fine cousins, if you will. Now that I have found him again, I don't care for any earthly thing beside," replied Patty. “But, by the by,” she added, drawing closer to her companion, and speaking with an air of mystery,“ there is a secret about him that he won't tell to any body but me. Dear darling ! I'll keep his secret, you see if I don't.”
“Of course you will, Patty, if he confides it to you. And I must say that the glance I had of him showed plainly enough that he was somebody. But if he tells you the secret about his disguise on board ship, and all that, there is no doubt but he will tell it to your mamma and your papa too," rejoined Miss Matilda.
“ No, but he won't though !" cried Patty, exultingly. “He told me, dear fellow ! that he had very particular reasons indeed for not letting them know any thing about it, and you don't think I am going to be such a monster as to betray him? That's just what he said himself, dear creature, 'You won't betray me, Patty !' said he; and I'll see father, mother, uncles, aunts, and cousins too, every one of thein in the Red Sea before I'd hurt a hair of his beautiful head. I can't help your knowing it, Matilda, because I had told you every thing before, and that I must make him understand-unless, indeed, you could be clever enough, and kind enough to take yourself off, and your wise sister too,