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Title: The Old Nurse's Story and other tales
Author: Elizabeth Gaskell
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0605581.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

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The Old Nurse's Story and other tales
Elizabeth Gaskell



Table of Contents

The Old Nurse's Story
Clopton House
The Crooked Branch
Crowley Castle
Curious, If True
Disappearances
Two Fragments of Ghost Stories
The Heart of John Middleton
Morton Hall
The Well of Pen-Morfa
The Shah's English Gardener




THE OLD NURSE'S STORY

YOU know, my dears, that your mother was an orphan, and an only child;
and I dare say you have heard that your grandfather was a clergyman up
in Westmoreland, where I come from. I was just a girl in the village
school, when, one day, your grandmother came in to ask the mistress if
there was any scholar there who would do for a nurse-maid; and mighty
proud I was, I can tell ye, when the mistress called me up, and spoke
to my being a good girl at my needle, and a steady, honest girl, and
one whose parents were very respectable, though they might be poor. I
thought I should like nothing better than to serve the pretty young
lady, who was blushing as deep as I was, as she spoke of the coming
baby, and what I should have to do with it. However, I see you don't
care so much for this part of my story, as for what you think is to
come, so I'll tell you at once. I was engaged and settled at the
parsonage before Miss Rosamond (that was the baby, who is now your
mother) was born. To be sure, I had little enough to do with her when
she came, for she was never out of her mother's arms, and slept by her
all night long; and proud enough was I sometimes when missis trusted
her to me. There never was such a baby before or since, though you've
all of you been fine enough in your turns; but for sweet, winning
ways, you've none of you come up to your mother. She took after her
mother, who was a real lady born; a Miss Furnivall, a grand-daughter
of Lord Furnivall's, in Northumberland. I believe she had neither
brother nor sister, and had been brought up in my lord's family till
she had married your grandfather, who was just a curate, son to a
shopkeeper in Carlisle--but a clever, fine gentleman as ever was--and
one who was a right-down hard worker in his parish, which was very
wide, and scattered all abroad over the Westmoreland Fells. When your
mother, little Miss Rosamond, was about four or five years old, both
her parents died in a fortnight--one after the other. Ah! that was a
sad time. My pretty young mistress and me was looking for another
baby, when my master came home from one of his long rides, wet and
tired, and took the fever he died of; and then she never held up her
head again, but just lived to see her dead baby, and have it laid on
her breast, before she sighed away her life. My mistress had asked me,
on her death-bed, never to leave Miss Rosamond; but if she had never
spoken a word, I would have gone with the little child to the end of
the world.

The next thing, and before we had well stilled our sobs, the executors
and guardians came to settle the affairs. They were my poor young
mistress's own cousin, Lord Furnivall, and Mr. Esthwaite, my master's
brother, a shopkeeper in Manchester; not so well-to-do then as he was
afterwards, and with a large family rising about him. Well! I don't
know if it were their settling, or because of a letter my mistress
wrote on her death-bed to her cousin, my lord; but somehow it was
settled that Miss Rosamond and me were to go to Furnivall Manor House,
in Northumberland; and my lord spoke as if it had been her mother's
wish that she should live with his family, and as if he had no
objections, for that one or two more or less could make no difference
in so grand a household. So, though that was not the way in which I
should have wished the coming of my bright and pretty pet to have been
looked at--who was like a sunbeam in any family, be it never so
grand--I was well pleased that all the folks in the Dale should stare
and admire, when they heard I was going to be young lady's maid at my
Lord Furnivall's at Furnivall Manor.

But I made a mistake in thinking we were to go and live where my lord
did. It turned out that the family had left Furnivall Manor House
fifty years or more. I could not hear that my poor young mistress had
ever been there, though she had been brought up in the family; and I
was sorry for that, for I should have liked Miss Rosamond's youth to
have passed where her mother's had been.

My lord's gentleman, from whom I asked as many questions as I durst,
said that the Manor House was at the foot of the Cumberland Fells, and
a very grand place; that an old Miss Furnivall, a great-aunt of my
lord's, lived there, with only a few servants; but that it was a very
healthy place, and my lord had thought that it would suit Miss
Rosamond very well for a few years, and that her being there might
perhaps amuse his old aunt.

I was bidden by my lord to have Miss Rosamond's things ready by a
certain day. He was a stern, proud man, as they say all the Lords
Furnivall were; and he never spoke a word more than was necessary.
Folk did say he had loved my young mistress; but that, because she
knew that his father would object, she would never listen to him, and
married Mr. Esthwaite; but I don't know. He never married, at any
rate. But he never took much notice of Miss Rosamond; which I thought
he might have done if he had cared for her dead mother. He sent his
gentleman with us to the Manor House, telling him to join him at
Newcastle that same evening; so there was no great length of time for
him to make us known to all the strangers before he, too, shook us
off; and we were left, two lonely young things (I was not eighteen) in
the great old Manor House. It seems like yesterday that we drove
there. We had left our own dear parsonage very early, and we had both
cried as if our hearts would break, though we were travelling in my
lord's carriage, which I thought so much of once. And now it was long
past noon on a September day, and we stopped to change horses for the
last time at a little smoky town, all full of colliers and miners.
Miss Rosamond had fallen asleep, but Mr. Henry told me to waken her,
that she might see the park and the Manor House as we drove up. I
thought it rather a pity; but I did what he bade me, for fear he
should complain of me to my lord. We had left all signs of a town, or
even a village, and were then inside the gates of a large wild park--
not like the parks here in the south, but with rocks, and the noise of
running water, and gnarled thorn-trees, and old oaks, all white and
peeled with age.

The road went up about two miles, and then we saw a great and stately
house, with many trees close around it, so close that in some places
their branches dragged against the walls when the wind blew, and some
hung broken down; for no one seemed to take much charge of the
place;--to lop the wood, or to keep the moss-covered carriage-way in
order. Only in front of the house all was clear. The great oval drive
was without a weed; and neither tree nor creeper was allowed to grow
over the long, many-windowed front; at both sides of which a wing
projected, which were each the ends of other side fronts; for the
house, although it was so desolate, was even grander than I expected.
Behind it rose the Fells, which seemed unenclosed and bare enough; and
on the left hand of the house, as you stood facing it, was a little,
old-fashioned flower-garden, as I found out afterwards. A door opened
out upon it from the west front; it had been scooped out of the thick,
dark wood for some old Lady Furnivall; but the branches of the great
forest-trees had grown and overshadowed it again, and there were very
few flowers that would live there at that time.

When we drove up to the great front entrance, and went into the hall,
I thought we should be lost--it was so large, and vast, and grand.
There was a chandelier all of bronze, hung down from the middle of the
ceiling; and I had never seen one before, and looked at it all in
amaze. Then, at one end of the hall, was a great fireplace, as large
as the sides of the houses in my country, with massy andirons and dogs
to hold the wood; and by it were heavy, old-fashioned sofas. At the
opposite end of the hall, to the left as you went in--on the western
side--was an organ built into the wall, and so large that it filled up
the best part of that end. Beyond it, on the same side, was a door;
and opposite, on each side of the fireplace, were also doors leading
to the east front; but those I never went through as long as I stayed
in the house, so I can't tell you what lay beyond.

The afternoon was closing in, and the hall, which had no fire lighted
in it, looked dark and gloomy; but we did not stay there a moment. The
old servant, who had opened the door for us, bowed to Mr. Henry, and
took us in through the door at the further side of the great organ,
and led us through several smaller halls and passages into the west
drawing-room, where he said that Miss Furnivall was sitting. Poor
little Miss Rosamond held very tight to me, as if she were scared and
lost in that great place; and as for myself, I was not much better.
The west drawing-room was very cheerful-looking, with a warm fire in
it, and plenty of good, comfortable furniture about. Miss Furnivall
was an old lady not far from eighty, I should think, but I do not
know. She was thin and tall, and had a face as full of fine wrinkles
as if they had been drawn all over it with a needle's point. Her eyes
were very watchful, to make up, I suppose, for her being so deaf as to
be obliged to use a trumpet. Sitting with her, working at the same
great piece of tapestry, was Mrs. Stark, her maid and companion, and
almost as old as she was. She had lived with Miss Furnivall ever since
they both were young, and now she seemed more like a friend than a
servant; she looked so cold, and grey, and stony, as if she had never
loved or cared for any one; and I don't suppose she did care for any
one, except her mistress; and, owing to the great deafness of the
latter, Mrs. Stark treated her very much as if she were a child. Mr.
Henry gave some message from my lord, and then he bowed good-bye to us
all--taking no notice of my sweet little Miss Rosamond's outstretched
hand--and left us standing there, being looked at by the two old
ladies through their spectacles.

I was right glad when they rung for the old footman who had shown us
in at first, and told him to take us to our rooms. So we went out of
that great drawing-room, and into another sitting-room, and out of
that, and then up a great flight of stairs, and along a broad
gallery--which was something like a library, having books all down one
side, and windows and writing-tables all down the other--till we came
to our rooms, which I was not sorry to hear were just over the
kitchens; for I began to think I should be lost in that wilderness of
a house. There was an old nursery, that had been used for all the
little lords and ladies long ago, with a pleasant fire burning in the
grate, and the kettle boiling on the hob, and tea-things spread out on
the table; and out of that room was the night-nursery, with a little
crib for Miss Rosamond close to my bed. And old James called up
Dorothy, his wife, to bid us welcome; and both he and she were so
hospitable and kind, that by-and-by Miss Rosamond and me felt quite at
home; and by the time tea was over, she was sitting on Dorothy's knee,
and chattering away as fast as her little tongue could go. I soon
found out that Dorothy was from Westmoreland, and that bound her and
me together, as it were; and I would never wish to meet with kinder
people than were old James and his wife. James had lived pretty nearly
all his life in my lord's family, and thought there was no one so
grand as they. He even looked down a little on his wife; because, till
he had married her, she had never lived in any but a farmer's
household. But he was very fond of her, as well he might be. They had
one servant under them, to do all the rough work. Agnes they called
her; and she and me, and James and Dorothy, with Miss Furnivall and
Mrs. Stark, made up the family; always remembering my sweet little
Miss Rosamond! I used to wonder what they had done before she came,
they thought so much of her now. Kitchen and drawing-room, it was all
the same. The hard, sad Miss Furnivall, and the cold Mrs. Stark,
looked pleased when she came fluttering in like a bird, playing and
pranking hither and thither, with a continual murmur, and pretty
prattle of gladness. I am sure, they were sorry many a time when she
flitted away into the kitchen, though they were too proud to ask her
to stay with them, and were a little surprised at her taste; though to
be sure, as Mrs. Stark said, it was not to be wondered at, remembering
what stock her father had come of. The great, old rambling house was a
famous place for little Miss Rosamond. She made expeditions all over
it, with me at her heels: all, except the east wing, which was never
opened, and whither we never thought of going. But in the western and
northern part was many a pleasant room; full of things that were
curiosities to us, though they might not have been to people who had
seen more. The windows were darkened by the sweeping boughs of the
trees, and the ivy which had overgrown them; but, in the green gloom,
we could manage to see old china jars and carved ivory boxes, and
great heavy books, and, above all, the old pictures!

Once, I remember, my darling would have Dorothy go with us to tell us
who they all were; for they were all portraits of some of my lord's
family, though Dorothy could not tell us the names of every one. We
had gone through most of the rooms, when we came to the old state
drawing-room over the hall, and there was a picture of Miss Furnivall;
or, as she was called in those days, Miss Grace, for she was the
younger sister. Such a beauty she must have been! but with such a set,
proud look, and such scorn looking out of her handsome eyes, with her
eyebrows just a little raised, as if she wondered how any one could
have the impertinence to look at her, and her lip curled at us, as we
stood there gazing. She had a dress on, the like of which I had never
seen before, but it was all the fashion when she was young: a hat of
some soft white stuff like beaver, pulled a little over her brows, and
a beautiful plume of feathers sweeping round it on one side; and her
gown of blue satin was open in front to a quilted white stomacher.

"Well, to be sure!" said I, when I had gazed my fill. "Flesh is grass,
they do say; but who would have thought that Miss Furnivall had been
such an out-and-out beauty, to see her now?"

"Yes," said Dorothy. "Folks change sadly. But if what my master's
father used to say was true, Miss Furnivall, the elder sister, was
handsomer than Miss Grace. Her picture is here somewhere; but, if I
show it you, you must never let on, even to James, that you have seen
it Can the little lady hold her tongue, think you?" asked she.

I was not so sure, for she was such a little sweet, bold, open-spoken
child, so I set her to hide herself; and then I helped Dorothy to turn
a great picture, that leaned with its face towards the wall, and was
not hung up as the others were. To be sure, it beat Miss Grace for
beauty; and I think, for scornful pride, too, though in that matter it
might be hard to choose. I could have looked at it an hour but Dorothy
seemed half frightened at having shown it to me, and hurried it back
again, and bade me run and find Miss Rosamond, for that there were
some ugly places about the house, where she should like ill for the
child to go. I was a brave, high-spirited girl, and thought little of
what the old woman said, for I liked hide-and-seek as well as any
child in the parish; so off I ran to find my little one.

As winter drew on, and the days grew shorter, I was sometimes almost
certain that I heard a noise as if some one was playing on the great
organ in the hall. I did not hear it every evening; but, certainly, I
did very often, usually when I was sitting with Miss Rosamond, after I
had put her to bed, and keeping quite still and silent in the bedroom.
Then I used to hear it booming and swelling away in the distance. The
first night, when I went down to my supper, I asked Dorothy who had
been playing music, and James said very shortly that I was a gowk to
take the wind soughing among the trees for music; but I saw Dorothy
look at him very fearfully, and Bessy, the kitchen-maid, said
something beneath her breath, and went quite white. I saw they did not
like my question, so I held my peace till I was with Dorothy alone,
when I knew I could get a good deal out of her. So, the next day, I
watched my time, and I coaxed and asked her who it was that played the
organ; for I knew that it was the organ and not the wind well enough,
for all I had kept silence before James. But Dorothy had had her
lesson, I'll warrant, and never a word could I get from her. So then I
tried Bessy, though I had always held my head rather above her, as I
was evened to James and Dorothy, and she was little better than their
servant So she said I must never, never tell; and if ever told, I was
never to say she had told me; but it was a very strange noise, and she
had heard it many a time, but most of all on winter nights, and before
storms; and folks did say it was the old lord playing on the great
organ in the hall, just as he used to do when he was alive; but who
the old lord was, or why he played, and why he played on stormy winter
evenings in particular, she either could not or would not tell me.
Well! I told you I had a brave heart; and I thought it was rather
pleasant to have that grand music rolling about the house, let who
would be the player; for now it rose above the great gusts of wind,
and wailed and triumphed just like a living creature, and then it fell
to a softness most complete, only it was always music, and tunes, so
it was nonsense to call it the wind. I thought at first, that it might
be Miss Furnivall who played, unknown to Bessy; but one day, when I
was in the hall by myself, I opened the organ and peeped all about it
and around it, as I had done to the organ in Crosthwaite Church once
before, and I saw it was all broken and destroyed inside, though it
looked so brave and fine; and then, though it was noon-day, my flesh
began to creep a little, and I shut it up, and run away pretty quickly
to my own bright nursery; and I did not like hearing the music for
some time after that, any more than James and Dorothy did. All this
time Miss Rosamond was making herself more and more beloved. The old
ladies liked her to dine with them at their early dinner James stood
behind Miss Furnivall's chair, and I behind Miss Rosamond's all in
state; and, after dinner, she would play about in a corner of the
great drawing-room as still as any mouse, while Miss Furnivall slept,
and I had my dinner in the kitchen. But she was glad enough to come to
me in the nursery afterwards; for, as she said Miss Furnivall was so
sad, and Mrs. Stark so dull; but she and were merry enough; and, by-
and-by, I got not to care for that weird rolling music, which did one
no harm, if we did not know where it came from.

That winter was very cold. In the middle of October the frosts began,
and lasted many, many weeks. I remember one day, at dinner, Miss
Furnivall lifted up her sad, heavy eyes, and said to Mrs. Stark, "I am
afraid we shall have a terrible winter," in a strange kind of meaning
way But Mrs. Stark pretended not to hear, and talked very loud of
something else. My little lady and I did not care for the frost; not
we! As long as it was dry, we climbed up the steep brows behind the
house, and went up on the Fells which were bleak and bare enough, and
there we ran races in the fresh, sharp air; and once we came down by a
new path, that took us past the two old gnarled holly-trees, which
grew about half-way down by the east side of the house. But the days
grew shorter and shorter, and the old lord, if it was he, played away,
more and more stormily and sadly, on the great organ. One Sunday
afternoon--it must have been towards the end of November--I asked
Dorothy to take charge of little missy when she came out of the
drawing-room, after Miss Furnivall had had her nap; for it was too
cold to take her with me to church, and yet I wanted to go, And
Dorothy was glad enough to promise and was so fond of the child, that
all seemed well; and Bessy and I set off very briskly, though the sky
hung heavy and black over the white earth, as if the night had never
fully gone away, and the air, though still, was very biting.

"We shall have a fall of snow," said Bessy to me. And sure enough,
even while we were in church, it came down thick, in great large
flakes--so thick, it almost darkened the windows. It had stopped
snowing before we came out, but it lay soft, thick, and deep beneath
our feet, as we tramped home. Before we got to the hall, the moon
rose, and I think it was lighter then--what with the moon, and what
with the white dazzling snow--than it had been when we went to church,
between two and three o'clock. I have not told you that Miss Furnivall
and Mrs. Stark never went to church; they used to read the prayers
together, in their quiet, gloomy way; they seemed to feel the Sunday
very long without their tapestry-work to be busy at. So when I went to
Dorothy in the kitchen, to fetch Miss Rosamond and take her upstairs
with me, I did not much wonder when the old woman told me that the
ladies had kept the child with them, and that she had never come to
the kitchen, as I had bidden her, when she was tired of behaving
pretty in the drawing-room. So I took off my things and went to find
her, and bring her to her supper in the nursery. But when I went into
the best drawing-room, there sat the two old ladies, very still and
quiet, dropping out a word now and then, but looking as if nothing so
bright and merry as Miss Rosamond had ever been near them. Still I
thought she might be hiding from me; it was one of her pretty ways,--
and that she had persuaded them to look as if they knew nothing about
her; so I went softly peeping under this sofa and behind that chair,
making believe I was sadly frightened at not finding her.

"What's the matter, Hester?" said Mrs. Stark sharply. I don't know if
Miss Furnivall had seen me for, as I told you, she was very deaf, and
she sat quite still, idly staring into the fire, with her hopeless
face. "I'm only looking for my little Rosy Posy," replied I, still
thinking that the child was there, and near me, though I could not see
her.

"Miss Rosamond is not here," said Mrs. Stark. "She went away, more
than an hour ago, to find Dorothy." And she, too, turned and went on
looking into the fire.

My heart sank at this, and I began to wish I had never left my
darling. I went back to Dorothy and told her. James was gone out for
the day, but she, and me, and Bessy took lights, and went up into the
nursery first; and then we roamed over the great, large house, calling
and entreating Miss Rosamond to come out of her hiding-place, and not
frighten us to death in that way. But there was no answer; no sound.

"Oh!" said I, at last, "can she have got into the east wing and hidden
there?"

But Dorothy said it was not possible, for that she herself had never
been in there; that the doors were always locked, and my lord's
steward had the keys, she believed; at any rate, neither she nor James
had ever seen them: so I said I would go back, and see if, after all,
she was not hidden in the drawing-room, unknown to the old ladies; and
if I found her there, I said, I would whip her well for the fright she
had given me; but I never meant to do it. Well, I went back to the
west drawing-room, and I told Mrs. Stark we could not find her
anywhere, and asked for leave to look all about the furniture there,
for I thought now that she might have fallen asleep in some warm,
hidden corner; but no! we looked--Miss Furnivall got up and looked,
trembling all over--and she was nowhere there; then we set off again,
every one in the house, and looked in all the places we had searched
before, but we could not find her. Miss Furnivall shivered and shook
so much, that Mrs. Stark took her back into the warm drawing-room; but
not before they had made me promise to bring her to them when she was
found. Well-a-day! I began to think she never would be found, when I
bethought me to look into the great front court, all covered with
snow. I was upstairs when I looked out; but, it was such clear
moonlight, I could see, quite plain, two little footprints, which
might be traced from the hall-door and round the corner of the east
wing. I don't know how I got down, but I tugged open the great stiff
hall-door, and, throwing the skirt of my gown over my head for a
cloak, I ran out. I turned the east corner, and there a black shadow
fell on the snow but when I came again into the moonlight, there were
the little footmarks going up--up to the Fells. It was bitter cold; so
cold, that the air almost took the skin off my face as I ran; but I
ran on, crying to think how my poor little darling must be perished
and frightened. I was within sight of the holly-trees, when I saw a
shepherd coming down the hill, bearing something in his arms wrapped
in his maud. He shouted to me, and asked me if I had lost a bairn;
and, when I could not speak for crying, he bore towards me, and I saw
my wee bairnie, lying still, and white, and stiff in his arms, as if
she had been dead. He told me he had been up the Fells to gather in
his sheep, before the deep cold of night came on, and that under the
holly-trees (black marks on the hill-side, where no other bush was for
miles around) he had found my little lady--my lamb--my queen--my
darling--stiff and cold in the terrible sleep which is frost-begotten.
Oh! the joy and the tears of having her in my arms once again I for I
would not let him carry her; but took her, maud and all, into my own
arms, and held her near my own warm neck and heart, and felt the life
stealing slowly back again into her little gentle limbs. But she was
still insensible when we reached the hall, and I had no breath for
speech. We went in by the kitchen-door.

"Bring the warming-pan," said I; and I carried her upstairs, and began
undressing her by the nursery fire, which Bessy had kept up. I called
my little lammie all the sweet and playful names I could think of,--
even while my eyes were blinded by my tears; and at last, oh! at
length she opened her large blue eyes. Then I put her into her warm
bed, and sent Dorothy down to tell Miss Furnivall that all was well;
and I made up my mind to sit by my darling's bedside the live-long
night. She fell away into a soft sleep as soon as her pretty head had
touched the pillow, and I watched by her till morning light; when she
wakened up bright and clear--or so I thought at first--and, my dears,
so I think now.

She said, that she had fancied that she should like to go to Dorothy,
for that both the old ladies were asleep, and it was very dull in the
drawing-room; and that, as she was going through the west lobby, she
saw the snow through the high window falling--falling--soft and
steady; but she wanted to see it lying pretty and white on the ground;
so she made her way into the great hall: and then, going to the
window, she saw it bright and soft upon the drive; but while she stood
there, she saw a little girl, not so old as she was, "but so pretty,"
said my darling; "and this little girl beckoned to me to come out; and
oh, she was so pretty and so sweet, I could not choose but go." And
then this other little girl had taken her by the hand, and side by
side the two had gone round the east corner.

"Now you are a naughty little girl, and telling stories," said I.
"What would your good mamma, that is in heaven, and never told a story
in her life, say to her little Rosamond, if she heard her--and I dare
say she does--telling stories!"

"Indeed, Hester," sobbed out my child, "I'm telling you true. Indeed I
am."

"Don't tell me!" said I, very stern. "I tracked you by your foot-marks
through the snow; there were only yours to be seen: and if you had had
a little girl to go hand-in-hand with you up the hill, don't you think
the footprints would have gone along with yours?"

"I can't help it, dear, dear Hester," said she, crying, "if they did
not; I never looked at her feet, but she held my hand fast and tight
in her little one, and it was very, very cold. She took me up the
Fell-path, up to the holly-trees; and there I saw a lady weeping and
crying; but when she saw me, she hushed her weeping, and smiled very
proud and grand, and took me on her knee, and began to lull me to
sleep, and that's all, Hester--but that is true; and my dear mamma
knows it is," said she, crying. So I thought the child was in a fever,
and pretended to believe her, as she went over her story--over and
over again, and always the same. At last Dorothy knocked at the door
with Miss Rosamond's breakfast; and she told me the old ladies were
down in the eating parlour, and that they wanted to speak to me. They
had both been into the night-nursery the evening before, but it was
after Miss Rosamond was asleep; so they had only looked at her--not
asked me any questions.

"I shall catch it," thought I to myself, as I went along the north
gallery. "And yet," I thought, taking courage, "it was in their charge
I left her; and it's they that's to blame for letting her steal away
unknown and unwatched." So I went in boldly, and told my story. I told
it all to Miss Furnivall, shouting it close to her ear; but when I
came to the mention of the other little girl out in the snow, coaxing
and tempting her out, and wiling her up to the grand and beautiful
lady by the holly-tree, she threw her arms up--her old and withered
arms--and cried aloud, "Oh! Heaven forgive! Have mercy!"

Mrs. Stark took hold of her; roughly enough, I thought; but she was
past Mrs. Stark's management, and spoke to me, in a kind of wild
warning and authority.

"Hester! keep her from that child! It will lure her to her death! That
evil child! Tell her it is a wicked, naughty child." Then, Mrs. Stark
hurried me out of the room; where, indeed, I was glad enough to go;
but Miss Furnivall kept shrieking out, "Oh, have mercy! Wilt Thou
never forgive! It is many a long year ago"--

I was very uneasy in my mind after that. I durst never leave Miss
Rosamond, night or day, for fear lest she might slip off again, after
some fancy or other; and all the more, because I thought I could make
out that Miss Furnivall was crazy, from their odd ways about her; and
I was afraid lest something of the same kind (which might be in the
family, you know) hung over my darling. And the great frost never
ceased all this time; and, whenever it was a more stormy night than
usual, between the gusts, and through the wind we heard the old lord
playing on the great organ. But, old lord, or not, wherever Miss
Rosamond went, there I followed; for my love for her, pretty, helpless
orphan, was stronger than my fear for the grand and terrible sound.
Besides, it rested with me to keep her cheerful and merry, as beseemed
her age. So we played together, and wandered together, here and there,
and everywhere; for I never dared to lose sight of her again in that
large and rambling house. And so it happened, that one afternoon, not
long before Christmas-day, we were playing together on the billiard-
table in the great hall (not that we knew the right way of playing,
but she liked to roll the smooth ivory balls with her pretty hands,
and I liked to do whatever she did); and, by-and-by, without our
noticing it, it grew dusk indoors, though it was still light in the
open air, and I was thinking of taking her back into the nursery,
when, all of a sudden, she cried out--

"Look, Hester! look! there is my poor little girl out in the snow!"

I turned towards the long narrow windows, and there, sure enough, I
saw a little girl, less than my Miss Rosamond--dressed all unfit to be
out-of-doors such a bitter night--crying, and beating against the
window panes, as if she wanted to be let in. She seemed to sob and
wail, till Miss Rosamond could bear it no longer, and was flying to
the door to open it, when, all of a sudden, and close upon us, the
great organ pealed out so loud and thundering, it fairly made me
tremble; and all the more, when I remembered me that, even in the
stillness of that dead-cold weather, I had heard no sound of little
battering hands upon the window-glass, although the phantom child had
seemed to put forth all its force; and, although I had seen it wail
and cry, no faintest touch of sound had fallen upon my ears. Whether I
remembered all this at the very moment, I do not know; the great organ
sound had so stunned me into terror; but this I know, I caught up Miss
Rosamond before she got the hall-door opened, and clutched her, and
carried her away, kicking and screaming, into the large, bright
kitchen, where Dorothy and Agnes were busy with their mince-pies.

"What is the matter with my sweet one?" cried Dorothy, as I bore in
Miss Rosamond, who was sobbing as if her heart would break.

"She won't let me open the door for my little girl to come in; and
she'll die if she is out on the Fells all night. Cruel, naughty
Hester," she said, slapping me; but she might have struck harder, for
I had seen a look of ghastly terror on Dorothy's face, which made my
very blood run cold.

"Shut the back-kitchen door fast, and bolt it well," said she to
Agues. She said no more; she gave me raisins and almonds to quiet Miss
Rosamond; but she sobbed about the little girl in the snow, and would
not touch any of the good things. I was thankful when she cried
herself to sleep in bed. Then I stole down to the kitchen, and told
Dorothy I had made up my mind. I would carry my darling back to my
father's house in Applethwaite; where, if we lived humbly, we lived at
peace. I said I had been frightened enough with the old lord's organ-
playing; but now that I had seen for myself this little moaning child,
all decked out as no child in the neighbourhood could be, beating and
battering to get in, yet always without any sound or noise--with the
dark wound on its right shoulder; and that Miss Rosamond had known it
again for the phantom that had nearly lured her to death (which
Dorothy knew was true); I would stand it no longer.

I saw Dorothy change colour once or twice. When I had done, she told
me she did not think I could take Miss Rosamond with me, for that she
was my lord's ward, and I had no right over her; and she asked me
would I leave the child that I was so fond of just for sounds and
sights that could do me no harm; and that they had all had to get used
to in their turns? I was all in a hot, trembling passion; and I said
it was very well for her to talk, that knew what these sights and
noises betokened, and that had, perhaps, had something to do with the
spectre child while it was alive. And I taunted her so, that she told
me all she knew at last; and then I wished I had never been told, for
it only made me more afraid than ever.

She said she had heard the tale from old neighbours that were alive
when she was first married; when folks used to come to the hall
sometimes, before it had got such a bad name on the country side: it
might not be true, or it might, what she had been told.

The old lord was Miss Furnivall's father--Miss Grace, as Dorothy
called her, for Miss Maude was the elder, and Miss Furnivall by
lights. The old lord was eaten up with pride. Such a proud man was
never seen or heard of; and his daughters were like him. No one was
good enough to wed them, although they had choice enough; for they
were the great beauties of their day, as I had seen by their
portraits, where they hung in the state drawing-room. But, as the old
saying is, "Pride will have a fall;" and these two haughty beauties
fell in love with the same man, and he no better than a foreign
musician, whom their father had down from London to play music with
him at the Manor House. For, above all things, next to his pride, the
old lord loved music. He could play`on nearly every instrument that
ever was heard of; and it was a strange thing it did not soften him;
but he was a fierce, dour old man, and had broken his poor wife's
heart with his cruelty, they said. He was mad after music, and would
pay any money for it. So he got this foreigner to come; who made such
beautiful music, that they said the very birds on the trees stopped
their singing to listen. And, by degrees, this foreign gentleman got
such a hold over the old lord, that nothing would serve him but that
he must come every year; and it was he that had the great organ
brought from Holland, and built up in the hall, where it stood now. He
taught the old lord to play on it; but many and many a time, when Lord
Furnivall was thinking of nothing but his fine organ, and his finer
music, the dark foreigner was walking abroad in the woods, with one of
the young ladies: now Miss Maude, and then Miss Grace.

Miss Maude won the day and carried off the prize, such as it was; and
he and she were married, all unknown to any one; and, before he made
his next yearly visit, she had been confined of a little girl at a
farm-house on the Moors, while her father and Miss Grace thought she
was away at Doncaster Races. But though she was a wife and a mother,
she was not a bit softened, but as haughty and as passionate as ever;
and perhaps more so, for she was jealous of Miss Grace, to whom her
foreign husband paid a deal of court--by way of blinding her--as he
told his wife. But Miss Grace triumphed over Miss Maude, and Miss
Maude grew fiercer and fiercer, both with her husband and with her
sister; and the former--who could easily shake off what was
disagreeable, and hide himself in foreign countries--went away a month
before his usual time that summer, and half-threatened that he would
never come back again. Meanwhile, the little girl was left at the
farm-house, and her mother used to have her horse saddled and gallop
wildly over the hills to see her once every week, at the very least;
for where she loved she loved, and where she hated she hated. And the
old lord went on playing--playing on his organ; and the servants
thought the sweet music he made had soothed down his awful temper, of
which (Dorothy said) some terrible tales could be told. He grew infirm
too, and had to walk with a crutch; and his son--that was the present
Lord Furnivall's father--was with the army in America, and the other
son at sea; so Miss Maude had it pretty much her own way, and she and
Miss Grace grew colder and bitterer to each other every day; till at
last they hardly ever spoke, except when the old lord was by. The
foreign musician came again the next summer, but it was for the last
time; for they led him such a life with their jealousy and their
passions, that he grew weary, and went away, and never was heard of
again. And Miss Maude, who had always meant to have her marriage
acknowledged when her father should be dead, was left now a deserted
wife, whom nobody knew to have been married, with a child that she
dared not own, although she loved it to distraction; living with a
father whom she feared, and a sister whom she hated. When the next
summer passed over, and the dark foreigner never came, both Miss Maude
and Miss Grace grew gloomy and sad; they had a haggard look about
them, though they looked handsome as ever. But, by-and-by, Miss Maude
brightened; for her father grew more and more infirm, and more than
ever carried away by his music, and she and Miss Grace lived almost
entirely apart, having separate rooms, the one on the west side, Miss
Maude on the east--those very rooms which were now shut up. So she
thought she might have her little girl with her, and no one need ever
know except those who dared not speak about it, and were bound to
believe that it was, as she said, a cottager's child she had taken a
fancy to. All this, Dorothy said, was pretty well known; but what came
afterwards no one knew, except Miss Grace and Mrs. Stark, who was even
then her maid, and much more of a friend to her than ever her sister
had been. But the servants supposed, from words that were dropped,
that Miss Maude had triumphed over Miss Grace, and told her that all
the time the dark foreigner had been mocking her with pretended love--
he was her own husband. The colour left Miss Grace's cheek and lips
that very day for ever, and she was heard to say many a time that
sooner or later she would have her revenge; and Mrs. Stark was for
ever spying about the east rooms.

One fearful night, just after the New Year had come in, when the snow
was lying thick and deep; and the flakes were still falling--fast
enough to blind any one who might be out and abroad--there was a great
and violent noise heard, and the old lord's voice above all, cursing
and swearing awfully, and the cries of a little child, and the proud
defiance of a fierce woman, and the sound of a blow, and a dead
stillness, and moans and wailings, dying away on the hill-side! Then
the old lord summoned all his servants, and told them, with terrible
oaths, and words more terrible, that his daughter had disgraced
herself, and that he had turned her out of doors--her, and her child--
and that if ever they gave her help, or food, or shelter, he prayed
that they might never enter heaven. And, all the while, Miss Grace
stood by him, white and still as any stone; and, when he had ended,
she heaved a great sigh, as much as to say her work was done, and her
end was accomplished. But the old lord never touched his organ again,
and died within the year; and no wonder I for, on the morrow of that
wild and fearful night, the shepherds, coming down the Fell side,
found Miss Maude sitting, all crazy and smiling, under the holly-
trees, nursing a dead child, with a terrible mark on its right
shoulder. "But that was not what killed it," said Dorothy: "it was the
frost and the cold. Every wild creature was in its hole, and every
beast in its fold, while the child and its mother were turned out to
wander on the Fells! And now you know all! and I wonder if you are
less frightened now?"

I was more frightened than ever; but I said I was not. I wished Miss
Rosamond and myself well out of that dreadful house for ever; but I
would not leave her, and I dared not take her away. But oh, how I
watched her, and guarded her! We bolted the doors, and shut the
window-shutters fast, an hour or more before dark, rather than leave
them open five minutes too late. But my little lady still heard the
weird child crying and mourning; and not all we could do or say could
keep her from wanting to go to her, and let her in from the cruel wind
and snow. All this time I kept away from Miss Furnivall and Mrs.
Stark, as much as ever I could; for I feared them--I knew no good
could be about them, with their grey, hard faces, and their dreamy
eyes, looking back into the ghastly years that were gone. But, even in
my fear, I had a kind of pity for Miss Furnivall, at least. Those gone
down to the pit can hardly have a more hopeless look than that which
was ever on her face. At last I even got so sorry for her--who never
said a word but what was quite forced from her--that I prayed for her;
and I taught Miss Rosamond to pray for one who had done a deadly sin;
but often, when she came to those words, she would listen, and start
up from her knees, and say, "I hear my little girl plaining and
crying, very sad,--oh, let her in, or she will die!"

One night--just after New Year's Day had come at last, and the long
winter had taken a turn, as I hoped--I heard the west drawing-room
bell ring three times, which was the signal for me. I would not leave
Miss Rosamond alone, for all she was asleep--for the old lord had been
playing wilder than ever--and I feared lest my darling should waken to
hear the spectre child; see her I knew she could not. I had fastened
the windows too well for that. So I took her out of her bed, and
wrapped her up in such outer clothes as were most handy, and carried
her down to the drawing-room, where the old ladies sat at their
tapestry-work as usual. They looked up when I came in, and Mrs. Stark
asked, quite astounded, "Why did I bring Miss Rosamond there, out of
her warm bed?" I had begun to whisper, "Because I was afraid of her
being tempted out while I was away, by the wild child in the snow,"
when she stopped me short (with a glance at Miss Furnivall), and said
Miss Furnivall wanted me to undo some work she had done wrong, and
which neither of them could see to unpick. So I laid my pretty dear on
the sofa, and sat down on a stool by them, and hardened my heart
against them, as I heard the wind rising and howling.

Miss Rosamond slept on sound, for all the wind blew so; and Miss
Furnivall said never a word, nor looked round when the gusts shook the
windows. All at once she started up to her full height, and put up one
hand, as if to bid us listen.

"I hear voices!" said she. "I hear terrible screams--I hear my
father's voice!"

Just at that moment my darling wakened with a sudden start: "My little
girl is crying, oh, how she is crying!" and she tried to get up and go
to her, but she got her feet entangled in the blanket, and I caught
her up; for my flesh had begun to creep at these noises, which they
heard while we could catch no sound. In a minute or two the noises
came, and gathered fast, and filled our ears; we, too, heard voices
and screams, and no longer heard the winter's wind that raged abroad.
Mrs. Stark looked at me, and I at her, but we dared not speak.
Suddenly Miss Furnivall, went towards the door, out into the ante-
room, through the west lobby, and opened the door into the great hall.
Mrs. Stark followed, and I durst not be left, though my heart almost
stopped beating for fear. I wrapped my darling tight in my arms, and
went out with them. In the hall the screams were louder than ever;
they seemed to come from the east wing--nearer and nearer--close on
the other side of the locked-up doors--close behind them. Then I
noticed that the great bronze chandelier seemed all alight, though the
hall was dim, and that a fire was blazing in the vast hearth-place,
though it gave no heat; and I shuddered up with terror, and folded my
darling closer to me. But as I did so the east door shook, and she,
suddenly struggling to get free from me, cried, "Hester! I must go. My
little girl is there I hear her; she is coming! Hester, I must go!"

I held her tight with all my strength; with a set will, I held her. If
I had died, my hands would have grasped her still, I was so resolved
in my mind. Miss Furnivall stood listening, and paid no regard to my
darling, who had got down to the ground, and whom I, upon my knees
now, was holding with both my arms clasped round her neck; she still
striving and crying to get free.

All at once, the east door gave way with a thundering crash, as if
torn open in a violent passion, and there came into that broad and
mysterious light, the figure of a tall old man, with grey hair and
gleaming eyes. He drove before him, with many a relentless gesture of
abhorrence, a stern and beautiful woman, with a little child clinging
to her dress.

"O Hester! Hester!" cried Miss Rosamond; "it's the lady! the lady
below the holly-trees; and my little girl is with her. Hester! Hester!
let me go to her; they are drawing me to them. I feel them--I feel
them. I must go!"

Again she was almost convulsed by her efforts to get away; but I held
her tighter and tighter, till I feared I should do her a hurt; but
rather that than let her go towards those terrible phantoms. They
passed along towards the great hall-door, where the winds howled and
ravened for their prey; but before they reached that, the lady turned;
and I could see that she defied the old man with a fierce and proud
defiance; but then she quailed--and then she threw up her arms wildly
and piteously to save her child--her little child--from a blow from
his uplifted crutch.

And Miss Rosamond was torn as by a power stronger than mine, and
writhed in my arms, and sobbed (for by this time the poor darling was
growing faint).

"They want me to go with them on to the Fells--they are drawing me to
them. Oh, my little girl! I would come, but cruel, wicked Hester holds
me very tight." But when she saw the uplifted crutch, she swooned
away, and I thanked God for it. Just at this moment--when the tall old
man, his hair streaming as in the blast of a furnace, was going to
strike the little shrinking child--Miss Furnivall, the old woman by my
side, cried out, "O father! father! spare the little innocent child!"
But just then I saw--we all saw--another phantom shape itself, and
grow clear out of the blue and misty light that filled the hall; we
had not seen her till now, for it was another lady who stood by the
old man, with a look of relentless hate and triumphant scorn. That
figure was very beautiful to look upon, with a soft, white hat drawn
down over the proud brows, and a red and curling lip. It was dressed
in an open robe of blue satin. I had seen that figure before. It was
the likeness of Miss Furnivall in her youth; and the terrible phantoms
moved on, regardless of old Miss Furnivall's wild entreaty,--and the
uplifted crutch fell on the right shoulder of the little child, and
the younger sister looked on, stony, and deadly serene. But at that
moment, the dim lights, and the fire that gave no heat, went out of
themselves, and Miss Furnivall lay at our feet stricken down by the
palsy--death-stricken.

Yes! she was carried to her bed that night never to rise again. She
lay with her face to the wall, muttering low, but muttering always:
"Alas! alas! what is done in youth can never be undone in age! What is
done in youth can never be undone in age!"




CLOPTON HOUSE

"I wonder if you know Clopton Hall, about a mile from Stratford-on-
Avon. Will you allow me to tell you of a very happy day I once spent
there? I was at school in the neighbourhood, and one of my
schoolfellows was the daughter of a Mr. W---, who then lived at
Clopton. Mrs. W--asked a party of the girls to go and spend a long
afternoon, and we set off one beautiful autumn day, full of delight
and wonder respecting the place we were going to see. We passed
through desolate half-cultivated fields, till we came within sight of
the house--a large, heavy, compact, square brick building, of that
deep, dead red almost approaching to purple. In front was a large
formal court, with the massy pillars surmounted with two grim
monsters; but the walls of the court were broken down, and the grass
grew as rank and wild within the enclosure as in the raised avenue
walk down which we had come. The flowers were tangled with nettles,
and it was only as we approached the house that we saw the single
yellow rose and the Austrian briar trained into something like order
round the deep-set diamond-paned windows. We trooped into the hall,
with its tesselated marble floor, hung round with strange portraits of
people who had been in their graves two hundred years at least; yet
the colours were so fresh, and in some instances they were so life-
like, that looking merely at the faces, I almost fancied the originals
might be sitting in the parlour beyond. More completely to carry us
back, as it were, to the days of the civil wars, there was a sort of
military map hung up, well finished with pen and ink, shewing the
stations of the respective armies, and with old-fashioned writing
beneath, the names of the principal towns, setting forth the strength
of the garrison, etc. In this hall we were met by our kind hostess,
and told we might ramble where we liked, in the house or out of the
house, taking care to be in the 'recessed parlour' by tea-time. I
preferred to wander up the wide shelving oak staircase, with its massy
balustrade all crumbling and worm-eaten. The family then residing at
the hall did not occupy one-half--no, not one-third of the rooms; and
the old-fashioned furniture was undisturbed in the greater part of
them. In one of the bed-rooms (said to be haunted), and which, with
its close pent-up atmosphere and the long-shadows of evening creeping
on, gave me an 'eirie' feeling, hung a portrait so singularly
beautiful! a sweet-looking girl, with paly gold hair combed back from
her forehead and falling in wavy ringlets on her neck, and with eyes
that 'looked like violets filled with dew,' for there was the
glittering of unshed tears before their deep dark blue--and that was
the likeness of Charlotte Clopton, about whom there was so fearful a
legend told at Stratford church. In the time of some epidemic, the
sweating-sickness or the plague, this young girl had sickened, and to
all appearance died. She was buried with fearful haste in the vaults
of Clopton chapel, attached to Stratford church, but the sickness was
not stayed. In a few days another of the Cloptons died, and him they
bore to the ancestral vault; but as they descended the gloomy stairs,
they saw by the torchlight, Charlotte Clopton in her grave-clothes
leaning against the wall; and when they looked nearer, she was indeed
dead, but not before, in the agonies of despair and hunger, she had
bitten a piece from her white round shoulder! Of course, she had
walked ever since. This was 'Charlotte's chamber,' and beyond
Charlotte's chamber was a state-chamber carpeted with the dust of many
years, and darkened by the creepers which had covered up the windows,
and even forced themselves in luxuriant daring through the broken
panes. Beyond, again, there was an old Catholic chapel, with a
chaplain's room, which had been walled up and forgotten till within
the last few years. I went in on my hands and knees, for the entrance
was very low. I recollect little in the chapel; but in the chaplain's
room were old, and I should think rare, editions of many books, mostly
folios. A large yellow-paper copy of Dryden's 'All for Love, or the
World Well Lost,' date 1686, caught my eye, and is the only one I
particularly remember. Every here and there, as I wandered, I came
upon a fresh branch of a staircase, and so numerous were the crooked,
half-lighted passages, that I wondered if I could find my way back
again. There was a curious carved old chest in one of these passages,
and with girlish curiosity I tried to open it; but the lid was too
heavy, till I persuaded one of my companions to help me, and when it
was opened, what do you think we saw?--BONES!--but whether human,
whether the remains of the lost bride, we did not stay to see, but ran
off in partly feigned, and partly real terror.

"The last of these deserted rooms that I remember, the last, the most
deserted, and the saddest, was the Nursery,--a nursery without
children, without singing voices, without merry chiming footsteps! A
nursery hung round with its once inhabitants, bold, gallant boys, and
fair, arch-looking girls, and one or two nurses with round, fat babies
in their arms. Who were they all? What was their lot in life?
Sunshine, or storm? or had they been 'loved by the gods, and died
young?' The very echoes knew not. Behind the house, in a hollow now
wild, damp, and overgrown with elder-bushes, was a well called
Margaret's Well, for there had a maiden of the house of that name
drowned herself.

"I tried to obtain any information I could as to the family of Clopton
of Clopton. They had been decaying ever since the civil wars; had for
a generation or two been unable to live in the old house of their
fathers, but had toiled in London, or abroad, for a livelihood; and
the last of the old family, a bachelor, eccentric, miserly, old, and
of most filthy habits, if report said true, had died at Clopton Hall
but a few months before, a sort of boarder in Mr. W---'s family. He
was buried in the gorgeous chapel of the Cloptons in Stratford church,
where you see the banners waving, and the armour hung over one or two
splendid monuments. Mr. W--had been the old man's solicitor, and
completely in his confidence, and to him he left the estate,
encumbered and in bad condition. A year or two afterwards, the heir-
at-law, a very distant relation living in Ireland, claimed and
obtained the estate, on the plea of undue influence, if not of
forgery, on Mr. W---'s part; and the last I heard of our kind
entertainers on that day, was that they were outlawed, and living at
Brussels."




THE CROOKED BRANCH

Not many years after the beginning of this century, a worthy couple of
the name of Huntroyd occupied a small farm in the North Riding of
Yorkshire. They had married late in life, although they were very
young when they first began to 'keep company' with each other. Nathan
Huntroyd had been farm-servant to Hester Rose's father, and had made
up to her at a time when her parents thought she might do better; and
so, without much consultation of her feelings, they had dismissed
Nathan in somewhat cavalier fashion. He had drifted far away from his
former connections, when an uncle of his died, leaving Nathan--by this
time upwards of forty years of age--enough money to stock a small
farm, and yet have something over, to put in the bank against bad
times. One of the consequences of this bequest was, that Nathan was
looking out for a wife and housekeeper, in a kind of discreet and
leisurely way, when one day he heard that his old love, Hester, was
not married and flourishing, as he had always supposed her to be, but
a poor maid-of-all-work, in the town of Ripon. For her father had had
a succession of misfortunes, which had brought him in his old age to
the workhouse; her mother was dead; her only brother struggling to
bring up a large family; and Hester herself a hard-working, homely-
looking (at thirty-seven) servant. Nathan had a kind of growling
satisfaction (which only lasted a minute or two, however) in hearing
of these turns of fortune's wheel. He did not make many intelligible
remarks to his informant, and to no one else did he say a word. But, a
few days afterwards, he presented himself, dressed in his Sunday best,
at Mrs Thompson's back-door in Ripon.

Hester stood there, in answer to the good sound knock his good sound
oak-stick made: she, with the light full upon her, he in shadow. For a
moment there was silence. He was scanning the face and figure of his
old love, for twenty years unseen. The comely beauty of youth had
faded away entirely; she was, as I have said, homely-looking, plain-
featured, but with a clean skin, and pleasant frank eyes. Her figure
was no longer round, but tidily draped in a blue and white bed-gown,
tied round her waist by her white apron-strings, and her short red
linsey petticoat showed her tidy feet and ankles. Her former lover
fell into no ecstasies. He simply said to himself, 'She'll do'; and
forthwith began upon his business.

'Hester, thou dost not mind me. I am Nathan, as thy father turned off
at a minute's notice, for thinking of thee for a wife, twenty year
come Michaelmas next. I have not thought much upon matrimony since.
But Uncle Ben has died leaving me a small matter in the bank; and I
have taken Nab-End Farm, and put in a bit of stock, and shall want a
missus to see after it. Wilt like to come? I'll not mislead thee. It's
dairy, and it might have been arable. But arable takes more horses nor
it suited me to buy, and I'd the offer of a tidy lot of kine. That's
all. If thou'll have me, I'll come for thee as soon as the hay is
gotten in'.

Hester only said, 'Come in, and sit thee down'.

He came in, and sat down. For a time, she took no more notice of him
than of his stick, bustling about to get dinner ready for the family
whom she served. He meanwhile watched her brisk sharp movements, and
repeated to himself, 'She'll do!' After about twenty minutes of
silence thus employed, he got up, saying--

'Well, Hester, I'm going. When shall I come back again?'

'Please thysel', and thou'll please me,' said Hester, in a tone that
she tried to make light and indifferent; but he saw that her colour
came and went, and that she trembled while she moved about. In another
moment Hester was soundly kissed; but, when she looked round to scold
the middle-aged farmer, he appeared so entirely composed that she
hesitated. He said--

'I have pleased mysel', and thee too, I hope. Is it a month's wage,
and a month's warning? To-day is the eighth. July eighth is our
wedding-day. I have no time to spend a-wooing before then, and wedding
must na take long. Two days is enough to throw away, at our time o'
life.'

It was like a dream; but Hester resolved not to think more about it
till her work was done. And when all was cleaned up for the evening,
she went and gave her mistress warning, telling her all the history of
her life in a very few words. That day month she was married from Mrs
Thompson's house.

The issue of the marriage was one boy, Benjamin. A few years after his
birth, Hester's brother died at Leeds, leaving ten or twelve children.
Hester sorrowed bitterly over this loss; and Nathan showed her much
quiet sympathy, although he could not but remember that Jack Rose had
added insult to the bitterness of his youth. He helped his wife to
make ready to go by the waggon to Leeds. He made light of the
household difficulties, which came thronging into her mind after all
was fixed for her departure. He filled her purse, that she might have
wherewithal to alleviate the immediate wants of her brother's family.
And, as she was leaving, he ran after the waggon. 'Stop, stop!' he
cried. 'Hetty, if thou wilt--if it wunnot be too much for thee--bring
back one of Jack's wenches for company, like. We've enough and to
spare; and a lass will make the house winsome, as a man may say.'

The waggon moved on; while Hester had such a silent swelling of
gratitude in her heart, as was both thanks to her husband and
thanksgiving to God.

And that was the way that little Bessy Rose came to be an inmate of
the Nab's-End Farm.

Virtue met with its own reward in this instance, and in a clear and
tangible shape, too; which need not delude people in general into
thinking that such is the usual nature of virtue's rewards! Bessy grew
up a bright affectionate, active girl; a daily comfort to her uncle
and aunt. She was so much a darling in the household that they even
thought her worthy of their only son Benjamin, who was perfection in
their eyes. It is not often the case that two plain, homely people
have a child of uncommon beauty; but it is so sometimes, and Benjamin
Huntroyd was one of these exceptional cases. The hard-working, labour-
and-care-marked farmer, and the mother, who could never have been more
than tolerably comely in her best days, produced a boy who might have
been an earl's son for grace and beauty. Even the hunting squires of
the neighbourhood reined up their horses to admire him, as he opened
the gates for them. He had no shyness, he was so accustomed from his
earliest years to admiration from strangers and adoration from his
parents. As for Bessy Rose, he ruled imperiously over her heart from
the time she first set eyes on him. And, as she grew older, she grew
on in loving, persuading herself that what her uncle and aunt loved so
dearly it was her duty to love dearest of all. At every unconscious
symptom of the young girl's love for her cousin, his parents smiled
and winked: all was going on as they wished; no need to go far a-field
for Benjamin's wife. The household could go on as it was now; Nathan
and Hester sinking into the rest of years, and relinquishing care and
authority to those dear ones, who, in the process of time, might bring
other dear ones to share their love.

