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Anne Bronte
Anne Bronte

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall



by Anne Bronte



July, 1997  [Etext #969]





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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

Scanned and proofed by David Price

ccx074@coventry.ac.uk









The Tenant of Wildfell Hall









AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION







While I acknowledge the success of the present work to have been

greater than I anticipated, and the praises it has elicited from a

few kind critics to have been greater than it deserved, I must also

admit that from some other quarters it has been censured with an

asperity which I was as little prepared to expect, and which my

judgment, as well as my feelings, assures me is more bitter than

just.  It is scarcely the province of an author to refute the

arguments of his censors and vindicate his own productions; but I

may be allowed to make here a few observations with which I would

have prefaced the first edition, had I foreseen the necessity of

such precautions against the misapprehensions of those who would

read it with a prejudiced mind or be content to judge it by a hasty

glance.



My object in writing the following pages was not simply to amuse

the Reader; neither was it to gratify my own taste, nor yet to

ingratiate myself with the Press and the Public:  I wished to tell

the truth, for truth always conveys its own moral to those who are

able to receive it.  But as the priceless treasure too frequently

hides at the bottom of a well, it needs some courage to dive for

it, especially as he that does so will be likely to incur more

scorn and obloquy for the mud and water into which he has ventured

to plunge, than thanks for the jewel he procures; as, in like

manner, she who undertakes the cleansing of a careless bachelor's

apartment will be liable to more abuse for the dust she raises than

commendation for the clearance she effects.  Let it not be

imagined, however, that I consider myself competent to reform the

errors and abuses of society, but only that I would fain contribute

my humble quota towards so good an aim; and if I can gain the

public ear at all, I would rather whisper a few wholesome truths

therein than much soft nonsense.



As the story of 'Agnes Grey' was accused of extravagant over-

colouring in those very parts that were carefully copied from the

life, with a most scrupulous avoidance of all exaggeration, so, in

the present work, I find myself censured for depicting CON AMORE,

with 'a morbid love of the coarse, if not of the brutal,' those

scenes which, I will venture to say, have not been more painful for

the most fastidious of my critics to read than they were for me to

describe.  I may have gone too far; in which case I shall be

careful not to trouble myself or my readers in the same way again;

but when we have to do with vice and vicious characters, I maintain

it is better to depict them as they really are than as they would

wish to appear.  To represent a bad thing in its least offensive

light is, doubtless, the most agreeable course for a writer of

fiction to pursue; but is it the most honest, or the safest?  Is it

better to reveal the snares and pitfalls of life to the young and

thoughtless traveller, or to cover them with branches and flowers?

Oh, reader! if there were less of this delicate concealment of

facts - this whispering, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace,

there would be less of sin and misery to the young of both sexes

who are left to wring their bitter knowledge from experience.



I would not be understood to suppose that the proceedings of the

unhappy scapegrace, with his few profligate companions I have here

introduced, are a specimen of the common practices of society - the

case is an extreme one, as I trusted none would fail to perceive;

but I know that such characters do exist, and if I have warned one

rash youth from following in their steps, or prevented one

thoughtless girl from falling into the very natural error of my

heroine, the book has not been written in vain.  But, at the same

time, if any honest reader shall have derived more pain than

pleasure from its perusal, and have closed the last volume with a

disagreeable impression on his mind, I humbly crave his pardon, for

such was far from my intention; and I will endeavour to do better

another time, for I love to give innocent pleasure.  Yet, be it

understood, I shall not limit my ambition to this - or even to

producing 'a perfect work of art':  time and talents so spent, I

should consider wasted and misapplied.  Such humble talents as God

has given me I will endeavour to put to their greatest use; if I am

able to amuse, I will try to benefit too; and when I feel it my

duty to speak an unpalatable truth, with the help of God, I WILL

speak it, though it be to the prejudice of my name and to the

detriment of my reader's immediate pleasure as well as my own.



One word more, and I have done.  Respecting the author's identity,

I would have it to he distinctly understood that Acton Bell is

neither Currer nor Ellis Bell, and therefore let not his faults be

attributed to them.  As to whether the name be real or fictitious,

it cannot greatly signify to those who know him only by his works.

As little, I should think, can it matter whether the writer so

designated is a man, or a woman, as one or two of my critics

profess to have discovered.  I take the imputation in good part, as

a compliment to the just delineation of my female characters; and

though I am bound to attribute much of the severity of my censors

to this suspicion, I make no effort to refute it, because, in my

own mind, I am satisfied that if a book is a good one, it is so

whatever the sex of the author may be.  All novels are, or should

be, written for both men and women to read, and I am at a loss to

conceive how a man should permit himself to write anything that

would be really disgraceful to a woman, or why a woman should be

censured for writing anything that would be proper and becoming for

a man.



JULY 22nd, 1848.









THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL









CHAPTER I







You must go back with me to the autumn of 1827.



My father, as you know, was a sort of gentleman farmer in -shire;

and I, by his express desire, succeeded him in the same quiet

occupation, not very willingly, for ambition urged me to higher

aims, and self-conceit assured me that, in disregarding its voice,

I was burying my talent in the earth, and hiding my light under a

bushel.  My mother had done her utmost to persuade me that I was

capable of great achievements; but my father, who thought ambition

was the surest road to ruin, and change but another word for

destruction, would listen to no scheme for bettering either my own

condition, or that of my fellow mortals.  He assured me it was all

rubbish, and exhorted me, with his dying breath, to continue in the

good old way, to follow his steps, and those of his father before

him, and let my highest ambition be to walk honestly through the

world, looking neither to the right hand nor to the left, and to

transmit the paternal acres to my children in, at least, as

flourishing a condition as he left them to me.



'Well! - an honest and industrious farmer is one of the most useful

members of society; and if I devote my talents to the cultivation

of my farm, and the improvement of agriculture in general, I shall

thereby benefit, not only my own immediate connections and

dependants, but, in some degree, mankind at large:- hence I shall

not have lived in vain.'  With such reflections as these I was

endeavouring to console myself, as I plodded home from the fields,

one cold, damp, cloudy evening towards the close of October.  But

the gleam of a bright red fire through the parlour window had more

effect in cheering my spirits, and rebuking my thankless repinings,

than all the sage reflections and good resolutions I had forced my

mind to frame; - for I was young then, remember - only four-and-

twenty - and had not acquired half the rule over my own spirit that

I now possess - trifling as that may be.



However, that haven of bliss must not be entered till I had

exchanged my miry boots for a clean pair of shoes, and my rough

surtout for a respectable coat, and made myself generally

presentable before decent society; for my mother, with all her

kindness, was vastly particular on certain points.



In ascending to my room I was met upon the stairs by a smart,

pretty girl of nineteen, with a tidy, dumpy figure, a round face,

bright, blooming cheeks, glossy, clustering curls, and little merry

brown eyes.  I need not tell you this was my sister Rose.  She is,

I know, a comely matron still, and, doubtless, no less lovely - in

your eyes - than on the happy day you first beheld her.  Nothing

told me then that she, a few years hence, would be the wife of one

entirely unknown to me as yet, but destined hereafter to become a

closer friend than even herself, more intimate than that unmannerly

lad of seventeen, by whom I was collared in the passage, on coming

down, and well-nigh jerked off my equilibrium, and who, in

correction for his impudence, received a resounding whack over the

sconce, which, however, sustained no serious injury from the

infliction; as, besides being more than commonly thick, it was

protected by a redundant shock of short, reddish curls, that my

mother called auburn.



On entering the parlour we found that honoured lady seated in her

arm-chair at the fireside, working away at her knitting, according

to her usual custom, when she had nothing else to do.  She had

swept the hearth, and made a bright blazing fire for our reception;

the servant had just brought in the tea-tray; and Rose was

producing the sugar-basin and tea-caddy from the cupboard in the

black oak side-board, that shone like polished ebony, in the

cheerful parlour twilight.



'Well! here they both are,' cried my mother, looking round upon us

without retarding the motion of her nimble fingers and glittering

needles.  'Now shut the door, and come to the fire, while Rose gets

the tea ready; I'm sure you must be starved; - and tell me what

you've been about all day; - I like to know what my children have

been about.'



'I've been breaking in the grey colt - no easy business that -

directing the ploughing of the last wheat stubble - for the

ploughboy has not the sense to direct himself - and carrying out a

plan for the extensive and efficient draining of the low

meadowlands.'



'That's my brave boy! - and Fergus, what have you been doing?'



'Badger-baiting.'



And here he proceeded to give a particular account of his sport,

and the respective traits of prowess evinced by the badger and the

dogs; my mother pretending to listen with deep attention, and

watching his animated countenance with a degree of maternal

admiration I thought highly disproportioned to its object.



'It's time you should be doing something else, Fergus,' said I, as

soon as a momentary pause in his narration allowed me to get in a

word.



'What can I do?' replied he; 'my mother won't let me go to sea or

enter the army; and I'm determined to do nothing else - except make

myself such a nuisance to you all, that you will be thankful to get

rid of me on any terms.'



Our parent soothingly stroked his stiff, short curls.  He growled,

and tried to look sulky, and then we all took our seats at the

table, in obedience to the thrice-repeated summons of Rose.



'Now take your tea,' said she; 'and I'll tell you what I've been

doing.  I've been to call on the Wilsons; and it's a thousand

pities you didn't go with me, Gilbert, for Eliza Millward was

there!'



'Well! what of her?'



'Oh, nothing! - I'm not going to tell you about her; - only that

she's a nice, amusing little thing, when she is in a merry humour,

and I shouldn't mind calling her - '



'Hush, hush, my dear! your brother has no such idea!' whispered my

mother earnestly, holding up her finger.



'Well,' resumed Rose; 'I was going to tell you an important piece

of news I heard there - I have been bursting with it ever since.

You know it was reported a month ago, that somebody was going to

take Wildfell Hall - and - what do you think?  It has actually been

inhabited above a week! - and we never knew!'



'Impossible!' cried my mother.



'Preposterous!!!' shrieked Fergus.



'It has indeed! - and by a single lady!'



'Good gracious, my dear!  The place is in ruins!'



'She has had two or three rooms made habitable; and there she

lives, all alone - except an old woman for a servant!'



'Oh, dear! that spoils it - I'd hoped she was a witch,' observed

Fergus, while carving his inch-thick slice of bread and butter.



'Nonsense, Fergus!  But isn't it strange, mamma?'



'Strange!  I can hardly believe it.'



'But you may believe it; for Jane Wilson has seen her.  She went

with her mother, who, of course, when she heard of a stranger being

in the neighbourhood, would be on pins and needles till she had

seen her and got all she could out of her.  She is called Mrs.

Graham, and she is in mourning - not widow's weeds, but slightish

mourning - and she is quite young, they say, - not above five or

six and twenty, - but so reserved!  They tried all they could to

find out who she was and where she came from, and, all about her,

but neither Mrs. Wilson, with her pertinacious and impertinent

home-thrusts, nor Miss Wilson, with her skilful manoeuvring, could

manage to elicit a single satisfactory answer, or even a casual

remark, or chance expression calculated to allay their curiosity,

or throw the faintest ray of light upon her history, circumstances,

or connections.  Moreover, she was barely civil to them, and

evidently better pleased to say 'good-by,' than 'how do you do.'

But Eliza Millward says her father intends to call upon her soon,

to offer some pastoral advice, which he fears she needs, as, though

she is known to have entered the neighbourhood early last week, she

did not make her appearance at church on Sunday; and she - Eliza,

that is - will beg to accompany him, and is sure she can succeed in

wheedling something out of her - you know, Gilbert, she can do

anything.  And we should call some time, mamma; it's only proper,

you know.'



'Of course, my dear.  Poor thing!  How lonely she must feel!'



'And pray, be quick about it; and mind you bring me word how much

sugar she puts in her tea, and what sort of caps and aprons she

wears, and all about it; for I don't know how I can live till I

know,' said Fergus, very gravely.



But if he intended the speech to be hailed as a master-stroke of

wit, he signally failed, for nobody laughed.  However, he was not

much disconcerted at that; for when he had taken a mouthful of

bread and butter and was about to swallow a gulp of tea, the humour

of the thing burst upon him with such irresistible force, that he

was obliged to jump up from the table, and rush snorting and

choking from the room; and a minute after, was heard screaming in

fearful agony in the garden.



As for me, I was hungry, and contented myself with silently

demolishing the tea, ham, and toast, while my mother and sister

went on talking, and continued to discuss the apparent or non-

apparent circumstances, and probable or improbable history of the

mysterious lady; but I must confess that, after my brother's

misadventure, I once or twice raised the cup to my lips, and put it

down again without daring to taste the contents, lest I should

injure my dignity by a similar explosion.



The next day my mother and Rose hastened to pay their compliments

to the fair recluse; and came back but little wiser than they went;

though my mother declared she did not regret the journey, for if

she had not gained much good, she flattered herself she had

imparted some, and that was better:  she had given some useful

advice, which, she hoped, would not be thrown away; for Mrs.

Graham, though she said little to any purpose, and appeared

somewhat self-opinionated, seemed not incapable of reflection, -

though she did not know where she had been all her life, poor

thing, for she betrayed a lamentable ignorance on certain points,

and had not even the sense to be ashamed of it.



'On what points, mother?' asked I.



'On household matters, and all the little niceties of cookery, and

such things, that every lady ought to be familiar with, whether she

be required to make a practical use of her knowledge or not.  I

gave her some useful pieces of information, however, and several

excellent receipts, the value of which she evidently could not

appreciate, for she begged I would not trouble myself, as she lived

in such a plain, quiet way, that she was sure she should never make

use of them.  "No matter, my dear," said I; "it is what every

respectable female ought to know; - and besides, though you are

alone now, you will not be always so; you have been married, and

probably - I might say almost certainly - will be again."  "You are

mistaken there, ma'am," said she, almost haughtily; "I am certain I

never shall." - But I told her I knew better.'



'Some romantic young widow, I suppose,' said I, 'come there to end

her days in solitude, and mourn in secret for the dear departed -

but it won't last long.'



'No, I think not,' observed Rose; 'for she didn't seem very

disconsolate after all; and she's excessively pretty - handsome

rather - you must see her, Gilbert; you will call her a perfect

beauty, though you could hardly pretend to discover a resemblance

between her and Eliza Millward.'



'Well, I can imagine many faces more beautiful than Eliza's, though

not more charming.  I allow she has small claims to perfection; but

then, I maintain that, if she were more perfect, she would be less

interesting.'



'And so you prefer her faults to other people's perfections?'



'Just so - saving my mother's presence.'



'Oh, my dear Gilbert, what nonsense you talk! - I know you don't

mean it; it's quite out of the question,' said my mother, getting

up, and bustling out of the room, under pretence of household

business, in order to escape the contradiction that was trembling

on my tongue.



After that Rose favoured me with further particulars respecting

Mrs. Graham.  Her appearance, manners, and dress, and the very

furniture of the room she inhabited, were all set before me, with

rather more clearness and precision than I cared to see them; but,

as I was not a very attentive listener, I could not repeat the

description if I would.



The next day was Saturday; and, on Sunday, everybody wondered

whether or not the fair unknown would profit by the vicar's

remonstrance, and come to church.  I confess I looked with some

interest myself towards the old family pew, appertaining to

Wildfell Hall, where the faded crimson cushions and lining had been

unpressed and unrenewed so many years, and the grim escutcheons,

with their lugubrious borders of rusty black cloth, frowned so

sternly from the wall above.



And there I beheld a tall, lady-like figure, clad in black.  Her

face was towards me, and there was something in it which, once

seen, invited me to look again.  Her hair was raven black, and

disposed in long glossy ringlets, a style of coiffure rather

unusual in those days, but always graceful and becoming; her

complexion was clear and pale; her eyes I could not see, for, being

bent upon her prayer-book, they were concealed by their drooping

lids and long black lashes, but the brows above were expressive and

well defined; the forehead was lofty and intellectual, the nose, a

perfect aquiline and the features, in general, unexceptionable -

only there was a slight hollowness about the cheeks and eyes, and

the lips, though finely formed, were a little too thin, a little

too firmly compressed, and had something about them that betokened,

I thought, no very soft or amiable temper; and I said in my heart -

'I would rather admire you from this distance, fair lady, than be

the partner of your home.'



Just then she happened to raise her eyes, and they met mine; I did

not choose to withdraw my gaze, and she turned again to her book,

but with a momentary, indefinable expression of quiet scorn, that

was inexpressibly provoking to me.



'She thinks me an impudent puppy,' thought I.  'Humph! - she shall

change her mind before long, if I think it worth while.'



But then it flashed upon me that these were very improper thoughts

for a place of worship, and that my behaviour, on the present

occasion, was anything but what it ought to be.  Previous, however,

to directing my mind to the service, I glanced round the church to

see if any one had been observing me; - but no, - all, who were not

attending to their prayer-books, were attending to the strange

lady, - my good mother and sister among the rest, and Mrs. Wilson

and her daughter; and even Eliza Millward was slily glancing from

the corners of her eyes towards the object of general attraction.

Then she glanced at me, simpered a little, and blushed, modestly

looked at her prayer-book, and endeavoured to compose her features.



Here I was transgressing again; and this time I was made sensible

of it by a sudden dig in the ribs, from the elbow of my pert

brother.  For the present, I could only resent the insult by

pressing my foot upon his toes, deferring further vengeance till we

got out of church.



Now, Halford, before I close this letter, I'll tell you who Eliza

Millward was:  she was the vicar's younger daughter, and a very

engaging little creature, for whom I felt no small degree of

partiality; - and she knew it, though I had never come to any

direct explanation, and had no definite intention of so doing, for

my mother, who maintained there was no one good enough for me

within twenty miles round, could not bear the thoughts of my

marrying that insignificant little thing, who, in addition to her

numerous other disqualifications, had not twenty pounds to call her

own.  Eliza's figure was at once slight and plump, her face small,

and nearly as round as my sister's, - complexion, something similar

to hers, but more delicate and less decidedly blooming, - nose,

retrousse, - features, generally irregular; and, altogether, she

was rather charming than pretty.  But her eyes - I must not forget

those remarkable features, for therein her chief attraction lay -

in outward aspect at least; - they were long and narrow in shape,

the irids black, or very dark brown, the expression various, and

ever changing, but always either preternaturally - I had almost

said diabolically - wicked, or irresistibly bewitching - often

both.  Her voice was gentle and childish, her tread light and soft

as that of a cat:- but her manners more frequently resembled those

of a pretty playful kitten, that is now pert and roguish, now timid

and demure, according to its own sweet will.



Her sister, Mary, was several years older, several inches taller,

and of a larger, coarser build - a plain, quiet, sensible girl, who

had patiently nursed their mother, through her last long, tedious

illness, and been the housekeeper, and family drudge, from thence

to the present time.  She was trusted and valued by her father,

loved and courted by all dogs, cats, children, and poor people, and

slighted and neglected by everybody else.



The Reverend Michael Millward himself was a tall, ponderous elderly

gentleman, who placed a shovel hat above his large, square,

massive-featured face, carried a stout walking-stick in his hand,

and incased his still powerful limbs in knee-breeches and gaiters,

- or black silk stockings on state occasions.  He was a man of

fixed principles, strong prejudices, and regular habits, intolerant

of dissent in any shape, acting under a firm conviction that his

opinions were always right, and whoever differed from them must be

either most deplorably ignorant, or wilfully blind.



In childhood, I had always been accustomed to regard him with a

feeling of reverential awe - but lately, even now, surmounted, for,

though he had a fatherly kindness for the well-behaved, he was a

strict disciplinarian, and had often sternly reproved our juvenile

failings and peccadilloes; and moreover, in those days, whenever he

called upon our parents, we had to stand up before him, and say our

catechism, or repeat, 'How doth the little busy bee,' or some other

hymn, or - worse than all - be questioned about his last text, and

the heads of the discourse, which we never could remember.

Sometimes, the worthy gentleman would reprove my mother for being

over-indulgent to her sons, with a reference to old Eli, or David

and Absalom, which was particularly galling to her feelings; and,

very highly as she respected him, and all his sayings, I once heard

her exclaim, 'I wish to goodness he had a son himself!  He wouldn't

be so ready with his advice to other people then; - he'd see what

it is to have a couple of boys to keep in order.'



He had a laudable care for his own bodily health - kept very early

hours, regularly took a walk before breakfast, was vastly

particular about warm and dry clothing, had never been known to

preach a sermon without previously swallowing a raw egg - albeit he

was gifted with good lungs and a powerful voice, - and was,

generally, extremely particular about what he ate and drank, though

by no means abstemious, and having a mode of dietary peculiar to

himself, - being a great despiser of tea and such slops, and a

patron of malt liquors, bacon and eggs, ham, hung beef, and other

strong meats, which agreed well enough with his digestive organs,

and therefore were maintained by him to be good and wholesome for

everybody, and confidently recommended to the most delicate

convalescents or dyspeptics, who, if they failed to derive the

promised benefit from his prescriptions, were told it was because

they had not persevered, and if they complained of inconvenient

results therefrom, were assured it was all fancy.



I will just touch upon two other persons whom I have mentioned, and

then bring this long letter to a close.  These are Mrs. Wilson and

her daughter.  The former was the widow of a substantial farmer, a

narrow-minded, tattling old gossip, whose character is not worth

describing.  She had two sons, Robert, a rough countrified farmer,

and Richard, a retiring, studious young man, who was studying the

classics with the vicar's assistance, preparing for college, with a

view to enter the church.



Their sister Jane was a young lady of some talents, and more

ambition.  She had, at her own desire, received a regular boarding-

school education, superior to what any member of the family had

obtained before.  She had taken the polish well, acquired

considerable elegance of manners, quite lost her provincial accent,

and could boast of more accomplishments than the vicar's daughters.

She was considered a beauty besides; but never for a moment could

she number me amongst her admirers.  She was about six and twenty,

rather tall and very slender, her hair was neither chestnut nor

auburn, but a most decided bright, light red; her complexion was

remarkably fair and brilliant, her head small, neck long, chin well

turned, but very short, lips thin and red, eyes clear hazel, quick,

and penetrating, but entirely destitute of poetry or feeling.  She

had, or might have had, many suitors in her own rank of life, but

scornfully repulsed or rejected them all; for none but a gentleman

could please her refined taste, and none but a rich one could

satisfy her soaring ambition.  One gentleman there was, from whom

she had lately received some rather pointed attentions, and upon

whose heart, name, and fortune, it was whispered, she had serious

designs.  This was Mr. Lawrence, the young squire, whose family had

formerly occupied Wildfell Hall, but had deserted it, some fifteen

years ago, for a more modern and commodious mansion in the

neighbouring parish.



Now, Halford, I bid you adieu for the present.  This is the first

instalment of my debt.  If the coin suits you, tell me so, and I'll

send you the rest at my leisure:  if you would rather remain my

creditor than stuff your purse with such ungainly, heavy pieces, -

tell me still, and I'll pardon your bad taste, and willingly keep

the treasure to myself.



Yours immutably,



GILBERT MARKHAM.







CHAPTER II







I perceive, with joy, my most valued friend, that the cloud of your

displeasure has passed away; the light of your countenance blesses

me once more, and you desire the continuation of my story:

therefore, without more ado, you shall have it.



I think the day I last mentioned was a certain Sunday, the latest

in the October of 1827.  On the following Tuesday I was out with my

dog and gun, in pursuit of such game as I could find within the

territory of Linden-Car; but finding none at all, I turned my arms

against the hawks and carrion crows, whose depredations, as I

suspected, had deprived me of better prey.  To this end I left the

more frequented regions, the wooded valleys, the corn-fields, and

the meadow-lands, and proceeded to mount the steep acclivity of

Wildfell, the wildest and the loftiest eminence in our

neighbourhood, where, as you ascend, the hedges, as well as the

trees, become scanty and stunted, the former, at length, giving

place to rough stone fences, partly greened over with ivy and moss,

the latter to larches and Scotch fir-trees, or isolated

blackthorns.  The fields, being rough and stony, and wholly unfit

for the plough, were mostly devoted to the posturing of sheep and

cattle; the soil was thin and poor:  bits of grey rock here and

there peeped out from the grassy hillocks; bilberry-plants and

heather - relics of more savage wildness - grew under the walls;

and in many of the enclosures, ragweeds and rushes usurped

supremacy over the scanty herbage; but these were not my property.



Near the top of this hill, about two miles from Linden-Car, stood

Wildfell Hall, a superannuated mansion of the Elizabethan era,

built of dark grey stone, venerable and picturesque to look at, but

doubtless, cold and gloomy enough to inhabit, with its thick stone

mullions and little latticed panes, its time-eaten air-holes, and

its too lonely, too unsheltered situation, - only shielded from the

war of wind and weather by a group of Scotch firs, themselves half

blighted with storms, and looking as stern and gloomy as the Hall

itself.  Behind it lay a few desolate fields, and then the brown

heath-clad summit of the hill; before it (enclosed by stone walls,

and entered by an iron gate, with large balls of grey granite -

similar to those which decorated the roof and gables - surmounting

the gate-posts) was a garden, - once stocked with such hard plants

and flowers as could best brook the soil and climate, and such

trees and shrubs as could best endure the gardener's torturing

shears, and most readily assume the shapes he chose to give them, -

now, having been left so many years untilled and untrimmed,

abandoned to the weeds and the grass, to the frost and the wind,

the rain and the drought, it presented a very singular appearance

indeed.  The close green walls of privet, that had bordered the

principal walk, were two-thirds withered away, and the rest grown

beyond all reasonable bounds; the old boxwood swan, that sat beside

the scraper, had lost its neck and half its body:  the castellated

towers of laurel in the middle of the garden, the gigantic warrior

that stood on one side of the gateway, and the lion that guarded

the other, were sprouted into such fantastic shapes as resembled

nothing either in heaven or earth, or in the waters under the

earth; but, to my young imagination, they presented all of them a

goblinish appearance, that harmonised well with the ghostly legions

and dark traditions our old nurse had told us respecting the

haunted hall and its departed occupants.



I had succeeded in killing a hawk and two crows when I came within

sight of the mansion; and then, relinquishing further depredations,

I sauntered on, to have a look at the old place, and see what

changes had been wrought in it by its new inhabitant.  I did not

like to go quite to the front and stare in at the gate; but I

paused beside the garden wall, and looked, and saw no change -

except in one wing, where the broken windows and dilapidated roof

had evidently been repaired, and where a thin wreath of smoke was

curling up from the stack of chimneys.



While I thus stood, leaning on my gun, and looking up at the dark

gables, sunk in an idle reverie, weaving a tissue of wayward

fancies, in which old associations and the fair young hermit, now

within those walls, bore a nearly equal part, I heard a slight

rustling and scrambling just within the garden; and, glancing in

the direction whence the sound proceeded, I beheld a tiny hand

elevated above the wall:  it clung to the topmost stone, and then

another little hand was raised to take a firmer hold, and then

appeared a small white forehead, surmounted with wreaths of light

brown hair, with a pair of deep blue eyes beneath, and the upper

portion of a diminutive ivory nose.



The eyes did not notice me, but sparkled with glee on beholding

Sancho, my beautiful black and white setter, that was coursing

about the field with its muzzle to the ground.  The little creature

raised its face and called aloud to the dog.  The good-natured

animal paused, looked up, and wagged his tail, but made no further

advances.  The child (a little boy, apparently about five years

old) scrambled up to the top of the wall, and called again and

again; but finding this of no avail, apparently made up his mind,

like Mahomet, to go to the mountain, since the mountain would not

come to him, and attempted to get over; but a crabbed old cherry-

tree, that grew hard by, caught him by the frock in one of its

crooked scraggy arms that stretched over the wall.  In attempting

to disengage himself his foot slipped, and down he tumbled - but

not to the earth; - the tree still kept him suspended.  There was a

silent struggle, and then a piercing shriek; - but, in an instant,

I had dropped my gun on the grass, and caught the little fellow in

my arms.



I wiped his eyes with his frock, told him he was all right and

called Sancho to pacify him.  He was just putting little hand on

the dog's neck and beginning to smile through his tears, when I

heard behind me a click of the iron gate, and a rustle of female

garments, and lo! Mrs. Graham darted upon me - her neck uncovered,

her black locks streaming in the wind.



'Give me the child!' she said, in a voice scarce louder than a

whisper, but with a tone of startling vehemence, and, seizing the

boy, she snatched him from me, as if some dire contamination were

in my touch, and then stood with one hand firmly clasping his, the

other on his shoulder, fixing upon me her large, luminous dark eyes

- pale, breathless, quivering with agitation.



'I was not harming the child, madam,' said I, scarce knowing

whether to be most astonished or displeased; 'he was tumbling off

the wall there; and I was so fortunate as to catch him, while he

hung suspended headlong from that tree, and prevent I know not what

catastrophe.'



'I beg your pardon, sir,' stammered she; - suddenly calming down, -

the light of reason seeming to break upon her beclouded spirit, and

a faint blush mantling on her cheek - 'I did not know you; - and I

thought - '



She stooped to kiss the child, and fondly clasped her arm round his

neck.



'You thought I was going to kidnap your son, I suppose?'



She stroked his head with a half-embarrassed laugh, and replied, -

'I did not know he had attempted to climb the wall. - I have the

pleasure of addressing Mr. Markham, I believe?' she added, somewhat

abruptly.



I bowed, but ventured to ask how she knew me.



'Your sister called here, a few days ago, with Mrs. Markham.'



'Is the resemblance so strong then?' I asked, in some surprise, and

not so greatly flattered at the idea as I ought to have been.



'There is a likeness about the eyes and complexion I think,'

replied she, somewhat dubiously surveying my face; - 'and I think I

saw you at church on Sunday.'



I smiled. - There was something either in that smile or the

recollections it awakened that was particularly displeasing to her,

for she suddenly assumed again that proud, chilly look that had so

unspeakably roused my aversion at church - a look of repellent

scorn, so easily assumed, and so entirely without the least

distortion of a single feature, that, while there, it seemed like

the natural expression of the face, and was the more provoking to

me, because I could not think it affected.



'Good-morning, Mr. Markham,' said she; and without another word or

glance, she withdrew, with her child, into the garden; and I

returned home, angry and dissatisfied - I could scarcely tell you

why, and therefore will not attempt it.



I only stayed to put away my gun and powder-horn, and give some

requisite directions to one of the farming-men, and then repaired

to the vicarage, to solace my spirit and soothe my ruffled temper

with the company and conversation of Eliza Millward.



I found her, as usual, busy with some piece of soft embroidery (the

mania for Berlin wools had not yet commenced), while her sister was

seated at the chimney-corner, with the cat on her knee, mending a

heap of stockings.



'Mary - Mary! put them away!' Eliza was hastily saying, just as I

entered the room.



'Not I, indeed!' was the phlegmatic reply; and my appearance

prevented further discussion.



'You're so unfortunate, Mr. Markham!' observed the younger sister,

with one of her arch, sidelong glances.  'Papa's just gone out into

the parish, and not likely to be back for an hour!'



'Never mind; I can manage to spend a few minutes with his

daughters, if they'll allow me,' said I, bringing a chair to the

fire, and seating myself therein, without waiting to be asked.



'Well, if you'll be very good and amusing, we shall not object.'



'Let your permission be unconditional, pray; for I came not to give

pleasure, but to seek it,' I answered.



However, I thought it but reasonable to make some slight exertion

to render my company agreeable; and what little effort I made, was

apparently pretty successful, for Miss Eliza was never in a better

humour.  We seemed, indeed, to be mutually pleased with each other,

and managed to maintain between us a cheerful and animated though

not very profound conversation.  It was little better than a TETE-

E-TETE, for Miss Millward never opened her lips, except

occasionally to correct some random assertion or exaggerated

expression of her sister's, and once to ask her to pick up the ball

of cotton that had rolled under the table.  I did this myself,

however, as in duty bound.



'Thank you, Mr. Markham,' said she, as I presented it to her.  'I

would have picked it up myself; only I did not want to disturb the

cat.'



'Mary, dear, that won't excuse you in Mr. Markham's eyes,' said

Eliza; 'he hates cats, I daresay, as cordially as he does old maids

- like all other gentlemen.  Don't you, Mr. Markham?'



'I believe it is natural for our unamiable sex to dislike the

creatures,' replied I; 'for you ladies lavish so many caresses upon

them.'



'Bless them - little darlings!' cried she, in a sudden burst of

enthusiasm, turning round and overwhelming her sister's pet with a

shower of kisses.



'Don't, Eliza!' said Miss Millward, somewhat gruffly, as she

impatiently pushed her away.



But it was time for me to be going:  make what haste I would, I

should still be too late for tea; and my mother was the soul of

order and punctuality.



My fair friend was evidently unwilling to bid me adieu.  I tenderly

squeezed her little hand at parting; and she repaid me with one of

her softest smiles and most bewitching glances.  I went home very

happy, with a heart brimful of complacency for myself, and

overflowing with love for Eliza.







CHAPTER III







Two days after, Mrs. Graham called at Linden-Car, contrary to the

expectation of Rose, who entertained an idea that the mysterious

occupant of Wildfell Hall would wholly disregard the common

observances of civilized life, - in which opinion she was supported

by the Wilsons, who testified that neither their call nor the

Millwards' had been returned as yet.  Now, however, the cause of

that omission was explained, though not entirely to the

satisfaction of Rose.  Mrs. Graham had brought her child with her,

and on my mother's expressing surprise that he could walk so far,

she replied, - 'It is a long walk for him; but I must have either

taken him with me, or relinquished the visit altogether; for I

never leave him alone; and I think, Mrs. Markham, I must beg you to

make my excuses to the Millwards and Mrs. Wilson, when you see

them, as I fear I cannot do myself the pleasure of calling upon

them till my little Arthur is able to accompany me.'



'But you have a servant,' said Rose; 'could you not leave him with

her?'



'She has her own occupations to attend to; and besides, she is too

old to run after a child, and he is too mercurial to be tied to an

elderly woman.'



'But you left him to come to church.'



'Yes, once; but I would not have left him for any other purpose;

and I think, in future, I must contrive to bring him with me, or

stay at home.'



'Is he so mischievous?' asked my mother, considerably shocked.



'No,' replied the lady, sadly smiling, as she stroked the wavy

locks of her son, who was seated on a low stool at her feet; 'but

he is my only treasure, and I am his only friend:  so we don't like

to be separated.'



'But, my dear, I call that doting,' said my plain-spoken parent.

'You should try to suppress such foolish fondness, as well to save

your son from ruin as yourself from ridicule.'



'Ruin!  Mrs. Markham!'



'Yes; it is spoiling the child.  Even at his age, he ought not to

be always tied to his mother's apron-string; he should learn to be

ashamed of it.'



'Mrs. Markham, I beg you will not say such things, in his presence,

at least.  I trust my son will never be ashamed to love his

mother!' said Mrs. Graham, with a serious energy that startled the

company.



My mother attempted to appease her by an explanation; but she

seemed to think enough had been said on the subject, and abruptly

turned the conversation.



'Just as I thought,' said I to myself:  'the lady's temper is none

of the mildest, notwithstanding her sweet, pale face and lofty

brow, where thought and suffering seem equally to have stamped

their impress.'



All this time I was seated at a table on the other side of the

room, apparently immersed in the perusal of a volume of the

FARMER'S MAGAZINE, which I happened to have been reading at the

moment of our visitor's arrival; and, not choosing to be over

civil, I had merely bowed as she entered, and continued my

occupation as before.



In a little while, however, I was sensible that some one was

approaching me, with a light, but slow and hesitating tread.  It

was little Arthur, irresistibly attracted by my dog Sancho, that

was lying at my feet.  On looking up I beheld him standing about

two yards off, with his clear blue eyes wistfully gazing on the

dog, transfixed to the spot, not by fear of the animal, but by a

timid disinclination to approach its master.  A little

encouragement, however, induced him to come forward.  The child,

though shy, was not sullen.  In a minute he was kneeling on the

carpet, with his arms round Sancho's neck, and, in a minute or two

more, the little fellow was seated on my knee, surveying with eager

interest the various specimens of horses, cattle, pigs, and model

farms portrayed in the volume before me.  I glanced at his mother

now and then to see how she relished the new-sprung intimacy; and I

saw, by the unquiet aspect of her eye, that for some reason or

other she was uneasy at the child's position.



'Arthur,' said she, at length, 'come here.  You are troublesome to

Mr. Markham:  he wishes to read.'



'By no means, Mrs. Graham; pray let him stay.  I am as much amused

as he is,' pleaded I.  But still, with hand and eye, she silently

called him to her side.



'No, mamma,' said the child; 'let me look at these pictures first;

and then I'll come, and tell you all about them.'



'We are going to have a small party on Monday, the fifth of

November,' said my mother; 'and I hope you will not refuse to make

one, Mrs. Graham.  You can bring your little boy with you, you know

- I daresay we shall be able to amuse him; - and then you can make

your own apologies to the Millwards and Wilsons - they will all be

here, I expect.'



'Thank you, I never go to parties.'



'Oh! but this will be quite a family concern - early hours, and

nobody here but ourselves, and just the Millwards and Wilsons, most

of whom you already know, and Mr. Lawrence, your landlord, with

whom you ought to make acquaintance.'



'I do know something of him - but you must excuse me this time; for

the evenings, now, are dark and damp, and Arthur, I fear, is too

delicate to risk exposure to their influence with impunity.  We

must defer the enjoyment of your hospitality till the return of

longer days and warmer nights.'



Rose, now, at a hint from my mother, produced a decanter of wine,

with accompaniments of glasses and cake, from the cupboard and the

oak sideboard, and the refreshment was duly presented to the

guests.  They both partook of the cake, but obstinately refused the

wine, in spite of their hostess's hospitable attempts to force it

upon them.  Arthur, especially shrank from the ruby nectar as if in

terror and disgust, and was ready to cry when urged to take it.



'Never mind, Arthur,' said his mamma; 'Mrs. Markham thinks it will

do you good, as you were tired with your walk; but she will not

oblige you to take it! - I daresay you will do very well without.

He detests the very sight of wine,' she added, 'and the smell of it

almost makes him sick.  I have been accustomed to make him swallow

a little wine or weak spirits-and-water, by way of medicine, when

he was sick, and, in fact, I have done what I could to make him

hate them.'



Everybody laughed, except the young widow and her son.



'Well, Mrs. Graham,' said my mother, wiping the tears of merriment

from her bright blue eyes - 'well, you surprise me!  I really gave

you credit for having more sense. - The poor child will be the

veriest milksop that ever was sopped!  Only think what a man you

will make of him, if you persist in - '



'I think it a very excellent plan,' interrupted Mrs. Graham, with

imperturbable gravity.  'By that means I hope to save him from one

degrading vice at least.  I wish I could render the incentives to

every other equally innoxious in his case.'



'But by such means,' said I, 'you will never render him virtuous. -

What is it that constitutes virtue, Mrs. Graham?  Is it the

circumstance of being able and willing to resist temptation; or

that of having no temptations to resist? - Is he a strong man that

overcomes great obstacles and performs surprising achievements,

though by dint of great muscular exertion, and at the risk of some

subsequent fatigue, or he that sits in his chair all day, with

nothing to do more laborious than stirring the fire, and carrying

his food to his mouth?  If you would have your son to walk

honourably through the world, you must not attempt to clear the

stones from his path, but teach him to walk firmly over them - not

insist upon leading him by the hand, but let him learn to go

alone.'



'I will lead him by the hand, Mr. Markham, till he has strength to

go alone; and I will clear as many stones from his path as I can,

and teach him to avoid the rest - or walk firmly over them, as you

say; - for when I have done my utmost, in the way of clearance,

there will still be plenty left to exercise all the agility,

steadiness, and circumspection he will ever have. - It is all very

well to talk about noble resistance, and trials of virtue; but for

fifty - or five hundred men that have yielded to temptation, show

me one that has had virtue to resist.  And why should I take it for

granted that my son will be one in a thousand? - and not rather

prepare for the worst, and suppose he will be like his - like the

rest of mankind, unless I take care to prevent it?'



'You are very complimentary to us all,' I observed.



'I know nothing about you - I speak of those I do know - and when I

see the whole race of mankind (with a few rare exceptions)

stumbling and blundering along the path of life, sinking into every

pitfall, and breaking their shins over every impediment that lies

in their way, shall I not use all the means in my power to insure

for him a smoother and a safer passage?'



'Yes, but the surest means will be to endeavour to fortify him

against temptation, not to remove it out of his way.'



'I will do both, Mr. Markham.  God knows he will have temptations

enough to assail him, both from within and without, when I have

done all I can to render vice as uninviting to him, as it is

abominable in its own nature - I myself have had, indeed, but few

incentives to what the world calls vice, but yet I have experienced

temptations and trials of another kind, that have required, on many

occasions, more watchfulness and firmness to resist than I have

hitherto been able to muster against them.  And this, I believe, is

what most others would acknowledge who are accustomed to

reflection, and wishful to strive against their natural

corruptions.'



'Yes,' said my mother, but half apprehending her drift; 'but you

would not judge of a boy by yourself - and, my dear Mrs. Graham,

let me warn you in good time against the error - the fatal error, I

may call it - of taking that boy's education upon yourself.

Because you are clever in some things and well informed, you may

fancy yourself equal to the task; but indeed you are not; and if

you persist in the attempt, believe me you will bitterly repent it

when the mischief is done.'



'I am to send him to school, I suppose, to learn to despise his

mother's authority and affection!' said the lady, with rather a

bitter smile.



'Oh, no! - But if you would have a boy to despise his mother, let

her keep him at home, and spend her life in petting him up, and

slaving to indulge his follies and caprices.'



'I perfectly agree with you, Mrs. Markham; but nothing can be

further from my principles and practice than such criminal weakness

as that.'



'Well, but you will treat him like a girl - you'll spoil his

spirit, and make a mere Miss Nancy of him - you will, indeed, Mrs.

Graham, whatever you may think.  But I'll get Mr. Millward to talk

to you about it:- he'll tell you the consequences; - he'll set it

before you as plain as the day; - and tell you what you ought to

do, and all about it; - and, I don't doubt, he'll be able to

convince you in a minute.'



'No occasion to trouble the vicar,' said Mrs. Graham, glancing at

me - I suppose I was smiling at my mother's unbounded confidence in

that worthy gentleman - 'Mr. Markham here thinks his powers of

conviction at least equal to Mr. Millward's.  If I hear not him,

neither should I be convinced though one rose from the dead, he

would tell you.  Well, Mr. Markham, you that maintain that a boy

should not be shielded from evil, but sent out to battle against

it, alone and unassisted - not taught to avoid the snares of life,

but boldly to rush into them, or over them, as he may - to seek

danger, rather than shun it, and feed his virtue by temptation, -

would you -?'



'I beg your pardon, Mrs. Graham - but you get on too fast.  I have

not yet said that a boy should be taught to rush into the snares of

life, - or even wilfully to seek temptation for the sake of

exercising his virtue by overcoming it; - I only say that it is

better to arm and strengthen your hero, than to disarm and enfeeble

the foe; - and if you were to rear an oak sapling in a hothouse,

tending it carefully night and day, and shielding it from every

breath of wind, you could not expect it to become a hardy tree,

like that which has grown up on the mountain-side, exposed to all

the action of the elements, and not even sheltered from the shock

of the tempest.'



'Granted; - but would you use the same argument with regard to a

girl?'



'Certainly not.'



'No; you would have her to be tenderly and delicately nurtured,

like a hot-house plant - taught to cling to others for direction

and support, and guarded, as much as possible, from the very

knowledge of evil.  But will you be so good as to inform me why you

make this distinction?  Is it that you think she has no virtue?'



'Assuredly not.'



'Well, but you affirm that virtue is only elicited by temptation; -

and you think that a woman cannot be too little exposed to

temptation, or too little acquainted with vice, or anything

connected therewith.  It must be either that you think she is

essentially so vicious, or so feeble-minded, that she cannot

withstand temptation, - and though she may be pure and innocent as

long as she is kept in ignorance and restraint, yet, being

destitute of real virtue, to teach her how to sin is at once to

make her a sinner, and the greater her knowledge, the wider her

liberty, the deeper will be her depravity, - whereas, in the nobler

sex, there is a natural tendency to goodness, guarded by a superior

fortitude, which, the more it is exercised by trials and dangers,

is only the further developed - '



'Heaven forbid that I should think so!' I interrupted her at last.



'Well, then, it must be that you think they are both weak and prone

to err, and the slightest error, the merest shadow of pollution,

will ruin the one, while the character of the other will be

strengthened and embellished - his education properly finished by a

little practical acquaintance with forbidden things.  Such

experience, to him (to use a trite simile), will be like the storm

to the oak, which, though it may scatter the leaves, and snap the

smaller branches, serves but to rivet the roots, and to harden and

condense the fibres of the tree.  You would have us encourage our

sons to prove all things by their own experience, while our

daughters must not even profit by the experience of others.  Now I

would have both so to benefit by the experience of others, and the

precepts of a higher authority, that they should know beforehand to

refuse the evil and choose the good, and require no experimental

proofs to teach them the evil of transgression.  I would not send a

poor girl into the world, unarmed against her foes, and ignorant of

the snares that beset her path; nor would I watch and guard her,

till, deprived of self-respect and self-reliance, she lost the

power or the will to watch and guard herself; - and as for my son -

if I thought he would grow up to be what you call a man of the

world - one that has "seen life," and glories in his experience,

even though he should so far profit by it as to sober down, at

length, into a useful and respected member of society - I would

rather that he died to-morrow! - rather a thousand times!' she

earnestly repeated, pressing her darling to her side and kissing

his forehead with intense affection.  He had already left his new

companion, and been standing for some time beside his mother's

knee, looking up into her face, and listening in silent wonder to

her incomprehensible discourse.



'Well! you ladies must always have the last word, I suppose,' said

I, observing her rise, and begin to take leave of my mother.



'You may have as many words as you please, - only I can't stay to

hear them.'



'No; that is the way:  you hear just as much of an argument as you

please; and the rest may be spoken to the wind.'



'If you are anxious to say anything more on the subject,' replied

she, as she shook hands with Rose, 'you must bring your sister to

see me some fine day, and I'll listen, as patiently as you could

wish, to whatever you please to say.  I would rather be lectured by

you than the vicar, because I should have less remorse in telling

you, at the end of the discourse, that I preserve my own opinion

precisely the same as at the beginning - as would be the case, I am

persuaded, with regard to either logician.'



'Yes, of course,' replied I, determined to be as provoking as

herself; 'for when a lady does consent to listen to an argument

against her own opinions, she is always predetermined to withstand

it - to listen only with her bodily ears, keeping the mental organs

resolutely closed against the strongest reasoning.'



'Good-morning, Mr. Markham,' said my fair antagonist, with a

pitying smile; and deigning no further rejoinder, she slightly

bowed, and was about to withdraw; but her son, with childish

impertinence, arrested her by exclaiming, - 'Mamma, you have not

shaken hands with Mr. Markham!'



She laughingly turned round and held out her hand.  I gave it a

spiteful squeeze, for I was annoyed at the continual injustice she

had done me from the very dawn of our acquaintance.  Without

knowing anything about my real disposition and principles, she was

evidently prejudiced against me, and seemed bent upon showing me

that her opinions respecting me, on every particular, fell far

below those I entertained of myself.  I was naturally touchy, or it

would not have vexed me so much.  Perhaps, too, I was a little bit

spoiled by my mother and sister, and some other ladies of my

acquaintance; - and yet I was by no means a fop - of that I am

fully convinced, whether you are or not.







CHAPTER IV







Our party, on the 5th of November, passed off very well, in spite

of Mrs. Graham's refusal to grace it with her presence.  Indeed, it

is probable that, had she been there, there would have been less

cordiality, freedom, and frolic amongst us than there was without

her.



My mother, as usual, was cheerful and chatty, full of activity and

good-nature, and only faulty in being too anxious to make her

guests happy, thereby forcing several of them to do what their soul

abhorred in the way of eating or drinking, sitting opposite the

blazing fire, or talking when they would be silent.  Nevertheless,

they bore it very well, being all in their holiday humours.



Mr. Millward was mighty in important dogmas and sententious jokes,

pompous anecdotes and oracular discourses, dealt out for the

edification of the whole assembly in general, and of the admiring

Mrs. Markham, the polite Mr. Lawrence, the sedate Mary Millward,

the quiet Richard Wilson, and the matter-of-fact Robert in

particular, - as being the most attentive listeners.



Mrs. Wilson was more brilliant than ever, with her budgets of fresh

news and old scandal, strung together with trivial questions and

remarks, and oft-repeated observations, uttered apparently for the

sole purpose of denying a moment's rest to her inexhaustible organs

of speech.  She had brought her knitting with her, and it seemed as

if her tongue had laid a wager with her fingers, to outdo them in

swift and ceaseless motion.



Her daughter Jane was, of course, as graceful and elegant, as witty

and seductive, as she could possibly manage to be; for here were

all the ladies to outshine, and all the gentlemen to charm, - and

Mr. Lawrence, especially, to capture and subdue.  Her little arts

to effect his subjugation were too subtle and impalpable to attract

my observation; but I thought there was a certain refined

affectation of superiority, and an ungenial self-consciousness

about her, that negatived all her advantages; and after she was

gone, Rose interpreted to me her various looks, words, and actions

with a mingled acuteness and asperity that made me wonder, equally,

at the lady's artifice and my sister's penetration, and ask myself

if she too had an eye to the squire - but never mind, Halford; she

had not.



Richard Wilson, Jane's younger brother, sat in a corner, apparently

good-tempered, but silent and shy, desirous to escape observation,

but willing enough to listen and observe:  and, although somewhat

out of his element, he would have been happy enough in his own

quiet way, if my mother could only have let him alone; but in her

mistaken kindness, she would keep persecuting him with her

attentions - pressing upon him all manner of viands, under the

notion that he was too bashful to help himself, and obliging him to

shout across the room his monosyllabic replies to the numerous

questions and observations by which she vainly attempted to draw

him into conversation.



Rose informed me that he never would have favoured us with his

company but for the importunities of his sister Jane, who was most

anxious to show Mr. Lawrence that she had at least one brother more

gentlemanly and refined than Robert.  That worthy individual she

had been equally solicitous to keep away; but he affirmed that he

saw no reason why he should not enjoy a crack with Markham and the

old lady (my mother was not old, really), and bonny Miss Rose and

the parson, as well as the best; - and he was in the right of it

too.  So he talked common-place with my mother and Rose, and

discussed parish affairs with the vicar, farming matters with me,

and politics with us both.



Mary Millward was another mute, - not so much tormented with cruel

kindness as Dick Wilson, because she had a certain short, decided

way of answering and refusing, and was supposed to be rather sullen

than diffident.  However that might be, she certainly did not give

much pleasure to the company; - nor did she appear to derive much

from it.  Eliza told me she had only come because her father

insisted upon it, having taken it into his head that she devoted

herself too exclusively to her household duties, to the neglect of

such relaxations and innocent enjoyments as were proper to her age

and sex.  She seemed to me to be good-humoured enough on the whole.

Once or twice she was provoked to laughter by the wit or the

merriment of some favoured individual amongst us; and then I

observed she sought the eye of Richard Wilson, who sat over against

her.  As he studied with her father, she had some acquaintance with

him, in spite of the retiring habits of both, and I suppose there

was a kind of fellow-feeling established between them.



My Eliza was charming beyond description, coquettish without

affectation, and evidently more desirous to engage my attention

than that of all the room besides.  Her delight in having me near

her, seated or standing by her side, whispering in her ear, or

pressing her hand in the dance, was plainly legible in her glowing

face and heaving bosom, however belied by saucy words and gestures.

But I had better hold my tongue:  if I boast of these things now, I

shall have to blush hereafter.



To proceed, then, with the various individuals of our party; Rose

was simple and natural as usual, and full of mirth and vivacity.



Fergus was impertinent and absurd; but his impertinence and folly

served to make others laugh, if they did not raise himself in their

estimation.



And finally (for I omit myself), Mr. Lawrence was gentlemanly and

inoffensive to all, and polite to the vicar and the ladies,

especially his hostess and her daughter, and Miss Wilson -

misguided man; he had not the taste to prefer Eliza Millward.  Mr.

Lawrence and I were on tolerably intimate terms.  Essentially of

reserved habits, and but seldom quitting the secluded place of his

birth, where he had lived in solitary state since the death of his

father, he had neither the opportunity nor the inclination for

forming many acquaintances; and, of all he had ever known, I

(judging by the results) was the companion most agreeable to his

taste.  I liked the man well enough, but he was too cold, and shy,

and self-contained, to obtain my cordial sympathies.  A spirit of

candour and frankness, when wholly unaccompanied with coarseness,

he admired in others, but he could not acquire it himself.  His

excessive reserve upon all his own concerns was, indeed, provoking

and chilly enough; but I forgave it, from a conviction that it

originated less in pride and want of confidence in his friends,

than in a certain morbid feeling of delicacy, and a peculiar

diffidence, that he was sensible of, but wanted energy to overcome.

His heart was like a sensitive plant, that opens for a moment in

the sunshine, but curls up and shrinks into itself at the slightest

touch of the finger, or the lightest breath of wind.  And, upon the

whole, our intimacy was rather a mutual predilection than a deep

and solid friendship, such as has since arisen between myself and

you, Halford, whom, in spite of your occasional crustiness, I can

liken to nothing so well as an old coat, unimpeachable in texture,

but easy and loose - that has conformed itself to the shape of the

wearer, and which he may use as he pleases, without being bothered

with the fear of spoiling it; - whereas Mr. Lawrence was like a new

garment, all very neat and trim to look at, but so tight in the

elbows, that you would fear to split the seams by the unrestricted

motion of your arms, and so smooth and fine in surface that you

scruple to expose it to a single drop of rain.



Soon after the arrival of the guests, my mother mentioned Mrs.

Graham, regretted she was not there to meet them, and explained to

the Millwards and Wilsons the reasons she had given for neglecting

to return their calls, hoping they would excuse her, as she was

sure she did not mean to be uncivil, and would be glad to see them

at any time. - 'But she is a very singular lady, Mr. Lawrence,'

added she; 'we don't know what to make of her - but I daresay you

can tell us something about her, for she is your tenant, you know,

- and she said she knew you a little.'



All eyes were turned to Mr. Lawrence.  I thought he looked

unnecessarily confused at being so appealed to.



'I, Mrs. Markham!' said he; 'you are mistaken - I don't - that is -

I have seen her, certainly; but I am the last person you should

apply to for information respecting Mrs. Graham.'



He then immediately turned to Rose, and asked her to favour the

company with a song, or a tune on the piano.



'No,' said she, 'you must ask Miss Wilson:  she outshines us all in

singing, and music too.'



Miss Wilson demurred.



'She'll sing readily enough,' said Fergus, 'if you'll undertake to

stand by her, Mr. Lawrence, and turn over the leaves for her.'



'I shall be most happy to do so, Miss Wilson; will you allow me?'



She bridled her long neck and smiled, and suffered him to lead her

to the instrument, where she played and sang, in her very best

style, one piece after another; while he stood patiently by,

leaning one hand on the back of her chair, and turning over the

leaves of her book with the other.  Perhaps he was as much charmed

with her performance as she was.  It was all very fine in its way;

but I cannot say that it moved me very deeply.  There was plenty of

skill and execution, but precious little feeling.



But we had not done with Mrs. Graham yet.



'I don't take wine, Mrs. Markham,' said Mr. Millward, upon the

introduction of that beverage; 'I'll take a little of your home-

brewed ale.  I always prefer your home-brewed to anything else.'



Flattered at this compliment, my mother rang the bell, and a china

jug of our best ale was presently brought and set before the worthy

gentleman who so well knew how to appreciate its excellences.



'Now THIS is the thing!' cried he, pouring out a glass of the same

in a long stream, skilfully directed from the jug to the tumbler,

so as to produce much foam without spilling a drop; and, having

surveyed it for a moment opposite the candle, he took a deep

draught, and then smacked his lips, drew a long breath, and

refilled his glass, my mother looking on with the greatest

satisfaction.



'There's nothing like this, Mrs. Markham!' said he.  'I always

maintain that there's nothing to compare with your home-brewed

ale.'



'I'm sure I'm glad you like it, sir.  I always look after the

brewing myself, as well as the cheese and the butter - I like to

have things well done, while we're about it.'



'Quite right, Mrs. Markham!'



'But then, Mr. Millward, you don't think it wrong to take a little

wine now and then - or a little spirits either!' said my mother, as

she handed a smoking tumbler of gin-and-water to Mrs. Wilson, who

affirmed that wine sat heavy on her stomach, and whose son Robert

was at that moment helping himself to a pretty stiff glass of the

same.



'By no means!' replied the oracle, with a Jove-like nod; 'these

things are all blessings and mercies, if we only knew how to make

use of them.'



'But Mrs. Graham doesn't think so.  You shall just hear now what

she told us the other day - I told her I'd tell you.'



And my mother favoured the company with a particular account of

that lady's mistaken ideas and conduct regarding the matter in

hand, concluding with, 'Now, don't you think it is wrong?'



'Wrong!' repeated the vicar, with more than common solemnity -

'criminal, I should say - criminal!  Not only is it making a fool

of the boy, but it is despising the gifts of Providence, and

teaching him to trample them under his feet.'



He then entered more fully into the question, and explained at

large the folly and impiety of such a proceeding.  My mother heard

him with profoundest reverence; and even Mrs. Wilson vouchsafed to

rest her tongue for a moment, and listen in silence, while she

complacently sipped her gin-and-water.  Mr. Lawrence sat with his

elbow on the table, carelessly playing with his half-empty wine-

glass, and covertly smiling to himself.



'But don't you think, Mr. Millward,' suggested he, when at length

that gentleman paused in his discourse, 'that when a child may be

naturally prone to intemperance - by the fault of its parents or

ancestors, for instance - some precautions are advisable?'  (Now it

was generally believed that Mr. Lawrence's father had shortened his

days by intemperance.)



'Some precautions, it may be; but temperance, sir, is one thing,

and abstinence another.'



