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sequently with the extent to which he had been deceiving him for the last twelvemonth, filled him with terror. Then there were other cousiderations to boot. He apprehended that his father, being a just and religious man, might perchance insist on his ' making Bessy an honest woman' by marrying her; and Vincent did not want to marry Bessy. He wished her no ill, but he would have been very well content never to see her face again. The mirage in which passion had enveloped her had disappeared, and he saw her as she was an uneducated, ignorant peasant-girl, who had been pretty from her youth and freshness, but whose beauty indisposition and anxiety were beginning already to fade. He did not even do her justice; for she was in reality still pretty, and to many an eye would have been interesting; but poor Bessy had no more charms for Vincent Halloway. Added to all this, some new lights were beginning to dawn upon him-new ideas of life and the world. These events occurred at the period when all England was astir about Reform ; and to the surprise of everybody, old Jacob cane out quite in a new character. He was found to have strong opinions in the subject, and, roused by the conflict, he not only attended several public meetings at Taunton himself, but he had taken his son with him, in order to add a unit to the party, and to indoctrinate the young man with right views. And Vincent was delighted: not that he cared much about the question they were agitating ; indeed, to say the truth, he had rather obscure notions as to the advantages that were to accrue to the king's lieges from the proposed alterations, but he perfectly understood the pleasure of finding himself, for the first time in his life, of some importance as the only son of a man that farmed a good many acres : he liked the bustle and the crowd, and the thronged streets, and the ribbons and banners, and processions and bands of music; and, above all, he was in a state of great excitement at the prospect of a ball which was to be given at the Castle Inn by the Reformers, and to which most unexpectedly Jacob, in the glow of his patriotism, had consented he should go, at the entreaty of Mr Halkelt, the slkmercer, who represented in lively colours the necessity of shewing that they could muster stronger than their adversaries. Vincent had been preent when this discussion took place, and Miss Emily Halkelt, the mercer's only daughter, was present too, looking very much as if she thought it would be a sin and a shame to keep so handsome a young man as Vincent Halloway from the ball. Jacob said with a grim sort of merriment, that he was afraid his son wouldn't be of much use there, for he didn't think the boy knew the use of his legs; but Vincent, who could not submit to such an inputation before the young lady, assured his father he was mistaken. The act was, though allowed no lessons, he had picked up a notion of dancing a school when the other boys took theirs, and in the course of the last yea he had found several opportunities of bettering his instruction.
Emily Halkelt was not only a very handsome and amiable girl, but she was really a superior one; possessing the manners and appearance of a gentlewoman, together witi good sense and a good education. She was even, to a certain degree, acomplished; for she played the pianoforte, and sang very agreeably, dancel well
, and knew something of French. When Vincent ventured to assert hat he was not so ill-qualified for a ball as his father had supposed, adding however, that he had had very little practice in
the art of dancing, the hospitable silkmercer invited him to come on the following Wednesday evening to his house. 'It will be my daughter's birthday,' he said, and we have a parcel of girls and boys coming to make merry; and as I daresay they'll strike up a hop to the piano, you'll have an opportunity of getting into training for the ball at the Castle.'
It was two days subsequent to this invitation, and just when Vincent was in the flutter and excitement of expectation, that poor Bessy waylaid him with her wan, anxious face, to tell him of Uncle Philpots and his unlucky visit. How welcome such a piece of intelligence was, and how far he was disposed to sympathise with and soothe her, may be conceived.
However, it was necessary to keep Uncle Philpots quiet; and when Bessy suggested that her only hope of doing so lay in the bit of paper, Vincent consented to her shewing it him, but not without a dreadful twinge of remorse; for he knew in his heart that however sincere he might have been when in the flood and whirlwind of passion he gave it he:, he had now no intention of fulfilling the vow it recorded ; and he felt ashamed and conscience-stricken when he saw how undoubtingly the tor-confiding Bessy relied on his hand of write, as she called it. But there was no other way of staving off the threatened danger but by leaving her in her delusion, and allowing Philpots to fall into it also if he would.
This rencontre with Bessy dashed Vincent's spirits considerably. He had for some time, under the influence of his growing indiference, been accustoming himself to think lightly of the affair, and to comfort himself with the belief that time and a little management wouli extricate him from the embarrassment—the more especially as the mother was such a good, easy soul. But Uncle Philpots, by Bessy's accourt, might prove a very different person to deal with; and besides, the other dreaded consequences of the disclosure, if it came now, there would be an end of all these new delights: the frequent excursions to Taunton, the parties and the balls, and the hope of dancing with the faschating Miss Emily Halkelt.
