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the other being tied down to my side, and my jacket sleeve hanging loose and empty, and we roared away right and left, so as to bring down a shower of coppers wherever we went.In about three weeks my friend thought I was able to start by myself, and giving me half the ballads, and five shillings to start with, I shook hands, and parted with, next to you, the best friend I certainly ever had. Ever since I have been crossing the country in every direction, with plenty of money in my pocket, and always with one eye looking sharp out for you. My beautiful voice fortunately attracted your attention, and here I am, and at an end of my history: but if ever I am away from you, and in distress again, depend upon it I shall take to my wooden leg and ballads for my support.
XC.-MARTHA, THE GYPSY; OR, THE POWER OF
In the vicinity of Bedford-square lived a respectable and honest man whose name the reader will be pleased to consider Harding. He had married early: his wife was an exemplary woman, and his son and daughter were grown into that companionable age at which children repay, with their society and accomplishments, the tender cares which parents bestow upon their offspring in their early infancy.
Mr. Harding held a responsible and respectable situation under the government, in Somerset House. His income was adequate to his wants and wishes; his family a family of love: and, perhaps, taking into consideration the limited desire of what may be fairly called middling life, no man was ever more contented; or better satisfied with his lot, than he.
Maria Harding, his daughter, was a modest, unassuming, and interesting girl, full of feeling and gentleness. She was timid and retiring; but the modesty which cast down her fine black eyes could not veil the intellect which beamed in them. Her health was by no means strong; and the paleness of her cheek-too frequently, alas! lighted by the hectic flush of our indigenous complaint-gave a deep interest to her countenance. She was watched and reared by her tender mother, with all the care and attention which a being so delicate and so ill-suited to the perils and troubles of this world demanded.
George, her brother, was a bold and intelligent lad, full of rude health and fearless independence. His character was fre
quently the subject of his father's contemplation; and he saw in his disposition, his mind, his pursuits, and propensities, the promise of future success in active life.
With these children, possessing as they did the most enviable characteristics of their respective sexes, Mr. and Mrs. Harding, with thankfulness to Providence, acknowledged their happiness, and their perfect satisfaction with the portion assigned to them in this transitory world.
Maria was about nineteen, and had attracted the regards, and thence gradually chained the affections of a distant relative, whose ample fortune, added to his personal and mental good qualities, rendered him a most acceptable suitor to her parents, which Maria's heart silently acknowledged he would have been to her, had he been poor and penniless.
The father of this intended husband of Maria was a man of importance, possessing much personal interest, through which George, the brother of his intended daughter-in-law, was to be placed in that diplomatic seminary in Downing-street, whence, in due time, he was to rise through all the grades of office, (which, with his peculiar talents, his friends, and especially his mother, were convinced he would so ably fill), and at last turn out a mighty and mysterious ambassador.
The parents, however, of young Langdale and of Maria Harding were agreed, that there was no necessity for hastening the alliance between their families, seeing that the united ages of the couple did not exceed thirty-nine years: and seeing, moreover, that the elder Mr. Langdale, for private reasons of his own, wished his son to attain to the age of twenty-one before he married; and seeing moreover, still, that Mrs. Langdale, who was a little more than six and thirty years of age herself, had reasons, which she also meant to be private, for seeking to delay as much as possible a ceremony, the result of which, in all probability, would confer upon her, somewhat too early in life to be agreeable to a lady of her habits and propensities, the formidable title of grandmamma; and so it was settled that immediately after the coming of age of Frederick Lang. dale, and not before, he was to lead to the hymeneal altar the delicate and timid Maria Harding.
The affair got whispered about; George's fortune in life was highly extolled-Maria's excessive happiness prophesied by every body of their acquaintance; and already had sundry younger ladies, daughters and nieces of those who discussed these matters in divan after dinner, begun to look upon poor
Miss Harding with envy and maliciousness, and wonder what Mr. Frederick Langdale could see in her she was proclaimed to be insipid, inanimate, shy, bashful, and awkward: nay, some of her female friends went so far as to discover that she was absolutely awry.
Still, however, Frederick and Maria went loving on, and their hearts grew as one; so truly, so fondly were they attached to each other. George, who was somewhat of a plague to the pair of lovers, was luckily at Oxford, reading away till his head ached, to qualify himself for a degree, and the distant duties of the office whence he was to cull the bunches of diplomatic laurels, and whence were to issue rank and title, and ribbons and crosses innumerable.
Things were in this prosperous state, the bark of life rolling gayly along before the breeze, when, as Mr. Harding was one day proceeding from his residence to his office in SomersetPlace, through Charlotte-street, Bloomsbury, he was accosted by one of those female gypsies who are found begging in the metropolis and especially in the particular part of it in question. "Pray, remember poor Martha, the Gypsy," said the woman: "give me a halfpenny for charity; sir, pray do!"