'But I have heard that, with some persons, temperance - that is,

moderation - is almost impossible; and if abstinence be an evil

(which some have doubted), no one will deny that excess is a

greater.  Some parents have entirely prohibited their children from

tasting intoxicating liquors; but a parent's authority cannot last

for ever; children are naturally prone to hanker after forbidden

things; and a child, in such a case, would be likely to have a

strong curiosity to taste, and try the effect of what has been so

lauded and enjoyed by others, so strictly forbidden to himself -

which curiosity would generally be gratified on the first

convenient opportunity; and the restraint once broken, serious

consequences might ensue.  I don't pretend to be a judge of such

matters, but it seems to me, that this plan of Mrs. Graham's, as

you describe it, Mrs. Markham, extraordinary as it may be, is not

without its advantages; for here you see the child is delivered at

once from temptation; he has no secret curiosity, no hankering

desire; he is as well acquainted with the tempting liquors as he

ever wishes to be; and is thoroughly disgusted with them, without

having suffered from their effects.'



'And is that right, sir?  Have I not proven to you how wrong it is

- how contrary to Scripture and to reason, to teach a child to look

with contempt and disgust upon the blessings of Providence, instead

of to use them aright?'



'You may consider laudanum a blessing of Providence, sir,' replied

Mr. Lawrence, smiling; 'and yet, you will allow that most of us had

better abstain from it, even in moderation; but,' added he, 'I

would not desire you to follow out my simile too closely - in

witness whereof I finish my glass.'



'And take another, I hope, Mr. Lawrence,' said my mother, pushing

the bottle towards him.



He politely declined, and pushing his chair a little away from the

table, leant back towards me - I was seated a trifle behind, on the

sofa beside Eliza Millward - and carelessly asked me if I knew Mrs.

Graham.



'I have met her once or twice,' I replied.



'What do you think of her?'



'I cannot say that I like her much.  She is handsome - or rather I

should say distinguished and interesting - in her appearance, but

by no means amiable - a woman liable to take strong prejudices, I

should fancy, and stick to them through thick and thin, twisting

everything into conformity with her own preconceived opinions - too

hard, too sharp, too bitter for my taste.'



He made no reply, but looked down and bit his lip, and shortly

after rose and sauntered up to Miss Wilson, as much repelled by me,

I fancy, as attracted by her.  I scarcely noticed it at the time,

but afterwards I was led to recall this and other trifling facts,

of a similar nature, to my remembrance, when - but I must not

anticipate.



We wound up the evening with dancing - our worthy pastor thinking

it no scandal to be present on the occasion, though one of the

village musicians was engaged to direct our evolutions with his

violin.  But Mary Millward obstinately refused to join us; and so

did Richard Wilson, though my mother earnestly entreated him to do

so, and even offered to be his partner.



We managed very well without them, however.  With a single set of

quadrilles, and several country dances, we carried it on to a

pretty late hour; and at length, having called upon our musician to

strike up a waltz, I was just about to whirl Eliza round in that

delightful dance, accompanied by Lawrence and Jane Wilson, and

Fergus and Rose, when Mr. Millward interposed with:- 'No, no; I

don't allow that!  Come, it's time to be going now.'



'Oh, no, papa!' pleaded Eliza.



'High time, my girl - high time!  Moderation in all things,

remember!  That's the plan - "Let your moderation be known unto all

men!"'



But in revenge I followed Eliza into the dimly-lighted passage,

where, under pretence of helping her on with her shawl, I fear I

must plead guilty to snatching a kiss behind her father's back,

while he was enveloping his throat and chin in the folds of a

mighty comforter.  But alas! in turning round, there was my mother

close beside me.  The consequence was, that no sooner were the

guests departed, than I was doomed to a very serious remonstrance,

which unpleasantly checked the galloping course of my spirits, and

made a disagreeable close to the evening.



'My dear Gilbert,' said she, 'I wish you wouldn't do so!  You know

how deeply I have your advantage at heart, how I love you and prize

you above everything else in the world, and how much I long to see

you well settled in life - and how bitterly it would grieve me to

see you married to that girl - or any other in the neighbourhood.

What you see in her I don't know.  It isn't only the want of money

that I think about - nothing of the kind - but there's neither

beauty, nor cleverness, nor goodness, nor anything else that's

desirable.  If you knew your own value, as I do, you wouldn't dream

of it.  Do wait awhile and see!  If you bind yourself to her,

you'll repent it all your lifetime when you look round and see how

many better there are.  Take my word for it, you will.'



'Well, mother, do be quiet! - I hate to be lectured! - I'm not

going to marry yet, I tell you; but - dear me! mayn't I enjoy

myself at all?'



'Yes, my dear boy, but not in that way.  Indeed, you shouldn't do

such things.  You would be wronging the girl, if she were what she

ought to be; but I assure you she is as artful a little hussy as

anybody need wish to see; and you'll got entangled in her snares

before you know where you are.  And if you marry her, Gilbert,

you'll break my heart - so there's an end of it.'



'Well, don't cry about it, mother,' said I, for the tears were

gushing from her eyes; 'there, let that kiss efface the one I gave

Eliza; don't abuse her any more, and set your mind at rest; for

I'll promise never - that is, I'll promise to think twice before I

take any important step you seriously disapprove of.'



So saying, I lighted my candle, and went to bed, considerably

quenched in spirit.







CHAPTER V







It was about the close of the month, that, yielding at length to

the urgent importunities of Rose, I accompanied her in a visit to

Wildfell Hall.  To our surprise, we were ushered into a room where

the first object that met the eye was a painter's easel, with a

table beside it covered with rolls of canvas, bottles of oil and

varnish, palette, brushes, paints, &c.  Leaning against the wall

were several sketches in various stages of progression, and a few

finished paintings - mostly of landscapes and figures.



'I must make you welcome to my studio,' said Mrs. Graham; 'there is

no fire in the sitting-room to-day, and it is rather too cold to

show you into a place with an empty grate.'



And disengaging a couple of chairs from the artistical lumber that

usurped them, she bid us be seated, and resumed her place beside

the easel - not facing it exactly, but now and then glancing at the

picture upon it while she conversed, and giving it an occasional

touch with her brush, as if she found it impossible to wean her

attention entirely from her occupation to fix it upon her guests.

It was a view of Wildfell Hall, as seen at early morning from the

field below, rising in dark relief against a sky of clear silvery

blue, with a few red streaks on the horizon, faithfully drawn and

coloured, and very elegantly and artistically handled.



'I see your heart is in your work, Mrs. Graham,' observed I:  'I

must beg you to go on with it; for if you suffer our presence to

interrupt you, we shall be constrained to regard ourselves as

unwelcome intruders.'



'Oh, no!' replied she, throwing her brush on to the table, as if

startled into politeness.  'I am not so beset with visitors but

that I can readily spare a few minutes to the few that do favour me

with their company.'



'You have almost completed your painting,' said I, approaching to

observe it more closely, and surveying it with a greater degree of

admiration and delight than I cared to express.  'A few more

touches in the foreground will finish it, I should think.  But why

have you called it Fernley Manor, Cumberland, instead of Wildfell

Hall, -shire?' I asked, alluding to the name she had traced in

small characters at the bottom of the canvas.



But immediately I was sensible of having committed an act of

impertinence in so doing; for she coloured and hesitated; but after

a moment's pause, with a kind of desperate frankness, she replied:-



'Because I have friends - acquaintances at least - in the world,

from whom I desire my present abode to be concealed; and as they

might see the picture, and might possibly recognise the style in

spite of the false initials I have put in the corner, I take the

precaution to give a false name to the place also, in order to put

them on a wrong scent, if they should attempt to trace me out by

it.'



'Then you don't intend to keep the picture?' said I, anxious to say

anything to change the subject.



'No; I cannot afford to paint for my own amusement.'



'Mamma sends all her pictures to London,' said Arthur; 'and

somebody sells them for her there, and sends us the money.'



In looking round upon the other pieces, I remarked a pretty sketch

of Linden-hope from the top of the hill; another view of the old

hall basking in the sunny haze of a quiet summer afternoon; and a

simple but striking little picture of a child brooding, with looks

of silent but deep and sorrowful regret, over a handful of withered

flowers, with glimpses of dark low hills and autumnal fields behind

it, and a dull beclouded sky above.



'You see there is a sad dearth of subjects,' observed the fair

artist.  'I took the old hall once on a moonlight night, and I

suppose I must take it again on a snowy winter's day, and then

again on a dark cloudy evening; for I really have nothing else to

paint.  I have been told that you have a fine view of the sea

somewhere in the neighbourhood.  Is it true? - and is it within

walking distance?'



'Yes, if you don't object to walking four miles - or nearly so -

little short of eight miles, there and back - and over a somewhat

rough, fatiguing road.'



'In what direction does it lie?'



I described the situation as well as I could, and was entering upon

an explanation of the various roads, lanes, and fields to be

traversed in order to reach it, the goings straight on, and

turnings to the right and the left, when she checked me with, -



'Oh, stop! don't tell me now:  I shall forget every word of your

directions before I require them.  I shall not think about going

till next spring; and then, perhaps, I may trouble you.  At present

we have the winter before us, and - '



She suddenly paused, with a suppressed exclamation, started up from

her seat, and saying, 'Excuse me one moment,' hurried from the

room, and shut the door behind her.



Curious to see what had startled her so, I looked towards the

window - for her eyes had been carelessly fixed upon it the moment

before - and just beheld the skirts of a man's coat vanishing

behind a large holly-bush that stood between the window and the

porch.



'It's mamma's friend,' said Arthur.



Rose and I looked at each other.



'I don't know what to make of her at all,' whispered Rose.



The child looked at her in grave surprise.  She straightway began

to talk to him on indifferent matters, while I amused myself with

looking at the pictures.  There was one in an obscure corner that I

had not before observed.  It was a little child, seated on the

grass with its lap full of flowers.  The tiny features and large

blue eyes, smiling through a shock of light brown curls, shaken

over the forehead as it bent above its treasure, bore sufficient

resemblance to those of the young gentleman before me to proclaim

it a portrait of Arthur Graham in his early infancy.



In taking this up to bring it to the light, I discovered another

behind it, with its face to the wall.  I ventured to take that up

too.  It was the portrait of a gentleman in the full prime of

youthful manhood - handsome enough, and not badly executed; but if

done by the same hand as the others, it was evidently some years

before; for there was far more careful minuteness of detail, and

less of that freshness of colouring and freedom of handling that

delighted and surprised me in them.  Nevertheless, I surveyed it

with considerable interest.  There was a certain individuality in

the features and expression that stamped it, at once, a successful

likeness.  The bright blue eyes regarded the spectator with a kind

of lurking drollery - you almost expected to see them wink; the

lips - a little too voluptuously full - seemed ready to break into

a smile; the warmly-tinted cheeks were embellished with a luxuriant

growth of reddish whiskers; while the bright chestnut hair,

clustering in abundant, wavy curls, trespassed too much upon the

forehead, and seemed to intimate that the owner thereof was prouder

of his beauty than his intellect - as, perhaps, he had reason to

be; and yet he looked no fool.



I had not had the portrait in my hands two minutes before the fair

artist returned.



'Only some one come about the pictures,' said she, in apology for

her abrupt departure:  'I told him to wait.'



'I fear it will be considered an act of impertinence,' said 'to

presume to look at a picture that the artist has turned to the

wall; but may I ask -'



'It is an act of very great impertinence, sir; and therefore I beg

you will ask nothing about it, for your curiosity will not be

gratified,' replied she, attempting to cover the tartness of her

rebuke with a smile; but I could see, by her flushed cheek and

kindling eye, that she was seriously annoyed.



'I was only going to ask if you had painted it yourself,' said I,

sulkily resigning the picture into her hands; for without a grain

of ceremony she took it from me; and quickly restoring it to the

dark corner, with its face to the wall, placed the other against it

as before, and then turned to me and laughed.



But I was in no humour for jesting.  I carelessly turned to the

window, and stood looking out upon the desolate garden, leaving her

to talk to Rose for a minute or two; and then, telling my sister it

was time to go, shook hands with the little gentleman, coolly bowed

to the lady, and moved towards the door.  But, having bid adieu to

Rose, Mrs. Graham presented her hand to me, saying, with a soft

voice, and by no means a disagreeable smile, - 'Let not the sun go

down upon your wrath, Mr. Markham.  I'm sorry I offended you by my

abruptness.'



When a lady condescends to apologise, there is no keeping one's

anger, of course; so we parted good friends for once; and this time

I squeezed her hand with a cordial, not a spiteful pressure.







CHAPTER VI







During the next four months I did not enter Mrs. Graham's house,

nor she mine; but still the ladies continued to talk about her, and

still our acquaintance continued, though slowly, to advance.  As

for their talk, I paid but little attention to that (when it

related to the fair hermit, I mean), and the only information I

derived from it was, that one fine frosty day she had ventured to

take her little boy as far as the vicarage, and that,

unfortunately, nobody was at home but Miss Millward; nevertheless,

she had sat a long time, and, by all accounts, they had found a

good deal to say to each other, and parted with a mutual desire to

meet again.  But Mary liked children, and fond mammas like those

who can duly appreciate their treasures.



But sometimes I saw her myself, not only when she came to church,

but when she was out on the hills with her son, whether taking a

long, purpose-like walk, or - on special fine days - leisurely

rambling over the moor or the bleak pasture-lands, surrounding the

old hall, herself with a book in her hand, her son gambolling about

her; and, on any of these occasions, when I caught sight of her in

my solitary walks or rides, or while following my agricultural

pursuits, I generally contrived to meet or overtake her, for I

rather liked to see Mrs. Graham, and to talk to her, and I

decidedly liked to talk to her little companion, whom, when once

the ice of his shyness was fairly broken, I found to be a very

amiable, intelligent, and entertaining little fellow; and we soon

became excellent friends - how much to the gratification of his

mamma I cannot undertake to say.  I suspected at first that she was

desirous of throwing cold water on this growing intimacy - to

quench, as it were, the kindling flame of our friendship - but

discovering, at length, in spite of her prejudice against me, that

I was perfectly harmless, and even well-intentioned, and that,

between myself and my dog, her son derived a great deal of pleasure

from the acquaintance that he would not otherwise have known, she

ceased to object, and even welcomed my coming with a smile.



As for Arthur, he would shout his welcome from afar, and run to

meet me fifty yards from his mother's side.  If I happened to be on

horseback he was sure to get a canter or a gallop; or, if there was

one of the draught horses within an available distance, he was

treated to a steady ride upon that, which served his turn almost as

well; but his mother would always follow and trudge beside him -

not so much, I believe, to ensure his safe conduct, as to see that

I instilled no objectionable notions into his infant mind, for she

was ever on the watch, and never would allow him to be taken out of

her sight.  What pleased her best of all was to see him romping and

racing with Sancho, while I walked by her side - not, I fear, for

love of my company (though I sometimes deluded myself with that

idea), so much as for the delight she took in seeing her son thus

happily engaged in the enjoyment of those active sports so

invigorating to his tender frame, yet so seldom exercised for want

of playmates suited to his years:  and, perhaps, her pleasure was

sweetened not a little by the fact of my being with her instead of

with him, and therefore incapable of doing him any injury directly

or indirectly, designedly or otherwise, small thanks to her for

that same.



But sometimes, I believe, she really had some little gratification

in conversing with me; and one bright February morning, during

twenty minutes' stroll along the moor, she laid aside her usual

asperity and reserve, and fairly entered into conversation with me,

discoursing with so much eloquence and depth of thought and feeling

on a subject happily coinciding with my own ideas, and looking so

beautiful withal, that I went home enchanted; and on the way

(morally) started to find myself thinking that, after all, it

would, perhaps, be better to spend one's days with such a woman

than with Eliza Millward; and then I (figuratively) blushed for my

inconstancy.



On entering the parlour I found Eliza there with Rose, and no one

else.  The surprise was not altogether so agreeable as it ought to

have been.  We chatted together a long time, but I found her rather

frivolous, and even a little insipid, compared with the more mature

and earnest Mrs. Graham.  Alas, for human constancy!



'However,' thought I, 'I ought not to marry Eliza, since my mother

so strongly objects to it, and I ought not to delude the girl with

the idea that I intended to do so.  Now, if this mood continue, I

shall have less difficulty in emancipating my affections from her

soft yet unrelenting sway; and, though Mrs. Graham might be equally

objectionable, I may be permitted, like the doctors, to cure a

greater evil by a less, for I shall not fall seriously in love with

the young widow, I think, nor she with me - that's certain - but if

I find a little pleasure in her society I may surely be allowed to

seek it; and if the star of her divinity be bright enough to dim

the lustre of Eliza's, so much the better, but I scarcely can think

it.'



And thereafter I seldom suffered a fine day to pass without paying

a visit to Wildfell about the time my new acquaintance usually left

her hermitage; but so frequently was I baulked in my expectations

of another interview, so changeable was she in her times of coming

forth and in her places of resort, so transient were the occasional

glimpses I was able to obtain, that I felt half inclined to think

she took as much pains to avoid my company as I to seek hers; but

this was too disagreeable a supposition to be entertained a moment

after it could conveniently be dismissed.



One calm, clear afternoon, however, in March, as I was

superintending the rolling of the meadow-land, and the repairing of

a hedge in the valley, I saw Mrs. Graham down by the brook, with a

sketch-book in her hand, absorbed in the exercise of her favourite

art, while Arthur was putting on the time with constructing dams

and breakwaters in the shallow, stony stream.  I was rather in want

of amusement, and so rare an opportunity was not to be neglected;

so, leaving both meadow and hedge, I quickly repaired to the spot,

but not before Sancho, who, immediately upon perceiving his young

friend, scoured at full gallop the intervening space, and pounced

upon him with an impetuous mirth that precipitated the child almost

into the middle of the beck; but, happily, the stones preserved him

from any serious wetting, while their smoothness prevented his

being too much hurt to laugh at the untoward event.



Mrs. Graham was studying the distinctive characters of the

different varieties of trees in their winter nakedness, and

copying, with a spirited, though delicate touch, their various

ramifications.  She did not talk much, but I stood and watched the

progress of her pencil:  it was a pleasure to behold it so

dexterously guided by those fair and graceful fingers.  But ere

long their dexterity became impaired, they began to hesitate, to

tremble slightly, and make false strokes, and then suddenly came to

a pause, while their owner laughingly raised her face to mine, and

told me that her sketch did not profit by my superintendence.



'Then,' said I, 'I'll talk to Arthur till you've done.'



'I should like to have a ride, Mr. Markham, if mamma will let me,'

said the child.



'What on, my boy?'



'I think there's a horse in that field,' replied he, pointing to

where the strong black mare was pulling the roller.



'No, no, Arthur; it's too far,' objected his mother.



But I promised to bring him safe back after a turn or two up and

down the meadow; and when she looked at his eager face she smiled

and let him go.  It was the first time she had even allowed me to

take him so much as half a field's length from her side.



Enthroned upon his monstrous steed, and solemnly proceeding up and

down the wide, steep field, he looked the very incarnation of

quiet, gleeful satisfaction and delight.  The rolling, however, was

soon completed; but when I dismounted the gallant horseman, and

restored him to his mother, she seemed rather displeased at my

keeping him so long.  She had shut up her sketch-book, and been,

probably, for some minutes impatiently waiting his return.



It was now high time to go home, she said, and would have bid me

good-evening, but I was not going to leave her yet:  I accompanied

her half-way up the hill.  She became more sociable, and I was

beginning to be very happy; but, on coming within sight of the grim

old hall, she stood still, and turned towards me while she spoke,

as if expecting I should go no further, that the conversation would

end here, and I should now take leave and depart - as, indeed, it

was time to do, for 'the clear, cold eve' was fast 'declining,' the

sun had set, and the gibbous moon was visibly brightening in the

pale grey sky; but a feeling almost of compassion riveted me to the

spot.  It seemed hard to leave her to such a lonely, comfortless

home.  I looked up at it.  Silent and grim it frowned; before us.

A faint, red light was gleaming from the lower windows of one wing,

but all the other windows were in darkness, and many exhibited

their black, cavernous gulfs, entirely destitute of glazing or

framework.



'Do you not find it a desolate place to live in?' said I, after a

moment of silent contemplation.



'I do, sometimes,' replied she.  'On winter evenings, when Arthur

is in bed, and I am sitting there alone, hearing the bleak wind

moaning round me and howling through the ruinous old chambers, no

books or occupations can represss the dismal thoughts and

apprehensions that come crowding in - but it is folly to give way

to such weakness, I know.  If Rachel is satisfied with such a life,

why should not I? - Indeed, I cannot be too thankful for such an

asylum, while it is left me.'



The closing sentence was uttered in an under-tone, as if spoken

rather to herself than to me.  She then bid me good-evening and

withdrew.



I had not proceeded many steps on my way homewards when I perceived

Mr. Lawrence, on his pretty grey pony, coming up the rugged lane

that crossed over the hill-top.  I went a little out of my way to

speak to him; for we had not met for some time.



'Was that Mrs. Graham you were speaking to just now?' said he,

after the first few words of greeting had passed between us.



'Yes.'



'Humph!  I thought so.'  He looked contemplatively at his horse's

mane, as if he had some serious cause of dissatisfaction with it,

or something else.



'Well! what then?'



'Oh, nothing!' replied he.  'Only I thought you disliked her,' he

quietly added, curling his classic lip with a slightly sarcastic

smile.



'Suppose I did; mayn't a man change his mind on further

acquaintance?'



'Yes, of course,' returned he, nicely reducing an entanglement in

the pony's redundant hoary mane.  Then suddenly turning to me, and

fixing his shy, hazel eyes upon me with a steady penetrating gaze,

he added, 'Then you have changed your mind?'



'I can't say that I have exactly.  No; I think I hold the same

opinion respecting her as before - but slightly ameliorated.'



'Oh!'  He looked round for something else to talk about; and

glancing up at the moon, made some remark upon the beauty of the

evening, which I did not answer, as being irrelevant to the

subject.



'Lawrence,' said I, calmly looking him in the face, 'are you in

love with Mrs. Graham?'



Instead of his being deeply offended at this, as I more than half

expected he would, the first start of surprise, at the audacious

question, was followed by a tittering laugh, as if he was highly

amused at the idea.



'I in love with her!' repeated he.  'What makes you dream of such a

thing?'



'From the interest you take in the progress of my acquaintance with

the lady, and the changes of my opinion concerning her, I thought

you might be jealous.'



He laughed again.  'Jealous! no.  But I thought you were going to

marry Eliza Millward.'



'You thought wrong, then; I am not going to marry either one or the

other - that I know of - '



'Then I think you'd better let them alone.'



'Are you going to marry Jane Wilson?'



He coloured, and played with the mane again, but answered - 'No, I

think not.'



'Then you had better let her alone.'



'She won't let me alone,' he might have said; but he only looked

silly and said nothing for the space of half a minute, and then

made another attempt to turn the conversation; and this time I let

it pass; for he had borne enough:  another word on the subject

would have been like the last atom that breaks the camel's. back.



I was too late for tea; but my mother had kindly kept the teapot

and muffin warm upon the hobs, and, though she scolded me a little,

readily admitted my excuses; and when I complained of the flavour

of the overdrawn tea, she poured the remainder into the slop-basin,

and bade Rose put some fresh into the pot, and reboil the kettle,

which offices were performed with great commotion, and certain

remarkable comments.



'Well! - if it had been me now, I should have had no tea at all -

if it had been Fergus, even, he would have to put up with such as

there was, and been told to be thankful, for it was far too good

for him; but you - we can't do too much for you.  It's always so -

if there's anything particularly nice at table, mamma winks and

nods at me to abstain from it, and if I don't attend to that, she

whispers, "Don't eat so much of that, Rose; Gilbert will like it

for his supper." - I'm nothing at all.  In the parlour, it's "Come,

Rose, put away your things, and let's have the room nice and tidy

against they come in; and keep up a good fire; Gilbert likes a

cheerful fire."  In the kitchen - "Make that pie a large one, Rose;

I daresay the boys'll be hungry; and don't put so much pepper in,

they'll not like it, I'm sure" - or, "Rose, don't put so many

spices in the pudding, Gilbert likes it plain," - or, "Mind you put

plenty of currants in the cake, Fergus liked plenty."  If I say,

"Well, mamma, I don't," I'm told I ought not to think of myself.

"You know, Rose, in all household matters, we have only two things

to consider, first, what's proper to be done; and, secondly, what's

most agreeable to the gentlemen of the house - anything will do for

the ladies."'



'And very good doctrine too,' said my mother.  'Gilbert thinks so,

I'm sure.'



'Very convenient doctrine, for us, at all events,' said I; 'but if

you would really study my pleasure, mother, you must consider your

own comfort and convenience a little more than you do - as for

Rose, I have no doubt she'll take care of herself; and whenever she

does make a sacrifice or perform a remarkable act of devotedness,

she'll take good care to let me know the extent of it.  But for you

I might sink into the grossest condition of self-indulgence and

carelessness about the wants of others, from the mere habit of

being constantly cared for myself, and having all my wants

anticipated or immediately supplied, while left in total ignorance

of what is done for me, - if Rose did not enlighten me now and

then; and I should receive all your kindness as a matter of course,

and never know how much I owe you.'



'Ah! and you never will know, Gilbert, till you're married.  Then,

when you've got some trifling, self-conceited girl like Eliza

Millward, careless of everything but her own immediate pleasure and

advantage, or some misguided, obstinate woman, like Mrs. Graham,

ignorant of her principal duties, and clever only in what concerns

her least to know - then you'll find the difference.'



'It will do me good, mother; I was not sent into the world merely

to exercise the good capacities and good feelings of others - was

I? - but to exert my own towards them; and when I marry, I shall

expect to find more pleasure in making my wife happy and

comfortable, than in being made so by her:  I would rather give

than receive.'



'Oh! that's all nonsense, my dear.  It's mere boy's talk that!

You'll soon tire of petting and humouring your wife, be she ever so

charming, and then comes the trial.'



'Well, then, we must bear one another's burdens.'



'Then you must fall each into your proper place.  You'll do your

business, and she, if she's worthy of you, will do hers; but it's

your business to please yourself, and hers to please you.  I'm sure

your poor, dear father was as good a husband as ever lived, and

after the first six months or so were over, I should as soon have

expected him to fly, as to put himself out of his way to pleasure

me.  He always said I was a good wife, and did my duty; and he

always did his - bless him! - he was steady and punctual, seldom

found fault without a reason, always did justice to my good

dinners, and hardly ever spoiled my cookery by delay - and that's

as much as any woman can expect of any man.'



Is it so, Halford?  Is that the extent of your domestic virtues;

and does your happy wife exact no more?







CHAPTER VII







Not many days after this, on a mild sunny morning - rather soft

under foot; for the last fall of snow was only just wasted away,

leaving yet a thin ridge, here and there, lingering on the fresh

green grass beneath the hedges; but beside them already, the young

primroses were peeping from among their moist, dark foliage, and

the lark above was singing of summer, and hope, and love, and every

heavenly thing - I was out on the hill-side, enjoying these

delights, and looking after the well-being of my young lambs and

their mothers, when, on glancing round me, I beheld three persons

ascending from the vale below.  They were Eliza Millward, Fergus,

and Rose; so I crossed the field to meet them; and, being told they

were going to Wildfell Hall, I declared myself willing to go with

them, and offering my arm to Eliza, who readily accepted it in lieu

of my brother's, told the latter he might go back, for I would

accompany the ladies.



'I beg your pardon!' exclaimed he.  'It's the ladies that are

accompanying me, not I them.  You had all had a peep at this

wonderful stranger but me, and I could endure my wretched ignorance

no longer - come what would, I must be satisfied; so I begged Rose

to go with me to the Hall, and introduce me to her at once.  She

swore she would not, unless Miss Eliza would go too; so I ran to

the vicarage and fetched her; and we've come hooked all the way, as

fond as a pair of lovers - and now you've taken her from me; and

you want to deprive me of my walk and my visit besides.  Go back to

your fields and your cattle, you lubberly fellow; you're not fit to

associate with ladies and gentlemen like us, that have nothing to

do but to run snooking about to our neighbours' houses, peeping

into their private corners, and scenting out their secrets, and

picking holes in their coats, when we don't find them ready made to

our hands - you don't understand such refined sources of

enjoyment.'



'Can't you both go?' suggested Eliza, disregarding the latter half

of the speech.



'Yes, both, to be sure!' cried Rose; 'the more the merrier - and

I'm sure we shall want all the cheerfulness we can carry with us to

that great, dark, gloomy room, with its narrow latticed windows,

and its dismal old furniture - unless she shows us into her studio

again.'



So we went all in a body; and the meagre old maid-servant, that

opened the door, ushered us into an apartment such as Rose had

described to me as the scene of her first introduction to Mrs.

Graham, a tolerably spacious and lofty room, but obscurely lighted

by the old-fashioned windows, the ceiling, panels, and chimney-

piece of grim black oak - the latter elaborately but not very

tastefully carved, - with tables and chairs to match, an old

bookcase on one side of the fire-place, stocked with a motley

assemblage of books, and an elderly cabinet piano on the other.



The lady was seated in a stiff, high-backed arm-chair, with a small

round table, containing a desk and a work-basket on one side of

her, and her little boy on the other, who stood leaning his elbow

on her knee, and reading to her, with wonderful fluency, from a

small volume that lay in her lap; while she rested her hand on his

shoulder, and abstractedly played with the long, wavy curls that

fell on his ivory neck.  They struck me as forming a pleasing

contrast to all the surrounding objects; but of course their

position was immediately changed on our entrance.  I could only

observe the picture during the few brief seconds that Rachel held

the door for our admittance.



I do not think Mrs. Graham was particularly delighted to see us:

there was something indescribably chilly in her quiet, calm

civility; but I did not talk much to her.  Seating myself near the

window, a little back from the circle, I called Arthur to me, and

he and I and Sancho amused ourselves very pleasantly together,

while the two young ladies baited his mother with small talk, and

Fergus sat opposite with his legs crossed and his hands in his

breeches-pockets, leaning back in his chair, and staring now up at

the ceiling, now straight forward at his hostess (in a manner that

made me strongly inclined to kick him out of the room), now

whistling sotto voce to himself a snatch of a favourite air, now

interrupting the conversation, or filling up a pause (as the case

might be) with some most impertinent question or remark.  At one

time it was, - 'It, amazes me, Mrs. Graham, how you could choose

such a dilapidated, rickety old place as this to live in.  If you

couldn't afford to occupy the whole house, and have it mended up,

why couldn't you take a neat little cottage?'



'Perhaps I was too proud, Mr. Fergus,' replied she, smiling;

'perhaps I took a particular fancy for this romantic, old-fashioned

place - but, indeed, it has many advantages over a cottage - in the

first place, you see, the rooms are larger and more airy; in the

second place, the unoccupied apartments, which I don't pay for, may

serve as lumber-rooms, if I have anything to put in them; and they

are very useful for my little boy to run about in on rainy days

when he can't go out; and then there is the garden for him to play

in, and for me to work in.  You see I have effected some little

improvement already,' continued she, turning to the window.  'There

is a bed of young vegetables in that corner, and here are some

snowdrops and primroses already in bloom - and there, too, is a

yellow crocus just opening in the sunshine.'



'But then how can you bear such a situation - your nearest

neighbours two miles distant, and nobody looking in or passing by?

Rose would go stark mad in such a place.  She can't put on life

unless she sees half a dozen fresh gowns and bonnets a day - not to

speak of the faces within; but you might sit watching at these

windows all day long, and never see so much as an old woman

carrying her eggs to market.'



'I am not sure the loneliness of the place was not one of its chief

recommendations.  I take no pleasure in watching people pass the

windows; and I like to be quiet.'



'Oh! as good as to say you wish we would all of us mind our own

business, and let you alone.'



'No, I dislike an extensive acquaintance; but if I have a few

friends, of course I am glad to see them occasionally.  No one can

be happy in eternal solitude.  Therefore, Mr. Fergus, if you choose

to enter my house as a friend, I will make you welcome; if not, I

must confess, I would rather you kept away.'  She then turned and

addressed some observation to Rose or Eliza.



'And, Mrs. Graham,' said he again, five minutes after, 'we were

disputing, as we came along, a question that you can readily decide

for us, as it mainly regarded yourself - and, indeed, we often hold

discussions about you; for some of us have nothing better to do

than to talk about our neighbours' concerns, and we, the indigenous

plants of the soil, have known each other so long, and talked each

other over so often, that we are quite sick of that game; so that a

stranger coming amongst us makes an invaluable addition to our

exhausted sources of amusement.  Well, the question, or questions,

you are requested to solve - '



'Hold your tongue, Fergus!' cried Rose, in a fever of apprehension

and wrath.



'I won't, I tell you.  The questions you are requested to solve are

these:- First, concerning your birth, extraction, and previous

residence.  Some will have it that you are a foreigner, and some an

Englishwoman; some a native of the north country, and some of the

south; some say - '



'Well, Mr. Fergus, I'll tell you.  I'm an Englishwoman - and I

don't see why any one should doubt it - and I was born in the

country, neither in the extreme north nor south of our happy isle;

and in the country I have chiefly passed my life, and now I hope

you are satisfied; for I am not disposed to answer any more

questions at present.'



'Except this - '



'No, not one more!' laughed she, and, instantly quitting her seat,

she sought refuge at the window by which I was seated, and, in very

desperation, to escape my brother's persecutions, endeavoured to

draw me into conversation.



'Mr. Markham,' said she, her rapid utterance and heightened colour

too plainly evincing her disquietude, 'have you forgotten the fine

sea-view we were speaking of some time ago?  I think I must trouble

you, now, to tell me the nearest way to it; for if this beautiful

weather continue, I shall, perhaps, be able to walk there, and take

my sketch; I have exhausted every other subject for painting; and I

long to see it.'



I was about to comply with her request, but Rose would not suffer

me to proceed.



'Oh, don't tell her, Gilbert!' cried she; 'she shall go with us.

It's - Bay you are thinking about, I suppose, Mrs. Graham?  It is a

very long walk, too far for you, and out of the question for

Arthur.  But we were thinking about making a picnic to see it some

fine day; and, if you will wait till the settled fine weather

comes, I'm sure we shall all be delighted to have you amongst us.'



Poor Mrs. Graham looked dismayed, and attempted to make excuses,

but Rose, either compassionating her lonely life, or anxious to

cultivate her acquaintance, was determined to have her; and every

objection was overruled.  She was told it would only be a small

party, and all friends, and that the best view of all was from -

Cliffs, full five miles distant.



'Just a nice walk for the gentlemen,' continued Rose; 'but the

ladies will drive and walk by turns; for we shall have our pony-

carriage, which will be plenty large enough to contain little

Arthur and three ladies, together with your sketching apparatus,

and our provisions.'



So the proposal was finally acceded to; and, after some further

discussion respecting the time and manner of the projected

excursion, we rose, and took our leave.



But this was only March:  a cold, wet April, and two weeks of May

passed over before we could venture forth on our expedition with

the reasonable hope of obtaining that pleasure we sought in

pleasant prospects, cheerful society, fresh air, good cheer and

exercise, without the alloy of bad roads, cold winds, or

threatening clouds.  Then, on a glorious morning, we gathered our

forces and set forth.  The company consisted of Mrs. and Master

Graham, Mary and Eliza Millward, Jane and Richard Wilson, and Rose,

Fergus, and Gilbert Markham.



Mr. Lawrence had been invited to join us, but, for some reason best

known to himself, had refused to give us his company.  I had

solicited the favour myself.  When I did so, he hesitated, and

asked who were going.  Upon my naming Miss Wilson among the rest,

he seemed half inclined to go, but when I mentioned Mrs. Graham,

thinking it might be a further inducement, it appeared to have a

contrary effect, and he declined it altogether, and, to confess the

truth, the decision was not displeasing to me, though I could

scarcely tell you why.



It was about midday when we reached the place of our destination.

Mrs. Graham walked all the way to the cliffs; and little Arthur

walked the greater part of it too; for he was now much more hardy

and active than when he first entered the neighbourhood, and he did

not like being in the carriage with strangers, while all his four

friends, mamma, and Sancho, and Mr. Markham, and Miss Millward,

were on foot, journeying far behind, or passing through distant

fields and lanes.



I have a very pleasant recollection of that walk, along the hard,

white, sunny road, shaded here and there with bright green trees,

and adorned with flowery banks and blossoming hedges of delicious

fragrance; or through pleasant fields and lanes, all glorious in

the sweet flowers and brilliant verdure of delightful May.  It was

true, Eliza was not beside me; but she was with her friends in the

pony-carriage, as happy, I trusted, as I was; and even when we

pedestrians, having forsaken the highway for a short cut across the

fields, beheld the little carriage far away, disappearing amid the

green, embowering trees, I did not hate those trees for snatching

the dear little bonnet and shawl from my sight, nor did I feel that

all those intervening objects lay between my happiness and me; for,

to confess the truth, I was too happy in the company of Mrs. Graham

to regret the absence of Eliza, Millward.



The former, it is true, was most provokingly unsociable at first -

seemingly bent upon talking to no one but Mary Millward and Arthur.

She and Mary journeyed along together, generally with the child

between them; - but where the road permitted, I always walked on

the other side of her, Richard Wilson taking the other side of Miss

Millward, and Fergus roving here and there according to his fancy;

and, after a while, she became more friendly, and at length I

succeeded in securing her attention almost entirely to myself - and

then I was happy indeed; for whenever she did condescend to

converse, I liked to listen.  Where her opinions and sentiments

tallied with mine, it was her extreme good sense, her exquisite

taste and feeling, that delighted me; where they differed, it was

still her uncompromising boldness in the avowal or defence of that

difference, her earnestness and keenness, that piqued my fancy:

and even when she angered me by her unkind words or looks, and her

uncharitable conclusions respecting me, it only made me the more

dissatisfied with myself for having so unfavourably impressed her,

and the more desirous to vindicate my character and disposition in

her eyes, and, if possible, to win her esteem.



At length our walk was ended.  The increasing height and boldness

of the hills had for some time intercepted the prospect; but, on

gaining the summit of a steep acclivity, and looking downward, an

opening lay before us - and the blue sea burst upon our sight! -

deep violet blue - not deadly calm, but covered with glinting

breakers - diminutive white specks twinkling on its bosom, and

scarcely to be distinguished, by the keenest vision, from the

little seamews that sported above, their white wings glittering in

the sunshine:  only one or two vessels were visible, and those were

far away.



I looked at my companion to see what she thought of this glorious

scene.  She said nothing:  but she stood still, and fixed her eyes

upon it with a gaze that assured me she was not disappointed.  She

had very fine eyes, by-the-by - I don't know whether I have told

you before, but they were full of soul, large, clear, and nearly

black - not brown, but very dark grey.  A cool, reviving breeze

blew from the sea - soft, pure, salubrious:  it waved her drooping

ringlets, and imparted a livelier colour to her usually too pallid

lip and cheek.  She felt its exhilarating influence, and so did I -

I felt it tingling through my frame, but dared not give way to it

while she remained so quiet.  There was an aspect of subdued

exhilaration in her face, that kindled into almost a smile of

exalted, glad intelligence as her eye met mine.  Never had she

looked so lovely:  never had my heart so warmly cleaved to her as

now.  Had we been left two minutes longer standing there alone, I

cannot answer for the consequences.  Happily for my discretion,

perhaps for my enjoyment during the remainder of the day, we were

speedily summoned to the repast - a very respectable collation,

which Rose, assisted by Miss Wilson and Eliza, who, having shared

her seat in the carriage, had arrived with her a little before the

rest, had set out upon an elevated platform overlooking the sea,

and sheltered from the hot sun by a shelving rock and overhanging

trees.



Mrs. Graham seated herself at a distance from me.  Eliza was my

nearest neighbour.  She exerted herself to be agreeable, in her

gentle, unobtrusive way, and was, no doubt, as fascinating and

charming as ever, if I could only have felt it.  But soon my heart

began to warm towards her once again; and we were all very merry

and happy together - as far as I could see - throughout the

protracted social meal.



When that was over, Rose summoned Fergus to help her to gather up

the fragments, and the knives, dishes, &c., and restore them to the

baskets; and Mrs. Graham took her camp-stool and drawing materials;

and having begged Miss Millward to take charge of her precious son,

and strictly enjoined him not to wander from his new guardian's

side, she left us and proceeded along the steep, stony hill, to a

loftier, more precipitous eminence at some distance, whence a still

finer prospect was to be had, where she preferred taking her

sketch, though some of the ladies told her it was a frightful

place, and advised her not to attempt it.



When she was gone, I felt as if there was to be no more fun -

though it is difficult to say what she had contributed to the

hilarity of the party.  No jests, and little laughter, had escaped

her lips; but her smile had animated my mirth; a keen observation

or a cheerful word from her had insensibly sharpened my wits, and

thrown an interest over all that was done and said by the rest.

Even my conversation with Eliza had been enlivened by her presence,

though I knew it not; and now that she was gone, Eliza's playful

nonsense ceased to amuse me - nay, grew wearisome to my soul, and I

grew weary of amusing her:  I felt myself drawn by an irresistible

attraction to that distant point where the fair artist sat and

plied her solitary task - and not long did I attempt to resist it:

while my little neighbour was exchanging a few words with Miss

Wilson, I rose and cannily slipped away.  A few rapid strides, and

a little active clambering, soon brought me to the place where she

was seated - a narrow ledge of rock at the very verge of the cliff,

which descended with a steep, precipitous slant, quite down to the

rocky shore.



She did not hear me coming:  the falling of my shadow across her

paper gave her an electric start; and she looked hastily round -

any other lady of my acquaintance would have screamed under such a

sudden alarm.



'Oh!  I didn't know it was you. - Why did you startle me so?' said

she, somewhat testily.  'I hate anybody to come upon me so

unexpectedly.'



'Why, what did you take me for?' said I:  'if I had known you were

so nervous, I would have been more cautious; but - '



'Well, never mind.  What did you come for? are they all coming?'



'No; this little ledge could scarcely contain them all.'



'I'm glad, for I'm tired of talking.'



'Well, then, I won't talk.  I'll only sit and watch your drawing.'



'Oh, but you know I don't like that.'



'Then I'll content myself with admiring this magnificent prospect.'



She made no objection to this; and, for some time, sketched away in

silence.  But I could not help stealing a glance, now and then,

from the splendid view at our feet to the elegant white hand that

held the pencil, and the graceful neck and glossy raven curls that

drooped over the paper.



'Now,' thought I, 'if I had but a pencil and a morsel of paper, I

could make a lovelier sketch than hers, admitting I had the power

to delineate faithfully what is before me.'



But, though this satisfaction was denied me, I was very well

content to sit beside her there, and say nothing.



'Are you there still, Mr. Markham?' said she at length, looking

round upon me - for I was seated a little behind on a mossy

projection of the cliff. - 'Why don't you go and amuse yourself

with your friends?'



'Because I am tired of them, like you; and I shall have enough of

them to-morrow - or at any time hence; but you I may not have the

pleasure of seeing again for I know not how long.'



'What was Arthur doing when you came away?'



'He was with Miss Millward, where you left him - all right, but

hoping mamma would not be long away.  You didn't intrust him to me,

by-the-by,' I grumbled, 'though I had the honour of a much longer

acquaintance; but Miss Millward has the art of conciliating and

amusing children,' I carelessly added, 'if she is good for nothing

else.'



'Miss Millward has many estimable qualities, which such as you

cannot be expected to perceive or appreciate.  Will you tell Arthur

that I shall come in a few minutes?'



'If that be the case, I will wait, with your permission, till those

few minutes are past; and then I can assist you to descend this

difficult path.'



'Thank you - I always manage best, on such occasions, without

assistance.'



'But, at least, I can carry your stool and sketch-book.'



She did not deny me this favour; but I was rather offended at her

evident desire to be rid of me, and was beginning to repent of my

pertinacity, when she somewhat appeased me by consulting my taste

and judgment about some doubtful matter in her drawing.  My

opinion, happily, met her approbation, and the improvement I

suggested was adopted without hesitation.



'I have often wished in vain,' said she, 'for another's judgment to

appeal to when I could scarcely trust the direction of my own eye

and head, they having been so long occupied with the contemplation

of a single object as to become almost incapable of forming a

proper idea respecting it.'



'That,' replied I, 'is only one of many evils to which a solitary

life exposes us.'



'True,' said she; and again we relapsed into silence.



About two minutes after, however, she declared her sketch

completed, and closed the book.



On returning to the scene of our repast we found all the company

had deserted it, with the exception of three - Mary Millward,

Richard Wilson, and Arthur Graham.  The younger gentleman lay fast

asleep with his head pillowed on the lady's lap; the other was

seated beside her with a pocket edition of some classic author in

his hand.  He never went anywhere without such a companion

wherewith to improve his leisure moments:  all time seemed lost

that was not devoted to study, or exacted, by his physical nature,

for the bare support of life.  Even now he could not abandon

himself to the enjoyment of that pure air and balmy sunshine - that

splendid prospect, and those soothing sounds, the music of the

waves and of the soft wind in the sheltering trees above him - not

even with a lady by his side (though not a very charming one, I

will allow) - he must pull out his book, and make the most of his

time while digesting his temperate meal, and reposing his weary

limbs, unused to so much exercise.



Perhaps, however, he spared a moment to exchange a word or a glance

with his companion now and then - at any rate, she did not appear

at all resentful of his conduct; for her homely features wore an

expression of unusual cheerfulness and serenity, and she was

studying his pale, thoughtful face with great complacency when we

arrived.



The journey homeward was by no means so agreeable to me as the

former part of the day:  for now Mrs. Graham was in the carriage,

and Eliza Millward was the companion of my walk.  She had observed

my preference for the young widow, and evidently felt herself

neglected.  She did not manifest her chagrin by keen reproaches,

bitter sarcasms, or pouting sullen silence - any or all of these I

could easily have endured, or lightly laughed away; but she showed

it by a kind of gentle melancholy, a mild, reproachful sadness that

cut me to the heart.  I tried to cheer her up, and apparently

succeeded in some degree, before the walk was over; but in the very

act my conscience reproved me, knowing, as I did, that, sooner or

later, the tie must be broken, and this was only nourishing false

hopes and putting off the evil day.



When the pony-carriage had approached as near Wildfell Hall as the

road would permit - unless, indeed, it proceeded up the long rough

lane, which Mrs. Graham would not allow - the young widow and her

son alighted, relinquishing the driver's seat to Rose; and I

persuaded Eliza to take the latter's place.  Having put her

comfortably in, bid her take care of the evening air, and wished

her a kind good-night, I felt considerably relieved, and hastened

to offer my services to Mrs. Graham to carry her apparatus up the

fields, but she had already hung her camp-stool on her arm and

taken her sketch-book in her hand, and insisted upon bidding me

adieu then and there, with the rest of the company.  But this time

she declined my proffered aid in so kind and friendly a manner that

I almost forgave her.







CHAPTER VIII







Six weeks had passed away.  It was a splendid morning about the

close of June.  Most of the hay was cut, but the last week had been

very unfavourable; and now that fine weather was come at last,

being determined to make the most of it, I had gathered all hands

together into the hay-field, and was working away myself, in the

midst of them, in my shirt-sleeves, with a light, shady straw hat

on my head, catching up armfuls of moist, reeking grass, and

shaking it out to the four winds of heaven, at the head of a goodly

file of servants and hirelings - intending so to labour, from

morning till night, with as much zeal and assiduity as I could look

for from any of them, as well to prosper the work by my own

exertion as to animate the workers by my example - when lo! my

resolutions were overthrown in a moment, by the simple fact of my

brother's running up to me and putting into my hand a small parcel,

just arrived from London, which I had been for some time expecting.

I tore off the cover, and disclosed an elegant and portable edition

of 'Marmion.'



'I guess I know who that's for,' said Fergus, who stood looking on

while I complacently examined the volume.  'That's for Miss Eliza,

now.'



He pronounced this with a tone and look so prodigiously knowing,

that I was glad to contradict him.



'You're wrong, my lad,' said I; and, taking up my coat, I deposited

the book in one of its pockets, and then put it on (i.e. the coat).

'Now come here, you idle dog, and make yourself useful for once,' I

continued.  'Pull off your coat, and take my place in the field

till I come back.'



'Till you come back? - and where are you going, pray?



'No matter where - the when is all that concerns you; - and I shall

be back by dinner, at least.'



'Oh - oh! and I'm to labour away till then, am I? - and to keep all

these fellows hard at it besides?  Well, well!  I'll submit - for

once in a way. - Come, my lads, you must look sharp:  I'm come to

help you now:- and woe be to that man, or woman either, that pauses

for a moment amongst you - whether to stare about him, to scratch

his head, or blow his nose - no pretext will serve - nothing but

work, work, work in the sweat of your face,' &c., &c.



Leaving him thus haranguing the people, more to their amusement

than edification, I returned to the house, and, having made some

alteration in my toilet, hastened away to Wildfell Hall, with the

book in my pocket; for it was destined for the shelves of Mrs.

Graham.



'What! then had she and you got on so well together as to come to

the giving and receiving of presents?' - Not precisely, old buck;

this was my first experiment in that line; and I was very anxious

to see the result of it.



We had met several times since the - Bay excursion, and I had found

she was not averse to my company, provided I confined my

conversation to the discussion of abstract matters, or topics of

common interest; - the moment I touched upon the sentimental or the

complimentary, or made the slightest approach to tenderness in word

or look, I was not only punished by an immediate change in her

manner at the time, but doomed to find her more cold and distant,

if not entirely inaccessible, when next I sought her company.  This

circumstance did not greatly disconcert me, however, because I

attributed it, not so much to any dislike of my person, as to some

absolute resolution against a second marriage formed prior to the

time of our acquaintance, whether from excess of affection for her

late husband, or because she had had enough of him and the

matrimonial state together.  At first, indeed, she had seemed to

take a pleasure in mortifying my vanity and crushing my presumption

- relentlessly nipping off bud by bud as they ventured to appear;

and then, I confess, I was deeply wounded, though, at the same

time, stimulated to seek revenge; - but latterly finding, beyond a

doubt, that I was not that empty-headed coxcomb she had first

supposed me, she had repulsed my modest advances in quite a

different spirit.  It was a kind of serious, almost sorrowful

displeasure, which I soon learnt carefully to avoid awakening.



'Let me first establish my position as a friend,' thought I - 'the

patron and playfellow of her son, the sober, solid, plain-dealing

friend of herself, and then, when I have made myself fairly

necessary to her comfort and enjoyment in life (as I believe I

can), we'll see what next may be effected.'



So we talked about painting, poetry, and music, theology, geology,

and philosophy:  once or twice I lent her a book, and once she lent

me one in return:  I met her in her walks as often as I could; I

came to her house as often as I dared.  My first pretext for

invading the sanctum was to bring Arthur a little waddling puppy of

which Sancho was the father, and which delighted the child beyond

expression, and, consequently, could not fail to please his mamma.

My second was to bring him a book, which, knowing his mother's

particularity, I had carefully selected, and which I submitted for

her approbation before presenting it to him.  Then, I brought her

some plants for her garden, in my sister's name - having previously

persuaded Rose to send them.  Each of these times I inquired after

the picture she was painting from the sketch taken on the cliff,

and was admitted into the studio, and asked my opinion or advice

respecting its progress.



My last visit had been to return the book she had lent me; and then

it was that, in casually discussing the poetry of Sir Walter Scott,

she had expressed a wish to see 'Marmion,' and I had conceived the

presumptuous idea of making her a present of it, and, on my return

home, instantly sent for the smart little volume I had this morning

received.  But an apology for invading the hermitage was still

necessary; so I had furnished myself with a blue morocco collar for

Arthur's little dog; and that being given and received, with much

more joy and gratitude, on the part of the receiver, than the worth

of the gift or the selfish motive of the giver deserved, I ventured

to ask Mrs. Graham for one more look at the picture, if it was

still there.



'Oh, yes! come in,' said she (for I had met them in the garden).

'It is finished and framed, all ready for sending away; but give me

your last opinion, and if you can suggest any further improvement,

it shall be - duly considered, at least.'



The picture was strikingly beautiful; it was the very scene itself,

transferred as if by magic to the canvas; but I expressed my

approbation in guarded terms, and few words, for fear of

displeasing her.  She, however, attentively watched my looks, and

her artist's pride was gratified, no doubt, to read my heartfelt

admiration in my eyes.  But, while I gazed, I thought upon the

book, and wondered how it was to be presented.  My heart failed me;

but I determined not to be such a fool as to come away without

having made the attempt.  It was useless waiting for an

opportunity, and useless trying to concoct a speech for the

occasion.  The more plainly and naturally the thing was done, the

better, I thought; so I just looked out of the window to screw up

my courage, and then pulled out the book, turned round, and put it

into her hand, with this short explanation:



'You were wishing to see 'Marmion,' Mrs. Graham; and here it is, if

you will be so kind as to take it.'



A momentary blush suffused her face - perhaps, a blush of

sympathetic shame for such an awkward style of presentation:  she

gravely examined the volume on both sides; then silently turned

over the leaves, knitting her brows the while, in serious

cogitation; then closed the book, and turning from it to me,

quietly asked the price of it - I felt the hot blood rush to my

face.



'I'm sorry to offend you, Mr. Markham,' said she, 'but unless I pay

for the book, I cannot take it.'  And she laid it on the table.



'Why cannot you?'



'Because,' - she paused, and looked at the carpet.



'Why cannot you?' I repeated, with a degree of irascibility that

roused her to lift her eyes and look me steadily in the face.



'Because I don't like to put myself under obligations that I can

never repay - I am obliged to you already for your kindness to my

son; but his grateful affection and your own good feelings must

reward you for that.'



'Nonsense!' ejaculated I.



She turned her eyes on me again, with a look of quiet, grave

surprise, that had the effect of a rebuke, whether intended for

such or not.



'Then you won't take the book?' I asked, more mildly than I had yet

spoken.



'I will gladly take it, if you will let me pay for it.'  I told her

the exact price, and the cost of the carriage besides, in as calm a

tone as I could command - for, in fact, I was ready to weep with

disappointment and vexation.



She produced her purse, and coolly counted out the money, but

hesitated to put it into my hand.  Attentively regarding me, in a

tone of soothing softness, she observed, - 'You think yourself

insulted, Mr Markham - I wish I could make you understand that -

that I - '



'I do understand you, perfectly,' I said.  'You think that if you

were to accept that trifle from me now, I should presume upon it

hereafter; but you are mistaken:- if you will only oblige me by

taking it, believe me, I shall build no hopes upon it, and consider

this no precedent for future favours:- and it is nonsense to talk

about putting yourself under obligations to me when you must know

that in such a case the obligation is entirely on my side, - the

favour on yours.'



'Well, then, I'll take you at your word,' she answered, with a most

angelic smile, returning the odious money to her purse - 'but

remember!'



'I will remember - what I have said; - but do not you punish my

presumption by withdrawing your friendship entirely from me, - or

expect me to atone for it by being more distant than before,' said

I, extending my hand to take leave, for I was too much excited to

remain.



'Well, then! let us be as we were,' replied she, frankly placing

her hand in mine; and while I held it there, I had much difficulty

to refrain from pressing it to my lips; - but that would be

suicidal madness:  I had been bold enough already, and this

premature offering had well-nigh given the death-blow to my hopes.



It was with an agitated, burning heart and brain that I hurried

homewards, regardless of that scorching noonday sun - forgetful of

everything but her I had just left - regretting nothing but her

impenetrability, and my own precipitancy and want of tact - fearing

nothing but her hateful resolution, and my inability to overcome it

- hoping nothing - but halt, - I will not bore you with my

conflicting hopes and fears - my serious cogitations and resolves.







CHAPTER IX







Though my affections might now be said to be fairly weaned from

Eliza Millward, I did not yet entirely relinquish my visits to the

vicarage, because I wanted, as it were, to let her down easy;

without raising much sorrow, or incurring much resentment, - or

making myself the talk of the parish; and besides, if I had wholly

kept away, the vicar, who looked upon my visits as paid chiefly, if

not entirely, to himself, would have felt himself decidedly

affronted by the neglect.  But when I called there the day after my

interview with Mrs. Graham, he happened to be from home - a

circumstance by no means so agreeable to me now as it had been on

former occasions.  Miss Millward was there, it is true, but she, of

course, would be little better than a nonentity.  However, I

resolved to make my visit a short one, and to talk to Eliza in a

brotherly, friendly sort of way, such as our long acquaintance

might warrant me in assuming, and which, I thought, could neither

give offence nor serve to encourage false hopes.



It was never my custom to talk about Mrs. Graham either to her or

any one else; but I had not been seated three minutes before she

brought that lady on to the carpet herself in a rather remarkable

manner.



'Oh, Mr. Markham!' said she, with a shocked expression and voice

subdued almost to a whisper, 'what do you think of these shocking

reports about Mrs. Graham? - can you encourage us to disbelieve

them?'



'What reports?'



'Ah, now! you know!' she slily smiled and shook her head.



'I know nothing about them.  What in the world do you mean, Eliza?'



'Oh, don't ask me!  I can't explain it.'  She took up the cambric

handkerchief which she had been beautifying with a deep lace

border, and began to be very busy.



'What is it, Miss Millward? what does she mean?' said I, appealing

to her sister, who seemed to be absorbed in the hemming of a large,

coarse sheet.



'I don't know,' replied she.  'Some idle slander somebody has been

inventing, I suppose.  I never heard it till Eliza told me the

other day, - but if all the parish dinned it in my ears, I

shouldn't believe a word of it - I know Mrs. Graham too well!'



'Quite right, Miss Millward! - and so do I - whatever it may be.'



'Well,' observed Eliza, with a gentle sigh, 'it's well to have such

a comfortable assurance regarding the worth of those we love.  I

only wish you may not find your confidence misplaced.'



And she raised her face, and gave me such a look of sorrowful

tenderness as might have melted my heart, but within those eyes

there lurked a something that I did not like; and I wondered how I

ever could have admired them - her sister's honest face and small

grey optics appeared far more agreeable.  But I was out of temper

with Eliza at that moment for her insinuations against Mrs. Graham,

which were false, I was certain, whether she knew it or not.



I said nothing more on the subject, however, at the time, and but

little on any other; for, finding I could not well recover my

equanimity, I presently rose and took leave, excusing myself under

the plea of business at the farm; and to the farm I went, not

troubling my mind one whit about the possible truth of these

mysterious reports, but only wondering what they were, by whom

originated, and on what foundations raised, and how they could the

most effectually be silenced or disproved.



