Angelina, by Maria Edgeworth

Chapter 2.

Full of her hopes of finding “perfect felicity” in her retreat at Angelina Bower, exulting in the idea of the courage and magnanimity with which she had escaped from her “aristocratic persecutors,” our heroine pursued her journey to South Wales.

She had the misfortune — and it is a great misfortune to a young lady of her way of thinking — to meet with no difficulties or adventures, nothing interesting upon her journey. She arrived, with inglorious safety, at Cardiffe. The inn at Cardiffe was kept by a landlady of the name of Hoel. “Not high-born Hoel. Alas!” said Angelina to herself, when the name was screamed in her hearing by a waiter, as she walked into the inn. “Vocal no more to high-born Hoel’s harp, or soft Llewellynn’s lay!” A harper was sitting in the passage, and he tuned his harp to catch her attention as she passed. “A harp! — O play for me some plaintive air!” The harper followed her into a small parlour.

“How delightful!” said Miss Warwick, who, in common with other heroines, had the habit of talking to herself; or, to use more dignified terms, who had the habit of indulging in soliloquy:—“how delightful to taste at last the air of Wales. But ’tis a pity ’tis not North instead of South Wales, and Conway instead of Cardiffe Castle.”

The harper, after he had finished playing a melancholy air, exclaimed, “That was but a melancholy ditty, miss — we’ll try a merrier.” And he began —

“Of a noble race was Shenkin.”

“No more,” cried Angelina, stopping her ears; “no more, barbarous man! — you break the illusion.”

“Break the what?” said the harper to himself; “I thought, miss, that tune would surely please you; for it is a favourite one in these parts.”

“A favourite with Welsh squires, perhaps,” said our heroine; “but, unfortunately, I am not a Welsh squire, and have no taste for your ‘Bumper Squire Jones.’”

The man tuned his harp sullenly. “I’m sorry for it, miss,” said he: “more’s the pity, I can’t please you better!”

Angelina cast upon him a look of contempt. “He no way fills my idea of a bard! — an ancient and immortal bard! — He has no soul — fingers without a soul! — No ‘master’s hand, ‘or ‘prophet’s fire!’— No ‘deep sorrows!’— No ‘sable garb of woe!’— No loose beard, or hoary hair, ‘streaming like a meteor to the troubled air!’—‘No haggard eyes!’— Heigho!”—“It is time for me to be going,” said the harper, who began to think, by the young lady’s looks and manners, that she was not in her right understanding. “It is time for me to be going; the gentlemen above in the Dolphin will be ready for me.”

“A mere modern harper! He is not even blind,” Angelina said to herself, as he examined the shilling which she gave him. “Begone, for Heaven’s sake!” added she, aloud, as he left the room; — and “leave me, leave me to repose.” She threw up the sash, to taste the evening air; but scarcely had she begun to repeat a sonnet to her Araminta — scarcely had she repeated the first two lines —

“Hail, far-famed, fairest, unknown friend,

Our sacred silent sympathy of soul,”

when a little ragged Welsh boy, who was playing with his companions, in a field at the back of Cardifie Inn, espied her, gave the signal to his playfellows, and immediately they all came running up to the window at which Angelina was standing, and with one loud shrill chorus of “Gi’ me ha’penny! — Gi’ me ha’penny! — Gi’ me one ha’penny!” interrupted the sonnet, Angelina threw out some money to the boys, though she was provoked by their interruption: her donation was, in the true spirit of a heroine, much greater than the occasion required and the consequence was, that these urchins, by spreading the fame of her generosity through the town of Cardiffe, collected a Lilliputian mob of petitioners, who assailed Angelina with fresh vehemence. Not a moment’s peace, not a moment for poetry or reverie would they allow her: so that she was impatient for her chaise to come to the door. Her Araminta’s cottage was but six miles distant from Cardiffe; and to speak in due sentimental language, every moment that delayed her long-expected interview with her beloved unknown friend, appeared to her an age.

