My Lady Ludlow
"Pierre went on pretending to read, but in reality listening with acute tension of ear to every little sound. His perceptions became so sensitive in this respect that he was incapable of measuring time, every moment had seemed so full of noises, from the beating of his heart up to the roll of the heavy carts in the distance. He wondered whether Virginie would have reached the place of rendezvous, and yet he was unable to compute the passage of minutes. His mother slept soundly: that was well. By this time Virginie must have met the 'faithful cousin;' if, indeed, Morin had not made his appearance.
"At length, he felt as if he could no longer sit still, awaiting the issue, but must run out and see what course events had taken. In vain his mother, half rousing herself, called after him to ask whither he was going: he was already out of hearing before she had ended her sentence, and he ran on until stopped by the sight of Mademoiselle Cannes walking along at so swift a pace that it was almost a run; while at her side, resolutely keeping by her, Morin was striding abreast. Pierre had just turned the corner of the street when he came upon them. Virginie would have passed him without recognising him, she was in such passionate agitation, but for Morin's gesture, by which he would fain have kept Pierre from interrupting them. Then, when Virginie saw the lad, she caught at his arm, and thanked God, as if in that boy of twelve or fourteen she held a protector. Pierre felt her tremble from head to foot, and was afraid lest she would fall, there where she stood, in the hard rough street.
"'Begone, Pierre!' said Morin.
"'I cannot,' replied Pierre, who indeed was held firmly by Virginie. 'Besides, I won't,' he added. 'Who has been frightening mademoiselle in this way?' asked he, very much inclined to brave his cousin at all hazards.
"'Mademoiselle is not accustomed to walk in the streets alone,' said Morin sulkily. 'She came upon a crowd attracted by the arrest of an aristocrat, and their cries alarmed her. I offered to take charge of her home. Mademoiselle should not walk in these streets alone. We are not like the cold-blooded people of the Faubourg Saint-Germain.'
"Virginie did not speak. Pierre doubted if she heard a word of what they were saying. She leant upon him more and more heavily.
"'Will mademoiselle condescend to take my arm?' said Morin, with sulky, and yet humble, uncouthness. I dare say he would have given worlds if he might have had that little hand within his arm; but, though she still kept silence, she shuddered up away from him, as you shrink from touching a toad. He had said something to her during that walk, you may be sure, which had made her loathe him. He marked and understood the gesture. He held himself aloof, while Pierre gave her all the assistance he could in their slow progress homewards. But Morin accompanied her all the same. He had played too desperate a game to be baulked now. He had given information against the ci-devant Marquis do Créquy, as a returned emigré, to be met with at such a time, in such a place. Morin had hoped that all sign of the arrest would have been cleared away before Virginie reached the spot - so swiftly were terrible deeds done in those days. But Clément defended himself desperately; Virginie was punctual to a second; and, though the wounded man was borne off to the Abbaye, amid a crowd of the unsympathising jeerers who mingled with the armed officials of the Directory, Morin feared lest Virginie had recognised him; and he would have preferred that she should have thought that the 'faithful cousin' was faithless, than that she should have seen him in bloody danger on her account. I suppose he fancied that, if Virginie never saw or heard more of him, her imagination would not dwell on his simple disappearance, as it would do if she knew what he was suffering for her sake.
"At any rate, Pierre saw that his cousin was deeply mortified by the whole tenor of his behaviour during their walk home. When they arrived at Madame Babette's, Virginie fell fainting on the floor; her strength had but just sufficed for this exertion of reaching the shelter of the house. Her first sign of restoring consciousness consisted in avoidance of Morin. He had been most assiduous in his efforts to bring her round; quite tender in his way, Pierre said; and this marked, instinctive repugnance to him evidently gave him extreme pain. I suppose Frenchmen are more demonstrative than we are; for Pierre declared that he saw his cousin's eyes fill with tears, as she shrank away from his touch if he tried to arrange the shawl they had laid under her head like a pillow, or as she shut her eyes when he passed before her. Madame Babette was urgent with her to go and lie down on the bed in the inner room; but it was some time before she was strong enough to rise and do this.
"When Madame Babette returned from arranging the girl comfortably, the three relations sat down in silence: a silence which Pierre thought would never be broken. He wanted his mother to ask his cousin what had happened. But Madame Babette was afraid of her nephew, and thought it more discreet to wait for such crumbs of intelligence as he might think fit to throw to her. But, after she had twice reported Virginie to be asleep, without a word being uttered in reply to her whispers by either of her companions, Morin's powers of self-containment gave way.
"'It is hard!' he said
"'What is hard?' asked Madame Babette, after she had paused for a time, to enable him to add to, or to finish, his sentence if he pleased.
"'It is hard for a man to love a woman as I do,' he went on. 'I did not seek to love her, it came upon me before I was aware - before I had ever thought about it at all, I loved her better than all the world beside. All my life, before I knew her, seems a dull blank. I neither know nor care for what I did before then. And now there are just two lives before me. Either I have her, or I have not. That is all, but that is everything. And what can I do to make her have me? Tell me, aunt,' and he caught at Madame Babette's arm, and gave it so sharp a shake, that she half screamed out, Pierre said, and evidently grew alarmed at her nephew's excitement.
"'Hush, Victor!' said she. 'There are other women in the world, if this one will not have you.'
"'None other for me,' he said, sinking back as if hopeless. 'I am plain and coarse, not one of the scented darlings of the aristocrats. Say that I am ugly, brutish; I did not make myself so, any more than I made myself love her. It is my fate. But am I to submit to the consequences of my fate without a struggle? Not I. As strong as my love is, so strong is my will. It can be no stronger,' continued he gloomily. 'Aunt Babette, you must help me - you must make her love me.' He was so fierce here, that Pierre said he did not wonder that his mother was frightened.
"'I, Victor!' she exclaimed. 'I make her love you? How can I? Ask me to speak for you to Mademoiselle Didot, or to Mademoiselle Cauchois even, or to such as they, and I'll do it, and welcome. But to Mademoiselle de Créquy, why, you don't know the difference! These people - the old nobility, I mean - why, they don't know a man from a dog, out of their own rank! And no wonder, for the young gentlemen of quality are treated differently to us from their very birth. If she had you to-morrow, you would be miserable. Let me alone for knowing the aristocracy. I have not been a concierge to a duke and three counts for nothing. I tell you, all your ways are different to her ways.'
"'I would change my "ways," as you call them.'
"'Be reasonable, Victor.'
"'No, I will not he reasonable, if by that you mean giving her up. I tell you two lives are before me; one with her, one without her. But the latter will he but a short career for both of us. You said, aunt, that the talk went in the conciergerie of her father's hôtel, that she would have nothing to do with this cousin whom I put out of the way to-day?'
"'So the servants said. How could I know? All I know is, that he left off coming to our hotel, and that at one time before then he had never been two days absent.'
"So much the better for him. He suffers now for having come between me and my object - in trying to snatch her away out of my sight. Take you warning, Pierre! I did not like your meddling to-night.' And so he went off, leaving Madame Babette rocking herself backwards and forwards, in all the depression of spirits consequent upon the reaction after the brandy, and upon her knowledge of her nephew's threatened purpose, combined.
"In telling you most of this, I have simply repeated Pierre's account, which I wrote down at the time. But here what he had to say came to a sudden break; for, the next morning, when Madame Babette rose, Virginie was missing, and it was some time before either she, or Pierre, or Morin, could get the slightest clue to the missing girl.
"And now I must take up the story as it was told to the Intendant Fléchier by the old gardener Jacques, with whom Clément had been lodging on his first arrival in Paris. The old man could not, I dare say,. remember half as much of what had happened as Pierre did; the former had the dulled memory of age, while Pierre had evidently thought over the whole series of events as a story - as a play, if one may call it so - during the solitary hours in his after-life, wherever they were passed, whether in lonely camp watches, or in the foreign prison, where he had to drag out many years. Clément had, as I said, returned to the gardener's garret after he had been dismissed from the Hôtel Duguesclin. There were several reasons for his thus doubling hack. One was, that he put nearly the whole breadth of Paris between him and an enemy; though why Morin was an enemy, and to what extent he carried his dislike or hatred, Clément could not tell, of course. The next reason for returning to Jacques was, no doubt, the conviction that, in multiplying his residences, he multiplied the chances against his being suspected and recognised. And then, again, the old man was in his secret, and his ally, although perhaps but a feeble kind of one. It was through Jacques that the plan of communication, by means of a nosegay of pinks, had been devised; and it was Jacques who procured him the last disguise that Clément was to use in Paris - as he hoped and trusted. It was that of a respectable shopkeeper of no particular class: a dress that would have seemed perfectly suitable to the young man who would naturally have worn it; and yet, as Clément put it on, and adjusted it - giving it a sort of finish and elegance which I always noticed about his appearance, and which I believe was innate in the wearer - I have no doubt it seemed like the usual apparel of a gentleman. No coarseness of texture nor clumsiness of cut could disguise the nobleman of thirty descents, it appeared; for immediately on arriving at the place of rendezvous he was recognised by the men placed there on Morin's information to seize him. Jacques, following at a little distance, with a bundle under his arm containing articles of feminine disguise for Virginie, saw four men attempt Clément's arrest - saw him, quick as lightning, draw a sword hitherto concealed in a clumsy stick - saw his agile figure spring to his guard - and saw him defend himself with the rapidity and art of a man skilled in arms. 'But what good did it do?' as Jacques piteously used to ask, Monsieur Fléchier told me. A great blow from a heavy club on the sword-arm of Monsieur de Créquy laid it helpless and immovable by his side. Jacques always thought that that blow came from one of the spectators, who by this time had collected round the scene of the affray. The next instant, his master - his little marquis - was down among the feet of the crowd, and though he was up again before he had received much damage - so active and light was my poor Clément - it was not before the old gardener had hobbled forwards, and, with many an old-fashioned oath and curse, proclaimed himself a partisan of the losing side - a follower of a ci-devant aristocrat. It was quite enough. He received one or two good blows, which were, in fact, aimed at his master; and then, almost before he was aware, he found his arms pinioned behind him with a woman's garter, which one of the viragos in the crowd had made no scruple of pulling off in public, as soon as she heard for what purpose it was wanted. Poor Jacques was stunned and unhappy - his master was out of sight, on before; and the old gardener scarce knew whither they were taking him. His bead ached from the blows which had fallen upon it; it was growing dark - June day though it was - and, when first he seems to have become exactly aware of what had happened to him, it was when he was turned into one of the larger rooms of the Abbaye, in which all were put who had no other allotted place wherein to sleep. One or two iron lamps hung from the ceiling by chains, giving a dim light for a little circle. Jacques stumbled forwards over a sleeping body lying on the ground. The sleeper wakened up enough to complain; and the apology of the old man in reply caught the ear of his master, who, until this time, could hardly have been aware of the straits and difficulties of his faithful Jacques. And there they sat - against a pillar, the livelong night, holding one another's hands, and each restraining expressions of pain, for fear of adding to the other's distress. That night made them intimate friends, in spite of the difference of age and rank. The disappointed hopes, the acute suffering of the present, the apprehensions of the future, made them seek solace in talking of the past. Monsieur de Créquy and the gardener found themselves disputing with interest in which chimney of the stack the starling used to build - the starling whose nest Clément sent to Urian, you remember - and discussing the merits of different espalier-pears which grew, and may grow still, in the old garden of the Hôtel de Créquy. Towards morning both fell asleep. The old man wakened first. His frame was deadened to suffering, I suppose, for he felt relieved of his pain; but Clément moaned and cried in feverish slumber. His broken arm was beginning to inflame his blood. He was, besides, much injured by some kicks from the crowd as he fell. As the man looked sadly on the white, baked lips, and the flushed cheeks, contorted with suffering even in his sleep, Clément gave a sharp cry, which disturbed his miserable neighbours, all slumbering around in uneasy attitudes. They bade him with curses he silent; and then, turning round, tried again to forget their own misery in sleep. For you see, the bloodthirsty canaille had not been sated with guillotining and hanging all the nobility they could find, but were now informing, right and left, even against each other; and, when Clément and Jacques were in the prison, there were few of gentle blood in the place, and fewer still of gentle manners. At the sound of the angry words and threats, Jacques thought it best to awaken his master from his feverish, uncomfortable sleep, lest he should provoke more enmity; and, tenderly lifting him up, he tried to adjust his own body, so that it should serve as a rest and a pillow for the younger man. The motion aroused Clément, and he began to talk in a strange, feverish way, of Virginie too - whose name he would not have breathed in such a place had he been quite himself. But Jacques had as much delicacy of feeling as any lady in the land, although, mind you, he knew neither how to read nor write - and bent his head low down, so that his master might tell him in a whisper what messages he was to take to Mademoiselle de Créquy, in case -- Poor Clément, he knew it must come to that! No escape for him now, in Norman disguise or otherwise! Either by gathering fever or guillotine, death was sure of his prey. Well when that happened, Jacques was to go and find Mademoiselle de Créquy, and tell her that her cousin loved her at the last as he had loved her at the first; but that she should never have heard another word of his attachment from his living lips; that he knew he was not good enough for her, his queen; and that no thought of earning her love by his devotion had prompted his return to France, only that, if possible, he might have the great privilege of serving her whom he loved. And then he went off into rambling talk about petit-maîtres, and such kind of expressions, said Jacques to Fléchier, the Intendant, little knowing what a clue that one word gave to much of the poor lad's suffering.
"The summer morning came slowly on in that dark prison, and when Jacques could look round - his master was now sleeping on his shoulder, still the uneasy, starting sleep of fever - he saw that there were many women among the prisoners. (I have heard some of those who have escaped from the prisons say, that the look of despair and agony that came into the faces of the prisoners on first wakening, as the sense of their situation grew upon them, was what lasted the longest in the memory of the survivors. This look, they said, passed away from the women's faces sooner than it did from those of the men.)
"Poor old Jacques kept falling asleep, and plucking himself up again, for fear lest, if he did not attend to his master, some harm might come to the swollen, helpless arm. Yet his weariness grew upon him in spite of all his efforts, and at last he felt as if he must give way to the irresistible desire, if only for five minutes. But just then there was a hustle at the door. Jacques opened his eyes wide to look.
"'The gaoler is early with breakfast,' said some one lazily.
"'It is the darkness of this cursed place that makes us think it early,' said another.
"All this time a parley was going on at the door. Some one came in; not the gaoler - a woman. The door was shut to and locked behind her. She only advanced a step or two, for it was too sudden a change, out of the light into that dark shadow, for any one to see clearly for the first few minutes. Jacques had his eyes fairly open now, and was wide awake. It was Mademoiselle de Créquy, looking bright, clear, and resolute. The faithful heart of the old man read that look like an open page. Her cousin should not die there on her behalf, without at least the comfort of her sweet presence.
"'Here he is,' he whispered, as her gown would have touched him in passing, without her perceiving him, in the heavy obscurity of the place.
"'The good God bless you, my friend!' she murmured, as she saw the attitude of the old man, propped against a pillar, and holding Clément in his arms, as if the young man had been a helpless baby, while one of the poor gardener's hands supported the broken limb in the easiest position. Virginie sat down by the old man, and held out her arms. Softly she moved Clément'e head to her own shoulder; softly she transferred the task of holding the arm to herself. Clément lay on the floor, but she supported him, and Jacques was at liberty to arise and stretch and shake his stiff, weary old body. He then sat down at a little distance, and watched the pair until he fell asleep. Clément had muttered 'Virginie,' as they half-roused him by their movements out of his stupor; but Jacques thought he was only dreaming; nor did he seem fully awake when once his eyes opened, and he looked full at Virginie's face bending over him, and growing crimson under his gaze, though she never stirred, for fear of hurting him if she moved. Clément looked in silence, until his heavy eyelids came slowly down, and he fell into his oppressive slumber again. Either he did not recognise her, or she came in too completely as a part of his sleeping visions for him to be disturbed by her appearance there.
"When Jacques awoke it was full daylight - at least as full as it would ever be in that place. His breakfast - the gaol-allowance of bread and vin ordinaire - was by his side. He must have slept soundly. He looked for his master. He and Virginie had recognised each other now - hearts, as well as appearance. They were smiling into each other's faces, as if that dull vaulted room in the grim Abbaye were the sunny gardens of Versailles, with music and festivity all abroad. Apparently they had much to say to each other; for whispered questions and answers never ceased.
"Virginie had made a sling for the poor broken arm nay, she had obtained two splinters of wood in some way, and one of their fellow-prisoners - having it appeared, some knowledge of surgery - had set it. Jacques felt more desponding by far than they did, for he was suffering from the night he had passed, which told upon his aged frame; while they must have heard some good news, as it seemed to him, so bright and happy did they look. Yet Clément was still in bodily pain and suffering, and Virginie, by her own act and deed, was a prisoner in that dreadful Abbaye, whence the only issue was the guillotine. But they were together; they loved; they understood each other at length.
"When Virginie saw that Jacques was awake, and languidly munching his breakfast, she rose from the wooden stool on which she was sitting, and went to him, holding out both hands, and refusing to allow him to rise, while she thanked him with pretty eagerness for all his kindness to Monsieur. Monsieur himself came towards him, following Virginie, but with tottering steps, as if his head was weak and dizzy, to thank the poor old man, who, now on his feet, stood between them, ready to cry while they gave him credit for faithful actions which he felt to have been almost involuntary on his part - for loyalty was like an instinct in the good old days, before your educational cant had come up. And so two days went on. The only event was the morning call for the victims, a certain number of whom were summoned to trial every day. And to be tried was to be condemned. Every one of the prisoners became grave, as the hour for their summons approached. Most of the victims went to their doom with uncomplaining resignation, and for a while after their departure there was comparative silence in the prison. But, by-and-by - so said Jacques - the conversation or amusement began again. Human nature cannot stand the perpetual pressure of such keen anxiety, without an effort to relieve itself by thinking of something else. Jacques said that Monsieur and Mademoiselle were for ever talking together of the past days - it was 'Do you remember this?' or, 'Do you remember that?' perpetually. He sometimes thought they forgot where they were, and what was before them. But Jacques did not, and every day he trembled more and more as the list was called over.
"The third morning of their incarceration, the gaoler brought in a man whom Jacques did not recognise, and therefore did not at once observe; for he was waiting, as in duty bound, upon his master and his sweet young lady (as he always called her in repeating the story). He thought that the new introduction was some friend of the gaoler, as the two seemed well acquainted, and the latter stayed a few minutes talking with his visitor before leaving him in prison. So Jacques was surprised when, after a short time had he looked round, and saw the fierce stare with which the stranger was regarding Monsieur and Mademoiselle de Créquy, as the pair sat at breakfast - the said breakfast being laid as well as Jacques knew how, on a bench fastened into the prison wall - Virginie sitting on her low stool, and Clément half lying on the ground by her side, and submitting gladly to be fed by her pretty white fingers; for it was one of her fancies, Jacques said, to do all she could for him, in consideration of his broken arm. And, indeed, Clément was wasting away daily; for he had received other injuries, internal and more serious than that to his arm, during the mêlée which had ended in his capture. The stranger made Jacques conscious of his presence by a sign, which was almost a groan. All three prisoners looked round at the sound. Clément's face expressed little but scornful indifference; but Virginie's face froze into stony hate. Jacques said he never saw such a look, and hoped that he never should again. Yet after that first revelation of feeling, her look was steady and fixed in another direction to that in which the stranger stood - still motionless - still watching. He came a step nearer at last.
"'Mademoiselle,' he said. Not the quivering of an eyelash showed that she heard him. 'Mademoiselle!' he said again, with an intensity of beseeching that made Jacques - not knowing who he was - almost pity him, when he saw his young lady's obdurate face.
"There was perfect silence for a space of time which Jacques could not measure. Then again the voice, hesitatingly, saying, 'Monsieur!' Clément could not bold the same icy countenance as Virginie; he, turned his head with an impatient gesture of disgust; but even that emboldened the man.
"'Monsieur, do ask mademoiselle to listen to me - just two words.'
"'Mademoiselle de Créquy only listens to whom she chooses.' Very haughtily my Clément would say that, I am sure.
"'But, mademoiselle,' - lowering his voice, and coming a step or two nearer. Virginie must have felt his approach, though she did not see it; for she drew herself a little on one side, so as to put as much space as possible between him and her - 'Mademoiselle, it is not too late. I can save you; but to-morrow your name is down on the list. I can save you, if you will listen.'
"Still no word or sign. Jacques did not understand the affair. Why was she so obdurate to one who might be ready to Include Clément In the proposal, as far as Jacques knew?
"The man withdrew a little, but did not offer to leave the prison. He never took his eyes off Virginie; he seemed to be suffering from some acute and terrible pain as he watched her.
"Jacques cleared away the breakfast-things as well as he could. Purposely, as I suspect, he passed near the man.
"'Hist!' said the stranger. 'You are Jacques, the gardener, arrested for assisting an aristocrat. I know the gaoler. You shall escape, if you will. Only take this message from me to mademoiselle. You heard She will not listen to me; I did not want her to come here. I never knew she was here, and she will die to-morrow. They will put her beautiful round throat under the guillotine. Tell her, good old man, tell her how sweet life is; and how I can save her; and how I will not ask for more than just to see her from time to time. She is so young; and death is annihilation, you know. Why does she hate me so? I want to save her; I have done her no harm. Good old man, tell her how terrible death is; and that she will die to-morrow, unless she listens to me.'
"Jacques saw no harm in repeating this message. Clément listened in silence, watching Virginie with an air of infinite tenderness.
"'Will you not try him, my cherished one?' he said. 'Towards you he may mean well' (which makes me think that Virginie had never repeated to Clément the conversation which she had overheard that last night at Madame Babette's); 'you would he in no worse a situation than you were before!'
"'No worse, Clément! and I should have known what you were, and have lost you. My Clément!' said she reproachfully.
