CHAPTER I- THE PARSONAGE
ALL truehistories contain instruction; thoughin somethetreasuremay be hard to findand when foundso trivial inquantitythat the dryshrivelled kernel scarcely compensates forthetrouble of cracking the nut. Whether this be the case with myhistory ornotI am hardly competent to judge. I sometimes thinkit mightprove useful to someand entertaining to others; but theworld mayjudge for itself. Shielded by my own obscurityand bythe lapseof yearsand a few fictitious namesI do not fear toventure;and will candidly lay before the public what I would notdiscloseto the most intimate friend.
My fatherwas a clergyman of the north of Englandwho wasdeservedlyrespected by all who knew him; andin his younger dayslivedpretty comfortably on the joint income of a small incumbencyand a snuglittle property of his own. My motherwho married himagainstthe wishes of her friendswas a squire's daughterand awoman ofspirit. In vain it was represented to herthat if shebecame thepoor parson's wifeshe must relinquish her carriage andherlady's-maidand all the luxuries and elegancies of affluence;which toher were little less than the necessaries of life. Acarriageand a lady's-maid were great conveniences; butthankheavenshe had feet to carry herand hands to minister to her ownnecessities. An elegant house and spacious grounds were not to bedespised;but she would rather live in a cottage with Richard Greythan in apalace with any other man in the world.
Findingarguments of no availher fatherat lengthtold theloversthey might marry if they pleased; butin so doinghisdaughterwould forfeit every fraction of her fortune. He expectedthis wouldcool the ardour of both; but he was mistaken. My fatherknew toowell my mother's superior worth not to be sensible thatshe was avaluable fortune in herself: and if she would butconsent toembellish his humble hearth he should be happy to takeher on anyterms; while sheon her partwould rather labour withher ownhands than be divided from the man she lovedwhosehappinessit would be her joy to makeand who was already one withher inheart and soul. So her fortune went to swell the purse of awisersisterwho had married a rich nabob; and sheto the wonderandcompassionate regret of all who knew herwent to bury herselfin thehomely village parsonage among the hills of -. And yetinspite ofall thisand in spite of my mother's high spirit and myfather'swhimsI believe you might search all England throughandfail tofind a happier couple.
Of sixchildrenmy sister Mary and myself were the only two thatsurvivedthe perils of infancy and early childhood. Ibeing theyounger byfive or six yearswas always regarded as THE childandthe pet ofthe family: fathermotherand sisterall combined tospoil me -not by foolish indulgenceto render me fractious andungovernablebut by ceaseless kindnessto make me too helplessanddependent - too unfit for buffeting with the cares and turmoilsof life.
Mary and Iwere brought up in the strictest seclusion. My motherbeing atonce highly accomplishedwell informedand fond ofemploymenttook the whole charge of our education on herselfwiththeexception of Latin - which my father undertook to teach us - sothat wenever even went to school; andas there was no society intheneighbourhoodour only intercourse with the world consisted ina statelytea-partynow and thenwith the principal farmers andtradespeopleof the vicinity (just to avoid being stigmatized astoo proudto consort with our neighbours)and an annual visit toourpaternal grandfather's; where himselfour kind grandmammaamaidenauntand two or three elderly ladies and gentlemenwerethe onlypersons we ever saw. Sometimes our mother would amuse uswithstories and anecdotes of her younger dayswhichwhile theyentertainedus amazinglyfrequently awoke - in MEat least - asecretwish to see a little more of the world.
I thoughtshe must have been very happy: but she never seemed toregretpast times. My fatherhoweverwhose temper was neithertranquilnor cheerful by natureoften unduly vexed himself withthinkingof the sacrifices his dear wife had made for him; andtroubledhis head with revolving endless schemes for theaugmentationof his little fortunefor her sake and ours. In vainmy motherassured him she was quite satisfied; and if he would butlay by alittle for the childrenwe should all have plentybothfor timepresent and to come: but saving was not my father'sforte. He would not run in debt (at leastmy mother took goodcare heshould not)but while he had money he must spend it: heliked tosee his house comfortableand his wife and daughters wellclothedand well attended; and besideshe was charitablydisposedand liked to give to the pooraccording to his means:orassome might thinkbeyond them.
At lengthhowevera kind friend suggested to him a means ofdoublinghis private property at one stroke; and further increasingithereafterto an untold amount. This friend was a merchantaman ofenterprising spirit and undoubted talentwho was somewhatstraitenedin his mercantile pursuits for want of capital; butgenerouslyproposed to give my father a fair share of his profitsif hewould only entrust him with what he could spare; and hethought hemight safely promise that whatever sum the latter choseto putinto his handsit should bring him in cent. per cent. Thesmallpatrimony was speedily soldand the whole of its price wasdepositedin the hands of the friendly merchant; who as promptlyproceededto ship his cargoand prepare for his voyage.
My fatherwas delightedso were we allwith our brighteningprospects. For the presentit is truewe were reduced to thenarrowincome of the curacy; but my father seemed to think therewas nonecessity for scrupulously restricting our expenditure tothat; sowith a standing bill at Mr. Jackson'sanother atSmith'sand a third at Hobson'swe got along even morecomfortablythan before: though my mother affirmed we had betterkeepwithin boundsfor our prospects of wealth were butprecariousafter all; and if my father would only trust everythingto hermanagementhe should never feel himself stinted: but hefor oncewas incorrigible.
What happyhours Mary and I have passed while sitting at our workby thefireor wandering on the heath-clad hillsor idling undertheweeping birch (the only considerable tree in the garden)talking offuture happiness to ourselves and our parentsof whatwe woulddoand seeand possess; with no firmer foundation forour goodlysuperstructure than the riches that were expected toflow inupon us from the success of the worthy merchant'sspeculations. Our father was nearly as bad as ourselves; only thatheaffected not to be so much in earnest: expressing his brighthopes andsanguine expectations in jests and playful salliesthatalwaysstruck me as being exceedingly witty and pleasant. Ourmotherlaughed with delight to see him so hopeful and happy: butstill shefeared he was setting his heart too much upon the matter;and once Iheard her whisper as she left the room'God grant he benotdisappointed! I know not how he would bear it.'
Disappointedhe was; and bitterlytoo. It came like a thunder-clap on usallthat the vessel which contained our fortune hadbeenwreckedand gone to the bottom with all its storestogetherwithseveral of the crewand the unfortunate merchant himself. Iwasgrieved for him; I was grieved for the overthrow of all ourair-builtcastles: butwith the elasticity of youthI soonrecoveredthe shook.
Thoughriches had charmspoverty had no terrors for aninexperiencedgirl like me. Indeedto say the truththere wassomethingexhilarating in the idea of being driven to straitsandthrownupon our own resources. I only wished papamammaand Marywere allof the same mind as myself; and theninstead of lamentingpastcalamities we might all cheerfully set to work to remedy them;and thegreater the difficultiesthe harder our presentprivationsthe greater should be our cheerfulness to endure thelatterand our vigour to contend against the former.
Mary didnot lamentbut she brooded continually over themisfortuneand sank into a state of dejection from which no effortof minecould rouse her. I could not possibly bring her to regardthe matteron its bright side as I did: and indeed I was sofearful ofbeing charged with childish frivolityor stupidinsensibilitythat I carefully kept most of my bright ideas andcheeringnotions to myself; well knowing they could not beappreciated.
My motherthought only of consoling my fatherand paying our debtsandretrenching our expenditure by every available means; but myfather wascompletely overwhelmed by the calamity: healthstrengthand spirits sank beneath the blowand he never whollyrecoveredthem. In vain my mother strove to cheer himbyappealingto his pietyto his courageto his affection forherselfand us. That very affection was his greatest torment: itwas forour sakes he had so ardently longed to increase his fortune- it wasour interest that had lent such brightness to his hopesand thatimparted such bitterness to his present distress. He nowtormentedhimself with remorse at having neglected my mother'sadvice;which would at least have saved him from the additionalburden ofdebt - he vainly reproached himself for having broughther fromthe dignitythe easethe luxury of her former station totoil withhim through the cares and toils of poverty. It was gallandwormwood to his soul to see that splendidhighly-accomplishedwomanonce so courted and admiredtransformed into an activemanaginghousewifewith hands and head continually occupied withhouseholdlabours and household economy. The very willingness withwhich sheperformed these dutiesthe cheerfulness with which shebore herreversesand the kindness which withheld her fromimputingthe smallest blame to himwere all perverted by thisingeniousself-tormentor into further aggravations of hissufferings. And thus the mind preyed upon the bodyand disorderedthe systemof the nervesand they in turn increased the troublesof themindtill by action and reaction his health was seriouslyimpaired;and not one of us could convince him that the aspect ofouraffairs was not half so gloomyso utterly hopelessas hismorbidimagination represented it to be.
The usefulpony phaeton was soldtogether with the stoutwell-fedpony - theold favourite that we had fully determined should endits daysin peaceand never pass from our hands; the little coach-house andstable were let; the servant boyand the more efficient(being themore expensive) of the two maid-servantsweredismissed. Our clothes were mendedturnedand darned to theutmostverge of decency; our foodalways plainwas now simplifiedto anunprecedented degree - except my father's favourite dishes;our coalsand candles were painfully economized - the pair ofcandlesreduced to oneand that most sparingly used; the coalscarefullyhusbanded in the half-empty grate: especially when myfather wasout on his parish dutiesor confined to bed throughillness -then we sat with our feet on the fenderscraping theperishingembers together from time to timeand occasionallyadding aslight scattering of the dust and fragments of coaljustto keepthem alive. As for our carpetsthey in time were wornthreadbareand patched and darned even to a greater extent thanourgarments. To save the expense of a gardenerMary and Iundertookto keep the garden in order; and all the cooking andhouseholdwork that could not easily be managed by one servant-girlwasdone by my mother and sisterwith a little occasionalhelp fromme: only a littlebecausethough a woman in my ownestimationI was still a child in theirs; and my motherlike mostactivemanaging womenwas not gifted with very active daughters:for thisreason - that being so clever and diligent herselfshewas nevertempted to trust her affairs to a deputybuton thecontrarywas willing to act and think for others as well as fornumberone; and whatever was the business in handshe was apt tothink thatno one could do it so well as herself: so that wheneverI offeredto assist herI received such an answer as - 'Noloveyou cannotindeed - there's nothing here you can do. Go and helpyoursisteror get her to take a walk with you - tell her she mustnot sit somuchand stay so constantly in the house as she does -she maywell look thin and dejected.'
'Marymamma says I'm to help you; or get you to take a walk withme; shesays you may well look thin and dejectedif you sit soconstantlyin the house.'
'Help meyou cannotAgnes; and I cannot go out with YOU - I havefar toomuch to do.'
'Then letme help you.'
'Youcannotindeeddear child. Go and practise your musicorplay withthe kitten.'
There wasalways plenty of sewing on hand; but I had not beentaught tocut out a single garmentand except plain hemming andseamingthere was little I could doeven in that line; for theybothasserted that it was far easier to do the work themselves thanto prepareit for me: and besidesthey liked better to see meprosecutingmy studiesor amusing myself - it was time enough forme to sitbending over my worklike a grave matronwhen myfavouritelittle pussy was become a steady old cat. Under suchcircumstancesalthough I was not many degrees more useful than thekittenmyidleness was not entirely without excuse.
Throughall our troublesI never but once heard my mother complainof ourwant of money. As summer was coming on she observed to Maryand me'What a desirable thing it would be for your papa to spenda fewweeks at a watering-place. I am convinced the sea-air andthe changeof scene would be of incalculable service to him. Butthenyouseethere's no money' she addedwith a sigh. We bothwishedexceedingly that the thing might be doneand lamentedgreatlythat it could not. 'Wellwell!' said she'it's no usecomplaining. Possibly something might be done to further theprojectafter all. Maryyou are a beautiful drawer. What do yousay todoing a few more pictures in your best styleand gettingthemframedwith the water-coloured drawings you have alreadydoneandtrying to dispose of them to some liberal picture-dealerwho hasthe sense to discern their merits?'
'MammaIshould be delighted if you think they COULD be sold; andforanything worth while.'
'It'sworth while tryinghowevermy dear: do you procure thedrawingsand I'll endeavour to find a purchaser.'
'I wish Icould do something' said I.
'YouAgnes! wellwho knows? You draw pretty welltoo: if youchoosesome simple piece for your subjectI daresay you will beable toproduce something we shall all be proud to exhibit.'
'But Ihave another scheme in my headmammaand have had longonly I didnot like to mention it.'
'Indeed!pray tell us what it is.'
'I shouldlike to be a governess.'
My motheruttered an exclamation of surpriseand laughed. Mysisterdropped her work in astonishmentexclaiming'YOU agovernessAgnes! What can you be dreaming of?'
'Well! I don't see anything so VERY extraordinary in it. I do notpretend tobe able to instruct great girls; but surely I couldteachlittle ones: and I should like it so much: I am so fondofchildren. Do let memamma!'
'Butmyloveyou have not learned to take care of YOURSELF yet:and youngchildren require more judgment and experience to managethan elderones.'
'ButmammaI am above eighteenand quite able to take care ofmyselfand others too. You do not know half the wisdom andprudence Ipossessbecause I have never been tried.'
'Onlythink' said Mary'what would you do in a house full ofstrangerswithout me or mamma to speak and act for you - with aparcel ofchildrenbesides yourselfto attend to; and no one tolook tofor advice? You would not even know what clothes to puton.'
'Youthinkbecause I always do as you bid meI have no judgmentof myown: but only try me - that is all I ask - and you shall seewhat I cando.'
At thatmoment my father entered and the subject of our discussionwasexplained to him.
'Whatmylittle Agnes a governess!' cried heandin spite of hisdejectionhe laughed at the idea.
'Yespapadon't YOU say anything against it: I should like it somuch; andI am sure I could manage delightfully.'
'Butmydarlingwe could not spare you.' And a tear glistened inhis eye ashe added - 'Nono! afflicted as we aresurely we arenotbrought to that pass yet.'
'Ohno!'said my mother. 'There is no necessity whatever for sucha step; itis merely a whim of her own. So you must hold yourtongueyou naughty girl; forthough you are so ready to leave usyou knowvery well we cannot part with YOU.'
I wassilenced for that dayand for many succeeding ones; butstill Idid not wholly relinquish my darling scheme. Mary got herdrawingmaterialsand steadily set to work. I got mine too; butwhile IdrewI thought of other things. How delightful it wouldbe to be agoverness! To go out into the world; to enter upon anew life;to act for myself; to exercise my unused faculties; totry myunknown powers; to earn my own maintenanceand something tocomfortand help my fathermotherand sisterbesides exoneratingthem fromthe provision of my food and clothing; to show papa whathis littleAgnes could do; to convince mamma and Mary that I wasnot quitethe helplessthoughtless being they supposed. And thenhowcharming to be entrusted with the care and education ofchildren! Whatever others saidI felt I was fully competent tothe task: the clear remembrance of my own thoughts in earlychildhoodwould be a surer guide than the instructions of the mostmatureadviser. I had but to turn from my little pupils to myselfat theirageand I should knowat oncehow to win theirconfidenceand affections: how to waken the contrition of theerring;how to embolden the timid and console the afflicted; how tomakeVirtue practicableInstruction desirableand Religion lovelyandcomprehensible.
-Delightful task!To teachthe young idea how to shoot!
To trainthe tender plantsand watch their buds unfolding day byday!
Influencedby so many inducementsI determined still to persevere;though thefear of displeasing my motheror distressing myfather'sfeelingsprevented me from resuming the subject forseveraldays. At lengthagainI mentioned it to my mother inprivate;andwith some difficultygot her to promise to assist mewith herendeavours. My father's reluctant consent was nextobtainedand thenthough Mary still sighed her disapprovalmydearkindmother began to look out for a situation for me. Shewrote tomy father's relationsand consulted the newspaperadvertisements- her own relations she had long dropped allcommunicationwith: a formal interchange of occasional letters wasall shehad ever had since her marriageand she would not at anytime haveapplied to them in a case of this nature. But so longand soentire had been my parents' seclusion from the worldthatmany weekselapsed before a suitable situation could be procured.At lastto my great joyit was decreed that I should take chargeof theyoung family of a certain Mrs. Bloomfield; whom my kindprim auntGrey had known in her youthand asserted to be a verynicewoman. Her husband was a retired tradesmanwho had realizeda verycomfortable fortune; but could not be prevailed upon to givea greatersalary than twenty-five pounds to the instructress of hischildren. Ihoweverwas glad to accept thisrather than refusethesituation - which my parents were inclined to think the betterplan.
But someweeks more were yet to be devoted to preparation. Howlonghowtedious those weeks appeared to me! Yet they were happyones inthe main - full of bright hopes and ardent expectations.With whatpeculiar pleasure I assisted at the making of my newclothesandsubsequentlythe packing of my trunks! But therewas afeeling of bitterness mingling with the latter occupationtoo; andwhen it was done - when all was ready for my departure onthemorrowand the last night at home approached - a suddenanguishseemed to swell my heart. My dear friends looked so sadand spokeso very kindlythat I could scarcely keep my eyes fromoverflowing: but I still affected to be gay. I had taken my lastramblewith Mary on the moorsmy last walk in the gardenandround thehouse; I had fedwith herour pet pigeons for the lasttime - thepretty creatures that we had tamed to peck their foodfrom ourhands: I had given a farewell stroke to all their silkybacks asthey crowded in my lap. I had tenderly kissed my ownpeculiarfavouritesthe pair of snow-white fantails; I had playedmy lasttune on the old familiar pianoand sung my last song topapa: not the lastI hopedbut the last for what appeared to mea verylong time. Andperhapswhen I did these things again itwould bewith different feelings: circumstances might be changedand thishouse might never be my settled home again. My dearlittlefriendthe kittenwould certainly be changed: she wasalreadygrowing a fine cat; and when I returnedeven for a hastyvisit atChristmaswouldmost likelyhave forgotten both herplaymateand her merry pranks. I had romped with her for the lasttime; andwhen I stroked her soft bright furwhile she lay purringherself tosleep in my lapit was with a feeling of sadness Icould noteasily disguise. Then at bed-timewhen I retired withMary toour quiet little chamberwhere already my drawers wereclearedout and my share of the bookcase was empty - and wherehereaftershe would have to sleep alonein dreary solitudeassheexpressed it - my heart sank more than ever: I felt as if Ihad beenselfish and wrong to persist in leaving her; and when Iknelt oncemore beside our little bedI prayed for a blessing onher and onmy parents more fervently than ever I had done before.To concealmy emotionI buried my face in my handsand they werepresentlybathed in tears. I perceivedon risingthat she hadbeencrying too: but neither of us spoke; and in silence we betookourselvesto our reposecreeping more closely together from theconsciousnessthat we were to part so soon.
But themorning brought a renewal of hope and spirits. I was todepartearly; that the conveyance which took me (a gighired fromMr. Smiththe drapergrocerand tea-dealer of the village) mightreturn thesame day. I rosewasheddressedswallowed a hastybreakfastreceived the fond embraces of my fathermotherandsisterkissed the cat - to the great scandal of Sallythe maid -shookhands with hermounted the gigdrew my veil over my faceand thenbut not till thenburst into a flood of tears. The gigrolled on;I looked back; my dear mother and sister were stillstandingat the doorlooking after meand waving their adieux. Ireturnedtheir saluteand prayed God to bless them from my heart:wedescended the hilland I could see them no more.
'It's acoldish mornin' for youMiss Agnes' observed Smith; 'anda darksome'un too; but we's happen get to yon spot afore therecome muchrain to signify.'
'YesIhope so' replied Ias calmly as I could.
'It'scomed a good sup last night too.'
'But thiscold wind will happen keep it off.'
Here endedour colloquy. We crossed the valleyand began toascend theopposite hill. As we were toiling upI looked backagain;there was the village spireand the old grey parsonagebeyond itbasking in a slanting beam of sunshine - it was but asicklyraybut the village and surrounding hills were all insombreshadeand I hailed the wandering beam as a propitious omento myhome. With clasped hands I fervently implored a blessing onitsinhabitantsand hastily turned away; for I saw the sunshinewasdeparting; and I carefully avoided another glancelest Ishould seeit in gloomy shadowlike the rest of the landscape.
CHAPTER II- FIRST LESSONS IN THE ART OF INSTRUCTION
AS wedrove alongmy spirits revived againand I turnedwithpleasureto the contemplation of the new life upon which I wasentering. But though it was not far past the middle of Septemberthe heavyclouds and strong north-easterly wind combined to renderthe dayextremely cold and dreary; and the journey seemed a verylong oneforas Smith observedthe roads were 'very heavy'; andcertainlyhis horse was very heavy too: it crawled up the hillsand creptdown themand only condescended to shake its sides in atrot wherethe road was at a dead level or a very gentle slopewhich wasrarely the case in those rugged regions; so that it wasnearly oneo'clock before we reached the place of our destination.Yetafterallwhen we entered the lofty iron gatewaywhen wedrovesoftly up the smoothwell-rolled carriage-roadwith thegreen lawnon each sidestudded with young treesand approachedthe newbut stately mansion of Wellwoodrising above its mushroompoplar-grovesmy heart failed meand I wished it were a mile ortwofarther off. For the first time in my life I must stand alone:there wasno retreating now. I must enter that houseandintroducemyself among its strange inhabitants. But how was it tobe done? TrueI was near nineteen; butthanks to my retired lifeand theprotecting care of my mother and sisterI well knew thatmany agirl of fifteenor underwas gifted with a more womanlyaddressand greater ease and self-possessionthan I was. YetifMrs.Bloomfield were a kindmotherly womanI might do very wellafter all;and the childrenof courseI should soon be at easewith them- and Mr. BloomfieldI hopedI should have but littleto dowith.
'Be calmbe calmwhatever happens' I said within myself; andtruly Ikept this resolution so welland was so fully occupied insteadyingmy nerves and stifling the rebellious flutter of myheartthat when I was admitted into the hall and ushered into thepresenceof Mrs. BloomfieldI almost forgot to answer her politesalutation;and it afterwards struck methat the little I did saywas spokenin the tone of one half-dead or half-asleep. The ladytoowassomewhat chilly in her manneras I discovered when I hadtime toreflect. She was a tallsparestately womanwith thickblackhaircold grey eyesand extremely sallow complexion.
With duepolitenesshowevershe showed me my bedroomand left methere totake a little refreshment. I was somewhat dismayed at myappearanceon looking in the glass: the cold wind had swelled andreddenedmy handsuncurled and entangled my hairand dyed my faceof a palepurple; add to this my collar was horridly crumpledmyfrocksplashed with mudmy feet clad in stout new bootsand asthe trunkswere not brought upthere was no remedy; so havingsmoothedmy hair as well as I couldand repeatedly twitched myobduratecollarI proceeded to clomp down the two flights ofstairsphilosophizing as I went; and with some difficulty found myway intothe room where Mrs. Bloomfield awaited me.
She led meinto the dining-roomwhere the family luncheon had beenlaid out. Some beefsteaks and half-cold potatoes were set beforeme; andwhile I dined upon theseshe sat oppositewatching me (asI thought)and endeavouring to sustain something like aconversation- consisting chiefly of a succession of commonplaceremarksexpressed with frigid formality: but this might be moremy faultthan hersfor I really could NOT converse. In factmyattentionwas almost wholly absorbed in my dinner: not fromravenousappetitebut from distress at the toughness of thebeefsteaksand the numbness of my handsalmost palsied by theirfive-hours'exposure to the bitter wind. I would gladly have eatenthepotatoes and let the meat alonebut having got a large pieceof thelatter on to my plateI could not be so impolite as toleave it;soafter many awkward and unsuccessful attempts to cutit withthe knifeor tear it with the forkor pull it asunderbetweenthemsensible that the awful lady was a spectator to thewholetransactionI at last desperately grasped the knife and forkin myfistslike a child of two years oldand fell to work withall thelittle strength I possessed. But this needed some apology- with afeeble attempt at a laughI said'My hands are sobenumbedwith the cold that I can scarcely handle my knife andfork.'
'I daresayyou would find it cold' replied she with a coolimmutablegravity that did not serve to re-assure me.
When theceremony was concludedshe led me into the sitting-roomagainwhere she rang and sent for the children.
'You willfind them not very far advanced in their attainments'said she'for I have had so little time to attend to theireducationmyselfand we have thought them too young for agovernesstill now; but I think they are clever childrenand veryapt tolearnespecially the little boy; he isI thinkthe flowerof theflock - a generousnoble-spirited boyone to be ledbutnotdrivenand remarkable for always speaking the truth. He seemsto scorndeception' (this was good news). 'His sister Mary Annwillrequire watching' continued she'but she is a very good girlupon thewhole; though I wish her to be kept out of the nursery asmuch aspossibleas she is now almost six years oldand mightacquirebad habits from the nurses. I have ordered her crib to beplaced inyour roomand if you will be so kind as to overlook herwashingand dressingand take charge of her clothesshe need havenothingfurther to do with the nursery maid.'
I repliedI was quite willing to do so; and at that moment my youngpupilsentered the apartmentwith their two younger sisters.Master TomBloomfield was a well-grown boy of sevenwith asomewhatwiry frameflaxen hairblue eyessmall turned-up noseand faircomplexion. Mary Ann was a tall girl toosomewhat darklike hermotherbut with a round full face and a high colour inhercheeks. The second sister was Fannya very pretty littlegirl; Mrs.Bloomfield assured me she was a remarkably gentle childandrequired encouragement: she had not learned anything yet; butin a fewdaysshe would be four years oldand then she might takeher firstlesson in the alphabetand be promoted to theschoolroom. The remaining one was Harrieta little broadfatmerryplayful thing of scarcely twothat I coveted more than allthe rest -but with her I had nothing to do.
I talkedto my little pupils as well as I couldand tried torendermyself agreeable; but with little success I fearfor theirmother'spresence kept me under an unpleasant restraint. Theyhoweverwere remarkably free from shyness. They seemed boldlivelychildrenand I hoped I should soon be on friendly termswith them- the little boy especiallyof whom I had heard such afavourablecharacter from his mamma. In Mary Ann there was acertainaffected simperand a craving for noticethat I was sorrytoobserve. But her brother claimed all my attention to himself;he stoodbolt upright between me and the firewith his handsbehind hisbacktalking away like an oratoroccasionallyinterruptinghis discourse with a sharp reproof to his sisters whenthey madetoo much noise.
'OhTomwhat a darling you are!' exclaimed his mother. 'Come andkiss dearmamma; and then won't you show Miss Grey your schoolroomand yournice new books?'
'I won'tkiss YOUmamma; but I WILL show Miss Grey my schoolroomand my newbooks.'
'And MYschoolroomand MY new booksTom' said Mary Ann.'They'remine too.'
'They'reMINE' replied he decisively. 'Come alongMiss Grey -I'llescort you.'
When theroom and books had been shownwith some bickeringsbetweenthe brother and sister that I did my utmost to appease ormitigateMary Ann brought me her dolland began to be veryloquaciouson the subject of its fine clothesits bedits chestofdrawersand other appurtenances; but Tom told her to hold herclamourthat Miss Grey might see his rocking-horsewhichwith amostimportant bustlehe dragged forth from its corner into themiddle ofthe roomloudly calling on me to attend to it. Thenorderinghis sister to hold the reinshe mountedand made mestand forten minuteswatching how manfully he used his whip andspurs. MeantimehoweverI admired Mary Ann's pretty dollandall itspossessions; and then told Master Tom he was a capitalriderbutI hoped he would not use his whip and spurs so much whenhe rode areal pony.
'OhyesI will!' said helaying on with redoubled ardour. 'I'llcut intohim like smoke! Eeh! my word! but he shall sweat for it.'
This wasvery shocking; but I hoped in time to be able to work areformation.
'Now youmust put on your bonnet and shawl' said the little hero'and I'llshow you my garden.'
'AndMINE' said Mary Ann.
Tom liftedhis fist with a menacing gesture; she uttered a loudshrillscreamran to the other side of meand made a face at him.
'SurelyTomyou would not strike your sister! I hope I shallNEVER seeyou do that.'
'You willsometimes: I'm obliged to do it now and then to keep herin order.'
'But it isnot your business to keep her in orderyou know - thatis for - '
'Wellnowgo and put on your bonnet.'
'I don'tknow - it is so very cloudy and coldit seems likely torain; -and you know I have had a long drive.'
'No matter- you MUST come; I shall allow of no excuses' repliedtheconsequential little gentleman. Andas it was the first dayof ouracquaintanceI thought I might as well indulge him. It wastoo coldfor Mary Ann to ventureso she stayed with her mammatothe greatrelief of her brotherwho liked to have me all tohimself.
The gardenwas a large oneand tastefully laid out; besidesseveralsplendid dahliasthere were some other fine flowers stillin bloom: but my companion would not give me time to examine them:I must gowith himacross the wet grassto a remote sequesteredcornerthe most important place in the groundsbecause itcontainedHIS garden. There were two round bedsstocked with avariety ofplants. In one there was a pretty little rose-tree. Ipaused toadmire its lovely blossoms.
'Ohnevermind that!' said hecontemptuously. 'That's only MARYANN'Sgarden; lookTHIS is mine.'
After Ihad observed every flowerand listened to a disquisitionon everyplantI was permitted to depart; but firstwith greatpompheplucked a polyanthus and presented it to meas oneconferringa prodigious favour. I observedon the grass about hisgardencertain apparatus of sticks and cornand asked what theywere.
'Why doyou catch them?'
'Papa saysthey do harm.'
'And whatdo you do with them when you catch them?'
'Differentthings. Sometimes I give them to the cat; sometimes Icut themin pieces with my penknife; but the nextI mean to roastalive.'
'And whydo you mean to do such a horrible thing?'
'For tworeasons: firstto see how long it will live - and thento seewhat it will taste like.'
'But don'tyou know it is extremely wicked to do such things?Rememberthe birds can feel as well as you; and thinkhow wouldyou likeit yourself?'
'Ohthat's nothing! I'm not a birdand I can't feel what I do tothem.'
'But youwill have to feel it some timeTom: you have heard wherewickedpeople go to when they die; and if you don't leave offtorturinginnocent birdsrememberyou will have to go thereandsufferjust what you have made them suffer.'
'Ohpooh! I shan't. Papa knows how I treat themand he neverblames mefor it: he says it is just what HE used to do when HEwas aboy. Last summerhe gave me a nest full of young sparrowsand he sawme pulling off their legs and wingsand headsandnever saidanything; except that they were nasty thingsand I mustnot letthem soil my trousers: end Uncle Robson was there tooandhelaughedand said I was a fine boy.'
'But whatwould your mamma say?'
'Ohshedoesn't care! she says it's a pity to kill the prettysingingbirdsbut the naughty sparrowsand miceand ratsI maydo what Ilike with. So nowMiss Greyyou see it is NOT wicked.'
'I stillthink it isTom; and perhaps your papa and mamma wouldthink sotooif they thought much about it. However' Iinternallyadded'they may say what they pleasebut I amdeterminedyou shall do nothing of the kindas long as I havepower toprevent it.'
He nexttook me across the lawn to see his mole-trapsand theninto thestack-yard to see his weasel-traps: one of whichto hisgreat joycontained a dead weasel; and then into the stable toseenotthe fine carriage-horsesbut a little rough coltwhichheinformed me had been bred on purpose for himand he was to rideit as soonas it was properly trained. I tried to amuse the littlefellowand listened to all his chatter as complacently as I could;for Ithought if he had any affections at allI would endeavour towin them;and thenin timeI might be able to show him the errorof hisways: but I looked in vain for that generousnoble spirithis mothertalked of; though I could see he was not without acertaindegree of quickness and penetrationwhen he chose to exertit.
When were-entered the house it was nearly tea-time. Master Tomtold methatas papa was from homehe and I and Mary Ann were tohave teawith mammafor a treat; foron such occasionsshealwaysdined at luncheon-time with theminstead of at six o'clock.Soon afterteaMary Ann went to bedbut Tom favoured us with hiscompanyand conversation till eight. After he was goneMrs.Bloomfieldfurther enlightened me on the subject of her children'sdispositionsand acquirementsand on what they were to learnandhow theywere to be managedand cautioned me to mention theirdefects tono one but herself. My mother had warned me before tomentionthem as little as possible to HERfor people did not liketo be toldof their children's faultsand so I concluded I was tokeepsilence on them altogether. About half-past nineMrs.Bloomfieldinvited me to partake of a frugal supper of cold meatandbread. I was glad when that was overand she took her bedroomcandlestickand retired to rest; for though I wished to be pleasedwith herher company was extremely irksome to me; and I could nothelpfeeling that she was coldgraveand forbidding - the veryoppositeof the kindwarm-hearted matron my hopes had depicted herto be.
CHAPTERIII - A FEW MORE LESSONS
I ROSEnext morning with a feeling of hopeful exhilarationinspite ofthe disappointments already experienced; but I found thedressingof Mary Ann was no light matteras her abundant hair wasto besmeared with pomadeplaited in three long tailsand tiedwith bowsof ribbon: a task my unaccustomed fingers found greatdifficultyin performing. She told me her nurse could do it inhalf thetimeandby keeping up a constant fidget of impatiencecontrivedto render me still longer. When all was donewe wentinto theschoolroomwhere I met my other pupiland chatted withthe twotill it was time to go down to breakfast. That meal beingconcludedand a few civil words having been exchanged with Mrs.Bloomfieldwe repaired to the schoolroom againand commenced thebusinessof the day. I found my pupils very backwardindeed; butTomthough averse to every species of mental exertionwas notwithoutabilities. Mary Ann could scarcely read a wordand was socarelessand inattentive that I could hardly get on with her atall. Howeverby dint of great labour and patienceI managed togetsomething done in the course of the morningand thenaccompaniedmy young charge out into the garden and adjacentgroundsfor a little recreation before dinner. There we got alongtolerablytogetherexcept that I found they had no notion of goingwith me: I must go with themwherever they chose to lead me. Imust runwalkor standexactly as it suited their fancy. ThisI thoughtwas reversing the order of things; and I found it doublydisagreeableas on this as well as subsequent occasionstheyseemed toprefer the dirtiest places and the most dismaloccupations. But there was no remedy; either I must follow themor keepentirely apart from themand thus appear neglectful of mycharge. To-daythey manifested a particular attachment to a wellat thebottom of the lawnwhere they persisted in dabbling withsticks andpebbles for above half an hour. I was in constant fearthat theirmother would see them from the windowand blame me forallowingthem thus to draggle their clothes and wet their feet andhandsinstead of taking exercise; but no argumentscommandsorentreatiescould draw them away. If SHE did not see themsome oneelse did -a gentleman on horseback had entered the gate and wasproceedingup the road; at the distance of a few paces from us hepausedand calling to the children in a waspish penetrating tonebade them'keep out of that water.' 'Miss Grey' said he'(Isuppose itIS Miss Grey)I am surprised that you should allow themto dirtytheir clothes in that manner! Don't you see how MissBloomfieldhas soiled her frock? and that Master Bloomfield's socksare quitewet? and both of them without gloves? Deardear! Letme REQUESTthat in future you will keep them DECENT at least!' sosayingheturned awayand continued his ride up to the house.This wasMr. Bloomfield. I was surprised that he should nominatehischildren Master and Miss Bloomfield; and still more sothat heshouldspeak so uncivilly to metheir governessand a perfectstrangerto himself. Presently the bell rang to summon us in. Idined withthe children at onewhile he and his lady took theirluncheonat the same table. His conduct there did not greatlyraise himin my estimation. He was a man of ordinary stature -ratherbelow than above - and rather thin than stoutapparentlybetweenthirty and forty years of age: he had a large mouthpaledingycomplexionmilky blue eyesand hair the colour of a hempencord. There was a roast leg of mutton before him: he helped Mrs.Bloomfieldthe childrenand medesiring me to cut up thechildren'smeat; thenafter twisting about the mutton in variousdirectionsand eyeing it from different pointshe pronounced itnot fit tobe eatenand called for the cold beef.
'What isthe matter with the muttonmy dear?' asked his mate.
'It isquite overdone. Don't you tasteMrs. Bloomfieldthat allthegoodness is roasted out of it? And can't you see that all thatniceredgravy is completely dried away?'
'WellIthink the BEEF will suit you.'
The beefwas set before himand he began to carvebut with themostrueful expressions of discontent.
'What isthe matter with the BEEFMr. Bloomfield? I'm sure Ithought itwas very nice.'
'And so itWAS very nice. A nicer joint could not be; but it isQUITEspoiled' replied hedolefully.
'How so! Whydon't you see how it is cut? Dear - dear! it isquiteshocking!'
'They musthave cut it wrong in the kitchenthenfor I'm sure Icarved itquite properly hereyesterday.'
'No DOUBTthey cut it wrong in the kitchen - the savages! Dear -dear! Did ever any one see such a fine piece of beef so completelyruined? But remember thatin futurewhen a decent dish leavesthistablethey shall not TOUCH it in the kitchen. Remember THATMrs.Bloomfield!'
Notwithstandingthe ruinous state of the beefthe gentlemanmanaged toout himself some delicate slicespart of which he ateinsilence. When he next spokeit wasin a less querulous toneto askwhat there was for dinner.
'Turkeyand grouse' was the concise reply.
'What kindof fish?'
'YOU DON'TKNOW?' cried helooking solemnly up from his plateandsuspendinghis knife and fork in astonishment.
'No. I told the cook to get some fish - I did not particularizewhat.'
'Wellthat beats everything! A lady professes to keep houseanddoesn'teven know what fish is for dinner! professes to order fishanddoesn't specify what!'
'PerhapsMr. Bloomfieldyou will order dinner yourself infuture.'
Nothingmore was said; and I was very glad to get out of the roomwith mypupils; for I never felt so ashamed and uncomfortable in mylife foranything that was not my own fault.
In theafternoon we applied to lessons again: then went out again;then hadtea in the schoolroom; then I dressed Mary Ann fordessert;and when she and her brother had gone down to the dining-roomItook the opportunity of beginning a letter to my dearfriends athome: but the children came up before I had halfcompletedit. At seven I had to put Mary Ann to bed; then I playedwith Tomtill eightwhen hetoowent; and I finished my letterandunpacked my clotheswhich I had hitherto found no opportunityfor doingandfinallywent to bed myself.
But thisis a very favourable specimen of a day's proceedings.
My task ofinstruction and surveillanceinstead of becoming easieras mycharges and I got better accustomed to each otherbecamemorearduous as their characters unfolded. The name of governessI soonfoundwas a mere mockery as applied to me: my pupils hadno morenotion of obedience than a wildunbroken colt. Thehabitualfear of their father's peevish temperand the dread ofthepunishments he was wont to inflict when irritatedkept themgenerallywithin bounds in his immediate presence. The girlstoohad somefear of their mother's anger; and the boy mightoccasionallybe bribed to do as she bid him by the hope of reward;but I hadno rewards to offer; and as for punishmentsI was giventounderstandthe parents reserved that privilege to themselves;and yetthey expected me to keep my pupils in order. Otherchildrenmight be guided by the fear of anger and the desire ofapprobation;but neither the one nor the other had any effect uponthese.