“And what would you be pleased to have for supper, ma’am?” said the landlady. “We have fine Tenby oysters, ma’am; and, if you’d like a Welsh rabbit —”

“Tenby oysters! — Welsh rabbits!” repeated Angelina, in a disdainful tone. “Oh, detain me not in this cruel manner! — I want no Tenby oysters, I want no Welsh rabbits; only let me be gone — I am all impatience to see a dear friend. Oh, if you have any feeling, any humanity, detain me not!” cried she, clasping her hands.

Miss Warwick had an ungovernable propensity to make a display of sensibility; a fine theatrical scene upon every occasion; a propensity which she had acquired from novel-reading. It was never more unluckily displayed than in the present instance; for her audience and spectators, consisting of the landlady, a waiter, and a Welsh boy, who just entered the room with a knife-tray in his hand, were all more inclined to burst into rude laughter than to join in gentle sympathy. The chaise did not come to the door one moment sooner than it would have done without this pathetic wringing of the hands. As soon as Angelina drove from the door, the landlady’s curiosity broke forth —

“Pray tell me, Hugh Humphries,” said Mrs. Hoel, turning to the postilion, who drove Angelina from Newport, “pray, now, does not this seem strange, that such a young lady as this should be travelling about in such wonderful haste? I believe, by her flighty airs, she is upon no good errand — and I would have her to know, at any rate, that she might have done better than to sneer, in that way, at Mrs. Hoel of Cardiffe, and her Tenby oysters, and her Welsh rabbit. Oh, I’ll make her repent her pehaviour to Mrs. Hoel, of Cardiffe. ‘Not high-born Hoel,’ forsooth! How does she know that, I should be glad to hear? The Hoels are as high born, I’ll venture to say, as my young miss herself, I’ve a notion! and would scorn, moreover, to have a runaway lady for a relation of theirs. Oh, she shall learn to repent her disrespects to Mrs. Hoel, of Cardiffe. I pelieve she shall soon meet herself in the public newspapers — her eyes, and her nose, and her hair, and her inches, and her description at full length she shall see — and her friends shall see it too — and maybe they shall thank, and maybe they shall reward handsomely Mrs. Hoel, of Cardiffe.”

Whilst the angry Welsh landlady was thus forming projects of revenge for the contempt with which she imagined that her high birth and her Tenby oysters had been treated, Angelina pursued her journey towards the cottage of her unknown friend, forming charming pictures, in her imagination, of the manner in which her amiable Araminta would start, and weep, and faint, perhaps with joy and surprise, at the sight of her Angelina. It was a fine moonlight night — an unlucky circumstance; for the by-road which led to Angelina Bower was so narrow and bad, that if the night had been dark, our heroine must infallibly have been overturned, and this overturn would have been a delightful incident in the history of her journey; but Fate ordered it otherwise. Miss Warwick had nothing to lament, but that her delicious reveries were interrupted, for several miles, by the Welsh postilion’s expostulations with his horses.

“Good Heavens!” exclaimed she, “cannot the man hold his tongue? His uncouth vociferations distract me! So fine a scene, so placid the moonlight — but there is always something that is not in perfect unison with one’s feelings.”

“Miss, if you please, you must light here, and walk for a matter of a quarter of a mile, for I can’t drive up to the house door, because there is no carriage-road down the lane; but if you be pleased, I’ll go on before you — my horses will stand quite quiet here — and I’ll knock the folks up for you, miss.”

“Folks! — Oh, don’t talk to me of knocking folks up,” cried Angelina, springing out of the carriage “stay with your horses, man, I beseech you. You shall be summoned when you are wanted — I choose to walk up to the cottage alone.”

“As you please, miss,” said the postilion; “only hur had better take care of the dogs.”

This last piece of sage counsel was lost upon our heroine; she heard it not — she was “rapt into future times.”

“By moonlight will be our first interview — just as I had pictured to myself — but can this be the cottage? — It does not look quite so romantic as I expected — but ’tis the dwelling of my Araminta — Happy, thrice happy moment! — Now for our secret signal — I am to sing the first, and my unknown friend the second part of the same air.”

Angelina then began to sing the following stanza —

“O waly waly up the bank,

And waly waly down the brae,

And waly waly yon burn side,

Where I and my love were wont to gae.”