"'Ask him,' said she, turning to Jacques suddenly, 'if he can save Monsieur de Créquy as well, - if he can? - O Clément, we might escape to England; we are but young.' And she hid her face on his shoulder.
"Jacques returned to the stranger, and asked him Virginie's question. His eyes were fixed on the cousins; he was very pale, and the twitchings or contortions, which must have been Involuntary whenever he was agitated, convulsed his whole body.
"He made a long pause. 'I will save mademoiselle and monsieur if she will go straight from prison to the mairie, and he my wife.'
"'Your wife!' Jacques could not help exclaiming, 'That she will never be - never!'
"'Ask her!' said Morin hoarsely.
"But almost before Jacques thought he could have fairly uttered the words, Clément caught their meaning.
"'Begone!' said he; 'not one word more.' Virginie touched the old man as he was moving away. 'Tell him he does not know how he makes me welcome death.' And smiling, as if triumphant, she turned again to Clément.
"The stranger did not speak as Jacques gave him the meaning, not the words, of their replies. He was going away, but stopped. A minute or two afterwards, he beckoned to Jacques. The old gardener seems to have thought it undesirable to throw away even the chance of assistance from such a man as this, for he went forward to speak to him.
"'Listen! I have influence with the gaoler. He shall let thee pass out with the victims to-morrow. No one will notice it, or miss thee --. They will be led to trial - even at the last moment, I will save her, if she sends me word she relents. Speak to her, as the time draws on. Life is very sweet - tell her how sweet. Speak to him; he will do more with her than thou canst. Let him urge her to live. Even at the last, I will be at the Palais de Justice - at the Grève. I have followers - I have interest. Come among the crowd that follow the victims - I shall see thee. It will be no worse for him, if she escapes' --
"'Save my master, and I will do all,' said Jacques.
"'Only on my one condition,' said Morin doggedly; and Jacques was hopeless of that condition ever being fulfilled. But he did not see why his own life might not be saved. By remaining in prison until the next day, he should have rendered every service in his power to his master and the young lady. He, poor fellow, shrank from death; and he agreed with Morin to escape, if he could, by the means Morin had suggested, and to bring him word if Mademoiselle de Créquy relented. (Jacques had no expectation that she would; but I fancy he did not think it necessary to tell Morin of this conviction of his.) This bargaining with so base a man for so slight a thing as life, was the only flaw that I heard of in the old gardener's behaviour. Of course, the mere re-opening of the subject was enough to stir Virginie to displeasure. Clément urged her, it is true; but the light he had gained upon Morin's motions made him rather try to set the case before her in as fair a manner as possible than use any persuasive arguments. And, even as it was, what he said on the subject made Virginie shed tears - the first that had fallen from her since she entered the prison. So, they were summoned and went together, at the fatal call of the muster-roll of victims the next morning. He, feeble from his wounds and his injured health; she, calm and serene, only petitioning to be allowed to walk next to him, in order that she might hold him up when he turned faint and giddy from his extreme suffering.
"Together they stood at the bar; together they were condemned. As the words of judgment were pronounced, Virginie turned to Clément, and embraced him with passionate fondness. Then, making him lean on her, they marched out towards the Place de la Grève.
"Jacques was free now. He had told Morin how fruitless his efforts at persuasion had been; and scarcely caring to note the effect of his information upon the man, he had devoted himself to watching Monsieur and Mademoiselle de Créquy. And now he followed them to the Place de la Grève. He saw them mount the platform; saw them kneel down together till plucked up by the impatient officials; could see that she was urging some request to the executioner; the end of which seemed to be, that Clément advanced first to the guillotine, was executed (and just at this moment there was a stir among the crowd, as of a man pressing forward towards the scaffold). Then she, standing with her face to the guillotine, slowly made the sign of the cross, and knelt down.
"Jacques covered his eyes, blinded with tears. The report of a pistol made him look up. She was gone - another victim in her place - and where there had been a little stir in the crowd not five minutes before, some men were carrying off a dead body. A man had shot himself, they said. Pierre told me who that man was."
After a pause, I ventured to ask what became of Madame de Créquy, Clément's mother.
"She never made any inquiry about him," said my lady. "She must have known that he was dead; though how, we never could tell. Medlicott remembered afterwards that it was about, if not on - Medlicott to this day declares that it was on the very Monday, June the nineteenth, when her son was executed, that Madame de Créquy left off her rouge and took to her bed, as one bereaved and hopeless. It certainly was about that time; and Medlicott - who was deeply impressed by that dream of Madame de Créquy's (the relation of which I told you had had such an effect on my lord), in which she had seen the figure of Virginie, as the only light object amid much surrounding darkness as of night, smiling and beckoning Clément on - on - till at length the bright phantom stopped, motionless, and Madame de Créquy's eyes began to penetrate the murky darkness, and to see closing around her the gloomy dripping walls which she had once seen and never forgotten - the walls of the vault of the chapel of the De Créquys in Saint Germain l'Auxerrois; and there the two last of the Créquys laid them down among their forefathers, and Madame de Créquy had wakened to the sound of the great door, which led to the open air, being locked upon her - I say Medlicott, who was predisposed by this dream to look out for the supernatural, always declared that Madame de Créquy was made conscious, in some mysterious way, of her son's death, on the very day and hour when it occurred, and that after that she had no more anxiety, but was only conscious of a kind of stupefying despair."
"And what became of her, my lady?" I again asked.
"What could become of her?" replied Lady Ludlow. "She never could be induced to rise again, though she lived more than a year after her son's departure. She kept her bed; her room darkened, her face turned towards the wall, whenever any one besides Medlicott was in the room. She hardly ever spoke, and would have died of starvation but for Medlicott's tender care, in putting a morsel to her lips every now and then, feeding her in fact, just as an old bird feeds her young ones. In the height of summer my lord and I left London. We would fain have taken her with us into Scotland, but the doctor (we had the old doctor from Leicester Square) forbade her removal; and this time he gave such good reasons against it that I acquiesced. Medlicott and a maid were left with her. Every care was taken of her. She survived till our return. Indeed, I thought she was in much the same state as I had left her in, when I came back to London. But Medlicott spoke of her as much weaker; and one morning, on awakening, they told me she was dead. I sent for Medlicott, who was in sad distress, she had become so fond of her charge. She said that, about two o'clock, she had been awakened by unusual restlessness on Madame de Créquy's part; that she had gone to her bedside, and found the poor lady feebly but perpetually moving her wasted arm up and down - and saying to herself in a wailing voice - "I did not bless him when he left me - I did not bless him when he left me!" Medlicott gave her a spoonful or two of jelly, and sat by her, stroking her hand, and soothing her till she seemed to fall asleep. But in the morning she was dead."
"It is a sad story, your ladyship," said I, after a while.
"Yes, it is. People seldom arrive at my age without having watched the beginning, middle, and end of many lives and many fortunes. We do not talk about them, perhaps; for they are often so sacred to us, from having touched into the very quick of our own hearts, as it were, or into those of others who are dead and gone, and veiled over from human sight, that we cannot tell the tale as if it was a mere story. But young people should remember that we have had this solemn experience of life, on which to base our opinions and form our judgments, so that they are not mere untried theories. I am not alluding to Mr. Horner just now, for he is nearly as old as I am - within ten years, I dare say - but I am thinking of Mr. Gray, with his endless plans for some new thing - schools, education, Sabbaths, and what not. Now he has not seen what all this leads to."
"It is a pity he has not heard your ladyship tell the story of poor Monsieur de Créquy."
"Not at all a pity, my dear. A young man like him, who, both by position and age, must have had his experience confined to a very narrow circle, ought not to set up his opinion against mine; he ought not to require reasons from me, nor to need such explanation of my arguments (if I condescend to argue), as going into relation of the circumstances on which my arguments are based in my own mind would be."
"But, my lady, it might convince him," I said, with perhaps injudicious perseverance.
"And why should he be convinced?" she asked, with gentle inquiry in her tone. "He has only to acquiesce. Though he is appointed by Mr. Croxton, I am the lady of the manor, as he must know. But it is with Mr. Horner that I must have to do about this unfortunate lad Gregson. I am afraid there will be no method of making him forget his unlucky knowledge. His poor brains will be intoxicated with the sense of his powers, without any counterbalancing principles to guide him. Poor fellow! I am quite afraid it will end in his being hanged!"
The next day Mr. Horner came to apologise and explain. He was evidently - as I could tell from his voice, as he spoke to my lady in the next room - extremely annoyed at her ladyship's discovery of the education he had been giving to this boy. My lady spoke with great authority, and with reasonable grounds of complaint. Mr. Horner was well acquainted with her thoughts on the subject, and had acted in defiance of her wishes. He acknowledged as much, and should on no account have done it, in any other Instance, without her leave.
"Which I could never have granted you," said my lady.
But this boy had extraordinary capabilities; would, in fact, have taught himself much that was bad, if he had not been rescued, and another direction given to his powers. And in all Mr. Horner had done, he had had her ladyship's service in view. The business was getting almost beyond his power, so many letters and so much account-keeping was required by the complicated state in which things were.
Lady Ludlow felt what was coming - a reference to the mortgage for the benefit of my lord's Scottish estates, which, she was perfectly aware, Mr. Horner considered as having been a most unwise proceeding - and she hastened to observe -
"All this may be very true, Mr. Horner, and I am sure I should be the last person to wish you to overwork or distress yourself; but of that we will talk another time. What I am now anxious to remedy is, if possible, the state of this poor little Gregson's mind. Would not hard work In the fields be a wholesome and excellent way of enabling him to forget?"
"I was in hopes, my lady, that you would have permitted me to bring him up to act as a kind of clerk," said Mr. Horner, jerking out his project abruptly.
"A what?" asked my lady, in infinite surprise.
"A kind of - of assistant, in the way of copying letters and doing up accounts. He is already an excellent penman and very quick at figures."
"Mr. Horner," said my lady, with dignity, "the son of a poacher and vagabond ought never to have been able to copy letters relating to the Hanbury estates; and, at any rate, he shall not. I wonder how it is that, knowing the use he has made of his power of reading a letter, you should venture to propose such an employment for him as would require his being in your confidence, and you the trusted agent of this family. Why, every secret (and every ancient and honourable family has its secrets, as you know, Mr. Horner!) would be learnt off by heart, and repeated to the first comer!"
"I should have hoped to have trained him, my lady, to understand the rules of discretion."
"Trained! Train a barn-door fowl to be a pheasant, Mr. Horner! That would be the easier task. But you did right to speak of discretion rather than honour. Discretion looks to the consequences of actions - honour looks to the action itself, and is an instinct rather than a virtue. After all, it is possible you might have trained him to be discreet."
Mr. Horner was silent. My lady was softened by his not replying, and began, as she always did in such cases, to fear lest she had been too harsh. I could tell that by her voice and by her next speech, as well as if I had seen her face.
"But I am sorry you are feeling the pressure of the affairs; I am quite aware that I have entailed much additional trouble upon you by some of my measures: I must try and provide you with some suitable assistance. Copying letters and doing up accounts, I think you said?"
Mr. Horner had certainly had a distant idea of turning the little boy, in process of time, into a clerk; but he had rather urged this possibility of future usefulness beyond what he had at first intended, in speaking of it to my lady as a palliation of his offence; and he certainly was very much inclined to retract his statement that the letter-writing, or any other business, had increased, or that he was in the slightest want of help of any kind, when my lady, after a pause of consideration, suddenly said -
"I have it. Miss Galindo will, I am sure, he glad to assist you. I will speak to her myself. The payment we should make to a clerk would be of real service to her!"
I could hardly help echoing Mr. Horner's tone of surprise as he said -
For, you must be told who Miss Galindo was; at least, told as much as I know. Miss Galindo had lived in the village for many years, keeping house on the smallest possible means, yet always managing to maintain a servant. And this servant was invariably chosen because she had some infirmity that made her undesirable to every one else. I believe Miss Galindo had had lame and blind and humpbacked maids. She had even at one time taken in a girl hopelessly gone in consumption, because, if not, she would have had to go to the workhouse, and not have had enough to eat. Of course the poor creature could not perform a single duty usually required of a servant, and Miss Galindo herself was both servant and nurse.
Her present maid was scarcely four feet high, and bore a terrible character for ill-temper. Nobody but Miss Galindo would have kept her; but, as it was, mistress and servant squabbled perpetually, and were, at heart, the best of friends. For it was one of Miss Galindo's peculiarities to do all manner of kind and self-denying actions, and to say all manner of provoking things. Lame, blind, deformed, and dwarf, all came in for scoldings without number; it was only the consumptive girl that never had heard a sharp won I don't think any of her servants liked her the worse for her peppery temper, and passionate odd ways, for they knew her real and beautiful kindness of heart; and, besides, she had so great a turn for humour, that very often her speeches amused as much or more than they irritated; and, on the other side, a piece of witty impudence from her servant would occasionally tickle her so much and so suddenly, that she would burst out laughing in the middle of her passion.
But the talk about Miss Galindo's choice and management of her servants was confined to village gossip, and had never reached my Lady Ludlow's ears, though doubtless Mr. Horner was well acquainted with it. What my lady knew of her amounted to this. It was the custom in those days for the wealthy ladies of the county to set on foot a repository, as it was called, in the assize-town. The ostensible manager of this repository was generally a decayed gentlewoman, a clergyman's widow, or so forth. She was, however, controlled by a committee of ladies: and paid by them in proportion to the amount of goods she sold; and these goods were the small manufactures of ladies of little or no fortune, whose names, if they chose it, were only signified by initials.
Poor water-colour drawings, indigo and Indian ink, screens, ornamented with moss and dried leaves, paintings on velvet, and such faintly ornamental works, were displayed on one side of the shop. It was always reckoned a mark of characteristic gentility in the repository to have only common heavy-framed sash-windows, which admitted very little light; so I never was quite certain of the merit of these Works of Art, as they were entitled. But, on the other side, where the Useful Work placard was put up, there was a great variety of articles, of whose unusual excellence every one might judge. Such fine sewing, and stitching, and buttonholing! Such bundles of soft delicate knitted stockings and socks; and, above all, in Lady Ludlow's eyes, such banks of the finest spun flaxen thread!
And the most delicate dainty work of all was done by Miss Galindo, as Lady Ludlow very well knew. Yet, for all their fine sewing, it sometimes happened that Miss Galindo's patterns were of an old-fashioned kind; and the dozen night-caps, may be, on the materials for which she had expended bonâ-fide money, and on the making-up, no little time and eyesight, would lie for months In a yellow neglected heap; and at such times, it was said, Miss Galindo was more amusing than usual, more full of dry drollery and humour just as at the times when an order came in to X. (the initial she had chosen) for a stock of well-paying things, she sat and stormed at her servant as she stitched away. She herself explained her practice in this way -
"When everything goes wrong, one would give up breathing if one could not lighten one's heart by a joke. But when I've to sit still from morning till night, I must have something to stir my blood, or I should go off into an apoplexy; so I set to, and quarrel with Sally."
Such were Miss Galindo's means and manner of living in her own house. Out of doors, and in the village, she was not popular, although she would have been sorely missed had she left the place. But she asked too many home questions (not to say impertinent) respecting the domestic economies (for even the very poor liked to spend their bit of money their own way), and would open cupboards to find out hidden extravagances, and question closely respecting the weekly amount of butter; till one day she met with what would have been a rebuff to any other person, but was by her rather enjoyed than otherwise.
She was going into a cottage, and in the doorway met the good woman chasing out a duck, and apparently unconscious of her visitor.
"Get out, Miss Galindo!" she cried, addressing the duck. "Get out! Oh, I ask your pardon," she continued, as if seeing the lady for the first time. "It's only that weary duck will come In. Get out, Miss Gal--" (to the duck).
"And so you call it after me, do you?" inquired her visitor.
"Oh, yes, ma'am; my master would have it so; for, he said, sure enough the unlucky bird was always poking herself where she was not wanted."
"Ha, ha! very good! And so your master is a wit, is he? Well! tell him to come up and speak to me to-night about my parlour chimney; for there is no one like him for chimney doctoring."
And the master went up, and was so won over by Miss Galindo's merry ways, and sharp insight into the mysteries of his various kinds of business (he was a mason, chimney-sweeper, and ratcatcher), that he came home and abused his wife the next time she called the duck the name by which he himself had christened her.
But, odd as Miss Galindo was in general, she could be as well-bred a lady as any one when she chose. And choose she always did when my Lady Ludlow was by. Indeed, I don't know the man, woman, or child, that did not instinctively turn out its best side to her ladyship. So she had no notion of the qualities which, I am sure, made Mr. Horner think that Miss Galindo would be most unmanageable as a clerk, and heartily wish that the idea had never come Into my lady's head. But there it was, and he had annoyed her ladyship already more than he liked to-day; so be could not directly contradict her, but only urge difficulties which he hoped might prove insuperable. But every one of them Lady Ludlow knocked down. "Letters to copy?" Doubtless. Miss Galindo could come up to the Hall; she should have a room to herself; she wrote a beautiful hand; and writing would save her eyesight. "Capability with regard to accounts?" My lady would answer for that too; and for more than Mr. Horner seemed to think it necessary to inquire about. Miss Galindo was by birth and breeding a lady of the strictest honour, and would, if possible, forget the substance of any letters that passed through her hands: at any rate, no one would ever hear of them again from her. "Remuneration?" Oh! as for that, Lady Ludlow would herself take care that it was managed in the most delicate manner possible. She would send to invite Miss Galindo to tea at the Hall that very afternoon, if Mr. Horner would only give her ladyship the slightest idea of the average length of time that my lady was to request Miss Galindo to sacrifice to her daily. "Three hours? Very well." Mr. Horner looked very grave as he passed the windows of the room where I lay. I don't think he liked the idea of Miss Galindo as a clerk.
Lady Ludlow's Invitations were like royal commands. Indeed, the village was too quiet to allow the inhabitants to have many evening engagements of any kind. Now and then, Mr. and Mrs. Horner gave a tea and supper to the principal tenants and their wives, to which the clergyman was invited, and Miss Galindo, Mrs. Medlicott, and one or two other spinsters and widows. The glory of the supper-table on these occasions was invariably furnished by her ladyship: it was a cold roasted peacock, with his tail stuck out as if in life. Mrs. Medlicott would take up the whole morning arranging the feathers in the proper semicircle, and was always pleased with the wonder and admiration it excited. It was considered a due reward and fitting compliment to her exertions that Mr. Horner always took her in to supper, and placed her opposite to the magnificent dish, at which she sweetly smiled all the time they were at table. But since Mrs. Horner had had the paralytic stroke these parties had been given up; and Miss Galindo wrote a note to Lady Ludlow in reply to her invitation, saying that she was entirely disengaged, and would have great pleasure in doing herself the honour of waiting upon her ladyship.
Whoever visited my lady took their meals with her, sitting on the dais, in the presence of all my former companions. So I did not see Miss Galindo until some time after tea; as the young gentlewomen had had to bring her their sewing and spinning, to hear the remarks of so competent a judge. At length her ladyship brought her visitor into the room where I lay - it was one of my bad days, I remember - in order to have her little bit of private conversation. Miss Galindo was dressed in her best gown, I am sure, but I had never seen anything like it except in a picture, it was so old-fashioned. She wore a white muslin apron, delicately embroidered, and put on a little crookedly, In order, as she told us, even Lady Ludlow, before the evening was over, to conceal a spot whence the colour had been discharged by a lemon-stain. This crookedness had an odd effect, especially when I saw that it was intentional; indeed, she was so anxious about her apron's right adjustment in the wrong place, that she told us straight out why she wore it so, and asked her ladyship if the spot was properly hidden, at the same time lifting up her apron and showing her how large it was.
"When my father was alive, I always took his right arm, so, and used to remove any spotted or discoloured breadths to the left side, if it was a walking-dress. That's the convenience of a gentleman. But widows and spinsters must do what they can. Ah, my dear!" (to me) "when you are reckoning up the blessings in your lot - though you may think it a hard one In some respects - don't forget how little your stockings want darning, as you are obliged to lie down so much! I would rather knit two pairs of stockings than darn one, any day."
"Have you been doing any of your beautiful knitting lately?" asked my lady, who had now arranged Miss Galindo in the pleasantest chair, and taken her own little wicker-work one, and, having her work In her hands, was ready to try and open the subject.
"No, and alas! your ladyship. It is partly the hot weather's fault, for people seem to forget that winter must come; and partly, I suppose, that every one is stocked who has the money to pay four-and-sixpence a pair for stockings."
"Then may I ask if you have any time in your active days at liberty?" said my lady, drawing a little nearer to her proposal, which I fancy she found it a little awkward to make.
"Why, the village keeps me busy, your ladyship, when I have neither knitting nor sewing to do. You know I took X. for my letter at the repository, because it stands for Xantippe, who was a great scold in old times, as I have learnt. But I'm sure I don't know how the world would get on without scolding, your ladyship. It would go to sleep, and the sun would stand still."
"I don't think I could bear to scold, Miss Galindo," said her ladyship, smiling.
"No! because your ladyship has people to do it for you. Begging your pardon, my lady, it seems to me the generality of people may be divided into saints, scolds, and sinners. Now, your ladyship is a saint, because you have a sweet and holy nature, in the first place; and have people to do your anger and vexation for you, in the second place. And Jonathan Walker is a sinner, because he is sent to prison. But here am I, half way, having but a poor kind of disposition at best, and yet hating sin, and all that leads to it, such as wasting, and extravagance, and gossiping - and yet all this lies right under my nose in the village, and I am not saint enough to be vexed at it; and so I scold. And though I had rather be a saint, yet I think I do good in my way."
"No doubt you do, dear Miss Galindo," said Lady Ludlow. "But I am sorry to hear that there is so much that is bad going on in the village - very sorry.