MasterTomnot content with refusing to be ruledmust needs setup as arulerand manifested a determination to keepnot only hissistersbut his governess in orderby violent manual and pedalapplications;andas he was a tallstrong boy of his yearsthisoccasionedno trifling inconvenience. A few sound boxes on theearonsuch occasionsmight have settled the matter easilyenough: but asin that casehe might make up some story to hismotherwhich she would be sure to believeas she had such unshakenfaith inhis veracity - though I had already discovered it to be byno meansunimpeachable - I determined to refrain from striking himeven inself-defence; andin his most violent moodsmy onlyresourcewas to throw him on his back and hold his hands and feettill thefrenzy was somewhat abated. To the difficulty ofpreventinghim from doing what he ought notwas added that offorcinghim to do what he ought. Often he would positively refuseto learnor to repeat his lessonsor even to look at his book.Hereagaina good birch rod might have been serviceable; butasmy powerswere so limitedI must make the best use of what I had.
As therewere no settled hours for study and playI resolved togive mypupils a certain taskwhichwith moderate attentiontheycouldperform in a short time; and till this was donehoweverweary Iwasor however perverse they might benothing short ofparentalinterference should induce me to suffer them to leave theschoolroomeven if I should sit with my chair against the door tokeep themin. PatienceFirmnessand Perseverance were my onlyweapons;and these I resolved to use to the utmost. I determinedalwaysstrictly to fulfil the threats and promises I made; andtothat endI must be cautious to threaten and promise nothing that Icould notperform. ThenI would carefully refrain from alluselessirritability and indulgence of my own ill-temper: whentheybehaved tolerablyI would be as kind and obliging as it wasin mypower to bein order to make the widest possible distinctionbetweengood and bad conduct; I would reason with themtooin thesimplestand most effective manner. When I reproved themorrefused togratify their wishesafter a glaring faultit shouldbe more insorrow than in anger: their little hymns and prayers Iwould makeplain and clear to their understanding; when they saidtheirprayers at night and asked pardon for their offencesI wouldremindthem of the sins of the past daysolemnlybut in perfectkindnessto avoid raising a spirit of opposition; penitentialhymnsshould be said by the naughtycheerful ones by thecomparativelygood; and every kind of instruction I would convey tothemasmuch as possibleby entertaining discourse - apparentlywith noother object than their present amusement in view.
By thesemeans I hoped in time both to benefit the children and togain theapprobation of their parents; and also to convince myfriends athome that I was not so wanting in skill and prudence astheysupposed. I knew the difficulties I had to contend with weregreat; butI knew (at least I believed) unremitting patience andperseverancecould overcome them; and night and morning I imploredDivineassistance to this end. But either the children were soincorrigiblethe parents so unreasonableor myself so mistaken inmy viewsor so unable to carry them outthat my best intentionsand moststrenuous efforts seemed productive of no better resultthan sportto the childrendissatisfaction to their parentsandtorment tomyself.
The taskof instruction was as arduous for the body as the mind. Ihad to runafter my pupils to catch themto carry or drag them tothe tableand often forcibly to hold them there till the lessonwas done. Tom I frequently put into a cornerseating myselfbefore himin a chairwith a book which contained the little taskthat mustbe said or readbefore he was releasedin my hand. Hewas notstrong enough to push both me and the chair awayso hewouldstand twisting his body and face into the most grotesque andsingularcontortions - laughableno doubtto an unconcernedspectatorbut not to me - and uttering loud yells and dolefuloutcriesintended to represent weeping but wholly without theaccompanimentof tears. I knew this was done solely for thepurpose ofannoying me; andthereforehowever I might inwardlytremblewith impatience and irritationI manfully strove tosuppressall visible signs of molestationand affected to sit withcalmindifferencewaiting till it should please him to cease thispastimeand prepare for a run in the gardenby casting his eye onthe bookand reading or repeating the few words he was required tosay. Sometimes he was determined to do his writing badly; and Ihad tohold his hand to prevent him from purposely blotting ordisfiguringthe paper. Frequently I threatened thatif he did notdo betterhe should have another line: then he would stubbornlyrefuse towrite this line; and Ito save my wordhad finally toresort tothe expedient of holding his fingers upon the penandforciblydrawing his hand up and downtillin spite of hisresistancethe line was in some sort completed.
Yet Tomwas by no means the most unmanageable of my pupils:sometimesto my great joyhe would have the sense to see that hiswisestpolicy was to finish his tasksand go out and amuse himselftill I andhis sisters came to join him; which frequently was notat allfor Mary Ann seldom followed his example in thisparticular: she apparently preferred rolling on the floor to anyotheramusement: down she would drop like a leaden weight; andwhen Iwith great difficultyhad succeeded in rooting her thenceI hadstill to hold her up with one armwhile with the other Iheld thebook from which she was to read or spell her lesson. Asthe deadweight of the big girl of six became too heavy for one armto bearItransferred it to the other; orif both were weary oftheburdenI carried her into a cornerand told her she mightcome outwhen she should find the use of her feetand stand up:but shegenerally preferred lying there like a log till dinner orteatimewhenas I could not deprive her of her mealsshe must beliberatedand would come crawling out with a grin of triumph onher roundred face. Often she would stubbornly refuse topronouncesome particular word in her lesson; and now I regret thelostlabour I have had in striving to conquer her obstinacy. If Ihad passedit over as a matter of no consequenceit would havebeenbetter for both partiesthan vainly striving to overcome itas I did;but I thought it my absolute duty to crush this vicioustendencyin the bud: and so it wasif I could have done it; andhad mypowers been less limitedI might have enforced obedience;butas itwasit was a trial of strength between her and meinwhich shegenerally came off victorious; and every victory servedtoencourage and strengthen her for a future contest. In vain Iarguedcoaxedentreatedthreatenedscolded; in vain I kept herin fromplayorif obliged to take her outrefused to play withheror tospeak kindly or have anything to do with her; in vain Itried toset before her the advantages of doing as she was bidandbeinglovedand kindly treated in consequenceand thedisadvantagesof persisting in her absurd perversity. Sometimeswhen shewould ask me to do something for herI would answer-'YesIwillMary Annif you will only say that word. Come!you'dbetter say it at onceand have no more trouble about it.'
'ThenofcourseI can do nothing for you.'
With meat her ageor underneglect and disgrace were the mostdreadfulof punishments; but on her they made no impression.Sometimesexasperated to the utmost pitchI would shake herviolentlyby the shoulderor pull her long hairor put her in thecorner;for which she punished me with loudshrillpiercingscreamsthat went through my head like a knife. She knew I hatedthisandwhen she had shrieked her utmostwould look into my facewith anair of vindictive satisfactionexclaiming- 'NOWthen!THAT'S foryou!' and then shriek again and againtill I was forcedto stop myears. Often these dreadful cries would bring Mrs.Bloomfieldup to inquire what was the matter?
'Mary Annis a naughty girlma'am.'
'But whatare these shocking screams?'
'She isscreaming in a passion.'
'I neverheard such a dreadful noise! You might be killing her.Why is shenot out with her brother?'
'I cannotget her to finish her lessons.'
'But MaryAnn must be a GOOD girland finish her lessons.' Thiswasblandly spoken to the child. 'And I hope I shall NEVER hearsuchterrible cries again!'
And fixingher coldstony eyes upon me with a look that could notbemistakenshe would shut the doorand walk away. Sometimes Iwould tryto take the little obstinate creature by surpriseandcasuallyask her the word while she was thinking of something else;frequentlyshe would begin to say itand then suddenly cheekherselfwith a provoking look that seemed to say'Ah! I'm toosharp foryou; you shan't trick it out of meeither.'
On anotheroccasionI pretended to forget the whole affair; andtalked andplayed with her as usualtill nightwhen I put her tobed; thenbending over herwhile she lay all smiles and goodhumourjust before departingI saidas cheerfully and kindly asbefore -'NowMary Annjust tell me that word before I kiss yougood-night. You are a good girl nowandof courseyou will sayit.'
'Then Ican't kiss you.'
In vain Iexpressed my sorrow; in vain I lingered for some symptomofcontrition; she really 'didn't care' and I left her aloneandindarknesswondering most of all at this last proof of insensatestubbornness. In MY childhood I could not imagine a moreafflictivepunishment than for my mother to refuse to kiss me atnight: the very idea was terrible. More than the idea I neverfeltforhappilyI never committed a fault that was deemedworthy ofsuch penalty; but once I rememberfor some transgressionof mysister'sour mother thought proper to inflict it upon her:what SHEfeltI cannot tell; but my sympathetic tears andsufferingfor her sake I shall not soon forget.
Anothertroublesome trait in Mary Ann was her incorrigiblepropensityto keep running into the nurseryto play with herlittlesisters and the nurse. This was natural enoughbutas itwasagainst her mother's express desireIof courseforbade herto do soand did my utmost to keep her with me; but that onlyincreasedher relish for the nurseryand the more I strove to keepher out ofitthe oftener she wentand the longer she stayedtothe greatdissatisfaction of Mrs. BloomfieldwhoI well knewwouldimpute all the blame of the matter to me. Another of mytrials wasthe dressing in the morning: at one time she would notbe washed;at another she would not be dressedunless she mightwear someparticular frockthat I knew her mother would not likeher tohave; at another she would scream and run away if Iattemptedto touch her hair. So thatfrequentlywhenafter muchtroubleand toilI hadat lengthsucceeded in bringing her downthebreakfast was nearly half over; and black looks from 'mamma'and testyobservations from 'papa' spoken at meif not to mewere sureto be my meed: for few things irritated the latter somuch aswant of punctuality at meal times. Thenamong the minorannoyanceswas my inability to satisfy Mrs. Bloomfield with herdaughter'sdress; and the child's hair 'was never fit to be seen.'Sometimesas a powerful reproach to meshe would perform theoffice oftire woman herselfand then complain bitterly of thetrouble itgave her.
Whenlittle Fanny came into the schoolroomI hoped she would bemild andinoffensiveat least; but a few daysif not a few hourssufficedto destroy the illusion: I found her a mischievousintractablelittle creaturegiven up to falsehood and deceptionyoung asshe wasand alarmingly fond of exercising her twofavouriteweapons of offence and defence: that of spitting in thefaces ofthose who incurred her displeasureand bellowing like abull whenher unreasonable desires were not gratified. As shegenerallywas pretty quiet in her parents' presenceand they wereimpressedwith the notion of her being a remarkably gentle childherfalsehoods were readily believedand her loud uproars led themto suspectharsh and injudicious treatment on my part; and whenatlengthher bad disposition became manifest even to theirprejudicedeyesI felt that the whole was attributed to me.
'What anaughty girl Fanny is getting!' Mrs. Bloomfield would sayto herspouse. 'Don't you observemy dearhow she is alteredsince sheentered the schoolroom? She will soon be as bad as theother two;andI am sorry to saythey have quite deteriorated oflate.'
'You maysay that' was the answer. 'I've been thinking that samemyself. I thought when we got them a governess they'd improve;butinstead of thatthey get worse and worse: I don't know howit is withtheir learningbut their habitsI knowmake no sortofimprovement; they get rougherand dirtierand more unseemlyeveryday.'
I knewthis was all pointed at me; and theseand all similarinnuendoesaffected me far more deeply than any open accusationswould havedone; for against the latter I should have been rousedto speakin my own defence: now I judged it my wisest plan tosubdueevery resentful impulsesuppress every sensitive shrinkingand go onperseveringlydoing my best; forirksome as mysituationwasI earnestly wished to retain it. I thoughtif Icouldstruggle on with unremitting firmness and integritythechildrenwould in time become more humanized: every month wouldcontributeto make them some little wiserandconsequentlymoremanageable;for a child of nine or ten as frantic and ungovernableas theseat six and seven would be a maniac.
Iflattered myself I was benefiting my parents and sister by mycontinuancehere; for small as the salary wasI still was earningsomethingand with strict economy I could easily manage to havesomethingto spare for themif they would favour me by taking it.Then itwas by my own will that I had got the place: I had broughtall thistribulation on myselfand I was determined to bear it;naymorethan thatI did not even regret the step I had taken. Ilonged toshow my friends thateven nowI was competent toundertakethe chargeand able to acquit myself honourably to theend; andif ever I felt it degrading to submit so quietlyorintolerableto toil so constantlyI would turn towards my homeand saywithin myself -
They maycrushbut they shall not subdue me!'Tis ofthee that I thinknot of them.
AboutChristmas I was allowed to visit home; but my holiday wasonly of afortnight's duration: 'For' said Mrs. Bloomfield'Ithoughtas you had seen your friends so latelyyou would not carefor alonger stay.' I left her to think so still: but shelittleknew howlonghow wearisome those fourteen weeks of absence hadbeen tome; how intensely I had longed for my holidayshow greatlyI wasdisappointed at their curtailment. Yet she was not to blamein this. I had never told her my feelingsand she could not beexpectedto divine them; I had not been with her a full termandshe wasjustified in not allowing me a full vacation.
CHAPTER IV- THE GRANDMAMMA
I SPARE myreaders the account of my delight on coming homemyhappinesswhile there - enjoying a brief space of rest and libertyin thatdearfamiliar placeamong the loving and the loved - andmy sorrowon being obliged to bid themonce morea long adieu.
Ireturnedhoweverwith unabated vigour to my work - a morearduoustask than anyone can imaginewho has not felt somethinglike themisery of being charged with the care and direction of aset ofmischievousturbulent rebelswhom his utmost exertionscannotbind to their duty; whileat the same timehe isresponsiblefor their conduct to a higher powerwho exacts fromhim whatcannot be achieved without the aid of the superior's morepotentauthority; whicheither from indolenceor the fear ofbecomingunpopular with the said rebellious gangthe latterrefuses togive. I can conceive few situations more harassing thanthatwhereinhowever you may long for successhowever you maylabour tofulfil your dutyyour efforts are baffled and set atnought bythose beneath youand unjustly censured and misjudged bythoseabove.
I have notenumerated half the vexatious propensities of my pupilsor halfthe troubles resulting from my heavy responsibilitiesforfear oftrespassing too much upon the reader's patience; asperhapsIhave already done; but my design in writing the few lastpages wasnot to amusebut to benefit those whom it might concern;he thathas no interest in such matters will doubtless have skippedthem overwith a cursory glanceandperhapsa maledictionagainstthe prolixity of the writer; but if a parent hastherefromgathered any useful hintor an unfortunate governessreceivedthereby the slightest benefitI am well rewarded for mypains.
To avoidtrouble and confusionI have taken my pupils one by oneanddiscussed their various qualities; but this can give noadequateidea of being worried by the whole three together; whenas wasoften the caseall were determined to 'be naughtyand totease MissGreyand put her in a passion.'
Sometimeson such occasionsthe thought has suddenly occurred tome - 'Ifthey could see me now!' meaningof coursemy friends athome; andthe idea of how they would pity me has made me pitymyself -so greatly that I have had the utmost difficulty torestrainmy tears: but I have restrained themtill my littletormentorswere gone to dessertor cleared off to bed (my onlyprospectsof deliverance)and thenin all the bliss of solitudeI havegiven myself up to the luxury of an unrestricted burst ofweeping. But this was a weakness I did not often indulge: myemploymentswere too numerousmy leisure moments too precioustoadmit ofmuch time being given to fruitless lamentations.
Iparticularly remember one wildsnowy afternoonsoon after myreturn inJanuary: the children had all come up from dinnerloudlydeclaring that they meant 'to be naughty;' and they had wellkept theirresolutionthough I had talked myself hoarseandweariedevery muscle in my throatin the vain attempt to reasonthem outof it. I had got Tom pinned up in a cornerwhenceItold himhe should not escape till he had done his appointed task.MeantimeFanny had possessed herself of my work-bagand wasriflingits contents - and spitting into it besides. I told her tolet italonebut to no purposeof course. 'Burn itFanny!'criedTom: and THIS command she hastened to obey. I sprang tosnatch itfrom the fireand Tom darted to the door. 'Mary Annthrow herdesk out of the window!' cried he: and my precious deskcontainingmy letters and papersmy small amount of cashand allmyvaluableswas about to be precipitated from the three-storeywindow. I flew to rescue it. Meanwhile Tom had left the roomandwasrushing down the stairsfollowed by Fanny. Having secured mydeskIran to catch themand Mary Ann came scampering after. Allthreeescaped meand ran out of the house into the gardenwheretheyplunged about in the snowshouting and screaming in exultantglee.
What mustI do? If I followed themI should probably be unable tocaptureoneand only drive them farther away; if I did nothowwas I toget them in? And what would their parents think of meifthey sawor heard the children riotinghatlessbonnetlessglovelessand bootlessin the deep soft snow? While I stood inthisperplexityjust without the doortryingby grim looks andangrywordsto awe them into subjectionI heard a voice behindmeinharshly piercing tonesexclaiming-
'MissGrey! Is it possible? Whatin the devil's namecan youbethinkingabout?'
'I can'tget them insir' said Iturning roundand beholdingMr.Bloomfieldwith his hair on endand his pale blue eyesboltingfrom their sockets.
'But IINSIST upon their being got in!' cried heapproachingnearerand looking perfectly ferocious.
'Thensiryou must call them yourselfif you pleasefor theywon'tlisten to me' I repliedstepping back.
'Come inwith youyou filthy brats; or I'll horsewhip you everyone!'roared he; and the children instantly obeyed. 'Thereyousee! -they come at the first word!'
'And it'svery strangethat when you've the care of 'em you've nobettercontrol over 'em than that! - Nowthere they are - gone up-stairswith their nasty snowy feet! Do go after 'em and see themmadedecentfor heaven's sake!'
Thatgentleman's mother was then staying in the house; andas Iascendedthe stairs and passed the drawing-room doorI had thesatisfactionof hearing the old lady declaiming aloud to herdaughter-in-lawto this effect (for I could only distinguish themostemphatic words) -
'Graciousheavens! - never in all my life - ! - get their death assure as -! Do you thinkmy dearshe's a PROPER PERSON? Take myword forit - '
I heard nomore; but that sufficed.
The seniorMrs. Bloomfield had been very attentive and civil to me;and tillnow I had thought her a nicekind-heartedchatty oldbody. She would often come to me and talk in a confidentialstrain;nodding and shaking her headand gesticulating with handsand eyesas a certain class of old ladies are won't to do; thoughI neverknew one that carried the peculiarity to so great anextent. She would even sympathise with me for the trouble I hadwith thechildrenand express at timesby half sentencesinterspersedwith nods and knowing winksher sense of theinjudiciousconduct of their mamma in so restricting my powerandneglectingto support me with her authority. Such a mode oftestifyingdisapprobation was not much to my taste; and I generallyrefused totake it inor understand anything more than was openlyspoken; atleastI never went farther than an impliedacknowledgmentthatif matters were otherwise ordered my taskwould be aless difficult oneand I should be better able to guideandinstruct my charge; but now I must be doubly cautious.Hithertothough I saw the old lady had her defects (of which onewas aproneness to proclaim her perfections)I had always beenwishful toexcuse themand to give her credit for all the virtuessheprofessedand even imagine others yet untold. Kindnesswhichhad beenthe food of my life through so many yearshad lately beensoentirely denied methat I welcomed with grateful joy theslightestsemblance of it. No wonderthenthat my heart warmedto the oldladyand always gladdened at her approach and regrettedherdeparture.
But nowthe few words luckily or unluckily heard in passing hadwhollyrevolutionized my ideas respecting her: now I looked uponher ashypocritical and insincerea flattererand a spy upon mywords anddeeds. Doubtless it would have been my interest still tomeet herwith the same cheerful smile and tone of respectfulcordialityas before; but I could notif I would: my manneralteredwith my feelingsand became so cold and shy that she couldnot failto notice it. She soon did notice itand HER manneralteredtoo: the familiar nod was changed to a stiff bowthegracioussmile gave place to a glare of Gorgon ferocity; hervivaciousloquacity was entirely transferred from me to 'thedarlingboy and girls' whom she flattered and indulged moreabsurdlythan ever their mother had done.
I confessI was somewhat troubled at this change: I feared theconsequencesof her displeasureand even made some efforts torecoverthe ground I had lost - and with better apparent successthan Icould have anticipated. At one timeImerely in commoncivilityasked after her cough; immediately her long visagerelaxedinto a smileand she favoured me with a particular historyof thatand her other infirmitiesfollowed by an account of herpiousresignationdelivered in the usual emphaticdeclamatorystylewhich no writing can portray.
'Butthere's one remedy for allmy dearand that's resignation'(a toss ofthe head)'resignation to the will of heaven!' (anupliftingof the hands and eyes). 'It has always supported methroughall my trialsand always will do' (a succession of nods).'But thenit isn't everybody that can say that' (a shake of thehead);'but I'm one of the pious onesMiss Grey!' (a verysignificantnod and toss). 'Andthank heavenI always was'(anothernod)'and I glory in it!' (an emphatic clasping of thehands andshaking of the head). And with several texts ofScripturemisquoted or misappliedand religious exclamations soredolentof the ludicrous in the style of delivery and manner ofbringinginif not in the expressions themselvesthat I declinerepeatingthemshe withdrew; tossing her large head in high good-humour -with herself at least - and left me hoping thatafterallshewas rather weak than wicked.
At hernext visit to Wellwood HouseI went so far as to say I wasglad tosee her looking so well. The effect of this was magical:the wordsintended as a mark of civilitywere received as aflatteringcompliment; her countenance brightened upand from thatmoment shebecame as gracious and benign as heart could wish - inoutwardsemblance at least. From what I now saw of herand what Iheard fromthe childrenI know thatin order to gain her cordialfriendshipI had but to utter a word of flattery at eachconvenientopportunity: but this was against my principles; andfor lackof thisthe capricious old dame soon deprived me of herfavouragainand I believe did me much secret injury.
She couldnot greatly influence her daughter-in-law against mebecausebetween that lady and herself there was a mutual dislike -chieflyshown by her in secret detractions and calumniations; bythe otherin an excess of frigid formality in her demeanour; andno fawningflattery of the elder could thaw away the wall of icewhich theyounger interposed between them. But with her sontheold ladyhad better success: he would listen to all she had tosayprovided she could soothe his fretful temperand refrain fromirritatinghim by her own asperities; and I have reason to believethat sheconsiderably strengthened his prejudice against me. Shewould tellhim that I shamefully neglected the childrenand evenhis wifedid not attend to them as she ought; and that he must lookafter themhimselfor they would all go to ruin.
Thusurgedhe would frequently give himself the trouble ofwatchingthem from the windows during their play; at timeshewouldfollow them through the groundsand too often came suddenlyupon themwhile they were dabbling in the forbidden welltalkingto thecoachman in the stablesor revelling in the filth of thefarm-yard- and Imeanwhilewearily standingbyhavingpreviouslyexhausted my energy in vain attempts to get them away.Oftentoohe would unexpectedly pop his head into the schoolroomwhile theyoung people were at mealsand find them spilling theirmilk overthe table and themselvesplunging their fingers intotheir ownor each other's mugsor quarrelling over their victualslike a setof tiger's cubs. If I were quiet at the momentI wasconnivingat their disorderly conduct; if (as was frequently thecase) Ihappened to be exalting my voice to enforce orderI wasusingundue violenceand setting the girls a bad example by suchungentlenessof tone and language.
I rememberone afternoon in springwhenowing to the raintheycould notgo out; butby some amazing good fortunethey had allfinishedtheir lessonsand yet abstained from running down toteasetheir parents - a trick that annoyed me greatlybut whichon rainydaysI seldom could prevent their doing; becausebelowthey foundnovelty and amusement - especially when visitors were inthe house;and their motherthough she bid me keep them in theschoolroomwould never chide them for leaving itor troubleherself tosend them back. But this day they appeared satisfiedwiththeir present abodeand what is more wonderful stillseemeddisposedto play together without depending on me for amusementandwithout quarrelling with each other. Their occupation was asomewhatpuzzling one: they were all squatted together on thefloor bythe windowover a heap of broken toys and a quantity ofbirds'eggs - or rather egg-shellsfor the contents had luckilybeenabstracted. These shells they had broken up and were poundinginto smallfragmentsto what end I could not imagine; but so longas theywere quiet and not in positive mischiefI did not care;andwitha feeling of unusual reposeI sat by the fireputtingthefinishing stitches to a frock for Mary Ann's doll; intendingwhen thatwas doneto begin a letter to my mother. Suddenly thedooropenedand the dingy head of Mr. Bloomfield looked in.
'All veryquiet here! What are you doing?' said he. 'No harm TO-DAYatleast' thought I. But he was of a different opinion.Advancingto the windowand seeing the children's occupationshetestilyexclaimed - 'What in the world are you about?'
'We'regrinding egg-shellspapa!' cried Tom.
'How DAREyou make such a messyou little devils? Don't you seewhatconfounded work you're making of the carpet?' (the carpet wasa plainbrown drugget). 'Miss Greydid you know what they weredoing?'
'You knewit! and you actually sat there and permitted them to goon withouta word of reproof!'
'I didn'tthink they were doing any harm.'
'Anyharm! Whylook there! Just look at that carpetand see-was thereever anything like it in a Christian house before? Nowonderyour room is not fit for a pigsty - no wonder your pupilsare worsethan a litter of pigs! - no wonder - oh! I declareitputs mequite past my patience' and he departedshutting the doorafter himwith a bang that made the children laugh.
'It putsme quite past my patience too!' muttered Igetting up;andseizing the pokerI dashed it repeatedly into the cindersandstirred them up with unwonted energy; thus easing my irritationunderpretence of mending the fire.
AfterthisMr. Bloomfield was continually looking in to see if theschoolroomwas in order; andas the children were continuallylitteringthe floor with fragments of toyssticksstonesstubbleleavesand other rubbishwhich I could not prevent theirbringingor oblige them to gather upand which the servantsrefused to'clean after them' I had to spend a considerableportion ofmy valuable leisure moments on my knees upon the floorinpainsfully reducing things to order. Once I told them that theyshould nottaste their supper till they had picked up everythingfrom thecarpet; Fanny might have hers when she had taken up acertainquantityMary Ann when she had gathered twice as manyandTom was toclear away the rest. Wonderful to statethe girls didtheirpart; but Tom was in such a fury that he flew upon the tablescatteredthe bread and milk about the floorstruck his sisterskicked thecoals out of the coal-panattempted to overthrow thetable andchairsand seemed inclined to make a Douglas-larder ofthe wholecontents of the room: but I seized upon himandsendingMary Ann to call her mammaheld himin spite of kicksblowsyellsand execrationstill Mrs. Bloomfield made herappearance.
'What isthe matter with my boy?' said she.
And whenthe matter was explained to herall she did was to sendfor thenursery-maid to put the room in orderand bring MasterBloomfieldhis supper.
'Therenow' cried Tomtriumphantlylooking up from his viandswith hismouth almost too full for speech. 'There nowMiss Grey!you seeI've got my supper in spite of you: and I haven't pickedup asingle thing!'
The onlyperson in the house who had any real sympathy for me wasthe nurse;for she had suffered like afflictionsthough in asmallerdegree; as she had not the task of teachingnor was she soresponsiblefor the conduct of her charge.
'OhMissGrey!' she would say'you have some trouble with themchilder!'
'I haveindeedBetty; and I daresay you know what it is.'
'AyI doso! But I don't vex myself o'er 'em as you do. AndthenyouseeI hit 'em a slap sometimes: and them little 'uns -I gives'em a good whipping now and then: there's nothing elsewill dofor 'emas what they say. HowsoeverI've lost my placefor it.'
'Have youBetty? I heard you were going to leave.'
'Ehblessyouyes! Missis gave me warning a three wik sin'. Shetold meafore Christmas how it mud beif I hit 'em again; but Icouldn'thold my hand off 'em at nothing. I know not how YOU dofor MissMary Ann's worse by the half nor her sisters!'
CHAPTER V- THE UNCLE
BESIDESthe old ladythere was another relative of the familywhosevisits were a great annoyance to me - this was 'UncleRobson'Mrs. Bloomfield's brother; a tallself-sufficient fellowwith darkhair and sallow complexion like his sistera nose thatseemed todisdain the earthand little grey eyesfrequently half-closedwith a mixture of real stupidity and affected contempt ofallsurrounding objects. He was a thick-setstrongly-built manbut he hadfound some means of compressing his waist into aremarkablysmall compass; and thattogether with the unnaturalstillnessof his formshowed that the lofty-mindedmanly Mr.Robsonthe scorner of the female sexwas not above the foppery ofstays. He seldom deigned to notice me; andwhen he didit waswith acertain supercilious insolence of tone and manner thatconvincedme he was no gentleman: though it was intended to have acontraryeffect. But it was not for that I disliked his comingsomuch asfor the harm he did the children - encouraging all theirevilpropensitiesand undoing in a few minutes the little good ithad takenme months of labour to achieve.
Fanny andlittle Harriet he seldom condescended to notice; but MaryAnn wassomething of a favourite. He was continually encouraginghertendency to affectation (which I had done my utmost to crush)talkingabout her pretty faceand filling her head with all mannerofconceited notions concerning her personal appearance (which Ihadinstructed her to regard as dust in the balance compared withthecultivation of her mind and manners); and I never saw a childsosusceptible of flattery as she was. Whatever was wrongineither heror her brotherhe would encourage by laughing atifnot byactually praising: people little know the injury they do tochildrenby laughing at their faultsand making a pleasant jest ofwhat theirtrue friends have endeavoured to teach them to hold ingraveabhorrence.
Though nota positive drunkardMr. Robson habitually swallowedgreatquantities of wineand took with relish an occasional glassof brandyand water. He taught his nephew to imitate him in thisto theutmost of his abilityand to believe that the more wine andspirits hecould takeand the better he liked themthe more hemanifestedhis boldand manly spiritand rose superior to hissisters. Mr. Bloomfield had not much to say against itfor hisfavouritebeverage was gin and water; of which he took aconsiderableportion every dayby dint of constant sipping - andto that Ichiefly attributed his dingy complexion and waspishtemper.
Mr. Robsonlikewise encouraged Tom's propensity to persecute thelowercreationboth by precept and example. As he frequently cameto courseor shoot over his brother-in-law's groundshe wouldbring hisfavourite dogs with him; and he treated them so brutallythatpooras I wasI would have given a sovereign any day to seeone ofthem bite himprovided the animal could have done it withimpunity. Sometimeswhen in a very complacent moodhe would goa-birds'-nestingwith the childrena thing that irritated andannoyed meexceedingly; asby frequent and persevering attemptsIflatteredmyself I had partly shown them the evil of this pastimeand hopedin timeto bring them to some general sense of justiceandhumanity; but ten minutes' birds'-nesting with uncle Robsonoreven alaugh from him at some relation of their former barbaritieswassufficient at once to destroy the effect of my whole elaboratecourse ofreasoning and persuasion. Happilyhoweverduring thatspringthey neverbut oncegot anything but empty nestsor eggs- beingtoo impatient to leave them till the birds were hatched;that onceTomwho had been with his uncle into the neighbouringplantationcame running in high glee into the gardenwith a broodof littlecallow nestlings in his hands. Mary Ann and FannywhomI was justbringing outran to admire his spoilsand to beg eacha bird forthemselves. 'Nonot one!' cried Tom. 'They're allmine;uncle Robson gave them to me - onetwothreefourfive -you shan'ttouch one of them! nonot onefor your lives!'continuedheexultingly; laying the nest on the groundandstandingover it with his legs wide aparthis hands thrust intohisbreeches-pocketshis body bent forwardand his face twistedinto allmanner of contortions in the ecstasy of his delight.
'But youshall see me fettle 'em off. My wordbut I WILL wallop'em? See if I don't now. By gum! but there's rare sport for me inthatnest.'
'ButTom' said I'I shall not allow you to torture those birds.They musteither be killed at once or carried back to the place youtook themfromthat the old birds may continue to feed them.'
'But youdon't know where that isMadam: it's only me and uncleRobsonthat knows that.'
'But ifyou don't tell meI shall kill them myself - much as Ihate it.'
'Youdaren't. You daren't touch them for your life! because youknow papaand mammaand uncle Robsonwould be angry. Haha!I'vecaught you thereMiss!'
'I shalldo what I think right in a case of this sort withoutconsultingany one. If your papa and mamma don't happen to approveof itIshall be sorry to offend them; but your uncle Robson'sopinionsof courseare nothing to me.'
So saying- urged by a sense of duty - at the risk of both makingmyselfsick and incurring the wrath of my employers - I got a largeflatstonethat had been reared up for a mouse-trap by thegardener;thenhaving once more vainly endeavoured to persuade thelittletyrant to let the birds be carried backI asked what heintendedto do with them. With fiendish glee he commenced a listoftorments; and while he was busied in the relationI dropped thestone uponhis intended victims and crushed them flat beneath it.Loud werethe outcriesterrible the execrationsconsequent uponthisdaring outrage; uncle Robson had been coming up the walk withhis gunand was just then pausing to kick his dog. Tom flewtowardshimvowing he would make him kick me instead of Juno. Mr.Robsonleant upon his gunand laughed excessively at the violenceof hisnephew's passionand the bitter maledictions andopprobriousepithets he heaped upon me. 'Wellyou ARE a good'un!'exclaimed heat lengthtaking up his weapon and proceedingtowardsthe house. 'Dammebut the lad has some spunk in himtoo.Curse meif ever I saw a nobler little scoundrel than that. He'sbeyondpetticoat government already: by God! he defies mothergrannygovernessand all! Hahaha! Never mindTomI'll getyouanother brood to-morrow.'
'If youdoMr. RobsonI shall kill them too' said I.
'Humph!'replied heand having honoured me with a broad stare -whichcontrary to his expectationsI sustained without flinching- heturned away with an air of supreme contemptand stalked intothehouse. Tom next went to tell his mamma. It was not herway tosay muchon any subject; butwhen she next saw meher aspect anddemeanourwere doubly dark and chilled. After some casual remarkabout theweathershe observed - 'I am sorryMiss Greyyoushouldthink it necessary to interfere with Master Bloomfield'samusements;he was very much distressed about your destroying thebirds.'
'WhenMaster Bloomfield's amusements consist in injuring sentientcreatures'I answered'I think it my duty to interfere.'
'Youseemed to have forgotten' said shecalmly'that thecreatureswere all created for our convenience.'
I thoughtthat doctrine admitted some doubtbut merely replied -'If theywerewe have no right to torment them for our amusement.'
'I think'said she'a child's amusement is scarcely to be weighedagainstthe welfare of a soulless brute.'
'Butforthe child's own sakeit ought not to be encouraged tohave suchamusements' answered Ias meekly as I couldto make upfor suchunusual pertinacity. '"Blessed are the mercifulfor theyshallobtain mercy."'
'Oh! ofcourse; but that refers to our conduct towards each other.'
'"Themerciful man shows mercy to his beast"' I ventured to add.
'I thinkYOU have not shown much mercy' replied shewith a shortbitterlaugh; 'killing the poor birds by wholesale in that shockingmannerand putting the dear boy to such misery for a mere whim.'
I judgedit prudent to say no more. This was the nearest approachto aquarrel I ever had with Mrs. Bloomfield; as well as thegreatestnumber of words I ever exchanged with her at one timesince theday of my first arrival.
But Mr.Robson and old Mrs. Bloomfield were not the only guestswhosecoming to Wellwood House annoyed me; every visitor disturbedme more orless; not so much because they neglected me (though Idid feeltheir conduct strange and disagreeable in that respect)as becauseI found it impossible to keep my pupils away from themas I wasrepeatedly desired to do: Tom must talk to themand MaryAnn mustbe noticed by them. Neither the one nor the other knewwhat itwas to feel any degree of shamefacednessor even commonmodesty. They would indecently and clamorously interrupt theconversationof their elderstease them with the most impertinentquestionsroughly collar the gentlemenclimb their kneesuninvitedhang about their shoulders or rifle their pocketspulltheladies' gownsdisorder their hairtumble their collarsandimportunatelybeg for their trinkets.
Mrs.Bloomfield had the sense to be shocked and annoyed at allthisbutshe had not sense to prevent it: she expected me topreventit. But how could I - when the guestswith their fineclothesand new facescontinually flattered and indulged themoutofcomplaisance to their parents - how could Iwith my homelygarmentsevery-day faceand honest wordsdraw them away? Istrainedevery nerve to do so: by striving to amuse themIendeavouredto attract them to my side; by the exertion of suchauthorityas I possessedand by such severity as I dared to useItried todeter them from tormenting the guests; and by reproachingtheirunmannerly conductto make them ashamed to repeat it. Butthey knewno shame; they scorned authority which had no terrors toback it;and as for kindness and affectioneither they had noheartsorsuch as they had were so strongly guardedand so wellconcealedthat Iwith all my effortshad not yet discovered howto reachthem.
But soonmy trials in this quarter came to a close - sooner than Ieitherexpected or desired; for one sweet evening towards the closeof MayasI was rejoicing in the near approach of the holidaysandcongratulating myself upon having made some progress with mypupils (asfar as their learning wentat leastfor I HADinstilledSOMETHING into their headsand I hadat lengthbroughtthem to bea little - a very little - more rational about gettingtheirlessons done in time to leave some space for recreationinstead oftormenting themselves and me all day long to nopurpose)Mrs. Bloomfield sent for meand calmly told me thatafterMidsummer my services would be no longer required. Sheassured methat my character and general conduct wereunexceptionable;but the children had made so little improvementsince myarrival that Mr. Bloomfield and she felt it their duty toseek someother mode of instruction. Though superior to mostchildrenof their years in abilitiesthey were decidedly behindthem inattainments; their manners were uncultivatedand theirtempersunruly. And this she attributed to a want of sufficientfirmnessand diligentpersevering care on my part.
Unshakenfirmnessdevoted diligenceunwearied perseveranceunceasingcarewere the very qualifications on which I hadsecretlyprided myself; and by which I had hoped in time toovercomeall difficultiesand obtain success at last. I wished tosaysomething in my own justification; but in attempting to speakI felt myvoice falter; and rather than testify any emotionorsuffer thetears to overflow that were already gathering in myeyesIchose to keep silenceand bear all like a self-convictedculprit.
Thus was Idismissedand thus I sought my home. Alas! what wouldthey thinkof me? unableafter all my boastingto keep my placeeven for asingle yearas governess to three small childrenwhosemother wasasserted by my own aunt to be a 'very nice woman.'Havingbeen thus weighed in the balance and found wantingI neednot hopethey would be willing to try me again. And this was anunwelcomethought; for vexedharasseddisappointed as I had beenandgreatly as I had learned to love and value my homeI was notyet wearyof adventurenor willing to relax my efforts. I knewthat allparents were not like Mr. and Mrs. Bloomfieldand I wascertainall children were not like theirs. The next family must bedifferentand any change must be for the better. I had beenseasonedby adversityand tutored by experienceand I longed toredeem mylost honour in the eyes of those whose opinion was morethan thatof all the world to me.
CHAPTER VI- THE PARSONAGE AGAIN
FOR a fewmonths I remained peaceably at homein the quietenjoymentof liberty and restand genuine friendshipfrom all ofwhich Ihad fasted so long; and in the earnest prosecution of mystudiesto recover what I had lost during my stay at WellwoodHouseandto lay in new stores for future use. My father's healthwas stillvery infirmbut not materially worse than when I lastsaw him;and I was glad I had it in my power to cheer him by myreturnand to amuse him with singing his favourite songs.