But Benjamin took it all very coolly. He had been sent to a day-school
in the neighbouring town--a grammar-school in the high state of
neglect in which the majority of such schools were thirty years ago.
Neither his father nor his mother knew much of learning. All they knew
(and that directed their choice of a school) was that they could not,
by any possibility, part with their darling to a boarding-school; that
some schooling he must have, and that Squire Pollard's son went to
Highminster Grammar School. Squire Pollard's son, and many another son
destined to make his parents' hearts ache, went to this school. If it
had not been so utterly a bad place of education, the simple farmer
and his wife might have found it out sooner. But not only did the
pupils there learn vice, they also learnt deceit. Benjamin was
naturally too clever to remain a dunce; or else, if he had chosen so
to be, there was nothing in Highminster Grammar School to hinder his
being a dunce of the first water. But, to all appearance, he grew
clever and gentleman-like. His father and mother were even proud of
his airs and graces, when he came home for the holidays; taking them
for proofs of his refinement, although the practical effect of such
refinement was to make him express his contempt for his parents'
homely ways and simple ignorance. By the time he was eighteen, an
articled clerk in an attorney's office at Highminster,--for he had
quite declined becoming a 'mere clod-hopper,' that is to say, a hard-
working, honest farmer like his father--Bessy Rose was the only person
who was dissatisfied with him. The little girl of fourteen
instinctively felt there was something wrong about him. Alas! two
years more, and the girl of sixteen worshipped his very shadow, and
would not see that aught could be wrong with one so soft-spoken, so
handsome, so kind as Cousin Benjamin. For Benjamin had discovered that
the way to cajole his parents out of money for every indulgence he
fancied, was to pretend to forward their innocent scheme, and make
love to his pretty cousin, Bessy Rose. He cared just enough for her to
make this work of necessity not disagreeable at the time he was
performing it. But he found it tiresome to remember her little claims
upon him, when she was no longer present. The letters he had promised
her during his weekly absence at Highminster, the trifling commissions
she had asked him to do for her, were all considered in the light of
troubles; and, even when he was with her, he resented the inquiries
she made as to his mode of passing his time, or what female
acquaintances he had in Highminster.

When his apprenticeship was ended, nothing would serve him but that he
must go up to London for a year or two. Poor Farmer Huntroyd was
beginning to repent of his ambition of making his son Benjamin a
gentleman. But it was too late to repine now. Both father and mother
felt this; and, however sorrowful they might be, they were silent,
neither demurring nor assenting to Benjamin's proposition when first
he made it. But Bessy, through her tears, noticed that both her uncle
and aunt seemed unusually tired that night, and sat hand-in-hand on
the fireside settle, idly gazing into the bright flame, as if they saw
in it pictures of what they had once hoped their lives would have
been. Bessy rattled about among the supper-things, as she put them
away after Benjamin's departure, making more noise than usual--as if
noise and bustle was what she needed to keep her from bursting out
crying--and, having at one keen glance taken in the position and looks
of Nathan and Hester, she avoided looking in that direction again, for
fear the sight of their wistful faces should make her own tears
overflow.

'Sit thee down, lass--sit thee down! Bring the creepie-stool to the
fireside, and let's have a bit of talk over the lad's plans,' said
Nathan, at last rousing himself to speak. Bessy came and sat down in
front of the fire, and threw her apron over her face, as she rested
her head on both hands. Nathan felt as if it was a chance which of the
two women burst out crying first. So he thought he would speak, in
hopes of keeping off the infection of tears.

'Didst ever hear of this mad plan afore, Bessy?'

'No, never!' Her voice came muffled and changed from under her apron.
Hester felt as if the tone, both of question and answer, implied
blame; and this she could not bear.

'We should ha' looked to it when we bound him; for of necessity it
would ha' come to this. There's examins, and catechizes, and I dunno
what all for him to be put through in London. It's not his fault.'

'Which on us said it were?' asked Nathan, rather put out. 'Tho', for
that matter, a few weeks would carry him over the mire, and make him
as good a lawyer as any judge among 'em. Oud Lawson the attorney told
me that, in a talk I had wi' him a bit sin. Na, na! it's the lad's own
hankering after London that makes him want for to stay there for a
year, let alone two.'

Nathan shook his head.

'And if it be his own hankering,' said Bessy, putting down her apron,
her face all flame, and her eyes swollen up, 'I dunnot see harm in it.
Lads aren't like lasses, to be teed to their own fireside like th'
crook yonder. It's fitting for a young man to go abroad and see the
world, afore he settles down.'

Hester's hand sought Bessy's; and the two women sat in sympathetic
defiance of any blame that should be thrown on the beloved absent.
Nathan only said--

'Nay, wench, dunnot wax up so; whatten's done's done; and worse, it's
my doing. I mun needs make my bairn a gentleman; and we mun pay for
it.'

'Dear Uncle! he wunna spend much, I'll answer for it; and I'll scrimp
and save i' the house, to make it good.'

'Wench!' said Nathan Solemnly, 'it were not paying in cash I were
speaking on: it were paying in heart's care, and heaviness of soul.
Lunnon is a place where the devil keeps court as well as King George;
and my poor chap has more nor once welly fallen into his clutches
here. I dunno what he'll do, when he gets close within sniff of him.'

'Don't let him go, father!' said Hester, for the first time taking
this view. Hitherto she had only thought of her own grief at parting
with him. 'Father, if you think so, keep him here, safe under your own
eye!'

'Nay!' said Nathan, 'he's past time o' life for that. Why, there's not
one on us knows where he is at this present time, and he not gone out
of our sight an hour. He's too big to be put back i' th' go-cart,
mother, or to keep within doors, with the chair turned bottom-
upwards.'

'I wish he were a wee bairn lying in my arms again! It were a sore day
when I weaned him; and I think life's been gettin' sorer and sorer at
every turn he's ta'en towards manhood.'

'Coom, lass; that's noan the way to be talking. Be thankful to Marcy
that thou'st getten a man for thy son as stands five foot eleven in's
stockings, and never a sick piece about him. We wunnot grudge him his
fling, will we, Bess, my wench? He'll be coming back in a year, or,
may be, a bit more, and be a' for settling in a quiet town like, wi' a
wife that's noan so fur fra' me at this very minute. An' we oud folk,
as we get into years, must gi' up farm, and tak a bit on a house near
Lawyer Benjamin.'

And so the good Nathan, his own heart heavy enough, tried to soothe
his women-kind. But, of the three, his eyes were longest in closing,
his apprehensions the deepest founded.

'I misdoubt me I hanna done well by th' lad. I misdoubt me sore,' was
the thought that kept him awake till day began to dawn. 'Summat's
wrong about him, or folk would na look me wi' such piteous-like een,
when they speak on him. I can see th' meaning of it, thof I'm too
proud to let on. And Lawson, too, he holds his tongue more nor he
should do, when I ax him how my lad's getting on, and whatten sort of
a lawyer he'll mak. God be marciful to Hester an' me, if th' lad's
gone away! God be marciful! But, may be, it's this lying waking a' the
night through, that maks me so fearfu'. Why, when I were his age, I
daur be bound I should ha' spent money fast enoof, i' I could ha' come
by iy. But I had to arn it; that maks a great differ'. Well! It were
hard to thwart th' child of our old age, and we waitin' so long for to
have 'un!' Next morning, Nathan rode Moggy, the cart-horse, into
Highminster to see Mr Lawson. Anybody who saw him ride out of his own
yard would have been struck with the change in him which was visible
when he returned: a change greater than a day's unusual exercise
should have made in a man of his years. He scarcely held the reins at
all. One jerk of Moggy's head would have plucked them out of his
hands. His head was bent forward, his eyes looking on some unseen
thing, with long, unwinking gaze. But, as he drew near home on his
return, he made an effort to recover himself.

'No need fretting them,' he said; 'lads will be lads. But I didna
think he had it in him to be so thowtless, young as he is. Well, well!
he'll, may be, get more wisdom i' Lunnon. Anyways, it's best to cut
him off fra such evil lads as Will Hawker, and such-like. It's they as
have led my boy astray. He were a good chap till he knowed them--a
good chap till he knowed them.' But he put all his cares in the
background, when he came into the house-place, where both Bessy and
his wife met him at the door, and both would fain lend a hand to take
off his great-coat.

'Theer, wenches, theer! ye might let a man alone for to get out on's
clothes! Why, I might ha' struck thee, lass. 'And he went on talking,
trying to keep them off for a time from the subject that all had at
heart. But there was no putting them off for ever; and, by dint of
repeated questioning on his wife's part, more was got out than he had
ever meant to tell--enough to grieve both his hearers sorely: and yet
the brave old man still kept the worst in his own breast.

The next day, Benjamin came home for a week or two, before making his
great start to London. His father kept him at a distance, and was
solemn and quiet in his manner to the young man. Bessy, who had shown
anger enough at first, and had uttered many a sharp speech, began to
relent, and then to feel hurt and displeased that her uncle should
persevere so long in his cold, reserved manner--and Benjamin just
going to leave them! Her aunt went, tremblingly busy, about the
clothes-presses and drawers, as if afraid of letting herself think
either of the past or the future; only once or twice, coming behind
her son, she suddenly stopped over his sitting figure, and kissed his
cheek, and stroked his hair. Bessy remembered afterwards--long years
afterwards--how he had tossed his head away with nervous irritability
on one of these occasions, and had muttered--her aunt did not hear it,
but Bessy did--

'Can't you leave a man alone?'

Towards Bessy herself he was pretty gracious. No other words express
his manner.. it was not warm, nor tender, nor cousinly, but there was
an assumption of underbred politeness towards her as a young, pretty
woman; which politeness was neglected in his authoritative or
grumbling manner towards his mother, or his sullen silence before his
father. He once or twice ventured on a compliment to Bessy on her
personal appearance. She stood still, and looked at him with
astonishment.

'Have my eyes changed sin' last thou saw'st them,' she asked, 'that
thou must be telling me about 'em i' that fashion? I'd rayther by a
deal see thee helping thy mother, when she's dropped her knitting-
needle and canna see i' th' dusk for to pick it up.'

But Bessy thought of his pretty speech about her eyes, long after he
had forgotten making it, and when he would have been puzzled to tell
the colour of them. Many a day, after he was gone, did she look
earnestly in the little oblong looking-glass, which hung up against
the wall of her little sleeping-chamber, but which she used to take
down in order to examine the eyes he had praised, murmuring to
herself, 'Pretty, soft grey eyes! Pretty, soft grey eyes!' until she
would hang up the glass again, with a sudden laugh and a rosy blush.

In the days when he had gone away to the vague distance and vaguer
place--the city called London--Bessy tried to forget all that had gone
against her feeling of the affection and duty that a son owed to his
parents; and she had many things to forget of this kind that would
keep surging up into her mind. For instance, she wished that he had
not objected to the home-spun, home-made shirts which his mother and
she had had such pleasure in getting ready for him. He might not know,
it was true--and so her love urged--how carefully and evenly the
thread had been spun: how, not content with bleaching the yarn in the
sunniest meadow, the linen, on its return from the weaver's, had been
spread out afresh on the sweet summer grass, and watered carefully,
night after night, when there was no dew to perform the kindly office.
He did not know--for no one but Bessy herself did--how many false or
large stitches, made large and false by her aunt's failing eyes (who
yet liked to do the choicest part of the stitching all by herself),
Bessy had unpicked at night in her own room, and with dainty fingers
had re-stitched; sewing eagerly in the dead of night. All this he did
not know; or he could never have complained of the coarse texture, the
old-fashioned make of these shirts, and urged on his mother to give
him part of her little store of egg--and butter-money, in order to buy
newer-fashioned linen in Highminster.

When once that little precious store of his mother's was discovered,
it was well for Bessy's peace of mind that she did not know how
loosely her aunt counted up the coins, mistaking guineas for
shillings, or just the other way, so that the amount was seldom the
same in the old black spoutless teapot. Yet this son, this hope, this
love, had still a strange power of fascination over the household. The
evening before he left, he sat between his parents, a hand in theirs
on either side, and Bessy on the old creepie-stool, her head lying on
her aunt's knee, and looking up at him from time to time, as if to
learn his face off by heart; till his glances, meeting hers, made her
drop her eyes, and only sigh.

He stopped up late that night with his father, long after the women
had gone to bed. But not to sleep; for I will answer for it the grey-
haired mother never slept a wink till the late dawn of the autumn day;
and Bessy heard her uncle come upstairs with heavy, deliberate
footsteps, and go to the old stocking which served him for bank, and
count out the golden guineas; once he stopped, but again he went on
afresh, as if resolved to crown his gift with liberality. Another long
pause--in which she could but indistinctly hear continued words, it
might have been advice, it might be a prayer, for it was in her
uncle's voice--and then father and son came up to bed. Bessy's room
was but parted from her cousin's by a thin wooden partition; and the
last sound she distinctly heard, before her eyes, tired out with
crying, closed themselves in sleep, was the guineas clinking down upon
each other at regular intervals, as if Benjamin were playing at pitch
and toss with his father's present.

After he was gone, Bessy wished that he had asked her to walk part of
the way with him into Highminster. She was all ready, her things laid
out on the bed; but she could not accompany him without invitation.

The little household tried to close over the gap as best they might.
They seemed to set themselves to their daily work with unusual vigour;
but somehow, when evening came there had been little done. Heavy
hearts never make light work, and there was no telling how much care
and anxiety each had had to bear in secret in the field, at the wheel,
or in the dairy. Formerly, he was looked for every Saturday--looked
for, though he might not come; or, if he came, there were things to be
spoken about that made his visit anything but a pleasure: still, he
might come, and all things might go right; and then what sunshine,
what gladness to those humble people! But now he was away, and dreary
winter was come on; old folks' sight fails, and the evenings were long
and sad, in spite of all Bessy could do or say. And he did not write
so often as he might--so each one thought; though each one would have
been ready to defend him from either of the others who had expressed
such a thought aloud. 'Surely,' said Bessy to herself, when the first
primroses peeped out in a sheltered and sunny hedge-bank, and she
gathered them as she passed home from afternoon church--surely, there
never will be such a dreary, miserable winter again as this has been.'
There had been a great change in Nathan and Hester Huntroyd during
this last year. The spring before, when Benjamin was yet the subject
of more hopes than fears, his father and mother looked what I may call
an elderly middle-aged couple: people who had a good deal of hearty
work in them yet. Now--it was not his absence alone that caused the
change--they looked frail and old, as if each day's natural trouble
was a burden more than they could bear. For Nathan had heard sad
reports about his only child, and had told them solemnly to his wife--
as things too bad to be believed, and yet, 'God help us if he is
indeed such a lad as this!' Their eyes were become too dry and hollow
for many tears; they sat together, hand in hand; and shivered, and
sighed, and did not speak many words, or dare to look at each other:
and then Hester had said--

'We mauna tell th' lass. Young folks' hearts break wi' a little, and
she'd be apt to fancy it were true.' Here the old woman's voice broke
into a kind of piping cry; but she struggled, and her next words were
all right. 'We mauna tell her: he's bound to be fond on her, and, may
be, if she thinks well on him, and loves him, it will bring him
straight!'

'God grant it!' said Nathan.

'God shall grant it!' said Hester, passionately moaning out her words;
and then repeating them, alas! with a vain repetition.

'It's a bad place for lying, is Highminster,' said she at length, as
if impatient of the silence. 'I never knowed such a place for getting
up stories. But Bessy knows nought on 'em and nother you nor me
belie'es 'em, that's one blessing.'

But, if they did not in their hearts believe them, how came they to
look so sad and worn, beyond what mere age could make them?

Then came round another year, another winter, yet more miserable than
the last. This year, with the primroses, came Benjamin; a bad, hard,
flippant young man, with yet enough of specious manners and handsome
countenance to make his appearance striking at first to those to whom
the aspect of a London fast young man of the lowest order is strange
and new. Just at first, as he sauntered in with a swagger and an air
of indifference, which was partly assumed, partly real, his old
parents felt a simple kind of awe of him, as if he were not their son,
but a real gentleman; but they had too much fine instinct in their
homely natures not to know, after a very few minutes had passed, that
this was not a true prince.

'Whatten ever does he mean,' said Hester to her niece, as soon as they
were alone, 'by a' them maks and wear-locks? And he minces his words,
as if his tongue were clipped short, or split like a magpie's. Hech!
London is as bad as a hot day i' August for spoiling good flesh; for
he were a good-looking lad when he went up; and now, look at him, with
his skin gone into lines and flourishes, just like the first page on a
copybook.'

'I think he looks a good deal better, aunt, for them new-fashioned
whiskers!' said Bessy, blushing still at the remembrance of the kiss
he had given her on first seeing her--a pledge, she thought, poor
girl, that, in spite of his long silence in letter-writing, he still
looked upon her as his troth-plight wife. There were things about him
which none of them liked, although they never spoke of them; yet there
was also something to gratify them in the way in which he remained
quiet at Nab-End, instead of seeking variety, as he had formerly done,
by constantly stealing off to the neighbouring town. His father had
paid all the debts that he knew of, soon after Benjamin had gone up to
London; so there were no duns that his parents knew of to alarm him,
and keep him at home. And he went out in the morning with the old man,
his father, and lounged by his side, as Nathan went round his fields,
with busy yet infirm gait; having heart, as he would have expressed
it, in all that was going on, because at length his son seemed to take
an interest in the farming affairs, and stood patiently by his side,
while he compared his own small galloways with the great shorthorns
looming over his neighbour's hedge.

'It's a slovenly way, thou seest, that of selling th' milk; folk don't
care whether its good or not, so that they get their pint-measure of
stuff that's watered afore it leaves th' beast, instead o' honest
cheating by the help o' th' pump. But look at Bessy's butter, what
skill it shows! part her own manner o' making, and part good choice o'
cattle. It's a pleasure to see her basket, a' packed ready to go to
market; and it's noan o' a pleasure for to see the buckets fu' of
their blue starch-water as yon beasts give. I'm thinking they crossed
th' breed wi' a pump not long sin'. Hech! but our Bessy's a clever
canny wench! I sometimes think thou'lt be for gie'ing up th' law, and
taking to th' oud trade, when thou wedst wi' her!' This was intended
to be a skilful way of ascertaining whether there was any ground for
the old farmer's wish and prayer, that Benjamin might give up the law
and return to the primitive occupation of his father. Nathan dared to
hope it now, since his son had never made much by his profession,
owing, as he had said, to his want of a connection; and the farm, and
the stock, and the clean wife, too, were ready to his hand; and Nathan
could safely rely on himself never, in his most unguarded moments, to
reproach his son with the hardly-earned hundreds that had been spent
on his education. So the old man listened with painful interest to the
answer which his son was evidently struggling to make, coughing a
little and blowing his nose before he spoke.

'Well, you see, father, law is a precarious livelihood; a man, as I
may express myself, has no chanes in the profession unless he is
known--known to the judges, and tip-top barristers, and that sort of
thing. Now, you see, my mother and you have no acquaintance that you
may call exactly in that line. But luckily I have met with a man, a
friend, as I may say, who is really a first-rate fellow, knowing
everybody, from the Lord Chancellor downwards; and he has offered me a
share in his business--a partnership, in short'--He hesitated a
little.

'I'm sure that's uncommon kind of the gentleman,' said Nathan. I
should like for to thank him mysen; for it's not many as would pick up
a young chap out o' th' dirt, as it were, and say "Here's hauf my good
fortune for you, sir, and your very good health!" Most on 'em when
they're gettin' a bit o' luck, run off wi' it to keep it a' to
themselves, and gobble it down in a corner. What may be his name? for
I should like to know it.'

'You don't quite apprehend me, father. A great deal of what you've
said is true to the letter. People don't like to share their good
luck, as you say.'

'The more credit to them as does,' broke in Nathan.

'Ay, but, you see, even such a fine fellow as my friend Cavendish does
not like to give away half his good practice for nothing. He expects
an equivalent.'

'"An equivalent?"' said Nathan; his voice had dropped down an octave.'
And what may that be? There's always some meaning in grand words, I
take it; though I am not book-larned enough to find it out.'

'Why, in this case, the equivalent he demands for taking me into
partnership, and afterwards relinquishing the whole business to me, is
three hundred pounds down.'

Benjamin looked sideways from under his eyes, to see how his father
took the proposition. His father struck his stick deep down in the
ground; and, leaning one hand upon it, faced round at him.

'Then thy fine friend may go and be hanged. Three hunder pounds! I'll
be darned an' danged too, if I know where to get 'em, if I'd be making
a fool o' thee an' mysen too.'

He was out of breath by this time. His son took his father's first
words in dogged silence; it was but the burst of surprise he had led
himself to expect, and did not daunt him for long.

'I should think, sir'--

'"Sir"--whatten for dost thou "sir" me? Is them your manners? I'm
plain Nathan Huntroyd, who never took on to be a gentleman; but I have
paid my way up to this time, which I shannot do much longer, if I'm to
have a son coming an' asking me for three hundred pound, just meet
same as if I were a cow, and had nothing to do but let down my milk to
the first person as strokes me.'

'Well, father,' said Benjamin, with an affectation of frankness; 'then
there's nothing for me but to do as I have often planned before--go
and emigrate.'

'And what?' said his father, looking sharply and steadily at him.

'Emigrate. Go to America, or India, or some colony where there would
be an opening for a young man of spirit.'

Benjamin had reserved this proposition for his trump card, expecting
by means of it to carry all before him. But, to his surprise, his
father plucked his stick out of the hole he had made when he so
vehemently thrust it into the ground, and walked on four or five steps
in advance; there he stood still again, and there was a dead silence
for a few minutes.

'It 'ud, may be, be the best thing thou couldst do,' the father began.
Benjamin set his teeth hard to keep in curses. It was well for poor
Nathan he did not look round then, and see the look his son gave him.
'But it would come hard like upon us, upon Hester and me; for, whether
thou'rt a good 'un or not, thou'rt our flesh and blood, our only
bairn; and, if thou'rt not all as a man could wish, it's may be, been
the fault on our pride i' the--It 'ud kill the missus, if he went off
to Amerikay, and Bess, too, the lass as thinks so much on him!' The
speech, originally addressed to his son, had wandered off into a
monologue--as keenly listened to by Benjamin, however, as if it had
all been spoken to him. After a pause of consideration, his father
turned round:

'Yon man--I wunnot call him a friend o' yourn, to think of asking you
for such a mint o' money--is not th' only one, I'll be bound, as could
give ye a start i' the law? Other folks 'ud, may be, do it for less?'

'Not one of 'em; to give me equal advantages,' said Benjamin, thinking
he perceived signs of relenting.

'Well, then, thou may'st tell him that it's nother he nor thee as 'll
see th' sight o' three hundred pound o' my money. I'll not deny as
I've a bit laid up again' a rainy day; it's not so much as thatten,
though; and a part on it is for Bessy, as has been like a daughter to
us.'

'But Bessy is to be your real daughter some day, when I've a home to
take her to,' said Benjamin; for he played very fast and loose, even
in his own mind, with his engagement with Bessy. Present with her,
when she was looking her brightest and best, he behaved to her as if
they were engaged lovers; absent from her, he looked upon her rather
as a good wedge, to be driven into his parents' favour on his behalf
Now, however, he was not exactly untrue in speaking as if he meant to
make her his wife; for the thought was in his mind, though he made use
of it to work upon his father.

'It will be a dree day for us, then,' said the old man. 'But God'll
have us in His keeping, and'll, may-happen, be taking more care on us
i' heaven by that time than Bess, good lass as she is, has had on us
at Nab-End. Her heart is set on thee, too. But, lad, I hanna gotten
the three hunder; I keeps my cash i' th' stocking, thous know'st, till
it reaches fifty pound, and then I takes it to Ripon Bank. Now the
last scratch they'n gi'en me made it just two-hunder, and I hanna but
on to fifteen pound yet i' the stockin', and I meant one hunder an'
the red cow's calf to be for Bess, she's ta'en such pleasure like i'
rearing it'.

Benjamin gave a sharp glance at his father, to see if he was telling
the truth; and, that a suspicion of the old man, his father, had
entered into the son's head, tells enough of his own character.

'I canna do it, I canna do it, for sure; although I shall like to
think as I had helped on the wedding. There's the black heifer to be
sold yet, and she'll fetch a matter of ten pound; but a deal on't will
be needed for seed-corn, for the arable did but bad last year, and I
thought I would try--I'll tell thee what, lad! I'll make it as though
Bess lent thee her hunder, only thou must give her a writ of hand for
it; and thou shalt have a' the money i' Ripon Bank, and see if the
lawyer wunnot let thee have a share of what he offered thee at three
hunder for two. I dunnot mean for to wrong him; but thou must get a
fair share for the money. At times, I think thou'rt done by folk; now
I wadna have you cheat a bairn of a brass farthing; same time, I wadna
have thee so soft as to be cheated.'

To explain this, it should be told that some of the bills, which
Benjamin had received money from his father to pay, had been altered
so as to cover other and less creditable expenses which the young man
had incurred; and the simple old farmer, who had still much faith left
in him for his boy, was acute enough to perceive that he had paid
above the usual price for the articles he had purchased.

After some hesitation, Benjamin agreed to receive the two hundred, and
promised to employ it to the best advantage in setting himself up in
business. He had, nevertheless, a strange hankering after the
additional fifteen pounds that was left to accumulate in the stocking.
It was his, he thought, as heir to his father; and he soon lost some
of his usual complaisance for Bessy that evening, as he dwelt on the
idea that there was money being laid by for her, and grudged it to her
even in imagination. He thought more of this fifteen pounds that he
was not to have than of all the hardly-earned and humbly-saved two
hundred that he was to come into possession of. Meanwhile, Nathan was
in unusual spirits that evening. He was so generous and affectionate
at heart, that he had an unconscious satisfaction in having helped two
people on the road to happiness by the sacrifice of the greater part
of his property. The very fact of having trusted his son so largely
seemed to make Benjamin more worthy of trust in his father's
estimation. The sole idea he tried to banish was, that, if all came to
pass as he hoped, both Benjamin and Bessy would be settled far away
from Nab-End; but then he had a child-like reliance that 'God would
take care of him and his missus, somehow or anodder. It wur o' no use
looking too far ahead.'

Bessy had to hear many unintelligible jokes from her uncle that night,
for he made no doubt that Benjamin had told her all that had passed.'
whereas the truth was, his son had said never a word to his cousin on
the subject.

When the old couple were in bed, Nathan told his wife of the promise
he had made to his son, and the plan in life which the advance of the
two hundred was to promote. Poor Hester was a little startled at the
sudden change in the destination of the sum, which she had long
thought of with secret pride as money i' th' bank'. But she was
willing enough to part with it, if necessary, for Benjamin. Only, how
such a sum could be necessary, was the puzzle. But even the perplexity
was jostled out of her mind by the overwhelming idea, not only of 'our
Ben' settling in London, but of Bessy going there too as his wife.
This great trouble swallowed up all care about money, and Hester
shivered and sighed all the night through with distress. In the
morning, as Bessy was kneading the bread, her aunt, who had been
sitting by the fire in an unusual manner, for one of her active
habits, said--

'I reckon we maun go to th' shop for our bread; an' that's a thing I
never thought to come to so long as I lived.'

Bessy looked up from her kneading, surprised.

'I'm sure, I'm noan going to cat their nasty stuff. What for do ye
want to get baker's bread, aunt? This dough will rise as high as a
kite in a south wind.'

'I'm not up to kneading as I could do once; it welly breaks my back;
and, when tou'rt off in London, I reckon we maun buy our bread, first
time in my life.'

'I'm not a-goin to London,' said Bessy, kneading away with fresh
resolution, and growing very red, either with the idea or the
exertion.

'But our Ben is going partner wi' a great London lawyer; and thou
know'st he'll not tarry long but what he'll fetch thee.'

'Now, aunt,' said Bessy, stripping her arms of the dough, but still
not looking up, 'if that's all, don't fret yourself Ben will have
twenty minds in his head, afore he settles, eyther in business or in
wedlock. I sometimes wonder,' she said, with increasing vehemence,
'why I go on thinking on him; for I dunnot think he thinks on me, when
I'm out o' sight. I've a month's mind to try and forget him this time,
when he leaves us--that I have!'

'For shame, wench! and he to be planning and purposing, all for thy
sake! It wur only yesterday as he wur talking to thy uncle, and
mapping it out so clever; only, thou seest, wench, it'll be dree work
for us when both thee and him is gone.'

The old woman began to cry the kind of tearless cry of the aged. Bessy
hastened to comfort her; and the two talked, and grieved, and hoped,
and planned for the days that now were to be, till they ended, the one
in being consoled, the other in being secretly happy.

Nathan and his son came back from Highminster that evening, with their
business transacted in the round-about way which was most satisfactory
to the old man. If he had thought it necessary to take half as much
pains in ascertaining the truth of the plausible details by which his
son bore out the story of the offered partnership, as he did in trying
to get his money conveyed to London in the most secure manner, it
would have been well for him. But he knew nothing of all this, and
acted in the way which satisfied his anxiety best. Hecame home tired,
but content; not in such high spirits as on the night before, but as
easy in his mind as he could be on the eve of his son's departure.
Bessy, pleasantly agitated by her aunt's tale of the morning of her
cousin's true love for her ('what ardently we wish we long believe')
and the plan which was to end in their marriage--end to her, the
woman, at least--looked almost pretty in her bright, blushing
comeliness, and more than once, as she moved about from kitchen to
dairy, Benjamin pulled her towards him, and gave her a kiss. To all
such proceedings the old couple were wilfully blind; and, as night
drew on, every one became sadder and quieter, thinking of the parting
that was to be on the morrow. As the hours slipped away, Bessy too
became subdued; and, by and by, her simple cunning was exerted to get
Benjamin to sit down next his mother, whose very heart was yearning
after him, as Bessy saw. When once her child was placed by her side,
and she had got possession of his hand, the old woman kept stroking
it, and murmuring long unused words of endearment, such as she had
spoken to him while he was yet a little child. But all this was
wearisome to him. As long as he might play with, and plague, and
caress Bessy, he had not been sleepy; but now he yawned loudly. Bessy
could have boxed his cars for not curbing this gaping; at any rate, he
need not have done it so openly--so almost ostentatiously. His mother
was more pitiful.

'Thou'rt tired, my lad!' said she, putting her hand fondly on his
shoulder; but it fell off, as he stood up suddenly, and said--

'Yes, deuced tired! I'm off to bed.' And with a rough, careless kiss
all round, even to Bessy, as if he was 'deuced tired' of playing the
lover, he was gone; leaving the three to gather up their thoughts
slowly, and follow him upstairs.

He seemed almost impatient at them for rising betimes to see him off
the next morning, and made no more of a good-bye than some such speech
as this: 'Well, good folk, when next I see you, I hope you'll have
merrier faces than you have to-day. Why, you might be going to a
funeral; it's enough to scare a man from the place; you look quite
ugly to what you did last night, Bess.'

He was gone; and they turned into the house, and settled to the long
day's work without many words about their loss. They had no time for
unnecessary talking, indeed; for much had been left undone, during his
short visit, that ought to have been done, and they had now to work
double tides. Hard work was their comfort for many a long day.

For some time Benjamin's letters, if not frequent, were full of
exultant accounts of his well-doing. It is true that the details of
his prosperity were somewhat vague; but the fact was broadly and
unmistakenly stated. Then came longer pauses; shorter letters, altered
in tone. About a year after he had left them, Nathan received a letter
which bewildered and irritated him exceedingly. Something had gone
wrong--what, Benjamin did not say--but the letter ended with a request
that was almost a demand, for the remainder of his father's savings,
whether in the stocking or in the bank. Now, the year had not been
prosperous with Nathan; there had been an epidemic among cattle, and
he had suffered along with his neighbours; and, moreover, the price of
cows, when he had bought some to repair his wasted stock, was higher
than he had ever remembered it before. The fifteen pounds in the
stocking, which Benjamin left, had diminished to little more than
three; and to have that required of him in so peremptory a manner!
Before Nathan imparted the contents of this letter to anyone (Bessy
and her aunt had gone to market in a neighbour's cart that day), he
got pen and ink and paper, and wrote back an ill-spelt, but very
explicit and stem negative. Benjamin had had his portion; and if he
could not make it do, so much the worse for him; his father had no
more to give him. That was the substance of the letter.

The letter was written, directed, and sealed, and given to the country
postman, returning to Highminster after his day's distribution and
collection of letters, before Hester and Bessy came back from market.
It had been a pleasant day of neighbourly meeting and sociable gossip;
prices had been high, and they were in good spirits--only agreeably
tired, and full of small pieces of news. It was some time before they
found out how flatly all their talk fell on the cars of the stay-at-
home listener. But, when they saw that his depression was caused by
something beyond their powers of accounting for by any little every-
day cause, they urged him to tell them what was the matter. His anger
had not gone off. It had rather increased by dwelling upon it, and he
spoke it out in good, resolute terms; and, long ere he had ended, the
two women were as sad, if not as angry, as himself. Indeed, it was
many days before either feeling wore away in the minds of those who
entertained them. Bessy was the soonest comforted, because she found a
vent for her sorrow in action: action that was half as a kind of
compensation for many a sharp word that she had spoken, when her
cousin had done anything to displease her on his last visit, and half
because she believed that he never could have written such a letter to
his father, unless his want of money had been very pressing and real;
though how he could ever have wanted money so soon, after such a heap
of it had been given to him, was more than she could justly say. Bessy
got out all her savings of little presents of sixpences and shillings,
ever since she had been a child--of all the money she had gained for
the eggs of two hens, called her own; she put the whole together, and
it was above two pounds--two pounds five and seven-pence, to speak
accurately--and, leaving out the penny as a nest-egg for her future
savings, she made up the rest in a little parcel, and sent it, with a
note, to Benjamin's address in London:

'From a well-wisher.

'Dr BENJAMIN,--Unkle has lost 2 cows and a vast of monney. He is a
good deal Angored, but more Troubled. So no more at present. Hopeing
this will finding you well As it leaves us. Tho' lost to Site, To
Memory Dear. Repayment not kneeded.--Your effectonet cousin.

'ELIZABETH ROSE'

When this packet was once fairly sent off, Bessy began to sing again
over her work. She never expected the mere form of acknowledgement;
indeed, she had such faith in the carrier (who took parcels to York,
whence they were forwarded to London by coach), that she felt sure he
would go on purpose to London to deliver anything intrusted to him, if
he had not full confidence in the person, persons, coach and horses,
to whom he committed it. Therefore she was not anxious that she did
not hear of its arrival. 'Giving a thing to a man as one knows,' said
she to herself, 'is a vast different to poking a thing through a hole
into a box, th' inside of which one has never clapped eyes on; and yet
letters get safe, some ways or another.' (The belief in the
infallibility of the post was destined to a shock before long.) But
she had a secret yearning for Benjamin's thanks, and some of the old
words of love that she had been without so long. Nay, she even
thought--when, day after day, week after week, passed by without a
line--that he might be winding up his affairs in that weary, wasteful
London, and coming back to Nab-End to thank her in person.

One day--her aunt was upstairs, inspecting the summer's make of
cheeses, her uncle out in the fields--the postman brought a letter
into the kitchen to Bessy. A country postman, even now, is not much
pressed for time; and in those days there were but few letters to
distribute, and they were only sent out from Highminster once a week
into the district in which Nab-End was situated; and, on those
occasions, the letter-carrier usually paid morning calls on the
various people for whom he had letters. So, half-standing by the
dresser, half-sitting on it, he began to rummage out his bag.

'It's a queer-like thing I've got for Nathan this time. I am afraid it
will bear ill news in it; for there's 'Dead Letter Office' stamped on
the top of it.'

'Lord save us!' said Bessy, and sat down on the nearest chair, as
white as a sheet. In an instant, however, she was up; and, snatching
the ominous letter out of the man's hands, she pushed him before her
out of the house, and said, 'Be off wi' thee, afore aunt comes down';
and ran past him as hard as she could, till she reached the field
where she expected to find her uncle.

'Uncle,' said she, breathiess, 'what is it? Oh, uncle, speak! Is he
dead?'

Nathan's hands trembled, and his eyes dazzled, 'Take it,' he said,
'and tell me what it is.'

'It's a letter--it's from you to Benjamin, it is--and there's words
written on it, 'Not known at the address given;' so they've sent it
back to the writer--that's you, uncle. Oh, it gave me such a start,
with them nasty words written outside!'

Nathan had taken the letter back into his own hands, and was turning
it over, while he strove to understand what the quick-witted Bessy had
picked up at a glance. But he arrived at a different conclusion.

'He's dead!' said he. 'The lad is dead, and he never knowed how as I
were sorry I wrote to 'un so sharp. My lad! my lad!' Nathan sat down
on the ground where he stood, and covered his face with his old,
withered hands. The letter returned to him was one which he had
written, with infinite pains and at various times, to tell his child,
in kinder words and at greater length than he had done before, the
reasons why he could not send him the money demanded. And now Benjamin
was dead; nay, the old man immediately jumped to the conclusion that
his child had been starved to death, without money, in a wild, wide,
strange place. All he could say at first was--

'My heart, Bess--my heart is broken!' And he put his hand to his side,
still keeping his shut eyes covered with the other, as though he never
wished to see the light of day again. Bessy was down by his side in an
instant, holding him in her arms, chafing and kissing him.

'It's noan so bad, uncle; he's not dead; the letter does not say that,
dunnot think it. He's flitted from that lodging, and the lazy tykes
dunna know where to find him; and so they just send y' back th'
letter, instead of trying fra' house to house, as Mark Benson would.
I've alwayds heerd tell on south-country folk for laziness. He's noan
dead, uncle; he's just flitted; and he'll let us know afore long where
he's gotten to. May be, it's a cheaper place; for that lawyer has
cheated him, ye reck'lect, and he'll be trying to live for as little
as he can, that's all, uncle. Dunnot take on so; for it doesna say
he's dead.'

By this time Bessy was crying with agitation, although she firmly
believed in her own view of the case, and had felt the opening of the
ill-favoured letter as a great relief. Presently she began to urge,
both with word and action, upon her uncle, that he should sit no
longer on the damp grass, She pulled him up; for he was very stiff,
and, as he said, 'all shaken to dithers.' She made him walk about,
repeating over and over again her solution of the case, always in the
same words, beginning again and again, 'He's noan dead; it's just been
a flitting,' and so on. Nathan shook his head, and tried to be
convinced; but it was a steady belief in his own heart for all that.
He looked so deathly ill on his return home with Bessy (for she would
not let him go on with his day's work), that his wife made sure he had
taken cold; and he, weary and indifferent to life, was glad to subside
into bed and the rest from exertion which his real bodily illness gave
him. Neither Bessy nor he spoke of the letter again, even to each
other, for many days; and she found means to stop Mark Benson's tongue
and satisfy his kindly curiously, by giving him the rosy side of her
own view of the case.

Nathan got up again, an older man in looks and constitution by ten
years for that week of bed. His wife gave him many a scolding on his
imprudence for sitting down in the wet field, if ever so tired. But
now she, too, was beginning to be uneasy at Benjamin's long-continued
silence. She could not write herself; but she urged her husband many a
time to send a letter to ask for news of her lad. He said nothing in
reply for some time; at length, he told her he would write next Sunday
afternoon. Sunday was his general day for writing, and this Sunday he
meant to go to church for the first time since his illness. On
Saturday he was very persistent, against his wife's wishes (backed by
Bessy as hard as she could), in resolving to go into Highminster to
market. The change would do him good, he said. But he came home tired,
and a little mysterious in his ways. When he went to the shippon the
last thing at night, he asked Bessy to go with him, and hold the
lantern, while he looked at an ailing cow; and, when they were fairly
out of the car-shot of the house, he pulled a little shop-parcel from
his pocket and said--

'Thou'lt put that on ma Sunday hat, wilt 'on, lass? It'll be a bit on
a comfort to me; for I know my lad's dead and gone, though I dunna
speak on it, for fear o' grieving th' old woman and ye.'

'I'll put it on, uncle, if--But he's noan dead.' (Bessy was sobbing.)

'I know--I know, lass. I dunnot wish other folk to hold my opinion;
but Id like to wear a bit o' crape out o' respect to my boy. It 'ud
have done me good for to have ordered a black coat; but she'd see if I
had na' on my wedding-coat, Sundays, for a' she's losing her eyesight,
poor old wench! But she'll ne'er take notice o' a bit o' crape.
Thou'lt put it on all canny and tidy.'

So Nathan went to church with a strip of crape, as narrow as Bessy
durst venture to make it, round his hat. Such is the contradictoriness
of human nature that, though he was most anxious his wife should not
hear of his conviction that their son was dead, he was half-hurt that
none of his neighbours noticed his sign of mourning so far as to ask
him for whom he wore it.

But after a while, when they never heard a word from or about
Benjamin, the household wonder as to what had become of him grew so
painful and strong, that Nathan no longer kept the idea to himself
Poor Hester, however, rejected it with her whole will, heart, and
soul. She could and would not believe--nothing should make her
believe--that her only child Benjamin had died without some sign of
love or farewell to her. No arguments could shake her in this. She
believed that, if all natural means of communication between her and
him had been cut off at the last supreme moment--if death had come
upon him in an instant, sudden and unexpected--her intense love would
have been supernaturally made conscious of the blank. Nathan at times
tried to feel glad that she should still hope to see the lad again;
but at other moments he wanted her sympathy in his grief, his self-
reproach, his weary wonder as to how and what they had done wrong in
the treatment of their son, that he had been such a care and sorrow to
his parents. Bessy was convinced, first by her aunt, and then by her
uncle--honestly convinced--on both sides of the argument, and so, for
the time, able to sympathise with each. But she lost her youth in a
very few months; she looked set and middle-aged, long before she ought
to have done, and rarely smiled and never sang again.

All sorts of new arrangements were required by the blow which told so
miserably upon the energies of all the household at Nab-End. Nathan
could no longer go about and direct his two men, taking a good rum of
work himself at busy times. Hester lost her interest in the dairy; for
which, indeed, her increasing loss of sight unfitted her. Bessy would
either do field-work, or attend to the cows and the shippon, or chum,
or make cheese; she did all well, no longer merrily, but with
something of stem cleverness. But she was not sorry when her uncle,
one evening, told her aunt and her that a neighbouring farmer, job
Kirkby, had made him an offer to take so much of his land off his
hands as would leave him only pasture enough for two cows, and no
arable to attend to; while Farmer Kirkby did not wish to interfere
with anything in the house, only would be glad to use some of the out-
building for his Battening cattle.

'We can do wi' Hawky and Daisy; it'll leave us eight or ten pound o'
butter to take to market i' summer time, and keep us fra' thinking too
much, which is what I'm dreading on as I get into years.'

'Ay,' said his wife. 'Thou'll not have to go so far a-field, if it's
only the Aster-Toft as is on thy hands. And Bess will have to gie up
her pride i' cheese, and tak' to making cream-butter. I'd allays a
fancy for trying at cream-butter; but th' whey had to be used; else,
where I come fra', they'd never ha' looked near whey-butter.'

When Hester was left alone with Bessy, she said, in allusion to this
change of plan--

'I'm thankful to the Lord that it is as it is; for I were allays
afeared Nathan would have to gie up the house and farm altogether, and
then the lad would na know where to find us when he came back fra'
Merikay. He's gone there for to make his fortune, I'll be bound. Keep
up thy heart, lass, he'll be home some day; and have sown his wild
oats. Eh! but thatten's a pretty story i' the Gospel about the
Prodigal, who'd to cat the pigs' vittle at one time, but ended i'
clover in his father's house. And I'm sure our Nathan 'll be ready to
forgive him, and love him, and make much of him--may be, a deal more
nor me, who never gave in to 's death. It'll be liken to a
resurrection to our Nathan.'

Farmer Kirkby, then, took by far the greater part of the land
belonging to Nab-End Farm; and the work about the rest, and about the
two remaining cows, was easily done by three pairs of willing hands,
with a little occasional assistance. The Kirkby family were pleasant
enough to have to deal with. There was a son, a stiff, grave bachelor,
who was very particular and methodical about his work, and rarely
spoke to any one. But Nathan took it into his head that John Kirkby
was looking after Bessy, and was a good deal troubled in his mind in
consequence; for it was the first time he had to face the effects of
his belief in his son's death; and he discovered, to his own surprise,
that he had not that implicit faith which would make it easy for him
to look upon Bessy as the wife of another man than the one to whom she
had been betrothed in her youth. As, however, John Kirkby seemed in no
hurry to make his intentions (if indeed he had any) clear to Bessy, it
was only now and then that his jealousy on behalf of his lost son
seized upon Nathan.

But people, old, and in deep hopeless sorrow, grow irritable at times,
however they may repent and struggle against their irritability. There
were days when Bessy had to bear a good deal from her uncle; but she
loved him so dearly and respected him so much, that, high as her
temper was to all other people, she never returned him a rough or
impatient word. And she had a reward in the conviction of his deep,
true affection for her, and her aunt's entire and most sweet
dependence upon her.

One day, however--it was near the end of November--Bessy had had a
good deal to bear, that seemed more than usually unreasonable, on the
part of her uncle. The truth was, that one of Kirkby's cows was ill,
and John Kirkby was a good deal about in the farmyard; Bessy was
interested about the animal, and had helped in preparing a mash over
their own fire, that had to be given warm to the sick creature. If
John had been out of the way, there would have been no one more
anxious about the affair than Nathan: both because he was naturally
kind-hearted and neighbourly, and also because he was rather proud of
his reputation for knowledge in the diseases of cattle. But because
John was about, and Bessy helping a little in what had to be done,
Nathan would do nothing, and chose to assume that nothing to think on
ailed th' beast; but lads and lasses were allays fain to be feared on
something.' Now John was upwards of forty, and Bessy nearly eight-and-
twenty; so the terms lads and lasses did not exactly apply to their
case.

When Bessy brought the milk in from their own cows, towards half-past
five o'clock, Nathan bade her make the doors, and not be running out
i' the dark and cold about other folks' business; and, though Bessy
was a little surprised and a good deal annoyed at his tone, she sat
down to her supper without making a remonstrance. It had long been
Nathan's custom to look out the last thing at night, to see 'what mak'
o' weather it wur'; and when, towards half-past eight, he got his
stick and went out--two or three steps from the door, which opened
into the house-place where they were sitting--Hester put her hand on
her niece's shoulder and said--

'He's gotten a touch o' rheumatics, as twinges him and makes him speak
so sharp. I didna like to ask thee afore him, but how's yon poor
beast?'

'Very ailing, belike. John Kirkby wur off for th' cow-doctor when I
cam in. I reckon they'll have to stop up wi 't a' night.'

Since their sorrows, her uncle had taken to reading a chapter in the
Bible aloud, the last thing at night. He could not read fluently, and
often hesitated long over a word, which he miscalled at length; but
the very fact of opening the book seemed to soothe those old bereaved
parents; for it made them feel quiet and safe in the presence of God,
and took them out of the cares and troubles of this world into that
futurity which, however dim and vague, was to their faithful hearts as
a sure and certain rest. This little quiet time--Nathan sitting with
his hem spectacles, the tallow candle between him and the Bible
throwing a strong light on his reverent, earnest face; Hester sitting
on the other side of the fire, her head bowed in attentive listening;
now and then shaking it, and moaning a little, but when a promise
came, or any good tidings of great joy, saying 'Amen' with fervour;
Bessy by her aunt, perhaps her mind a little wandering to some
household cares, or it might be on thoughts of those who were absent--
this little quiet pause, I say, was grateful and soothing to this
household, as a lullaby to a tired child. But this night, Bessy,
sitting opposite to the long, low window, only shaded by a few
geraniums that grew in the sill, and to the door alongside that window
through which her uncle had passed not a quarter of an hour before,
saw the wooden latch of the door gently and almost noiselessly lifted
up, as if some one were trying it from the outside.

She was startled, and watched again, intently; but it was perfectly
still now. She thought it must have been that it had not fallen into
its proper place, when her uncle had come in and locked the door. It
was just enough to make her uncomfortable, no more; and she almost
persuaded herself it must have been fancy. Before going upstairs,
however, she went to the window, to look out into the darkness; but
all was still. Nothing to be seen; nothing to be heard. So the three
went quietly upstairs to bed.

The house was little better than a cottage. The front door opened on a
house-place, over which was the old couple's bed-room. To the left, as
you entered this pleasant house-place, and at close right angles with
the entrance, was a door that led into the small parlour, which was
Hester's and Bessy's pride, although not half as comfortable as the
house-place, and never on any occasion used as a sitting-room. There
were shells and bunches of honesty in the fireplace; the best chest of
drawers, and a company set of gaudy-coloured china, and a bright
common carpet on the floor; but all failed to give it the aspect of
the homely comfort and delicate cleanliness of the house-place. Over
this parlour was the bedroom which Benjamin had slept in when a boy,
when at home. It was kept, still, in a kind of readiness for him. The
bed was yet there, in which none had slept since he had last done,
eight or nine years ago; and every now and then a warming-pan was
taken quietly and silently up by his old mother, and the bed
thoroughly aired. But this she did in her husband's absence, and
without saying a word to anyone; nor did Bessy offer to help her,
though her eyes often filled with tears, as she saw her aunt still
going through the hopeless service. But the room had become a
receptacle for all unused things; and there was always a corner of it
appropriated to the winter's store of apples. To the left of the
house-place, as you stood facing the fire, on the side opposite to the
window and outer door, were two other doors; the one on the right led
into a kind of back kitchen, and had a lean-to roof, and a door
opening on to the farm-yard and back-premises; the left-hand door gave
on the stairs, underneath which was a closet, in which various house-
hold treasures were kept; and beyond that was the dairy, over which
Bessy slept, her little chamber window opening just above the sloping
roof of the back-kitchen. There were neither blinds nor shutters to
any of the windows, either upstairs or down; the house was built of
stone; and there was heavy framework of the same material around the
little casement windows, and the long, low window of the house-place
was divided by what, in grander dwellings, would be called mullions.

By nine o'clock this night of which I am speaking, all had gone
upstairs to bed; it was even later than usual, for the burning of
candles was regarded so much in the light of an extravagance, that the
household kept early hours even for country-folk. But, somehow, this
evening, Bessy could not sleep; although in general she was in deep
slumber five minutes after her head touched the pillow. Her thoughts
ran on the chances for John Kirkby's cow, and a little fear lest the
disorder might be epidemic and spread to their own cattle. Across all
these homely cares came a vivid, uncomfortable recollection of the way
in which the door-latch went up and down, without any sufficient
agency to account for it. She felt more sure now than she had done
downstairs, that it was a real movement, and no effect of her
imagination. She wished that it had not happened just when her uncle
was reading, that she might at once have gone quick to the door, and
convinced herself of the cause. As it was, her thoughts ran uneasily
on the supernatural; and thence to Benjamin, her dear cousin and
playfellow, her early lover. She had long given him up as lost for
ever to her, if not actually dead; but this very giving him up for
ever involved a free, full forgiveness of all his wrongs to her. She
thought tenderly of him, as of one who might have been led astray in
his later years, but who existed rather in her recollection as the
innocent child, the spirited lad, the handsome, dashing young man. If
John Kirkby's quiet attentions had ever betrayed his wishes to Bessy--
if indeed he ever had any wishes on the subject--her first feeling
would have been to compare his weather-beaten, middle-aged face and
figure with the face and figure she remembered well, but never more
expected to see in this life. So thinking, she became very restless,
and weary of bed, and, after long tossing and turning, ending in a
belief that she should never get to sleep at all that night, she went
off soundly and suddenly.

As suddenly she was wide awake, sitting up in bed, listening to some
noise that must have awakened her, but which was not repeated for some
time. Surely it was in her uncle's room--her uncle was up; but, for a
minute or two, there was no further sound. Then she heard him open his
door, and go downstairs, with hurried, stumbling steps. She now
thought that her aunt must be ill, and hastily sprang out of bed, and
was putting on her petticoat with hurried, trembling hands, and had
just opened her chamber door, when she heard the front door undone,
and a scuffle, as of the feet of several people, and many rude,
passionate words, spoken hoarsely below the breath. Quick as thought
she understood it all--the house was lonely--her uncle had the
reputation of being well-to-do--they had pretended to be belated, and
had asked their way or something. What a blessing that John Kirkby's
cow was sick, for there were several men watching with him! She went
back, opened her window, squeezed herself out, slid down the lean-to
roof, and ran barefoot and breathless to the shippon--

'John, John, for the love of God, come quick; there's robbers in the
house, and uncle and aunt 'll be murdered!' she whispered, in
terrified accents, through the closed and barred shippon door. In a
moment it was undone, and John and the cow-doctor stood there, ready
to act, if they but understood her rightly. Again she repeated her
words, with broken, half-unintelligible explanations of what she as
yet did not rightly understand.

'Front door is open, say'st thou?' said John, arming himself with a
pitchfork, while the cow-doctor took some other implement. 'Then I
reckon we'd best make for that way o' getting into th' house, and
catch 'em all in a trap.'

'Run! run!' was all Bessy could say, taking hold of John Kirkby's arm,
and pulling him along with her. Swiftly did the three run to the house
round the corner, and in at the open front-door. The men carried the
hem lantern they had been using in the shippon; and, by the sudden
oblong light that it threw, Bessy saw the principal object of her
anxiety, her uncle, lying stunned and helpless on the kitchen-floor.
Her first thought was for him; for she had no idea that her aunt was
in any immediate danger, although she heard the noise of feet, and
fierce, subdued voices upstairs.

'Make th' door behind us, lass. We'll not let 'em escape!' said brave
John Kirkby, dauntless in a good cause, though he knew not how many
there might be above. The cow-doctor fastened and locked the door,
saying, 'There!' in a defiant tone, as he put the key in his pocket.
It was to be a struggle for life or death, or, at any rate, for
effectual capture or desperate escape. Bessy kneeled down by her
uncle, who did not speak or give any sign of consciousness. Bessy
raised his head by drawing a pillow off the settle, and putting it
under him; she longed to go for water into the back kitchen, but the
sound of a violent struggle, and of heavy blows, and of low, hard
curses spoken through closed teeth, and muttered passion, as though
breath were too much needed for action to be wasted in speech, kept
her still and quiet by her uncle's side in the kitchen, where the
darkness might almost be felt, so thick and deep was it. Once--in a
pause of her own heart's beating--a sudden terror came over her; she
perceived, in that strange way in which the presence of a living
creature forces itself on our consciousness in the darkest room, that
someone was near her, keeping as still as she. It was not the poor old
man's breathing that she heard, nor the radiation of his presence that
she felt; someone else was in the kitchen; another robber, perhaps,
left to guard the old man, with murderous intent if his consciousness
returned. Now Bessy was fully aware that self-preservation would keep
her terrible companion quiet, as there was no motive for his betraying
himself stronger than the desire of escape; any effort for which he,
the unseen witness, must know would be rendered abortive by the fact
of the door being locked.

