« AnteriorContinuar »
encouraged by the gravity of the stranger, dashed at once into a strain of observations, which, neither from their nature, nor the language in which they were couched, could be particularly agreeable to refined or delicate ears.
Perhaps that chivalrous respect, which once every lady expected as her due, and which every gentleman was proud to offer, as much from consideration to him. self as to her, perhaps in this age it is gone by. But there are still some bosoms, to which the least indelicacy, where the fair and good are concerned, comes with that revolting harshness, that makes them start from the person using it, as they would from contamination. Of this kind seemed the stranger; for suddenly darting a glance of surprise at the speaker, he turned to the young lady, and seemed to inquire by his eyes, if she could listen to such language with complacency. But there was an indignant scorn, almost amounting to anger, in her countenance, that instantly
repelled the idea. This was enough; and interrupting their companion in full career, the stranger addressed to her some common observation, on the convenience and inconvenience of stage-coaches. She understood the kindness of his intention, and her features became lighted up by a grateful smile. Words might have thank. ed him for the relief he had given herbut no words could have equalled that smile. It seemed to say—“I am not now alone; I am no longer defenceless against insult.”
Their companion, however, rewarded the interruption with an angry glance, and attempted to join in the conversation, but the stranger proceeded without noticing him—“ You are going to Exeter, madam, I presume?” he continued, in a calm, gentlemanly tone of voice.
“ I am going some short way beyond," she replied.
“ We are situated so far alike," said the stranger; and then seemingly wishing to
D 2 continue
continue the subject, he added some observations on the different modes of travelling in England and in France. .
Unluckily he did so, for their companion had just, it seems, made a trip to the Continent, and seizing the opportunity, he soon contrived to get the conversation pretty nearly to himself, retailing at the same time, in pretty broad terms, the stigma often thrown on French women for levity of conduct. .
" A modest and delicate woman,” answered the stranger, “is the same in every country, and there are many in all.”
“ Most likely,” said the other, “ you have never been in France; now I have.”
“ I have been there long,” said the stranger, with a sigh, as if it recalled some painful recollection.
“ Then you could not have kept much company," continued the other, “ or you must have had experience how easy-tempered the girls are there.”. A smile of contempt curled the stran
ger's lip for a moment, while he replied “ I was obliged to keep more company than was at all agreeable to me; but it was always of the best society.”
“ You do not mean to say that I did not keep the best society ?" demanded the other, angrily: “I kept as good as you did, I will answer for it;" and he added an oath in confirmation.
“ I did not mean to say any thing about you," rejoined the stranger, coolly; " but since you seem to wish it, I will tell you, that if you have kept society above yourself, it is a pity you have not improved by it.”
“ Damn me, sir, what do you mean by that?- do you mean to insult .me?” demanded the other, ruffling himself like a provoked dunghill cock, when he fancies he shall be obliged to fight.
“ For Heaven's sake, sir,” exclaimed the young lady, turning to the stranger, over whose cheek passed a momentary
flush, “ do not quarrel with that man; he is beneath your notice-indeed he is !"
“Oh no, madam,” replied he; “ there is no fear of my so far degrading myself.”
“ And who are you, sir ?” cried the other, still more angrily—“ who are you that give yourself such airs ? Come, let us hear a little about you, if you please.”.
“ No, sir,” answered the stranger, “ I do not please, by any means; and I dare say there may be many topics of conversation more agreeable to this lady than either my history, or your strictures on French morality."
At this moment the coach stopped to change horses, and the stranger desired the coachman to open the door, that he · ! might get out, as the cramped position in which he sat had tired him. As he did so, he perceived uneasiness at the idea of being left with their vulgar companion very plainly depicted in the beautiful countenance of the young lady, and he offered her his arm to assist her from the