No onetriumphed over my failureor said I had better have takenhis or heradviceand quietly stayed at home. All were glad tohave meback againand lavished more kindness than ever upon meto make upfor the sufferings I had undergone; but not one wouldtouch ashilling of what I had so cheerfully earned and socarefullysavedin the hope of sharing it with them. By dint ofpinchinghereand scraping thereour debts were already nearlypaid. Mary had had good success with her drawings; but our fatherhadinsisted upon HER likewise keeping all the produce of herindustryto herself. All we could spare from the supply of ourhumblewardrobe and our little casual expenseshe directed us toput intothe savings'-bank; sayingwe knew not how soon we mightbedependent on that alone for support: for he felt he had notlong to bewith usand what would become of our mother and us whenhe wasgoneGod only knew!
Dear papa!if he had troubled himself less about the afflictionsthatthreatened us in case of his deathI am convinced thatdreadedevent would not have taken place so soon. My mother wouldneversuffer him to ponder on the subject if she could help it.
'OhRichard!' exclaimed sheon one occasion'if you would butdismisssuch gloomy subjects from your mindyou would live as longas any ofus; at least you would live to see the girls marriedandyourself ahappy grandfatherwith a canty old dame for yourcompanion.'
My motherlaughedand so did my father: but his laugh soonperishedin a dreary sigh.
'THEYmarried - poor penniless things!' said he; 'who will takethem Iwonder!'
'Whynobody shall that isn't thankful for them. Wasn't Ipennilesswhen you took me? and you PRETENDEDat leastto bevastlypleased with your acquisition. But it's no matter whetherthey getmarried or not: we can devise a thousand honest ways ofmaking alivelihood. And I wonderRichardyou can think ofbotheringyour head about our POVERTY in case of your death; as ifTHAT wouldbe anything compared with the calamity of losing you -anaffliction that you well know would swallow up all othersandwhich youought to do your utmost to preserve us from: and thereis nothinglike a cheerful mind for keeping the body in health.'
'I knowAliceit is wrong to keep repining as I dobut I cannothelp it: you must bear with me.'
'I WON'Tbear with youif I can alter you' replied my mother:but theharshness of her words was undone by the earnest affectionof hertone and pleasant smilethat made my father smile againless sadlyand less transiently than was his wont.
'Mamma'said Ias soon as I could find an opportunity of speakingwith heralone'my money is but littleand cannot last long; if Icouldincrease itit would lessen papa's anxietyon one subjectat least. I cannot draw like Maryand so the best thing I coulddo wouldbe to look out for another situation.'
'And soyou would actually try againAgnes?'
'WhymydearI should have thought you had had enough of it.'
'I know'said I'everybody is not like Mr. and Mrs. Bloomfield -'
'Some areworse' interrupted my mother.
'But notmanyI think' replied I'and I'm sure all children arenot liketheirs; for I and Mary were not: we always did as you bidusdidn'twe?'
'Generally: but thenI did not spoil you; and you were notperfectangels after all: Mary had a fund of quiet obstinacyandyou weresomewhat faulty in regard to temper; but you were verygoodchildren on the whole.'
'I know Iwas sulky sometimesand I should have been glad to seethesechildren sulky sometimes too; for then I could haveunderstoodthem: but they never werefor they COULD not beoffendednor hurtnor ashamed: they could not be unhappy in anywayexcept when they were in a passion.'
'Wellifthey COULD notit was not their fault: you cannotexpectstone to be as pliable as clay.'
'Nobutstill it is very unpleasant to live with suchunimpressibleincomprehensible creatures. You cannot love them;and if youcouldyour love would be utterly thrown away: theycouldneither return itnor valuenor understand it. Buthowevereven if I should stumble on such a family againwhich isquiteunlikelyI have all this experience to begin withand Ishouldmanage better another time; and the end and aim of thispreambleislet me try again.'
'Wellmygirlyou are not easily discouragedI see: I am gladof that. Butlet me tell youyou are a good deal paler andthinnerthan when you first left home; and we cannot have youunderminingyour health to hoard up money either for yourself orothers.'
'Marytells me I am changed too; and I don't much wonder at itforI was in aconstant state of agitation and anxiety all day long:but nexttime I am determined to take things coolly.'
After somefurther discussionmy mother promised once more toassist meprovided I would wait and be patient; and I left her tobroach thematter to my fatherwhen and how she deemed it mostadvisable: never doubting her ability to obtain his consent.MeantimeI searchedwith great interestthe advertising columnsof thenewspapersand wrote answers to every 'Wanted a Governess'thatappeared at all eligible; but all my lettersas well as thereplieswhen I got anywere dutifully shown to my mother; andsheto mychagrinmade me reject the situations one afteranother: these were low peoplethese were too exacting in theirdemandsand these too niggardly in their remuneration.
'Yourtalents are not such as every poor clergyman's daughterpossessesAgnes' she would say'and you must not throw themaway. Rememberyou promised to be patient: there is no need ofhurry: you have plenty of time before youand may have manychancesyet.'
At lengthshe advised me to put an advertisementmyselfin thepaperstating my qualifications&c.
'MusicsingingdrawingFrenchLatinand German' said she'are nomean assemblage: many will be glad to have so much in oneinstructor;and this timeyou shall try your fortune in a somewhathigherfamily in that of some genuinethoroughbred gentleman; forsuch arefar more likely to treat you with proper respect andconsiderationthan those purse-proud tradespeople and arrogantupstarts. I have known several among the higher ranks who treatedtheirgovernesses quite as one of the family; though someI alloware asinsolent and exacting as any one else can be: for there arebad andgood in all classes.'
Theadvertisement was quickly written and despatched. Of the twopartieswho answered itbut one would consent to give me fiftypoundsthe sum my mother bade me name as the salary I shouldrequire;and hereI hesitated about engaging myselfas I fearedthechildren would be too oldand their parents would require someone moreshowyor more experiencedif not more accomplished thanI. But my mother dissuaded me from declining it on that account:I shoulddo vastly wellshe saidif I would only throw aside mydiffidenceand acquire a little more confidence in myself. I wasjust togive a plaintrue statement of my acquirements andqualificationsand name what stipulations I chose to makeandthen awaitthe result. The only stipulation I ventured to proposewas that Imight be allowed two months' holidays during the year tovisit myfriendsat Midsummer and Christmas. The unknown ladyinher replymade no objection to thisand stated thatas to myacquirementsshe had no doubt I should be able to givesatisfaction;but in the engagement of governesses she consideredthosethings as but subordinate points; as being situated in theneighbourhoodof O-she could get masters to supply anydeficienciesin that respect: butin her opinionnext tounimpeachablemoralitya mild and cheerful temper and obligingdispositionwere the most essential requisities.
My motherdid not relish this at alland now made many objectionsto myaccepting the situation; in which my sister warmly supportedher: butunwilling to be balked againI overruled them all; andhavingfirst obtained the consent of my father (who hada shorttimepreviouslybeen apprised of these transactions)I wrote amostobliging epistle to my unknown correspondentandfinallythebargain was concluded.
It wasdecreed that on the last day of January I was to enter uponmy newoffice as governess in the family of Mr. Murrayof HortonLodgenear O-about seventy miles from our village: a formidabledistanceto meas I had never been above twenty miles from home inall thecourse of my twenty years' sojourn on earth; and asmoreoverevery individual in that family and in the neighbourhoodwasutterly unknown to myself and all my acquaintances. But thisrenderedit only the more piquant to me. I had nowin somemeasuregot rid of the MAUVAISE HONTE that had formerly oppressedme somuch; there was a pleasing excitement in the idea of enteringtheseunknown regionsand making my way alone among its strangeinhabitants. I now flattered myself I was going to see somethingin theworld: Mr. Murray's residence was near a large townandnot in amanufacturing districtwhere the people had nothing to dobut tomake money; his rank from what I could gatherappeared tobe higherthan that of Mr. Bloomfield; anddoubtlesshe was oneof thosegenuine thorough-bred gentry my mother spoke ofwho wouldtreat hisgoverness with due consideration as a respectable well-educatedladythe instructor and guide of his childrenand not amere upperservant. Thenmy pupils being olderwould be morerationalmore teachableand less troublesome than the last; theywould beless confined to the schoolroomand not require thatconstantlabour and incessant watching; andfinallybrightvisionsmingled with my hopeswith which the care of children andthe mereduties of a governess had little or nothing to do. Thusthe readerwill see that I had no claim to be regarded as a martyrto filialpietygoing forth to sacrifice peace and liberty for thesolepurpose of laying up stores for the comfort and support of myparents: though certainly the comfort of my fatherand the futuresupport ofmy motherhad a large share in my calculations; andfiftypounds appeared to me no ordinary sum. I must have decentclothesbecoming my station; I mustit seemedput out my washingand alsopay for my four annual journeys between Horton Lodge andhome; butwith strict attention to economysurely twenty poundsor littlemorewould cover those expensesand then there would bethirty forthe bankor little less: what a valuable addition toourstock! OhI must struggle to keep this situationwhatever itmight be!both for my own honour among my friends and for the solidservices Imight render them by my continuance there.
CHAPTERVII - HORTON LODGE
THE 31stof January was a wildtempestuous day: there was astrongnorth windwith a continual storm of snow drifting on theground andwhirling through the air. My friends would have had medelay mydeparturebut fearful of prejudicing my employers againstme by suchwant of punctuality at the commencement of myundertakingI persisted in keeping the appointment.
I will notinflict upon my readers an account of my leaving home onthat darkwinter morning: the fond farewellsthe longlongjourney toO-the solitary waitings in inns for coaches or trains- forthere were some railways then - andfinallythe meeting atO- withMr. Murray's servantwho had been sent with the phaeton todrive mefrom thence to Horton Lodge. I will just state that theheavy snowhad thrown such impediments in the way of both horsesandsteam-enginesthat it was dark some hours before I reached myjourney'sendand that a most bewildering storm came on at lastwhich madethe few miles' space between O- and Horton Lodge a longandformidable passage. I sat resignedwith the coldsharp snowdriftingthrough my veil and filling my lapseeing nothingandwonderinghow the unfortunate horse and driver could make their wayeven aswell as they did; and indeed it was but a toilsomecreepingstyle of progressionto say the best of it. At length wepaused;andat the call of the driversomeone unlatched androlledback upon their creaking hinges what appeared to be the parkgates. Then we proceeded along a smoother roadwhenceoccasionallyI perceived some hugehoary mass gleaming throughthedarknesswhich I took to be a portion of a snow-clad tree.After aconsiderable time we paused againbefore the statelyportico ofa large house with long windows descending to theground.
I rosewith some difficulty from under the superincumbentsnowdriftand alighted from the carriageexpecting that a kindandhospitable reception would indemnify me for the toils andhardshipsof the day. A gentleman person in black opened the doorandadmitted me into a spacious halllighted by an amber-colouredlampsuspended from the ceiling; he led me through thisalong apassageand opening the door of a back roomtold me that was theschoolroom. I enteredand found two young ladies and two younggentlemen- my future pupilsI supposed. After a formal greetingthe eldergirlwho was trifling over a piece of canvas and abasket ofGerman woolsasked if I should like to go upstairs. Ireplied inthe affirmativeof course.
'Matildatake a candleand show her her room' said she.
MissMatildaa strapping hoyden of about fourteenwith a shortfrock andtrousersshrugged her shoulders and made a slightgrimacebut took a candle and proceeded before me up the backstairs (alongsteepdouble flight)and through a longnarrowpassageto a small but tolerably comfortable room. She then askedme if Iwould take some tea or coffee. I was about to answer No;butremembering that I had taken nothing since seven o'clock thatmorningand feeling faint in consequenceI said I would take acup oftea. Saying she would tell 'Brown' the young ladydeparted;and by the time I had divested myself of my heavywetcloakshawlbonnet&c.a mincing damsel came to say the youngladiesdesired to know whether I would take my tea up there or intheschoolroom. Under the plea of fatigue I chose to take itthere. She withdrew; andafter a whilereturned again with asmalltea-trayand placed it on the chest of drawerswhich servedas adressing-table. Having civilly thanked herI asked at whattime Ishould be expected to rise in the morning.
'The youngladies and gentlemen breakfast at half-past eightma'am'said she; 'they rise early; butas they seldom do anylessonsbefore breakfastI should think it will do if you risesoon afterseven.'
I desiredher to be so kind as to call me at sevenandpromisingto do soshe withdrew. Thenhaving broken my long fast on a cupof tea anda little thin bread and butterI sat down beside thesmallsmouldering fireand amused myself with a hearty fit ofcrying;after whichI said my prayersand thenfeelingconsiderablyrelievedbegan to prepare for bed. Finding that noneof myluggage was brought upI instituted a search for the bell;andfailing to discover any signs of such a convenience in anycorner ofthe roomI took my candle and ventured through the longpassageand down the steep stairson a voyage of discovery.Meeting awell-dressed female on the wayI told her what I wanted;but notwithout considerable hesitationas I was not quite surewhether itwas one of the upper servantsor Mrs. Murray herself:ithappenedhoweverto be the lady's-maid. With the air of oneconferringan unusual favourshe vouchsafed to undertake thesending upof my things; and when I had re-entered my roomandwaited andwondered a long time (greatly fearing that she hadforgottenor neglected to perform her promiseand doubting whetherto keepwaiting or go to bedor go down again)my hopesatlengthwere revived by the sound of voices and laughteraccompaniedby the tramp of feet along the passage; and presentlytheluggage was brought in by a rough-looking maid and a manneither ofthem very respectful in their demeanour to me. Havingshut thedoor upon their retiring footstepsand unpacked a few ofmy thingsI betook myself to rest; gladly enoughfor I was wearyin bodyand mind.
It waswith a strange feeling of desolationmingled with a strongsense ofthe novelty of my situationand a joyless kind ofcuriosityconcerning what was yet unknownthat I awoke the nextmorning;feeling like one whirled away by enchantmentand suddenlydroppedfrom the clouds into a remote and unknown landwidely andcompletelyisolated from all he had ever seen or known before; orlike athistle-seed borne on the wind to some strange nook ofuncongenialsoilwhere it must lie long enough before it can takeroot andgerminateextracting nourishment from what appears soalien toits nature: ifindeedit ever can. But this gives noproperidea of my feelings at all; and no one that has not livedsuch aretiredstationary life as minecan possibly imagine whattheywere: hardly even if he has known what it is to awake somemorningand find himself in Port Nelsonin New Zealandwith aworld ofwaters between himself and all that knew him.
I shallnot soon forget the peculiar feeling with which I raised myblind andlooked out upon the unknown world: a widewhitewildernesswas all that met my gaze; a waste of
Desertstossed in snowAnd heavyladen groves.
Idescended to the schoolroom with no remarkable eagerness to joinmy pupilsthough not without some feeling of curiosity respectingwhat afurther acquaintance would reveal. One thingamong othersof moreobvious importanceI determined with myself - I must beginwithcalling them Miss and Master. It seemed to me a chilling andunnaturalpiece of punctilio between the children of a family andtheirinstructor and daily companion; especially where the formerwere intheir early childhoodas at Wellwood House; but eventheremycalling the little Bloomfields by their simple names hadbeenregarded as an offensive liberty: as their parents had takencare toshow meby carefully designating them MASTER and MISSBloomfield&c.in speaking to me. I had been very slow to takethe hintbecause the whole affair struck me as so very absurd; butnow Idetermined to be wiserand begin at once with as much formandceremony as any member of the family would be likely torequire: andindeedthe children being so much oldertherewould beless difficulty; though the little words Miss and Masterseemed tohave a surprising effect in repressing all familiaropen-heartedkindnessand extinguishing every gleam of cordialitythat mightarise between us.
As Icannotlike Dogberryfind it in my heart to bestow all mytediousnessupon the readerI will not go on to bore him with aminutedetail of all the discoveries and proceedings of this andthefollowing day. No doubt he will be amply satisfied with aslightsketch of the different members of the familyand a generalview ofthe first year or two of my sojourn among them.
To beginwith the head: Mr. Murray wasby all accountsablusteringroysteringcountry squire: a devoted fox-hunteraskilfulhorse-jockey and farrieran activepractical farmeranda heartyBON VIVANT. By all accountsI say; forexcept onSundayswhen he went to churchI never saw him from month tomonth: unlessin crossing the hall or walking in the groundsthefigure ofa tallstout gentlemanwith scarlet cheeks and crimsonnosehappened to come across me; on which occasionsif he passednearenough to speakan unceremonious nodaccompanied by a'MorningMiss Grey' or some such brief salutationwas usuallyvouchsafed. Frequentlyindeedhis loud laugh reached me fromafar; andoftener still I heard him swearing and blasphemingagainstthe footmengroomcoachmanor some other haplessdependant.
Mrs.Murray was a handsomedashing lady of fortywho certainlyrequiredneither rouge nor padding to add to her charms; and whosechiefenjoyments wereor seemed to bein giving or frequentingpartiesand in dressing at the very top of the fashion. I did notsee hertill eleven o'clock on the morning after my arrival; whenshehonoured me with a visitjust as my mother might step into thekitchen tosee a new servant-girl: yet not soeitherfor mymotherwould have seen her immediately after her arrivaland notwaitedtill the next day; andmoreovershe would have addressedher in amore kind and friendly mannerand given her some words ofcomfort aswell as a plain exposition of her duties; but Mrs.Murray didneither the one nor the other. She just stepped intotheschoolroom on her return from ordering dinner in thehousekeeper'sroombade me good-morningstood for two minutes bythe firesaid a few words about the weather and the 'rather rough'journey Imust have had yesterday; petted her youngest child - aboy of ten- who had just been wiping his mouth and hands on hergownafter indulging in some savoury morsel from the house-keeper'sstore; told me what a sweetgood boy he was; and thensailedoutwith a self-complacent smile upon her face: thinkingno doubtthat she had done quite enough for the presentand hadbeendelightfully condescending into the bargain. Her childrenevidentlyheld the same opinionand I alone thought otherwise.
After thisshe looked in upon me once or twiceduring the absenceof mypupilsto enlighten me concerning my duties towards them.For thegirls she seemed anxious only to render them assuperficiallyattractive and showily accomplished as they couldpossiblybe madewithout present trouble or discomfort tothemselves;and I was to act accordingly - to study and strive toamuse andobligeinstructrefineand polishwith the leastpossibleexertion on their partand no exercise of authority onmine. With regard to the two boysit was much the same; onlyinstead ofaccomplishmentsI was to get the greatest possiblequantityof Latin grammar and Valpy's Delectus into their headsinorder tofit them for school - the greatest possible quantity atleastWITHOUT trouble to themselves. John might be a 'little high-spirited'and Charles might be a little 'nervous and tedious - '
'But atall eventsMiss Grey' said she'I hope YOU will keepyourtemperand be mild and patient throughout; especially withthe dearlittle Charles; he is so extremely nervous andsusceptibleand so utterly unaccustomed to anything but thetenderesttreatment. You will excuse my naming these things toyou; forthe fact isI have hitherto found all the governesseseven thevery best of themfaulty in this particular. They wantedthat meekand quiet spiritwhich St. Matthewor some of themsays isbetter than the putting on of apparel - you will know thepassage towhich I alludefor you are a clergyman's daughter. ButI have nodoubt you will give satisfaction in this respect as wellas therest. And rememberon all occasionswhen any of the youngpeople doanything improperif persuasion and gentle remonstrancewill notdolet one of the others come and tell me; for I canspeak tothem more plainly than it would be proper for you to do.And makethem as happy as you canMiss Greyand I dare say youwill dovery well.'
I observedthat while Mrs. Murray was so extremely solicitous forthecomfort and happiness of her childrenand continually talkingabout itshe never once mentioned mine; though they were at homesurroundedby friendsand I an alien among strangers; and I didnot yetknow enough of the worldnot to be considerably surprisedat thisanomaly.
MissMurrayotherwise Rosaliewas about sixteen when I cameanddecidedlya very pretty girl; and in two years longeras time morecompletelydeveloped her form and added grace to her carriage anddeportmentshe became positively beautiful; and that in no commondegree. She was tall and slenderyet not thin; perfectly formedexquisitelyfairthough not without a brillianthealthy bloom;her hairwhich she wore in a profusion of long ringletswas of avery lightbrown inclining to yellow; her eyes were pale bluebutso clearand bright that few would wish them darker; the rest ofherfeatures were smallnot quite regularand not remarkablyotherwise: but altogether you could not hesitate to pronounce hera verylovely girl. I wish I could say as much for mind anddispositionas I can for her form and face.
Yet thinknot I have any dreadful disclosures to make: she waslivelylight-heartedand could be very agreeablewith those whodid notcross her will. Towards mewhen I first cameshe wascold andhaughtythen insolent and overbearing; buton a furtheracquaintanceshe gradually laid aside her airsand in time becameas deeplyattached to me as it was possible for HER to be to one ofmycharacter and position: for she seldom lost sightfor abovehalf anhour at a timeof the fact of my being a hireling and apoorcurate's daughter. And yetupon the wholeI believe sherespectedme more than she herself was aware of; because I was theonlyperson in the house who steadily professed good principleshabituallyspoke the truthand generally endeavoured to makeinclinationbow to duty; and this I saynotof courseincommendationof myselfbut to show the unfortunate state of thefamily towhich my services werefor the presentdevoted. Therewas nomember of it in whom I regretted this sad want of principleso much asMiss Murray herself; not only because she had taken afancy tomebut because there was so much of what was pleasant andprepossessingin herselfthatin spite of her failingsI reallyliked her- when she did not rouse my indignationor ruffle mytemper byTOO great a display of her faults. ThesehoweverIwould fainpersuade myself were rather the effect of her educationthan herdisposition: she had never been perfectly taught thedistinctionbetween right and wrong; she hadlike her brothers andsistersbeen sufferedfrom infancyto tyrannize over nursesgovernessesand servants; she had not been taught to moderate herdesiresto control her temper or bridle her willor to sacrificeher ownpleasure for the good of others. Her temper beingnaturallygoodshe was never violent or morosebut from constantindulgenceand habitual scorn of reasonshe was often testy andcapricious;her mind had never been cultivated: her intellectatbestwassomewhat shallow; she possessed considerable vivacitysomequickness of perceptionand some talent for music and theacquisitionof languagesbut till fifteen she had troubled herselfto acquirenothing; - then the love of display had roused herfacultiesand induced her to apply herselfbut only to the moreshowyaccomplishments. And when I came it was the same:everythingwas neglected but FrenchGermanmusicsingingdancingfancy-workand a little drawing - such drawing as mightproducethe greatest show with the smallest labourand theprincipalparts of which were generally done by me. For music andsingingbesides my occasional instructionsshe had the attendanceof thebest master the country afforded; and in theseaccomplishmentsas well as in dancingshe certainly attainedgreatproficiency. To musicindeedshe devoted too much of hertimeasgoverness though I wasI frequently told her; but hermotherthought that if SHE liked itshe COULD not give too muchtime tothe acquisition of so attractive an art. Of fancy-work Iknewnothing but what I gathered from my pupil and my ownobservation;but no sooner was I initiatedthan she made me usefulin twentydifferent ways: all the tedious parts of her work wereshifted onto my shoulders; such as stretching the framesstitchingin the canvassorting the wools and silksputting inthegroundscounting the stitchesrectifying mistakesandfinishingthe pieces she was tired of.
AtsixteenMiss Murray was something of a rompyet not more sothan isnatural and allowable for a girl of that agebut atseventeenthat propensitylike all other thingsbegan to giveway to theruling passionand soon was swallowed up in the all-absorbingambition to attract and dazzle the other sex. But enoughof her: now let us turn to her sister.
MissMatilda Murray was a veritable hoydenof whom little need besaid. She was about two years and a half younger than her sister;herfeatures were largerher complexion much darker. She mightpossiblymake a handsome woman; but she was far too big-boned andawkwardever to be called a pretty girland at present she caredlittleabout it. Rosalie knew all her charmsand thought themevengreater than they wereand valued them more highly than sheought tohave donehad they been three times as great; Matildathoughtshe was well enoughbut cared little about the matter;still lessdid she care about the cultivation of her mindand theacquisitionof ornamental accomplishments. The manner in which shelearnt herlessons and practised her music was calculated to driveanygoverness to despair. Short and easy as her tasks wereifdone atallthey were slurred overat any time and in any way;butgenerally at the least convenient timesand in the way leastbeneficialto herselfand least satisfactory to me: the shorthalf-hourof practising was horribly strummed through; shemeantimeunsparingly abusing meeither for interrupting her withcorrectionsor for not rectifying her mistakes before they weremadeorsomething equally unreasonable. Once or twiceI venturedtoremonstrate with her seriously for such irrational conduct; buton each ofthose occasionsI received such reprehensiveexpostulationsfrom her motheras convinced me thatif I wishedto keepthe situationI must even let Miss Matilda go on in herown way.
When herlessons were overhoweverher ill-humour was generallyover too: while riding her spirited ponyor romping with the dogsor herbrothers and sisterbut especially with her dear brotherJohnshewas as happy as a lark. As an animalMatilda was allrightfull of lifevigourand activity; as an intelligent beingshe wasbarbarously ignorantindocilecareless and irrational;andconsequentlyvery distressing to one who had the task ofcultivatingher understandingreforming her mannersand aidingher toacquire those ornamental attainments whichunlike hersistershe despised as much as the rest. Her mother was partlyaware ofher deficienciesand gave me many a lecture as to how Ishould tryto form her tastesand endeavour to rouse and cherishherdormant vanity; andby insinuatingskilful flatteryto winherattention to the desired objects - which I would not do; andhow Ishould prepare and smooth the path of learning till she couldglidealong it without the least exertion to herself: which Icould notfor nothing can be taught to any purpose without somelittleexertion on the part of the learner.
As a moralagentMatilda was recklessheadstrongviolentandunamenableto reason. One proof of the deplorable state of hermind wasthat from her father's example she had learned to swearlike atrooper. Her mother was greatly shocked at the 'unlady-liketrick'and wondered 'how she had picked it up.' 'But you can soonbreak herof itMiss Grey' said she: 'it is only a habit; and ifyou willjust gently remind her every time she does soI am sureshe willsoon lay it aside.' I not only 'gently reminded' herItried toimpress upon her how wrong it wasand how distressing tothe earsof decent people: but all in vain: I was only answeredby acareless laughand'OhMiss Greyhow shocked you are! I'mso glad!'or'Well! I can't help it; papa shouldn't have taughtme: I learned it all from him; and maybe a bit from the coachman.'
Herbrother JohnALIAS Master Murraywas about eleven when Icame: a finestouthealthy boyfrank and good-natured in themainandmight have been a decent lad had he been properlyeducated;but now he was as rough as a young bearboisterousunrulyunprincipleduntaughtunteachable - at leastfor agovernessunder his mother's eye. His masters at school might beable tomanage him better - for to school he was sentgreatly tomy reliefin the course of a year; in a stateit is trueofscandalousignorance as to Latinas well as the more useful thoughmoreneglected things: and thisdoubtlesswould all be laid totheaccount of his education having been entrusted to an ignorantfemaleteacherwho had presumed to take in hand what she waswhollyincompetent to perform. I was not delivered from hisbrothertill full twelve months afterwhen he also was despatchedin thesame state of disgraceful ignorance as the former.
MasterCharles was his mother's peculiar darling. He was littlemore thana year younger than Johnbut much smallerpalerandlessactive and robust; a pettishcowardlycapriciousselfishlittlefellowonly active in doing mischiefand only clever ininventingfalsehoods: not simply to hide his faultsbutin meremaliciouswantonnessto bring odium upon others. In factMasterCharleswas a very great nuisance to me: it was a trial ofpatienceto live with him peaceably; to watch over him was worse;and toteach himor pretend to teach himwas inconceivable. Atten yearsoldhe could not read correctly the easiest line in thesimplestbook; and asaccording to his mother's principlehe wasto be toldevery wordbefore he had time to hesitate or examineitsorthographyand never even to be informedas a stimulant toexertionthat other boys were more forward than heit is notsurprisingthat he made but little progress during the two years Ihad chargeof his education. His minute portions of Latin grammar&c.were to be repeated over to himtill he chose to say he knewthemandthen he was to be helped to say them; if he made mistakesin hislittle easy sums in arithmeticthey were to be shown him atonceandthe sum done for himinstead of his being left toexercisehis faculties in finding them out himself; so thatofcoursehetook no pains to avoid mistakesbut frequently set downhisfigures at randomwithout any calculation at all.
I did notinvariably confine myself to these rules: it was againstmyconscience to do so; but I seldom could venture to deviate fromthem inthe slightest degreewithout incurring the wrath of mylittlepupiland subsequently of his mamma; to whom he wouldrelate mytransgressions maliciously exaggeratedor adorned withembellishmentsof his own; and oftenin consequencewas I on thepoint oflosing or resigning my situation. Butfor their sakes athomeIsmothered my pride and suppressed my indignationandmanaged tostruggle on till my little tormentor was despatched toschool;his father declaring that home education was 'no go; forhimitwas plain; his mother spoiled him outrageouslyand hisgovernesscould make no hand of him at all.'
A few moreobservations about Horton Lodge and its ongoingsand Ihave donewith dry description for the present. The house was averyrespectable one; superior to Mr. Bloomfield'sboth in agesizeandmagnificence: the garden was not so tastefully laid out;butinstead of the smooth-shaven lawnthe young trees guarded bypalingsthe grove of upstart poplarsand the plantation of firsthere wasa wide parkstocked with deerand beautified by fineoldtrees. The surrounding country itself was pleasantas far asfertilefieldsflourishing treesquiet green lanesand smilinghedgeswith wild-flowers scattered along their bankscould makeit; but itwas depressingly flat to one born and nurtured among theruggedhills of -.
We weresituated nearly two miles from the village churchandconsequentlythe family carriage was put in requisition everySundaymorningand sometimes oftener. Mr. and Mrs. Murraygenerallythought it sufficient to show themselves at church oncein thecourse of the day; but frequently the children preferredgoing asecond time to wandering about the grounds all the day withnothing todo. If some of my pupils chose to walk and take me withthemitwas well for me; for otherwise my position in the carriagewas to becrushed into the corner farthest from the open windowand withmy back to the horses: a position which invariably mademe sick;and if I were not actually obliged to leave the church inthe middleof the servicemy devotions were disturbed with afeeling oflanguor and sicklinessand the tormenting fear of itsbecomingworse: and a depressing headache was generally mycompanionthroughout the daywhich would otherwise have been oneof welcomerestand holycalm enjoyment.
'It's veryoddMiss Greythat the carriage should always make yousick: it never makes ME' remarked Miss Matilda
'Nor meeither' said her sister; 'but I dare say it wouldif Isat whereshe does - such a nastyhorrid placeMiss Grey; Iwonder howyou can bear it!'
'I amobliged to bear itsince no choice is left me' - I mighthaveanswered; but in tenderness for their feelings I only replied- 'Oh! itis but a short wayand if I am not sick in churchIdon't mindit.'
If I werecalled upon to give a description of the usual divisionsandarrangements of the dayI should find it a very difficultmatter. I had all my meals in the schoolroom with my pupilsatsuch timesas suited their fancy: sometimes they would ring fordinnerbefore it was half cooked; sometimes they would keep itwaiting onthe table for above an hourand then be out of humourbecausethe potatoes were coldand the gravy covered with cakes ofsolid fat;sometimes they would have tea at four; frequentlytheywouldstorm at the servants because it was not in precisely atfive; andwhen these orders were obeyedby way of encouragement topunctualitythey would keep it on the table till seven or eight.
Theirhours of study were managed in much the same way; my judgmentorconvenience was never once consulted. Sometimes Matilda andJohn woulddetermine 'to get all the plaguy business over beforebreakfast'and send the maid to call me up at half-past fivewithoutany scruple or apology; sometimesI was told to be readypreciselyat sixandhaving dressed in a hurrycame down to anemptyroomand after waiting a long time in suspensediscoveredthat theyhad changed their mindsand were still in bed; orperhapsif it were a fine summer morningBrown would come to tellme thatthe young ladies and gentlemen had taken a holidayandwere goneout; and then I was kept waiting for breakfast till I wasalmostready to faint: they having fortified themselves withsomethingbefore they went.
Often theywould do their lessons in the open air; which I hadnothing tosay against: except that I frequently caught cold bysitting onthe damp grassor from exposure to the evening deworsomeinsidious draughtwhich seemed to have no injurious effect onthem. It was quite right that they should be hardy; yetsurelythey mighthave been taught some consideration for others who wereless so. But I must not blame them for what wasperhapsmy ownfault; forI never made any particular objections to sitting wheretheypleased; foolishly choosing to risk the consequencesratherthantrouble them for my convenience. Their indecorous manner ofdoingtheir lessons was quite as remarkable as the capricedisplayedin their choice of time and place. While receiving myinstructionsor repeating what they had learnedthey would loungeupon thesofalie on the rugstretchyawntalk to each otheror lookout of the window; whereasI could not so much as stir thefireorpick up the handkerchief I had droppedwithout beingrebukedfor inattention by one of my pupilsor told that 'mammawould notlike me to be so careless.'
Theservantsseeing in what little estimation the governess washeld byboth parents and childrenregulated their behaviour by thesamestandard. I have frequently stood up for themat the risk ofsomeinjury to myselfagainst the tyranny and injustice of theiryoungmasters and mistresses; and I always endeavoured to give themas littletrouble as possible: but they entirely neglected mycomfortdespised my requestsand slighted my directions. AllservantsI am convincedwould not have done so; but domestics ingeneralbeing ignorant and little accustomed to reason andreflectionare too easily corrupted by the carelessness and badexample ofthose above them; and theseI thinkwere not of thebest orderto begin with.
Isometimes felt myself degraded by the life I ledand ashamed ofsubmittingto so many indignities; and sometimes I thought myself afool forcaring so much about themand feared I must be sadlywanting inChristian humilityor that charity which 'sufferethlong andis kindseeketh not her ownis not easily provokedbearethall thingsendureth all things.'
Butwithtime and patiencematters began to be slightlyameliorated: slowlyit is trueand almost imperceptibly; but Igot rid ofmy male pupils (that was no trifling advantage)and thegirlsasI intimated before concerning one of thembecame alittleless insolentand began to show some symptoms of esteem.'Miss Greywas a queer creature: she never flatteredand did notpraisethem half enough; but whenever she did speak favourably ofthemoranything belonging to themthey could be quite sure herapprobationwas sincere. She was very obligingquietandpeaceablein the mainbut there were some things that put her outoftemper: they did not much care for thatto be surebut stillit wasbetter to keep her in tune; as when she was in a good humourshe wouldtalk to themand be very agreeable and amusingsometimesin her way; which was quite different to mamma'sbutstill verywell for a change. She had her own opinions on everysubjectand kept steadily to them - very tiresome opinions theyoftenwere; as she was always thinking of what was right and whatwas wrongand had a strange reverence for matters connected withreligionand an unaccountable liking to good people.'
CHAPTERVIII - THE 'COMING OUT'
ATeighteenMiss Murray was to emerge from the quiet obscurity oftheschoolroom into the full blaze of the fashionable world - asmuch ofitat leastas could be had out of London; for her papacould notbe persuaded to leave his rural pleasures and pursuitseven for afew weeks' residence in town. She was to make her debuton thethird of Januaryat a magnificent ballwhich her mammaproposedto give to all the nobility and choice gentry of O- anditsneighbourhood for twenty miles round. Of courseshe lookedforward toit with the wildest impatienceand the most extravagantanticipationsof delight.
'MissGrey' said sheone eveninga month before the all-importantdayas I was perusing a long and extremely interestingletter ofmy sister's - which I had just glanced at in the morningto seethat it contained no very bad newsand kept till nowunablebefore to find a quiet moment for reading it- 'Miss Greydo putaway that dullstupid letterand listen to me! I'm suremy talkmust be far more amusing than that.'
She seatedherself on the low stool at my feet; and Isuppressinga sigh ofvexationbegan to fold up the epistle.
'Youshould tell the good people at home not to bore you with suchlongletters' said she; 'andabove alldo bid them write onpropernote-paperand not on those great vulgar sheets. Youshould seethe charming little lady-like notes mamma writes to herfriends.'
'The goodpeople at home' replied I'know very well that thelongertheir letters arethe better I like them. I should be verysorry toreceive a charming little lady-like note from any of them;and Ithought you were too much of a lady yourselfMiss Murraytotalk aboutthe "vulgarity" of writing on a large sheet of paper.'
'WellIonly said it to tease you. But now I want to talk aboutthe ball;and to tell you that you positively must put off yourholidaystill it is over.'
'Why so? -I shall not be present at the ball.'
'Nobutyou will see the rooms decked out before it beginsandhear themusicandabove allsee me in my splendid new dress. Ishall beso charmingyou'll be ready to worship me - you reallymuststay.'
'I shouldlike to see you very much; but I shall have manyopportunitiesof seeing you equally charmingon the occasion ofsome ofthe numberless balls and parties that are to beand Icannotdisappoint my friends by postponing my return so long.'
'Ohnevermind your friends! Tell them we won't let you go.'
'Buttosay the truthit would be a disappointment to myself: Ilong tosee them as much as they to see me - perhaps more.'
'Wellbutit is such a short time.'
'Nearly afortnight by my computation; andbesidesI cannot bearthethoughts of a Christmas spent from home: andmoreovermysister isgoing to be married.'
'Is she -when?'
'Not tillnext month; but I want to be there to assist her inmakingpreparationsand to make the best of her company while wehave her.'
'Whydidn't you tell me before?'
'I've onlygot the news in this letterwhich you stigmatize asdull andstupidand won't let me read.'
'To whomis she to be married?'
'To Mr.Richardsonthe vicar of a neighbouring parish.'
'Ohmercy! what a wretch! What sort of a house is it?'
'A quietlittle vicaragewith an ivy-clad porchan old-fashionedgardenand - '
'Ohstop!- you'll make me sick. How CAN she bear it?'
'I expectshe'll not only be able to bear itbut to be very happy.You didnot ask me if Mr. Richardson were a goodwiseor amiableman; Icould have answered Yesto all these questions - at leastso Marythinksand I hope she will not find herself mistaken.'
'But -miserable creature! how can she think of spending her lifetherecooped up with that nasty old man; and no hope of change?'
'He is notold: he's only six or seven and thirty; and she herselfistwenty-eightand as sober as if she were fifty.'
'Oh!that's better then - they're well matched; but do they callhim the"worthy vicar"?'
'I don'tknow; but if they doI believe he merits the epithet.'
'Mercyhow shocking! and will she wear a white apron and make piesandpuddings?'
'I don'tknow about the white apronbut I dare say she will makepies andpuddings now and then; but that will be no great hardshipas she hasdone it before.'
'And willshe go about in a plain shawland a large straw bonnetcarryingtracts and bone soup to her husband's poor parishioners?'
'I'm notclear about that; but I dare say she will do her best tomake themcomfortable in body and mindin accordance with ourmother'sexample.'
CHAPTER IX- THE BALL
'NOWMissGrey' exclaimed Miss Murrayimmediately I entered theschoolroomafter having taken off my outdoor garmentsuponreturningfrom my four weeks' recreation'Now - shut the doorandsit downand I'll tell you all about the ball.'