"Oh, your ladyship! then I am sorry I brought it out. It was only by way of saying, that when I have no particular work to do at home, I take a turn abroad, and set my neighbours to rights, just by way of steering clear of Satan.
you know, my lady."
There was no leading into the subject by delicate degrees, for Miss Galindo was evidently so fond of talking that, if asked a question, she made her answer so long that before she came to an end of it, she had wandered far away from the original starting-point. So Lady Ludlow plunged at once into what she had to say.
"Miss Galindo; I have a great favour to ask of you."
"My lady, I wish I could tell you what a pleasure it is to hear you say so," replied Miss Galindo, almost with tears in her eyes; so glad were we all to do anything for her ladyship, which could be called a free service and not merely a duty.
"It is this. Mr. Horner tells me that the business-letters, relating to the estate, are multiplying so much that he finds it impossible to copy them all himself; and I therefore require the services of some confidential and discreet person to copy these letters, and occasionally to go through certain accounts. Now, there is a very pleasant little sitting-room very near to Mr. Horner's office (you know Mr. Horner's office - on the other side of the stone hall?) - and, if I could prevail upon you to come here to breakfast and afterwards sit there for three hours every morning, Mr. Horner should bring or send you the papers" --
Lady Ludlow stopped. Miss Galindo's countenance had fallen. There was some great obstacle in her mind to her wish for obliging Lady Ludlow.
"What would Sally do?" she asked at length. Lady Ludlow had not a notion who Sally was. Nor, if she had had a notion, would she have had a conception of the perplexities that poured into Miss Galindo's mind, at the idea of leaving her rough, forgetful dwarf, without the perpetual monitorship of her mistress. Lady Ludlow, accustomed to a household where everything went on noiselessly, perfectly, and by clock-work, conducted by a number of highly-paid, well-chosen, and accomplished servants, had not a conception of the nature of the rough material from which her servants came. Besides, in her establishment, so that the result was good, no one inquired if the small economies had been observed in the production. Whereas every penny - every halfpenny - was of consequence to Miss Galindo; and visions of squandered drops of milk and wasted crusts of bread filled her mind with dismay. But she swallowed all her apprehensions down, out of her regard for Lady Ludlow, and desire to be of service to her. No one knows how great a trial it was to her when she thought of Sally, unchecked and unscolded for three hours every morning. But all she said was -
"'Sally, go to the Deuce.' I beg your pardon, my lady, if I was talking to myself; it's a habit I have got into of keeping my tongue in practice, and I am not quite aware when I do it. Three hours every morning! I shall be only too proud to do what I can for your ladyship; and I hope Mr. Horner will not be too impatient with me at first. You know, perhaps, that I was nearly being an authoress once, and that seems as if I was destined to 'employ my time in writing.'"
''No, indeed; we must return to the subject of the clerkship afterwards, if you please. An authoress, Miss Galindo! You surprise me!"
"But, indeed, I was. All was quite ready. Doctor Burney used to teach me music: not that I ever could learn, but it was a fancy of my poor father's. And his daughter wrote a book, and they said she was but a very young lady, and nothing but a music-master's daughter; so why should not I try?"
"Well! I got paper and half-a-hundred good pens, a bottle of ink, all ready" --
"And then" --
"Oh, it ended in my having nothing to say, when I sat down to write. But sometimes, when I get hold of a book, I wonder why I let such a poor reason stop me. It does not others."
"But I think it was very well it did, Miss Galindo," said her ladyship. "I am extremely against women usurping men's employments, as they are very apt to do. But perhaps, after all, the notion of writing a book improved your hand. It is one of the most legible I ever saw."
"I despise z's without tails," said Miss Galindo, with a good deal of gratified pride at my lady's praise. Presently, my lady took her to look at a curious old cabinet, which Lord Ludlow had picked up at the Hague; and, while they were out of the room on this errand, I suppose the question of remuneration was settled, for I heard no more of it.
When they came back, they were talking of Mr. Gray. Miss Galindo was unsparing in her expressions of opinion about him: going much farther than my lady - in her language, at least.
"A little blushing man like him, who can't say be to a goose without hesitating and colouring, to come to this village - which is as good a village as ever lived - and cry us down for a set of sinners, as if we had all committed murder and that other thing! - I have no patience with him, my lady. And then, how is he to help us to heaven, by teaching us our a b, ab-b a, ba? And yet, by all accounts, that's to save poor children's souls. Oh, I knew your ladyship would agree with me. I am sure my mother was as good a creature as ever breathed the blessed air; and if she's not gone to heaven I don't want to go there: and she could not spell a letter decently. And does Mr. Gray think God took note of that?"
"I was sure you would agree with me, Miss Galindo," said my lady. "You and I can remember how this talk about education - Rousseau, and his writings - stirred up the French people to their Reign of Terror, and all those bloody scenes."
"I'm afraid that Rousseau and Mr. Gray are birds of a feather," replied Miss Galindo, shaking her head. "And yet there is some good in the young man too. He sat up all night with Billy Davis, when his wife was fairly worn out with nursing him."
"Did he, indeed?" said my lady, her face lighting up, as it always did when she heard of any kind or generous action, no matter who performed it. "What a pity he is bitten with these new revolutionary ideas, and is so much for disturbing the established order of society!"
When Miss Galindo went, she left so favourable an impression of her visit on my lady, that she said to me with a pleased smile -
"I think I have provided Mr. Horner with a far better clerk than he would have made of that lad Gregson in twenty years. And I will send the lad to my lord's grieve, in Scotland, that he may he kept out of harm's way.
But something happened to the lad before this purpose could be accomplished.
The next morning, Miss Galindo made her appearance, and, by some mistake, unusual to my lady's well-trained servants, was shown into the room where I was trying to walk; for a certain amount of exercise was prescribed for me, painful although the exertion had become.
She brought a little basket along with her; and, while the footman was gone to inquire my lady's wishes (for I don't think that Lady Ludlow expected Miss Galindo so soon to assume her clerkship; nor, indeed, had Mr. Horner any work of any kind ready for his new assistant to do), she launched out into conversation with me.
"It was a sudden summons, my dear! However, as I have often said to myself, ever since an occasion long ago: if Lady Ludlow ever honours me by asking for my right hand, I'll cut it off, and wrap the stump up so tidily she shall never find out it bleeds. But, if I had had a little more time, I could have mended my pens better. You see, I have had to sit up pretty late to get these sleeves made" - and she took out of her basket a pair of brown-holland over-sleeves, very much such as a grocer's apprentice wears - "and I had only time to make seven or eight pens, out of some quills Father Thomson gave me last autumn. As for ink, I'm thankful to say, that's always ready: an ounce of steel filings, an ounce of nut-gall, and a pint of water (tea, if you're extravagant, which, thank Heaven! I'm not); put all in a bottle, and hang it up behind the house door, so that the whole gets a good shaking every time you slam it to - and even if you are in a passion and bang it, as Sally and I often do, it is all the better for it - and there's my ink ready for use; ready to write my lady's will with, if need be."
"Oh, Miss Galindo!" said I, "don't talk so; my lady's will! and she not dead yet."
"And if she were, what would be the use of talking of making her will? Now, if you were Sally, I should say, 'Answer me that, you goose!' But, as you're a relation of my lady's, I must be civil, and only say, 'I can't think how you can talk so like a fool!' To be sure, poor thing, you're lame!"
I do not know how long she would have gone on; but my lady came in, and I, released from my duty of entertaining Miss Galindo, made my limping way into the next room. To tell the truth, I was rather afraid of Miss Galindo's tongue, for I never knew what she would say next.
After a while my lady came in, and began to look in the bureau for something: and as she looked she said -
"I think Mr. Horner must have made some mistake, when he said be had so much work that he almost required a clerk, for this morning he cannot find anything for Miss Galindo to do; and there she is, sitting with her pen behind her ear, waiting for something to write. I am come to find her my mother's letters, for I should like to have a fair copy made of them. Oh, here they are: don't trouble yourself, my dear child."
When my lady returned again, she sat down and began to talk of Mr. Gray.
"Miss Galindo says she saw him going to hold a prayer-meeting in a cottage. Now that really makes me unhappy, it is so like what Mr. Wesley used to do in my younger days; and since then we have had rebellion in the American colonies and the French Revolution. You may depend upon it, my dear, making religion and education common - vulgarising them, as it were - is a bad thing for a nation. A man who hears prayers read in the cottage where he has just supped on bread and bacon, forgets the respect due to a church: he begins to think that one place is as good as another, and, by-and-by, that one person is as good as another; and, after that, I always find that people begin to talk of their rights, instead of thinking of their duties. I wish Mr. Gray had been more tractable, and had left well alone. What do you think I heard this morning? Why, that the Home Hill estate, which niches into the Hanbury property, was bought by a Baptist baker from Birmingham!"
"A Baptist baker!" I exclaimed. I had never seen a Dissenter, to my knowledge; but, having always heard them spoken of with horror, I looked upon them almost as if they were rhinoceroses. I wanted to see a live Dissenter, I believe, and yet I wished it were over. I was almost surprised when I heard that any of them were engaged in such peaceful occupations as baking.
"Yes! so Mr. Horner tells me. A Mr. Lambe, I believe. But, at any rate, he is a Baptist, and has been in trade. What with his schismatism and Mr. Gray's methodism, I am afraid all the primitive character of this place will vanish."
From what I could hear, Mr. Gray seemed to be taking his own way; at any rate, more than he had done when he first came to the village, when his natural timidity had made him defer to my lady, and seek her consent and sanction before embarking in any new plan. But newness was a quality Lady Ludlow especially disliked. Even in the fashions of dress and furniture, she clung to the old, to the modes which had prevailed when she was young; and, though she had a deep personal regard for Queen Charlotte (to whom, as I have already said, she had been maid-of-honour), yet there was a tinge of Jacobitism about her, such as made her extremely dislike to hear Prince Charles Edward called the young Pretender, as many loyal people did in those days, and made her fond of telling of the thorn-tree in my lord's park in Scotland, which had been planted by bonny Queen Mary herself, and before which every guest in the Castle of Monkshaven was expected to stand bare-headed, out of respect to the memory and misfortunes of the royal planter.
We might play at cards, if we chose, on a Sunday; at least, I suppose we might, for my lady and Mr. Mountford used to do so often when I first went. But we must neither play cards, nor read, nor sew, on the fifth of November and on the thirtieth of January, but must go to church, and meditate all the rest of the day - and very hard work meditating was. I would far rather have scoured a room. That was the reason, I suppose, why a passive life was seen to be better discipline for me than an active one.
But I am wandering away from my lady, and her dislike to all innovation. Now, it seemed to me, as far as I heard, that Mr. Gray was full of nothing but new things, and that what he first did was to attack all our established institutions, both in the village and the parish, and also in the nation. To be sure, I heard of his ways of going on principally from Miss Galindo, who was apt to speak more strongly than accurately.
"There he goes," she said, "clucking up the children just like an old hen, and trying to teach them about their salvation and their souls, and I don't know what - things that it is just blasphemy to speak about out of church. And he potters old people about reading their Bibles. I am sure I don't want to speak disrespectfully about the Holy Scriptures, but I found old Job Horton busy reading his Bible yesterday. Says I, 'What are you reading, and where did you get it, and who gave it you?' So he made answer, 'That he was reading Susannah and the Elders, for that he had read Bel and the Dragon till he could pretty near say it off by heart; and they were two as pretty stories as ever he had read, and that it was a caution to him what bad old chaps there were in the world.' Now, as Job is bedridden, I don't think he is likely to meet with the Elders; and I say that I think repeating his Creed, the Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer, and, may be, throwing in a verse of the Psalms, if he wanted a bit of a change, would have done him far more good than his pretty stories, as he called them. And what's the next thing our young parson does? Why, he tries to make us all feel pitiful for the black slaves, and leaves little pictures of negroes about, with the question printed below, 'Am I not a man and a brother?' just as if I was to be hail-fellow-well-met with every negro footman. They do say he takes no sugar in his tea, because be thinks he sees spots of blood in it. Now I call that superstition."
The next day it was a still worse story.
"Well, my dear! and how are you? My lady sent me in to sit a bit with you, while Mr. Horner looks out some papers for me to copy. Between ourselves, Mr. Steward Horner does not like having me for a clerk. It is all very well he does not; for, if he were decently civil to me, I might want a chaperon, you know, now poor Mrs. Horner is dead." This was one of Miss Galindo's grim jokes. "As it is, I try to make him forget I'm a woman; I do everything as ship-shape as a masculine man-clerk. I see he can't find a fault - writing good, spelling correct, sums all right. And then he squints up at me with the tail of his eye, and looks glummer than ever, just because I'm a woman - as if I could help that. I have gone good lengths to set his mind at ease. I have stuck my pen behind my ear; I have made him a bow instead of a curtsey; I have whistled - not a tune, I can't pipe up that - nay, if you won't tell my lady, I don't mind telling you that I have said 'Confound it!' and 'Zounds!' I can't get any farther. For all that, Mr. Horner won't forget I am a lady; and so I am not half the use I might be, and, if it were not to please my Lady Ludlow, Mr. Horner and his books might go hang (see how natural that came out!). And there is an order for a dozen nightcaps for a bride, and I am so afraid I shan't have time to do them. Worst of all, there's Mr. Gray taking advantage of my absence to seduce Sally!"
"To seduce Sally! Mr. Gray!"
"Pooh, pooh, child! There's many a kind of seduction. Mr. Gray is seducing Sally to want to go to church. There has be been twice at my house, while I have been away in the mornings, talking to Sally about the state of her soul and that sort of thing. But when I found the meat all roasted to a cinder, I said, 'Come, Sally, let's have no more praying when beef is down at the fire. Pray at six o'clock in the morning and nine at night, and I won't hinder you.' So she sauced me, and said something about Martha and Mary, implying that, because she had let the beef get so overdone that I declare I could hardly find a bit for Nancy Pole's sick grandchild, she had chosen the better part. I was very much put about, I own, and perhaps you'll be shocked at what I said - indeed, I don't know if it was right myself - but I told her I had a soul as well as she, and, if it was to be saved by my sitting still and thinking about salvation and never doing my duty, I thought I had as good a right as she had to be Mary, and save my soul. So, that afternoon, I sat quite still, and it was really a comfort, for I am often too busy, I know, to pray as I ought. There is first one person wanting me, and then another, and the house and the food and the neighbours to see after. So, when tea-time comes, there enters my maid with her hump on her back, and her soul to be saved. 'Please, ma'am, did you order the pound of butter?' - 'No, Sally,' I said, shaking my head, 'this morning I did not go round by Hale's farm, and this afternoon I have been employed in spiritual things.'
"Now, our Sally likes tea and bread-and-butter above everything, and dry bread was not to her taste.
"'I'm thankful,' said the impudent hussy, 'that you have taken a turn towards godliness. It will be my prayers, I trust, that's given it you.'
"I was determined not to give her an opening towards the carnal subject of butter; so she lingered still, longing to ask leave to run for it. But I gave her none, and munched my dry bread myself, thinking what a famous cake I could make for little Ben Pole with the bit of butter we were saving; and, when Sally had had her butterless tea, and was in none of the best of tempers because Martha had not bethought herself of the butter, I just quietly said -
"'Now, Sally, to-morrow we'll try to hash that beef well, and to remember the butter, and to work out our salvation all at the same time, for I don't see why it can't all be done, as God has set us to do it all.' But I heard her at it again about Mary and Martha, and I have no doubt that Mr. Gray will teach her to consider me a lost sheep."
I had heard so many little speeches about Mr. Gray from one person or another, all speaking against him, as a mischief-maker, a setter-up of new doctrines and of a fanciful standard of life (and you may be sure that, where Lady Ludlow led, Mrs. Medlicott and Adams were certain to follow, each in their different way showing the influence my lady had over them), that I believe I had grown to consider him as a very instrument of evil, and to expect to perceive in his face marks of his presumption, and arrogance, and impertinent interference. It was now many weeks since I had seen him, and, when be was one morning shown into the blue drawing-room (into which I had been removed for a change), I was quite surprised to see how innocent and awkward a young man he appeared, confused even more than I was at our unexpected tête-à-tête. He looked thinner, his eyes more eager, his expression more anxious, and his colour came and went more than it had done when I had seen him last. I tried to make a little conversation, as I was, to my own surprise, more at my ease than he was; but his thoughts were evidently too much preoccupied for him to do more than answer me with monosyllables.
Presently my lady came in. Mr. Gray twitched and coloured more than ever; but plunged into the middle of his subject at once.
"My lady, I cannot answer it to my conscience, if I allow the children of this village to go on any longer the little heathens that they are. I must do something to alter their condition. I am quite aware that your ladyship disapproves of many of the plans which have suggested themselves to me; but nevertheless I must do something, and I am come now to your ladyship to ask respectfully, but firmly, what you would advise me to do."
His eyes were dilated, and I could almost have said they were full of tears with his eagerness. But I am sure it is a bad plan to remind people of decided opinions which they have once expressed, if you wish them to modify those opinions. Now, Mr. Gray had done this with my lady; and, though I do not mean to say she was obstinate, yet she was not one to retract.
She was silent for a moment or two before she replied.
"You ask me to suggest a remedy for an evil of the existence of which I am not conscious," was her answer - very coldly, very gently given. "In Mr. Mountford's time I heard no such complaints; whenever I see the village children (and they are not unfrequent visitors at this house, on one pretext or another), they are well and decently behaved."
"Oh, madam, you cannot judge," he broke in. "They are trained to respect you in word and deed; you are the highest they ever look up to; they have no notion of a higher."
"Nay, Mr. Gray," said my lady, smiling, "they are as loyally disposed as any children can be. They come up here every fourth of June, and drink his Majesty's health, and have buns, and (as Margaret Dawson can testify) they take a great and respectful interest in all the pictures I can show them of the royal family."
"But, madam, I think of something higher than any earthly dignities."
My lady culoured at the mistake she had made; for she herself was truly pious. Yet, when she resumed the subject, it seemed to me as if her tone was a little sharper than before.
"Such want of reverence is, I should say, the clergyman's fault. You must excuse me, Mr. Gray, if I speak plainly."
"My lady, I want plain-speaking. I myself am not accustomed to those ceremonies and forms which are, I suppose, the etiquette in your ladyship's rank of life, and which seem to hedge you in from any power of mine to touch you. Among those with whom I have passed my life hitherto, it has been the custom to speak plainly out what we have felt earnestly. So, instead of needing any apology from your ladyship for straightforward speaking, I will meet what you say at once, and admit that it is the clergyman's fault, in a great measure, when the children of his parish swear, and curse, and are brutal, and ignorant of all saving grace; nay, some of them of the very name of God. And because this guilt of mine, as the clergyman of this parish, lies heavy on my soul, and every day leads but from bad to worse, till I am utterly bewildered how to do good to children who escape from me as if I were a monster, and who are growing up to be men fit for and capable of any crime, but one requiring wit or sense, I come to you, who seem to me all-powerful as far as material power goes - for your ladyship only knows the surface of things, and barely that, that pass in your village - to help me with advice, and such outward help as you can give."
Mr. Gray had stood up and sat down once or twice while he had been speaking, in an agitated, nervous kind of way; and now he was interrupted by a violent fit of coughing, after which he trembled all over.
My lady rang for a glass of water, and looked much distressed.
"Mr. Gray," said she, "I am sure you are not well; and that makes you exaggerate childish faults into positive evils. It is always the case with us when we are not strong in health. I hear of your exerting yourself in every direction: you overwork yourself, and the consequence is, that you imagine us all worse people than we are."
And my lady smiled very kindly and pleasantly at him, as he sat, a little panting, a little flushed, trying to recover his breath. I am sure that, now they were brought face to face, she had quite forgotten all the offence she had taken at his doings when she heard of them from others; and, indeed, it was enough to soften any one's heart to see that young, almost boyish face, looking in such anxiety and distress.
"Oh, my lady, what shall I do?" he asked, as soon as he could recover breath, and with such an air of humility that I am sure no one who had seen it could have ever thought him conceited again. "The evil of this world is too strong for me. I can do so little. It is all in vain. It was only to-day" -- and again the cough and agitation returned.
"My dear Mr. Gray," said my lady (the day before, I could never have believed she could have called him "my dear"), "you must take the advice of an old woman about yourself. You are not fit to do anything just now but attend to your own health: rest, and see a doctor (but, indeed, I will take care of that); and, when you are pretty strong again, you will find that you have been magnifying evils to yourself."
"But, my lady, I cannot rest. The evils do exist, and the burden of their continuance lies on my shoulders. I have no place to gather the children together in, that I may teach them the things necessary to salvation. The rooms in my own house are too small; but I have tried them. I have money of my own; and, as your ladyship knows, I tried to get a piece of leasehold property on which to build a schoolhouse at my own expense. Your ladyship's lawyer comes forward, at your instructions, to enforce some old feudal right, by which no building is allowed on leasehold property without the sanction of the lady of the manor. It may be all very true; but it was a cruel thing to do - that is, if your ladyship had known (which I am sure you do not) the real moral and spiritual state of my poor parishioners. And now I come to you to know what I am to do. Rest! I cannot rest, while children whom I could possibly save are being left in their ignorance, their blasphemy, their uncleanness their cruelty. It is known through the village that your ladyship disapproves of my efforts, and opposes all my plans. If you think them wrong, foolish, ill-digested (I have been a student, living in a college, and eschewing all society but that of pious men, until now: I may not judge for the best, in my ignorance of this sinful human nature), tell me of better plans and wiser projects for accomplishing my end; but do not bid me rest, with Satan compassing me round, and stealing souls away."