She sung and paused, in expectation of hearing the second part from her amiable Araminta — but no voice was heard.

“All is hushed,” said Angelina —“ever tranquil be her slumbers! Yet I must waken her — her surprise and joy at seeing me thus will be so great! — by moonlight too!”

She knocked at the cottage window — still no answer.

“All silent as night!” said she —

“‘When not a breath disturbs the deep serene,

And not a cloud o’ercasts the solemn scene.’”

Angelina, as she repeated these lines, stood with her back to the cottage window: the window opened, and a Welsh servant girl put out her head; her night-cap, if cap it might be called which shape had none, was half off, her black hair streamed over her shoulders, and her face was the face of vulgar, superstitious amazement.

“Oh, ’tis our old ghost of Nelly Gwynn, all in white, walking and saying her prayers backwards — I heard ’em quite plain, as I hope to breathe,” said the terrified girl to herself; and, shutting the window with a trembling hand, she hastened to waken an old woman, who slept in the same room with her. — Angelina, whose patience was by this time exhausted, went to the door of the cottage, and shook it with all her force. — It rattled loud, and a shrill scream was heard from within.

“A scream!” cried Angelina; “Oh, my Araminta! — All is hushed again.”— Then raising her voice, she called as loudly as she could at the window —“My Araminta! my unknown friend! be not alarmed, ’tis your Angelina.”

The door opened slowly and softly, and a slip-shod beldam peeped out, leaning upon a stick; the head of Betty Williams appeared over the shoulder of this sibyl; Angelina was standing, in a pensive attitude, listening at the cottage window. At this instant the postilion, who was tired of waiting, came whistling up the lane; he carried a trunk on his back, and a bag in his hand. As soon as the old woman saw him, she held up her stick, exclaiming —

“A man! a man! — a ropper and murterer! — Cot suve us! and keep the door fast polted.”— They shut the door instantly.

“What is all this?” said Angelina, with dignified composure.

“A couple of fools, I take it, miss, who are afraid and in tred of roppers,” said the postilion; “put I’ll make ’em come out, I’ll be pound, plockheads.”— So saying, he went to the door of Angelina Bower, and thundered and kicked at it, speaking all the time very volubly in Welsh. In about a quarter of an hour he made them comprehend that Angelina was a young lady come to visit their mistress: then they came forth curtsying.

“My name’s Betty Williams,” said the girl, who was tying a clean cap under her chin. “Welcome to Llanwaetur, miss! — pe pleased to excuse our keeping hur waiting, and polting the toor, and taking hur for a ghost and a ropper — put we know who you are now — the young lady from London, that we have been told to expect.”

“Oh, then, I have been expected; all’s right — and my Araminta, where is she? where is she?”

“Welcome to Llanwaetur, welcome to Llanwaetur, and Cot pless hur pretty face,” said the old woman, who followed Betty Williams out of the cottage.

“Hur’s my grandmother, miss,” said Betty.

“Very likely — but let me see my Araminta,” cried Angelina: “cruel woman! where is she, I say?”

“Cot pless hur! — Cot pless hur pretty face,” repeated the old woman, curtsying.

“My grandmother’s as deaf as a post, miss — don’t mind her; she can’t tell Inglis well, put I can:— who would you pe pleased to have?”

“In plain English, then — the lady who lives in this cottage.”

“Our Miss Hodges?”

This odious name of Hodges provoked Angelina, who was so used to call her friend Araminta, that she had almost forgotten her real name.

“Oh, miss,” continued Betty Williams, “Miss Hodges has gone to Pristol for a few days.”

“Gone! how unlucky! my Araminta gone!”

“Put Miss Hodges will pe pack on Tuesday — Miss Hodges did not expect hur till Thursday — put her ped is very well aired — pe pleased to walk in, and light hur a candle, and get hur a nightcap.”

“Heigho! must I sleep again without seeing my Araminta! — Well, but I shall sleep in a cottage for the first time in my life —

“‘The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed.’”