'No - damnitno!' shouted Miss Matilda. 'Hold your tonguecan'tye? andlet me tell her about my new mare - SUCH a splendourMissGrey! afine blood mare - '
'Do bequietMatilda; and let me tell my news first.'
'NonoRosalie; you'll be such a damned long time over it - sheshall hearme first - I'll be hanged if she doesn't!'
'I'm sorryto hearMiss Matildathat you've not got rid of thatshockinghabit yet.'
'WellIcan't help it: but I'll never say a wicked word againifyou'llonly listen to meand tell Rosalie to hold her confoundedtongue.'
Rosalieremonstratedand I thought I should have been torn inpiecesbetween them; but Miss Matilda having the loudest voicehersister atlength gave inand suffered her to tell her story first:so I wasdoomed to hear a long account of her splendid mareitsbreedingand pedigreeits pacesits actionits spirit&c.andof her ownamazing skill and courage in riding it; concluding withanassertion that she could clear a five-barred gate 'likewinking'that papa said she might hunt the next time the houndsmetandmamma had ordered a bright scarlet hunting-habit for her.
'OhMatilda! what stories you are telling!' exclaimed her sister.
'Well'answered sheno whit abashed'I know I COULD clear afive-barredgateif I triedand papa WILL say I may huntandmamma WILLorder the habit when I ask it.'
'Wellnowget along' replied Miss Murray; 'and dodear Matildatry to bea little more lady-like. Miss GreyI wish you wouldtell hernot to use such shocking words; she will call her horse amare: it is so inconceivably shocking! and then she uses suchdreadfulexpressions in describing it: she must have learned itfrom thegrooms. It nearly puts me into fits when she begins.'
'I learnedit from papayou ass! and his jolly friends' said theyoungladyvigorously cracking a hunting-whipwhich shehabituallycarried in her hand. 'I'm as good judge of horsefleshas thebest of 'm.'
'Wellnowget alongyou shocking girl! I really shall take a fitif you goon in such a way. And nowMiss Greyattend to me; I'mgoing totell you about the ball. You must be dying to hear aboutitIknow. OhSUCH a ball! You never saw or heardor readordreamt ofanything like it in all your life. The decorationstheentertainmentthe supperthe music were indescribable! and thentheguests! There were two noblementhree baronetsand fivetitledladiesand other ladies and gentlemen innumerable. Theladiesofcoursewere of no consequence to meexcept to put mein a goodhumour with myselfby showing how ugly and awkward mostof themwere; and the bestmamma told me- the most transcendentbeautiesamong themwere nothing to me. As for meMiss Grey -I'm soSORRY you didn't see me! I was CHARMING - wasn't IMatilda?'
'Nobut Ireally was - at least so mamma said - and Brown andWilliamson. Brown said she was sure no gentleman could set eyes onme withoutfalling in love that minute; and so I may be allowed tobe alittle vain. I know you think me a shockingconceitedfrivolousgirl; but thenyou knowI don't attribute it ALL to mypersonalattractions: I give some praise to the hairdresserandsome to myexquisitely lovely dress - you must see it to-morrow -whitegauze over pink satin - and so SWEETLY made! and a necklaceandbracelet of beautifullarge pearls!'
'I have nodoubt you looked very charming: but should that delightyou sovery much?'
'Ohno! -not that alone: butthenI was so much admired; and Imade soMANY conquests in that one night - you'd be astonished tohear - '
'But whatgood will they do you?'
'Whatgood! Think of any woman asking that!'
'WellIshould think one conquest would be enough; and too muchunless thesubjugation were mutual.'
'Ohbutyou know I never agree with you on those points. Nowwait abitand I'll tell you my principal admirers - those whomadethemselves very conspicuous that night and after: for I'vebeen totwo parties since. Unfortunately the two noblemenLord G-and LordF-were marriedor I might have condescended to beparticularlygracious to THEM; as it wasI did not: though LordF-whohates his wifewas evidently much struck with me. Heasked meto dance with him twice - he is a charming dancerby-the-byand soam I: you can't think how well I did - I was astonishedatmyself. My lord was very complimentary too - rather too much soin fact -and I thought proper to be a little haughty andrepellent;but I had the pleasure of seeing his nastycross wifeready toperish with spite and vexation - '
'OhMissMurray! you don't mean to say that such a thing couldreallygive you pleasure? However cross or - '
'WellIknow it's very wrong; - but never mind! I mean to be goodsome time- only don't preach nowthere's a good creature. Ihaven'ttold you half yet. Let me see. Oh! I was going to tellyou howmany unmistakeable admirers I had:- Sir Thomas Ashby wasone- SirHugh Meltham and Sir Broadley Wilson are old codgersonly fitcompanions for papa and mamma. Sir Thomas is youngrichand gay;but an ugly beastnevertheless: howevermamma says Ishould notmind that after a few months' acquaintance. Thentherewas HenryMelthamSir Hugh's younger son; rather good-lookinganda pleasantfellow to flirt with: but BEING a younger sonthat isall he isgood for; then there was young Mr. Greenrich enoughbut of nofamilyand a great stupid fellowa mere country booby!and thenour good rectorMr. Hatfield: an HUMBLE admirer heought toconsider himself; but I fear he has forgotten to numberhumilityamong his stock of Christian virtues.'
'Was Mr.Hatfield at the ball?'
'Yestohe sure. Did you think he was too good to go?'
'I thoughtbe might consider it unclerical.'
'By nomeans. He did not profane his cloth by dancing; but it waswithdifficulty he could refrainpoor man: he looked as if hewere dyingto ask my hand just for ONE set; and - oh! by-the-by -he's got anew curate: that seedy old fellow Mr. Bligh has got hislong-wished-forliving at lastand is gone.'
'And whatis the new one like?'
'OhSUCHa beast! Weston his name is. I can give you hisdescriptionin three words - an insensateuglystupid blockhead.That'sfourbut no matter - enough of HIM now.'
Then shereturned to the balland gave me a further account of herdeportmentthereand at the several parties she had sinceattended;and further particulars respecting Sir Thomas Ashby andMessrs.MelthamGreenand Hatfieldand the ineffaceableimpressionshe had wrought upon each of them.
'Wellwhich of the four do you like best?' said Isuppressing mythird orfourth yawn.
'I detestthem all!' replied sheshaking her bright ringlets invivaciousscorn.
'ThatmeansI suppose"I like them all" - but which most?'
'NoIreally detest them all; but Harry Meltham is the handsomestand mostamusingand Mr. Hatfield the cleverestSir Thomas thewickedestand Mr. Green the most stupid. But the one I'm to haveI supposeif I'm doomed to have any of themis Sir Thomas Ashby.'
'Surelynotif he's so wickedand if you dislike him?'
'OhIdon't mind his being wicked: he's all the better for that;and as fordisliking him - I shouldn't greatly object to being LadyAshby ofAshby Parkif I must marry. But if I could be alwaysyoungIwould be always single. I should like to enjoy myselfthoroughlyand coquet with all the worldtill I am on the vergeof beingcalled an old maid; and thento escape the infamy ofthatafter having made ten thousand conqueststo break all theirheartssave oneby marrying some high-bornrichindulgenthusbandwhomon the other handfifty ladies were dying to have.'
'Wellaslong as you entertain these viewskeep single by allmeansandnever marry at all: not even to escape the infamy ofold-maidenhood.'
CHAPTER X- THE CHURCH
'WELLMiss Greywhat do you think of the new curate?' asked MissMurrayonour return from church the Sunday after therecommencementof our duties.
'I canscarcely tell' was my reply: 'I have not even heard himpreach.'
'Wellbutyou saw himdidn't you?'
'YesbutI cannot pretend to judge of a man's character by asinglecursory glance at his face.'
'But isn'the ugly?'
'He didnot strike me as being particularly so; I don't dislikethat castof countenance: but the only thing I particularlynoticedabout him was his style of reading; which appeared to megood -infinitely betterat leastthan Mr. Hatfield's. He readtheLessons as if he were bent on giving full effect to everypassage;it seemed as if the most careless person could not havehelpedattendingnor the most ignorant have failed to understand;and theprayers he read as if he were not reading at allbutprayingearnestly and sincerely from his own heart.'
'Ohyesthat's all he is good for: he can plod through theservicewell enough; but he has not a single idea beyond it.'
'How doyou know?'
'Oh! Iknow perfectly well; I am an excellent judge in suchmatters. Did you see how he went out of church? stumping along -as ifthere were nobody there but himself - never looking to theright handor the leftand evidently thinking of nothing but justgettingout of the churchandperhapshome to his dinner: hisgreatstupid head could contain no other idea.'
'I supposeyou would have had him cast a glance into the squire'spew' saidIlaughing at the vehemence of her hostility.
'Indeed! Ishould have been highly indignant if he had dared to dosuch athing!' replied shehaughtily tossing her head; thenaftera moment'sreflectionshe added - 'Wellwell! I suppose he'sgoodenough for his place: but I'm glad I'm not dependent on HIMforamusement - that's all. Did you see how Mr. Hatfield hurriedout to geta bow from meand be in time to put us into thecarriage?'
'Yes'answered I; internally adding'and I thought it somewhatderogatoryto his dignity as a clergyman to come flying from thepulpit insuch eager haste to shake hands with the squireand handhis wifeand daughters into their carriage: andmoreoverI owehim agrudge for nearly shutting me out of it'; forin factthough Iwas standing before his faceclose beside the carriagestepswaiting to get inhe would persist in putting them up andclosingthe doortill one of the family stopped him by calling outthat thegoverness was not in yet; thenwithout a word of apologyhedepartedwishing them good-morningand leaving the footman tofinish thebusiness.
NOTA BENE.- Mr. Hatfield never spoke to meneither did Sir Hughor LadyMelthamnor Mr. Harry or Miss Melthamnor Mr. Green orhissistersnor any other lady or gentleman who frequented thatchurch: norin factany one that visited at Horton Lodge.
MissMurray ordered the carriage againin the afternoonforherselfand her sister: she said it was too cold for them to enjoythemselvesin the garden; and besidesshe believed Harry Melthamwould beat church. 'For' said shesmiling slyly at her own fairimage inthe glass'he has been a most exemplary attendant atchurchthese last few Sundays: you would think he was quite a goodChristian. And you may go with usMiss Grey: I want you to seehim; he isso greatly improved since he returned from abroad - youcan'tthink! And besidesthen you will have an opportunity ofseeing thebeautiful Mr. Weston againand of hearing him preach.'
I did hearhim preachand was decidedly pleased with theevangelicaltruth of his doctrineas well as the earnestsimplicityof his mannerand the clearness and force of his style.It wastruly refreshing to hear such a sermonafter being so longaccustomedto the dryprosy discourses of the former curateandthe stillless edifying harangues of the rector. Mr. Hatfieldwould comesailing up the aisleor rather sweeping along like awhirlwindwith his rich silk gown flying behind him and rustlingagainstthe pew doorsmount the pulpit like a conqueror ascendinghistriumphal car; thensinking on the velvet cushion in anattitudeof studied graceremain in silent prostration for acertaintime; then mutter over a Collectand gabble through theLord'sPrayerrisedraw off one bright lavender gloveto givethecongregation the benefit of his sparkling ringslightly passhisfingers through his well-curled hairflourish a cambrichandkerchiefrecite a very short passageorperhapsa merephrase ofScriptureas a head-piece to his discourseandfinallydeliver a composition whichas a compositionmight beconsideredgoodthough far too studied and too artificial to bepleasingto me: the propositions were well laid downtheargumentslogically conducted; and yetit was sometimes hard tolistenquietly throughoutwithout some slight demonstrations ofdisapprovalor impatience.
Hisfavourite subjects were church disciplinerites andceremoniesapostolical successionthe duty of reverence andobedienceto the clergythe atrocious criminality of dissenttheabsolutenecessity of observing all the forms of godlinessthereprehensiblepresumption of individuals who attempted to think forthemselvesin matters connected with religionor to be guided bytheir owninterpretations of Scriptureandoccasionally (toplease hiswealthy parishioners) the necessity of deferentialobediencefrom the poor to the rich - supporting his maxims andexhortationsthroughout with quotations from the Fathers: withwhom heappeared to be far better acquainted than with the ApostlesandEvangelistsand whose importance he seemed to consider atleastequal to theirs. But now and then he gave us a sermon of adifferentorder - what some would call a very good one; but sunlessandsevere: representing the Deity as a terrible taskmaster ratherthan abenevolent father. Yetas I listenedI felt inclined tothink theman was sincere in all he said: he must have changed hisviewsandbecome decidedly religiousgloomy and austereyetstilldevout. But such illusions were usually dissipatedoncoming outof churchby hearing his voice in jocund colloquy withsome ofthe Melthams or Greensorperhapsthe Murraysthemselves;probably laughing at his own sermonand hoping that hehad giventhe rascally people something to think about; perchanceexultingin the thought that old Betty Holmes would now lay asidethe sinfulindulgence of her pipewhich had been her daily solaceforupwards of thirty years: that George Higgins would befrightenedout of his Sabbath evening walksand Thomas Jacksonwould besorely troubled in his conscienceand shaken in his sureandcertain hope of a joyful resurrection at the last day.
ThusIcould not but conclude that Mr. Hatfield was one of thosewho 'bindheavy burdensand grievous to be borneand lay themupon men'sshoulderswhile they themselves will not move them withone oftheir fingers'; and who 'make the word of God of none effectby theirtraditionsteaching for doctrines the commandments ofmen.' I was well pleased to observe that the new curate resembledhimasfar as I could seein none of these particulars.
'WellMiss Greywhat do you think of him now?' said Miss Murrayas we tookour places in the carriage after service.
'No harmstill' replied I.
'No harm!'repeated she in amazement. 'What do you mean?'
'I meanIthink no worse of him than I did before.'
'Noworse! I should think not indeed - quite the contrary! Ishenotgreatly improved?'
'Ohyes;very much indeed' replied I; for I had now discoveredthat itwas Harry Meltham she meantnot Mr. Weston. Thatgentlemanhad eagerly come forward to speak to the young ladies: athing hewould hardly have ventured to do had their mother beenpresent;he had likewise politely handed them into the carriage.He had notattempted to shut me outlike Mr. Hatfield; neitherofcoursehad he offered me his assistance (I should not haveaccepteditif he had)but as long as the door remained open hehad stoodsmirking and chatting with themand then lifted his hatanddeparted to his own abode: but I had scarcely noticed him allthe time. My companionshoweverhad been more observant; andaswe rolledalongthey discussed between them not only his lookswordsandactionsbut every feature of his faceand everyarticle ofhis apparel.
'Youshan't have him all to yourselfRosalie' said Miss Matildaat theclose of this discussion; 'I like him: I know he'd make anicejolly companion for me.'
'Wellyou're quite welcome to himMatilda' replied her sisterin a toneof affected indifference.
'And I'msure' continued the other'he admires me quite as muchas he doesyou; doesn't heMiss Grey?'
'I don'tknow; I'm not acquainted with his sentiments.'
'Wellbuthe DOES though.'
'My DEARMatilda! nobody will ever admire you till you get rid ofyourroughawkward manners.'
'Ohstuff! Harry Meltham likes such manners; and so do papa'sfriends.'
'WellyouMAY captivate old menand younger sons; but nobodyelseI amsurewill ever take a fancy to you.'
'I don'tcare: I'm not always grabbing after moneylike you andmamma. If my husband is able to keep a few good horses and dogsIshall bequite satisfied; and all the rest may go to the devil!'
'Wellifyou use such shocking expressionsI'm sure no realgentlemanwill ever venture to come near you. ReallyMiss Greyyou shouldnot let her do so.'
'I can'tpossibly prevent itMiss Murray.'
'Andyou're quite mistakenMatildain supposing that HarryMelthamadmires you: I assure you he does nothing of the kind.'
Matildawas beginning an angry reply; buthappilyour journey wasnow at anend; and the contention was cut short by the footmanopeningthe carriage-doorand letting down the steps for ourdescent.
CHAPTER XI- THE COTTAGERS
AS I hadnow only one regular pupil - though she contrived to giveme as muchtrouble as three or four ordinary onesand though hersisterstill took lessons in German and drawing - I hadconsiderablymore time at my own disposal than I had ever beenblessedwith beforesince I had taken upon me the governess'syoke;which time I devoted partly to correspondence with myfriendspartly to readingstudyand the practice of musicsinging&c.partly to wandering in the grounds or adjacentfieldswith my pupils if they wanted mealone if they did not.
Oftenwhen they had no more agreeable occupation at handtheMissesMurray would amuse themselves with visiting the poorcottagerson their father's estateto receive their flatteringhomageorto hear the old stories or gossiping news of thegarrulousold women; orperhapsto enjoy the purer pleasure ofmaking thepoor people happy with their cheering presence and theiroccasionalgiftsso easily bestowedso thankfully received.SometimesI was called upon to accompany one or both of thesisters inthese visits; and sometimes I was desired to go aloneto fulfilsome promise which they had been more ready to make thantoperform; to carry some small donationor read to one who wassick orseriously disposed: and thus I made a few acquaintancesamong thecottagers; andoccasionallyI went to see them on myownaccount.
Igenerally had more satisfaction in going alone than with eitherof theyoung ladies; for theychiefly owing to their defectiveeducationcomported themselves towards their inferiors in a mannerthat washighly disagreeable for me to witness. They neverinthoughtexchanged places with them; andconsequentlyhad noconsiderationfor their feelingsregarding them as an order ofbeingsentirely different from themselves. They would watch thepoorcreatures at their mealsmaking uncivil remarks about theirfoodandtheir manner of eating; they would laugh at their simplenotionsand provincial expressionstill some of them scarcelydurstventure to speak; they would call the grave elderly men andwomen oldfools and silly old blockheads to their faces: and allthiswithout meaning to offend. I could see that the people wereoften hurtand annoyed by such conductthough their fear of the'grandladies' prevented them from testifying any resentment; butTHEY neverperceived it. They thought thatas these cottagerswere poorand untaughtthey must be stupid and brutish; and aslong astheytheir superiorscondescended to talk to themand togive themshillings and half-crownsor articles of clothingtheyhad aright to amuse themselveseven at their expense; and thepeoplemust adore them as angels of lightcondescending toministerto their necessitiesand enlighten their humbledwellings.
I mademany and various attempts to deliver my pupils from thesedelusivenotions without alarming their pride - which was easilyoffendedand not soon appeased - but with little apparent result;and I knownot which was the more reprehensible of the two:Matildawas more rude and boisterous; but from Rosalie's womanlyage andlady-like exterior better things were expected: yet shewas asprovokingly careless and inconsiderate as a giddy child oftwelve.
One brightday in the last week of FebruaryI was walking in theparkenjoying the threefold luxury of solitudea bookandpleasantweather; for Miss Matilda had set out on her daily rideand MissMurray was gone in the carriage with her mamma to pay somemorningcalls. But it struck me that I ought to leave theseselfishpleasuresand the park with its glorious canopy of brightblue skythe west wind sounding through its yet leafless branchesthesnow-wreaths still lingering in its hollowsbut melting fastbeneaththe sunand the graceful deer browsing on its moistherbagealready assuming the freshness and verdure of spring - andgo to thecottage of one Nancy Browna widowwhose son was atwork allday in the fieldsand who was afflicted with aninflammationin the eyes; which had for some time incapacitated herfromreading: to her own great grieffor she was a woman of aseriousthoughtful turn of mind. I accordingly wentand foundher aloneas usualin her littleclosedark cottageredolentof smokeand confined airbut as tidy and clean as she could makeit. She was seated beside her little fire (consisting of a few redcindersand a bit of stick)busily knittingwith a smallsackclothcushion at her feetplaced for the accommodation of hergentlefriend the catwho was seated thereonwith her long tailhalfencircling her velvet pawsand her half-closed eyes dreamilygazing onthe lowcrooked fender.
'WellNancyhow are you to-day?'
'WhymiddlingMissi' myseln - my eyes is no betterbut I'm adealeasier i' my mind nor I have been' replied sherising towelcome mewith a contented smile; which I was glad to seeforNancy hadbeen somewhat afflicted with religious melancholy. Icongratulatedher upon the change. She agreed that it was a greatblessingand expressed herself 'right down thankful for it';adding'If it please God to spare my sightand make me so as Ican readmy Bible againI think I shall be as happy as a queen.'
'I hope HewillNancy' replied I; 'andmeantimeI'll come andread toyou now and thenwhen I have a little time to spare.'
Withexpressions of grateful pleasurethe poor woman moved to getme achair; butas I saved her the troubleshe busied herselfwithstirring the fireand adding a few more sticks to thedecayingembers; and thentaking her well-used Bible from theshelfdusted it carefullyand gave it me. On my asking if therewas anyparticular part she should like me to readshe answered -
'WellMiss Greyif it's all the same to youI should like tohear thatchapter in the First Epistle of St. Johnthat says"Godis loveand he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in Godand God inhim."'
With alittle searchingI found these words in the fourth chapter.When Icame to the seventh verse she interrupted meandwithneedlessapologies for such a libertydesired me to read it veryslowlythat she might take it all inand dwell on every word;hoping Iwould excuse heras she was but a 'simple body.'
'Thewisest person' I replied'might think over each of theseverses foran hourand be all the better for it; and I wouldratherread them slowly than not.'
AccordinglyI finished the chapter as slowly as need beand atthe sametime as impressively as I could; my auditor listened mostattentivelyall the whileand sincerely thanked me when I haddone. I sat still about half a minute to give her time to reflectupon it;whensomewhat to my surpriseshe broke the pause byasking mehow I liked Mr. Weston?
'I don'tknow' I replieda little startled by the suddenness ofthequestion; 'I think he preaches very well.'
'Ayhedoes so; and talks well too.'
'He does. Maybeyou haven't seen him - not to talk to him muchyet?'
'NoInever see any one to talk to - except the young ladies ofthe Hall.'
'Ah;they're nicekind young ladies; but they can't talk as hedoes.'
'Then hecomes to see youNancy?'
'He doesMiss; and I'se thankful for it. He comes to see all uspoorbodies a deal ofter nor Maister Blighor th' Rector ever did;an' it'swell he doesfor he's always welcome: we can't say asmuch forth' Rector - there is 'at says they're fair feared on him.When hecomes into a housethey say he's sure to find summutwrongandbegin a-calling 'em as soon as he crosses th' doorstuns:but maybehe thinks it his duty like to tell 'em what's wrong. Andvery ofthe comes o' purpose to reprove folk for not coming tochurchornot kneeling an' standing when other folk doesor goingto theMethody chapelor summut o' that sort: but I can't say 'athe everfund much fault wi' me. He came to see me once or twiceaforeMaister Weston comewhen I was so ill troubled in my mind;and as Ihad only very poor health besidesI made bold to send forhim - andhe came right enough. I was sore distressedMiss Grey -thank Godit's owered now - but when I took my BibleI could getno comfortof it at all. That very chapter 'at you've just beenreadingtroubled me as much as aught - "He that loveth notknowethnot God." It seemed fearsome to me; for I felt that I lovedneitherGod nor man as I should doand could notif I tried everso. And th' chapter aforewhere it says- "He that is born ofGod cannotcommit sin." And another place where it says- "Loveis thefulfilling of the Law." And manymany othersMiss: Ishouldfair weary you outif I was to tell them all. But allseemed tocondemn meand to show me 'at I was not in the rightway; andas I knew not how to get into itI sent our Bill to begMaisterHatfield to be as kind as look in on me some day and whenhe cameItelled him all my troubles.'
'And whatdid he sayNancy?'
'WhyMisshe seemed to scorn me. I might be mista'en - but helike gavea sort of a whistleand I saw a bit of a smile on hisface; andhe said"Ohit's all stuff! You've been among theMethodistsmy good woman." But I telled him I'd never been neartheMethodies. And then he said- "Well" says he"youmust cometo churchwhere you'll hear the Scriptures properly explainedinstead ofsitting poring over your Bible at home."
'But Itelled him I always used coming to church when I had myhealth;but this very cold winter weather I hardly durst venture sofar - andme so bad wi' th' rheumatic and all.
'But hesays"It'll do your rheumatiz good to hobble to church:there'snothing like exercise for the rheumatiz. You can walkabout thehouse well enough; why can't you walk to church? Thefact is"says he"you're getting too fond of your ease. It'salwayseasy to find excuses for shirking one's duty."
'But thenyou knowMiss Greyit wasn't so. HoweverI telledhim I'dtry. "But pleasesir" says I"if I do go tochurchwhat thebetter shall I be? I want to have my sins blotted outand tofeel that they are remembered no more against meand thatthe loveof God is shed abroad in my heart; and if I can get nogood byreading my Bible an' saying my prayers at homewhat goodshall Iget by going to church?'
'"Thechurch" says he"is the place appointed by God for Hisworship. It's your duty to go there as often as you can. If youwantcomfortyou must seek it in the path of duty" - an' a dealmore hesaidbut I cannot remember all his fine words. Howeverit allcame to thisthat I was to come to church as oft as ever Icouldandbring my prayer-book with mean' read up all thesponsersafter the clerkan' standan' kneelan' sitan' do allas Ishouldand take the Lord's Supper at every opportunityan'hearkenhis sermonsand Maister Bligh'san' it 'ud be all right:if I wenton doing my dutyI should get a blessing at last.
'"Butif you get no comfort that way" says he"it's all up."
'"Thensir" says I"should you think I'm a reprobate?"
'"Why"says he - he says"if you do your best to get to heavenand can'tmanage ityou must be one of those that seek to enter inat thestrait gate and shall not be able."
'An' thenhe asked me if I'd seen any of the ladies o' th' Hallabout thatmornin'; so I telled him where I had seen the youngmisses goon th' Moss Lane; - an' he kicked my poor cat rightacross th'flooran' went after 'em as gay as a lark: but I wasvery sad. That last word o' his fair sunk into my heartan' laythere likea lump o' leadtill I was weary to bear it.
'HowseverI follered his advice: I thought he meant it all forth' bestthough he HAD a queer way with him. But you knowMisshe's richan' youngand such like cannot right understand thethoughtsof a poor old woman such as me. ButhowseverI did mybest to doall as he bade me - but maybe I'm plaguing youMisswi' mychatter.'
'OhnoNancy! Go onand tell me all.'
'Wellmyrheumatiz got better - I know not whether wi' going tochurch ornotbut one frosty Sunday I got this cold i' my eyes.Th'inflammation didn't come on all at once likebut bit by bit -but Iwasn't going to tell you about my eyesI was talking aboutmy troubleo' mind; - and to tell the truthMiss GreyI don'tthink itwas anyways eased by coming to church - nought to speakonatleast: I like got my health better; but that didn't mend mysoul. I hearkened and hearkened the ministersand read an' readat myprayer-book; but it was all like sounding brass and atinklingcymbal: the sermons I couldn't understandan' th'prayer-bookonly served to show me how wicked I wasthat I couldread suchgood words an' never be no better for itand oftens feelit a sorelabour an' a heavy task besideinstead of a blessing andaprivilege as all good Christians does. It seemed like as allwerebarren an' dark to me. And thenthem dreadful words"Manyshall seekto enter inand shall not be able." They like as theyfair driedup my sperrit.
'But oneSundaywhen Maister Hatfield gave out about thesacramentI noticed where he said"If there be any of you thatcannotquiet his own consciencebut requireth further comfort orcounsellet him come to meor some other discreet and learnedministerof God's wordand open his grief!" So next Sundaymorningafore serviceI just looked into the vestryan' began a-talking toth' Rector again. I hardly could fashion to take such alibertybut I thought when my soul was at stake I shouldn't stickat atrifle. But he said he hadn't time to attend to me then.
'"Andindeed" says he"I've nothing to say to you but what I'vesaidbefore. Take the sacramentof courseand go on doing yourduty; andif that won't serve younothing will. So don't botherme anymore."
'So thenI went away. But I heard Maister Weston - Maister Westonwas thereMiss - this was his first Sunday at Hortonyou knowan' he wasi' th' vestry in his surplicehelping th' Rector onwith hisgown - '
'And Iheard him ask Maister Hatfield who I wasan' he says"Ohshe's acanting old fool."
'And I wasvery ill grievedMiss Grey; but I went to my seatandI tried todo my duty as aforetime: but I like got no peace. An'I eventook the sacrament; but I felt as though I were eating anddrinkingto my own damnation all th' time. So I went homesorelytroubled.
'But nextdayafore I'd gotten fettled up - for indeedMissI'dno heartto sweeping an' fettlingan' washing pots; so I sat medown i'th' muck - who should come in but Maister Weston! Istartedsiding stuff thenan' sweeping an' doing; and I expectedhe'd begina-calling me for my idle waysas Maister Hatfield woulda' done;but I was mista'en: he only bid me good-mornin' likeina quietdacent way. So I dusted him a chairan' fettled up th'fireplacea bit; but I hadn't forgotten th' Rector's wordsso saysI"Iwondersiryou should give yourself that troubleto comeso far tosee a 'canting old fool' such as me."
'He seemedtaken aback at that; but he would fain persuade me 'atthe Rectorwas only in jest; and when that wouldn't dohe says"WellNancyyou shouldn't think so much about it: Mr. Hatfieldwas alittle out of humour just then: you know we're none of usperfect -even Moses spoke unadvisedly with his lips. But now sitdown aminuteif you can spare the timeand tell me all yourdoubts andfears; and I'll try to remove them."
'So I satme down anent him. He was quite a strangeryou knowMiss Greyand even YOUNGER nor Maister HatfieldI believe; and Ihadthought him not so pleasant-looking as himand rather a bitcrossishat firstto look at; but he spake so civil like - andwhen th'catpoor thingjumped on to his kneehe only strokedherandgave a bit of a smile: so I thought that was a good sign;for oncewhen she did so to th' Rectorhe knocked her offlikeas itmight be in scorn and angerpoor thing. But you can'texpect acat to know manners like a Christianyou knowMissGrey.'
'No; ofcourse notNancy. But what did Mr. Weston say then?'
'He saidnought; but he listened to me as steady an' patient ascould bean' never a bit o' scorn about him; so I went onan'telled himalljust as I've telled you - an' more too.
'"Well"says he"Mr. Hatfield was quite right in telling you toperseverein doing your duty; but in advising you to go to churchand attendto the serviceand so onhe didn't mean that was thewhole of aChristian's duty: he only thought you might there learnwhat morewas to be doneand be led to take delight in thoseexercisesinstead of finding them a task and a burden. And if youhad askedhim to explain those words that trouble you so muchIthink hewould have told youthat if many shall seek to enter inat thestrait gate and shall not be ableit is their own sins thathinderthem; just as a man with a large sack on his back might wishto passthrough a narrow doorwayand find it impossible to do sounless hewould leave his sack behind him. But youNancyI daresayhaveno sins that you would not gladly throw asideif youknew how?"
'"Indeedsiryou speak truth" said I.
'"Well"says he"you know the first and great commandment - andthesecondwhich is like unto it - on which two commandments hangall thelaw and the prophets? You say you cannot love God; but itstrikes methat if you rightly consider who and what He isyoucannothelp it. He is your fatheryour best friend: everyblessingeverything goodpleasantor usefulcomes from Him; andeverythingevileverything you have reason to hateto shunor tofearcomes from Satan - HIS enemy as well as ours. And for THIScause wasGod manifest in the fleshthat He might destroy theworks ofthe Devil: in one wordGod is LOVE; and the more of lovewe havewithin usthe nearer we are to Him and the more of Hisspirit wepossess."
'"Wellsir" I said"if I can always think on these thingsIthink Imight well love God: but how can I love my neighbourswhen theyvex meand be so contrary and sinful as some on 'em is?"
'"Itmay seem a hard matter" says he"to love our neighbourswhohave somuch of what is evil about themand whose faults so oftenawaken theevil that lingers within ourselves; but remember that HEmade themand HE loves them; and whosoever loveth him that begatloveth himthat is begotten also. And if God so loveth usthat Hegave Hisonly begotten Son to die for uswe ought also to love oneanother. But if you cannot feel positive affection for those whodo notcare for youyou can at least try to do to them as youwould theyshould do unto you: you can endeavour to pity theirfailingsand excuse their offencesand to do all the good you canto thoseabout you. And if you accustom yourself to thisNancythe veryeffort itself will make you love them in some degree - tosaynothing of the goodwill your kindness would beget in themthoughthey might have little else that is good about them. If welove Godand wish to serve Himlet us try to be like Himto doHis workto labour for His glory - which is the good of man - tohasten thecoming of His kingdomwhich is the peace and happinessof all theworld: however powerless we may seem to bein doingall thegood we can through lifethe humblest of us may do muchtowardsit: and let us dwell in lovethat He may dwell in us andwe inHim. The more happiness we bestowthe more we shallreceiveeven here; and the greater will be our reward in heavenwhen werest from our labours." I believeMissthem is his verywordsforI've thought 'em ower many a time. An' then he tookthatBiblean' read bits here and therean' explained 'em asclear asthe day: and it seemed like as a new light broke in on mysoul; an'I felt fair aglow about my heartan' only wished poorBill an'all the world could ha' been therean' heard it allandrejoicedwi' me.
'After hewas goneHannah Rogersone o' th' neighbourscame inand wantedme to help her to wash. I telled her I couldn't justthenforI hadn't set on th' potaties for th' dinnernor washedup th'breakfast stuff yet. So then she began a-calling me for mynasty idleways. I was a little bit vexed at firstbut I neversaidnothing wrong to her: I only telled her like all in a quietway'atI'd had th' new parson to see me; but I'd get done asquick asever I couldan' then come an' help her. So then shesofteneddown; and my heart like as it warmed towards heran' in abit we wasvery good friends. An' so it isMiss Grey"a softanswerturneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger." Itisn't onlyin them you speak tobut in yourself.'
'VerytrueNancyif we could always remember it.'
'And didMr. Weston ever come to see you again?'
'Yesmanya time; and since my eyes has been so badhe's sat an'read to meby the half-hour together: but you knowMisshe hasotherfolks to seeand other things to do - God bless him! An'that nextSunday he preached SUCH a sermon! His text was"Comeunto meall ye that labour and are heavy ladenand I will give yourest"and them two blessed verses that follows. You wasn't thereMissyouwas with your friends then - but it made me SO happy!And I AMhappy nowthank God! an' I take a pleasurenowin doinglittlebits o' jobs for my neighbours - such as a poor old body'at's halfblind can do; and they take it kindly of mejust as hesaid. You seeMissI'm knitting a pair o' stockings now; -they'refor Thomas Jackson: he's a queerish old bodyan' we'vehad many about at threapingone anent t'other; an' at times we'vedifferedsorely. So I thought I couldn't do better nor knit him apair o'warm stockings; an' I've felt to like him a deal betterpoor oldmansin' I began. It's turned out just as Maister Westonsaid.'
'WellI'mvery glad to see you so happyNancyand so wise: butI must gonow; I shall be wanted at the Hall' said I; and biddinghergood-byeI departedpromising to come again when I had timeandfeeling nearly as happy as herself.
At anothertime I went to read to a poor labourer who was in thelast stageof consumption. The young ladies had been to see himandsomehow a promise of reading had been extracted from them; butit was toomuch troubleso they begged me to do it instead. Iwentwillingly enough; and there too I was gratified with thepraises ofMr. Westonboth from the sick man and his wife. Theformertold me that he derived great comfort and benefit from thevisits ofthe new parsonwho frequently came to see himand was'anotherguess sort of man' to Mr. Hatfield; whobefore theother'sarrival at Hortonhad now and then paid him a visit; onwhichoccasions he would always insist upon having the cottage-doorkept opento admit the fresh air for his own conveniencewithoutconsideringhow it might injure the sufferer; and having opened hisprayer-bookand hastily read over a part of the Service for theSickwould hurry away again: if he did not stay to administersome harshrebuke to the afflicted wifeor to make somethoughtlessnot to say heartlessobservationrather calculatedtoincrease than diminish the troubles of the suffering pair.
'Whereas'said the man'Maister Weston 'ull pray with me quite inadifferent fashionan' talk to me as kind as owt; an' oft read tome tooan' sit beside me just like a brother.'
'Just forall the world!' exclaimed his wife; 'an' about a threewik sin'when he seed how poor Jem shivered wi' coldan' whatpitifulfires we kepthe axed if wer stock of coals was nearlydone. I telled him it wasan' we was ill set to get more: butyou knowmumI didn't think o' him helping us; buthowseverhesent us asack o' coals next day; an' we've had good fires eversin': and a great blessing it isthis winter time. But that'shis wayMiss Grey: when he comes into a poor body's house a-seein'sick folkhe like notices what they most stand i' need on;an' if hethinks they can't readily get it therselnhe never saysnowt aboutitbut just gets it for 'em. An' it isn't everybody'at 'ud dothat'at has as little as he has: for you knowmumhe's nowtat all to live on but what he gets fra' th' Rectoran'that'slittle enough they say.'
Iremembered thenwith a species of exultationthat he hadfrequentlybeen styled a vulgar brute by the amiable Miss Murraybecause hewore a silver watchand clothes not quite so bright andfresh asMr. Hatfield's.
Inreturning to the Lodge I felt very happyand thanked God that Ihad nowsomething to think about; something to dwell on as a relieffrom theweary monotonythe lonely drudgeryof my present life:for I WASlonely. Neverfrom month to monthfrom year to yearexceptduring my brief intervals of rest at homedid I see onecreatureto whom I could open my heartor freely speak my thoughtswith anyhope of sympathyor even comprehension: never oneunless itwere poor Nancy Brownwith whom I could enjoy a singlemoment ofreal social intercourseor whose conversation wascalculatedto render me betterwiseror happier than before; orwhoasfar as I could seecould be greatly benefited by mine. Myonlycompanions had been unamiable childrenand ignorantwrong-headedgirls; from whose fatiguing follyunbroken solitude wasoften arelief most earnestly desired and dearly prized. But to berestrictedto such associates was a serious evilboth in itsimmediateeffects and the consequences that were likely to ensue.Never anew idea or stirring thought came to me from without; andsuch asrose within me werefor the most partmiserably crushedat onceor doomed to sicken or fade awaybecause they could notsee thelight.
Habitualassociates are known to exercise a great influence overeachother's minds and manners. Those whose actions are for everbefore oureyeswhose words are ever in our earswill naturallylead usalbeit against our willslowlygraduallyimperceptiblyperhapsto act and speak as they do. I will not presume to sayhow farthis irresistible power of assimilation extends; but if onecivilisedman were doomed to pass a dozen years amid a race ofintractablesavagesunless he had power to improve themI greatlyquestionwhetherat the close of that periodhe would not havebecomeatleasta barbarian himself. And Ias I could not makemy youngcompanions betterfeared exceedingly that they would makeme worse -would gradually bring my feelingshabitscapacitiesto thelevel of their own; withouthoweverimparting to me theirlightheartednessand cheerful vivacity.