"Mr. Gray," said my lady, "there may be some truth in what you have said. I do not deny it, though I think, in your present state of indisposition and excitement, you exaggerate it much. I believe - nay, the experience of a pretty long life has convinced me - that education is a bad thing, if given indiscriminately. It unfits the lower orders for their duties, the duties to which they are called by God; of submission to those placed in authority over them; of contentment with that state of life to which it has pleased God to call them, and of ordering themselves lowly and reverently to all their betters. I have made this conviction of mine tolerably evident to you, and have expressed distinctly my disapprobation of some of your ideas. You may imagine, then, that I was not well pleased when I found that you had taken a rood or more of Farmer Hale's land, and were laying the foundations of a school-house. You had done this without asking for my permission, which, as Farmer Hale's liege lady, ought to have been obtained legally, as well as asked for out of courtesy. I put a stop to what I believed to be calculated to do harm to a village, to a population, in which, to say the least of it, I may be disposed to take as much interest as you can do. How can reading, and writing, and the multiplication-table (if you choose to go so far), prevent blasphemy, and uncleanness, and cruelty? Really, Mr. Gray, I hardly like to express myself so strongly on the subject in your present state of health, as I should do at any other time. It seems to me that books do little; character much; and character is not formed from books."
"I do not think of character: I think of souls. I must get some hold upon these children, or what will become of them in the next world? I must be found to have some power beyond what they have, and which they are rendered capable of appreciating, before they will listen to me. At present physical force is all they look up to; and I have none."
"Nay, Mr. Gray, by your own admission, they look up to me."
"They would not do anything your ladyship disliked if it was likely to come to your knowledge; but, if they could conceal it from you, the knowledge of your dislike to a particular line of conduct would never make them cease from pursuing it."
"Mr. Gray" - surprise in her air, and some little indignation - "they and their fathers have lived on the Hanbury lands for generations!"
"I cannot help it, madam. I am telling you the truth, whether you believe me or not." There was a pause; my lady looked perplexed, and somewhat ruffled; Mr. Gray as though hopeless and wearied out. "Then, my lady," said he at last, rising as he spoke, "you can suggest nothing to ameliorate the state of things which, I do assure you, does exist on your lands, and among your tenants. Surely, you will not object to my using Farmer Hale's great barn every Sabbath? He will allow me the use of it, if your ladyship will grant your permission."
"You are not fit for any extra work at present" (and indeed he had been coughing very much all through the conversation). "Give me time to consider of it. Tell me what you wish to teach. You will be able to take care of your health, and grow stronger while I consider. It shall not be the worse for you, if you leave it in my hands for a time."
My lady spoke very kindly; but he was in too excited a state to recognise the kindness, while the idea of delay was evidently a sorry irritation. I heard him say: "And I have so little time in which to do my work. Lord! lay not this sin to my charge!"
But my lady was speaking to the old butler, for whom, at her sign, I had rung the bell some little time before. Now she turned round.
"Mr. Gray, I find I have some bottles of Malmsey, of the vintage of seventeen hundred and seventy-eight, yet left. as perhaps you know, used to be considered a specific for coughs arising from weakness. You must permit me to send you half-a-dozen bottles, and, depend upon it, you will take a more cheerful view of life and its duties before you have finished them, especially if you will be so kind as to see Dr. Trevor, who is coming to see me in the course of the week. By the time you are strong enough to work, I will try and find some means of preventing the children from using such bad language, and otherwise annoying you."
"My lady, it is the sin, and not the annoyance. I wish I could make you understand!" He spoke with some impatience. Poor fellow! he was too weak, exhausted, and nervous. "I am perfectly well; I can set to work to-morrow; I will do anything not to be oppressed with the thought of how little I am doing. I do not want your wine. Liberty to act in the manner I think right, will do me far more good. But it is of no use. It is pre-ordained that I am to be nothing but a cumberer of the ground. I beg your ladyship's pardon for this call."
He stood up, and then turned dizzy. My lady looked on, deeply hurt, and not a little offended. He held out his hand to her, and I could see that she had a little hesitation before she took it. He then saw me, I almost think, for the first time; and put out his hand once more, drew it back, as if undecided, put it out again, and finally took hold of mine for an instant in his damp, listless hand, and was gone.
Lady Ludlow was dissatisfied with both him and herself, I was sure. Indeed, I was dissatisfied with the result of the interview myself. But my lady was not one to speak out her feelings on the subject; nor was I one to forget myself, and begin on a topic which she did not begin. She came to me, and was very tender with me; so tender, that that, and the thoughts of Mr. Gray's sick, hopeless, disappointed look, nearly made me cry.
"You are tired, little one," said my lady. "Go and lie down in my room, and hear what Medlicott and I can decide upon in the way of strengthening dainties for that poor young man, who is killing himself with his over-sensitive conscientiousness."
"Oh, my lady!" said I, and then I stopped.
"Well. What?" asked she.
"If you would but let him have Farmer Hale's barn at once, it would do him more good than all."
"Pooh, pooh, child!" though I don't think she was displeased, "he is not fit for more work just now. I shall go and write for Dr. Trevor."
And, for the next half-hour, we did nothing but arrange physical comforts and cures for poor Mr. Gray. At the end of the time, Mrs. Medlicott said -
"Has your ladyship heard that Harry Gregson has fallen from a tree, and broken his thigh-bone, and is like to be a cripple for life?"
"Harry Gregson! That black-eyed lad who read my letter? It all comes from over-education!'
But I don't see how my lady could think it was over-education that made Harry Gregson break his thigh, for the manner in which he met with the accident was this -
Mr. Horner, who had fallen sadly out of health since his wife's death, had attached himself greatly to Harry Gregson. Now, Mr. Horner had a cold manner to every one, and never spoke more than was necessary, at the best of times. And, latterly, it had not been the best of times with him. I dare say, he had had some causes for anxiety (of which I knew nothing) about my lady's affairs; and he was evidently annoyed by my lady's whim (as he once inadvertently called it) of placing Miss Galindo under him in the position of a clerk. Yet he had always been friends, in his quiet way, with Miss Galindo, and she devoted herself to her new occupation with diligence and punctuality, although more than once she had moaned to me over the orders for needlework which had been sent to her, and which, owing to her occupation in the service of Lady Ludlow, she had been unable to fulfil.
The only living creature to whom the staid Mr. Horner could be said to be attached, was Harry Gregson. To my lady he was a faithful and devoted servant, looking keenly after her interests, and anxious to forward them at any cost of trouble to himself. But the more shrewd Mr. Horner was, the more probability was there of his being annoyed at certain peculiarities of opinion which my lady held with a quiet, gentle pertinacity; against which no arguments, based on mere worldly and business calculations, made any way. This frequent opposition to views which Mr. Horner entertained, although it did not interfere with the sincere respect which the lady and the steward felt for each other, yet prevented any warmer feeling of affection from coming in. It seems strange to say it, but I must repeat it - the only person for whom, since his wife's death, Mr. Horner seemed to feel any love, was the little imp Harry Gregson, with his bright, watchful eyes, his tangled hair hanging right down to his eyebrows, for all the world like a Skye terrier. This lad, half gipsy and whole poacher, as many people esteemed him, hung about the silent, respectable, staid Mr. Horner, and followed his steps with something of the affectionate fidelity of the dog which he resembled. I suspect, this demonstration of attachment to his person on Harry Gregson's part was what won Mr. Horner's regard. In the first instance, the steward had only chosen the lad out as the cleverest instrument he could find for his purpose; and I don't mean to say that, if Harry had not been almost as shrewd as Mr. Horner himself was, both by original disposition and subsequent experience, the steward would have taken to him as he did, let the lad have shown ever so much affection for him.
But even to Harry Mr. Horner was silent. Still, it was pleasant to find himself in many ways so readily understood; to perceive that the crumbs of knowledge he let fall were picked up by his little follower, and hoarded like gold; that here was one to hate the persons and things whom Mr. Horner coldly disliked, and to reverence and admire all those for whom he had any regard. Mr. Horner had never had a child, and unconsciously, I suppose, something of the paternal feeling had begun to develop itself in him toward Harry Gregson. I heard one or two things from different people, which have always made me fancy that Mr. Horner secretly and almost unconsciously hoped that Harry Gregson might be trained so as to be first his clerk, and next his assistant, and finally his successor in his stewardship to the Hanbury estates.
Harry's disgrace with my lady, in consequence of his reading the letter, was a deeper blow to Mr. Horner than his quiet manner would ever have led any one to suppose, or than Lady Ludlow ever dreamed of inflicting, I am sure.
Probably Harry had a short, stern rebuke from Mr. Horner at the time, for his manner was always hard even to those he cared for the most. But Harry's love was not to be daunted or quelled by a few sharp words. I dare say, from what I beard of them afterwards, that Harry accompanied Mr. Horner in his walk over the farm the very day of the rebuke; his presence apparently unnoticed by the agent, by whom his absence would have been painfully felt nevertheless. That was the way of it, as I have been told. Mr. Horner never bade Harry go with him; never thanked him for going, or being at his heels ready to run on any errands, straight as the crow flies to his point, and back to heel in as short a time as possible. Yet, if Harry were away, Mr. Horner never inquired the reason from any of the men who might be supposed to know whether he was detained by his father, or otherwise engaged; be never asked Harry himself where he had been. But Miss Galindo said that those labourers who knew Mr. Horner well told her that he was always more quick-eyed to shortcomings, more savage-like in fault-finding, on those days when the lad was absent.
Miss Galindo, indeed, was my great authority for most of the village news which I heard. She it was who gave me the particulars of poor Harry's accident.
"You see, my dear," she said, "the little poacher has taken some unaccountable fancy to my master." (This was the name by which Miss Galindo always spoke of Mr. Horner to me, ever since she had been, as she called it, appointed his clerk.)
"Now, if I had twenty hearts to lose, I never could spare a bit of one of them for that good, grey, square, severe man. But different people have different tastes, and here is that little imp of a gipsy-tinker ready to turn slave for my master; and, odd enough, my master - who, I should have said beforehand, would have made short work of imp, and imp's family, and have sent Hall, the Bang-beggar, after them in no time - my master, as they tell me, is in his way quite fond of the lad, and, if he could, without vexing my lady too much, he would have made him what the folks here call a Latiner. However, last night, it seems that there was a letter of some importance forgotten (I can't tell you what it was about, my dear, though I know perfectly well, but 'service oblige' as well as 'noblesse,' and you must take my word for it that it was important, and one that I am surprised my master could forget), till too late for the post. (The poor, good, orderly man is not what he was before his wife's death.) Well, it seems that he was sore annoyed by his forgetfulness, and well he might be. And it was all the more vexatious, as he had no one to blame but himself. As for that matter, I always scold somebody else when I'm in fault; but I suppose my master would never think of doing that, else it's a mighty relief. However, he could eat no tea, and was altogether put out and gloomy. And the little faithful imp-lad, perceiving all this, I suppose, got up like a page in an old ballad, and said he would run for his life across country to Comberford, and see if he could not get there before the bags were made up. So my master gave him the letter, and nothing more was heard of the poor fellow till this morning, for the father thought his son was sleeping in Mr. Horner's barn, as he does occasionally, it seems, and my master, as was very natural, that he had gone to his father's."
"And he had fallen down the old stone quarry, had he not?"
"Yes, sure enough. Mr. Gray had been up here fretting my lady with some of his new-fangled schemes; and, because the young man could not have it all his own way, from what I understand, he was put out, and thought he would go home by the back lane, instead of through the village, where the folks would notice if the parson looked glum. But, however, it was a mercy, and I don't mind saying so, ay, and meaning it too, though it may be like Methodism; for, as Mr. Gray walked by the quarry, he heard a groan; and at first he thought it was a lamb fallen down; and he stood still, and he heard it again; and then, I suppose, he looked down and saw Harry. So he let himself down by the boughs of the trees to the ledge where Harry lay half-dead, and with his poor thigh broken. There he had lain ever since the night before: he had been returning to tell the master that he had safely posted the letter, and the first words he said, when they recovered him from the exhausted state he was in, were', (Miss Galindo tried hard not to whimper, as she said it), "'It was in time, sir. I see'd it put in the bag with my own eyes.'"
"But where is he?" asked I. "How did Mr. Gray get him out?"
"Ay! there it is, you see. Why, the old gentleman (I daren't say Devil in Lady Ludlow's house) is not so black as he is painted; and Mr. Gray must have a deal of good in him, as I say at times; and then at others, when he has gone against me, I can't bear him, and think hanging too good for him. But he lifted the poor lad, as if he had been a baby, I suppose, and carried him up the great ledges that were formerly used for steps; and laid him soft and easy on the wayside grass, and ran home and got help and a door, and had him carried to his house, and laid on his bed; and then somehow, for the first time either he or any one else perceived it, he himself was all over blood - his own blood - he had broken a blood-vessel; and there he lies in the little dressing-room, as white and as still as if he were dead; and the little imp in Mr. Gray's own bed, sound asleep, now his leg is set, just as if linen sheets and a feather bed were his native element, as one may say. Really, now he is doing so well, I've no patience with him, lying there where Mr. Gray ought to he. It is just what my lady always prophesied would come to pass, if there was any confusion of ranks."
"Poor Mr. Gray!" said I, thinking of his flushed face, and his feverish, restless ways, when he had been calling on my lady not an hour before his exertions on Harry's behalf. And I told Miss Galindo how ill I had thought him.
"Yes," said she. "And that was the reason my lady had sent for Doctor Trevor. Well, it has fallen out admirably, for he looked well after that old donkey of a Prince, and saw that he made no blunders."
Now "that old donkey of a Prince" meant the village surgeon, Mr. Prince, between whom and Miss Galindo there was war to the knife, as they often met in the cottages, when there was illness, and she had her queer, odd recipes, which he, with his grand pharmacopoeia, held in infinite contempt; and the consequence of their squabbling had been, not long before this very time, that he had established a kind of rule, that into whatever sick-room Miss Galindo was admitted, there he refused to visit. But Miss Galindo's prescriptions and visits cost nothing, and were often hacked by kitchen-physic; so, though it was true that she never came but she scolded about something or other, she was generally preferred as medical attendant to Mr. Prince.
"Yes, the old donkey is obliged to tolerate me, and ho civil to me; for, you see, I got there first, and bad possession, as it were, and yet my lord the donkey likes the credit of attending the parson, and being in consultation with so grand a county-town doctor as Doctor Trevor. And Doctor Trevor is an old friend of mine "(she sighed a little, some time I may tell you why), "and treats me with infinite bowing and respect; so the donkey, not to be out of medical fashion, bows too, though it is sadly against the grain; and he pulled a face as if he had heard a slate-pencil gritting against a slate, when I told Doctor Trevor I meant to sit up with the two lads; for I call Mr. Gray little more than a lad, and a pretty conceited one, too, at times."
"But why should you sit up, Miss Galindo? It will tire you sadly."
"Not it. You see, there is Gregson's mother to keep quiet: for she sits by her lad, fretting and sobbing, so that I'm afraid of her disturbing Mr. Gray; and there's Mr. Gray to keep quiet, for Doctor Trevor says his life depends on it; and there is medicine to be given to the one, and bandages to be attended to for the other; and the wild horde of gipsy brothers and sisters to be turned out, and the father to be, held in from showing too much gratitude to Mr. Gray, who can't bear it - and who is to do it all but me? The only servant is old lame Betty, who once lived with me, and would leave me because she said I was always bothering - (there was a good deal of truth in what she said, I grant, but she need not have said it; a good deal of truth is best let alone at the bottom of the well), and what can she do - deaf as ever she can be, too?"
So Miss Galindo went her ways; but not the less was she at her post in the morning; a little crosser and more silent than usual; but the first was not to be wondered at, and the last was rather a blessing.
Lady Ludlow had been extremely anxious both about Mr. Gray and Harry Gregson. Kind and thoughtful in any case of illness and accident she always was; but somehow, in this, the feeling that she was not quite - what shall I call it? - "friends" seems hardly the right word to use, as to the possible feeling between the Countess Ludlow and the little vagabond messenger, who had only once been in her presence - that she had hardly parted from either as she could have wished to do, had death been near, made her more than usually anxious. Doctor Trevor was not to spare obtaining the best medical advice the county could afford; whatever he ordered in the way of diet, was to be prepared under Mrs. Medlicott's own eye, and sent down from the Hall to the Parsonage. As Mr. Horner had given somewhat similar directions, in the case of Harry Gregson at least, there was rather a multiplicity of counsellors and dainties than any lack of them. And, the second night, Mr. Horner insisted on taking the superintendence of the nursing himself, and sat and snored by Harry's bedside, while the poor, exhausted mother lay by her child - thinking that she watched him, but in reality fast asleep, as Miss Galindo told us; for, distrusting any one's powers of watching and nursing but her own, she had stolen across the quiet village street in cloak and dressing-gown, and found Mr. Gray in vain trying to reach the cup of barley-water which Mr. Horner had placed just beyond his reach.
In consequence of Mr. Gray's illness, we had to have a strange curate to do duty: a man who dropped his h's, and hurried through the service, and yet had time enough to stand in my lady's way, bowing to her as she came out of church, and so subservient in manner that I believe that, sooner than remain unnoticed by a countess, he would have preferred being scolded, or even cuffed. Now I found out that, great as was my lady's liking and approval of respect, nay, even reverence, being paid to her as a person of quality - a sort of tribute to her Order, which she had no individual right to remit, or, indeed, not to exact - yet she, being personally simple, sincere, and holding herself in low esteem, could not endure anything like the servility of Mr. Crosse, the temporary curate. She grew absolutely to loathe his perpetual smiling and bowing; his instant agreement with the slightest opinion she uttered; his veering round as she blew the wind. I have often said that my lady did not talk much, as she might have done had she lived among her equals. But we all loved her so much that we had learnt to interpret all her little ways pretty truly; and I knew what particular turns of her head, and contractions of her delicate fingers meant, as well as if she had expressed herself in words. I began to suspect that my lady would be very thankful to have Mr. Gray about again, and doing his duty even with a conscientiousness that might amount to worrying himself and fidgeting others; and, although Mr. Gray might hold her opinions in as little esteem as those of any simple gentlewoman, she was too sensible not to feel how much flavour there was in his conversation, compared to that of Mr. Crease, who was only her tasteless echo.
As for Miss Galindo, she was utterly and entirely a partisan of Mr. Gray's, almost ever since she had begun to nurse him during his illness.
"You know, I never set up for reasonableness, my lady. So I don't pretend to say, as I might do if I were a sensible woman and all that - that I am convinced by Mr. Gray's arguments of this thing or t'other. For one thing, you see, poor fellow! he has never been able to argue, or hardly indeed to speak, for Doctor Trevor has been very peremptory. So there's been no scope for arguing! But what I mean is this: When I see a sick man thinking always of others, and never of himself; patient, humble - a trifle too much at times, for I've caught him praying to be forgiven for having neglected his work as a parish priest" (Miss Galindo was making horrible faces, to keep back tears, squeezing up her eyes in a way which would have amused me at any other time but when she was speaking of Mr. Gray); "when I see a downright good, religious man, I'm apt to think he's got hold of the right clue, and that I can do no better than hold on by the tails of his coat and shut my eyes, if we've got to go over doubtful places on our road to heaven. So, my lady, you must excuse me, if, when he gets about again, he is all agog about a Sunday-school; for, if he is, I shall be agog too, and perhaps twice as bad as him; for, you see, I've a strong constitution compared to his, and strong ways of speaking and acting. And I tell your ladyship this now, because I think from your rank - and still more, if I may say so, for all your kindness to me long ago, down to this very day - you've a right to be first told of anything about me. Change of opinion I can't exactly call it, for I don't see the good of schools and teaching A B C, any more than I did before, only Mr. Gray does, so I'm to shut my eyes, and leap over the ditch to the side of education. I've told Sally already, that if she does not mind her work, but stands gossiping with Nelly Mather, I'll teach her her lessons; and I've never caught her with old Nelly since."
I think Miss Galindo's desertion to Mr. Gray's opinions in this matter hurt my lady just a little bit; but she only said -
"Of course, if the parishioners wish for it, Mr. Gray must have his Sunday-school. I shall, in that case, withdraw my opposition. I am sorry I cannot alter my opinions as easily as you."
My lady made herself smile as she said this. Miss Galindo saw it was an effort to do so. She thought a minute before she spoke again.
"Your ladyship has not seen Mr. Gray as intimately as I have done. That's one thing. But, as for the parishioners, they will follow your ladyship's lead in everything; so there is no chance of their wishing for a Sunday-school."
"I have never done anything to make them follow my lead, as you call it, Miss Galindo," said my lady gravely.
"Yes, you have," replied Miss Galindo bluntly. And then, correcting herself, she said, "Begging your ladyship's pardon, you have. Your ancestors have lived here time out of mind, and have owned the land on which their forefathers have lived ever since there were forefathers. You yourself were born amongst them, and have been like a little queen to them ever since, I might say, and they've never known your ladyship do anything but what was kind and gentle; but I'll leave fine speeches about your ladyship to Mr. Crosse. Only you, my lady, lead the thoughts of the parish, and save some of them a world of trouble; for they could never tell what was right if they had to think for themselves. It's all quite right that they should be guided by you, my lady - if only you would agree with Mr. Gray."
"Well," said my lady, "I told him only the last day that he was here, that I would think about it. I do believe I could make up my mind on certain subjects better if I were left alone, than while being constantly talked to about them."
My lady said this in her usual soft tones, but the words had a tinge of impatience about them; indeed, she was more ruffled than I had often seen her; but, checking herself in an instant, she said -
"You don't know how Mr. Horner drags in this subject of education à-propos of everything. Not that he says much about it at any time; it is not his way. But he cannot let the thing alone."