A few days after this we had another of our quiet little parties,

to which the usual company of friends and neighbours had been

invited, and Mrs. Graham among the number.  She could not now

absent herself under the plea of dark evenings or inclement

weather, and, greatly to my relief, she came.  Without her I should

have found the whole affair an intolerable bore; but the moment of

her arrival brought new life to the house, and though I might not

neglect the other guests for her, or expect to engross much of her

attention and conversation to myself alone, I anticipated an

evening of no common enjoyment.



Mr. Lawrence came too.  He did not arrive till some time after the

rest were assembled.  I was curious to see how he would comport

himself to Mrs. Graham.  A slight bow was all that passed between

them on his entrance; and having politely greeted the other members

of the company, he seated himself quite aloof from the young widow,

between my mother and Rose.



'Did you ever see such art?' whispered Eliza, who was my nearest

neighbour.  'Would you not say they were perfect strangers?'



'Almost; but what then?'



'What then; why, you can't pretend to be ignorant?'



'Ignorant of what?' demanded I, so sharply that she started and

replied, -



'Oh, hush! don't speak so loud.'



'Well, tell me then,' I answered in a lower tone, 'what is it you

mean?  I hate enigmas.'



'Well, you know, I don't vouch for the truth of it - indeed, far

from it - but haven't you heard -?'



'I've heard nothing, except from you.'



'You must be wilfully deaf then, for anyone will tell you that; but

I shall only anger you by repeating it, I see, so I had better hold

my tongue.'



She closed her lips and folded her hands before her, with an air of

injured meekness.



'If you had wished not to anger me, you should have held your

tongue from the beginning, or else spoken out plainly and honestly

all you had to say.'



She turned aside her face, pulled out her handkerchief, rose, and

went to the window, where she stood for some time, evidently

dissolved in tears.  I was astounded, provoked, ashamed - not so

much of my harshness as for her childish weakness.  However, no one

seemed to notice her, and shortly after we were summoned to the

tea-table:  in those parts it was customary to sit to the table at

tea-time on all occasions, and make a meal of it, for we dined

early.  On taking my seat, I had Rose on one side of me and an

empty chair on the other.



'May I sit by you?' said a soft voice at my elbow.



'If you like,' was the reply; and Eliza slipped into the vacant

chair; then, looking up in my face with a half-sad, half-playful

smile, she whispered, - 'You're so stern, Gilbert.'



I handed down her tea with a slightly contemptuous smile, and said

nothing, for I had nothing to say.



'What have I done to offend you?' said she, more plaintively.  'I

wish I knew.'



'Come, take your tea, Eliza, and don't be foolish,' responded I,

handing her the sugar and cream.



Just then there arose a slight commotion on the other side of me,

occasioned by Miss Wilson's coming to negotiate an exchange of

seats with Rose.



'Will you be so good as to exchange places with me, Miss Markham?'

said she; 'for I don't like to sit by Mrs. Graham.  If your mamma

thinks proper to invite such persons to her house, she cannot

object to her daughter's keeping company with them.'



This latter clause was added in a sort of soliloquy when Rose was

gone; but I was not polite enough to let it pass.



'Will you be so good as to tell me what you mean, Miss Wilson?'

said I.



The question startled her a little, but not much.



'Why, Mr. Markham,' replied she, coolly, having quickly recovered

her self-possession, 'it surprises me rather that Mrs. Markham

should invite such a person as Mrs. Graham to her house; but,

perhaps, she is not aware that the lady's character is considered

scarcely respectable.'



'She is not, nor am I; and therefore you would oblige me by

explaining your meaning a little further.'



'This is scarcely the time or the place for such explanations; but

I think you can hardly be so ignorant as you pretend - you must

know her as well as I do.'



'I think I do, perhaps a little better; and therefore, if you will

inform me what you have heard or imagined against her, I shall,

perhaps, be able to set you right.'



'Can you tell me, then, who was her husband, or if she ever had

any?'



Indignation kept me silent.  At such a time and place I could not

trust myself to answer.



'Have you never observed,' said Eliza, 'what a striking likeness

there is between that child of hers and - '



'And whom?' demanded Miss Wilson, with an air of cold, but keen

severity.



Eliza was startled; the timidly spoken suggestion had been intended

for my ear alone.



'Oh, I beg your pardon!' pleaded she; 'I may be mistaken - perhaps

I was mistaken.'  But she accompanied the words with a sly glance

of derision directed to me from the corner of her disingenuous eye.



'There's no need to ask my pardon,' replied her friend, 'but I see

no one here that at all resembles that child, except his mother,

and when you hear ill-natured reports, Miss Eliza, I will thank

you, that is, I think you will do well, to refrain from repeating

them.  I presume the person you allude to is Mr. Lawrence; but I

think I can assure you that your suspicions, in that respect, are

utterly misplaced; and if he has any particular connection with the

lady at all (which no one has a right to assert), at least he has

(what cannot be said of some others) sufficient sense of propriety

to withhold him from acknowledging anything more than a bowing

acquaintance in the presence of respectable persons; he was

evidently both surprised and annoyed to find her here.'



'Go it!' cried Fergus, who sat on the other side of Eliza, and was

the only individual who shared that side of the table with us.  'Go

it like bricks! mind you don't leave her one stone upon another.'



Miss Wilson drew herself up with a look of freezing scorn, but said

nothing.  Eliza would have replied, but I interrupted her by saying

as calmly as I could, though in a tone which betrayed, no doubt,

some little of what I felt within, - 'We have had enough of this

subject; if we can only speak to slander our betters, let us hold

our tongues.'



'I think you'd better,' observed Fergus, 'and so does our good

parson; he has been addressing the company in his richest vein all

the while, and eyeing you, from time to time, with looks of stern

distaste, while you sat there, irreverently whispering and

muttering together; and once he paused in the middle of a story or

a sermon, I don't know which, and fixed his eyes upon you, Gilbert,

as much as to say, "When Mr. Markham has done flirting with those

two ladies I will proceed."'



What more was said at the tea-table I cannot tell, nor how I found

patience to sit till the meal was over.  I remember, however, that

I swallowed with difficulty the remainder of the tea that was in my

cup, and ate nothing; and that the first thing I did was to stare

at Arthur Graham, who sat beside his mother on the opposite side of

the table, and the second to stare at Mr. Lawrence, who sat below;

and, first, it struck me that there was a likeness; but, on further

contemplation, I concluded it was only in imagination.



Both, it is true, had more delicate features and smaller bones than

commonly fall to the lot of individuals of the rougher sex, and

Lawrence's complexion was pale and clear, and Arthur's delicately

fair; but Arthur's tiny, somewhat snubby nose could never become so

long and straight as Mr. Lawrence's; and the outline of his face,

though not full enough to be round, and too finely converging to

the small, dimpled chin to be square, could never be drawn out to

the long oval of the other's, while the child's hair was evidently

of a lighter, warmer tint than the elder gentleman's had ever been,

and his large, clear blue eyes, though prematurely serious at

times, were utterly dissimilar to the shy hazel eyes of Mr.

Lawrence, whence the sensitive soul looked so distrustfully forth,

as ever ready to retire within, from the offences of a too rude,

too uncongenial world.  Wretch that I was to harbour that

detestable idea for a moment!  Did I not know Mrs. Graham?  Had I

not seen her, conversed with her time after time?  Was I not

certain that she, in intellect, in purity and elevation of soul,

was immeasurably superior to any of her detractors; that she was,

in fact, the noblest, the most adorable, of her sex I had ever

beheld, or even imagined to exist?  Yes, and I would say with Mary

Millward (sensible girl as she was), that if all the parish, ay, or

all the world, should din these horrible lies in my ears, I would

not believe them, for I knew her better than they.



Meantime, my brain was on fire with indignation, and my heart

seemed ready to burst from its prison with conflicting passions.  I

regarded my two fair neighbours with a feeling of abhorrence and

loathing I scarcely endeavoured to conceal.  I was rallied from

several quarters for my abstraction and ungallant neglect of the

ladies; but I cared little for that:  all I cared about, besides

that one grand subject of my thoughts, was to see the cups travel

up to the tea-tray, and not come down again.  I thought Mr.

Millward never would cease telling us that he was no tea-drinker,

and that it was highly injurious to keep loading the stomach with

slops to the exclusion of more wholesome sustenance, and so give

himself time to finish his fourth cup.



At length it was over; and I rose and left the table and the guests

without a word of apology - I could endure their company no longer.

I rushed out to cool my brain in the balmy evening air, and to

compose my mind or indulge my passionate thoughts in the solitude

of the garden.



To avoid being seen from the windows I went down a quiet little

avenue that skirted one side of the inclosure, at the bottom of

which was a seat embowered in roses and honeysuckles.  Here I sat

down to think over the virtues and wrongs of the lady of Wildfell

Hall; but I had not been so occupied two minutes, before voices and

laughter, and glimpses of moving objects through the trees,

informed me that the whole company had turned out to take an airing

in the garden too.  However, I nestled up in a corner of the bower,

and hoped to retain possession of it, secure alike from observation

and intrusion.  But no - confound it - there was some one coming

down the avenue!  Why couldn't they enjoy the flowers and sunshine

of the open garden, and leave that sunless nook to me, and the

gnats and midges?



But, peeping through my fragrant screen of the interwoven branches

to discover who the intruders were (for a murmur of voices told me

it was more than one), my vexation instantly subsided, and far

other feelings agitated my still unquiet soul; for there was Mrs.

Graham, slowly moving down the walk with Arthur by her side, and no

one else.  Why were they alone?  Had the poison of detracting

tongues already spread through all; and had they all turned their

backs upon her?  I now recollected having seen Mrs. Wilson, in the

early part of the evening, edging her chair close up to my mother,

and bending forward, evidently in the delivery of some important

confidential intelligence; and from the incessant wagging of her

head, the frequent distortions of her wrinkled physiognomy, and the

winking and malicious twinkle of her little ugly eyes, I judged it

was some spicy piece of scandal that engaged her powers; and from

the cautious privacy of the communication I supposed some person

then present was the luckless object of her calumnies:  and from

all these tokens, together with my mother's looks and gestures of

mingled horror and incredulity, I now concluded that object to have

been Mrs. Graham.  I did not emerge from my place of concealment

till she had nearly reached the bottom of the walk, lest my

appearance should drive her away; and when I did step forward she

stood still and seemed inclined to turn back as it was.



'Oh, don't let us disturb you, Mr. Markham!' said she.  'We came

here to seek retirement ourselves, not to intrude on your

seclusion.'



'I am no hermit, Mrs. Graham - though I own it looks rather like it

to absent myself in this uncourteous fashion from my guests.'



'I feared you were unwell,' said she, with a look of real concern.



'I was rather, but it's over now.  Do sit here a little and rest,

and tell me how you like this arbour,' said I, and, lifting Arthur

by the shoulders, I planted him in the middle of the seat by way of

securing his mamma, who, acknowledging it to be a tempting place of

refuge, threw herself back in one corner, while I took possession

of the other.



But that word refuge disturbed me.  Had their unkindness then

really driven her to seek for peace in solitude?



'Why have they left you alone?' I asked.



'It is I who have left them,' was the smiling rejoinder.  'I was

wearied to death with small talk - nothing wears me out like that.

I cannot imagine how they can go on as they do.'



I could not help smiling at the serious depth of her wonderment.



'Is it that they think it a duty to be continually talking,'

pursued she:  'and so never pause to think, but fill up with

aimless trifles and vain repetitions when subjects of real interest

fail to present themselves, or do they really take a pleasure in

such discourse?'



'Very likely they do,' said I; 'their shallow minds can hold no

great ideas, and their light heads are carried away by trivialities

that would not move a better-furnished skull; and their only

alternative to such discourse is to plunge over head and ears into

the slough of scandal - which is their chief delight.'



'Not all of them, surely?' cried the lady, astonished at the

bitterness of my remark.



'No, certainly; I exonerate my sister from such degraded tastes,

and my mother too, if you included her in your animadversions.'



'I meant no animadversions against any one, and certainly intended

no disrespectful allusions to your mother.  I have known some

sensible persons great adepts in that style of conversation when

circumstances impelled them to it; but it is a gift I cannot boast

the possession of.  I kept up my attention on this occasion as long

as I could, but when my powers were exhausted I stole away to seek

a few minutes' repose in this quiet walk.  I hate talking where

there is no exchange of ideas or sentiments, and no good given or

received.'



'Well,' said I, 'if ever I trouble you with my loquacity, tell me

so at once, and I promise not to be offended; for I possess the

faculty of enjoying the company of those I - of my friends as well

in silence as in conversation.'



'I don't quite believe you; but if it were so you would exactly

suit me for a companion.'



'I am all you wish, then, in other respects?'



'No, I don't mean that.  How beautiful those little clusters of

foliage look, where the sun comes through behind them!' said she,

on purpose to change the subject.



And they did look beautiful, where at intervals the level rays of

the sun penetrating the thickness of trees and shrubs on the

opposite side of the path before us, relieved their dusky verdure

by displaying patches of semi-transparent leaves of resplendent

golden green.



'I almost wish I were not a painter,' observed my companion.



'Why so? one would think at such a time you would most exult in

your privilege of being able to imitate the various brilliant and

delightful touches of nature.'



'No; for instead of delivering myself up to the full enjoyment of

them as others do, I am always troubling my head about how I could

produce the same effect upon canvas; and as that can never be done,

it is more vanity and vexation of spirit.'



'Perhaps you cannot do it to satisfy yourself, but you may and do

succeed in delighting others with the result of your endeavours.'



'Well, after all, I should not complain:  perhaps few people gain

their livelihood with so much pleasure in their toil as I do.  Here

is some one coming.'



She seemed vexed at the interruption.



'It is only Mr. Lawrence and Miss Wilson,' said I, 'coming to enjoy

a quiet stroll.  They will not disturb us.'



I could not quite decipher the expression of her face; but I was

satisfied there was no jealousy therein.  What business had I to

look for it?



'What sort of a person is Miss Wilson?' she asked.



'She is elegant and accomplished above the generality of her birth

and station; and some say she is ladylike and agreeable.'



'I thought her somewhat frigid and rather supercilious in her

manner to-day.'



'Very likely she might be so to you.  She has possibly taken a

prejudice against you, for I think she regards you in the light of

a rival.'



'Me!  Impossible, Mr. Markham!' said she, evidently astonished and

annoyed.



'Well, I know nothing about it,' returned I, rather doggedly; for I

thought her annoyance was chiefly against myself.



The pair had now approached within a few paces of us.  Our arbour

was set snugly back in a corner, before which the avenue at its

termination turned off into the more airy walk along the bottom of

the garden.  As they approached this, I saw, by the aspect of Jane

Wilson, that she was directing her companion's attention to us;

and, as well by her cold, sarcastic smile as by the few isolated

words of her discourse that reached me, I knew full well that she

was impressing him with the idea, that we were strongly attached to

each other.  I noticed that he coloured up to the temples, gave us

one furtive glance in passing, and walked on, looking grave, but

seemingly offering no reply to her remarks.



It was true, then, that he had some designs upon Mrs. Graham; and,

were they honourable, he would not be so anxious to conceal them.

She was blameless, of course, but he was detestable beyond all

count.



While these thoughts flashed through my mind, my companion abruptly

rose, and calling her son, said they would now go in quest of the

company, and departed up the avenue.  Doubtless she had heard or

guessed something of Miss Wilson's remarks, and therefore it was

natural enough she should choose to continue the TETE-E-TETE no

longer, especially as at that moment my cheeks were burning with

indignation against my former friend, the token of which she might

mistake for a blush of stupid embarrassment.  For this I owed Miss

Wilson yet another grudge; and still the more I thought upon her

conduct the more I hated her.



It was late in the evening before I joined the company.  I found

Mrs. Graham already equipped for departure, and taking leave of the

rest, who were now returned to the house.  I offered, nay, begged

to accompany her home.  Mr. Lawrence was standing by at the time

conversing with some one else.  He did not look at us, but, on

hearing my earnest request, he paused in the middle of a sentence

to listen for her reply, and went on, with a look of quiet

satisfaction, the moment he found it was to be a denial.



A denial it was, decided, though not unkind.  She could not be

persuaded to think there was danger for herself or her child in

traversing those lonely lanes and fields without attendance.  It

was daylight still, and she should meet no one; or if she did, the

people were quiet and harmless she was well assured.  In fact, she

would not hear of any one's putting himself out of the way to

accompany her, though Fergus vouchsafed to offer his services in

case they should be more acceptable than mine, and my mother begged

she might send one of the farming-men to escort her.



When she was gone the rest was all a blank or worse.  Lawrence

attempted to draw me into conversation, but I snubbed him and went

to another part of the room.  Shortly after the party broke up and

he himself took leave.  When he came to me I was blind to his

extended hand, and deaf to his good-night till he repeated it a

second time; and then, to get rid of him, I muttered an

inarticulate reply, accompanied by a sulky nod.



'What is the matter, Markham?' whispered he.



I replied by a wrathful and contemptuous stare.



'Are you angry because Mrs. Graham would not let you go home with

her?' he asked, with a faint smile that nearly exasperated me

beyond control.



But, swallowing down all fiercer answers, I merely demanded, -

'What business is it of yours?'



'Why, none,' replied he with provoking quietness; 'only,' - and he

raised his eyes to my face, and spoke with unusual solemnity, -

'only let me tell you, Markham, that if you have any designs in

that quarter, they will certainly fail; and it grieves me to see

you cherishing false hopes, and wasting your strength in useless

efforts, for - '



'Hypocrite!' I exclaimed; and he held his breath, and looked very

blank, turned white about the gills, and went away without another

word.



I had wounded him to the quick; and I was glad of it.







CHAPTER X







When all were gone, I learnt that the vile slander had indeed been

circulated throughout the company, in the very presence of the

victim.  Rose, however, vowed she did not and would not believe it,

and my mother made the same declaration, though not, I fear, with

the same amount of real, unwavering incredulity.  It seemed to

dwell continually on her mind, and she kept irritating me from time

to time by such expressions as - 'Dear, dear, who would have

thought it! - Well!  I always thought there was something odd about

her. - You see what it is for women to affect to be different to

other people.'  And once it was, - 'I misdoubted that appearance of

mystery from the very first - I thought there would no good come of

it; but this is a sad, sad business, to be sure!'



'Why, mother, you said you didn't believe these tales,' said

Fergus.



'No more I do, my dear; but then, you know, there must be some

foundation.'



'The foundation is in the wickedness and falsehood of the world,'

said I, 'and in the fact that Mr. Lawrence has been seen to go that

way once or twice of an evening - and the village gossips say he

goes to pay his addresses to the strange lady, and the scandal-

mongers have greedily seized the rumour, to make it the basis of

their own infernal structure.'



'Well, but, Gilbert, there must be something in her manner to

countenance such reports.'



'Did you see anything in her manner?'



'No, certainly; but then, you know, I always said there was

something strange about her.'



I believe it was on that very evening that I ventured on another

invasion of Wildfell Hall.  From the time of our party, which was

upwards of a week ago, I had been making daily efforts to meet its

mistress in her walks; and always disappointed (she must have

managed it so on purpose), had nightly kept revolving in my mind

some pretext for another call.  At length I concluded that the

separation could be endured no longer (by this time, you will see,

I was pretty far gone); and, taking from the book-case an old

volume that I thought she might be interested in, though, from its

unsightly and somewhat dilapidated condition, I had not yet

ventured to offer it for perusal, I hastened away, - but not

without sundry misgivings as to how she would receive me, or how I

could summon courage to present myself with so slight an excuse.

But, perhaps, I might see her in the field or the garden, and then

there would be no great difficulty:  it was the formal knocking at

the door, with the prospect of being gravely ushered in by Rachel,

to the presence of a surprised, uncordial mistress, that so greatly

disturbed me.



My wish, however, was not gratified.  Mrs. Graham herself was not

to be seen; but there was Arthur playing with his frolicsome little

dog in the garden.  I looked over the gate and called him to me.

He wanted me to come in; but I told him I could not without his

mother's leave.



'I'll go and ask her,' said the child.



'No, no, Arthur, you mustn't do that; but if she's not engaged,

just ask her to come here a minute.  Tell her I want to speak to

her.'



He ran to perform my bidding, and quickly returned with his mother.

How lovely she looked with her dark ringlets streaming in the light

summer breeze, her fair cheek slightly flushed, and her countenance

radiant with smiles.  Dear Arthur! what did I not owe to you for

this and every other happy meeting?  Through him I was at once

delivered from all formality, and terror, and constraint.  In love

affairs, there is no mediator like a merry, simple-hearted child -

ever ready to cement divided hearts, to span the unfriendly gulf of

custom, to melt the ice of cold reserve, and overthrow the

separating walls of dread formality and pride.



'Well, Mr. Markham, what is it?' said the young mother, accosting

me with a pleasant smile.



'I want you to look at this book, and, if you please, to take it,

and peruse it at your leisure.  I make no apology for calling you

out on such a lovely evening, though it be for a matter of no

greater importance.'



'Tell him to come in, mamma,' said Arthur.



'Would you like to come in?' asked the lady.



'Yes; I should like to see your improvements in the garden.'



'And how your sister's roots have prospered in my charge,' added

she, as she opened the gate.



And we sauntered through the garden, and talked of the flowers, the

trees, and the book, and then of other things.  The evening was

kind and genial, and so was my companion.  By degrees I waxed more

warm and tender than, perhaps, I had ever been before; but still I

said nothing tangible, and she attempted no repulse, until, in

passing a moss rose-tree that I had brought her some weeks since,

in my sister's name, she plucked a beautiful half-open bud and bade

me give it to Rose.



'May I not keep it myself?' I asked.



'No; but here is another for you.'



Instead of taking it quietly, I likewise took the hand that offered

it, and looked into her face.  She let me hold it for a moment, and

I saw a flash of ecstatic brilliance in her eye, a glow of glad

excitement on her face - I thought my hour of victory was come -

but instantly a painful recollection seemed to flash upon her; a

cloud of anguish darkened her brow, a marble paleness blanched her

cheek and lip; there seemed a moment of inward conflict, and, with

a sudden effort, she withdrew her hand, and retreated a step or two

back.



'Now, Mr. Markham,' said she, with a kind of desperate calmness, 'I

must tell you plainly that I cannot do with this.  I like your

company, because I am alone here, and your conversation pleases me

more than that of any other person; but if you cannot be content to

regard me as a friend - a plain, cold, motherly, or sisterly friend

- I must beg you to leave me now, and let me alone hereafter:  in

fact, we must be strangers for the future.'



'I will, then - be your friend, or brother, or anything you wish,

if you will only let me continue to see you; but tell me why I

cannot be anything more?'



There was a perplexed and thoughtful pause.



'Is it in consequence of some rash vow?'



'It is something of the kind,' she answered.  'Some day I may tell

you, but at present you had better leave me; and never, Gilbert,

put me to the painful necessity of repeating what I have just now

said to you,' she earnestly added, giving me her hand in serious

kindness.  How sweet, how musical my own name sounded in her mouth!



'I will not,' I replied.  'But you pardon this offence?'



'On condition that you never repeat it.'



'And may I come to see you now and then?'



'Perhaps - occasionally; provided you never abuse the privilege.'



'I make no empty promises, but you shall see.'



'The moment you do our intimacy is at an end, that's all.'



'And will you always call me Gilbert?  It sounds more sisterly, and

it will serve to remind me of our contract.'



She smiled, and once more bid me go; and at length I judged it

prudent to obey, and she re-entered the house and I went down the

hill.  But as I went the tramp of horses' hoofs fell on my ear, and

broke the stillness of the dewy evening; and, looking towards the

lane, I saw a solitary equestrian coming up.  Inclining to dusk as

it was, I knew him at a glance:  it was Mr. Lawrence on his grey

pony.  I flew across the field, leaped the stone fence, and then

walked down the lane to meet him.  On seeing me, he suddenly drew

in his little steed, and seemed inclined to turn back, but on

second thought apparently judged it better to continue his course

as before.  He accosted me with a slight bow, and, edging close to

the wall, endeavoured to pass on; but I was not so minded.  Seizing

his horse by the bridle, I exclaimed, - 'Now, Lawrence, I will have

this mystery explained!  Tell me where you are going, and what you

mean to do - at once, and distinctly!'



'Will you take your hand off the bridle?' said he, quietly -

'you're hurting my pony's mouth.'



'You and your pony be - '



'What makes you so coarse and brutal, Markham?  I'm quite ashamed

of you.'



'You answer my questions - before you leave this spot I will know

what you mean by this perfidious duplicity!'



'I shall answer no questions till you let go the bridle, - if you

stand till morning.'



'Now then,' said I, unclosing my hand, but still standing before

him.



'Ask me some other time, when you can speak like a gentleman,'

returned he, and he made an effort to pass me again; but I quickly

re-captured the pony, scarce less astonished than its master at

such uncivil usage.



'Really, Mr. Markham, this is too much!' said the latter.  'Can I

not go to see my tenant on matters of business, without being

assaulted in this manner by -?'



'This is no time for business, sir! - I'll tell you, now, what I

think of your conduct.'



'You'd better defer your opinion to a more convenient season,'

interrupted he in a low tone - 'here's the vicar.'  And, in truth,

the vicar was just behind me, plodding homeward from some remote

corner of his parish.  I immediately released the squire; and he

went on his way, saluting Mr. Millward as he passed.



'What! quarrelling, Markham?' cried the latter, addressing himself

to me, - 'and about that young widow, I doubt?' he added,

reproachfully shaking his head.  'But let me tell you, young man'

(here he put his face into mine with an important, confidential

air), 'she's not worth it!' and he confirmed the assertion by a

solemn nod.



'MR. MILLWARD,' I exclaimed, in a tone of wrathful menace that made

the reverend gentleman look round - aghast - astounded at such

unwonted insolence, and stare me in the face, with a look that

plainly said, 'What, this to me!'  But I was too indignant to

apologise, or to speak another word to him:  I turned away, and

hastened homewards, descending with rapid strides the steep, rough

lane, and leaving him to follow as he pleased.







CHAPTER XI







You must suppose about three weeks passed over.  Mrs. Graham and I

were now established friends - or brother and sister, as we rather

chose to consider ourselves.  She called me Gilbert, by my express

desire, and I called her Helen, for I had seen that name written in

her books.  I seldom attempted to see her above twice a week; and

still I made our meetings appear the result of accident as often as

I could - for I found it necessary to be extremely careful - and,

altogether, I behaved with such exceeding propriety that she never

had occasion to reprove me once.  Yet I could not but perceive that

she was at times unhappy and dissatisfied with herself or her

position, and truly I myself was not quite contented with the

latter:  this assumption of brotherly nonchalance was very hard to

sustain, and I often felt myself a most confounded hypocrite with

it all; I saw too, or rather I felt, that, in spite of herself, 'I

was not indifferent to her,' as the novel heroes modestly express

it, and while I thankfully enjoyed my present good fortune, I could

not fail to wish and hope for something better in future; but, of

course, I kept such dreams entirely to myself.



'Where are you going, Gilbert?' said Rose, one evening, shortly

after tea, when I had been busy with the farm all day.



'To take a walk,' was the reply.



'Do you always brush your hat so carefully, and do your hair so

nicely, and put on such smart new gloves when you take a walk?'



'Not always.'



'You're going to Wildfell Hall, aren't you?'



'What makes you think so?'



'Because you look as if you were - but I wish you wouldn't go so

often.'



'Nonsense, child!  I don't go once in six weeks - what do you

mean?'



'Well, but if I were you, I wouldn't have so much to do with Mrs.

Graham.'



'Why, Rose, are you, too, giving in to the prevailing opinion?'



'No,' returned she, hesitatingly - 'but I've heard so much about

her lately, both at the Wilsons' and the vicarage; - and besides,

mamma says, if she were a proper person she would not be living

there by herself - and don't you remember last winter, Gilbert, all

that about the false name to the picture; and how she explained it

- saying she had friends or acquaintances from whom she wished her

present residence to be concealed, and that she was afraid of their

tracing her out; - and then, how suddenly she started up and left

the room when that person came - whom she took good care not to let

us catch a glimpse of, and who Arthur, with such an air of mystery,

told us was his mamma's friend?'



'Yes, Rose, I remember it all; and I can forgive your uncharitable

conclusions; for, perhaps, if I did not know her myself, I should

put all these things together, and believe the same as you do; but

thank God, I do know her; and I should be unworthy the name of a

man, if I could believe anything that was said against her, unless

I heard it from her own lips. - I should as soon believe such

things of you, Rose.'



'Oh, Gilbert!'



'Well, do you think I could believe anything of the kind, -

whatever the Wilsons and Millwards dared to whisper?'



'I should hope not indeed!'



'And why not? - Because I know you - Well, and I know her just as

well.'



'Oh, no! you know nothing of her former life; and last year, at

this time, you did not know that such a person existed.'



'No matter.  There is such a thing as looking through a person's

eyes into the heart, and learning more of the height, and breadth,

and depth of another's soul in one hour than it might take you a

lifetime to discover, if he or she were not disposed to reveal it,

or if you had not the sense to understand it.'



'Then you are going to see her this evening?'



'To be sure I am!'



'But what would mamma say, Gilbert!'



'Mamma needn't know.'



'But she must know some time, if you go on.'



'Go on! - there's no going on in the matter.  Mrs. Graham and I are

two friends - and will be; and no man breathing shall hinder it, -

or has a right to interfere between us.'



'But if you knew how they talk you would be more careful, for her

sake as well as for your own.  Jane Wilson thinks your visits to

the old hall but another proof of her depravity - '



'Confound Jane Wilson!'



'And Eliza Millward is quite grieved about you.'



'I hope she is.'



'But I wouldn't, if I were you.'



'Wouldn't what? - How do they know that I go there?'



'There's nothing hid from them:  they spy out everything.'



'Oh, I never thought of this! - And so they dare to turn my

friendship into food for further scandal against her! - That proves

the falsehood of their other lies, at all events, if any proof were

wanting. - Mind you contradict them, Rose, whenever you can.'



'But they don't speak openly to me about such things:  it is only

by hints and innuendoes, and by what I hear others say, that I knew

what they think.'



'Well, then, I won't go to-day, as it's getting latish.  But oh,

deuce take their cursed, envenomed tongues!' I muttered, in the

bitterness of my soul.



And just at that moment the vicar entered the room:  we had been

too much absorbed in our conversation to observe his knock.  After

his customary cheerful and fatherly greeting of Rose, who was

rather a favourite with the old gentleman, he turned somewhat

sternly to me:-



'Well, sir!' said he, 'you're quite a stranger.  It is - let - me -

see,' he continued, slowly, as he deposited his ponderous bulk in

the arm-chair that Rose officiously brought towards him; 'it is

just - six-weeks - by my reckoning, since you darkened - my -

door!'  He spoke it with emphasis, and struck his stick on the

floor.



'Is it, sir?' said I.



'Ay!  It is so!'  He added an affirmatory nod, and continued to

gaze upon me with a kind of irate solemnity, holding his

substantial stick between his knees, with his hands clasped upon

its head.



'I have been busy,' I said, for an apology was evidently demanded.



'Busy!' repeated he, derisively.



'Yes, you know I've been getting in my hay; and now the harvest is

beginning.'



'Humph!'



Just then my mother came in, and created a diversion in my favour

by her loquacious and animated welcome of the reverend guest.  She

regretted deeply that he had not come a little earlier, in time for

tea, but offered to have some immediately prepared, if he would do

her the favour to partake of it.



'Not any for me, I thank you,' replied he; 'I shall be at home in a

few minutes.'



'Oh, but do stay and take a little! it will be ready in five

minutes.'



But he rejected the offer with a majestic wave of the hand.



'I'll tell you what I'll take, Mrs. Markham,' said he:  'I'll take

a glass of your excellent ale.'



'With pleasure!' cried my mother, proceeding with alacrity to pull

the bell and order the favoured beverage.



'I thought,' continued he, 'I'd just look in upon you as I passed,

and taste your home-brewed ale.  I've been to call on Mrs. Graham.'



'Have you, indeed?'



He nodded gravely, and added with awful emphasis - 'I thought it

incumbent upon me to do so.'



'Really!' ejaculated my mother.



'Why so, Mr. Millward?' asked I.



He looked at me with some severity, and turning again to my mother,

repeated, - 'I thought it incumbent upon me!' and struck his stick

on the floor again.  My mother sat opposite, an awe-struck but

admiring auditor.



'"Mrs. Graham," said I,' he continued, shaking his head as he

spoke, '"these are terrible reports!"  "What, sir?" says she,

affecting to be ignorant of my meaning.  "It is my - duty - as -

your pastor," said I, "to tell you both everything that I myself

see reprehensible in your conduct, and all I have reason to

suspect, and what others tell me concerning you." - So I told her!'



'You did, sir?' cried I, starting from my seat and striking my fist

on the table.  He merely glanced towards me, and continued -

addressing his hostess:-



'It was a painful duty, Mrs. Markham - but I told her!'



'And how did she take it?' asked my mother.



'Hardened, I fear - hardened!' he replied, with a despondent shake

of the head; 'and, at the same time, there was a strong display of

unchastened, misdirected passions.  She turned white in the face,

and drew her breath through her teeth in a savage sort of way; -

but she offered no extenuation or defence; and with a kind of

shameless calmness - shocking indeed to witness in one so young -

as good as told me that my remonstrance was unavailing, and my

pastoral advice quite thrown away upon her - nay, that my very

presence was displeasing while I spoke such things.  And I withdrew

at length, too plainly seeing that nothing could be done - and

sadly grieved to find her case so hopeless.  But I am fully

determined, Mrs. Markham, that my daughters - shall - not - consort

with her.  Do you adopt the same resolution with regard to yours! -

As for your sons - as for you, young man,' he continued, sternly

turning to me -



'As for ME, sir,' I began, but checked by some impediment in my

utterance, and finding that my whole frame trembled with fury, I

said no more, but took the wiser part of snatching up my hat and

bolting from the room, slamming the door behind me, with a bang

that shook the house to its foundations, and made my mother scream,

and gave a momentary relief to my excited feelings.



The next minute saw me hurrying with rapid strides in the direction

of Wildfell Hall - to what intent or purpose I could scarcely tell,

but I must be moving somewhere, and no other goal would do - I must

see her too, and speak to her - that was certain; but what to say,

or how to act, I had no definite idea.  Such stormy thoughts - so

many different resolutions crowded in upon me, that my mind was

little better than a chaos of conflicting passions.







CHAPTER XII







In little more than twenty minutes the journey was accomplished.  I

paused at the gate to wipe my streaming forehead, and recover my

breath and some degree of composure.  Already the rapid walking had

somewhat mitigated my excitement; and with a firm and steady tread

I paced the garden-walk.  In passing the inhabited wing of the

building, I caught a sight of Mrs. Graham, through the open window,

slowly pacing up and down her lonely room.



She seemed agitated and even dismayed at my arrival, as if she

thought I too was coming to accuse her.  I had entered her presence

intending to condole with her upon the wickedness of the world, and

help her to abuse the vicar and his vile informants, but now I felt

positively ashamed to mention the subject, and determined not to

refer to it, unless she led the way.



'I am come at an unseasonable hour,' said I, assuming a

cheerfulness I did not feel, in order to reassure her; 'but I won't

stay many minutes.'



She smiled upon me, faintly it is true, but most kindly - I had

almost said thankfully, as her apprehensions were removed.



'How dismal you are, Helen!  Why have you no fire?' I said, looking

round on the gloomy apartment.



'It is summer yet,' she replied.



'But we always have a fire in the evenings, if we can bear it; and

you especially require one in this cold house and dreary room.'



'You should have come a little sooner, and I would have had one

lighted for you:  but it is not worth while now - you won't stay

many minutes, you say, and Arthur is gone to bed.'



'But I have a fancy for a fire, nevertheless.  Will you order one,

if I ring?'



'Why, Gilbert, you don't look cold!' said she, smilingly regarding

my face, which no doubt seemed warm enough.



'No,' replied I, 'but I want to see you comfortable before I go.'



'Me comfortable!' repeated she, with a bitter laugh, as if there

were something amusingly absurd in the idea.  'It suits me better

as it is,' she added, in a tone of mournful resignation.



But determined to have my own way, I pulled the bell.



'There now, Helen!' I said, as the approaching steps of Rachel were

heard in answer to the summons.  There was nothing for it but to

turn round and desire the maid to light the fire.



I owe Rachel a grudge to this day for the look she cast upon me ere

she departed on her mission, the sour, suspicious, inquisitorial

look that plainly demanded, 'What are you here for, I wonder?'  Her

mistress did not fail to notice it, and a shade of uneasiness

darkened her brow.



'You must not stay long, Gilbert,' said she, when the door was

closed upon us.



'I'm not going to,' said I, somewhat testily, though without a

grain of anger in my heart against any one but the meddling old

woman.  'But, Helen, I've something to say to you before I go.'



'What is it?'



'No, not now - I don't know yet precisely what it is, or how to say

it,' replied I, with more truth than wisdom; and then, fearing lest

she should turn me out of the house, I began talking about

indifferent matters in order to gain time.  Meanwhile Rachel came

in to kindle the fire, which was soon effected by thrusting a red-

hot poker between the bars of the grate, where the fuel was already

disposed for ignition.  She honoured me with another of her hard,

inhospitable looks in departing, but, little moved thereby, I went

on talking; and setting a chair for Mrs. Graham on one side of the

hearth, and one for myself on the other, I ventured to sit down,

though half suspecting she would rather see me go.



In a little while we both relapsed into silence, and continued for

several minutes gazing abstractedly into the fire - she intent upon

her own sad thoughts, and I reflecting how delightful it would be

to be seated thus beside her with no other presence to restrain our

intercourse - not even that of Arthur, our mutual friend, without

whom we had never met before - if only I could venture to speak my

mind, and disburden my full heart of the feelings that had so long

oppressed it, and which it now struggled to retain, with an effort

that it seemed impossible to continue much longer, - and revolving

the pros and cons for opening my heart to her there and then, and

imploring a return of affection, the permission to regard her

thenceforth as my own, and the right and the power to defend her

from the calumnies of malicious tongues.  On the one hand, I felt a

new-born confidence in my powers of persuasion - a strong

conviction that my own fervour of spirit would grant me eloquence -

that my very determination - the absolute necessity for succeeding,

that I felt must win me what I sought; while, on the other, I

feared to lose the ground I had already gained with so much toil

and skill, and destroy all future hope by one rash effort, when

time and patience might have won success.  It was like setting my

life upon the cast of a die; and yet I was ready to resolve upon

the attempt.  At any rate, I would entreat the explanation she had

half promised to give me before; I would demand the reason of this

hateful barrier, this mysterious impediment to my happiness, and,

as I trusted, to her own.



But while I considered in what manner I could best frame my

request, my companion, wakened from her reverie with a scarcely

audible sigh, and looking towards the window, where the blood-red

harvest moon, just rising over one of the grim, fantastic

evergreens, was shining in upon us, said, - 'Gilbert, it is getting

late.'



'I see,' said I.  'You want me to go, I suppose?'



'I think you ought.  If my kind neighbours get to know of this

visit - as no doubt they will - they will not turn it much to my

advantage.'



It was with what the vicar would doubtless have called a savage

sort of smile that she said this.



'Let them turn it as they will,' said I.  'What are their thoughts

to you or me, so long as we are satisfied with ourselves - and each

other.  Let them go to the deuce with their vile constructions and

their lying inventions!'



This outburst brought a flush of colour to her face.



'You have heard, then, what they say of me?'



'I heard some detestable falsehoods; but none but fools would

credit them for a moment, Helen, so don't let them trouble you.'



'I did not think Mr. Millward a fool, and he believes it all; but

however little you may value the opinions of those about you -

however little you may esteem them as individuals, it is not

pleasant to be looked upon as a liar and a hypocrite, to be thought

to practise what you abhor, and to encourage the vices you would

discountenance, to find your good intentions frustrated, and your

hands crippled by your supposed unworthiness, and to bring disgrace

on the principles you profess.'



'True; and if I, by my thoughtlessness and selfish disregard to

appearances, have at all assisted to expose you to these evils, let

me entreat you not only to pardon me, but to enable me to make

reparation; authorise me to clear your name from every imputation:

give me the right to identify your honour with my own, and to

defend your reputation as more precious than my life!'



'Are you hero enough to unite yourself to one whom you know to be

suspected and despised by all around you, and identify your

interests and your honour with hers?  Think! it is a serious

thing.'



'I should be proud to do it, Helen! - most happy - delighted beyond

expression! - and if that be all the obstacle to our union, it is

demolished, and you must - you shall be mine!'



And starting from my seat in a frenzy of ardour, I seized her hand

and would have pressed it to my lips, but she as suddenly caught it

away, exclaiming in the bitterness of intense affliction, - 'No,

no, it is not all!'



'What is it, then?  You promised I should know some time, and - '



'You shall know some time - but not now - my head aches terribly,'

she said, pressing her hand to her forehead, 'and I must have some

repose - and surely I have had misery enough to-day!' she added,

almost wildly.



'But it could not harm you to tell it,' I persisted:  'it would

ease your mind; and I should then know how to comfort you.'



She shook her head despondingly.  'If you knew all, you, too, would

blame me - perhaps even more than I deserve - though I have cruelly

wronged you,' she added in a low murmur, as if she mused aloud.



'You, Helen?  Impossible?'



'Yes, not willingly; for I did not know the strength and depth of

your attachment.  I thought - at least I endeavoured to think your

regard for me was as cold and fraternal as you professed it to be.'



'Or as yours?'



'Or as mine - ought to have been - of such a light and selfish,

superficial nature, that - '



'There, indeed, you wronged me.'



I know I did; and, sometimes, I suspected it then; but I thought,

upon the whole, there could be no great harm in leaving your

fancies and your hopes to dream themselves to nothing - or flutter

away to some more fitting object, while your friendly sympathies

remained with me; but if I had known the depth of your regard, the

generous, disinterested affection you seem to feel - '



'Seem, Helen?'



'That you do feel, then, I would have acted differently.'



'How?  You could not have given me less encouragement, or treated

me with greater severity than you did!  And if you think you have

wronged me by giving me your friendship, and occasionally admitting

me to the enjoyment of your company and conversation, when all

hopes of closer intimacy were vain - as indeed you always gave me

to understand - if you think you have wronged me by this, you are

mistaken; for such favours, in themselves alone, are not only

delightful to my heart, but purifying, exalting, ennobling to my

soul; and I would rather have your friendship than the love of any

other woman in the world!'



Little comforted by this, she clasped her hands upon her knee, and

glancing upward, seemed, in silent anguish, to implore divine

assistance; then, turning to me, she calmly said, - 'To-morrow, if

you meet me on the moor about mid-day, I will tell you all you seek

to know; and perhaps you will then see the necessity of

discontinuing our intimacy - if, indeed, you do not willingly

resign me as one no longer worthy of regard.'



'I can safely answer no to that:  you cannot have such grave

confessions to make - you must be trying my faith, Helen.'



'No, no, no,' she earnestly repeated - 'I wish it were so!  Thank

heaven!' she added, 'I have no great crime to confess; but I have

more than you will like to hear, or, perhaps, can readily excuse, -

and more than I can tell you now; so let me entreat you to leave

me!'



'I will; but answer me this one question first; - do you love me?'



'I will not answer it!'



'Then I will conclude you do; and so good-night.'



She turned from me to hide the emotion she could not quite control;

but I took her hand and fervently kissed it.



'Gilbert, do leave me!' she cried, in a tone of such thrilling

anguish that I felt it would be cruel to disobey.



But I gave one look back before I closed the door, and saw her

leaning forward on the table, with her hands pressed against her

eyes, sobbing convulsively; yet I withdrew in silence.  I felt that

to obtrude my consolations on her then would only serve to

aggravate her sufferings.



To tell you all the questionings and conjectures - the fears, and

hopes, and wild emotions that jostled and chased each other through

my mind as I descended the hill, would almost fill a volume in

itself.  But before I was half-way down, a sentiment of strong

sympathy for her I had left behind me had displaced all other

feelings, and seemed imperatively to draw me back:  I began to

think, 'Why am I hurrying so fast in this direction?  Can I find

comfort or consolation - peace, certainty, contentment, all - or

anything that I want at home? and can I leave all perturbation,

sorrow, and anxiety behind me there?'



And I turned round to look at the old Hall.  There was little

besides the chimneys visible above my contracted horizon.  I walked

back to get a better view of it.  When it rose in sight, I stood

still a moment to look, and then continued moving towards the

gloomy object of attraction.  Something called me nearer - nearer

still - and why not, pray?  Might I not find more benefit in the

contemplation of that venerable pile with the full moon in the

cloudless heaven shining so calmly above it - with that warm yellow

lustre peculiar to an August night - and the mistress of my soul

within, than in returning to my home, where all comparatively was

light, and life, and cheerfulness, and therefore inimical to me in

my present frame of mind, - and the more so that its inmates all

were more or less imbued with that detestable belief, the very

thought of which made my blood boil in my veins - and how could I

endure to hear it openly declared, or cautiously insinuated - which

was worse? - I had had trouble enough already, with some babbling

fiend that would keep whispering in my ear, 'It may be true,' till

I had shouted aloud, 'It is false!  I defy you to make me suppose

it!'



I could see the red firelight dimly gleaming from her parlour

window.  I went up to the garden wall, and stood leaning over it,

with my eyes fixed upon the lattice, wondering what she was doing,

thinking, or suffering now, and wishing I could speak to her but

one word, or even catch one glimpse of her, before I went.



I had not thus looked, and wished, and wondered long, before I

vaulted over the barrier, unable to resist the temptation of taking

one glance through the window, just to if she were more composed

than when we parted; - and if I found her still in deep distress,

perhaps I might venture attempt a word of comfort - to utter one of

the many things I should have said before, instead of aggravating

her sufferings by my stupid impetuosity.  I looked.  Her chair was

vacant:  so was the room.  But at that moment some one opened the

outer door, and a voice - her voice - said, - 'Come out - I want to

see the moon, and breathe the evening air:  they will do me good -

if anything will.'



Here, then, were she and Rachel coming to take a walk in the

garden.  I wished myself safe back over the wall.  I stood,

however, in the shadow of the tall holly-bush, which, standing

between the window and the porch, at present screened me from

observation, but did not prevent me from seeing two figures come

forth into the moonlight:  Mrs. Graham followed by another - not

Rachel, but a young man, slender and rather tall.  O heavens, how

my temples throbbed!  Intense anxiety darkened my sight; but I

thought - yes, and the voice confirmed it - it was Mr. Lawrence!



'You should not let it worry you so much, Helen,' said he; 'I will

be more cautious in future; and in time - '



I did not hear the rest of the sentence; for he walked close beside

her and spoke so gently that I could not catch the words.  My heart

was splitting with hatred; but I listened intently for her reply.

I heard it plainly enough.



'But I must leave this place, Frederick,' she said - 'I never can

be happy here, - nor anywhere else, indeed,' she added, with a

mirthless laugh, - 'but I cannot rest here.'



'But where could you find a better place?' replied he, 'so secluded

- so near me, if you think anything of that.'



'Yes,' interrupted she, 'it is all I could wish, if they could only

have left me alone.'



'But wherever you go, Helen, there will be the same sources of

annoyance.  I cannot consent to lose you:  I must go with you, or

come to you; and there are meddling fools elsewhere, as well as

here.'



While thus conversing they had sauntered slowly past me, down the

walk, and I heard no more of their discourse; but I saw him put his

arm round her waist, while she lovingly rested her hand on his

shoulder; - and then, a tremulous darkness obscured my sight, my

heart sickened and my head burned like fire:  I half rushed, half

staggered from the spot, where horror had kept me rooted, and

leaped or tumbled over the wall - I hardly know which - but I know

that, afterwards, like a passionate child, I dashed myself on the

ground and lay there in a paroxysm of anger and despair - how long,

I cannot undertake to say; but it must have been a considerable

time; for when, having partially relieved myself by a torment of

tears, and looked up at the moon, shining so calmly and carelessly

on, as little influenced by my misery as I was by its peaceful

radiance, and earnestly prayed for death or forgetfulness, I had

risen and journeyed homewards - little regarding the way, but

carried instinctively by my feet to the door, I found it bolted

against me, and every one in bed except my mother, who hastened to

answer my impatient knocking, and received me with a shower of

questions and rebukes.



'Oh, Gilbert! how could you do so?  Where have you been?  Do come

in and take your supper.  I've got it all ready, though you don't

deserve it, for keeping me in such a fright, after the strange

manner you left the house this evening.  Mr. Millward was quite -

Bless the boy! how ill he looks.  Oh, gracious! what is the

matter?'



'Nothing, nothing - give me a candle.'



'But won't you take some supper?'



'No; I want to go to bed,' said I, taking a candle and lighting it

at the one she held in her hand.



'Oh, Gilbert, how you tremble!' exclaimed my anxious parent.  'How

white you look!  Do tell me what it is?  Has anything happened?'



'It's nothing,' cried I, ready to stamp with vexation because the

candle would not light.  Then, suppressing my irritation, I added,

'I've been walking too fast, that's all.  Good-night,' and marched

off to bed, regardless of the 'Walking too fast! where have you

been?' that was called after me from below.



My mother followed me to the very door of my room with her

questionings and advice concerning my health and my conduct; but I

implored her to let me alone till morning; and she withdrew, and at

length I had the satisfaction to hear her close her own door.

There was no sleep for me, however, that night as I thought; and

instead of attempting to solicit it, I employed myself in rapidly

pacing the chamber, having first removed my boots, lest my mother

should hear me.  But the boards creaked, and she was watchful.  I

had not walked above a quarter of an hour before she was at the

door again.



'Gilbert, why are you not in bed - you said you wanted to go?'



'Confound it!  I'm going,' said I.



'But why are you so long about it?  You must have something on your

mind - '



'For heaven's sake, let me alone, and get to bed yourself.'



'Can it be that Mrs. Graham that distresses you so?'



'No, no, I tell you - it's nothing.'



'I wish to goodness it mayn't,' murmured she, with a sigh, as she

returned to her own apartment, while I threw myself on the bed,

feeling most undutifully disaffected towards her for having

deprived me of what seemed the only shadow of a consolation that

remained, and chained me to that wretched couch of thorns.



Never did I endure so long, so miserable a night as that.  And yet

it was not wholly sleepless.  Towards morning my distracting

thoughts began to lose all pretensions to coherency, and shape

themselves into confused and feverish dreams, and, at length, there

followed an interval of unconscious slumber.  But then the dawn of

bitter recollection that succeeded - the waking to find life a

blank, and worse than a blank, teeming with torment and misery -

not a mere barren wilderness, but full of thorns and briers - to

find myself deceived, duped, hopeless, my affections trampled upon,

my angel not an angel, and my friend a fiend incarnate - it was

worse than if I had not slept at all.



It was a dull, gloomy morning; the weather had changed like my

prospects, and the rain was pattering against the window.  I rose,

nevertheless, and went out; not to look after the farm, though that

would serve as my excuse, but to cool my brain, and regain, if

possible, a sufficient degree of composure to meet the family at

the morning meal without exciting inconvenient remarks.  If I got a

wetting, that, in conjunction with a pretended over-exertion before

breakfast, might excuse my sudden loss of appetite; and if a cold

ensued, the severer the better - it would help to account for the

sullen moods and moping melancholy likely to cloud my brow for long

enough.







CHAPTER XIII







'My dear Gilbert, I wish you would try to be a little more

amiable,' said my mother one morning after some display of

unjustifiable ill-humour on my part.  'You say there is nothing the

matter with you, and nothing has happened to grieve you, and yet I

never saw anyone so altered as you within these last few days.  You

haven't a good word for anybody - friends and strangers, equals and

inferiors - it's all the same.  I do wish you'd try to check it.'



'Check what?'



'Why, your strange temper.  You don't know how it spoils you.  I'm

sure a finer disposition than yours by nature could not be, if

you'd let it have fair play:  so you've no excuse that way.'



While she thus remonstrated, I took up a book, and laying it open

on the table before me, pretended to be deeply absorbed in its

perusal, for I was equally unable to justify myself and unwilling

to acknowledge my errors; and I wished to have nothing to say on

the matter.  But my excellent parent went on lecturing, and then

came to coaxing, and began to stroke my hair; and I was getting to

feel quite a good boy, but my mischievous brother, who was idling

about the room, revived my corruption by suddenly calling out, -

'Don't touch him, mother! he'll bite!  He's a very tiger in human

form.  I've given him up for my part - fairly disowned him - cast

him off, root and branch.  It's as much as my life is worth to come

within six yards of him.  The other day he nearly fractured my

skull for singing a pretty, inoffensive love-song, on purpose to

amuse him.'



'Oh, Gilbert! how could you?' exclaimed my mother.



'I told you to hold your noise first, you know, Fergus,' said I.



'Yes, but when I assured you it was no trouble and went on with the

next verse, thinking you might like it better, you clutched me by

the shoulder and dashed me away, right against the wall there, with

such force that I thought I had bitten my tongue in two, and

expected to see the place plastered with my brains; and when I put

my hand to my head, and found my skull not broken, I thought it was

a miracle, and no mistake.  But, poor fellow!' added he, with a

sentimental sigh - 'his heart's broken - that's the truth of it -

and his head's - '



'Will you be silent NOW?' cried I, starting up, and eyeing the

fellow so fiercely that my mother, thinking I meant to inflict some

grievous bodily injury, laid her hand on my arm, and besought me to

let him alone, and he walked leisurely out, with his hands in his

pockets, singing provokingly - 'Shall I, because a woman's fair,'

&c.



'I'm not going to defile my fingers with him,' said I, in answer to

the maternal intercession.  'I wouldn't touch him with the tongs.'



I now recollected that I had business with Robert Wilson,

concerning the purchase of a certain field adjoining my farm - a

business I had been putting off from day to day; for I had no

interest in anything now; and besides, I was misanthropically

inclined, and, moreover, had a particular objection to meeting Jane

Wilson or her mother; for though I had too good reason, now, to

credit their reports concerning Mrs. Graham, I did not like them a

bit the better for it - or Eliza Millward either - and the thought

of meeting them was the more repugnant to me that I could not, now,

defy their seeming calumnies and triumph in my own convictions as

before.  But to-day I determined to make an effort to return to my

duty.  Though I found no pleasure in it, it would be less irksome

than idleness - at all events it would be more profitable.  If life

promised no enjoyment within my vocation, at least it offered no

allurements out of it; and henceforth I would put my shoulder to

the wheel and toil away, like any poor drudge of a cart-horse that

was fairly broken in to its labour, and plod through life, not

wholly useless if not agreeable, and uncomplaining if not contented

with my lot.



Thus resolving, with a kind of sullen resignation, if such a term

may be allowed, I wended my way to Ryecote Farm, scarcely expecting

to find its owner within at this time of day, but hoping to learn

in what part of the premises he was most likely to be found.



Absent he was, but expected home in a few minutes; and I was

desired to step into the parlour and wait.  Mrs. Wilson was busy in

the kitchen, but the room was not empty; and I scarcely checked an

involuntary recoil as I entered it; for there sat Miss Wilson

chattering with Eliza Millward.  However, I determined to be cool

and civil.  Eliza seemed to have made the same resolution on her

part.  We had not met since the evening of the tea-party; but there

was no visible emotion either of pleasure or pain, no attempt at

pathos, no display of injured pride:  she was cool in temper, civil

in demeanour.  There was even an ease and cheerfulness about her

air and manner that I made no pretension to; but there was a depth

of malice in her too expressive eye that plainly told me I was not

forgiven; for, though she no longer hoped to win me to herself, she

still hated her rival, and evidently delighted to wreak her spite

on me.  On the other hand, Miss Wilson was as affable and courteous

as heart could wish, and though I was in no very conversable humour

myself, the two ladies between them managed to keep up a pretty

continuous fire of small talk.  But Eliza took advantage of the

first convenient pause to ask if I had lately seen Mrs. Graham, in

a tone of merely casual inquiry, but with a sidelong glance -

intended to be playfully mischievous - really, brimful and running

over with malice.



'Not lately,' I replied, in a careless tone, but sternly repelling

her odious glances with my eyes; for I was vexed to feel the colour

mounting to my forehead, despite my strenuous efforts to appear

unmoved.



'What! are you beginning to tire already?  I thought so noble a

creature would have power to attach you for a year at least!'



'I would rather not speak of her now.'



'Ah! then you are convinced, at last, of your mistake - you have at

length discovered that your divinity is not quite the immaculate -

'



'I desired you not to speak of her, Miss Eliza.'



'Oh, I beg your pardon!  I perceive Cupid's arrows have been too

sharp for you:  the wounds, being more than skin-deep, are not yet

healed, and bleed afresh at every mention of the loved one's name.'



'Say, rather,' interposed Miss Wilson, 'that Mr. Markham feels that

name is unworthy to be mentioned in the presence of right-minded

females.  I wonder, Eliza, you should think of referring to that

unfortunate person - you might know the mention of her would be

anything but agreeable to any one here present.'



How could this be borne?  I rose and was about to clap my hat upon

my head and burst away, in wrathful indignation from the house; but

recollecting - just in time to save my dignity - the folly of such

a proceeding, and how it would only give my fair tormentors a merry

laugh at my expense, for the sake of one I acknowledged in my own

heart to be unworthy of the slightest sacrifice - though the ghost

of my former reverence and love so hung about me still, that I

could not bear to hear her name aspersed by others - I merely

walked to the window, and having spent a few seconds in vengibly

biting my lips and sternly repressing the passionate heavings of my

chest, I observed to Miss Wilson, that I could see nothing of her

brother, and added that, as my time was precious, it would perhaps

be better to call again to-morrow, at some time when I should be

sure to find him at home.



'Oh, no!' said she; 'if you wait a minute, he will be sure to come;

for he has business at L-' (that was our market-town), 'and will

require a little refreshment before he goes.'



I submitted accordingly, with the best grace I could; and, happily,

I had not long to wait.  Mr. Wilson soon arrived, and, indisposed

for business as I was at that moment, and little as I cared for the

field or its owner, I forced my attention to the matter in hand,

with very creditable determination, and quickly concluded the

bargain - perhaps more to the thrifty farmer's satisfaction than he

cared to acknowledge.  Then, leaving him to the discussion of his

substantial 'refreshment,' I gladly quitted the house, and went to

look after my reapers.



Leaving them busy at work on the side of the valley, I ascended the

hill, intending to visit a corn-field in the more elevated regions,

and see when it would be ripe for the sickle.  But I did not visit

it that day; for, as I approached, I beheld, at no great distance,

Mrs. Graham and her son coming down in the opposite direction.