AlreadyIseemed to feel my intellect deterioratingmy heartpetrifyingmy soul contracting; and I trembled lest my very moralperceptionsshould become deadenedmy distinctions of right andwrongconfoundedand all my better faculties be sunkat lastbeneaththe baneful influence of such a mode of life. The grossvapours ofearth were gathering around meand closing in upon myinwardheaven; and thus it was that Mr. Weston rose at length uponmeappearing like the morning star in my horizonto save me fromthe fearof utter darkness; and I rejoiced that I had now a subjectforcontemplation that was above menot beneath. I was glad tosee thatall the world was not made up of BloomfieldsMurraysHatfieldsAshbys&c.; and that human excellence was not a meredream ofthe imagination. When we hear a little good and no harmof apersonit is easy and pleasant to imagine more: in shortitisneedless to analyse all my thoughts; but Sunday was now become aday ofpeculiar delight to me (I was now almost broken-in to thebackcorner in the carriage)for I liked to hear him - and I likedto seehimtoo; though I knew he was not handsomeor even what iscalledagreeablein outward aspect; butcertainlyhe was notugly.
In staturehe was a littlea very littleabove the middle size;theoutline of his face would be pronounced too square for beautybut to meit announced decision of character; his dark brown hairwas notcarefully curledlike Mr. Hatfield'sbut simply brushedaside overa broad white forehead; the eyebrowsI supposeweretooprojectingbut from under those dark brows there gleamed aneye ofsingular powerbrown in colournot largeand somewhatdeep-setbut strikingly brilliantand full of expression; therewascharactertooin the mouthsomething that bespoke a man offirmpurpose and an habitual thinker; and when he smiled - but Iwill notspeak of that yetforat the time I mentionI had neverseen himsmile: andindeedhis general appearance did notimpress mewith the idea of a man given to such a relaxationnorof such anindividual as the cottagers described him. I had earlyformed myopinion of him; andin spite of Miss Murray'sobjurgations: was fully convinced that he was a man of strongsensefirm faithand ardent pietybut thoughtful and stern: andwhen Ifound thatto his other good qualitieswas added that oftruebenevolence and gentleconsiderate kindnessthe discoveryperhapsdelighted me the moreas I had not been prepared toexpect it.
CHAPTERXII - THE SHOWER
THE nextvisit I paid to Nancy Brown was in the second week inMarch: forthough I had many spare minutes during the dayIseldomcould look upon an hour as entirely my own; sincewhereeverythingwas left to the caprices of Miss Matilda and her sistertherecould be no order or regularity. Whatever occupation Ichosewhen not actually busied about them or their concernsIhadas itwereto keep my loins girdedmy shoes on my feetandmy staffin my hand; for not to be immediately forthcoming whencalledforwas regarded as a grave and inexcusable offence: notonly by mypupils and their motherbut by the very servantwhocame inbreathless haste to call meexclaiming'You're to go totheschoolroom DIRECTLYmumthe young ladies is WAITING!!'Climax ofhorror! actually waiting for their governess!!!
But thistime I was pretty sure of an hour or two to myself; forMatildawas preparing for a long rideand Rosalie was dressing foradinner-party at Lady Ashby's: so I took the opportunity ofrepairingto the widow's cottagewhere I found her in some anxietyabout hercatwhich had been absent all day. I comforted her withas manyanecdotes of that animal's roving propensities as I couldrecollect. 'I'm feared o' th' gamekeepers' said she: 'that's all'at Ithink on. If th' young gentlemen had been at homeI shoulda' thoughtthey'd been setting their dogs at heran' worried herpoorthingas they did MANY a poor thing's cat; but I haven't thatto befeared on now.' Nancy's eyes were betterbut still far fromwell: she had been trying to make a Sunday shirt for her sonbuttold meshe could only bear to do a little bit at it now and thenso that itprogressed but slowlythough the poor lad wanted itsadly. So I proposed to help her a littleafter I had read toherfor Ihad plenty of time that eveningand need not returntilldusk. She thankfully accepted the offer. 'An' you'll be abit o'company for me tooMiss' said she; 'I like as I feellonesomewithout my cat.' But when I had finished readinganddone thehalf of a seamwith Nancy's capacious brass thimblefitted onto my finger by means of a roll of paperI was disturbedby theentrance of Mr. Westonwith the identical cat in his arms.I now sawthat he could smileand very pleasantly too.
'I've doneyou a piece of good serviceNancy' he began: thenseeing mehe acknowledged my presence by a slight bow. I shouldhave beeninvisible to Hatfieldor any other gentleman of thoseparts. 'I've delivered your cat' he continued'from the handsor ratherthe gunof Mr. Murray's gamekeeper.'
'God blessyousir!' cried the grateful old womanready to weepfor joy asshe received her favourite from his arms.
'Take careof it' said he'and don't let it go near the rabbit-warrenfor the gamekeeper swears he'll shoot it if he sees itthereagain: he would have done so to-dayif I had not been intime tostop him. I believe it is rainingMiss Grey' added hemorequietlyobserving that I had put aside my workand waspreparingto depart. 'Don't let me disturb you - I shan't stay twominutes.'
'You'llBOTH stay while this shower gets owered' said Nancyasshestirred the fireand placed another chair beside it; 'what!there'sroom for all.'
'I can seebetter herethank youNancy' replied Itaking mywork tothe windowwhere she had the goodness to suffer me toremainunmolestedwhile she got a brush to remove the cat's hairsfrom Mr.Weston's coatcarefully wiped the rain from his hatandgave thecat its supperbusily talking all the time: now thankingherclerical friend for what he had done; now wondering how the cathad foundout the warren; and now lamenting the probableconsequencesof such a discovery. He listened with a quietgood-naturedsmileand at length took a seat in compliance with herpressinginvitationsbut repeated that he did not mean to stay.
'I haveanother place to go to' said he'and I see' (glancing atthe bookon the table) 'someone else has been reading to you.'
'Yessir;Miss Grey has been as kind as read me a chapter; an' nowshe'shelping me with a shirt for our Bill - but I'm feared she'llbe coldthere. Won't you come to th' fireMiss?'
'NothankyouNancyI'm quite warm. I must go as soon as thisshower isover.'
'OhMiss! You said you could stop while dusk!' cried theprovokingold womanand Mr. Weston seized his hat.
'Naysir' exclaimed she'pray don't go nowwhile it rains sofast.'
'But itstrikes me I'm keeping your visitor away from the fire.'
'Noyou're notMr. Weston' replied Ihoping there was no harmin afalsehood of that description.
'Nosure!' cried Nancy. 'Whatthere's lots o' room!'
'MissGrey' said hehalf-jestinglyas if he felt it necessary tochange thepresent subjectwhether he had anything particular tosay ornot'I wish you would make my peace with the squirewhenyou seehim. He was by when I rescued Nancy's catand did notquiteapprove of the deed. I told him I thought he might betterspare allhis rabbits than she her catfor which audaciousassertionhe treated me to some rather ungentlemanly language; andI fear Iretorted a trifle too warmly.'
'Ohlawful sir! I hope you didn't fall out wi' th' maister forsake o' mycat! he cannot bide answering again - can th' maister.'
'Oh! it'sno matterNancy: I don't care about itreally; I saidnothingVERY uncivil; and I suppose Mr. Murray is accustomed to useratherstrong language when he's heated.'
'Aysir: it's a pity.'
'And nowI really must go. I have to visit a place a mile beyondthis; andyou would not have me to return in the dark: besidesithas nearlydone raining now - so good-eveningNancy. Good-eveningMiss Grey.'
'Good-eveningMr. Weston; but don't depend upon me for making yourpeace withMr. Murrayfor I never see him - to speak to.'
'Don'tyou; it can't be helped then' replied hein dolorousresignation: thenwith a peculiar half-smilehe added'Butnevermind; I imagine the squire has more to apologise for than I;'and leftthe cottage.
I went onwith my sewing as long as I could seeand then badeNancygood-evening; checking her too lively gratitude by theundeniableassurance that I had only done for her what she wouldhave donefor meif she had been in my place and I in hers. Ihastenedback to Horton Lodgewherehaving entered theschoolroomI found the tea-table all in confusionthe trayfloodedwith slopsand Miss Matilda in a most ferocious humour.
'MissGreywhatever have you been about? I've had tea half anhour agoand had to make it myselfand drink it all alone! Iwish youwould come in sooner!'
'I've beento see Nancy Brown. I thought you would not be backfrom yourride.'
'How couldI ride in the rainI should like to know. That damnedpeltingshower was vexatious enough - coming on when I was just infullswing: and then to come and find nobody in to tea! and youknow Ican't make the tea as I like it.'
'I didn'tthink of the shower' replied I (andindeedthe thoughtof itsdriving her home had never entered my head).
'Noofcourse; you were under shelter yourselfand you neverthought ofother people.'
I bore hercoarse reproaches with astonishing equanimityeven withcheerfulness;for I was sensible that I had done more good to NancyBrown thanharm to her: and perhaps some other thoughts assistedto keep upmy spiritsand impart a relish to the cup of coldoverdrawnteaand a charm to the otherwise unsightly table; and -I hadalmost said - to Miss Matilda's unamiable face. But she soonbetookherself to the stablesand left me to the quiet enjoymentof mysolitary meal.
CHAPTERXIII - THE PRIMROSES
MISSMURRAY now always went twice to churchfor she so lovedadmirationthat she could not bear to lose a single opportunity ofobtainingit; and she was so sure of it wherever she showedherselfthatwhether Harry Meltham and Mr. Green were there ornottherewas certain to be somebody present who would not beinsensibleto her charmsbesides the Rectorwhose officialcapacitygenerally obliged him to attend. Usuallyalsoif theweatherpermittedboth she and her sister would walk home;Matildabecause she hated the confinement of the carriage; shebecauseshe disliked the privacy of itand enjoyed the companythatgenerally enlivened the first mile of the journey in walkingfrom thechurch to Mr. Green's park-gates: near which commencedtheprivate road to Horton Lodgewhich lay in the oppositedirectionwhile the highway conducted in a straightforward courseto thestill more distant mansion of Sir Hugh Meltham. Thus therewas alwaysa chance of being accompaniedso fareither by HarryMelthamwith or without Miss Melthamor Mr. Greenwith perhapsone orboth of his sistersand any gentlemen visitors they mighthave.
Whether Iwalked with the young ladies or rode with their parentsdependedupon their own capricious will: if they chose to 'take'meIwent; iffor reasons best known to themselvesthey chose togo aloneI took my seat in the carriage. I liked walking betterbut asense of reluctance to obtrude my presence on anyone who didnot desireitalways kept me passive on these and similaroccasions;and I never inquired into the causes of their varyingwhims. Indeedthis was the best policy - for to submit and obligewas thegoverness's partto consult their own pleasure was that ofthepupils. But when I did walkthe first half of journey wasgenerallya great nuisance to me. As none of the before-mentionedladies andgentlemen ever noticed meit was disagreeable to walkbesidethemas if listening to what they saidor wishing to bethoughtone of themwhile they talked over meor across; and iftheireyesin speakingchanced to fall on meit seemed as iftheylooked on vacancy - as if they either did not see meor wereverydesirous to make it appear so. It was disagreeabletootowalkbehindand thus appear to acknowledge my own inferiority;forintruthI considered myself pretty nearly as good as thebest ofthemand wished them to know that I did soand not toimaginethat I looked upon myself as a mere domesticwho knew herown placetoo well to walk beside such fine ladies and gentlemen asthey were- though her young ladies might choose to have her withthemandeven condescend to converse with her when no bettercompanywere at hand. Thus - I am almost ashamed to confess it -but indeedI gave myself no little trouble in my endeavours (if Idid keepup with them) to appear perfectly unconscious orregardlessof their presenceas if I were wholly absorbed in myownreflectionsor the contemplation of surrounding objects; orif Ilingered behindit was some bird or insectsome tree orflowerthat attracted my attentionand having duly examined thatI wouldpursue my walk aloneat a leisurely paceuntil my pupilshad biddenadieu to their companions and turned off into the quietprivateroad.
One suchoccasion I particularly well remember; it was a lovelyafternoonabout the close of March; Mr. Green and his sisters hadsent theircarriage back emptyin order to enjoy the brightsunshineand balmy air in a sociable walk home along with theirvisitorsCaptain Somebody and Lieutenant Somebody-else (a coupleofmilitary fops)and the Misses Murraywhoof coursecontrivedto jointhem. Such a party was highly agreeable to Rosalie; butnotfinding it equally suitable to my tasteI presently fell backand beganto botanise and entomologise along the green banks andbuddinghedgestill the company was considerably in advance of meand Icould hear the sweet song of the happy lark; then my spiritofmisanthropy began to melt away beneath the softpure air andgenialsunshine; but sad thoughts of early childhoodand yearningsfordeparted joysor for a brighter future lotarose instead. Asmy eyeswandered over the steep banks covered with young grass andgreen-leavedplantsand surmounted by budding hedgesI longedintenselyfor some familiar flower that might recall the woodydales orgreen hill-sides of home: the brown moorlandsof coursewere outof the question. Such a discovery would make my eyes gushout withwaterno doubt; but that was one of my greatestenjoymentsnow. At length I descriedhigh up between the twistedroots ofan oakthree lovely primrosespeeping so sweetly fromtheirhiding-place that the tears already started at the sight; butthey grewso high above methat I tried in vain to gather one ortwotodream over and to carry with me: I could not reach themunless Iclimbed the bankwhich I was deterred from doing byhearing afootstep at that moment behind meand wasthereforeabout toturn awaywhen I was startled by the words'Allow me togatherthem for youMiss Grey' spoken in the gravelow tones ofawell-known voice. Immediately the flowers were gatheredand inmy hand. It was Mr. Westonof course - who else would troublehimself todo so much for ME?
'I thankedhim; whether warmly or coldlyI cannot tell: butcertain Iam that I did not express half the gratitude I felt. Itwasfoolishperhapsto feel any gratitude at all; but it seemedto meatthat momentas if this were a remarkable instance of hisgood-nature: an act of kindnesswhich I could not repaybutnevershould forget: so utterly unaccustomed was I to receive suchcivilitiesso little prepared to expect them from anyone withinfiftymiles of Horton Lodge. Yet this did not prevent me fromfeeling alittle uncomfortable in his presence; and I proceeded tofollow mypupils at a much quicker pace than before; thoughperhapsif Mr. Weston had taken the hintand let me pass withoutanotherwordI might have repeated it an hour after: but he didnot. A somewhat rapid walk for me was but an ordinary pace forhim.
'Youryoung ladies have left you alone' said he.
'Yestheyare occupied with more agreeable company.'
'Thendon't trouble yourself to overtake them.' I slackened mypace; butnext moment regretted having done so: my companion didnot speak;and I had nothing in the world to sayand feared hemight bein the same predicament. At lengthhoweverhe broke thepause byaskingwith a certain quiet abruptness peculiar tohimselfif I liked flowers.
'Yes; verymuch' I answered'wild-flowers especially.'
'I likewild-flowers' said he; 'others I don't care aboutbecauseI have noparticular associations connected with them - except oneor two. What are your favourite flowers?'
'No;becauseas you sayI have no particular associationsconnectedwith them; for there are no sweet violets among the hillsandvalleys round my home.'
'It mustbe a great consolation to you to have a homeMiss Grey'observedmy companion after a short pause: 'however remoteorhoweverseldom visitedstill it is something to look to.'
'It is somuch that I think I could not live without it' repliedIwith anenthusiasm of which I immediately repented; for Ithought itmust have sounded essentially silly.
'Ohyesyou could' said hewith a thoughtful smile. 'The tiesthat bindus to life are tougher than you imagineor than anyonecan whohas not felt how roughly they may be pulled withoutbreaking. You might be miserable without a homebut even YOUcouldlive; and not so miserably as you suppose. The human heartis likeindia-rubber; a little swells itbut a great deal will notburst it. If "little more than nothing will disturb itlittleless thanall things will suffice" to break it. As in the outermembers ofour framethere is a vital power inherent in itselfthatstrengthens it against external violence. Every blow thatshakes itwill serve to harden it against a future stroke; asconstantlabour thickens the skin of the handand strengthens itsmusclesinstead of wasting them away: so that a day of arduoustoilthatmight excoriate a lady's palmwould make no sensibleimpressionon that of a hardy ploughman.
'I speakfrom experience - partly my own. There was a time when Ithought asyou do - at leastI was fully persuaded that home anditsaffections were the only things that made life tolerable:thatifdeprived of theseexistence would become a burden hard tobeendured; but now I have no home - unless you would dignify mytwo hiredrooms at Horton by such a name; - and not twelve monthsago I lostthe last and dearest of my early friends; and yetnotonly Ilivebut I am not wholly destitute of hope and comforteven forthis life: though I must acknowledge that I can seldomenter evenan humble cottage at the close of dayand see itsinhabitantspeaceably gathered around their cheerful hearthwithout afeeling ALMOST of envy at their domestic enjoyment.'
'You don'tknow what happiness lies before you yet' said I: 'youare nowonly in the commencement of your journey.'
'The bestof happiness' replied he'is mine already - the powerand thewill to be useful.'
We nowapproached a stile communicating with a footpath thatconductedto a farm-housewhereI supposeMr. Weston purposed tomakehimself 'useful;' for he presently took leave of mecrossedthe stileand traversed the path with his usual firmelastictreadleaving me to ponder his words as I continued my coursealone. I had heard before that he had lost his mother not manymonthsbefore he came. She then was the last and dearest of hisearlyfriends; and he had NO HOME. I pitied him from my heart: Ialmostwept for sympathy. And thisI thoughtaccounted for theshade ofpremature thoughtfulness that so frequently clouded hisbrowandobtained for him the reputation of a morose and sullendispositionwith the charitable Miss Murray and all her kin.'But'thought I'he is not so miserable as I should be under suchadeprivation: he leads an active life; and a wide field forusefulexertion lies before him. He can MAKE friends; and he canmake ahome tooif he pleases; anddoubtlesshe will please sometime. God grant the partner of that home may be worthy of hischoiceand make it a happy one - such a home as he deserves tohave! And how delightful it would be to - ' But no matter what Ithought.
I beganthis book with the intention of concealing nothing; thatthose wholiked might have the benefit of perusing a fellow-creature'sheart: but we have some thoughts that all the angels inheaven arewelcome to beholdbut not our brother-men - not eventhe bestand kindest amongst them.
By thistime the Greens had taken themselves to their own abodeand theMurrays had turned down the private roadwhither Ihastenedto follow them. I found the two girls warm in an animateddiscussionon the respective merits of the two young officers; buton seeingme Rosalie broke off in the middle of a sentence toexclaimwith malicious glee -
'Oh-hoMiss Grey! you're come at lastare you? No WONDER youlingeredso long behind; and no WONDER you always stand up sovigorouslyfor Mr. Weston when I abuse him. Ah-ha! I see it allnow!'
'NowcomeMiss Murraydon't be foolish' said Iattempting agood-naturedlaugh; 'you know such nonsense can make no impressionon me.'
But shestill went on talking such intolerable stuff - her sisterhelpingher with appropriate fiction coined for the occasion - thatI thoughtit necessary to say something in my own justification.
'Whatfolly all this is!' I exclaimed. 'If Mr. Weston's roadhappenedto be the same as mine for a few yardsand if he chose toexchange aword or two in passingwhat is there so remarkable inthat? I assure youI never spoke to him before: except once.'
'Where?where? and when?' cried they eagerly.
'Ah-ha!you've met him therehave you?' exclaimed Rosaliewithexultantlaughter. 'Ah! nowMatildaI've found out why she's sofond ofgoing to Nancy Brown's! She goes there to flirt with Mr.Weston.'
'Reallythat is not worth contradicting - I only saw him thereonceItell you - and how could I know he was coming?'
Irritatedas I was at their foolish mirth and vexatiousimputationsthe uneasiness did not continue long: when they hadhad theirlaugh outthey returned again to the captain andlieutenant;andwhile they disputed and commented upon themmyindignationrapidly cooled; the cause of it was quickly forgottenand Iturned my thoughts into a pleasanter channel. Thus weproceededup the parkand entered the hall; and as I ascended thestairs tomy own chamberI had but one thought within me: myheart wasfilled to overflowing with one single earnest wish.Havingentered the roomand shut the doorI fell upon my kneesandoffered up a fervent but not impetuous prayer: 'Thy will bedone' Istrove to say throughout; but'Fatherall things arepossiblewith Theeand may it be Thy will' was sure to follow.That wish- that prayer - both men and women would have scorned mefor -'ButFatherTHOU wilt NOT despise!' I saidand felt thatit wastrue. It seemed to me that another's welfare was at leastasardently implored for as my own; nayeven THAT was theprincipalobject of my heart's desire. I might have been deceivingmyself;but that idea gave me confidence to askand power to hopeI did notask in vain. As for the primrosesI kept two of them ina glass inmy room until they were completely witheredand thehousemaidthrew them out; and the petals of the other I pressedbetweenthe leaves of my Bible - I have them stilland mean tokeep themalways.
CHAPTERXIV - THE RECTOR
THEfollowing day was as fine as the preceding one. Soon afterbreakfastMiss Matildahaving galloped and blundered through a fewunprofitablelessonsand vengeably thumped the piano for an hourin aterrible humour with both me and itbecause her mamma wouldnot giveher a holidayhad betaken herself to her favourite placesof resortthe yardsthe stablesand the dog-kennels; and MissMurray wasgone forth to enjoy a quiet ramble with a newfashionablenovel for her companionleaving me in the schoolroomhard atwork upon a water-colour drawing which I had promised to dofor herand which she insisted upon my finishing that day.
At my feetlay a little rough terrier. It was the property of MissMatilda;but she hated the animaland intended to sell itallegingthat it was quite spoiled. It was really an excellent dogof itskind; but she affirmed it was fit for nothingand had noteven thesense to know its own mistress.
The factwas she had purchased it when but a small puppyinsistingat firstthat no one should touch it but herself; but soon becomingtired ofso helpless and troublesome a nurslingshe had gladlyyielded tomy entreaties to be allowed to take charge of it; and Ibycarefully nursing the little creature from infancy toadolescenceof coursehad obtained its affections: a reward Ishouldhave greatly valuedand looked upon as far outweighing allthetrouble I had had with ithad not poor Snap's gratefulfeelingsexposed him to many a harsh word and many a spiteful kickand pinchfrom his ownerand were he not now in danger of being'put away'in consequenceor transferred to some roughstony-heartedmaster. But how could I help it? I could not make the doghate me bycruel treatmentand she would not propitiate him bykindness.
Howeverwhile I thus satworking away with my pencilMrs. Murraycamehalf-sailinghalf-bustlinginto the room.
'MissGrey' she began- 'dear! how can you sit at your drawingsuch a dayas this?' (She thought I was doing it for my ownpleasure.) 'I WONDER you don't put on your bonnet and go out withthe youngladies.'
'I thinkma'amMiss Murray is reading; and Miss Matilda isamusingherself with her dogs.'
'If youwould try to amuse Miss Matilda yourself a little moreIthink shewould not be driven to seek amusement in thecompanionshipof dogs and horses and groomsso much as she is; andif youwould be a little more cheerful and conversable with MissMurrayshe would not so often go wandering in the fields with abook inher hand. HoweverI don't want to vex you' added sheseeingIsupposethat my cheeks burned and my hand trembled withsomeunamiable emotion. 'Dopraytry not to be so touchy -there's nospeaking to you else. And tell me if you know whereRosalie isgone: and why she likes to be so much alone?'
'She saysshe likes to be alone when she has a new book to read.'
'But whycan't she read it in the park or the garden? - why shouldshe gointo the fields and lanes? And how is it that that Mr.Hatfieldso often finds her out? She told me last week he'd walkedhis horseby her side all up Moss Lane; and now I'm sure it was heI sawfrom my dressing-room windowwalking so briskly past thepark-gatesand on towards the field where she so frequently goes.I wish youwould go and see if she is there; and just gently remindher thatit is not proper for a young lady of her rank andprospectsto be wandering about by herself in that mannerexposedto theattentions of anyone that presumes to address her; like somepoorneglected girl that has no park to walk inand no friends totake careof her: and tell her that her papa would be extremelyangry ifhe knew of her treating Mr. Hatfield in the familiarmannerthat I fear she does; and - oh! if you - if ANY governesshad buthalf a mother's watchfulness - half a mother's anxiouscareIshould be saved this trouble; and you would see at once thenecessityof keeping your eye upon herand making your companyagreeableto - Wellgo - go; there's no time to be lost' criedsheseeing that I had put away my drawing materialsand waswaiting inthe doorway for the conclusion of her address.
Accordingto her prognosticationsI found Miss Murray in herfavouritefield just without the park; andunfortunatelynotalone; forthe tallstately figure of Mr. Hatfield was slowlysaunteringby her side.
Here was aposer for me. It was my duty to interrupt the TETE-A-TETE: but how was it to be done? Mr. Hatfield could not to bedrivenaway by so insignificant person as I; and to go and placemyself onthe other side of Miss Murrayand intrude my unwelcomepresenceupon her without noticing her companionwas a piece ofrudeness Icould not be guilty of: neither had I the courage tocry aloudfrom the top of the field that she was wanted elsewhere.So I tookthe intermediate course of walking slowly but steadilytowardsthem; resolvingif my approach failed to scare away thebeautopass by and tell Miss Murray her mamma wanted her.
Shecertainly looked very charming as she strolledlingering alongunder thebudding horse-chestnut trees that stretched their longarms overthe park-palings; with her closed book in one handandin theother a graceful sprig of myrtlewhich served her as a veryprettyplaything; her bright ringlets escaping profusely from herlittlebonnetand gently stirred by the breezeher fair cheekflushedwith gratified vanityher smiling blue eyesnow slylyglancingtowards her admirernow gazing downward at her myrtlesprig. But Snaprunning before meinterrupted her in the midstof somehalf-perthalf-playful reparteeby catching hold of herdress andvehemently tugging thereat; till Mr. Hatfieldwith hiscaneadministered a resounding thwack upon the animal's skullandsent ityelping back to me with a clamorous outcry that affordedthereverend gentleman great amusement: but seeing me so nearhethoughtIsupposehe might as well be taking his departure; andas Istooped to caress the dogwith ostentatious pity to show mydisapprovalof his severityI heard him say: 'When shall I seeyou againMiss Murray?'
'AtchurchI suppose' replied she'unless your business chancesto bringyou here again at the precise moment when I happen to bewalkingby.'
'I couldalways manage to have business hereif I knew preciselywhen andwhere to find you.'
'But if IwouldI could not inform youfor I am so immethodicalI nevercan tell to-day what I shall do tomorrow.'
'Then giveme thatmeantimeto comfort me' said hehalfjestinglyand half in earnestextending his hand for the sprig ofmyrtle.
'Do! PRAYdo! I shall be the most miserable of men if you don't.You cannotbe so cruel as to deny me a favour so easily granted andyet sohighly prized!' pleaded he as ardently as if his lifedependedon it.
By thistime I stood within a very few yards of themimpatientlywaitinghis departure.
'Therethen! take it and go' said Rosalie.
Hejoyfully received the giftmurmured something that made herblush andtoss her headbut with a little laugh that showed herdispleasurewas entirely affected; and then with a courteoussalutationwithdrew.
'Did youever see such a manMiss Grey?' said sheturning to me;'I'm soGLAD you came! I thought I never SHOULDget rid of him;and I wasso terribly afraid of papa seeing him.'
'Has hebeen with you long?'
'Nonotlongbut he's so extremely impertinent: and he's alwayshangingaboutpretending his business or his clerical dutiesrequirehis attendance in these partsand really watching for poormeandpouncing upon me wherever he sees me.'
'Wellyour mamma thinks you ought not to go beyond the park orgardenwithout some discreetmatronly person like me to accompanyyouandkeep off all intruders. She descried Mr. Hatfieldhurryingpast the park-gatesand forthwith despatched me withinstructionsto seek you up and to take care of youand likewiseto warn -'
'Ohmamma's so tiresome! As if I couldn't take care of myself.Shebothered me before about Mr. Hatfield; and I told her she mighttrust me: I never should forget my rank and station for the mostdelightfulman that ever breathed. I wish he would go down on hiskneesto-morrowand implore me to be his wifethat I might justshow herhow mistaken she is in supposing that I could ever - Ohitprovokes me so! To think that I could be such a fool as to fallin LOVE! It is quite beneath the dignity of a woman to do such athing. Love! I detest the word! As applied to one of our sexIthink it aperfect insult. A preference I MIGHT acknowledge; butnever forone like poor Mr. Hatfieldwho has not seven hundred ayear tobless himself with. I like to talk to himbecause he's soclever andamusing - I wish Sir Thomas Ashby were half as nice;besidesImust have SOMEBODY to flirt withand no one else hasthe senseto come here; and when we go outmamma won't let meflirt withanybody but Sir Thomas - if he's there; and if he's NOTthereI'mbound hand and footfor fear somebody should go andmake upsome exaggerated storyand put it into his head that I'mengagedor likely to be engagedto somebody else; orwhat ismoreprobablefor fear his nasty old mother should see or hear ofmyongoingsand conclude that I'm not a fit wife for her excellentson: as if the said son were not the greatest scamp inChristendom;and as if any woman of common decency were not a worldtoo goodfor him.'
'Is itreally soMiss Murray? and does your mamma know itand yetwish youto marry him?'
'To besureshe does! She knows more against him than I doIbelieve: she keeps it from me lest I should be discouraged; notknowinghow little I care about such things. For it's no greatmatterreally: he'll be all right when he's marriedas mammasays; andreformed rakes make the best husbandsEVERYBODY knows.I onlywish he were not so ugly - THAT'S all I think about: butthenthere's no choice here in the country; and papa WILL NOT letus go toLondon - '
'But Ishould think Mr. Hatfield would be far better.'
'And so hewouldif he were lord of Ashby Park - there's not adoubt ofit: but the fact isI MUST have Ashby Parkwhoevershares itwith me.'
'But Mr.Hatfield thinks you like him all this time; you don'tconsiderhow bitterly he will be disappointed when he finds himselfmistaken.'
'NOindeed! It will be a proper punishment for his presumption -for everDARING to think I could like him. I should enjoy nothingso much aslifting the veil from his eyes.'
'Thesooner you do it the better then.'
'No; Itell youI like to amuse myself with him. Besideshedoesn'treally think I like him. I take good care of that: youdon't knowhow cleverly I manage. He may presume to think he caninduce meto like him; for which I shall punish him as hedeserves.'
'Wellmind you don't give too much reason for such presumption -that'sall' replied I.
But all myexhortations were in vain: they only made her somewhatmoresolicitous to disguise her wishes and her thoughts from me.She talkedno more to me about the Rector; but I could see that hermindifnot her heartwas fixed upon him stilland that she wasintentupon obtaining another interview: for thoughin compliancewith hermother's requestI was now constituted the companion ofherrambles for a timeshe still persisted in wandering in thefields andlanes that lay in the nearest proximity to the road;andwhether she talked to me or read the book she carried in herhandshekept continually pausing to look round heror gaze upthe roadto see if anyone was coming; and if a horseman trotted byI couldtell by her unqualified abuse of the poor equestrianwhoever hemight bethat she hated him BECAUSE he was not Mr.Hatfield.
'Surely'thought I'she is not so indifferent to him as shebelievesherself to beor would have others to believe her; andhermother's anxiety is not so wholly causeless as she affirms.'
Three dayspassed awayand he did not make his appearance. On theafternoonof the fourthas we were walking beside the park-palingsin thememorable fieldeach furnished with a book (for I alwaystook careto provide myself with something to be doing when she didnotrequire me to talk)she suddenly interrupted my studies byexclaiming-
'OhMissGrey! do be so kind as to go and see Mark Woodand takehis wifehalf-a-crown from me - I should have given or sent it aweek agobut quite forgot. There!' said shethrowing me herpurseandspeaking very fast - 'Never mind getting it out nowbuttake thepurse and give them what you like; I would go with youbut I wantto finish this volume. I'll come and meet you when I'vedone it. Be quickwill you - and - ohwait; hadn't you betterread tohim a bit? Run to the house and get some sort of a goodbook. Anything will do.'
I did as Iwas desired; butsuspecting something from her hurriedmanner andthe suddenness of the requestI just glanced backbefore Iquitted the fieldand there was Mr. Hatfield about toenter atthe gate below. By sending me to the house for a bookshe hadjust prevented my meeting him on the road.
'Nevermind!' thought I'there'll be no great harm done. PoorMark willbe glad of the half-crownand perhaps of the good booktoo; andif the Rector does steal Miss Rosalie's heartit willonlyhumble her pride a little; and if they do get married at lastit willonly save her from a worse fate; and she will be quite agoodenough partner for himand he for her.'
Mark Woodwas the consumptive labourer whom I mentioned before. Hewas nowrapidly wearing away. Miss Murrayby her liberalityobtainedliterally the blessing of him that was ready to perish;for thoughthe half-crown could be of very little service to himhe wasglad of it for the sake of his wife and childrenso soon tobe widowedand fatherless. After I had sat a few minutesand reada littlefor the comfort and edification of himself and hisafflictedwifeI left them; but I had not proceeded fifty yardsbefore Iencountered Mr. Westonapparently on his way to the sameabode. He greeted me in his usual quietunaffected waystoppedto inquireabout the condition of the sick man and his familyandwith asort of unconsciousbrotherly disregard to ceremony tookfrom myhand the book out of which I had been readingturned overits pagesmade a few brief but very sensible remarksand restoredit; thentold me about some poor sufferer he had just beenvisitingtalked a little about Nancy Brownmade a fewobservationsupon my little rough friend the terrierthat wasfriskingat his feetand finally upon the beauty of the weatheranddeparted.
I haveomitted to give a detail of his wordsfrom a notion thatthey wouldnot interest the reader as they did meand not becauseI haveforgotten them. No; I remember them well; for I thoughtthem overand over again in the course of that day and manysucceedingonesI know not how often; and recalled everyintonationof his deepclear voiceevery flash of his quickbrown eyeand every gleam of his pleasantbut too transientsmile. Such a confession will look very absurdI fear: but nomatter: I have written it: and they that read it will not knowthewriter.
While Iwas walking alonghappy withinand pleased with allaroundMiss Murray came hastening to meet me; her buoyant stepflushedcheekand radiant smiles showing that shetoowas happyin her ownway. Running up to meshe put her arm through mineandwithout waiting to recover breathbegan - 'NowMiss Greythinkyourself highly honouredfor I'm come to tell you my newsbeforeI've breathed a word of it to anyone else.'
'Wellwhat is it?'
'OhSUCHnews! In the first placeyou must know that Mr.Hatfieldcame upon me just after you were gone. I was in such away forfear papa or mamma should see him; but you know I couldn'tcall youback againand so! - ohdear! I can't tell you allabout itnowfor there's MatildaI seein the parkand I mustgo andopen my budget to her. ButhoweverHatfield was mostuncommonlyaudaciousunspeakably complimentaryandunprecedentedlytender - tried to be soat least - he didn'tsucceedvery well in THATbecause it's not his vein. I'll tellyou all hesaid another time.'
'But whatdid YOU say - I'm more interested in that?'
'I'll tellyou thattooat some future period. I happened to bein a verygood humour just then; butthough I was complaisant andgraciousenoughI took care not to compromise myself in anypossibleway. Buthoweverthe conceited wretch chose tointerpretmy amiability of temper his own wayand at lengthpresumedupon my indulgence so far - what do you think? - heactuallymade me an offer!'
'And you -'
'I proudlydrew myself upand with the greatest coolness expressedmyastonishment at such an occurrenceand hoped he had seennothing inmy conduct to justify his expectations. You should haveSEEN howhis countenance fell! He went perfectly white in theface. I assured him that I esteemed him and all thatbut couldnotpossibly accede to his proposals; and if I didpapa and mammacouldnever be brought to give their consent.'
'"Butif they could" said he"would yours be wanting?"
'"CertainlyMr. Hatfield" I repliedwith a cool decision whichquelledall hope at once. Ohif you had seen how dreadfullymortifiedhe was - how crushed to the earth by his disappointment!reallyIalmost pitied him myself.
'One moredesperate attempthoweverhe made. After a silence ofconsiderabledurationduring which he struggled to be calmand Ito begrave - for I felt a strong propensity to laugh - which wouldhaveruined all - he saidwith the ghost of a smile - "But tell meplainlyMiss Murrayif I had the wealth of Sir Hugh Melthamortheprospects of his eldest sonwould you still refuse me? Answerme trulyupon your honour."
'"Certainly"said I. "That would make no difference whatever."
'It was agreat liebut he looked so confident in his ownattractionsstillthat I determined not to leave him one stoneuponanother. He looked me full in the face; but I kept mycountenanceso well that he could not imagine I was saying anythingmore thanthe actual truth.
'"Thenit's all overI suppose" he saidlooking as if he couldhave diedon the spot with vexation and the intensity of hisdespair. But he was angry as well as disappointed. There was hesufferingso unspeakablyand there was Ithe pitiless cause of itallsoutterly impenetrable to all the artillery of his looks andwordssocalmly cold and proudhe could not but feel someresentment;and with singular bitterness he began - "I certainlydid notexpect thisMiss Murray. I might say something about yourpastconductand the hopes you have led me to fosterbut Iforbearon condition - "
'"NoconditionsMr. Hatfield!" said Inow truly indignant at hisinsolence.
'"Thenlet me beg it as a favour" he repliedlowering his voiceat onceand taking a humbler tone: "let me entreat that you willnotmention this affair to anyone whatever. If you will keepsilenceabout itthere need be no unpleasantness on either side -nothingImeanbeyond what is quite unavoidable: for my ownfeelings Iwill endeavour to keep to myselfif I cannot annihilatethem - Iwill try to forgiveif I cannot forget the cause of mysufferings. I will not supposeMiss Murraythat you know howdeeply youhave injured me. I would not have you aware of it; butifinaddition to the injury you have already done me - pardon mebutwhether innocently or notyou HAVE done it - and if you addto it bygiving publicity to this unfortunate affairor naming itAT ALLyou will find that I too can speakand though you scornedmy loveyou will hardly scorn my - "
'Hestoppedbut he bit his bloodless lipand looked so terriblyfiercethat I was quite frightened. Howevermy pride upheld mestillandI answered disdainfully; "I do not know what motive yousuppose Icould have for naming it to anyoneMr. Hatfield; but ifI weredisposed to do soyou would not deter me by threats; and itisscarcely the part of a gentleman to attempt it."
'"PardonmeMiss Murray" said he"I have loved you so intensely- I dostill adore you so deeplythat I would not willingly offendyou; butthough I never have lovedand never CAN love any woman asI haveloved youit is equally certain that I never was so ill-treated byany. On the contraryI have always found your sex thekindestand most tender and obliging of God's creationtill now."(Think ofthe conceited fellow saying that!) "And the novelty andharshnessof the lesson you have taught me to-dayand thebitternessof being disappointed in the only quarter on which thehappinessof my life dependedmust excuse any appearance ofasperity. If my presence is disagreeable to youMiss Murray" hesaid (forI was looking about me to show how little I cared forhimso hethought I was tired of himI suppose) - "if my presenceisdisagreeable to youMiss Murrayyou have only to promise methe favourI namedand I will relieve you at once. There are manyladies -some even in this parish - who would be delighted toacceptwhat you have so scornfully trampled under your feet. Theywould benaturally inclined to hate one whose surpassing lovelinesshas socompletely estranged my heart from them and blinded me totheirattractions; and a single hint of the truth from me to one ofthesewould be sufficient to raise such a talk against you as wouldseriouslyinjure your prospectsand diminish your chance ofsuccesswith any other gentleman you or your mamma might design toentangle."