At this moment, Angelina, forgetting to stoop, hit herself a violent blow as she was entering Angelina Bower — the roof of which, indeed, “was too low for so lofty a head.”— A headache came on, which kept her awake the greatest part of the night. In the morning she set about to explore the cottage; it was nothing like the species of elegant retirement, of which she had drawn such a charming picture in her imagination. It consisted of three small bedchambers, which were more like what she had been used to call closets; a parlour, the walls of which were, in many places, stained with damp; and a kitchen which smoked. The scanty, moth-eaten furniture of the rooms was very different from the luxury and elegance to which Angelina had been accustomed in the apartments of Lady Diana Chillingworth. Coarse and ill-dressed was the food which Betty Williams with great bustle and awkwardness served up to her guest; but Angelina was no epicure. The first dinner which she ate on wooden trenchers delighted her; the second, third, fourth, and fifth, appeared less and less delectable; so that by the time she had boarded one week at her cottage, she was completely convinced that

“A scrip with herbs and fruit supplied,

And water from the spring,”

though delightful to Goldsmith’s Hermit, are not quite so satisfactory in actual practice as in poetic theory; at least to a young lady who had been habituated to all the luxuries of fashionable life. It was in vain that our heroine repeated

“Man wants but little here below:”

She found that even the want of double refined sugar, of green tea, and Mocha coffee, was sensibly felt. Hour after hour, and day after day, passed with Angelina, in anxious expectation of her Araminta’s return home. Her time hung heavy upon her hands, for she had no companion with whom she could converse; and one odd volume of Rousseau’s Eloise, and a few well-thumbed German plays, were the only books which she could find in the house. There was, according to Betty Williams’s report, “a vast sight of books in a press, along with some table-cloths,” but Miss Hodges had the key of this press in her pocket. Deprived of the pleasures both of reading and conversation, Angelina endeavoured to amuse herself by contemplating the beauties of nature. There were some wild, solitary walks in the neighbourhood of Angelina Bower; but though our heroine was delighted with these, she wanted, in her rambles, some kindred soul, to whom she might exclaim —“How charming is solitude21!”— The day after her arrival in Wales, she wrote a long letter to Araminta, which Betty Williams undertook to send by a careful lad, a particular friend of her own, who would deliver it, without fail, into Miss Hodges’s own hands, and who would engage to bring an answer by three o’clock the next day. The careful lad did not return till four days afterward, and he then could give no account of his mission, except that he had left the letter at Bristol, with a particular friend of his own, who would deliver it, without fail, into Miss Hodges’s own hands, if he could meet with her. The post seems to be the last expedient which a heroine ever thinks of for the conveyance of her letters; so that, if we were to judge from the annals of romance, we should infallibly conclude there was no such thing as a post-office in England. On the sixth day of her abode at this comfortless cottage, the possibility of sending a letter to her friend by the post occurred to Angelina, and she actually discovered that there was a post-office at Cardiffe. Before she could receive an answer to this epistle, a circumstance happened, which made her determine to abandon her present retreat. One evening she rambled out to a considerable distance from the cottage, and it was long after sunset ere she recollected that it would be necessary to return homewards before it grew dark. She mistook her way at last, and following a sheep-path, down the steep side of a mountain, she came to a point, at which she, apparently, could neither advance nor recede. A stout Welsh farmer who was counting his sheep in a field, at the top of the mountain, happened to look down its steep side in search of one of his flock that was missing: the farmer saw something white at a distance below him, but there was a mist — it was dusk in the evening — and whether it were a woman, or a sheep, he could not he certain. In the hope that Angelina was his lost sheep, he went to her assistance, and though, upon a nearer view, he was disappointed, in finding that she was a woman, yet he had the humanity to hold out his stick to her, and he helped her up by it, with some difficulty. One of her slippers fell off as she scrambled up the hill — there was no recovering it; her other slipper, which was of the thinnest kid leather, was cut through by the stones; her silk stockings were soon stained with the blood of her tender feet; and it was with real gratitude that she accepted the farmer’s offer, to let her pass the night at his farmhouse, which was within view. Angelina Bower was, according to his computation, about four miles distant, as well, he said, as he could judge of the place she meant by her description: she had unluckily forgotten that the common name of it was Llanwaetur. At the farmer’s house, she was, at first, hospitably received, by a tight-looking woman; but she had not been many minutes seated, before she found herself the object of much curiosity and suspicion. In one corner of the room, at a small round table, with a jug of ale before him, sat a man, who looked like the picture of a Welsh squire: a candle had just been lighted for his worship, for he was a magistrate, and a great man, in those parts, for he could read the newspaper, and his company was, therefore, always welcome to the farmer, who loved to hear the news, and the reader was paid for his trouble with good ale, which he loved even better than literature.