They saw me; and Arthur already was running to meet me; but I

immediately turned back and walked steadily homeward; for I had

fully determined never to encounter his mother again; and

regardless of the shrill voice in my ear, calling upon me to 'wait

a moment,' I pursued the even tenor of my way; and he soon

relinquished the pursuit as hopeless, or was called away by his

mother.  At all events, when I looked back, five minutes after, not

a trace of either was to be seen.



This incident agitated and disturbed me most unaccountably - unless

you would account for it by saying that Cupid's arrows not only had

been too sharp for me, but they were barbed and deeply rooted, and

I had not yet been able to wrench them from my heart.  However that

be, I was rendered doubly miserable for the remainder of the day.







CHAPTER XIV







Next morning, I bethought me, I, too, had business at L-; so I

mounted my horse, and set forth on the expedition soon after

breakfast.  It was a dull, drizzly day; but that was no matter:  it

was all the more suitable to my frame of mind.  It was likely to be

a lonely journey; for it was no market-day, and the road I

traversed was little frequented at any other time; but that suited

me all the better too.



As I trotted along, however, chewing the cud of - bitter fancies, I

heard another horse at no great distance behind me; but I never

conjectured who the rider might be, or troubled my head about him,

till, on slackening my pace to ascend a gentle acclivity, or

rather, suffering my horse to slacken his pace into a lazy walk -

for, rapt in my own reflections, I was letting it jog on as

leisurely as it thought proper - I lost ground, and my fellow-

traveller overtook me.  He accosted me by name, for it was no

stranger - it was Mr. Lawrence!  Instinctively the fingers of my

whip-hand tingled, and grasped their charge with convulsive energy;

but I restrained the impulse, and answering his salutation with a

nod, attempted to push on; but he pushed on beside me, and began to

talk about the weather and the crops.  I gave the briefest possible

answers to his queries and observations, and fell back.  He fell

back too, and asked if my horse was lame.  I replied with a look,

at which he placidly smiled.



I was as much astonished as exasperated at this singular

pertinacity and imperturbable assurance on his part.  I had thought

the circumstances of our last meeting would have left such an

impression on his mind as to render him cold and distant ever

after:  instead of that, he appeared not only to have forgotten all

former offences, but to be impenetrable to all present

incivilities.  Formerly, the slightest hint, or mere fancied

coldness in tone or glance, had sufficed to repulse him:  now,

positive rudeness could not drive him away.  Had he heard of my

disappointment; and was he come to witness the result, and triumph

in my despair?  I grasped my whip with more determined energy than

before - but still forbore to raise it, and rode on in silence,

waiting for some more tangible cause of offence, before I opened

the floodgates of my soul and poured out the dammed-up fury that

was foaming and swelling within.



'Markham,' said he, in his usual quiet tone, 'why do you quarrel

with your friends, because you have been disappointed in one

quarter?  You have found your hopes defeated; but how am I to blame

for it?  I warned you beforehand, you know, but you would not - '



He said no more; for, impelled by some fiend at my elbow, I had

seized my whip by the small end, and - swift and sudden as a flash

of lightning - brought the other down upon his head.  It was not

without a feeling of savage satisfaction that I beheld the instant,

deadly pallor that overspread his face, and the few red drops that

trickled down his forehead, while he reeled a moment in his saddle,

and then fell backward to the ground.  The pony, surprised to be so

strangely relieved of its burden, started and capered, and kicked a

little, and then made use of its freedom to go and crop the grass

of the hedge-bank:  while its master lay as still and silent as a

corpse.  Had I killed him? - an icy hand seemed to grasp my heart

and check its pulsation, as I bent over him, gazing with breathless

intensity upon the ghastly, upturned face.  But no; he moved his

eyelids and uttered a slight groan.  I breathed again - he was only

stunned by the fall.  It served him right - it would teach him

better manners in future.  Should I help him to his horse?  No.

For any other combination of offences I would; but his were too

unpardonable.  He might mount it himself, if he liked - in a while:

already he was beginning to stir and look about him - and there it

was for him, quietly browsing on the road-side.



So with a muttered execration I left the fellow to his fate, and

clapping spurs to my own horse, galloped away, excited by a

combination of feelings it would not be easy to analyse; and

perhaps, if I did so, the result would not be very creditable to my

disposition; for I am not sure that a species of exultation in what

I had done was not one principal concomitant.



Shortly, however, the effervescence began to abate, and not many

minutes elapsed before I had turned and gone back to look after the

fate of my victim.  It was no generous impulse - no kind relentings

that led me to this - nor even the fear of what might be the

consequences to myself, if I finished my assault upon the squire by

leaving him thus neglected, and exposed to further injury; it was,

simply, the voice of conscience; and I took great credit to myself

for attending so promptly to its dictates - and judging the merit

of the deed by the sacrifice it cost, I was not far wrong.



Mr. Lawrence and his pony had both altered their positions in some

degree.  The pony had wandered eight or ten yards further away; and

he had managed, somehow, to remove himself from the middle of the

road:  I found him seated in a recumbent position on the bank, -

looking very white and sickly still, and holding his cambric

handkerchief (now more red than white) to his head.  It must have

been a powerful blow; but half the credit - or the blame of it

(which you please) must be attributed to the whip, which was

garnished with a massive horse's head of plated metal.  The grass,

being sodden with rain, afforded the young gentleman a rather

inhospitable couch; his clothes were considerably bemired; and his

hat was rolling in the mud on the other side of the road.  But his

thoughts seemed chiefly bent upon his pony, on which he was

wistfully gazing - half in helpless anxiety, and half in hopeless

abandonment to his fate.



I dismounted, however, and having fastened my own animal to the

nearest tree, first picked up his hat, intending to clap it on his

head; but either he considered his head unfit for a hat, or the

hat, in its present condition, unfit for his head; for shrinking

away the one, he took the other from my hand, and scornfully cast

it aside.



'It's good enough for you,' I muttered.



My next good office was to catch his pony and bring it to him,

which was soon accomplished; for the beast was quiet enough in the

main, and only winced and flirted a trifle till I got hold of the

bridle - but then, I must see him in the saddle.



'Here, you fellow - scoundrel - dog - give me your hand, and I'll

help you to mount.'



No; he turned from me in disgust.  I attempted to take him by the

arm.  He shrank away as if there had been contamination in my

touch.



'What, you won't!  Well! you may sit there till doomsday, for what

I care.  But I suppose you don't want to lose all the blood in your

body - I'll just condescend to bind that up for you.'



'Let me alone, if you please.'



'Humph; with all my heart.  You may go to the d-l, if you choose -

and say I sent you.'



But before I abandoned him to his fate I flung his pony's bridle

over a stake in the hedge, and threw him my handkerchief, as his

own was now saturated with blood.  He took it and cast it back to

me in abhorrence and contempt, with all the strength he could

muster.  It wanted but this to fill the measure of his offences.

With execrations not loud but deep I left him to live or die as he

could, well satisfied that I had done my duty in attempting to save

him - but forgetting how I had erred in bringing him into such a

condition, and how insultingly my after-services had been offered -

and sullenly prepared to meet the consequences if he should choose

to say I had attempted to murder him - which I thought not

unlikely, as it seemed probable he was actuated by such spiteful

motives in so perseveringly refusing my assistance.



Having remounted my horse, I just looked back to see how he was

getting on, before I rode away.  He had risen from the ground, and

grasping his pony's mane, was attempting to resume his seat in the

saddle; but scarcely had he put his foot in the stirrup, when a

sickness or dizziness seemed to overpower him:  he leant forward a

moment, with his head drooped on the animal's back, and then made

one more effort, which proving ineffectual, he sank back on the

bank, where I left him, reposing his head on the oozy turf, and to

all appearance, as calmly reclining as if he had been taking his

rest on his sofa at home.



I ought to have helped him in spite of himself - to have bound up

the wound he was unable to staunch, and insisted upon getting him

on his horse and seeing him safe home; but, besides my bitter

indignation against himself, there was the question what to say to

his servants - and what to my own family.  Either I should have to

acknowledge the deed, which would set me down as a madman, unless I

acknowledged the motive too - and that seemed impossible - or I

must get up a lie, which seemed equally out of the question -

especially as Mr. Lawrence would probably reveal the whole truth,

and thereby bring me to tenfold disgrace - unless I were villain

enough, presuming on the absence of witnesses, to persist in my own

version of the case, and make him out a still greater scoundrel

than he was.  No; he had only received a cut above the temple, and

perhaps a few bruises from the fall, or the hoofs of his own pony:

that could not kill him if he lay there half the day; and, if he

could not help himself, surely some one would be coming by:  it

would be impossible that a whole day should pass and no one

traverse the road but ourselves.  As for what he might choose to

say hereafter, I would take my chance about it:  if he told lies, I

would contradict him; if he told the truth, I would bear it as best

I could.  I was not obliged to enter into explanations further than

I thought proper.  Perhaps he might choose to be silent on the

subject, for fear of raising inquiries as to the cause of the

quarrel, and drawing the public attention to his connection with

Mrs. Graham, which, whether for her sake or his own, he seemed so

very desirous to conceal.



Thus reasoning, I trotted away to the town, where I duly transacted

my business, and performed various little commissions for my mother

and Rose, with very laudable exactitude, considering the different

circumstances of the case.  In returning home, I was troubled with

sundry misgivings about the unfortunate Lawrence.  The question,

What if I should find him lying still on the damp earth, fairly

dying of cold and exhaustion - or already stark and chill? thrust

itself most unpleasantly upon my mind, and the appalling

possibility pictured itself with painful vividness to my

imagination as I approached the spot where I had left him.  But no,

thank heaven, both man and horse were gone, and nothing was left to

witness against me but two objects - unpleasant enough in

themselves to be sure, and presenting a very ugly, not to say

murderous appearance - in one place, the hat saturated with rain

and coated with mud, indented and broken above the brim by that

villainous whip-handle; in another, the crimson handkerchief,

soaking in a deeply tinctured pool of water - for much rain had

fallen in the interim.



Bad news flies fast:  it was hardly four o'clock when I got home,

but my mother gravely accosted me with - 'Oh, Gilbert! - Such an

accident!  Rose has been shopping in the village, and she's heard

that Mr. Lawrence has been thrown from his horse and brought home

dying!'



This shocked me a trifle, as you may suppose; but I was comforted

to hear that he had frightfully fractured his skull and broken a

leg; for, assured of the falsehood of this, I trusted the rest of

the story was equally exaggerated; and when I heard my mother and

sister so feelingly deploring his condition, I had considerable

difficulty in preventing myself from telling them the real extent

of the injuries, as far as I knew them.



'You must go and see him to-morrow,' said my mother.



'Or to-day,' suggested Rose:  'there's plenty of time; and you can

have the pony, as your horse is tired.  Won't you, Gilbert - as

soon as you've had something to eat?'



'No, no - how can we tell that it isn't all a false report?  It's

highly im-'



'Oh, I'm sure it isn't; for the village is all alive about it; and

I saw two people that had seen others that had seen the man that

found him.  That sounds far-fetched; but it isn't so when you think

of it.'



'Well, but Lawrence is a good rider; it is not likely he would fall

from his horse at all; and if he did, it is highly improbable he

would break his bones in that way.  It must be a gross exaggeration

at least.'



'No; but the horse kicked him - or something.'



'What, his quiet little pony?'



'How do you know it was that?'



'He seldom rides any other.'



'At any rate,' said my mother, 'you will call to-morrow.  Whether

it be true or false, exaggerated or otherwise, we shall like to

know how he is.'



'Fergus may go.'



'Why not you?'



'He has more time.  I am busy just now.'



'Oh! but, Gilbert, how can you be so composed about it?  You won't

mind business for an hour or two in a case of this sort, when your

friend is at the point of death.'



'He is not, I tell you.'



'For anything you know, he may be:  you can't tell till you have

seen him.  At all events, he must have met with some terrible

accident, and you ought to see him:  he'll take it very unkind if

you don't.'



'Confound it!  I can't.  He and I have not been on good terms of

late.'



'Oh, my dear boy!  Surely, surely you are not so unforgiving as to

carry your little differences to such a length as - '



'Little differences, indeed!' I muttered.



'Well, but only remember the occasion.  Think how - '



'Well, well, don't bother me now - I'll see about it,' I replied.



And my seeing about it was to send Fergus next morning, with my

mother's compliments, to make the requisite inquiries; for, of

course, my going was out of the question - or sending a message

either.  He brought back intelligence that the young squire was

laid up with the complicated evils of a broken head and certain

contusions (occasioned by a fall - of which he did not trouble

himself to relate the particulars - and the subsequent misconduct

of his horse), and a severe cold, the consequence of lying on the

wet ground in the rain; but there were no broken bones, and no

immediate prospects of dissolution.



It was evident, then, that for Mrs. Graham's sake it was not his

intention to criminate me.







CHAPTER XV







That day was rainy like its predecessor; but towards evening it

began to clear up a little, and the next morning was fair and

promising.  I was out on the hill with the reapers.  A light wind

swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine.  The

lark was rejoicing among the silvery floating clouds.  The late

rain had so sweetly freshened and cleared the air, and washed the

sky, and left such glittering gems on branch and blade, that not

even the farmers could have the heart to blame it.  But no ray of

sunshine could reach my heart, no breeze could freshen it; nothing

could fill the void my faith, and hope, and joy in Helen Graham had

left, or drive away the keen regrets and bitter dregs of lingering

love that still oppressed it.



While I stood with folded arms abstractedly gazing on the

undulating swell of the corn, not yet disturbed by the reapers,

something gently pulled my skirts, and a small voice, no longer

welcome to my ears, aroused me with the startling words, - 'Mr.

Markham, mamma wants you.'



'Wants me, Arthur?'



'Yes.  Why do you look so queer?' said he, half laughing, half

frightened at the unexpected aspect of my face in suddenly turning

towards him, - 'and why have you kept so long away?  Come!  Won't

you come?'



'I'm busy just now,' I replied, scarce knowing what to answer.



He looked up in childish bewilderment; but before I could speak

again the lady herself was at my side.



'Gilbert, I must speak with you!' said she, in a tone of suppressed

vehemence.



I looked at her pale cheek and glittering eye, but answered

nothing.



'Only for a moment,' pleaded she.  'Just step aside into this other

field.'  She glanced at the reapers, some of whom were directing

looks of impertinent curiosity towards her.  'I won't keep you a

minute.'



I accompanied her through the gap.



'Arthur, darling, run and gather those bluebells,' said she,

pointing to some that were gleaming at some distance under the

hedge along which we walked.  The child hesitated, as if unwilling

to quit my side.  'Go, love!' repeated she more urgently, and in a

tone which, though not unkind, demanded prompt obedience, and

obtained it.



'Well, Mrs. Graham?' said I, calmly and coldly; for, though I saw

she was miserable, and pitied her, I felt glad to have it in my

power to torment her.



She fixed her eyes upon me with a look that pierced me to the

heart; and yet it made me smile.



'I don't ask the reason of this change, Gilbert,' said she, with

bitter calmness:  'I know it too well; but though I could see

myself suspected and condemned by every one else, and bear it with

calmness, I cannot endure it from you. - Why did you not come to

hear my explanation on the day I appointed to give it?'



'Because I happened, in the interim, to learn all you would have

told me - and a trifle more, I imagine.'



'Impossible, for I would have told you all!' cried she,

passionately - 'but I won't now, for I see you are not worthy of

it!'



And her pale lips quivered with agitation.



'Why not, may I ask?'



She repelled my mocking smile with a glance of scornful

indignation.



'Because you never understood me, or you would not soon have

listened to my traducers - my confidence would be misplaced in you

- you are not the man I thought you.  Go!  I won't care what you

think of me.'



She turned away, and I went; for I thought that would torment her

as much as anything; and I believe I was right; for, looking back a

minute after, I saw her turn half round, as if hoping or expecting

to find me still beside her; and then she stood still, and cast one

look behind.  It was a look less expressive of anger than of bitter

anguish and despair; but I immediately assumed an aspect of

indifference, and affected to be gazing carelessly around me, and I

suppose she went on; for after lingering awhile to see if she would

come back or call, I ventured one more glance, and saw her a good

way off, moving rapidly up the field, with little Arthur running by

her side and apparently talking as he went; but she kept her face

averted from him, as if to hide some uncontrollable emotion.  And I

returned to my business.



But I soon began to regret my precipitancy in leaving her so soon.

It was evident she loved me - probably she was tired of Mr.

Lawrence, and wished to exchange him for me; and if I had loved and

reverenced her less to begin with, the preference might have

gratified and amused me; but now the contrast between her outward

seeming and her inward mind, as I supposed, - between my former and

my present opinion of her, was so harrowing - so distressing to my

feelings, that it swallowed up every lighter consideration.



But still I was curious to know what sort of an explanation she

would have given me - or would give now, if I pressed her for it -

how much she would confess, and how she would endeavour to excuse

herself.  I longed to know what to despise, and what to admire in

her; how much to pity, and how much to hate; - and, what was more,

I would know.  I would see her once more, and fairly satisfy myself

in what light to regard her, before we parted.  Lost to me she was,

for ever, of course; but still I could not bear to think that we

had parted, for the last time, with so much unkindness and misery

on both sides.  That last look of hers had sunk into my heart; I

could not forget it.  But what a fool I was!  Had she not deceived

me, injured me - blighted my happiness for life?  'Well, I'll see

her, however,' was my concluding resolve, 'but not to-day:  to-day

and to-night she may think upon her sins, and be as miserable as

she will:  to-morrow I will see her once again, and know something

more about her.  The interview may be serviceable to her, or it may

not.  At any rate, it will give a breath of excitement to the life

she has doomed to stagnation, and may calm with certainty some

agitating thoughts.'



I did go on the morrow, but not till towards evening, after the

business of the day was concluded, that is, between six and seven;

and the westering sun was gleaming redly on the old Hall, and

flaming in the latticed windows, as I reached it, imparting to the

place a cheerfulness not its own.  I need not dilate upon the

feelings with which I approached the shrine of my former divinity -

that spot teeming with a thousand delightful recollections and

glorious dreams - all darkened now by one disastrous truth



Rachel admitted me into the parlour, and went to call her mistress,

for she was not there:  but there was her desk left open on the

little round table beside the high-backed chair, with a book laid

upon it.  Her limited but choice collection of books was almost as

familiar to me as my own; but this volume I had not seen before.  I

took it up.  It was Sir Humphry Davy's 'Last Days of a

Philosopher,' and on the first leaf was written, 'Frederick

Lawrence.'  I closed the book, but kept it in my hand, and stood

facing the door, with my back to the fire-place, calmly waiting her

arrival; for I did not doubt she would come.  And soon I heard her

step in the hall.  My heart was beginning to throb, but I checked

it with an internal rebuke, and maintained my composure - outwardly

at least.  She entered, calm, pale, collected.



'To what am I indebted for this favour, Mr. Markham?' said she,

with such severe but quiet dignity as almost disconcerted me; but I

answered with a smile, and impudently enough, -



'Well, I am come to hear your explanation.'



'I told you I would not give it,' said she.  'I said you were

unworthy of my confidence.'



'Oh, very well,' replied I, moving to the door.



'Stay a moment,' said she.  'This is the last time I shall see you:

don't go just yet.'



I remained, awaiting her further commands.



'Tell me,' resumed she, 'on what grounds you believe these things

against me; who told you; and what did they say?'



I paused a moment.  She met my eye as unflinchingly as if her bosom

had been steeled with conscious innocence.  She was resolved to

know the worst, and determined to dare it too.  'I can crush that

bold spirit,' thought I.  But while I secretly exulted in my power,

I felt disposed to dally with my victim like a cat.  Showing her

the book that I still held, in my hand, and pointing to the name on

the fly-leaf, but fixing my eye upon her face, I asked, - 'Do you

know that gentleman?'



'Of course I do,' replied she; and a sudden flush suffused her

features - whether of shame or anger I could not tell:  it rather

resembled the latter.  'What next, sir?'



'How long is it since you saw him?'



'Who gave you the right to catechize me on this or any other

subject?'



'Oh, no one! - it's quite at your option whether to answer or not.

And now, let me ask - have you heard what has lately befallen this

friend of yours? - because, if you have not - '



'I will not be insulted, Mr. Markham!' cried she, almost infuriated

at my manner.  'So you had better leave the house at once, if you

came only for that.'



'I did not come to insult you:  I came to hear your explanation.'



'And I tell you I won't give it!' retorted she, pacing the room in

a state of strong excitement, with her hands clasped tightly

together, breathing short, and flashing fires of indignation from

her eyes.  'I will not condescend to explain myself to one that can

make a jest of such horrible suspicions, and be so easily led to

entertain them.'



'I do not make a jest of them, Mrs. Graham,' returned I, dropping

at once my tone of taunting sarcasm.  'I heartily wish I could find

them a jesting matter.  And as to being easily led to suspect, God

only knows what a blind, incredulous fool I have hitherto been,

perseveringly shutting my eyes and stopping my ears against

everything that threatened to shake my confidence in you, till

proof itself confounded my infatuation!'



'What proof, sir?'



'Well, I'll tell you.  You remember that evening when I was here

last?'



'I do.'



'Even then you dropped some hints that might have opened the eyes

of a wiser man; but they had no such effect upon me:  I went on

trusting and believing, hoping against hope, and adoring where I

could not comprehend.  It so happened, however, that after I left

you I turned back - drawn by pure depth of sympathy and ardour of

affection - not daring to intrude my presence openly upon you, but

unable to resist the temptation of catching one glimpse through the

window, just to see how you were:  for I had left you apparently in

great affliction, and I partly blamed my own want of forbearance

and discretion as the cause of it.  If I did wrong, love alone was

my incentive, and the punishment was severe enough; for it was just

as I had reached that tree, that you came out into the garden with

your friend.  Not choosing to show myself, under the circumstances,

I stood still, in the shadow, till you had both passed by.'



'And how much of our conversation did you hear?'



'I heard quite enough, Helen.  And it was well for me that I did

hear it; for nothing less could have cured my infatuation.  I

always said and thought, that I would never believe a word against

you, unless I heard it from your own lips.  All the hints and

affirmations of others I treated as malignant, baseless slanders;

your own self-accusations I believed to be overstrained; and all

that seemed unaccountable in your position I trusted that you could

account for if you chose.'



Mrs. Graham had discontinued her walk.  She leant against one end

of the chimney-piece, opposite that near which I was standing, with

her chin resting on her closed hand, her eyes - no longer burning

with anger, but gleaming with restless excitement - sometimes

glancing at me while I spoke, then coursing the opposite wall, or

fixed upon the carpet.



'You should have come to me after all,' said she, 'and heard what I

had to say in my own justification.  It was ungenerous and wrong to

withdraw yourself so secretly and suddenly, immediately after such

ardent protestations of attachment, without ever assigning a reason

for the change.  You should have told me all-no matter how

bitterly.  It would have been better than this silence.'



'To what end should I have done so?  You could not have enlightened

me further, on the subject which alone concerned me; nor could you

have made me discredit the evidence of my senses.  I desired our

intimacy to be discontinued at once, as you yourself had

acknowledged would probably be the case if I knew all; but I did

not wish to upbraid you, - though (as you also acknowledged) you

had deeply wronged me.  Yes, you have done me an injury you can

never repair - or any other either - you have blighted the

freshness and promise of youth, and made my life a wilderness!  I

might live a hundred years, but I could never recover from the

effects of this withering blow - and never forget it!  Hereafter -

You smile, Mrs. Graham,' said I, suddenly stopping short, checked

in my passionate declamation by unutterable feelings to behold her

actually smiling at the picture of the ruin she had wrought.



'Did I?' replied she, looking seriously up; 'I was not aware of it.

If I did, it was not for pleasure at the thoughts of the harm I had

done you.  Heaven knows I have had torment enough at the bare

possibility of that; it was for joy to find that you had some depth

of soul and feeling after all, and to hope that I had not been

utterly mistaken in your worth.  But smiles and tears are so alike

with me, they are neither of them confined to any particular

feelings:  I often cry when I am happy, and smile when I am sad.'



She looked at me again, and seemed to expect a reply; but I

continued silent.



'Would you be very glad,' resumed she, 'to find that you were

mistaken in your conclusions?'



'How can you ask it, Helen?'



'I don't say I can clear myself altogether,' said she, speaking low

and fast, while her heart beat visibly and her bosom heaved with

excitement, - 'but would you be glad to discover I was better than

you think me?'



'Anything that could in the least degree tend to restore my former

opinion of you, to excuse the regard I still feel for you, and

alleviate the pangs of unutterable regret that accompany it, would

be only too gladly, too eagerly received!'  Her cheeks burned, and

her whole frame trembled, now, with excess of agitation.  She did

not speak, but flew to her desk, and snatching thence what seemed a

thick album or manuscript volume, hastily tore away a few leaves

from the end, and thrust the rest into my hand, saying, 'You

needn't read it all; but take it home with you,' and hurried from

the room.  But when I had left the house, and was proceeding down

the walk, she opened the window and called me back.  It was only to

say, - 'Bring it back when you have read it; and don't breathe a

word of what it tells you to any living being.  I trust to your

honour.'



Before I could answer she had closed the casement and turned away.

I saw her cast herself back in the old oak chair, and cover her

face with her hands.  Her feelings had been wrought to a pitch that

rendered it necessary to seek relief in tears.



Panting with eagerness, and struggling to suppress my hopes, I

hurried home, and rushed up-stairs to my room, having first

provided myself with a candle, though it was scarcely twilight yet

- then, shut and bolted the door, determined to tolerate no

interruption; and sitting down before the table, opened out my

prize and delivered myself up to its perusal - first hastily

turning over the leaves and snatching a sentence here and there,

and then setting myself steadily to read it through.



I have it now before me; and though you could not, of course,

peruse it with half the interest that I did, I know you would not

be satisfied with an abbreviation of its contents, and you shall

have the whole, save, perhaps, a few passages here and there of

merely temporary interest to the writer, or such as would serve to

encumber the story rather than elucidate it.  It begins somewhat

abruptly, thus - but we will reserve its commencement for another

chapter.







CHAPTER XVI







June 1st, 1821. - We have just returned to Staningley - that is, we

returned some days ago, and I am not yet settled, and feel as if I

never should be.  We left town sooner than was intended, in

consequence of my uncle's indisposition; - I wonder what would have

been the result if we had stayed the full time.  I am quite ashamed

of my new-sprung distaste for country life.  All my former

occupations seem so tedious and dull, my former amusements so

insipid and unprofitable.  I cannot enjoy my music, because there

is no one to hear it.  I cannot enjoy my walks, because there is no

one to meet.  I cannot enjoy my books, because they have not power

to arrest my attention:  my head is so haunted with the

recollections of the last few weeks, that I cannot attend to them.

My drawing suits me best, for I can draw and think at the same

time; and if my productions cannot now be seen by any one but

myself, and those who do not care about them, they, possibly, may

be, hereafter.  But, then, there is one face I am always trying to

paint or to sketch, and always without success; and that vexes me.

As for the owner of that face, I cannot get him out of my mind -

and, indeed, I never try.  I wonder whether he ever thinks of me;

and I wonder whether I shall ever see him again.  And then might

follow a train of other wonderments - questions for time and fate

to answer - concluding with - Supposing all the rest be answered in

the affirmative, I wonder whether I shall ever repent it? as my

aunt would tell me I should, if she knew what I was thinking about.



How distinctly I remember our conversation that evening before our

departure for town, when we were sitting together over the fire, my

uncle having gone to bed with a slight attack of the gout.



'Helen,' said she, after a thoughtful silence, 'do you ever think

about marriage?'



'Yes, aunt, often.'



'And do you ever contemplate the possibility of being married

yourself, or engaged, before the season is over?'



'Sometimes; but I don't think it at all likely that I ever shall.'



'Why so?'



'Because, I imagine, there must be only a very, very few men in the

world that I should like to marry; and of those few, it is ten to

one I may never be acquainted with one; or if I should, it is

twenty to one he may not happen to be single, or to take a fancy to

me.'



'That is no argument at all.  It may be very true - and I hope is

true, that there are very few men whom you would choose to marry,

of yourself.  It is not, indeed, to be supposed that you would wish

to marry any one till you were asked:  a girl's affections should

never be won unsought.  But when they are sought - when the citadel

of the heart is fairly besieged - it is apt to surrender sooner

than the owner is aware of, and often against her better judgment,

and in opposition to all her preconceived ideas of what she could

have loved, unless she be extremely careful and discreet.  Now, I

want to warn you, Helen, of these things, and to exhort you to be

watchful and circumspect from the very commencement of your career,

and not to suffer your heart to be stolen from you by the first

foolish or unprincipled person that covets the possession of it. -

You know, my dear, you are only just eighteen; there is plenty of

time before you, and neither your uncle nor I are in any hurry to

get you off our hands, and I may venture to say, there will be no

lack of suitors; for you can boast a good family, a pretty

considerable fortune and expectations, and, I may as well tell you

likewise - for, if I don't, others will - that you have a fair

share of beauty besides - and I hope you may never have cause to

regret it!'



'I hope not, aunt; but why should you fear it?'



'Because, my dear, beauty is that quality which, next to money, is

generally the most attractive to the worst kinds of men; and,

therefore, it is likely to entail a great deal of trouble on the

possessor.'



'Have you been troubled in that way, aunt?'



'No, Helen,' said she, with reproachful gravity, 'but I know many

that have; and some, through carelessness, have been the wretched

victims of deceit; and some, through weakness, have fallen into

snares and temptations terrible to relate.'



'Well, I shall be neither careless nor weak.'



'Remember Peter, Helen!  Don't boast, but watch.  Keep a guard over

your eyes and ears as the inlets of your heart, and over your lips

as the outlet, lest they betray you in a moment of unwariness.

Receive, coldly and dispassionately, every attention, till you have

ascertained and duly considered the worth of the aspirant; and let

your affections be consequent upon approbation alone.  First study;

then approve; then love.  Let your eyes be blind to all external

attractions, your ears deaf to all the fascinations of flattery and

light discourse. - These are nothing - and worse than nothing -

snares and wiles of the tempter, to lure the thoughtless to their

own destruction.  Principle is the first thing, after all; and next

to that, good sense, respectability, and moderate wealth.  If you

should marry the handsomest, and most accomplished and

superficially agreeable man in the world, you little know the

misery that would overwhelm you if, after all, you should find him

to be a worthless reprobate, or even an impracticable fool.'



'But what are all the poor fools and reprobates to do, aunt?  If

everybody followed your advice, the world would soon come to an

end.'



'Never fear, my dear! the male fools and reprobates will never want

for partners, while there are so many of the other sex to match

them; but do you follow my advice.  And this is no subject for

jesting, Helen - I am sorry to see you treat the matter in that

light way.  Believe me, matrimony is a serious thing.' And she

spoke it so seriously, that one might have fancied she had known it

to her cost; but I asked no more impertinent questions, and merely

answered, - 'I know it is; and I know there is truth and sense in

what you say; but you need not fear me, for I not only should think

it wrong to marry a man that was deficient in sense or in

principle, but I should never be tempted to do it; for I could not

like him, if he were ever so handsome, and ever so charming, in

other respects; I should hate him - despise him - pity him -

anything but love him.  My affections not only ought to be founded

on approbation, but they will and must be so:  for, without

approving, I cannot love.  It is needless to say, I ought to be

able to respect and honour the man I marry, as well as love him,

for I cannot love him without.  So set your mind at rest.'



'I hope it may be so,' answered she.



'I know it is so,' persisted I.



'You have not been tried yet, Helen - we can but hope,' said she in

her cold, cautious way.



'I was vexed at her incredulity; but I am not sure her doubts were

entirely without sagacity; I fear I have found it much easier to

remember her advice than to profit by it; - indeed, I have

sometimes been led to question the soundness of her doctrines on

those subjects.  Her counsels may be good, as far as they go - in

the main points at least; - but there are some things she has

overlooked in her calculations.  I wonder if she was ever in love.



I commenced my career - or my first campaign, as my uncle calls it

- kindling with bright hopes and fancies - chiefly raised by this

conversation - and full of confidence in my own discretion.  At

first, I was delighted with the novelty and excitement of our

London life; but soon I began to weary of its mingled turbulence

and constraint, and sigh for the freshness and freedom of home.  My

new acquaintances, both male and female, disappointed my

expectations, and vexed and depressed me by turns; I for I soon

grew tired of studying their peculiarities, and laughing at their

foibles - particularly as I was obliged to keep my criticisms to

myself, for my aunt would not hear them - and they - the ladies

especially - appeared so provokingly mindless, and heartless, and

artificial.  The gentlemen scorned better, but, perhaps, it was

because I knew them less - perhaps, because they flattered me; but

I did not fall in love with any of them; and, if their attentions

pleased me one moment, they provoked me the next, because they put

me out of humour with myself, by revealing my vanity and making me

fear I was becoming like some of the ladies I so heartily despised.



There was one elderly gentleman that annoyed me very much; a rich

old friend of my uncle's, who, I believe, thought I could not do

better than marry him; but, besides being old, he was ugly and

disagreeable, - and wicked, I am sure, though my aunt scolded me

for saying so; but she allowed he was no saint.  And there was

another, less hateful, but still more tiresome, because she

favoured him, and was always thrusting him upon me, and sounding

his praises in my ears - Mr. Boarham by name, Bore'em, as I prefer

spelling it, for a terrible bore he was:  I shudder still at the

remembrance of his voice - drone, drone, drone, in my ear - while

he sat beside me, prosing away by the half-hour together, and

beguiling himself with the notion that he was improving my mind by

useful information, or impressing his dogmas upon me and reforming

my errors of judgment, or perhaps that he was talking down to my

level, and amusing me with entertaining discourse.  Yet he was a

decent man enough in the main, I daresay; and if he had kept his

distance, I never would have hated him.  As it was, it was almost

impossible to help it, for he not only bothered me with the

infliction of his own presence, but he kept me from the enjoyment

of more agreeable society.



One night, however, at a ball, he had been more than usually

tormenting, and my patience was quite exhausted.  It appeared as if

the whole evening was fated to be insupportable:  I had just had

one dance with an empty-headed coxcomb, and then Mr. Boarham had

come upon me and seemed determined to cling to me for the rest of

the night.  He never danced himself, and there he sat, poking his

head in my face, and impressing all beholders with the idea that he

was a confirmed, acknowledged lover; my aunt looking complacently

on all the time, and wishing him God-speed.  In vain I attempted to

drive him away by giving a loose to my exasperated feelings, even

to positive rudeness:  nothing could convince him that his presence

was disagreeable.  Sullen silence was taken for rapt attention, and

gave him greater room to talk; sharp answers were received as smart

sallies of girlish vivacity, that only required an indulgent

rebuke; and flat contradictions were but as oil to the flames,

calling forth new strains of argument to support his dogmas, and

bringing down upon me endless floods of reasoning to overwhelm me

with conviction.



But there was one present who seemed to have a better appreciation

of my frame of mind.  A gentleman stood by, who had been watching

our conference for some time, evidently much amused at my

companion's remorseless pertinacity and my manifest annoyance, and

laughing to himself at the asperity and uncompromising spirit of my

replies.  At length, however, he withdrew, and went to the lady of

the house, apparently for the purpose of asking an introduction to

me, for, shortly after, they both came up, and she introduced him

as Mr. Huntingdon, the son of a late friend of my uncle's.  He

asked me to dance.  I gladly consented, of course; and he was my

companion during the remainder of my stay, which was not long, for

my aunt, as usual, insisted upon an early departure.



I was sorry to go, for I had found my new acquaintance a very

lively and entertaining companion.  There was a certain graceful

ease and freedom about all he said and did, that gave a sense of

repose and expansion to the mind, after so much constraint and

formality as I had been doomed to suffer.  There might be, it is

true, a little too much careless boldness in his manner and

address, but I was in so good a humour, and so grateful for my late

deliverance from Mr. Boarham, that it did not anger me.



'Well, Helen, how do you like Mr. Boarham now?' said my aunt, as we

took our seats in the carriage and drove away.



'Worse than ever,' I replied.



She looked displeased, but said no more on that subject.



'Who was the gentleman you danced with last,' resumed she, after a

pause - 'that was so officious in helping you on with your shawl?'



'He was not officious at all, aunt:  he never attempted to help me

till he saw Mr. Boarham coming to do so; and then he stepped

laughingly forward and said, "Come, I'll preserve you from that

infliction."'



'Who was it, I ask?' said she, with frigid gravity.



'It was Mr. Huntingdon, the son of uncle's old friend.'



'I have heard your uncle speak of young Mr. Huntingdon.  I've heard

him say, "He's a fine lad, that young Huntingdon, but a bit

wildish, I fancy."  So I'd have you beware.'



'What does "a bit wildish" mean?' I inquired.



'It means destitute of principle, and prone to every vice that is

common to youth.'



'But I've heard uncle say he was a sad wild fellow himself, when he

was young.'



She sternly shook her head.



'He was jesting then, I suppose,' said I, 'and here he was speaking

at random - at least, I cannot believe there is any harm in those

laughing blue eyes.'



'False reasoning, Helen!' said she, with a sigh.



'Well, we ought to be charitable, you know, aunt - besides, I don't

think it is false:  I am an excellent physiognomist, and I always

judge of people's characters by their looks - not by whether they

are handsome or ugly, but by the general cast of the countenance.

For instance, I should know by your countenance that you were not

of a cheerful, sanguine disposition; and I should know by Mr.

Wilmot's, that he was a worthless old reprobate; and by Mr.

Boarham's, that he was not an agreeable companion; and by Mr.

Huntingdon's, that he was neither a fool nor a knave, though,

possibly, neither a sage nor a saint - but that is no matter to me,

as I am not likely to meet him again - unless as an occasional

partner in the ball-room.'



It was not so, however, for I met him again next morning.  He came

to call upon my uncle, apologising for not having done so before,

by saying he was only lately returned from the Continent, and had

not heard, till the previous night, of my uncle's arrival in town;

and after that I often met him; sometimes in public, sometimes at

home; for he was very assiduous in paying his respects to his old

friend, who did not, however, consider himself greatly obliged by

the attention.



'I wonder what the deuce the lad means by coming so often,' he

would say, - 'can you tell, Helen? - Hey?  He wants none o' my

company, nor I his - that's certain.'



'I wish you'd tell him so, then,' said my aunt.



'Why, what for?  If I don't want him, somebody does, mayhap'

(winking at me).  'Besides, he's a pretty tidy fortune, Peggy, you

know - not such a catch as Wilmot; but then Helen won't hear of

that match:  for, somehow, these old chaps don't go down with the

girls - with all their money, and their experience to boot.  I'll

bet anything she'd rather have this young fellow without a penny,

than Wilmot with his house full of gold.  Wouldn't you, Nell?'



'Yes, uncle; but that's not saying much for Mr. Huntingdon; for I'd

rather be an old maid and a pauper than Mrs. Wilmot.'



'And Mrs. Huntingdon?  What would you rather be than Mrs.

Huntingdon - eh?'



'I'll tell you when I've considered the matter.'



'Ah! it needs consideration, then?  But come, now - would you

rather be an old maid - let alone the pauper?'



'I can't tell till I'm asked.'



And I left the room immediately, to escape further examination.

But five minutes after, in looking from my window, I beheld Mr.

Boarham coming up to the door.  I waited nearly half-an-hour in

uncomfortable suspense, expecting every minute to be called, and

vainly longing to hear him go.  Then footsteps were heard on the

stairs, and my aunt entered the room with a solemn countenance, and

closed the door behind her.



'Here is Mr. Boarham, Helen,' said she.  'He wishes to see you.'



'Oh, aunt! - Can't you tell him I'm indisposed? - I'm sure I am -

to see him.'



'Nonsense, my dear! this is no trifling matter.  He is come on a

very important errand - to ask your hand in marriage of your uncle

and me.'



'I hope my uncle and you told him it was not in your power to give

it.  What right had he to ask any one before me?'



'Helen!'



'What did my uncle say?'



'He said he would not interfere in the matter; if you liked to

accept Mr. Boarham's obliging offer, you - '



'Did he say obliging offer?'



'No; he said if you liked to take him you might; and if not, you

might please yourself.'



'He said right; and what did you say?'



'It is no matter what I said.  What will you say? - that is the

question.  He is now waiting to ask you himself; but consider well

before you go; and if you intend to refuse him, give me your

reasons.'



'I shall refuse him, of course; but you must tell me how, for I

want to be civil and yet decided - and when I've got rid of him,

I'll give you my reasons afterwards.'



'But stay, Helen; sit down a little and compose yourself.  Mr.

Boarham is in no particular hurry, for he has little doubt of your

acceptance; and I want to speak with you.  Tell me, my dear, what

are your objections to him?  Do you deny that he is an upright,

honourable man?'



'No.'



'Do you deny that he is sensible, sober, respectable?'



'No; he may be all this, but - '



'But, Helen!  How many such men do you expect to meet with in the

world?  Upright, honourable, sensible, sober, respectable!  Is this

such an every-day character that you should reject the possessor of

such noble qualities without a moment's hesitation?  Yes, noble I

may call them; for think of the full meaning of each, and how many

inestimable virtues they include (and I might add many more to the

list), and consider that all this is laid at your feet.  It is in

your power to secure this inestimable blessing for life - a worthy

and excellent husband, who loves you tenderly, but not too fondly

so as to blind him to your faults, and will be your guide

throughout life's pilgrimage, and your partner in eternal bliss.

Think how - '



'But I hate him, aunt,' said I, interrupting this unusual flow of

eloquence.



'Hate him, Helen!  Is this a Christian spirit? - you hate him? and

he so good a man!'



'I don't hate him as a man, but as a husband.  As a man, I love him

so much that I wish him a better wife than I - one as good as

himself, or better - if you think that possible - provided she

could like him; but I never could, and therefore - '



'But why not?  What objection do you find?'



'Firstly, he is at least forty years old - considerably more, I

should think - and I am but eighteen; secondly, he is narrow-minded

and bigoted in the extreme; thirdly, his tastes and feelings are

wholly dissimilar to mine; fourthly, his looks, voice, and manner

are particularly displeasing to me; and, finally, I have an

aversion to his whole person that I never can surmount.'



'Then you ought to surmount it.  And please to compare him for a

moment with Mr. Huntingdon, and, good looks apart (which contribute

nothing to the merit of the man, or to the happiness of married

life, and which you have so often professed to hold in light

esteem), tell me which is the better man.'



'I have no doubt Mr. Huntingdon is a much better man than you think

him; but we are not talking about him now, but about Mr. Boarham;

and as I would rather grow, live, and die in single blessedness -

than be his wife, it is but right that I should tell him so at

once, and put him out of suspense - so let me go.'



'But don't give him a flat denial; he has no idea of such a thing,

and it would offend him greatly:  say you have no thoughts of

matrimony at present - '



'But I have thoughts of it.'



'Or that you desire a further acquaintance.'



'But I don't desire a further acquaintance - quite the contrary.'



And without waiting for further admonitions I left the room and

went to seek Mr. Boarham.  He was walking up and down the drawing-

room, humming snatches of tunes and nibbling the end of his cane.



'My dear young lady,' said he, bowing and smirking with great

complacency, 'I have your kind guardian's permission - '



'I know, sir,' said I, wishing to shorten the scene as much as

possible, 'and I am greatly obliged for your preference, but must

beg to decline the honour you wish to confer, for I think we were

not made for each other, as you yourself would shortly discover if

the experiment were tried.'



My aunt was right.  It was quite evident he had had little doubt of

my acceptance, and no idea of a positive denial.  He was amazed,

astounded at such an answer, but too incredulous to be much

offended; and after a little humming and hawing, he returned to the

attack.



'I know, my dear, that there exists a considerable disparity

between us in years, in temperament, and perhaps some other things;

but let me assure you, I shall not be severe to mark the faults and

foibles of a young and ardent nature such as yours, and while I

acknowledge them to myself, and even rebuke them with all a

father's care, believe me, no youthful lover could be more tenderly

indulgent towards the object of his affections than I to you; and,

on the other hand, let me hope that my more experienced years and

graver habits of reflection will be no disparagement in your eyes,

as I shall endeavour to make them all conducive to your happiness.

Come, now!  What do you say?  Let us have no young lady's

affectations and caprices, but speak out at once.'



'I will, but only to repeat what I said before, that I am certain

we were not made for each other.'



'You really think so?'



'I do.'



'But you don't know me - you wish for a further acquaintance - a

longer time to - '



'No, I don't.  I know you as well as I ever shall, and better than

you know me, or you would never dream of uniting yourself to one so

incongruous - so utterly unsuitable to you in every way.'



'But, my dear young lady, I don't look for perfection; I can excuse

- '



'Thank you, Mr. Boarham, but I won't trespass upon your goodness.

You may save your indulgence and consideration for some more worthy

object, that won't tax them so heavily.'



'But let me beg you to consult your aunt; that excellent lady, I am

sure, will - '



'I have consulted her; and I know her wishes coincide with yours;

but in such important matters, I take the liberty of judging for

myself; and no persuasion can alter my inclinations, or induce me

to believe that such a step would be conducive to my happiness or

yours - and I wonder that a man of your experience and discretion

should think of choosing such a wife.'



'Ah, well!' said he, 'I have sometimes wondered at that myself.  I

have sometimes said to myself, "Now Boarham, what is this you're

after?  Take care, man - look before you leap!  This is a sweet,

bewitching creature, but remember, the brightest attractions to the

lover too often prove the husband's greatest torments!"  I assure

you my choice has not been made without much reasoning and

reflection.  The seeming imprudence of the match has cost me many

an anxious thought by day, and many a sleepless hour by night; but

at length I satisfied myself that it was not, in very deed,

imprudent.  I saw my sweet girl was not without her faults, but of

these her youth, I trusted, was not one, but rather an earnest of

virtues yet unblown - a strong ground of presumption that her

little defects of temper and errors of judgment, opinion, or manner

were not irremediable, but might easily be removed or mitigated by

the patient efforts of a watchful and judicious adviser, and where

I failed to enlighten and control, I thought I might safely

undertake to pardon, for the sake of her many excellences.

Therefore, my dearest girl, since I am satisfied, why should you

object - on my account, at least?'



'But to tell you the truth, Mr. Boarham, it is on my own account I

principally object; so let us - drop the subject,' I would have

said, 'for it is worse than useless to pursue it any further,' but

he pertinaciously interrupted me with, - 'But why so?  I would love

you, cherish you, protect you,' &c., &c.



I shall not trouble myself to put down all that passed between us.

Suffice it to say, that I found him very troublesome, and very hard

to convince that I really meant what I said, and really was so

obstinate and blind to my own interests, that there was no shadow

of a chance that either he or my aunt would ever be able to

overcome my objections.  Indeed, I am not sure that I succeeded

after all; though wearied with his so pertinaciously returning to

the same point and repeating the same arguments over and over

again, forcing me to reiterate the same replies, I at length turned

short and sharp upon him, and my last words were, - 'I tell you

plainly, that it cannot be.  No consideration can induce me to

marry against my inclinations.  I respect you - at least, I would

respect you, if you would behave like a sensible man - but I cannot

love you, and never could - and the more you talk the further you

repel me; so pray don't say any more about it.'



Whereupon he wished me a good-morning, and withdrew, disconcerted

and offended, no doubt; but surely it was not my fault.







CHAPTER XVII







The next day I accompanied my uncle and aunt to a dinner-party at

Mr. Wilmot's.  He had two ladies staying with him:  his niece

Annabella, a fine dashing girl, or rather young woman, - of some

five-and-twenty, too great a flirt to be married, according to her

own assertion, but greatly admired by the gentlemen, who

universally pronounced her a splendid woman; and her gentle cousin,

Milicent Hargrave, who had taken a violent fancy to me, mistaking

me for something vastly better than I was.  And I, in return, was

very fond of her.  I should entirely exclude poor Milicent in my

general animadversions against the ladies of my acquaintance.  But

it was not on her account, or her cousin's, that I have mentioned

the party:  it was for the sake of another of Mr. Wilmot's guests,

to wit Mr. Huntingdon.  I have good reason to remember his presence

there, for this was the last time I saw him.



He did not sit near me at dinner; for it was his fate to hand in a

capacious old dowager, and mine to be handed in by Mr. Grimsby, a

friend of his, but a man I very greatly disliked:  there was a

sinister cast in his countenance, and a mixture of lurking ferocity

and fulsome insincerity in his demeanour, that I could not away

with.  What a tiresome custom that is, by-the-by - one among the

many sources of factitious annoyance of this ultra-civilised life.

If the gentlemen must lead the ladies into the dining-room, why

cannot they take those they like best?



I am not sure, however, that Mr. Huntingdon would have taken me, if

he had been at liberty to make his own selection.  It is quite

possible he might have chosen Miss Wilmot; for she seemed bent upon

engrossing his attention to herself, and he seemed nothing loth to

pay the homage she demanded.  I thought so, at least, when I saw

how they talked and laughed, and glanced across the table, to the

neglect and evident umbrage of their respective neighbours - and

afterwards, as the gentlemen joined us in the drawing-room, when

she, immediately upon his entrance, loudly called upon him to be

the arbiter of a dispute between herself and another lady, and he

answered the summons with alacrity, and decided the question

without a moment's hesitation in her favour - though, to my

thinking, she was obviously in the wrong - and then stood chatting

familiarly with her and a group of other ladies; while I sat with

Milicent Hargrave at the opposite end of the room, looking over the

latter's drawings, and aiding her with my critical observations and

advice, at her particular desire.  But in spite of my efforts to

remain composed, my attention wandered from the drawings to the

merry group, and against my better judgment my wrath rose, and

doubtless my countenance lowered; for Milicent, observing that I

must be tired of her daubs and scratches, begged I would join the

company now, and defer the examination of the remainder to another

opportunity.  But while I was assuring her that I had no wish to

join them, and was not tired, Mr. Huntingdon himself came up to the

little round table at which we sat.



'Are these yours?' said he, carelessly taking up one of the

drawings.



'No, they are Miss Hargrave's.'



'Oh! well, let's have a look at them.'



And, regardless of Miss Hargrave's protestations that they were not

worth looking at, he drew a chair to my side, and receiving the

drawings, one by one from my hand, successively scanned them over,

and threw them on the table, but said not a word about them, though

he was talking all the time.  I don't know what Milicent Hargrave

thought of such conduct, but I found his conversation extremely

interesting; though, as I afterwards discovered, when I came to

analyse it, it was chiefly confined to quizzing the different

members of the company present; and albeit he made some clever

remarks, and some excessively droll ones, I do not think the whole

would appear anything very particular, if written here, without the

adventitious aids of look, and tone, and gesture, and that

ineffable but indefinite charm, which cast a halo over all he did

and said, and which would have made it a delight to look in his

face, and hear the music of his voice, if he had been talking

positive nonsense - and which, moreover, made me feel so bitter

against my aunt when she put a stop to this enjoyment, by coming

composedly forward, under pretence of wishing to see the drawings,

that she cared and knew nothing about, and while making believe to

examine them, addressing herself to Mr. Huntingdon, with one of her

coldest and most repellent aspects, and beginning a series of the

most common-place and formidably formal questions and observations,

on purpose to wrest his attention from me - on purpose to vex me,

as I thought:  and having now looked through the portfolio, I left

them to their TETE-E-TETE, and seated myself on a sofa, quite apart

from the company - never thinking how strange such conduct would

appear, but merely to indulge, at first, the vexation of the

moment, and subsequently to enjoy my private thoughts.



But I was not left long alone, for Mr. Wilmot, of all men the least

welcome, took advantage of my isolated position to come and plant

himself beside me.  I had flattered myself that I had so

effectually repulsed his advances on all former occasions, that I

had nothing more to apprehend from his unfortunate predilection;

but it seems I was mistaken:  so great was his confidence, either

in his wealth or his remaining powers of attraction, and so firm

his conviction of feminine weakness, that he thought himself

warranted to return to the siege, which he did with renovated

ardour, enkindled by the quantity of wine he had drunk - a

circumstance that rendered him infinitely the more disgusting; but

greatly as I abhorred him at that moment, I did not like to treat

him with rudeness, as I was now his guest, and had just been

enjoying his hospitality; and I was no hand at a polite but

determined rejection, nor would it have greatly availed me if I

had, for he was too coarse-minded to take any repulse that was not

as plain and positive as his own effrontery.  The consequence was,

that he waxed more fulsomely tender, and more repulsively warm, and

I was driven to the very verge of desperation, and about to say I

know not what, when I felt my hand, that hung over the arm of the

sofa, suddenly taken by another and gently but fervently pressed.

Instinctively, I guessed who it was, and, on looking up, was less

surprised than delighted to see Mr. Huntingdon smiling upon me.  It

was like turning from some purgatorial fiend to an angel of light,

come to announce that the season of torment was past.



'Helen,' said he (he frequently called me Helen, and I never

resented the freedom), 'I want you to look at this picture.  Mr.

Wilmot will excuse you a moment, I'm sure.'



I rose with alacrity.  He drew my arm within his, and led me across

the room to a splendid painting of Vandyke's that I had noticed

before, but not sufficiently examined.  After a moment of silent

contemplation, I was beginning to comment on its beauties and

peculiarities, when, playfully pressing the hand he still retained

within his arm, he interrupted me with, - 'Never mind the picture:

it was not for that I brought you here; it was to get you away from

that scoundrelly old profligate yonder, who is looking as if he

would like to challenge me for the affront.'



'I am very much obliged to you,' said I.  'This is twice you have

delivered me from such unpleasant companionship.'



'Don't be too thankful,' he answered:  'it is not all kindness to

you; it is partly from a feeling of spite to your tormentors that

makes me delighted to do the old fellows a bad turn, though I don't

think I have any great reason to dread them as rivals.  Have I,

Helen?'



'You know I detest them both.'



'And me?'



'I have no reason to detest you.'



'But what are your sentiments towards me?  Helen - Speak!  How do

you regard me?'



And again he pressed my hand; but I feared there was more of

conscious power than tenderness in his demeanour, and I felt he had

no right to extort a confession of attachment from me when he had

made no correspondent avowal himself, and knew not what to answer.

At last I said, - 'How do you regard me?'



'Sweet angel, I adore you!  I - '



'Helen, I want you a moment,' said the distinct, low voice of my

aunt, close beside us.  And I left him, muttering maledictions

against his evil angel.



'Well, aunt, what is it?  What do you want?' said I, following her

to the embrasure of the window.



'I want you to join the company, when you are fit to be seen,'

returned she, severely regarding me; 'but please to stay here a

little, till that shocking colour is somewhat abated, and your eyes

have recovered something of their natural expression.  I should be

ashamed for anyone to see you in your present state.'



Of course, such a remark had no effect in reducing the 'shocking

colour'; on the contrary, I felt my face glow with redoubled fires

kindled by a complication of emotions, of which indignant, swelling

anger was the chief.  I offered no reply, however, but pushed aside

the curtain and looked into the night - or rather into the lamp-lit

square.



'Was Mr. Huntingdon proposing to you, Helen?' inquired my too

watchful relative.



'No.'



'What was he saying then?  I heard something very like it.'



'I don't know what he would have said, if you hadn't interrupted

him.'



'And would you have accepted him, Helen, if he had proposed?'



'Of course not - without consulting uncle and you.'



'Oh!  I'm glad, my dear, you have so much prudence left.  Well,

now,' she added, after a moment's pause, 'you have made yourself

conspicuous enough for one evening.  The ladies are directing

inquiring glances towards us at this moment, I see:  I shall join

them.  Do you come too, when you are sufficiently composed to

appear as usual.'



'I am so now.'



'Speak gently then, and don't look so malicious,' said my calm, but

provoking aunt.  'We shall return home shortly, and then,' she

added with solemn significance, 'I have much to say to you.'



So I went home prepared for a formidable lecture.  Little was said

by either party in the carriage during our short transit homewards;

but when I had entered my room and thrown myself into an easy-

chair, to reflect on the events of the day, my aunt followed me

thither, and having dismissed Rachel, who was carefully stowing

away my ornaments, closed the door; and placing a chair beside me,

or rather at right angles with mine, sat down.  With due deference

I offered her my more commodious seat.  She declined it, and thus

opened the conference:  'Do you remember, Helen, our conversation

the night but one before we left Staningley?'



'Yes, aunt.'



'And do you remember how I warned you against letting your heart be

stolen from you by those unworthy of its possession, and fixing

your affections where approbation did not go before, and where

reason and judgment withheld their sanction?'



'Yes; but my reason - '



'Pardon me - and do you remember assuring me that there was no

occasion for uneasiness on your account; for you should never be

tempted to marry a man who was deficient in sense or principle,

however handsome or charming in other respects he might be, for you

could not love him; you should hate - despise - pity - anything but

love him - were not those your words?'



'Yes; but - '



'And did you not say that your affection must be founded on

approbation; and that, unless you could approve and honour and

respect, you could not love?'



'Yes; but I do approve, and honour, and respect - '



'How so, my dear?  Is Mr. Huntingdon a good man?'



'He is a much better man than you think him.'



'That is nothing to the purpose.  Is he a good man?'



'Yes - in some respects.  He has a good disposition.'



'Is he a man of principle?'



'Perhaps not, exactly; but it is only for want of thought.  If he

had some one to advise him, and remind him of what is right - '



'He would soon learn, you think - and you yourself would willingly

undertake to be his teacher?  But, my dear, he is, I believe, full

ten years older than you - how is it that you are so beforehand in

moral acquirements?'



'Thanks to you, aunt, I have been well brought up, and had good

examples always before me, which he, most likely, has not; and,

besides, he is of a sanguine temperament, and a gay, thoughtless

temper, and I am naturally inclined to reflection.'



'Well, now you have made him out to be deficient in both sense and

principle, by your own confession - '



'Then, my sense and my principle are at his service.'



'That sounds presumptuous, Helen.  Do you think you have enough for

both; and do you imagine your merry, thoughtless profligate would

allow himself to be guided by a young girl like you?'



'No; I should not wish to guide him; but I think I might have

influence sufficient to save him from some errors, and I should

think my life well spent in the effort to preserve so noble a

nature from destruction.  He always listens attentively now when I

speak seriously to him (and I often venture to reprove his random

way of talking), and sometimes he says that if he had me always by

his side he should never do or say a wicked thing, and that a

little daily talk with me would make him quite a saint.  It may he

partly jest and partly flattery, but still - '



'But still you think it may be truth?'