Bessy, who was in no hurry to meet the curious eyes of Aunt Philpots, contrived to be out of the way when the visitors arived; and in answer ta their inquiries, Mrs Mure said she'd be in presently; but Bessy hadn't been very well of late:' but in spite of herself, for she did not intend to convey any hint of the truth, there was a sort of significance in her manner of making the announcement that set the acute wits of Aunt Philpots on the alert at once. Once on the right rack, she was not long of arriving at the fatal secret.
In the meanwhile her spouse, Joss Philpots, ashis familiars called him, all unsuspicious of poor Bessy's misfortune, was in tip-top spirits-glad to see his sister and his niece, and in high good-lumour regarding a little business he had done at Taunton market the day before. His private opinion was that his old woman was in her tantums,' and he intimated as much to the girls by sundry knowing nods and winks; whilst he excruciated Bessy by asking her if it was not love tlat had made her eyes so hollow and her cheek so pale. So passed the frst afternoon, Bessy seeing clearly by the demeanour of her aunt that she was suspected if not betrayed, and dreading what was to follow. Wha nine o'clock came Joss, an ale-fed keeper of a little roadside public-houe, grew sleepy, and went to
bed, leaving his wife below, who shortly afterwards recommended the girls to follow his example.
'Go away to bed, Nance—all little girls should be in bed before nine o'clock; and as for you, Miss Bessy, you're more fit for that place than any other, I take it, just now; besides, I want to talk over a few matters with your mother before I go up to my old man.'
Poor Bessy! as she closed the door upon them, and crept up stairs, she knew full well what the talk was to be about; and whilst Nancy was rattling on about Uncle and Aunt Philpots, and how they had invited her to go and see them, she was straining her ears to catch the tones of the speakers below; but they discoursed in whispers, and no sound reached her till after the lapse of an hour and a half, her mother, who had relinquished her own room to her visitors, came up to bed. Nancy was asleep by this time, and Bessy could ask if Aunt Philpots had 'found out, and what she said.' Mrs Mure answered that she was in a mortal way about it, and that she had no doubt Philpots would have Mr Halloway up before the magistrate the next day. But did you tell her that I'd got his hand of write, mother?'
Yes, súre I did ; but she said she didn't know whether it was good in law or not.'
Bessy never slept that night, and soon after the day began to dawn she heard her aunt's voice pouring into Joss's sleepy ear the unwelcome tidings. She had made several vain attempts to rouse him to a comprehension of it when she went to bed; but she might as well have whispered it to the bedpost. In the morning, however, he was more impressionable ; and he no sooner understood what was the matter, than he became brisk enough.
Warm-hearted and hot-headed, he was just the man to take up such a ravelled skein by the wrong end; and when he entered the kitchen where Bessy was helping her mother to prepare the breakfast, whilst Nance was gone to fetch the milk, his face was red and his eyes bloodshot with anger and indignation—not against Bessy, of whom he was exceedingly fond, and whom he rather pitied than blamed, but against that young jackanapes, as he called . Vincent, who, he swore, should marry her before he was many days older, or he'd know the reason why.
"Tell uncle about the bit of paper, mother !' whispered Bessy. But Joss snapped his fingers, exclaiming : 'It wasn't worth that !' whilst Mrs Philpots nodding her head, said: “A pretty business you've made of it, Miss Bessy!'
When the breakfast was over, to which, by the by, Uncle Philpots, in spite of his indignation, did ample justice-eating and drinking with an air of spiteful determination, as if he was resolved to be revenged on the bread and butter till he could get at the real delinquent-he shoved back his chair and rose; buttoned his coat to the chin, clapped his hat firmly upon his head, clutched his walking-stick, and moved with a resolute step to the door. Bessy guessed his intention—he was going to Jacob Halloway to impeach his son, and demand reparation. At the last moment, just as he was closing the door, she flew after him, and caught him by the skirts of his coat: " Oh, uncle, don't!' she sobbed; - for my sake don't!'
Don't what ?' said Joss, turning round and striking the ground with his stick.
• I know what you 're going to do, uncle, but you'll only make it worse. If you 'll leave Vincent alone, it will all come right-indeed it will. If the bit of paper ain't good in law, he 'll keep to it all the same; he told me he would only yesterday.'
'Will keep to it! He shall keep to it!' cried Uncle Philpots with another thump of his stick.
They can all promise fast enough to get their ends!' said Mrs Philpots ; ' but catch 'em keeping to it.' Upon which remark Joss, planting his stick once more in the earth, turned resolutely to the door.
'Let me go with you, uncle !' said Bessy, hanging herself upon his arm as he stepped out and closed the door behind him. If you 'd just see him first, uncle !' she began in a coaxing tone. • See who?' asked Uncle Philpots sternly. Vincent-young
Mr Halloway-I'm sure he'd satisfy you about it.' "Young blackguard !' exclaimed he.
