OR THE KIDNAPPED CHILD
In a beautiful villa on the banks of the Medway resided a gentleman whose name was Darnley, who had, during the early part of life, filled a post of some importance about the Court, and even in its decline preserved that elegance of manners which so peculiarly marks a finished gentleman.
The loss of a beloved wife had given a pensive cast to his features, and a seriousness to his deportment, which many people imagined proceeded from haughtiness of disposition, yet nothing could be further from Mr. Darnley’s character, for he was affable, gentle, benevolent, and humane.
His family consisted of an only sister, who, like himself, had lost the object of her tenderest affection, but who, in dividing her attention between her brother and his amiable children, endeavored to forget her own misfortunes.
Mr. Darnley’s fortune was sufficiently great to enable him to place his daughters in the first school in London, but he preferred having them under his immediate instruction, and as Mrs. Collier offered to assist him in their education he resolved for some years not to engage a governess, as Nurse Chapman was one of those worthy creatures to whose care he could securely trust them.
An old friend of Mr. Darnley’s had recently bought a house at Rochester, and that gentleman and his sister were invited to pass a few days there, and as Emily grew rather too big for the nurse’s management Mrs. Collier resolved to make her of the party, leaving Sophia, Amanda, and Eliza under that good woman’s protection.
It was Mr. Darnley’s wish that the young folks should rise early and take a long walk every morning before breakfast, but they were strictly ordered never to go beyond their own grounds unless their aunt or father accompanied them. This order they had frequently endeavored to persuade Nurse Chapman to disregard, but, faithful to the trust reposed in her, she always resisted their urgent entreaties.
The morning after Mr. Darnley went to Rochester the poor woman found herself thoroughly indisposed, and wholly incapable of rising at the accustomed hour. The children, however, were dressed for walking, and the nurse-maid charged not to go beyond the shrubbery, and they all sallied out in high good humor.
“Now, Susan,” said Sophia, as soon as they entered the garden, “this is the only opportunity you may ever have of obliging us. Do let us walk to the village, and then you know you can see your father and mother.”
“La, missy!” replied the girl, “why, you know ’tis as much as my place is worth if Nurse Chapman should find out.”
“Find it out indeed,” said Amanda; “how do you think she is to find it out? Come, do let us go, there’s a dear, good creature.”
“Yes, dear, dear Susan, do let us go,” said Eliza, skipping on before them, “and I’ll show you the way, for I walked there last summer with father.”