'If I do think there is any mixture of truth in it, it is not from

confidence in my own powers, but in his natural goodness.  And you

have no right to call him a profligate, aunt; he is nothing of the

kind.'



'Who told you so, my dear?  What was that story about his intrigue

with a married lady - Lady who was it? - Miss Wilmot herself was

telling you the other day?'



'It was false - false!' I cried.  'I don't believe a word of it.'



'You think, then, that he is a virtuous, well-conducted young man?'



'I know nothing positive respecting his character.  I only know

that I have heard nothing definite against it - nothing that could

be proved, at least; and till people can prove their slanderous

accusations, I will not believe them.  And I know this, that if he

has committed errors, they are only such as are common to youth,

and such as nobody thinks anything about; for I see that everybody

likes him, and all the mammas smile upon him, and their daughters -

and Miss Wilmot herself - are only too glad to attract his

attention.'



'Helen, the world may look upon such offences as venial; a few

unprincipled mothers may be anxious to catch a young man of fortune

without reference to his character; and thoughtless girls may be

glad to win the smiles of so handsome a gentleman, without seeking

to penetrate beyond the surface; but you, I trusted, were better

informed than to see with their eyes, and judge with their

perverted judgment.  I did not think you would call these venial

errors!'



'Nor do I, aunt; but if I hate the sins, I love the sinner, and

would do much for his salvation, even supposing your suspicions to

be mainly true, which I do not and will not believe.'



'Well, my dear, ask your uncle what sort of company he keeps, and

if he is not banded with a set of loose, profligate young men, whom

he calls his friends, his jolly companions, and whose chief delight

is to wallow in vice, and vie with each other who can run fastest

and furthest down the headlong road to the place prepared for the

devil and his angels.'



'Then I will save him from them.'



'Oh, Helen, Helen! you little know the misery of uniting your

fortunes to such a man!'



'I have such confidence in him, aunt, notwithstanding all you say,

that I would willingly risk my happiness for the chance of securing

his.  I will leave better men to those who only consider their own

advantage.  If he has done amiss, I shall consider my life well

spent in saving him from the consequences of his early errors, and

striving to recall him to the path of virtue.  God grant me

success!'



Here the conversation ended, for at this juncture my uncle's voice

was heard from his chamber, loudly calling upon my aunt to come to

bed.  He was in a bad humour that night; for his gout was worse.

It had been gradually increasing upon him ever since we came to

town; and my aunt took advantage of the circumstance next morning

to persuade him to return to the country immediately, without

waiting for the close of the season.  His physician supported and

enforced her arguments; and contrary to her usual habits, she so

hurried the preparations for removal (as much for my sake as my

uncle's, I think), that in a very few days we departed; and I saw

no more of Mr. Huntingdon.  My aunt flatters herself I shall soon

forget him - perhaps she thinks I have forgotten him already, for I

never mention his name; and she may continue to think so, till we

meet again - if ever that should be.  I wonder if it will?







CHAPTER XVIII







August 25th. - I am now quite settled down to my usual routine of

steady occupations and quiet amusements - tolerably contented and

cheerful, but still looking forward to spring with the hope of

returning to town, not for its gaieties and dissipations, but for

the chance of meeting Mr. Huntingdon once again; for still he is

always in my thoughts and in my dreams.  In all my employments,

whatever I do, or see, or hear, has an ultimate reference to him;

whatever skill or knowledge I acquire is some day to be turned to

his advantage or amusement; whatever new beauties in nature or art

I discover are to be depicted to meet his eye, or stored in my

memory to be told him at some future period.  This, at least, is

the hope that I cherish, the fancy that lights me on my lonely way.

It may be only an ignis fatuus, after all, but it can do no harm to

follow it with my eyes and rejoice in its lustre, as long as it

does not lure me from the path I ought to keep; and I think it will

not, for I have thought deeply on my aunt's advice, and I see

clearly, now, the folly of throwing myself away on one that is

unworthy of all the love I have to give, and incapable of

responding to the best and deepest feelings of my inmost heart - so

clearly, that even if I should see him again, and if he should

remember me and love me still (which, alas! is too little probable,

considering how he is situated, and by whom surrounded), and if he

should ask me to marry him - I am determined not to consent until I

know for certain whether my aunt's opinion of him or mine is

nearest the truth; for if mine is altogether wrong, it is not he

that I love; it is a creature of my own imagination.  But I think

it is not wrong - no, no - there is a secret something - an inward

instinct that assures me I am right.  There is essential goodness

in him; - and what delight to unfold it!  If he has wandered, what

bliss to recall him!  If he is now exposed to the baneful influence

of corrupting and wicked companions, what glory to deliver him from

them!  Oh! if I could but believe that Heaven has designed me for

this!



* * * * *



To-day is the first of September; but my uncle has ordered the

gamekeeper to spare the partridges till the gentlemen come.  'What

gentlemen?' I asked when I heard it.  A small party he had invited

to shoot.  His friend Mr. Wilmot was one, and my aunt's friend, Mr.

Boarham, another.  This struck me as terrible news at the moment;

but all regret and apprehension vanished like a dream when I heard

that Mr. Huntingdon was actually to be a third!  My aunt is greatly

against his coming, of course:  she earnestly endeavoured to

dissuade my uncle from asking him; but he, laughing at her

objections, told her it was no use talking, for the mischief was

already done:  he had invited Huntingdon and his friend Lord

Lowborough before we left London, and nothing now remained but to

fix the day for their coming.  So he is safe, and I am sure of

seeing him.  I cannot express my joy.  I find it very difficult to

conceal it from my aunt; but I don't wish to trouble her with my

feelings till I know whether I ought to indulge them or not.  If I

find it my absolute duty to suppress them, they shall trouble no

one but myself; and if I can really feel myself justified in

indulging this attachment, I can dare anything, even the anger and

grief of my best friend, for its object - surely, I shall soon

know.  But they are not coming till about the middle of the month.



We are to have two lady visitors also:  Mr. Wilmot is to bring his

niece and her cousin Milicent.  I suppose my aunt thinks the latter

will benefit me by her society, and the salutary example of her

gentle deportment and lowly and tractable spirit; and the former I

suspect she intends as a species of counter-attraction to win Mr.

Huntingdon's attention from me.  I don't thank her for this; but I

shall be glad of Milicent's company:  she is a sweet, good girl,

and I wish I were like her - more like her, at least, than I am.



* * * * *



19th. - They are come.  They came the day before yesterday.  The

gentlemen are all gone out to shoot, and the ladies are with my

aunt, at work in the drawing-room.  I have retired to the library,

for I am very unhappy, and I want to be alone.  Books cannot divert

me; so having opened my desk, I will try what may be done by

detailing the cause of my uneasiness.  This paper will serve

instead of a confidential friend into whose ear I might pour forth

the overflowings of my heart.  It will not sympathise with my

distresses, but then it will not laugh at them, and, if I keep it

close, it cannot tell again; so it is, perhaps, the best friend I

could have for the purpose.



First, let me speak of his arrival - how I sat at my window, and

watched for nearly two hours, before his carriage entered the park-

gates - for they all came before him, - and how deeply I was

disappointed at every arrival, because it was not his.  First came

Mr. Wilmot and the ladies.  When Milicent had got into her room, I

quitted my post a few minutes to look in upon her and have a little

private conversation, for she was now my intimate friend, several

long epistles having passed between us since our parting.  On

returning to my window, I beheld another carriage at the door.  Was

it his?  No; it was Mr. Boarham's plain dark chariot; and there

stood he upon the steps, carefully superintending the dislodging of

his various boxes and packages.  What a collection!  One would have

thought he projected a visit of six months at least.  A

considerable time after, came Lord Lowborough in his barouche.  Is

he one of the profligate friends, I wonder?  I should think not;

for no one could call him a jolly companion, I'm sure, - and,

besides, he appears too sober and gentlemanly in his demeanour to

merit such suspicions.  He is a tall, thin, gloomy-looking man,

apparently between thirty and forty, and of a somewhat sickly,

careworn aspect.



At last, Mr. Huntingdon's light phaeton came bowling merrily up the

lawn.  I had but a transient glimpse of him:  for the moment it

stopped, he sprang out over the side on to the portico steps, and

disappeared into the house.



I now submitted to be dressed for dinner - a duty which Rachel had

been urging upon me for the last twenty minutes; and when that

important business was completed, I repaired to the drawing-room,

where I found Mr. and Miss Wilmot and Milicent Hargrave already

assembled.  Shortly after, Lord Lowborough entered, and then Mr.

Boarham, who seemed quite willing to forget and forgive my former

conduct, and to hope that a little conciliation and steady

perseverance on his part might yet succeed in bringing me to

reason.  While I stood at the window, conversing with Milicent, he

came up to me, and was beginning to talk in nearly his usual

strain, when Mr. Huntingdon entered the room.



'How will he greet me, I wonder?' said my bounding heart; and,

instead of advancing to meet him, I turned to the window to hide or

subdue my emotion.  But having saluted his host and hostess, and

the rest of the company, he came to me, ardently squeezed my hand,

and murmured he was glad to see me once again.  At that moment

dinner was announced:  my aunt desired him to take Miss Hargrave

into the dining-room, and odious Mr. Wilmot, with unspeakable

grimaces, offered his arm to me; and I was condemned to sit between

himself and Mr. Boarham.  But afterwards, when we were all again

assembled in the drawing-room, I was indemnified for so much

suffering by a few delightful minutes of conversation with Mr.

Huntingdon.



In the course of the evening, Miss Wilmot was called upon to sing

and play for the amusement of the company, and I to exhibit my

drawings, and, though he likes music, and she is an accomplished

musician, I think I am right in affirming, that he paid more

attention to my drawings than to her music.



So far so good; - but hearing him pronounce, sotto voce, but with

peculiar emphasis, concerning one of the pieces, 'This is better

than all!' - I looked up, curious to see which it was, and, to my

horror, beheld him complacently gazing at the back of the picture:-

it was his own face that I had sketched there and forgotten to rub

out!  To make matters worse, in the agony of the moment, I

attempted to snatch it from his hand; but he prevented me, and

exclaiming, 'No - by George, I'll keep it!' placed it against his

waistcoat and buttoned his coat upon it with a delighted chuckle.



Then, drawing a candle close to his elbow, he gathered all the

drawings to himself, as well what he had seen as the others, and

muttering, 'I must look at both sides now,' he eagerly commenced an

examination, which I watched, at first, with tolerable composure,

in the confidence that his vanity would not be gratified by any

further discoveries; for, though I must plead guilty to having

disfigured the backs of several with abortive attempts to delineate

that too fascinating physiognomy, I was sure that, with that one

unfortunate exception, I had carefully obliterated all such

witnesses of my infatuation.  But the pencil frequently leaves an

impression upon cardboard that no amount of rubbing can efface.

Such, it seems, was the case with most of these; and, I confess, I

trembled when I saw him holding them so close to the candle, and

poring so intently over the seeming blanks; but still, I trusted,

he would not be able to make out these dim traces to his own

satisfaction.  I was mistaken, however.  Having ended his scrutiny,

he quietly remarked, - 'I perceive the backs of young ladies'

drawings, like the postscripts of their letters, are the most

important and interesting part of the concern.'



Then, leaning back in his chair, he reflected a few minutes in

silence, complacently smiling to himself, and while I was

concocting some cutting speech wherewith to check his

gratification, he rose, and passing over to where Annabella Wilmot

sat vehemently coquetting with Lord Lowborough, seated himself on

the sofa beside her, and attached himself to her for the rest of

the evening.



'So then,' thought I, 'he despises me, because he knows I love

him.'



And the reflection made me so miserable I knew not what to do.

Milicent came and began to admire my drawings, and make remarks

upon them; but I could not talk to her - I could talk to no one,

and, upon the introduction of tea, I took advantage of the open

door and the slight diversion caused by its entrance to slip out -

for I was sure I could not take any - and take refuge in the

library.  My aunt sent Thomas in quest of me, to ask if I were not

coming to tea; but I bade him say I should not take any to-night,

and, happily, she was too much occupied with her guests to make any

further inquiries at the time.



As most of the company had travelled far that day, they retired

early to rest; and having heard them all, as I thought, go up-

stairs, I ventured out, to get my candlestick from the drawing-room

sideboard.  But Mr. Huntingdon had lingered behind the rest.  He

was just at the foot of the stairs when I opened the door, and

hearing my step in the hall - though I could hardly hear it myself

- he instantly turned back.



'Helen, is that you?' said he.  'Why did you run away from us?'



'Good-night, Mr. Huntingdon,' said I, coldly, not choosing to

answer the question.  And I turned away to enter the drawing-room.



'But you'll shake hands, won't you?' said he, placing himself in

the doorway before me.  And he seized my hand and held it, much

against my will.



'Let me go, Mr. Huntingdon,' said I.  'I want to get a candle.'



'The candle will keep,' returned he.



I made a desperate effort to free my hand from his grasp.



'Why are you in such a hurry to leave me, Helen?' he said, with a

smile of the most provoking self-sufficiency.  'You don't hate me,

you know.'



'Yes, I do - at this moment.'



'Not you.  It is Annabella Wilmot you hate, not me.'



'I have nothing to do with Annabella Wilmot,' said I, burning with

indignation.



'But I have, you know,' returned he, with peculiar emphasis.



'That is nothing to me, sir,' I retorted.



'Is it nothing to you, Helen?  Will you swear it?  Will you?'



'No I won't, Mr. Huntingdon! and I will go,' cried I, not knowing

whether to laugh, or to cry, or to break out into a tempest of

fury.



'Go, then, you vixen!' he said; but the instant he released my hand

he had the audacity to put his arm round my neck, and kiss me.



Trembling with anger and agitation, and I don't know what besides,

I broke away, and got my candle, and rushed up-stairs to my room.

He would not have done so but for that hateful picture.  And there

he had it still in his possession, an eternal monument to his pride

and my humiliation.



It was but little sleep I got that night, and in the morning I rose

perplexed and troubled with the thoughts of meeting him at

breakfast.  I knew not how it was to be done.  An assumption of

dignified, cold indifference would hardly do, after what he knew of

my devotion - to his face, at least.  Yet something must be done to

check his presumption - I would not submit to be tyrannised over by

those bright, laughing eyes.  And, accordingly, I received his

cheerful morning salutation as calmly and coldly as my aunt could

have wished, and defeated with brief answers his one or two

attempts to draw me into conversation, while I comported myself

with unusual cheerfulness and complaisance towards every other

member of the party, especially Annabella Wilmot, and even her

uncle and Mr. Boarham were treated with an extra amount of civility

on the occasion, not from any motives of coquetry, but just to show

him that my particular coolness and reserve arose from no general

ill-humour or depression of spirits.



He was not, however, to be repelled by such acting as this.  He did

not talk much to me, but when he did speak it was with a degree of

freedom and openness, and kindliness too, that plainly seemed to

intimate he knew his words were music to my ears; and when his

looks met mine it was with a smile - presumptuous, it might be -

but oh! so sweet, so bright, so genial, that I could not possibly

retain my anger; every vestige of displeasure soon melted away

beneath it like morning clouds before the summer sun.



Soon after breakfast all the gentlemen save one, with boyish

eagerness, set out on their expedition against the hapless

partridges; my uncle and Mr. Wilmot on their shooting ponies, Mr.

Huntingdon and Lord Lowborough on their legs:  the one exception

being Mr. Boarham, who, in consideration of the rain that had

fallen during the night, thought it prudent to remain behind a

little and join them in a while when the sun had dried the grass.

And he favoured us all with a long and minute disquisition upon the

evils and dangers attendant upon damp feet, delivered with the most

imperturbable gravity, amid the jeers and laughter of Mr.

Huntingdon and my uncle, who, leaving the prudent sportsman to

entertain the ladies with his medical discussions, sallied forth

with their guns, bending their steps to the stables first, to have

a look at the horses and let out the dogs.



Not desirous of sharing Mr. Boarham's company for the whole of the

morning, I betook myself to the library, and there brought forth my

easel and began to paint.  The easel and the painting apparatus

would serve as an excuse for abandoning the drawing-room if my aunt

should come to complain of the desertion, and besides I wanted to

finish the picture.  It was one I had taken great pains with, and I

intended it to be my masterpiece, though it was somewhat

presumptuous in the design.  By the bright azure of the sky, and by

the warm and brilliant lights and deep long shadows, I had

endeavoured to convey the idea of a sunny morning.  I had ventured

to give more of the bright verdure of spring or early summer to the

grass and foliage than is commonly attempted in painting.  The

scene represented was an open glade in a wood.  A group of dark

Scotch firs was introduced in the middle distance to relieve the

prevailing freshness of the rest; but in the foreground was part of

the gnarled trunk and of the spreading boughs of a large forest-

tree, whose foliage was of a brilliant golden green - not golden

from autumnal mellowness, but from the sunshine and the very

immaturity of the scarce expanded leaves.  Upon this bough, that

stood out in bold relief against the sombre firs, were seated an

amorous pair of turtle doves, whose soft sad-coloured plumage

afforded a contrast of another nature; and beneath it a young girl

was kneeling on the daisy-spangled turf, with head thrown back and

masses of fair hair falling on her shoulders, her hands clasped,

lips parted, and eyes intently gazing upward in pleased yet earnest

contemplation of those feathered lovers - too deeply absorbed in

each other to notice her.



I had scarcely settled to my work, which, however, wanted but a few

touches to the finishing, when the sportsmen passed the window on

their return from the stables.  It was partly open, and Mr.

Huntingdon must have seen me as he went by, for in half a minute he

came back, and setting his gun against the wall, threw up the sash

and sprang in, and set himself before my picture.



'Very pretty, i'faith,' said he, after attentively regarding it for

a few seconds; 'and a very fitting study for a young lady.  Spring

just opening into summer - morning just approaching noon - girlhood

just ripening into womanhood, and hope just verging on fruition.

She's a sweet creature! but why didn't you make her black hair?'



'I thought light hair would suit her better.  You see I have made

her blue-eyed and plump, and fair and rosy.'



'Upon my word - a very Hebe!  I should fall in love with her if I

hadn't the artist before me.  Sweet innocent! she's thinking there

will come a time when she will be wooed and won like that pretty

hen-dove by as fond and fervent a lover; and she's thinking how

pleasant it will be, and how tender and faithful he will find her.'



'And perhaps,' suggested I, 'how tender and faithful she shall find

him.'



'Perhaps, for there is no limit to the wild extravagance of Hope's

imaginings at such an age.'



'Do you call that, then, one of her wild, extravagant delusions?'



'No; my heart tells me it is not.  I might have thought so once,

but now, I say, give me the girl I love, and I will swear eternal

constancy to her and her alone, through summer and winter, through

youth and age, and life and death! if age and death must come.'



He spoke this in such serious earnest that my heart bounded with

delight; but the minute after he changed his tone, and asked, with

a significant smile, if I had 'any more portraits.'



'No,' replied I, reddening with confusion and wrath.



But my portfolio was on the table:  he took it up, and coolly sat

down to examine its contents.



'Mr. Huntingdon, those are my unfinished sketches,' cried I, 'and I

never let any one see them.'



And I placed my hand on the portfolio to wrest it from him, but he

maintained his hold, assuring me that he 'liked unfinished sketches

of all things.'



'But I hate them to be seen,' returned I.  'I can't let you have

it, indeed!'



'Let me have its bowels then,' said he; and just as I wrenched the

portfolio from his hand, he deftly abstracted the greater part of

its contents, and after turning them over a moment he cried out, -

'Bless my stars, here's another;' and slipped a small oval of ivory

paper into his waistcoat pocket - a complete miniature portrait

that I had sketched with such tolerable success as to be induced to

colour it with great pains and care.  But I was determined he

should not keep it.



'Mr. Huntingdon,' cried I, 'I insist upon having that back!  It is

mine, and you have no right to take it.  Give it me directly - I'll

never forgive you if you don't!'



But the more vehemently I insisted, the more he aggravated my

distress by his insulting, gleeful laugh.  At length, however, he

restored it to me, saying, - 'Well, well, since you value it so

much, I'll not deprive you of it.'



To show him how I valued it, I tore it in two and threw it into the

fire.  He was not prepared for this.  His merriment suddenly

ceasing, he stared in mute amazement at the consuming treasure; and

then, with a careless 'Humph! I'll go and shoot now,' he turned on

his heel and vacated the apartment by the window as he came, and

setting on his hat with an air, took up his gun and walked away,

whistling as he went - and leaving me not too much agitated to

finish my picture, for I was glad, at the moment, that I had vexed

him.



When I returned to the drawing-room, I found Mr. Boarham had

ventured to follow his comrades to the field; and shortly after

lunch, to which they did not think of returning, I volunteered to

accompany the ladies in a walk, and show Annabella and Milicent the

beauties of the country.  We took a long ramble, and re-entered the

park just as the sportsmen were returning from their expedition.

Toil-spent and travel-stained, the main body of them crossed over

the grass to avoid us, but Mr. Huntingdon, all spattered and

splashed as he was, and stained with the blood of his prey - to the

no small offence of my aunt's strict sense of propriety - came out

of his way to meet us, with cheerful smiles and words for all but

me, and placing himself between Annabella Wilmot and myself, walked

up the road and began to relate the various exploits and disasters

of the day, in a manner that would have convulsed me with laughter

if I had been on good terms with him; but he addressed himself

entirely to Annabella, and I, of course, left all the laughter and

all the badinage to her, and affecting the utmost indifference to

whatever passed between them, walked along a few paces apart, and

looking every way but theirs, while my aunt and Milicent went

before, linked arm in arm and gravely discoursing together.  At

length Mr. Huntingdon turned to me, and addressing me in a

confidential whisper, said, - 'Helen, why did you burn my picture?'



'Because I wished to destroy it,' I answered, with an asperity it

is useless now to lament.



'Oh, very good!' was the reply; 'if you don't value me, I must turn

to somebody that will.'



I thought it was partly in jest - a half-playful mixture of mock

resignation and pretended indifference:  but immediately he resumed

his place beside Miss Wilmot, and from that hour to this - during

all that evening, and all the next day, and the next, and the next,

and all this morning (the 22nd), he has never given me one kind

word or one pleasant look - never spoken to me, but from pure

necessity - never glanced towards me but with a cold, unfriendly

look I thought him quite incapable of assuming.



My aunt observes the change, and though she has not inquired the

cause or made any remark to me on the subject, I see it gives her

pleasure.  Miss Wilmot observes it, too, and triumphantly ascribes

it to her own superior charms and blandishments; but I am truly

miserable - more so than I like to acknowledge to myself.  Pride

refuses to aid me.  It has brought me into the scrape, and will not

help me out of it.



He meant no harm - it was only his joyous, playful spirit; and I,

by my acrimonious resentment - so serious, so disproportioned to

the offence - have so wounded his feelings, so deeply offended him,

that I fear he will never forgive me - and all for a mere jest!  He

thinks I dislike him, and he must continue to think so.  I must

lose him for ever, and Annabella may win him, and triumph as she

will.



But it is not my loss nor her triumph that I deplore so greatly as

the wreck of my fond hopes for his advantage, and her unworthiness

of his affection, and the injury he will do himself by trusting his

happiness to her.  She does not love him:  she thinks only of

herself.  She cannot appreciate the good that is in him:  she will

neither see it, nor value it, nor cherish it.  She will neither

deplore his faults nor attempt their amendment, but rather

aggravate them by her own.  And I doubt whether she will not

deceive him after all.  I see she is playing double between him and

Lord Lowborough, and while she amuses herself with the lively

Huntingdon, she tries her utmost to enslave his moody friend; and

should she succeed in bringing both to her feet, the fascinating

commoner will have but little chance against the lordly peer.  If

he observes her artful by-play, it gives him no uneasiness, but

rather adds new zest to his diversion by opposing a stimulating

check to his otherwise too easy conquest.



Messrs. Wilmot and Boarham have severally taken occasion by his

neglect of me to renew their advances; and if I were like Annabella

and some others I should take advantage of their perseverance to

endeavour to pique him into a revival of affection; but, justice

and honesty apart, I could not bear to do it.  I am annoyed enough

by their present persecutions without encouraging them further; and

even if I did it would have precious little effect upon him.  He

sees me suffering under the condescending attentions and prosaic

discourses of the one, and the repulsive obtrusions of the other,

without so much as a shadow of commiseration for me, or resentment

against my tormentors.  He never could have loved me, or he would

not have resigned me so willingly, and he would not go on talking

to everybody else so cheerfully as he does - laughing and jesting

with Lord Lowborough and my uncle, teasing Milicent Hargrave, and

flirting with Annabella Wilmot - as if nothing were on his mind.

Oh! why can't I hate him?  I must be infatuated, or I should scorn

to regret him as I do.  But I must rally all the powers I have

remaining, and try to tear him from my heart.  There goes the

dinner-bell, and here comes my aunt to scold me for sitting here at

my desk all day, instead of staying with the company:  wish the

company were - gone.







CHAPTER XIX







Twenty Second:  Night. - What have I done? and what will be the end

of it?  I cannot calmly reflect upon it; I cannot sleep.  I must

have recourse to my diary again; I will commit it to paper to-

night, and see what I shall think of it to-morrow.



I went down to dinner resolving to be cheerful and well-conducted,

and kept my resolution very creditably, considering how my head

ached and how internally wretched I felt.  I don't know what is

come over me of late; my very energies, both mental and physical,

must be strangely impaired, or I should not have acted so weakly in

many respects as I have done; but I have not been well this last

day or two.  I suppose it is with sleeping and eating so little,

and thinking so much, and being so continually out of humour.  But

to return.  I was exerting myself to sing and play for the

amusement, and at the request, of my aunt and Milicent, before the

gentlemen came into the drawing-room (Miss Wilmot never likes to

waste her musical efforts on ladies' ears alone).  Milicent had

asked for a little Scotch song, and I was just in the middle of it

when they entered.  The first thing Mr. Huntingdon did was to walk

up to Annabella.



'Now, Miss Wilmot, won't you give us some music to-night?' said he.

'Do now!  I know you will, when I tell you that I have been

hungering and thirsting all day for the sound of your voice.  Come!

the piano's vacant.'



It was, for I had quitted it immediately upon hearing his petition.

Had I been endowed with a proper degree of self-possession, I

should have turned to the lady myself, and cheerfully joined my

entreaties to his, whereby I should have disappointed his

expectations, if the affront had been purposely given, or made him

sensible of the wrong, if it had only arisen from thoughtlessness;

but I felt it too deeply to do anything but rise from the music-

stool, and throw myself back on the sofa, suppressing with

difficulty the audible expression of the bitterness I felt within.

I knew Annabella's musical talents were superior to mine, but that

was no reason why I should be treated as a perfect nonentity.  The

time and the manner of his asking her appeared like a gratuitous

insult to me; and I could have wept with pure vexation.



Meantime, she exultingly seated herself at the piano, and favoured

him with two of his favourite songs, in such superior style that

even I soon lost my anger in admiration, and listened with a sort

of gloomy pleasure to the skilful modulations of her full-toned and

powerful voice, so judiciously aided by her rounded and spirited

touch; and while my ears drank in the sound, my eyes rested on the

face of her principal auditor, and derived an equal or superior

delight from the contemplation of his speaking countenance, as he

stood beside her - that eye and brow lighted up with keen

enthusiasm, and that sweet smile passing and appearing like gleams

of sunshine on an April day.  No wonder he should hunger and thirst

to hear her sing.  I now forgave him from my heart his reckless

slight of me, and I felt ashamed at my pettish resentment of such a

trifle - ashamed too of those bitter envious pangs that gnawed my

inmost heart, in spite of all this admiration and delight.



'There now,' said she, playfully running her fingers over the keys

when she had concluded the second song.  'What shall I give you

next?'



But in saying this she looked back at Lord Lowborough, who was

standing a little behind, leaning against the back of a chair, an

attentive listener, too, experiencing, to judge by his countenance,

much the same feelings of mingled pleasure and sadness as I did.

But the look she gave him plainly said, 'Do you choose for me now:

I have done enough for him, and will gladly exert myself to gratify

you;' and thus encouraged, his lordship came forward, and turning

over the music, presently set before her a little song that I had

noticed before, and read more than once, with an interest arising

from the circumstance of my connecting it in my mind with the

reigning tyrant of my thoughts.  And now, with my nerves already

excited and half unstrung, I could not hear those words so sweetly

warbled forth without some symptoms of emotion I was not able to

suppress.  Tears rose unbidden to my eyes, and I buried my face in

the sofa-pillow that they might flow unseen while I listened.  The

air was simple, sweet, and sad.  It is still running in my head,

and so are the words:-





Farewell to thee! but not farewell

To all my fondest thoughts of thee:

Within my heart they still shall dwell;

And they shall cheer and comfort me.



O beautiful, and full of grace!

If thou hadst never met mine eye,

I had not dreamed a living face

Could fancied charms so far outvie.



If I may ne'er behold again

That form and face so dear to me,

Nor hear thy voice, still would I fain

Preserve, for aye, their memory.



That voice, the magic of whose tone

Can wake an echo in my breast,

Creating feelings that, alone,

Can make my tranced spirit blest.



That laughing eye, whose sunny beam

My memory would not cherish less; -

And oh, that smile!  I whose joyous gleam

No mortal languish can express.



Adieu! but let me cherish, still,

The hope with which I cannot part.

Contempt may wound, and coldness chill,

But still it lingers in my heart.



And who can tell but Heaven, at last,

May answer all my thousand prayers,

And bid the future pay the past

With joy for anguish, smiles for tears.





When it ceased, I longed for nothing so much as to be out of the

room.  The sofa was not far from the door, but I did not dare to

raise my head, for I knew Mr. Huntingdon was standing near me, and

I knew by the sound of his voice, as he spoke in answer to some

remark of Lord Lowborough's, that his face was turned towards me.

Perhaps a half-suppressed sob had caught his ear, and caused him to

look round - heaven forbid!  But with a violent effort, I checked

all further signs of weakness, dried my tears, and, when I thought

he had turned away again, rose, and instantly left the apartment,

taking refuge in my favourite resort, the library.



There was no light there but the faint red glow of the neglected

fire; - but I did not want a light; I only wanted to indulge my

thoughts, unnoticed and undisturbed; and sitting down on a low

stool before the easy-chair, I sunk my head upon its cushioned

seat, and thought, and thought, until the tears gushed out again,

and I wept like any child.  Presently, however, the door was gently

opened and someone entered the room.  I trusted it was only a

servant, and did not stir.  The door was closed again - but I was

not alone; a hand gently touched my shoulder, and a voice said,

softly, - 'Helen, what is the matter?'



I could not answer at the moment.



'You must, and shall tell me,' was added, more vehemently, and the

speaker threw himself on his knees beside me on the rug, and

forcibly possessed himself of my hand; but I hastily caught it

away, and replied, - 'It is nothing to you, Mr. Huntingdon.'



'Are you sure it is nothing to me?' he returned; 'can you swear

that you were not thinking of me while you wept?'  This was

unendurable.  I made an effort to rise, but he was kneeling on my

dress.



'Tell me,' continued he - 'I want to know, - because if you were, I

have something to say to you, - and if not, I'll go.'



'Go then!' I cried; but, fearing he would obey too well, and never

come again, I hastily added - 'Or say what you have to say, and

have done with it!'



'But which?' said he - 'for I shall only say it if you really were

thinking of me.  So tell me, Helen.'



'You're excessively impertinent, Mr. Huntingdon!'



'Not at all - too pertinent, you mean.  So you won't tell me? -

Well, I'll spare your woman's pride, and, construing your silence

into "Yes," I'll take it for granted that I was the subject of your

thoughts, and the cause of your affliction - '



'Indeed, sir - '



'If you deny it, I won't tell you my secret,' threatened he; and I

did not interrupt him again, or even attempt to repulse him:

though he had taken my hand once more, and half embraced me with

his other arm, I was scarcely conscious of it at the time.



'It is this,' resumed he:  'that Annabella Wilmot, in comparison

with you, is like a flaunting peony compared with a sweet, wild

rosebud gemmed with dew - and I love you to distraction! - Now,

tell me if that intelligence gives you any pleasure.  Silence

again?  That means yes.  Then let me add, that I cannot live

without you, and if you answer No to this last question, you will

drive me mad. - Will you bestow yourself upon me? - you will!' he

cried, nearly squeezing me to death in his arms.



'No, no!' I exclaimed, struggling to free myself from him - 'you

must ask my uncle and aunt.'



'They won't refuse me, if you don't.'



'I'm not so sure of that - my aunt dislikes you.'



'But you don't, Helen - say you love me, and I'll go.'



'I wish you would go!' I replied.



'I will, this instant, - if you'll only say you love me.'



'You know I do,' I answered.  And again he caught me in his arms,

and smothered me with kisses.



At that moment my aunt opened wide the door, and stood before us,

candle in hand, in shocked and horrified amazement, gazing

alternately at Mr. Huntingdon and me - for we had both started up,

and now stood wide enough asunder.  But his confusion was only for

a moment.  Rallying in an instant, with the most enviable

assurance, he began, - 'I beg ten thousand pardons, Mrs. Maxwell!

Don't be too severe upon me.  I've been asking your sweet niece to

take me for better, for worse; and she, like a good girl, informs

me she cannot think of it without her uncle's and aunt's consent.

So let me implore you not to condemn me to eternal wretchedness:

if you favour my cause, I am safe; for Mr. Maxwell, I am certain,

can refuse you nothing.'



'We will talk of this to-morrow, sir,' said my aunt, coldly.  'It

is a subject that demands mature and serious deliberation.  At

present, you had better return to the drawing-room.'



'But meantime,' pleaded he, 'let me commend my cause to your most

indulgent - '



'No indulgence for you, Mr. Huntingdon, must come between me and

the consideration of my niece's happiness.'



'Ah, true!  I know she is an angel, and I am a presumptuous dog to

dream of possessing such a treasure; but, nevertheless, I would

sooner die than relinquish her in favour of the best man that ever

went to heaven - and as for her happiness, I would sacrifice my

body and soul - '



'Body and soul, Mr. Huntingdon - sacrifice your soul?'



'Well, I would lay down life - '



'You would not be required to lay it down.'



'I would spend it, then - devote my life - and all its powers to

the promotion and preservation - '



'Another time, sir, we will talk of this - and I should have felt

disposed to judge more favourably of your pretensions, if you too

had chosen another time and place, and let me add - another manner

for your declaration.'



'Why, you see, Mrs. Maxwell,' he began -



'Pardon me, sir,' said she, with dignity - 'The company are

inquiring for you in the other room.'  And she turned to me.



'Then you must plead for me, Helen,' said he, and at length

withdrew.



'You had better retire to your room, Helen,' said my aunt, gravely.

'I will discuss this matter with you, too, to-morrow.'



'Don't be angry, aunt,' said I.



'My dear, I am not angry,' she replied:  'I am surprised.  If it is

true that you told him you could not accept his offer without our

consent - '



'It is true,' interrupted I.



'Then how could you permit -?'



'I couldn't help it, aunt,' I cried, bursting into tears.  They

were not altogether the tears of sorrow, or of fear for her

displeasure, but rather the outbreak of the general tumultuous

excitement of my feelings.  But my good aunt was touched at my

agitation.  In a softer tone, she repeated her recommendation to

retire, and, gently kissing my forehead, bade me good-night, and

put her candle in my hand; and I went; but my brain worked so, I

could not think of sleeping.  I feel calmer now that I have written

all this; and I will go to bed, and try to win tired nature's sweet

restorer.







CHAPTER XX







September 24th. - In the morning I rose, light and cheerful - nay,

intensely happy.  The hovering cloud cast over me by my aunt's

views, and by the fear of not obtaining her consent, was lost in

the bright effulgence of my own hopes, and the too delightful

consciousness of requited love.  It was a splendid morning; and I

went out to enjoy it, in a quiet ramble, in company with my own

blissful thoughts.  The dew was on the grass, and ten thousand

gossamers were waving in the breeze; the happy red-breast was

pouring out its little soul in song, and my heart overflowed with

silent hymns of gratitude and praise to heaven.



But I had not wandered far before my solitude was interrupted by

the only person that could have disturbed my musings, at that

moment, without being looked upon as an unwelcome intruder:  Mr.

Huntingdon came suddenly upon me.  So unexpected was the

apparition, that I might have thought it the creation of an over-

excited imagination, had the sense of sight alone borne witness to

his presence; but immediately I felt his strong arm round my waist

and his warm kiss on my cheek, while his keen and gleeful

salutation, 'My own Helen!' was ringing in my ear.



'Not yours yet!' said I, hastily swerving aside from this too

presumptuous greeting.  'Remember my guardians.  You will not

easily obtain my aunt's consent.  Don't you see she is prejudiced

against you?'



'I do, dearest; and you must tell me why, that I may best know how

to combat her objections.  I suppose she thinks I am a prodigal,'

pursued he, observing that I was unwilling to reply, 'and concludes

that I shall have but little worldly goods wherewith to endow my

better half?  If so, you must tell her that my property is mostly

entailed, and I cannot get rid of it.  There may be a few mortgages

on the rest - a few trifling debts and incumbrances here and there,

but nothing to speak of; and though I acknowledge I am not so rich

as I might be - or have been - still, I think, we could manage

pretty comfortably on what's left.  My father, you know, was

something of a miser, and in his latter days especially saw no

pleasure in life but to amass riches; and so it is no wonder that

his son should make it his chief delight to spend them, which was

accordingly the case, until my acquaintance with you, dear Helen,

taught me other views and nobler aims.  And the very idea of having

you to care for under my roof would force me to moderate my

expenses and live like a Christian - not to speak of all the

prudence and virtue you would instil into my mind by your wise

counsels and sweet, attractive goodness.'



'But it is not that,' said I; 'it is not money my aunt thinks

about.  She knows better than to value worldly wealth above its

price.'



'What is it, then?'



'She wishes me to - to marry none but a really good man.'



'What, a man of "decided piety"? - ahem! - Well, come, I'll manage

that too!  It's Sunday to-day, isn't it?  I'll go to church

morning, afternoon, and evening, and comport myself in such a godly

sort that she shall regard me with admiration and sisterly love, as

a brand plucked from the burning.  I'll come home sighing like a

furnace, and full of the savour and unction of dear Mr. Blatant's

discourse - '



'Mr. Leighton,' said I, dryly.



'Is Mr. Leighton a "sweet preacher," Helen - a "dear, delightful,

heavenly-minded man"?'



'He is a good man, Mr. Huntingdon.  I wish I could say half as much

for you.'



'Oh, I forgot, you are a saint, too.  I crave your pardon, dearest

- but don't call me Mr. Huntingdon; my name is Arthur.'



'I'll call you nothing - for I'll have nothing at all to do with

you if you talk in that way any more.  If you really mean to

deceive my aunt as you say, you are very wicked; and if not, you

are very wrong to jest on such a subject.'



'I stand corrected,' said he, concluding his laugh with a sorrowful

sigh.  'Now,' resumed he, after a momentary pause, 'let us talk

about something else.  And come nearer to me, Helen, and take my

arm; and then I'll let you alone.  I can't be quiet while I see you

walking there.'



I complied; but said we must soon return to the house.



'No one will be down to breakfast yet, for long enough,' he

answered.  'You spoke of your guardians just now, Helen, but is not

your father still living?'



'Yes, but I always look upon my uncle and aunt as my guardians, for

they are so in deed, though not in name.  My father has entirely

given me up to their care.  I have never seen him since dear mamma

died, when I was a very little girl, and my aunt, at her request,

offered to take charge of me, and took me away to Staningley, where

I have remained ever since; and I don't think he would object to

anything for me that she thought proper to sanction.'



'But would he sanction anything to which she thought proper to

object?'



'No, I don't think he cares enough about me.'



'He is very much to blame - but he doesn't know what an angel he

has for his daughter - which is all the better for me, as, if he

did, he would not be willing to part with such a treasure.'



'And Mr. Huntingdon,' said I, 'I suppose you know I am not an

heiress?'



He protested he had never given it a thought, and begged I would

not disturb his present enjoyment by the mention of such

uninteresting subjects.  I was glad of this proof of disinterested

affection; for Annabella Wilmot is the probable heiress to all her

uncle's wealth, in addition to her late father's property, which

she has already in possession.



I now insisted upon retracing our steps to the house; but we walked

slowly, and went on talking as we proceeded.  I need not repeat all

we said:  let me rather refer to what passed between my aunt and

me, after breakfast, when Mr. Huntingdon called my uncle aside, no

doubt to make his proposals, and she beckoned me into another room,

where she once more commenced a solemn remonstrance, which,

however, entirely failed to convince me that her view of the case

was preferable to my own.



'You judge him uncharitably, aunt, I know,' said I.  'His very

friends are not half so bad as you represent them.  There is Walter

Hargrave, Milicent's brother, for one:  he is but a little lower

than the angels, if half she says of him is true.  She is

continually talking to me about him, and lauding his many virtues

to the skies.'



'You will form a very inadequate estimate of a man's character,'

replied she, 'if you judge by what a fond sister says of him.  The

worst of them generally know how to hide their misdeeds from their

sisters' eyes, and their mother's, too.'



'And there is Lord Lowborough,' continued I, 'quite a decent man.'



'Who told you so?  Lord Lowborough is a desperate man.  He has

dissipated his fortune in gambling and other things, and is now

seeking an heiress to retrieve it.  I told Miss Wilmot so; but

you're all alike:  she haughtily answered she was very much obliged

to me, but she believed she knew when a man was seeking her for her

fortune, and when for herself; she flattered herself she had had

experience enough in those matters to be justified in trusting to

her own judgment - and as for his lordship's lack of fortune, she

cared nothing about that, as she hoped her own would suffice for

both; and as for his wildness, she supposed he was no worse than

others - besides, he was reformed now.  Yes, they can all play the

hypocrite when they want to take in a fond, misguided woman!'



'Well, I think he's about as good as she is,' said I.  'But when

Mr. Huntingdon is married, he won't have many opportunities of

consorting with his bachelor friends; - and the worse they are, the

more I long to deliver him from them.'



'To be sure, my dear; and the worse he is, I suppose, the more you

long to deliver him from himself.'



'Yes, provided he is not incorrigible - that is, the more I long to

deliver him from his faults - to give him an opportunity of shaking

off the adventitious evil got from contact with others worse than

himself, and shining out in the unclouded light of his own genuine

goodness - to do my utmost to help his better self against his

worse, and make him what he would have been if he had not, from the

beginning, had a bad, selfish, miserly father, who, to gratify his

own sordid passions, restricted him in the most innocent enjoyments

of childhood and youth, and so disgusted him with every kind of

restraint; - and a foolish mother who indulged him to the top of

his bent, deceiving her husband for him, and doing her utmost to

encourage those germs of folly and vice it was her duty to

suppress, - and then, such a set of companions as you represent his

friends to be - '



'Poor man!' said she, sarcastically, 'his kind have greatly wronged

him!'



'They have!' cried I - 'and they shall wrong him no more - his wife

shall undo what his mother did!'



'Well,' said she, after a short pause, 'I must say, Helen, I

thought better of your judgment than this - and your taste too.

How you can love such a man I cannot tell, or what pleasure you can

find in his company; for "what fellowship hath light with darkness;

or he that believeth with an infidel?"'



'He is not an infidel; - and I am not light, and he is not

darkness; his worst and only vice is thoughtlessness.'



'And thoughtlessness,' pursued my aunt, 'may lead to every crime,

and will but poorly excuse our errors in the sight of God.  Mr.

Huntingdon, I suppose, is not without the common faculties of men:

he is not so light-headed as to be irresponsible:  his Maker has

endowed him with reason and conscience as well as the rest of us;

the Scriptures are open to him as well as to others; - and "if he

hear not them, neither will he hear though one rose from the dead."

And remember, Helen,' continued she, solemnly, '"the wicked shall

be turned into hell, and they that forget God!"'  And suppose,

even, that he should continue to love you, and you him, and that

you should pass through life together with tolerable comfort - how

will it be in the end, when you see yourselves parted for ever;

you, perhaps, taken into eternal bliss, and he cast into the lake

that burneth with unquenchable fire - there for ever to - '



'Not for ever,' I exclaimed, '"only till he has paid the uttermost

farthing;" for "if any man's work abide not the fire, he shall

suffer loss, yet himself shall be saved, but so as by fire;" and He

that "is able to subdue all things to Himself will have all men to

be saved," and "will, in the fulness of time, gather together in

one all things in Christ Jesus, who tasted death for every man, and

in whom God will reconcile all things to Himself, whether they be

things in earth or things in heaven."'



'Oh, Helen! where did you learn all this?'



'In the Bible, aunt.  I have searched it through, and found nearly

thirty passages, all tending to support the same theory.'



'And is that the use you make of your Bible?  And did you find no

passages tending to prove the danger and the falsity of such a

belief?'



'No:  I found, indeed, some passages that, taken by themselves,

might seem to contradict that opinion; but they will all bear a

different construction to that which is commonly given, and in most

the only difficulty is in the word which we translate "everlasting"

or "eternal."  I don't know the Greek, but I believe it strictly

means for ages, and might signify either endless or long-enduring.

And as for the danger of the belief, I would not publish it abroad

if I thought any poor wretch would be likely to presume upon it to

his own destruction, but it is a glorious thought to cherish in

one's own heart, and I would not part with it for all the world can

give!'



Here our conference ended, for it was now high time to prepare for

church.  Every one attended the morning service, except my uncle,

who hardly ever goes, and Mr. Wilmot, who stayed at home with him

to enjoy a quiet game of cribbage.  In the afternoon Miss Wilmot

and Lord Lowborough likewise excused themselves from attending; but

Mr. Huntingdon vouchsafed to accompany us again.  Whether it was to

ingratiate himself with my aunt I cannot tell, but, if so, he

certainly should have behaved better.  I must confess, I did not

like his conduct during service at all.  Holding his prayer-book

upside down, or open at any place but the right, he did nothing but

stare about him, unless he happened to catch my aunt's eye or mine,

and then he would drop his own on his book, with a puritanical air

of mock solemnity that would have been ludicrous, if it had not

been too provoking.  Once, during the sermon, after attentively

regarding Mr. Leighton for a few minutes, he suddenly produced his

gold pencil-case and snatched up a Bible.  Perceiving that I

observed the movement, he whispered that he was going to make a

note of the sermon; but instead of that, as I sat next him, I could

not help seeing that he was making a caricature of the preacher,

giving to the respectable, pious, elderly gentleman, the air and

aspect of a most absurd old hypocrite.  And yet, upon his return,

he talked to my aunt about the sermon with a degree of modest,

serious discrimination that tempted me to believe he had really

attended to and profited by the discourse.



Just before dinner my uncle called me into the library for the

discussion of a very important matter, which was dismissed in few

words.



'Now, Nell,' said he, 'this young Huntingdon has been asking for

you:  what must I say about it?  Your aunt would answer "no" - but

what say you?'



'I say yes, uncle,' replied I, without a moment's hesitation; for I

had thoroughly made up my mind on the subject.



'Very good!' cried he.  'Now that's a good honest answer -

wonderful for a girl! - Well, I'll write to your father to-morrow.

He's sure to give his consent; so you may look on the matter as

settled.  You'd have done a deal better if you'd taken Wilmot, I

can tell you; but that you won't believe.  At your time of life,

it's love that rules the roast:  at mine, it's solid, serviceable

gold.  I suppose now, you'd never dream of looking into the state

of your husband's finances, or troubling your head about

settlements, or anything of that sort?'



'I don't think I should.'



'Well, be thankful, then, that you've wiser heads to think for you.

I haven't had time, yet, to examine thoroughly into this young

rascal's affairs, but I see that a great part of his father's fine

property has been squandered away; - but still, I think, there's a

pretty fair share of it left, and a little careful nursing may make

a handsome thing of it yet; and then we must persuade your father

to give you a decent fortune, as he has only one besides yourself

to care for; - and, if you behave well, who knows but what I may be

induced to remember you in my will!' continued he, putting his

fingers to his nose, with a knowing wink.



'Thanks, uncle, for that and all your kindness,' replied I.



'Well, and I questioned this young spark on the matter of

settlements,' continued he; 'and he seemed disposed to be generous

enough on that point - '



'I knew he would!' said I.  'But pray don't trouble your head - or

his, or mine about that; for all I have will be his, and all he has

will be mine; and what more could either of us require?'  And I was

about to make my exit, but he called me back.



'Stop, stop!' cried he; 'we haven't mentioned the time yet.  When

must it be?  Your aunt would put it off till the Lord knows when,

but he is anxious to be bound as soon as may be:  he won't hear of

waiting beyond next month; and you, I guess, will be of the same

mind, so - '



'Not at all, uncle; on the contrary, I should like to wait till

after Christmas, at least.'



'Oh! pooh, pooh! never tell me that tale - I know better,' cried

he; and he persisted in his incredulity.  Nevertheless, it is quite

true.  I am in no hurry at all.  How can I be, when I think of the

momentous change that awaits me, and of all I have to leave?  It is

happiness enough to know that we are to be united; and that he

really loves me, and I may love him as devotedly, and think of him

as often as I please.  However, I insisted upon consulting my aunt

about the time of the wedding, for I determined her counsels should

not be utterly disregarded; and no conclusions on that particular

are come to yet.







CHAPTER XXI







October 1st. - All is settled now.  My father has given his

consent, and the time is fixed for Christmas, by a sort of

compromise between the respective advocates for hurry and delay.

Milicent Hargrave is to be one bridesmaid and Annabella Wilmot the

other - not that I am particularly fond of the latter, but she is

an intimate of the family, and I have not another friend.



When I told Milicent of my engagement, she rather provoked me by

her manner of talking it.  After staring a moment in mute surprise,

she said, - 'Well, Helen, I suppose I ought to congratulate you -

and I am glad to see you so happy; but I did not think you would

take him; and I can't help feeling surprised that you should like

him so much.'



'Why so?'



'Because you are so superior to him in every way, and there's

something so bold and reckless about him - so, I don't know how -

but I always feel a wish to get out of his way when I see him

approach.'



'You are timid, Milicent; but that's no fault of his.'



'And then his look,' continued she.  'People say he's handsome, and

of course he is; but I don't like that kind of beauty, and I wonder

that you should.'



'Why so, pray?'



'Well, you know, I think there's nothing noble or lofty in his

appearance.'



'In fact, you wonder that I can like any one so unlike the stilted

heroes of romance.  Well, give me my flesh and blood lover, and

I'll leave all the Sir Herberts and Valentines to you - if you can

find them.'



'I don't want them,' said she.  'I'll be satisfied with flesh and

blood too - only the spirit must shine through and predominate.

But don't you think Mr. Huntingdon's face is too red?'



'No!' cried I, indignantly.  'It is not red at all.  There is just

a pleasant glow, a healthy freshness in his complexion - the warm,

pinky tint of the whole harmonising with the deeper colour of the

cheeks, exactly as it ought to do.  I hate a man to be red and

white, like a painted doll, or all sickly white, or smoky black, or

cadaverous yellow.'



'Well, tastes differ - but I like pale or dark,' replied she.

'But, to tell you the truth, Helen, I had been deluding myself with

the hope that you would one day be my sister.  I expected Walter

would be introduced to you next season; and I thought you would

like him, and was certain he would like you; and I flattered myself

I should thus have the felicity of seeing the two persons I like

best in the world - except mamma - united in one.  He mayn't be

exactly what you would call handsome, but he's far more

distinguished-looking, and nicer and better than Mr. Huntingdon; -

and I'm sure you would say so, if you knew him.'



'Impossible, Milicent!  You think so, because you're his sister;

and, on that account, I'll forgive you; but nobody else should so

disparage Arthur Huntingdon to me with impunity.'



Miss Wilmot expressed her feelings on the subject almost as openly.



'And so, Helen,' said she, coming up to me with a smile of no

amiable import, 'you are to be Mrs. Huntingdon, I suppose?'



'Yes,' replied I.  'Don't you envy me?'



'Oh, dear, no!' she exclaimed.  'I shall probably be Lady

Lowborough some day, and then you know, dear, I shall be in a

capacity to inquire, "Don't you envy me?"'



'Henceforth I shall envy no one,' returned I.



'Indeed!  Are you so happy then?' said she, thoughtfully; and

something very like a cloud of disappointment shadowed her face.

'And does he love you - I mean, does he idolise you as much as you

do him?' she added, fixing her eyes upon me with ill-disguised

anxiety for the reply.



'I don't want to be idolised,' I answered; 'but I am well assured

that he loves me more than anybody else in the world - as I do

him.'



'Exactly,' said she, with a nod.  'I wish - ' she paused.



'What do you wish?' asked I, annoyed at the vindictive expression

of her countenance.



'I wish,' returned, she, with a short laugh, 'that all the

attractive points and desirable qualifications of the two gentlemen

were united in one - that Lord Lowborough had Huntingdon's handsome

face and good temper, and all his wit, and mirth and charm, or else

that Huntingdon had Lowborough's pedigree, and title, and

delightful old family seat, and I had him; and you might have the

other and welcome.'



'Thank you, dear Annabella:  I am better satisfied with things as

they are, for my own part; and for you, I wish you were as well

content with your intended as I am with mine,' said I; and it was

true enough; for, though vexed at first at her unamiable spirit,

her frankness touched me, and the contrast between our situations

was such, that I could well afford to pity her and wish her well.



Mr. Huntingdon's acquaintances appear to be no better pleased with

our approaching union than mine.  This morning's post brought him

letters from several of his friends, during the perusal of which,

at the breakfast-table, he excited the attention of the company by

the singular variety of his grimaces.  But he crushed them all into

his pocket, with a private laugh, and said nothing till the meal

was concluded.  Then, while the company were hanging over the fire

or loitering through the room, previous to settling to their

various morning avocations, he came and leant over the back of my

chair, with his face in contact with my curls, and commencing with

a quiet little kiss, poured forth the following complaints into my

ear:-



'Helen, you witch, do you know that you've entailed upon me the

curses of all my friends?  I wrote to them the other day, to tell

them of my happy prospects, and now, instead of a bundle of

congratulations, I've got a pocketful of bitter execrations and

reproaches.  There's not one kind wish for me, or one good word for

you, among them all.  They say there'll be no more fun now, no more

merry days and glorious nights - and all my fault - I am the first

to break up the jovial band, and others, in pure despair, will

follow my example.  I was the very life and prop of the community,

they do me the honour to say, and I have shamefully betrayed my

trust - '



'You may join them again, if you like,' said I, somewhat piqued at

the sorrowful tone of his discourse.  'I should be sorry to stand

between any man - or body of men, and so much happiness; and

perhaps I can manage to do without you, as well as your poor

deserted friends.'



'Bless you, no,' murmured he.  'It's "all for love or the world

well lost," with me.  Let them go to - where they belong, to speak

politely.  But if you saw how they abuse me, Helen, you would love

me all the more for having ventured so much for your sake.'



He pulled out his crumpled letters.  I thought he was going to show

them to me, and told him I did not wish to see them.



'I'm not going to show them to you, love,' said he.  'They're

hardly fit for a lady's eyes - the most part of them.  But look

here.  This is Grimsby's scrawl - only three lines, the sulky dog!

He doesn't say much, to be sure, but his very silence implies more

than all the others' words, and the less he says, the more he

thinks - and this is Hargrave's missive.  He is particularly

grieved at me, because, forsooth he had fallen in love with you

from his sister's reports, and meant to have married you himself,

as soon as he had sown his wild oats.'



'I'm vastly obliged to him,' observed I.



'And so am I,' said he.  'And look at this.  This is Hattersley's -

every page stuffed full of railing accusations, bitter curses, and

lamentable complaints, ending up with swearing that he'll get

married himself in revenge:  he'll throw himself away on the first

old maid that chooses to set her cap at him, - as if I cared what

he did with himself.'



'Well,' said I, 'if you do give up your intimacy with these men, I

don't think you will have much cause to regret the loss of their

society; for it's my belief they never did you much good.'



'Maybe not; but we'd a merry time of it, too, though mingled with

sorrow and pain, as Lowborough knows to his cost - Ha, ha!' and

while he was laughing at the recollection of Lowborough's troubles,

my uncle came and slapped him on the shoulder.



'Come, my lad!' said he.  'Are you too busy making love to my niece

to make war with the pheasants? - First of October, remember!  Sun

shines out - rain ceased - even Boarham's not afraid to venture in

his waterproof boots; and Wilmot and I are going to beat you all.

I declare, we old 'uns are the keenest sportsmen of the lot!'



'I'll show you what I can do to-day, however,' said my companion.

'I'll murder your birds by wholesale, just for keeping me away from

better company than either you or them.'



And so saying he departed; and I saw no more of him till dinner.

It seemed a weary time; I wonder what I shall do without him.



It is very true that the three elder gentlemen have proved

themselves much keener sportsmen than the two younger ones; for

both Lord Lowborough and Arthur Huntingdon have of late almost

daily neglected the shooting excursions to accompany us in our

various rides and rambles.  But these merry times are fast drawing

to a close.  In less than a fortnight the party break up, much to

my sorrow, for every day I enjoy it more and more - now that

Messrs. Boarham and Wilmot have ceased to tease me, and my aunt has

ceased to lecture me, and I have ceased to be jealous of Annabella

- and even to dislike her - and now that Mr. Huntingdon is become

my Arthur, and I may enjoy his society without restraint.  What

shall I do without him, I repeat?







CHAPTER XXII







October 5th. - My cup of sweets is not unmingled:  it is dashed

with a bitterness that I cannot hide from myself, disguise it as I

will.  I may try to persuade myself that the sweetness overpowers

it; I may call it a pleasant aromatic flavour; but say what I will,

it is still there, and I cannot but taste it.  I cannot shut my

eyes to Arthur's faults; and the more I love him the more they

trouble me.  His very heart, that I trusted so, is, I fear, less

warm and generous than I thought it.  At least, he gave me a

specimen of his character to-day that seemed to merit a harder name

than thoughtlessness.  He and Lord Lowborough were accompanying

Annabella and me in a long, delightful ride; he was riding by my

side, as usual, and Annabella and Lord Lowborough were a little

before us, the latter bending towards his companion as if in tender

and confidential discourse.



'Those two will get the start of us, Helen, if we don't look

sharp,' observed Huntingdon.  'They'll make a match of it, as sure

as can be.  That Lowborough's fairly besotted.  But he'll find

himself in a fix when he's got her, I doubt.'