'"Whatdo your meansir?" said Iready to stamp with passion.
'"Imean that this affair from beginning to end appears to me likea case ofarrant flirtationto say the least of it - such a caseas youwould find it rather inconvenient to have blazoned throughtheworld: especially with the additions and exaggerations of yourfemalerivalswho would be too glad to publish the matterif Ionly gavethem a handle to it. But I promise youon the faith ofagentlemanthat no word or syllable that could tend to yourprejudiceshall ever escape my lipsprovided you will - "
'"WellwellI won't mention it" said I. "You may rely uponmysilenceif that can afford you any consolation."
'"Yes"I answered; for I wanted to get rid of him now.
'"Farewellthen!" said hein a most dolefulheart-sick tone; andwith alook where pride vainly struggled against despairhe turnedand wentaway: longingno doubtto get homethat he might shuthimself upin his study and cry - if he doesn't burst into tearsbefore hegets there.'
'But youhave broken your promise already' said Itruly horrifiedat herperfidy.
'Oh! it'sonly to you; I know you won't repeat it.'
'CertainlyI shall not: but you say you are going to tell yoursister;and she will tell your brothers when they come homeandBrownimmediatelyif you do not tell her yourself; and Brown willblazon itor be the means of blazoning itthroughout thecountry.'
'Noindeedshe won't. We shall not tell her at allunless it beunder thepromise of the strictest secrecy.'
'But howcan you expect her to keep her promises better than hermoreenlightened mistress?'
'Wellwellshe shan't hear it then' said Miss Murraysomewhatsnappishly.
'But youwill tell your mammaof course' pursued I; 'and she willtell yourpapa.'
'Of courseI shall tell mamma - that is the very thing that pleasesme somuch. I shall now be able to convince her how mistaken shewas in herfears about me.'
'OhTHAT'S itis it? I was wondering what it was that delightedyou somuch.'
'Yes; andanother thing isthat I've humbled Mr. Hatfield socharmingly;and another - whyyou must allow me some share offemalevanity: I don't pretend to be without that most essentialattributeof our sex - and if you had seen poor Hatfield's intenseeagernessin making his ardent declaration and his flatteringproposaland his agony of mindthat no effort of pride couldconcealon being refusedyou would have allowed I had some causeto begratified.'
'Thegreater his agonyI should thinkthe less your cause forgratification.'
'Ohnonsense!' cried the young ladyshaking herself withvexation. 'You either can't understand meor you won't. If I hadnotconfidence in your magnanimityI should think you envied me.But youwillperhapscomprehend this cause of pleasure - which isas greatas any - namelythat I am delighted with myself for myprudencemy self-commandmy heartlessnessif you please. I wasnot a bittaken by surprisenot a bit confusedor awkwardorfoolish; Ijust acted and spoke as I ought to have doneand wascompletelymy own mistress throughout. And here was a mandecidedlygood-looking - Jane and Susan Green call him bewitchinglyhandsome Isuppose they're two of the ladies he pretends would beso glad tohave him; buthoweverhe was certainly a very cleverwittyagreeable companion - not what you call cleverbut justenough tomake him entertaining; and a man one needn't be ashamedofanywhereand would not soon grow tired of; and to confess thetruthIrather liked him - better evenof latethan HarryMeltham -and he evidently idolised me; and yetthough he cameupon meall alone and unpreparedI had the wisdomand the prideand thestrength to refuse him - and so scornfully and coolly as Idid: I have good reason to be proud of that.'
'And areyou equally proud of having told him that his having thewealth ofSir Hugh Meltham would make no difference to youwhenthat wasnot the case; and of having promised to tell no one of hismisadventureapparently without the slightest intention of keepingyourpromise?'
'Ofcourse! what else could I do? You would not have had me - butI seeMiss Greyyou're not in a good temper. Here's Matilda;I'll seewhat she and mamma have to say about it.'
She leftmeoffended at my want of sympathyand thinkingnodoubtthat I envied her. I did not - at leastI firmly believedI didnot. I was sorry for her; I was amazeddisgusted at herheartlessvanity; I wondered why so much beauty should be given tothose whomade so bad a use of itand denied to some who wouldmake it abenefit to both themselves and others.
ButGodknows bestI concluded. There areI supposesome menas vainas selfishand as heartless as she isandperhapssuchwomen maybe useful to punish them.
CHAPTER XV- THE WALK
'OHdear! I wish Hatfield had not been so precipitate!' saidRosalienext day at four P.M.aswith a portentous yawnshe laiddown herworsted-work and looked listlessly towards the window.'There'sno inducement to go out now; and nothing to look forwardto. The days will be so long and dull when there are no parties toenliventhem; and there are none this weekor next eitherthat Iknow of.'
'Pity youwere so cross to him' observed Matildato whom thislamentationwas addressed. 'He'll never come again: and I suspectyou likedhim after all. I hoped you would have taken him for yourbeauandleft dear Harry to me.'
'Humph! mybeau must be an Adonis indeedMatildathe admired ofallbeholdersif I am to be contented with him alone. I'm sorryto loseHatfieldI confess; but the first decent manor number ofmenthatcome to supply his placewill be more than welcome.It'sSunday to-morrow - I do wonder how he'll lookand whetherhe'll beable to go through the service. Most likely he'll pretendhe's got acoldand make Mr. Weston do it all.'
'Not he!'exclaimed Matildasomewhat contemptuously. 'Fool as heishe'snot so soft as that comes to.'
Her sisterwas slightly offended; but the event proved Matilda wasright: the disappointed lover performed his pastoral duties asusual. Rosalieindeedaffirmed he looked very pale and dejected:he mightbe a little paler; but the differenceif anywasscarcelyperceptible. As for his dejectionI certainly did nothear hislaugh ringing from the vestry as usualnor his voice loudinhilarious discourse; though I did hear it uplifted in rating thesexton ina manner that made the congregation stare; andin histransitsto and from the pulpit and the communion-tablethere wasmore ofsolemn pompand less of that irreverentself-confidentor ratherself-delighted imperiousness with which he usually sweptalong -that air that seemed to say'You all reverence and adoremeIknow; but if anyone does notI defy him to the teeth!' Butthe mostremarkable change wasthat he never once suffered hiseyes towander in the direction of Mr. Murray's pewand did notleave thechurch till we were gone.
Mr.Hatfield had doubtless received a very severe blow; but hisprideimpelled him to use every effort to conceal the effects ofit. He had been disappointed in his certain hope of obtaining notonly abeautifulandto himhighly attractive wifebut onewhose rankand fortune might give brilliance to far inferiorcharms: he was likewiseno doubtintensely mortified by hisrepulseand deeply offended at the conduct of Miss Murraythroughout. It would have given him no little consolation to haveknown howdisappointed she was to find him apparently so littlemovedandto see that he was able to refrain from casting a singleglance ather throughout both services; thoughshe declareditshowed hewas thinking of her all the timeor his eyes would havefallenupon herif it were only by chance: but if they had sochanced tofallshe would have affirmed it was because they couldnot resistthe attraction. It might have pleased himtooin somedegreetohave seen how dull and dissatisfied she was throughoutthat week(the greater part of itat least)for lack of her usualsource ofexcitement; and how often she regretted having 'used himup sosoon' like a child thathaving devoured its plumcake toohastilysits sucking its fingersand vainly lamenting itsgreediness.
At lengthI was called uponone fine morningto accompany her ina walk tothe village. Ostensibly she went to get some shades ofBerlinwoolat a tolerably respectable shop that was chieflysupportedby the ladies of the vicinity: really - I trust there isno breachof charity in supposing that she went with the idea ofmeetingeither with the Rector himselfor some other admirer bythe way;for as we went alongshe kept wondering 'what Hatfieldwould door sayif we met him' &c. &c.; as we passed Mr. Green'spark-gatesshe 'wondered whether he was at home - great stupidblockhead';as Lady Meltham's carriage passed usshe 'wonderedwhat Mr.Harry was doing this fine day'; and then began to abusehis elderbrother for being 'such a fool as to get married and goand livein London.'
'Why'said I'I thought you wanted to live in London yourself.'
'Yesbecause it's so dull here: but then he makes it still dullerby takinghimself off: and if he were not married I might have himinstead ofthat odious Sir Thomas.'
Thenobserving the prints of a horse's feet on the somewhat miryroadshe'wondered whether it was a gentleman's horse' andfinallyconcluded it wasfor the impressions were too small tohave beenmade by a 'great clumsy cart-horse'; and then she'wonderedwho the rider could be' and whether we should meet himcomingbackfor she was sure he had only passed that morning; andlastlywhen we entered the village and saw only a few of itshumbleinhabitants moving aboutshe 'wondered why the stupidpeoplecouldn't keep in their houses; she was sure she didn't wantto seetheir ugly facesand dirtyvulgar clothes - it wasn't forthat shecame to Horton!'
Amid allthisI confessI wonderedtooin secretwhether weshouldmeetor catch a glimpse of somebody else; and as we passedhislodgingsI even went so far as to wonder whether he was at thewindow. On entering the shopMiss Murray desired me to stand inthedoorway while she transacted her businessand tell her ifanyonepassed. But alas! there was no one visible besides thevillagersexcept Jane and Susan Green coming down the singlestreetapparently returning from a walk.
'Stupidthings!' muttered sheas she came out after havingconcludedher bargain. 'Why couldn't they have their dolt of abrotherwith them? even he would be better than nothing.'
Shegreeted themhoweverwith a cheerful smileand protestationsofpleasure at the happy meeting equal to their own. They placedthemselvesone on each side of herand all three walked awaychattingand laughing as young ladies do when they get togetherifthey bebut on tolerably intimate terms. But Ifeeling myself tobe one toomanyleft them to their merriment and lagged behindasusual onsuch occasions: I had no relish for walking beside MissGreen orMiss Susan like one deaf and dumbwho could neither speaknor bespoken to.
But thistime I was not long alone. It struck mefirstas veryoddthatjust as I was thinking about Mr. Weston he should come upand accostme; but afterwardson due reflectionI thought therewasnothing odd about itunless it were the fact of his speakingto me; foron such a morning and so near his own abodeit wasnaturalenough that he should be about; and as for my thinking ofhimI hadbeen doing thatwith little intermissionever since weset out onour journey; so there was nothing remarkable in that.
'You arealone againMiss Grey' said he.
'What kindof people are those ladies - the Misses Green?'
'I reallydon't know.'
'That'sstrange - when you live so near and see them so often!'
'WellIsuppose they are livelygood-tempered girls; but Iimagineyou must know them better than I doyourselffor I neverexchangeda word with either of them.'
'Indeed? They don't strike me as being particularly reserved.'
'Verylikely they are not so to people of their own class; but theyconsiderthemselves as moving in quite a different sphere from me!'
He made noreply to this: but after a short pausehe said- 'Isupposeit's these thingsMiss Greythat make you think you couldnot livewithout a home?'
'Notexactly. The fact is I am too socially disposed to be able tolivecontentedly without a friend; and as the only friends I haveor amlikely to haveare at homeif it - or ratherif they weregone - Iwill not say I could not live - but I would rather notlive insuch a desolate world.'
'But whydo you say the only friends you are likely to have? Areyou sounsociable that you cannot make friends?'
'Nobut Inever made one yet; and in my present position there isnopossibility of doing soor even of forming a commonacquaintance. The fault may be partly in myselfbut I hope notaltogether.'
'The faultis partly in societyand partlyI should thinkinyourimmediate neighbours: and partlytooin yourself; for manyladiesinyour positionwould make themselves be noticed andaccountedof. But your pupils should be companions for you in somedegree;they cannot be many years younger than yourself.'
'Ohyesthey are good company sometimes; but I cannot call themfriendsnor would they think of bestowing such a name on me - theyhave othercompanions better suited to their tastes.'
'Perhapsyou are too wise for them. How do you amuse yourself whenalone - doyou read much?'
'Readingis my favourite occupationwhen I have leisure for it andbooks toread.'
Fromspeaking of books in generalhe passed to different books inparticularand proceeded by rapid transitions from topic to topictillseveral mattersboth of taste and opinionhad been discussedconsiderablywithin the space of half an hourbut without theembellishmentof many observations from himself; he being evidentlyless bentupon communicating his own thoughts and predilectionsthan ondiscovering mine. He had not the tactor the arttoeffectsuch a purpose by skilfully drawing out my sentiments orideasthrough the real or apparent statement of his ownor leadingtheconversation by imperceptible gradations to such topics as hewished toadvert to: but such gentle abruptnessand such single-mindedstraightforwardnesscould not possibly offend me.
'And whyshould he interest himself at all in my moral andintellectualcapacities: what is it to him what I think or feel?'I askedmyself. And my heart throbbed in answer to the question.
But Janeand Susan Green soon reached their home. As they stoodparleyingat the park-gatesattempting to persuade Miss Murray tocome inIwished Mr. Weston would gothat she might not see himwith mewhen she turned round; butunfortunatelyhis businesswhich wasto pay one more visit to poor Mark Woodled him topursue thesame path as we didtill nearly the close of ourjourney. Whenhoweverhe saw that Rosalie had taken leave of herfriendsand I was about to join herhe would have left me andpassed onat a quicker pace; butas he civilly lifted his hat inpassingherto my surpriseinstead of returning the salute with astiffungracious bowshe accosted him with one of her sweetestsmilesandwalking by his sidebegan to talk to him with allimaginablecheerfulness and affability; and so we proceeded allthreetogether.
After ashort pause in the conversationMr. Weston made someremarkaddressed particularly to meas referring to something wehad beentalking of before; but before I could answerMiss Murrayreplied tothe observation and enlarged upon it: he rejoined; andfromthence to the close of the interviewshe engrossed himentirelyto herself. It might be partly owing to my own stupiditymy want oftact and assurance: but I felt myself wronged: Itrembledwith apprehension; and I listened with envy to her easyrapid flowof utteranceand saw with anxiety the bright smile withwhich shelooked into his face from time to time: for she waswalking alittle in advancefor the purpose (as I judged) of beingseen aswell as heard. If her conversation was light and trivialit wasamusingand she was never at a loss for something to sayor forsuitable words to express it in. There was nothing pert orflippantin her manner nowas when she walked with Mr. Hatfieldthere wasonly a gentleplayful kind of vivacitywhich I thoughtmust bepeculiarly pleasing to a man of Mr. Weston's dispositionandtemperament.
When hewas gone she began to laughand muttered to herself'Ithought Icould do it!'
'Do what?'I asked.
'What inthe world do you mean?'
'I meanthat he will go home and dream of me. I have shot himthroughthe heart!'
'How doyou know?'
'By manyinfallible proofs: more especially the look he gave mewhen hewent away. It was not an impudent look - I exonerate himfrom that- it was a look of reverentialtender adoration. Haha! he'snot quite such a stupid blockhead as I thought him!'
I made noanswerfor my heart was in my throator something likeitand Icould not trust myself to speak. 'O Godavert it!' Icriedinternally - 'for his sakenot for mine!'
MissMurray made several trivial observations as we passed up theparktowhich (in spite of my reluctance to let one glimpse of myfeelingsappear) I could only answer by monosyllables. Whether sheintendedto torment meor merely to amuse herselfI could nottell - anddid not much care; but I thought of the poor man and hisone lamband the rich man with his thousand flocks; and I dreadedI knew notwhat for Mr. Westonindependently of my own blightedhopes.
Right gladwas I to get into the houseand find myself alone oncemore in myown room. My first impulse was to sink into the chairbeside thebed; and laying my head on the pillowto seek relief inapassionate burst of tears: there was an imperative craving forsuch anindulgence; butalas! I must restrain and swallow back myfeelingsstill: there was the bell - the odious bell for theschoolroomdinner; and I must go down with a calm faceand smileand laughand talk nonsense - yesand eattooif possibleasif all wasrightand I was just returned from a pleasant walk.
CHAPTERXVI - THE SUBSTITUTION
NEXTSunday was one of the gloomiest of April days - a day ofthickdark cloudsand heavy showers. None of the Murrays weredisposedto attend church in the afternoonexcepting Rosalie: shewas bentupon going as usual; so she ordered the carriageand Iwent withher: nothing lothof coursefor at church I might lookwithoutfear of scorn or censure upon a form and face more pleasingto me thanthe most beautiful of God's creations; I might listenwithoutdisturbance to a voice more charming than the sweetestmusic tomy ears; I might seem to hold communion with that soul inwhich Ifelt so deeply interestedand imbibe its purest thoughtsandholiest aspirationswith no alloy to such felicity except thesecretreproaches of my consciencewhich would too often whisperthat I wasdeceiving my own selfand mocking God with the serviceof a heartmore bent upon the creature than the Creator.
Sometimessuch thoughts would give me trouble enough; butsometimesI could quiet them with thinking - it is not the manitis hisgoodness that I love. 'Whatsoever things are purewhatsoeverthings are lovelywhatsoever things are honest and ofgoodreportthink on these things.' We do well to worship God inHis works;and I know none of them in which so many of Hisattributes- so much of His own spirit shinesas in this Hisfaithfulservant; whom to know and not to appreciatewere obtuseinsensibilityin mewho have so little else to occupy my heart.
Almostimmediately after the conclusion of the serviceMiss Murrayleft thechurch. We had to stand in the porchfor it was rainingand thecarriage was not yet come. I wondered at her coming forthsohastilyfor neither young Meltham nor Squire Green was there;but I soonfound it was to secure an interview with Mr. Weston ashe cameoutwhich he presently did. Having saluted us bothhewould havepassed onbut she detained him; first with observationsupon thedisagreeable weatherand then with asking if he would beso kind asto come some time to-morrow to see the granddaughter ofthe oldwoman who kept the porter's lodgefor the girl was ill ofa feverand wished to see him. He promised to do so.
'And atwhat time will you be most likely to comeMr. Weston? Theold womanwill like to know when to expect you - you know suchpeoplethink more about having their cottages in order when decentpeoplecome to see them than we are apt to suppose.'
Here was awonderful instance of consideration from the thoughtlessMissMurray. Mr. Weston named an hour in the morning at which hewouldendeavourto be there. By this time the carriage was readyand thefootman was waitingwith an open umbrellato escort MissMurraythrough the churchyard. I was about to follow; but Mr.Weston hadan umbrella tooand offered me the benefit of itsshelterfor it was raining heavily.
'NothankyouI don't mind the rain' I said. I always lackedcommonsense when taken by surprise.
'But youdon't LIKE itI suppose? - an umbrella will do you noharm atany rate' he repliedwith a smile that showed he was notoffended;as a man of worse temper or less penetration would havebeen atsuch a refusal of his aid. I could not deny the truth ofhisassertionand so went with him to the carriage; he evenoffered mehis hand on getting in: an unnecessary piece ofcivilitybut I accepted that toofor fear of giving offence. Oneglance hegaveone little smile at parting - it was but for amoment;but therein I reador thought I reada meaning thatkindled inmy heart a brighter flame of hope than had ever yetarisen.
'I wouldhave sent the footman back for youMiss Greyif you'dwaited amoment - you needn't have taken Mr. Weston's umbrella'observedRosaliewith a very unamiable cloud upon her pretty face.
'I wouldhave come without an umbrellabut Mr. Weston offered methebenefit of hisand I could not have refused it more than I didwithoutoffending him' replied Ismiling placidly; for my inwardhappinessmade that amusingwhich would have wounded me at anothertime.
Thecarriage was now in motion. Miss Murray bent forwardsandlooked outof the window as we were passing Mr. Weston. He waspacinghomewards along the causewayand did not turn his head.
'Stupidass!' cried shethrowing herself back again in the seat.'You don'tknow what you've lost by not looking this way!'
'What hashe lost?'
'A bowfrom methat would have raised him to the seventh heaven!'
I made noanswer. I saw she was out of humourand I derived asecretgratification from the factnot that she was vexedbutthat shethought she had reason to be so. It made me think myhopes werenot entirely the offspring of my wishes and imagination.
'I mean totake up Mr. Weston instead of Mr. Hatfield' said mycompanionafter a short pauseresuming something of her usualcheerfulness. 'The ball at Ashby Park takes place on Tuesdayyouknow; andmamma thinks it very likely that Sir Thomas will proposeto methen: such things are often done in the privacy of the ball-roomwhengentlemen are most easily ensnaredand ladies mostenchanting. But if I am to be married so soonI must make thebest ofthe present time: I am determined Hatfield shall not bethe onlyman who shall lay his heart at my feetand implore me toaccept theworthless gift in vain.'
'If youmean Mr. Weston to be one of your victims' said Iwithaffectedindifference'you will have to make such overturesyourselfthat you will find it difficult to draw back when he asksyou tofulfil the expectations you have raised.'
'I don'tsuppose he will ask me to marry himnor should I desireit: that would be rather too much presumption! but I intend him tofeel mypower. He has felt it alreadyindeed: but he shallACKNOWLEDGEit too; and what visionary hopes he may havehe mustkeep tohimselfand only amuse me with the result of them - for atime.'
'Oh! thatsome kind spirit would whisper those words in his ear' Iinwardlyexclaimed. I was far too indignant to hazard a reply toherobservation aloud; and nothing more was said about Mr. Westonthat dayby me or in my hearing. But next morningsoon afterbreakfastMiss Murray came into the schoolroomwhere her sisterwasemployed at her studiesor rather her lessonsfor studiesthey werenotand said'MatildaI want you to take a walk withme abouteleven o'clock.'
'OhIcan'tRosalie! I have to give orders about my new bridleandsaddle-clothand speak to the rat-catcher about his dogs:Miss Greymust go with you.'
'NoIwant you' said Rosalie; and calling her sister to thewindowshe whispered an explanation in her ear; upon which thelatterconsented to go.
Iremembered that eleven was the hour at which Mr. Weston proposedto come tothe porter's lodge; and remembering thatI beheld thewholecontrivance. Accordinglyat dinnerI was entertained witha longaccount of how Mr. Weston had overtaken them as they werewalkingalong the road; and how they had had a long walk and talkwith himand really found him quite an agreeable companion; andhow hemust have beenand evidently wasdelighted with them andtheiramazing condescension&c. &c.
CHAPTERXVII - CONFESSIONS
AS I am inthe way of confessions I may as well acknowledge thatabout thistimeI paid more attention to dress than ever I haddonebefore. This is not saying much - for hitherto I had been alittleneglectful in that particular; but nowalsoit was nouncommonthing to spend as much as two minutes in the contemplationof my ownimage in the glass; though I never could derive anyconsolationfrom such a study. I could discover no beauty in thosemarkedfeaturesthat pale hollow cheekand ordinary dark brownhair;there might be intellect in the foreheadthere might beexpressionin the dark grey eyesbut what of that? - a low Grecianbrowandlarge black eyes devoid of sentiment would be esteemedfarpreferable. It is foolish to wish for beauty. Sensiblepeoplenevereither desire it for themselves or care about it in others.If themind be but well cultivatedand the heart well disposednoone evercares for the exterior. So said the teachers of ourchildhood;and so say we to the children of the present day. Allveryjudicious and properno doubt; but are such assertionssupportedby actual experience?
We arenaturally disposed to love what gives us pleasureand whatmorepleasing than a beautiful face - when we know no harm of thepossessorat least? A little girl loves her bird - Why? Becauseit livesand feels; because it is helpless and harmless? A toadlikewiselives and feelsand is equally helpless and harmless;but thoughshe would not hurt a toadshe cannot love it like thebirdwithits graceful formsoft feathersand brightspeakingeyes. If a woman is fair and amiableshe is praised for bothqualitiesbut especially the formerby the bulk of mankind: ifon theother handshe is disagreeable in person and characterherplainnessis commonly inveighed against as her greatest crimebecauseto common observersit gives the greatest offence; whileif she isplain and goodprovided she is a person of retiredmannersand secluded lifeno one ever knows of her goodnessexcept herimmediate connections. Otherson the contraryaredisposedto form unfavourable opinions of her mindanddispositionif it be but to excuse themselves for theirinstinctivedislike of one so unfavoured by nature; and VISA VERSAwith herwhose angel form conceals a vicious heartor sheds afalsedeceitful charm over defects and foibles that would not betoleratedin another. They that have beautylet them be thankfulfor itand make a good use of itlike any other talent; they thathave itnotlet them console themselvesand do the best they canwithoutit: certainlythough liable to be over-estimatedit is agift ofGodand not to be despised. Many will feel this who havefelt thatthey could loveand whose hearts tell them that they areworthy tobe loved again; while yet they are debarredby the lackof this orsome such seeming triflefrom giving and receiving thathappinessthey seem almost made to feel and to impart. As wellmight thehumble glowworm despise that power of giving lightwithoutwhich the roving fly might pass her and repass her athousandtimesand never rest beside her: she might hear herwingeddarling buzzing over and around her; he vainly seeking hershelonging to be foundbut with no power to make her presenceknownnovoice to call himno wings to follow his flight; - thefly mustseek another matethe worm must live and die alone.
Such weresome of my reflections about this period. I might go onprosingmore and moreI might dive much deeperand disclose otherthoughtspropose questions the reader might be puzzled to answerand deducearguments that might startle his prejudicesorperhapsprovoke his ridiculebecause he could not comprehendthem; butI forbear.
Nowthereforelet us return to Miss Murray. She accompanied hermamma tothe ball on Tuesday; of course splendidly attiredanddelightedwith her prospects and her charms. As Ashby Park wasnearly tenmiles distant from Horton Lodgethey had to set outprettyearlyand I intended to have spent the evening with NancyBrownwhom I had not seen for a long time; but my kind pupil tookcare Ishould spend it neither there nor anywhere else beyond thelimits ofthe schoolroomby giving me a piece of music to copywhich keptme closely occupied till bed-time. About eleven nextmorningas soon as she had left her roomshe came to tell me hernews. Sir Thomas had indeed proposed to her at the ball; an eventwhichreflected great credit on her mamma's sagacityif not uponher skillin contrivance. I rather incline to the belief that shehad firstlaid her plansand then predicted their success. Theoffer hadbeen acceptedof courseand the bridegroom elect wascomingthat day to settle matters with Mr. Murray.
Rosaliewas pleased with the thoughts of becoming mistress of AshbyPark; shewas elated with the prospect of the bridal ceremony anditsattendant splendour and eclatthe honeymoon spent abroadandthesubsequent gaieties she expected to enjoy in London andelsewhere;she appeared pretty well pleased toofor the timebeingwith Sir Thomas himselfbecause she had so lately seen himdancedwith himand been flattered by him; butafter allsheseemed toshrink from the idea of being so soon united: she wishedtheceremony to be delayed some monthsat least; and I wished ittoo. It seemed a horrible thing to hurry on the inauspiciousmatchandnot to give the poor creature time to think and reasonon theirrevocable step she was about to take. I made nopretensionto 'a mother's watchfulanxious care' but I was amazedandhorrified at Mrs. Murray's heartlessnessor want of thoughtfor thereal good of her child; and by my unheeded warnings andexhortationsI vainly strove to remedy the evil. Miss Murray onlylaughed atwhat I said; and I soon found that her reluctance to animmediateunion arose chiefly from a desire to do what executionshe couldamong the young gentlemen of her acquaintancebefore shewasincapacitated from further mischief of the kind. It was forthis causethatbefore confiding to me the secret of herengagementshe had extracted a promise that I would not mention aword onthe subject to any one. And when I saw thisand when Ibeheld herplunge more recklessly than ever into the depths ofheartlesscoquetryI had no more pity for her. 'Come what will'I thought'she deserves it. Sir Thomas cannot be too bad for her;and thesooner she is incapacitated from deceiving and injuringothers thebetter.'
Thewedding was fixed for the first of June. Between that and thecriticalball was little more than six weeks; butwith Rosalie'saccomplishedskill and resolute exertionmuch might be doneevenwithinthat period; especially as Sir Thomas spent most of theinterim inLondon; whither he went upit was saidto settleaffairswith his lawyerand make other preparations for theapproachingnuptials. He endeavoured to supply the want of hispresenceby a pretty constant fire of billets-doux; but these didnotattract the neighbours' attentionand open their eyesaspersonalvisits would have done; and old Lady Ashby's haughtysourspirit ofreserve withheld her from spreading the newswhile herindifferenthealth prevented her coming to visit her futuredaughter-in-law;so thataltogetherthis affair was kept farcloserthan such things usually are.
Rosaliewould sometimes show her lover's epistles to metoconvinceme what a kinddevoted husband he would make. She showedme theletters of another individualtoothe unfortunate Mr.Greenwhohad not the courageoras she expressed itthe'spunk'to plead his cause in personbut whom one denial wouldnotsatisfy: he must write again and again. He would not havedone so ifhe could have seen the grimaces his fair idol made overhis movingappeals to her feelingsand heard her scornfullaughterand the opprobrious epithets she heaped upon him for hisperseverance.
'Why don'tyou tell himat oncethat you are engaged?' I asked.
'OhIdon't want him to know that' replied she. 'If he knew ithissisters and everybody would know itand then there would be anend of my- ahem! Andbesidesif I told him thathe would thinkmyengagement was the only obstacleand that I would have him if Iwere free;which I could not bear that any man should thinkandheof allothersat least. BesidesI don't care for hisletters'she addedcontemptuously; 'he may write as often as hepleasesand look as great a calf as he likes when I meet him; itonlyamuses me.'
Meantimeyoung Meltham was pretty frequent in his visits to thehouse ortransits past it; andjudging by Matilda's execrationsandreproachesher sister paid more attention to him than civilityrequired;in other wordsshe carried on as animated a flirtationas thepresence of her parents would admit. She made some attemptsto bringMr. Hatfield once more to her feet; but finding themunsuccessfulshe repaid his haughty indifference with stillloftierscornand spoke of him with as much disdain anddetestationas she had formerly done of his curate. Butamid allthisshenever for a moment lost sight of Mr. Weston. Sheembracedevery opportunity of meeting himtried every art tofascinatehimand pursued him with as much perseverance as if shereallyloved him and no otherand the happiness of her lifedependedupon eliciting a return of affection. Such conduct wascompletelybeyond my comprehension. Had I seen it depicted in anovelIshould have thought it unnatural; had I heard it describedby othersI should have deemed it a mistake or an exaggeration;but when Isaw it with my own eyesand suffered from it tooIcould onlyconclude that excessive vanitylike drunkennesshardensthe heartenslaves the facultiesand perverts thefeelings;and that dogs are not the only creatures whichwhengorged tothe throatwill yet gloat over what they cannot devourand grudgethe smallest morsel to a starving brother.
She nowbecame extremely beneficent to the poor cottagers. Heracquaintanceamong them was more widely extendedher visits totheirhumble dwellings were more frequent and excursive than theyhad everbeen before. Herebyshe earned among them the reputationof acondescending and very charitable young lady; and theirencomiumswere sure to be repeated to Mr. Weston: whom also shehad thus adaily chance of meeting in one or other of their abodesor in hertransits to and fro; and oftenlikewiseshe couldgatherthrough their gossipto what places he was likely to go atsuch andsuch a timewhether to baptize a childor to visit theagedthesickthe sador the dying; and most skilfully she laidher plansaccordingly. In these excursions she would sometimes gowith hersister - whomby some meansshe had persuaded or bribedto enterinto her schemes - sometimes alonenevernowwith me;so that Iwas debarred the pleasure of seeing Mr. Westonorhearinghis voice even in conversation with another: which wouldcertainlyhave been a very great pleasurehowever hurtful orhoweverfraught with pain. I could not even see him at church:for MissMurrayunder some trivial pretextchose to takepossessionof that corner in the family pew which had been mineever sinceI came; andunless I had the presumption to stationmyselfbetween Mr. and Mrs. MurrayI must sit with my back to thepulpitwhich I accordingly did.
NowalsoI never walked home with my pupils: they said theirmammathought it did not look well to see three people out of thefamilywalkingand only two going in the carriage; andas theygreatlypreferred walking in fine weatherI should be honoured bygoing withthe seniors. 'And besides' said they'you can't walkas fast aswe do; you know you're always lagging behind.' I knewthese werefalse excusesbut I made no objectionsand nevercontradictedsuch assertionswell knowing the motives whichdictatedthem. And in the afternoonsduring those six memorableweeksInever went to church at all. If I had a coldor anyslightindispositionthey took advantage of that to make me stayat home;and often they would tell me they were not going againthat daythemselvesand then pretend to change their mindsandset offwithout telling me: so managing their departure that Ineverdiscovered the change of purpose till too late. Upon theirreturnhomeon one of these occasionsthey entertained me with ananimatedaccount of a conversation they had had with Mr. Weston asthey camealong. 'And he asked if you were illMiss Grey' saidMatilda;'but we told him you were quite wellonly you didn't wantto come tochurch - so he'll think you're turned wicked.'
All chancemeetings on week-days were likewise carefully prevented;forlestI should go to see poor Nancy Brown or any other personMissMurray took good care to provide sufficient employment for allmy leisurehours. There was always some drawing to finishsomemusic tocopyor some work to dosufficient to incapacitate mefromindulging in anything beyond a short walk about the groundshowevershe or her sister might be occupied.
Onemorninghaving sought and waylaid Mr. Westonthey returned inhigh gleeto give me an account of their interview. 'And he askedafter youagain' said Matildain spite of her sister's silent butimperativeintimation that she should hold her tongue. 'Hewonderedwhy you were never with usand thought you must havedelicatehealthas you came out so seldom.'
'He didn'tMatilda - what nonsense you're talking!'
'OhRosaliewhat a lie! He didyou know; and you said - Don'tRosalie -hang it! - I won't be pinched so! AndMiss GreyRosalietold him you were quite wellbut you were always so buriedin yourbooks that you had no pleasure in anything else.'
'What anidea he must have of me!' I thought.
'And' Iasked'does old Nancy ever inquire about me?'
'Yes; andwe tell her you are so fond of reading and drawing thatyou can donothing else.'
'That isnot the case though; if you had told her I was so busy Icould notcome to see herit would have been nearer the truth.'
'I don'tthink it would' replied Miss Murraysuddenly kindlingup; 'I'msure you have plenty of time to yourself nowwhen youhave solittle teaching to do.'
It was nouse beginning to dispute with such indulgedunreasoningcreatures: so I held my peace. I was accustomednowto keepingsilencewhen things distasteful to my ear were uttered; and nowtooI wasused to wearing a placid smiling countenance when myheart wasbitter within me. Only those who have felt the like canimagine myfeelingsas I sat with an assumption of smilingindifferencelistening to the accounts of those meetings andinterviewswith Mr. Westonwhich they seemed to find such pleasureindescribing to me; and hearing things asserted of him whichfromthecharacter of the manI knew to be exaggerations andperversionsof the truthif not entirely false - things derogatoryto himand flattering to them - especially to Miss Murray - whichI burnedto contradictorat leastto show my doubts aboutbutdared not;lestin expressing my disbeliefI should display myinteresttoo. Other things I heardwhich I felt or feared wereindeed tootrue: but I must still conceal my anxiety respectinghimmyindignation against thembeneath a careless aspect;othersagainmere hints of something said or donewhich I longedto hearmore ofbut could not venture to inquire. So passed thewearytime. I could not even comfort myself with saying'She willsoon bemarried; and then there may be hope.'
Soon afterher marriage the holidays would come; and when Ireturnedfrom homemost likelyMr. Weston would be gonefor Iwas toldthat he and the Rector could not agree (the Rector'sfaultofcourse)and he was about to remove to another place.
No -besides my hope in Godmy only consolation was in thinkingthatthough he know it notI was more worthy of his love thanRosalieMurraycharming and engaging as she was; for I couldappreciatehis excellencewhich she could not: I would devote mylife tothe promotion of his happiness; she would destroy hishappinessfor the momentary gratification of her own vanity. 'Ohif hecould but know the difference!' I would earnestly exclaim.'But no! I would not have him see my heart: yetif he could butknow herhollownessher worthlessheartless frivolityhe wouldthen besafeand I should be - ALMOST happythough I might neversee himmore!'
I fearbythis timethe reader is well nigh disgusted with thefolly andweakness I have so freely laid before him. I neverdisclosedit thenand would not have done so had my own sister ormy motherbeen with me in the house. I was a close and resolutedissembler- in this one case at least. My prayersmy tearsmywishesfearsand lamentationswere witnessed by myself andheavenalone.
When weare harassed by sorrows or anxietiesor long oppressed byanypowerful feelings which we must keep to ourselvesfor which wecan obtainand seek no sympathy from any living creatureand whichyet wecannotor will not wholly crushwe often naturally seekrelief inpoetry - and often find ittoo - whether in theeffusionsof otherswhich seem to harmonize with our existingcaseorin our own attempts to give utterance to those thoughtsandfeelings in strains less musicalperchancebut moreappropriateand therefore more penetrating and sympatheticandfor thetimemore soothingor more powerful to rouse and tounburdenthe oppressed and swollen heart. Before this timeatWellwoodHouse and herewhen suffering from home-sick melancholyI hadsought relief twice or thrice at this secret source ofconsolation;and now I flew to it againwith greater avidity thaneverbecause I seemed to need it more. I still preserve thoserelics ofpast sufferings and experiencelike pillars of witnessset up intravelling through the vale of lifeto mark particularoccurrences. The footsteps are obliterated now; the face of thecountrymay be changed; but the pillar is still thereto remind mehow allthings were when it was reared. Lest the reader should becurious tosee any of these effusionsI will favour him with oneshortspecimen: cold and languid as the lines may seemit wasalmost apassion of grief to which they owed their being:-
Ohtheyhave robbed me of the hopeMy spiritheld so dear;They willnot let me hear that voiceMy souldelights to hear.
They willnot let me see that faceI sodelight to see;And theyhave taken all thy smilesAnd allthy love from me.
Wellletthem seize on all they can; -Onetreasure still is mine-A heartthat loves to think on theeAnd feelsthe worth of thine.
Yesatleastthey could not deprive me of that: I could think ofhim dayand night; and I could feel that he was worthy to bethoughtof. Nobody knew him as I did; nobody could appreciate himas I did;nobody could love him as I - couldif I might: butthere wasthe evil. What business had I to think so much of onethat neverthought of me? Was it not foolish? was it not wrong?Yetif Ifound such deep delight in thinking of himand if I keptthosethoughts to myselfand troubled no one else with themwherewas theharm of it? I would ask myself. And such reasoningpreventedme from making any sufficient effort to shake off myfetters.
Butifthose thoughts brought delightit was a painfultroubledpleasuretoo near akin to anguish; and one that did me more injurythan I wasaware of. It was an indulgence that a person of morewisdom ormore experience would doubtless have denied herself. Andyethowdreary to turn my eyes from the contemplation of thatbrightobject and force them to dwell on the dullgreydesolateprospectaround: the joylesshopelesssolitary path that laybeforeme. It was wrong to be so joylessso desponding; I shouldhave madeGod my friendand to do His will the pleasure and thebusinessof my life; but faith was weakand passion was toostrong.
