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The Beautiful Wretch; The Pupil of Aurelius; and The Four Macnicols   By: (1841-1898)

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I. Singing Sal II. In Brunswick Terrace III. A First Ball IV. The Same V. The Same VI. First Impressions VII. Auf Der Reise VIII. Snow and Mist and Sunlight IX. The Serenata X. Jinny XI. Transformation XII. New Possibilities XIII. Ormuzd and Ahriman XIV. At Home XV. A Message XVI. Reveries XVII. The Accepted Suitor XVIII. A White World XIX. Breaking Down XX. The Shadow XXI. Danger Ahead XXII. A Catastrophe XXIII. At Last XXIV. 'Bring Home the Bride so Fair!'




On a certain golden afternoon in August, when the sea was as still and radiant as the vaulted blue overhead, and when the earth was lying so hushed and silent that you would have thought it was listening for the chirp of the small birds among the gorse, a young girl of about seventeen or so was walking over the downs that undulate, wave on wave, from Newhaven all along the coast to Brighton. This young lady was tall for her age; slim of form; and she had a graceful carriage; her face was fair and markedly freckled; her nose was piquant rather than classical; her hair, which was of a ruddy gold hue, was rebellious, and strayed about her ears and neck in accidental wisps and rings: her grayish or gray blue eyes were reserved and thoughtful rather than shrewd and observant. No, she was not beautiful; but she had a face that attracted interest; and though her look was timid and retiring, nevertheless her eyes could, on occasion, light up with a sudden humour that was inclined to be sarcastic. So busy, indeed, was she generally, on these solitary wanderings of hers, with her own thoughts and fancies, that sometimes she laughed to herself a low, quiet little laugh that none but herself could hear.

This was Miss Anne Beresford, who was called by her sisters Nan. But it was an old friend of the family, and one of England's most famous sailors, who, at a very early period of her career, had bestowed on her the sobriquet of the Beautiful Wretch; and that partly because she was a pretty and winning child, and partly because she was in the habit of saying surprisingly irreverent things. Now, all children say irreverent things, simply because they read the highest mysteries by the light of their own small experiences; but Nan Beresford's guesses at the supernatural were more than usually audacious. When, for example, she arrived at the conclusion that fairies were never seen in the daytime for the reason that God had had them all 'fwied for his bweakfast,' it was clear that she was bringing a quite independent mind to bear on the phenomena of the universe around her. And then, of course, all sorts of sayings that she never uttered or thought of were attributed to her. Whenever a story was particularly wicked, it was sure to be put down to Nan Beresford. The old Admiral, who had at the outset given her that nickname, spent a great deal of time that might have been profitably employed otherwise in deliberately inventing impieties, each of which was bruited about in certain circles as 'Nan's last;' and if you happened to meet him anywhere between the United Service Club and Spring Gardens, completely self absorbed, his face brimming over with laughter, you might be sure he was just putting on a finishing touch. Rather than abandon one of these self invented stories of his, I think he would have parted with any half dozen of his crosses and medals; but indeed this last would not have been difficult, for he had served in every part of the world where a ship would float, and honours and dignities had been showered upon him.

Naturally, there came a time when these stories had to cease; but Nan Beresford preserved her independent way of looking at things, and she was clearly the clever one of the family... Continue reading book >>

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