The Australian Journal: A Weekly Record of Literature, Science …, Volume 13 (Google Books)

THE STRATAGEM.

Fautt? Lenton sat stitching at some delicate embroidery in a luxuriously furnished apartment. She was companion to old Mrs. Rook, and had every comfort, kind treatment, and a good salary. But the dull monotony of her daily life was irksome to the girl, who was bright and young and. fond of frolic. To embroider Mrs. Eook’s collars and kerchiefs; pet the poodle, and take him out to walk; feed the canary-bird, and clean his cage, and dress Mrs. Eook’s white hair—-these v? J Fanny Lenton’s duties. But she was treated rather like a daughter than one merely hired. She had nothing to complain of.

“I almost wish I had,” she sighed. “It would be less tedious to be ill used than to settle down in this way to spend my youth as a sort of genteel ladies’ maid and dio an old maid at last.”

“My grandson, Fanny. Henry, this is my friend and companion, Miss Lenton,” said a voice behind her.

And turning she saw her patroness leaning on the ‘arm of a very handsome young man. She arose and bowed. He also bowed low. Very littlo was said. But afterward, when the young man had strolled away to smoke his cigar on the piazza, Mrs. Book said:

“My grandson is to live with me henceforth. We need some protection in this lonely house. I tremble with dread of burglars every night.”

So it began. And life that had been so dull grew bright. A new step, a new face, a new voice drove away the monotony. There was music in the parlour in the long evenings. The three went together to places of amusement—friends dropped in. Fanny felt that life was very bright indeed to her, even before Henry Book actually became her professed lover.

But this happened very soon—a month from the day on which Fanny Lenton bewailed her dull fate over her embroidery in Mrs. Book’s boudoir.

He had said: “I love you;” and she wore his engagement ring. Where Mrs. Book’s eyes had been before, or of what she had been thinking, it is hard to guess; but on the first day when this emblematic jewel sparkled upon Fanny’s fore-finger she pounced down upon her like a hawk, and cried out:

“Who gave youthat ring, Miss Lenton F”

“Your grandson, Henry Book,” said Fanny.

“So you’ve been angling for him, eh ?” cried Mrs. Book. “Is this your gratitude P But I’ll not bear it; it must come to an end. Take that ring off your finger, miss. If Henry marries you I’ll disinherit him, and he’ll be a pauper.”

“I do not want your fortune, madam,” said Fanny. “I regret that you are displeased; but unless Henry gives me up, I will not abandon him.

Away flew the old lady to her grandson.

“Henry,” she cried, “youVe acted liko an idiot. You must break off this affair with a girl who has not a penny. I want you to marry young Miss Diamond, who is a great fortune; and if you disobey me—if you actually stick to your engagement with this girl—I’ll send for the lawyer and alter my will, leave everything to a hospital, and cut you off without a shilling. You hear me?”

“I hear-you, madam,” said Henry. “I regret you disapprove of the step I have taken, but you must do with your money as you will. I am not thinking of it, I assure you. I have hands and brains and can earn my own livelihood; unless indeed Fanny declines to share the fate of so poor a man.”

“I fancy she will,” said Mrs. Book; “I fancy she will. Advise her to do so. Love in a cottage—what is it Tom Hood says ?—love in a cottage really is, leaky roofs and a draught under the door, I believe. No, no, that’s not her idea, I’ll be bound. And, mind you, I shan’t relent; I’m adamant 1”

Henry Book at once wont in search of his fiancee. He found her in tears, in the little boudoir, where he had first met her.

“Oh, my dear,” she said, have I destroyed your prospects of wealth I I cannot bear the thought. You would reproach me in your heart; let us part.”

“Because you fear poverty V asked Henry.

“With you I would fear nothing,” said Fanny. “But it is too great a sacrifice.”

“What would wealth be without you, my darling?” cried Henry. “No. Grandmamma has always been good to me, until to-day. I love her, but let her keep her money ; let us keep each other.”

“You will never repent?” sobbed Fanny.

“Never !” said Henry, and sealed the promise with a kiss.

Together they went to the parlour, where old Mrs. Book sat in State, fanning herself. J

“Madam,” said Fanny, “Henry refuses to give me up. What can I do? I love him.”

“Grandmamma,” said Henry, “this is my betrothed wife. Would you have me sell her for a fortune? You yourself told me how fair she was, how good, how sweet. You were right in your description of her. Keep your money, but give us your blessing.”

“Ah, very fine?” sneered the old lady. “Well, take my blessing. That is quite a cheap present. Now I shall send for my lawyer. I shall leave my money to the hospital for inebriates, or a foundling protectory, or something, or I shall adopt your cousin Peter, sir. As for a companion, I’ll never have another. Now, go and be married, and keep house on the blessing. Peter shall marry Miss Diamond. Peter is a plain boy, but he’ll obey me, I am sure. You can pack, miss. So can you, sir!” and she turned her back upon them.

Fanny went up to her room and began to put her few belongings into her trunk.

Henry stuffed his into his portmanteau. In the hall they met.

“I shall go to my aunt’s,” said Fanny.

“I shall see you this evening,” said Henry. “You must set our wedding day then, my dear, and we’ll begin life’s battle together.”

“Hey?” cried the voioe of Mrs. Rook. “You defy me, do

you?”

She stood before them shaking her old head.

“I must marry Fanny ; we love each other,” said Henry.

“He’s a beggar, young woman,” said Mrs. Rook.

“Then I’ll help him beg,” said Fanny.

Suddenly Mrs. Book’s face changed. She burst into a laugh.

“Why you silly children!” she cried “Have I been so good an actress? Do you really think me so mercenary a wretch P I have only been trying you both; and indeed I should have disinherited you, Henry, if you could have broken faith with Fanny for my money’s sake. As for Fanny, how did I know she did not want your fortune and not your love, until I tried her? But you have been tested, and have proved to have hearts of pure gold. My home must be yours. My heart you already fill. I have found that there is a little romance left in this world, and I am glad of it.

Then she embraced them both, and her face was as happy as theirs, upon their wedding day.

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