"I know why, my lady," said Miss Galindo. "That poor lad, Harry Gregson, will never be able to earn his livelihood in any active way, but will be lame for life. Now, Mr. Horner thinks more of Harry than of any one else in the world - except, perhaps, your ladyship." Was it not o pretty companionship for my lady? "And he has schemes of his own for teaching Harry; and, if Mr. Gray could but have his school, Mr. Horner and he think Harry might be schoolmaster, as your ladyship would netlike to have him coming to you as steward's clerk. I wish your ladyship would fall into this plan; Mr. Gray has it so at heart."
Miss Galindo looked wistfully at my lady, as she said this. But my lady only said drily, and rising at the same time, as if to end the conversation -
"So! Mr. Horner and Mr. Gray seem to have gone a long way in advance of my consent to their plans."
"There!" exclaimed Miss Galindo, as my lady left the room, with an apology for going away; "I have gone and done mischief with my long, stupid tongue. To be sure, people plan a long way ahead of to-day; more especially when one is a sick man, lying all through the weary day on a sofa."
"My lady will soon get over her annoyance," said I, as it were apologetically. I only stopped Miss Galindo's self-reproaches to draw down her wrath upon myself.
"And has not she a right to be annoyed with me if she likes, and to keep annoyed as long as she likes? Am I complaining of her, that you need tell me that? Let me tell you, I have known my lady these thirty years; and if she were to take me by the shoulders, and turn me out of the house, I should only love her the more. So don't you think to come between us with any little mincing, peacemaking speeches. I have been a mischief-making parrot, and I like her the better for being vexed with me. So good-bye to you, Miss; and wait till you know Lady Ludlow as well as I do, before you next think of telling me she will soon get over her annoyance!" And off Miss Galindo went.
I could not exactly tell what I had done wrong; but I took care never again to come in between my lady and her by any remark about the one to the other; for I saw that some most powerful bond of grateful affection made Miss Galindo almost worship my lady.
Meanwhile Harry Gregson was limping a little about in the village, still finding his home in Mr. Gray's house; for there he could most conveniently be kept under the doctor's eye, and receive the requisite care, and enjoy the requisite nourishment. As soon as he was a little better, he was to go to Mr. Horner's house; but, as the steward lived some distance out of the way, and was much from home, he had agreed to leave Harry at the house to which he had first been taken, until he was quite strong again; and the more willingly, I suspect, from what I heard afterwards, because Mr. Gray gave up all the little strength of speaking which he had, to teaching Harry in the very manner which Mr. Horner most desired.
As for Gregson the father, he - wild man of the woods, poacher, tinker, jack-of-all-trades - was getting tamed by this kindness to his child. Hitherto his hand had been against every man, as every man's had been against him. That affair before the justice, which I told you about, when Mr. Gray and even my lady had interested themselves to get him released from unjust imprisonment, was the first bit of justice he had ever met with: it attracted him to the people, and attached him to the spot on which he had but squatted for a time. I am not sure if any of the villagers were grateful to him for remaining in their neighbourhood, instead of decamping as he had often done before, for good reasons, doubtless, of personal safety. Harry was only one out of a brood of ten or twelve children, some of whom had earned for themselves no good character in service: one, indeed, had been actually transported, for a robbery committed in a distant part of the county; and the tale was yet told in the village of how Gregson the father came back from the trial in a state of wild rage, striding through the place, and uttering oaths of vengeance to himself, his great black eyes gleaming out of his matted hair, and his arms working by his side, and now and then tossed up in his impotent despair. As I heard the account, his wife followed him, child-laden and weeping. After this, they had vanished from the country for a time, leaving their mud hovel locked up, and the door-key, as the neighbours said, buried in a hedge-bank. The Gregsons had re-appeared much about the same time that Mr. Gray came to Hanbury. He had either never heard of their evil character, or considered that it gave them all the more claims upon his Christian care; and the end of it was, that this rough, untamed, strong giant of a heathen was loyal slave to the weak, hectic, nervous, self-distrustful parson. Gregson had also a kind of grumbling respect for Mr. Horner: he did not quite like the steward's monopoly of his Harry; the mother submitted to that with a better grace, swallowing down her maternal jealousy in the prospect of her child's advancement to a better and more respectable position than that in which his parents had struggled through life. But Mr. Horner, the steward, and Gregson, the poacher and squatter, had come into disagreeable contact too often in former days for them to be perfectly cordial at any future time. Even now, when there was no immediate cause for anything but gratitude for his child's sake on Gregson's part, he would skulk out of Mr. Horner's way, if he saw him coming; and it took all Mr. Horner's natural reserve and acquired self-restraint to keep him from occasionally holding up his father's life as a warning to Harry. Now, Gregson had nothing of this desire for avoidance with regard to Mr. Cray. The poacher had a feeling of physical protection towards the parson; while the latter had shown the moral courage, without which Gregson would never have respected him, in coming right down upon him more than once in the exercise of unlawful pursuits, and simply and boldly telling him he was doing wrong, with such a quiet reliance upon Gregson's better feeling, at the same time, that the strong poacher could not have lifted a finger against Mr. Gray, though it had been to save himself from being apprehended and taken to the lockups the very next hour. He had rather listened to the parson's bold words with an approving smile, much as Mr. Gulliver might have hearkened to a lecture from a Lilliputian. But when brave words passed into kind deeds, Gregson's heart mutely acknowledged its master and keeper. And the beauty of it all was, that Mr. Gray knew nothing of the good work be had done, or recognised himself as the instrument which God had employed. He thanked God, it is true, fervently and often, that the work was done, and loved the wild man for his rough gratitude; but it never occurred to the poor young clergyman, lying on his sickbed, and praying, as Miss Galindo had told us he did, to be forgiven for his unprofitable life, to think of Gregson's reclaimed soul as anything with which he had had to do. It was now more than three months since Mr. Gray had been at Hanbury Court. During all that time he had been confined to his house, if not to his sick-bed, and he and my lady had never met since their last discussion and difference about Farmer Hale's barn.
This was not my dear lady's fault; no one could have been more attentive in every way to the slightest possible want of either of the invalids, especially of Mr. Gray. And she would have gone to see him at his own house, as she sent him word, but that her foot had slipped upon the polished oak staircase, and her ankle had been sprained.
So we had never seen Mr. Gray since his illness, when one November day he was announced as wishing to speak to my lady. She was sitting in her room - the room in which I lay now pretty constantly - and I remember she looked startled, when word was brought to her of Mr. Gray's being at the Hall.
She could not go to him, she was too lame for that, so she bade him be shown into where she sat.
fog which had crept up to the windows, and was sapping the little remaining life in the brilliant Virginian creeper leaves that draperied the house on the terrace side.
He came in white, trembling, his large eyes wild and dilated. He hastened up to Lady Ludlow's chair, and, to my surprise, took one of her hands and kissed it, without speaking, yet shaking all over.
"Mr. Gray!" said she quickly, with sharp, tremulous apprehension of some unknown evil. "What is it? There is something unusual about you."
"Something unusual has occurred," replied he, forcing his words to be calm, as with a great effort. "A gentleman came to my house, not half-an-hour ago - a Mr. Howard. He came straight from Vienna."
"My son!" said my dear lady, stretching out her arms in dumb questioning attitude.
"The Lord gave and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."
But my poor lady could not echo the words. He was the last remaining child. And once she had been the joyful mother of nine.
I am ashamed to say what feeling became strongest in my mind about this time; next to the sympathy we all of us felt for my dear lady in her deep sorrow, I mean; for that was greater and stronger than anything else, however contradictory you may think it, when you hear all.
It might arise from my being so far from well at the time, which produced a diseased mind in a diseased body; but I was absolutely jealous for my father's memory, when I saw how many signs of grief there were for my lord's death, he having done next to nothing for the village and parish, which now changed, as it were, its daily course of life, because his lordship died in a far-off city. My father had spent the best years of his manhood in labouring hard, body and soul, for the people amongst whom he lived. His family, of course, claimed the first place m his heart; he would have been good for little, even in the way of benevolence, if they had not. But close after them he cared for his parishioners, and neighbours. And yet, when he died, though the church-bells tolled, and smote upon our hearts with hard, fresh pain at every beat, the sounds of every-day life still went on, close pressing around us - carts and carriages, street-cries, distant barrel-organs (the kindly neighbours kept them out of our street) life, active, noisy life, pressed on our acute consciousness of Death, and jarred upon it as on a quick nerve.
And when we went to church - my father's own church - though the pulpit cushions were black, and many of the congregation had put on some humble sign of mourning, yet it did not alter the whole material aspect of the place. And yet what was Lord Ludlow's relation to Hanbury, compared to my father's work and place in --?
Oh! it was very wicked in me! I think if I had seen my lady - if I had dared to ask to go to her, I should not have felt so miserable, so discontented. But she sat in her own room, hung with black, all, even over the shutters. She saw no light but that which was artificial - candles, lamps, and the like - for more than a month. Only Adams went near her. Mr. Gray was not admitted, though he called daily. Even Mrs. Medlicott did not see her for near a fortnight. The sight of my lady's griefs, or rather the recollection of it, made Mrs. Medlicott talk far more than was her wont. She told us, with many tears, and much gesticulation, even speaking German at times, when her English would not flow, that my lady sat there, a white figure in the middle of a darkened room; a shaded lamp near her, the light of which fell on an open Bible - the great family Bible. It was not open at any chapter or consoling verse, but at the page whereon were registered the births of her nine children. Five had died in infancy - sacrificed to the cruel system which forbade the mother to suckle her babies. Four had lived longer; Urian had been the first to die, Ughtred Mortimer, Earl Ludlow, the last.
My lady did not cry, Mrs. Medlicott said. She was quite composed; very still, very silent. She put aside everything that savoured of mere business: sent people to Mr. Horner for that. But she was proudly alive to every possible form which might do honour to the last of her race.
In those days, expresses were slow things, and forms still slower. Before my lady's directions could reach Vienna, my lord was buried. There was some talk (so Mrs. Medlicott said) about taking the body up, and bringing him to Hanbury. But his executors - connections on the Ludlow side - demurred to this. If he were removed to England, he must he carried on to Scotland, and interred with his Monkshaven forefathers. My lady, deeply hurt, withdrew from the discussion, before it degenerated to an unseemly contest. But all the more, for this understood mortification of my lady's, did the whole village and estate of Hanbury assume every outward sign of mourning. The church bells tolled morning and evening. The church itself was draped in black inside. Hatchments were placed everywhere, where hatchments could be put. All the tenantry spoke in hushed voices for more than a week, scarcely daring to observe that all flesh, even that of an Earl Ludlow, and the last of the Hanburys, was but grass after all. The very Fighting Lion closed its front door - front shutters it had none - and those who needed drink stole in at the back, and were silent and maudlin over their cups, instead of riotous and noisy. Miss Galindo's eyes were swollen up with crying, and she told me, with a fresh burst of tears, that even hump-backed Sally had been found sobbing over her Bible, and using a pocket-handkerchief for the first time in her life; her aprons having hitherto stood her in the necessary stead, but not being sufficiently in accordance with etiquette to be used when mourning over an earl's premature decease.
If it was this way out of the Hall, "you might work it by the rule of three," as Miss Galindo used to say, and judge what it was in the Hall. We none of us spoke but in a whisper: we tried not to eat; and indeed the shock had been so really great, and we did really care so much for my lady, that for some days we had but little appetite. But after that, I fear our sympathy grew weaker, while our flesh grew stronger. But we still spoke low, and our hearts ached whenever we thought of my lady sitting there alone in the darkened room, with the light ever falling on that one solemn page.
We wished, oh, how I wished that she would see Mr. Gray! But Adams said, she thought my lady ought to have a bishop come to see her. Still no one had authority enough to send for one.
Mr. Horner all this time was suffering as much as any one. He was too faithful a servant of the great Hanbury family, though now the family had dwindled down to a fragile old lady, not to mourn acutely over its probable extinction. He had, besides, a deeper sympathy and reverence with, and for, my lady, in all things than probably he ever cared to show, for his manners were always measured and cold. He suffered from sorrow. He also suffered from wrong. My lord's executors kept writing to him continually. My lady refused to listen to mere business, saying she intrusted all to him. But the "all" was more complicated than I ever thoroughly understood. As far as I comprehended the case, it was something of this kind: - There had been a mortgage raised on my lady's property of Hanbury, to enable my lord, her husband, to spend money in cultivating his Scotch estates, after some new fashion that required capital. As long as my lord, her son, lived, who was to succeed to both the estates after her death, this did not signify; so she had said and felt; and she had refused to take any steps to secure the repayment of capital, or even the payment of the interest of the mortgage, from the possible representatives and possessors of the Scotch estates, to the possible owner of the Hanbury property; saying it ill became her to calculate on the contingency of her son's death.
But he had died childless, unmarried. The heir of the Monkshaven property was an Edinburgh advocate, a faraway kinsman of my lord's: the Hanbury property, at my lady's death, would go to the descendants of a third son of the Squire Hanbury in the days of Queen Anne.
This complication of affairs was most grievous to Mr. Horner. He had always been opposed to the mortgage; had hated the payment of the interest, as obliging my lady to practise certain economies which, though she took care to make them as personal as possible, he disliked as derogatory to the family. Poor Mr. Horner! He was so cold and hard in his manner, so curt and decisive in his speech, that I don't think we any of us did him justice. Miss Galindo was almost the first, at this time, to speak a kind word of him, or to take thought of him at all, any farther than to get out of his way when we saw him approaching.
"I don't think Mr. Horner is well," she said one day, about three weeks after we had heard of my lord's death. He sits resting his head on his hand, and hardly hears me when I speak to him."
But I thought no more of it, as Miss Galindo did not name it again. My lady came amongst us once more. From elderly she had become old: a little, frail, old lady, in heavy black drapery, never speaking about nor alluding to her great sorrow; quieter, gentler, paler than ever before; and her eyes dim with much weeping, never witnessed by mortal.
She had seen Mr. Gray at the expiration of the month of deep retirement. But I do not think that, even to him, she had said one word of her own particular individual sorrow. All mention of it seemed buried deep for evermore. One day, Mr. Horner sent word that he was too much indisposed to attend to his usual business at the Hall; but he wrote down some directions and requests to Miss Galindo, saying that he would be at his office early the next morning. The next morning he was dead.
Miss Galindo told my lady. Miss Galindo herself cried plentifully, but my lady, although very much distressed, could not cry. It seemed a physical impossibility, as if she had shed all the tears in her power. Moreover, I almost think her wonder was far greater that she herself lived than that Mr. Horner died. It was almost natural that so faithful a servant should break his heart, when the family he belonged to lost their stay, their heir, and their last hope.
Yes! Mr. Horner was a faithful servant. I do not think there are many so faithful now; but perhaps that is an old woman's fancy of mine. When his will came to be examined, it was discovered that, soon after Harry Gregson's accident, Mr. Horner had left the few thousands (three, I think) of which he was possessed, in trust for Harry's benefit, desiring his executors to see that the lad was well educated in certain things, for which Mr. Horner had thought that he had shown especial aptitude; and there was a kind of implied apology to my lady in one sentence, where he stated that Harry's lameness would prevent his being ever able to gain his living by the exercise of any mere bodily faculties, "as had been wished by a lady whose wishes" he, the testator, "was bound to regard."
But there was a codicil in the will, dated since Lord Ludlow's death - feebly written by Mr. Horner himself, as if in preparation only for some more formal manner of bequest: or, perhaps, only as a mere temporary arrangement till he could see a lawyer, and have a fresh will made. In this he revoked his previous bequest to Harry Gregson. He only left two hundred pounds to Mr. Gray to be used, as that gentleman thought best, for Henry Gregson's benefit. With this one exception, he bequeathed all the rest of his savings to my lady, with a hope that they might form a nest-egg, as it were, towards the paying off of the mortgage which had been such a grief to him during his life. I may not repeat all this in lawyer's phrase; I heard it through Miss Galindo, and she might make mistakes. Though, indeed, she was very clear-headed, and soon earned the respect of Mr. Smithson, my lady's lawyer from Warwick. Mr. Smithson knew Miss Galindo a little before, both personally and by reputation; but I don't think he was prepared to find her installed as steward's clerk, and, at first, he was inclined to treat her, in this capacity, with polite contempt. But Miss Galindo was both a lady and a spirited, sensible woman, and she could put aside her self-indulgence in eccentricity of speech and manner whenever she chose. Nay, more; she was usually so talkative that, if she had not been amusing and warm-hearted, one might have thought her wearisome occasionally. But to meet Mr. Smithson she came out daily in her Sunday gown; she said no more than was required in answer to his questions; her books and papers were in thorough order, and methodically kept; her statements of matters of fact accurate, and to be relied on. She was amusingly conscious of her victory over his contempt of a woman-clerk and his preconceived opinion of her unpractical eccentricity.
"Let me alone," said she, one day when she came in to sit awhile with me. "That man is a good man - a sensible man - and I have no doubt he is a good lawyer; but he can't fathom women yet. I make no doubt he'll go hack to Warwick, and never give credit again to those people who made him think me half-cracked to begin with. Oh, my dear, he did! He showed it twenty times worse than my poor dear master ever did. It was a form to be gone through to please my lady, and, for her sake, he would hear my statements and see my books. It was keeping a woman out of harm's way, at any rate, to let her fancy herself useful. I read the man. And, I am thankful to say, he cannot read me. At least, only one side of me. When I see an end to be gained, I can behave myself accordingly. Here was a man who thought that a woman in a black silk gown was a respectable, orderly kind of person; and I was a woman in a black silk gown. He believed that a woman could not write straight lines, and required a man to tell her that two and two made four. I was not above ruling my books, and had Cocker a little more at my fingers' ends than he had. But my greatest triumph has been holding my tongue. He would have thought nothing of my books, or my sums, or my black silk gown, if I had spoken unasked. So I have buried more sense in my bosom these ten days than ever I have uttered in the whole course of my life before. I have been so curt, so abrupt, so abominably dull, that I'll answer for it he thinks me worthy to be a man. But I must go back to him, my dear; so good-bye to conversation and you."
But though Mr. Smithson might be satisfied with Miss Galindo, I am afraid she was the only part of the affair with which he was content. Everything else went wrong. I could not say who told me so - but the conviction of this seemed to pervade the house. I never knew how much we had all looked up to the silent, gruff Mr. Horner for decisions, until he was gone. My lady herself was a pretty good woman of business, as women of business go. Her father, seeing that she would be the heiress of the Hanbury property, had given her a training which was thought unusual in those days; and she liked to feel herself queen regnant, and to have to decide in all cases between herself and her tenantry. But, perhaps, Mr. Horner would have done it more wisely; not but what she always attended to him at last. She would begin by saying, pretty clearly and promptly, what she would have done, and what she would not have done. If Mr. Horner approved of it, he bowed, and set about obeying her directly; if he disapproved of it, he bowed, and lingered so long before he obeyed her, that she forced his opinion out of him with her "Well, Mr. Horner! and what have you to say against it?" For she always understood his silence as well as if he had spoken. But the estate was pressed for ready money, and Mr. Horner had grown gloomy and languid since the death of his wife, and even his own personal affairs were not in the order in which they had been a year or two before, for his old clerk had gradually become superannuated, or, at any rate, unable by the superfluity of his own energy and wit to supply the spirit that was wanting in Mr. Horner.
Day after day Mr. Smithson seemed to grow more fidgety, more annoyed at the state of affairs. Like every one else employed by Lady Ludlow, as far as I could learn, he had an hereditary tie to the Hanbury family. As long as the Smithsons had been lawyers, they had been lawyers to the Hanburys; always coming in on all great family occasions, and better able to understand the characters, and connect the links of what had once been a large and scattered family, than any individual thereof had ever been.
As long as a man was at the head of the Hanburys, the lawyers had simply acted as servants, and had only given their advice when it was required. But they had assumed a different position on the memorable occasion of the mortgage: they had remonstrated against it. My lady had resented this remonstrance, and a slight, unspoken coolness had existed between her and the father of this Mr. Smithson ever since.
I was very sorry for my lady. Mr. Smithson was inclined to blame Mr. Horner for the disorderly state in which he found some of the outlying farms, and for the deficiencies in the annual payment of rents. Mr. Smithson had too much good feeling to put his blame into words; but my lady's quick instinct led her to reply to a thought, the existence of which she perceived; and she quietly told the troth, and explained how she had interfered repeatedly to prevent Mr. Horner from taking certain desirable steps, which were discordant to her hereditary sense of right and wrong between landlord and tenant. She also spoke of the want of ready money as a misfortune that could be remedied, by more economical personal expenditure on her own part; by which individual saving it was possible that a reduction of fifty pounds a year might have been accomplished. But as soon as Mr. Smithson touched on larger economies, such as either affected the welfare of others, or the honour and standing of the great House of Hanbury, she was inflexible. Her establishment consisted of somewhere about forty servants, of whom nearly as many as twenty were unable to perform their work properly, and yet would have been hurt if they had been dismissed; so they had the credit of fulfilling duties, while my lady paid and kept their substitutes. Mr. Smithson made a calculation, and would have saved some hundreds a year by pensioning off these old servants. But my lady would not hear of it. Then, again, I know privately that he urged her to allow some of us to return to our homes. Bitterly we should have regretted the separation from Lady Ludlow; but we would have gone back gladly, had we known at the time that her circumstances required it: but she would not listen to the proposal for a moment.
"If I cannot act justly towards every one, I will give up a plan which has been a source of much satisfaction; at least, I will not carry it out to such an extent in future. But to these young ladies, who do me the favour to live with me at present, I stand pledged. I cannot go back from my word, Mr. Smithson. We had better talk no more of this."
As she spoke, she entered the room where I lay. She and Mr. Smithson were coming for some papers contained in the bureau. They did not know I was there, and Mr. Smithson started a little when he saw me, as he must have been aware that I had overheard something. But my lady did not change a muscle of her face. All the world might overhear her kind, just, pure sayings, and she had no fear of their misconstruction. She came up to me, and kissed me on the forehead, and then went to search for the required papers.