'And she'll find herself in a fix when she's got him,' said I, 'if

what I've heard of him is true.'



'Not a bit of it.  She knows what she's about; but he, poor fool,

deludes himself with the notion that she'll make him a good wife,

and because she has amused him with some rodomontade about

despising rank and wealth in matters of love and marriage, he

flatters himself that she's devotedly attached to him; that she

will not refuse him for his poverty, and does not court him for his

rank, but loves him for himself alone.'



'But is not he courting her for her fortune?'



'No, not he.  That was the first attraction, certainly; but now he

has quite lost sight of it:  it never enters his calculations,

except merely as an essential without which, for the lady's own

sake, he could not think of marrying her.  No; he's fairly in love.

He thought he never could be again, but he's in for it once more.

He was to have been married before, some two or three years ago;

but he lost his bride by losing his fortune.  He got into a bad way

among us in London:  he had an unfortunate taste for gambling; and

surely the fellow was born under an unlucky star, for he always

lost thrice where he gained once.  That's a mode of self-torment I

never was much addicted to.  When I spend my money I like to enjoy

the full value of it:  I see no fun in wasting it on thieves and

blacklegs; and as for gaining money, hitherto I have always had

sufficient; it's time enough to be clutching for more, I think,

when you begin to see the end of what you have.  But I have

sometimes frequented the gaming-houses just to watch the on-goings

of those mad votaries of chance - a very interesting study, I

assure you, Helen, and sometimes very diverting:  I've had many a

laugh at the boobies and bedlamites.  Lowborough was quite

infatuated - not willingly, but of necessity, - he was always

resolving to give it up, and always breaking his resolutions.

Every venture was the 'just once more:' if he gained a little, he

hoped to gain a little more next time, and if he lost, it would not

do to leave off at that juncture; he must go on till he had

retrieved that last misfortune, at least:  bad luck could not last

for ever; and every lucky hit was looked upon as the dawn of better

times, till experience proved the contrary.  At length he grew

desperate, and we were daily on the look-out for a case of FELO-DE-

SE - no great matter, some of us whispered, as his existence had

ceased to be an acquisition to our club.  At last, however, he came

to a check.  He made a large stake, which he determined should be

the last, whether he lost or won.  He had often so determined

before, to be sure, and as often broken his determination; and so

it was this time.  He lost; and while his antagonist smilingly

swept away the stakes, he turned chalky white, drew back in

silence, and wiped his forehead.  I was present at the time; and

while he stood with folded arms and eyes fixed on the ground, I

knew well enough what was passing in his mind.



'"Is it to be the last, Lowborough?" said I, stepping up to him.



'"The last but one," he answered, with a grim smile; and then,

rushing back to the table, he struck his hand upon it, and, raising

his voice high above all the confusion of jingling coins and

muttered oaths and curses in the room, he swore a deep and solemn

oath that, come what would, this trial should be the last, and

imprecated unspeakable curses on his head if ever he should shuffle

a card or rattle a dice-box again.  He then doubled his former

stake, and challenged any one present to play against him.  Grimsby

instantly presented himself.  Lowborough glared fiercely at him,

for Grimsby was almost as celebrated for his luck as he was for his

ill-fortune.  However, they fell to work.  But Grimsby had much

skill and little scruple, and whether he took advantage of the

other's trembling, blinded eagerness to deal unfairly by him, I

cannot undertake to say; but Lowborough lost again, and fell dead

sick.



'"You'd better try once more," said Grimsby, leaning across the

table.  And then he winked at me.



'"I've nothing to try with," said the poor devil, with a ghastly

smile.



'"Oh, Huntingdon will lend you what you want," said the other.



'"No; you heard my oath," answered Lowborough, turning away in

quiet despair.  And I took him by the arm and led him out.



'"Is it to be the last, Lowborough?" I asked, when I got him into

the street.



'"The last," he answered, somewhat against my expectation.  And I

took him home - that is, to our club - for he was as submissive as

a child - and plied him with brandy-and-water till he began to look

rather brighter - rather more alive, at least.



'"Huntingdon, I'm ruined!" said he, taking the third glass from my

hand - he had drunk the others in dead silence.



'"Not you," said I.  "You'll find a man can live without his money

as merrily as a tortoise without its head, or a wasp without its

body.



'"But I'm in debt," said he - "deep in debt.  And I can never,

never get out of it."



'"Well, what of that?  Many a better man than you has lived and

died in debt; and they can't put you in prison, you know, because

you're a peer."  And I handed him his fourth tumbler.



'"But I hate to be in debt!" he shouted.  "I wasn't born for it,

and I cannot bear it."



'"What can't be cured must be endured," said I, beginning to mix

the fifth.



'"And then, I've lost my Caroline."  And he began to snivel then,

for the brandy had softened his heart.



'"No matter," I answered, "there are more Carolines in the world

than one."



'"There's only one for me," he replied, with a dolorous sigh.  "And

if there were fifty more, who's to get them, I wonder, without

money?"



'"Oh, somebody will take you for your title; and then you've your

family estate yet; that's entailed, you know."



'"I wish to God I could sell it to pay my debts," he muttered.



'"And then," said Grimsby, who had just come in, "you can try

again, you know.  I would have more than one chance, if I were you.

I'd never stop here."



'"I won't, I tell you!" shouted he.  And he started up, and left

the room - walking rather unsteadily, for the liquor had got into

his head.  He was not so much used to it then, but after that he

took to it kindly to solace his cares.



'He kept his oath about gambling (not a little to the surprise of

us all), though Grimsby did his utmost to tempt him to break it,

but now he had got hold of another habit that bothered him nearly

as much, for he soon discovered that the demon of drink was as

black as the demon of play, and nearly as hard to get rid of -

especially as his kind friends did all they could to second the

promptings of his own insatiable cravings.'



'Then, they were demons themselves,' cried I, unable to contain my

indignation.  'And you, Mr. Huntingdon, it seems, were the first to

tempt him.'



'Well, what could we do?' replied he, deprecatingly. - 'We meant it

in kindness - we couldn't bear to see the poor fellow so

miserable:- and besides, he was such a damper upon us, sitting

there silent and glum, when he was under the threefold influence -

of the loss of his sweetheart, the loss of his fortune, and the

reaction of the lost night's debauch; whereas, when he had

something in him, if he was not merry himself, he was an unfailing

source of merriment to us.  Even Grimsby could chuckle over his odd

sayings:  they delighted him far more than my merry jests, or

Hattersley's riotous mirth.  But one evening, when we were sitting

over our wine, after one of our club dinners, and all had been

hearty together, - Lowborough giving us mad toasts, and hearing our

wild songs, and bearing a hand in the applause, if he did not help

us to sing them himself, - he suddenly relapsed into silence,

sinking his head on his hand, and never lifting his glass to his

lips; - but this was nothing new; so we let him alone, and went on

with our jollification, till, suddenly raising his head, he

interrupted us in the middle of a roar of laughter by exclaiming, -

'Gentlemen, where is all this to end? - Will you just tell me that

now? - Where is it all to end?'  He rose.



'"A speech, a speech!" shouted we.  "Hear, hear!  Lowborough's

going to give us a speech!"



'He waited calmly till the thunders of applause and jingling of

glasses had ceased, and then proceeded, - "It's only this,

gentlemen, - that I think we'd better go no further.  We'd better

stop while we can."



'"Just so!" cried Hattersley -





"Stop, poor sinner, stop and think

Before you further go,

No longer sport upon the brink

Of everlasting woe."





'"Exactly!" replied his lordship, with the utmost gravity.  "And if

you choose to visit the bottomless pit, I won't go with you - we

must part company, for I swear I'll not move another step towards

it! - What's this?' he said, taking up his glass of wine.



'"Taste it," suggested I.



'"This is hell broth!" he exclaimed.  "I renounce it for ever!"

And he threw it out into the middle of the table.



'"Fill again!" said I, handing him the bottle - "and let us drink

to your renunciation."



'"It's rank poison," said he, grasping the bottle by the neck, "and

I forswear it!  I've given up gambling, and I'll give up this too."

He was on the point of deliberately pouring the whole contents of

the bottle on to the table, but Hargrave wrested it from him.  "On

you be the curse, then!" said he.  And, backing from the room, he

shouted, "Farewell, ye tempters!" and vanished amid shouts of

laughter and applause.



'We expected him back among us the next day; but, to our surprise,

the place remained vacant:  we saw nothing of him for a whole week;

and we really began to think he was going to keep his word.  At

last, one evening, when we were most of us assembled together

again, he entered, silent and grim as a ghost, and would have

quietly slipped into his usual seat at my elbow, but we all rose to

welcome him, and several voices were raised to ask what he would

have, and several hands were busy with bottle and glass to serve

him; but I knew a smoking tumbler of brandy-and-water would comfort

him best, and had nearly prepared it, when he peevishly pushed it

away, saying, -



'"Do let me alone, Huntingdon!  Do be quiet, all of you!  I'm not

come to join you:  I'm only come to be with you awhile, because I

can't bear my own thoughts."  And he folded his arms, and leant

back in his chair; so we let him be.  But I left the glass by him;

and, after awhile, Grimsby directed my attention towards it, by a

significant wink; and, on turning my head, I saw it was drained to

the bottom.  He made me a sign to replenish, and quietly pushed up

the bottle.  I willingly complied; but Lowborough detected the

pantomime, and, nettled at the intelligent grins that were passing

between us, snatched the glass from my hand, dashed the contents of

it in Grimsby's face, threw the empty tumbler at me, and then

bolted from the room.'



'I hope he broke your head,' said I.



'No, love,' replied he, laughing immoderately at the recollection

of the whole affair; 'he would have done so, - and perhaps, spoilt

my face, too, but, providentially, this forest of curls' (taking

off his hat, and showing his luxuriant chestnut locks) 'saved my

skull, and prevented the glass from breaking, till it reached the

table.'



'After that,' he continued, 'Lowborough kept aloof from us a week

or two longer.  I used to meet him occasionally in the town; and

then, as I was too good-natured to resent his unmannerly conduct,

and he bore no malice against me, - he was never unwilling to talk

to me; on the contrary, he would cling to me, and follow me

anywhere but to the club, and the gaming-houses, and such-like

dangerous places of resort - he was so weary of his own moping,

melancholy mind.  At last, I got him to come in with me to the

club, on condition that I would not tempt him to drink; and, for

some time, he continued to look in upon us pretty regularly of an

evening, - still abstaining, with wonderful perseverance, from the

"rank poison" he had so bravely forsworn.  But some of our members

protested against this conduct.  They did not like to have him

sitting there like a skeleton at a feast, instead of contributing

his quota to the general amusement, casting a cloud over all, and

watching, with greedy eyes, every drop they carried to their lips -

they vowed it was not fair; and some of them maintained that he

should either be compelled to do as others did, or expelled from

the society; and swore that, next time he showed himself, they

would tell him as much, and, if he did not take the warning,

proceed to active measures.  However, I befriended him on this

occasion, and recommended them to let him be for a while,

intimating that, with a little patience on our parts, he would soon

come round again.  But, to be sure, it was rather provoking; for,

though he refused to drink like an honest Christian, it was well

known to me that he kept a private bottle of laudanum about him,

which he was continually soaking at - or rather, holding off and on

with, abstaining one day and exceeding the next - just like the

spirits.



'One night, however, during one of our orgies - one of our high

festivals, I mean - he glided in, like the ghost in "Macbeth," and

seated himself, as usual, a little back from the table, in the

chair we always placed for "the spectre," whether it chose to fill

it or not.  I saw by his face that he was suffering from the

effects of an overdose of his insidious comforter; but nobody spoke

to him, and he spoke to nobody.  A few sidelong glances, and a

whispered observation, that "the ghost was come," was all the

notice he drew by his appearance, and we went on with our merry

carousals as before, till he startled us all by suddenly drawing in

his chair, and leaning forward with his elbows on the table, and

exclaiming with portentous solemnity, - "Well! it puzzles me what

you can find to be so merry about.  What you see in life I don't

know - I see only the blackness of darkness, and a fearful looking

for of judgment and fiery indignation!"



'All the company simultaneously pushed up their glasses to him, and

I set them before him in a semicircle, and, tenderly patting him on

the back, bid him drink, and he would soon see as bright a prospect

as any of us; but he pushed them back, muttering, -



'"Take them away!  I won't taste it, I tell you.  I won't - I

won't!"  So I handed them down again to the owners; but I saw that

he followed them with a glare of hungry regret as they departed.

Then he clasped his hands before his eyes to shut out the sight,

and two minutes after lifted his head again, and said, in a hoarse

but vehement whisper, -



'"And yet I must!  Huntingdon, get me a glass!"



'"Take the bottle, man!" said I, thrusting the brandy-bottle into

his hand - but stop, I'm telling too much,' muttered the narrator,

startled at the look I turned upon him.  'But no matter,' he

recklessly added, and thus continued his relation:  'In his

desperate eagerness, he seized the bottle and sucked away, till he

suddenly dropped from his chair, disappearing under the table amid

a tempest of applause.  The consequence of this imprudence was

something like an apoplectic fit, followed by a rather severe brain

fever - '



'And what did you think of yourself, sir?' said I, quickly.



'Of course, I was very penitent,' he replied.  'I went to see him

once or twice - nay, twice or thrice - or by'r lady, some four

times - and when he got better, I tenderly brought him back to the

fold.'



'What do you mean?'



'I mean, I restored him to the bosom of the club, and

compassionating the feebleness of his health and extreme lowness of

his spirits, I recommended him to "take a little wine for his

stomach's sake," and, when he was sufficiently re-established, to

embrace the media-via, ni-jamais-ni-toujours plan - not to kill

himself like a fool, and not to abstain like a ninny - in a word,

to enjoy himself like a rational creature, and do as I did; for,

don't think, Helen, that I'm a tippler; I'm nothing at all of the

kind, and never was, and never shall be.  I value my comfort far

too much.  I see that a man cannot give himself up to drinking

without being miserable one-half his days and mad the other;

besides, I like to enjoy my life at all sides and ends, which

cannot be done by one that suffers himself to be the slave of a

single propensity - and, moreover, drinking spoils one's good

looks,' he concluded, with a most conceited smile that ought to

have provoked me more than it did.



'And did Lord Lowborough profit by your advice?' I asked.



'Why, yes, in a manner.  For a while he managed very well; indeed,

he was a model of moderation and prudence - something too much so

for the tastes of our wild community; but, somehow, Lowborough had

not the gift of moderation:  if he stumbled a little to one side,

he must go down before he could right himself:  if he overshot the

mark one night, the effects of it rendered him so miserable the

next day that he must repeat the offence to mend it; and so on from

day to day, till his clamorous conscience brought him to a stand.

And then, in his sober moments, he so bothered his friends with his

remorse, and his terrors and woes, that they were obliged, in self-

defence, to get him to drown his sorrows in wine, or any more

potent beverage that came to hand; and when his first scruples of

conscience were overcome, he would need no more persuading, he

would often grow desperate, and be as great a blackguard as any of

them could desire - but only to lament his own unutterable

wickedness and degradation the more when the fit was over.



'At last, one day when he and I were alone together, after

pondering awhile in one of his gloomy, abstracted moods, with his

arms folded and his head sunk on his breast, he suddenly woke up,

and vehemently grasping my arm, said, -



'"Huntingdon, this won't do!  I'm resolved to have done with it."



'"What, are you going to shoot yourself?" said I.



'"No; I'm going to reform."



'"Oh, that's nothing new!  You've been going to reform these twelve

months and more."



'"Yes, but you wouldn't let me; and I was such a fool I couldn't

live without you.  But now I see what it is that keeps me back, and

what's wanted to save me; and I'd compass sea and land to get it -

only I'm afraid there's no chance."  And he sighed as if his heart

would break.



'"What is it, Lowborough?" said I, thinking he was fairly cracked

at last.



'"A wife," he answered; "for I can't live alone, because my own

mind distracts me, and I can't live with you, because you take the

devil's part against me."



'"Who - I?"



'"Yes - all of you do - and you more than any of them, you know.

But if I could get a wife, with fortune enough to pay off my debts

and set me straight in the world - "



'"To be sure," said I.



'"And sweetness and goodness enough," he continued, "to make home

tolerable, and to reconcile me to myself, I think I should do yet.

I shall never be in love again, that's certain; but perhaps that

would be no great matter, it would enable me to choose with my eyes

open - and I should make a good husband in spite of it; but could

any one be in love with me? - that's the question.  With your good

looks and powers of fascination" (he was pleased to say), "I might

hope; but as it is, Huntingdon, do you think anybody would take me

- ruined and wretched as I am?"



'"Yes, certainly."



'"Who?"



'"Why, any neglected old maid, fast sinking in despair, would be

delighted to - "



'"No, no," said he - "it must be somebody that I can love."



'"Why, you just said you never could be in love again!'



'"Well, love is not the word - but somebody that I can like.  I'll

search all England through, at all events!" he cried, with a sudden

burst of hope, or desperation.  "Succeed or fail, it will be better

than rushing headlong to destruction at that d-d club:  so farewell

to it and you.  Whenever I meet you on honest ground or under a

Christian roof, I shall be glad to see you; but never more shall

you entice me to that devil's den!"



'This was shameful language, but I shook hands with him, and we

parted.  He kept his word; and from that time forward he has been a

pattern of propriety, as far as I can tell; but till lately I have

not had very much to do with him.  He occasionally sought my

company, but as frequently shrunk from it, fearing lest I should

wile him back to destruction, and I found his not very

entertaining, especially as he sometimes attempted to awaken my

conscience and draw me from the perdition he considered himself to

have escaped; but when I did happen to meet him, I seldom failed to

ask after the progress of his matrimonial efforts and researches,

and, in general, he could give me but a poor account.  The mothers

were repelled by his empty coffers and his reputation for gambling,

and the daughters by his cloudy brow and melancholy temper -

besides, he didn't understand them; he wanted the spirit and

assurance to carry his point.



'I left him at it when I went to the continent; and on my return,

at the year's end, I found him still a disconsolate bachelor -

though, certainly, looking somewhat less like an unblest exile from

the tomb than before.  The young ladies had ceased to be afraid of

him, and were beginning to think him quite interesting; but the

mammas were still unrelenting.  It was about this time, Helen, that

my good angel brought me into conjunction with you; and then I had

eyes and ears for nobody else.  But, meantime, Lowborough became

acquainted with our charming friend, Miss Wilmot - through the

intervention of his good angel, no doubt he would tell you, though

he did not dare to fix his hopes on one so courted and admired,

till after they were brought into closer contact here at

Staningley, and she, in the absence of her other admirers,

indubitably courted his notice and held out every encouragement to

his timid advances.  Then, indeed, he began to hope for a dawn of

brighter days; and if, for a while, I darkened his prospects by

standing between him and his sun - and so nearly plunged him again

into the abyss of despair - it only intensified his ardour and

strengthened his hopes when I chose to abandon the field in the

pursuit of a brighter treasure.  In a word, as I told you, he is

fairly besotted.  At first, he could dimly perceive her faults, and

they gave him considerable uneasiness; but now his passion and her

art together have blinded him to everything but her perfections and

his amazing good fortune.  Last night he came to me brimful of his

new-found felicity:



'"Huntingdon, I am not a castaway!" said he, seizing my hand and

squeezing it like a vice.  "There is happiness in store for me yet

- even in this life - she loves me!"



'"Indeed!" said I.  "Has she told you so?"



'"No, but I can no longer doubt it.  Do you not see how pointedly

kind and affectionate she is?  And she knows the utmost extent of

my poverty, and cares nothing about it!  She knows all the folly

and all the wickedness of my former life, and is not afraid to

trust me - and my rank and title are no allurements to her; for

them she utterly disregards.  She is the most generous, high-minded

being that can be conceived of.  She will save me, body and soul,

from destruction.  Already, she has ennobled me in my own

estimation, and made me three times better, wiser, greater than I

was.  Oh! if I had but known her before, how much degradation and

misery I should have been spared!  But what have I done to deserve

so magnificent a creature?"



'And the cream of the jest,' continued Mr. Huntingdon, laughing,

'is, that the artful minx loves nothing about him but his title and

pedigree, and "that delightful old family seat."'



'How do you know?' said I.



'She told me so herself; she said, "As for the man himself, I

thoroughly despise him; but then, I suppose, it is time to be

making my choice, and if I waited for some one capable of eliciting

my esteem and affection, I should have to pass my life in single

blessedness, for I detest you all!"  Ha, ha!  I suspect she was

wrong there; but, however, it is evident she has no love for him,

poor fellow.'



'Then you ought to tell him so.'



'What! and spoil all her plans and prospects, poor girl?  No, no:

that would be a breach of confidence, wouldn't it, Helen?  Ha, ha!

Besides, it would break his heart.'  And he laughed again.



'Well, Mr. Huntingdon, I don't know what you see so amazingly

diverting in the matter; I see nothing to laugh at.'



'I'm laughing at you, just now, love,' said he, redoubling his

machinations.



And leaving him to enjoy his merriment alone, I touched Ruby with

the whip, and cantered on to rejoin our companions; for we had been

walking our horses all this time, and were consequently a long way

behind.  Arthur was soon at my side again; but not disposed to talk

to him, I broke into a gallop.  He did the same; and we did not

slacken our pace till we came up with Miss Wilmot and Lord

Lowborough, which was within half a mile of the park-gates.  I

avoided all further conversation with him till we came to the end

of our ride, when I meant to jump off my horse and vanish into the

house, before he could offer his assistance; but while I was

disengaging my habit from the crutch, he lifted me off, and held me

by both hands, asserting that he would not let me go till I had

forgiven him.



'I have nothing to forgive,' said I.  'You have not injured me.'



'No, darling - God forbid that I should! but you are angry because

it was to me that Annabella confessed her lack of esteem for her

lover.'



'No, Arthur, it is not that that displeases me:  it is the whole

system of your conduct towards your friend, and if you wish me to

forget it, go now, and tell him what sort of a woman it is that he

adores so madly, and on whom he has hung his hopes of future

happiness.'



'I tell you, Helen, it would break his heart - it would be the

death of him - besides being a scandalous trick to poor Annabella.

There is no help for him now; he is past praying for.  Besides, she

may keep up the deception to the end of the chapter; and then he

will be just as happy in the illusion as if it were reality; or

perhaps he will only discover his mistake when he has ceased to

love her; and if not, it is much better that the truth should dawn

gradually upon him.  So now, my angel, I hope I have made out a

clear case, and fully convinced you that I cannot make the

atonement you require.  What other requisition have you to make?

Speak, and I will gladly obey.'



'I have none but this,' said I, as gravely as before:  'that, in

future, you will never make a jest of the sufferings of others, and

always use your influence with your friends for their own advantage

against their evil propensities, instead of seconding their evil

propensities against themselves.'



'I will do my utmost,' said he, 'to remember and perform the

injunctions of my angel monitress;' and after kissing both my

gloved hands, he let me go.



When I entered my room, I was surprised to see Annabella Wilmot

standing before my toilet-table, composedly surveying her features

in the glass, with one hand flirting her gold-mounted whip, and the

other holding up her long habit.



'She certainly is a magnificent creature!' thought I, as I beheld

that tall, finely developed figure, and the reflection of the

handsome face in the mirror before me, with the glossy dark hair,

slightly and not ungracefully disordered by the breezy ride, the

rich brown complexion glowing with exercise, and the black eyes

sparkling with unwonted brilliance.  On perceiving me, she turned

round, exclaiming, with a laugh that savoured more of malice than

of mirth, - 'Why, Helen! what have you been doing so long?  I came

to tell you my good fortune,' she continued, regardless of Rachel's

presence.  'Lord Lowborough has proposed, and I have been

graciously pleased to accept him.  Don't you envy me, dear?'



'No, love,' said I - 'or him either,' I mentally added.  'And do

you like him, Annabella?'



'Like him! yes, to be sure - over head and ears in love!'



'Well, I hope you'll make him a good wife.'



'Thank you, my dear!  And what besides do you hope?'



'I hope you will both love each other, and both be happy.'



'Thanks; and I hope you will make a very good wife to Mr.

Huntingdon!' said she, with a queenly bow, and retired.



'Oh, Miss! how could you say so to her!' cried Rachel.



'Say what?' replied I.



'Why, that you hoped she would make him a good wife.  I never heard

such a thing!'



'Because I do hope it, or rather, I wish it; she's almost past

hope.'



'Well,' said she, 'I'm sure I hope he'll make her a good husband.

They tell queer things about him downstairs.  They were saying - '



'I know, Rachel.  I've heard all about him; but he's reformed now.

And they have no business to tell tales about their masters.'



'No, mum - or else, they have said some things about Mr. Huntingdon

too.'



'I won't hear them, Rachel; they tell lies.'



'Yes, mum,' said she, quietly, as she went on arranging my hair.



'Do you believe them, Rachel?' I asked, after a short pause.



'No, Miss, not all.  You know when a lot of servants gets together

they like to talk about their betters; and some, for a bit of

swagger, likes to make it appear as though they knew more than they

do, and to throw out hints and things just to astonish the others.

But I think, if I was you, Miss Helen, I'd look very well before I

leaped.  I do believe a young lady can't be too careful who she

marries.'



'Of course not,' said I; 'but be quick, will you, Rachel?  I want

to be dressed.'



And, indeed, I was anxious to be rid of the good woman, for I was

in such a melancholy frame I could hardly keep the tears out of my

eyes while she dressed me.  It was not for Lord Lowborough - it was

not for Annabella - it was not for myself - it was for Arthur

Huntingdon that they rose.



* * * * *



13th. - They are gone, and he is gone.  We are to be parted for

more than two months, above ten weeks! a long, long time to live

and not to see him.  But he has promised to write often, and made

me promise to write still oftener, because he will be busy settling

his affairs, and I shall have nothing better to do.  Well, I think

I shall always have plenty to say.  But oh! for the time when we

shall be always together, and can exchange our thoughts without the

intervention of these cold go-betweens, pen, ink, and paper!



22nd. - I have had several letters from Arthur already.  They are

not long, but passing sweet, and just like himself, full of ardent

affection, and playful lively humour; but there is always a 'but'

in this imperfect world, and I do wish he would sometimes be

serious.  I cannot get him to write or speak in real, solid

earnest.  I don't much mind it now, but if it be always so, what

shall I do with the serious part of myself?







CHAPTER XXIII







Feb. 18, 1822. - Early this morning Arthur mounted his hunter and

set off in high glee to meet the - hounds.  He will be away all

day, and so I will amuse myself with my neglected diary, if I can

give that name to such an irregular composition.  It is exactly

four months since I opened it last.



I am married now, and settled down as Mrs. Huntingdon of Grassdale

Manor.  I have had eight weeks' experience of matrimony.  And do I

regret the step I have taken?  No, though I must confess, in my

secret heart, that Arthur is not what I thought him at first, and

if I had known him in the beginning as thoroughly as I do now, I

probably never should have loved him, and if I loved him first, and

then made the discovery, I fear I should have thought it my duty

not to have married him.  To be sure I might have known him, for

every one was willing enough to tell me about him, and he himself

was no accomplished hypocrite, but I was wilfully blind; and now,

instead of regretting that I did not discern his full character

before I was indissolubly bound to him, I am glad, for it has saved

me a great deal of battling with my conscience, and a great deal of

consequent trouble and pain; and, whatever I ought to have done, my

duty now is plainly to love him and to cleave to him, and this just

tallies with my inclination.



He is very fond of me, almost too fond.  I could do with less

caressing and more rationality.  I should like to be less of a pet

and more of a friend, if I might choose; but I won't complain of

that:  I am only afraid his affection loses in depth where it gains

in ardour.  I sometimes liken it to a fire of dry twigs and

branches compared with one of solid coal, very bright and hot; but

if it should burn itself out and leave nothing but ashes behind,

what shall I do?  But it won't, it sha'n't, I am determined; and

surely I have power to keep it alive.  So let me dismiss that

thought at once.  But Arthur is selfish; I am constrained to

acknowledge that; and, indeed, the admission gives me less pain

than might be expected, for, since I love him so much, I can easily

forgive him for loving himself:  he likes to be pleased, and it is

my delight to please him; and when I regret this tendency of his,

it is for his own sake, not for mine.



The first instance he gave was on the occasion of our bridal tour.

He wanted to hurry it over, for all the continental scenes were

already familiar to him:  many had lost their interest in his eyes,

and others had never had anything to lose.  The consequence was,

that after a flying transit through part of France and part of

Italy, I came back nearly as ignorant as I went, having made no

acquaintance with persons and manners, and very little with things,

my head swarming with a motley confusion of objects and scenes;

some, it is true, leaving a deeper and more pleasing impression

than others, but these embittered by the recollection that my

emotions had not been shared by my companion, but that, on the

contrary, when I had expressed a particular interest in anything

that I saw or desired to see, it had been displeasing to him,

inasmuch as it proved that I could take delight in anything

disconnected with himself.



As for Paris, we only just touched at that, and he would not give

me time to see one-tenth of the beauties and interesting objects of

Rome.  He wanted to get me home, he said, to have me all to

himself, and to see me safely installed as the mistress of

Grassdale Manor, just as single-minded, as naive, and piquante as I

was; and as if I had been some frail butterfly, he expressed

himself fearful of rubbing the silver off my wings by bringing me

into contact with society, especially that of Paris and Rome; and,

more-over, he did not scruple to tell me that there were ladies in

both places that would tear his eyes out if they happened to meet

him with me.



Of course I was vexed at all this; but still it was less the

disappointment to myself that annoyed me, than the disappointment

in him, and the trouble I was at to frame excuses to my friends for

having seen and observed so little, without imputing one particle

of blame to my companion.  But when we got home - to my new,

delightful home - I was so happy and he was so kind that I freely

forgave him all; and I was beginning to think my lot too happy, and

my husband actually too good for me, if not too good for this

world, when, on the second Sunday after our arrival, he shocked and

horrified me by another instance of his unreasonable exaction.  We

were walking home from the morning service, for it was a fine

frosty day, and as we are so near the church, I had requested the

carriage should not be used.



'Helen,' said he, with unusual gravity, 'I am not quite satisfied

with you.'



I desired to know what was wrong.



'But will you promise to reform if I tell you?'



'Yes, if I can, and without offending a higher authority.'



'Ah! there it is, you see:  you don't love me with all your heart.'



'I don't understand you, Arthur (at least I hope I don't):  pray

tell me what I have done or said amiss.'



'It is nothing you have done or said; it is something that you are

- you are too religious.  Now I like a woman to be religious, and I

think your piety one of your greatest charms; but then, like all

other good things, it may be carried too far.  To my thinking, a

woman's religion ought not to lessen her devotion to her earthly

lord.  She should have enough to purify and etherealise her soul,

but not enough to refine away her heart, and raise her above all

human sympathies.'



'And am I above all human sympathies?' said I.



'No, darling; but you are making more progress towards that saintly

condition than I like; for all these two hours I have been thinking

of you and wanting to catch your eye, and you were so absorbed in

your devotions that you had not even a glance to spare for me - I

declare it is enough to make one jealous of one's Maker - which is

very wrong, you know; so don't excite such wicked passions again,

for my soul's sake.'



'I will give my whole heart and soul to my Maker if I can,' I

answered, 'and not one atom more of it to you than He allows.  What

are you, sir, that you should set yourself up as a god, and presume

to dispute possession of my heart with Him to whom I owe all I have

and all I am, every blessing I ever did or ever can enjoy - and

yourself among the rest - if you are a blessing, which I am half

inclined to doubt.'



'Don't be so hard upon me, Helen; and don't pinch my arm so:  you

are squeezing your fingers into the bone.'



'Arthur,' continued I, relaxing my hold of his arm, 'you don't love

me half as much as I do you; and yet, if you loved me far less than

you do, I would not complain, provided you loved your Maker more.

I should rejoice to see you at any time so deeply absorbed in your

devotions that you had not a single thought to spare for me.  But,

indeed, I should lose nothing by the change, for the more you loved

your God the more deep and pure and true would be your love to me.'



At this he only laughed and kissed my hand, calling me a sweet

enthusiast.  Then taking off his hat, he added:  'But look here,

Helen - what can a man do with such a head as this?'



The head looked right enough, but when he placed my hand on the top

of it, it sunk in a bed of curls, rather alarmingly low, especially

in the middle.



'You see I was not made to be a saint,' said he, laughing, 'If God

meant me to be religious, why didn't He give me a proper organ of

veneration?'



'You are like the servant,' I replied, 'who, instead of employing

his one talent in his master's service, restored it to him

unimproved, alleging, as an excuse, that he knew him "to be a hard

man, reaping where he had not sown, and gathering where he had not

strawed."  Of him to whom less is given, less will be required, but

our utmost exertions are required of us all.  You are not without

the capacity of veneration, and faith and hope, and conscience and

reason, and every other requisite to a Christian's character, if

you choose to employ them; but all our talents increase in the

using, and every faculty, both good and bad, strengthens by

exercise:  therefore, if you choose to use the bad, or those which

tend to evil, till they become your masters, and neglect the good

till they dwindle away, you have only yourself to blame.  But you

have talents, Arthur - natural endowments both of heart and mind

and temper, such as many a better Christian would be glad to

possess, if you would only employ them in God's service.  I should

never expect to see you a devotee, but it is quite possible to be a

good Christian without ceasing to be a happy, merry-hearted man.'



'You speak like an oracle, Helen, and all you say is indisputably

true; but listen here:  I am hungry, and I see before me a good

substantial dinner; I am told that if I abstain from this to-day I

shall have a sumptuous feast to-morrow, consisting of all manner of

dainties and delicacies.  Now, in the first place, I should be loth

to wait till to-morrow when I have the means of appeasing my hunger

already before me:  in the second place, the solid viands of to-day

are more to my taste than the dainties that are promised me; in the

third place, I don't see to-morrow's banquet, and how can I tell

that it is not all a fable, got up by the greasy-faced fellow that

is advising me to abstain in order that he may have all the good

victuals to himself? in the fourth place, this table must be spread

for somebody, and, as Solomon says, "Who can eat, or who else can

hasten hereunto more than I?" and finally, with your leave, I'll

sit down and satisfy my cravings of to-day, and leave to-morrow to

shift for itself - who knows but what I may secure both this and

that?'



'But you are not required to abstain from the substantial dinner of

to-day:  you are only advised to partake of these coarser viands in

such moderation as not to incapacitate you from enjoying the

choicer banquet of to-morrow.  If, regardless of that counsel, you

choose to make a beast of yourself now, and over-eat and over-drink

yourself till you turn the good victuals into poison, who is to

blame if, hereafter, while you are suffering the torments of

yesterday's gluttony and drunkenness, you see more temperate men

sitting down to enjoy themselves at that splendid entertainment

which you are unable to taste?'



'Most true, my patron saint; but again, our friend Solomon says,

"There is nothing better for a man than to eat and to drink, and to

be merry."'



'And again,' returned I, 'he says, "Rejoice, O young man, in thy

youth; and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of

thine eyes:  but know thou, that for all these things God will

bring thee into judgment."'



'Well, but, Helen, I'm sure I've been very good these last few

weeks.  What have you seen amiss in me, and what would you have me

to do?'



'Nothing more than you do, Arthur:  your actions are all right so

far; but I would have your thoughts changed; I would have you to

fortify yourself against temptation, and not to call evil good, and

good evil; I should wish you to think more deeply, to look further,

and aim higher than you do.'







CHAPTER XXIV







March 25th. - Arthur is getting tired - not of me, I trust, but of

the idle, quiet life he leads - and no wonder, for he has so few

sources of amusement:  he never reads anything but newspapers and

sporting magazines; and when he sees me occupied with a book, he

won't let me rest till I close it.  In fine weather he generally

manages to get through the time pretty well, but on rainy days, of

which we have had a good many of late, it is quite painful to

witness his ennui.  I do all I can to amuse him, but it is

impossible to get him to feel interested in what I most like to

talk about, while, on the other hand, he likes to talk about things

that cannot interest me - or even that annoy me - and these please

him - the most of all:  for his favourite amusement is to sit or

loll beside me on the sofa, and tell me stories of his former

amours, always turning upon the ruin of some confiding girl or the

cozening of some unsuspecting husband; and when I express my horror

and indignation, he lays it all to the charge of jealousy, and

laughs till the tears run down his cheeks.  I used to fly into

passions or melt into tears at first, but seeing that his delight

increased in proportion to my anger and agitation, I have since

endeavoured to suppress my feelings and receive his revelations in

the silence of calm contempt; but still he reads the inward

struggle in my face, and misconstrues my bitterness of soul for his

unworthiness into the pangs of wounded jealousy; and when he has

sufficiently diverted himself with that, or fears my displeasure

will become too serious for his comfort, he tries to kiss and

soothe me into smiles again - never were his caresses so little

welcome as then!  This is double selfishness displayed to me and to

the victims of his former love.  There are times when, with a

momentary pang - a flash of wild dismay, I ask myself, 'Helen, what

have you done?'  But I rebuke the inward questioner, and repel the

obtrusive thoughts that crowd upon me; for were he ten times as

sensual and impenetrable to good and lofty thoughts, I well know I

have no right to complain.  And I don't and won't complain.  I do

and will love him still; and I do not and will not regret that I

have linked my fate with his.



April 4th. - We have had a downright quarrel.  The particulars are

as follows:  Arthur had told me, at different intervals, the whole

story of his intrigue with Lady F-, which I would not believe

before.  It was some consolation, however, to find that in this

instance the lady had been more to blame than he, for he was very

young at the time, and she had decidedly made the first advances,

if what he said was true.  I hated her for it, for it seemed as if

she had chiefly contributed to his corruption; and when he was

beginning to talk about her the other day, I begged he would not

mention her, for I detested the very sound of her name.



'Not because you loved her, Arthur, mind, but because she injured

you and deceived her husband, and was altogether a very abominable

woman, whom you ought to be ashamed to mention.'



But he defended her by saying that she had a doting old husband,

whom it was impossible to love.



'Then why did she marry him?' said I.



'For his money,' was the reply.



'Then that was another crime, and her solemn promise to love and

honour him was another, that only increased the enormity of the

last.'



'You are too severe upon the poor lady,' laughed he.  'But never

mind, Helen, I don't care for her now; and I never loved any of

them half as much as I do you, so you needn't fear to be forsaken

like them.'



'If you had told me these things before, Arthur, I never should

have given you the chance.'



'Wouldn't you, my darling?'



'Most certainly not!'



He laughed incredulously.



'I wish I could convince you of it now!' cried I, starting up from

beside him:  and for the first time in my life, and I hope the

last, I wished I had not married him.



'Helen,' said he, more gravely, 'do you know that if I believed you

now I should be very angry? but thank heaven I don't.  Though you

stand there with your white face and flashing eyes, looking at me

like a very tigress, I know the heart within you perhaps a trifle

better than you know it yourself.'



Without another word I left the room and locked myself up in my own

chamber.  In about half an hour he came to the door, and first he

tried the handle, then he knocked.



'Won't you let me in, Helen?' said he.



'No; you have displeased me,' I replied, 'and I don't want to see

your face or hear your voice again till the morning.'



He paused a moment as if dumfounded or uncertain how to answer such

a speech, and then turned and walked away.  This was only an hour

after dinner:  I knew he would find it very dull to sit alone all

the evening; and this considerably softened my resentment, though

it did not make me relent.  I was determined to show him that my

heart was not his slave, and I could live without him if I chose;

and I sat down and wrote a long letter to my aunt, of course

telling her nothing of all this.  Soon after ten o'clock I heard

him come up again, but he passed my door and went straight to his

own dressing-room, where he shut himself in for the night.



I was rather anxious to see how he would meet me in the morning,

and not a little disappointed to behold him enter the breakfast-

room with a careless smile.



'Are you cross still, Helen?' said he, approaching as if to salute

me.  I coldly turned to the table, and began to pour out the

coffee, observing that he was rather late.



He uttered a low whistle and sauntered away to the window, where he

stood for some minutes looking out upon the pleasing prospect of

sullen grey clouds, streaming rain, soaking lawn, and dripping

leafless trees, and muttering execrations on the weather, and then

sat down to breakfast.  While taking his coffee he muttered it was

'd-d cold.'



'You should not have left it so long,' said I.



He made no answer, and the meal was concluded in silence.  It was a

relief to both when the letter-bag was brought in.  It contained

upon examination a newspaper and one or two letters for him, and a

couple of letters for me, which he tossed across the table without

a remark.  One was from my brother, the other from Milicent

Hargrave, who is now in London with her mother.  His, I think, were

business letters, and apparently not much to his mind, for he

crushed them into his pocket with some muttered expletives that I

should have reproved him for at any other time.  The paper he set

before him, and pretended to be deeply absorbed in its contents

during the remainder of breakfast, and a considerable time after.



The reading and answering of my letters, and the direction of

household concerns, afforded me ample employment for the morning:

after lunch I got my drawing, and from dinner till bed-time I read.

Meanwhile, poor Arthur was sadly at a loss for something to amuse

him or to occupy his time.  He wanted to appear as busy and as

unconcerned as I did.  Had the weather at all permitted, he would

doubtless have ordered his horse and set off to some distant

region, no matter where, immediately after breakfast, and not

returned till night:  had there been a lady anywhere within reach,

of any age between fifteen and forty-five, he would have sought

revenge and found employment in getting up, or trying to get up, a

desperate flirtation with her; but being, to my private

satisfaction, entirely cut off from both these sources of

diversion, his sufferings were truly deplorable.  When he had done

yawning over his paper and scribbling short answers to his shorter

letters, he spent the remainder of the morning and the whole of the

afternoon in fidgeting about from room to room, watching the

clouds, cursing the rain, alternately petting and teasing and

abusing his dogs, sometimes lounging on the sofa with a book that

he could not force himself to read, and very often fixedly gazing

at me when he thought I did not perceive it, with the vain hope of

detecting some traces of tears, or some tokens of remorseful

anguish in my face.  But I managed to preserve an undisturbed

though grave serenity throughout the day.  I was not really angry:

I felt for him all the time, and longed to be reconciled; but I

determined he should make the first advances, or at least show some

signs of an humble and contrite spirit first; for, if I began, it

would only minister to his self-conceit, increase his arrogance,

and quite destroy the lesson I wanted to give him.



He made a long stay in the dining-room after dinner, and, I fear,

took an unusual quantity of wine, but not enough to loosen his

tongue:  for when he came in and found me quietly occupied with my

book, too busy to lift my head on his entrance, he merely murmured

an expression of suppressed disapprobation, and, shutting the door

with a bang, went and stretched himself at full length on the sofa,

and composed himself to sleep.  But his favourite cocker, Dash,

that had been lying at my feet, took the liberty of jumping upon

him and beginning to lick his face.  He struck it off with a smart

blow, and the poor dog squeaked and ran cowering back to me.  When

he woke up, about half an hour after, he called it to him again,

but Dash only looked sheepish and wagged the tip of his tail.  He

called again more sharply, but Dash only clung the closer to me,

and licked my hand, as if imploring protection.  Enraged at this,

his master snatched up a heavy book and hurled it at his head.  The

poor dog set up a piteous outcry, and ran to the door.  I let him

out, and then quietly took up the book.



'Give that book to me,' said Arthur, in no very courteous tone.  I

gave it to him.



'Why did you let the dog out?' he asked; 'you knew I wanted him.'



'By what token?' I replied; 'by your throwing the book at him? but

perhaps it was intended for me?'



'No; but I see you've got a taste of it,' said he, looking at my

hand, that had also been struck, and was rather severely grazed.



I returned to my reading, and he endeavoured to occupy himself in

the same manner; but in a little while, after several portentous

yawns, he pronounced his book to be 'cursed trash,' and threw it on

the table.  Then followed eight or ten minutes of silence, during

the greater part of which, I believe, he was staring at me.  At

last his patience was tired out.



'What is that book, Helen?' he exclaimed.



I told him.



'Is it interesting?'



'Yes, very.'



I went on reading, or pretending to read, at least - I cannot say

there was much communication between my eyes and my brain; for,

while the former ran over the pages, the latter was earnestly

wondering when Arthur would speak next, and what he would say, and

what I should answer.  But he did not speak again till I rose to

make the tea, and then it was only to say he should not take any.

He continued lounging on the sofa, and alternately closing his eyes

and looking at his watch and at me, till bed-time, when I rose, and

took my candle and retired.



'Helen!' cried he, the moment I had left the room.  I turned back,

and stood awaiting his commands.



'What do you want, Arthur?' I said at length.



'Nothing,' replied he.  'Go!'



I went, but hearing him mutter something as I was closing the door,

I turned again.  It sounded very like 'confounded slut,' but I was

quite willing it should be something else.



'Were you speaking, Arthur?' I asked.



'No,' was the answer, and I shut the door and departed.  I saw

nothing more of him till the following morning at breakfast, when

he came down a full hour after the usual time.



'You're very late,' was my morning's salutation.



'You needn't have waited for me,' was his; and he walked up to the

window again.  It was just such weather as yesterday.



'Oh, this confounded rain!' he muttered.  But, after studiously

regarding it for a minute or two, a bright idea, seemed to strike

him, for he suddenly exclaimed, 'But I know what I'll do!' and then

returned and took his seat at the table.  The letter-bag was

already there, waiting to be opened.  He unlocked it and examined

the contents, but said nothing about them.



'Is there anything for me?' I asked.



'No.'



He opened the newspaper and began to read.



'You'd better take your coffee,' suggested I; 'it will be cold

again.'



'You may go,' said he, 'if you've done; I don't want you.'



I rose and withdrew to the next room, wondering if we were to have

another such miserable day as yesterday, and wishing intensely for

an end of these mutually inflicted torments.  Shortly after I heard

him ring the bell and give some orders about his wardrobe that

sounded as if he meditated a long journey.  He then sent for the

coachman, and I heard something about the carriage and the horses,

and London, and seven o'clock to-morrow morning, that startled and

disturbed me not a little.



'I must not let him go to London, whatever comes of it,' said I to

myself; 'he will run into all kinds of mischief, and I shall be the

cause of it.  But the question is, How am I to alter his purpose?

Well, I will wait awhile, and see if he mentions it.'



I waited most anxiously, from hour to hour; but not a word was

spoken, on that or any other subject, to me.  He whistled and

talked to his dogs, and wandered from room to room, much the same

as on the previous day.  At last I began to think I must introduce

the subject myself, and was pondering how to bring it about, when

John unwittingly came to my relief with the following message from

the coachman:



'Please, sir, Richard says one of the horses has got a very bad

cold, and he thinks, sir, if you could make it convenient to go the

day after to-morrow, instead of to-morrow, he could physic it to-

day, so as - '



'Confound his impudence!' interjected the master.



'Please, sir, he says it would be a deal better if you could,'

persisted John, 'for he hopes there'll be a change in the weather

shortly, and he says it's not likely, when a horse is so bad with a

cold, and physicked and all - '



'Devil take the horse!' cried the gentleman.  'Well, tell him I'll

think about it,' he added, after a moment's reflection.  He cast a

searching glance at me, as the servant withdrew, expecting to see

some token of deep astonishment and alarm; but, being previously

prepared, I preserved an aspect of stoical indifference.  His

countenance fell as he met my steady gaze, and he turned away in

very obvious disappointment, and walked up to the fire-place, where

he stood in an attitude of undisguised dejection, leaning against

the chimney-piece with his forehead sunk upon his arm.



'Where do you want to go, Arthur?' said I.



'To London,' replied he, gravely.



'What for?' I asked.



'Because I cannot be happy here.'



'Why not?'



'Because my wife doesn't love me.'



'She would love you with all her heart, if you deserved it.'



'What must I do to deserve it?'



This seemed humble and earnest enough; and I was so much affected,

between sorrow and joy, that I was obliged to pause a few seconds

before I could steady my voice to reply.



'If she gives you her heart,' said I, 'you must take it,

thankfully, and use it well, and not pull it in pieces, and laugh

in her face, because she cannot snatch it away.'



He now turned round, and stood facing me, with his back to the

fire.  'Come, then, Helen, are you going to be a good girl?' said

he.



This sounded rather too arrogant, and the smile that accompanied it

did not please me.  I therefore hesitated to reply.  Perhaps my

former answer had implied too much:  he had heard my voice falter,

and might have seen me brush away a tear.



'Are you going to forgive me, Helen?' he resumed, more humbly.



'Are you penitent?' I replied, stepping up to him and smiling in

his face.



'Heart-broken!' he answered, with a rueful countenance, yet with a

merry smile just lurking within his eyes and about the corners of

his mouth; but this could not repulse me, and I flew into his arms.

He fervently embraced me, and though I shed a torrent of tears, I

think I never was happier in my life than at that moment.



'Then you won't go to London, Arthur?' I said, when the first

transport of tears and kisses had subsided.



'No, love, - unless you will go with me.'



'I will, gladly,' I answered, 'if you think the change will amuse

you, and if you will put off the journey till next week.'



He readily consented, but said there was no need of much

preparation, as he should not be for staying long, for he did not

wish me to be Londonized, and to lose my country freshness and

originality by too much intercourse with the ladies of the world.

I thought this folly; but I did not wish to contradict him now:  I

merely said that I was of very domestic habits, as he well knew,

and had no particular wish to mingle with the world.



So we are to go to London on Monday, the day after to-morrow.  It

is now four days since the termination of our quarrel, and I am

sure it has done us both good:  it has made me like Arthur a great

deal better, and made him behave a great deal better to me.  He has

never once attempted to annoy me since, by the most distant

allusion to Lady F-, or any of those disagreeable reminiscences of

his former life.  I wish I could blot them from my memory, or else

get him to regard such matters in the same light as I do.  Well! it

is something, however, to have made him see that they are not fit

subjects for a conjugal jest.  He may see further some time.  I

will put no limits to my hopes; and, in spite of my aunt's

forebodings and my own unspoken fears, I trust we shall be happy

yet.







CHAPTER XXV







On the eighth of April we went to London, on the eighth of May I

returned, in obedience to Arthur's wish; very much against my own,

because I left him behind.  If he had come with me, I should have

been very glad to get home again, for he led me such a round of

restless dissipation while there, that, in that short space of

time, I was quite tired out.  He seemed bent upon displaying me to

his friends and acquaintances in particular, and the public in

general, on every possible occasion, and to the greatest possible

advantage.  It was something to feel that he considered me a worthy

object of pride; but I paid dear for the gratification:  for, in

the first place, to please him I had to violate my cherished

predilections, my almost rooted principles in favour of a plain,

dark, sober style of dress - I must sparkle in costly jewels and

deck myself out like a painted butterfly, just as I had, long

since, determined I would never do - and this was no trifling

sacrifice; in the second place, I was continually straining to

satisfy his sanguine expectations and do honour to his choice by my

general conduct and deportment, and fearing to disappoint him by

some awkward misdemeanour, or some trait of inexperienced ignorance

about the customs of society, especially when I acted the part of

hostess, which I was not unfrequently called upon to do; and, in

the third place, as I intimated before, I was wearied of the throng

and bustle, the restless hurry and ceaseless change of a life so

alien to all my previous habits.  At last, he suddenly discovered

that the London air did not agree with me, and I was languishing

for my country home, and must immediately return to Grassdale.



I laughingly assured him that the case was not so urgent as he

appeared to think it, but I was quite willing to go home if he was.

He replied that he should be obliged to remain a week or two

longer, as he had business that required his presence.



'Then I will stay with you,' said I.



'But I can't do with you, Helen,' was his answer:  'as long as you

stay I shall attend to you and neglect my business.'



'But I won't let you,' I returned; 'now that I know you have

business to attend to, I shall insist upon your attending to it,

and letting me alone; and, to tell the truth, I shall be glad of a

little rest.  I can take my rides and walks in the Park as usual;

and your business cannot occupy all your time:  I shall see you at

meal-times, and in the evenings at least, and that will be better

than being leagues away and never seeing you at all.'



'But, my love, I cannot let you stay.  How can I settle my affairs

when I know that you are here, neglected -?'



'I shall not feel myself neglected:  while you are doing your duty,

Arthur, I shall never complain of neglect.  If you had told me

before, that you had anything to do, it would have been half done

before this; and now you must make up for lost time by redoubled

exertions.  Tell me what it is; and I will be your taskmaster,

instead of being a hindrance.'



'No, no,' persisted the impracticable creature; 'you must go home,

Helen; I must have the satisfaction of knowing that you are safe

and well, though far away.  Your bright eyes are faded, and that

tender, delicate bloom has quite deserted your cheek.'



'That is only with too much gaiety and fatigue.'



'It is not, I tell you; it is the London air:  you are pining for

the fresh breezes of your country home, and you shall feel them

before you are two days older.  And remember your situation,

dearest Helen; on your health, you know, depends the health, if not

the life, of our future hope.'



'Then you really wish to get rid of me?'



'Positively, I do; and I will take you down myself to Grassdale,

and then return.  I shall not be absent above a week or fortnight

at most.'



'But if I must go, I will go alone:  if you must stay, it is

needless to waste your time in the journey there and back.'



But he did not like the idea of sending me alone.



'Why, what helpless creature do you take me for,' I replied, 'that

you cannot trust me to go a hundred miles in our own carriage, with

our own footman and a maid to attend me?  If you come with me I

shall assuredly keep you.  But tell me, Arthur, what is this

tiresome business; and why did you never mention it before?'



'It is only a little business with my lawyer,' said he; and he told

me something about a piece of property he wanted to sell, in order

to pay off a part of the incumbrances on his estate; but either the

account was a little confused, or I was rather dull of

comprehension, for I could not clearly understand how that should

keep him in town a fortnight after me.  Still less can I now

comprehend how it should keep him a month, for it is nearly that

time since I left him, and no signs of his return as yet.  In every

letter he promises to be with me in a few days, and every time

deceives me, or deceives himself.  His excuses are vague and

insufficient.  I cannot doubt that he has got among his former

companions again.  Oh, why did I leave him!  I wish - I do

intensely wish he would return!



June 29th. - No Arthur yet; and for many days I have been looking

and longing in vain for a letter.  His letters, when they come, are

kind, if fair words and endearing epithets can give them a claim to

the title - but very short, and full of trivial excuses and

promises that I cannot trust; and yet how anxiously I look forward

to them I how eagerly I open and devour one of those little,

hastily-scribbled returns for the three or four long letters,

hitherto unanswered, he has had from me!



Oh, it is cruel to leave me so long alone!  He knows I have no one

but Rachel to speak to, for we have no neighbours here, except the

Hargraves, whose residence I can dimly descry from these upper

windows embosomed among those low, woody hills beyond the Dale.  I

was glad when I learnt that Milicent was so near us; and her

company would be a soothing solace to me now; but she is still in

town with her mother; there is no one at the Grove but little

Esther and her French governess, for Walter is always away.  I saw

that paragon of manly perfections in London:  he seemed scarcely to

merit the eulogiums of his mother and sister, though he certainly

appeared more conversable and agreeable than Lord Lowborough, more

candid and high-minded than Mr. Grimsby, and more polished and

gentlemanly than Mr. Hattersley, Arthur's only other friend whom he

judged fit to introduce to me. - Oh, Arthur, why won't you come?

why won't you write to me at least?  You talked about my health:

how can you expect me to gather bloom and vigour here, pining in

solitude and restless anxiety from day to day? - It would serve you

right to come back and find my good looks entirely wasted away.  I

would beg my uncle and aunt, or my brother, to come and see me, but

I do not like to complain of my loneliness to them, and indeed

loneliness is the least of my sufferings.  But what is he, doing -

what is it that keeps him away?  It is this ever-recurring

question, and the horrible suggestions it raises, that distract me.



July 3rd. - My last bitter letter has wrung from him an answer at

last, and a rather longer one than usual; but still I don't know

what to make of it.  He playfully abuses me for the gall and

vinegar of my latest effusion, tells me I can have no conception of

the multitudinous engagements that keep him away, but avers that,

in spite of them all, he will assuredly be with me before the close

of next week; though it is impossible for a man so circumstanced as

he is to fix the precise day of his return:  meantime he exhorts me

to the exercise of patience, 'that first of woman's virtues,' and

desires me to remember the saying, 'Absence makes the heart grow

fonder,' and comfort myself with the assurance that the longer he

stays away the better he shall love me when he returns; and till he

does return, he begs I will continue to write to him constantly,

for, though he is sometimes too idle and often too busy to answer

my letters as they come, he likes to receive them daily; and if I

fulfil my threat of punishing his seeming neglect by ceasing to

write, he shall be so angry that he will do his utmost to forget

me.  He adds this piece of intelligence respecting poor Milicent

Hargrave:



'Your little friend Milicent is likely, before long, to follow your

example, and take upon her the yoke of matrimony in conjunction

with a friend of mine.  Hattersley, you know, has not yet fulfilled

his direful threat of throwing his precious person away on the

first old maid that chose to evince a tenderness for him; but he

still preserves a resolute determination to see himself a married

man before the year is out.  "Only," said he to me, "I must have

somebody that will let me have my own way in everything - not like

your wife, Huntingdon:  she is a charming creature, but she looks

as if she had a will of her own, and could play the vixen upon

occasion" (I thought "you're right there, man," but I didn't say

so).  "I must have some good, quiet soul that will let me just do

what I like and go where I like, keep at home or stay away, without

a word of reproach or complaint; for I can't do with being

bothered."  "Well," said I, "I know somebody that will suit you to

a tee, if you don't care for money, and that's Hargrave's sister,

Milicent."  He desired to be introduced to her forthwith, for he

said he had plenty of the needful himself, or should have when his

old governor chose to quit the stage.  So you see, Helen, I have

managed pretty well, both for your friend and mine.'



Poor Milicent!  But I cannot imagine she will ever be led to accept

such a suitor - one so repugnant to all her ideas of a man to be

honoured and loved.



5th. - Alas! I was mistaken.  I have got a long letter from her

this morning, telling me she is already engaged, and expects to be

married before the close of the month.