In thistime of trouble I had two other causes of affliction. Thefirst mayseem a triflebut it cost me many a tear: Snapmylittledumbrough-visagedbut bright-eyedwarm-heartedcompanionthe only thing I had to love mewas taken awayanddeliveredover to the tender mercies of the village rat-catcheramannotorious for his brutal treatment of his canine slaves. Theother wasserious enough; my letters from home gave intimation thatmyfather's health was worse. No boding fears were expressedbutI wasgrown timid and despondentand could not help fearing thatsomedreadful calamity awaited us there. I seemed to see the blackcloudsgathering round my native hillsand to hear the angrymutteringof a storm that was about to burstand desolate ourhearth.
CHAPTERXVIII - MIRTH AND MOURNING
THE 1st ofJune arrived at last: and Rosalie Murray was transmutedinto LadyAshby. Most splendidly beautiful she looked in herbridalcostume. Upon her return from churchafter the ceremonyshe cameflying into the schoolroomflushed with excitementandlaughinghalf in mirthand half in reckless desperationas itseemed tome.
'NowMissGreyI'm Lady Ashby!' she exclaimed. 'It's donemyfate issealed: there's no drawing back now. I'm come to receiveyourcongratulations and bid you good-by; and then I'm off forParisRomeNaplesSwitzerlandLondon - ohdear! what a deal Ishall seeand hear before I come back again. But don't forget me:I shan'tforget youthough I've been a naughty girl. Comewhydon't youcongratulate me?'
'I cannotcongratulate you' I replied'till I know whether thischange isreally for the better: but I sincerely hope it is; and Iwish youtrue happiness and the best of blessings.'
'Wellgood-bythe carriage is waitingand they're calling me.'
She gaveme a hasty kissand was hurrying away; butsuddenlyreturningembraced me with more affection than I thought hercapable ofevincingand departed with tears in her eyes. Poorgirl! I really loved her then; and forgave her from my heart allthe injuryshe had done me - and others also: she had not halfknown itI was sure; and I prayed God to pardon her too.
During theremainder of that day of festal sadnessI was left tomy owndevices. Being too much unhinged for any steady occupationI wanderedabout with a book in my hand for several hoursmorethinkingthan readingfor I had many things to think about. IntheeveningI made use of my liberty to go and see my old friendNancy onceagain; to apologize for my long absence (which must haveseemed soneglectful and unkind) by telling her how busy I hadbeen; andto talkor reador work for herwhichever might bemostacceptableand alsoof courseto tell her the news of thisimportantday: and perhaps to obtain a little information from herin returnrespecting Mr. Weston's expected departure. But of thisshe seemedto know nothingand I hopedas she didthat it wasall afalse report. She was very glad to see me; buthappilyhereyes werenow so nearly well that she was almost independent of myservices. She was deeply interested in the wedding; but while Iamused herwith the details of the festive daythe splendours ofthe bridalparty and of the bride herselfshe often sighed andshook herheadand wished good might come of it; she seemedlikemetoregard it rather as a theme for sorrow than rejoicing. Isat a longtime talking to her about that and other things - but noone came.
Shall Iconfess that I sometimes looked towards the door with ahalf-expectantwish to see it open and give entrance to Mr. Westonas hadhappened once before? and thatreturning through the lanesandfieldsI often paused to look round meand walked more slowlythan wasat all necessary - forthough a fine eveningit was nota hot one- andfinallyfelt a sense of emptiness anddisappointmentat having reached the house without meeting or evencatching adistant glimpse of any oneexcept a few labourersreturningfrom their work?
Sundayhoweverwas approaching: I should see him then: for nowthat MissMurray was goneI could have my old corner again. Ishould seehimand by lookspeechand mannerI might judgewhetherthe circumstance of her marriage had very much afflictedhim. Happily I could perceive no shadow of a difference: he worethe sameaspect as he had worn two months ago - voicelookmannerall alike unchanged: there was the same keen-sighteduncloudedtruthfulness in his discoursethe same forcibleclearnessin his stylethe same earnest simplicity in all he saidand didthat made itselfnot marked by the eye and earbut feltupon thehearts of his audience.
I walkedhome with Miss Matilda; but HE DID NOT JOIN US. Matildawas nowsadly at a loss for amusementand wofully in want of acompanion: her brothers at schoolher sister married and goneshe tooyoung to be admitted into society; for whichfromRosalie'sexampleshe was in some degree beginning to acquire ataste - ataste at least for the company of certain classes ofgentlemen;at this dull time of year - no hunting going onnoshootingeven - forthough she might not join in thatit wasSOMETHINGto see her father or the gamekeeper go out with the dogsand totalk with them on their returnabout the different birdsthey hadbagged. Nowalsoshe was denied the solace which thecompanionshipof the coachmangroomshorsesgreyhoundsandpointersmight have afforded; for her mother havingnotwithstandingthe disadvantages of a country lifesosatisfactorilydisposed of her elder daughterthe pride of herheart hadbegun seriously to turn her attention to the younger;andbeingtruly alarmed at the roughness of her mannersandthinkingit high time to work a reformhad been roused at lengthto exerther authorityand prohibited entirely the yardsstableskennelsand coachhouse. Of courseshe was not implicitly obeyed;butindulgent as she had hitherto beenwhen once her spirit wasrousedher temper was not so gentle as she required that of hergovernessesto beand her will was not to be thwarted withimpunity. After many a scene of contention between mother anddaughtermany a violent outbreak which I was ashamed to witnessin whichthe father's authority was often called in to confirm withoaths andthreats the mother's slighted prohibitions - for even HEcould seethat 'Tillythough she would have made a fine ladwasnot quitewhat a young lady ought to be' - Matilda at length foundthat hereasiest plan was to keep clear of the forbidden regions;unless shecould now and then steal a visit without her watchfulmother'sknowledge.
Amid allthislet it not be imagined that I escaped without many areprimandand many an implied reproachthat lost none of itssting fromnot being openly worded; but rather wounded the moredeeplybecausefrom that very reasonit seemed to preclude self-defence. FrequentlyI was told to amuse Miss Matilda with otherthingsand to remind her of her mother's precepts andprohibitions. I did so to the best of my power: but she would notbe amusedagainst her willand could not against her taste; andthough Iwent beyond mere remindingsuch gentle remonstrances as Icould usewere utterly ineffectual.
'DEAR MissGrey! it is the STRANGEST thing. I suppose you can'thelp itif it's not in your nature - but I WONDER you can't wintheconfidence of that girland make your society at LEAST asagreeableto her as that of Robert or Joseph!'
'They cantalk the best about the things in which she is mostinterested'I replied.
'Well!that is a strange confessionHOWEVERto come from herGOVERNESS! Who is to form a young lady's tastesI wonderif thegovernessdoesn't do it? I have known governesses who have socompletelyidentified themselves with the reputation of their youngladies forelegance and propriety in mind and mannersthat theywouldblush to speak a word against them; and to hear the slightestblameimputed to their pupils was worse than to be censured intheir ownpersons - and I really think it very naturalfor mypart.'
'Yesofcourse: the young lady's proficiency and elegance is ofmoreconsequence to the governess than her ownas well as to theworld. If she wishes to prosper in her vocation she must devoteall herenergies to her business: all her ideas and all herambitionwill tend to the accomplishment of that one object. Whenwe wish todecide upon the merits of a governesswe naturally lookat theyoung ladies she professes to have educatedand judgeaccordingly. The JUDICIOUS governess knows this: she knows thatwhile shelives in obscurity herselfher pupils' virtues anddefectswill be open to every eye; and thatunless she loses sightof herselfin their cultivationshe need not hope for success.You seeMiss Greyit is just the same as any other trade orprofession: they that wish to prosper must devote themselves bodyand soulto their calling; and if they begin to yield to indolenceorself-indulgence they are speedily distanced by wisercompetitors: there is little to choose between a person that ruinsher pupilsby neglectand one that corrupts them by her example.You willexcuse my dropping these little hints: you know it is allfor yourown good. Many ladies would speak to you much morestrongly;and many would not trouble themselves to speak at allbutquietly look out for a substitute. Thatof coursewould betheEASIEST plan: but I know the advantages of a place like thisto aperson in your situation; and I have no desire to part withyouas Iam sure you would do very well if you will only think ofthesethings and try to exert yourself a LITTLE more: thenI amconvincedyou would SOON acquire that delicate tact which alone iswanting togive you a proper influence over the mind of yourpupil.'
I wasabout to give the lady some idea of the fallacy of herexpectations;but she sailed away as soon as she had concluded herspeech. Having said what she wishedit was no part of her plan toawait myanswer: it was my business to hearand not to speak.
Howeveras I have saidMatilda at length yielded in some degreeto hermother's authority (pity it had not been exerted before);and beingthus deprived of almost every source of amusementtherewasnothing for it but to take long rides with the groom and longwalks withthe governessand to visit the cottages and farmhouseson herfather's estateto kill time in chatting with the old menand womenthat inhabited them. In one of these walksit was ourchance tomeet Mr. Weston. This was what I had long desired; butnowfor amomentI wished either he or I were away: I felt myheartthrob so violently that I dreaded lest some outward signs ofemotionshould appear; but I think he hardly glanced at meand Iwas sooncalm enough. After a brief salutation to bothhe askedMatilda ifshe had lately heard from her sister.
'Yes'replied she. 'She was at Paris when she wroteand verywellandvery happy.'
She spokethe last word emphaticallyand with a glanceimpertinentlysly. He did not seem to notice itbut repliedwithequalemphasisand very seriously -
'I hopeshe will continue to be so.'
'Do youthink it likely?' I ventured to inquire: for Matilda hadstartedoff in pursuit of her dogthat was chasing a leveret.
'I cannottell' replied he. 'Sir Thomas may be a better man thanI suppose;butfrom all I have heard and seenit seems a pitythat oneso young and gayand - and interestingto express manythings byone word - whose greatestif not her only faultappearsto bethoughtlessness - no trifling fault to be suresince itrendersthe possessor liable to almost every otherand exposes himto so manytemptations - but it seems a pity that she should bethrownaway on such a man. It was her mother's wishI suppose?'
'Yes; andher own tooI thinkfor she always laughed at myattemptsto dissuade her from the step.'
'You didattempt it? Thenat leastyou will have thesatisfactionof knowing that it is no fault of yoursif any harmshouldcome of it. As for Mrs. MurrayI don't know how she canjustifyher conduct: if I had sufficient acquaintance with herI'd askher.'
'It seemsunnatural: but some people think rank and wealth thechiefgood; andif they can secure that for their childrentheythink theyhave done their duty.'
'True: but is it not strange that persons of experiencewho havebeenmarried themselvesshould judge so falsely?' Matilda nowcamepanting backwith the lacerated body of the young hare in herhand.
'Was ityour intention to kill that hareor to save itMissMurray?'asked Mr. Westonapparently puzzled at her gleefulcountenance.
'Ipretended to want to save it' she answeredhonestly enough'as it wasso glaringly out of season; but I was better pleased tosee itlolled. Howeveryou can both witness that I couldn't helpit: Prince was determined to have her; and he clutched her by thebackandkilled her in a minute! Wasn't it a noble chase?'
'Very! fora young lady after a leveret.'
There wasa quiet sarcasm in the tone of his reply which was notlost uponher; she shrugged her shouldersandturning away with asignificant'Humph!' asked me how I had enjoyed the fun. I repliedthat I sawno fun in the matter; but admitted that I had notobservedthe transaction very narrowly.
'Didn'tyou see how it doubled - just like an old hare? and didn'tyou hearit scream?'
'I'm happyto say I did not.'
'It criedout just like a child.'
'Poorlittle thing! What will you do with it?'
'Comealong - I shall leave it in the first house we come to. Idon't wantto take it homefor fear papa should scold me forlettingthe dog kill it.'
Mr. Westonwas now goneand we too went on our way; but as wereturnedafter having deposited the hare in a farm-houseanddemolishedsome spice-cake and currant-wine in exchangewe met himreturningalso from the execution of his missionwhatever it mightbe. He carried in his hand a cluster of beautiful bluebellswhichhe offeredto me; observingwith a smilethat though he had seenso littleof me for the last two monthshe had not forgotten thatblue-bellswere numbered among my favourite flowers. It was doneas asimple act of goodwillwithout compliment or remarkablecourtesyor any look that could be construed into 'reverentialtenderadoration' (VIDE Rosalie Murray); but stillit wassomethingto find my unimportant saying so well remembered: it wassomethingthat he had noticed so accurately the time I had ceasedto bevisible.
'I wastold' said he'that you were a perfect bookwormMissGrey: so completely absorbed in your studies that you were lost toeveryother pleasure.'
'Yesandit's quite true!' cried Matilda.
'NoMr.Weston: don't believe it: it's a scandalous libel.Theseyoung ladies are too fond of making random assertions at theexpense oftheir friends; and you ought to be careful how youlisten tothem.'
'I hopeTHIS assertion is groundlessat any rate.'
'Why? Do you particularly object to ladies studying?'
'No; but Iobject to anyone so devoting himself or herself tostudyasto lose sight of everything else. Except under peculiarcircumstancesI consider very close and constant study as a wasteof timeand an injury to the mind as well as the body.'
'WellIhave neither the time nor the inclination for suchtransgressions.'
Well! whatis there remarkable in all this? Why have I recordedit? Becausereaderit was important enough to give me a cheerfuleveninganight of pleasing dreamsand a morning of felicitoushopes. Shallow-brained cheerfulnessfoolish dreamsunfoundedhopesyouwould say; and I will not venture to deny it:suspicionsto that effect arose too frequently in my own mind. Butour wishesare like tinder: the flint and steel of circumstancesarecontinually striking out sparkswhich vanish immediatelyunlessthey chance to fall upon the tinder of our wishes; thentheyinstantly igniteand the flame of hope is kindled in amoment.
But alas!that very morningmy flickering flame of hope wasdismallyquenched by a letter from my motherwhich spoke soseriouslyof my father's increasing illnessthat I feared therewas littleor no chance of his recovery; andclose at hand as theholidayswereI almost trembled lest they should come too late forme to meethim in this world. Two days aftera letter from Marytold mehis life was despaired ofand his end seemed fastapproaching. ThenimmediatelyI sought permission to anticipatethevacationand go without delay. Mrs. Murray staredandwonderedat the unwonted energy and boldness with which I urged therequestand thought there was no occasion to hurry; but finallygave meleave: statinghoweverthat there was 'no need to be insuchagitation about the matter - it might prove a false alarmafter all;and if not - whyit was only in the common course ofnature: we must all die some time; and I was not to suppose myselfthe onlyafflicted person in the world;' and concluding with sayingI mighthave the phaeton to take me to O-. 'And instead ofREPININGMiss Greybe thankful for the PRIVILEGES you enjoy.There'smany a poor clergyman whose family would be plunged intoruin bythe event of his death; but youyou seehave influentialfriendsready to continue their patronageand to show you everyconsideration.'
I thankedher for her 'consideration' and flew to my room to makesomehurried preparations for my departure. My bonnet and shawlbeing onand a few things hastily crammed into my largest trunkIdescended. But I might have done the work more leisurelyfor noone elsewas in a hurry; and I had still a considerable time towait forthe phaeton. At length it came to the doorand I wasoff: butohwhat a dreary journey was that! how utterlydifferentfrom my former passages homewards! Being too late forthe lastcoach to -I had to hire a cab for ten milesand then acar totake me over the rugged hills.
It washalf-past ten before I reached home. They were not in bed.
My motherand sister both met me in the passage - sad - silent -pale! I was so much shocked and terror-stricken that I could notspeaktoask the information I so much longed yet dreaded toobtain.
'Agnes!'said my motherstruggling to repress some strong emotion.
'OhAgnes!' cried Maryand burst into tears.
'How ishe?' I askedgasping for the answer.
It was thereply I had anticipated: but the shock seemed none thelesstremendous.
CHAPTERXIX - THE LETTER
MYfather's mortal remains had been consigned to the tomb; and wewith sadfaces and sombre garmentssat lingering over the frugalbreakfast-tablerevolving plans for our future life. My mother'sstrongmind had not given way beneath even this affliction: herspiritthough crushedwas not broken. Mary's wish was that Ishould goback to Horton Lodgeand that our mother should come andlive withher and Mr. Richardson at the vicarage: she affirmedthat hewished it no less than herselfand that such anarrangementcould not fail to benefit all parties; for my mother'ssocietyand experience would be of inestimable value to themandthey woulddo all they could to make her happy. But no argumentsorentreaties could prevail: my mother was determined not to go.Not thatshe questionedfor a momentthe kind wishes andintentionsof her daughter; but she affirmed that so long as Godspared herhealth and strengthshe would make use of them to earnher ownlivelihoodand be chargeable to no one; whether herdependencewould be felt as a burden or not. If she could affordto resideas a lodger in - vicarageshe would choose that housebefore allothers as the place of her abode; but not being socircumstancedshe would never come under its roofexcept as anoccasionalvisitor: unless sickness or calamity should render herassistancereally needfulor until age or infirmity made herincapableof maintaining herself.
'NoMary' said she'if Richardson and you have anything tospareyoumust lay it aside for your family; and Agnes and I mustgatherhoney for ourselves. Thanks to my having had daughters toeducateIhave not forgotten my accomplishments. God willingIwill checkthis vain repining' she saidwhile the tears coursedoneanother down her cheeks in spite of her efforts; but she wipedthem awayand resolutely shaking back her headcontinued'I willexertmyselfand look out for a small housecommodiously situatedin somepopulous but healthy districtwhere we will take a fewyoungladies to board and educate - if we can get them - and asmany daypupils as will comeor as we can manage to instruct.Yourfather's relations and old friends will be able to send ussomepupilsor to assist us with their recommendationsno doubt:I shallnot apply to my own. What say you to itAgnes? will yoube willingto leave your present situation and try?'
'Quitewillingmamma; and the money I have saved will do tofurnishthe house. It shall be taken from the bank directly.'
'When itis wanted: we must get the houseand settle onpreliminariesfirst.'
Maryoffered to lend the little she possessed; but my motherdeclineditsaying that we must begin on an economical plan; andshe hopedthat the whole or part of mineadded to what we couldget by thesale of the furnitureand what little our dear papa hadcontrivedto lay aside for her since the debts were paidwould besufficientto last us till Christmas; whenit was hopedsomethingwouldaccrue from our united labours. It was finally settled thatthisshould be our plan; and that inquiries and preparations shouldimmediatelybe set on foot; and while my mother busied herself withtheseIshould return to Horton Lodge at the close of my fourweeks'vacationand give notice for my final departure when thingswere intrain for the speedy commencement of our school.
We werediscussing these affairs on the morning I have mentionedabout afortnight after my father's deathwhen a letter wasbrought infor my motheron beholding which the colour mounted toher face -lately pale enough with anxious watchings and excessivesorrow. 'From my father!' murmured sheas she hastily tore offthecover. It was many years since she had heard from any of herownrelations before. Naturally wondering what the letter mightcontainIwatched her countenance while she read itand wassomewhatsurprised to see her bite her lip and knit her brows as ifin anger. When she had doneshe somewhat irreverently cast it onthe tablesaying with a scornful smile- 'Your grandpapa has beenso kind asto write to me. He says he has no doubt I have longrepentedof my "unfortunate marriage" and if I will onlyacknowledgethisand confess I was wrong in neglecting his adviceand that Ihave justly suffered for ithe will make a lady of meonce again- if that be possible after my long degradation - andremembermy girls in his will. Get my deskAgnesand send thesethingsaway: I will answer the letter directly. But firstas Imay bedepriving you both of a legacyit is just that I shouldtell youwhat I mean to say. I shall say that he is mistaken insupposingthat I can regret the birth of my daughters (who havebeen thepride of my lifeand are likely to be the comfort of myold age)or the thirty years I have passed in the company of mybest anddearest friend; - thathad our misfortunes been threetimes asgreat as they were (unless they had been of my bringingon)Ishould still the more rejoice to have shared them with yourfatherand administered what consolation I was able; andhad hissufferingsin illness been ten times what they woreI could notregrethaving watched over and laboured to relieve them; - thatifhe hadmarried a richer wifemisfortunes and trials would no doubthave comeupon him still; while I am egotist enough to imagine thatno otherwoman could have cheered him through them so well: notthat I amsuperior to the restbut I was made for himand he forme; and Ican no more repent the hoursdaysyears of happiness wehave spenttogetherand which neither could have had without theotherthan I can the privilege of having been his nurse insicknessand his comfort in affliction.
'Will thisdochildren? - or shall I say we are all very sorry forwhat hashappened during the last thirty yearsand my daughterswish theyhad never been born; but since they have had thatmisfortunethey will be thankful for any trifle their grandpapawill bekind enough to bestow?'
Of coursewe both applauded our mother's resolution; Mary clearedaway thebreakfast things; I brought the desk; the letter wasquicklywritten and despatched; andfrom that daywe heard nomore ofour grandfathertill we saw his death announced in thenewspapera considerable time after - all his worldly possessionsof coursebeing left to our wealthy unknown cousins.
CHAPTER XX- THE FAREWELL
A HOUSE inA-the fashionable watering-placewas hired for ourseminary;and a promise of two or three pupils was obtained tocommencewith. I returned to Horton Lodge about the middle ofJulyleaving my mother to conclude the bargain for the housetoobtainmore pupilsto sell off the furniture of our old abodeandto fit outthe new one.
We oftenpity the poorbecause they have no leisure to mourn theirdepartedrelativesand necessity obliges them to labour throughtheirseverest afflictions: but is not active employment the bestremedy foroverwhelming sorrow - the surest antidote for despair?It may bea rough comforter: it may seem hard to be harassed withthe caresof life when we have no relish for its enjoyments; to begoaded tolabour when the heart is ready to breakand the vexedspiritimplores for rest only to weep in silence: but is notlabourbetter than the rest we covet? and are not those pettytormentingcares less hurtful than a continual brooding over thegreataffliction that oppresses us? Besideswe cannot have caresandanxietiesand toilwithout hope - if it be but the hope offulfillingour joyless taskaccomplishing some needful projectorescapingsome further annoyance. At any rateI was glad my motherhad somuch employment for every faculty of her action-lovingframe. Our kind neighbours lamented that sheonce so exalted inwealth andstationshould be reduced to such extremity in her timeof sorrow;but I am persuaded that she would have suffered thriceas muchhad she been left in affluencewith liberty to remain inthathousethe scene of her early happiness and late afflictionand nostern necessity to prevent her from incessantly broodingover andlamenting her bereavement.
I will notdilate upon the feelings with which I left the oldhousethewell-known gardenthe little village church - thendoublydear to mebecause my fatherwhofor thirty yearshadtaught andprayed within its wallslay slumbering now beneath itsflags -and the old bare hillsdelightful in their verydesolationwith the narrow vales betweensmiling in green woodandsparkling water - the house where I was bornthe scene of allmy earlyassociationsthe place where throughout life my earthlyaffectionshad been centred; - and left them to return no more!TrueIwas going back to Horton Lodgewhereamid many evilsonesource ofpleasure yet remained: but it was pleasure mingled withexcessivepain; and my stayalas! was limited to six weeks. Andeven ofthat precious timeday after day slipped by and I did notsee him: except at churchI never saw him for a fortnight aftermyreturn. It seemed a long time to me: andas I was oftenoutwith myrambling pupilof course hopes would keep risinganddisappointmentswould ensue; and thenI would say to my own heart'Here is aconvincing proof - if you would but have the sense tosee itorthe candour to acknowledge it - that he does not carefor you. If he only thought HALF as much about you as you do abouthimhewould have contrived to meet you many times ere this: youmust knowthatby consulting your own feelings. Thereforehavedone withthis nonsense: you have no ground for hope: dismissatoncethese hurtful thoughts and foolish wishes from your mindandturn toyour own dutyand the dull blank life that lies beforeyou. You might have known such happiness was not for you.'
But I sawhim at last. He came suddenly upon me as I was crossinga field inreturning from a visit to Nancy Brownwhich I had takentheopportunity of paying while Matilda Murray was riding hermatchlessmare. He must have heard of the heavy loss I hadsustained: he expressed no sympathyoffered no condolence: butalmost thefirst words he uttered were- 'How is your mother?'And thiswas no matter-of -course questionfor I never told himthat I hada mother: he must have learned the fact from othersifhe knew itat all; andbesidesthere was sincere goodwillandeven deeptouchingunobtrusive sympathy in the tone and manner oftheinquiry. I thanked him with due civilityand told him she wasas well ascould be expected. 'What will she do?' was the nextquestion. Many would have deemed it an impertinent oneand givenan evasivereply; but such an idea never entered my headand Igave abrief but plain statement of my mother's plans andprospects.
'Then youwill leave this place shortly?' said he.
He pauseda minuteas if in thought. When he spoke againI hopedit wouldbe to express his concern at my departure; but it was onlyto say-'I should think you will be willing enough to go?'
'Yes - forsome things' I replied.
'For SOMEthings only - I wonder what should make you regret it?'
I wasannoyed at this in some degree; because it embarrassed me: Ihad onlyone reason for regretting it; and that was a profoundsecretwhich he had no business to trouble me about.
'Why'said I - 'why should you suppose that I dislike the place?'
'You toldme so yourself' was the decisive reply. 'You saidatleastthat you could not live contentedlywithout a friend; andthat youhad no friend hereand no possibility of making one -andbesidesI know you MUST dislike it.'
'But ifyou remember rightlyI saidor meant to sayI could notlivecontentedly without a friend in the world: I was not sounreasonableas to require one always near me. I think I could behappy in ahouse full of enemiesif - ' but no; that sentence mustnot becontinued - I pausedand hastily added- 'Andbesideswecannotwell leave a place where we have lived for two or threeyearswithout some feeling of regret.'
'Will youregret to part with Miss Murrayyour sole remainingpupil andcompanion?'
'I daresay I shall in some degree: it was not without sorrow Ipartedwith her sister.'
'I canimagine that.'
'WellMiss Matilda is quite as good - better in one respect.'
'And theother is not?'
'I shouldnot call her DIShonest; but it must be confessed she's alittleartful.'
'ARTFUL isshe? - I saw she was giddy and vain - and now' headdedafter a pause'I can well believe she was artful too; butsoexcessively so as to assume an aspect of extreme simplicity andunguardedopenness. Yes' continued hemusingly'that accountsfor somelittle things that puzzled me a trifle before.'
Afterthathe turned the conversation to more general subjects.He did notleave me till we had nearly reached the park-gates: hehadcertainly stepped a little out of his way to accompany me sofarforhe now went back and disappeared down Moss Lanetheentranceof which we had passed some time before. Assuredly I didnot regretthis circumstance: if sorrow had any place in my heartit wasthat he was gone at last - that he was no longer walking bymy sideand that that short interval of delightful intercourse wasat anend. He had not breathed a word of loveor dropped one hintoftenderness or affectionand yet I had been supremely happy. Tobe nearhimto hear him talk as he did talkand to feel that hethought meworthy to be so spoken to - capable of understanding anddulyappreciating such discourse - was enough.
'YesEdward WestonI could indeed be happy in a house full ofenemiesif I had but one friendwho trulydeeplyand faithfullyloved me;and if that friend were you - though we might be farapart -seldom to hear from each otherstill more seldom to meet -thoughtoiland troubleand vexation might surround mestill -it wouldbe too much happiness for me to dream of! Yet who cantell'said I within myselfas I proceeded up the park- 'who cantell whatthis one month may bring forth? I have lived nearlythree-and-twentyyearsand I have suffered muchand tasted littlepleasureyet; is it likely my life all through will be so clouded?Is it notpossible that God may hear my prayersdisperse thesegloomyshadowsand grant me some beams of heaven's sunshine yet?Will Heentirely deny to me those blessings which are so freelygiven tootherswho neither ask them nor acknowledge them whenreceived? May I not still hope and trust? I did hope and trustfor awhile: butalasalas! the time ebbed away: one weekfollowedanotherandexcepting one distant glimpse and twotransientmeetings - during which scarcely anything was said -while Iwas walking with Miss MatildaI saw nothing of him:exceptofcourseat church.
And nowthe last Sunday was comeand the last service. I wasoften onthe point of melting into tears during the sermon - thelast I wasto hear from him: the best I should hear from anyoneIwas wellassured. It was over - the congregation were departing;and I mustfollow. I had then seen himand heard his voicetooprobablyfor the last time. In the churchyardMatilda was pouncedupon bythe two Misses Green. They had many inquiries to makeabout hersisterand I know not what besides. I only wished theywould havedonethat we might hasten back to Horton Lodge: Ilonged toseek the retirement of my own roomor some sequesterednook inthe groundsthat I might deliver myself up to my feelings- to weepmy last farewelland lament my false hopes and vaindelusions. Only this onceand then adieu to fruitless dreaming -thenceforthonly sobersolidsad reality should occupy my mind.But whileI thus resolveda low voice close beside me said - 'Isupposeyou are going this weekMiss Grey?' 'Yes' I replied. Iwas verymuch startled; and had I been at all hystericallyinclinedI certainly should have committed myself in some waythen. Thank GodI was not.
'Well'said Mr. Weston'I want to bid you good-bye - it is notlikely Ishall see you again before you go.'
'Good-byeMr. Weston' I said. Ohhow I struggled to say itcalmly! I gave him my hand. He retained it a few seconds in his.
'It ispossible we may meet again' said he; 'will it be of anyconsequenceto you whether we do or not?'
'YesIshould be very glad to see you again.'
I COULDsay no less. He kindly pressed my handand went. NowIwas happyagain - though more inclined to burst into tears thanever. If I had been forced to speak at that momenta successionof sobswould have inevitably ensued; and as it wasI could notkeep thewater out of my eyes. I walked along with Miss Murrayturningaside my faceand neglecting to notice several successiveremarkstill she bawled out that I was either deaf or stupid; andthen(having recovered my self-possession)as one awakened from afit ofabstractionI suddenly looked up and asked what she hadbeensaying.
CHAPTERXXI - THE SCHOOL
I LEFTHorton Lodgeand went to join my mother in our new abode atA-. I found her well in healthresigned in spiritand evencheerfulthough subdued and soberin her general demeanour. Wehad onlythree boarders and half a dozen day-pupils to commencewith; butby due care and diligence we hoped ere long to increasethe numberof both.
I setmyself with befitting energy to discharge the duties of thisnew modeof life. I call it NEWfor there wasindeedaconsiderabledifference between working with my mother in a schoolof ourownand working as a hireling among strangersdespised andtrampledupon by old and young; and for the first few weeks I wasby nomeans unhappy. 'It is possible we may meet again' and 'willit be ofany consequence to you whether we do or not?' - Thosewordsstill rang in my ear and rested on my heart: they were mysecretsolace and support. 'I shall see him again. - He will come;or he willwrite.' No promisein factwas too bright or tooextravagantfor Hope to whisper in my ear. I did not believe halfof whatshe told me: I pretended to laugh at it all; but I was farmorecredulous than I myself supposed; otherwisewhy did my heartleap upwhen a knock was heard at the front doorand the maidwhoopened itcame to tell my mother a gentleman wished to see her?and whywas I out of humour for the rest of the daybecause itproved tobe a music-master come to offer his services to ourschool?and what stopped my breath for a momentwhen the postmanhavingbrought a couple of lettersmy mother said'HereAgnesthis isfor you' and threw one of them to me? and what made thehot bloodrush into my face when I saw it was directed in agentleman'shand? and why - oh! why did that coldsickening senseofdisappointment fall upon mewhen I had torn open the cover andfound itwas ONLY a letter from Marywhichfor some reason orotherherhusband had directed for her?
Was itthen come to this - that I should be DISAPPOINTED to receivea letterfrom my only sister: and because it was not written by acomparativestranger? Dear Mary! and she had written it so kindly- andthinking I should be so pleased to have it! - I was notworthy toread it! And I believein my indignation againstmyselfIshould have put it aside till I had schooled myself intoa betterframe of mindand was become more deserving of the honourandprivilege of its perusal: but there was my mother looking onandwishful to know what news it contained; so I read it anddeliveredit to herand then went into the schoolroom to attend tothepupils: but amidst the cares of copies and sums - in theintervalsof correcting errors hereand reproving derelictions ofdutythereI was inwardly taking myself to task with far sternerseverity. 'What a fool you must be' said my head to my heartormy sternerto my softer self; - 'how could you ever dream that hewouldwrite to you? What grounds have you for such a hope - orthat hewill see youor give himself any trouble about you - oreven thinkof you again?' 'What grounds?' - and then Hope setbefore methat lastshort interviewand repeated the words I hadsofaithfully treasured in my memory. 'Welland what was there inthat? -Who ever hung his hopes upon so frail a twig? What wasthere inthose words that any common acquaintance might not say toanother? Of courseit was possible you might meet again: hemight havesaid so if you had been going to New Zealand; but thatdid notimply any INTENTION of seeing you - and thenas to thequestionthat followedanyone might ask that: and how did youanswer? -Merely with a stupidcommonplace replysuch as youwould havegiven to Master Murrayor anyone else you had been ontolerablycivil terms with.' 'Butthen' persisted Hope'thetone andmanner in which he spoke.' 'Ohthat is nonsense! healwaysspeaks impressively; and at that moment there were theGreens andMiss Matilda Murray just beforeand other peoplepassingbyand he was obliged to stand close beside youand tospeak verylowunless he wished everybody to hear what he saidwhich -though it was nothing at all particular - of coursehewouldrather not.' But thenabove allthat emphaticyet gentlepressureof the handwhich seemed to say'TRUST me;' and manyotherthings besides - too delightfulalmost too flatteringto berepeatedeven to one's self. 'Egregious folly - too absurd torequirecontradiction - mere inventions of the imaginationwhichyou oughtto be ashamed of. If you would but consider your ownunattractiveexterioryour unamiable reserveyour foolishdiffidence- which must make you appear colddullawkwardandperhapsill-tempered too; - if you had but rightly considered thesefrom thebeginningyou would never have harboured suchpresumptuousthoughts: and now that you have been so foolishprayrepent andamendand let us have no more of it!'
I cannotsay that I implicitly obeyed my own injunctions: but suchreasoningas this became more and more effective as time wore onandnothing was seen or heard of Mr. Weston; untilat lastI gaveup hopingfor even my heart acknowledged it was all in vain. ButstillIwould think of him: I would cherish his image in my mind;andtreasure every wordlookand gesture that my memory couldretain;and brood over his excellences and his peculiaritiesandin factall I had seenheardor imagined respecting him.
'Agnesthis sea air and change of scene do you no goodI think:I neversaw you look so wretched. It must be that you sit toomuchandallow the cares of the schoolroom to worry you. You mustlearn totake things easyand to be more active and cheerful; youmust takeexercise whenever you can get itand leave the mosttiresomeduties to me: they will only serve to exercise mypatienceandperhapstry my temper a little.'
So said mymotheras we sat at work one morning during the Easterholidays. I assured her that my employments were not at alloppressive;that I was well; orif there was anything amissitwould begone as soon as the trying months of spring were over:whensummer came I should be as strong and hearty as she could wishto seeme: but inwardly her observation startled me. I knew mystrengthwas decliningmy appetite had failedand I was grownlistlessand desponding; - and ifindeedhe could never care formeand Icould never see him more - if I was forbidden to ministerto hishappiness - forbiddenfor everto taste the joys of loveto blessand to be blessed - thenlife must be a burdenand ifmyheavenly Father would call me awayI should be glad to rest.But itwould not do to die and leave my mother. Selfishunworthydaughterto forget her for a moment! Was not her happinesscommittedin a great measure to my charge? - and the welfare of ouryoungpupils too? Should I shrink from the work that God had setbefore mebecause it was not fitted to my taste? Did not He knowbest whatI should doand where I ought to labour? - and should Ilong toquit His service before I had finished my taskand expectto enterinto His rest without having laboured to earn it? 'No; byHis help Iwill arise and address myself diligently to my appointedduty. If happiness in this world is not for meI will endeavourto promotethe welfare of those around meand my reward shall behereafter.' So said I in my heart; and from that hour I onlypermittedmy thoughts to wander to Edward Weston - or at least todwell uponhim now and then - as a treat for rare occasions: andwhether itwas really the approach of summer or the effect of thesegoodresolutionsor the lapse of timeor all togethertranquillityof mind was soon restored; and bodily health andvigourbegan likewiseslowlybut surelyto return.
Early inJuneI received a letter from Lady Ashbylate MissMurray. She had written to me twice or thrice beforefrom thedifferentstages of her bridal touralways in good spiritsandprofessingto be very happy. I wondered every time that she hadnotforgotten mein the midst of so much gaiety and variety ofscene. At lengthhoweverthere was a pause; and it seemed shehadforgotten mefor upwards of seven months passed away and noletter. Of courseI did not break my heart about THATthough Ioftenwondered how she was getting on; and when this last epistlesounexpectedly arrivedI was glad enough to receive it. It wasdated fromAshby Parkwhere she was come to settle down at lasthavingpreviously divided her time between the continent and themetropolis. She made many apologies for having neglected me solongassured me she had not forgotten meand had often intendedto write&c. &c.but had always been prevented by something. Sheacknowledgedthat she had been leading a very dissipated lifeandI shouldthink her very wicked and very thoughtless; butnotwithstandingthatshe thought a great dealandamong otherthingsthat she should vastly like to see me. 'We have beenseveraldays here already' wrote she. 'We have not a singlefriendwith usand are likely to be very dull. You know I neverhad afancy for living with my husband like two turtles in a nestwere hethe most delightful creature that ever wore a coat; so dotake pityupon me and come. I suppose your Midsummer holidayscommencein Junethe same as other people's; therefore you cannotplead wantof time; and you must and shall come - in factI shalldie if youdon't. I want you to visit me as a friendand stay alongtime. There is nobody with meas I told you beforebut SirThomas andold Lady Ashby: but you needn't mind them - they'lltrouble usbut little with their company. And you shall have aroom toyourselfwhenever you like to retire to itand plenty ofbooks toread when my company is not sufficiently amusing. Iforgetwhether you like babies; if you doyou may have thepleasureof seeing mine - the most charming child in the worldnodoubt; andall the more sothat I am not troubled with nursing it- I wasdetermined I wouldn't be bothered with that.Unfortunatelyit is a girland Sir Thomas has never forgiven me:buthoweverif you will only comeI promise you shall be itsgovernessas soon as it can speak; and you shall bring it up in theway itshould goand make a better woman of it than its mamma.And youshall see my poodletoo: a splendid little charmerimportedfrom Paris: and two fine Italian paintings of great value- I forgetthe artist. Doubtless you will be able to discoverprodigiousbeauties in themwhich you must point out to meas Ionlyadmire by hearsay; and many elegant curiosities besideswhichIpurchased at Rome and elsewhere; andfinallyyou shall see mynew home -the splendid house and grounds I used to covet sogreatly. Alas! how far the promise of anticipation exceeds thepleasureof possession! There's a fine sentiment! I assure you Iam becomequite a grave old matron: pray comeif it be only towitnessthe wonderful change. Write by return of postand tell mewhen yourvacation commencesand say that you will come the dayafterandstay till the day before it closes - in mercy to
I showedthis strange epistle to my motherand consulted her onwhat Iought to do. She advised me to go; and I went - willingenough tosee Lady Ashbyand her babytooand to do anything Icould tobenefit herby consolation or advice; for I imagined shemust beunhappyor she would not have applied to me thus - butfeelingas may readily be conceivedthatin accepting theinvitationI made a great sacrifice for herand did violence tomyfeelings in many waysinstead of being delighted with thehonourabledistinction of being entreated by the baronet's lady tovisit heras a friend. HoweverI determined my visit should beonly for afew days at most; and I will not deny that I derivedsomeconsolation from the idea thatas Ashby Park was not very farfromHortonI might possibly see Mr. Westonorat leasthearsomethingabout him.