Yet, with the knowledge that he was there, close to her still, silent
as the grave--with fearful, it might be deadly, unspoken thoughts in
his heart--possibly even with keener and stronger sight than hers, as
longer accustomed to the darkness, able to discern her figure and
posture, and glaring at her like some wild beast--Bessy could not fail
to shrink from the vision that her fancy presented! And still the
struggle went on upstairs; feet slipping, blows sounding, and the
wrench of intentioned aims, the strong gasps for breath, as the
wrestlers paused for an instant. In one of these pauses, Bessy felt
conscious of a creeping movement close to her, which ceased when the
noise of the strife above died away, and was resumed when it again
began. She was aware of it by some subtle vibration of the air, rather
than by touch or sound. She was sure that he who had been close to her
one minute as she knelt, was, the next, passing stealthily towards the
inner door which led to the staircase. She thought he was going to
join and strengthen his accomplices, and, with a great cry, she sprang
after him; but just as she came to the doorway, through which some dim
portion of light from the upper chambers came, she saw one man thrown
downstairs, with such violence that he fell almost at her very feet,
while the dark, creeping figure glided suddenly away to the left, and
as suddenly entered the closet beneath the stairs. Bessy had no time
to wonder as to his purpose in so doing, whether he had at first
designed to aid his accomplices in their desperate fight or not. He
was an enemy, a robber, that was all she knew, and she sprang to the
door of the closet, and in a trice had locked it on the outside. And
then she stood frightened, panting in that dark corner, sick with
terror lest the man who lay before her was either John Kirkby or the
cow-doctor. If it were either of those friendly two, what would become
of the other--of her uncle, her aunt, herself? But, in a very few
minutes, this wonder was ended; her two defenders came slowly and
heavily down the stairs, dragging with them a man, fierce, sullen,
despairing--disabled with terrible blows, which had made his face one
bloody, swollen mass. As for that, neither John nor the cow-doctor was
much more presentable. One of them bore the lantern in his teeth; for
all their strength was taken up by the weight of the fellow they were
bearing.

'Take care,' said Bessy, from her corner; 'there's a chap just beneath
your feet. I dunno know if he's dead or alive; and uncle lies on the
floor just beyond.'

They stood still on the stairs for a moment, just then the robber they
had thrown downstairs stirred and moaned.

'Bessy,' said John, 'run off to th' stable and fetch ropes and gearing
for us to bind 'em; and we'll rid the house on 'em, and thou can'st go
see after th' oud folks, who need it sadly.'

Bessy was back in a very few minutes. When she came in, there was more
light in the house-place, for someone had stirred up the raked fire.

'That felly makes as though his leg were broken,' said John, nodding
towards the man still lying on the ground. Bessy felt almost sorry for
him as they handled him--not over-gently--and bound him, only half-
conscious, as hardly and tightly as they had done his fierce, surly
companion. She even felt sorry for his evident agony, as they turned
him over and over, that she ran to get him a cup of water to moisten
his lips.

'I'm loth to leave yo' with him alone,' said John, 'though I'm
thinking his leg is broken for sartin, and he can't stir, even if he
comes to hissel, to do yo' any harm. But we'll just take off this
chap, and mak sure of him, and then one on us 'll come back to yo',
and we can, may be, find a gate or so for yo' to get shut on him o'
th' house. This felly's made safe enough, I'll be bound,' said he,
looking at the burglar, who stood, bloody and black, with fell hatred
on his sullen face. His eye caught Bessy's, as hers fell on him with
dread so evident that it made him smile; and the look and the smile
prevented the words from being spoken which were on Bessy's lips.

She dared not tell, before him, that an able-bodied accomplice still
remained in the house; lest, somehow, the door which kept him a
prisoner should be broken open and the fight renewed. So she only said
to John, as he was leaving the house--

'Thou'll not be long away, for I'm afeared of being left wi' this
man.'

'He'll noan do thee harm,' said John.

'No! but I'm feared lest he should die. And there's uncle and aunt.
Come back soon, John!'

'Ay, ay!' said he, half-pleased; 'I'll be back, never fear me.'

So Bessy shut the door after them, but did not lock it, for fear of
mischances in the house, and went once more to her uncle, whose
breathing, by this time, was easier than when she had first returned
into the house-place with John and the doctor. By the light of the
fire, too, she could now see that he had received a blow on the head,
which was probably the occasion of his stupor. Round this wound, which
was bleeding pretty freely, Bessy put cloths dipped in cold water; and
then, leaving him for a time, she lighted a candle, and was about to
go upstairs to her aunt, when, just as she was passing the bound and
disabled robber, she heard her name softly, urgently called--

'Bessy, Bessy!' At first the voice sounded so close that she thought
it must be the unconscious wretch at her feet. But, once again, that
voice thrilled through her-

'Bessy, Bessy! for God's sake, let me out!'

She went to the stair-closet door, and tried to speak, but could not,
her heart beat so terribly. Again, close to her ear--

'Bessy, Bessy! they'll be back directly; let me out, I say! For God's
sake, let me out!' And he began to kick violently against the panels.

'Hush! hush!' she said, sick with a terrible dread, yet with a will
strongly resisting her conviction. 'Who are you?' But she knew--knew
quite well.

'Benjamin.' An oath. 'Let me out, I say, and I'll be off, and out of
England by to-morrow night, never to come back, and you'll have all my
father's money.'

'D'ye think I care for that?' said Bessy vehemently, feeling with
trembling hands for the lock; 'I wish there was noan such a thing as
money i' the world, afore yo'd come to this. There, yo 're free, and I
charge yo' never to let me see your face again. I'd ne'er ha' let yo'
loose but for fear o' breaking their hearts, if yo' hanna killed him
already.' But, before she had ended her speech, he was gone--off into
the black darkness, leaving the door open wide. With a new terror in
her mind, Bessy shut it afresh--shut it and bolted it this time. Then
she sat down on the first chair, and relieved her soul by giving a
great and exceeding bitter cry. But she knew it was no time for giving
way; and, lifting herself up with as much effort as if each of her
limbs was a heavy weight, she went into the back kitchen, and took a
drink of cold water. To her surprise, she heard her uncle's voice
saying feebly--

'Carry me up, and lay me by her.'

But Bessy could not carry him; she could only help his faint exertions
to walk upstairs; and, by the time he was there, sitting panting on
the first chair she could find, John Kirkby and Atkinson returned.
John came up now to her aid. Her aunt lay across the bed in a
fainting-fit, and her uncle sat in so utterly broken-down a state that
Bessy feared immediate death for both. But John cheered her up, and
lifted the old man into his bed again; and, while Bessy tried to
compose poor Hester's limbs into a position of rest, John went down to
hunt about for the little store of gin which was always kept in a
corner cupboard against emergencies.

'They've had a sore fright,' said he, shaking his head, as he poured a
little gin and hot water into their mouths with a tea-spoon, while
Bessy chafed their cold feet; 'and it and the cold have been welly too
much for 'em, poor old folk!'

He looked tenderly at them, and Bessy blessed him in her heart for
that look.

'I maun be off. I sent Atkinson up to th' farm for to bring down Bob,
and Jack came wi' him back to th' shippon, for to look after t'other
man. He began blackguarding us all round, so Bob and Jack were gagging
him wi' bridles when I left.'

'Ne'er give heed to what he says,' cried poor Bessy, a new panic
besetting her. 'Folks o' his sort are allays for dragging other folk
into their mischief. I'm right glad he were well gagged.'

'Well! but what I were saying were this: Atkinson and me will take
t'other chap, who seems quiet enough, to th' shippon, and it'll be one
piece o' work for to mind them and the cow; and I'll saddle t' old bay
mare and ride for constables and doctor fra' Highminster. I'll bring
Dr Preston up to see Nathan and Hester first; and then, I reckon, th'
broken-legged chap down below must have his turn for all as he's met
wi' his misfortunes in a wrong line o' life.'

'Ay!' said Bessy. 'We maun ha' the doctor sure enough, for look at
them how they lie--like two stone statues on a church monument, so sad
and solemn!'

'There's a look o' sense come back into their faces though, sin' they
supped that gin-and-water. I'd keep on a-bathing his head and giving
them a sup on't fra' time to time, if I was you, Bessy.'

Bessy followed him downstairs, and lighted the men out of the house.
She dared not light them carrying their burden even, until they passed
round the corner of the house; so strong was her fearful conviction
that Benjamin was lurking near, seeking again to enter. She rushed
back into the kitchen, bolted and barred the door, and pushed the end
of the dresser against it, shutting her eyes as she passed the
uncurtained window, for fear of catching a glimpse of a white face
pressed against the glass, and gazing at her. The poor old couple lay
quiet and speechless, although Hester's position had slightly altered:
she had turned a little on her side towards her husband, and had laid
one shrivelled arm around his neck. But he was just as Bessy had left
him, with the wet cloths around his head, his eyes not wanting in a
certain intelligence, but solemn, and unconscious to all that was
passing around as the eyes of death.

His wife spoke a little from time to time--said a word of thanks,
perhaps, or so; but he, never. All the rest of that terrible night,
Bessy tended the poor old couple with constant care, her own heart so
stunned and bruised in its feelings that she went about her pious
duties almost like one in a dream. The November morning was long in
coming; nor did she perceive any change, either for the worse or the
better, before the doctor came, about eight o'clock. John Kirkby
brought him; and was full of the capture of the two burglars.

As far as Bessy could make out, the participation of that unnatural
Third was unknown. It was a relief, almost sickening in the revulsion
it gave her from her terrible fear, which now she felt had haunted and
held possession of her all night long, and had, in fact, paralysed her
from thinking. Now she felt and thought with acute and feverish
vividness, owing, no doubt, in part, to the sleepless night she had
passed. She felt almost sure that her uncle (possibly her aunt, too)
had recognised Benjamin; but there was a faint chance that they had
not done so, and wild horses should never tear the secret from her,
nor should any inadvertent word betray the fact that there had been a
third person concerned. As to Nathan, he had never uttered a word. It
was her aunt's silence that made Bessy fear lest Hester knew, somehow,
that her son was concerned.

The doctor examined them both closely; looked hard at the wound on
Nathan's head; asked questions which Hester answered shortly and
unwillingly, and Nathan not at all--shutting his eyes, as if even the
sight of a stranger was pain to him. Bessy replied, in their stead, to
all that she could answer respecting their state, and followed the
doctor downstairs with a beating heart. When they came into the house-
place, they found John had opened the outer door to let in some fresh
air, had brushed the hearth and made up the fire, and put the chairs
and table in their right places. He reddened a little, as Bessy's eye
fell upon his swollen and battered face, but tried to smile it off in
a dry kind of way--

'Yo' see, I'm an ould bachelor, and I just thought as I'd redd up
things a bit. How dun yo' find 'em, doctor?'

'Well, the poor old couple have had a terrible shock. I shall send
them some soothing medicine to bring down the pulse, and a lotion for
the old man's head. It is very well it bled so much; there might have
been a good deal of inflammation.' And so he went on, giving
directions to Bessy for keeping them quietly in bed through the day.
From these directions she gathered that they were not, as she had
feared all night long, near to death. The doctor expected them to
recover, though they would require care. She almost wished it had been
otherwise, and that they, and she too, might have just lain down to
their rest in the churchyard--so cruel did life seem to her; so
dreadful the recollection of that subdued voice of the hidden robber
smiting her with recognition.

All this time, John was getting things ready for breakfast, with
something of the handiness of a woman. Bessy half-resented his
officiousness in pressing Dr Preston to have a cup of tea, she did so
want him to be gone and leave her alone with her thoughts. She did not
know that all was done for love of her; that the hard-featured, short-
spoken John was thinking all the time how ill and miserable she
looked, and trying with tender artifices to make it incumbent upon her
sense of hospitality to share Dr Preston's meal.

'I've seen as the cows is milked,' said he, 'yourn and all; and
Atkinson's brought ours round fine. Whatten a marcy it were as she
were sick this very night! Yon two chaps 'ud ha' made short work on't,
if yo' hadna fetched us in; and, as it were, we had a sore tussle. One
on 'em 'll bear the marks on't to his dying day, wunnot he, doctor?'

'He'll barely have his leg well enough to stand his trial at York
Assizes; they're coming off in a fortnight from now.'

'Ay, and that reminds me, Bessy, yo'll have to go witness before
Justice Royds. Constables bade me tell yo' and gie yo' this summons.
Dunnot be feared: it will not be a long job, though I'm not saying as
it'll be a pleasant one. Yo'll have to answer questions as to how, and
all about it; and Jane' (his sister) 'will come and stop wi' th' oud
folks; and I'll drive yo' in the shandry.'

No one knew why Bessy's colour blenched, and her eye clouded. No one
knew how she apprehended lest she should have to say that Benjamin had
been of the gang; if indeed, in some way, the law had not followed on
his heels quick enough to catch him.

But that trial was spared her; she was warned by John to answer
questions, and say no more than was necessary, for fear of making her
story less clear; and, as she was known, by character at least, to
justice Royds and his clerk, they made the examination as little
formidable as possible.

When all was over, and John was driving her back again, he expressed
his rejoicing that there would be evidence enough to convict the men,
without summoning Nathan and Hester to identify them. Bessy was so
tired that she hardly understood what an escape it was; how far
greater than even her companion understood.

Jane Kirkby stayed with her for a week or more, and was an unspeakable
comfort. Otherwise she sometimes thought she should have gone mad,
with the face of her uncle always reminding her, in its stony
expression of agony, of that fearful night. Her aunt was softer in her
sorrow, as became one of her faithful and pious nature; but it was
easy to see how her heart bled inwardly. She recovered her strength
sooner than her husband; but, as she recovered, the doctor perceived
the rapid approach of total blindness. Every day, nay, every hour of
the day, that Bessy dared, without fear of exciting their suspicions
of her knowledge, she told them, as she had anxiously told them at
first, that only two men, and those perfect strangers, had been
discovered as being concerned in the burglary. Her uncle would never
have asked a question about it, even if she had withheld all
information respecting the affair; but she noticed the quick,
watching, waiting glance of his eye, whenever she returned from any
person or place where she might have been supposed to gain
intelligence if Benjamin were suspected or caught: and she hastened to
relieve the old man's anxiety, by always telling all that she had
heard; thankful that, as the days passed on, the danger she sickened
to think of grew less and less.

Day by day, Bessy had ground for thinking that her aunt knew more than
she had apprehended at first. There was something so very humble and
touching in Hester's blind way of feeling about for her husband--
stern, woe-begone Nathan--and mutely striving to console him in the
deep agony of which Bessy learnt, from this loving, piteous manner,
that her aunt was conscious. Her aunt's face looked blankly up into
his, tears slowly running down from her sightless eyes; while from
time to time, when she thought herself unheard by any save him, she
would repeat such texts as she had heard at church in happier days,
and which she thought, in her true, simple piety, might tend to
console him. Yet, day by day, her aunt grew more and more sad.

Three or four days before assize-time, two summonses to attend the
trial at York were sent to the old people. Neither Bessy, nor John,
nor Jane, could understand this: for their own notices had come long
before, and they had been told that their evidence would be enough to
convict.

But, alas! the fact was, that the lawyer employed to defend the
prisoners had heard from them that there was a third person engaged,
and had heard who that third person was; and it was this advocate's
business to diminish, if possible, the guilt of his clients, by
proving that they were but tools in the hands of one who had, from his
superior knowledge of the premises and the daily customs of the
inhabitants, been the originator and planner of the whole affair. To
do this, it was necessary to have the evidence of the parents, who, as
the prisoners had said, must have recognised the voice of the young
man, their son. For no one knew that Bessy, too, could have borne
witness to his having been present; and, as it was supposed that
Benjamin had escaped out of England, there was no exact betrayal of
him on the part of his accomplices.

Wondering, bewildered, and weary, the old couple reached York, in
company with John and Bessy, on the eve of the day of the trial.
Nathan was still so self-contained that Bessy could never guess what
had been passing in his mind. He was almost passive under his old
wife's trembling caresses. He seemed hardly conscious of them, so
rigid was his demeanour.

She, Bessy feared at times, was becoming childish; for she had
evidently so great and anxious a love for her husband, that her memory
seemed going in her endeavours to melt the stoniness of his aspect and
manners; she appeared occasionally to have forgotten why he was so
changed, in her piteous little attempts to bring him back to his
former self.

'They'll, for sure, never torture them, when they see what old folks
they are!' cried Bessy, on the morning of the trial, a dim fear
looming over her mind. 'They'll never be so cruel, for sure?'

But 'for sure' it was so. The barrister looked up at the judge, almost
apologetically, as he saw how hoary-headed and woeful an old man was
put into the witness-box, when the defence came on, and Nathan
Huntroyd was called on for his evidence.

'It is necessary, on behalf of my clients, my lord, that I should
pursue a course which, for all other reasons, I deplore.'

'Go on!' said the judge. 'What is right and legal must be done.' But,
an old man himself, he covered his quivering mouth with his hand as
Nathan, with grey, unmoved face, and solemn, hollow eyes, placing his
two hands on each side of the witness-box, prepared to give his
answers to questions, the nature of which he was beginning to foresee,
but would not shrink from replying to truthfully; 'the very stones'
(as he said to himself, with a kind of dulled sense of the Eternal
justice) 'rise up against such a sinner.'

'Your name is Nathan Huntroyd, I believe?'

'It is.'

'You live at Nab-End Farm?'

'I do.'

'Do you remember the night of November the twelfth?'

'Yes.'

'You were awakened that night by some noise, I believe. What was it?'

The old man's eyes fixed themselves upon his questioner with the look
of a creature brought to bay. That look the barrister never forgets.
It will haunt him till his dying day.

'It was a throwing-up of stones against our window.'

'Did you hear it at first?'

'No.'

'What awakened you, then?'

'She did.'

'And then you both heard the stones. Did you hear anything else?'

A long pause. Then a low, clear 'Yes.'

'What?'

'Our Benjamin asking us for to let him in. She said as it were him,
leastways.'

'And you thought it was him, did you not?'

'I told her' (this rime in a louder voice) 'for to get to sleep, and
not be thinking that every drunken chap as passed by were our
Benjamin, for that he were dead and gone.'

'And she?'

'She said as though she'd heerd our Benjamin, afore she were welly
awake, axing for to be let in. But I bade her ne'er heed her dreams,
but turn on her other side and get to sleep again.'

'And did she?'

A long pause--judge, jury, bar, audience, all held their breath. At
length Nathan said--

'No!'

'What did you do then? (My lord, I am compelled to ask these painful
questions.)'

'I saw she wadna be quiet: she had allays thought he would come back
to us, like the Prodigal i' th' Gospels.' (His voice choked a little;
but he tried to make it steady, succeeded, and went on.) 'She said, if
I wadna get up, she would; and just then I heerd a voice. I'm not
quite mysel', gentlemen--I've been ill and i' bed, an' it makes me
trembling-like. Someone said, "Father, mother, I'm here, starving i'
the cold--wunnot yo' get up and let me in?"'

'And that voice was--?'

'It were like our Benjamin's. I see whatten yo're driving at, sir, and
I'll tell yo' truth, though it kills me to speak it. I dunnot say it
were our Benjamin as spoke, mind yo'--I only say it were like'--

'That's all I want, my good fellow. And on the strength of that
entreaty, spoken in your son's voice, you went down and opened the
door to these two prisoners at the bar, and to a third man?'

Nathan nodded assent, and even that counsel was too merciful to force
him to put more into words.

'Call Hester Huntroyd.'

An old woman, with a face of which the eyes were evidently blind, with
a sweet, gentle, careworn face, came into the witness-box, and meekly
curtseyed to the presence of those whom she had been taught to
respect--a presence she could not see.

There was something in her humble, blind aspect, as she stood waiting
to have something done to her--what her poor troubled mind hardly
knew--that touched all who saw her, inexpressibly. Again the counsel
apologised, but the judge could not reply in words; his face was
quivering all over, and the jury looked uneasily at the prisoner's
counsel. That gentleman saw that he might go too far, and send their
sympathies off on the other side; but one or two questions he must
ask. So, hastily recapitulating much that he had learned from Nathan,
he said, 'You believed it was your son's voice asking to be let in?'

'Ay! Our Benjamin came home, I'm sure; choose where he is gone.'

She turned her head about, as if listening for the voice of her child,
in the hushed silence of the court.

'Yes; he came home that night--and your husband went down to let him
in?'

'Well! I believe he did. There was a great noise of folk downstair.'

'And you heard your son Benjamin's voice among the others?'

'Is it to do him harm, sir?' asked she, her face growing more
intelligent and intent on the business in hand.

'That is not my object in questioning you. I believe he has left
England; so nothing you can say will do him any harm. You heard your
son's voice, I say?'

'Yes, sir. For sure I did.'

'And some men came upstairs into your room? What did they say?'

'They axed where Nathan kept his stocking.'

'And you--did you tell them?'

'No, sir, for I knew Nathan would not like me to.'

'What did you do then?'

A shade of reluctance came over her face, as if she began to perceive
causes and consequences.

'I just screamed on Bessy--that's my niece, sir.'

'And you heard someone shout out from the bottom of the stairs?'

She looked piteously at him, but did not answer.

'Gentlemen of the jury, I wish to call your particular attention to
this fact; she acknowledges she heard someone shout--some third
person, you observe--shout out to the two above. What did he say? That
is the last question I shall trouble you with. What did the third
person, left behind, downstairs, say?'

Her face worked--her mouth opened two or three times as if to speak--
she stretched out her arms imploringly; but no word came, and she fell
back into the arms of those nearest to her. Nathan forced himself
forward into the witness-box--

'My Lord judge, a woman bore ye, as I reckon; it', a cruel shame to
serve a mother so. It wur my son, my only child, as called out for us
t' open door, and who shouted out for to hold th' oud woman's throat
if she did na stop her noise, when hoo'd fain ha' cried for her niece
to help. And now yo've truth, and a' th' truth, and I'll leave yo' to
th' judgement o' God for th' way yo've getten at it.'

Before night the mother was stricken with paralysis, and lay on her
death-bed. But the broken-hearted go Home, to be comforted of God.




CROWLEY CASTLE

Sir Mark Crowley was the last baronet of his name, and it is now
nearly a century since he died. Last year I visited the ruins of his
great old Norman castle; and loitered in the village near, where I
heard some of the particulars of the following tale from old
inhabitants, who had heard them from their fathers; no further back.

We drove from our little sea-bathing place, in Sussex, to see the
massive ruins of Crowley Castle, which is the show-excursion of
Merton. We had to alight at a field gate: the road further on being
too bad for the slightly-built carriage, or the poor tired Merton
horse: and we walked for about a quarter of a mile through uneven
ground, which had once been an Italian garden; and then we came to a
bridge over a dry moat, and went over the groove of a portcullis that
had once closed the massive entrance, into an empty space surrounded
by thick walls, draperied with ivy, unroofed, and open to the sky. We
could judge of the beautiful tracery that had been in the windows, by
the remains of the stonework here and there; and an old man--'ever so
old,' he called himself when we inquired his exact age--who scrambled
and stumbled out of some lair in the least devastated part of the
ruins at our approach, and who established himself as our guide,
showed us a scrap of glass yet lingering in what was the window of the
great drawing-room not above seventy years ago. After he had done his
duty, he hobbled with us to the neighbouring church, where the
knightly Crowleys lie buried: some commemorated by ancient brasses,
some by altar-tombs, some by fine Latin epitaphs, bestowing upon them
every virtue under the sun. He had to take the church-key back to the
adjoining parsonage at the entrance of the long straggling street
which forms the village of Crowley. The castle and the church were on
the summit of a hill, from which we could see the distant line of sea
beyond the misty marshes. The village fell away from the church and
parsonage, down the hill. The aspect of the place was little, if at
all, changed, from its aspect in the year 1772.

But I must begin a little earlier. From one of the Latin epitaphs I
learnt that Amelia Lady Crowley died in 1756, deeply regretted by her
loving husband, Sir Mark. He never married again, though his wife had
left him no heir to his name or his estate--only a little tiny girl--
Theresa Crowley. This child would inherit her mother's fortune, and
all that Sir Mark was free to leave; but this little was not much; the
castle and all the lands going to his sister's son, Marmaduke, or as
he was usually called Duke, Brownlow. Duke's parents were dead, and
his uncle was his guardian, and his guardian's house was his home. The
lad was some seven or eight years older than his cousin; and probably
Sir Mark thought it not unlikely that his daughter and his heir might
make a match. Theresa's mother had bad some foreign blood in her, and
had been brought up in France--not so far away but that its shores
might be seen by any one who chose to take an easy day's ride from
Crowley Castle for the purpose.

Lady Crowley had been a delicate elegant creature, but no great
beauty, judging from all accounts; Sir Mark's family were famous for
their good looks; Theresa, an unusually lucky child, inherited the
outward graces of both her parents. A portrait which I saw of her,
degraded to a station over the parlour chimney-piece in the village
inn, showed me black hair, soft yet arch grey eyes with brows and
lashes of the same tint as her hair, a full pretty pouting passionate
mouth, and a round slender throat. She was a wilful little creature,
and her father's indulgence made her more wayward. She had a nurse,
too, a French bonne, whose mother had been about my lady from her
youth, who had followed my lady to England, and who had died there.
Victorine had been in attendance on the young Theresa from her
earliest infancy, and almost took the place of a parent in power and
affection--in power, as to ordering and arranging almost what she
liked, concerning the child's management--in love, because they speak
to this day of the black year when virulent smallpox was rife in
Crowley, and when, Sir Mark being far away on some diplomatic
mission--in Vienna, I fancy--Victorine shut herself up with Miss
Theresa when the child was taken ill with the disease, and nursed her
night and day. She only succumbed to the dreadful illness when all
danger to the child was over. Theresa came out of it with unblemished
beauty; Victorine barely escaped with life, and was disfigured for
life.

This disfigurement put a stop to much unfounded scandal which had been
afloat respecting the French servant's great influence over Sir Mark.
He was, in fact, an easy and indolent man, rarely excited to any
vehemence of emotion, and who felt it to be a point of honour to carry
out his dead wife's wish that Victorine should never leave Theresa,
and that the management of the child should be confided to her. Only
once had there been a struggle for power between Sir Mark and the
bonne, and then she had won the victory. And no wonder, if the old
butler's account were true; for he had gone into the room unawares,
and had found Sir Mark and Victorine at high words; and he said that
Victorine was white with rage, that her eyes were blazing with
passionate fire, that her voice was low, and her words were few, but
that, although she spoke in French, and he the butler only knew his
native English, he would rather have been sworn at by a drunken
grenadier with a sword in his hand, than have had those words of
Victorine's addressed to him.

Even the choice of Theresa's masters was left to Victorine. A little
reference was occasionally made to Madam Hawtrey, the parson's wife
and a distant relation of Sir Mark's, but, seeing that, if Victorine
chose so to order it, Madam Hawtrey's own little daughter Bessy would
have been deprived of the advantages resulting from gratuitous
companionship in all Theresa's lessons, she was careful how she
opposed or made an enemy of Mademoiselle Victorine. Bessy was a gentle
quiet child, and grew up to be a sensible sweet-tempered girl, with a
very fair share of English beauty; fresh-complexion, brown-eyed round-
faced, with a stiff though well-made figure, as different as possible
from Theresa's slight lithe graceful form. Duke was a young man to
these two maidens, while they to him were little more than children.
Of course he admired his cousin Theresa the most--who would not?--but
he was establishing his first principles of morality for himself, and
her conduct towards Bessy sometimes jarred against his ideas of right.
One day, after she had been tyrannizing over the self-contained and
patient Bessy so as to make the latter cry--and both the amount of the
tyranny and the crying were unusual circumstances, for Theresa was of
a generous nature when not put out of the way--Duke spoke to his
cousin:

'Theresa! You had no right to blame Bessy as you did. It was as much
your fault as hers. You were as much bound to remember Mr Dawson's
directions about the sums you were to do for him, as she was.'

The girl opened her great grey eyes in surprise. She to blame!

'What does Bessy come to the castle for, I wonder? They pay nothing--
we pay all. The least she can do, is to remember for me what we are
told. I shan't trouble myself with attending to Mr Dawson's
directions; and if Bessy does not like to do so, she can stay away.
She already knows enough to earn her bread as a maid: which I suppose
is what she'll have to come to.'

The moment Theresa had said this, she could have bitten her tongue out
for the meanness and rancour of the speech. She saw pain and
disappointment clearly expressed on Duke's face; and, in another
moment, her impulses would have carried her to the opposite extreme,
and she would have spoken out her self-reproach. But Duke thought it
his duty to remonstrate with her, and to read her a homily, which,
however true and just, weakened the effect of the look of distress on
his face. Her wits were called into play to refute his arguments; her
head rather than her heart took the prominent part in the controversy;
and it ended unsatisfactorily to both; he, going away with dismal
though unspoken prognostics touching what she would become as a woman
if she were so supercilious and unfeeling as a girl; she, the moment
his back was turned, throwing herself on the floor and sobbing as if
her heart would break. Victorine heard her darling's passionate sobs,
and came in.

'What hast thou, my angel! Who has been vexing thee,--tell me, my
cherished?'

She tried to raise the girl, but Theresa would not be raised; neither
would she speak till she chose, in spite of Victorine's entreaties.
When she chose, she lifted herself up, still sitting on the floor, and
putting her tangled hair off her flushed tear-stained face, said:

'Never mind, it was only something Duke said; I don't care for it
now.' And refusing Victorine's aid, she got up, and stood thoughtfully
looking out of the window.

'That Duke!' exclaimed Victorine. 'What business has that Mr Duke to
go vex my darling? He is not your husband yet, that he should scold
you, or that you should mind what he says.'

Theresa listened and gained a new idea; but she gave no outward sign
of attention, or of her now hearing for the first time how that she
was supposed to be intended for her cousin's wife. She made no reply
to Victorine's caresses and speeches; one might almost say she shook
her off. As soon as she was left to herself, she took her hat, and
going out alone, as she was wont, in the pleasure-grounds, she went
down the terrace steps, crossed the bowling-green, and opened a little
wicket-gate which led into the garden of the parsonage. There, were
Bessy and her mother, gathering fruit. It was Bessy whom Theresa
sought; for there was something in Madam Hawtrey's silky manner that
was always rather repugnant to her. However, she was not going to
shrink from her resolution because Madam Hawtrey was there. So she
went up to the startled Bessy, and said to her, as if she were
reciting a prepared speech: 'Bessy, I behaved very crossly to you; I
had no business to have spoken to you as I did.'--'Will you forgive
me?' was the predetermined end of this confession; but somehow, when
it came to that, she could not say it with Madam Hawtrey standing by,
ready to smile and to curtsey as soon as she could catch Theresa's
eye. There was no need to ask forgiveness though; for Bessy had put
down her half filled basket, and came softly up to Theresa, stealing
her brown soil-stained little hand into the young lady's soft white
one, and looking up at her with loving brown eyes.

'I am so sorry, but I think it was the sums on page 108. I have been
looking and looking, and I am almost sure.'

Her exculpatory tone caught her mother's ear, although her words did
not.

'I am sure, Miss Theresa, Bessy is so grateful for the privileges of
learning with you! It is such an advantage to her! I often tell her,
"Take pattern by Miss Theresa, and do as she does, and try and speak
as she does, and there'll not be a parson's daughter in all Sussex to
compare with you." Don't I, Bessy?'

Theresa shrugged her shoulders--a trick she had caught from
Victorine--and, turning to Bessy, asked her what she was going to do
with those gooseberries she was gathering? And as Theresa spoke, she
lazily picked the ripest out of the basket, and ate them.

'They are for a pudding,' said Bessy. 'As soon as we have gathered
enough, I am going in to make it.'

'I'll come and help you,' said Theresa, eagerly. 'I should so like to
make a pudding. Our Monsieur Antoine never makes gooseberry puddings.'

Duke came past the parsonage an hour or so afterwards: and, looking in
by chance through the open casement windows of the kitchen, saw
Theresa pinned up in a bib and apron, her arms all over flour,
flourishing a rolling-pin, and laughing and chattering with Bessy
similarly attired. Duke had spent his morning ostensibly in fishing;
but in reality in weighing in his own mind what he could do or say to
soften the obdurate heart of his cousin. And here it was, all
inexplicably right, as if by some enchanter's wand!

The only conclusion Duke could come to was the same that many a wise
(and foolish) man had come to before his day:

'Well! Women are past my comprehension, that's all!'

When all this took place, Theresa was about fifteen; Bessy was perhaps
six months older; Duke was just leaving Oxford. His uncle, Sir Mark,
was excessively fond of him; yes! and proud, too, for he had
distinguished himself at college, and every one spoke well of him. And
he, for his part, loved Sir Mark, and, unspoiled by the fame and
reputation he had gained at Christ Church, paid respectful deference
to Sir Mark's opinions.

As Theresa grew older, her father supposed that he played his cards
well in singing Duke's praises on every possible occasion. She tossed
her head, and said nothing. Thanks to Victorine's revelations, she
understood the tendency of her father's speeches. She intended to make
her own choice of a husband when the time came; and it might be Duke,
or it might be some one else. When Duke did not lecture or prose, but
was sitting his horse so splendidly at the meet, before the huntsman
gave the blast, 'Found;' when Duke was holding his own in discourse
with other men; when Duke gave her a short sharp word of command on
any occasion; then she decided that she would marry him, and no one
else. But when he found fault, or stumbled about awkwardly in a
minuet, or talked moralities against duelling, then she was sure that
Duke should never be her husband. She wondered if he knew about it; if
any one had told him, as Victorine had told her; if her father had
revealed his thoughts and wishes to his nephew, as plainly as he had
done to his daughter? This last query made her cheeks burn; and, on
days when the suspicion had been brought by any chance prominently
before her mind, she was especially rude and disagreeable to Duke.

He was to go abroad on the grand tour of Europe, to which young men of
fortune usually devoted three years. He was to have a tutor, because
all young men of his rank had tutors; else he was quite wise enough,
and steady enough, to have done without one, and probably knew a good
deal more about what was best to be observed in the countries they
were going to visit, than Mr Roberts, his appointed bear-leader. He
was to come back full of historical and political knowledge, speaking
French and Italian like a native, and having a smattering of barbarous
German, and he was to enter the House as a county member, if
possible--as a borough member at the worst; and was to make a great
success; and then, as every one understood, he was to marry his cousin
Theresa.

He spoke to her father about it, before starting on his travels. It
was after dinner in Crowley Castle. Sir Mark and Duke sat alone, each
pensive at the thought of the coming parting.

'Theresa is but young,' said Duke, breaking into speech after a long
silence, 'but if you have no objection, uncle, I should like to speak
to her before I leave England, about my--my hopes.'

Sir Mark played with his glass, poured out some more wine, drank it
off at a draught, and then replied:

'No, Duke, no. Leave her in peace with me. I have looked forward to
having her for my companion through these three years; they'll soon
pass away' (to age, but not to youth), 'and I should like to have her
undivided heart till you come back. No, Duke! Three years will soon
pass away, and then we'll have a royal wedding.'

Duke sighed, but said no more. The next day was the last. He wanted
Theresa to go with him to take leave of the Hawtreys at the Parsonage,
and of the villagers; but she was wilful, and would not. He
remembered, years afterwards, how Bessy's gentle peaceful manner had
struck him as contrasted with Theresa's, on that last day. Both girls
regretted his departure. He had been so uniformly gentle and
thoughtful in his behaviour to Bessy, that, without any idea of love,
she felt him to be her pattern of noble chivalrous manhood; the only
person, except her father, who was steadily kind to her. She admired
his sentiments, she esteemed his principles, she considered his long
evolvement of his ideas as the truest eloquence. He had lent her
books, he had directed her studies; all the advice and information
which Theresa had rejected had fallen to Bessy's lot, and she had
received it thankfully.

Theresa burst into a passion of tears as soon as Duke and his suite
were out of sight. She had refused the farewell kiss her father had
told her to give him, but had waved her white handkerchief out of the
great drawing-room window (that very window in which the old guide
showed me the small piece of glass still lingering). But Duke had
ridden away with slack rein and downcast head, without looking back.

His absence was a great blank in Sir Mark's life. He had never sought
London much as a place of residence; in former days he had been
suspected of favouring the Stuarts; but nothing could be proved
against him, and he had subsided into a very tolerably faithful
subject of King George the Third. Still, a cold shoulder having been
turned to him by the court party at one time, he had become
prepossessed against the English capital. On the contrary, his wife's
predilections and his own tendencies had always made Paris a very
agreeable place of residence to him. To Paris he at length resorted
again, when the blank in his life oppressed him; and from Paris, about
two years after Duke's departure, he returned after a short absence
from home, and suddenly announced to his daughter and the household
that he had taken an apartment in the Rue Louis le Grand for the
coming winter, to which there was to be an immediate removal of his
daughter, Victorine, and certain other personal attendants and
servants.

Nothing could exceed Theresa's mad joy at this unexpected news. She
sprang upon her father's neck, and kissed him till she was tired--
whatever he was. She ran to Victorine, and told her to guess what
'heavenly bliss' was going to befall them, dancing round the middle-
aged woman until she, in her spoilt impatience, was becoming angry,
when, kissing her, she told her, and ran off to the Parsonage, and
thence to the church, bursting in upon morning prayers--for it was All
Saints' Day, although she had forgotten it--and filliping a scrap of
paper on which she had hastily written, 'We are going to Paris for the
winter--all of us,' rolled into a ball, from the castle pew to that of
the parson. She saw Bessy redden as she caught it, put it into her
pocket unread, and, after an apologetic glance at the curtained seat
in which Theresa was, go on with her meek responses. Theresa went out
by the private door in a momentary fit of passion. 'Stupid cold-
blooded creature!' she said to herself. But that afternoon Bessy came
to the castle, so sorry--and so losing her own sorrow in sympathy with
her friend's gladness, that Theresa took her into favour again. The
girls parted with promises of correspondence, and with some regret:
the greatest on Bessy's side. Some grand promises of Paris fashion,
and presents of dress, Theresa made in her patronizing way; but Bessy
did not seem to care much for them--which was fortunate, for they were
never fulfilled.

Sir Mark had an idea in his head of perfecting Theresa's
accomplishments and manners by Parisian masters and Parisian society.
English residents in Venice, Florence, Rome, wrote to their friends at
home about Duke. They spoke of him as of what we should, at the
present day, call a 'rising young man.' His praises ran so high, that
Sir Mark began to fear lest his handsome nephew, feted by princes,
courted by ambassadors, made love to by lovely Italian ladies, might
find Theresa too country-bred for his taste.

Thus had come about, the engaging of the splendid apartment in the Rue
Louis le Grand. The street itself is narrow, and now-a-days we are apt
to think the situation close; but in those days it was the height of
fashion; for, the great arbiter of fashion, the Duc de Richelieu,
lived there, and, to inhabit an apartment in that street, was in
itself a mark of bon ton. Victorine seemed almost crazy with delight
when they took possession of their new abode. 'This dear Paris! This
lovely France! And now I see my young lady, my darling, my angel, in a
room suited to her beauty and her rank: such as my lady her mother
would have planned for her, if she had lived.' Any allusion to her
dead mother always touched Theresa to the quick. She was in her bed,
under the blue silk curtains of an alcove, when Victorine said this,--
being too much fatigued after her journey to respond to Victorine's
rhapsodies; but now she put our her little hand and gave Victorine's a
pressure of gratitude and pleasure. Next day she wandered about the
rooms and admired their splendour almost to Victorine's content. Her
father, Sir Mark, found a handsome carriage and horses for his
darling's use; and also found that not less necessary article--a
married lady of rank who would take his girl under her wing. When all
these preliminary arrangements were made, who so wildly happy as
Theresa! Her carriage was of the newest fashion, fit to vie with any
on the Cours de la Reine, the then fashionable drive. The box at the
Grand Opera, and at the Francais, which she shared with Madame la
Duchesse de G., was the centre of observation; Victorine was in her
best humour, Theresa's credit at her dressmaker's was unlimited, her
indulgent father was charmed with all she did and said. She had
masters, it is true; but, to a rich and beautiful young lady, masters
were wonderfully complaisant, and with them as with all the world, she
did what she pleased. Of Parisian society, she had enough and more
than enough. The duchess went everywhere, and Theresa went too. So did
a certain Count de la Grange: some relation or connection of the
duchess: handsome, with a south of France handsomeness: with delicate
features, marred by an oversoftness of expression, from which (so men
said) the tiger was occasionally seen to peep forth. But, for elegance
of dress and demeanour he had not his fellow in Paris--which of course
meant, not in the world.

Sir Mark heard rumours of this man's conduct, which were not pleasing
to him; but when he accompanied his daughter into society, the count
was only as deferential as it became a gentleman to be to so much
beauty and grace, When Theresa was taken out by the duchess to the
opera, to balls, to petits soupers, without her father, then the count
was more than deferential; he was adoring. It was a little
intoxicating for a girl brought up in the solitude of an English
village, to have so many worshippers at her feet all at once, in the
great gay city; and the inbred coquetry of her nature came out, adding
to her outward grace, if taking away from the purity and dignity of
her character. It was Victorine's delight to send her darling out
arrayed for conquest; her hair delicately powdered, and scented with
marechale; her little 'mouches' put on with skill; the tiny half-moon
patch, to lengthen the already almond-shaped eye; the minute star to
give the effect of a dimple at the corner of her scarlet lips; the
silver gauze looped up over the petticoat of blue brocade, distended
over a hoop, much as gowns are worn in our days; the coral ornaments
of her silver dress, matching with the tint of the high heels to her
shoes. And, at night, Victorine was never tired of listening and
questioning; of triumphing in Theresa's triumphs; of invariably
reminding her that she was bound to marry the absent cousin, and
return to the half-feudal state of the old castle in Sussex.

Still, even now, if Duke had returned from Italy, all might have gone
well; but when Sir Mark, alarmed by the various proposals he received
for Theresa's hand from needy French noblemen, and by the admiration
she was exciting everywhere, wrote to Duke, and urged him to join them
in Paris on his return from his travels, Duke answered that three
months were yet unexpired of the time allotted for the grand tour; and
that he was anxious to avail himself of that interval to see something
of Spain. Sir Mark read this letter aloud to Theresa, with many
expressions of annoyance as he read. Theresa merely said, 'Of course,
Duke does what he likes,' and turned away to see some new lace brought
for her inspection. She heard her father sigh over a re-perusal of
Duke's letter, and she set her teeth in the anger she would not show
in acts or words. That day the Count de Grange met with gentler
treatment from her than he had done for many days--than he had done
since her father's letter to Duke had been sent off to Genoa. As ill
fortune would have it, Sir Mark had occasion to return to England at
this time, and he, guileless himself, consigned Theresa and her maid
Victorine, and her man Felix, to the care of the duchess for three
weeks. They were to reside at the Hotel de G. during this time. The
duchess welcomed them in her most caressing manner, and showed Theresa
the suite of rooms, with the little private staircase, appropriated to
her use.

The Count de Grange was an habitual visitor at the house of his cousin
the duchess, who was a gay Parisian, absorbed in her life of giddy
dissipation. The count found means of influencing Victorine in his
favour; not by money; so coarse a bribe would have had no power over
her; but by many presents, accompanied with sentimental letters,
breathing devotion to her charge, and extremest appreciation of the
faithful friend whom Theresa looked upon as a mother, and whom for
this reason he, the count, revered and loved. Intermixed, were wily
allusions to his great possessions in Provence, and to his ancient
lineage:--the one mortgaged, the other disgraced. Victorine, whose
right hand had forgotten its cunning in the length of her dreary
vegetation at Crowley Castle, was deceived, and became a vehement
advocate of the dissolute Adonis of the Paris saloons, in his suit to
her darling. When Sir Mark came back, he was dismayed and shocked
beyond measure by finding the count and Theresa at his feet,
entreating him to forgive their stolen marriage--a marriage which,
though incomplete as to its legal forms, was yet too complete to be
otherwise than sanctioned by Theresa's nearest friends. The duchess
accused her cousin of perfidy and treason. Sir Mark said nothing. But
his health failed from that time, and he sank into an old querulous
grey-haired man.

There was some ado, I know not what, between Sir Mark and the count
regarding the control and disposition of the fortune which Theresa
inherited from her mother. The count gained the victory, owing to the
different nature of the French laws from the English; and this made
Sir Mark abjure the country and the city he had loved so long.
Henceforward, he swore, his foot should never touch French soil; if
Theresa liked to come and see him at Crowley Castle, she should be as
welcome as a daughter of the house ought to be, and ever should be;
but her husband should never enter the gates of the house in Sir
Mark's lifetime.

For some months he was out of humour with Duke, because of his tardy
return from his tour and his delay in joining them in Paris: through
which, so Sir Mark fancied, Theresa's marriage had been brought about.
But--when Duke came home, depressed in spirits and submissive to his
uncle, even under unjust blame--Sir Mark restored him to favour in the
course of a summer's day, and henceforth added another injury to the
debtor side of the count's reckoning.

Duke never told his uncle of the woeful ill-report he had heard of the
count in Paris, where he had found all the better part of the French
nobility pitying the lovely English heiress who had been entrapped
into a marriage with one of the most disreputable of their order, a
gambler and a reprobate. He could not leave Paris without seeing
Theresa, whom he believed to be as yet unacquainted with his arrival
in the city, so he went to call upon her one evening. She was sitting
alone, splendidly dressed, ravishingly beautiful; she made a step
forward to meet him, hardly heeding the announcement of his name; for
she had recognized a man's tread, and fancied it was her husband,
coming to accompany her to some grand reception. Duke saw the quick
change from hope to disappointment on her mobile face, and she spoke
out at once her reason. 'Adolphe promised to come and fetch me; the
princess receives to-night. I hardly expected a visit from you, cousin
Duke,' recovering herself into a pretty proud reserve. 'It is a
fortnight, I think, since I heard you were in Paris. I had given up
all expectation of the honour of a visit from you!'

Duke felt that, as she had heard of his being there, it would be
awkward to make excuses which both she and he must know to be false,
or explanations the very truth of which would be offensive to the
loving, trusting, deceived wife. So, he turned the conversation to his
travels, his heart aching for her all the time, as he noticed her
wandering attention when she heard any passing sound. Ten, eleven,
twelve o'clock; he would not leave her. He thought his presence was a
comfort and a pleasure to her. But when one o'clock struck, she said
some unexpected business must have detained her husband, and she was
glad of it, as she had all along felt too much tired to go out: and
besides, the happy consequence of her husband's detention had been
that long talk with Duke.

He did not see her again after this polite dismissal, nor did he see
her husband at all. Whether through ill chance, or carefully disguised
purpose, it did so happen that he called several times, he wrote
several notes requesting an appointment when he might come with the
certainty of finding the count and countess at home, in order to wish
them farewell before setting out for England. All in vain. But he said
nothing to Sir Mark of all this. He only tried to fill up the blank in
the old man's life. He went between Sir Mark and the tenants to whom
he was unwilling to show himself unaccompanied by the beautiful
daughter, who had so often been his companion in his walks and rides,
before that ill-omened winter in Paris. He was thankful to have the
power of returning the long kindness his uncle had shown him in
childhood; thankful to be of use to him in his desertion; thankful to
atone in some measure for his neglect of his uncle's wish that he
should have made a hasty return to Paris.

But it was a little dull after the long excitement of travel, after
associating with all that was most cultivated and seeing all that was
most famous, in Europe, to be shut up in that vast magnificent dreary
old castle, with Sir Mark for a perpetual companion--Sir Mark, and no
other. The parsonage was near at hand, and occasionally Mr Hawtrey
came in to visit his parishioner in his trouble. But Sir Mark kept the
clergyman at bay; he knew that his brother in age, his brother in
circumstances (for had not Mr Hawtrey an only child and she a
daughter?), was sympathizing with him in his sorrow, and he was too
proud to bear it; indeed, sometimes he was so rude to his old
neighbour, that Duke would go next morning to the parsonage, to soothe
the smart.

And so--and so--gradually, imperceptibly, at last his heart was drawn
to Bessy. Her mother angled and angled skilfully; at first scarcely
daring to hope; then remembering her own descent from the same stock
as Duke, she drew herself up, and set to work with fresh skill and
vigour. To be sure, it was a dangerous game for a mother to play; for
her daughter's happiness was staked on her success. How could simple
country-bred Bessy help being attracted to the courtly handsome man,
travelled and accomplished, good and gentle, whom she saw every day,
and who treated her with the kind familiarity of a brother; while he
was not a brother, but in some measure a disappointed man, as
everybody knew? Bessy was a daisy of an English maiden; pure good to
the heart's core and most hidden thought; sensible in all her
accustomed daily ways, yet not so much without imagination as not to
desire something beyond the narrow range of knowledge and experience
in which her days had hitherto been passed. Add to this her pretty
figure, a bright healthy complexion, lovely teeth, and quite enough of
beauty in her other features to have rendered her the belle of a
country town, if her lot had been cast in such a place; and it is not
to be wondered at, that, after she had been secretly in love with Duke
with all her heart for nearly a year, almost worshipping him, he
should discover that, of all the women he had ever known--except
perhaps the lost Theresa--Bessy Hawtrey had it in her power to make
him the happiest of men.

Sir Mark grumbled a little; but now-a-days he grumbled at everything,
poor disappointed, all but childless, old man! As to the vicar he
stood astonished and almost dismayed. 'Have you thought enough about
it, Mr Duke?' the parson asked. 'Young men are apt to do things in a
hurry, that they repent at leisure. Bessy is a good girl, a good girl,
God bless her: but she has not been brought up as your wife should
have been: at least as folks will say your wife should have been.
Though I may say for her she has a very pretty sprinkling of
mathematics. I taught her myself, Mr Duke.'

'May I go and ask her myself? I only want your permission,' urged
Duke.

'Ay, go! But perhaps you'd better ask Madam first. She will like to be
told everything as soon as me.'

But Duke did not care for Madam. He rushed through the open door of
the parsonage, into the homely sitting-rooms, and softly called for
Bessy. When she came, he took her by the hand and led her forth into
the field-path at the back of the orchard, and there he won his bride
to the full content of both their hearts.

All this time the inhabitants of Crowley Castle and the quiet people
of the neighbouring village of Crowley, heard but little of 'The
Countess,' as it was their fashion to call her. Sir Mark had his
letters from her, it is true, and he read them over and over again,
and moaned over them, and sighed, and put them carefully away in a
bundle. But they were like arrows of pain to him. None knew their
contents; none, even knowing them, would have dreamed, any more than
he did, for all his moans and sighs, of the utter wretchedness of the
writer. Love had long since vanished from the habitation of that pair;
a habitation, not a home, even in its brightest days. Love had gone
out of the window, long before poverty had come in at the door: yet
that grim visitant who never tarries in tracking a disreputable
gambler, had now arrived. The count lost the last remnants of his
character as a man who played honourably, and thenceforth--that being
pretty nearly the only sin which banished men from good society in
those days--he had to play where and how he could. Theresa's money
went as her poor angry father had foretold. By-and-by, and without her
consent, her jewel-box was rifled; the diamonds round the locket
holding her mother's picture were wrenched and picked out by no
careful hand. Victorine found Theresa crying over the poor relics;--
crying at last, without disguise, as if her heart would break.

'Oh, mamma! mamma! mamma!' she sobbed out, holding up the smashed and
disfigured miniature as an explanation of her grief. She was sitting
on the floor, on which she had thrown herself in the first discovery
of the theft. Victorine sat down by her, taking her head upon her
breast, and soothing her. She did not ask who had done it; she asked
Theresa no question which the latter would have shrunk from answering;
she knew all in that hour, without the count's name having passed the
lips of either of them. And from that time she watched him as a tiger
watches his prey.

When the letters came from England, the three letters from Sir Mark
and the affianced bride and bridegroom, announcing the approaching
marriage of Duke and Bessy, Theresa took them straight to Victorine.
Theresa's lips were tightened, her pale cheeks were paler. She waited
for Victorine to speak. Not a word did the Frenchwoman utter; but she
smoothed the letters one over the other, and tore them in two,
throwing the pieces on the ground, and stamping on them.

'Oh, Victorine!' cried Theresa, dismayed at passion that went so far
beyond her own, 'I never expected it--I never thought of it--but,
perhaps, it was but natural.'

'It was not natural; it was infamous! To have loved you once, and not
to wait for chances, but to take up with that mean poor girl at the
parsonage. Pah! and her letter! Sir Mark is of my mind though, I can
see. I am sorry I tore up his letter. He feels, he knows, that Mr Duke
Brownlow ought to have waited, waited, waited. Some one waited
fourteen years, did he not? The count will not live for ever.'

Theresa did not see the face of wicked meaning as those last words
were spoken.

Another year rolled heavily on its course of wretchedness to Theresa.
That same revolution of time brought increase of peace and joy to the
English couple, striving humbly, striving well, to do their duty as
children to the unhappy and deserted Sir Mark. They had their reward
in the birth of a little girl. Yet, close on the heels of this birth,
followed a great sorrow. The good parson died, after a short sudden
illness. Then came the customary trouble after the death of a
clergyman. The widow had to leave the parsonage, the home of a
lifetime, and seek a new resting-place for her declining years.