'I hardly know what to say about it,' she writes, 'or what to

think.  To tell you the truth, Helen, I don't like the thoughts of

it at all.  If I am to be Mr. Hattersley's wife, I must try to love

him; and I do try with all my might; but I have made very little

progress yet; and the worst symptom of the case is, that the

further he is from me the better I like him:  he frightens me with

his abrupt manners and strange hectoring ways, and I dread the

thoughts of marrying him.  "Then why have you accepted him?" you

will ask; and I didn't know I had accepted him; but mamma tells me

I have, and he seems to think so too.  I certainly didn't mean to

do so; but I did not like to give him a flat refusal, for fear

mamma should be grieved and angry (for I knew she wished me to

marry him), and I wanted to talk to her first about it:  So I gave

him what I thought was an evasive, half negative answer; but she

says it was as good as an acceptance, and he would think me very

capricious if I were to attempt to draw back - and indeed I was so

confused and frightened at the moment, I can hardly tell what I

said.  And next time I saw him, he accosted me in all confidence as

his affianced bride, and immediately began to settle matters with

mamma.  I had not courage to contradict them then, and how can I do

it now?  I cannot; they would think me mad.  Besides, mamma is so

delighted with the idea of the match; she thinks she has managed so

well for me; and I cannot bear to disappoint her.  I do object

sometimes, and tell her what I feel, but you don't know how she

talks.  Mr. Hattersley, you know, is the son of a rich banker, and

as Esther and I have no fortunes, and Walter very little, our dear

mamma is very anxious to see us all well married, that is, united

to rich partners.  It is not my idea of being well married, but she

means it all for the best.  She says when I am safe off her hands

it will be such a relief to her mind; and she assures me it will be

a good thing for the family as well as for me.  Even Walter is

pleased at the prospect, and when I confessed my reluctance to him,

he said it was all childish nonsense.  Do you think it nonsense,

Helen?  I should not care if I could see any prospect of being able

to love and admire him, but I can't.  There is nothing about him to

hang one's esteem and affection upon; he is so diametrically

opposite to what I imagined my husband should be.  Do write to me,

and say all you can to encourage me.  Don't attempt to dissuade me,

for my fate is fixed:  preparations for the important event are

already going on around me; and don't say a word against Mr.

Hattersley, for I want to think well of him; and though I have

spoken against him myself, it is for the last time:  hereafter, I

shall never permit myself to utter a word in his dispraise, however

he may seem to deserve it; and whoever ventures to speak

slightingly of the man I have promised to love, to honour, and

obey, must expect my serious displeasure.  After all, I think he is

quite as good as Mr. Huntingdon, if not better; and yet you love

him, and seem to be happy and contented; and perhaps I may manage

as well.  You must tell me, if you can, that Mr. Hattersley is

better than he seems - that he is upright, honourable, and open-

hearted - in fact, a perfect diamond in the rough.  He may be all

this, but I don't know him.  I know only the exterior, and what, I

trust, is the worst part of him.'



She concludes with 'Good-by, dear Helen.  I am waiting anxiously

for your advice - but mind you let it be all on the right side.'



Alas! poor Milicent, what encouragement can I give you? or what

advice - except that it is better to make a bold stand now, though

at the expense of disappointing and angering both mother and

brother and lover, than to devote your whole life, hereafter, to

misery and vain regret?



Saturday, 13th. - The week is over, and he is not come.  All the

sweet summer is passing away without one breath of pleasure to me

or benefit to him.  And I had all along been looking forward to

this season with the fond, delusive hope that we should enjoy it so

sweetly together; and that, with God's help and my exertions, it

would be the means of elevating his mind, and refining his taste to

a due appreciation of the salutary and pure delights of nature, and

peace, and holy love.  But now - at evening, when I see the round

red sun sink quietly down behind those woody hills, leaving them

sleeping in a warm, red, golden haze, I only think another lovely

day is lost to him and me; and at morning, when roused by the

flutter and chirp of the sparrows, and the gleeful twitter of the

swallows - all intent upon feeding their young, and full of life

and joy in their own little frames - I open the window to inhale

the balmy, soul-reviving air, and look out upon the lovely

landscape, laughing in dew and sunshine - I too often shame that

glorious scene with tears of thankless misery, because he cannot

feel its freshening influence; and when I wander in the ancient

woods, and meet the little wild flowers smiling in my path, or sit

in the shadow of our noble ash-trees by the water-side, with their

branches gently swaying in the light summer breeze that murmurs

through their feathery foliage - my ears full of that low music

mingled with the dreamy hum of insects, my eyes abstractedly gazing

on the glassy surface of the little lake before me, with the trees

that crowd about its bank, some gracefully bending to kiss its

waters, some rearing their stately heads high above, but stretching

their wide arms over its margin, all faithfully mirrored far, far

down in its glassy depth - though sometimes the images are

partially broken by the sport of aquatic insects, and sometimes,

for a moment, the whole is shivered into trembling fragments by a

transient breeze that sweeps the surface too roughly - still I have

no pleasure; for the greater the happiness that nature sets before

me, the more I lament that he is not here to taste it:  the greater

the bliss we might enjoy together, the more I feel our present

wretchedness apart (yes, ours; he must be wretched, though he may

not know it); and the more my senses are pleased, the more my heart

is oppressed; for he keeps it with him confined amid the dust and

smoke of London - perhaps shut up within the walls of his own

abominable club.



But most of all, at night, when I enter my lonely chamber, and look

out upon the summer moon, 'sweet regent of the sky,' floating above

me in the 'black blue vault of heaven,' shedding a flood of silver

radiance over park, and wood, and water, so pure, so peaceful, so

divine - and think, Where is he now? - what is he doing at this

moment? wholly unconscious of this heavenly scene - perhaps

revelling with his boon companions, perhaps - God help me, it is

too - too much!



23rd. - Thank heaven, he is come at last!  But how altered! flushed

and feverish, listless and languid, his beauty strangely

diminished, his vigour and vivacity quite departed.  I have not

upbraided him by word or look; I have not even asked him what he

has been doing.  I have not the heart to do it, for I think he is

ashamed of himself-he must be so indeed, and such inquiries could

not fail to be painful to both.  My forbearance pleases him -

touches him even, I am inclined to think.  He says he is glad to be

home again, and God knows how glad I am to get him back, even as he

is.  He lies on the sofa, nearly all day long; and I play and sing

to him for hours together.  I write his letters for him, and get

him everything he wants; and sometimes I read to him, and sometimes

I talk, and sometimes only sit by him and soothe him with silent

caresses.  I know he does not deserve it; and I fear I am spoiling

him; but this once, I will forgive him, freely and entirely.  I

will shame him into virtue if I can, and I will never let him leave

me again.



He is pleased with my attentions - it may be, grateful for them.

He likes to have me near him:  and though he is peevish and testy

with his servants and his dogs, he is gentle and kind to me.  What

he would be, if I did not so watchfully anticipate his wants, and

so carefully avoid, or immediately desist from doing anything that

has a tendency to irritate or disturb him, with however little

reason, I cannot tell.  How intensely I wish he were worthy of all

this care!  Last night, as I sat beside him, with his head in my

lap, passing my fingers through his beautiful curls, this thought

made my eyes overflow with sorrowful tears - as it often does; but

this time, a tear fell on his face and made him look up.  He

smiled, but not insultingly.



'Dear Helen!' he said - 'why do you cry? you know that I love you'

(and he pressed my hand to his feverish lips), 'and what more could

you desire?'



'Only, Arthur, that you would love yourself as truly and as

faithfully as you are loved by me.'



'That would be hard, indeed!' he replied, tenderly squeezing my

hand.



August 24th. - Arthur is himself again, as lusty and reckless, as

light of heart and head as ever, and as restless and hard to amuse

as a spoilt child, and almost as full of mischief too, especially

when wet weather keeps him within doors.  I wish he had something

to do, some useful trade, or profession, or employment - anything

to occupy his head or his hands for a few hours a day, and give him

something besides his own pleasure to think about.  If he would

play the country gentleman and attend to the farm - but that he

knows nothing about, and won't give his mind to consider, - or if

he would take up with some literary study, or learn to draw or to

play - as he is so fond of music, I often try to persuade him to

learn the piano, but he is far too idle for such an undertaking:

he has no more idea of exerting himself to overcome obstacles than

he has of restraining his natural appetites; and these two things

are the ruin of him.  I lay them both to the charge of his harsh

yet careless father, and his madly indulgent mother. - If ever I am

a mother I will zealously strive against this crime of over-

indulgence.  I can hardly give it a milder name when I think of the

evils it brings.



Happily, it will soon be the shooting season, and then, if the

weather permit, he will find occupation enough in the pursuit and

destruction of the partridges and pheasants:  we have no grouse, or

he might have been similarly occupied at this moment, instead of

lying under the acacia-tree pulling poor Dash's ears.  But he says

it is dull work shooting alone; he must have a friend or two to

help him.



'Let them be tolerably decent then, Arthur,' said I.  The word

'friend' in his mouth makes me shudder:  I know it was some of his

'friends' that induced him to stay behind me in London, and kept

him away so long:  indeed, from what he has unguardedly told me, or

hinted from time to time, I cannot doubt that he frequently showed

them my letters, to let them see how fondly his wife watched over

his interests, and how keenly she regretted his absence; and that

they induced him to remain week after week, and to plunge into all

manner of excesses, to avoid being laughed at for a wife-ridden

fool, and, perhaps, to show how far he could venture to go without

danger of shaking the fond creature's devoted attachment.  It is a

hateful idea, but I cannot believe it is a false one.



'Well,' replied he, 'I thought of Lord Lowborough for one; but

there is no possibility of getting him without his better half, our

mutual friend, Annabella; so we must ask them both.  You're not

afraid of her, are you, Helen?' he asked, with a mischievous

twinkle in his eyes.



'Of course not,' I answered:  'why should I?  And who besides?'



'Hargrave for one.  He will be glad to come, though his own place

is so near, for he has little enough land of his own to shoot over,

and we can extend our depredations into it, if we like; and he is

thoroughly respectable, you know, Helen - quite a lady's man:  and

I think, Grimsby for another:  he's a decent, quiet fellow enough.

You'll not object to Grimsby?'



'I hate him:  but, however, if you wish it, I'll try to endure his

presence for a while.'



'All a prejudice, Helen, a mere woman's antipathy.'



'No; I have solid grounds for my dislike.  And is that all?'



'Why, yes, I think so.  Hattersley will be too busy billing and

cooing, with his bride to have much time to spare for guns and dogs

at present,' he replied.  And that reminds me, that I have had

several letters from Milicent since her marriage, and that she

either is, or pretends to be, quite reconciled to her lot.  She

professes to have discovered numberless virtues and perfections in

her husband, some of which, I fear, less partial eyes would fail to

distinguish, though they sought them carefully with tears; and now

that she is accustomed to his loud voice, and abrupt, uncourteous

manners, she affirms she finds no difficulty in loving him as a

wife should do, and begs I will burn that letter wherein she spoke

so unadvisedly against him.  So that I trust she may yet be happy;

but, if she is, it will be entirely the reward of her own goodness

of heart; for had she chosen to consider herself the victim of

fate, or of her mother's worldly wisdom, she might have been

thoroughly miserable; and if, for duty's sake, she had not made

every effort to love her husband, she would, doubtless, have hated

him to the end of her days.







CHAPTER XXVI







Sept. 23rd. - Our guests arrived about three weeks ago.  Lord and

Lady Lowborough have now been married above eight months; and I

will do the lady the credit to say that her husband is quite an

altered man; his looks, his spirits, and his temper, are all

perceptibly changed for the better since I last saw him.  But there

is room for improvement still.  He is not always cheerful, nor

always contented, and she often complains of his ill-humour, which,

however, of all persons, she ought to be the last to accuse him of,

as he never displays it against her, except for such conduct as

would provoke a saint.  He adores her still, and would go to the

world's end to please her.  She knows her power, and she uses it

too; but well knowing that to wheedle and coax is safer than to

command, she judiciously tempers her despotism with flattery and

blandishments enough to make him deem himself a favoured and a

happy man.



But she has a way of tormenting him, in which I am a fellow-

sufferer, or might be, if I chose to regard myself as such.  This

is by openly, but not too glaringly, coquetting with Mr.

Huntingdon, who is quite willing to be her partner in the game; but

I don't care for it, because, with him, I know there is nothing but

personal vanity, and a mischievous desire to excite my jealousy,

and, perhaps, to torment his friend; and she, no doubt, is actuated

by much the same motives; only, there is more of malice and less of

playfulness in her manoeuvres.  It is obviously, therefore, my

interest to disappoint them both, as far as I am concerned, by

preserving a cheerful, undisturbed serenity throughout; and,

accordingly, I endeavour to show the fullest confidence in my

husband, and the greatest indifference to the arts of my attractive

guest.  I have never reproached the former but once, and that was

for laughing at Lord Lowborough's depressed and anxious countenance

one evening, when they had both been particularly provoking; and

then, indeed, I said a good deal on the subject, and rebuked him

sternly enough; but he only laughed, and said, - 'You can feel for

him, Helen, can't you?'



'I can feel for anyone that is unjustly treated,' I replied, 'and I

can feel for those that injure them too.'



'Why, Helen, you are as jealous as he is!' cried he, laughing still

more; and I found it impossible to convince him of his mistake.

So, from that time, I have carefully refrained from any notice of

the subject whatever, and left Lord Lowborough to take care of

himself.  He either has not the sense or the power to follow my

example, though he does try to conceal his uneasiness as well as he

can; but still, it will appear in his face, and his ill-humour will

peep out at intervals, though not in the expression of open

resentment - they never go far enough for that.  But I confess I do

feel jealous at times, most painfully, bitterly so; when she sings

and plays to him, and he hangs over the instrument, and dwells upon

her voice with no affected interest; for then I know he is really

delighted, and I have no power to awaken similar fervour.  I can

amuse and please him with my simple songs, but not delight him

thus.



28th. - Yesterday, we all went to the Grove, Mr. Hargrave's much-

neglected home.  His mother frequently asks us over, that she may

have the pleasure of her dear Walter's company; and this time she

had invited us to a dinner-party, and got together as many of the

country gentry as were within reach to meet us.  The entertainment

was very well got up; but I could not help thinking about the cost

of it all the time.  I don't like Mrs. Hargrave; she is a hard,

pretentious, worldly-minded woman.  She has money enough to live

very comfortably, if she only knew how to use it judiciously, and

had taught her son to do the same; but she is ever straining to

keep up appearances, with that despicable pride that shuns the

semblance of poverty as of a shameful crime.  She grinds her

dependents, pinches her servants, and deprives even her daughters

and herself of the real comforts of life, because she will not

consent to yield the palm in outward show to those who have three

times her wealth; and, above all, because she is determined her

cherished son shall be enabled to 'hold up his head with the

highest gentlemen in the land.'  This same son, I imagine, is a man

of expensive habits, no reckless spendthrift and no abandoned

sensualist, but one who likes to have 'everything handsome about

him,' and to go to a certain length in youthful indulgences, not so

much to gratify his own tastes as to maintain his reputation as a

man of fashion in the world, and a respectable fellow among his own

lawless companions; while he is too selfish to consider how many

comforts might be obtained for his fond mother and sisters with the

money he thus wastes upon himself:  as long as they can contrive to

make a respectable appearance once a year, when they come to town,

he gives himself little concern about their private stintings and

struggles at home.  This is a harsh judgment to form of 'dear,

noble-minded, generous-hearted Walter,' but I fear it is too just.



Mrs. Hargrave's anxiety to make good matches for her daughters is

partly the cause, and partly the result, of these errors:  by

making a figure in the world, and showing them off to advantage,

she hopes to obtain better chances for them; and by thus living

beyond her legitimate means, and lavishing so much on their

brother, she renders them portionless, and makes them burdens on

her hands.  Poor Milicent, I fear, has already fallen a sacrifice

to the manoeuvrings of this mistaken mother, who congratulates

herself on having so satisfactorily discharged her maternal duty,

and hopes to do as well for Esther.  But Esther is a child as yet,

a little merry romp of fourteen:  as honest-hearted, and as

guileless and simple as her sister, but with a fearless spirit of

her own, that I fancy her mother will find some difficulty in

bending to her purposes.







CHAPTER XXVII







October 9th. - It was on the night of the 4th, a little after tea,

that Annabella had been singing and playing, with Arthur as usual

at her side:  she had ended her song, but still she sat at the

instrument; and he stood leaning on the back of her chair,

conversing in scarcely audible tones, with his face in very close

proximity with hers.  I looked at Lord Lowborough.  He was at the

other end of the room, talking with Messrs. Hargrave and Grimsby;

but I saw him dart towards his lady and his host a quick, impatient

glance, expressive of intense disquietude, at which Grimsby smiled.

Determined to interrupt the TETE-E-TETE, I rose, and, selecting a

piece of music from the music stand, stepped up to the piano,

intending to ask the lady to play it; but I stood transfixed and

speechless on seeing her seated there, listening, with what seemed

an exultant smile on her flushed face to his soft murmurings, with

her hand quietly surrendered to his clasp.  The blood rushed first

to my heart, and then to my head; for there was more than this:

almost at the moment of my approach, he cast a hurried glance over

his shoulder towards the other occupants of the room, and then

ardently pressed the unresisting hand to his lips.  On raising his

eyes, he beheld me, and dropped them again, confounded and

dismayed.  She saw me too, and confronted me with a look of hard

defiance.  I laid the music on the piano, and retired.  I felt ill;

but I did not leave the room:  happily, it was getting late, and

could not be long before the company dispersed.



I went to the fire, and leant my head against the chimney-piece.

In a minute or two, some one asked me if I felt unwell.  I did not

answer; indeed, at the time, I knew not what was said; but I

mechanically looked up, and saw Mr. Hargrave standing beside me on

the rug.



'Shall I get you a glass of wine?' said he.



'No, thank you,' I replied; and, turning from him, I looked round.

Lady Lowborough was beside her husband, bending over him as he sat,

with her hand on his shoulder, softly talking and smiling in his

face; and Arthur was at the table, turning over a book of

engravings.  I seated myself in the nearest chair; and Mr.

Hargrave, finding his services were not desired, judiciously

withdrew.  Shortly after, the company broke up, and, as the guests

were retiring to their rooms, Arthur approached me, smiling with

the utmost assurance.



'Are you very angry, Helen?' murmured he.



'This is no jest, Arthur,' said I, seriously, but as calmly as I

could - 'unless you think it a jest to lose my affection for ever.'



'What! so bitter?' he exclaimed, laughingly, clasping my hand

between both his; but I snatched it away, in indignation - almost

in disgust, for he was obviously affected with wine.



'Then I must go down on my knees,' said he; and kneeling before me,

with clasped hands, uplifted in mock humiliation, he continued

imploringly - 'Forgive me, Helen - dear Helen, forgive me, and I'll

never do it again!' and, burying his face in his handkerchief, he

affected to sob aloud.



Leaving him thus employed, I took my candle, and, slipping quietly

from the room, hastened up-stairs as fast as I could.  But he soon

discovered that I had left him, and, rushing up after me, caught me

in his arms, just as I had entered the chamber, and was about to

shut the door in his face.



'No, no, by heaven, you sha'n't escape me so!' he cried.  Then,

alarmed at my agitation, he begged me not to put myself in such a

passion, telling me I was white in the face, and should kill myself

if I did so.



'Let me go, then,' I murmured; and immediately he released me - and

it was well he did, for I was really in a passion.  I sank into the

easy-chair and endeavoured to compose myself, for I wanted to speak

to him calmly.  He stood beside me, but did not venture to touch me

or to speak for a few seconds; then, approaching a little nearer,

he dropped on one knee - not in mock humility, but to bring himself

nearer my level, and leaning his hand on the arm of the chair, he

began in a low voice:  'It is all nonsense, Helen - a jest, a mere

nothing - not worth a thought.  Will you never learn,' he continued

more boldly, 'that you have nothing to fear from me? that I love

you wholly and entirely? - or if,' he added with a lurking smile,

'I ever give a thought to another, you may well spare it, for those

fancies are here and gone like a flash of lightning, while my love

for you burns on steadily, and for ever, like the sun.  You little

exorbitant tyrant, will not that -?'



'Be quiet a moment, will you, Arthur?' said I, 'and listen to me -

and don't think I'm in a jealous fury:  I am perfectly calm.  Feel

my hand.'  And I gravely extended it towards him - but closed it

upon his with an energy that seemed to disprove the assertion, and

made him smile.  'You needn't smile, sir,' said I, still tightening

my grasp, and looking steadfastly on him till he almost quailed

before me.  'You may think it all very fine, Mr. Huntingdon, to

amuse yourself with rousing my jealousy; but take care you don't

rouse my hate instead.  And when you have once extinguished my

love, you will find it no easy matter to kindle it again.'



'Well, Helen, I won't repeat the offence.  But I meant nothing by

it, I assure you.  I had taken too much wine, and I was scarcely

myself at the time.'



'You often take too much; and that is another practice I detest.'

He looked up astonished at my warmth.  'Yes,' I continued; 'I never

mentioned it before, because I was ashamed to do so; but now I'll

tell you that it distresses me, and may disgust me, if you go on

and suffer the habit to grow upon you, as it will if you don't

check it in time.  But the whole system of your conduct to Lady

Lowborough is not referable to wine; and this night you knew

perfectly well what you were doing.'



'Well, I'm sorry for it,' replied he, with more of sulkiness than

contrition:  'what more would you have?'



'You are sorry that I saw you, no doubt,' I answered coldly.



'If you had not seen me,' he muttered, fixing his eyes on the

carpet, 'it would have done no harm.'



My heart felt ready to burst; but I resolutely swallowed back my

emotion, and answered calmly,



'You think not?'



'No,' replied he, boldly.  'After all, what have I done?  It's

nothing - except as you choose to make it a subject of accusation

and distress.'



'What would Lord Lowborough, your friend, think, if he knew all? or

what would you yourself think, if he or any other had acted the

same part to me, throughout, as you have to Annabella?'



'I would blow his brains out.'



'Well, then, Arthur, how can you call it nothing - an offence for

which you would think yourself justified in blowing another man's

brains out?  Is it nothing to trifle with your friend's feelings

and mine - to endeavour to steal a woman's affections from her

husband - what he values more than his gold, and therefore what it

is more dishonest to take?  Are the marriage vows a jest; and is it

nothing to make it your sport to break them, and to tempt another

to do the same?  Can I love a man that does such things, and coolly

maintains it is nothing?'



'You are breaking your marriage vows yourself,' said he,

indignantly rising and pacing to and fro.  'You promised to honour

and obey me, and now you attempt to hector over me, and threaten

and accuse me, and call me worse than a highwayman.  If it were not

for your situation, Helen, I would not submit to it so tamely.  I

won't be dictated to by a woman, though she be my wife.'



'What will you do then?  Will you go on till I hate you, and then

accuse me of breaking my vows?'



He was silent a. moment, and then replied:  'You never will hate

me.'  Returning and resuming his former position at my feet, he

repeated more vehemently - 'You cannot hate me as long as I love

you.'



'But how can I believe that you love me, if you continue to act in

this way?  Just imagine yourself in my place:  would you think I

loved you, if I did so?  Would you believe my protestations, and

honour and trust me under such circumstances? '



'The cases are different,' he replied.  'It is a woman's nature to

be constant - to love one and one only, blindly, tenderly, and for

ever - bless them, dear creatures! and you above them all; but you

must have some commiseration for us, Helen; you must give us a

little more licence, for, as Shakespeare has it -





However we do praise ourselves,

Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm,

More longing, wavering, sooner lost and won

Than women's are.'





'Do you mean by that, that your fancies are lost to me, and won by

Lady Lowborough?'



'No! heaven is my witness that I think her mere dust and ashes in

comparison with you, and shall continue to think so, unless you

drive me from you by too much severity.  She is a daughter of

earth; you are an angel of heaven; only be not too austere in your

divinity, and remember that I am a poor, fallible mortal.  Come

now, Helen; won't you forgive me?' he said, gently taking my hand,

and looking up with an innocent smile.



'If I do, you will repeat the offence.'



'I swear by - '



'Don't swear; I'll believe your word as well as your oath.  I wish

I could have confidence in either.'



'Try me, then, Helen:  only trust and pardon me this once, and you

shall see!  Come, I am in hell's torments till you speak the word.'



I did not speak it, but I put my hand on his shoulder and kissed

his forehead, and then burst into tears.  He embraced me tenderly;

and we have been good friends ever since.  He has been decently

temperate at table, and well-conducted towards Lady Lowborough.

The first day he held himself aloof from her, as far as he could

without any flagrant breach of hospitality:  since that he has been

friendly and civil, but nothing more - in my presence, at least,

nor, I think, at any other time; for she seems haughty and

displeased, and Lord Lowborough is manifestly more cheerful, and

more cordial towards his host than before.  But I shall be glad

when they are gone, for I have so little love for Annabella that it

is quite a task to be civil to her, and as she is the only woman

here besides myself, we are necessarily thrown so much together.

Next time Mrs. Hargrave calls I shall hail her advent as quite a

relief.  I have a good mind to ask Arthur's leave to invite the old

lady to stay with us till our guests depart.  I think I will.  She

will take it as a kind attention, and, though I have little relish

for her society, she will be truly welcome as a third to stand

between Lady Lowborough and me.



The first time the latter and I were alone together, after that

unhappy evening, was an hour or two after breakfast on the

following day, when the gentlemen were gone out, after the usual

time spent in the writing of letters, the reading of newspapers,

and desultory conversation.  We sat silent for two or three

minutes.  She was busy with her work, and I was running over the

columns of a paper from which I had extracted all the pith some

twenty minutes before.  It was a moment of painful embarrassment to

me, and I thought it must be infinitely more so to her; but it

seems I was mistaken.  She was the first to speak; and, smiling

with the coolest assurance, she began, -



'Your husband was merry last night, Helen:  is he often so?'



My blood boiled in my face; but it was better she should seem to

attribute his conduct to this than to anything else.



'No,' replied I, 'and never will be so again, I trust.'



'You gave him a curtain lecture, did you?'



'No! but I told him I disliked such conduct, and he promised me not

to repeat it.'



'I thought he looked rather subdued this morning,' she continued;

'and you, Helen? you've been weeping, I see - that's our grand

resource, you know.  But doesn't it make your eyes smart? and do

you always find it to answer?'



'I never cry for effect; nor can I conceive how any one can.'



'Well, I don't know:  I never had occasion to try it; but I think

if Lowborough were to commit such improprieties, I'd make him cry.

I don't wonder at your being angry, for I'm sure I'd give my

husband a lesson he would not soon forget for a lighter offence

than that.  But then he never will do anything of the kind; for I

keep him in too good order for that.'



'Are you sure you don't arrogate too much of the credit to

yourself.  Lord Lowborough was quite as remarkable for his

abstemiousness for some time before you married him, as he is now,

I have heard.'



'Oh, about the wine you mean - yes, he's safe enough for that.  And

as to looking askance to another woman, he's safe enough for that

too, while I live, for he worships the very ground I tread on.'



'Indeed! and are you sure you deserve it?'



'Why, as to that, I can't say:  you know we're all fallible

creatures, Helen; we none of us deserve to be worshipped.  But are

you sure your darling Huntingdon deserves all the love you give to

him?'



I knew not what to answer to this.  I was burning with anger; but I

suppressed all outward manifestations of it, and only bit my lip

and pretended to arrange my work.



'At any rate,' resumed she, pursuing her advantage, 'you can

console yourself with the assurance that you are worthy of all the

love he gives to you.'



'You flatter me,' said I; 'but, at least, I can try to be worthy of

it.'  And then I turned the conversation.







CHAPTER XXVIII







December 25th. - Last Christmas I was a bride, with a heart

overflowing with present bliss, and full of ardent hopes for the

future, though not unmingled with foreboding fears.  Now I am a

wife:  my bliss is sobered, but not destroyed; my hopes diminished,

but not departed; my fears increased, but not yet thoroughly

confirmed; and, thank heaven, I am a mother too.  God has sent me a

soul to educate for heaven, and give me a new and calmer bliss, and

stronger hopes to comfort me.



Dec. 25th, 1823. - Another year is gone.  My little Arthur lives

and thrives.  He is healthy, but not robust, full of gentle

playfulness and vivacity, already affectionate, and susceptible of

passions and emotions it will be long ere he can find words to

express.  He has won his father's heart at last; and now my

constant terror is, lest he should be ruined by that father's

thoughtless indulgence.  But I must beware of my own weakness too,

for I never knew till now how strong are a parent's temptations to

spoil an only child.



I have need of consolation in my son, for (to this silent paper I

may confess it) I have but little in my husband.  I love him still;

and he loves me, in his own way - but oh, how different from the

love I could have given, and once had hoped to receive!  How little

real sympathy there exists between us; how many of my thoughts and

feelings are gloomily cloistered within my own mind; how much of my

higher and better self is indeed unmarried - doomed either to

harden and sour in the sunless shade of solitude, or to quite

degenerate and fall away for lack of nutriment in this unwholesome

soil!  But, I repeat, I have no right to complain; only let me

state the truth - some of the truth, at least, - and see hereafter

if any darker truths will blot these pages.  We have now been full

two years united; the 'romance' of our attachment must be worn

away.  Surely I have now got down to the lowest gradation in

Arthur's affection, and discovered all the evils of his nature:  if

there be any further change, it must be for the better, as we

become still more accustomed to each other; surely we shall find no

lower depth than this.  And, if so, I can bear it well - as well,

at least, as I have borne it hitherto.



Arthur is not what is commonly called a bad man:  he has many good

qualities; but he is a man without self-restraint or lofty

aspirations, a lover of pleasure, given up to animal enjoyments:

he is not a bad husband, but his notions of matrimonial duties and

comforts are not my notions.  Judging from appearances, his idea of

a wife is a thing to love one devotedly, and to stay at home to

wait upon her husband, and amuse him and minister to his comfort in

every possible way, while he chooses to stay with her; and, when he

is absent, to attend to his interests, domestic or otherwise, and

patiently wait his return, no matter how he may be occupied in the

meantime.



Early in spring he announced his intention of going to London:  his

affairs there demanded his attendance, he said, and he could refuse

it no longer.  He expressed his regret at having to leave me, but

hoped I would amuse myself with the baby till he returned.



'But why leave me?' I said.  'I can go with you:  I can be ready at

any time.'



'You would not take that child to town?'



'Yes; why not?'



The thing was absurd:  the air of the town would be certain to

disagree with him, and with me as a nurse; the late hours and

London habits would not suit me under such circumstances; and

altogether he assured me that it would be excessively troublesome,

injurious, and unsafe.  I over-ruled his objections as well as I

could, for I trembled at the thoughts of his going alone, and would

sacrifice almost anything for myself, much even for my child, to

prevent it; but at length he told me, plainly, and somewhat

testily, that he could not do with me:  he was worn out with the

baby's restless nights, and must have some repose.  I proposed

separate apartments; but it would not do.



'The truth is, Arthur,' I said at last, 'you are weary of my

company, and determined not to have me with you.  You might as well

have said so at once.'



He denied it; but I immediately left the room, and flew to the

nursery, to hide my feelings, if I could not soothe them, there.



I was too much hurt to express any further dissatisfaction with his

plans, or at all to refer to the subject again, except for the

necessary arrangements concerning his departure and the conduct of

affairs during his absence, till the day before he went, when I

earnestly exhorted him to take care of himself and keep out of the

way of temptation.  He laughed at my anxiety, but assured me there

was no cause for it, and promised to attend to my advice.



'I suppose it is no use asking you to fix a day for your return?'

said I.



'Why, no; I hardly can, under the circumstances; but be assured,

love, I shall not be long away.'



'I don't wish to keep you a prisoner at home,' I replied; 'I should

not grumble at your staying whole months away - if you can be happy

so long without me - provided I knew you were safe; but I don't

like the idea of your being there among your friends, as you call

them.'



'Pooh, pooh, you silly girl!  Do you think I can't take care of

myself?'



'You didn't last time.  But THIS time, Arthur,' I added, earnestly,

'show me that you can, and teach me that I need not fear to trust

you!'



He promised fair, but in such a manner as we seek to soothe a

child.  And did he keep his promise?  No; and henceforth I can

never trust his word.  Bitter, bitter confession!  Tears blind me

while I write.  It was early in March that he went, and he did not

return till July.  This time he did not trouble himself to make

excuses as before, and his letters were less frequent, and shorter

and less affectionate, especially after the first few weeks:  they

came slower and slower, and more terse and careless every time.

But still, when I omitted writing, he complained of my neglect.

When I wrote sternly and coldly, as I confess I frequently did at

the last, he blamed my harshness, and said it was enough to scare

him from his home:  when I tried mild persuasion, he was a little

more gentle in his replies, and promised to return; but I had

learnt, at last, to disregard his promises.







CHAPTER XXIX







Those were four miserable months, alternating between intense

anxiety, despair, and indignation, pity for him and pity for

myself.  And yet, through all, I was not wholly comfortless:  I had

my darling, sinless, inoffensive little one to console me; but even

this consolation was embittered by the constantly-recurring

thought, 'How shall I teach him hereafter to respect his father,

and yet to avoid his example?'



But I remembered that I had brought all these afflictions, in a

manner wilfully, upon myself; and I determined to bear them without

a murmur.  At the same time I resolved not to give myself up to

misery for the transgressions of another, and endeavoured to divert

myself as much as I could; and besides the companionship of my

child, and my dear, faithful Rachel, who evidently guessed my

sorrows and felt for them, though she was too discreet to allude to

them, I had my books and pencil, my domestic affairs, and the

welfare and comfort of Arthur's poor tenants and labourers to

attend to:  and I sometimes sought and obtained amusement in the

company of my young friend Esther Hargrave:  occasionally I rode

over to see her, and once or twice I had her to spend the day with

me at the Manor.  Mrs. Hargrave did not visit London that season:

having no daughter to marry, she thought it as well to stay at home

and economise; and, for a wonder, Walter came down to join her in

the beginning of June, and stayed till near the close of August.



The first time I saw him was on a sweet, warm evening, when I was

sauntering in the park with little Arthur and Rachel, who is head-

nurse and lady's-maid in one - for, with my secluded life and

tolerably active habits, I require but little attendance, and as

she had nursed me and coveted to nurse my child, and was moreover

so very trustworthy, I preferred committing the important charge to

her, with a young nursery-maid under her directions, to engaging

any one else:  besides, it saves money; and since I have made

acquaintance with Arthur's affairs, I have learnt to regard that as

no trifling recommendation; for, by my own desire, nearly the whole

of the income of my fortune is devoted, for years to come, to the

paying off of his debts, and the money he contrives to squander

away in London is incomprehensible.  But to return to Mr. Hargrave.

I was standing with Rachel beside the water, amusing the laughing

baby in her arms with a twig of willow laden with golden catkins,

when, greatly to my surprise, he entered the park, mounted on his

costly black hunter, and crossed over the grass to meet me.  He

saluted me with a very fine compliment, delicately worded, and

modestly delivered withal, which he had doubtless concocted as he

rode along.  He told me he had brought a message from his mother,

who, as he was riding that way, had desired him to call at the

Manor and beg the pleasure of my company to a friendly family

dinner to-morrow.



'There is no one to meet but ourselves,' said he; 'but Esther is

very anxious to see you; and my mother fears you will feel solitary

in this great house so much alone, and wishes she could persuade

you to give her the pleasure of your company more frequently, and

make yourself at home in our more humble dwelling, till Mr.

Huntingdon's return shall render this a little more conducive to

your comfort.'



'She is very kind,' I answered, 'but I am not alone, you see; - and

those whose time is fully occupied seldom complain of solitude.'



'Will you not come to-morrow, then?  She will be sadly disappointed

if you refuse.'



I did not relish being thus compassionated for my loneliness; but,

however, I promised to come.



'What a sweet evening this is!' observed he, looking round upon the

sunny park, with its imposing swell and slope, its placid water,

and majestic clumps of trees.  'And what a paradise you live in!'



'It is a lovely evening,' answered I; and I sighed to think how

little I had felt its loveliness, and how little of a paradise

sweet Grassdale was to me - how still less to the voluntary exile

from its scenes.  Whether Mr. Hargrave divined my thoughts, I

cannot tell, but, with a half-hesitating, sympathising seriousness

of tone and manner, he asked if I had lately heard from Mr.

Huntingdon.



'Not lately,' I replied.



'I thought not,' he muttered, as if to himself, looking

thoughtfully on the ground.



'Are you not lately returned from London?' I asked.



'Only yesterday.'



'And did you see him there?'



'Yes - I saw him.'



'Was he well?'



'Yes - that is,' said he, with increasing hesitation and an

appearance of suppressed indignation, 'he was as well as - as he

deserved to be, but under circumstances I should have deemed

incredible for a man so favoured as he is.'  He here looked up and

pointed the sentence with a serious bow to me.  I suppose my face

was crimson.



'Pardon me, Mrs. Huntingdon,' he continued, 'but I cannot suppress

my indignation when I behold such infatuated blindness and

perversion of taste; - but, perhaps, you are not aware - '  He

paused.



'I am aware of nothing, sir - except that he delays his coming

longer than I expected; and if, at present, he prefers the society

of his friends to that of his wife, and the dissipations of the

town to the quiet of country life, I suppose I have those friends

to thank for it.  Their tastes and occupations are similar to his,

and I don't see why his conduct should awaken either their

indignation or surprise.'



'You wrong me cruelly,' answered he.  'I have shared but little of

Mr. Huntingdon's society for the last few weeks; and as for his

tastes and occupations, they are quite beyond me - lonely wanderer

as I am.  Where I have but sipped and tasted, he drains the cup to

the dregs; and if ever for a moment I have sought to drown the

voice of reflection in madness and folly, or if I have wasted too

much of my time and talents among reckless and dissipated

companions, God knows I would gladly renounce them entirely and for

ever, if I had but half the blessings that man so thanklessly casts

behind his back - but half the inducements to virtue and domestic,

orderly habits that he despises - but such a home, and such a

partner to share it!  It is infamous!' he muttered, between his

teeth.  'And don't think, Mrs. Huntingdon,' he added aloud, 'that I

could be guilty of inciting him to persevere in his present

pursuits:  on the contrary, I have remonstrated with him again and

again; I have frequently expressed my surprise at his conduct, and

reminded him of his duties and his privileges - but to no purpose;

he only - '



'Enough, Mr. Hargrave; you ought to be aware that whatever my

husband's faults may be, it can only aggravate the evil for me to

hear them from a stranger's lips.'



'Am I then a stranger?' said he in a sorrowful tone.  'I am your

nearest neighbour, your son's godfather, and your husband's friend;

may I not be yours also?'



'Intimate acquaintance must precede real friendship; I know but

little of you, Mr. Hargrave, except from report.'



'Have you then forgotten the six or seven weeks I spent under your

roof last autumn?  I have not forgotten them.  And I know enough of

you, Mrs. Huntingdon, to think that your husband is the most

enviable man in the world, and I should be the next if you would

deem me worthy of your friendship.'



'If you knew more of me, you would not think it, or if you did you

would not say it, and expect me to be flattered by the compliment.'



I stepped backward as I spoke.  He saw that I wished the

conversation to end; and immediately taking the hint, he gravely

bowed, wished me good-evening, and turned his horse towards the

road.  He appeared grieved and hurt at my unkind reception of his

sympathising overtures.  I was not sure that I had done right in

speaking so harshly to him; but, at the time, I had felt irritated

- almost insulted by his conduct; it seemed as if he was presuming

upon the absence and neglect of my husband, and insinuating even

more than the truth against him.



Rachel had moved on, during our conversation, to some yards'

distance.  He rode up to her, and asked to see the child.  He took

it carefully into his arms, looked upon it with an almost paternal

smile, and I heard him say, as I approached, -



'And this, too, he has forsaken!'



He then tenderly kissed it, and restored it to the gratified nurse.



'Are you fond of children, Mr. Hargrave?' said I, a little softened

towards him.



'Not in general,' he replied, 'but that is such a sweet child, and

so like its mother,' he added in a lower tone.



'You are mistaken there; it is its father it resembles.'



'Am I not right, nurse?' said he, appealing to Rachel.



'I think, sir, there's a bit of both,' she replied.



He departed; and Rachel pronounced him a very nice gentleman.  I

had still my doubts on the subject.



In the course of the following six weeks I met him several times,

but always, save once, in company with his mother, or his sister,

or both.  When I called on them, he always happened to be at home,

and, when they called on me, it was always he that drove them over

in the phaeton.  His mother, evidently, was quite delighted with

his dutiful attentions and newly-acquired domestic habits.



The time that I met him alone was on a bright, but not oppressively

hot day, in the beginning of July:  I had taken little Arthur into

the wood that skirts the park, and there seated him on the moss-

cushioned roots of an old oak; and, having gathered a handful of

bluebells and wild-roses, I was kneeling before him, and presenting

them, one by one, to the grasp of his tiny fingers; enjoying the

heavenly beauty of the flowers, through the medium of his smiling

eyes:  forgetting, for the moment, all my cares, laughing at his

gleeful laughter, and delighting myself with his delight, - when a

shadow suddenly eclipsed the little space of sunshine on the grass

before us; and looking up, I beheld Walter Hargrave standing and

gazing upon us.



'Excuse me, Mrs. Huntingdon,' said he, 'but I was spell-bound; I

had neither the power to come forward and interrupt you, nor to

withdraw from the contemplation of such a scene.  How vigorous my

little godson grows! and how merry he is this morning!'  He

approached the child, and stooped to take his hand; but, on seeing

that his caresses were likely to produce tears and lamentations,

instead of a reciprocation of friendly demonstrations, he prudently

drew back.



'What a pleasure and comfort that little creature must be to you,

Mrs. Huntingdon!' he observed, with a touch of sadness in his

intonation, as he admiringly contemplated the infant.



'It is,' replied I; and then I asked after his mother and sister.



He politely answered my inquiries, and then returned again to the

subject I wished to avoid; though with a degree of timidity that

witnessed his fear to offend.



'You have not heard from Huntingdon lately?' he said.



'Not this week,' I replied.  Not these three weeks, I might have

said.



'I had a letter from him this morning.  I wish it were such a one

as I could show to his lady.'  He half drew from his waistcoat-

pocket a letter with Arthur's still beloved hand on the address,

scowled at it, and put it back again, adding - 'But he tells me he

is about to return next week.'



'He tells me so every time he writes.'



'Indeed! well, it is like him.  But to me he always avowed it his

intention to stay till the present month.'



It struck me like a blow, this proof of premeditated transgression

and systematic disregard of truth.



'It is only of a piece with the rest of his conduct,' observed Mr.

Hargrave, thoughtfully regarding me, and reading, I suppose, my

feelings in my face.



'Then he is really coming next week?' said I, after a pause.



'You may rely upon it, if the assurance can give you any pleasure.

And is it possible, Mrs. Huntingdon, that you can rejoice at his

return?' he exclaimed, attentively perusing my features again.



'Of course, Mr. Hargrave; is he not my husband?'



'Oh, Huntingdon; you know not what you slight!' he passionately

murmured.



I took up my baby, and, wishing him good-morning, departed, to

indulge my thoughts unscrutinized, within the sanctum of my home.



And was I glad?  Yes, delighted; though I was angered by Arthur's

conduct, and though I felt that he had wronged me, and was

determined he should feel it too.







CHAPTER XXX







On the following morning I received a few lines from him myself,

confirming Hargrave's intimations respecting his approaching

return.  And he did come next week, but in a condition of body and

mind even worse than before.  I did not, however, intend to pass

over his derelictions this time without a remark; I found it would

not do.  But the first day he was weary with his journey, and I was

glad to get him back:  I would not upbraid him then; I would wait

till to-morrow.  Next morning he was weary still:  I would wait a

little longer.  But at dinner, when, after breakfasting at twelve

o'clock on a bottle of soda-water and a cup of strong coffee, and

lunching at two on another bottle of soda-water mingled with

brandy, he was finding fault with everything on the table, and

declaring we must change our cook, I thought the time was come.



'It is the same cook as we had before you went, Arthur,' said I.

'You were generally pretty well satisfied with her then.'



'You must have been letting her get into slovenly habits, then,

while I was away.  It is enough to poison one, eating such a

disgusting mess!'  And he pettishly pushed away his plate, and

leant back despairingly in his chair.



'I think it is you that are changed, not she,' said I, but with the

utmost gentleness, for I did not wish to irritate him.



'It may be so,' he replied carelessly, as he seized a tumbler of

wine and water, adding, when he had tossed it off, 'for I have an

infernal fire in my veins, that all the waters of the ocean cannot

quench!'



'What kindled it?' I was about to ask, but at that moment the

butler entered and began to take away the things.



'Be quick, Benson; do have done with that infernal clatter!' cried

his master.  'And don't bring the cheese, unless you want to make

me sick outright!'



Benson, in some surprise, removed the cheese, and did his best to

effect a quiet and speedy clearance of the rest; but,

unfortunately, there was a rumple in the carpet, caused by the

hasty pushing back of his master's chair, at which he tripped and

stumbled, causing a rather alarming concussion with the trayful of

crockery in his hands, but no positive damage, save the fall and

breaking of a sauce tureen; but, to my unspeakable shame and

dismay, Arthur turned furiously around upon him, and swore at him

with savage coarseness.  The poor man turned pale, and visibly

trembled as he stooped to pick up the fragments.



'He couldn't help it, Arthur,' said I; 'the carpet caught his foot,

and there's no great harm done.  Never mind the pieces now, Benson;

you can clear them away afterwards.'



Glad to be released, Benson expeditiously set out the dessert and

withdrew.



'What could you mean, Helen, by taking the servant's part against

me,' said Arthur, as soon as the door was closed, 'when you knew I

was distracted?'



'I did not know you were distracted, Arthur:  and the poor man was

quite frightened and hurt at your sudden explosion.'



'Poor man, indeed! and do you think I could stop to consider the

feelings of an insensate brute like that, when my own nerves were

racked and torn to pieces by his confounded blunders?'



'I never heard you complain of your nerves before.'



'And why shouldn't I have nerves as well as you?'



'Oh, I don't dispute your claim to their possession, but I never

complain of mine.'



'No, how should you, when you never do anything to try them?'



'Then why do you try yours, Arthur?'



'Do you think I have nothing to do but to stay at home and take

care of myself like a woman?'



'Is it impossible, then, to take care of yourself like a man when

you go abroad?  You told me that you could, and would too; and you

promised - '



'Come, come, Helen, don't begin with that nonsense now; I can't

bear it.'



'Can't bear what? - to be reminded of the promises you have

broken?'



'Helen, you are cruel.  If you knew how my heart throbbed, and how

every nerve thrilled through me while you spoke, you would spare

me.  You can pity a dolt of a servant for breaking a dish; but you

have no compassion for me when my head is split in two and all on

fire with this consuming fever.'



He leant his head on his hand, and sighed.  I went to him and put

my hand on his forehead.  It was burning indeed.



'Then come with me into the drawing-room, Arthur; and don't take

any more wine:  you have taken several glasses since dinner, and

eaten next to nothing all the day.  How can that make you better?'



With some coaxing and persuasion, I got him to leave the table.

When the baby was brought I tried to amuse him with that; but poor

little Arthur was cutting his teeth, and his father could not bear

his complaints:  sentence of immediate banishment was passed upon

him on the first indication of fretfulness; and because, in the

course of the evening, I went to share his exile for a little

while, I was reproached, on my return, for preferring my child to

my husband.  I found the latter reclining on the sofa just as I had

left him.



'Well!' exclaimed the injured man, in a tone of pseudo-resignation.

'I thought I wouldn't send for you; I thought I'd just see how long

it would please you to leave me alone.'



'I have not been very long, have I, Arthur?  I have not been an

hour, I'm sure.'



'Oh, of course, an hour is nothing to you, so pleasantly employed;

but to me - '



'It has not been pleasantly employed,' interrupted I.  'I have been

nursing our poor little baby, who is very far from well, and I

could not leave him till I got him to sleep.'



'Oh, to be sure, you're overflowing with kindness and pity for

everything but me.'



'And why should I pity you?  What is the matter with you?'



'Well! that passes everything!  After all the wear and tear that

I've had, when I come home sick and weary, longing for comfort, and

expecting to find attention and kindness, at least from my wife,

she calmly asks what is the matter with me!'



'There is nothing the matter with you,' returned I, 'except what

you have wilfully brought upon yourself, against my earnest

exhortation and entreaty.'



'Now, Helen,' said he emphatically, half rising from his recumbent

posture, 'if you bother me with another word, I'll ring the bell

and order six bottles of wine, and, by heaven, I'll drink them dry

before I stir from this place!'



I said no more, but sat down before the table and drew a book

towards me.



'Do let me have quietness at least!' continued he, 'if you deny me

every other comfort;' and sinking back into his former position,

with an impatient expiration between a sigh and a groan, he

languidly closed his eyes, as if to sleep.



What the book was that lay open on the table before me, I cannot

tell, for I never looked at it.  With an elbow on each side of it,

and my hands clasped before my eyes, I delivered myself up to

silent weeping.  But Arthur was not asleep:  at the first slight

sob, he raised his head and looked round, impatiently exclaiming,

'What are you crying for, Helen?  What the deuce is the matter

now?'



'I'm crying for you, Arthur,' I replied, speedily drying my tears;

and starting up, I threw myself on my knees before him, and

clasping his nerveless hand between my own, continued:  'Don't you

know that you are a part of myself?  And do you think you can

injure and degrade yourself, and I not feel it?'



'Degrade myself, Helen?'



'Yes, degrade!  What have you been doing all this time?'



'You'd better not ask,' said he, with a faint smile.



'And you had better not tell; but you cannot deny that you have

degraded yourself miserably.  You have shamefully wronged yourself,

body and soul, and me too; and I can't endure it quietly, and I

won't!'



'Well, don't squeeze my hand so frantically, and don't agitate me

so, for heaven's sake!  Oh, Hattersley! you were right:  this woman

will be the death of me, with her keen feelings and her interesting

force of character.  There, there, do spare me a little.'



'Arthur, you must repent!' cried I, in a frenzy of desperation,

throwing my arms around him and burying my face in his bosom.  'You

shall say you are sorry for what you have done!'



'Well, well, I am.'



'You are not! you'll do it again.'



'I shall never live to do it again if you treat me so savagely,'

replied he, pushing me from him.  'You've nearly squeezed the

breath out of my body.'  He pressed his hand to his heart, and

looked really agitated and ill.



'Now get me a glass of wine,' said he, 'to remedy what you've done,

you she tiger!  I'm almost ready to faint.'



I flew to get the required remedy.  It seemed to revive him

considerably.



'What a shame it is,' said I, as I took the empty glass from his

hand, 'for a strong young man like you to reduce yourself to such a

state!'



'If you knew all, my girl, you'd say rather, "What a wonder it is

you can bear it so well as you do!"  I've lived more in these four

months, Helen, than you have in the whole course of your existence,

or will to the end of your days, if they numbered a hundred years;

so I must expect to pay for it in some shape.'



'You will have to pay a higher price than you anticipate, if you

don't take care:  there will be the total loss of your own health,

and of my affection too, if that is of any value to you.'



'What! you're at that game of threatening me with the loss of your

affection again, are you?  I think it couldn't have been very

genuine stuff to begin with, if it's so easily demolished.  If you

don't mind, my pretty tyrant, you'll make me regret my choice in

good earnest, and envy my friend Hattersley his meek little wife:

she's quite a pattern to her sex, Helen.  He had her with him in

London all the season, and she was no trouble at all.  He might

amuse himself just as he pleased, in regular bachelor style, and

she never complained of neglect; he might come home at any hour of

the night or morning, or not come home at all; be sullen, sober, or

glorious drunk; and play the fool or the madman to his own heart's

desire, without any fear or botheration.  She never gives him a

word of reproach or complaint, do what he will.  He says there's

not such a jewel in all England, and swears he wouldn't take a

kingdom for her.'



'But he makes her life a curse to her.'



'Not he!  She has no will but his, and is always contented and

happy as long as he is enjoying himself.'



'In that case she is as great a fool as he is; but it is not so.  I

have several letters from her, expressing the greatest anxiety

about his proceedings, and complaining that you incite him to

commit those extravagances - one especially, in which she implores

me to use my influence with you to get you away from London, and

affirms that her husband never did such things before you came, and

would certainly discontinue them as soon as you departed and left

him to the guidance of his own good sense.'



'The detestable little traitor!  Give me the letter, and he shall

see it as sure as I'm a living man.'



'No, he shall not see it without her consent; but if he did, there

is nothing there to anger him, nor in any of the others.  She never

speaks a word against him:  it is only anxiety for him that she

expresses.  She only alludes to his conduct in the most delicate

terms, and makes every excuse for him that she can possibly think

of; and as for her own misery, I rather feel it than see it

expressed in her letters.'



'But she abuses me; and no doubt you helped her.'



'No; I told her she over-rated my influence with you, that I would

gladly draw you away from the temptations of the town if I could,

but had little hope of success, and that I thought she was wrong in

supposing that you enticed Mr. Hattersley or any one else into

error.  I had myself held the contrary opinion at one time, but I

now believed that you mutually corrupted each other; and, perhaps,

if she used a little gentle but serious remonstrance with her

husband, it might be of some service; as, though he was more rough-

hewn than mine, I believed he was of a less impenetrable material.'



'And so that is the way you go on - heartening each other up to

mutiny, and abusing each other's partners, and throwing out

implications against your own, to the mutual gratification of

both!'



'According to your own account,' said I, 'my evil counsel has had

but little effect upon her.  And as to abuse and aspersions, we are

both of us far too deeply ashamed of the errors and vices of our

other halves, to make them the common subject of our

correspondence.  Friends as we are, we would willingly keep your

failings to ourselves - even from ourselves if we could, unless by

knowing them we could deliver you from them.'



'Well, well! don't worry me about them:  you'll never effect any

good by that.  Have patience with me, and bear with my languor and

crossness a little while, till I get this cursed low fever out of

my veins, and then you'll find me cheerful and kind as ever.  Why

can't you be gentle and good, as you were last time? - I'm sure I

was very grateful for it.'



'And what good did your gratitude do?  I deluded myself with the

idea that you were ashamed of your transgressions, and hoped you

would never repeat them again; but now you have left me nothing to

hope!'



'My case is quite desperate, is it?  A very blessed consideration,

if it will only secure me from the pain and worry of my dear

anxious wife's efforts to convert me, and her from the toil and

trouble of such exertions, and her sweet face and silver accents

from the ruinous effects of the same.  A burst of passion is a fine

rousing thing upon occasion, Helen, and a flood of tears is

marvellously affecting, but, when indulged too often, they are both

deuced plaguy things for spoiling one's beauty and tiring out one's

friends.'



Thenceforth I restrained my tears and passions as much as I could.

I spared him my exhortations and fruitless efforts at conversion

too, for I saw it was all in vain:  God might awaken that heart,

supine and stupefied with self-indulgence, and remove the film of

sensual darkness from his eyes, but I could not.  His injustice and

ill-humour towards his inferiors, who could not defend themselves,

I still resented and withstood; but when I alone was their object,

as was frequently the case, I endured it with calm forbearance,

except at times, when my temper, worn out by repeated annoyances,

or stung to distraction by some new instance of irrationality, gave

way in spite of myself, and exposed me to the imputations of

fierceness, cruelty, and impatience.  I attended carefully to his

wants and amusements, but not, I own, with the same devoted

fondness as before, because I could not feel it; besides, I had now

another claimant on my time and care - my ailing infant, for whose

sake I frequently braved and suffered the reproaches and complaints

of his unreasonably exacting father.



But Arthur is not naturally a peevish or irritable man; so far from

it, that there was something almost ludicrous in the incongruity of

this adventitious fretfulness and nervous irritability, rather

calculated to excite laughter than anger, if it were not for the

intensely painful considerations attendant upon those symptoms of a

disordered frame, and his temper gradually improved as his bodily

health was restored, which was much sooner than would have been the

case but for my strenuous exertions; for there was still one thing

about him that I did not give up in despair, and one effort for his

preservation that I would not remit.  His appetite for the stimulus

of wine had increased upon him, as I had too well foreseen.  It was

now something more to him than an accessory to social enjoyment:

it was an important source of enjoyment in itself.  In this time of

weakness and depression he would have made it his medicine and

support, his comforter, his recreation, and his friend, and thereby

sunk deeper and deeper, and bound himself down for ever in the

bathos whereinto he had fallen.  But I determined this should never

be, as long as I had any influence left; and though I could not

prevent him from taking more than was good for him, still, by

incessant perseverance, by kindness, and firmness, and vigilance,

by coaxing, and daring, and determination, I succeeded in

preserving him from absolute bondage to that detestable propensity,

so insidious in its advances, so inexorable in its tyranny, so

disastrous in its effects.



And here I must not forget that I am not a little indebted to his

friend Mr. Hargrave.  About that time he frequently called at

Grassdale, and often dined with us, on which occasions I fear

Arthur would willingly have cast prudence and decorum to the winds,

and made 'a night of it,' as often as his friend would have

consented to join him in that exalted pastime; and if the latter

had chosen to comply, he might, in a night or two, have ruined the

labour of weeks, and overthrown with a touch the frail bulwark it

had cost me such trouble and toil to construct.  I was so fearful

of this at first, that I humbled myself to intimate to him, in

private, my apprehensions of Arthur's proneness to these excesses,

and to express a hope that he would not encourage it.  He was

pleased with this mark of confidence, and certainly did not betray

it.  On that and every subsequent occasion his presence served

rather as a check upon his host, than an incitement to further acts

of intemperance; and he always succeeded in bringing him from the

dining-room in good time, and in tolerably good condition; for if

Arthur disregarded such intimations as 'Well, I must not detain you

from your lady,' or 'We must not forget that Mrs. Huntingdon is

alone,' he would insist upon leaving the table himself, to join me,

and his host, however unwillingly, was obliged to follow.



Hence I learned to welcome Mr. Hargrave as a real friend to the

family, a harmless companion for Arthur, to cheer his spirits and

preserve him from the tedium of absolute idleness and a total

isolation from all society but mine, and a useful ally to me.  I

could not but feel grateful to him under such circumstances; and I

did not scruple to acknowledge my obligation on the first

convenient opportunity; yet, as I did so, my heart whispered all

was not right, and brought a glow to my face, which he heightened

by his steady, serious gaze, while, by his manner of receiving

those acknowledgments, he more than doubled my misgivings.  His

high delight at being able to serve me was chastened by sympathy

for me and commiseration for himself - about, I know not what, for

I would not stay to inquire, or suffer him to unburden his sorrows

to me.  His sighs and intimations of suppressed affliction seemed

to come from a full heart; but either he must contrive to retain

them within it, or breathe them forth in other ears than mine:

there was enough of confidence between us already.  It seemed wrong

that there should exist a secret understanding between my husband's

friend and me, unknown to him, of which he was the object.  But my

after-thought was, 'If it is wrong, surely Arthur's is the fault,

not mine.'