"I rode over the Conington farms yesterday, my lady. I must say I was quite grieved to see the condition they are in; all the land that is not waste is utterly exhausted with working successive white crops. Not a pinch of manure laid on the ground for years. I must say that a greater contrast could never have been presented than that between Harding's farm and the next fields - fences in perfect order, rotation crops, sheep eating down the turnips on the waste lands - everything that could be desired."
"Whose farm is that?" asked my lady.
"Why, I am sorry to say, it was on none of your ladyship's that I saw such good methods adopted. I hoped it was: I stopped my horse to inquire. A queer-looking man, sitting on his horse like a tailor, watching his men with a couple of the sharpest eyes I ever saw, and dropping his h's at every word, answered my question, and told me it was his. I could not go on asking him who he was; but I fell into conversation with him, and I gathered that he had earned some money in trade in Birmingham, and had bought the estate (five hundred acres, I think he said), on which he was born, and now was setting himself to cultivate it in downright earnest, going to Holkham and Woburn, and half the country over, to get himself up on the subject."
"It would he Brooke, that dissenting baker from Birmingham," said my lady in her most icy tone. "Mr. Smithson, I am sorry I have been detaining you so long, but I think these are the letters you wished to see."
If her ladyship thought by this speech to quench Mr. Smithson she was mistaken. Mr. Smithson just looked at the letters, and went on with the old subject.
"Now, my lady, it struck me that if you had such a man to take poor Horner's place, he would work the rents and the land round most satisfactorily. I should not despair of inducing this very man to undertake the work. I should not mind speaking to him myself on the subject, for we got capital friends over a snack of luncheon that he asked me to share with him."
Lady Ludlow fixed her eyes on Mr. Smithson as he spoke, and never took them off his face until he had ended. She was silent a minute before she answered.
"You are very good, Mr. Smithson, but I need not trouble you with any such arrangements. I am going to write this afternoon to Captain James, a friend of one of my sons, who has, I hear, been severely wounded at Trafalgar, to request him to honour me by accepting Mr. Horner's situation."
"A Captain James! a captain in the navy! going to manage your ladyship's estate!"
"If he will be so kind. I shall esteem it a condescension on his part; but I hear that he will have to resign his profession, his state of health is so bad, and a country life is especially prescribed for him. I am in some hopes of tempt mg him here, as I learn he has but little to depend on if he gives up his profession."
"A Captain James! an invalid captain!"
"You think I am asking too great a favour," continued my lady. (I never could tell how far it was simplicity, or how far a kind of innocent malice, that made her misinterpret Mr. Smithson's words and looks as she did.) "But he is not a post-captain, only a commander, and his pension will be but small. I may he able, by offering him country air and a healthy occupation, to restore him to health."
"Occupation! My lady, may I ask how a sailor is to manage land? Why, your tenants will laugh him to scorn."
"My tenants, I trust, will not behave so ill as to laugh at any one I choose to set over them. Captain James has had experience in managing men. He has remarkable practical talents; and great common sense, as I hear from every one. But, whatever he may be, the affair rests between him and myself. I can only say I shall esteem myself fortunate if he comes.
There was no more to be said, after my lady spoke in this manner. I had heard her mention Captain James before, as a middy who had been very kind to her son Urian. I thought I remembered then, that she had mentioned that his family circumstances were not very prosperous. But, I confess that, little as I knew of the management of land, I quite sided with Mr. Smithson. He, silently prohibited from again speaking to my lady on the subject, opened his mind to Miss Galindo, from whom I was pretty sure to hear all the opinions and news of the household and village. She had taken a great fancy to me, because she said I talked so agreeably. I believe it was because I listened so well.
"Well, have you heard the news," she began, "about this Captain James? A sailor - with a wooden leg, I have no doubt. What would the poor, dear, deceased master have said to it, if he had known who was to be his successor! My dear, I have often thought of the postman's bringing me a letter as one of the pleasures I shall miss in heaven. But, really, I think Mr. Horner may be thankful he has got out of the reach of news; or else he would hear of Mr. Smithson's having made up to the Birmingham baker, and of this one-legged captain coming to dot-and-go-one over the estate. I suppose he will look after the labourers through a spyglass. I only hope he won't stick in the mud with his wooden leg; for I, for one, won't help him out. Yes, I would," said she, correcting herself; "I would, for my lady's sake."
"But are you sure he has a wooden leg?" asked I. "I heard Lady Ludlow tell Mr. Smithson about him, and she only spoke of him as wounded."
"Well, sailors are almost always wounded in the leg. Look at Greenwich Hospital I should say there were twenty one-legged pensioners to one without an arm there. But, say he has got half-a-dozen legs: what has he to do with managing land? I shall think him very impudent if he comes, taking advantage of my lady's kind heart."
However, come he did. In a month from that time, the carriage was sent to meet Captain James; just as three years before it had been sent to meet me. His coming had been so much talked about that we were all as curious as possible to see him, and to know how so unusual an experiment, as it seemed to us, would answer. But, before I tell you anything about our new agent, I must speak of something quite as interesting, and I really think quite as important. And this was my lady's making friends with Harry Gregson. I do believe she did it for Mr. Horner's sake; but, of course, I can only conjecture why my lady did anything. But I heard one day, from Mary Legard, that my lady had sent for Harry to come and see her, if he was well enough to walk so far; and the next day he was shown into the room he had been in once before under such unlucky circumstances.
The lad looked pale enough, as he stood propping himself up on his crutch, and, the instant my lady saw him, she bade John Footman place a stool for him to sit down upon while she spoke to him. It might be his paleness that gave his whole face a more refined and gentle look; but I suspect it was that the boy was apt to take impressions, and that Mr. Horner's grave, dignified ways, and Mr. Gray's tender and quiet manners, had altered him; and then the thoughts of illness and death seem to turn many of us into gentlemen and gentlewomen, as long as such thoughts are in our minds. We cannot speak loudly or angrily at such times; we are not apt to be eager about mere worldly things, for our very awe at our quickened sense of the nearness of the invisible world makes us calm and serene about the petty trifles of to-day. At least, I know that was the explanation Mr. Gray once gave me of what we all thought the great improvement in Harry Gregson's way of behaving.
My lady hesitated so long about what she had best say, that Harry grew a little frightened at her silence. A few months ago it would have surprised me more than it did now; but since my lord her son's death she had seemed altered in many ways - more uncertain and distrustful of herself, as it were.
At last she said, and I think the tears were in her eyes: "My poor little fellow, you have had a narrow escape with your life since I saw you last."
To this there was nothing to be said but "Yes"; and again there was silence.
"And you have lost a good, kind friend in Mr. Horner."
The boy's lips worked, and I think he said "Please, don't." But I can't be sure; at any rate, my lady went on -
"And so have I - a good, kind friend he was to both of us; and to you he wished to show his kindness in even a more generous way than he has done. Mr. Gray has told you about his legacy to you, has he not?"
There was no sign of eager joy on the lad's face, as if he realised the power and pleasure of haying what to him must have seemed like a fortune.
"Mr. Gray said as how he had left me a matter of money."
"Yes, he has left you two hundred pounds."
"But I would rather have had him alive, my lady," he burst out, sobbing as if his heart would break.
"My lad, I believe you. We would rather have had our dead alive, would we not? and there is nothing in money that can comfort us for their loss. But you know - Mr. Gray has told you - who has appointed all our times to die. Mr. Horner was a good, just man; and has done well and kindly, both by me and you. You perhaps do not know" (and now I understood what my lady had been making up her mind to say to Harry, all the time she was hesitating how to begin) "that Mr. Horner, at one time, meant to leave you a great deal more: probably all he had, with the exception of a legacy to his old clerk, Morrison. But he knew that this estate - on which my forefathers had lived for six hundred years - was in debt, and that I had no immediate chance of paying off this debt; and yet he felt that it was a very sad thing for an old property like this to belong in part to those other men, who had lent the money. You understand me, I think, my little man?" said she, questioning Harry's face.
He had left off crying, and was trying to understand, with all his might and main; and I think he had got a pretty good general idea of the state of affairs; though probably he was puzzled by the term "the estate being in debt." But he was sufficiently interested to want my lady to go on; and he nodded his head at her, to signify this to her.
"So Mr. Horner took the money which he once meant to be yours, and has left the greater part of it to me, with the intention of helping me to pay off this debt I have told you about. It will go a long way, and I shall try hard to save the rest, and then I shall die happy in leaving the land free from debt." She paused. "But I shall not die happy in thinking of you. I do not know if having money, or even having a great estate and much honour, is a good thing for any of us. But God sees fit that some of us should be called to this condition, and it is our duty then to stand to our posts, like brave soldiers. Now, Mr. Horner intended you to have this money first. I shall only call it borrowing from you, Harry Gregson, if I take it and use it to pay off the debt. I shall pay Mr. Gray interest on this money, because he is to stand as your guardian, as it were, till you come of age; and he must fix what ought to be done with it, so as to fit you for spending the principal rightly when the estate can repay it you. I suppose, now, it will be right for you to be educated. That will be another snare that will come with your money. But have courage, Harry. Both education and money may be used rightly, if we only pray against the temptations they bring with them."
Harry could make no answer, though I am sure he understood it all. My lady wanted to get him to talk to her a little, by way of becoming acquainted with what was passing in his mind; and she asked him what he would like to have done with his money, if he could have part of it now? To such a simple question, involving no talk about feelings, his answer came readily enough.
"Build a cottage for father, with stairs in it, and give Mr. Gray a school-house. Oh, father does so want Mr. Gray for to have his wish! Father saw all the stones lying quarried and hewn on Farmer Hale's land; Mr. Gray had paid for them all himself. And father said he would work night and day, and little Tommy should carry mortar, if the parson would let him, sooner than that he should be fretted and frabbed as he was, with no one giving him a helping hand or a kind word."
Harry knew nothing of my lady's part in the affair; that was very clear. My lady kept silence.
"If I might have a piece of my money, I would buy land from Mr. Brooke; he has got a bit to sell just at the corner of Hendon Lane, and I would give it to Mr. Gray; and, perhaps, if your ladyship thinks I may be learn'd again, I might grow up into the schoolmaster."
"You are a good boy," said my lady. "But there are more things to be thought of, in carrying out such a plan, than you are aware of. However, it shall be tried."
"The school, my lady?" I exclaimed, almost thinking she did not know what she was saying.
"Yes, the school. For Mr. Horner's sake, for Mr. Gray's sake, and last, not least, for this lad's sake, I will give the new plan a trial. Ask Mr. Gray to come up to me this afternoon about the land he wants. He need not go to a Dissenter for it. And tell your father he shall have a good share in the building of it, and Tommy shall carry the mortar."
"And I may be schoolmaster?" asked Harry eagerly.
"We'll see about that," said my lady, amused. "It will be some time before that plan comes to pass, my little fellow."
And now to return to Captain James. My first account of him was from Miss Galindo.
"He's not above thirty; and I must just pack up my pens and my paper, and be off; for it would be the height of impropriety for me to be staying here as his clerk. It was all very well in the old master's days. But here am I, not fifty till next May, and this young, unmarried man, who is not even a widower! Oh, there would be no end of gossip. Besides, he looks as askance at me as I do at him. My black silk gown had no effect. He's afraid I shall marry him But I won't, he may feel himself quite safe from that. And Mr. Smithson has been recommending a clerk to my lady. She would far rather keep me on; but I can't stop. I really could not think it proper."
"What sort of a looking man is he?"
"Oh, nothing particular. Short, and brown, and sunburnt. I did not think it became me to look at him. Well, now for the nightcaps. I should have grudged any one else doing them, for I have got such a pretty pattern!"
But when it came to Miss Galindo's leaving, there was a great misunderstanding between her and my lady. Miss Galindo had imagined that my lady had asked her as a favour to copy the letters, and enter the accounts, and had agreed to do the work without the notion of being paid for so doing. She had, now and then, grieved over a very profitable order for needlework passing out of her hands on account of her not having time to do it, because of her occupation at the Hall; but she had never hinted this to my lady, but gone on cheerfully at her writing as long as her clerkship was required. My lady was annoyed that she had not made her intention of paying Miss Galindo more clear, in the first conversation she had had with her; but I suppose that she had been too delicate to be very explicit with regard to money matters; and now Miss Galindo was quite hurt at my lady's wanting to pay her for what she had done in such right-down good-will.
"No," Miss Galindo said; "my own dear lady, you may be as angry with me as you like, but don't offer me money. Think of six-and-twenty years ago, and poor Arthur, and as you were to me then! Besides, I wanted money - I don't disguise it - for a particular purpose; and when I found that (God bless you for asking me!) I could do you a service, I turned it over in my mind, and I gave up one plan, and took up another, and it's all settled now. Bessy is to leave school and come and live with me. Don't, please, offer me money again. You don't know how glad I have been to do anything for you. Have not I, Margaret Dawson? Did you not hear me say, one day, I would cut off my hand for my lady; for am I a stock or a stone, that I should forget kindness? Oh, I have been so glad to work for you And now Bessy is coming here; and no one knows anything about her - as if she had done anything wrong, poor child!"
"Dear Miss Galindo," replied my lady, "I will never ask you to take money again. Only I thought it was quite understood between us. And you know you have taken money for a set of morning wrappers, before now."
"Yes, my lady; but that was not confidential. Now I was so proud to have something to do for you confidentially."
"But who is Bessy?" asked my lady. "I do not understand who she is, or why she is to come and live with you. Dear Miss Galindo, you must honour me by being confidential with me in your turn!"
I had always understood that Miss Galindo had once been in much better circumstances, but I had never liked to ask any questions respecting her. But about this time many things came out respecting her former life, which I will try and arrange: not, however, in the order in which I heard them, but rather as they occurred.
Miss Galindo was the daughter of a clergyman in Westmoreland. Her father was the younger brother of a baronet, his ancestor having been one of those of James the First's creation. This baronet-uncle of Miss Galindo was one of the queer, out-of-the-way people who were bred at that time, and in that northern district of England. I never heard much of him from any one, besides this one great fact; that he had early disappeared from his family, which indeed only consisted of a brother and sister who died unmarried, and lived no one knew where - somewhere on the Continent, it was supposed, for he had never returned from the grand tour which he had been sent to make, according to the general fashion of the day, as soon as he had left Oxford. He corresponded occasionally with his brother the clergyman; but the letters passed through a banker's hands; the banker being pledged to secrecy, and, as he told Mr. Galindo, having the penalty, if he broke his pledge, of losing the whole profitable business, and of having the management of the baronet's affairs taken out of his hands, without any advantage accruing to the inquirer; for Sir Lawrence had told Messrs. Graham that, in case his place of residence was revealed by them, not only would he cease to bank with them, but instantly take measures to baffle any future inquiries as to his whereabouts, by removing to some distant country.
Sir Lawrence paid a certain sum of money to his brother's account every year; but the time of this payment varied, and it was sometimes eighteen or nineteen months between the deposits; then, again, it would not be above a quarter of the time, showing that he intended it to be annual; but, as this intention was never expressed in words, it was impossible to rely upon it, and a great deal of this money was swallowed up by the necessity Mr. Galindo felt himself under of living in the large, old, rambling family mansion, which had been one of Sir Lawrence's rarely expressed desires. Mr. and Mrs. Galindo often planned to live upon their own small fortune and the income derived from the living (a vicarage, of which the great tithes went to Sir Lawrence as lay impropriator), so as to put by the payments made by the baronet, for the benefit of Laurentia - our Miss Galindo. But I suppose they found it difficult to live economically in a large house, even though they had it rent free. They had to keep up with hereditary neighbours and friends, and could hardly help doing it in the hereditary manner.
One of these neighbours, a Mr. Gibson, had a son a few years older than Laurentia. The families were sufficiently intimate for the young people to see a good deal of each other; and I was told that this young Mr. Mark Gibson was an unusually prepossessing man (he seemed to have impressed every one who spoke of him to me as being a handsome, manly, kind-hearted fellow), just what a girl would be sure to find most agreeable. The parents either forgot that their children were growing up to man's and woman's estate, or thought that the intimacy and probable attachment would be no bad thing, even if it did lead to a marriage. Still, nothing was ever said by young Gibson till later on, when it was too late, as it turned out. He went to and from Oxford; he shot and fished with Mr. Galindo, or came to the Mere to skate in winter-time; was asked to accompany Mr. Galindo to the Hall, as the latter returned to the quiet dinner with his wife and daughter; and so, and so, it went on, nobody much knew how, until one day, when Mr. Galindo received a formal letter from his brother's bankers, announcing Sir Lawrence's death, of malaria fever, at Albano, and congratulating Sir Hubert on his accession to the estates and the baronetcy. "The king is dead - Long live the king!" as I have since heard that the French express it.
Sir Hubert and his wife were greatly surprised. Sir Lawrence was but two years older than his brother; and they had never heard of any illness till they heard of his death. They were sorry; very much shocked; but still a little elated at the succession to the baronetcy and estates. The London bankers had managed everything well. There was a large sum of ready money in their hands, at Sir Hubert's service, until he should touch his rents, the rent-roll being eight thousand a year. And only Laurentia to inherit it all Her mother, a poor clergyman's daughter, began to plan all sorts of fine marriages for her; nor was her father much behind his wife in his ambition. They took her up to London, when they went to buy new carriages, and dresses, and furniture. And it was then and there she made my lady's acquaintance. How it was that they came to take a fancy to each other I cannot say. My lady was of the old nobility - grand, composed, gentle, and stately in her ways. Miss Galindo must always have been hurried in her manner, and her energy must have shown itself in inquisitiveness and oddness even in her youth. But I don't pretend to account for things: I only narrate them. And the fact was this: - that the elegant, fastidious countess was attracted to the country girl, who on her part almost worshipped my lady. My lady's notice of their daughter made her parents think, I suppose, that there was no match that she might not command: she, the heiress of eight thousand a year, and visiting about among earls and dukes. So, when they came back to their old Westmoreland Hall, and Mark Gibson rode over to offer his hand and his heart, and prospective estate of nine hundred a year, to his old companion and playfellow, Laurentia, Sir Hubert and Lady Galindo made very short work of it. They refused him plumply themselves; and, when he begged to be allowed to speak to Laurentia, they found some excuse for refusing him the opportunity of so doing, until they had talked to her themselves, and brought up every argument and fact in their power to convince her - a plain girl, and conscious of her plainness - that Mr. Mark Gibson had never thought of her in the way of marriage till after her father's accession to his fortune, and that it was the estate - not the young lady - that he was in love with. I suppose it will never be known in this world how far this supposition of theirs was true. My Lady Ludlow had always spoken as if it was; but perhaps events, which came to her knowledge about this time, altered her opinion. At any rate, the end of it was, Laurentia refused Mark, and almost broke her heart in doing so. He discovered the suspicions of Sir Hubert and Lady Galindo, and that they had persuaded their daughter to share in them. So he flung off with high words, saying that they did not know a true heart when they met with one; and that, although he had never offered till after Sir Lawrence's death, yet his father knew all along that he had been attached to Laurentia, only that he, being the eldest of five children, and having as yet no profession, had had to conceal, rather than to express, an attachment which, in those days, he had believed was reciprocated. He had always meant to study for the bar, and the end of all he had hoped for had been to earn a moderate income, which he might ask Laurentia to share. This, or something like it, was what he said. But his reference to his father cut two ways. Old Mr. Gibson was known to be very keen about money. It was just as likely that he would urge Mark to make love to the heiress, now she was an heiress, as that he would have restrained him previously, as Mark said he had done. When this was repeated to Mark, he became proudly reserved, or sullen, and said that Laurentia, at any rate, might have known him better. He left the country, and went up to London to study law soon afterwards; and Sir Hubert and Lady Galindo thought they were well rid of him. But Laurentia never ceased reproaching herself, and never did to her dying day, as I believe. The words, "She might have known me better," told to her by some kind friend or other, rankled in her mind, and were never forgotten. Her father and mother took her up to London the next year; but she did not care to visit - dreaded going out even for a drive, lest she should see Mark Gibson's reproachful eyes - pined and lost her health. Lady Ludlow saw this change with regret, and was told the cause by Lady Galindo, who, of course, gave her own version of Mark's conduct and motives. My lady never spoke to Miss Galindo about it, but tried constantly to interest and please her. It was at this time that my lady told Miss Galindo so much about her own early life, and about Hanbury, that Miss Galindo resolved, if ever she could, she would go and see the old place which her friend loved so well. The end of it all was, that she came to live there, as we know.