CHAPTERXXII - THE VISIT
ASHBY PARKwas certainly a very delightful residence. The mansionwasstately withoutcommodious and elegant within; the park wasspaciousand beautifulchiefly on account of its magnificent oldtreesitsstately herds of deerits broad sheet of waterand theancientwoods that stretched beyond it: for there was no brokenground togive variety to the landscapeand but very little ofthatundulating swell which adds so greatly to the charm of parkscenery. And sothis was the place Rosalie Murray had so longedto callher ownthat she must have a share of iton whateverterms itmight be offered - whatever price was to be paid for thetitle ofmistressand whoever was to be her partner in the honourand blissof such a possession! Well I am not disposed to censureher now.
Shereceived me very kindly; andthough I was a poor clergyman'sdaughtera governessand a schoolmistressshe welcomed me withunaffectedpleasure to her home; and - what surprised me rather -took somepains to make my visit agreeable. I could seeit istruethatshe expected me to be greatly struck with themagnificencethat surrounded her; andI confessI was ratherannoyed ather evident efforts to reassure meand prevent me frombeingoverwhelmed by so much grandeur - too much awed at the ideaofencountering her husband and mother-in-lawor too much ashamedof my ownhumble appearance. I was not ashamed of it at all; forthoughplainI had taken good care not to shabby or meanandshouldhave been pretty considerably at my easeif mycondescendinghostess had not taken such manifest pains to make meso; andas for the magnificence that surrounded hernothing thatmet myeyes struck me or affected me half so much as her ownalteredappearance. Whether from the influence of fashionabledissipationor some other evila space of little more than twelvemonths hadhad the effect that might be expected from as manyyearsinreducing the plumpness of her formthe freshness of hercomplexionthe vivacity of her movementsand the exuberance ofherspirits.
I wishedto know if she was unhappy; but I felt it was not myprovinceto inquire: I might endeavour to win her confidence; butif shechose to conceal her matrimonial cares from meI wouldtroubleher with no obtrusive questions. Ithereforeat firstconfinedmyself to a few general inquiries about her health andwelfareand a few commendations on the beauty of the parkand ofthe littlegirl that should have been a boy: a small delicateinfant ofseven or eight weeks oldwhom its mother seemed toregardwith no remarkable degree of interest or affectionthoughfull asmuch as I expected her to show.
Shortlyafter my arrivalshe commissioned her maid to conduct meto my roomand see that I had everything I wanted; it was a smallunpretendingbut sufficiently comfortable apartment. When Idescendedthence - having divested myself of all travellingencumbrancesand arranged my toilet with due consideration for thefeelingsof my lady hostessshe conducted me herself to the room Iwas tooccupy when I chose to be aloneor when she was engagedwithvisitorsor obliged to be with her mother-in-laworotherwisepreventedas she saidfrom enjoying the pleasure of mysociety. It was a quiettidy little sitting-room; and I was notsorry tobe provided with such a harbour of refuge.
'And sometime' said she'I will show you the library: I neverexaminedits shelvesbutI daresayit is full of wise books; andyou may goand burrow among them whenever you please. And now youshall havesome tea - it will soon be dinner-timebut I thoughtas youwere accustomed to dine at oneyou would perhaps likebetter tohave a cup of tea about this timeand to dine when welunch: and thenyou knowyou can have your tea in this roomandthat willsave you from having to dine with Lady Ashby and SirThomas: which would be rather awkward - at leastnot awkwardbutrather - a- you know what I mean. I thought you mightn't like itso well -especially as we may have other ladies and gentlemen todine withus occasionally.'
'Certainly'said I'I would much rather have it as you sayandif youhave no objectionI should prefer having all my meals inthisroom.'
'BecauseI imagineit would be more agreeable to Lady Ashby andSirThomas.'
'Nothingof the kind.'
'At anyrate it would be more agreeable to me.'
She madesome faint objectionsbut soon conceded; and I could seethat theproposal was a considerable relief to her.
'Nowcomeinto the drawing-room' said she. 'There's the dressingbell; butI won't go yet: it's no use dressing when there's no oneto seeyou; and I want to have a little discourse.'
Thedrawing-room was certainly an imposing apartmentand veryelegantlyfurnished; but I saw its young mistress glance towards meas weenteredas if to notice how I was impressed by thespectacleand accordingly I determined to preserve an aspect ofstonyindifferenceas if I saw nothing at all remarkable. Butthis wasonly for a moment: immediately conscience whispered'Whyshould Idisappoint her to save my pride? No - rather let mesacrificemy pride to give her a little innocent gratification.'And Ihonestly looked roundand told her it was a noble roomandverytastefully furnished. She said littlebut I saw she waspleased.
She showedme her fat French poodlethat lay curled up on a silkcushionand the two fine Italian paintings: whichhowevershewould notgive me time to examinebutsaying I must look at themsome otherdayinsisted upon my admiring the little jewelled watchshe hadpurchased in Geneva; and then she took me round the room topoint outsundry articles of VERTU she had brought from Italy: anelegantlittle timepieceand several bustssmall gracefulfiguresand vasesall beautifully carved in white marble. Shespoke ofthese with animationand heard my admiring comments witha smile ofpleasure: that soonhowevervanishedand wasfollowedby a melancholy sigh; as if in consideration of theinsufficiencyof all such baubles to the happiness of the humanheartandtheir woeful inability to supply its insatiate demands.
Thenstretching herself upon a couchshe motioned me to acapaciouseasy-chair that stood opposite - not before the firebutbefore awide open window; for it was summerbe it remembered; asweetwarm evening in the latter half of June. I sat for a momentinsilenceenjoying the stillpure airand the delightfulprospectof the park that lay before merich in verdure andfoliageand basking in yellow sunshinerelieved by the longshadows ofdeclining day. But I must take advantage of this pause:I hadinquiries to makeandlike the substance of a lady'spostscriptthe most important must come last. So I began withaskingafter Mr. and Mrs. Murrayand Miss Matilda and the younggentlemen.
I was toldthat papa had the goutwhich made him very ferocious;and thathe would not give up his choice winesand his substantialdinnersand suppersand had quarrelled with his physicianbecausethe latterhad dared to say that no medicine could cure him whilehe livedso freely; that mamma and the rest were well. Matilda wasstill wildand recklessbut she had got a fashionable governessand wasconsiderably improved in her mannersand soon to beintroducedto the world; and John and Charles (now at home for theholidays)wereby all accounts'fineboldunrulymischievousboys.'
'And howare the other people getting on?' said I - 'the Greensforinstance?'
'Ah! Mr.Green is heart-brokenyou know' replied shewith alanguidsmile: 'he hasn't got over his disappointment yetandneverwillI suppose. He's doomed to be an old bachelor; and hissistersare doing their best to get married.'
'Ohthey're jogging on as usualI suppose: but I know verylittleabout any of them - except Harry' said sheblushingslightlyand smiling again. 'I saw a great deal of him while wewere inLondon; foras soon as he heard we were therehe came upunderpretence of visiting his brotherand either followed melike ashadowwherever I wentor met melike a reflectionateveryturn. You needn't look so shockedMiss Grey; I was verydiscreetI assure youbutyou knowone can't help beingadmired. Poor fellow! He was not my only worshipper; though hewascertainly the most conspicuousandI thinkthe most devotedamong themall. And that detestable - ahem - and Sir Thomas choseto takeoffence at him - or my profuse expenditureor something -I don'texactly know what - and hurried me down to the country at amoment'snotice; where I'm to play the hermitI supposeforlife.'
And shebit her lipand frowned vindictively upon the fair domainshe hadonce so coveted to call her own.
'And Mr.Hatfield' said I'what is become of him?'
Again shebrightened upand answered gaily - 'Oh! he made up to anelderlyspinsterand married hernot long since; weighing herheavypurse against her faded charmsand expecting to find thatsolace ingold which was denied him in love - haha!'
'WellandI think that's all - except Mr. Weston: what is hedoing?'
'I don'tknowI'm sure. He's gone from Horton.'
'How longsince? and where is he gone to?'
'I knownothing about him' replied sheyawning - 'except that hewent abouta month ago - I never asked where' (I would have askedwhether itwas to a living or merely another curacybut thought itbetternot); 'and the people made a great rout about his leaving'continuedshe'much to Mr. Hatfield's displeasure; for Hatfielddidn'tlike himbecause he had too much influence with the commonpeopleand because he was not sufficiently tractable andsubmissiveto him - and for some other unpardonable sinsI don'tknowwhat. But now I positively must go and dress: the secondbell willring directlyand if I come to dinner in this guiseIshallnever hear the end of it from Lady Ashby. It's a strangething onecan't be mistress in one's own house! Just ring thebellandI'll send for my maidand tell them to get you some tea.Only thinkof that intolerable woman - '
'Who -your maid?'
'No; - mymother-in-law - and my unfortunate mistake! Instead oflettingher take herself off to some other houseas she offered todo when ImarriedI was fool enough to ask her to live here stilland directthe affairs of the house for me; becausein the firstplaceIhoped we should spend the greater part of the yearintownandin the second placebeing so young and inexperiencedIwasfrightened at the idea of having a houseful of servants tomanageand dinners to orderand parties to entertainand all therest ofitand I thought she might assist me with her experience;neverdreaming she would prove a usurpera tyrantan incubusaspyandeverything else that's detestable. I wish she was dead!'
She thenturned to give her orders to the footmanwho had beenstandingbolt upright within the door for the last half minuteandhad heardthe latter part of her animadversions; andof coursemade hisown reflections upon themnotwithstanding the inflexiblewoodencountenance he thought proper to preserve in the drawing-room. On my remarking afterwards that he must have heard hershereplied -'Ohno matter! I never care about the footmen; they'remereautomatons: it's nothing to them what their superiors say ordo; theywon't dare to repeat it; and as to what they think - iftheypresume to think at all - of coursenobody cares for that.It wouldbe a pretty thing indeedit we were to be tongue-tied byourservants!'
So sayingshe ran off to make her hasty toiletleaving me topilot myway back to my sitting-roomwherein due timeI wasservedwith a cup of tea. After thatI sat musing on Lady Ashby'spast andpresent condition; and on what little information I hadobtainedrespecting Mr. Westonand the small chance there was ofeverseeing or hearing anything more of him throughout my quietdrab-colourlife: whichhenceforthseemed to offer noalternativebetween positive rainy daysand days of dull greycloudswithout downfall. At lengthhoweverI began to weary ofmythoughtsand to wish I knew where to find the library myhostesshad spoken of; and to wonder whether I was to remain theredoingnothing till bedtime.
As I wasnot rich enough to possess a watchI could not tell howtime waspassingexcept by observing the slowly lengtheningshadowsfrom the window; which presented a side viewincluding acorner ofthe parka clump of trees whose topmost branches hadbeencolonized by an innumerable company of noisy rooksand a highwall witha massive wooden gate: no doubt communicating with thestable-yardas a broad carriage-road swept up to it from the park.The shadowof this wall soon took posession of the whole of theground asfar as I could seeforcing the golden sunlight toretreatinch by inchand at last take refuge in the very tops ofthetrees. Ere longeven they were left in shadow - the shadow ofthedistant hillsor of the earth itself; andin sympathy for thebusycitizens of the rookeryI regretted to see their habitationso latelybathed in glorious lightreduced to the sombrework-a-day hue ofthe lower worldor of my own world within. For amomentsuch birds as soared above the rest might still receive thelustre ontheir wingswhich imparted to their sable plumage thehue andbrilliance of deep red gold; at lastthat too departed.Twilightcame stealing on; the rooks became more quiet; I becamemorewearyand wished I were going home to-morrow. At length itgrew dark;and I was thinking of ringing for a candleand betakingmyself tobedwhen my hostess appearedwith many apologies forhavingneglected me so longand laying all the blame upon that'nasty oldwoman' as she called her mother-in-law.
'If Ididn't sit with her in the drawing-room while Sir Thomas istaking hiswine' said she'she would never forgive me; and thenif I leavethe room the instant he comes - as I have done once ortwice - itis an unpardonable offence against her dear Thomas. SHEnevershowed such disrespect to HER husband: and as for affectionwivesnever think of that now-a-daysshe supposes: but thingsweredifferent in HER time - as if there was any good to be done bystaying inthe roomwhen he does nothing but grumble and scoldwhen he'sin a bad humourtalk disgusting nonsense when he's in agood oneand go to sleep on the sofa when he's too stupid foreither;which is most frequently the case nowwhen he has nothingto do butto sot over his wine.'
'But couldyou not try to occupy his mind with something better;and engagehim to give up such habits? I'm sure you have powers ofpersuasionand qualifications for amusing a gentlemanwhich manyladieswould be glad to possess.'
'And soyou think I would lay myself out for his amusement! No:that's notMY idea of a wife. It's the husband's part to pleasethe wifenot hers to please him; and if he isn't satisfied withher as sheis - and thankful to possess her too - he isn't worthyof herthat's all. And as for persuasionI assure you I shan'ttroublemyself with that: I've enough to do to bear with him as heiswithout attempting to work a reform. But I'm sorry I left youso longaloneMiss Grey. How have you passed the time?'
'Chieflyin watching the rooks.'
'Mercyhow dull you must have been! I really must show you thelibrary;and you must ring for everything you wantjust as youwould inan innand make yourself comfortable. I have selfishreasonsfor wishing to make you happybecause I want you to staywith meand not fulfil your horrid threat of running away in a dayor two.'
'Welldon't let me keep you out of the drawing-room any longer to-nightforat present I am tired and wish to go to bed.'
CHAPTERXXIII - THE PARK
I CAMEdown a little before eightnext morningas I knew by thestrikingof a distant clock. There was no appearance of breakfast.I waitedabove an hour before it camestill vainly longing foraccess tothe library; andafter that lonely repast was concludedI waitedagain about an hour and a half in great suspense anddiscomfortuncertain what to do. At length Lady Ashby came to bidmegood-morning. She informed me she had only just breakfastedand nowwanted me to take an early walk with her in the park. Sheasked howlong I had been upand on receiving my answerexpressedthedeepest regretand again promised to show me the library. Isuggestedshe had better do so at onceand then there would be nofurthertrouble either with remembering or forgetting. Shecompliedon condition that I would not think of readingorbotheringwith the books now; for she wanted to show me thegardensand take a walk in the park with mebefore it became toohot forenjoyment; whichindeedwas nearly the case already. Ofcourse Ireadily assented; and we took our walk accordingly.
As we werestrolling in the parktalking of what my companion hadseen andheard during her travelling experiencea gentleman onhorsebackrode up and passed us. As he turnedin passingandstared mefull in the faceI had a good opportunity of seeing whathe waslike. He was tallthinand wastedwith a slight stoop intheshouldersa pale facebut somewhat blotchyand disagreeablyred aboutthe eyelidsplain featuresand a general appearance oflanguorand flatnessrelieved by a sinister expression in themouth andthe dullsoulless eyes.
'I detestthat man!' whispered Lady Ashbywith bitter emphasisashe slowlytrotted by.
'Who isit?' I askedunwilling to suppose that she should so speakof herhusband.
'SirThomas Ashby' she repliedwith dreary composure.
'And doyou DETEST himMiss Murray?' said Ifor I was too muchshocked toremember her name at the moment.
'YesIdoMiss Greyand despise him too; and if you knew him youwould notblame me.'
'But youknew what he was before you married him.'
'No; Ionly thought so: I did not half know him really. I knowyou warnedme against itand I wish I had listened to you: butit's toolate to regret that now. And besidesmamma ought to haveknownbetter than either of usand she never said anything againstit - quitethe contrary. And then I thought he adored meandwould letme have my own way: he did pretend to do so at firstbut now hedoes not care a bit about me. Yet I should not care forthat: he might do as he pleasedif I might only be free to amusemyself andto stay in Londonor have a few friends down here: butHE WILL doas he pleasesand I must be a prisoner and a slave.The momenthe saw I could enjoy myself without himand that othersknew myvalue better than himselfthe selfish wretch began toaccuse meof coquetry and extravagance; and to abuse Harry Melthamwhoseshoes he was not worthy to clean. And then he must needshave medown in the countryto lead the life of a nunlest Ishoulddishonour him or bring him to ruin; as if he had not beenten timesworse every waywith his betting-bookand his gaming-tableandhis opera-girlsand his Lady This and Mrs. That - yesand hisbottles of wineand glasses of brandy-and-water too! OhI wouldgive ten thousand worlds to be Mss Murray again! It is TOObad tofeel lifehealthand beauty wasting awayunfelt andunenjoyedfor such a brute as that!' exclaimed shefairlyburstinginto tears in the bitterness of her vexation.
Of courseI pitied her exceedingly; as well for her false idea ofhappinessand disregard of dutyas for the wretched partner withwhom herfate was linked. I said what I could to comfort herandofferedsuch counsels as I thought she most required: advisingherfirstby gentle reasoningby kindnessexampleandpersuasionto try to ameliorate her husband; and thenwhen shehad doneall she couldif she still found him incorrigibletoendeavourto abstract herself from him - to wrap herself up in herownintegrityand trouble herself as little about him as possible.I exhortedher to seek consolation in doing her duty to God andmantoput her trust in Heavenand solace herself with the careandnurture of her little daughter; assuring her she would be amplyrewardedby witnessing its progress in strength and wisdomandreceivingits genuine affection.
'But Ican't devote myself entirely to a child' said she; 'it maydie -which is not at all improbable.'
'Butwithcaremany a delicate infant has become a strong man orwoman.'
'But itmay grow so intolerably like its father that I shall hateit.'
'That isnot likely; it is a little girland strongly resemblesitsmother.'
'Nomatter; I should like it better if it were a boy - only thatits fatherwill leave it no inheritance that he can possiblysquanderaway. What pleasure can I have in seeing a girl grow upto eclipsemeand enjoy those pleasures that I am for everdebarredfrom? But supposing I could be so generous as to takedelight inthisstill it is ONLY a child; and I can't centre allmy hopesin a child: that is only one degree better than devotingoneself toa dog. And as for all the wisdom and goodness you havebeentrying to instil into me - that is all very right and properI daresayand if I were some twenty years olderI might fructifyby it: but people must enjoy themselves when they are young; andif otherswon't let them - whythey must hate them for it!'
'The bestway to enjoy yourself is to do what is right and hatenobody. The end of Religion is not to teach us how to diebut howto live;and the earlier you become wise and goodthe more ofhappinessyou secure. And nowLady AshbyI have one more pieceof adviceto offer youwhich isthat you will not make an enemyof yourmother-in-law. Don't get into the way of holding her atarms'lengthand regarding her with jealous distrust. I never sawherbut Ihave heard good as well as evil respecting her; and Iimaginethatthough cold and haughty in her general demeanourandevenexacting in her requirementsshe has strong affections forthose whocan reach them; andthough so blindly attached to hersonsheis not without good principlesor incapable of hearingreason. If you would but conciliate her a littleand adopt afriendlyopen manner - and even confide your grievances to her -realgrievancessuch as you have a right to complain of - it is myfirmbelief that she wouldin timebecome your faithful friendand acomfort and support to youinstead of the incubus youdescribeher.' But I fear my advice had little effect upon theunfortunateyoung lady; andfinding I could render myself solittleserviceablemy residence at Ashby Park became doublypainful. But stillI must stay out that day and the followingoneas Ihad promised to do so: thoughresisting all entreatiesandinducements to prolong my visit furtherI insisted upondepartingthe next morning; affirming that my mother would belonelywithout meand that she impatiently expected my return.Neverthelessit was with a heavy heart that I bade adieu to poorLadyAshbyand left her in her princely home. It was no slightadditionalproof of her unhappinessthat she should so cling totheconsolation of my presenceand earnestly desire the company ofone whosegeneral tastes and ideas were so little congenial to herown - whomshe had completely forgotten in her hour of prosperityand whosepresence would be rather a nuisance than a pleasureifshe couldbut have half her heart's desire.
CHAPTERXXIV - THE SANDS
OUR schoolwas not situated in the heart of the town: on enteringA- fromthe north-west there is a row of respectable-lookinghousesoneach side of the broadwhite roadwith narrow slips ofgarden-groundbefore themVenetian blinds to the windowsand aflight ofsteps leading to each trimbrass-handled door. In oneof thelargest of these habitations dwelt my mother and Iwithsuch youngladies as our friends and the public chose to commit toourcharge. Consequentlywe were a considerable distance from theseaanddivided from it by a labyrinth of streets and houses. Butthe seawas my delight; and I would often gladly pierce the town toobtain thepleasure of a walk beside itwhether with the pupilsor alonewith my mother during the vacations. It was delightful tome at alltimes and seasonsbut especially in the wild commotionof a roughsea-breezeand in the brilliant freshness of a summermorning.
I awokeearly on the third morning after my return from Ashby Park- the sunwas shining through the blindand I thought how pleasantit wouldbe to pass through the quiet town and take a solitaryramble onthe sands while half the world was in bed. I was notlong informing the resolutionnor slow to act upon it. Of courseI wouldnot disturb my motherso I stole noiselessly downstairsandquietly unfastened the door. I was dressed and outwhen thechurchclock struck a quarter to six. There was a feeling offreshnessand vigour in the very streets; and when I got free ofthe townwhen my foot was on the sands and my face towards thebroadbright bayno language can describe the effect of the deepclearazure of the sky and oceanthe bright morning sunshine onthesemicircular barrier of craggy cliffs surmounted by greenswellinghillsand on the smoothwide sandsand the low rocksout at sea- lookingwith their clothing of weeds and mosslikelittlegrass-grown islands - and above allon the brilliantsparklingwaves. And thenthe unspeakable purity - and freshnessof theair! There was just enough heat to enhance the value of thebreezeand just enough wind to keep the whole sea in motiontomake thewaves come bounding to the shorefoaming and sparklingas if wildwith glee. Nothing else was stirring - no livingcreaturewas visible besides myself. My footsteps were the firstto pressthe firmunbroken sands; - nothing before had trampledthem sincelast night's flowing tide had obliterated the deepestmarks ofyesterdayand left them fair and evenexcept where thesubsidingwater had left behind it the traces of dimpled pools andlittlerunning streams.
RefresheddelightedinvigoratedI walked alongforgetting allmy caresfeeling as if I had wings to my feetand could go atleastforty miles without fatigueand experiencing a sense ofexhilarationto which I had been an entire stranger since the daysof earlyyouth. About half-past sixhoweverthe grooms began tocome downto air their masters' horses - first oneand thenanothertill there were some dozen horses and five or six riders:but thatneed not trouble mefor they would not come as far as thelow rockswhich I was now approaching. When I had reached theseand walkedover the moistslippery sea-weed (at the risk offlounderinginto one of the numerous pools of clearsalt waterthat laybetween them)to a little mossy promontory with the seasplashinground itI looked back again to see who next wasstirring. Stillthere were only the early grooms with theirhorsesand one gentleman with a little dark speck of a dog runningbeforehimand one water-cart coming out of the town to get waterfor thebaths. In another minute or twothe distant bathingmachineswould begin to moveand then the elderly gentlemen ofregularhabits and sober quaker ladies would be coming to taketheirsalutary morning walks. But however interesting such a scenemight beI could not wait to witness itfor the sun and the seaso dazzledmy eyes in that directionthat I could but afford oneglance;and then I turned again to delight myself with the sightand thesound of the seadashing against my promontory - with noprodigiousforcefor the swell was broken by the tangled sea-weedand theunseen rocks beneath; otherwise I should soon have beendelugedwith spray. But the tide was coming in; the water wasrising;the gulfs and lakes were filling; the straits werewidening: it was time to seek some safer footing; so I walkedskippedand stumbled back to the smoothwide sandsand resolvedto proceedto a certain bold projection in the cliffsand thenreturn.
PresentlyI heard a snuffling sound behind me and then a dog camefriskingand wriggling to my feet. It was my own Snap - the littledarkwire-haired terrier! When I spoke his namehe leapt up inmy faceand yelled for joy. Almost as much delighted as himselfIcaught thelittle creature in my armsand kissed him repeatedly.But howcame he to be there? He could not have dropped from theskyorcome all that way alone: it must be either his mastertherat-catcheror somebody else that had brought him; sorepressingmyextravagant caressesand endeavouring to repress his likewiseI lookedroundand beheld - Mr. Weston!
'Your dogremembers you wellMiss Grey' said hewarmly graspingthe hand Ioffered him without clearly knowing what I was about.'You riseearly.'
'Not oftenso early as this' I repliedwith amazing composureconsideringall the circumstances of the case.
'How fardo you purpose to extend your walk?'
'I wasthinking of returning - it must be almost timeI think.'
Heconsulted his watch - a gold one now - and told me it was onlyfiveminutes past seven.
'Butdoubtlessyou have had a long enough walk' said heturningtowardsthe townto which I now proceeded leisurely to retrace mysteps; andhe walked beside me.
'In whatpart of the town do you live?' asked he. 'I never coulddiscover.'
Nevercould discover? Had he endeavoured to do so then? I toldhim theplace of our abode. He asked how we prospered in ouraffairs. I told him we were doing very well - that we had had aconsiderableaddition to our pupils after the Christmas vacationandexpected a still further increase at the close of this.
'You mustbe an accomplished instructor' he observed.
'Noit ismy mother' I replied; 'she manages things so wellandis soactiveand cleverand kind.'
'I shouldlike to know your mother. Will you introduce me to hersome timeif I call?'
'And willyou allow me the privilege of an old friendof lookingin uponyou now and then?'
'Yesif -I suppose so.'
This was avery foolish answerbut the truth wasI consideredthat I hadno right to invite anyone to my mother's house withoutherknowledge; and if I had said'Yesif my mother does notobject'it would appear as if by his question I understood morethan wasexpected; soSUPPOSING she would notI added'I supposeso:' butof course I should have said something more sensible andmorepoliteif I had had my wits about me. We continued our walkfor aminute in silence; whichhoweverwas shortly relieved (nosmallrelief to me) by Mr. Weston commenting upon the brightness ofthemorning and the beauty of the bayand then upon the advantagesA-possessed over many other fashionable places of resort.
'You don'task what brings me to A- ' said he. 'You can't supposeI'm richenough to come for my own pleasure.'
'I heardyou had left Horton.'
'Youdidn't hearthenthat I had got the living of F-?'
F- was avillage about two miles distant from A-.
'No' saidI; 'we live so completely out of the worldeven herethat newsseldom reaches me through any quarter; except through themedium ofthe - GAZETTE. But I hope you like your new parish; andthat I maycongratulate you on the acquisition?'
'I expectto like my parish better a year or two hencewhen I haveworkedcertain reforms I have set my heart upon - orat leastprogressedsome steps towards such an achievement. But you maycongratulateme now; for I find it very agreeable to HAVE a parishall tomyselfwith nobody to interfere with me - to thwart myplans orcripple my exertions: and besidesI have a respectablehouse in arather pleasant neighbourhoodand three hundred poundsa year;andin factI have nothing but solitude to complain ofandnothing but a companion to wish for.'
He lookedat me as he concluded: and the flash of his dark eyesseemed toset my face on fire; greatly to my own discomfitureforto evinceconfusion at such a juncture was intolerable. I made aneffortthereforeto remedy the eviland disclaim all personalapplicationof the remark by a hastyill-expressed replyto theeffectthatif he waited till he was well known in theneighbourhoodhe might have numerous opportunities for supplyinghis wantamong the residents of F- and its vicinityor thevisitorsof A-if he required so ample a choice: not consideringthecompliment implied by such an assertiontill his answer mademe awareof it.
'I am notso presumptuous as to believe that' said he'though youtell itme; but if it were soI am rather particular in my notionsof acompanion for lifeand perhaps I might not find one to suitme amongthe ladies you mention.'
'If yourequire perfectionyou never will.'
'I do not- I have no right to require itas being so far fromperfectmyself.'
Here theconversation was interrupted by a water-cart lumberingpast usfor we were now come to the busy part of the sands; andfor thenext eight or ten minutesbetween carts and horsesandassesandmenthere was little room for social intercoursetillwe hadturned our backs upon the seaand begun to ascend theprecipitousroad leading into the town. Here my companion offeredme hisarmwhich I acceptedthough not with the intention ofusing itas a support.
'You don'toften come on to the sandsI think' said he'for Ihavewalked there many timesboth morning and eveningsince Icameandnever seen you till now; and several timesin passingthroughthe towntooI have looked about for your school - but Idid notthink of the - Road; and once or twice I made inquiriesbutwithout obtaining the requisite information.'
When wehad surmounted the acclivityI was about to withdraw myarm fromhisbut by a slight tightening of the elbow was tacitlyinformedthat such was not his willand accordingly desisted.Discoursingon different subjectswe entered the townand passedthroughseveral streets. I saw that he was going out of his way toaccompanymenotwithstanding the long walk that was yet beforehim; andfearing that he might be inconveniencing himself frommotives ofpolitenessI observed - 'I fear I am taking you out ofyour wayMr. Weston - I believe the road to F- lies quite inanotherdirection.'
'I'llleave you at the end of the next street' said he.
'And whenwill you come to see mamma?'
'To-morrow- God willing.'
The end ofthe next street was nearly the conclusion of my journey.He stoppedtherehoweverbid me good-morningand called Snapwho seemeda little doubtful whether to follow his old mistress orhis newmasterbut trotted away upon being summoned by the latter.
'I won'toffer to restore him to youMiss Grey' said Mr. Westonsmiling'because I like him.'
'OhIdon't want him' replied I'now that he has a good master;I'm quitesatisfied.'
'You takeit for granted that I am a good onethen?'
The manand the dog departedand I returned homefull ofgratitudeto heaven for so much blissand praying that my hopesmight notagain be crushed.
CHAPTERXXV - CONCLUSION
'WELLAgnesyou must not take such long walks again beforebreakfast'said my motherobserving that I drank an extra cup ofcoffee andate nothing - pleading the heat of the weatherand thefatigue ofmy long walk as an excuse. I certainly did feelfeverishand tired too.
'Youalways do things by extremes: nowif you had taken a SHORTwalk everymorningand would continue to do soit would do yougood.'
'But thisis worse than lying in bed or bending over your books:you havequite put yourself into a fever.'
'I won'tdo it again' said I.
I wasracking my brains with thinking how to tell her about Mr.Westonfor she must know he was coming to-morrow. HoweverIwaitedtill the breakfast things were removedand I was more calmand cool;and thenhaving sat down to my drawingI began - 'I metan oldfriend on the sands to-daymamma.'
'An oldfriend! Who could it be?'
'Two oldfriendsindeed. One was a dog;' and then I reminded herof Snapwhose history I had recounted beforeand related theincidentof his sudden appearance and remarkable recognition; 'andtheother' continued I'was Mr. Westonthe curate of Horton.'
'Mr.Weston! I never heard of him before.'
'Yesyouhave: I've mentioned him several timesI believe: butyou don'tremember.'
'I'veheard you speak of Mr. Hatfield.'
'Mr.Hatfield was the rectorand Mr. Weston the curate: I used tomentionhim sometimes in contradistinction to Mr. Hatfieldasbeing amore efficient clergyman. Howeverhe was on the sandsthismorning with the dog - he had bought itI supposefrom therat-catcher;and he knew me as well as it did - probably throughitsmeans: and I had a little conversation with himin the courseof whichas he asked about our schoolI was led to say somethingabout youand your good management; and he said he should like toknow youand asked if I would introduce him to youif he shouldtake theliberty of calling to-morrow; so I said I would. Was Iright?'
'Ofcourse. What kind of a man is he?'
'A veryRESPECTABLE manI think: but you will see him to-morrow.He is thenew vicar of F-and as he has only been there a fewweeksIsuppose he has made no friends yetand wants a littlesociety.'
The morrowcame. What a fever of anxiety and expectation I was infrombreakfast till noon - at which time he made his appearance!Havingintroduced him to my motherI took my work to the windowand satdown to await the result of the interview. They got onextremelywell together - greatly to my satisfactionfor I hadfelt veryanxious about what my mother would think of him. He didnot staylong that time: but when he rose to take leaveshe saidshe shouldbe happy to see himwhenever he might find itconvenientto call again; and when he was goneI was gratified byhearingher say- 'Well! I think he's a very sensible man. Butwhy didyou sit back thereAgnes' she added'and talk solittle?'
'Becauseyou talked so wellmammaI thought you required noassistancefrom me: andbesideshe was your visitornot mine.'
Afterthathe often called upon us - several times in the courseof aweek. He generally addressed most of his conversation to mymother: and no wonderfor she could converse. I almost enviedtheunfetteredvigorous fluency of her discourseand the strongsenseevinced by everything she said - and yetI did not; forthough Ioccasionally regretted my own deficiencies for his sakeit gave mevery great pleasure to sit and hear the two beings Iloved andhonoured above every one else in the worlddiscoursingtogetherso amicablyso wiselyand so well. I was not alwayssilenthowever; nor was I at all neglected. I was quite as muchnoticed asI would wish to be: there was no lack of kind words andkinderlooksno end of delicate attentionstoo fine and subtle tobe graspedby wordsand therefore indescribable - but deeply feltat heart.
Ceremonywas quickly dropped between us: Mr. Weston came as anexpectedguestwelcome at all timesand never deranging theeconomy ofour household affairs. He even called me 'Agnes:' thename hadbeen timidly spoken at firstbutfinding it gave nooffence inany quarterhe seemed greatly to prefer thatappellationto 'Miss Grey;' and so did I. How tedious and gloomywere thosedays in which he did not come! And yet not miserable;for I hadstill the remembrance of the last visit and the hope ofthe nextto cheer me. But when two or three days passed without myseeinghimI certainly felt very anxious - absurdlyunreasonablyso; forof coursehe had his own business and the affairs of hisparish toattend to. And I dreaded the close of the holidayswhenMYbusiness also would beginand I should be sometimes unable tosee himand sometimes - when my mother was in the schoolroom -obliged tobe with him alone: a position I did not at all desirein thehouse; though to meet him out of doorsand walk beside himhad provedby no means disagreeable.
Oneeveninghoweverin the last week of the vacationhe arrived-unexpectedly: for a heavy and protracted thunder-shower duringtheafternoon had almost destroyed my hopes of seeing him that day;but nowthe storm was overand the sun was shining brightly.
'Abeautiful eveningMrs. Grey!' said heas he entered. 'AgnesI want youto take a walk with me to - ' (he named a certain partof thecoast - a bold hill on the land sideand towards the sea asteepprecipicefrom the summit of which a glorious view is to behad). 'The rain has laid the dustand cooled and cleared the airand theprospect will be magnificent. Will you come?'
'Can I gomamma?'
'Yes; tobe sure.'
I went toget readyand was down again in a few minutes; thoughof courseI took a little more pains with my attire than if I hadmerelybeen going out on some shopping expedition alone. Thethunder-showerhad certainly had a most beneficial effect upon theweatherand the evening was most delightful. Mr. Weston wouldhave me totake his arm; he said little during our passage throughthecrowded streetsbut walked very fastand appeared grave andabstracted. I wondered what was the matterand felt an indefinitedread thatsomething unpleasant was on his mind; and vaguesurmisesconcerning what it might betroubled me not a littleand mademe grave and silent enough. But these fantasies vanisheduponreaching the quiet outskirts of the town; for as soon as wecamewithin sight of the venerable old churchand the - hillwiththe deepblue beyond itI found my companion was cheerful enough.
'I'mafraid I've been walking too fast for youAgnes' said he:'in myimpatience to be rid of the townI forgot to consult yourconvenience;but now we'll walk as slowly as you please. I seebythoselight clouds in the westthere will be a brilliant sunsetand weshall be in time to witness its effect upon the seaat themostmoderate rate of progression.'
When wehad got about half-way up the hillwe fell into silenceagain;whichas usualhe was the first to break.
'My houseis desolate yetMiss Grey' he smilingly observed'andI amacquainted now with all the ladies in my parishand severalin thistown too; and many others I know by sight and by report;but notone of them will suit me for a companion; in factthere isonly oneperson in the world that will: and that is yourself; andI want toknow your decision?'
'Are youin earnestMr. Weston?'
'Inearnest! How could you think I should jest on such a subject?'
He laidhis hand on minethat rested on his arm: he must havefelt ittremble - but it was no great matter now.
'I hope Ihave not been too precipitate' he saidin a serioustone. 'You must have known that it was not my way to flatter andtalk softnonsenseor even to speak the admiration that I felt;and that asingle word or glance of mine meant more than the honiedphrasesand fervent protestations of most other men.'
I saidsomething about not liking to leave my motherand doingnothingwithout her consent.
'I settledeverything with Mrs. Greywhile you were putting onyourbonnet' replied he. 'She said I might have her consentif Icouldobtain yours; and I asked herin case I should be so happyto comeand live with us - for I was sure you would like it better.But sherefusedsaying she could now afford to employ anassistantand would continue the school till she could purchase anannuitysufficient to maintain her in comfortable lodgings; andmeantimeshe would spend her vacations alternately with us andyoursisterand should be quite contented if you were happy. Andso now Ihave overruled your objections on her account. Have youanyother?'
'You loveme then?' said befervently pressing my hand.
Here Ipause. My Diaryfrom which I have compiled these pagesgoes butlittle further. I could go on for yearsbut I willcontentmyself with addingthat I shall never forget that glorioussummereveningand always remember with delight that steep hilland theedge of the precipice where we stood togetherwatching thesplendidsunset mirrored in the restless world of waters at ourfeet -with hearts filled with gratitude to heavenand happinessand love -almost too full for speech.
A fewweeks after thatwhen my mother had supplied herself with anassistantI became the wife of Edward Weston; and never have foundcause torepent itand am certain that I never shall. We have hadtrialsand we know that we must have them again; but we bear themwelltogetherand endeavour to fortify ourselves and each otheragainstthe final separation - that greatest of all afflictions tothesurvivor. Butif we keep in mind the glorious heaven beyondwhere bothmay meet againand sin and sorrow are unknownsurelythat toomay be borne; andmeantimewe endeavour to live to theglory ofHim who has scattered so many blessings in our path.
Edwardbyhis strenuous exertionshas worked surprising reformsin hisparishand is esteemed and loved by its inhabitants - as hedeserves;for whatever his faults may be as a man (and no one isentirelywithout)I defy anybody to blame him as a pastorahusbandor a father.
OurchildrenEdwardAgnesand little Marypromise well; theireducationfor the time beingis chiefly committed to me; and theyshall wantno good thing that a mother's care can give. Our modestincome isamply sufficient for our requirements: and by practisingtheeconomy we learnt in harder timesand never attempting toimitateour richer neighbourswe manage not only to enjoy comfortandcontentment ourselvesbut to have every year something to layby for ourchildrenand something to give to those who need it.
And now Ithink I have said sufficient.