The Present

Six weeks had passed away. It was a splendid morning about the close of June. Most of the hay was cut, but the last week had been very unfavourable; and now that fine weather was come at last, being determined to make the most of it, I bad gathered all hands together into the hayfield, and was working away myself, in the midst of them, in my shirt sleeves, with a light, shady straw hat on my head, catching up armfuls of moist, reeking grass, and shaking it out to the four winds of heaven, at the head of a goodly file of servants and hirelings--intending so to labour, from morning to night, with as much zeal and assiduity as I could look for from any of them, as well to prosper the work by my own exertion as to animate the workers by my example--when, lo! my resolutions were overthrown in a moment, by the simple fact of my brother's running up to me and putting into my hand a small parcel, just arrived from London, which I had been for some time expecting. I tore off the cover, and disclosed an elegant and portable edition of `Marmion'.

`I guess I know who that's for,' said Fergus, who stood looking on while I complacently examined the volume. That's for Miss Eliza, now.'

He pronounced this with a tone and look so prodigiously knowing, that I was glad to contradict him.

`You're wrong, my lad,' said I; and taking up my coat,, I deposited the book in one of its pockets, and then put it on (i.e. the coat). `Now come here, you idle dog, and make yourself useful for once,' I continued-- `Pull off your coat, and take my place in the field till I come back.'

Till you come back?--and where are you going, pray?'

`No matter--where--the when is all that concerns you;--and I shall be back by dinner, at least.'

`Oh ho! and I'm to labour away till then, am I?--and to keep all these fellows hard at it besides?--Well, well! I'll submit--for once in a way.--Come, my lads, you must look sharp: I'm coming to help you now;-- and woe be to that man, or woman either, that pauses for a moment amongst you--whether to stare about him, to scratch his head, or blow his nose--no pretext will serve--nothing but work, work in the sweat of your face,'--etc., etc.

Leaving him thus haranguing the people, more to their amusement than edification, I returned to the house, and having made some alteration in my toilet, hastened away to Wildfell Hall, with the book in my pocket; for it was destined for the shelves of Mrs Graham.

`What, then, had she and you got on so well together as to come to the giving and receiving of presents?'-- Not precisely, old buck; this was my first experiment in that line; and I was very anxious to see the result of it.

We had met several times since the--Bay excursion, and I had found she was not averse to my company, provided I confined my conversation to the discussion of abstract matters, or topics of common interest;-- the moment I touched upon the sentimental or the complimentary, or made the slightest approach to tenderness in word or look, I was not only punished by an immediate change in her manner at the time, but doomed to find her more cold and distant, if not entirely inaccessible, when next I sought her company. This circumstance did not greatly disconcert me, however, because I attributed it, not so much to any dislike of my person, as to some absolute resolution against a second marriage formed prior to the time of our acquaintance, whether from excess of affection for her late husband, or because she had had enough of him and the matrimonial state together. At first, indeed, she had seemed to take a pleasure in mortifying my vanity and crushing my presumption--relentlessly nipping off bud by bud as they ventured to appear; and then, I confess, I was deeply wounded, though, at the same time, stimulated to seek revenge;-- but latterly, finding, beyond a doubt, that I was not that empty-headed coxcomb she had first supposed me, she had repulsed my modest advances in quite a different spirit. It was a kind of serious, almost sorrowful displeasure, which I soon learned carefully to avoid awakening.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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