But a great change was to come first, Before Sir Hubert and Lady Galindo had left London on this, their second visit, they had a letter from the lawyer, whom they employed, saying that Sir Lawrence had left an heir, his legitimate child by an Italian woman of low rank; at least legal claims to the title and property had been sent in to him on the boy's behalf. Sir Lawrence had always been a man of adventurous and artistic, rather than of luxurious tastes; and it was supposed, when all came to be proved at the trial, that he was captivated by the free, beautiful life they lead in Italy, and had married this Neapolitan fisherman's daughter, who had people about her shrewd enough to see that the ceremony was legally performed. She and her husband had wandered about the shores of the Mediterranean for years, leading a happy, careless, irresponsible life, unencumbered by any duties except those connected with a rather numerous family. It was enough for her that they never wanted money, and that her husband's love was always continued to her. She hated the name of England - wicked, cold, heretic England - and avoided the mention of any subjects connected with her husband's early life. So that, when he died at Albano, she was almost roused out of her vehement grief to anger with the Italian doctor, who declared that he must write to a certain address to announce the death of Lawrence Galindo. For some time, she feared lest English barbarians might come down upon her, making a claim to the children. She hid herself and them in the Abruzzi, living upon the sale of what furniture and jewels Sir Lawrence had died possessed of. When these failed, she returned to Naples, which she had not visited since her marriage. Her father was dead; but her brother inherited some of his keenness. He interested the priests, who made inquiries and found that the Galindo succession was worth securing to an heir of the true faith. They stirred about it, obtained advice at the English Embassy; and hence that letter to the lawyers, calling upon Sir Hubert to relinquish title and property, and to refund what money he had expended. He was vehement in his opposition to this claim. He could not bear to think of his brother having married a foreigner - a Papist, a fisherman's daughter; nay, of his having become a Papist himself. He was in despair at the thought of his ancestral property going to the issue of such a marriage. He fought tooth and nail, making enemies of his relations, and losing almost all his own private property; for he would go on against the lawyer's advice, long after every one was convinced except himself and his wife. At last he was conquered. He gave up his living in gloomy despair. He would have changed his name if he could, so desirous was he to obliterate all tie between himself and the mongrel Papist baronet and his Italian mother, and all the succession of children and nurses who came to take possession of the Hall soon after Mr. Hubert Galindo's departure, stayed there one winter, and then flitted back to Naples with gladness and delight. Mr. and Mrs. Hubert Galindo lived in London. He had obtained a curacy somewhere in the city. They would have been thankful now if Mr. Mark Gibson had renewed his offer. No one could accuse him of mercenary motives if be had done so. Because he did not come forward, as they wished, they brought his silence up as a justification of what they had previously attributed to him. I don't know what Miss Galindo thought herself; but Lady Ludlow has told me how she shrank from hearing her parents abuse him. Lady Ludlow supposed that he was aware that they were living in London. His father must have known the fact, and it was curious if he had never named it to his son. Besides, the name was very uncommon; and it was unlikely that it should never come across him, in the advertisements of charity sermons which the new and rather eloquent curate of Saint Mark's East was asked to preach. All this time Lady Ludlow never lost sight of them, for Miss Galindo's sake. And when the father and mother died, it was my lady who upheld Miss Galindo in her determination not to apply for any provision to her cousin, the Italian baronet, but rather to live upon the hundred a year which had been settled on her mother and the children of his son Hubert's marriage by the old grandfather, Sir Lawrence.
Mr. Mark Gibson had risen to some eminence as a barrister on the Northern Circuit, but had died unmarried in the lifetime of his father, a victim (so people said) to intemperance. Doctor Trevor, the physician who had been called in to Mr. Gray and Harry Gregson, had married a sister of his. And that was all my lady knew about the Gibson family. But who was Bessy?
That mystery and secret came out, too, in process of time. Miss Galindo had been to Warwick, some years before I arrived at Hanbury, on some kind of business or shopping, which can only be transacted in a county town. There was an old Westmoreland connection between her and Mrs. Trevor, though I believe the latter was too young to have been made aware of her brother's offer to Miss Galindo at the time when it took place; and such affairs, if they are unsuccessful, are seldom spoken about in the gentleman's family afterwards. But the Gibsons and Galindos had been county neighbours too long for the connection not to be kept up between two members settled far away from their early homes. Miss Galindo always desired her parcels to be sent to Doctor Trevor's, when she went to Warwick for shopping purposes. If she were going any journey, and the coach did not come through Warwick as soon as she arrived (in my lady's coach or otherwise) from Hanbury, she went to Doctor Trevor's to wait. She was as much expected to sit down to the household meals as if she had been one of the family; and in after years it was Mrs. Trevor who managed her repository business for her.
So, on the day I spoke of, she had gone to Doctor Trevor's to rest, and possibly to dine. The post, in those times, came in at all hours of the morning; and Doctor Trevor's letters had not arrived until after his departure on his morning round. Miss Galindo was sitting down to dinner with Mrs. Trevor and her seven children, when the Doctor came in. He was flurried and uncomfortable, and hurried the children away as soon as he decently could. Then (rather feeling Miss Galindo's presence an advantage, both as a present restraint on the violence of his wife's grief, and as a consoler when he was absent on his afternoon round), he told Mrs. Trevor of her brother's death. He had been taken ill on circuit, and had hurried back to his chambers in London only to die. She cried terribly; but Doctor Trevor said afterwards, he never noticed that Miss Galindo cared much about it one way or another. She helped him to soothe his wife, promised to stay with her all the afternoon instead of returning to Hanbury, and afterwards offered to remain with her while the Doctor went to attend the funeral. When they heard of the old love-story between the dead man and Miss Galindo - brought up by mutual friends in Westmoreland, in the review which we are all inclined to take of the events of a man's life when be comes to die - they tried to remember Miss Galindo's speeches and ways of going on during this visit. She was a little pale, a little silent; her eyes were sometimes swollen, and her nose red; but she was at an age when such appearances are generally attributed to a bad cold in the head, rather than to any more sentimental reason. They felt towards her as towards an old friend, a kindly, useful, eccentric old maid. She did not expect more, or wish them to remember that she might once have had other hopes, and more youthful feelings. Doctor Trevor thanked her very warmly for staying with his wife, when he returned home from London (where the funeral had taken place). He begged Miss Galindo to stay with them, when the children were gone to bed, and she was preparing to leave the husband and wife by themselves. He told her and his wife many particulars - then paused - then went on -
"And Mark has left a child - a little girl" --
"But he never was married!" exclaimed Mrs. Trevor.
"A little girl," continued her husband, "whose mother, I conclude, is dead. At any rate, the child was in possession of his chambers; she and an old nurse, who seemed to have the charge of everything, and has cheated poor Mark, I should fancy, not a little."
"But the child!" asked Mrs. Trevor, still almost breathless with astonishment. "How do you know it is his?"
"The nurse told me it was, with great appearance of indignation at my doubting it. I asked the little thing her name, and all I could get was 'Bessy!' and a cry of 'Me wants papa!' The nurse said the mother was dead, and she knew no more about it than that Mr. Gibson had engaged her to take care of the little girl, calling it his child. One or two of his lawyer friends, whom I met with at the funeral, told me they were aware of the existence of the child."
"What is to be done with her?" asked Mrs. Gibson.
"Nay, I don't know," replied he. "Mark has hardly left assets enough to pay his debts, and your father is not inclined to come forward."
That night, as Doctor Trevor sat in his study, after his wife had gone to bed, Miss Galindo knocked at his door. She and he had a long conversation. The result was that he accompanied Miss Galindo up to town the next day; that they took possession of the little Bessy, and she was brought down, and placed at nurse at a farm in the country near Warwick; Miss Galindo undertaking to pay one-half of the expense, and to furnish her with clothes, and Dr. Trevor undertaking that the remaining half should be furnished by the Gibson family, or by himself in their default.
Miss Galindo was not fond of children; and I dare say she dreaded taking this child to live with her for more reasons than one. My Lady Ludlow could not endure any mention of illegitimate children. It was a principle of hers that society ought to ignore them. And I believe Miss Galindo had always agreed with her until now, when the thing came home to her womanly heart. Still she shrank from having this child of some strange woman under her roof. She went over to see it from time to time; she worked at its clothes long after every one thought she was in bed; and, when the time came for Bessy to be sent to school, Miss Galindo laboured away more diligently than ever, in order to pay the increased expense. For the Gibson family had, at first, paid their part of the compact, but with unwillingness and grudging hearts; then they had left it off altogether, and it fell hard on Dr. Trevor with his twelve children; and, latterly, Miss Galindo had taken upon herself almost all the burden. One can hardly live and labour, and plan and make sacrifices, for any human creature, without learning to love it. And Bessy loved Miss Galindo, too, for all the poor girl's scanty pleasures came from her, and Miss Galindo had always a kind word, and, latterly, many a hind caress, for Mark Gibson's child; whereas, if she went to Dr. Trevor's for her holiday, she was overlooked and neglected in that bustling family, who seemed to think that if she had comfortable board and lodging under their roof, it was enough.
I am sure, now, that Miss Galindo had often longed to have Bessy to live with her; but, as long as she could pay for her being at school, she did not like to take so bold a step as bringing her home, knowing what the effect of the consequent explanation would be on my lady. And as the girl was now more than seventeen, and past the age when young ladies are usually kept at school; and, as there was no great demand for governesses m those days, and as Bessy had never been taught any trade by which to earn her own living, why, I don't exactly see what could have been done but for Miss Galindo to bring her to her own home in Hanbury. For, although the child had grown up lately, in a kind of unexpected manner, into a young woman, Miss Galindo might have kept her at school for a year longer, if she could have afforded it; but this was impossible when she became Mr. Horner's clerk, and relinquished all the payment of her repository work; and perhaps, after all, she was not sorry to be compelled to take the step she was longing for. At any rate, Bessy came to live with Miss Galindo in a very few weeks from the time when Captain James set Miss Galindo free to superintend her own domestic economy again.
For a long time, I knew nothing about this new inhabitant of Hanbury. My lady never mentioned her in any way. This was in accordance with Lady Ludlow's well-known principles. She neither saw nor heard, nor was in any way cognisant of the existence of those who had no legal right to exist at all. If Miss Galindo had hoped to have an exception made in Bessy's favour, she was mistaken. My lady sent a note inviting Miss Galindo herself to tea one evening, about a month after Bessy came; but Miss Galindo "had a cold and could not come." The next time she was invited, she "had an engagement at home" - a step nearer to the absolute truth. And the third time, she "had a young friend staying with her whom she was unable to leave." My lady accepted every excuse as bonâ fide, and took no further notice. I missed Miss Galindo very much; we all did; for, in the days when she was clerk, she was sure to come in and find the opportunity of saying something amusing to some of us before she went away. And I, as an invalid, or perhaps from natural tendency, was particularly fond of little bits of village gossip. There was no Mr. Horner - he even had come in, now and then, with formal, stately pieces of intelligence - and there was no Miss Galindo in these days. I missed her much. And so did my lady, I am sure. Behind all her quiet, sedate manner, I am certain her heart ached sometimes for a few words from Miss Galindo, who seemed to have absented herself altogether from the Hall now Bessy was come.
Captain James might be very sensible, and all that; but not even my lady could call him a substitute for the old familiar friends. He was a thorough sailor, as sailors were in those days - swore a good deal, drank a good deal (without its ever affecting him in the least), and was very prompt and kind-hearted in all his actions; but he was not accustomed to women, as my lady once said, and would judge in all things for himself. My lady had expected, I think, to find some one who would take his notions on the management of her estate from her ladyship's own self; but he spoke as if he were responsible for the good management of the whole and must, consequently, be allowed full liberty of action. He had been too long in command over men at sea to like to be directed by a woman in anything he undertook, even though that woman was my lady. I suppose this was the common-sense my lady spoke of; but, when common-sense goes against us, I don't think we value it quite so much as we ought to do.
Lady Ludlow was proud of her personal superintendence of her own estate. She liked to tell us how her father used to take her with him in his rides, and bid her observe this and that, and on no account to allow such and such things to be done. But I have heard that, the first time she told all this to Captain James, he told her point-blank that he had heard from Mr. Smithson that the farms were much neglected and the rents sadly behind-hand, and that he meant to set to in good earnest and study agriculture, and see how he could remedy the state of things. My lady would, I am sure, be greatly surprised; but what could she do? Here was the very man she had chosen herself, setting to with all his energy to conquer the defect of ignorance, which was all that those who had presumed to offer her ladyship advice had ever had to say against him. Captain James read Arthur Young's "Tours" in all his spare time, as long as he was an invalid; and shook his head at my lady's accounts as to how the land had been cropped or left fallow from time immemorial. Then he set to, and tried too many new experiments at once. My lady looked on in dignified silence; but all the farmers and tenants were in an uproar, and prophesied a hundred failures. Perhaps fifty did occur; they were only half as many as Lady Ludlow had feared; but they were twice as many - four, eight times as many - as the captain had anticipated. His openly-expressed disappointment made him popular again. The rough country-people could not have understood silent and dignified regret at the failure of his plans; but they sympathised with a man who swore at his ill success - sympathised, even while they chuckled over his discomfiture. Mr. Brooke, the retired tradesman, did not cease blaming him for not succeeding, and for swearing. "But what could you expect from a sailor?" Mr. Brooke asked, even in my lady's hearing; though he might have known Captain James was my lady's own personal choice, from the old friendship Mr. Urian had always shown for him. I think it was this speech of the Birmingham baker's that made my lady determine to stand by Captain James, and encourage him to try again. For she would not allow that her choice had been an unwise one, at the bidding (as it were) of a dissenting tradesman; the only person in the neighbourhood, too, who had flaunted about in coloured clothes, when all the world was in mourning for my lady's only son.
Captain James would have thrown the agency up at once, if my lady had not felt herself bound to justify the wisdom of her choice, by urging him to stay. He was much touched by her confidence in him, and swore a great oath, that the next year he would make the land such as it had never been before for produce. It was not my lady's way to repeat anything she had heard, especially to another person's disadvantage. So, I don't think she ever told Captain James of Mr. Brooke's speech about a sailor's being likely to mismanage the property; and the captain was too anxious to succeed in this, the second, year of his trial, to be above going to the flourishing, shrewd Mr. Brooke, and asking for his advice as to the best method of working the estate. I dare say, if Miss Galindo had been as intimate as formerly at the Hail, we should all of us have heard of this new acquaintance of the agent's long before we did. As it was, I am sure my lady never dreamed that the captain, who held opinions that were even more Church and King than her own, could ever have made friends with a Baptist baker from Birmingham, even to serve her ladyship's own interests in the most loyal manner.
We heard of it first from Mr. Gray, who came now often to see my lady; for neither he nor she could forget the solemn tie which the fact of his being the person to acquaint her with my lord's death had created between them. For true and holy words spoken at that time, though having no reference to aught below the solemn subjects of life and death, had made her withdraw her opposition to Mr. Gray's wish about establishing a village school. She had sighed a little, it is true, and was even yet more apprehensive than hopeful as to the result; but, almost as if as a memorial to my lord, she had allowed a kind of rough schoolhouse to be built on the green, just by the church; and had gently used the power she undoubtedly had, in expressing her strong wish that the boys might only be taught to read and write, and the first four rules of arithmetic; while the girls were only to learn to read, and to add up in their heads, and the rest of the time to work at mending their own clothes, knitting stockings, and spinning. My lady presented the school with more spinning-wheels than there were girls, and requested that there might be a rule that they should have spun so many hanks of flax, and knitted so many pairs of stockings, before they ever were taught to read at all. After all, it was but making the best of a had job with my poor lady - but life was not what it had been to her. I remember well the day that Mr. Gray pulled some delicately fine yarn (and I was a good judge of those things) out of his pocket, and laid it and a capital pair of knitted stockings before my lady, as the first-fruits, so to say, of his school. I recollect seeing her put on her spectacles, and carefully examine both productions. Then she passed them to me.
"This is well, Mr. Gray. I am much pleased. You are fortunate in your schoolmistress. She has had both proper knowledge of womanly things and much patience. Who is she? One out of our village?"
"My lady," said Mr. Gray, stammering and colouring in his old fashion, "Miss Bessy is so very kind as to teach all those sorts of things - Miss Bessy, and Miss Galindo, sometimes."
My lady looked at him over her spectacles: but she only repeated the words "Miss Bessy," and paused, as if trying to remember who such a person could be: and he, if he had then intended to say more, was quelled by her manner, and dropped the subject. He went on to say that he had thought it his duty to decline the subscription to his school offered by Mr. Brooke, because he was a Dissenter; that he (Mr. Gray) feared that Captain James, through whom Mr. Brooke's offer of money had been made, was offended at his refusing to accept it from a man who held heterodox opinions; nay, whom Mr. Gray suspected of being infected by Dodwell's heresy.
"I think there must be some mistake," said my lady, "or I have misunderstood you. Captain James would never know enough of a schismatic to be employed by that man Brooke in distributing his charities. I should have doubted, until now, if Captain James knew him."
"Indeed, my lady, he not only knows him, but is intimate with him, I regret to say. I have repeatedly seen the captain and Mr. Brooke walking together; going through the fields together; and people do say" --
My lady looked up in interrogation at Mr. Gray's pause.
"I disapprove of gossip, and it may be untrue; but people do say that Captain James is very attentive to Miss Brooke."
"Impossible!" said my lady indignantly. "Captain James is a loyal and religious man. I beg your pardon, Mr. Gray but it is impossible."
Like many other things which have been declared to be impossible, this report of Captain James being attentive to Miss Brooke turned out to be very true.
The mere idea of her agent being on the slightest possible terms of acquaintance with the Dissenter, the tradesman, the Birmingham democrat, who had come to settle in our good, orthodox, aristocratic, and agricultural Hanbury, made my lady very uneasy. Miss Galindo's misdemeanour in having taken Miss Bessy to live with her, faded into a mistake, a mere error of judgment, in comparison with Captain James's intimacy at Yeast House, as the Brookes called their ugly square-built farm. My lady talked herself quite into complacency with Miss Galindo, and even Miss Bessy was named by her, the first time I had ever been aware that my lady recognised her existence; but - I recollect it was a long rainy afternoon, and I sat with her ladyship, and we had time and opportunity for a long uninterrupted talk - whenever we had been silent for a little while she began again, with something like a wonder how it was that Captain James could ever have commenced an acquaintance with "that man Brooke." My lady recapitulated all the times she could remember, that anything had occurred, or been said by Captain James which she could now understand as throwing light upon the subject.
"He said once that he was anxious to bring in the Norfolk system of cropping, and spoke a good deal about Mr. Coke of Holkham (who, by the way, was no more a Coke than I am - collateral in the female line - which counts for little or nothing among the great old commoners families of pure blood), and his new ways of cultivation; of course new men bring in new ways, but it does not follow that either are better than the old ways. However, Captain James has been very anxious to try turnips and bone-manure, and he really is a man of such good sense and energy, and was so sorry last year about the failure, that I consented; and now I begin to see my error. I have always heard that town bakers adulterate their flour with bone-dust; and, of course, Captain James would be aware of this, and go to Brooke to inquire where the article was to be purchased."
My lady always ignored the fact which had sometimes, suspect, been brought under her very eyes during her drives, that Mr. Brooke's few fields were in a state of far higher cultivation than her own; so she could not, of course, perceive that there was any wisdom to be gained from asking the advice of the tradesman turned farmer.
But, by-and-by, this fact of her agent's intimacy with the person whom in the whole world she most disliked (with that sort of dislike in which a large amount of uncomfortableness is combined - the dislike which conscientious people sometimes feel to another without knowing why, and yet which they cannot indulge in with comfort to themselves without having a moral reason why), came before my lady in many shapes. For, indeed, I am sure that Captain James was not a man to conceal or be ashamed of one of his actions. I cannot fancy his ever lowering his strong loud clear voice, or having a confidential conversation with any one. When his crops had failed, all the village had known it. He complained, he regretted, he was angry, or owned himself a -- fool, all down the village street; and the consequence was that, although be was a far more passionate man than Mr. Horner, all the tenants liked him far better. People, in general, take a kindlier interest in any one the workings of whose mind and heart they can watch and understand, than in a man who only lets you know what he has been thinking about and feeling by what he does. But Harry Gregson was faithful to the memory of Mr. Horner. Miss Galindo has told me that she used to watch him hobble out of the way of Captain James, as if to accept his notice, however good-naturedly given, would have been a kind of treachery to his former benefactor. But Gregson (the father) and the new agent rather took to each other; and one day, much to my surprise, I heard that the "poaching, tinkering vagabond," as the people used to call Gregson when I first had come to live at Hanbury, had been appointed gamekeeper; Mr. Gray standing godfather, as it were, to his trustworthiness, if he were trusted with anything; which I thought at the time was rather an experiment - only it answered, as many of Mr. Gray's deeds of daring did. It was curious how he was growing to be a kind of autocrat in the village; and how unconscious he was of it. He was as shy and awkward and nervous as ever in any affair that was not of some moral consequence to him. But, as soon as he was convinced that a thing was right, he "shut his eyes and ran and butted at it like a ram," as Captain James once expressed it, in talking over something Mr. Gray had done. People in the village said, "they never knew what the parson would be at next;" or, they might have said, "where his reverence would next turn up." For I have heard of his marching right into the middle of a set of poachers, gathered together for some desperate midnight enterprise, or walking into a public-house that lay just beyond the bounds of my lady's estate, and in that extra-parochial piece of ground I named long ago, and which was considered the rendezvous of all the ne'er-do-weel characters for miles round, and where a parson and a constable were held in much the same kind of esteem as unwelcome visitors. And yet Mr. Gray had his long fits of depression, in which he felt as if he were doing nothing, making no way in his work, useless and unprofitable, and better out of the world than in it. In comparison with the work he had set himself to do, what he did seemed to be nothing. I suppose it was constitutional, those attacks of lowness of spirits which he had about this time; perhaps a part of the nervousness which made him always so awkward when he came to the Hall. . Even Mrs. Medlicott, who almost worshipped the ground he trod on, as the saying is, owned that Mr. Gray never entered one of my lady's rooms without knocking down something, and too often breaking it. He would much sooner have faced a desperate poacher than a young lady any day. At least so we thought.
I do not know how it was that it came to pass that my lady became reconciled to Miss Galindo about this time. Whether it was that her ladyship was weary of the unspoken coolness with her old friend; or that the specimens of delicate sewing and fine spinning at the school had mollified her towards Miss Bessy; but I was surprised to learn one day that Miss Galindo and her young friend were coming that very evening to tea at the Hall. This information was given me by Mrs. Medlicott, as a message from my lady, who further went on to desire that certain little preparations should be made in her own private sitting-room, in which the greater part of my days were spent. From the nature of these preparations, I became quite aware that my lady intended to do honour to her expected visitors. Indeed, Lady Ludlow never forgave by halves, as I have known some people do. Whoever was coming as a visitor to my lady, peeress, or poor nameless girl, there was a certain amount of preparation required in order to do them fitting honour. I do not. mean to say that the preparation was of the same degree of importance in each case. I dare say, if a peeress had come to visit us at the Hall, the covers would have been taken off the furniture in the white drawing-room (they never were uncovered all the time I stayed at the Hall), because my lady would wish to offer her the ornaments and luxuries which this grand visitor (who never came - I wish she had! I did so want to see that furniture uncovered!) was accustomed to at home, and to present them to her in the best order in which my lady could. The same rule, mollified, held good with Miss Galindo. Certain things, in which my lady knew she took an interest, were laid out ready for her to examine on this very day; and, what was more, great books of prints were laid out, such as I remembered my lady had brought forth to beguile my own early days of illness - Mr. Hogarth's works, and the like - which I was sure were put out for Miss Bessy.