21 Voltaire.]

“What news, Mr. Evans?” said the farmer.

“What news?” repeated Mr. Evans, looking up from his paper, with a sarcastic smile. “Why, news that might not be altogether so agreeable to the whole of this good company; so ’tis best to keep it to ourselves.”

“Every thing’s agreeable to me, I’m sure,” said the farmer —“every thing’s agreeable to me in the way of news.”

“And to me, not excepting politics, which you gentlemen always think so polite,” said the farmer’s wife, “to keep to yourselves; but, you recollect, I was used to politics when I lived with my uncle at Cardiffe; not having, though a farmer’s wife, always lived in the country, as you see, ma’am — nor being quite illiterate. — Well, Mr. Evans, let us have it. What news of the fleets?”

Mr. Evans made no reply, but pointed out a passage in the newspaper to the farmer, who leant over his shoulder, in vain endeavouring to spell and put it together: his smart wife, whose curiosity was at least equal to her husband’s, ran immediately to peep at the wonderful paragraph, and she read aloud the beginning of an advertisement:—

“Suspected to have strayed, or eloped, from her friends or relations, a young lady, seemingly not more than sixteen years of age, dressed in white, with a straw hat: blue eyes, light hair.”

Angelina coloured so deeply whilst this was reading, and the description so exactly suited with her appearance, that the farmer’s wife stopped short; the farmer fixed his eyes upon her; and Mr. Evans cleared his throat several times with much significance. — A general silence ensued; at last the three heads nodded to one another across the round table; the farmer whistled and walked out of the room; his wife fidgeted at a buffet, in which she began to arrange some cups and saucers; and, after a few minutes, she followed her husband. Angelina took up the newspaper, to read the remainder of the advertisement. She could not doubt that it was meant for her, when she saw that it was dated the very day of her arrival at the inn at Cardiffe, and signed by the landlady of the inn, Mrs. Hoel. Mr. Evans swallowed the remainder of his ale, and then addressed Angelina in these words:—

“Young lady, it is plain to see you know when the cap fits: now, if you’ll take my advice, you’ll not make the match you have in your eye; for, though a lord’s son, he is a great gambler. I dined with one that has dined with him not long ago. My son, who has a living near Bristol, knows a great deal — more about you than you’d think; and ’tis my advice to you, which I wouldn’t be at the trouble of giving, if you were not as pretty as you are, to go back to your relations; for he’ll never marry you, and marriage to be sure is your object. I have no more to say, but only this — I shall think it my duty, as a magistrate, to let your friends know as soon as possible where you are, coming under my cognizance as you do; for a vagabond, in the eye of the law, is a person —”

Angelina had not patience to listen to any more of this speech; she interrupted Mr. Evans with a look of indignation, assured him that he was perfectly unintelligible to her, and walked out of the room with great dignity. Her dignity made no impression upon the farmer or his wife, who now repented having offered her a night’s lodging in their house: in the morning they were as eager to get rid of her as she was impatient to depart. Mr. Evans insisted upon seeing her safe home, evidently for the purpose of discovering precisely where she lived. Angelina saw that she could no longer remain undisturbed in her retreat, and determined to set out immediately in quest of her unknown friend at Bristol. — Betty Williams, who had a strong desire to have a jaunt to Bristol, a town which she had never seen but once in her life, offered to attend Miss Warwick, assuring her that she perfectly well knew the house where Miss Hodges always lodged. Her offer was accepted; and what adventures our heroine met with in Bristol, and what difficulties she encountered before she discovered her Araminta, will be seen in the next chapter.

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Last updated Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 13:53