Fortunately for all parties, the new vicar was a bachelor; no other
than the tutor who had accompanied Duke on his grand tour; and it was
made a condition that he should allow the widow of his predecessor to
remain at the parsonage as his housekeeper. Bessy would fain have had
her mother at the castle, and this course would have been infinitely
preferred by Madam Hawtrey, who, indeed, suggested the wish to her
daughter. But Sir Mark was obstinately against it; nor did he spare
his caustic remarks on Madam Hawtrey, even before her own daughter. He
had never quite forgiven Duke's marriage, although he was personally
exceedingly fond of Bessy. He referred this marriage, in some part,
and perhaps to no greater extent than was true, to madam's good
management in throwing the young people together; and he was explicit
in the expression of his opinion.

Poor Theresa! Every day she more and more bitterly rued her ill-
starred marriage. Often and often she cried to herself, when she was
alone in the dead of the night, 'I cannot bear it--I cannot bear it!'
But again in the daylight her pride would help her to keep her woe to
herself. She could not bear the gaze of pitying eyes; she could not
bear even Victorine's fierce sympathy. She might have gone home like a
poor prodigal to her father, if Duke and Bessy had not, as she
imagined, reigned triumphant in her place, both in her father's heart
and in her father's home. And all this while, that father almost hated
the tender attentions which were rendered to him by those who were not
his Theresa, his only child, for whose presence he yearned and longed
in silent misery. Then again (to return to Theresa), her husband had
his fits of kindness towards her. If he had been very fortunate in
play, if he had heard other men admire her, he would come back for a
few moments to his loyalty, and would lure back the poor tortured
heart, only to crush it afresh. One day--after a short time of easy
temper, caresses, and levity--she found out something, I know not
what, in his life, which stung her to the quick. Her sharp wits and
sharper tongue spoke out most cutting insults; at first he smiled, as
if rather amused to see how she was ransacking her brain to find
stabbing speeches; but at length she touched some sore; he scarcely
lost the mocking smile upon his face, but his eyes flashed lurid fire,
and his heavy closed hand fell on her white shoulder with a terrible
blow!

She stood up, facing him, tearless, deadly white. 'The poor old man at
home!' was all she said, trembling, shivering all over, but with her
eyes fixed on his coward face. He shrank from her look, laughed aloud
to hide whatever feeling might be hidden in his bosom, and left the
room. She only said again, 'The poor old man--the poor old deserted,
desolate man!' and felt about blindly for a chair.

She had not sat down a minute though, before she started up and rang
her bell. It was Victorine's office to answer it; but Theresa looked
almost surprised to see her. 'You!--I wanted the others--I want them
all! They shall all see how their master treats his wife! Look here!'
she pushed the gauze neckerchief from her shoulder--the mark was there
red and swollen. 'Bid them all come here--Victorine, Amadee, Jean,
Adele, all--I will be justified by their testimony, whatever I do!'
Then she fell to shaking and crying.

Victorine said nothing, but went to a certain cupboard where she kept
medicines and drugs of which she alone knew the properties, and there
she mixed a draught, which she made her mistress take. Whatever its
nature was, it was soothing. Theresa leaned back in her chair, still
sobbing heavily from time to time, until at last she dropped into a
kind of doze. Then Victorine softly lifted the neckerchief, which had
fallen into its place, and looked at the mark. She did not speak; but
her whole face was a fearful threat. After she had looked her fill,
she smiled a deadly smile. And then she touched the soft bruised flesh
with her lips, much as though Theresa were the child she had been
twenty years ago. Soft as the touch was Theresa shivered, and started
and half awoke. 'Are they come?' she murmured; 'Amadee, Jean, Adele?'
but without waiting for an answer she fell asleep again.

Victorine went quietly back to the cupboard where she kept her drugs,
and stayed there, mixing something noiselessly. When she had done what
she wanted, she returned to her mistress's bedroom, and looked at her,
still sleeping. Then she began to arrange the room. No blue silk
curtains and silver mirrors, now, as in the Rue Louis le Grand. A
washed-out faded Indian chintz, and an old battered toilette service
of japan-ware; the disorderly signs of the count's late presence; an
emptied flask of liqueur.

All the time Victorine arranged this room she kept saying to herself,
'At last! At last!' Theresa slept through the daylight, slept late
into the evening, leaning back where she had fallen in her chair. She
was so motionless that Victorine appeared alarmed. Once or twice she
felt her pulse, and gazed earnestly into the tear-stained face. Once,
she very carefully lifted one of the eyelids, and holding a lighted
taper near, peered into the eye. Apparently satisfied, she went out
and ordered a basin of broth to be ready when she asked for it. Again
she sat in deep silence; nothing stirred in the closed chamber; but in
the street the carriages began to roll, and the footmen and torch-
bearers to cry aloud their masters' names and titles, to show what
carriage in that narrow street below, was entitled to precedence. A
carriage stopped at the hotel of which they occupied the third floor.
Then the bell of their apartment rang loudly--rang violently.
Victorine went out to see what it was that might disturb her darling--
as she called Theresa to herself--her sleeping lady as she spoke of
her to her servants.

She met those servants bringing in their master, the count, dead. Dead
with a swordwound received in some infamous struggle. Victorine stood
and looked at him. 'Better so,' she muttered. 'Better so. But,
monseigneur, you shall take this with you, whithersoever your wicked
soul is fleeing.' And she struck him a stroke on his shoulder, just
where Theresa's bruise was. It was as light a stroke as well could be;
but this irreverence to the dead called forth indignation even from
the hardened bearers of the body. Little recked Victorine. She turned
her back on the corpse, went to her cupboard, took out the mixture she
bad made with so much care, poured it out upon the bare wooden floor,
and smeared it about with her foot.

A fortnight later, when no news had come from Theresa for many weeks,
a poor chaise was seen from the castle windows lumbering slowly up the
carriage road to the gate. No one thought much of it; perhaps it was
some friend of the housekeeper's; perhaps it was some humble relation
of Mrs Duke's (for many such had found out their cousin since her
marriage). No one noticed the shabby carriage much, until the hall-
porter was startled by the sound of the great bell pealing, and, on
opening wide the hall-doors, saw standing before him the Mademoiselle
Victorine of old days--thinner, sallower, in mourning. In the carriage
sat Theresa, in the deep widow's weeds of those days. She looked out
of the carriage-window wistfully, in beyond Joseph, the hall-porter.

'My father!' she cried eagerly, before Victorine could speak. 'Is Sir
Mark--well?' ('alive' was her first thought, but she dared not give
the word utterance.)

'Call Mr. Duke!' said Joseph, speaking to some one unseen. Then he
came forward. 'God bless you, Miss! God bless you! And this day of all
days! Sir Mark is well--leastways he's sadly changed. Where's Mr Duke?
Call him! My young lady's fainting!'

And this was Theresa's return home. None ever knew how much she had
suffered since she had left home. If any one had known, Victorine
would never have stood there dressed in that mourning. She put it on,
sorely against her will, for the purpose of upholding the lying
fiction of Theresa's having been a happy prosperous marriage. She was
always indignant if any of the old servants fell back into the once
familiar appellation of Miss Theresa. 'The countess,' she would say,
in lofty rebuke.

What passed between Theresa and her father at that first interview no
one ever knew. Whether she told him anything of her married life, or
whether she only soothed the tears he shed on seeing her again, by
sweet repetition of tender words and caresses--such as are the sugared
pabulum of age as well as of infancy--no one ever knew. Neither Duke
nor his wife ever heard her allude to the time she had passed in
Paris, except in the most cursory and superficial manner. Sir Mark was
anxious to show her that all was forgiven, and would fain have
displaced Bessy from her place as lady of the castle, and made Theresa
take the headship of the house, and sit at table where the mistress
ought to be. And Bessy would have given up her onerous dignities
without a word; for Duke was always more jealous for his wife's
position than she herself was, but Theresa declined to assume any such
place in the household, saying, in the languid way which now seemed
habitual to her, that English house-keeping, and all the domestic
arrangements of an English country house were cumbrous and wearisome
to her; that if Bessy would continue to act as she had done hitherto,
and would so forestall what must be her natural duties at some future
period, she, Theresa, should be infinitely obliged.

Bessy consented, and in everything tried to remember what Theresa
liked, and how affairs were ordered in the old Theresa days. She
wished the servants to feel that 'the countess' had equal rights with
herself in the management of the house. But she, to whom the
housekeeper takes her accounts--she in whose hands the power of
conferring favours and privileges remains de facto--will always be
held by servants as the mistress; and Theresa's claims soon sank into
the background. At first, she was too broken--spirited, too languid,
to care for anything but quiet rest in her father's companionship.
They sat sometimes for hours hand in hand; or they sauntered out on
the terraces, hardly speaking, but happy; because they were once more
together, and once more on loving terms. Theresa grew strong during
this time of gentle brooding peace. The pinched pale face of anxiety
lined with traces of suffering, relaxed into the soft oval; the light
came into the eyes, the colour came into the cheeks.

But, in the autumn after Theresa's return, Sir Mark died; it had been
a gradual decline of strength, and his last moments were passed in her
arms. Her new misfortune threw her back into the wan worn creature she
had been when she first came home, a widow, to Crowley Castle; she
shut herself up in her rooms, and allowed no one to come near her but
Victorine. Neither Duke nor Bessy was admitted into the darkened
rooms, which she had hung with black cloth in solemn funereal state.

Victorine's life since her return to the castle had been anything but
peaceable. New powers had arisen in the housekeeper's room. Madam
Brownlow had her maid, far more exacting than Madam Brownlow herself;
and a new housekeeper reigned in the place of her who was formerly but
an echo of Victorine's opinions. Victorine's own temper, too, was not
improved by her four years abroad, and there was a general disposition
among the servants to resist all her assumption of authority. She felt
her powerlessness after a struggle or two, but treasured up her
vengeance. If she had lost power over the household, however, there
was no diminution of her influence over her mistress. It was her
device at last that lured the countess out of her gloomy seclusion.

Almost the only creature Victorine cared for, besides Theresa, was the
little Mary Brownlow. What there was of softness in her woman's
nature, seemed to come out towards children; though, if the child had
been a boy instead of a girl, it is probable that Victorine might not
have taken it into her good graces. As it was, the French nurse and
the English child were capital friends; and when Victorine sent Mary
into the countess's room, and bade her not be afraid, but ask the lady
in her infantine babble to come out and see Mary's snow-man, she knew
that the little one, for her sake, would put her small hand into
Theresa's, and thus plead with more success, because with less
purpose, than any one else had been able to plead. Out came Theresa,
colourless and sad, holding Mary by the hand. They went, unobserved as
they thought, to the great gallery-window, and looked out into the
court-yard; then Theresa returned to her rooms. But the ice was
broken, and before the winter was over, Theresa fell into her old
ways, and sometimes smiled, and sometimes even laughed, until chance
visitors again spoke of her rare beauty and her courtly grace.

It was noticeable that Theresa revived first out of her lassitude to
an interest in all Duke's pursuits. She grew weary of Bessy's small
cares and domestic talk--now about the servants, now about her mother
and the parsonage, now about the parish. She questioned Duke about his
travels, and could enter into his appreciation and judgement of
foreign nations; she perceived the latent powers of his mind; she
became impatient of their remaining dormant in country seclusion. She
had spoken of leaving Crowley Castle, and of finding some other home,
soon after her father's death; but both Duke and Bessy had urged her
to stay with them, Bessy saying, in the pure innocence of her heart,
how glad she was that, in the probably increasing cares of her
nursery, Duke would have a companion so much to his mind.

About a year after Sir Mark's death, the member for Sussex died, and
Theresa set herself to stir up Duke to assume his place. With some
difficulty (for Bessy was passive: perhaps even opposed to the scheme
in her quiet way), Theresa succeeded, and Duke was elected. She was
vexed at Bessy's torpor, as she called it, in the whole affair; vexed
as she now often was with Bessy's sluggish interest in all things
beyond her immediate ken. Once, when Theresa tried to make Bessy
perceive how Duke might shine and rise in his new sphere, Bessy burst
into tears, and said, 'You speak as if his presence here were nothing,
and his fame in London everything. I cannot help fearing that he will
leave off caring for all the quiet ways in which we have been so happy
ever since we were married.'

'But when he is here,' replied Theresa, 'and when he wants to talk to
you of politics, of foreign news, of great public interests, you drag
him down to your level of woman's cares.'

'Do I?' said Bessy. 'Do I drag him down? I wish I was cleverer; but
you know, Theresa, I was never clever in anything but housewifery.'

Theresa was touched for a moment by this humility.

'Yet, Bessy, you have a great deal of judgement, if you will but
exercise it. Try and take an interest in all he cares for, as well as
making him try and take an interest in home affairs.'

But, somehow, this kind of conversation too often ended in
dissatisfaction on both sides; and the servants gathered, from
induction rather than from words, that the two ladies were not on the
most cordial terms; however friendly they might wish to be, and might
strive to appear. Madam Hawtrey, too, allowed her jealousy of Theresa
to deepen into dislike. She was jealous because, in some unreasonable
way, she had taken it into her head that Theresa's presence at the
castle was the reason why she was not urged to take up her abode there
on Sir Mark's death: as if there were not rooms and suites of rooms
enough to lodge a wilderness of dowagers in the building, if the owner
so wished. But Duke had certain ideas pretty strongly fixed in his
mind; and one was a repugnance to his mother-in-law's constant
company. But he greatly increased her income as soon as he had it in
his power, and left it entirely to herself how she should spend it.

Having now the means of travelling about, Madam Hawtrey betook herself
pretty frequently to such watering-places as were in vogue at that
day, or went to pay visits at the houses of those friends who
occasionally came lumbering up in shabby vehicles to visit their
cousin Bessy at the castle. Theresa cared little for Madam Hawtrey's
coldness; perhaps, indeed, never perceived it. She gave up striving
with Bessy, too; it was hopeless to try to make her an intellectual
ambitious companion to her husband. He had spoken in the House; he had
written a pamphlet that made much noise; the minister of the day had
sought him out, and was trying to attach him to the government.
Theresa, with her Parisian experience of the way in which women
influenced politics, would have given anything for the Brownlows to
have taken a house in London. She longed to see the great politicians,
to find herself in the thick of the struggle for place and power, the
brilliant centre of all that was worth hearing and seeing in the
kingdom. There had been some talk of this same London house; but Bessy
had pleaded against it earnestly while Theresa sat by in indignant
silence, until she could bear the discussion no longer; going off to
her own sitting-room, where Victorine was at work. Here her pent-up
words found vent--not addressed to her servant, but not restrained
before her:

'I cannot bear it--to see him cramped in by her narrow mind, to hear
her weak selfish arguments, urged because she feels she would be out
of place beside him. And Duke is hampered with this woman: he whose
powers are unknown even to himself, or he would put her feeble nature
on one side, and seek his higher atmosphere, How he would shine! How
he does shine! Good Heaven! To think--'

And here she sank into silence, watched by Victorine's furtive eyes.

Duke had excelled all he had previously done by some great burst of
eloquence, and the country rang with his words. He was to come down to
Crowley Castle for a parliamentary recess, which occurred almost
immediately after this. Theresa calculated the hours of each part of
the complicated journey, and could have told to five minutes when he
might be expected; but the baby was ill and absorbed all Bessy's
attention. She was in the nursery by the cradle in which the child
slept, when her husband came riding up to the castle gate. But Theresa
was at the gate; her hair all out of powder, and blowing away into
dishevelled curls, as the hood of her cloak fell back; her lips parted
with a breathless welcome, her eyes shining out love and pride. Duke
was but mortal. All London chanted his rising fame, and here in his
home Theresa seemed to be the only person who appreciated him.

The servants clustered in the great hall; for it was now some length
of time since he had been at home. Victorine was there, with some
headgear for her lady; and when, in reply to his inquiry for his wife,
the grave butler asserted that she was with young master, who was,
they feared, very seriously ill, Victorine said, with the familiarity
of an old servant, and as if to assuage Duke's anxiety: 'Madam fancies
the child is ill, because she can think of nothing but him, and
perpetual watching has made her nervous.' The child, however, was
really ill; and after a brief greeting to her husband, Bessy returned
to her nursery, leaving Theresa to question, to hear, to sympathize.
That night she gave way to another burst of disparaging remarks on
poor motherly homely Bessy, and that night Victorine thought she read
a deeper secret in Theresa's heart.

The child was scarcely ever out of its mother's arms; but the illness
became worse, and it was nigh unto death. Some cream had been set
aside for the little wailing creature, and Victorine had unwittingly
used it for the making of a cosmetic for her mistress. When the
servant in charge of it reproved her, a quarrel began as to their
respective mistress's right to give orders in the household. Before
the dispute ended, pretty strong things had been said on both sides.

The child died. The heir was lifeless; the servants were in whispering
dismay, and bustling discussion of their mourning; Duke felt the
vanity of fame, as compared to a baby's life. Theresa was full of
sympathy, but dared not express it to him; so tender was her heart
becoming. Victorine regretted the death in her own way. Bessy lay
speechless, and tearless; not caring for loving voices, nor for gentle
touches; taking neither food nor drink; neither sleeping nor weeping.
'Send for her mother,' the doctor said; for Madam Hawtrey was away on
her visits, and the letters telling her of her grandchild's illness
had not reached her in the slow-delaying cross-country posts of those
days. So she was sent for; by a man riding express, as a quicker and
surer means than the post.

Meanwhile, the nurses, exhausted by their watching, found the care of
little Mary by day, quite enough. Madam's maid sat up with Bessy for a
night or two; Duke striding in from time to time through the dark
hours to look at the white motionless face, which would have seemed
like the face of one dead, but for the long-quivering sighs that came
up from the overladen heart. The doctor tried his drugs, in vain, and
then he tried again. This night, Victorine at her own earnest request,
sat up instead of the maid. As usual, towards midnight, Duke came
stealing in with shaded light. 'Hush!' said Victorine, her finger on
her lips. 'She sleeps at last.' Morning dawned faint and pale, and
still she slept. The doctor came, and stole in on tip-toe, rejoicing
in the effect of his drugs. They all stood round the bed; Duke,
Theresa, Victorine. Suddenly the doctor--a strange change upon him, a
strange fear in his face--felt the patient's pulse, put his ear to her
open lips, called for a glass--a feather. The mirror was not dimmed,
the delicate fibres stirred not. Bessy was dead.

I pass rapidly over many months. Theresa was again overwhelmed with
grief, or rather, I should say, remorse; for now that Bessy was gone,
and buried out of sight, all her innocent virtues, all her feminine
homeliness, came vividly into Theresa's mind--not as wearisome, but as
admirable, qualities of which she had been too blind to perceive the
value. Bessy had been her own old companion too, in the happy days of
childhood, and of innocence. Theresa rather shunned than sought Duke's
company now. She remained at the castle, it is true, and Madam
Hawtrey, as Theresa's only condition of continuing where she was, came
to live under the same roof. Duke felt his wife's death deeply, but
reasonably, as became his character. He was perplexed by Theresa's
bursts of grief, knowing, as he dimly did, that she and Bessy had not
lived together in perfect harmony. But he was much in London now; a
rising statesman; and when, in autumn, he spent some time at the
castle, he was full of admiration for the strangely patient way in
which Theresa behaved towards the old lady. It seemed to Duke that in
his absence Madam Hawtrey had assumed absolute power in his household,
and that the high-spirited Theresa submitted to her fantasies with
even more docility than her own daughter would have done. Towards
Mary, Theresa was always kind and indulgent.

Another autumn came; and before it went, old ties were renewed, and
Theresa was pledged to become her cousin's wife.

There were two people strongly affected by this news when it was
promulgated; one--and this was natural under the circumstances--was
Madam Hawtrey; who chose to resent the marriage as a deep personal
offence to herself as well as to her daughter's memory, and who
sternly rejecting all Theresa's entreaties, and Duke's invitation to
continue her residence at the castle, went off into lodgings in the
village. The other person strongly affected by the news, was
Victorine.

From being a dry active energetic middle-aged woman, she now, at the
time of Theresa's engagement, sank into the passive languor of
advanced life. It seemed as if she felt no more need of effort, or
strain, or exertion. She sought solitude; liked nothing better than to
sit in her room adjoining Theresa's dressing-room, sometimes sunk in a
reverie, sometimes employed on an intricate piece of knitting with
almost spasmodic activity. But wherever Theresa went, thither would
Victorine go. Theresa had imagined that her old nurse would prefer
being left at the castle, in the soothing tranquillity of the country,
to accompanying her and her husband to the house in Grosvenor-square,
which they had taken for the parliamentary season. But the mere offer
of a choice seemed to irritate Victorine inexpressibly. She looked
upon the proposal as a sign that Theresa considered her as
superannuated--that her nursling was weary of her, and wished to
supplant her services by those of a younger maid. It seemed impossible
to dislodge this idea when it had once entered into her head, and it
led to frequent bursts of temper, in which she violently upbraided
Theresa for her ingratitude towards so faithful a follower.

One day, Victorine went a little further in her expressions than
usual, and Theresa, usually so forbearing towards her, turned at last.
'Really, Victorine!' she said, 'this is misery to both of us. You say
you never feel so wicked as when I am near you; that my ingratitude is
such as would be disowned by fiends; what can I, what must I do? You
say you are never so unhappy as when you are near me; must we, then,
part? Would that be for your happiness?'

'And is that what it has come to!' exclaimed Victorine. 'In my country
they reckon a building secure against wind and storm and all the
ravages of time, if the first mortar used has been tempered with human
blood. But not even our joint secret, though it was tempered well with
blood, can hold our lives together! How much less all the care, all
the love, that I lavished upon you in the days of my youth and
strength!'

Theresa came close to the chair in which Victorine was seated. She
took hold of her hand and held it fast in her own. 'Speak, Victorine,'
said she, hoarsely, 'and tell me what you mean. What is our joint
secret? And what do you mean by its being a secret of blood? Speak
out. I will know.'

'As if you do not know!' replied Victorine, harshly. 'You don't
remember my visits to Bianconi, the Italian chemist in the Marais,
long ago?' She looked into Theresa's face, to see if her words had
suggested any deeper meaning than met the ear. No; Theresa's look was
stern, but free and innocent.

'You told me you went there to learn the composition of certain
unguents, and cosmetics, and domestic medicines.'

'Ay, and paid high for my knowledge, too,' said Victorine, with a low
chuckle. 'I learned more than you have mentioned, my lady countess. I
learnt the secret nature of many drugs--to speak plainly, I learnt the
art of poisoning. And,' suddenly standing up, 'it was for your sake I
learnt it. For your service--you--who would fain cast me off in my old
age. For you!'

Theresa blanched to a deadly white. But she tried to move neither
feature nor limb, nor to avert her eyes for one moment from the eyes
that defied her. 'For my service, Victorine?'

'Yes! The quieting draught was all ready for your husband, when they
brought him home dead.'

'Thank God his death does not lie at your door!'

'Thank God?' mocked Victorine. 'The wish for his death does lie at
your door; and the intent to rid you of him does lie at my door. And I
am not ashamed of it. Not I! It was not for myself I would have done
it, but because you suffered so. He had struck you, whom I had nursed
on my breast.'

'Oh, Victorine!' said Theresa, with a shudder. 'Those days are past.
Do not let us recall them. I was so wicked because I was so miserable;
and now I am so happy, so inexpressibly happy, that--do let me try to
make you happy too!'

'You ought to try,' said Victorine, not yet pacified; 'can't you see
how the incomplete action once stopped by Fate, was tried again, and
with success; and how you are now reaping the benefit of my sin, if
sin it was?'

'Victorine! I do not know what you mean!' But some terror must have
come over her, she so trembled and so shivered.

'Do you not indeed? Madame Brownlow, the country girl from Crowley
Parsonage, needed sleep, and would fain forget the little child's
death that was pressing on her brain. I helped the doctor to his end.
She sleeps now, and she has met her baby before this, if priests'
tales are true. And you, my beauty, my queen, you reign in her stead!
Don't treat the poor Victorine as if she were mad, and speaking in her
madness. I have heard of tricks like that being played, when the crime
was done, and the criminal of use no longer.'

That evening, Duke was surprised by his wife's entreaty and petition
that she might leave him, and return with Victorine and her other
personal servants to the seclusion of Crowley Castle. She, the great
London toast, the powerful enchantress of society, and most of all,
the darling wife and true companion, with this sudden fancy for this
complete retirement, and for leaving her husband when he was first
fully entering into the comprehension of all that a wife might be! Was
it ill health? Only last night she had been in dazzling beauty, in
brilliant spirits; this morning only, she had been so merry and
tender. But Theresa denied that she was in any way indisposed; and
seemed suddenly so unwilling to speak of herself, and so much
depressed, that Duke saw nothing for it but to grant her wish and let
her go. He missed her terribly. No more pleasant tete-a-tete
breakfasts, enlivened by her sense and wit, and cheered by her pretty
caressing ways. No gentle secretary now, to sit by his side through
long long hours, never weary. When he went into society, he no longer
found his appearance watched and waited for by the loveliest woman
there. When he came home from the House at night, there was no one to
take an interest in his speeches, to be indignant at all that annoyed
him, and charmed and proud of all the admiration he had won. He longed
for the time to come when he would be able to go down for a day or two
to see his wife; for her letters appeared to him dull and flat after
her bright companionship. No wonder that her letters came out of a
heavy heart, knowing what she knew.

She scarcely dared to go near Victorine, whose moods were becoming as
variable as though she were indeed the mad woman she had tauntingly
defied Theresa to call her. At times she was miserable because Theresa
looked so ill, and seemed so deeply unhappy. At other times she was
jealous because she fancied Theresa shrank from her and avoided her.
So, wearing her life out with passion, Victorine's health grew daily
worse and worse during that summer.

Theresa's only comfort seemed to be little Mary's society. She seemed
as though she could not lavish love enough upon the motherless child,
who repaid Theresa's affection with all the pretty demonstrativeness
of her age. She would carry the little three-year-old maiden in her
arms when she went to see Victorine, or would have Mary playing about
in her dressing-room, if the old Frenchwoman, for some jealous freak,
would come and arrange her lady's hair with her trembling hands. To
avoid giving offence to Victorine, Theresa engaged no other maid; to
shun over-much or over-frank conversation with Victorine, she always
had little Mary with her when there was a chance of the French
waiting-maid coming in. For, the presence of the child was a holy
restraint even on Victorine's tongue; she would sometimes check her
fierce temper, to caress the little creature playing at her knees; and
would only dart a covert bitter sting at Theresa under the guise of a
warning against ingratitude, to Mary.

Theresa drooped and drooped in this dreadful life. She sought out
Madam Hawtrey, and prayed her to come on a long visit to the castle.
She was lonely, she said, asking for madam's company as a favour to
herself. Madam Hawtrey was difficult to persuade; but the more she
resisted, the more Theresa entreated; and, when once madam was at the
castle, her own daughter had never been so dutiful, so humble a slave
to her slightest fancy as was the proud Theresa now.

Yet, for all this, the lady of the castle drooped and drooped, and
when Duke came down to see his darling he was in utter dismay at her
looks. Yet she said she was well enough, only tired. If she had
anything more upon her mind, she refused him her confidence. He
watched her narrowly, trying to forestall her smallest desires. He saw
her tender affection for Mary, and thought he had never seen so lovely
and tender a mother to another woman's child. He wondered at her
patience with Madam Hawtrey, remembering how often his own stock had
been exhausted by his mother-in-law, and how the brilliant Theresa had
formerly scouted and flouted at the vicar's wife. With all this
renewed sense of his darling's virtues and charms, the idea of losing
her was too terrible to bear.

He would listen to no pleas, to no objections. Before he returned to
town, where his presence was a political necessity, he sought the best
medical advice that could be had in the neighbourhood. The doctors
came; they could make but little out of Theresa, if her vehement
assertion were true that she had nothing on her mind. Nothing.

'Humour him at least, my dear lady!' said the doctor, who had known
Theresa from her infancy, but who, living at the distant county town,
was only called in on the Olympian occasions of great state illnesses.
'Humour your husband, and perhaps do yourself some good too, by
consenting to his desire that you should have change of air.
Brighthelmstone is a quiet village by the sea-side. Consent, like a
gracious lady, to go there for a few weeks.'

So, Theresa, worn out with opposition, consented, and Duke made all
the arrangements for taking her, and little Mary, and the necessary
suite of servants, to Brighton, as we call it now. He resolved in his
own mind that Theresa's personal attendant should be some woman young
enough to watch and wait upon her mistress, and not Victorine, to whom
Theresa was in reality a servant. But of this plan, neither Theresa
nor Victorine knew anything until the former was in the carriage with
her husband some miles distant from the castle. Then he, a little
exultant in the good management by which he supposed he had spared his
wife the pain and trouble of decision, told her that Victorine was
left behind, and that a new accomplished London maid would await her
at her journey's end.

Theresa only exclaimed, 'O! What will Victorine say?' and covered her
face, and sat shivering and speechless.

What Victorine did say, when she found out the trick, as she esteemed
it, that had been played upon her, was too terrible to repeat. She
lashed herself up into an ungoverned passion; ark then became so
really and seriously ill that the servants went to fetch Madam Hawtrey
in terror and dismay. But when that lady came, Victorine shut her
eyes, and refused to look at her. 'She has got her daughter in her
hand! I will not look!' Shaking all the time she uttered these awe-
stricken words, as if she were in an ague-fit. 'Bring the countess
back to me. Let her face the dead woman standing there, I will not do
it. They wanted her to sleep--and so did the countess, that she might
step into her lawful place. Theresa, Theresa, where are you? You
tempted me. What I did, I did in your service. And you have gone away,
and left me alone with the dead woman! It was the same drug as the
doctor gave, after all--only he gave little, and I gave much. My lady
the countess spent her money well, when she sent me to the old Italian
to learn his trade' Lotions for the complexion, and a discriminating
use of poisonous drugs. I discriminated, and Theresa profited; and now
she is his wife, and has left me here alone with the dead woman.
Theresa, Theresa, come back and save me from the dead woman!'

Madam Hawtrey stood by, horror-stricken. 'Fetch the vicar,' said she,
under her breath, to a servant.

'The village doctor is coming,' said some one near. 'How she raves! Is
it delirium?'

'It is no delirium,' said Bessy's mother. 'Would to Heaven it were!'

Theresa had a happy day with her husband at Brighthelmstone before he
set off on his return to London. She watched him riding away, his
servant following with his portmanteau. Often and often did Duke look
back at the figure of his wife, waving her handkerchief, till a turn
of the road hid her from his sight. He had to pass through a little
village not ten miles from his home, and there a servant, with his
letters and further luggage, was to await him. There he found a
mysterious, imperative note, requiring his immediate presence at
Crowley Castle. Something in the awe-stricken face of the servant from
the castle, led Duke to question him. But all he could say was, that
Victorine lay dying, and that Madam Hawtrey had said that after that
letter the master was sure to return, and so would need no luggage.
Something lurked behind, evidently. Duke rode home at speed. The vicar
was looking out for him. 'My dear boy,' said he, relapsing into the
old relations of tutor and pupil, 'prepare yourself.'

'What for?' said Duke, abruptly: for the being told to prepare
himself, without being told for what, irritated him in his present
mood. 'Victorine is dead?'

'No! She says she will not die until she has seen you, and got you to
forgive her, if Madam Hawtrey will not. But first read this: it is a
terrible confession, made by her before me, a magistrate, believing
herself to be on the point of death!'

Duke read the paper--containing little more in point of detail than I
have already given--the horrible words taken down in the short-hand in
which the vicar used to write his mild prosy sermons: his pupil knew
the character of old. Duke read it twice. Then he said: 'She is
raving, poor creature!' But for all that, his heart's blood ran cold,
and he would fain not have faced the woman, but would rather have
remained in doubt to his dying day.

He went up the stairs three steps at a time, and then turned and faced
the vicar, with a look like the stern calmness of death. 'I wish to
see her alone.' He turned out all the watching women, and then he went
to the bedside where Victorine sat, half propped up with pillows,
watching all his doings and his looks, with her hollow awful eyes.
'Now, Victorine, I will read this paper aloud to you. Perhaps your
mind has been wandering; but you understand me now?' A feeble murmur
of assent met his listening ear. 'If any statement in this paper be
not true, make me a sign. Hold up your hand--for God's sake hold up
your hand. And if you can do it with truth in this, your hour of
dying, Lord have mercy upon you; but if you cannot hold up your hand,
then Lord have mercy upon me!'

He read the paper slowly; clause by clause he read the paper. No sign;
no uplifted hand. At the end she spoke, and he bent his head to
listen. 'The Countess--Theresa you know--she who has left me to die
alone--she'--then mortal strength failed, and Duke was left alone in
the chamber of death.

He stayed in the chamber many minutes, quite still. Then he left the
room, and said to the first domestic he could find, 'The woman is
dead. See that she is attended to.' But he went to the vicar, and had
a long long talk with him. He sent a confidential servant for little
Mary--on some pretext, hardly careful, or plausible enough; but his
mood was desperate, and he seemed to forget almost everything but
Bessy, his first wife, his innocent girlish bride.

Theresa could ill spare her little darling, and was perplexed by the
summons; but an explanation of it was to come in a day or two. It
came.

'Victorine is dead; I need say no more. She could not carry her awful
secret into the next world, but told all. I can think of nothing but
my poor Bessy, delivered over to the cruelty of such a woman. And you,
Theresa, I leave you to your conscience, for you have slept in my
bosom. Henceforward I am a stranger to you. By the time you receive
this, I, and my child, and that poor murdered girl's mother, will have
left England. What will be our next step I know not. My agent will do
for you what you need.'

Theresa sprang up and rang her bell with mad haste. 'Get me a horse!'
she cried, 'and bid William be ready to ride with me for his life--for
my life--along the coast, to Dover!'

They rode and they galloped through the night, scarcely staying to
bait their horses. But when they came to Dover, they looked out to sea
upon the white sails that bore Duke and his child away. Theresa was
too late, and it broke her heart. She lies buried in Dover churchyard.
After long years Duke returned to England; but his place in parliament
knew him no more, and his daughter's husband sold Crowley Castle to a
stranger.




CURIOUS, IF TRUE

You were formerly so much amused at my pride in my descent from that
sister of Calvin's, who married a Whittingham, Dean of Durham, that I
doubt if you will be able to enter into the regard for my
distinguished relation that has led me to France, in order to examine
registers and archives, which, I thought, might enable me to discover
collateral descendants of the great reformer, with whom I might call
cousins. I shall not tell you of my troubles and adventures in this
research; you are not worthy to hear of them; but something so curious
befel me one evening last August, that if I had not been perfectly
certain I was wide awake, I might have taken it for a dream.

For the purpose I have named, it was necessary that I should make
Tours my head-quarters for a time. I had traced descendants of the
Calvin family out of Normandy into the centre of France; but I found
it was necessary to have a kind of permission from the bishop of the
diocese before I could see certain family papers, which had fallen
into the possession of the Church; and, as I had several English
friends at Tours, I awaited the answer to my request to Monseigneur
de---, at that town. I was ready to accept any invitation; but I
received very few; and was sometimes a little at a loss what to do
with my evenings. The table d'hote was at five o'clock; I did not wish
to go to the expense of a private sitting-room, disliked the dinnery
atmosphere of the salle a manger, could not play either at pool or
billiards, and the aspect of my fellow guests was unprepossessing
enough to make me unwilling to enter into any tete-a-tete gamblings
with them. So I usually rose from table early, and tried to make the
most of the remaining light of the August evenings in walking briskly
off to explore the surrounding country; the middle of the day was too
hot for this purpose, and better employed in lounging on a bench in
the Boulevards, lazily listening to the distant band, and noticing
with equal laziness the faces and figures of the women who passed by.

One Thursday evening, the 18th of August it was, I think, I had gone
further than usual in my walk, and I found that it was later than I
had imagined when I paused to turn back. I fancied I could make a
round; I had enough notion of the direction in which I was, to see
that by turning up a narrow, straight lane to my left I should shorten
my way back to Tours. And so I believe I should have done, could I
have found an outlet at the right place, but field-paths are almost
unknown in that part of France, and my lane, stiff and straight as any
street, and marked into terribly vanishing perspective by the regular
row of poplars on each side, seemed interminable. Of course night came
on, and I was in darkness. In England I might have had a chance of
seeing a light in some cottage only a field or two off, and asking my
way from the inhabitants; but here I could see no such welcome sight;
indeed, I believe French peasants go to bed with the summer daylight,
so if there were any habitations in the neighbour hood I never saw
them. At last--I believe I must have walked two hours in the
darkness,--I saw the dusky outline of a wood on one side of the
weariful lane, and, impatiently careless of all forest laws and
penalties for trespassers, I made my way to it, thinking that if the
worst came to the worst, I could find some covert--some shelter where
I could lie down and rest, until the morning light gave me a chance of
finding my way back to Tours. But the plantation, on the outskirts of
what appeared to me a dense wood, was of young trees, too closely
planted to be more than slender stems growing up to a good height,
with scanty foliage on their summits. On I went towards the thicker
forest, and once there I slackened my pace, and began to look about me
for a good lair. I was as dainty as Lochiel's grandchild, who made his
grandsire indignant at the luxury of his pillow of snow: this brake
was too full of brambles, that felt damp with dew; there was no hurry,
since I had given up all hope of passing the night between four walls;
and I went leisurely groping about, and trusting that there were no
wolves to be poked up Out of their summer drowsiness by my stick, when
all at once I saw a chateau before me, not a quarter of a mile off, at
the end of what seemed to be an ancient avenue (now overgrown and
irregular), which I happened to be crossing, when I looked to my
right, and saw the welcome sight. Large, stately, and dark was its
outline against the dusky night-sky; there were pepper-boxes and
tourelles and what-not fantastically going up into the dim starlight.
And more to the purpose still, though I could not see the details of
the building that I was now facing, it was plain enough that there
were lights in many windows, as if some great entertainment was going
on.

'They are hospitable people, at any rate,' thought I. 'Perhaps they
will give me a bed. I don't suppose French proprietaires have traps
and horses quite as plentiful as English gentlemen; but they are
evidently having a large party, and some of their guests may be from
Tours, and will give me a cast back to the Lion d'Or. I am not proud,
and I am dog-tired. I am not above hanging on behind, if need be.'

So, putting a little briskness and spirit into my walk, I went up to
the door, which was standing open, most hospitably, showing a large,
lighted hall, all hung round with spoils of the chase, armour, and
co., the details of which I had not time to notice, for the instant I
stood on the threshold a huge porter appeared, in a strange, old-
fashioned dress, a kind of livery which well befitted the general
appearance of the house. He asked me, in French (so curiously
pronounced that I thought I had hit upon a new kind of patois), my
name, and whence I came. I thought he would not be much the wiser,
still it was but civil to give it before I made my request for
assistance; so, in reply, I said,---

'My name is Whittingham--Richard Whittingham, an English gentleman,
staying at---' To my infinite surprise, a light of pleased
intelligence came over the giant's face; he made me a low bow, and
said (still in the same curious dialect) that I was welcome, that I
was long expected.

'Long expected!' what could the fellow mean? Had I stumbled on a nest
of relations by John Calvin's side, who had heard of my genealogical
inquiries, and were gratified and interested by them? But I was too
much pleased to be under shelter for the night to think it necessary
to account for my agreeable reception before I enjoyed it. Just as he
was opening the great, heavy battants of the door that led from the
hall to the interior, he turned round and said,---

'Apparently Monsieur le Geanquilleur is not come with you.'

'No! I am all alone; I have lost my way,'--and I was going on with my
explanation, when he, as if quite indifferent to it, led the way up a
great stone staircase, as wide as many rooms, and having on each
landing-place massive iron wickets, in a heavy framework; these the
porter unlocked with the solemn slowness of age. Indeed, a strange,
mysterious awe of the centuries that had passed away since this
chateau was built, came over me as I waited for the turning of the
ponderous keys in the ancient locks. I could almost have fancied that
I heard a mighty rushing murmur (like the ceaseless sound of a distant
sea, ebbing and flowing for ever and for ever), coming forth from the
great, vacant galleries that opened out on each side of the broad
staircase, and were to be dimly perceived in the darkness above us. It
was as if the voices of generations of men yet echoed and eddied in
the silent air. It was strange, too, that my friend the porter going
before me, ponderously in firm, with his feeble old hands striving in
vain to keep the tall flambeau he held steadily before him,--strange,
I say, that he was the only domestic I saw in the vast halls and
passages, or met with on the grand staircase. At length we stood
before the gilded doors that led into the saloon where the family--or
it might be the company, so great was the buzz of voices--was
assembled. I would have remonstrated when I found he was going to
introduce me, dusty and travel-smeared, in a morning costume that was
not even my best, into this grand salon, with nobody knew how many
ladies and gentlemen assembled; but the obstinate old man was
evidently bent upon taking me straight to his master, and paid no heed
to my words.

The doors flew open, and I was ushered into a saloon curiously full of
pale light, which did not culminate on any spot, nor proceed from any
centre, nor flicker with any motion of the air, but filled every nook
and corner, making all things deliciously distinct; different from our
light of gas or candle, as is the difference between a clear southern
atmosphere and that of our misty England.

At the first moment, my arrival excited no attention, the apartment
was so full of people, all intent on their own conversation. But my
friend the porter went up to a handsome lady of middle age, richly
attired in that antique manner which fashion has brought round again
of late years, and, waiting first in an attitude of deep respect till
her attention fell upon him, told her my name and something about me,
as far as I could guess from the gestures of the one and the sudden
glance of the eye of the other.

She immediately came towards me with the most friendly actions of
greeting, even before she had advanced near enough to speak. Then,--
and was it not strange?--her words and accent were that of the
commonest peasant of the country. Yet she herself looked highbred, and
would have been dignified had she been a shade less restless, had her
countenance worn a little less lively and inquisitive expression. I
had been poking a good deal about the old parts of Tours, and had had
to understand the dialect of the people who dwelt in the Marche au
Vendredi and similar places, or I really should not have understood my
handsome hostess, as she offered to present me to her husband, a
henpecked, gentlemanly man, who was more quaintly attired than she in
the very extreme of that style of dress. I thought to myself that in
France, as in England, it is the provincials who carry fashion to such
an excess as to become ridiculous.

However, he spoke (still in the patois) of his pleasure in making my
acquaintance, and led me to a strange, uneasy easy-chair, much of a
piece with the rest of the furniture, which might have taken its place
without any anachronism by the side of that in the Hotel Cluny. Then
again began the clatter of French voices, which my arrival had for an
instant interrupted, and I had leisure to look about me. Opposite to
me sat a very sweet-looking lady, who must have been a great beauty in
her youth, I should think, and would be charming in old age, from the
sweetness of her countenance. She was, however, extremely fat, and on
seeing her feet laid up before her on a cushion, I at once perceived
that they were so swollen as to render her incapable of walking, which
probably brought on her excessive embonpoint. Her hands were plump and
small, but rather coarse-grained in texture, not quite so clean as
they might have been, and altogether not so aristocratic-looking as
the charming face. Her dress was of superb black velvet, ermine-
trimmed, with diamonds thrown all abroad over it.

Not far from her stood the least little man I had ever seen; of such
admirable proportions no one could call him a dwarf, because with that
word we usually associate something of deformity; but yet with an
elfin look of shrewd, hard, worldly wisdom in his face that marred the
impression which his delicate, regular, little features would
otherwise have conveyed. Indeed, I do not think he was quite of equal
rank with the rest of the company, for his dress was inappropriate to
the occasion (and he apparently was an invited, while I was an
involuntary guest); and one or two of his gestures and actions were
more like the tricks of an uneducated rustic than anything else. To
explain what I mean: his boots had evidently seen much service, and
had been re-topped, re-heeled, resoled to the extent of cobbler's
powers. Why should he have come in them if they were not his best--his
only pair? And what can be more ungenteel than poverty? Then again he
had an uneasy trick of putting his hand up to his throat, as if he
expected to find something the matter with it; and he had the awkward
habit--which I do not think he could have copied from Dr Johnson,
because most probably he had never heard of him--of trying always to
retrace his steps on the exact boards on which he had trodden to
arrive at any particular part of the room. Besides, to settle the
question, I once heard him addressed as Monsieur Poucet, without any
aristocratic 'de' for a prefix; and nearly every one else in the room
was a marquis, at any rate.

I say, 'nearly every one'; for some strange people had the entree;
unless, indeed, they were, like me, benighted. One of the guests I
should have taken for a servant, but for the extraordinary influence
he seemed to have over the man I took for his master, and who never
did anything without, apparently, being urged thereto by this
follower. The master, magnificently dressed, but ill at ease in his
clothes, as if they had been made for some one else, was a weak-
looking, handsome man, continually sauntering about, and I almost
guessed an object of suspicion to some of the gentlemen present,
which, perhaps, drove him on the companionship of his follower, who
was dressed something in the style of an ambassador's chasseur; yet it
was not a chasseur's dress after all; it was something more thoroughly
old-world; boots half way up his ridiculously small legs, which
clattered as he walked along, as if they were too large for his little
feet; and a great quantity of grey fur, as trimming to coat, court-
mantle, boots, cap--everything. You know the way in which certain
countenances remind you perpetually of some animal, be it bird or
beast! Well, this chasseur (as I will call him for want of a better
name) was exceedingly like the great Tom-cat that you have seen so
often in my chambers, and laughed at almost as often for his uncanny
gravity of demeanour. Grey whiskers has my Tom--grey whiskers had the
chasseur: grey hair overshadows the upper lip of my Tom--grey
mustachios hid that of the chasseur. The pupils of Tom's eyes dilate
and contract as I had thought cats' pupils only could do, until I saw
those of the chasseur. To be sure, canny as Tom is, the chasseur had
the advantage in the more intelligent expression. He seemed to have
obtained most complete sway over his master or patron, whose looks he
watched, and whose steps he followed, with a kind of distrustful
interest that puzzled me greatly.

There were several other groups in the more distant part of the
saloon, all of the stately old school, all grand and noble, I
conjectured from their bearing. They seemed perfectly well acquainted
with each other, as if they were in the habit of meeting. But I was
interrupted in my observations by the tiny little gentleman on the
opposite side of the room coming across to take a place beside me. It
is no difficult matter to a Frenchman to slide into conversation, and
so gracefully aid my pigmy friend keep up the character of the nation,
that we were almost confidential before ten minutes had elapsed.

Now I was quite aware that the welcome which all had extended to me,
from the porter up to the vivacious lady and meek lord of the castle,
was intended for some other person. But it required either a degree of
moral courage, of which I cannot boast, or the self-reliance and
conversational powers of a bolder and cleverer man than I, to
undeceive people who had fallen into so fortunate a mistake for me.
Yet the little man by my side insinuated himself so much into my
confidence, that I had half a mind to tell him of my exact situation,
and to turn him into a friend and an ally.

'Madame is perceptibly growing older,' said he, in the midst of my
perplexity, glancing at our hostess.

'Madame is still a very fine woman,' replied I.

'Now, is it not strange,' continued he, lowering his voice, 'how women
almost invariably praise the absent, or departed, as if they were
angels of light, while as for the present, or the living'--here he
shrugged up his little shoulders, and made an expressive pause. 'Would
you believe it! Madame is always praising her late husband to
monsieur's face; till, in fact, we guests are quite perplexed how to
look: for, you know, the late M. de Retz's character was quite
notorious,--everybody has heard of him.' All the world of Touraine,
thought I, but I made an assenting noise.

At this instant, monsieur our host came up to me, and with a civil
look of tender interest (such as some people put on when they inquire
after your mother, about whom they do not care one straw), asked if I
had heard lately how my cat was? 'How my cat was!' what could the man
mean? My cat! Could he mean the tailless Tom, born in the Isle of Man,
and now supposed to be keeping guard against the incursions of rats
and mice into my chambers in London? Tom is, as you know, on pretty
good terms with some of my friends, using their legs for rubbing-posts
without scruple, and highly esteemed by them for his gravity of
demeanour, and wise manner of winking his eyes. But could his fame
have reached across the Channel? However, an answer must be returned
to the inquiry, as monsieur's face was bent down to mine with a look
of polite anxiety; so I, in my turn, assumed an expression of
gratitude, and assured him that, to the best of my belief, my cat was
in remarkably good health.

'And the climate agrees with her?'

'Perfectly,' said I, in a maze of wonder at this deep solicitude in a
tailless cat who had lost one foot and half an ear in some cruel trap.
My host smiled a sweet smile, and, addressing a few words to my little
neighbour, passed on.

'How wearisome those aristocrats are!' quoth my neighbour, with a
slight sneer. 'Monsieur's conversation rarely extends to more than two
sentences to any one. By that time his faculties are exhausted, and he
needs the refreshment of silence. You and I, monsieur, are, at any
rate, indebted to our own wits for our rise in the world!'

Here again I was bewildered! As you know, I am rather proud of my
descent from families which, if not noble themselves, are allied to
nobility,--and as to my 'rise in the world'--if I had risen, it would
have been rather for balloon-like qualities than for mother-wit, to
being unencumbered with heavy ballast either in my head or my pockets.
However, it was my cue to agree: so I smiled again.

'For my part,' said he, 'if a man does not stick at trifles, if he
knows how to judiciously add to, or withhold facts, and is not
sentimental in his parade of humanity, he is sure to do well; sure to
affix a de or von to his name, and end his days in comfort. There is
an example of what I am saying'--and he glanced furtively at the weak-
looking master of the sharp, intelligent servant, whom I have called
the chasseur.

'Monsieur le Marquis would never have been anything but a miller's
son, if it had not been for the talents of his servant. Of course you
know his antecedents?'

I was going to make some remarks on the changes in the order of the
peerage since the days of Louis XVI--going, in fact, to be very
sensible and historical--when there was a slight commotion among the
people at the other end of the room. Lacqueys in quaint liveries must
have come in from behind the tapestry, I suppose (for I never saw them
enter, though I sate right opposite to the doors), and were handing
about the slight beverages and slighter viands which are considered
sufficient refreshments, but which looked rather meagre to my hungry
appetite. These footmen were standing solemnly opposite to a lady,--
beautiful, splendid as the dawn, but--sound asleep in a magnificent
settee. A gentleman who showed so much irritation at her ill-timed
slumbers, that I think he must have been her husband, was trying to
awaken her with actions not far removed from shakings. All in vain;
she was quite unconscious of his annoyance, or the smiles of the
company, or the automatic solemnity of the waiting footman, or the
perplexed anxiety of monsieur and madame.

My little friend sat down with a sneer, as if his curiosity was
quenched in contempt.

'Moralists would make an infinity of wise remarks on that scene,' said
he. 'In the first place, note the ridiculous position into which their
superstitious reverence for rank and title puts all these people.
Because monsieur is a reigning prince over some minute principality,
the exact situation of which no one has as yet discovered, no one must
venture to take their glass of eau sucre till Madame la Princesse
awakens; and, judging from past experience, those poor lacqueys may
have to stand for a century before that happens. Next--always speaking
as a moralist, you will observe--note how difficult it is to break off
bad habits acquired in youth!'

Just then the prince succeeded, by what means I did not see, in
awaking the beautiful sleeper. But at first she did not remember where
she was, and looking up at her husband with loving eyes, she smiled
and said,---

'Is it you, my prince?'

But he was too conscious of the suppressed amusement of the spectators
and his own consequent annoyance, to be reciprocally tender, and
turned away with some little French expression, best rendered into
English by 'Pooh, pooh, my dear!'

After I had had a glass of delicious wine of some unknown quality, my
courage was in rather better plight than before, and I told my cynical
little neighbour--whom I must say I was beginning to dislike--that I
had lost my way in the wood, and had arrived at the chateau quite by
mistake.

He seemed mightily amused at my story; said that the same thing had
happened to himself more than once; and told me that I had better luck
than he had on one of these occasions, when, from his account, he must
have been in considerable danger of his life. He ended his story by
making me admire his boots, which he said he still wore, patched
though they were, and all their excellent quality lost by patching,
because they were of such a first-rate make for long pedestrian
excursions. 'Though, indeed,' he wound up by saying, 'the new fashion
of railroads would seem to supersede the necessity for this
description of boots.'

When I consulted him as to whether I ought to make myself known to my
host and hostess as a benighted traveller, instead of the guest whom
they had taken me for, he exclaimed, 'By no means! I hate such
squeamish morality.' And he seemed much offended by my innocent
question, as if it seemed by implication to condemn something in
himself. He was offended and silent; and just at this moment I caught
the sweet, attractive eyes of the lady opposite--that lady whom I
named at first as being no longer in the bloom of youth, but as being
somewhat infirm about the feet, which were supported on a raised
cushion before her. Her looks seemed to say, 'Come here, and let us
have some conversation together'; and, with a bow of silent excuse to
my little companion, I went across to the lame old lady. She
acknowledged my coming with the prettiest gesture of thanks possible;
and, half apologetically, said, 'It is a little dull to be unable to
move about on such evenings as this; but it is a just punishment to me
for my early vanities. My poor feet, that were by nature so small, are
now taking their revenge for my cruelty in forcing them into such
little slippers... Besides, monsieur,' with a pleasant smile, 'I
thought it was possible you might be weary of the malicious sayings of
your little neighbour. He has not borne the best character in his
youth, and such men are sure to be cynical in their old age.'

'Who is he?' asked I, with English abruptness.

'His name is Poucet, and his father was, I believe, a woodcutter, or
charcoal burner, or something of the sort. They do tell sad stories of
connivance at murder, ingratitude, and obtaining money on false
pretences--but you will think me as bad as he if I go on with my
slanders. Rather let us admire the lovely lady coming up towards us,
with the roses in her hand--I never see her without roses, they are so
closely connected with her past history, as you are doubtless aware.
Ah, beauty!' said my companion to the lady drawing near to us, 'it is
like you to come to me, now that I can no longer go to you.' Then
turning to me, and gracefully drawing me into the conversation, she
said, 'You must know that, although we never met until we were both
married, we have been almost like sisters ever since. There have been
so many points of resemblance in our circumstances, and I think I may
say in our characters. We had each two elder sisters--mine were but
half-sisters, though--who were not so kind to us as they might have
been.'