No one knows how curious I was to see this mysterious Miss Bessy - twenty times more mysterious, of course, for want of her surname. And then again (to try and account for my great curiosity, of which in recollection I am more than half ashamed), I had been leading the quiet monotonous life of a crippled invalid for many years - shut up from any sight of new faces; and this was to be the face of one whom I had thought about so much and so long - Oh! I think I might be excused.
Of course they drank tea in the great hall, with the four young gentlewomen, who, with myself, formed the small bevy now under her ladyship's charge. Of those who were at Hanbury when first I came, none remained; all were married, or gone once more to live at some home which could he called their own, whether the ostensible head were father or brother. I myself was not without some hopes of a similar kind. My brother Harry was now a curate in Westmoreland, and wanted me to go and live with him, as eventually I did for a time. But that is neither here nor there at present. What I am talking about is Miss Bessy.
After a reasonable time had elapsed, occupied as I well knew by the meal in the great hall - the measured, yet agreeable conversation afterwards - and a certain promenade around the ball, and through the drawing-rooms, with pauses before different pictures, the history or subject of each of which was invariably told by my lady to every new visitor - a sort of giving them the freedom of the old family seat, by describing the kind and nature of the great progenitors who had lived there before the narrator - I heard the steps approaching my lady's room, where I lay. I think I was in such a state of nervous expectation that, if I could have moved easily, I should have got up and run away. And yet I need not have been, for Miss Galindo was not in the least altered (her nose a little redder to be sure, but then that might only have had a temporary cause in the private crying I know she would have had before coming to see her dear Lady Ludlow once again). But I could almost have pushed Miss Galindo away, as she intercepted me in my view of the mysterious Miss Bessy.
Miss Bessy was, as I knew, only about eighteen, but she looked older. Dark hair, dark eyes, a tall, firm figure, a good, sensible face, with a serene expression, not in the least disturbed by what I had been thinking must be such awful circumstances as a first introduction to my lady, who had so disapproved of her very existence: those are the clearest impressions I remember of my first interview with Miss Bessy. She seemed to observe us all, in her quiet manner, quite as much as I did her; but she spoke very little; occupied herself, indeed, as my lady had planned, with looking over the great books of engravings. I think I must have (foolishly) intended to make her feel at her ease, by my patronage; but she was seated far away from my sofa, in order to command the light, and really seemed so unconcerned at her unwonted circumstances, that she did not need my countenance or kindness. One thing I did like - her watchful look at Miss Galindo from time to time: it showed that her thoughts and sympathy were ever at Miss Galindo's service, as indeed they well might be. When Miss Bessy spoke, her voice was full and clear, and what she said, to the purpose, though there was a slight provincial accent in her way of speaking. After a while, my lady set us two to play at chess, a game which I had lately learnt at Mr. Gray's suggestion. Still we did not talk much together, though we were becoming attracted towards each other, I fancy.
"You will play well," said she. "You have only learnt about six months, have you? And yet you can nearly beat me, who have been at it as many years."
"I began to learn last November. I remember Mr. Gray's bringing me 'Philidor on Chess,' one very foggy, dismal day."
What made her look up so suddenly, with bright inquiry in her eyes? What made her silent for a moment as if in thought, and then go on with something, I know not what, in quite an altered tone?
My lady and Miss Galindo went on talking, while I sat thinking. I heard Captain James's name mentioned pretty frequently; and at last my lady put down her work, and said, almost with tears in her eyes -
"I could not - I cannot believe it. He must be aware she is a schismatic; a baker's daughter; and he is a gentleman by virtue and feeling, as well as by his profession, though his manners may be at times a little rough. My dear Miss Galindo, what will this world come to?"
Miss Galindo 'night possibly be aware of her own share in bringing the world to the pass which now dismayed my lady - for, of course, though all was now over and forgiven, yet Miss Bessy's being received into a respectable maiden lady's house, was one of the portents as to the world's future which alarmed her ladyship; and Miss Galindo knew this - but, at any rate, she had too lately been forgiven herself not to plead for mercy for the next offender against my lady's delicate sense of fitness and propriety - so she replied -
"Indeed, my lady, I have long left off trying to conjecture what makes Jack fancy Gill, or Gill Jack. It's best to sit down quiet under the belief that marriages are made for us, somewhere out of this world, and out of the range of this world's reason and laws. I'm not so sure that I should settle it down that they were made in heaven; t'other place seems to me as likely a workshop; but at any rate, I've given up troubling my head as to why they take place. Captain James is a gentleman: I make no doubt of that ever since I saw him stop to pick up old Goody Blake (when she tumbled down on the slide last winter) and then swear at a little lad who was laughing at her, and cuff him till be tumbled down crying; but we must have bread somehow, and though I like it better baked at home in a good sweet brick oven, yet, as some folks never can get it to rise, I don't see why a man may not be a baker. You see, my lady, I look upon baking as a simple trade, and as such lawful. There is no machine comes in to take away a man's or woman's power of earning their living, like the spinning-jenny (the old busybody that she is), to knock up all our good old women's livelihood, and send them to their graves before their time. There's an invention of the enemy, if you will?"
"That's very true!" said my lady, shaking her head.
"But baking bread is wholesome, straightforward elbow-work. They have not got to inventing any contrivance for that yet, thank Heaven! It does not seem to me natural, nor according to Scripture, that iron and steel (whose brows can't sweat) should he made to do man's work. And so I say, all those trades where iron and steel do the work ordained to man at the Fall, are unlawful, and I never stand up for them. But, say this baker Brooke did knead his bread, and make it rise, and then that people, who had, perhaps, no good ovens, came to him, and bought his good light bread, and in this manner he turned an honest penny and got rich: why, all I say, my lady, is this - I dare say he would have been born a Hanbury, or a lord if he could; and if he was not, it is no fault of his, that I can see, that he made good bread (being a baker by trade), and got money, and bought his land. It was his misfortune, not his fault, that he was not a person of quality by birth."
"That's very true," said my lady, after a moment's pause for consideration. "But, although he was a baker, he might have been a Churchman. Even your eloquence, Miss Galindo, shan't convince me that that is not his own fault."
"I don't see even that, begging your pardon, my lady," said Miss Galindo, emboldened by the first success of her eloquence. "When a Baptist is a baby, if I understand their creed aright, he is not baptized; and, consequently, he can have no godfathers and godmothers to do anything for him in his baptism; you agree to that, my lady?"
My lady would rather have known what her acquiescence would lead to, before acknowledging that she could not dissent from this first proposition; still she gave her tacit agreement by bowing her head.
"And, you know, our godfathers and godmothers are expected to promise and vow three things in our name, when we are little babies, and can do nothing but squall for ourselves. It is a great privilege, but don't let us be hard upon those who have not had the chance of godfathers and godmothers. Some people, we know, are born with silver spoons - that's to say, a godfather to give one things, and teach us our catechism, and see that we're confirmed into good church-going Christians - and others with wooden ladles in their mouths. These poor last folks must just be content to be godfatherless orphans, and Dissenters, all their lives; and if they are tradespeople into the bargain, so much the worse for them; but let us be humble Christians, my dear lady, and not hold our heads too high because we were born orthodox quality."
"You go on too fast, Miss Galindo! I can't follow you. Besides, I do believe dissent to be an invention of the Devil's, Why can't they believe as we do? It's very wrong. Besides, it's schism and heresy, and, you know, the Bible says that's as bad as witchcraft."
My lady was not convinced, as I could see. After Miss Galindo had gone, she sent Mrs. Medlicott for certain books out of the great old library upstairs, and had them made up into a parcel under her own eye.
"If Captain James comes to-morrow, I will speak to him about these Brookes. I have not hitherto liked to speak to him, because I did not wish to hurt him, by supposing there could be any truth in the reports about his intimacy with them. But now I will try and do my duty by him and them. Surely, this great body of divinity will bring them back to the true Church."
I could not tell, for though my lady read me over the titles, I was not any the wiser as to their contents. Besides, I was much more anxious to consult my lady as to my own change of place. I showed her the letter I had that day received from Harry; and we once more talked over the expediency of my going to live with him, and trying what entire change of air would do to re-establish my failing health. I could say anything to my lady, she was so sure to understand me rightly. For one thing, she never thought of herself, so I had no fear of hurting her by stating the truth. I told her how happy my years had been while passed under her roof; but that now I had begun to wonder whether I had not duties elsewhere, in making a home for Harry - and whether the fulfilment of these duties, quiet ones they must needs be in the case of such a cripple as myself, would not prevent my sinking into the querulous habit of thinking and talking, into which I found myself occasionally falling. Add to which, there was the prospect of benefit from the more bracing air of the north.
It was then settled that my departure from Hanbury, my happy home for so long, was to take place before many weeks had passed. And as, when one period of life is about to be shut up for ever, we are sure to look back upon it with fond regret, so I, happy enough in my future prospects, could not avoid recurring to all the days of my life in the Hall, from the time when I came to it, a shy awkward girl scarcely past childhood, to now, when a grown woman - past childhood - almost, from the very character of my illness, past youth - I was looking forward to leaving my lady's house (as a residence) for ever. As it has turned out, I never saw her or it again. Like a piece of sea-wreck, I have drifted away from those days: quiet, happy, eventless days - very happy to remember!
I thought of good, jovial Mr. Mountford, and his regrets that he might not keep a pack - "a very small pack" - of harriers, and his merry ways, and his love of good eating; of the first coming of Mr. Gray, and my lady's attempt to quench his sermons, when they tended to enforce any duty connected with education. And now we had an absolute schoolhouse in the village; and, since Miss Bessy's drinking tea at the Hall, my lady had been twice inside it, to give directions about some fine yarn she was having spun for table-napery. And her ladyship had so outgrown her old custom of dispensing with sermon or discourse, that even during the temporary preaching of Mr. Crosse, she had never had recourse to it; though I believe she would have had all the congregation on her side if she had.
And Mr. Horner was dead, and Captain James reigned in his stead. Good, steady, severe, silent Mr. Horner, with his clock-like regularity, and his snuff-coloured clothes, and silver buckles! I have often wondered which one misses most when they are dead and gone - the bright creatures full of life, who are hither and thither and everywhere, so that no one can reckon upon their coming and going, with whom stillness and the long quiet of the grave, seems utterly irreconcilable, so full are they of vivid motion and passion - or the slow, serious people, whose movements, nay, whose very words, seem to go by clockwork; who never appear much to affect the course of our life while they are with us, but whose methodical ways show themselves, when they are gone, to have been intertwined with our very roots of daily existence. I think I miss these last the most, although I may have loved the former best. Captain James never was to me what Mr. Horner was, though the latter had hardly exchanged a dozen words with me at the day of his death. Then Miss Galindo I remembered the time as if it had been only yesterday, when she was but a name - and a very odd one - to me; then she was a queer, abrupt, disagreeable, busy old maid. Now I loved her dearly, and I found out that I was almost jealous of Miss Bessy.
Mr. Gray I never thought of with love; the feeling was almost reverence with which I looked upon him. I have not wished to speak much of myself, or else I could have told you how much he had been to me during these long, weary years of illness. But be was almost as much to every one, rich and poor, from my lady down to Miss Galindo's Sally.
The village, too, had a different look about it. I am sure I could not tell you what caused the change; but there were no more lounging young men to form a group at the crossroad, at a time of day when young men ought to be at work. I don't say this was all Mr. Gray's doing, for there really was so much to do in the fields that there was but little time for lounging now-a-days. And the children were hushed up in school, and better behaved out of it, too, than in the days when I used to be able to go my lady's errands in the village. I went so little about now that I am sure I can't tell who Miss Galindo found to scold; and yet she looked so well and so happy that I think she must have had her accustomed portion of that wholesome exercise.
Before I left Hanbury, the rumour that Captain James was going to marry Miss Brooke, Baker Brooke's eldest daughter, who had only a sister to share his property with her, was confirmed. He himself announced it to my lady; nay more, with a courage, gained, I suppose, in his former profession, where, as I have heard, he had led his ship into many a post of danger, he asked her ladyship, the Countess Ludlow, if he might bring his bride-elect (the Baptist baker's daughter) and present her to my lady.
I am glad I was not present when he made this request; I should have felt so much ashamed for him, and I could not have helped being anxious till I heard my lady's answer, if I had been there. Of course she acceded; but I can fancy the grave surprise of her look. I wonder if Captain James noticed it.
I hardly dared ask my lady, after the interview had taken place, what she thought of the bride-elect; but I hinted my curiosity, and she told me, that if the young person had applied to Mrs. Medlicott for the situation of cook, and Mrs. Medlicott had engaged her, she thought that it would have been a very suitable arrangement. I understood from this how little she thought a marriage with Captain James, R. N., suitable.
About a year after I left Hanbury, I received a letter from Miss Galindo; I think I can find it. - Yes, this is it.
"HANBURY, May 4, 1811."DEAR MARGARET, - You ask for news of us all. Don't you know there is no news in Hanbury? Did you ever hear of an event here? Now, if you have answered 'Yes' in your own mind to these questions, you have fallen into my trap, and never were more mistaken in your life. Hanbury is full of news; and we have more events on our hands than we know what to do with. I will take them in the order of the newspapers - births, deaths, and marriages. In the matter of births, Jenny Lucas has had twins not a week ago. Sadly too much of a good thing, you'll say. Very true: but then they died; so their birth did not much signify. My cat has kittened, too; she has had three kittens, which again you may observe is too much of a good thing; and so it would be, if it were not for the next item of intelligence I shall lay before you. Captain and Mrs. James have taken the old house next Pearson's; and the house is overrun with mice, which is just as fortunate for me as the King of Egypt's rat-ridden kingdom was to Dick Whittington. For my cat's kittening decided me to go and call on the bride, in hopes she wanted a cat; which she did like a sensible woman, as I do believe she is, in spite of Baptism, Bakers, Bread, and Birmingham, and something worse than all, which you shall hear about, if you'll only be patient. As I had got my best bonnet on, the one I bought when poor Lord Ludlow was last at Hanbury in '99 - I thought it a great condescension in myself (always remembering the date of the Galindo baronetcy) to go and call on the bride; though I don't think so much of myself in my every-day clothes, as you know. But who should I find there but my Lady Ludlow! She looks as frail and delicate as ever, but is, I think, in better heart ever since that old city merchant of a Hanbury took it into his head that he was a cadet of the Hanburys of Hanbury, and left her that handsome legacy. I'll warrant you that the mortgage was paid off pretty fast; and Mr. Horner's money - or my lady's money, or Harry Gregson's money, call it which you will - is invested in his name, all right and tight; and they do talk of his being captain of his school, or Grecian, or something, and going to college after all! Harry Gregson the poacher's son! Well! to be sure, we are living in strange times!
"But I have not done with the marriages yet. Captain James's is all very well, but no one cares for it now, we are so full of Mr. Gray's. Yes, indeed, Mr. Gray is going to be married, and to nobody else but my little Bessy! I tell her she will have to nurse him half the days of her life, he is such a frail little body. But she says she does not care for that; so that his body holds his soul, it is enough for her. She has a good spirit and a brave heart, has my Bessy! It is a great advantage that she won't have to mark her clothes over again; for when she had knitted herself her last set of stockings, I told her to put G for Galindo, if she did not choose to put it for Gibson, for she should be my child if she was no one else's. And now you see it stands for Gray. So there are two marriages, and what more would you have? And she promises to take another of my kittens.
"Now, as to deaths, old Farmer Hale is dead - poor old man, I should think his wife thought it a good riddance, for he beat her every day that he was drunk, and he was never sober, in spite of Mr. Gray. I don't think (as I tell him) that Mr. Gray would ever have found courage to speak to Bessy as long as Farmer Hale lived, he took the old gentleman's sins so much to heart, and seemed to think it was all his fault for not being able to make a sinner into a saint. The parish bull is dead too. I never was so glad in my life. But they say we are to have a new one in his place. In the meantime I cross the common in peace, which is very convenient just now, when I have so often to go to Mr. Gray's to see about furnishing.
"Now you think I have told you all the Hanbury news, don't you? Not so. The very greatest thing of all is to come. I won't tantalise you, but just out with it, for you would never guess it. My Lady Ludlow has given a party, just like any plebeian amongst us. We had tea and toast in the blue drawing-room, old John Footman waiting with Tom Diggles, the lad that used to frighten away crows in Farmer Hale's fields, following in my lady's livery, hair powdered and everything. Mrs. Medlicott made tea in my lady's own room. My lady looked like a splendid fairy queen of mature age, in black velvet, and the old lace, which I have never seen her wear before since my lord's death. But the company? you'll say. Why, we had the parson of Clover, and the parson of Headleigh, and the parson of Merribank, and the three parsonesses; and Farmer Donkin, and two Miss Donkins; and Mr. Gray (of course), and myself and Bessy; and Captain and Mrs. James; yes, and Mr. and Mrs. Brooke; think of that! I am not sure the parsons liked it; but he was there. For he has been helping Captain James to get my lady's land into order; and then his daughter married the agent; and Mr. Gray (who ought to know) says that, after all, Baptists are not such bad people; and he was right against them at one time as you may remember. Mrs. Brooke is a rough diamond, to be sure. People have said that of me, I know. But, being a Galindo, I learnt manners in my youth and can take them up when I choose. But Mrs. Brooke never learnt manners, I'll be bound. When John Footman banded her the tray with the tea-cups, she looked up at him as if she were sorely puzzled by that way of going on. I was sitting next to her, so I pretended not to see her perplexity, and put her cream and sugar in for her, and was all ready to pop it into her bands, - when who should come up, but that impudent lad Tom Diggles (I call him lad, for all his hair is powdered, for you know that it is not natural grey hair), with his tray full of cakes and what not, all as good as Mrs. Medlicott could make them. By this time, I should tell you all the parsonesses were looking at Mrs. Brooke, for she had shown her want of breeding before; and the parsonesses, who were just a step above her in manners, were very much inclined to smile at her doings and sayings. Well! what does she do but pull out a clean Bandana pocket-handkerchief, all red and yellow silk; spread it over her best silk gown - it was, like enough, a new one, for I had it from Sally, who had it from her cousin Molly, who is dairy-woman 'at the Brookes,' that the Brookes were mighty set-up with an invitation to drink tea at the Hall. There we were, Tom Diggles even on the grin (I wonder how long it is since he was own brother to a scarecrow, only not so decently dressed) and Mrs. Parsoness of Headleigh - I forget her name, and it's no matter, for she's an ill-bred creature, I hope Bessy will behave herself better - was right-down bursting with laughter, and as near a heehaw as ever a donkey was; when what does my lady do? Ay! there's my own dear Lady Ludlow, God bless her! She takes out her own pocket-handkerchief, all snowy cambric, and lays it softly down on her velvet lap, for all the world as if she did it every day of her life, just like Mrs. Brooke, the baker's wife; and when the one got up to shake the crumbs into the fireplace, the other did just the same. But with such a grace! and such a look at us all! Tom Diggles went red all over; and Mrs. Parsoness of Headleigh scarce spoke for the rest of the evening; and the tears came into my old silly eyes; and Mr. Gray, who was before silent and awkward in a way which I tell Bessy she must cure him of, was made so happy by this pretty action of my lady's that he talked away all the rest of the evening, and was the life of the company.
"Oh, Margaret Dawson! I sometimes wonder if you're the better off for leaving us. To be sure you're with your brother, and blood is blood. But when I look at my lady and Mr. Gray, for all they're so different, I would not change places with any in England."
Alas! alas! I never saw my dear lady again. She died in eighteen hundred and fourteen, and Mr. Gray did not long survive her. As I dare say you know, the Reverend Henry Gregson is now vicar of Hanbury, and his wife is the daughter of Mr. Gray and Miss Bessy.
As any one may guess, it had taken Mrs. Dawson several Monday evenings to narrate all this history of the days of her youth. Miss Duncan thought it would be a good exercise for me, both in memory and composition, to write out on Tuesday mornings all that I had heard the night before; and thus it came to pass that I have the manuscript of "My Lady Ludlow" now lying by me.
Mr. Dawson had often come in and out of the room during the time that his sister had been telling us about Lady Ludlow. He would stop, and listen a little, and smile or sigh as the case might be. The Monday after the dear old lady had wound up her tale (if tale it could be called), we felt rather at a loss what to talk about, we had grown so accustomed to listen to Mrs. Dawson. I remember I was saying, "Oh, dear! I wish some one would tell us another story!" when her brother said, as if in answer to my speech, that he had drawn up a paper all ready for the Philosophical Society, and that perhaps we might care to hear it before it was sent off: it was in a great measure compiled from a French book, published by one of the Academies, and rather dry in itself; but Mr. Dawson's attention had been directed to it, after a tour he had made in England during the past year, in which he had noticed small walled-up doors in unusual parts of some old parish churches, and had been told that they had formerly been appropriated to the use of some half-heathen race, who, before the days of gipsies, held the same outcast pariah position in most of the countries of western Europe. Mr. Dawson had been recommended to the French book which he named, as containing the fullest and most authentic account of this mysterious race, the Cagots. I did not think I should like hearing this paper as much as a story; but, of course, as he meant it kindly, we were bound to submit, and I found it, on the whole, more interesting than I anticipated.