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“Out over the Forth I look to the North, But what is the North and its Highlands to me ?”
I was not quite fourteen, and had never been beyond the Isle of Wight, therefore it may easily be imagined what were my bewildered and sorrowful feelings when I found myself, (after passing through the noisy crowd on the beach at landing,) at the coach-office of one of the bustling inns in the dirty town of Portsmouth.
I was hurried into the coach, and was off before I had finished my adieus and thanks to the kind old man who had accompanied me thus far, at his wife's desire.
I was now really launched out alone into the world, and this conviction rushing into my mind, together with all the vexations and sorrows I had lately undergone, I could restrain my feelings no longer, and forgetting that I was not alone, for there was an elderly gentleman and a young lady in the coach, I gave a vent to my tears, and cannot tell how long I should have indulged in my sorrow, had I not been roused by the soft voice of the young female, who seemed grieved at my distress, which she kindly endeavoured to soothe.
The gentleman (who was her father) was equally kind, and they soon drew from me the history of my short life, with its joys and sorrows.
Nothing could exceed the kindness and compassion of these two amiable persons, and few things I have regretted more in after life, than not having ascertained their name and place of abode.
During the whole time we were together (for they went to within ten miles of London) they endeavoured to amuse and interest me, so that my thoughts should not dwell on my desolate condition. They made me get out with them
when the coach stopped, and invited me to join them at dinner ; and when they finally left me I saw the gentleman give the coachman money, with strong injunctions to see me and my luggage safe into a hackney coach as soon as we reached town.
Not satisfied with this, the young lady, at parting, slipped a note into my hand, in which she told me that her father had taken the liberty of settling with the coachman for my fare, that I might not have any thing to puzzle me when I reached the great metropolis.
I felt, as may be supposed, very grateful for this uncalled-for act of fatherly attention from a perfect stranger, and was deeply grieved that I could not express it; but they were gone before I had read the note. · It was dark before we got into London, and when we reached Piccadilly, the glare of the lights, the noise of the carriages, and the bustle on the pavement, quite confounded me, and it was fortunate that my kind but unknown friend had secured a protector for me in the roughlooking but civil coachman. He put me and my trunks into a dingy dirty-looking parlour, with strict injunctions not to stir till he returned. In about half an hour he came back, when, bidding me follow him, he put me and my luggage into a hackney coach, and saw me safe off without accepting the trifle I offered, assuring me that he had been handsomely paid by the gentleman, and could not think of taking any thing more from such a friendless young creature.
I felt really sorry when the good man shut the door, and I found myself once more deserted. Only those who have been similarly situated can judge of my feelings.
Slowly and heavily the vehicle rolled on, through, as I then thought, endless streets swarming with people.
I felt quite bewildered and almost frightened, thinking that I should certainly be lost, and that my journey would never end.
At length the coach stopped in a street near - Square. In answer to the coachman's loud knock, a
footman appeared, who, upon my mentioning my name, admitted me and my luggage, and showing me into a small parlour, desired me to wait while he informed his lady of my arrival.
Here I sat trembling for some minutes, when the noise of children's voices on the stairs rather reassured me, and in a moment the door was opened, and a girl about twelve years of age peeped in, and soon after a boy appeared, looking over her shoulder with a grin on his face, who, pushing his sister into the middle of the room, pulled the door after him and disappeared. The girl then took to her heels, leaving the door wide open.
I could not help hoping that these ill-mannered children were not to be my pupils.
After about a quarter of an hour's suspense the footman re-appeared, desiring me to follow him to his mistress. I obeyed, and was shown upstairs into a drawing-room.
On the sofa were seated two ladies, one about twenty-eight years of age, of fashionable