'But have been sorry for it since,' put in the other lady.

'Since we have married princes,' continued the same lady, with an arch
smile that had nothing of unkindness in it, 'for we both have married
far above our original stations in life; we are both unpunctual in our
habits, and, in consequence of this failing of ours, we have both had
to suffer mortification and pain.'

'And both are charming,' said a whisper close behind me. 'My lord the
marquis, say it--say, "And both are charming."'

'And both are charming,' was spoken aloud by another voice. I turned,
and saw the wily, cat-like chasseur, prompting his master to make
civil speeches.

The ladies bowed with that kind of haughty acknowledgment which shows
that compliments from such a source are distasteful. But our trio of
conversation was broken up, and I was sorry for it. The marquis looked
as if he had been stirred up to make that one speech, and hoped that
he would not be expected to say more; while behind him stood the
chasseur, half impertinent and half servile in his ways and attitudes.
The ladies, who were real ladies, seemed to be sorry for the
awkwardness of the marquis, and addressed some trifling questions to
him, adapting themselves to the subjects on which he could have no
trouble in answering. The chasseur, meanwhile, was talking to himself
in a growling tone of voice. I had fallen a little into the background
at this interruption in a conversation which promised to be so
pleasant, and I could not help hearing his words.

'Really, De Carabas grows more stupid every day. I have a great mind
to throw off his boots, and leave him to his fate. I was intended for
a court, and to a court I will go, and make my own fortune as I have
made his. The emperor will appreciate my talents.'

And such are the habits of the French, or such his forgetfulness of
good manners in his anger, that he spat right and left on the
parquetted floor.

Just then a very ugly, very pleasant-looking man, came towards the two
ladies to whom I had lately been speaking, leading up to them a
delicate, fair woman, dressed all in the softest white, as if she were
vouee au blanc. I do not think there was a bit of colour about her. I
thought I heard her making, as she came along, a little noise of
pleasure, not exactly like the singing of a tea-kettle, nor yet like
the cooing of a dove, but reminding me of each sound.

'Madame de Mioumiou was anxious to see you,' said he, addressing the
lady with the roses, 'so I have brought her across to give you a
pleasure!' What an honest, good face! but oh! how ugly! And yet I
liked his ugliness better than most persons' beauty. There was a look
of pathetic acknowledgment of his ugliness, and a deprecation of your
too hasty judgment, in his countenance that was positively winning.
The soft, white lady kept glancing at my neighbour the chasseur, as if
they had had some former acquaintance, which puzzled me very much, as
they were of such different rank. However, their nerves were evidently
strung to the same tune, for at a sound behind the tapestry, which was
more like the scuttering of rats and mice than anything else, both
Madame de Mioumiou and the chasseur started with the most eager look
of anxiety on their countenances, and by their restless movements--
madame's panting, and the fiery dilation of his eyes--one might see
that commonplace sounds affected them both in a manner very different
to the rest of the company. The ugly husband of the lovely lady with
the roses now addressed himself to me.

'We are much disappointed,' he said, 'in finding that monsieur is not
accompanied by his countryman--le grand Jean d'Angleterre; I cannot
pronounce his name rightly'--and he looked at me to help him out.

'Le grand Jean d'Angleterre!' Now who was le grand Jean d'Angleterre?
John Bull? John Russell? John Bright?

'Jean--Jean'--continued the gentleman, seeing my embarrassment. 'Ah,
these terrible English names--"Jean de Geanquilleur!"

I was as wise as ever. And yet the name struck me as familiar, but
slightly disguised. I repeated it to myself. It was mighty like John
the Giant-killer, only his friends always call that worthy, 'Jack'. I
said the name aloud.

'Ah, that is it!' said he. 'But why has he not accompanied you to our
little reunion to-night?'

I had been rather puzzled once or twice before, but this serious
question added considerably to my perplexity. Jack the Giant-killer
had once, it is true, been rather an intimate friend of mine, as far
as (printer's) ink and paper can keep up a friendship, but I had not
heard his name mentioned for years; and for aught I knew he lay
enchanted with King Arthur's knights, who lie entranced until the
blast of the trumpets of four mighty kings shall call them to help at
England's need. But the question had been asked in serious earnest by
that gentleman, whom I more wished to think well of me than I did any
other person in the room. So I answered respectfully that it was long
since I had heard anything of my countryman; but that I was sure it
would have given him as much pleasure as it was doing myself to have
been present at such an agreeable gathering of friends. He bowed, and
then the lame lady took up the word.

'To-night is the night when, of all the year, this great old forest
surrounding the castle is said to be haunted by the phantom of a
little peasant girl who once lived hereabouts; the tradition is that
she was devoured by a wolf. In former days I have seen her on this
night out of yonder window at the end of the gallery. Will you, ma
belie, take monsieur to see the view outside by the moonlight (you may
possibly see the phantom-child); and leave me to a little tete-a-tete
with your husband?'

With a gentle movement the lady with the roses complied with the
other's request, and we went to a great window, looking down on the
forest, in which I had lost my way. The tops of the far-spreading and
leafy trees lay motionless beneath us in that pale, wan light, which
shows objects almost as distinct in form, though not in colour, as by
day. We looked down on the countless avenues, which seemed to converge
from all quarters to the great old castle; and suddenly across one,
quite near to us, there passed the figure of a little girl, with the
'capuchon' on, that takes the place of a peasant girl's bonnet in
France. She had a basket on one arm, and by her, on the side to which
her head was turned, there went a wolf. I could almost have said it
was licking her hand, as if in penitent love, if either penitence or
love had ever been a quality of wolves,--but though not of living,
perhaps it may be of phantom wolves.

'There, we have seen her!' exclaimed my beautiful companion. 'Though
so long dead, her simple story of household goodness and trustful
simplicity still lingers in the hearts of all who have ever heard of
her; and the country-people about here say that seeing that phantom-
child on this anniversary brings good luck for the year. Let us hope
that we shall share in the traditionary good fortune. Ah! here is
Madame de Retz--she retains the name of her first husband, you know,
as he was of higher rank than the present.' We were joined by our
hostess.

'If monsieur is fond of the beauties of nature and art,' said she,
perceiving that I had been looking at the view from the great window,
'he will perhaps take pleasure in seeing the picture.' Here she
sighed, with a little affectation of grief. 'You know the picture I
allude to,' addressing my companion, who bowed assent, and smiled a
little maliciously, as I followed the lead of madame.

I went after her to the other end of the saloon, noting by the way
with what keen curiosity she caught up what was passing either in word
or action on each side of her. When we stood opposite to the end wall,
I perceived a full-length picture of a handsome, peculiar-looking man,
with--in spite of his good looks--a very fierce and scowling
expression. My hostess clasped her hands together as her arms hung
down in front, and sighed once more. Then, half in soliloquy, she
said,---

'He was the love of my youth; his stern yet manly character first
touched this heart of mine. When--when shall I cease to deplore his
loss!'

Not being acquainted with her enough to answer this question (if,
indeed, it were not sufficiently answered by the fact of her second
marriage), I felt awkward; and, by way of saying something, I
remarked,---

'The countenance strikes me as resembling something I have seen
before--in an engraving from an historical picture, I think; only, it
is there the principal figure in a group: he is holding a lady by her
hair, and threatening her with his scimitar, while two cavaliers are
rushing up the stairs, apparently only just in time to save her life.'

'Alas, alas!' said she, 'you too accurately describe a miserable
passage in my life, which has often been represented in a false light.
The best of husbands'--here she sobbed, and became slightly
inarticulate with her grief--'will sometimes be displeased. I was
young and curious, he was justly angry with my disobedience--my
brothers were too hasty--the consequence is, I became a widow!'

After due respect for her tears, I ventured to suggest some
commonplace consolation. She turned round sharply.

'No, monsieur: my only comfort is that I have never forgiven the
brothers who interfered so cruelly, in such an uncalled-for manner,
between my dear husband and myself. To quote my friend Monsieur
Sganarelle--"Ce sont petites choses qui sont de temps en temps
necessaires dans l'amitie; et cinq ou six coups d'epee entre gens qui
s'aiment ne font que ragaillardir l'affection." You observe the
colouring is not quite what it should be?'

'In this light the beard is of rather a peculiar tint,' said I.

'Yes: the painter did not do it justice. It was most lovely, and gave
him such a distinguished air, quite different from the common herd.
Stay, I will show you the exact colour, if you will come near this
flambeau!' And going near the light, she took off a bracelet of hair,
with a magnificent clasp of pearls. It was peculiar, certainly. I did
not know what to say. His precious lovely beard!' said she. 'And the
pearls go so well with the delicate blue!'

Her husband, who had come up to us, and waited till her eye fell upon
him before venturing to speak, now said, 'It is strange Monsieur Ogre
is not yet arrived!'

'Not at all strange,' said she, tartly. 'He was always very stupid,
and constantly falls into mistakes, in which he comes worse off; and
it is very well he does, for he is a credulous and cowardly fellow.
Not at all strange! If you will'--turning to her husband, so that I
hardly heard her words, until I caught--'Then everybody would have
their rights, and we should have no more trouble. Is it not,
monsieur?' addressing me.

'If I were in England, I should imagine madame was speaking of the
reform bill, or the millennium,--but I am in ignorance.'

And just as I spoke, the great folding-doors were thrown open wide,
and every one started to their feet to greet a little old lady,
leaning on a thin, black wand--and---

'Madame la Feemarraine,' was announced by a chorus of sweet shrill
voices.

And in a moment I was lying in the grass close by a hollow oak-tree,
with the slanting glory of the dawning day shining full in my face,
and thousands of little birds and delicate insects piping and warbling
out their welcome to the ruddy splendour.




DISAPPEARANCES

I am not in the habit of seeing the Household Words regularly; but a
friend, who lately sent me some of the back numbers, recommended me to
read "all the papers relating to the Detective and Protective Police,"
which I accordingly did--not as the generality of readers have done,
as they appeared week by week, or with pauses between, but
consecutively, as a popular history of the Metropolitan Police; and,
as I suppose it may also be considered, a history of the police force
in every large town in England. When I had ended these papers, I did
not feel disposed to read any others at that time, but preferred
falling into a train of reverie and recollection.

First of all I remembered, with a smile, the unexpected manner in
which a relation of mine was discovered by an acquaintance, who had
mislaid or forgotten Mr. B.'s address. Now my dear cousin, Mr. B.,
charming as he is in many points, has the little peculiarity of liking
to change his lodgings once every three months on an average, which
occasions some bewilderment to his country friends, who have no sooner
learnt the 19 Belle Vue Road, Hampstead, than they have to take pains
to forget that address, and to remember the 27 1/2 Upper Brown Street,
Camberwell; and so on, till I would rather learn a page of "Walker's
Pronouncing Dictionary," than try to remember the variety of
directions which I have had to put on my letters to Mr. B. during the
last three years. Last summer it pleased him to remove to a beautiful
village not ten miles out of London, where there is a railway station.
Thither his friend sought him. (I do not now speak of the following
scent there had been through three or four different lodgings, where
Mr. B. had been residing, before his country friend ascertained that
he was now lodging at R---.) He spent the morning in making inquiries
as to Mr. B.'s whereabouts in the village; but many gentlemen were
lodging there for the summer, and neither butcher nor baker could
inform him where Mr. B. was staying; his letters were unknown at the
post-office, which was accounted for by the circumstance of their
always being directed to his office in town. At last the country
friend sauntered back to the railway-office, and while he waited for
the train he made inquiry, as a last resource, of the book-keeper at
the station. "No, sir, I cannot tell you where Mr. B. lodges--so many
gentlemen go by the trains; but I have no doubt but that the person
standing by that pillar can inform you." The individual to whom he
directed the inquirer's attention had the appearance of a tradesman--
respectable enough, yet with no pretensions to "gentility," and had,
apparently, no more urgent employment than lazily watching the
passengers who came dropping in to the station. However, when he was
spoken to, he answered civilly and promptly. "Mr. B.? tall gentleman,
with light hair? Yes, sir, I know Mr. B. He lodges at No. 8 Morton
Villas--has done these three weeks or more; but you'll not find him
there, sir, now. He went to town by the eleven o'clock train, and does
not usually return until the half-past four train."

The country friend had no time to lose in returning to the village, to
ascertain the truth of this statement. He thanked his informant, and
said he would call on Mr. B. at his office in town; but before he left
R--station, he asked the book-keeper who the person was to whom he had
referred him for information as to his friend's place of residence.
"One of the Detective Police, sir," was the answer. I need hardly say
that Mr. B., not without a little surprise, confirmed the accuracy of
the policeman's report in every particular. When I heard this anecdote
of my cousin and his friend, I thought that there could be no more
romances written on the same kind of plot as Caleb Williams; the
principal interest of which, to the superficial reader, consists in
the alternation of hope and fear, that the hero may, or may not,
escape his pursuer. It is long since I have read the story, and I
forget the name of the offended and injured gentleman whose privacy
Caleb has invaded; but I know that his pursuit of Caleb--his detection
of the various hiding-places of the latter--his following up of slight
clues--all, in fact, depended upon his own energy, sagacity, and
perseverance. The interest was caused by the struggle of man against
man; and the uncertainty as to which would ultimately be successful in
his object: the unrelenting pursuer, or the ingenious Caleb, who seeks
by every device to conceal himself. Now, in 1851, the offended master
would set the Detective Police to work; there would be no doubt as to
their success; the only question would be as to the time that would
elapse before the hiding-place could be detected, and that could not
be a question long. It is no longer a struggle between man and man,
but between a vast organised machinery, and a weak, solitary
individual; we have no hopes, no fears--only certainty. But if the
materials of pursuit and evasion, as long as the chase is confined to
England, are taken away from the store-house of the romancer, at any
rate we can no more be haunted by the idea of the possibility of
mysterious disappearances; and any one who has associated much with
those who were alive at the end of the last century, can testify that
there was some reason for such fears.

When I was a child, I was sometimes permitted to accompany a relation
to drink tea with a very clever old lady, of one hundred and twenty--
or so I thought then; I now think she, perhaps, was only about
seventy. She was lively, and intelligent, and had seen and known much
that was worth narrating. She was a cousin of the Sneyds, the family
whence Mr. Edgeworth took two of his wives; had known Major Andre; had
mixed in the Old Whig Society that the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire
and Mrs. Crewe of "Buff and Blue" fame gathered round them; and her
father had been one of the early patrons of the lovely Miss Linley. I
name these facts to show that she was too intelligent and cultivated
by association, as well as by natural powers, to lend an over-easy
credence to the marvellous; and yet I have heard her relate stories of
disappearances which haunted my imagination longer than any tale of
wonder. One of her stories was this:--Her father's estate lay in
Shropshire, and his park-gates opened right on to a scattered village
of which he was landlord. The houses formed a straggling irregular
street--here a garden, next a gable-end of a farm, there a row of
cottages, and so on. Now, at the end house or cottage lived a very
respectable man and his wife. They were well known in the village, and
were esteemed for the patient attention which they paid to the
husband's father, a paralytic old man. In winter, his chair was near
the fire; in summer, they carried him out into the open space in front
of the house to bask in the sunshine, and to receive what placid
amusement he could from watching the little passings to and fro of the
villagers. He could not move from his bed to his chair without help.
One hot and sultry June day, all the village turned out to the hay-
fields. Only the very old and the very young remained.

The old father of whom I have spoken was carried out to bask in the
sunshine that afternoon as usual, and his son and daughter-in-law went
to the hay-making. But when they came home in the early evening, their
paralysed father had disappeared--was gone! and from that day
forwards, nothing more was ever heard of him. The old lady, who told
this story, said, with the quietness that always marked the simplicity
of her narration, that every inquiry which her father could make was
made, and that it could never be accounted for.' No one had observed
any stranger in the village; no small household robbery, to which the
old man might have been supposed an obstacle, had been committed in
his son's dwelling that afternoon. The son and daughter-in-law (noted,
too, for their attention to the helpless father) had been a-field
among all the neighbours the whole of the time. In short, it never was
accounted for; and left a painful impression on many minds.

I will answer for it, the Detective Police would have ascertained
every fact relating to it in a week.

This story, from its mystery, was painful, but had no consequences to
make it tragical. The next which I shall tell (and although
traditionary, these anecdotes of disappearances which I relate in this
paper are correctly repeated, and were believed by my informants to be
strictly true) bad consequences, and melancholy ones, too. The scene
of it is in a little country-town, surrounded by the estates of
several gentlemen of large property. About a hundred years ago there
lived in this small town an attorney, with his mother and sister. He
was agent for one of the squires near, and received rents for him on
stated days, which, of course, were well known. He went at these times
to a small public-house, perhaps five miles from--, where the tenants
met him, paid their rents, and were entertained at dinner afterwards.
One night he did not return from this festivity. He never returned.
The gentleman whose agent he was, employed the Dogberrys of the time
to find him, and the missing cash; the mother, whose support and
comfort he was, sought him with all the perseverance of faithful love.
But he never returned; and by-and-by the rumour spread that he must
have gone abroad with the money; his mother heard the whispers all
around her, and could not disprove it; and so her heart broke, and she
died. Years after, I think as many as fifty, the well-to-do butcher
and grazier of--died; but, before his death, he confessed that he had
waylaid Mr.--on the heath, close to the town, almost within call of
his own house, intending only to rob him, but, meeting with more
resistance than he anticipated, had been provoked to stab him; and had
buried him that very night deep under the loose sand of the heath.
There his skeleton was found; but too late for his poor mother to know
that his fame was cleared. His sister, too, was dead, unmarried, for
no one liked the possibilities which might arise from being connected
with the family. None cared if he were guilty or innocent now. If our
Detective Police had only been in existence!

This last is hardly a story of unaccounted-for disappearance. It is
only unaccounted for in one generation. But disappearances never to be
accounted for on any supposition are not uncommon among the traditions
of the last century. I have heard (and I think I have read it in one
of the earlier numbers of Chambers's Journal) of a marriage which took
place in Lincolnshire about the year 1750. It was not then de rigueur
that the happy couple should set out on a wedding journey; but
instead, they and their friends had a merry jovial dinner at the house
of either bride or groom; and in this instance the whole party
adjourned to the bridegroom's residence, and dispersed, some to ramble
in the garden, some to rest in the house until the dinner-hour. The
bridegroom, it is to be supposed, was with his bride, when he was
suddenly summoned away by a domestic, who said he was never seen more.
The same tradition hangs about that a stranger wished to speak to him;
and henceforward an old deserted Welsh hall standing in a wood near
Festiniog; there, too, the bridegroom was sent for to give audience to
a stranger on his wedding-day, and disappeared from the face of the
earth from that time; but there, they tell in addition, that the bride
lived long--that she passed her three-score years and ten, but that
daily, during all those years, while there was light of sun or moon to
lighten the earth, she sat watching--watching at one particular window
which commanded a view of the approach to the house. Her whole
faculties, her whole mental powers, became absorbed in that weary
watching; long before she died, she was childish, and only conscious
of one wish--to sit in that long high window, and watch the road along
which he might come. She was as faithful as Evangeline, if pensive and
inglorious.

That these two similar stories of disappearance on a wedding-day
"obtained," as the French say, shows us that anything which adds to
our facility of communication, and organisation of means, adds to our
security of life. Only let a bridegroom try to disappear from an
untamed Katherine of a bride, and he will soon be brought home, like a
recreant coward, overtaken by the electric telegraph, and clutched
back to his fate by a detective policeman.

Two more stories of disappearance and I have done. I will give you the
last in date first, because it is the most melancholy; and we will
wind up cheerfully (after a fashion). Some time between 1820 and 1830,
there lived in North Shields a respectable old woman, and her son, who
was trying to struggle into sufficient knowledge of medicine to go out
as ship-surgeon in a Baltic vessel, and perhaps in this manner to earn
money enough to spend a session in Edinburgh. He was furthered in all
his plans by the late benevolent Dr. G. of that town. I believe the
usual premium was not required in his case; the young man did many
useful errands and offices which a finer young gentleman would have
considered beneath him; and he resided with his mother in one of the
alleys (or "chares") which lead down from the main street of North
Shields to the river. Dr. G. had been with a patient all night, and
left her very early on a winter's morning to return home to bed; but
first he stepped down to his apprentice's home, and bade him get up,
and follow him to his own house, where some medicine was to be mixed,
and then taken to the lady. Accordingly, the poor lad came, prepared
the dose, and set off with it some time between five and six on a
winter's morning. He was never seen again. Dr. G. waited, thinking he
was at his mother's house; she waited, considering that he had gone to
his day's work. And meanwhile, as people remembered afterwards, the
small vessel bound to Edinburgh sailed out of port. The mother
expected him back her whole life long; but some years afterwards
occurred the discoveries of the Hare and Burke horrors, and people
seemed to gain a dark glimpse at his fate; but I never heard that it
was fully ascertained, or indeed more than surmised. I ought to add
that all who knew him spoke emphatically as to his steadiness of
purpose and conduct, so as to render it improbable in the highest
degree that he had run off to sea, or suddenly changed his plan of
life in any way.

My last story is one of a disappearance which was accounted for after
many years. There is a considerable street in Manchester leading from
the centre of the town to some of the suburbs. This street is called
at one part Garratt, and afterwards--where it emerges into gentility
and, comparatively, country--Brook Street. It derives its former name
from an old black-and-white hall of the time of Richard the Third, or
thereabouts, to judge from the style of building; they have closed in
what is left of the old hall now; but a few years since this old house
was visible from the main road; it stood low on some vacant ground,
and appeared to be half in ruins. I believe it was occupied by several
poor families, who rented tenements in the tumble-down dwelling. But
formerly it was Gerrard Hall (what a difference between Gerrard and
Garratt!) and was surrounded by a park with a clear brook running
through it, with pleasant fish-ponds (the name of these was preserved,
until very lately, on a street near), orchards, dovecots, and similar
appurtenances to the manor-houses of former days. I am almost sure
that the family to whom it belonged were Mosleys, probably a branch of
the tree of the Lord of the Manor of Manchester. Any topographical
work of the last century relating to their district would give the
name of the last proprietor of the old stock, and it is to him that my
story refers.

Many years ago there lived in Manchester two old maiden ladies of high
respectability. All their lives had been spent in the town, and they
were fond of relating the changes which had taken place within their
recollection, which extended back to seventy or eighty years from the
present time. They knew much of its traditionary history from their
father, as well; who, with his father before him, had been respectable
attorneys in Manchester during the greater part of the last century;
they were, also, agents for several of the county families, who,
driven from their old possessions by the enlargement of the town,
found some compensation in the increased value of any land which they
might choose to sell. Consequently the Messrs. S., father and son,
were conveyancers in good repute, and acquainted with several secret
pieces of family history, one of which related to Garratt Hall.

The owner of this estate, some time in the first half of the last
century, married young; he and his wife had several children, and
lived together in a quiet state of happiness for many years. At last,
business of some kind took the husband up to London; a week's journey
in those days. He wrote and announced his arrival; I do not think he
ever wrote again. He seemed to be swallowed up in the abyss of the
metropolis, for no friend (and the lady had many powerful friends)
could ever ascertain for her what had become of him; the prevalent
idea was that he had been attacked by some of the street-robbers who
prowled about in those days, that he had resisted, and had been
murdered. His wife gradually gave up all hopes of seeing him again,
and devoted herself to the care of her children; and so they went on,
tranquilly enough, until the heir came of age, when certain deeds were
necessary before he could legally take possession of the property.
These deeds Mr. S. (the family lawyer) stated had been given up by him
into the missing gentleman's keeping just before the last mysterious
journey to London, with which I think they were in some way concerned.
It was possible that they were still in existence; some one in London
might have them in possession, and be either conscious or unconscious
of their importance. At any rate, Mr. S.'s advice to his client was
that he should put an advertisement in the London papers, worded so
skilfully that any one who might hold the important documents should
understand to what it referred, and no one else. This was accordingly
done; and, although repeated at intervals for some time, it met with
no success. But at last a mysterious answer was sent: to the effect
that the deeds were in existence, and should be given up; but only on
certain conditions, and to the heir himself. The young man, in
consequence, went up to London, and adjourned, according to
directions, to an old house in Barbican, where he was told by a man,
apparently awaiting him, that he must submit to be blindfolded, and
must follow his guidance. He was taken through several long passages
before he left the house; at the termination of one of these he was
put into a sedan-chair, and carried about for an hour or more; he
always reported that there were many turnings, and that he imagined he
was set down finally not very far from his starting-point.

When his eyes were unbandaged, he was in a decent sitting-room, with
tokens of family occupation lying about. A middle-aged gentleman
entered, and told him that, until a certain time had elapsed (which
should be indicated to him in a particular way, but of which the
length was not then named), he must swear to secrecy as to the means
by which he obtained possession of the deeds. This oath was taken; and
then the gentleman, not without some emotion, acknowledged himself to
be the missing father of the heir. It seems that he had fallen in love
with a damsel, a friend of the person with whom he lodged. To this
young woman he had represented himself as unmarried; she listened
willingly to his wooing, and her father, who was a shopkeeper in the
City, was not averse to the match, as the Lancashire squire had a
goodly presence, and many similar qualities, which the shopkeeper
thought might be acceptable to his customers. The bargain was struck;
the descendant of a knightly race married the only daughter of the
City shopkeeper, and that he had never repented the step, he had
taken; that his became the junior partner in the business. Ho told his
son lowly-born wife was sweet, docile, and affectionate; that his
family by her was large; and that he and they were thriving and happy.
He inquired after his first (or rather, I should say, his true) wife
with friendly affection; approved of what she had done with regard to
his estate, and the education of his children; but said that he
considered he was dead to her as she was to him. When he really died
he promised that a particular message, the nature of which he
specified, should be sent to his son at Garratt; until then they would
not hear more of each other, for it was of no use attempting to trace
him under his incognito, even if the oath did not render such an
attempt forbidden. I dare say the youth had no great desire to trace
out the father, who had been one in name only. He returned to
Lancashire; took possession of the property at Manchester; and many
years elapsed before he received the mysterious intimation of his
father's real death. After that, he named the particulars connected
with the recovery of the title-deeds to Mr. S., and one or two
intimate friends. When the family became extinct, or removed from
Garratt, it became no longer any very closely-kept secret, and I was
told the tale of the disappearance by Miss S., the aged daughter of
the family agent.

Once more, let me say, I am thankful I live in the days of the
Detective Police; if I am murdered, or commit bigamy, at any rate my
friends will have the comfort of knowing all about it.

... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

A correspondent has favoured us with the sequel of the disappearance
of the pupil of Dr. G., who vanished from North Shields, in charge of
certain potions he was entrusted with, very early one morning, to
convey to a patient: "Dr. G.'s son married my sister, and the young
man who disappeared was a pupil in the house. When he went out with
the medicine, he was hardly dressed, having merely thrown on some
clothes; and he went in slippers--which incidents induced the belief
that he was made away with. After some months his family put on
mourning; and the G.'s (very timid people) were so sure that he was
murdered, that they wrote verses to his memory, and became sadly worn
by terror. But, after a long time (I fancy, but am not sure, about a
year and a half), came a letter from the young man, who was doing well
in America. His explanation was, that a vessel was lying at the wharf
about to sail in the morning, and the youth, who had long meditated
evasion, thought it a good opportunity, and stepped on board, after
leaving the medicine at the proper door. I spent some weeks at Dr.
G.'s after the occurrence; and very doleful we used to be about it.
But the next time I went they were, naturally, very angry with the
inconsiderate young man."




TWO FRAGMENTS OF GHOST STORIES

I

I have no objection to tell you to what I alluded the other night, as
I am too rational, I trust, to believe in ghosts; at the same time, I
own it has ever remained an unexplained circumstance; and the
impression it left on my own mind was so vivid and so painful that for
years I could not bear to think at all on the subject. To you, even, I
do not mind owning that I once made a considerable round to avoid
Birmingham as a sleeping-place. This was thoroughly ridiculous; and so
I felt it at the time. I think you know enough of my father and mother
to recall a little of the gentle formality of the Society to which
they used to belong. Don't you remember how my mother would check any
"vain talking" in her own mild, irresistible way? All tales and
stories which were not true were excluded from the dear old nursery-
library at Heverington. Much more so were ghosts and fairies
prohibited; though the knowledge that there were such things to be
talked about came to us, I don't know how. Do you know, I even now
draw back from telling the story of my fright! I do believe I am
making this preamble, in order to defer the real matter of my letter.
But now I will begin at once.

I was going back to school at Dunchurch; and my father could not go
with me, because of some special jury-case at Chester which he was
obliged to attend; so I was to be put in charge of the guard of the
coach as far as Birmingham, where a friend of my father's was to meet
me, and take me to sleep at his house. It was on the 26th of January;
so you may be sure it was dark when we got into Birmingham about seven
o'clock. The coach rumbled into an inn-yard, and I was wakened out of
my sleep by some one popping in a broad-brimmed hat (with a head under
it, I suppose; only the hat stood out in relief against the light) and
asking if Hannah Johnson was there? I remember feeling frightened at
saying "Yes," and wishing that some one were there to answer for me;
and at last I spoke sadly too loud--but I had tried twice before, and
no voice had come.

Well! I was soon bundled, more asleep than awake, into a gig; and my
luggage was all stowed away till morning, in the booking-office, I
suppose. We had a drive of two miles, or it might be two miles and a
half, out of the very thick of the town into a sort of suburb on a
hill-side. The houses were plain and commonplace enough (red-brick, I
saw the next morning, they were), with a long slip of garden, up which
we had to walk. A woman Friend came to the steps, with a candle in her
hand, to meet us; and I liked her from the first better than her
silent husband, who did his duty, but never spoke. She made me take
off my shoes; felt my stockings to see if they were wet; then she
hurried tea, to which I remember I had no sugar, because of the slave-
trade, which many good people were then striving to put down. She
talked a good deal to me; and, if her husband had not been there, I
should have talked much more openly back again; but, as it was, I
remember feeling sure he was listening behind his newspaper; and very
uncomfortable it made me. I recollect she had let the cat jump on her
knee and was stroking it, and it was purring; but he gave it a slap
and sent it down, saying, "Esther, thee hadst three drab gowns last
year. That cat will cost me as many this." I don't remember his
speaking again; but I know I was as glad as the cat to get out of the
room, and upstairs to my snug bedroom. The house was joined to
another; and, somehow, they dove-tailed together; so that, though
there was but one room in the front, there were two in width behind;
one on each side of the passage.

We breakfasted in the left-hand room at the back next morning; but I
never knew what the right-hand room was. Only, over it on the first
floor, was the chamber I was to sleep in that night; and very
comfortable it looked, with a pleasant fire, and a great deal of
crimson and white about the room. You went in, and had the fire on
your right-hand and the bed opposite to you, and the large window,
with the dressing-table under it, on the left. The house altogether
must have been eighty or ninety years old; I judge from the chimney-
pieces, which, I recollect, were very high, with narrow shelves, and
made of painted wood, with garlands tied with ribbons, carved, not
very well, upon them. The bed, I remember, was a great, large one--too
large for the room, I should think; but you heard me say I have never
seen it since that time. Judging from my recollections, I should
imagine the furniture had been picked up at sales, in accordance with
the thriftiness of the master of the house. (I do not mention his
name, because he has a nephew, a respectable tea-dealer in Bull
Street, and a member of the Society of Friends, who would not, I am
sure, like to have his name connected with a ghost-story.)

All these things I was too tired to notice that night. I put my feet
into hot water--though I would much rather have gone straight to bed--
because my kind hostess urged it; and then it was found out I had left
my carpet-bag at the inn; so I had to wait till a night-gown and
night-cap of hers was aired. And at last I tumbled into bed.

I think I fell asleep directly; at any rate, I don't remember anything
of being awake. But, by-and-by, I wakened up suddenly. To this day, I
don't know what wakened me; but I was all at once perfectly conscious,
although at first I was puzzled to remember where I was. The fire had
burnt down, but not very much; there was, however, not a great deal of
light from it. But it seemed as if there were some light behind the
right-hand curtain at the head of the bed; just as if some one had
been in and put a candle down on the drawers, which stood between the
bed and the window. I thought I must have forgotten to put the candle
out, though I did not remember putting it there. I had some debates
with myself as to whether I would leave my warm bed, and get up into
the cold and put it out; and I think I should never have troubled
myself about it, if I had not remembered that the candle would be
burnt down before morning, and that perhaps I might get a scolding
from my host. Still, I was so lazy! and I thought I could perhaps
stretch out of bed far enough to put it out without fairly getting up.
So I shuffled to the cold side of the bed (which was fully large
enough, and indeed prepared for two people).

I name this, because I remember the wide-awake feeling which the icy
coldness of the fine linen sheets gave me, when I was lying across
them; stretching out, I undrew the crimson moreen curtain. There was
no candle; but a bright light--very red; more like the very earliest
blush of dawn on a summer's morning than anything else; but very red
and glowing. It seemed to come from, or out of--I don't know how--the
figure of a woman, who sat in the easy chair by the head of the bed. I
think she was a young woman, but I did not see her face; it was bent
down over a little child which she held in her arms, and rocked
backwards and forwards, as if she were getting it to sleep, with her
cheek on its head. She took no notice of my drawing back the curtain,
though it made a rustling noise, and the rings grated a little on the
rod. I could draw the pattern of the chintz gown she wore; of a kind
called by my mother, a palampore: an Indian thing, with a large
straggling print on it, but which had been in fashion many years
before.

I don't think I was frightened then; at least, I looked curiously, and
did not drop the curtain, as I should have done if I had been
frightened, I think. I thought of her as somebody in great distress;
her gesture and the way she hung her head all showed that. I knew very
little about the people I was staying with; they might have babies,
for aught I knew, and this might be some friend or visitor, who was
soothing a restless child. I knew my mother often walked about with my
little brother who was teething. But it was rather strange I had not
seen this lady at tea; and a little strange too that her dress was so
very gay and bright-coloured, because in general such dress would be
considered by Friends to savour too much of the world, and would be
remonstrated against. While these thoughts were passing through my
mind--of course in much less time than it takes me to write them down-
the lady rose, and I dropped the curtain and ...

II

Well, my dear Bob, let those laugh who win! You, who were so much
amused at my being captivated by the queerly-worded advertisement of
lodgings in the "Guardian," would be glad enough, I fancy, to exchange
your small, dingy, smoky rooms in Manchester (even granted the
delights of a railway excursion every day during Whitsun-week) for my
Lorton Grange, though my host cannot write grammar, any more than my
hostess can speak it. I do like the spice which the uncertainty of the
result gives to any adventure; and therefore my spirits grew higher
and more boisterous, the wilder and more desolate grew the hills and
the moors, over which I passed in the shandry my landlord had sent to
meet me at the station.

When I say the "station," you are not to picture to yourself anything
like a Euston or a Victoria; but just a modest neat kind of turnpike-
house, with no other dwelling near it; no passengers crowding for
tickets, no pyramids of luggage. I myself was the only person to
alight, and the train whizzed away, leaving me standing and gazing
(rather sadly I must confess) at the last relic of a town I was to see
for a whole week. But the delicious mountain-air blew away melancholy;
and I had not gone many paces before I saw the shandry, jogging along
on its approach to the station. Worthy Mr. Jackson fancied he had an
hour to spare for a chat with his friend at the station, and a rest
for his horse. No wonder! for, when I arrived at Lorton Grange, I
found the clocks differed by two hours from one another, and each an
hour from the real time of day. Does not this speak volumes as to the
way in which life is dreamt away in these dales?

Good-man Jackson was taciturn enough on the drive--a circumstance I
did not dislike, as it gave me leisure to look about. The road wound
up among brown heathery hills, with scarce a bush to catch a stray
light, or a passing shadow; the few fences there were to be seen were
made of loose stones piled on one another, and cemented solely by the
moss and ferns which filled up every crevice. I do not intend to worry
you by description of scenery, any more than will be absolutely
necessary to give you an idea of my locale; so I shall only say that,
after about an hour's drive over these hills, "fells" and "knots" as
my landlord called them, we dropped down by a most precipitous road
into the valley in which Lorton Grange is situated.

The dale is about half a mile in breadth, with a brawling, dashing,
brilliant, musical stream dividing it into unequal halves. At places,
the grey rocks hem the noisy, sparkling waters in, and absolutely
encroach upon their territory; again they recede and leave bays of the
greenest of green meadows between rock and river. On one of these
Lorton Grange was erected some three hundred years ago; and rather a
stately place it must have been in those days. It is built around a
hollow square, and must have been roomy enough, when all the sides
were appropriated to the use of the family. Now two are occupied as
farm-buildings, and one is almost in ruins; it has been gutted to
serve as a large barn, and the rain evidently comes in, every here and
there, through the neglected roof. The front of the quadrangular
building is used as the dwelling-place of the farmer's family.
Formerly, a short avenue must have led up to the ivy-covered porch
from the road which is flanked by the afore-mentioned river. Now, all
the trees are felled, except one noble beech, which sweeps the ground
close to the walls of the house, and throws into green obscurity one
charming window-seat in my sitting-room. All over the front of the
house clamber roses, flaunting their branches above the very eaves;
but they seem to grow by sufferance now, and to flower from summer to
summer without imparting pleasure to any one.

You must not suppose that we drove up to the grand entrance; the old
carriage-road has long been ploughed up, and grass now grows where
once the Lortons paced daintily along their avenue. Mr. Jackson took
me to the back-door in the inner square, fluttering two or three dozen
hens and turkeys, and evoking a barking welcome from almost as many
dogs and whelps. I steered my way through the dim confusion of a large
crowded kitchen, having for guide the voice of some female, who at the
end of a dark passage kept calling, "This way, sir; this way;" and at
last I arrived at the room in which I now write--the ancient hall, I
take it.

I could write down an inventory of the furniture and description of
any room in a lodging-house in Manchester; but I think I might defy
you to return the compliment, and form even a guess at the apartment I
am now occupying. Think of four windows, and five doors, to begin
with! Two of my windows look to the front, and are casements,
draperied with ivy; through one the glancing waters of the stream
glint into my room, when the sun shines as it does now; the other two
look into the noisy farm-yard; but on these window-seats are placed
enormous unpruned geraniums and fuchsias, which form an agreeable
blind. As to the doors, two of them are mysteries to me at this
present; one is the back entrance to the room through which ...




THE HEART OF JOHN MIDDLETON

I was born at Sawley, where the shadow of Pendle Hill falls at
sunrise. I suppose Sawley sprang up into a village in the time of the
monks, who had an abbey there. Many of the cottages are strange old
places; others, again, are built of the abbey stones, mixed up with
the shale from the neighbouring quarries; and you may see many a
quaint bit of carving worked into the walls, or forming the lintels of
the doors. There is a row of houses, built still more recently, where
one Mr Peel came to live there for the sake of the water-power, and
gave the place a fillip into something like life; though a different
kind of life, as I take it, from the grand, slow ways folks had when
the monks were about.

Now it was--six o'clock, ring the bell, throng to the factory; sharp
home at twelve; and even at night, when work was done, we hardly knew
how to walk slowly, we had been so bustled all day long. I can't
recollect the time when I did not go to the factory. My father used to
drag me there when I was quite a little fellow, in order to wind reels
for him. I never remember my mother. I should have been a better man
than I have been, if I had only had a notion of the sound of her
voice, or the look on her face.

My father and I lodged in the house of a man who also worked in the
factory. We were sadly thronged in Sawley, so many people came from
different parts of the country to earn a livelihood at the new work;
and it was some time before the row of cottages I have spoken of could
be built. While they were building, my father was turned out of his
lodgings for drinking and being disorderly, and he and I slept in the
brick-kiln; that is to say, when we did sleep o' nights; hut, often
and often, we went poaching; and many a hare and pheasant have I
rolled up in clay, and roasted in the embers of the kiln. Then, as
followed to reason, I was drowsy next day over my work; but father had
no mercy on me for sleeping, for all he knew the cause of it, but
kicked me where I lay, a heavy lump on the factory floor, and cursed
and swore at me till I got up for very fear, and to my winding again.
But, when his back was turned, I paid him off with heavier curses than
he had given me, and longed to be a man, that I might be revenged on
him. The words I then spoke I would not now dare to repeat; and worse
than hating words, a hating heart went with them. I forget the time
when I did not know how to hate. When I first came to read, and learnt
about Ishmael, I thought I must be of his doomed race, for my hand was
against every man, and every man's against me. But I was seventeen or
more before I cared for my book enough to learn to read.

After the row of works was finished, lather took one, and set up for
himself, in letting lodgings. I can't say much for the furnishing; but
there was plenty of straw, and we kept up good fires; and there is a
set of people who value warmth above everything. The worst lot about
the place lodged with us. We used to have a supper in the middle of
the night; there was game enough, or if there was not game, there was
poultry to be had for the stealing. By day, we all made a show of
working in the factory. By night, we feasted and drank.

Now this web of my life was black enough, and coarse enough; but, by-
and-by, a little golden, filmy thread began to be woven in; the dawn
of God's mercy was at hand.

One blowy October morning, as I sauntered lazily along to the mill, I
came to the little wooden bridge over a brook that falls into the
Bribble. On the plank there stood a child, balancing the pitcher on
her head, with which she had been to fetch water. She was so light on
her feet that, had it not been for the weight of the pitcher, I almost
believe the wind would have taken her up, and wafted her away as it
carries off a blow-ball in seed-time; her blue cotton dress was blown
before her, as if she were spreading her wings for a flight; she
turned her face round, as if to ask me for something, but when she saw
who it was, she hesitated, for I had a bad name in the village, and I
doubt not she had been warned against me. But her heart was too
innocent to be distrustful; so she said to me, timidly,--

'Please, John Middleton, will you carry me this heavy jug just over
the bridge?'

It was the very first time I had ever been spoken to gently. I was
ordered here and there by my father and his rough companions; I was
abused, and cursed by them if I failed in doing what they wished; if I
succeeded, there came no expression of thanks or gratitude. I was
informed of facts necessary for me to know. But the gentle words of
request or entreaty were aforetime unknown to me, and now their tones
fell on my ear soft and sweet as a distant peal of bells. I wished
that I knew how to speak properly in reply; but though we were of the
same standing as regarded worldly circumstances, there was some mighty
difference between us, which made me unable to speak in her language
of soft words and modest entreaty. There was nothing for me but to
take up the pitcher in a kind of gruff, shy silence, and carry it over
the bridge, as she had asked me. When I gave it her back again, she
thanked me and tripped away, leaving me, wordless, gazing after her
like an awkward lout as I was. I knew well enough who she was. She was
grandchild to Eleanor Hadfield, an aged woman, who was reputed as a
witch by my father and his set, for no other reason, that I can make
out, than her scorn, dignity, and fearlessness of rancour. It was true
we often met her in the grey dawn of the morning, when we returned
from poaching, and my father used to curse her, under his breath, for
a witch, such as were burnt long ago on Pendle Hill top; but I had
heard that Eleanor was a skilful sick nurse, and ever ready to give
her services to those who were ill; and I believe that she had been
sitting up through the night (the night that we had been spending
under the wild heavens, in deeds as wild), with those who were
appointed to die. Nelly was her orphan granddaughter; her little hand-
maiden; her treasure; her one ewe lamb. Many and many a day have I
watched by the brook-side, hoping that some happy gust of wind, coming
with opportune bluster down the hollow of the dale, might make me
necessary once more to her. I longed to hear her speak to me again. I
said the words she had used to myself, trying to catch her tone; but
the chance never came again. I do not know that she ever knew how I
watched for her there. I found out that she went to school, and
nothing would serve me but that I must go too. My father scoffed at
me; I did not care. I knew nought of what reading was, nor that it was
likely that I should be laughed at; I, a great hulking lad of
seventeen or upwards, for going to learn my A, B, C, in the midst of a
crowd of little ones. I stood just this way in my mind. Nelly was at
school; it was the best place for seeing her, and hearing her voice
again. Therefore I would go too. My father talked, and swore, and
threatened, but I stood to it. He said I should leave school, weary of
it in a month. I swore a deeper oath than I like to remember, that I
would stay a year, and come out a reader and a writer. My father hated
the notion of folks learning to read, and said it took all the spirit
out of them; besides, he thought he had a right to every penny of my
wages, and though, when he was in good humour, he might have given me
many a jug of ale, he grudged my twopence a week for schooling.
However, to school I went. It was a different place to what I had
thought it before I went inside. The girls sat on one side, and the
boys on the other; so I was not near Nelly. She, too, was in the first
class; I was put with the little toddling things that could hardly tun
alone. The master sat in the middle, and kept pretty strict watch over
us. But I could see Nelly, and hear her read her chapter; and even
when it was one with a long list of hard names, such as the master was
very fond of giving her, to show how well she could hit them off
without spelling, I thought I had never heard a prettier music. Now
and then she read other things. I did not know what they were, true or
false; but I listened because she read; and, by-and-by, I began to
wonder. I remember the first word I ever spoke to her was to ask her
(as we were coming out of school) who was the Father of whom she had
been reading, for when she said the words 'Our Father,' her voice
dropped into a soft, holy kind of low sound, which struck me more than
any loud reading, it seemed so loving and tender. When I asked her
this, she looked at me with her great blue wondering eyes, at first
shocked; and then, as it were, melted down into pity and sorrow, she
said in the same way, below her breath, in which she read the words,
'Our Father,'--

'Don't you know? It is God.'

'God?'

'Yes; the God that grandmother tells me about.'

'Tell me what she says, will you?' So we sat down on the hedge-bank,
she a little above me, while I looked up into her face, and she told
me all the holy texts her grandmother had taught her, as explaining
all that could be explained of the Almighty. I listened in silence,
for indeed I was overwhelmed with astonishment. Her knowledge was
principally rote-knowledge; she was too young for much more; but we,
in Lancashire, speak a rough kind of Bible language, and the texts
seemed very clear to me. I rose up, dazed and overpowered. I was going
away in silence, when I bethought me of my manners, and turned hack,
and said, 'Thank you,' for the first time I ever remember saying it in
my life. That was a great day for me, in more ways than one.

I was always one who could keep very steady to an object when once I
had set it before me. My object was to know Nelly. I was conscious of
nothing more. But it made me regardless of all other things. The
master might scold, the little ones might laugh; I bore it all without
giving it a second thought. I kept to my year, and came out a reader
and writer; more, however, to stand well in Nelly's good opinion, than
because of my oath. About this time, my father committed some bad,
cruel deed, and had to fly the country. I was glad he went; for I had
never loved or cared for him, and wanted to shake myself clear of his
set. But it was no easy matter. Honest folk stood aloof; only bad men
held out their arms to me with a welcome. Even Nelly seemed to have a
mixture of fear now with her kind ways towards me. I was the son of
John Middleton, who, if he were caught, would be hung at Lancaster
Castle. I thought she looked at me sometimes with a sort of sorrowful
horror. Others were not forbearing enough to keep their expression of
feeling confined to looks. The son of the overlooker at the mill never
ceased twitting me with my father's crime; he now brought up his
poaching against him, though I knew very well how many a good supper
he himself had made on game which had been given him to make him and
his lather wink at late hours in the morning. And how were such as my
father to come honestly by game?

This lad, Dick Jackson, was the bane of my life. He was a year or two
older than I was, and had much power over the men who worked at the
mill, as he could report to his lather what he chose. I could not
always hold my peace when he 'threaped' me with my father's sins, but
gave it him back sometimes in a storm of passion. It did me no good;
only threw me farther from the company of better men, who looked
aghast and shocked at the oaths I poured out--blasphemous words learnt
in my childhood, which I could not forger now that I would fain have
purified myself of them; while all the time Dick Jackson stood by,
with a mocking smile of intelligence; and when I had ended, breathless
and weary with spent passion, he would rum to those whose respect I
longed to earn, and ask if I were not a worthy son of my lather, and
likely to tread in his steps. But this smiling indifference of his to
my miserable vehemence was not all, though it was the worst part of
his conduct, for it made the rankling hatred grow up in my heart, and
overshadow it like the great gourd-tree of the prophet Jonah. But his
was a merciful shade, keeping out the burning sun; mine blighted what
it fell upon.

What Dick Jackson did besides, was this. His father was a skilful
overlooker, and a good man. Mr Peel valued him so much, that he was
kept on, although his health was failing; and when he was unable,
through illness, to come to the mill, he deputed his son to watch
over, and report the men. It was too much power for one so young--I
speak it calmly now. Whatever Dick Jackson became, he had strong
temptations when he was young, which will be allowed for hereafter.
But at the time of which I am telling, my hate raged like a fire. I
believed that he was the one sole obstacle to my being received as fit
to mix with good and honest men. I was sick of crime and disorder, and
would fain have come over to a different kind of life, and have been
industrious, sober, honest, and right-spoken (I had no idea of higher
virtue then), and at every turn Dick Jackson met me with his sneers. I
have walked the night through, in the old abbey field, planning how I
could outwit him, and win men's respect in spite of him. The first
time I ever prayed, was underneath the silent stars, kneeling by the
old abbey walls, throwing up my arms, and asking God for the power of
revenge upon him.

I had heard that if I prayed earnestly, God would give me what I asked
for, and I looked upon it as a kind of chance for the fulfilment of my
wishes. If earnestness would have won the boon for me, never were
wicked words so earnestly spoken. And oh, later on, my prayer was
heard, and my wish granted! All this time I saw little of Nelly. Her
grandmother was failing, and she had much to do in-doors. Besides, I
believed I had read her looks aright, when I took them to speak of
aversion; and I planned to hide myself from her sight, as it were,
until I could stand upright before men, with fearless eyes, dreading
no face of accusation. It was possible to acquire a good character; I
would do it--I did it: but no one brought up among respectable
untempted people can tell the unspeakable hardness of the task. In the
evenings I would not go forth among the village throng; for the
acquaintances that claimed me were my father's old associates, who
would have been glad enough to enlist a strong young man like me in
their projects; and the men who would have shunned me and kept aloof,
were the steady and orderly. So I stayed in-doors, and practised
myself in reading. You will say, I should have found it easier to earn
a good character away from Sawley, at some place where neither I nor
my father was known. So I should; but it would not have been the same
thing to my mind. Besides, representing all good men, all goodness to
me, in Sawley Nelly lived. In her sight I would work out my life, and
fight my way upwards to men's respect. Two years passed on. Every day
I strove fiercely; every day my struggles were made fruitless by the
son of the overlooker; and I seemed but where I was--but where I must
ever be esteemed by all who knew me--but as the son of the criminal--
wild, reckless, ripe for crime myself Where was the use of my reading
and writing? These acquirements were disregarded and scouted by those
among whom I was thrust back to take my portion. I could have read any
chapter in the Bible now; and Nelly seemed as though she would never
know it. I was driven in upon my books; and few enough of them I had.
The pedlars brought them round in their packs, and I bought what I
could. I had the Seven Champions, and the Pilgrim's Progress, and both
seemed to me equally wonderful, and equally founded on fact. I got
Byron's Narrative, and Milton's Paradise Lost; but I lacked the
knowledge which would give a clue to all. Still they afforded me
pleasure, because they took me out of myself, and made me forget my
miserable position, and made me unconscious (for the time at least) of
my one great passion of hatred against Dick Jackson.

When Nelly was about seventeen her grandmother died. I stood aloof in
the churchyard, behind the great yew-tree, and watched the funeral. It
was the first religious service that ever I heard; and, to my shame,
as I thought, it affected me to tears. The words seemed so peaceful
and holy that I longed to go to church, but I durst not, because I had
never been. The parish church was at Bolton, far enough away to serve
as an excuse for all who did not care to go. I heard Noel's sobs
filling up every pause in the clergyman's voice; and every sob of hers
went to my heart. She passed me on her way out of the churchyard; she
was so near I might have touched her; but her head was hanging down,
and I dourest not speak to her. Then the question arose, what was to
become of her? She must earn her living! was it to be as a farm-
servant, or by working at the mill? I knew enough of both kinds of
life to make me tremble for her. My wages were such as to enable me to
marry, if I chose; and I never thought of woman, for my wife, but
Nelly. Still, I would not have married her now, if I could; for, as
yet, I had not risen up to the character which I determined it was fit
that Nelly's husband should have. When I was rich in good report, I
would come forwards, and take my chance, but until then I would hold
my peace. I had faith in the power of my long-continued dogged
breasting of opinion. Sooner or later it must, it should, yield, and I
be received among the ranks of good men. But, meanwhile, what was to
become of Nelly? I reckoned up my wages; I went to inquire what the
board of a girl would be who should help her in her household work,
and live with her as a daughter, at the house of one of the most
decent women of the place; she looked at me suspiciously. I kept down
my temper, and told her I would never come near the place; that I
would keep away from that end of the village, and that the girl for
whom I made the inquiry should never know but what the parish paid for
her keep. It would not do; she suspected me; but I know I had power
over myself to have kept my word; and besides, I would not for worlds
have had Nelly put under any obligation to me, which should speck the
purity of her love, or dim it by a mixture of gratitude,--the love
that I craved to earn, not for my money, not for my kindness, but for
myself. I heard that Nelly had met with a place in Bolland; and I
could see no reason why I might not speak to her once before she left
our neighbourhood. I meant it to be a quiet friendly telling her of my
sympathy in her sorrow. I felt I could command myself. So, on the
Sunday before she was to leave Sawley, I waited near the wood-path, by
which I knew that she would return from afternoon church. The birds
made such a melodious warble, such a busy sound among the leaves, that
I did not hear approaching footsteps till they were close at hand; and
then there were sounds of two persons' voices. The wood was near that
part of Sawley where Nelly was staying with friends; the path through
it led to their house, and theirs only, so I knew it must be she, for
I had watched her setting out to church alone.

But who was the other?