But, uncle, it was just as much my fault as it was his'n,' said Bessy, with the generosity that under such circumstances so seldom deserts &
• You know, Bessy, you was always my favourite niece,' said Joss ; ' and it's my place to be a father to you as havn't got none of your own; and would it be like a father if I was to see you ruined for life, and never see justice done you?'
' But suppose, uncle, Mr Vincent was to say he'd do the justice to me! Suppose you heard him say so yourself! This way please, uncle !' said Bessy, conducting Joss by a side-path where she had promised to meet Vincent that morning in order to communicate the result of Uncle Phil.
When the young man got a glimpse of her companion—for he readily guessed who the ruddy-faced stranger was—he turned sharp round, hoping to avoid so disagreeable an interview; but Bessy ran after him, and having hastily indoctrinated him with the best way to appease the wrath of her uncle, he returned.
• Be sure say you look upon the bit of paper as good as if Mr Winstanley had said the words over us in the church,' said Bessy: and Vincent did say so; and when he was in for it, a great deal more. Uncle Philpots was resolute, and kept him to the point; and to stave off the immediate peril, Vincent promised and swore all that was demanded of him. He only made one condition, and that was, that he should be allowed a little time to bring round his father, who might, if too hastily informed of his proposed marriage, turn him and his young
wife out of doors without a penny to keep them from starving; and Uncle Philpots yielded, and Bessy believed.
Kind as Uncle Philpots was, Bessy Mure was very glad when he was gone, whilst Vincent Halloway heartily wished he might never see his face again; his thoughts being just then divided betwixt schemes for evading the fulfilment of an engagement now become odious to him, and the charms of Miss Emily Halkelt. He had been to the party at her father's house, and danced with her; and he had heard her sing and play, and had come away intoxicated with love. He was pervaded with a very different feeling now from that which his first passion had inspired. It had never occurred to him that Bessy was anything but a woman, but Emily. Halkelt was an angel! He wondered how he could ever have cared for Bessy-an ignorant peasant-girl, who could scarcely speak her own language or read a page in the New Testament; and he recoiled with horror and disgust from the idea of making such a woman his wife : whilst Emily, who really merited the admiration he bestowed on her, added fuel to the flame she inspired by all the encouragement a modest young girl could give. As we have implied, Vincent's personal endowments were rather remarkable. He had handsome straight features that would not have disgraced a scion of the aristocracy, a full dark eye, fine teeth, and an exceedingly well-formed figure. Neither were his manners clownish, as might have been expected from the forced retirement in which he had lived. Timid and shy he was; but there was a certain natural grace about his movements that redeemed any little awkwardness consequent on his want of knowledge of society, and which, combined with his good looks, and the fact of his having a harsh father, rendered him that very dangerous character to susceptible hearts—an exceedingly interesting young man;' and when the fair Emily read in those expressive eyes the love which the lips durst not reveal, she fearlessly opened her bosom to the charm. She knew of no reason why she should not. There was no inequality of condition; her lover's father and her own were on terms of cordiality, and Vincent's reputation was unimpeached—the knowledge of his unfortunate connection with Bessy Mure not having extended beyond the humble villagers of the neighbourhood. Indeed Mr Halkelt himself, who conceived that the only son of so rigid a father must be a model of virtue, and who was well aware that old Jacob's coffers were not ill lined, gave every encouragement to the intimacy between the young people by throwing his doors open to Vincent whenever he liked to come; whilst Jacob, whose preparations for the next world had not taught him to despise the goods of this, if he did not give his countenance at least shut his eyes to the fast growing intimacy at the silkmercer's.
Meantime, whilst Vincent was revelling in his new life-a life of ecstatic happiness but for the one dark spot that threw its gloomy shadow over every joy-poor Bessy's hour of trial was drawing nigh. He seldom saw her now, at least as seldom as he could. Business, he told her, took him much from home-business connected with the Reform Bill, that was expected to pass in the ensuing session ; and Bessy thought it would be a fine thing to have a husband that was dressed like the squire, and rode to Taunton on a 'high trotting horse' about such grand matters; for that he would ultimately make her his wife she still believed in spite of his growing neglect, never having been able to divest herself of the superstitious regard entertained by many simple ignorant people for the bit of paper with his hand of write upon it. To a more delicate and susceptible mind his coldness would have been agonising, awakening the worst fears and. suspicions: but Bessy's was not of this sort. When she discovered her own situation, and the consequences of their intimacy, she was both ashamed and alarmed. Misdemeanours of the kind were rare in the village, the vicar having taken great pains to impress a more healthy tone on the morals of