“They fool me to the top of my bent.”—Hamlet.
The party below consisted of four individuals all of whom were females. One was a lady in the decline of her years; another was past the middle age the third was on the very threshold of what is called “life,” as it is applied to intercourse with the world; and the fourth was a negress, who might have seen some five-and-twenty revolutions of the seasons. The latter, at that time, and in that country, of course appeared only in the character of a humble, though perhaps favoured domestic.
“And now, my child, that I have given you all the advice which circumstances and your own excellent heart need,” said the elderly lady, among the first words that were distinctly intelligible to the listeners, “I will change the ungracious office to one more agreeable. You will tell your father of my continued affection, and of the promise he has given, that you are to return once again, before we separate for the last time.”
This speech was addressed to the younger female, and was apparently received with as much tenderness and sincerity as it was uttered. The one who was addressed raised her eyes, which were glittering with tears she evidently struggled to conceal, and answered in a voice that sounded in the ears of the two youthful listeners like the notes of the Syren, so very sweet and musical were its tones.
“It is useless to remind me of a promise, my beloved aunt, which I have so much interest in remembering,” she said. “I hope for even more than you have perhaps dared to wish; if my father does not return with me in the spring, it shall not be for want of urging on my part.”
“Our good Wyllys will lend her aid,” returned the aunt, smiling and bowing to the third female, with that mixture of suavity and form which was peculiar to the stately manners of the time, and which was rarely neglected, when a superior addressed an inferior. “She is entitled to command some interest with General Grayson, from her fidelity and services.”
“She is entitled to everything that love and heart can give!” exclaimed the niece, with a haste and earnestness that proclaimed how willingly she would temper the formal politeness of the other by the warmth of her own affectionate manner; “my father will scarcely refuse her any thing.”
“And have we the assurance of Miss Wyllys that she will be in our interests?” demanded the aunt, without permitting her own sense of propriety to be overcome by the stronger feelings of her niece; “with so powerful an ally, our league will be invincible.”
“I am so entirely of opinion, that the salubrious air of this healthful island is of great importance to my young charge, Madam, that, were all other considerations wanting, the little I can do to aid your wishes shall be sure to be done.”
Wyllys spoke with dignity, and perhaps with some portion of that reserve which distinguished all the communications between the wealthy and high-born aunt and the salaried and dependent governess of her brother’s heiress. Still her manner was gentle, and the voice, like that of her pupil, soft and strikingly feminine.