The blood went to my heart and head, as if I were shot, when I saw
that it was Dick Jackson. Was this the end of it all? In the steps of
sin which my father had trod, I would rush to my death and my doom.
Even where I stood I longed for a weapon to slay him. How dared he
come near my Nelly? She too.--I thought her faithless, and forgot how
little I had ever been to her in outward action; how few words, and
those how uncouth, I had ever spoken to her; and I hated her for a
traitress. These feelings passed through me before I could see, my
eyes and head were so dizzy and blind. When I looked I saw Dick
Jackson holding her hand, and speaking quick and low and thick, as a
man speaks in great vehemence. She seemed white and dismayed; but all
at once, at some word of his (and what it was she never would tell
me), she looked as though she defied a fiend, and wrenched herself out
of his grasp. He caught hold of her again, and began once more the
thick whisper that I loathed. I could bear it no longer, nor did I see
why I should. I stepped out from behind the tree where I had been
lying. When she saw me, she lost her look of one strung up to
desperation, and came and clung to me; and I felt like a giant in
strength and might. I held her with one arm, but I did not take my
eyes off him; I felt as if they blazed down into his soul, and
scorched him up. He never spoke, but tried to look as though he defied
me. At last, his eyes fell before mine, I dared not speak; for the old
horrid oaths thronged up to my mouth; and I dreaded giving them way,
and terrifying my poor, trembling Nelly.

At last, he made to go past me: I drew her out of the pathway. By
instinct she wrapped her garments round her, as if to avoid his
accidental touch; and he was stung by this, I suppose--I believe--to
the mad, miserable revenge he took. As my back was turned to him, in
an endeavour to speak some words to Nelly that might soothe her into
calmness, she, who was looking after him, like one fascinated with
terror, saw him take a sharp, shaley stone, and aim it at me. Poor
darling! she clung round me as a shield, making her sweet body into a
defence for mine. It hit her, and she spoke no word, kept back her cry
of pain, but fell at my feet in a swoon. He--the coward!--ran off as
soon as he saw what he had done. I was with Nelly alone in the green
gloom of the wood. The quivering and leaf-tinted light made her look
as if she were dead. I carried her, not knowing if I bore a corpse or
not, to her friend's house. I did not stay to explain, but ran madly
for the doctor.

Well! I cannot bear to recur to that time again. Five weeks I lived in
the agony of suspense; from which my only relief was in laying savage
plans for revenge. If I hated him before, what think ye I did now? It
seemed as if earth could not hold us twain, but that one of us must go
down to Gehenna. I could have killed him; and would have done it
without a scruple, but that seemed too poor and bold a revenge. At
length--oh! the weary waiting--oh! the sickening of my heart--Nelly
grew better; as well as she was ever to grow. The bright colour had
left her cheek; the mouth quivered with repressed pain, the eyes were
dim with tears that agony had forced into them; and I loved her a
thousand times better and more than when she was bright and blooming!
What was best of all, I began to perceive that she cared for me. I
know her grandmother's friends warned her against me, and told her I
came of a bad stock; but she had passed the point where remonstrance
from bystanders can take effect--she loved me as I was, a strange
mixture of bad and good, all unworthy of her. We spoke together now,
as those do whose lives are bound up in each other. I told her I would
marry her as Soon as she had recovered her health. Her friends shook
their heads; but they saw she would be unfit for farm-service or heavy
work, and they perhaps thought, as many a one does, that a bad husband
was better than none at all. Anyhow, we were married; and I learnt to
bless God for my happiness, so far beyond my deserts. I kept her like
a lady. I was a skilful workman, and earned good wages; and every want
she had I tried to gratify. Her wishes were few and simple enough,
poor Nelly! If they had been ever so fanciful, I should have had my
reward in the new feeling of the holiness of home. She could lead me
as a little child, with the charm of her gentle voice, and her ever-
kind words. She would plead for all when I was frill of anger and
passion; only Dick Jackson's name passed never between our lips during
all that time. In the evening she lay back in her beehive chair, and
read to me. I think I see her now, pale and weak, with her sweet,
young face, lighted by her holy, earnest eyes, telling me of the
Saviour's life and death, till they were filled with tears. I longed
to have been there, to have avenged him on the wicked Jews. I liked
Peter the best of all the disciples. But I got the Bible myself, and
read the mighty act of God's vengeance, in the Old Testament, with a
kind of triumphant faith that, sooner or later, He would take my cause
in hand, and revenge me on mine enemy.

In a year or so, Nelly had a baby--a little girl, with eyes just like
Nelly recovered but slowly. It was just before winter, the cotton-crop
had failed, and master had to turn off many hands. I thought I was
sure of being kept on, for I had earned a steady character, and did my
work well; but once again it was permitted that Dick Jackson should do
me wrong. He induced his father to dismiss me among the first in my
branch of the business; and there was I, just before winter set in,
with a wife and new-born child, and a small enough store of money to
keep body and soul together, till I could get to work again. All my
savings had gone by Christmas Eve, and we sat in the house, foodless
for the morrow's festival. Nelly looked pinched and worn; the baby
cried for a larger supply of milk than its poor, starving mother could
give it. My right hand had not forgot its cunning, and I went out once
more to my poaching. I knew where the gang met; and I knew what a
welcome back I should have,--a far warmer and more hearty welcome than
good men had given me when I tried to enter their ranks. On the road
to the meeting-place I fell in with an old man,--one who had been a
companion to my father in his early days.

'What, lad!' said he, 'art thou turning back to the old trade? It's
the better business, now that cotton has failed.'

'Ay,' said I, 'cotton is starving us outright. A man may bear a deal
himself, but he'll do aught bad and sinful to save his wife and
child.'

'Nay, lad,' said he, 'poaching is not sinful; it goes against man's
laws, but not against God's.'

I was too weak to argue or talk much. I had not tasted food for two
days. But I murmured, 'At any rate, I trusted to have been clear of it
for the rest of my days. It led my father wrong at first. I have tried
and I have striven. Now I give all up. Right or wrong shall be the
same to me. Some are foredoomed; and so am I.' And as I spoke, some
notion of the futurity that would separate Nelly, the pure and holy,
from me, the reckless and desperate one, came over me with an
irrepressible burst of anguish. Just then the bells of Bolton-in-
Bolland struck up a glad peal, which came over the woods, in the
solemn midnight air, like the sons of the morning shouting for joy--
they seemed so clear and jubilant. It was Christmas Day: and I felt
like an outcast from the gladness and the salvation. Old Jonah spoke
out:--

'Yon's the Christmas bells. I say, Johnny, my lad, I've no notion of
taking such a spiritless chap as thou into the thick of it, with thy
rights and thy wrongs. We don't trouble ourselves with such fine
lawyer's stuff, and we bring down the "varmint" all the better. Now,
I'll not have thee in our gang, for thou art not up to the fun, and
thou'd hang fire when the time came to be doing. But I've a shrewd
guess that plaguy wife and child of thine are at the bottom of thy
half-and-half joining. Now, I was thy father's friend afore he took to
them helter-skelter ways, and I've five shillings and a neck of mutton
at thy service. I'll not list a fasting man; but if thou'lt come to us
with a full stomach, and say, "I like your life, my lads, and I'll
make one of you with pleasure, the first shiny night," why, we'll give
you a welcome and a half; but, to-night, make no more ado, but turn
back with me for the mutton and the money.'

I was not proud: nay, I was most thankful. I took the meat, and boiled
some broth for my poor Nelly. She was in a sleep, or a faint, I know
not which; but I roused her, and held her up in bed, and fed her with
a teaspoon, and the light came back to her eyes, and the faint.
moonlight smile to her lips; and when she had ended, she said her
innocent grace, and fell asleep, with her baby on her breast. I sat
over the fire, and listened to the bells, as they swept past my
cottage on the gusts of the wind. I longed and yearned for the second
coming of Christ, of which Nelly had told me. The world seemed cruel,
and hard, and strong--too strong for me; and I prayed to cling to the
hem of His garment, and be borne over the rough places when I fainted,
and bled, and found no man to pity or help me, but poor old Jonah, the
publican and sinner. All this time my own woes and my own self were
uppermost in my mind, as they are in the minds of most who have been
hardly used. As I thought of my wrongs, and my sufferings, my heart
burned against Dick Jackson; and as the bells rose and fell, so my
hopes waxed and waned, that in those mysterious days, of which they
were both the remembrance and the prophecy, he would be purged from
off the earth. I took Nelly's Bible, and turned, not to the gracious
story of the Saviour's birth, but to the records of the former days,
when the Jews took such wild revenge upon all their opponents. I was a
Jew,--a leader among the people. Dick Jackson was as Pharaoh, as the
King Agag, who walked delicately, thinking the bitterness of death was
past,--in short, he was the conquered enemy, over whom I gloated, with
my Bible in my hand--that Bible which contained our Saviour's words on
the Cross. As yet, those words seemed faint and meaningless to me,
like a tract of country seen in the starlight haze; while the
histories of the Old Testament were grand and distinct in the blood-
red colour of sunset. By-and-by that night passed into day, and little
piping voices came round, carol-singing. They wakened Nelly. I went to
her as soon as I heard her stirring.

'Nelly,' said I, 'there's money and food in the house; I will be off
to Padiham seeking work, while thou hast something to go upon.

'Not to-day,' said she; 'stay to-day with me. If thou wouldst only go
to church with me this once'--for you see I had never been inside a
church but when we were married, and she was often praying me to go;
and now she looked at me, with a sigh just creeping forth from her
lips, as she expected a refusal. But I did not refuse. I had been kept
away from church before because I dared not go; and now I was
desperate, and dared do anything. If I did look like a heathen in the
face of all men, why, I was a heathen in my heart; for I was falling
back into all my evil ways. I had resolved if my search of work at
Padiham should fail, I would follow my father's footsteps, and take
with my own right hand and by my strength of arm what it was denied me
to obtain honestly. I had resolved to leave Sawley, where a curse
seemed to hang over me; so, what did it matter if I went to church,
all unbeknowing what strange ceremonies were there performed? I walked
thither as a sinful man--sinful in my heart. Nelly hung on my arm, but
even she could not get me to speak. I went in; she found my places,
and pointed to the words, and looked up into my eyes with hers, so
frill of faith and joy. But I saw nothing but Richard Jackson--I heard
nothing but his loud nasal voice, making response, and desecrating all
the holy words. He was in broadcloth of the best--I in my fustian
jacket. He was prosperous and glad--I was starving and desperate.
Nelly grew pale, as she saw the expression in my eyes; and she prayed
ever, and ever more fervently as the thought of me tempted by the
Devil even at that very moment came more fully before her.

By-and-by she forgot even me, and laid her soul bare before God, in a
long, silent, weeping prayer, before we left the church. Nearly all
had gone; and I stood by her, unwilling to disturb her, unable to join
her. At last she rose up, heavenly calm. She took my arm, and we went
home through the woods, where all the birds seemed tame and familiar.
Nelly said she thought all living creatures knew it was Christmas Day,
and rejoiced, and were loving together. I believed it was the frost
that had tamed them; and I felt the hatred that was in me, and knew
that whatever else was loving, I was full of malice and
uncharitableness, nor did I wish to be otherwise. That afternoon I
bade Nelly and our child farewell, and tramped to Padiham. I got
work--how I hardly know; for stronger and stronger came the force of
the temptation to lead a wild, free life of sin; legions seemed
whispering evil thoughts to me, and only my gentle, pleading Newly to
pull me back from the great gulf. However, as I said before, I got
work, and set off homewards to move my wife and child to that
neighbourhood. I hated Sawley, and yet I was fiercely indignant to
leave it, with my purposes unaccomplished. I was still an outcast from
the more respectable, who stood afar off from such as I; and mine
enemy lived and flourished in their regard. Padiham, however, was not
so far away for me to despair--to relinquish my fixed determination.
It was on the eastern side of the great Pendle Hill, ten miles away--
maybe. Hate will overleap a greater obstacle. I took a cottage on the
Fell, high up on the side of the hill. We saw a long black moorland
slope before us, and then the grey stone houses of Padiham, over which
a black cloud hung, different from the blue wood or turf smoke about
Sawley. The wild winds came down and whistled round our house many a
day when all was still below. But I was happy then. I rose in men's
esteem. I had work in plenty. Our child lived and throve. But I forgot
not our country proverb--'Keep a stone in thy pocket for seven years:
turn it, and keep it seven years more; but have it ever ready to cast
at thine enemy when the time comes.'

One day a fellow-workman asked me to go to a hill-side preaching. Now,
I never cared to go to church; but there was something newer and freer
in the notion of praying to God right under His great dome; and the
open air had had a charm to me ever since my wild boyhood. Besides,
they said, these ranters had strange ways with them, and I thought it
would be fun to see their way of setting about it; and this ranter of
all others had made himself a name in our parts. Accordingly we went;
it was a fine summer's evening, after work was done. When we got to
the place we saw such a crowd as I never saw before--men, women, and
children; all ages were gathered together, and sat on the hill-side.
They were care-worn, diseased, sorrowful, criminal'. all that was told
on their faces, which were hard and strongly marked. In the midst,
standing in a cart, was the ranger. When I first saw him, I said to my
companion, 'Lord! what a little man to make all this pother! I could
trio him up with one of my fingers,' and then I sat down, and looked
about me a bit. All eves were fixed on the preacher; and I turned mine
upon him too. He began to speak; it was in no fine-drawn language, but
in words such as we heard every day of our lives, and about things we
did every day of our lives. He did nor call our shortcomings pride or
worldliness, or pleasure-seeking, which would have given us no clear
notion of what he meant, but he just told us outright what we did, and
then he gave it a name, and said that it was accursed, and that we
were lost if we went on so doing.

By this time the tears and sweat were running down his face; he was
wrestling for our souls. We wondered how he knew our innermost lives
as he did, for each one of us saw his sin set before him in plain-
spoken words. Then he cried out to us to repent; and spoke first to
us, and then to God, in a way that would have shocked many--but it did
not shock me. I liked strong things; and I liked the bare, hill truth:
and I felt brought nearer to God in that hour--the summer darkness
creeping over us, and one after one the stars coming out above us,
like the eyes of the angels watching us--than I had ever done in my
life before. When he had brought us to our tears and sighs, he stopped
his loud voice of upbraiding, and there was a hush, only broken by
sobs and quivering moans, in which I heard through the gloom the
voices of strong men in anguish and supplication, as well as the
shriller tones or women. Suddenly he was heard again; by this time we
could not see him; but his voice was now tender as the voice of an
angel, and he told us of Christ, and implored us to come to Him. I
never heard such passionate entreaty. He spoke as if he saw Satan
hovering near us in the dark, dense night, and as if our only safety
lay in a very present coming to the Cross; I believe he did see Satan;
we know he haunts the desolate old hills, awaiting his time, and now
or never it was with many a soul. At length there was a sudden
silence; and by the cries of those nearest to the preacher, we heard
that he had fainted. We had all crowded round him, as if he were our
safety and our guide; and he was overcome by the heat and the fatigue,
for we were the fifth set of people whom he had addressed that day. I
left the crowd who were leading him down, and took a lonely path
myself.

Here was the earnestness I needed. To this weak and weary fainting
man, religion was a life and a passion. I look back now, and wonder at
my blindness as to what was the took of all my Noel's patience and
long-suffering; for I thought, now I had found out what religion was,
and that hitherto it had been all an unknown thing to me.

Henceforward, my life was changed. I was zealous and fanatical. Beyond
the set to whom I had affiliated myself, I had no sympathy. I would
have persecuted all who differed from me, if I had only had the power.
I became an ascetic in all bodily enjoyments. And, strange and
inexplicable mystery, I had some thoughts that by every act of self-
denial I was attaining to my unholy end, and that, when I had fasted
and prayed long enough, God would place my vengeance in my hands. I
have knelt by Nelly's bedside, and vowed to live a self-denying life,
as regarded all outward things, if so that God would grant my prayer.
I left it in His hands. I felt sure He would trace out the token and
the word; and Nelly would listen to my passionate words, and lie awake
sorrowful and heart-sore through the night; and I would get up and
make her tea, and rearrange her pillows, with a strange and willful
blindness that my bitter words and blasphemous prayers had cost her
miserable, sleepless nights. My Nelly was suffering yet from that
blow. How or where the stone had hurt her, I never understood; but in
consequence of that one moment's action, her limbs became numb and
dead, and, by slow degrees, she took to her bed, from whence she was
never carried alive. There she lay, propped up by pillows, her meek
face ever bright, and smiling forth a greeting; her white, pale hands
ever busy with some kind of work; and our little Grace was as the
power of motion to her. Fierce as I was away from her, I never could
speak to her but in my gentlest tones. She seemed to me as if she had
never wrestled for salvation as I had; and when away from her, I
resolved many a time and oft, that I would rouse her up to her state
of danger when I returned home that evening--even if strong reproach
were required I would rouse her up to her soul's need. But I came in
and heard her voice singing softly some holy word of patience, some
psalm which, maybe, had comforted the martyrs, and when I saw her face
like the face of an angel, full of patience and happy faith, I put off
my awakening speeches nil another time.

One night, long ago, when I was yet young and strong, although my
years were past forty, I sat alone in my houseplace. Nelly was always
in bed, as I have told you, and Grace lay in a cot by her side. I
believed them to be both asleep; though how they could sleep I could
not conceive, so wild and terrible was the night. The wind came
sweeping down from the hill-top in great beats, like the pulses of
heaven; and, during the pauses, while I listened for the coming roar,
I felt the earth shiver beneath me. The rain heat against windows and
doors, and sobbed for entrance. I thought the Prince of the Air was
abroad; and I heard, or fancied I heard, shrieks come on the blast.
like the cries of sinful souls given over to his power.

The sounds came nearer and neater. I got up and saw to the fastenings
of the door, for though I cared not for mortal man, I did care for
what I believed was surrounding the house, in evil might and power.
But the door shook as though it, too, were in deadly terror, and I
thought the fastenings would give way. I stood facing the entrance,
lashing my heart up to defy the spiritual enemy that I looked to see,
every instant, in bodily presence; and the door did burst open; and
before me stood--what was it? man or demon? a grey-haired man, with
poor, worn clothes all wringing wet, and he himself battered and
piteous to look upon, from the storm he had passed through.

'Let me in!' he said. 'Give me shelter. I am poor, or I would reward
you. And I am friendless, too,' he said, looking up in my face, like
one seeking what he cannot find. In that look, strangely changed, I
knew that God had heard me; for it was the old cowardly look of my
life's enemy. Had he been a stranger, I might not have welcomed him;
but as he was mine enemy, I gave him welcome in a lordly dish. I sat
opposite to him. 'Whence do you come?' said I. 'It is a strange night
to be out on the fells.'

He looked up at me sharp; but in general he held his head down like a
beast or hound.

You won't betray me. I'll not trouble you long. As soon as the storm
abates, I'll go.'

'Friend!' said I, 'what have I to betray?' and I trembled lest he
should keep himself out of my power and not tell me. 'You come for
shelter, and I give you of my best. Why do you suspect me?'

'Because,' said he, in his abject bitterness, all the world is against
me. I never met with goodness or kindness; and now I am hunted like a
wild beast. I'll tell you--I'm a convict returned before my time. I
was a Sway man' (as if I, of all men, did nor know it!), 'and I went
back, like a fool, to the old place. They've hunted me out where I
would fain have lived rightly and quietly, and they'll send me back to
that hell upon earth, if they catch me. I did nor know it would be
such a night. Only let me rest and get warm once more, and I'll go
away. Good, kind man, have pity upon me!' I smiled all his doubts
away; I promised him a bed on the floor, and I thought of Jael and
Sisera. My heart leaped up like a war-horse at the sound of the
trumpet, and said, 'Ha, ha, the Lord hath heard my prayer and
supplication; I shall have vengeance at last!'

He did not dream who I was. He was changed; so that I, who had learned
his features with all the diligence of hatred, did not, at first,
recognize him; and he thought not of me, only of his own woe and
affright. He looked into the fire with the dreamy gaze of one whose
strength of character, if he had any, is beaten out of him, and cannot
return at any emergency whatsoever. He sighed and pitied himself, yet
could not decide on what to do. I went softly about my business, which
was to make him up a bed on the floor, and, when he was lulled to
sleep and security, to make the best of my way to Padiham, and summon
the constable, into whose hands I would give him up, to be taken back
to his 'hell upon earth.' I went into Nelly's room. She was awake and
anxious. I saw she had been listening to the voices.

'Who is there?' said she. 'John, tell me; it sounded like a voice I
knew. For God's sake, speak!'

I smiled a quiet smile. It is a poor man, who has lost his way. Go to
sleep, my dear--I shall make him up on the floor. I may not come for
some time. Go to sleep;' and I kissed her. I thought she was soothed,
but nor fully satisfied. However, I hastened away before there was any
further time for questioning. I made up the bed, and Richard Jackson,
tired out, lay down and fell asleep. My contempt for him almost
equalled my hate. If I were avoiding return to a place which I thought
to be a hell upon earth, think you I would have taken a quiet sleep
under any man's roof till, somehow or another, I was secure. Now comes
this man, and, with incontinence of tongue, blabs out the very thing
he most should conceal, and then lies down to a good, quiet, snoring
sleep. I looked again. His face was old, and worn, and miserable. So
should mine enemy look. And yet it was sad to gaze upon him, poor,
hunted creature!

I would gaze no more, lest I grew weak and pitiful. Thus I took my
hat, and softly opened the door. The wind blew in, but did not disturb
him, he was so utterly weary. I was our in the open air of night. The
storm was ceasing, and, instead of the black sky of doom that I had
seen when I last looked forth, the moon was come out, wan and pale, as
if wearied with the fight in the heavens, and her white light fell
ghostly and calm on many a well-known object. Now and then, a dark,
torn cloud was blown across her home in the sky; but they grew fewer
and fewer, and at last she shone out steady and clear. I could see
Padiham down before me. I heard the noise of the watercourses down the
hill-side. My mind was hill of one thought, and strained upon that one
thought, and yet my senses were most acute and observant. When I came
to the brook, it was swollen to a rapid, tossing river; and the little
bridge, with its hand-rail, was utterly swept away. It was like the
bridge at Sway, where I had first seen Newly; and I remembered that
day even then in the midst of my vexation at having to go round. I
turned away from the brook, and there stood a little figure facing me.
No spirit from the dead could have affrighted me as it did; for I saw
it was Grace, whom I had left in bed by her mother's side.

She came to me, and took my hand. Her bare feet glittered white in the
moonshine, and sprinkled the light upwards, as they plashed through
the pool.

'Father,' said she, 'mother bade me say this.' Then pausing to gather
breath and memory, she repeated these words, like a lesson of which
she feared to forget a syllable:--

'Mother says, "There is a God in heaven; and in His house are many
mansions. If you hope to meet her there, you will come back and speak
to her; if you are to be separate for ever and ever, you will go on,
and may God have mercy on her and on you!" Father, I have said it
right--every word.' I was silent. At last, I said,--

'What made mother say this? How came she to send you out?'

'I was asleep, father, and I heard her cry. I wakened up, and I think
you had but just left the house, and that she was calling for you.
Then she prayed, with the tears rolling down her cheeks, and kept
saying--"Oh, that I could walk!--oh, that for one hour I could run and
walk!" So I said, "Mother, I can run and walk. Where must I go?" And
she clutched at my arm, and bade God bless me, and told me not to
fear, for that He would compass me about, and taught me my message:
and now, father, dear father, you will meet mother in heaven, won't
you, and not be separate for ever and ever?' She clung to my knees,
and pleaded once more in her mother's words. I took her up in my arms,
and turned homewards.

'Is yon man there, on the kitchen floor?' asked I.

'Yes!' she answered. At any rate, my vengeance was not out of my power
yet.

When we got home I passed him, dead asleep.

In our room, to which my child guided me, was Nelly. She sat up in
bed, a most unusual attitude for her, and one of which I thought she
had been incapable of attaining to without help. She had her hands
clasped, and her face rapt, as if in prayer; and when she saw me, she
lay back with a sweet ineffable smile. She could not speak at first;
but when I came near, she took my hand and kissed it, and then she
called Grace to her, and made her take off her cloak and her wet
things, and dressed in her short scanty nightgown, she slipped in to
her mother's warm side; and all this time my Nelly never told me why
she summoned me: it seemed enough that she should hold my hand, and
feel that I was there. I believed she had read my heart; and yet I
durst not speak to ask her. At last, she looked up. 'My husband,' said
she, 'God has saved you and me from a great sorrow this night.' I
would not understand, and I felt her look die away into
disappointment.

'That poor wanderer in the house-place is Richard Jackson, is it not?'

I made no answer. Her face grew white and wan. 'Oh,' said she, 'this
is hard to bear. Speak what is in your mind, I beg of you. I will not
thwart you harshly; dearest John, only speak to me.'

'Why need I speak? You seem to know all.'

'I do know that his is a voice I can never forget; and I do know the
awful prayers you have prayed; and I know how I have lain awake, to
pray that your words might never be heard; and I am a powerless
cripple. I put my cause in God's hands. You shall not do the man any
harm. What you have it in your thoughts to do, I cannot tell. But I
know that you cannot do it. My eyes are dim with a strange mist; but
some voice tells me that you will forgive even Richard Jackson. Dear
husband--dearest John, it is so dark, I cannot see you: but speak once
to me.

I moved the candle; but when I saw her face, I saw what was drawing
the mist over those loving eyes--how strange and woeful that she could
die! Her little girl lying by her side looked in my face, and then at
her; and the wild knowledge of death shot through her young heart, and
she screamed aloud.

Nelly opened her eyes once more. They fell upon the gaunt, sorrow-worn
man who was the cause of all. He roused him from his sleep, at that
child's piercing cry, and stood at the doorway, looking in. He knew
Nelly, and understood where the storm had driven him to shelter. He
came towards her--

'Oh, woman--dying woman--you have haunted me in the loneliness of the
Bush far away--you have been in my dreams for ever--the hunting of men
has not been so terrible as the hunting of your spirit,--that stone--
that stone!' He fell down by her bedside in an agony; above which her
saint-like face looked on us all, for the last time, glorious with the
coming light of heaven. She spoke once again:--

'It was a moment of passion; I never bore you malice for it. I forgive
you; and so does John, I trust.'

Could I keep my purpose there? It faded into nothing. But, above my
choking tears, I strove to speak clear and distinct, for her dying ear
to hear, and her sinking heart to be gladdened.

'I forgive you, Richard; I will befriend you in your trouble.'

She could not see; but, instead of the dim shadow of death stealing
over her face, a quiet light came over it, which we knew was the look
of a soul at rest.

That night I listened to his tale for her sake; and I learned that it
is better to be sinned against than to sin. In the storm of the night
mine enemy came to me; in the calm of the grey morning I led him
forth, and bade him 'God speed.' And a woe had come upon me, but the
burning burden of a sinful, angry heart was taken off. I am old now,
and my daughter is married. I try to go about preaching and teaching
in my rough, rude way; and what I teach is, how Christ lived and died,
and what was Nelly's faith of love.




MORTON HALL



Chapter I



Our old Hall is to be pulled down, and they are going to build streets
on the site. I said to my sister, 'Ethelinda! if they really pull down
Morton Hall, it will be a worse piece of work than the Repeal of the
Corn Laws.' And, after some consideration, she replied, that if she
must speak what was on her mind, she would own that she thought the
Papists had something to do with it; that they had never forgiven the
Morton who had been with Lord Monteagle when he discovered the
Gunpowder Plot; for we knew that, somewhere in Rome, there was a book
kept, and which had been kept for generations, giving an account of
the secret private history of every English family of note, and
registering the names of those to whom the Papists owed either grudges
or gratitude.

We were silent for some time; but I am sure the same thought was in
both our minds; our ancestor, a Sidebotham, had been a follower of the
Morton of that day; it had always been said in the family that he had
been with his master when he went with the Lord Monteagle, and found
Guy Fawkes and his dark lantern under the Parliament House; and the
question flashed across our minds, were the Sidebothams marked with a
black mark in that terrible mysterious book which was kept under lock
and key by the Pope and the Cardinals in Rome? It was terrible, yet,
somehow, rather pleasant to think of. So many of the misfortunes which
had happened to us through life, and which we had called 'mysterious
dispensations,' but which some of our neighbours had attributed to our
want of prudence and foresight, were accounted for at once, if we were
objects of the deadly hatred of such a powerful order as the Jesuits,
of whom we had lived in dread ever since we had read the Female
Jesuit. Whether this last idea suggested what my sister said next I
can't tell; we did know the female Jesuit's second cousin, so might be
said to have literary connections, and from that the startling thought
might spring up in my sister's mind, for, said she, 'Biddy!' (my name
is Bridget, and no one but my sister calls me Biddy) 'suppose you
write some account of Morton Hall; we have known much in our time of
the Mortons, and it will be a shame if they pass away completely from
men's memories while we can speak or write.' I was pleased with the
notion, I confess; but I felt ashamed to agree to it ill at once,
though even, as I objected for modesty's sake, it came into my mind
how much I had heard of the old place in its former days, and how it
was, perhaps, all I could now do for the Mortons, under whom our
ancestors had lived as tenants for more than three hundred years. So
at last I agreed; and, for fear of mistakes, I showed it to Mr
Swinton, our young curate, who has put it quite in order for me.

Morton Hall is situated about five miles from the centre of Drumble.
It stands on the outskirts of a village, which, when the Hall was
built, was probably as large as Drumble in those days; and even I can
remember when there was a long piece of rather lonely road, with high
hedges on either side, between Morton village and Drumble. Now, it is
all street, and Morton seems but a suburb of the great town near. Our
farm stood where Liverpool Street runs now; and people used to come
snipe-shooting just where the Baptist chapel is built. Our farm must
have been older than the Hall, for we had a date of 1460 on one of the
cross-beams. My father was rather proud of this advantage, for the
Hall had no date older than 1554; and I remember his affronting Mrs
Dawson, the house-keeper, by dwelling too much on this circumstance
one evening when she came to drink tea with my mother, when Ethelinda
and I were mere children. But my mother, seeing that Mrs Dawson would
never allow that any house in the parish could be older than the Hall,
and that she was getting very warm, and almost insinuating that the
Sidebothams had forged the date to disparage the squire's family, and
set themselves up as having the older blood, asked Mrs Dawson to tell
us the story of old Sir John Morton before we went to bed. I slily
reminded my father that jack, our man, was not always so careful as
might be in housing the Alderney in good time in the autumn evenings.
So he started up, and went off to see after jack; and Mrs Dawson and
we drew nearer the fire to hear the story about Sir John.

Sir John Morton had lived some time about the Restoration. The Mortons
had taken the right side; so when Oliver Cromwell came into power, he
gave away their lands to one of his Puritan followers--a man who had
been but a praying, canting, Scotch pedlar till the war broke out; and
Sir John had to go and live with his royal master at Bruges. The
upstart's name was Carr, who came to live at Morton Hall; and, I'm
proud to say, we--I mean our ancestors--led him a pretty life. He had
hard work to get any rent at all from the tenantry, who knew their
duty better than to pay it to a Roundhead. If he took the law to them,
the law officers fared so badly, that they were shy of coming out to
Morton--all along that lonely road I told you of--again. Strange
noises were heard about the Hall, which got the credit of being
haunted; but, as those noises were never heard before or since that
Richard Carr lived there, I leave you to guess if the evil spirits did
not know well over whom they had power--over schismatic rebels, and no
one else. They durst not trouble the Mortons, who were true and loyal,
and were faithful followers of King Charles in word and deed. At last,
Old Oliver died; and folks did say that, on that wild and stormy
night, his voice was heard high up in the air, where you hear the
flocks of wild geese skirl, crying out for his true follower Richard
Carr to accompany him in the terrible chase the fiends were giving him
before carrying him down to hell. Anyway, Richard Carr died within a
week--summoned by the dead or not, he went his way down to his master,
and his master's master.

Then his daughter Alice came into possession. Her mother was somehow
related to General Monk, who was beginning to come into power about
that time. So when Charles the Second came back to his throne, and
many of the sneaking Puritans had to quit their ill-gotten land, and
turn to the right about, Alice Carr was still left at Morton Hall to
queen it there. She was taller than most women, and a great beauty, I
have heard. But, for all her beauty, she was a stern, hard woman. The
tenants had known her to be hard in her father's lifetime, but now
that she was the owner, and had the power, she was worse than ever.
She hated the Stuarts worse than ever her father bad done; had calves'
head for dinner every thirtieth of January; and when the first twenty-
ninth of May came round, and every mother's son in the village gilded
his oak-leaves, and wore them in his hat, she closed the windows of
the great hall with her own hands, and sat throughout the day in
darkness and mourning. People did not like to go against her by force,
because she was a young and beautiful woman. It was said the King got
her cousin, the Duke of Albemarle, to ask her to court, just as
courteously as if she had been the Queen of Sheba, and King Charles,
Solomon, praying her to visit him in Jerusalem. But she would not go;
not she! She lived a very lonely life, for now the King had got his
own again, no servant but her nurse would stay with her in the Hall;
and none of the tenants would pay her any money for all that her
father had purchased the lands from the Parliament, and paid the price
down in good red gold.

All this time, Sir John was somewhere in the Virginian plantations;
and the ships sailed from thence only twice a year: but his royal
master had sent for him home; and home he came, that second summer
after the restoration. No one knew if Mistress Alice had heard of his
landing in England or not; all the villagers and tenantry knew, and
were not surprised, and turned out in their best dresses, and with
great branches of oak, to welcome him as he rode into the village one
July morning, with many gay-looking gentlemen by his side, laughing,
and talking, and making merry, and speaking gaily and pleasantly to
the village people. They came in on the opposite side to the Drumble
Road; indeed Drumble was nothing of a place then, as I have told you.
Between the last cottage in the village and the gates to the old Hall,
there was a shady part of the road, where the branches nearly met
overhead, and made a green gloom. If you'll notice, when many people
are talking merrily out of doors in sunlight, they will stop talking
for an instant, when they come into the cool green shade, and either
be silent for some little time, or else speak graver, and slower, and
softer. And so old people say those gay gentlemen did; for several
people followed to see Alice Carr's pride taken down. They used to
tell how the cavaliers had to how their plumed hats in passing under
the unlopped and drooping boughs. I fancy Sir John expected that the
lady would have rallied her friends, and got ready for a sort of
battle to defend the entrance to the house; but she had no friends.
She had no nearer relations than the Duke of Albemarle, and he was mad
with her for having refused to come to court, and so save her estate,
according to his advice.

Well, Sir John rode on in silence; the tramp of the many horses' feet,
and the clumping sound of the clogs of the village people were all
that was heard. Heavy as the great gate was, they swung it wide on its
hinges, and up they rode to the Hall steps, where the lady stood, in
her close, plain, Puritan dress, her cheeks one crimson flush, her
great eyes flashing fire, and no one behind her, or with her, or near
her, or to be seen, but the old trembling nurse, catching at her gown
in pleading terror. Sir John was taken aback; he could not go out with
swords and warlike weapons against a woman; his very preparations for
forcing an entrance made him ridiculous in his own eyes, and, he well
knew, in the eyes of his gay, scornful comrades too; so he turned him
round about, and bade them stay where they were, while he rode close
to the steps, and spoke to the young lady; and there they saw him, hat
in hand, speaking to her; and she, lofty and unmoved, holding her own
as if she had been a sovereign queen with an army at her back. What
they said, no one heard; but he rode back, very grave and much changed
in his look, though his grey eye showed more hawk-like than ever, as
if seeing the way to his end, though as yet afar off. He was not one
to be jested with before his face; so when he professed to have
changed his mind, and not to wish to disturb so fair a lady in
possession, he and his cavaliers rode back to the village inn, and
roystered there all day, and feasted the tenantry, cutting down the
branches that had incommoded them in their morning's ride, to make a
bonfire of on the village green, in which they burnt a figure, which
some called Old Noll, and others Richard Carr: and it might do for
either, folks said, for unless they had given it the name of a man,
most people would have taken it for a forked log of wood. But the
lady's nurse told the villagers afterwards that Mistress Alice went in
from the sunny Hall steps into the chill house shadow, and sat her
down and wept as her poor faithful servant had never seen her do
before, and could not have imagined her proud young lady ever doing.
All through that summer's day she cried; and if for very weariness she
ceased for a time, and only sighed as if her heart was breaking, they
heard through the upper windows--which were open because of the heat--
the village bells ringing merrily through the trees, and bursts of
choruses to gay cavalier songs, all in favour of the Stuarts. All the
young lady said was once or twice, 'Oh God! I am very friendless!'--
and the old nurse knew it was true, and could not contradict her; and
always thought, as she said long after, that such weary weeping showed
there was some great sorrow at hand.

I suppose it was the dreariest sorrow that ever a proud woman had; but
it came in the shape of a gay wedding. How, the village never knew.
The gay gentlemen rode away from Morton the next day as lightly and
carelessly as if they had attained their end, and Sir John had taken
possession; and, by-and-by, the nurse came timorously out to market in
the village, and Mistress Alice was met in the wood walks just as
grand and as proud as ever in her ways, only a little more pale, and a
little more sad. The truth was, as I have been told, that she and Sir
John had each taken a fancy to each other in that parley they held on
the Hall steps; she, in the deep, wild way in which she took the
impressions of her whole life, deep down, as if they were burnt in.
Sir John was a gallant-looking man, and had a kind of foreign grace
and courtliness about him. The way he fancied her was very different--
a man's way, they tell me. She was a beautiful woman to be tamed, and
made to come to his beck and call; and perhaps he read in her
softening eyes that she might be won, and so all legal troubles about
the possession of the estate come to an end in an easy, pleasant
manner. He came to stay with friends in the neighbourhood; he was met
in her favourite walks, with his plumed hat in his hand, pleading with
her, and she looking softer and far more lovely than ever; and lastly,
the tenants were told of the marriage then nigh at hand.

After they were wedded, he stayed for a time with her at the Hall, and
then off back to court. They do say that her obstinate refusal to go
with him to London was the cause of their first quarrel; but such
fierce, strong wills would quarrel the first day of their wedded life.
She said that the court was no place for an honest woman; but surely
Sir John knew best, and she might have trusted him to take care of
her. However, he left her all alone; and at first she cried most
bitterly, and then she took to her old pride, and was more haughty and
gloomy than ever. By-and-by she found out hidden conventicles; and, as
Sir John never stinted her of money, she gathered the remnants of the
old Puritan party about her, and tried to comfort herself with long
prayers, snuffled through the nose, for the absence of her husband,
but it was of no use. Treat her as he would, she loved him still with
a terrible love. Once, they say, she put on her waiting-maid's dress,
and stole up to London to find out what kept him there; and something
she saw or heard that changed her altogether, for she came back as if
her heart was broken. They say that the only person she loved with all
the wild strength of her heart, had proved false to her; and if so,
what wonder! At the best of times she was but a gloomy creature, and
it was a great honour for her father's daughter to be wedded to a
Morton. She should not have expected too much.

After her despondency came her religion. Every old Puritan preacher in
the country was welcome at Morton Hall. Surely that was enough to
disgust Sir John. The Mortons had never cared to have much religion,
but what they had, had been good of its kind hitherto. So, when Sir
John came down wanting a gay greeting and a tender show of love, his
lady exhorted him, and prayed over him, and quoted the last Puritan
text she had heard at him; and he swore at her, and at her preachers;
and made a deadly oath that none of them should find harbour or
welcome in any house of his. She looked scornfully back at him, and
said she had yet to learn in what county of England the house he spoke
of was to be found; but in the house her father purchased, and she
inherited, all who preached the Gospel should be welcome, let kings
make what laws, and kings' minions swear what oaths they would. He
said nothing to this--the worst sign for her; but he set his teeth at
her; and in an hour's time he rode away back to the French witch that
had beguiled him.

Before he went away from Morton he set his spies. He longed to catch
his wife in his fierce clutch, and punish her for defying him. She had
made him hate her with her Puritanical ways. He counted the days till
the messenger came, splashed up to the top of his deep leather boots,
to say that my lady had invited the canting Puritan preachers of the
neighbourhood to a prayer-meeting, and a dinner, and a night's rest at
her house. Sir John smiled as he gave the messenger five gold pieces
for his pains; and straight took post-horses, and rode long days till
he got to Morton; and only just in time; for it was the very day of
the prayer-meeting. Dinners were then at one o'clock in the country.
The great people in London might keep late hours, and dine at three in
the afternoon or so; but the Mortons they always clung to the good old
ways, and as the church bells were ringing twelve when Sir John came
riding into the village, he knew he might slacken bridle; and, casting
one glance at the smoke which came hurrying up as if from a newly-
mended fire, just behind the wood, where he knew the Hall kitchen
chimney stood, Sir John stopped at the smithy, and pretended to
question the smith about his horse's shoes; but he took little heed of
the answers, being more occupied by an old serving-man from the Hall,
who had been loitering about the smithy half the morning, as folk
thought afterwards to keep some appointment with Sir John. When their
talk was ended, Sir John lifted himself straight in his saddle;
cleared his throat, and spoke out aloud:--

'I grieve to hear your lady is so ill.' The smith wondered at this,
for all the village knew of the coming feast at the Hall; the spring-
chickens had been bought up, and the cade-lambs killed; for the
preachers in those days, if they fasted they fasted, if they fought
they fought, if they prayed they prayed, sometimes for three hours at
a standing; and if they feasted they feasted, and knew what good
eating was, believe me.

'My lady ill?' said the smith, as if he doubted the old prim serving-
man's word. And the latter would have chopped in with an angry
asseveration (he had been at Worcester and fought on the right side),
but Sir John cut him short.

'My lady is very ill, good Master Fox. It touches her here,' continued
he, pointing to his head. 'I am come down to take her to London, where
the King's own physician shall prescribe for her.' And he rode slowly
up to the hall.

The lady was as well as ever she had been in her life, and happier
than she had often been; for in a few minutes some of those whom she
esteemed so highly would be about her, some of those who had known and
valued her father--her dead father, to whom her sorrowful heart turned
in its woe, as the only true lover and friend she had ever had on
earth. Many of the preachers would have ridden far,--was all in order
in their rooms, and on the table in the great dining parlour? She had
got into restless hurried ways of late. She went round below, and then
she mounted the great oak staircase to see if the tower bed-chamber
was all in order for old Master Hilton, the oldest among the
preachers. Meanwhile, the maidens below were carrying in mighty cold
rounds of spiced beef, quarters of lamb, chicken pies, and all such
provisions, when, suddenly, they knew not how, they found themselves
each seized by strong arms, their aprons thrown over their heads,
after the manner of a gag, and themselves borne out of the house on to
the poultry green behind, where, with threats of what worse might
befall them, they were sent with many a shameful word (Sir John could
not always command his men, many of whom had been soldiers in the
French wars) back into the village. They scudded away like frightened
hares. My lady was strewing the white-headed preacher's room with the
last year's lavender, and stirring up the sweet-pot on the dressing-
table, when she heard a step on the echoing stairs. It was no measured
tread of any Puritan; it was the clang of a man of war coming nearer
and nearer, with loud rapid strides. She knew the step; her heart
stopped beating, not for fear, but because she loved Sir John even
yet; and she took a step forward to meet him, and then stood still and
trembled, for the flattering false thought came before her that he
might have come yet in some quick impulse of reviving love, and that
his hasty step might be prompted by the passionate tenderness of a
husband. But when he reached the door, she looked as calm and
indifferent as ever.

'My lady,' said he, 'you are gathering your friends to some feast. May
I know who are thus invited to revel in my house? Some graceless
fellows, I see, from the store of meat and drink below--wine-bibbers
and drunkards, I fear.'

But, by the working glance of his eye, she saw that he knew all; and
she spoke with a cold distinctness.

'Master Ephraim Dixon, Master Zerubbabel Hopkins, Master Help-me-or-I-
perish Perkins, and some other godly ministers, come to spend the
afternoon in my house.'

He went to her, and in his rage he struck her. She put up no arm to
save herself, but reddened a little with the pain, and then drawing
her neckerchief on one side, she looked at the crimson mark on her
white neck.

'It serves me right,' she said. 'I wedded one of my father's enemies;
one of those who would have hunted the old man to death. I gave my
father's enemy house and lands, when he came as a beggar to my door; I
followed my wicked, wayward heart in this, instead of minding my dying
father's words. Strike again, and avenge him yet more!'

But he would not, because she bade him. He unloosed his sash, and
bound her arms tight,--tight together, and she never struggled or
spoke. Then pushing her so that she was obliged to sit down on the bed
side,--

'Sit there,' he said, 'and hear how I will welcome the old hypocrites
you have dared to ask to my house--my house and my ancestors' house,
long before your father--a canting pedlar--hawked his goods about, and
cheated honest men.'

And, opening the chamber window right above those Hall steps where she
had awaited him in her maiden beauty scarce three short years ago, he
greeted the company of preachers as they rode up to the Hall with such
terrible hideous language (my lady had provoked him past all bearing,
you see), that the old men turned round aghast, and made the best of
their way back to their own places.

Meanwhile, Sir john's serving-men below had obeyed their master's
orders. They had gone through the house, closing every window, every
shutter, and every door, but leaving all else just as it was--the cold
meats on the table, the hot meats on the spit, the silver flagons on
the side-board, all just as if it were ready for a feast; and then Sir
john's head-servant, he that I spoke of before, came up and told his
master all was ready.

'Is the horse and the pillion all ready? Then you and I must be my
lady's tire-women;' and as it seemed to her in mockery, but in reality
with a deep purpose, they dressed the helpless woman in her riding
things all awry, and strange and disorderly, Sir John carried her down
stairs; and he and his man bound her on the pillion; and Sir John
mounted before. The man shut and locked the great house-door, and the
echoes of the clang went through the empty Hall with an ominous sound.
'Throw the key,' said Sir John, 'deep into the mere yonder. My lady
may go seek it if she lists, when next I set her arms at liberty. Till
then I know whose house Morton Hall shall be called.'

'Sir John! it shall be called the Devil's House, and you shall be his
steward.'

But the poor lady had better have held her tongue; for Sir John only
laughed, and told her to rave on. As he passed through the village,
with his serving-men riding behind, the tenantry came out and stood at
their doors, and pitied him for having a mad wife, and praised him for
his care of her, and of the chance he gave her of amendment by taking
her up to be seen by the King's physician. But, somehow, the Hall got
an ugly name; the roast and boiled meats, the ducks, the chickens had
time to drop into dust, before any human being now dared to enter in;
or, indeed, had any right to enter in, for Sir John never came back to
Morton; and as for my lady, some said she was dead, and some said she
was mad, and shut up in London, and some said Sir John had taken her
to a convent abroad.

'And what did become of her?' asked we, creeping up to Mrs Dawson.

'Nay, how should I know?'

'But what do you think?' we asked pertinaciously.

'I cannot tell. I have heard that after Sir John was killed at the
battle of the Boyne she got loose, and came wandering back to Morton,
to her old nurse's house; but, indeed, she was mad then, out and out,
and I've no doubt Sir John had seen it coming on. She used to have
visions and dream dreams: and some thought her a prophetess, and some
thought her fairly crazy. What she said about the Mortons was awful.
She doomed them to die out of the land, and their house to be razed to
the ground, while pedlars and huxters, such as her own people, her
father, had been, should dwell where the knightly Mortons had once
lived. One winter's night she strayed away, and the next morning they
found the poor crazy woman frozen to death in Drumble meeting-house
yard; and the Mr Morton who had succeeded to Sir John had her decently
buried where she was found, by the side of her father's grave.'

We were silent for a time. 'And when was the old Hall opened, Mrs
Dawson, please?'

'Oh! when the Mr Morton, our Squire Morton's grandfather, came into
possession. He was a distant cousin of Sir john's, a much quieter kind
of man. He had all the old rooms opened wide, and aired, and
fumigated; and the strange fragments of musty food were collected and
burnt in the yard; but somehow that old dining-parlour had always a
charnel-house smell, and no one ever liked making merry in it--
thinking of the grey old preachers, whose ghosts might be even then
scenting the meats afar off, and trooping unbidden to a feast, that
was not that of which they were baulked. I was glad for one when the
squire's father built another dining-room; and no servant in the house
will go an errand into the old dining-parlour after dark, I can assure
ye.'

'I wonder if the way the last Mr Morton had to sell his land to the
people at Drumble had anything to do with old Lady Morton's prophecy,'
said my mother, musingly.

'Not at all,' said Mrs Dawson, sharply. 'My lady was crazy, and her
words not to be minded. I should like to see the cotton-spinners of
Drumble offer to purchase land from the squire. Besides, there's a
strict entail now. They can't purchase the land if they would. A set
of trading pedlars, indeed!'

I remember Ethelinda and I looked at each other at this word pedlars;'
which was the very word she had put into Sir john's mouth when
taunting his wife with her father's low birth and calling. We thought,
'We shall see.'

Alas! we have seen.

Soon after that evening our good old friend Mrs Dawson died. I
remember it well, because Ethelinda and I were put into mourning for
the first time in our lives. A dear little brother of ours had died
only the year before, and then my father and mother had decided that
we were too young; that there was no necessity for their incurring the
expense of black frocks. We mourned for the little delicate darling in
our hearts, I know; and to this day I often wonder what it would have
been to have had a brother. But when Mrs Dawson died it became a sort
of duty we owed to the squire's family to go into black, and very
proud and pleased Ethelinda and I were with our new frocks. I remember
dreaming Mrs Dawson was alive again, and crying, because I thought my
new frock would be taken away from me. But all this has nothing to do
with Morton Hall.

When I first became aware of the greatness of the squire's station in
life, his family consisted of himself, his wife (a frail, delicate
lady), his only son, 'little master,' as Mrs Dawson was allowed to
call him, 'the young squire,' as we in the village always termed him.
His name was John Marmaduke. He was always called John; and after Mrs
Dawson's story of the old Sir John, I used to wish he might not bear
that ill-omened name. He used to ride through the village in his
bright scarlet coat, his long fair curling hair falling over his lace
collar, and his broad black hat and feather shading his merry blue
eyes, Ethelinda and I thought then, and I always shall think, there
never was such a boy. He had a fine high spirit, too, of his own, and
once horsewhipped a groom twice as big as himself who had thwarted
him. To see him and Miss Phillis go tearing through the village on
their pretty Arabian horses, laughing as they met the west wind, and
their long golden curls flying behind them, you would have thought
them brother and sister, rather than nephew and aunt; for Miss Phillis
was the squire's sister, much younger than himself; indeed, at the
time I speak of, I don't think she could have been above seventeen,
and the young squire, her nephew, was nearly ten. I remember Mrs
Dawson sending for my mother and me up to the Hall that we might see
Miss Phillis dressed ready to go with her brother to a ball given at
some great lord's house to Prince William of Gloucester, nephew to
good old George the Third.

When Mrs Elizabeth, Mrs Morton's maid, saw us at tea in Mrs Dawson's
room, she asked Ethelinda and me if we would not like to come into
Miss Phillis's dressing-room, and watch her dress; and then she said,
if we would promise to keep from touching anything, she would make
interest for us to go. We would have promised to stand on our heads,
and would have tried to do so too, to earn such a privilege. So in we
went, and stood together, hand-in-hand, up in a corner out of the way,
feeling very red, and shy, and hot, till Miss Phillis put us at our
case by playing all manner of comical tricks, just to make us laugh,
which at last we did outright, in spite of all our endeavours to be
grave, lest Mrs Elizabeth should complain of us to my mother. I
recollect the scent of the marechale powder with which Miss Phillis's
hair was just sprinkled; and how she shook her head, like a young
colt, to work the hair loose which Mrs Elizabeth was straining up over
a cushion. Then Mrs Elizabeth would try a little of Mrs Morton's
rouge; and Miss Phillis would wash it off with a wet towel, saying
that she liked her own paleness better than any performer's colour;
and when Mrs Elizabeth wanted just to touch her cheeks once more, she
hid herself behind the great arm-chair, peeping out, with her sweet,
merry face, first at one side and then at another, till we all heard
the squire's voice at the door, asking her, if she was dressed, to
come and show herself to madam, her sister-in-law; for, as I said, Mrs
Morton was a great invalid, and unable to go out to any grand parties
like this. We were all silent in an instant; and even Mrs Elizabeth
thought no more of the rouge, but how to get Miss Phillis's beautiful
blue dress on quick enough. She had cherry-coloured knots in her hair,
and her breast-knots were of the same ribbon. Her gown was open in
front, to a quilted white silk skirt. We felt very shy of her as she
stood there fully dressed--she looked so much grander than anything we
had ever seen; and it was like a relief when Mrs Elizabeth told us to
go down to Mrs Dawson's parlour, where my mother was sitting all this
time.

Just as we were telling how merry and comical Miss Phillis had been,
in came a footman. 'Mrs Dawson,' said he, 'the squire bids me ask you
to go with Mrs Sidebotham into the west parlour, to have a look at
Miss Morton before she goes.' We went, too, clinging to my mother.
Miss Phillis looked rather shy as we came in, and stood just by the
door. I think we all must have shown her that we had never seen
anything so beautiful as she was in our lives before; for she went
very scarlet at our fixed gaze of admiration, and, to relieve herself,
she began to play all manner of antics--whirling round, and making
cheeses with her rich silk petticoat; unfurling her fan (a present
from madam, to complete her dress), and peeping first on one side and
then on the other, just as she had done upstairs; and then catching
hold of her nephew, and insisting that he should dance a minuet with
her until the carriage came; which proposal made him very angry, as it
was an insult to his manhood (at nine years old) to suppose he could
dance. 'It was all very well for girls to make fools of themselves,'
he said, 'but it did not do for men.' And Ethelinda and I thought we
had never heard so fine a speech before. But the carriage came before
we had half feasted our eyes enough; and the squire came from his
wife's room to order the little master to bed, and hand his sister to
the carriage.