Mr. Harding was a subscriber to the mendicity society, an institution which proposes to check beggary by the novel mode of giving nothing to the poor: moreover, he was a magistratemoreover, he had no change; and he somewhat sternly desired the woman to go about her business.
All availed him nothing; she still followed him, and reiterated the piteous cry, "Pray remember poor Martha, the Gypsy!"
At length, irritated by the perseverance of the woman-for even subordinates in government hate to be solicited importunately Mr. Harding, contrary to his usual custom, and contrary to the customary usages of modern society, turned hastily round, and fulminated an oath against the supplicating vagrant.
"Curse!" said Martha; "have I lived to this? Hark ye, man-poor, weak, haughty man! Mark me, sir-look at me!
He did look at her; and beheld a countenance on fire with rage. A pair of eyes blacker than jet, and brighter than diamonds, glared like stars upon him; her black hair dishevelled, hung over her olive cheeks; and a row of teeth whiter than the driven snow displayed themselves from between a pair of coral lips, in a dreadful smile, a ghastly sneer of con
tempt which mingled in her passion. Harding was riveted to the spot, and, affected partly by the powerful fascination of her superhuman countenance, and partly by the dread of a disturbance in the street, he paused to listen to her.
"Mark me, sir," said Martha; "you and I shall meet. again. Thrice shall you see me before you die. My visiting will be dreadful; but the third will be the last!"
There was a solemnity in this declaration which struck to his very heart, coming too as it did only from a vagrant outcast. Passengers were approaching; and wishing, he knew not why, to soothe the ire of the angry woman, he mechanically drew from his pocket some silver, which he tendered to her.
"There, my good woman-There," said he, stretching forth his hand.
"Good woman!" retorted the hag. "Money now! I—I that have been cursed? 'Tis all too late, proud gentlemanthe deed is done, the curse be now on you!" Saying which, she huddled her ragged red cloak about her shoulders, and hurried from his sight, into the deep and dreary recesses of St. Giles'.
Harding experienced, as she vanished from his eye, a most extraordinary sensation; he felt grieved that he had spoken so harshly to the poor creature, and returned his shillings to his pocket with regret. Of course fear of the fulfilment of her predictions did not mingle with any of his feelings on the occasion; and he proceeded to his office in Somerset-Place, and performed all the arduous official duties of reading the opposi tion newspapers, discussing the leading politics of the day with the head of another department, and signing his name three times, before four o'clock.
Martha, the Gypsy, however, although he had poohpoohed her out of his memory, would ever and anon flash across his mind; her figure was indelibly stamped upon his recollection; and though, of course, as I before said, a man of his firmness and intellect could care nothing, one way or another, for the maledictions of an ignorant, illiterate gypsy, still his feelings —whence arising I know not prompted him to call a hackneycoach, and proceed en voiture to his house, rather than run the risk of again encountering the metropolitan sibyl, under whose forcible denunciation he was actually laboring.
There is a period in each day of the lives of married people, at which a more than ordinarily unreserved communication of facts and feelings takes place; when all the world is shut out
and the two beings commune together freely and fully upon the occurrences of the past day. Then it is, that the husband informs his anxious consort how he has forwarded his worldly views with such a man-how he has carried his point in such a quarter-what he thinks of the talents of one, of the character of another while the communicative wife gives her view of the same subjects, founded upon what she has gathered from the individuals composing the female cabinet, and explains why she thinks he must have been deceived upon this point, or misled upon that. And thus, in recounting, in arguing, in discussing, and descanting, the blended interests of the happy pair are strengthened, their best hopes nourished, and, perhaps, eventually realized.
A few friends at dinner, and some refreshments in the evening, had prevented Harding from saying a word to his be loved Eliza about the gypsy; and, perhaps, till the "witching time," which I have attempted to define, he would not have mentioned the occurrence, even had they been alone. Most certainly he did not think the less of the horrible vision; and when the company had dispersed, and the affectionate couple had retired to rest, he stated the circumstance exactly as it had occurred, and received from his fair lady just such an answer as a prudent, intelligent, and discreet woman of sense would give to such a communication. She vindicated his original determination not to be imposed upon-wondered at his subsequent willingness to give such an undeserving object, particularly while he had three or four soup-tickets in his pocketwas somewhat surprised that he had not consigned the bold intruder to the hands of the beadle-and, ridiculing the impression which the hag's appearance seemed to have made upon her husband's mind, narrated a tour performed by herself with some friends to Norwood, when she was a girl, and when one of those very woman had told her fortune, not one word of which ever came true-and, in a discussion of some length, animadverting strongly upon the weakness and impiety of putting faith in the sayings of such idle creatures, she fell fast asleep.
Not so Harding: he was restless and worried, and felt that ould give the world to be able to recall the curse which he had rashly uttered against the poor woman. Helpless as she was, and in distress, why did his passion conquer his judgment? Why did he add to the bitterness of refusal the sting of malediction? However, it was useless to regret that which was