I remember a good deal of talk about royal dukes and unequal marriages
that night. I believe Miss Phillis did dance with Prince William; and
I have often heard that she bore away the bell at the ball, and that
no one came near her for beauty and pretty, merry ways. In a day or
two after I saw her scampering through the village, looking just as
she did before she had danced with a royal duke. We all thought she
would marry some one great, and used to look out for the lord who was
to take her away. But poor madam died, and there was no one but Miss
Phillis to comfort her brother, for the young squire was gone away to
some great school down south; and Miss Phillis grew grave, and reined
in her pony to keep by the squire's side, when he rode out on his
steady old mare in his lazy, careless way.

We did not hear so much of the doings at the Hall now Mrs Dawson was
dead; so I cannot tell how it was; but, by-and-by, there was a talk of
bills that were once paid weekly, being now allowed to run to quarter-
day; and then, instead of being settled every quarter-day, they were
put off to Christmas; and many said they had hard enough work to get
their money then. A buzz went through the village that the young
squire played high at college, and that he made away with more money
than his father could afford. But when he came down to Morton, he was
as handsome as ever; and I, for one, never believed evil of him;
though I'll allow others might cheat him, and he never suspect it. His
aunt was as fond of him as ever; and he of her. Many is the time I
have seen them out walking together, sometimes sad enough, sometimes
merry as ever. By-and-by, my father heard of sales of small pieces of
land, not included in the entail; and, at last, things got so bad,
that the very crops were sold yet green upon the ground, for any price
folks would give, so that there was but ready money paid. The squire
at length gave way entirely, and never left the house; and the young
master in London; and poor Miss Phillis used to go about trying to see
after the workmen and labourers, and save what she could. By this time
she would be above thirty; Ethelinda and I were nineteen and twenty-
one when my mother died, and that was some years before this. Well, at
last the squire died; they do say of a broken heart at his son's
extravagance; and, though the lawyers kept it very close, it began to
be rumoured that Miss Phillis's fortune had gone too. Any way, the
creditors came down on the estate like wolves. It was entailed, and it
could not be sold; but they put it into the hands of a lawyer, who was
to get what he could out of it, and have no pity for the poor young
squire, who had not a roof for his head. Miss Phillis went to live by
herself in a little cottage in the village, at the end of the
property, which the lawyer allowed her to have because he could not
let it to any one, it was so tumble-down and old. We never knew what
she lived on, poor lady; but she said she was well in health, which
was all we durst ask about. She came to see my father just before he
died, and he seemed made bold with the feeling that he was a dying
man; so he asked, what I had longed to know for many a year, where was
the young squire? he had never been seen in Morton since his father's
funeral. Miss Phillis said he was gone abroad; but in what part he was
then, she herself hardly knew; only she had a feeling that, sooner or
later, he would come back to the old place; where she should strive to
keep a home for him whenever he was tired of wandering about, and
trying to make his fortune.

'Trying to make his fortune still?' asked my father, his questioning
eyes saying more than his words. Miss Phillis shook her head, with a
sad meaning in her face; and we understood it all. He was at some
French gaming-table, if he was not at an English one.

Miss Phillis was right. It might be a year after my father's death
when he came back, looking old and grey and worn. He came to our door
just after we had barred it one winter's evening. Ethelinda and I
still lived at the farm, trying to keep it up, and make it pay; but it
was hard work. We heard a step coming up the straight pebble walk; and
then it stopped right at our door, under the very porch, and we heard
a man's breathing, quick and short.

'Shall I open the door?' said I.

'No, wait!' said Ethelinda; for we lived alone, and there was no
cottage near us. We held our breaths. There came a knock.

'Who's there?' I cried.

'Where does Miss Morton live--Miss Phillis?'

We were not sure if we would answer him; for she, like us, lived
alone.

'Who's there?' again said I.

'Your master,' he answered, proud and angry. 'My name is John Morton.
Where does Miss Phillis live?'

We had the door unbarred in a trice, and begged him to come in; to
pardon our rudeness. We would have given him of our best, as was his
due from us; but he only listened to the directions we gave him to his
aunt's, and took no notice of our apologies.



Chapter II



Up to this time we had felt it rather impertinent to tell each other
of our individual silent wonder as to what Miss Phillis lived on; but
I know in our hearts we each thought about it, with a kind of
respectful pity for her fallen low estate. Miss Phillis--that we
remembered like an angel for beauty, and like a little princess for
the imperious sway she exercised, and which was such sweet compulsion
that we bad all felt proud to be her slaves--Miss Phillis was now a
worn, plain woman, in homely dress, tending towards old age; and
looking--(at that time I dared not have spoken so insolent a thought,
not even to myself)--but she did look as if she had hardly the proper
nourishing food she required. One day, I remember Mrs Jones, the
butcher's wife (she was a Drumble person) saying, in her saucy way,
that she was not surprised to see Miss Morton so bloodless and pale,
for she only treated herself to a Sunday's dinner of meat, and lived
on slop and bread-and-butter all the rest of the week. Ethelinda put
on her severe face--a look that I am afraid of to this day--and said,
'Mrs Jones, do you suppose Miss Morton can eat your half-starved meat?
You do not know how choice and dainty she is, as becomes one born and
bred like her. What was it we had to bring for her only last Saturday
from the grand new butcher's, in Drumble, Biddy?'--(We took our eggs
to market in Drumble every Saturday, for the cotton-spinners would
give us a higher price than the Morton people: the more fools they!)

I thought it rather cowardly of Ethelinda to put the story-telling on
me; but she always thought a great deal of saving her soul; more than
I did, I am afraid, for I made answer, as bold as a lion, 'Two sweet
breads, at a shilling a-piece; and a forequarter of house-lamb, at
eighteen-pence a pound.' So off went Mrs Jones, in a huff, saying,
'their meat was good enough for Mrs Donkin, the great mill-owner's
widow, and might serve a beggarly Morton any day.' When we were alone,
I said to Ethelinda, 'I'm afraid we shall have to pay for our lies at
the great day of account;' and Ethelinda answered, very sharply--
(she's a good sister in the main)--'Speak for yourself, Biddy. I never
said a word. I only asked questions. How could I help it if you told
lies? I'm sure I wondered at you, how glib you spoke out what was not
true. 'But I knew she was glad I told the lies, in her heart.

After the poor squire came to live with his aunt, Miss Phillis, we
ventured to speak a bit to ourselves. We were sure they were pinched.
They looked like it. He had a bad hacking cough at times; though he
was so dignified and proud he would never cough when any one was near.
I have seen him up before it was day, sweeping the dung off the roads,
to try and get enough to manure the little plot of ground behind the
cottage, which Miss Phillis had let alone, but which her nephew used
to dig in and till; for, said he, one day, in his grand, slow way, 'he
was always fond of experiments in agriculture.' Ethelinda and I do
believe that the two or three score of cabbages he raised were all
they had to live on that winter, besides the bit of meal and tea they
got at the village shop.

One Friday night I said to Ethelinda, 'It is a shame to take these
eggs to Drumble to sell, and never to offer one to the squire, on
whose lands we were born.' She answered, 'I have thought so many a
time; but how can we do it? I, for one, dare not offer them to the
squire; and as for Miss Phillis, it would seem like impertinence.'
'I'll try at it,' said I.

So that night I took some eggs--fresh yellow eggs from our own
pheasant hen, the like of which there were not for twenty miles
round--and I laid them softly after dusk on one of the little stone
seats in the porch of Miss Phillis's cottage. But, alas! when we went
to market at Drumble, early the next morning, there were my eggs all
shattered and splashed, making an ugly yellow pool in the road just in
front of the cottage. I had meant to have followed it up by a chicken
or so; but I saw now that it would never do. Miss Phillis came now and
then to call on us; she was a little more high and distant than she
had been when a girl, and we felt we must keep our place. I suppose we
had affronted the young squire, for he never came near our house.

Well, there came a hard winter, and provisions rose; and Ethelinda and
I had much ado to make ends meet. If it had not been for my sister's
good management, we should have been in debt, I know; but she proposed
that we should go without dinner, and only have a breakfast and a tea,
to which I agreed, you may be sure.

One baking day I had made some cakes for tea--potato-cakes we called
them. They had a savoury, hot smell about them; and, to tempt
Ethelinda, who was not quite well, I cooked a rasher of bacon. Just as
we were sitting down, Miss Phillis knocked at our door. We let her in.
God only knows how white and haggard she looked. The heat of our
kitchen made her totter, and for a while she could not speak. But all
the time she looked at the food on the table as if she feared to shut
her eyes lest it should all vanish away. It was an eager stare like
that of some animal, poor soul! 'If I durst,' said Ethelinda, wishing
to ask her to share our meal, but being afraid to speak out. I did not
speak, but handed her the good, hot, buttered cake; on which she
seized, and putting it up to her lips as if to taste it, she fell back
in her chair, crying.

We had never seen a Morton cry before.' and it was something awful. We
stood silent and aghast. She recovered herself, but did not taste the
food; on the contrary, she covered it up with both her hands, as if
afraid of losing it. 'If you'll allow me,' said she, in a stately kind
of way, to make up for our having seen her crying, 'I'll take it to my
nephew.' And she got up to go away; but she could hardly stand for
very weakness, and had to sit down again; she smiled at us, and said
she was a little dizzy, but it would soon go off; but as she smiled,
the bloodless lips were drawn far back over her teeth, making her face
seem somehow like a death's head. 'Miss Morton,' said I, 'do honour us
by taking tea with us this once. The squire, your father, once took a
luncheon with my father, and we are proud of it to this day.' I poured
her out some tea, which she drank; the food she shrank away from as if
the very sight of it turned her sick again. But when she rose to go,
she looked at it with her sad, wolfish eyes, as if she could not leave
it; and at last she broke into a low cry, and said, 'Oh, Bridget, we
are starving! we are starving for want of food! I can bear it; I don't
mind; but he suffers--oh, how he suffers! let me take him food for
this one night.'

We could hardly speak; our hearts were in our throats, and the tears
ran down our cheeks like rain. We packed up a basket, and carried it
to her very door, never venturing to speak a word, for we knew what it
must have cost her to say that. When we left her at the cottage, we
made her our usual deep courtesy, but she fell upon our necks, and
kissed us. For several nights after she hovered round our house about
dusk, but she would never come in again, and face us in candle or fire
light, much less meet us by daylight. We took out food to her as
regularly as might be, and gave it to her in silence, and with the
deepest courtesies we could make, we felt so honoured. We had many
plans now she had permitted us to know of her distress. We hoped she
would allow us to go on serving her in some way as became us as
Sidebothams. But one night she never came; we stayed out in the cold,
bleak wind, looking into the dark for her thin, worn figure; all in
vain. Late the next afternoon, the young squire lifted the latch, and
stood right in the middle of our houseplace. The roof was low
overhead, and made lower by the deep beams supporting the floor above;
he stooped as he looked at us, and tried to form words, but no sound
came out of his lips. I never saw such gaunt woe; no, never! At last
he took me by the shoulder, and led me out of the house.

'Come with me!' he said, when we were in the open air, as if that gave
him strength to speak audibly. I needed no second word. We entered
Miss Phillis's cottage; a liberty I had never taken before. What
little furniture was there, it was clear to be seen were cast-off
fragments of the old splendour of Morton Hall. No fire. Grey wood
ashes lay on the hearth. An old settee, once white and gold, now
doubly shabby in its fall from its former estate. On it lay Miss
Phillis, very pale; very still; her eyes shut.

'Tell me!' he gasped. 'Is she dead? I think she is asleep; but she
looks so strang--as if she might be--' He could not say the awful word
again. I stooped, and felt no warmth; only a cold chill atmosphere
seemed to surround her.

'She is dead!' I replied at length. 'Oh, Miss Phillis! Miss Phillis!'
and, like a fool, I began to cry. But he sat down without a tear, and
looked vacantly at the empty hearth. I dared not cry any more when I
saw him so stony sad. I did not know what to do. I could not leave
him; and yet I had no excuse for staying. I went up to Miss Phillis,
and softly arranged the grey ragged locks about her face.

'Ay!' said he. 'She must be laid out, Who so fit to do it as you and
your sister, children of good old Robert Sidebotham?'

'Oh, my master,' I said, 'this is no fit place for you. Let me fetch
my sister to sit up with me all night; and honour us by sleeping at
our poor little cottage.'

I did not expect he would have done it; but after a few minutes'
silence he agreed to my proposal. I hastened home, and told Ethelinda,
and both of us crying, we heaped up the fire, and spread the table
with food, and made up a bed in one corner of the floor. While I stood
ready to go, I saw Ethelinda open the great chest in which we kept our
treasures; and out she took a fine Holland shift that had been one of
my mother's wedding shifts; and, seeing what she was after, I went
upstairs and brought down a piece of rare old lace, a good deal darned
to be sure, but still old Brussels point, bequeathed to me long ago by
my god-mother, Mrs Dawson. We huddled these things under our cloaks,
locked the door behind us, and set out to do all we could now for poor
Miss Phillis. We found the squire sitting just as we left him; I
hardly knew if he understood me when I told him how to unlock our
door, and gave him the key, though I spoke as distinctly as ever I
could for the choking in my throat. At last he rose and went; and
Ethelinda and I composed her poor thin limbs to decent rest, and
wrapped her in the fine Holland shift; and then I plaited up my lace
into a close cap to tie up the wasted features. When all was done we
looked upon her from a little distance.

'A Morton to die of hunger!' said Ethelinda solemnly. 'We should not
have dared to think that such a thing was within the chances of life.
Do you remember that evening, when you and I were little children, and
she a merry young lady peeping at us from behind her fan?'

We did not cry any more; we felt very still and awestruck. After a
while I said, 'I wonder if, after all, the young squire did go to our
house. He had a strange look about him. If I dared I would go and
see.' I opened the door; the night was black as pitch; the air very
still. 'I'll go,' said I; and off I went, not meeting a creature, for
it was long past eleven. I reached our house; the window was long and
low, and the shutters were old and shrunk. I could peep between them
well, and see all that was going on. He was there, sitting over the
fire, never shedding a tear; but seeming as if he saw his past life in
the embers. The food we had prepared was untouched. Once or twice,
during my long watch (I was more than an hour away), he turned towards
the food, and made as though he would have eaten it, and then
shuddered back; but at last he seized it, and tore it with his teeth,
and laughed and rejoiced over it like some starved animal. I could not
keep from crying then. He gorged himself with great morsels; and when
he could eat no more, it seemed as if his strength for suffering had
come back. He threw himself on the bed, and such a passion of despair
I never heard of, much less ever saw. I could not bear to witness it.
The dead Miss Phillis lay calm and still. Her trials were over. I
would go back and watch with Ethelinda.

When the pale grey morning dawn stole in, making us shiver and shake
after our vigil, the squire returned. We were both mortal afraid of
him, we knew not why. He looked quiet enough--the lines were worn deep
before--no new traces were there. He stood and looked at his aunt for
a minute or two. Then he went up into the loft above the room where we
were; he brought a small paper parcel down; bade us keep on our watch
yet a little time. First one and then the other of us went home to get
some food. It was a bitter black frost; no one was out who could stop
indoors; and those who were out cared not to stop to speak. Towards
afternoon the air darkened, and a great snow-storm came on. We durst
not be left only one alone; yet, at the cottage where Miss Phillis had
lived, there was neither fire nor fuel. So we sat and shivered and
shook till morning. The squire never came that night nor all next day.

'What must we do?' asked Ethelinda, broken down entirely. 'I shall die
if I stop here another night. We must tell the neighbours and get help
for the watch.'

'So we must,' said I, very low and grieved. I went out and told the
news at the nearest house, taking care, you may be sure, never to
speak of the hunger and cold Miss Phillis must have endured in
silence. It was bad enough to have them come in, and make their
remarks on the poor bits of furniture; for no one had known their
bitter straits even as much as Ethelinda and me, and we had been
shocked at the bareness of the place. I did hear that one or two of
the more ill-conditioned had said, it was not for nothing we had kept
the death to ourselves for two nights; that, to judge from the lace on
her cap, there must have been some pretty pickings. Ethelinda would
have contradicted this, but I bade her let it alone; it would save the
memory of the proud Mortons from the shame that poverty is thought to
be; and as for us, why we could live it down. But, on the whole,
people came forward kindly; money was not wanting to bury her well, if
not grandly, as became her birth; and many a one was bidden to the
funeral who might have looked after her a little more in her life-
time. Among others was Squire Hargreaves from Bothwick Hall over the
moors. He was some kind of far-away cousin to the Morton's; so when he
came he was asked to go chief mourner in Squire Morton's strange
absence, which I should have wondered at the more if I had not thought
him almost crazy when I watched his ways through the shutter that
night. Squire Hargreaves started when they paid him the compliment of
asking him to take the head of the coffin.

'Where is her nephew?' asked he.

'No one has seen him since eight o'clock last Thursday morning.'

'But I saw him at noon on Thursday,' said Squire Hargreaves, with a
round oath. 'He came over the moors to tell me of his aunt's death,
and to ask me to give him a little money to bury her, on the pledge of
his gold shirt-buttons. He said I was a cousin, and could pity a
gentleman in such sore need; that the buttons were his mother's first
gift to him; and that I was to keep them safe, for some day he would
make his fortune, and come back to redeem them. He had not known his
aunt was so ill, or he would have parted with these buttons sooner,
though he held them as more precious than he could tell me. I gave him
money; but I could not find in my heart to take the buttons. He bade
me not tell of all this; but when a man is missing it is my duty to
give all the clue I can.'

And so their poverty was blazoned abroad! But folk forgot it all in
the search for the squire on the moor-side. Two days they searched in
vain; the third, upwards of a hundred men turned out, hand-in-hand,
step to step, to leave no foot of ground unsearched. They found him
stark and stiff, with Squire Hargreaves' money, and his mother's gold
buttons, safe in his waistcoat pocket.

And we laid him down by the side of his poor aunt Phillis.

After the squire, John Marmaduke Morton, had been found dead in that
sad way, on the dreary moors, the creditors seemed to lose all hold on
the property; which indeed, during the seven years they had had it,
they had drained as dry as a sucked orange. But for a long time no one
seemed to know who rightly was the owner of Morton Hall and lands. The
old house fell out of repair; the chimneys were full of starlings'
nests; the flags in the terrace in front were hidden by the long
grass; the panes in the windows were broken, no one knew how or why,
for the children of the village got up a tale that the house was
haunted. Ethelinda and I went sometimes in the summer mornings, and
gathered some of the roses that were being strangled by the bindweed
that spread over all; and we used to try and weed the old flower-
garden a little; but we were no longer young, and the stooping made
our backs ache. Still we always felt happier if we cleared but ever
such a little space. Yet we did not go there willingly in the
afternoons, and left the garden always long before the first slight
shade of dusk.

We did not choose to ask the common people--many of them were weavers
for the Drumble manufacturers, and no longer decent hedgers and
ditchers--we did not choose to ask them, I say, who was squire now, or
where he lived. But one day, a great London lawyer came to the Morton
Arms, and made a pretty stir. He came on behalf of a General Morton,
who was squire now, though he was far away in India. He had been
written to, and they had proved him heir, though he was a very distant
cousin, farther back than Sir John, I think. And now he had sent word
they were to take money of his that was in England, and put the house
in thorough repair; for that three maiden sisters of his, who lived in
some town in the north, would come and live at Morton Hall till his
return. So the lawyer sent for a Drumble builder, and gave him
directions. We thought it would have been prettier if he had hired
John Cobb, the Morton builder and joiner, he that had made the
squire's coffin, and the squire's father's before that. Instead, came
a troop of Drumble men, knocking and tumbling about in the Hall, and
making their jests up and down all those stately rooms. Ethelinda and
I never went near the place till they were gone, bag and baggage. And
then what a change! The old casement windows, with their heavy leaded
panes half overgrown with vines and roses, were taken away, and great
staring sash windows were in their stead. New grates inside; all
modern, newfangled, and smoking, instead of the brass dogs which held
the mighty logs of wood in the old squire's time. The little square
Turkey carpet under the dining-table, which had served Miss Phillis,
was not good enough for these new Mortons; the dining-room was all
carpeted over. We peeped into the old dining-parlour--that parlour
where the dinner for the Puritan preachers had been laid out; the flag
parlour, as it had been called of late years. But it had a damp,
earthy smell, and was used as a lumber-room. We shut the door quicker
than we had opened it. We came away disappointed. The Hall was no
longer like our own honoured Morton Hall.

'After all, these three ladies are Morrons,' said Ethelinda to me. 'We
must not forget that: we must go and pay our duty to them as soon as
they have appeared in church.'

Accordingly we went. But we had heard and seen a little of them before
we paid our respects at the Hall. Their maid had been down in the
village; their maid, as she was called now; but a maid-of-all-work she
had been until now, as she very soon let out when we questioned her.
However, we were never proud; and she was a good honest farmer's
daughter out of Northumberland. What work she did make with the
Queen's English! The folk in Lancashire are said to speak broad, but I
could always understand our own kindly tongue; whereas, when Mrs
Turner told me her name, both Ethelinda and I could have sworn she
said Donagh, and were afraid she was an Irishwoman. Her ladies were
what you may call past the bloom of youth; Miss Sophronia--Miss
Morton, properly--was just sixty; Miss Annabella, three years younger;
and Miss Dorothy (or Baby, as they called her when they were by
themselves), was two years younger still. Mrs Turner was very
confidential to us, partly because, I doubt not, she had heard of our
old connection with the family, and partly because she was an arrant
talker, and was glad of anybody who would listen to her. So we heard
the very first week how each of the ladies had wished for the east
bed-room--that which faced the north-east--which no one slept in in
the old squire's days; but there were two steps leading up into it,
and, said Miss Sophronia, she would never let a younger sister have a
room more elevated than she had herself She was the eldest, and she
bad a right to the steps. So she bolted herself in for two days, while
she unpacked her clothes, and then came out, looking like a hen that
has laid an egg, and defies any one to take that honour from her.

But her sisters were very deferential to her in general; that must be
said. They never had more than two black feathers in their bonnets;
while she had always three. Mrs Turner said that once, when they
thought Miss Annabella had been going to have an offer of marriage
made her, Miss Sophronia had not objected to her wearing three that
winter; but when it all ended in smoke, Miss Annabella had to pluck it
out as became a younger sister. Poor Miss Annabella! She had been a
beauty (Mrs Turner said), and great things had been expected of her.
Her brother, the general, and her mother had both spoilt her, rather
than cross her unnecessarily, and so spoil her good looks; which old
Mrs Morton had always expected would make the fortune of the family.
Her sisters were angry with her for not having married some great rich
gentleman; though, as she used to say to Mrs Turner, how could she
help it? She was willing enough, but no rich gentleman came to ask
her. We agreed that it really was not her fault; but her sisters
thought it was; and now, that she had lost her beauty, they were
always casting it up what they would have done if they had had her
gifts. There were some Miss Burrells they had heard of, each of whom
had married a lord; and these Miss Burrells had not been such great
beauties. So Miss Sophronia used to work the question by the rule of
three; and put it in this way--If Miss Burrell, with a tolerable pair
of eyes, a snub nose, and a wide mouth, married a baron, what rank of
peer ought our pretty Annabella to have espoused? And the worst was,
Miss Annabella--who had never had any ambition--wanted to have married
a poor curate in her youth; but was pulled up by her mother and
sisters, reminding her of the duty she owed to her family. Miss
Dorothy had done her best--Miss Morton always praised her for it. With
not half the good looks of Miss Annabella, she had danced with an
honourable at Harrogate three times running; and, even now, she
persevered in trying; which was more than could be said of Miss
Annabella, who was very broken-spirited.

I do believe Mrs Turner told us all this before we had ever seen the
ladies. We had let them know, through Mrs Turner, of our wish to pay
them our respects.' so we ventured to go up to the front door, and rap
modestly. We had reasoned about it before, and agreed that if we were
going in our every-day clothes, to offer a little present of eggs, or
to call on Mrs Turner (as she had asked us to do), the back door would
have been the appropriate entrance for us. But going, however humbly,
to pay our respects, and offer our reverential welcome to the Miss
Mortons, we took rank as their visitors, and should go to the front
door. We were shown up the wide stairs, along the gallery, up two
steps, into Miss Sophronia's room. She put away some papers hastily as
we came in. We heard afterwards that she was writing a book, to be
called The Female Chesterfield; or, Letters from a Lady of Quality to
her Niece. And the little niece sat there in a high chair, with a flat
board tied to her back, and her feet in stocks on the tail of the
chair; so that she had nothing to do but listen to her aunt's letters;
which were read aloud to her as they were written, in order to mark
their effect on her manners. I was not sure whether Miss Sophronia
liked our interruption; but I know little Miss Cordelia Mannisty did.

'Is the young lady crooked?' asked Ethelinda, during a pause in our
conversation. I had noticed that my sister's eyes would rest on the
child; although, by an effort, she sometimes succeeded in looking at
something else occasionally.

'No! indeed, ma'am,' said Miss Morton. 'But she was born in India, and
her backbone has never properly hardened. Besides, I and my two
sisters each take charge of her for a week; and their systems of
education--I might say non-education--differ so totally and entirely
from my ideas, that when Miss Mannisty comes to me, I consider myself
fortunate if I can undo the--hem!--that has been done during a
fortnight's absence. Cordelia, my dear, repeat to these good ladies
the geography lesson you learnt this morning.'

Poor little Miss Mannisty began to tell us a great deal about some
river in Yorkshire of which we had never heard, though I dare say we
ought to, and then a great deal more about the towns that it passed
by, and what they were famous for; and all I can remember--indeed,
could understand at the time--was that Pomfret was famous for Pomfret
cakes; which I knew before. But Ethelinda gasped for breath before it
was done, she was so nearly choked up with astonishment; and when it
was ended, she said, 'Pretty dear; it's wonderful!' Miss Morton looked
a little displeased, and replied, 'Not at all. Good little girls can
learn anything they choose, even French verbs. Yes, Cordelia, they
can. And to be good is better than to be pretty. We don't think about
looks here. You may get down, child, and go into the garden; and take
care you put your bonnet on, or you'll be all over freckles.' We got
up to take leave at the same time, and followed the little girl out of
the room. Ethelinda fumbled in her pocket.

'Here's a sixpence, my dear, for you. Nay, I am sure you may take it
from an old woman like me, to whom you've told over more geography
than I ever thought there was out of the Bible.' For Ethelinda always
maintained that the long chapters in the Bible which were all names,
were geography; and though I knew well enough they were not, yet I had
forgotten what the right word was, so I let her alone; for one hard
word did as well as another. Little miss looked as if she was not sure
if she might take it; but I suppose we had two kindly old faces, for
at last the smile came into her eyes--not to her mouth, she had lived
too much with grave and quiet people for that--and, looking wistfully
at us, she said,--

'Thank you. But won't you go and see aunt Annabella?' We said we
should like to pay our respects to both her other aunts if we might
take that liberty; and perhaps she would show us the way. But, at the
door of a room, she stopped short, and said, sorrowfully, 'I mayn't go
in; it is not my week for being with aunt Annabella;' and then she
went slowly and heavily towards the garden-door.

'That child is cowed by somebody,' said I to Ethelinda.

'But she knows a deal of geography'--Ethelinda's speech was cut short
by the opening of the door in answer to our knock. The once beautiful
Miss Annabella Morton stood before us, and bade us enter. She was
dressed in white, with a turned-up velvet hat, and two or three short
drooping black feathers in it. I should not like to say she rouged,
but she had a very pretty colour in her cheeks; that much can do
neither good nor harm. At first she looked so unlike anybody I had
ever seen, that I wondered what the child could have found to like in
her; for like her she did, that was very clear. But, when Miss
Annabella spoke, I came under the charm. Her voice was very sweet and
plaintive, and suited well with the kind of things she said; all about
charms of nature, and tears, and grief, and such sort of talk, which
reminded me rather of poetry--very pretty to listen to, though I never
could understand it as well as plain, comfortable prose. Still I
hardly know why I liked Miss Annabella. I think I was sorry for her;
though whether I should have been if she had not put it in my head, I
don't know. The room looked very comfortable; a spinnet in a corner to
amuse herself with, and a good sofa to lie down upon. By-and-by, we
got her to talk of her little niece, and she, too, had her system of
education. She said she hoped to develop the sensibilities and to
cultivate the tastes. While with her, her darling niece read works of
imagination, and acquired all that Miss Annabella could impart of the
fine arts. We neither of us quite knew what she was hinting at, at the
time; but afterwards, by dint of questioning little miss, and using
our own eyes and ears, we found that she read aloud to her aunt while
she lay on the sofa. Santo Sebastiano; or, the Young Protector, was
what they were deep in at this time; and, as it was in five volumes
and the heroine spoke broken English--which required to be read twice
over to make it intelligible--it lasted them a long time. She also
learned to play on the spinnet; not much, for I never heard above two
tunes, one of which was God save the King, and the other was not. But
I fancy the poor child was lectured by one aunt, and frightened by the
other's sharp ways and numerous fancies. She might well be fond of her
gentle, pensive (Miss Annabella told me she was pensive, so I know I
am right in calling her so) aunt, with her soft voice, and her never-
ending novels, and the sweet scents that hovered about the sleepy
room.

No one tempted us towards Miss Dorothy's apartment when we left Miss
Annabella; so we did not see the youngest Miss Morton this first day.
We had each of us treasured up many little mysteries to be explained
by our dictionary, Mrs Turner.

'Who is little Miss Mannisty?' we asked in one breath, when we saw our
friend from the Hall. And then we learnt that there had been a
fourth--a younger Miss Morton, who was no beauty, and no wit, and no
anything; so Miss Sophronia, her eldest sister, had allowed her to
marry a Mr Mannisty, and ever after spoke of her as 'my poor sister
Jane.' She and her husband had gone out to India, and both had died
there; and the general had made it a sort of condition with his
sisters that they should take charge of the child, or else none of
them liked children except Miss Annabella.

'Miss Annabella likes children,' said I. 'Then that's the reason
children like her.'

'I can't say she likes children; for we never have any in our house
but Miss Cordelia; but her she does like dearly.'

'Poor little miss!' said Ethelinda, 'does she never get a game of play
with other little girls?' And I am sure from that time Ethelinda
considered her in a diseased state from this very circumstance, and
that her knowledge of geography was one of the symptoms of the
disorder; for she used often to say, 'I wish she did not know so much
geography! I'm sure it is not quite right.'

Whether or not her geography was right, I don't know; but the child
pined for companions. A very few days after we had called--and yet
long enough to have passed her into Miss Annabella's week--I saw Miss
Cordelia in a corner of the church green, playing, with awkward
humility, along with some of the rough village girls, who were as
expert at the game as she was unapt and slow. I hesitated a little,
and at last I called to her.

'How do you, my dear?' I said. 'How come you here, so far from home?'

She reddened, and then looked up at me with her large, serious eyes.

'Aunt Annabel sent me into the wood to meditate--and--and--it was very
dull--and I heard these little girls playing and laughing--and I had
my sixpence with me, and--it was not wrong, was it, ma'am?--I came to
them, and told one of them I would give it to her if she would ask the
others to let me play with them.'

'But, my dear, they are--some of them--very rough little children, and
not fit companions for a Morton.'

'But I am a Mannisty, ma'am!' she pleaded, with so much entreaty in
her ways, that if I had not known what naughty, bad girls some of them
were, I could not have resisted her longing for companions of her own
age. As it was, I was angry with them for having taken her sixpence;
but, when she had told me which it was, and saw that I was going to
reclaim it, she clung to me, and said,--

'Oh! don't, ma'am--you must not. I gave it to her quite of my own
self.'

So I turned away; for there was truth in what the child said. But to
this day I have never told Ethelinda what became of her sixpence. I
took Miss Cordelia home with me while I changed my dress to be fit to
take her back to the Hall. And on the way, to make up for her
disappointment, I began talking of my dear Miss Phillis, and her
bright, pretty youth, I had never named her name since her death to
any one but Ethelinda--and that only on Sundays and quiet times. And I
could not have spoken of her to a grown-up person; but somehow to Miss
Cordelia it came out quite natural. Not of her latter days, of course;
but of her pony, and her little black King Charles's dogs, and all the
living creatures that were glad in her presence when first I knew her.
And nothing would satisfy the child but I must go into the Hall garden
and show her where Miss Phillis's garden had been. We were deep in our
talk, and she was stooping down to clear the plot from weeds, when I
heard a sharp voice cry out, 'Cordelia! Cordelia! Dirtying your frock
with kneeling on the wet grass! It is not my week; but I shall tell
your aunt Annabella of you.'

And the window was shut down with a jerk. It was Miss Dorothy. And I
felt almost as guilty as poor little Miss Cordelia; for I had heard
from Mrs Turner that we had given great offence to Miss Dorothy by not
going to call on her in her room that day on which we had paid our
respects to her sisters; and I had a sort of an idea that seeing Miss
Cordelia with me was almost as much of a fault as the kneeling down on
the wet grass. So I thought I would take the bull by the horns.

'Will you take me to your aunt Dorothy, my dear?' said I.

The little girl had no longing to go into her aunt Dorothy's room, as
she had so evidently had at Miss Annabella's door. On the contrary,
she pointed it out to me at a safe distance, and then went away in the
measured step she was taught to use in that house; where such things
as running, going upstairs two steps at a time, or jumping down three,
were considered undignified and vulgar. Miss Dorothy's room was the
least prepossessing of any. Somehow it had a north-east look about it,
though it did face direct south; and as for Miss Dorothy herself, she
was more like a 'cousin Berry' than anything else; if you know what a
cousin Berry is, and perhaps it is too old-fashioned a word to be
understood by any one who has learnt the foreign languages: but when I
was a girl, there used to be poor crazy women rambling about the
country, one or two in a district. They never did any harm that I know
of; they might have been born idiots, poor creatures! or crossed in
love, who knows? But they roamed the country, and were well known at
the farm-houses, where they often got food and shelter for as long a
time as their restless minds would allow them to stay in any one
place; and the farmer's wife would, maybe, rummage up a ribbon, or a
feather, or a smart old breadth of silk, to please the harmless vanity
of these poor crazy women; and they would go about so bedizened
sometimes that, as we called them always 'cousin Betty,' we made it
into a kind of proverb for any one dressed in a fly-away, showy style,
and said they were like a cousin Berry. So now you know what I mean
that Miss Dorothy was like. Her dress was white, like Miss
Annabella's; but, instead of the black velvet hat her sister wore, she
had on, even in the house, a small black silk bonnet. This sounds as
if it should be less like a cousin Berry than a hat; but wait till I
tell you how it was lined--with strips of red silk, broad near the
face, narrow near the brim; for all the world like the rays of the
rising sun, as they are painted on the public-house sign. And her face
was like the sun; as round as an apple; and with rouge on, without any
doubt: indeed, she told me once, a lady was not dressed unless she had
put her rouge on. Mrs Turner told us she studied reflections a great
deal; not that she was a thinking woman in general, I should say; and
that this rayed lining was the fruit of her study. She had her hair
pulled together, so that her forehead was quite covered with it; and I
won't deny that I rather wished myself at home, as I stood facing her
in the doorway. She pretended she did not know who I was, and made me
tell all about myself; and then it turned out she knew all about me,
and she hoped I had recovered from my fatigue the other day.

'What fatigue?' asked I, immovably. Oh! she had understood I was very
much tired after visiting her sisters; otherwise, of course, I should
not have felt it too much to come on to her room. She kept hinting at
me in so many ways, that I could have asked her gladly to slap my face
and have done with it, only I wanted to make Miss Cordelia's peace
with her for kneeling down and dirtying her frock. I did say what I
could to make things straight; but I don't know if I did any good. Mrs
Turner told me how suspicious and jealous she was of everybody, and of
Miss Annabella in particular, who had been set over her in her youth
because of her beauty; but since it had faded, Miss Morton and Miss
Dorothy had never ceased pecking at her; and Miss Dorothy worst of
all. If it had not been for little Miss Cordelia's love, Miss
Annabella might have wished to die; she did often wish she had had the
small-pox as a baby. Miss Morton was stately and cold to her, as one
who had not done her duty to her family, and was put in the corner for
her bad behaviour. Miss Dorothy was continually talking at her, and
particularly dwelling on the fact of her being the older sister. Now
she was but two years older; and was still so pretty and gentle-
looking, that I should have forgotten it continually but for Miss
Dorothy.

The rules that were made for Miss Cordelia! She was to eat her meals
standing, that was one thing! Another was, that she was to drink two
cups of cold water before she had any pudding; and it just made the
child loathe cold water. Then there were ever so many words she might
not use; each aunt bad her own set of words which were ungenteel or
improper for some reason or another. Miss Dorothy would never let her
say 'red;' it was always to be pink, or crimson, or scarlet. Miss
Cordelia used at one time to come to us, and tell us she had a 'pain
at her chest' so often, that Ethelinda and I began to be uneasy, and
questioned Mrs Turner to know if her mother had died of consumption;
and many a good pot of currant jelly have I given her, and only made
her pain at the chest worse; for--would you believe it?--Miss Morton
told her never to say she had got a stomach-ache, for that it was not
proper to say so, I had heard it called by a worse name still in my
youth, and so had Ethelinda; and we sat and wondered to ourselves how
it was that some kinds of pain were genteel and others were not. I
said that old families, like the Mortons, generally thought it showed
good blood to have their complaints as high in the body as they
could--brain-fevers and headaches had a better sound, and did perhaps
belong more to the aristocracy. I thought I had got the right view in
saying this, when Ethelinda would put in that she had often heard of
Lord Toffey having the gout and being lame, and that nonplussed me. If
there is one thing I do dislike more than another, it is a person
saying something on the other side when I am trying to make up my
mind--how can I reason if I am to be disturbed by another person's
arguments?

But though I tell all these peculiarities of the Miss Mortons, they
were good women in the main: even Miss Dorothy had her times of
kindness, and really did love her little niece, though she was always
laying traps to catch her doing wrong. Miss Morton I got to respect,
if I never liked her. They would ask us up to tea; and we would put on
our best gowns; and taking the house-key in my pocket, we used to walk
slowly through the village, wishing that people who had been living in
our youth could have seen us now, going by invitation to drink tea
with the family at the Hall--not in the housekeeper's room, but with
the family, mind you. But since they began to weave in Morton,
everybody seemed too busy to notice us; so we were fain to be content
with reminding each other how we should never have believed it in our
youth that we could have lived to this day. After tea, Miss Morton
would set us to talk of the real old family, whom they had never
known; and you may be sure we told of all their pomp and grandeur and
stately ways: but Ethelinda and I never spoke of what was to ourselves
like the memory of a sad, terrible dream. So they thought of the
squire in his coach-and-four as high sheriff, and madam lying in her
morning-room in her Genoa velvet wrapping-robe, all over peacock's
eyes (it was a piece of velvet the squire brought back from Italy,
when he had been the grand tour), and Miss Phillis going to a ball at
a great lord's house and dancing with a royal duke. The three ladies
were never tired of listening to the tale of the splendour that had
been going on here, while they and their mother had been starving in
genteel poverty up in Northumberland; and as for Miss Cordelia, she
sat on a stool at her aunt Annabella's knee, her hand in her aunt's,
and listened, open-mouthed and unnoticed, to all we could say.

One day, the child came crying to our house. It was the old story;
aunt Dorothy had been so unkind to aunt Annabella! The little girl
said she would run away to India, and tell her uncle the general, and
seemed in such a paroxysm of anger, and grief, and despair, that a
sudden thought came over me. I thought I would try and teach her
something of the deep sorrow that lies awaiting all at some part of
their lives, and of the way in which it ought to be borne, by telling
her of Miss Phillis's love and endurance for her wasteful, handsome
nephew. So from little, I got to more, and I told her all; the child's
great eyes filling slowly with tears, which brimmed over and came
rolling down her cheeks unnoticed as I spoke. I scarcely needed to
make her promise not to speak about all this to any one. She said, 'I
could not--no! not even to aunt Annabella.' And to this day she never
has named it again, not even to me; but she tried to make herself more
patient, and more silently helpful in the strange household among whom
she was cast.

By-and-by, Miss Morton grew pale, and grey, and worn, amid all her
stiffness. Mrs Turner whispered to us that for all her stern, unmoved
looks, she was ill unto death; that she had been secretly to see the
great doctor at Drumble; and he had told her she must set her house in
order. Not even her sisters knew this; but it preyed upon Mrs Turner's
mind and she told us. Long after this, she kept up her week of
discipline with Miss Cordelia; and walked in her straight, soldier-
like way about the village, scolding people for having too large
families, and burning too much coal, and eating too much butter. One
morning she sent Mrs Turner for her sisters; and, while she was away,
she rummaged out an old locket made of the four Miss Mortons' hair
when they were all children; and, threading the eye of the locket with
a piece of brown ribbon, she tied it round Cordelia's neck, and
kissing her, told her she had been a good girl, and had cured herself
of stooping; that she must fear God and honour the king; and that now
she might go and have a holiday. Even while the child looked at her in
wonder at the unusual tenderness with which this was said, a grim
spasm passed over her face, and Cordelia ran in affright to call Mrs
Turner. But when she came, and the other two sisters came, she was
quite herself again. She had her sisters in her room alone when she
wished them good-by; so no one knows what she said, or how she told
them (who were thinking of her as in health) that the signs of near-
approaching death, which the doctor had foretold, were upon her. One
thing they both agreed in saying--and it was much that Miss Dorothy
agreed in anything--that she bequeathed her sitting-room, up the two
steps, to Miss Annabella as being next in age. Then they left her room
crying, and went both together into Miss Annabella's room, sitting
hand in hand (for the first time since childhood I should think),
listening for the sound of the little hand-bell which was to be placed
close by her, in case, in her agony, she required Mrs Turner's
presence. But it never rang. Noon became twilight. Miss Cordelia stole
in from the garden with its long, black, green shadows, and strange
eerie sounds of the night wind through the trees, and crept to the
kitchen fire. At last Mrs Turner knocked at Miss Morton's door, and
hearing no reply, went in and found her cold and dead in her chair.

I suppose that some time or other we had told them of the funeral the
old squire had; Miss Phillis's father, I mean. He had had a procession
of tenantry half-a-mile long to follow him to the grave. Miss Dorothy
sent for me to tell her what tenantry of her brother's could follow
Miss Morton's coffin; but what with people working in mills, and land
having passed away from the family, we could but muster up twenty
people, men and women and all; and one or two were dirty enough to be
paid for their loss of time.

Poor Miss Annabella did not wish to go into the room up two steps; nor
yet dared she stay behind; for Miss Dorothy, in a kind of spite for
not having had it bequeathed to her, kept telling Miss Annabella it
was her duty to occupy it; that it was Miss Sophronia's dying wish,
and that she should not wonder if Miss Sophronia were to haunt Miss
Annabella, if she did not leave her warm room, full of ease and sweet
scent, for the grim north-east chamber. We told Mrs Turner we were
afraid Miss Dorothy would lord it sadly over Miss Annabella, and she
only shook her head; which, from so talkative a woman, meant a great
deal. But, just as Miss Cordelia had begun to droop, the general came
home, without any one knowing he was coming. Sharp and sudden was the
word with him. He sent Miss Cordelia off to school; but not before she
had had time to tell us that she loved her uncle dearly, in spite of
his quick, hasty ways. He carried his sisters off to Cheltenham; and
it was astonishing how young they made themselves look before they
came back again. He was always here, there, and everywhere: and very
civil to us into the bargain; leaving the key of the Hall with us
whenever they went from home. Miss Dorothy was afraid of him, which
was a blessing, for it kept her in order, and really I was rather
sorry when she died; and, as for Miss Annabella, she fretted after her
till she injured her health, and Miss Cordelia had to leave school to
come and keep her company. Miss Cordelia was not pretty; she had too
sad and grave a look for that; but she had winning ways, and was to
have her uncle's fortune some day, so I expected to hear of her being
soon snapped up. But the general said her husband was to take the name
of Morton; and what did my young lady do but begin to care for one of
the great mill-owners at Drumble, as if there were not all the lords
and commons to choose from besides? Mrs Turner was dead; and there was
no one to tell us about it; but I could see Miss Cordelia growing
thinner and paler every time they came back to Morton Hall; and I
longed to tell her to pluck up a spirit, and he above a cotton-
spinner. One day, not half a year before the general's death, she came
to see us, and told us, blushing like a rose, that her uncle had given
his consent; and so, although 'he' had refused to take the name of
Morton, and had wanted to marry her without a penny, and without her
uncle's leave, it had all come right at last, and they were to be
married at once; and their house was to be a kind of home for her aunt
Annabella, who was getting tired of being perpetually on the ramble
with the general.

'Dear old friends!' said our young lady, 'you must like him. I am sure
you will; he is so handsome, and brave, and good. Do you know, he says
a relation of his ancestors lived at Morton Hall in the time of the
Commonwealth.'

'His ancestors,' said Ethelinda. 'Has he got ancestors? That's one
good point about him, at any rate. I didn't know cotton-spinners had
ancestors.'

'What is his name?' asked I.

'Mr Marmaduke Carr,' said she, sounding each r with the old
Northumberland burr, which was softened into a pretty pride and effort
to give distinctness to each letter of the beloved name.

'Carr,' said I, 'Carr and Morton! Be it so! It was prophesied of old!'
But she was too much absorbed in the thought of her own secret
happiness to notice my poor sayings.

He was and is a good gentleman; and a real gentleman, too. They never
lived at Morton Hall. Just as I was writing this, Ethelinda came in
with two pieces of news. Never again say I am superstitious! There is
no one living in Morton that knows the tradition of Sir John Morton
and Alice Carr; yet the very first part of the Hall the Drumble
builder has pulled down is the old stone dining-parlour where the
great dinner for the preachers mouldered away--flesh from flesh, crumb
from crumb! And the street they are going to build right through the
rooms through which Alice Carr was dragged in her agony of despair at
her husband's loathing hatred, is to be called Carr Street.

And Miss Cordelia has got a baby; a little girl; and writes in pencil
two lines at the end of her husband's note, to say she means to call
it Phillis.

Phillis Carr! I am glad he did not take the name of Morton. I like to
keep the name of Phillis Morton in my memory very still and unspoken.




THE WELL OF PEN-MORFA



CHAPTER I



Of a hundred travellers who spend a night at Tre-Madoc, in North
Wales, there is not one, perhaps, who goes to the neighbouring village
of Pen-Morfa. The new town, built by Mr Maddocks, Shelley's friend,
has taken away all the importance of the ancient village--formerly, as
its name imports, 'the head of the marsh;' that marsh which Mr
Maddocks drained and dyked, and reclaimed from the Traeth Mawr, till
Pen-Morfa, against the walls of whose cottages the winter tides lashed
in former days, has come to stand, high and dry, three miles from the
sea, on a disused road to Caernarvon. I do not think there has been a
new cottage built in Pen-Morfa this hundred years, and many an old one
has dates in some obscure corner which tell of the fifteenth century.
The joists of timber, where they meet overhead, are blackened with the
smoke of centuries. There is one large room, round which the beds are
built like cupboards, with wooden doors to open and shut, somewhat in
the old Scotch fashion, I imagine; and below the bed (at least in one
instance I can testify that this was the case, and I was told it was
not uncommon) is a great wide wooden drawer, which contained the oat-
cake, baked for some months' consumption by the family. They call the
promontory of Llyn (the point at the end of Caernarvonshire), Welsh
Wales. I think they might call Pen-Morfa a Welsh Welsh village; it is
so national in its ways, and buildings, and inhabitants, and so
different from the towns and hamlets into which the English throng in
summer. How these said inhabitants of Pen-Morfa ever are distinguished
by their names, I, uninitiated, cannot tell. I only know for a fact,
that in a family there with which I am acquainted, the eldest son's
name is John Jones, because his father's was John Thomas; that the
second son is called David Williams, because his grandfather was
William Wynn; and that the girls are called indiscriminately by the
names of Thomas and Jones. I have heard some of the Welsh chuckle over
the way in which they have baffled the barristers at Caernarvon
assizes, denying the name under which they had been subpoenaed to give
evidence, if they were unwilling witnesses. I could tell you of a
great deal which is peculiar and wild in these true Welsh people, who
are what I suppose we English were a century ago; but I must hasten on
to my tale.

I have received great, true, beautiful kindness from one of the
members of the family of whom I just now spoke as living at Pen-Morfa;
and when I found that they wished me to drink tea with them, I gladly
did so, though my friend was the only one in the house who could speak
English at all fluently. After tea, I went with them to see some of
their friends; and it was then I saw the interiors of the houses of
which I have spoken. It was an autumn evening: we left mellow sunset-
light in the open air when we entered the houses, in which all seemed
dark, save in the ruddy sphere of the firelight, for the windows were
very' small, and deep-set in the thick walls. Here were an old couple,
who welcomed me in Welsh; and brought forth milk and oat-cake with
patriarchal hospitality. Sons and daughters had married away from
them; they lived alone; he was blind, or nearly so; and they sat one
on each side of the fire, so old and so still (till we went in and
broke the silence) that they seemed to be listening for death. At
another house lived a woman stern and severe-looking. She was busy
hiving a swarm of bees, alone and unassisted. I do not think my
companion would have chosen to speak to her; but seeing her out in her
hill-side garden, she made some inquiry in Welsh, which was answered
in the most mournful tone I ever heard in my life; a voice of which
the freshness and 'timbre' had been choked up by tears long years ago.
I asked who she was. I dare say the story is common enough; but the
sight of the woman and her few words had impressed me. She had been
the beauty of Pen-Morfa; had been in service; had been taken to London
by the family whom she served; had come down, in a year or so, back to
Pen-Morfa, her beauty gone into that sad, wild, despairing look which
I saw; and she about to become a mother. Her father had died during
her absence, and left her a very little money; and after her child was
born, she took the little cottages where I saw her, and made a scanty
living by the produce of her bees. She associated with no one. One
event had made her savage and distrustful to her kind. She kept so
much aloof that it was some time before it became known that her child
was deformed, and had lost the use of its lower limbs. Poor thing!
When I saw the mother, it had been for fifteen years bedridden. But go
past when you would, in the night, you saw a light burning; it was
often that of the watching mother, solitary and friendless, soothing
the moaning child; or you might hear her crooning some old Welsh air,
in hopes to still the pain with the loud monotonous music. Her sorrow
was so dignified, and her mute endurance and her patient love won her
such respect, that the neighbours would fain have been friends; but
she kept alone and solitary. This a most true story. I hope that woman
and her child are dead now, and their souls above.

Another story which I heard of these old primitive dwellings I mean to
tell at somewhat greater length:--

There are rocks high above Pen-Morfa; they are the same that hang over
Tre-Madoc, but near Pen-Morfa they sweep away, and are lost in the
plain. Everywhere they are beautiful. The great, sharp ledges, which
would otherwise look hard and cold, are adorned with the brightest-
coloured moss, and the golden lichen. Close to, you see the scarlet
leaves of the crane's-bill, and the tufts of purple heather, which
fill up every cleft and cranny; but, in the distance, you see only the
general effect of infinite richness of colour, broken, here and there,
by great masses of ivy. At the foot of these rocks come a rich,
verdant meadow or two; and then you are at Pen-Morfa. The village well
is sharp down under the rocks. There are one or two large sloping
pieces of stone in that last field, on the road leading to the well,
which are always slippery; slippery in the summer's heat, almost as
much as in the frost of winter, when some little glassy stream that
runs over them is turned into a thin sheet of ice. Many, many years
back--a lifetime ago--there lived in Pen-Morfa a widow and her
daughter. Very little is required in those out-of-the-way Welsh
villages. The wants of the people are very simple. Shelter, fire, a
little oat-cake and buttermilk, and garden produce; perhaps some pork
and bacon from the pig in winter; clothing, which is principally of
home manufacture, and of the most enduring kind: these take very
little money to purchase, especially in a district into which the
large capitalists have not yet come, to buy up two or three acres of
the peasants; and nearly every man about Pen-Morfa owned, at the time
of which I speak, his dwelling and some land beside.

Eleanor Gwynn inherited the cottage (by the roadside, on the left hand
as you go from Tre-Madoc to Pen-Morfa) in which she and her husband
had lived all their married life, and a small garden sloping
southwards, in which her bees lingered before winging their way to the
more distant heather. She took rank among her neighbours as the
possessor of a moderate independence--not rich, and not poor. But the
young men of Pen-Morfa thought her very rich in the possession of a
most lovely daughter. Most of us know how very pretty Welsh women are;
but, from all accounts Nest Gwynn (Nest, or Nesta, is the Welsh for
Agnes) was more regularly beautiful than any one for miles round. The
Welsh are still fond of triads, and 'as beautiful as a summer's
morning at sunrise, as a white seagull on the green sea wave, and as
Nest Gwynn,' is yet a saying in that district. Nest knew she was
beautiful, and delighted in it. Her mother sometimes checked her in
her happy pride, and sometimes reminded her that beauty was a great
gift of God (for the Welsh are a very pious people); but when she
began her little homily, Nest came dancing to her, and knelt down
before her, and put her face up to be kissed, and so, with a sweet
interruption, she stopped her mother's lips. Her high spirits made
some few shake their heads, and some called her a flirt and a
coquette; for she could not help trying to please all, both old and
young, both men and women. A very little from Nest sufficed for this;
a sweet, glittering smile, a word of kindness, a merry glance, or a
little sympathy; all these pleased and attracted: she was like the
fairy-gifted child, and dropped inestimable gifts. But some, who had
interpreted her smiles and kind words rather as their wishes led them,
than as they were really warranted, found that the beautiful, beaming
Nest could be decided and saucy enough; and so they revenged
themselves by calling her a flirt. Her mother heard it, and sighed;
but Nest only laughed.

It was her work to fetch water for the day's use from the well I told
you about. Old people say it was the prettiest sight in the world to
see her come stepping lightly and gingerly over the stones with the
pail of water balanced on her head; she was too adroit to need to
steady it with her hand. They say, now that they can afford to be
charitable and speak the truth, that in all her changes to other
people, there never was a better daughter to a widowed mother than
Nest. There is a picturesque old farmhouse under Moel Gwynn, on the
road from Tre-Madoc to Criccaeth, called by some Welsh name which I
now forget; but its meaning in English is 'The End of Time;' a
strange, boding, ominous name. Perhaps, the builder meant his work to
endure till the end of time. I do not know; but there the old house
stands, and will stand for many a year. When Nest was young, it
belonged to one Edward Williams; his mother was dead, and people said
he was on the look-out for a wife. They told Nest so, but she tossed
her head and reddened, and said she thought he might look long before
he got one; so it was not strange that one morning when she went to
the well, one autumn morning when the dew lay heavy on the grass, and
the thrushes were busy among the mountain-ash berries, Edward Williams
happened to be there, on his way to the coursing match near, and
somehow his greyhounds threw her pail of water over in their romping
play, and she was very long in filling it again; and when she came
home she threw her arms round her mother's neck, and, in a passion of
joyous tears, told her that Edward Williams, of 'The End of Time,' had
asked her to marry him, and that she had said 'Yes.'

Eleanor Gwynn shed her tears too; but they fell quietly when she was
alone. She was thankful Nest had found a protector--one suitable in
age and apparent character, and above her in fortune; but she knew she
should miss her sweet daughter in a thousand household ways; miss her
in the evenings by the fireside; miss her when at night she wakened up
with a start from a dream of her youth, and saw her fair face lying
calm in the moonlight, pillowed by her side. Then she forgot her
dream, and blessed her child, and slept again. But who could be so
selfish as to be sad when Nest was so supremely happy; she danced and
sang more than ever; and then sat silent, and smiled to herself: if
spoken to, she started and came back to the present with a scarlet
blush, which told what she had been thinking of.

That was a sunny, happy, enchanted autumn. But the winter was nigh at
hand; and with it came sorrow. One fine frosty morning, Nest went out
with her lover--she to the well, he to some farming business, which
was to be transacted at the little inn of Pen-Morfa. He was late for
his appointment; so he left her at the entrance of the village, and
hastened to the inn; and she, in her best cloak and new hat (put on
against her mother's advice; but they were a recent purchase, and very
becoming), went through the Dol Mawr, radiant with love and happiness.
One who lived until lately, met her going down towards the well that
morning, and said 'he turned round to look' after her--she seemed
unusually lovely. He wondered at the time at her wearing her Sunday
clothes; for the pretty, hooded blue-cloth cloak is kept among the
Welsh women as a church and market garment, and not commonly used,
even on the coldest days of winter, for such household errands as
fetching water from the well. However, as he said, 'It was not
possible to look in her face, and "fault" anything she wore.' Down the
sloping stones the girl went blithely with her pail. She filled it at
the well; and then she took off her hat, tied the strings together,
and slung it over her arm. She lifted the heavy pail and balanced it
on her head. But, alas! in going up the smooth, slippery, treacherous
rock, the encumbrance of her cloak--it might be such a trifle as her
slung hat--something, at any rate, took away her evenness of poise;
the freshet had frozen on the slanting stone, and was one coat of ice;
poor Nest fell, and put out her hip. No more flushing rosy colour on
that sweet face; no more look of beaming innocent happiness; instead,
there was deadly pallor, and filmy eyes, over which dark shades seemed
to chase each other as the shoots of agony grew more and more intense.
She screamed once or twice; but the exertion (involuntary, and forced
out of her by excessive pain) overcame her, and she fainted. A child,
coming an hour or two afterwards, on the same errand, saw her lying
there, ice-glued to the stone, and thought she was dead. It flew
crying back.

'Nest Gwynn is dead! Nest Gwynn is dead!' and, crazy with fear, it did
not stop until it had hid its head in its mother's lap. The village
was alarmed, and all who were able went in haste towards the well.
Poor Nest had often thought she was dying in that dreary hour; had
taken fainting for death, and struggled against it; and prayed that
God would keep her alive till she could see her lover's face once
more; and when she did see it, white with terror, bending over her,
she gave a feeble smile, and let herself faint away into
unconsciousness.

Many a month she lay on her bed unable to move. Sometimes she was
delirious, sometimes worn-out into the deepest depression. Through
all, her mother watched her with tenderest care. The neighbours would
come and offer help. They would bring presents of country dainties;
and I do not suppose that there was a better dinner than ordinary
cooked in any household in Pen-Morfa parish, but a portion of it was
sent to Eleanor Gwynn, if not for her sick daughter, to try and tempt
her herself to eat and' be strengthened; for to no one would she
delegate the duty of watching over her child. Edward Williams was for
a long time most assiduous in his inquiries and attentions; but by-
and-by (ah! you see the dark fate of poor Nest now), he slackened, so
little at first that Eleanor blamed herself for her jealousy on her
daughter's behalf, and chid her suspicious heart. But as spring
ripened into summer, and Nest was still bedridden, Edward's coolness
was visible to more than the poor mother. The neighbours would have
spoken to her about it, but she shrunk from the subject as if they
were probing a wound. 'At any rate,' thought she, 'Nest shall be
strong before she is told about it. I will tell lies--I shall be
forgiven--but I must save my child; and when she is stronger, perhaps
I may be able to comfort her. Oh! I wish she would not speak to him so
tenderly and trustfully, when she is delirious. I could curse him when
she does.' And then Nest would call for her mother, and Eleanor would
go and invent some strange story about the summonses Edward had had to
Caernarvon assizes, or to Harlech cattle market. But at last she was
driven to her wits' end; it was three weeks since he had even stopped
at the door to inquire, and Eleanor, mad with anxiety about her child,
who was silently pining off to death for want of tidings of her lover,
put on her cloak, when she had lulled her daughter to sleep one fine
June evening, and set off to 'The End of Time.' The great plain which
stretches out like an amphitheatre, in the half-circle of hills formed
by the ranges of Moel Gwynn and the Tre-Madoc Rocks, was all golden-
green in the mellow light of sunset. To Eleanor it might have been
black with winter frost--she never noticed outward things till she
reached 'The End of Time;' and there, in the little farm-yard, she was
brought to a sense of her present hour and errand by seeing Edward. He
was examining some hay, newly stacked; the air was scented by its
fragrance, and by the lingering sweetness of the breath of the cows.
When Edward turned round at the footstep and saw Eleanor, he coloured
and looked confused; however, he came forward to meet her in a cordial
manner enough.

'It's a fine evening,' said he. 'How is Nest? But, indeed, your being
here is a sign she is better. Won't you come in and sit down?' He
spoke hurriedly, as if affecting a welcome which he did not feel.

'Thank you. I'll just take this milking-stool and sit down here. The
open air is like balm, after being shut up so long.'

'It is a long time,' he replied, 'more than five months.'

Mrs Gwynn was trembling at heart. She felt an anger which she did not
wish to show; for, if by any manifestations of temper or resentment
she lessened or broke the waning thread of attachment which bound him
to her daughter, she felt she should never forgive herself. She kept
inwardly saying, 'Patience, patience! he may be true, and love her
yet;' but her indignant convictions gave her words the lie.

'It's a long time, Edward Williams, since you've been near us to ask
after Nest,' said she. 'She may be better, or she may be worse, for
aught you know.' She looked up at him reproachfully, but spoke in a
gentle, quiet tone.

'I--you see the hay has been a long piece of work. The weather has
been fractious--and a master's eye is needed. Besides,' said he, as if
he had found the reason for which he sought to account for his
absence, 'I have heard of her from Rowland Jones. I was at the surgery
for some horse-medicine--he told me about her:' and a shade came over
his face, as he remembered what the doctor had said. Did he think that
shade would escape the mother's eye?

'You saw Rowland Jones! Oh, man-alive, tell me what he said of my
girl! He'll say nothing to me, but just hems and haws the more I pray
him. But you will tell me. You must tell me.' She stood up and spoke
in a tone of command, which his feeling of independence, weakened just
then by an accusing conscience, did not enable him to resist. He
strove to evade the question, however.

'It was an unlucky day that ever she went to the well!'

'Tell me what the doctor said of my child,' repeated Mrs Gwynn. 'Will
she live, or will she die?' He did not dare to disobey the imperious
tone in which this question was put.

'Oh, she will live, don't be afraid. The doctor said she would live.'
He did not mean to lay any peculiar emphasis on the word 'live,' but
somehow he did, and she, whose every nerve vibrated with anxiety,
caught the word.

'She will live!' repeated she. 'But there is something behind. Tell
me, for I will know. If you won't say, I'll go to Rowland Jones to-
night, and make him tell me what he has said to you.'

There had passed something in this conversation between himself and
the doctor, which Edward did not wish to have known; and Mrs Gwynn's
threat had the desired effect. But he looked vexed and irritated.

'You have such impatient ways with you, Mrs Gwynn,' he remonstrated.

'I am a mother asking news of my sick child,' said she. 'Go on. What
did he say? She'll live--' as if giving the clue.

'She'll live, he has no doubt of that. But he thinks--now don't clench
your hands so--I can't tell you if you look in that way; you are
enough to frighten a man.'

'I'm not speaking,' said she, in a low, husky tone. 'Never mind my
looks: she'll live--'

'But she'll be a cripple for life. There! you would have it out,' said
he, sulkily.

'A cripple for life,' repeated she, slowly. 'And I'm one-and-twenty
years older than she is!' She sighed heavily.

'And, as we're about it, I'll just tell you what is in my mind,' said
he, hurried and confused. 'I've a deal of cattle; and the farm makes
heavy work, as much as an able healthy woman can do. So you see--' He
stopped, wishing her to understand his meaning without words. But she
would not. She fixed her dark eyes on him, as if reading his soul,
till he flinched under her gaze.

'Well,' said she, at length, 'say on. Remember, I've a deal of work in
me yet, and what strength is mine is my daughter's.'

'You're very good. But, altogether, you must be aware, Nest will never
be the same as she was.'

'And you've not yet sworn in the face of God to take, her for better,
for worse; and, as she is worse'--she looked in his face, caught her
breath, and went on--'as she is worse, why, you cast her off, not
being church-tied to her. Though her body may be crippled, her poor
heart is the same--alas!--and full of love for you. Edward, you don't
mean to break it off because of our sorrows. You're only trying me, I
know,' said she, as if begging him to assure her that her fears were
false. 'But, you see, I'm a foolish woman--a poor, foolish woman--and
ready to take fright at a few words.' She smiled up in his face; but
it was a forced, doubting smile, and his face still retained its
sullen, dogged aspect.

'Nay, Mrs Gwynn,' said he, 'you spoke truth at first. Your own good
sense told you Nest would never be fit to be any man's wife--unless,
indeed, she could catch Mr Griffiths of Tynwntyrybwlch; he might keep
her a carriage, maybe.' Edward really did not mean to be unfeeling;
but he was obtuse, and wished to carry off his 'embarrassment by a
kind of friendly joke, which he had no idea would sting the poor
mother as it did. He was startled at her manner.

'Put it in words like a man. Whatever you mean by my child, say it for
yourself, and don't speak as if my good sense had told me anything. I
stand here, doubting my own thoughts, cursing my own fears. Don't be a
coward. I ask you whether you and Nest are troth-plight?'

'I am not a coward. Since you ask me, I answer, Nest and I were troth-
plight; but we are not. I cannot--no one would expect me to wed a
cripple. It's your own doing I've told you now; I had made up my mind,
but I should have waited a bit before telling you.'

'Very well,' said she, and she turned to go away; but her wrath burst
the flood-gates, and swept away discretion and forethought. She moved,
and stood in the gateway. Her lips parted, but no sound came; with an
hysterical motion, she threw her arms suddenly up to heaven, as if
bringing down lightning towards the grey old house to which she
pointed as they fell, and then she spoke--

'The widow's child is unfriended. As surely as the Saviour brought the
son of a widow from death to life, for her tears and cries, so surely
will God and His angels watch over my Nest, and avenge her cruel
wrongs.' She turned away weeping, and wringing her hands.

Edward went in-doors; he had no more desire to reckon his stores; he
sat by the fire, looking gloomily at the red ashes. He might have been
there half an hour or more, when some one knocked at the door. He
would not speak. He wanted no one's company. Another knock, sharp and
loud. He did not speak. Then the visitor opened the door, and, to his
surprise--almost to his affright--Eleanor Gwynn came in.

'I knew you were here. I knew you could not go out into the clear,
holy night as if nothing had happened. Oh! did I curse you? If I did,
I beg you to forgive me; and I will try and ask the Almighty to bless
you, if you will but have a little mercy--a very little. It will kill
my Nest if she knows the truth now--she is so very weak. Why, she
cannot feed herself, she is so low and feeble. You would not wish to
kill her, I think, Edward!' She looked at him, as if expecting an
answer; but he did not speak. She went down on her knees on the flags
by him.

'You will give me a little time, Edward, to get her strong, won't you,
now? I ask it on my bended knees! Perhaps, if I promise never to curse
you again, you will come sometimes to see her, till she is well enough
to know how all is over, and her heart's hopes crushed. Only say
you'll come for a month or so, as if you still loved her--the poor
cripple, forlorn of the world. I'll get her strong, and not tax you
long.' Her tears fell too fast for her to go on.

'Get up, Mrs Gwynn,' Edward said. 'Don't kneel to me. I have no
objection to come and see Nest, now and then, so that all is clear
between you and me. Poor thing! I'm sorry, as it happens, she's so
taken up with the thought of me.'

'It was likely, was not it? and you to have been her husband before
this time, if--oh, miserable me! to let my child go and dim her bright
life! But you'll forgive me, and come sometimes, just for a little
quarter of an hour, once or twice a week. Perhaps she'll be asleep
sometimes when you call, and then, you know, you need not come in. If
she were not so ill, I'd never ask you.'

So low and humble was the poor widow brought, through her exceeding
love for her daughter.



CHAPTER II



Nest revived during the warm summer weather. Edward came to see her,
and stayed the allotted quarter of an hour; but he dared not look her
in the face. She was, indeed, a cripple: one leg was much shorter than
the other, and she halted on a crutch. Her face, formerly so brilliant
in colour, was wan and pale with suffering; the bright roses were
gone, never to return. Her large eyes were sunk deep down in their
hollow, cavernous sockets; but the light was in them still, when
Edward came. Her mother dreaded her returning strength--dreaded, yet
desired it; for the heavy burden of her secret was most oppressive at
times, and she thought Edward was beginning to weary of his enforced
attentions. One October evening she told her the truth. She even
compelled her rebellious heart to take the cold, reasoning side of the
question; and she told her child that her disabled frame was a
disqualification for ever becoming a farmer's wife. She spoke hardly,
because her inner agony and sympathy was such, she dared not trust
herself to express the feelings that were rending her. But Nest turned
away from cold reason; she revolted from her mother; she revolted from
the world. She bound her sorrow tight up in her breast, to corrode and
fester there.

Night after night, her mother heard her cries and moans--more pitiful,
by far, than those wrung from her by bodily pain a year before; and
night after night, if her mother spoke to soothe, she proudly denied
the existence of any pain but what was physical, and consequent upon
her accident.

'If she would but open her sore heart to me--to me, her mother,'
Eleanor wailed forth in prayer to God, 'I would be content. Once it
was enough to have my Nest all my own. Then came love, and I knew it
would never be as before; and then I thought the grief I felt, when
Edward spoke to me, was as sharp a sorrow as could be; but this
present grief, O Lord, my God, is worst of all; and Thou only, Thou,
canst help!'

When Nest grew as strong as she was ever likely to be on earth, she
was anxious to have as much labour as she could bear. She would not
allow her mother to spare her anything. Hard work--bodily fatigue--she
seemed to crave. She was glad when she was stunned by exhaustion into
a dull insensibility of feeling. She was almost fierce when her
mother, in those first months of convalescence, performed the
household tasks which had formerly been hers; but she shrank from
going out of doors. Her mother thought that she was unwilling to
expose her changed appearance to the neighbours' remarks, but Nest was
not afraid of that; she was afraid of their pity, as being one
deserted and cast off. If Eleanor gave way before her daughter's
imperiousness, and sat by while Nest 'tore' about her work with the
vehemence of a bitter heart, Eleanor could have cried, but she durst
not; tears, or any mark of commiseration, irritated the crippled girl
so much, she even drew away from caresses. Everything was to go on as
it had been before she had known Edward; and so it did, outwardly; but
they trod carefully, as if the ground on which they moved was hollow--
deceptive. There was no more careless ease, every word was guarded,
and every action planned. It was a dreary life to both. Once, Eleanor
brought in a little baby, a neighbour's child, to try and tempt Nest
out of herself, by her old love of children. Nest's pale face flushed
as she saw the innocent child in her mother's arms; and, for a moment,
she made as if she would have taken it; but then she turned away, and
hid her face behind her apron, and murmured, 'I shall never have a
child to lie in my breast, and call me mother!' In a minute she arose,
with compressed and tightened lips, and went about her household work,
without her noticing the cooing baby again, till Mrs Gwynn, heart-sick
at the failure of her little plan, took it back to its parents.

One day the news ran through Pen-Morfa that Edward Williams was about
to be married. Eleanor had long expected this intelligence. It came
upon her like no new thing, but it was the filling-up of her cup of
woe. She could not tell Nest. She sat listlessly in the house, and
dreaded that each neighbour who came in would speak about the village
news. At last some one did. Nest looked round from her employment, and
talked of the event with a kind of cheerful curiosity as to the
particulars, which made her informant go away, and tell others that
Nest had quite left off caring for Edward Williams. But when the door
was shut, and Eleanor and she were left alone, Nest came and stood
before her weeping mother like a stern accuser.

'Mother, why did not you let me die? Why did you keep me alive for
this?' Eleanor could not speak, but she put her arms out towards her
girl. Nest turned away, and Eleanor cried aloud in her soreness of
spirit. Nest came again.

'Mother, I was wrong. You did your best. I don't know how it is I am
so hard and cold. I wish I had died when I was a girl, and had a
feeling heart.'

'Don't speak so, my child. God has afflicted you sore, and your
hardness of heart is but for a time. Wait a little. Don't reproach
yourself, my poor Nest. I understand your ways. I don't mind them,
love. The feeling heart will come back to you in time. Anyways, don't
think you're grieving me; because, love, that may sting you when I'm
gone; and I'm not grieved, my darling. Most times, we're very
cheerful, I think.'

After this, mother and child were drawn more together. But Eleanor had
received her death from, these sorrowful, hurrying events. She did not
conceal the truth from herself, nor did she pray to live, as some
months ago she had done, for her child's sake; she had found out that
she had no power to console the poor wounded heart. It seemed to her
as if her prayers had been of no avail; and then she blamed herself
for this thought.

There are many Methodist preachers in this part of Wales. There was a
certain old man, named David Hughes, who was held in peculiar
reverence because he had known the great John Wesley. He had been
captain of a Caernarvon slate-vessel; he had traded in the
Mediterranean, and had seen strange sights. In those early days (to
use his own expression) he had lived without God in the world; but he
went to mock John Wesley, and was converted by the white-haired
patriarch, and remained to pray. Afterwards he became one of the
earnest, self-denying, much-abused band of itinerant preachers who
went forth under Wesley's direction, to spread abroad a more earnest
and practical spirit of religion. His rambles and travels were of use
to him. They extended his knowledge of the circumstances in which men
are sometimes placed, and enlarged his sympathy with the tried and
tempted. His sympathy, combined with the thoughtful experience of
fourscore years, made him cognizant of many of the strange secrets of
humanity; and when younger preachers upbraided the hard hearts they
met with, and despaired of the sinners, he 'suffered long, and was
kind.'

When Eleanor Gwynn lay low on her death-bed, David Hughes came to Pen-
Morfa. He knew her history, and sought her out. To him she imparted
the feelings I have described.

'I have lost my faith, David. The tempter has come, and I have
yielded. I doubt if my prayers have been heard. Day and night have I
prayed that I might comfort my child in her great sorrow; but God has
not heard me. She has turned away from me, and refused my poor love. I
wish to die now; but I have lost my faith, and have no more pleasure
in the thought of going to God. What must I do, David?'

She hung upon his answer; and it was long in coming.

'I am weary of earth,' said she, mournfully, 'and can I find rest in
death even, leaving my child desolate and broken-hearted?'

'Eleanor,' said David, 'where you go, all things will be made clear;
and you will learn to thank God for the end of what now seems grievous
and heavy to be borne. Do you think your agony has been greater than
the awful agony in the Garden--or your prayers more earnest than that
which He prayed in that hour when the great drops of blood ran down
his face like sweat? We know that God heard Him, although no answer
came to Him through the dread silence of that night. God's times are
not our times. I have lived eighty and one years, and never yet have I
known an earnest prayer fall to the ground unheeded. In an unknown
way, and when no one looked for it, maybe, the answer came; a fuller,
more satisfying answer than heart could conceive of, although it might
be different to what was expected. Sister, you are going where in His
light you will see light; you will learn there that in very
faithfulness he has afflicted you!'

'Go on--you strengthen me,' said she.

After David Hughes left that day, Eleanor was calm as one already
dead, and past mortal strife. Nest was awed by the change. No more
passionate weeping--no more sorrow in the voice; though it was low and
weak, it sounded with a sweet composure. Her last look was a smile;
her last word a blessing.

Nest, tearless, streaked the poor worn body. She laid a plate with
salt upon it on the breast, and lighted candles for the head and feet.
It was an old Welsh custom; but when David Hughes came in, the sight
carried him back to the time when he had seen the chapels in some old
Catholic cathedral. Nest sat gazing on the dead with dry, hot eyes.

'She is dead,' said David, solemnly; 'she died in Christ. Let us bless
God, my child. He giveth and He taketh away.'

'She is dead,' said Nest, 'my mother is dead. No one loves me now.

She spoke as if she were thinking aloud, for she did not look at
David, or ask him to be seated.

'No one loves you now? No human creature, you mean. You are not yet
fit to be spoken to concerning God's infinite love. I, like you, will
speak of love for human creatures. I tell you if no one loves you, it
is time for you to begin to love.' He spoke almost severely (if David
Hughes ever did); for, to tell the truth, he was repelled by her hard
rejection of her mother's tenderness, about which the neighbours had
told him.

'Begin to love!' said she, her eyes flashing. 'Have I not loved? Old
man, you are dim, and worn-out. You do not remember what love is.' She
spoke with a scornful kind of pitying endurance. 'I will tell you how
I have loved by telling you the change it has wrought in me. I was
once the beautiful Nest Gwynn; I am now a cripple, a poor, wan-faced
cripple, old before my time. That is a change, at least people think
so.' She paused and then spoke lower. 'I tell you, David Hughes, that
outward change is as nothing compared to the change in my nature
caused by the love I have felt--and have had rejected. I was gentle
once, and if you spoke a tender word, my heart came towards you as
natural as a little child goes to its mammy. I never spoke roughly,
even to the dumb creatures, for I had a kind feeling for all. Of late
(since I loved, old man), I have been cruel in my thoughts to every
one. I have turned away from tenderness with bitter indifference.
Listen!' she spoke in a hoarse whisper. 'I will own it. I have spoken
hardly to her,' pointing towards the corpse,--'her who was ever
patient, and full of love for me. She did not know,' she muttered,
'she is gone to the grave without knowing how I loved her--I had such
strange, mad, stubborn pride in me.'

'Come back, mother! Come back,' said she, crying wildly to the still,
solemn corpse; 'come back as a spirit or a ghost--only come back, that
I may tell you how I have loved you.'

But the dead never come back.

The passionate adjuration ended in tears--the first she had shed. When
they ceased, or were absorbed into long quivering sobs, David knelt
down. Nest did not kneel, but bowed her head. He prayed, while his own
tears fell fast. He rose up. They were both calm.

'Nest,' said he, 'your love has been the love of youth--passionate,
wild, natural to youth. Henceforward, you must love like Christ,
without thought of self, or wish for return. You must take the sick
and the weary to your heart, and love them. That love will lift you up
above the storms of the world into God's own peace. The very vehemence
of your nature proves that you are capable of this. I do not pity you.
You do not require pity. You are powerful enough to trample down your
own sorrows into a blessing for others; and to others you will be a
blessing. I see it before you, I see in it the answer to your mother's
prayer.'

The old man's dim eyes glittered as if they saw a vision; the fire-
light sprang up, and glinted on his long white hair. Nest was awed as
if she saw a prophet, and a prophet he was to her.

When next David Hughes came to Pen-Morfa, he asked about Nest Gwynn,
with a hovering doubt as to the answer. The inn-folk told him she was
living still in the cottage, which was now her own.

'But would you believe it, David,' said Mrs Thomas, 'she has gone and
taken Mary Williams to live with her? You remember Mary Williams, I'm
sure.'

No! David Hughes remembered no Mary Williams at Pen-Morfa.

'You must have seen her, for I know you've called at John Griffiths',
where the parish boarded her?'

'You don't mean the half-witted woman--the poor crazy creature?'

'But I do!' said Mrs Thomas.

'I have seen her sure enough, but I never thought of learning her
name. And Nest Gwynn has taken her to live with her.'

'Yes! I thought I should surprise you. She might have had many a
decent girl for companion. My own niece, her that is an orphan, would
have gone, and been thankful. Besides, Mary Williams is a regular
savage at times: John Griffiths says there were days when he used to
beat her till she howled again, and yet she would not do as he told
her. Nay, once, he says, if he had not seen her eyes glare like a wild
beast, from under the shadow of the table where she had taken shelter,
and got pretty quickly out of her way, she would have flown upon him,
and throttled him. He gave Nest fair warning of what she must expect,
and he thinks some day she will be found murdered.'

David Hughes thought a while. 'How came Nest to take her to live with
her?' asked he.

'Well! Folk say John Griffiths did not give her enough to eat. Half-
wits, they tell me, take more to feed them than others, and Eleanor
Gwynn had given her oat-cake, and porridge a time or two, and most
likely spoken kindly to her (you know Eleanor spoke kind to all), so
some months ago, when John Griffiths had been beating her, and keeping
her without food to try and tame her, she ran away, and came to Nest's
cottage in the dead of night, all shivering and starved, for she did
not know Eleanor was dead, and thought to meet with kindness from her,
I've no doubt; and Nest remembered how her mother used to feed and
comfort the poor idiot, and made her some gruel, and wrapped her up by
the fire. And, in the morning, when John Griffiths came in search of
Mary, he found her with Nest, and Mary wailed so piteously at the
sight of him, that Nest went to the parish officers, and offered to
take her to board with her for the same money they gave to him. John
says he was right glad to be off his bargain.'

David Hughes knew there was a kind of remorse which sought relief in
the performance of the most difficult and repugnant tasks. He thought
he could understand how, in her bitter repentance for her conduct
towards her mother, Nest had taken in the first helpless creature that
came seeking shelter in her name. It was not what he would have
chosen, but he knew it was God that had sent the poor wandering idiot
there.

He went to see Nest the next morning. As he drew near the cottage--it
was summer time, and the doors and windows were all open--he heard an
angry passionate kind of sound that was scarcely human. That sound
prevented his approach from being heard; and, standing at the
threshold, he saw poor Mary Williams pacing backwards and forwards in
some wild mood. Nest, cripple as she was, was walking with her,
speaking low soothing words, till the pace was slackened, and time and
breathing was given to put her arm around the crazy woman's neck, and
soothe her by this tender caress into the quiet luxury of tears--tears
which give the hot brain relief. Then David Hughes came in. His first
words, as he took off his hat, standing on the lintel, were--'The
peace of God be upon this house.' Neither he nor Nest recurred to the
past, though solemn recollections filled their minds. Before he went,
all three knelt and prayed; for, as Nest told him, some mysterious
influence of peace came over the poor half-wit's mind, when she heard
the holy words of prayer; and often when she felt a paroxysm coming
on, she would kneel and repeat a homily rapidly over, as if it were a
charm to scare away the Demon in possession; sometimes, indeed, the
control over herself requisite for this effort was enough to dispel
the fluttering burst. When David rose up to go, he drew Nest to the
door.

'You are not afraid, my child?' asked he.

'No,' she replied. 'She is often very good and quiet. When she is not,
I can bear it.'

'I shall see your face on earth no more,' said he. 'God bless you!' He
went on his way. Not many weeks after, David Hughes was borne to his
grave.

The doors of Nest's heart were opened--opened wide by the love she
grew to feel for crazy Mary, so helpless, so friendless, so dependent
upon her. Mary loved her back again, as a dumb animal loves its blind
master. It was happiness enough to be near her. In general, she was
only too glad to do what she was bidden by Nest. But there were times
when Mary was overpowered by the glooms and fancies of her poor
disordered brain. Fearful times! No one knew how fearful. On those
days, Nest warned the little children who loved to come and play
around her, that they must not visit the house. The signal was a piece
of white linen hung out of a side window. On those days, the sorrowful
and sick waited in vain for the sound of Nest's lame approach. But
what she had to endure was only known to God, for she never
complained. If she had given up the charge of Mary, or if the
neighbours had risen, out of love and care for her life, to compel
such a step, she knew what hard curses and blows, what starvation and
misery, would await the poor creature.

She told of Mary's docility, and her affection, and her innocent,
little sayings; but she never told the details of the occasional days
of wild disorder, and driving insanity.

Nest grew old before her time, in consequence of her accident. She
knew that she was as old at fifty as many are at seventy. She knew it
partly by the vividness with which the remembrance of the days of her
youth came back to her mind, while the events of yesterday were dim
and forgotten. She dreamt of her girlhood and youth. In sleep, she was
once more the beautiful Nest Gwynn, the admired of all beholders, the
light-hearted girl, beloved by her mother. Little circumstances
connected with those early days, forgotten since the very time when
they occurred, came back to her mind, in her waking hours. She had a
scar on the palm of her left hand, occasioned by the fall of a branch
of a tree, when she was a child. It had not pained her since the first
two days after the accident; but now it began to hurt her slightly;
and clear in her ears was the crackling sound of the treacherous,
rending wood; distinct before her rose the presence of her mother,
tenderly binding up the wound. With these remembrances came a longing
desire to see the beautiful, fatal well once more before her death.
She had never gone so far since the day when, by her fall there, she
lost love and hope, and her bright glad youth. She yearned to look
upon its waters once again. This desire waxed as her life waned. She
told it to poor crazy Mary.

'Mary!' said she, 'I want to go to the Rock Well. If you will help me,
I can manage it. There used to be many a stone in the Dol Mawr on
which I could sit and rest. We will go to-morrow morning before folks
are astir.'

Mary answered briskly, 'Up, up! To the Rock Well. Mary will go. Mary
will go.' All day long she kept muttering to herself, 'Mary will go.'

Nest had the happiest dream that night. Her mother stood beside her--
not in the flesh, but in the bright glory of a blessed spirit. And
Nest was no longer young--neither was she old--'they reckon not by
days, nor years, where she was gone to dwell;' and her mother
stretched out her arms to her with a calm, glad look of welcome. She
awoke; the woodlark was singing in the near copse--the little birds
were astir, and rustling in their leafy nests. Nest arose, and called
Mary. The two set out through the quiet lane. They went along slowly
and silently. With many a pause they crossed the broad Dol Mawr, and
carefully descended the sloping stones, on which no trace remained of
the hundreds of feet that had passed over them since Nest was last
there. The clear water sparkled and quivered in the early sunlight,
the shadows of the birch-leaves were stirred on the ground; the
ferns--Nest could have believed that they were the very same ferns
which she had seen thirty years before--hung wet and dripping where
the water overflowed--a thrush chanted matins from a hollybush near--
and the running stream made a low, soft, sweet accompaniment. All was
the same. Nature was as fresh and young as ever. It might have been
yesterday that Edward Williams had overtaken her, and told her his
love--the thought of his words--his handsome looks--(he was a gray,
hard-featured man by this time), and then she recalled the fatal
wintry morning when joy and youth had fled; and as she remembered that
faintness of pain, a new, a real faintness--no echo of the memory--
came over her. She leant her back against a rock, without a moan or
sigh, and died! She found immortality by the well-side, instead of her
fragile, perishing youth. She was so calm and placid that Mary (who
had been dipping her fingers in the well, to see the waters drop off
in the gleaming sunlight), thought she was asleep, and for some time
continued her amusement in silence. At last, she turned, and said,--

'Mary is tired. Mary wants to go home.' Nest did not speak, though the
idiot repeated her plaintive words. She stood and looked till a
strange terror came over her--a terror too mysterious to be borne.

'Mistress, wake! Mistress, wake!' she said, wildly, shaking the form.

But Nest did not awake. And the first person who came to the well that
morning found crazy Mary sitting, awestruck, by the poor dead Nest.
They had to get the poor creature away by force, before they could
remove the body.

Mary is in Tre-Madoc workhouse. They treat her pretty kindly, and, in
general, she is good and tractable. Occasionally, the old paroxysms
come on; and, for a time, she is unmanageable. But some one thought of
speaking to her about Nest. She stood arrested at the name; and, since
then, it is astonishing to see what efforts she makes to curb her
insanity; and when the dread time is past, she creeps up to the
matron, and says, 'Mary has tried to be good. Will God let her go to
Nest now?'




THE SHAH'S ENGLISH GARDENER

The facts of the following narration were communicated to me by Mr.
Burton, the head gardener at Teddesley Park, in Staffordshire. I had
previously been told that he had been for a year or two in the service
of the Shah of Persia; and this induced me to question him concerning
the motives which took him so far from England, and the kind of life
which he led at Teheran. I was so much interested in the details he
gave me, that I made notes at the time, which have enabled me to draw
up the following account:---

Mr. Burton is a fine-looking, healthy man, in the prime of life, whose
appearance would announce his nation all the world over. He had
completed his education as a gardener at Knight's, when, in 1848, an
application was made to him, on behalf of the Shah of Persia, by
Colonel Sheil, the English envoy at the court of Teheran; who proposed
to Mr. Burton that he should return to Persia with the second Persian
secretary to the embassy, Mirza Oosan Koola, and take charge of the
Royal Gardens at Teheran, at a salary of a hundred pounds a year, with
rooms provided for him, and an allowance of two shillings a day for
the food of himself and the native servant whom he would find it
necessary to employ. This prospect, and the desire, which is so
natural to young men, to see countries beyond their own, led Mr.
Burton to accept the proposal. The Mirza Oosan Koola and he left
Southampton on the twenty-ninth of September, 1848, and went by steam
to Constantinople. Thence they journeyed without accident to the
capital of Persia. The seat of government was removed to Teheran about
seventy years ago, when the Kujur dynasty became possessed of the
Persian throne. Their faction was predominant in the North of Persia,
and they, consequently, felt more secure in Teheran than in the
ancient southern capital Teheran is situated in the midst of a wide
plain, from two to three hundred miles long, which has a most dreary
appearance, being totally uncultivated, and the soil of which is a
light kind of reddish loam, that becomes pulverised after a long
continuance of dry weather, and then rises as great clouds of sand,
sometimes even obscuring the sun several hours in a day for several
successive clays.

Bad news awaited Mr. Burton on his arrival at Teheran. The Shah, who
had commissioned Colonel Sheil to engage an English gardener, was
dead. His successor cared little either about gardening or his
predecessor's engagements. Colonel Sheil was in England. Mr. Burton's
heart sank a little within him; but, having a stout English spirit,
and great faith in the British embassy, he insisted on a partial
fulfilment of the contract. Until this negotiation was completed, Mr.
Burton was lodged in the house of Mirza Ocean Koola. Mr. Burton was,
therefore, for a month, a member of a Persian household belonging to
one of the upper middle classes.

The usual mode of living in one house seemed pretty nearly the same in
all that fell under the range of Mr. Burton's observation. The
Persians get up at sunrise, when they have a cup of coffee. The few
hours in the day in which they condescend to labour in any way, are
from sunrise until seven or eight o'clock in the morning. After that,
the heat becomes so intense (frequently one hundred and eight or one
hundred and nine degrees in the shade) that all keep within doors,
lying about on mats in passages or rooms. At ten they have their first
substantial meal; which consists of mutton and rice, stewed together
in a rude saucepan over a charcoal fire, built out of doors.
Sometimes, in addition to this dish, they have a kind of soup, or
"water-meat" (which is the literal translation of the Persian name),
made of water, mutton, onions, parsley, fowls, rice, dried fruits,
apricots, almonds, and walnuts, stewed together. But this, as we may
guess from the multiplicity of the ingredients, is a dainty dish. At
four o'clock, the panting Persians, nearly worn out by the heat of the
day, take a cup of strongly perfumed tea, with a little bitter-orange
juice squeezed into it; and after this tonic they recover strength
enough to smoke and lounge. Dinner was the grand meal of the clay, to
which they invited friends. It wan not unlike breakfast, but was
preceded by a dessert, at which wine was occasionally introduced, but
which always consisted of melons and dried fruits. The dinner was
brought in on a pewter tray; but Mr. Burton remarked that the pewter
dishes were very dingy. A piece of common print was spread on the
ground, and cakes of bread put on it. They had no spoons for the soup,
or "water-meat," but soaked their bread in it, or curled it round into
a hollow shape, and fished up what they could out of the abyss. At the
Mirza's they had spoons for the sour goat's-milk, with ice, which
seemed to be one of their delicacies. The ice is brought down from the
mountains, and sold pretty cheaply in the bazaars. Sugar and salt are
eaten together with this iced sour goat's-milk. Smoking narghilahs
beguiles the evening hours very pleasantly. They pluck a quantity of
rose-blossoms and put them into the water through which the smoke
passes; but the roses last in season only a month. Mirza Ocean Koola
had a few chairs in the house for the use of the gentlemen of the
Embassy.

At last the negotiation respecting Mr. Burton's engagement was ended.
His friends at the Embassy bad insisted that the present Shah should
install him in the office of royal gardener at the salary proposed by
his predecessor. Accordingly, about a month after his arrival at
Teheran, he took possession of two rooms, appropriated to his use, in
the garden of El Kanai. This garden consisted of six acres, with a
mud-wall all around. There were avenues of fruit-trees planted, with
lucerne growing under them, which was cut for the food of the horses
in the royal stable; but the lucerne and the trees gave this royal
garden very much the aspect of an English orchard, and must have been
a very disenchanting prospect for a well-trained gardener, accustomed
to our flower-beds, and vegetable-gardens. The fruit trees were
apricots, apples, pears, and cherries--the latter of the same
description as ours, but finer in quality; the apricots were of a kind
which Mr. Burton had never seen before, with large sweet kernels. He
brought some of the stones with him to England, and gave them to his
old master, Mr. Knight. If this square plot of orchard-ground,
surrounded by a mud-wall, was the cheerless prospect outside, the two
rooms which Mr. Burton was to inhabit were not much more attractive.
Bare of all furniture, with floors of mud and chaff beaten together,
they did not even contain the mats which play so many parts in Persian
houses. Mr. Burton's first care was to purchase mats, and hire a
servant to market and cook for him. The people at the Embassy sent him
the various bales of seeds, roots, and implements, which he had
brought with him from England; and he hoped before long to introduce
some improvements into Persian gardening; so little did he as yet know
the nature of the people with whom he had to deal. But before he was
well settled in his two rooms, while he was yet unpacking his English
bales, some native plasterers told him that, outside of his wooden
door (which fastened only with a slight chain), six men lay in wait
for him to do him evil, partly prompted by the fact of his being a
foreigner, partly in hopes of obtaining possession of some of the
contents of these bales.

It was two miles to the Embassy, and Mr. Burton was without a friend
nearer; his very informants would not stand by him, but would rather
rejoice in his discomfiture. But, being a brave, resolute man, he
picked out a scythe from among his English implements, threw open the
door, and began to address the six men (who, sure enough, lay crouched
near the entrance) in the best Persian he could muster. His Persian
eloquence, or possibly the sight of the scythe wielded by a stout,
resolute man, produced the desired effect: the six men, fortunately,
went away, without having attacked him, for any effort at self-defence
on his part would have strengthened the feeling of hostility already
strong against him. Once more, he was left in quiet to unpack his
goods, with such shaded light as two windows, covered over with paper
and calico, could give. But when his tools were unpacked--tools
selected with such care and such a hoping heart in England--who were
to use them? The men appointed as gardeners under him would not work,
because they were never paid. If Mr. Burton made them work, he should
pay them, they said. At length he did persuade them to labour, during
the hours in which exertion was possible, even to a native. Mr. Burton
began to inquire how these men were paid, or if their story was true,
that they never were. It was true that wages for labour done for the
Shah were most irregularly given. And, when the money could no longer
be refused, it was paid in the form of bills upon some gate to a town,
or some public bath, a hundred or a hundred and twenty miles away,
such gates and baths being royal property. Honest payment of wages
being rare, of course stealing is plentiful; and it is even winked at
by the royal officers. The gardeners under Mr. Burton, for instance,
would gather the flowers he had cherished with care, and present them
to any chief who came into the Baugh-el-Kanai; and the present they
received in turn constituted their only means of livelihood.
Sometimes, Mr. Burton was the sole labourer in this garden, and he had
the charge of Baugh-el-Colleza, twenty square acres in size, and at
some distance from El Kanai, where he lived. When the hot weather came
on, he fell ill of diarrhea, and for three months lay weary and ill on
his mat, unable to superintend, if there were gardeners, or to work
himself, if there were none.

After he recovered, he seems to have been hopeless of doing any good
in such a climate, and among such a people. The Shah took little
interest in horticulture. He sometimes came into the gardens of El
Kanai (in which his palace was situated), and would ask, some
questions, through an interpreter, in a languid, weary kind of way.
Sometimes, when Mr. Burton had any vegetables ready, he requested
leave to present them himself to the Shah; when this was accorded, he
wove a basket out of the twigs of the white poplar (the tree which
most abounded on the great barren plain surrounding Teheran); and,
filling this with lettuces, or peas, or similar garden produce, he was
ushered with much ceremony into one of the courts ("small yards," as
Mr. Burton once irreverently called them) belonging to the palace.
There, in a kind of balcony projecting from one of the windows, the
Shah sat; and the English gardener, without shoes, but with the
lamb's-skin fez covering his head, bowed low three times, as he gave
up his basket to be handed to the Shah. Mr. Burton did not perform the
Persian salaam, considering such a slave-like obeisance unbefitting a
European. The Shah received these baskets of vegetables, some of which
were new to him, with great indifference, not caring to ask any
questions. The spirit of curiosity, however, was alive in the harem,
if nowhere else; and, one clay, Mr. Burton was surprised to receive a
command to go and sow some annuals in one of the courts of the harem,
for such was the Queen-mother's desire. So, taking a few packets of
common flower-seeds, he went through some rooms in the palace, before
he arrived at the courts, which open one out of another. These rooms
Mr. Burton considered as little better, whether in size, construction,
or furniture, than his own garden-dwelling; but there are some
apartments in this royal palace which are said to be splendid--one
lined with plate-glass, and several fitted up with the beautiful
painted windows for which Persia is celebrated. On entering the courts
belonging to the harem, Mr. Burton found himself attended by three or
four soldiers and two eunuchs--all with drawn swords, which they made
a little parade of holding above him, rather to his amusement,
especially as he seems to have had occasional glimpses of peeping
ladies, who ought rather to have had the swords held over them. Before
pawing from one yard to another, one or two soldiers would precede
him, to ace that the coast was clear. And if a veiled lady chanced,
through that ignorance which is bliss all the world over, to come into
the very yard where he was, the soldiers seized him, huddled him into
a dark corner, and turned his face to the wall; she, meanwhile,
passing through under the cover of her servant's large cloak,
something like a chicken peeping from under the wing of the hen.
Whatever might have been their danger from the handsome young
Englishman, he, at least, was not particularly attracted, by their
appearance. The utmost praise he could bestow was, that "one or two
were tolerably good-looking;" and, on being pressed for details, he
said that those ladies of the harem of whom he caught a glimpse
resembled all other Persian women, in having very large features, very
coarse complexions, and large eyes. They (as well as the men) paint
the eyebrows, so as to make them appear to meet. They are stoutly-
built. Such were the observations which Mr. Burton made, as he was
passing through the yards, or courts, which led into the small garden
where he was to sow his flower-seeds. Here the Queen-mother sat in a
projecting balcony; but, as soon as she saw the stranger, she drew
back. She is about thirty-five years of age, and possesses much
influence in the country; which, as she is a cruel and ambitious
woman, has produced great evils.

One day, Mrs. Sheil's maid, who had accompanied her mistress on a
visit to the ladies in the harem, fell in with a Frenchwoman who had
been an inhabitant there for more than twenty years. She seemed
perfectly contented with her situation, and had no wish to exchange it
for any other.

Every now and then Mr. Burton sent flowers to the harem: such as he
could cultivate in the dry, hot garden, with no command of labour.
Marvel of Peru, African marigolds, single stocks, and violets planted
along the sides of the walks between planes and poplars, were the
flowers he gathered to form his nosegays. But all gardening was weary
and dreary work; partly owing to the great heat of the climate, partly
to the scarcity of water, but most especially because there was no
service or assistance to be derived from any other man. The men
appointed to assist him grew more careless and lazy than ever as time
rolled on; he had no means of enforcing obedience, or attention, and,
if he had had, he would not have dared to use it, and so to increase
the odium that attached to him as a foreigner. Moreover, no one cared
whether the gardens flourished or decayed. If it had not been for the
kindness of some of the English residents, among whom he especially
mentioned Mr. Reads, his situation would have been utterly
intolerable.

There was nothing in the external life of the place which could
compensate for his individual disappointment; at least, he perceived
nothing. One day, in crossing the market-place, he saw eight men lying
with their heads cut off; executed for being religious fanatics, who
had assumed the character of prophets. At another time, there were six
men put to death for highway robbery; and the mode of death was full
of horror, whatever their crimes might be. They were hung head
downwards, with the right arm and leg cut off; one of them dragged out
life in this state for three days. Even the minor punishments are
cruel and vindictive, as they always are where the power and execution
of the laws is uncertain. One of the penalties inflicted for slight
offences, is to have a string passed through the nostrils, and to be
led for three successive days through the bazaars and market-places by
a crier, proclaiming the nature of the misdemeanour committed.
Blindness is very common: Mr. Burton has often seen six or eight blind
men walking in a string, each with his right arm on the shoulder of
his precursor. It is partly caused by ophthalmia, produced by the
dust, and partly clue to the Shah having it in his power to inflict
the punishment of pulling out both, or one of, the eyes. The great-
grandfather of the present Shah, Aga Mohammed, the founder of the
Kujur dynasty, had large baskets-full of the eyes of his enemies
presented to him after his accession to the throne.

Let us change the subject to attar of roses; though all the perfumes
of Arabia will not sweeten the memory of that last sentence. Attar of
roses is made and sold in the bazaars; the rose employed is the common
single pink one, which must be gathered before the sudden rise of the
hot sun causes the clew to evaporate. By the side of the attar-sellers
may be seen the Jew, selling trinkets; the Armenians--Christians in
name, and, as such, bound by no laws of Mohammed--selling a sweetish
red wine and arrakee, a spirit made from the refuse of grapes and
resembling gin; while through the bazaars men go, having leathern bags
on their backs containing bad, dirty water, and a lump of ice in a
basin, into which they pour out draughts for their customers. Ice is
brought clown from the mountains, and sold at the rate of a large lump
for two or three pools--a pool being a small copper coin, of which
thirty make one koraun (silver), value eleven-pence; and ten korauns
make one tomaun, a gold coin of the value of nine shillings. The
drinking-water is procured from open drains, or from tanks, in which
all the washing the Persians ever give their clothes is done. They use
no soap even for shaving; but soapy water would be preferable to the
beverage obtained from these sources, with vermin floating on its
surface. No wonder that the cholera returns every three years, and is
a fatal scourge; especially when we learn that the doctors and barbers
in Teheran, as formerly in England, unite the two professions and that
the great resource in all cases of illness is the lancet.

Besides the shops in the bazaars, where provisions and beverages of
various kinds are sold, there are others for silks, carpets,
embroidered pieces, something like the Indian shawls, but smaller in
size, and purchased by the Europeans for waistcoats; and Cashmere
shawls, which even there, and though not always new, bear the high
prices of from fifty pounds to one hundred pounds. Those which were
presented to the ladies of the Embassy were worth, at Teheran, one
hundred pounds apiece. There are also lamb's-skin caps, or fezzes,
about half a yard high, conical in shape, and open, or crownless, at
the top; heavier than a hat, but much cooler, owing to the ventilation
produced by this opening. No Europeans wear hats, except one or two at
the Embassy. Cotton materials are used for dresses by the common
people, manufactured at Teheran. There are very few articles of
British manufacture Bold in the bazaars; but French, German, and
Russian things abound. A fondness for watches seems to be a Persian
weakness; some of the higher classes will wear two at a time, like the
English dandies sixty years ago; and sometimes both these watches will
be in a state of stand-still. It is therefore no wonder that a little
German watchmaker, who is settled at Teheran, is making his fortune.
The mode of reckoning time is from sunrise to sunset--prayers being
said by the faithful before each of these. The day and night are each
divided into "watches" of three hours long; subdividing the time
between sunrise and mid-day, mid-day and sunset.

Mr. Burton saw little of the religious ceremonies of the Persians. He
had never been inside a mosque; but had seen people saying their
prayers at the appointed times (at the expiration of every watch
through the day, he believed), on raised platforms, erected for the
purpose, up and down the town. The form of washing the hands before
they say their prayers is gone through by country-people on the dusty
plain, using soil instead of water--the more purifying article of the
two, one would suppose, after hearing Mr. Burton's account of the
state of the drains and tanks in Teheran. The priests are recognised
by the white turbans which they wear as a class distinction; and our
English gardener does not seem to have come in contact with any of
them, excepting in occasional rencontres in the streets; where the
women, veiled and shrouded, shuffle along--their veils being
transparent just at the eyes, so as to enable them to see without
being seen; while their clumsy, shapeless mantles effectually prevent
all recognition, even from husband or father. The higher class (the
wives of Mirzas, or noblemen) are conveyed in a kind of covered hand-
barrow from place to place. This species of rude carriage will hold
two ladies sitting upright, and has a small door on either side; it is
propelled by one before and one behind.

As long as these national peculiarities were novel enough to excite
curiosity, Mr. Burton had something to relieve the monotony of his
life, which was very hopeless in the horticultural line. By-and-by it
sank into great sameness. The domestic changes were of much the same
kind as the Vicar of Wakefield's migration from the blue bed to the
brown: for three or four months in the hot season, Mr. Burton conveyed
his mat up the mud-staircase, which led from his apartments through a
trap-door on to the flat roof, and slept there. When the hot weather
was over, Mr. Burton came down under cover. He felt himself becoming
utterly weary and enervated; and probably wondered less than he had
done on his first arrival at the lazy way in which the natives worked;
sitting down, for instance, to build a wall. Indifference, which their
religion may dignify in some things into fatalism, seemed to prevail
everywhere and in every person. They ate their peas and beans
unshelled, rather than take any unnecessary trouble; a piece of
piggism which especially scandalised him.

Twice in the year there were great religious festivals, which roused
the whole people into animation and enthusiasm. One in the spring was
the Noorooz, when a kind of miracle-play was acted simultaneously upon
the various platforms in the city; the grandest representation of all
being in the market-place, where thirty or forty thousand attended.
The subject of this play is the death of the sons of Ali; the Persians
being Sheeah, or followers of Ali, and, as such, regarded as
schismatics by the more orthodox Turks, who do not believe in the
three successors of Mohammed. This "mystery" is admirably performed,
and excites the Persians to passionate weeping. A Frank ambassador is
invariably introduced, who comes to intercede for the sons of Ali.
This is the tradition of the Persians; and, although not corroborated
by any European legend, it is so faithfully believed in by the
Persians, that it has long procured for the Europeans a degree of
kindly deference, very different from the feeling with which they are
regarded by the Ali-hating Turks. The other religious festival occurs
some time in August, and is of much the came description; some event
(Mr. Burton believed it was the death of Mohammed) being dramatised,
and acted in all the open public places. The weeping and wailing are
as general at this representation as at the other. Mr. Burton himself
said, "he was so out up by it, he could not help crying;" and excused
himself for what he evidently considered a weakness, by saying that
everybody there was doing the same.

Sometimes the Shah rode abroad; he and his immediate attendants were
well mounted; but behind, around, came a rabble rout to the number of
one, two, or even three thousand, on broken-down horses, on mules, on
beggarly donkeys, or running on foot, their rags waving in the wind,
everybody, anybody, anyhow. The soldiers in attendance did not
contribute to the regularity or uniformity of the scene, as there is
no regulation height, and the dwarf of four feet ten jostles his
brother in arms who towers above him at the stature of six feet six.

In strange contrast with this wild tumult and disorderly crowd must be
one of the Shah's amusements, which consists in listening to Mr.
Burgess (the appointed English interpreter), who translates the Times,
Illustrated News, and, occasionally, English books, for the pleasure
of the Shah. One wonders what ideas certain words convey,
representative of the order and uniform regularity of England.

In October, 1849, Colonel Shiel returned to Teheran, after his sojourn
in England; and soon afterwards it was arranged that Mr. Burton should
leave Persia, and shorten his time of engagement to the Shah by one-
half. Accordingly, as soon as he had completed a year in Teheran, he
began to make preparations for returning to Europe; and about March,
1850, he arrived at Constantinople, where he remained another
twelvemonth. The remembrance of Mr. Burton's Oriental life must be in
strange contrast to the regular, well-ordered comfort of his present
existence.



THE END



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