And indeed I know not whether, at the time, it was not for him

rather than myself that I blushed; for, since he and I are one, I

so identify myself with him, that I feel his degradation, his

failings, and transgressions as my own:  I blush for him, I fear

for him; I repent for him, weep, pray, and feel for him as for

myself; but I cannot act for him; and hence I must be, and I am,

debased, contaminated by the union, both in my own eyes and in the

actual truth.  I am so determined to love him, so intensely anxious

to excuse his errors, that I am continually dwelling upon them, and

labouring to extenuate the loosest of his principles and the worst

of his practices, till I am familiarised with vice, and almost a

partaker in his sins.  Things that formerly shocked and disgusted

me, now seem only natural.  I know them to be wrong, because reason

and God's word declare them to be so; but I am gradually losing

that instinctive horror and repulsion which were given me by

nature, or instilled into me by the precepts and example of my

aunt.  Perhaps then I was too severe in my judgments, for I

abhorred the sinner as well as the sin; now I flatter myself I am

more charitable and considerate; but am I not becoming more

indifferent and insensate too?  Fool that I was, to dream that I

had strength and purity enough to save myself and him!  Such vain

presumption would be rightly served, if I should perish with him in

the gulf from which I sought to save him!  Yet, God preserve me

from it, and him too!  Yes, poor Arthur, I will still hope and pray

for you; and though I write as if you were some abandoned wretch,

past hope and past reprieve, it is only my anxious fears, my strong

desires that make me do so; one who loved you less would be less

bitter, less dissatisfied.



His conduct has, of late, been what the world calls irreproachable;

but then I know his heart is still unchanged; and I know that

spring is approaching, and deeply dread the consequences.



As he began to recover the tone and vigour of his exhausted frame,

and with it something of his former impatience of retirement and

repose, I suggested a short residence by the sea-side, for his

recreation and further restoration, and for the benefit of our

little one as well.  But no:  watering-places were so intolerably

dull; besides, he had been invited by one of his friends to spend a

month or two in Scotland for the better recreation of grouse-

shooting and deer-stalking, and had promise to go.



'Then you will leave me again, Arthur?' said I.



'Yes, dearest, but only to love you the better when I come back,

and make up for all past offences and short-comings; and you

needn't fear me this time:  there are no temptations on the

mountains.  And during my absence you may pay a visit to

Staningley, if you like:  your uncle and aunt have long been

wanting us to go there, you know; but somehow there's such a

repulsion between the good lady and me, that I never could bring

myself up to the scratch.'



About the third week in August, Arthur set out for Scotland, and

Mr. Hargrave accompanied him thither, to my private satisfaction.

Shortly after, I, with little Arthur and Rachel, went to

Staningley, my dear old home, which, as well as my dear old friends

its inhabitants, I saw again with mingled feelings of pleasure and

pain so intimately blended that I could scarcely distinguish the

one from the other, or tell to which to attribute the various

tears, and smiles, and sighs awakened by those old familiar scenes,

and tones, and faces.



Arthur did not come home till several weeks after my return to

Grassdale; but I did not feel so anxious about him now; to think of

him engaged in active sports among the wild hills of Scotland, was

very different from knowing him to be immersed amid the corruptions

and temptations of London.  His letters now; though neither long

nor loverlike, were more regular than ever they had been before;

and when he did return, to my great joy, instead of being worse

than when he went, he was more cheerful and vigorous, and better in

every respect.  Since that time I have had little cause to

complain.  He still has an unfortunate predilection for the

pleasures of the table, against which I have to struggle and watch;

but he has begun to notice his boy, and that is an increasing

source of amusement to him within-doors, while his fox-hunting and

coursing are a sufficient occupation for him without, when the

ground is not hardened by frost; so that he is not wholly dependent

on me for entertainment.  But it is now January; spring is

approaching; and, I repeat, I dread the consequences of its

arrival.  That sweet season, I once so joyously welcomed as the

time of hope and gladness, awakens now far other anticipations by

its return.







CHAPTER XXXI







March 20th, 1824.  The dreaded time is come, and Arthur is gone, as

I expected.  This time he announced it his intention to make but a

short stay in London, and pass over to the Continent, where he

should probably stay a few weeks; but I shall not expect him till

after the lapse of many weeks:  I now know that, with him, days

signify weeks, and weeks months.



July 30th. - He returned about three weeks ago, rather better in

health, certainly, than before, but still worse in temper.  And

yet, perhaps, I am wrong:  it is I that am less patient and

forbearing.  I am tired out with his injustice, his selfishness and

hopeless depravity.  I wish a milder word would do; I am no angel,

and my corruption rises against it.  My poor father died last week:

Arthur was vexed to hear of it, because he saw that I was shocked

and grieved, and he feared the circumstance would mar his comfort.

When I spoke of ordering my mourning, he exclaimed, - 'Oh, I hate

black!  But, however, I suppose you must wear it awhile, for form's

sake; but I hope, Helen, you won't think it your bounden duty to

compose your face and manners into conformity with your funereal

garb.  Why should you sigh and groan, and I be made uncomfortable,

because an old gentleman in -shire, a perfect stranger to us both,

has thought proper to drink himself to death?  There, now, I

declare you're crying!  Well, it must be affectation.'



He would not hear of my attending the funeral, or going for a day

or two, to cheer poor Frederick's solitude.  It was quite

unnecessary, he said, and I was unreasonable to wish it.  What was

my father to me?  I had never seen him but once since I was a baby,

and I well knew he had never cared a stiver about me; and my

brother, too, was little better than a stranger.  'Besides, dear

Helen,' said he, embracing me with flattering fondness, 'I cannot

spare you for a single day.'



'Then how have you managed without me these many days?' said I.



'Ah! then I was knocking about the world, now I am at home, and

home without you, my household deity, would be intolerable.'



'Yes, as long as I am necessary to your comfort; but you did not

say so before, when you urged me to leave you, in order that you

might get away from your home without me,' retorted I; but before

the words were well out of my mouth, I regretted having uttered

them.  It seemed so heavy a charge:  if false, too gross an insult;

if true, too humiliating a fact to be thus openly cast in his

teeth.  But I might have spared myself that momentary pang of self-

reproach.  The accusation awoke neither shame nor indignation in

him:  he attempted neither denial nor excuse, but only answered

with a long, low, chuckling laugh, as if he viewed the whole

transaction as a clever, merry jest from beginning to end.  Surely

that man will make me dislike him at last!





Sine as ye brew, my maiden fair,

Keep mind that ye maun drink the yill.





Yes; and I will drink it to the very dregs:  and none but myself

shall know how bitter I find it!



August 20th. - We are shaken down again to about our usual

position.  Arthur has returned to nearly his former condition and

habits; and I have found it my wisest plan to shut my eyes against

the past and future, as far as he, at least, is concerned, and live

only for the present:  to love him when I can; to smile (if

possible) when he smiles, be cheerful when he is cheerful, and

pleased when he is agreeable; and when he is not, to try to make

him so; and if that won't answer, to bear with him, to excuse him,

and forgive him as well as I can, and restrain my own evil passions

from aggravating his; and yet, while I thus yield and minister to

his more harmless propensities to self-indulgence, to do all in my

power to save him from the worse.



But we shall not be long alone together.  I shall shortly be called

upon to entertain the same select body of friends as we had the

autumn before last, with the addition of Mr. Hattersley and, at my

special request, his wife and child.  I long to see Milicent, and

her little girl too.  The latter is now above a year old; she will

be a charming playmate for my little Arthur.



September 30th. - Our guests have been here a week or two; but I

have had no leisure to pass any comments upon them till now.  I

cannot get over my dislike to Lady Lowborough.  It is not founded

on mere personal pique; it is the woman herself that I dislike,

because I so thoroughly disapprove of her.  I always avoid her

company as much as I can without violating the laws of hospitality;

but when we do speak or converse together, it is with the utmost

civility, even apparent cordiality on her part; but preserve me

from such cordiality!  It is like handling brier-roses and may-

blossoms, bright enough to the eye, and outwardly soft to the

touch, but you know there are thorns beneath, and every now and

then you feel them too; and perhaps resent the injury by crushing

them in till you have destroyed their power, though somewhat to the

detriment of your own fingers.



Of late, however, I have seen nothing in her conduct towards Arthur

to anger or alarm me.  During the first few days I thought she

seemed very solicitous to win his admiration.  Her efforts were not

unnoticed by him:  I frequently saw him smiling to himself at her

artful manoeuvres:  but, to his praise be it spoken, her shafts

fell powerless by his side.  Her most bewitching smiles, her

haughtiest frowns were ever received with the same immutable,

careless good-humour; till, finding he was indeed impenetrable, she

suddenly remitted her efforts, and became, to all appearance, as

perfectly indifferent as himself.  Nor have I since witnessed any

symptom of pique on his part, or renewed attempts at conquest upon

hers.



This is as it should be; but Arthur never will let me be satisfied

with him.  I have never, for a single hour since I married him,

known what it is to realise that sweet idea, 'In quietness and

confidence shall be your rest.'  Those two detestable men, Grimsby

and Hattersley, have destroyed all my labour against his love of

wine.  They encourage him daily to overstep the bounds of

moderation, and not unfrequently to disgrace himself by positive

excess.  I shall not soon forget the second night after their

arrival.  Just as I had retired from the dining-room with the

ladies, before the door was closed upon us, Arthur exclaimed, -

'Now then, my lads, what say you to a regular jollification?'



Milicent glanced at me with a half-reproachful look, as if I could

hinder it; but her countenance changed when she heard Hattersley's

voice, shouting through door and wall, - 'I'm your man!  Send for

more wine:  here isn't half enough!'



We had scarcely entered the drawing-room before we were joined by

Lord Lowborough.



'What can induce you to come so soon?' exclaimed his lady, with a

most ungracious air of dissatisfaction.



'You know I never drink, Annabella,' replied he seriously.



'Well, but you might stay with them a little:  it looks so silly to

be always dangling after the women; I wonder you can!'



He reproached her with a look of mingled bitterness and surprise,

and, sinking into a chair, suppressed a heavy sigh, bit his pale

lips, and fixed his eyes upon the floor.



'You did right to leave them, Lord Lowborough,' said I.  'I trust

you will always continue to honour us so early with your company.

And if Annabella knew the value of true wisdom, and the misery of

folly and - and intemperance, she would not talk such nonsense -

even in jest.'



He raised his eyes while I spoke, and gravely turned them upon me,

with a half-surprised, half-abstracted look, and then bent them on

his wife.



'At least,' said she, 'I know the value of a warm heart and a bold,

manly spirit.'



'Well, Annabella,' said he, in a deep and hollow tone, 'since my

presence is disagreeable to you, I will relieve you of it.'



'Are you going back to them, then?' said she, carelessly.



'No,' exclaimed he, with harsh and startling emphasis.  'I will not

go back to them!  And I will never stay with them one moment longer

than I think right, for you or any other tempter!  But you needn't

mind that; I shall never trouble you again by intruding my company

upon you so unseasonably.'



He left the room:  I heard the hall-door open and shut, and

immediately after, on putting aside the curtain, I saw him pacing

down the park, in the comfortless gloom of the damp, cloudy

twilight.



'It would serve you right, Annabella,' said I, at length, 'if Lord

Lowborough were to return to his old habits, which had so nearly

effected his ruin, and which it cost him such an effort to break:

you would then see cause to repent such conduct as this.'



'Not at all, my dear!  I should not mind if his lordship were to

see fit to intoxicate himself every day:  I should only the sooner

be rid of him.'



'Oh, Annabella!' cried Milicent.  'How can you say such wicked

things!  It would, indeed, be a just punishment, as far as you are

concerned, if Providence should take you at your word, and make you

feel what others feel, that - '  She paused as a sudden burst of

loud talking and laughter reached us from the dining-room, in which

the voice of Hattersley was pre-eminently conspicuous, even to my

unpractised ear.



'What you feel at this moment, I suppose?' said Lady Lowborough,

with a malicious smile, fixing her eyes upon her cousin's

distressed countenance.



The latter offered no reply, but averted her face and brushed away

a tear.  At that moment the door opened and admitted Mr. Hargrave,

just a little flushed, his dark eyes sparkling with unwonted

vivacity.



'Oh, I'm so glad you're come, Walter?' cried his sister.  'But I

wish you could have got Ralph to come too.'



'Utterly impossible, dear Milicent,' replied he, gaily.  'I had

much ado to get away myself.  Ralph attempted to keep me by

violence; Huntingdon threatened me with the eternal loss of his

friendship; and Grimsby, worse than all, endeavoured to make me

ashamed of my virtue, by such galling sarcasms and innuendoes as he

knew would wound me the most.  So you see, ladies, you ought to

make me welcome when I have braved and suffered so much for the

favour of your sweet society.'  He smilingly turned to me and bowed

as he finished the sentence.



'Isn't he handsome now, Helen!' whispered Milicent, her sisterly

pride overcoming, for the moment, all other considerations.



'He would be,' I returned, 'if that brilliance of eye, and lip, and

cheek were natural to him; but look again, a few hours hence.'



Here the gentleman took a seat near me at the table, and petitioned

for a cup of coffee.



'I consider this an apt illustration of heaven taken by storm,'

said he, as I handed one to him.  'I am in paradise, now; but I

have fought my way through flood and fire to win it.  Ralph

Hattersley's last resource was to set his back against the door,

and swear I should find no passage but through his body (a pretty

substantial one too).  Happily, however, that was not the only

door, and I effected my escape by the side entrance through the

butler's pantry, to the infinite amazement of Benson, who was

cleaning the plate.'



Mr. Hargrave laughed, and so did his cousin; but his sister and I

remained silent and grave.



'Pardon my levity, Mrs. Huntingdon,' murmured he, more seriously,

as he raised his eyes to my face.  'You are not used to these

things:  you suffer them to affect your delicate mind too sensibly.

But I thought of you in the midst of those lawless roysterers; and

I endeavoured to persuade Mr. Huntingdon to think of you too; but

to no purpose:  I fear he is fully determined to enjoy himself this

night; and it will be no use keeping the coffee waiting for him or

his companions; it will be much if they join us at tea.  Meantime,

I earnestly wish I could banish the thoughts of them from your mind

- and my own too, for I hate to think of them - yes - even of my

dear friend Huntingdon, when I consider the power he possesses over

the happiness of one so immeasurably superior to himself, and the

use he makes of it - I positively detest the man!'



'You had better not say so to me, then,' said I; 'for, bad as he

is, he is part of myself, and you cannot abuse him without

offending me.'



'Pardon me, then, for I would sooner die than offend you.  But let

us say no more of him for the present, if you please.'



At last they came; but not till after ten, when tea, which had been

delayed for more than half an hour, was nearly over.  Much as I had

longed for their coming, my heart failed me at the riotous uproar

of their approach; and Milicent turned pale, and almost started

from her seat, as Mr. Hattersley burst into the room with a

clamorous volley of oaths in his mouth, which Hargrave endeavoured

to check by entreating him to remember the ladies.



'Ah! you do well to remind me of the ladies, you dastardly

deserter,' cried he, shaking his formidable fist at his brother-in-

law.  'If it were not for them, you well know, I'd demolish you in

the twinkling of an eye, and give your body to the fowls of heaven

and the lilies of the fields!'  Then, planting a chair by Lady

Lowborough's side, he stationed himself in it, and began to talk to

her with a mixture of absurdity and impudence that seemed rather to

amuse than to offend her; though she affected to resent his

insolence, and to keep him at bay with sallies of smart and

spirited repartee.



Meantime Mr. Grimsby seated himself by me, in the chair vacated by

Hargrave as they entered, and gravely stated that he would thank me

for a cup of tea:  and Arthur placed himself beside poor Milicent,

confidentially pushing his head into her face, and drawing in

closer to her as she shrank away from him.  He was not so noisy as

Hattersley, but his face was exceedingly flushed:  he laughed

incessantly, and while I blushed for all I saw and heard of him, I

was glad that he chose to talk to his companion in so low a tone

that no one could hear what he said but herself.



'What fools they are!' drawled Mr. Grimsby, who had been talking

away, at my elbow, with sententious gravity all the time; but I had

been too much absorbed in contemplating the deplorable state of the

other two - especially Arthur - to attend to him.



'Did you ever hear such nonsense as they talk, Mrs. Huntingdon?' he

continued.  'I'm quite ashamed of them for my part:  they can't

take so much as a bottle between them without its getting into

their heads - '



'You are pouring the cream into your saucer, Mr. Grimsby.'



'Ah! yes, I see, but we're almost in darkness here.  Hargrave,

snuff those candles, will you?'



'They're wax; they don't require snuffing,' said I.



'"The light of the body is the eye,"' observed Hargrave, with a

sarcastic smile.  '"If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be

full of light."'



Grimsby repulsed him with a solemn wave of the hand, and then

turning to me, continued, with the same drawling tones and strange

uncertainty of utterance and heavy gravity of aspect as before:

'But as I was saying, Mrs. Huntingdon, they have no head at all:

they can't take half a bottle without being affected some way;

whereas I - well, I've taken three times as much as they have to-

night, and you see I'm perfectly steady.  Now that may strike you

as very singular, but I think I can explain it:  you see their

brains - I mention no names, but you'll understand to whom I allude

- their brains are light to begin with, and the fumes of the

fermented liquor render them lighter still, and produce an entire

light-headedness, or giddiness, resulting in intoxication; whereas

my brains, being composed of more solid materials, will absorb a

considerable quantity of this alcoholic vapour without the

production of any sensible result - '



'I think you will find a sensible result produced on that tea,'

interrupted Mr. Hargrave, 'by the quantity of sugar you have put

into it.  Instead of your usual complement of one lump, you have

put in six.'



'Have I so?' replied the philosopher, diving with his spoon into

the cup, and bringing up several half-dissolved pieces in

confirmation of the assertion.  'Hum!  I perceive.  Thus, Madam,

you see the evil of absence of mind - of thinking too much while

engaged in the common concerns of life.  Now, if I had had my wits

about me, like ordinary men, instead of within me like a

philosopher, I should not have spoiled this cup of tea, and been

constrained to trouble you for another.'



'That is the sugar-basin, Mr. Grimsby.  Now you have spoiled the

sugar too; and I'll thank you to ring for some more, for here is

Lord Lowborough at last; and I hope his lordship will condescend to

sit down with us, such as we are, and allow me to give him some

tea.'



His lordship gravely bowed in answer to my appeal, but said

nothing.  Meantime, Hargrave volunteered to ring for the sugar,

while Grimsby lamented his mistake, and attempted to prove that it

was owing to the shadow of the urn and the badness of the lights.



Lord Lowborough had entered a minute or two before, unobserved by

an one but me, and had been standing before the door, grimly

surveying the company.  He now stepped up to Annabella, who sat

with her back towards him, with Hattersley still beside her, though

not now attending to her, being occupied in vociferously abusing

and bullying his host.



'Well, Annabella,' said her husband, as he leant over the back of

her chair, 'which of these three "bold, manly spirits" would you

have me to resemble?'



'By heaven and earth, you shall resemble us all!' cried Hattersley,

starting up and rudely seizing him by the arm.  'Hallo,

Huntingdon!' he shouted - 'I've got him!  Come, man, and help me!

And d-n me, if I don't make him drunk before I let him go!  He

shall make up for all past delinquencies as sure as I'm a living

soul!'



There followed a disgraceful contest:  Lord Lowborough, in

desperate earnest, and pale with anger, silently struggling to

release himself from the powerful madman that was striving to drag

him from the room.  I attempted to urge Arthur to interfere in

behalf of his outraged guest, but he could do nothing but laugh.



'Huntingdon, you fool, come and help me, can't you!' cried

Hattersley, himself somewhat weakened by his excesses.



'I'm wishing you God-speed, Hattersley,' cried Arthur, 'and aiding

you with my prayers:  I can't do anything else if my life depended

on it!  I'm quite used up.  Oh - oh!' and leaning back in his seat,

he clapped his hands on his sides and groaned aloud.



'Annabella, give me a candle!' said Lowborough, whose antagonist

had now got him round the waist and was endeavouring to root him

from the door-post, to which he madly clung with all the energy of

desperation.



'I shall take no part in your rude sports!' replied the lady coldly

drawing back.  'I wonder you can expect it.'  But I snatched up a

candle and brought it to him.  He took it and held the flame to

Hattersley's hands, till, roaring like a wild beast, the latter

unclasped them and let him go.  He vanished, I suppose to his own

apartment, for nothing more was seen of him till the morning.

Swearing and cursing like a maniac, Hattersley threw himself on to

the ottoman beside the window.  The door being now free, Milicent

attempted to make her escape from the scene of her husband's

disgrace; but he called her back, and insisted upon her coming to

him.



'What do you want, Ralph?' murmured she, reluctantly approaching

him.



'I want to know what's the matter with you,' said he, pulling her

on to his knee like a child.  'What are you crying for, Milicent? -

Tell me!'



'I'm not crying.'



'You are,' persisted he, rudely pulling her hands from her face.

'How dare you tell such a lie!'



'I'm not crying now,' pleaded she.



'But you have been, and just this minute too; and I will know what

for.  Come, now, you shall tell me!'



'Do let me alone, Ralph!  Remember, we are not at home.'



'No matter:  you shall answer my question!' exclaimed her

tormentor; and he attempted to extort the confession by shaking

her, and remorselessly crushing her slight arms in the gripe of his

powerful fingers.



'Don't let him treat your sister in that way,' said I to Mr.

Hargrave.



'Come now, Hattersley, I can't allow that,' said that gentleman,

stepping up to the ill-assorted couple.  'Let my sister alone, if

you please.'



And he made an effort to unclasp the ruffian's fingers from her

arm, but was suddenly driven backward, and nearly laid upon the

floor by a violent blow on the chest, accompanied with the

admonition, 'Take that for your insolence! and learn to interfere

between me and mine again.'



'If you were not drunk, I'd have satisfaction for that!' gasped

Hargrave, white and breathless as much from passion as from the

immediate effects of the blow.



'Go to the devil!' responded his brother-in-law.  'Now, Milicent,

tell me what you were crying for.'



'I'll tell you some other time,' murmured she, 'when we are alone.'



'Tell me now!' said he, with another shake and a squeeze that made

her draw in her breath and bite her lip to suppress a cry of pain.



'I'll tell you, Mr. Hattersley,' said I.  'She was crying from pure

shame and humiliation for you; because she could not bear to see

you conduct yourself so disgracefully.'



'Confound you, Madam!' muttered he, with a stare of stupid

amazement at my 'impudence.'  'It was not that - was it, Milicent?'



She was silent.



'Come, speak up, child!'



'I can't tell now,' sobbed she.



'But you can say "yes" or "no" as well as "I can't tell." - Come!'



'Yes,' she whispered, hanging her head, and blushing at the awful

acknowledgment.



'Curse you for an impertinent hussy, then!' cried he, throwing her

from him with such violence that she fell on her side; but she was

up again before either I or her brother could come to her

assistance, and made the best of her way out of the room, and, I

suppose, up-stairs, without loss of time.



The next object of assault was Arthur, who sat opposite, and had,

no doubt, richly enjoyed the whole scene.



'Now, Huntingdon,' exclaimed his irascible friend, 'I will not have

you sitting there and laughing like an idiot!'



'Oh, Hattersley,' cried he, wiping his swimming eyes - 'you'll be

the death of me.'



'Yes, I will, but not as you suppose:  I'll have the heart out of

your body, man, if you irritate me with any more of that imbecile

laughter! - What! are you at it yet? - There! see if that'll settle

you!' cried Hattersley, snatching up a footstool and hurting it at

the head of his host; but he as well as missed his aim, and the

latter still sat collapsed and quaking with feeble laughter, with

tears running down his face:  a deplorable spectacle indeed.



Hattersley tried cursing and swearing, but it would not do:  he

then took a number of books from the table beside him, and threw

them, one by one, at the object of his wrath; but Arthur only

laughed the more; and, finally, Hattersley rushed upon him in a

frenzy and seizing him by the shoulders, gave him a violent

shaking, under which he laughed and shrieked alarmingly.  But I saw

no more:  I thought I had witnessed enough of my husband's

degradation; and leaving Annabella and the rest to follow when they

pleased, I withdrew, but not to bed.  Dismissing Rachel to her

rest, I walked up and down my room, in an agony of misery for what

had been done, and suspense, not knowing what might further happen,

or how or when that unhappy creature would come up to bed.



At last he came, slowly and stumblingly ascending the stairs,

supported by Grimsby and Hattersley, who neither of them walked

quite steadily themselves, but were both laughing and joking at

him, and making noise enough for all the servants to hear.  He

himself was no longer laughing now, but sick and stupid.  I will

write no more about that.



Such disgraceful scenes (or nearly such) have been repeated more

than once.  I don't say much to Arthur about it, for, if I did, it

would do more harm than good; but I let him know that I intensely

dislike such exhibitions; and each time he has promised they should

never again be repeated.  But I fear he is losing the little self-

command and self-respect he once possessed:  formerly, he would

have been ashamed to act thus - at least, before any other

witnesses than his boon companions, or such as they.  His friend

Hargrave, with a prudence and self-government that I envy for him,

never disgraces himself by taking more than sufficient to render

him a little 'elevated,' and is always the first to leave the table

after Lord Lowborough, who, wiser still, perseveres in vacating the

dining-room immediately after us:  but never once, since Annabella

offended him so deeply, has he entered the drawing-room before the

rest; always spending the interim in the library, which I take care

to have lighted for his accommodation; or, on fine moonlight

nights, in roaming about the grounds.  But I think she regrets her

misconduct, for she has never repeated it since, and of late she

has comported herself with wonderful propriety towards him,

treating him with more uniform kindness and consideration than ever

I have observed her to do before.  I date the time of this

improvement from the period when she ceased to hope and strive for

Arthur's admiration.







CHAPTER XXXII







October 5th. - Esther Hargrave is getting a fine girl.  She is not

out of the school-room yet, but her mother frequently brings her

over to call in the mornings when the gentlemen are out, and

sometimes she spends an hour or two in company with her sister and

me, and the children; and when we go to the Grove, I always

contrive to see her, and talk more to her than to any one else, for

I am very much attached to my little friend, and so is she to me.

I wonder what she can see to like in me though, for I am no longer

the happy, lively girl I used to be; but she has no other society,

save that of her uncongenial mother, and her governess (as

artificial and conventional a person as that prudent mother could

procure to rectify the pupil's natural qualities), and, now and

then, her subdued, quiet sister.  I often wonder what will be her

lot in life, and so does she; but her speculations on the future

are full of buoyant hope; so were mine once.  I shudder to think of

her being awakened, like me, to a sense of their delusive vanity.

It seems as if I should feel her disappointment, even more deeply

than my own.  I feel almost as if I were born for such a fate, but

she is so joyous and fresh, so light of heart and free of spirit,

and so guileless and unsuspecting too.  Oh, it would be cruel to

make her feel as I feel now, and know what I have known!



Her sister trembles for her too.  Yesterday morning, one of

October's brightest, loveliest days, Milicent and I were in the

garden enjoying a brief half-hour together with our children, while

Annabella was lying on the drawing-room sofa, deep in the last new

novel.  We had been romping with the little creatures, almost as

merry and wild as themselves, and now paused in the shade of the

tall copper beech, to recover breath and rectify our hair,

disordered by the rough play and the frolicsome breeze, while they

toddled together along the broad, sunny walk; my Arthur supporting

the feebler steps of her little Helen, and sagaciously pointing out

to her the brightest beauties of the border as they passed, with

semi-articulate prattle, that did as well for her as any other mode

of discourse.  From laughing at the pretty sight, we began to talk

of the children's future life; and that made us thoughtful.  We

both relapsed into silent musing as we slowly proceeded up the

walk; and I suppose Milicent, by a train of associations, was led

to think of her sister.



'Helen,' said she, 'you often see Esther, don't you?'



'Not very often.'



'But you have more frequent opportunities of meeting her than I

have; and she loves you, I know, and reverences you too:  there is

nobody's opinion she thinks so much of; and she says you have more

sense than mamma.'



'That is because she is self-willed, and my opinions more generally

coincide with her own than your mamma's.  But what then, Milicent?'



'Well, since you have so much influence with her, I wish you would

seriously impress it upon her, never, on any account, or for

anybody's persuasion, to marry for the sake of money, or rank, or

establishment, or any earthly thing, but true affection and well-

grounded esteem.'



'There is no necessity for that,' said I, 'for we have had some

discourse on that subject already, and I assure you her ideas of

love and matrimony are as romantic as any one could desire.'



'But romantic notions will not do:  I want her to have true

notions.'



'Very right:  but in my judgment, what the world stigmatises as

romantic, is often more nearly allied to the truth than is commonly

supposed; for, if the generous ideas of youth are too often over-

clouded by the sordid views of after-life, that scarcely proves

them to be false.'



'Well, but if you think her ideas are what they ought to be,

strengthen them, will you? and confirm them, as far as you can; for

I had romantic notions once, and - I don't mean to say that I

regret my lot, for I am quite sure I don't, but - '



'I understand you,' said I; 'you are contented for yourself, but

you would not have your sister to suffer the same as you.'



'No - or worse.  She might have far worse to suffer than I, for I

am really contented, Helen, though you mayn't think it:  I speak

the solemn truth in saying that I would not exchange my husband for

any man on earth, if I might do it by the plucking of this leaf.'



'Well, I believe you:  now that you have him, you would not

exchange him for another; but then you would gladly exchange some

of his qualities for those of better men.'



'Yes:  just as I would gladly exchange some of my own qualities for

those of better women; for neither he nor I are perfect, and I

desire his improvement as earnestly as my own.  And he will

improve, don't you think so, Helen? he's only six-and-twenty yet.'



'He may,' I answered,



'He will, he WILL!' repeated she.



'Excuse the faintness of my acquiescence, Milicent, I would not

discourage your hopes for the world, but mine have been so often

disappointed, that I am become as cold and doubtful in my

expectations as the flattest of octogenarians.'



'And yet you do hope, still, even for Mr. Huntingdon?'



'I do, I confess, "even" for him; for it seems as if life and hope

must cease together.  And is he so much worse, Milicent, than Mr.

Hattersley?'



'Well, to give you my candid opinion, I think there is no

comparison between them.  But you mustn't be offended, Helen, for

you know I always speak my mind, and you may speak yours too.  I

sha'n't care.'



'I am not offended, love; and my opinion is, that if there be a

comparison made between the two, the difference, for the most part,

is certainly in Hattersley's favour.'



Milicent's own heart told her how much it cost me to make this

acknowledgment; and, with a childlike impulse, she expressed her

sympathy by suddenly kissing my cheek, without a word of reply, and

then turning quickly away, caught up her baby, and hid her face in

its frock.  How odd it is that we so often weep for each other's

distresses, when we shed not a tear for our own!  Her heart had

been full enough of her own sorrows, but it overflowed at the idea

of mine; and I, too, shed tears at the sight of her sympathetic

emotion, though I had not wept for myself for many a week.



It was one rainy day last week; most of the company were killing

time in the billiard-room, but Milicent and I were with little

Arthur and Helen in the library, and between our books, our

children, and each other, we expected to make out a very agreeable

morning.  We had not been thus secluded above two hours, however,

when Mr. Hattersley came in, attracted, I suppose, by the voice of

his child, as he was crossing the hall, for he is prodigiously fond

of her, and she of him.



He was redolent of the stables, where he had been regaling himself

with the company of his fellow-creatures the horses ever since

breakfast.  But that was no matter to my little namesake; as soon

as the colossal person of her father darkened the door, she uttered

a shrill scream of delight, and, quitting her mother's side, ran

crowing towards him, balancing her course with outstretched arms,

and embracing his knee, threw back her head and laughed in his

face.  He might well look smilingly down upon those small, fair

features, radiant with innocent mirth, those clear blue shining

eyes, and that soft flaxen hair cast back upon the little ivory

neck and shoulders.  Did he not think how unworthy he was of such a

possession?  I fear no such idea crossed his mind.  He caught her

up, and there followed some minutes of very rough play, during

which it is difficult to say whether the father or the daughter

laughed and shouted the loudest.  At length, however, the

boisterous pastime terminated, suddenly, as might be expected:  the

little one was hurt, and began to cry; and the ungentle play-fellow

tossed it into its mother's lap, bidding her 'make all straight.'

As happy to return to that gentle comforter as it had been to leave

her, the child nestled in her arms, and hushed its cries in a

moment; and sinking its little weary head on her bosom, soon

dropped asleep.



Meantime Mr. Hattersley strode up to the fire, and interposing his

height and breadth between us and it, stood with arms akimbo,

expanding his chest, and gazing round him as if the house and all

its appurtenances and contents were his own undisputed possessions.



'Deuced bad weather this!' he began.  'There'll be no shooting to-

day, I guess.'  Then, suddenly lifting up his voice, he regaled us

with a few bars of a rollicking song, which abruptly ceasing, he

finished the tune with a whistle, and then continued:- 'I say, Mrs.

Huntingdon, what a fine stud your husband has! not large, but good.

I've been looking at them a bit this morning; and upon my word,

Black Boss, and Grey Tom, and that young Nimrod are the finest

animals I've seen for many a day!'  Then followed a particular

discussion of their various merits, succeeded by a sketch of the

great things he intended to do in the horse-jockey line, when his

old governor thought proper to quit the stage.  'Not that I wish

him to close his accounts,' added he:  'the old Trojan is welcome

to keep his books open as long as he pleases for me.'



'I hope so, indeed, Mr. Hattersley.'



'Oh, yes!  It's only my way of talking.  The event must come some

time, and so I look to the bright side of it:  that's the right

plan - isn't it, Mrs. H.?  What are you two doing here?  By-the-by,

where's Lady Lowborough?'



'In the billiard-room.'



'What a splendid creature she is!' continued he, fixing his eyes on

his wife, who changed colour, and looked more and more disconcerted

as he proceeded.  'What a noble figure she has; and what

magnificent black eyes; and what a fine spirit of her own; and what

a tongue of her own, too, when she likes to use it.  I perfectly

adore her!  But never mind, Milicent:  I wouldn't have her for my

wife, not if she'd a kingdom for her dowry!  I'm better satisfied

with the one I have.  Now then! what do you look so sulky for?

don't you believe me?'



'Yes, I believe you,' murmured she, in a tone of half sad, half

sullen resignation, as she turned away to stroke the hair of her

sleeping infant, that she had laid on the sofa beside her.



'Well, then, what makes you so cross?  Come here, Milly, and tell

me why you can't be satisfied with my assurance.'



She went, and putting her little hand within his arm, looked up in

his face, and said softly, -



'What does it amount to, Ralph?  Only to this, that though you

admire Annabella so much, and for qualities that I don't possess,

you would still rather have me than her for your wife, which merely

proves that you don't think it necessary to love your wife; you are

satisfied if she can keep your house, and take care of your child.

But I'm not cross; I'm only sorry; for,' added she, in a low,

tremulous accent, withdrawing her hand from his arm, and bending

her looks on the rug, 'if you don't love me, you don't, and it

can't be helped.'



'Very true; but who told you I didn't?  Did I say I loved

Annabella?'



'You said you adored her.'



'True, but adoration isn't love.  I adore Annabella, but I don't

love her; and I love thee, Milicent, but I don't adore thee.'  In

proof of his affection, he clutched a handful of her light brown

ringlets, and appeared to twist them unmercifully.



'Do you really, Ralph?' murmured she, with a faint smile beaming

through her tears, just putting up her hand to his, in token that

he pulled rather too hard.



'To be sure I do,' responded he:  'only you bother me rather,

sometimes.'



'I bother you!' cried she, in very natural surprise.



'Yes, you - but only by your exceeding goodness.  When a boy has

been eating raisins and sugar-plums all day, he longs for a squeeze

of sour orange by way of a change.  And did you never, Milly,

observe the sands on the sea-shore; how nice and smooth they look,

and how soft and easy they feel to the foot?  But if you plod

along, for half an hour, over this soft, easy carpet - giving way

at every step, yielding the more the harder you press, - you'll

find it rather wearisome work, and be glad enough to come to a bit

of good, firm rock, that won't budge an inch whether you stand,

walk, or stamp upon it; and, though it be hard as the nether

millstone, you'll find it the easier footing after all.'



'I know what you mean, Ralph,' said she, nervously playing with her

watchguard and tracing the figure on the rug with the point of her

tiny foot - 'I know what you mean:  but I thought you always liked

to be yielded to, and I can't alter now.'



'I do like it,' replied he, bringing her to him by another tug at

her hair.  'You mustn't mind my talk, Milly.  A man must have

something to grumble about; and if he can't complain that his wife

harries him to death with her perversity and ill-humour, he must

complain that she wears him out with her kindness and gentleness.'



'But why complain at all, unless because you are tired and

dissatisfied?'



'To excuse my own failings, to be sure.  Do you think I'll bear all

the burden of my sins on my own shoulders, as long as there's

another ready to help me, with none of her own to carry?'



'There is no such one on earth,' said she seriously; and then,

taking his hand from her head, she kissed it with an air of genuine

devotion, and tripped away to the door.



'What now?' said he.  'Where are you going?'



'To tidy my hair,' she answered, smiling through her disordered

locks; 'you've made it all come down.'



'Off with you then! - An excellent little woman,' he remarked when

she was gone, 'but a thought too soft - she almost melts in one's

hands.  I positively think I ill-use her sometimes, when I've taken

too much - but I can't help it, for she never complains, either at

the time or after.  I suppose she doesn't mind it.'



'I can enlighten you on that subject, Mr. Hattersley,' said I:

'she does mind it; and some other things she minds still more,

which yet you may never hear her complain of.'



'How do you know? - does she complain to you?' demanded he, with a

sudden spark of fury ready to burst into a flame if I should answer

"yes."



'No,' I replied; 'but I have known her longer and studied her more

closely than you have done. - And I can tell you, Mr. Hattersley,

that Milicent loves you more than you deserve, and that you have it

in your power to make her very happy, instead of which you are her

evil genius, and, I will venture to say, there is not a single day

passes in which you do not inflict upon her some pang that you

might spare her if you would.'



'Well - it's not my fault,' said he, gazing carelessly up at the

ceiling and plunging his hands into his pockets:  'if my ongoings

don't suit her, she should tell me so.'



'Is she not exactly the wife you wanted?  Did you not tell Mr.

Huntingdon you must have one that would submit to anything without

a murmur, and never blame you, whatever you did?'



'True, but we shouldn't always have what we want:  it spoils the

best of us, doesn't it?  How can I help playing the deuce when I

see it's all one to her whether I behave like a Christian or like a

scoundrel, such as nature made me? and how can I help teasing her

when she's so invitingly meek and mim, when she lies down like a

spaniel at my feet and never so much as squeaks to tell me that's

enough?'



'If you are a tyrant by nature, the temptation is strong, I allow;

but no generous mind delights to oppress the weak, but rather to

cherish and protect.'



'I don't oppress her; but it's so confounded flat to be always

cherishing and protecting; and then, how can I tell that I am

oppressing her when she "melts away and makes no sign"?  I

sometimes think she has no feeling at all; and then I go on till

she cries, and that satisfies me.'



'Then you do delight to oppress her?'



'I don't, I tell you! only when I'm in a bad humour, or a

particularly good one, and want to afflict for the pleasure of

comforting; or when she looks flat and wants shaking up a bit.  And

sometimes she provokes me by crying for nothing, and won't tell me

what it's for; and then, I allow, it enrages me past bearing,

especially when I'm not my own man.'



'As is no doubt generally the case on such occasions,' said I.

'But in future, Mr. Hattersley, when you see her looking flat, or

crying for "nothing" (as you call it), ascribe it all to yourself:

be assured it is something you have done amiss, or your general

misconduct, that distresses her.'



'I don't believe it.  If it were, she should tell me so:  I don't

like that way of moping and fretting in silence, and saying

nothing:  it's not honest.  How can she expect me to mend my ways

at that rate?'



'Perhaps she gives you credit for having more sense than you

possess, and deludes herself with the hope that you will one day

see your own errors and repair them, if left to your own

reflection.'



'None of your sneers, Mrs. Huntingdon.  I have the sense to see

that I'm not always quite correct, but sometimes I think that's no

great matter, as long as I injure nobody but myself - '



'It is a great matter,' interrupted I, 'both to yourself (as you

will hereafter find to your cost) and to all connected with you,

most especially your wife.  But, indeed, it is nonsense to talk

about injuring no one but yourself:  it is impossible to injure

yourself, especially by such acts as we allude to, without injuring

hundreds, if not thousands, besides, in a greater or less, degree,

either by the evil you do or the good you leave undone.'



'And as I was saying,' continued he, 'or would have said if you

hadn't taken me up so short, I sometimes think I should do better

if I were joined to one that would always remind me when I was

wrong, and give me a motive for doing good and eschewing evil, by

decidedly showing her approval of the one and disapproval of the

other.'



'If you had no higher motive than the approval of your fellow-

mortal, it would do you little good.'



'Well, but if I had a mate that would not always be yielding, and

always equally kind, but that would have the spirit to stand at bay

now and then, and honestly tell me her mind at all times, such a

one as yourself for instance.  Now, if I went on with you as I do

with her when I'm in London, you'd make the house too hot to hold

me at times, I'll be sworn.'



'You mistake me:  I'm no termagant.'



'Well, all the better for that, for I can't stand contradiction, in

a general way, and I'm as fond of my own will as another; only I

think too much of it doesn't answer for any man.'



'Well, I would never contradict you without a cause, but certainly

I would always let you know what I thought of your conduct; and if

you oppressed me, in body, mind, or estate, you should at least

have no reason to suppose "I didn't mind it."'



'I know that, my lady; and I think if my little wife were to follow

the same plan, it would be better for us both.'



'I'll tell her.'



'No, no, let her be; there's much to be said on both sides, and,

now I think upon it, Huntingdon often regrets that you are not more

like her, scoundrelly dog that he is, and you see, after all, you

can't reform him:  he's ten times worse than I.  He's afraid of

you, to be sure; that is, he's always on his best behaviour in your

presence - but - '



'I wonder what his worst behaviour is like, then?' I could not

forbear observing.



'Why, to tell you the truth, it's very bad indeed - isn't it,

Hargrave?' said he, addressing that gentleman, who had entered the

room unperceived by me, for I was now standing near the fire, with

my back to the door.  'Isn't Huntingdon,' he continued, 'as great a

reprobate as ever was d-d?'



'His lady will not hear him censured with impunity,' replied Mr.

Hargrave, coming forward; 'but I must say, I thank God I am not

such another.'



'Perhaps it would become you better,' said I, 'to look at what you

are, and say, "God be merciful to me a sinner."'



'You are severe,' returned he, bowing slightly and drawing himself

up with a proud yet injured air.  Hattersley laughed, and clapped

him on the shoulder.  Moving from under his hand with a gesture of

insulted dignity, Mr. Hargrave took himself away to the other end

of the rug.



'Isn't it a shame, Mrs. Huntingdon?' cried his brother-in-law; 'I

struck Walter Hargrave when I was drunk, the second night after we

came, and he's turned a cold shoulder on me ever since; though I

asked his pardon the very morning after it was done!'



'Your manner of asking it,' returned the other, 'and the clearness

with which you remembered the whole transaction, showed you were

not too drunk to be fully conscious of what you were about, and

quite responsible for the deed.'



'You wanted to interfere between me and my wife,' grumbled

Hattersley, 'and that is enough to provoke any man.'



'You justify it, then?' said his opponent, darting upon him a most

vindictive glance.



'No, I tell you I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't been under

excitement; and if you choose to bear malice for it after all the

handsome things I've said, do so and be d-d!'



'I would refrain from such language in a lady's presence, at

least,' said Mr. Hargrave, hiding his anger under a mask of

disgust.



'What have I said?' returned Hattersley:  'nothing but heaven's

truth.  He will be damned, won't he, Mrs. Huntingdon, if he doesn't

forgive his brother's trespasses?'



'You ought to forgive him, Mr. Hargrave, since he asks you,' said

I.



'Do you say so?  Then I will!'  And, smiling almost frankly, he

stepped forward and offered his hand.  It was immediately clasped

in that of his relative, and the reconciliation was apparently

cordial on both sides.



'The affront,' continued Hargrave, turning to me, 'owed half its

bitterness to the fact of its being offered in your presence; and

since you bid me forgive it, I will, and forget it too.'



'I guess the best return I can make will be to take myself off,'

muttered Hattersley, with a broad grin.  His companion smiled, and

he left the room.  This put me on my guard.  Mr. Hargrave turned

seriously to me, and earnestly began, -



'Dear Mrs. Huntingdon, how I have longed for, yet dreaded, this

hour!  Do not be alarmed,' he added, for my face was crimson with

anger:  'I am not about to offend you with any useless entreaties

or complaints.  I am not going to presume to trouble you with the

mention of my own feelings or your perfections, but I have

something to reveal to you which you ought to know, and which, yet,

it pains me inexpressibly - '



'Then don't trouble yourself to reveal it!'



'But it is of importance - '



'If so I shall hear it soon enough, especially if it is bad news,

as you seem to consider it.  At present I am going to take the

children to the nursery.'



'But can't you ring and send them?'



'No; I want the exercise of a run to the top of the house.  Come,

Arthur.'



'But you will return?'



'Not yet; don't wait.'



'Then when may I see you again?'



'At lunch,' said I, departing with little Helen in one arm and

leading Arthur by the hand.



He turned away, muttering some sentence of impatient censure or

complaint, in which 'heartless' was the only distinguishable word.



'What nonsense is this, Mr. Hargrave?' said I, pausing in the

doorway.  'What do you mean?'



'Oh, nothing; I did not intend you should hear my soliloquy.  But

the fact is, Mrs. Huntingdon, I have a disclosure to make, painful

for me to offer as for you to hear; and I want you to give me a few

minutes of your attention in private at any time and place you like

to appoint.  It is from no selfish motive that I ask it, and not

for any cause that could alarm your superhuman purity:  therefore

you need not kill me with that look of cold and pitiless disdain.

I know too well the feelings with which the bearers of bad tidings

are commonly regarded not to - '



'What is this wonderful piece of intelligence?' said I, impatiently

interrupting him.  'If it is anything of real importance, speak it

in three words before I go.'



'In three words I cannot.  Send those children away and stay with

me.'



'No; keep your bad tidings to yourself.  I know it is something I

don't want to hear, and something you would displease me by

telling.'



'You have divined too truly, I fear; but still, since I know it, I

feel it my duty to disclose it to you.'



'Oh, spare us both the infliction, and I will exonerate you from

the duty.  You have offered to tell; I have refused to hear:  my

ignorance will not be charged on you.'



'Be it so:  you shall not hear it from me.  But if the blow fall

too suddenly upon you when it comes, remember I wished to soften

it!'



I left him.  I was determined his words should not alarm me.  What

could he, of all men, have to reveal that was of importance for me

to hear?  It was no doubt some exaggerated tale about my

unfortunate husband that he wished to make the most of to serve his

own bad purposes.



6th. - He has not alluded to this momentous mystery since, and I

have seen no reason to repent of my unwillingness to hear it.  The

threatened blow has not been struck yet, and I do not greatly fear

it.  At present I am pleased with Arthur:  he has not positively

disgraced himself for upwards of a fortnight, and all this last

week has been so very moderate in his indulgence at table that I

can perceive a marked difference in his general temper and

appearance.  Dare I hope this will continue?







CHAPTER XXXIII







Seventh. - Yes, I will hope!  To-night I heard Grimsby and

Hattersley grumbling together about the inhospitality of their

host.  They did not know I was near, for I happened to be standing

behind the curtain in the bow of the window, watching the moon

rising over the clump of tall dark elm-trees below the lawn, and

wondering why Arthur was so sentimental as to stand without,

leaning against the outer pillar of the portico, apparently

watching it too.



'So, I suppose we've seen the last of our merry carousals in this

house,' said Mr. Hattersley; 'I thought his good-fellowship

wouldn't last long.  But,' added he, laughing, 'I didn't expect it

would meet its end this way.  I rather thought our pretty hostess

would be setting up her porcupine quills, and threatening to turn

us out of the house if we didn't mind our manners.'



'You didn't foresee this, then?' answered Grimsby, with a guttural

chuckle.  'But he'll change again when he's sick of her.  If we

come here a year or two hence, we shall have all our own way,

you'll see.'



'I don't know,' replied the other:  'she's not the style of woman

you soon tire of.  But be that as it may, it's devilish provoking

now that we can't be jolly, because he chooses to be on his good

behaviour.'



'It's all these cursed women!' muttered Grimsby:  'they're the very

bane of the world!  They bring trouble and discomfort wherever they

come, with their false, fair faces and their deceitful tongues.'



At this juncture I issued from my retreat, and smiling on Mr.

Grimsby as I passed, left the room and went out in search of

Arthur.  Having seen him bend his course towards the shrubbery, I

followed him thither, and found him just entering the shadowy walk.

I was so light of heart, so overflowing with affection, that I

sprang upon him and clasped him in my arms.  This startling conduct

had a singular effect upon him:  first, he murmured, 'Bless you,

darling!' and returned my close embrace with a fervour like old

times, and then he started, and, in a tone of absolute terror,

exclaimed, 'Helen! what the devil is this?' and I saw, by the faint

light gleaming through the overshadowing tree, that he was

positively pale with the shock.



How strange that the instinctive impulse of affection should come

first, and then the shock of the surprise!  It shows, at least,

that the affection is genuine:  he is not sick of me yet.



'I startled you, Arthur,' said I, laughing in my glee.  'How

nervous you are!'



'What the deuce did you do it for?' cried he, quite testily,

extricating himself from my arms, and wiping his forehead with his

handkerchief.  'Go back, Helen - go back directly!  You'll get your

death of cold!'



'I won't, till I've told you what I came for.  They are blaming

you, Arthur, for your temperance and sobriety, and I'm come to

thank you for it.  They say it is all "these cursed women," and

that we are the bane of the world; but don't let them laugh or

grumble you out of your good resolutions, or your affection for

me.'



He laughed.  I squeezed him in my arms again, and cried in tearful

earnest, 'Do, do persevere! and I'll love you better than ever I

did before!'



'Well, well, I will!' said he, hastily kissing me.  'There, now,

go.  You mad creature, how could you come out in your light evening

dress this chill autumn night?'



'It is a glorious night,' said I.



'It is a night that will give you your death, in another minute.

Run away, do!'



'Do you see my death among those trees, Arthur?' said I, for he was

gazing intently at the shrubs, as if he saw it coming, and I was

reluctant to leave him, in my new-found happiness and revival of

hope and love.  But he grew angry at my delay, so I kissed him and

ran back to the house.



I was in such a good humour that night:  Milicent told me I was the

life of the party, and whispered she had never seen me so

brilliant.  Certainly, I talked enough for twenty, and smiled upon

them all.  Grimsby, Hattersley, Hargrave, Lady Lowborough, all

shared my sisterly kindness.  Grimsby stared and wondered;

Hattersley laughed and jested (in spite of the little wine he had

been suffered to imbibe), but still behaved as well as he knew how.

Hargrave and Annabella, from different motives and in different

ways, emulated me, and doubtless both surpassed me, the former in

his discursive versatility and eloquence, the latter in boldness

and animation at least.  Milicent, delighted to see her husband,

her brother, and her over-estimated friend acquitting themselves so

well, was lively and gay too, in her quiet way.  Even Lord

Lowborough caught the general contagion:  his dark greenish eyes

were lighted up beneath their moody brows; his sombre countenance

was beautified by smiles; all traces of gloom and proud or cold

reserve had vanished for the time; and he astonished us all, not

only by his general cheerfulness and animation, but by the positive

flashes of true force and brilliance he emitted from time to time.

Arthur did not talk much, but he laughed, and listened to the rest,

and was in perfect good-humour, though not excited by wine.  So

that, altogether, we made a very merry, innocent, and entertaining

party.



9th. - Yesterday, when Rachel came to dress me for dinner, I saw

that she had been crying.  I wanted to know the cause of it, but

she seemed reluctant to tell.  Was she unwell?  No.  Had she heard

bad news from her friends?  No.  Had any of the servants vexed her?



'Oh, no, ma'am!' she answered; 'it's not for myself.'



'What then, Rachel?  Have you been reading novels?'



'Bless you, no!' said she, with a sorrowful shake of the head; and

then she sighed and continued:  'But to tell you the truth, ma'am,

I don't like master's ways of going on.'



'What do you mean, Rachel?  He's going on very properly at

present.'



'Well, ma'am, if you think so, it's right.'



And she went on dressing my hair, in a hurried way, quite unlike

her usual calm, collected manner, murmuring, half to herself, she

was sure it was beautiful hair:  she 'could like to see 'em match

it.'  When it was done, she fondly stroked it, and gently patted my

head.



'Is that affectionate ebullition intended for my hair, or myself,

nurse?' said I, laughingly turning round upon her; but a tear was

even now in her eye.



'What do you mean, Rachel?' I exclaimed.



'Well, ma'am, I don't know; but if - '



'If what?'



'Well, if I was you, I wouldn't have that Lady Lowborough in the

house another minute - not another minute I wouldn't!



I was thunderstruck; but before I could recover from the shock

sufficiently to demand an explanation, Milicent entered my room, as

she frequently does when she is dressed before me; and she stayed

with me till it was time to go down.  She must have found me a very

unsociable companion this time, for Rachel's last words rang in my

ears.  But still I hoped, I trusted they had no foundation but in

some idle rumour of the servants from what they had seen in Lady

Lowborough's manner last month; or perhaps from something that had

passed between their master and her during her former visit.  At

dinner I narrowly observed both her and Arthur, and saw nothing

extraordinary in the conduct of either, nothing calculated to

excite suspicion, except in distrustful minds, which mine was not,

and therefore I would not suspect.



Almost immediately after dinner Annabella went out with her husband

to share his moonlight ramble, for it was a splendid evening like

the last.  Mr. Hargrave entered the drawing-room a little before

the others, and challenged me to a game of chess.  He did it

without any of that sad but proud humility he usually assumes in

addressing me, unless he is excited with wine.  I looked at his

face to see if that was the case now.  His eye met mine keenly, but

steadily:  there was something about him I did not understand, but

he seemed sober enough.  Not choosing to engage with him, I

referred him to Milicent.



'She plays badly,' said he, 'I want to match my skill with yours.

Come now! you can't pretend you are reluctant to lay down your

work.  I know you never take it up except to pass an idle hour,

when there is nothing better you can do.'



'But chess-players are so unsociable,' I objected; 'they are no

company for any but themselves.'



'There is no one here but Milicent, and she - '



'Oh, I shall be delighted to watch you!' cried our mutual friend.

'Two such players - it will be quite a treat!  I wonder which will

conquer.'



I consented.



'Now, Mrs. Huntingdon,' said Hargrave, as he arranged the men on

the board, speaking distinctly, and with a peculiar emphasis, as if

he had a double meaning to all his words, 'you are a good player,

but I am a better:  we shall have a long game, and you will give me

some trouble; but I can be as patient as you, and in the end I

shall certainly win.'  He fixed his eyes upon me with a glance I

did not like, keen, crafty, bold, and almost impudent; - already

half triumphant in his anticipated success.



'I hope not, Mr. Hargrave!' returned I, with vehemence that must

have startled Milicent at least; but he only smiled and murmured,

'Time will show.'



We set to work:  he sufficiently interested in the game, but calm

and fearless in the consciousness of superior skill:  I, intensely

eager to disappoint his expectations, for I considered this the

type of a more serious contest, as I imagined he did, and I felt an

almost superstitious dread of being beaten:  at all events, I could

ill endure that present success should add one tittle to his

conscious power (his insolent self-confidence I ought to say), or

encourage for a moment his dream of future conquest.  His play was

cautious and deep, but I struggled hard against him.  For some time

the combat was doubtful:  at length, to my joy, the victory seemed

inclining to my side:  I had taken several of his best pieces, and

manifestly baffled his projects.  He put his hand to his brow and

paused, in evident perplexity.  I rejoiced in my advantage, but

dared not glory in it yet.  At length, he lifted his head, and

quietly making his move, looked at me and said, calmly, 'Now you

think you will win, don't you?'



'I hope so,' replied I, taking his pawn that he had pushed into the

way of my bishop with so careless an air that I thought it was an

oversight, but was not generous enough, under the circumstances, to

direct his attention to it, and too heedless, at the moment, to

foresee the after-consequences of my move.



'It is those bishops that trouble me,' said he; 'but the bold

knight can overleap the reverend gentlemen,' taking my last bishop

with his knight; 'and now, those sacred persons once removed, I

shall carry all before me.'



'Oh, Walter, how you talk!' cried Milicent; 'she has far more

pieces than you still.'



'I intend to give you some trouble yet,' said I; 'and perhaps, sir,

you will find yourself checkmated before you are aware.  Look to

your queen.'



The combat deepened.  The game was a long one, and I did give him

some trouble:  but he was a better player than I.



'What keen gamesters you are!' said Mr. Hattersley, who had now

entered, and been watching us for some time.  'Why, Mrs.

Huntingdon, your hand trembles as if you had staked your all upon

it! and, Walter, you dog, you look as deep and cool as if you were

certain of success, and as keen and cruel as if you would drain her

heart's blood!  But if I were you, I wouldn't beat her, for very

fear:  she'll hate you if you do - she will, by heaven!  I see it

in her eye.'



'Hold your tongue, will you?' said I:  his talk distracted me, for

I was driven to extremities.  A few more moves, and I was

inextricably entangled in the snare of my antagonist.



'Check,' cried he:  I sought in agony some means of escape.

'Mate!' he added, quietly, but with evident delight.  He had

suspended the utterance of that last fatal syllable the better to

enjoy my dismay.  I was foolishly disconcerted by the event.

Hattersley laughed; Milicent was troubled to see me so disturbed.

Hargrave placed his hand on mine that rested on the table, and

squeezing it with a firm but gentle pressure, murmured, 'Beaten,

beaten!' and gazed into my face with a look where exultation was

blended with an expression of ardour and tenderness yet more

insulting.



'No, never, Mr. Hargrave!' exclaimed I, quickly withdrawing my

hand.



'Do you deny?' replied he, smilingly pointing to the board.  'No,

no,' I answered, recollecting how strange my conduct must appear:

'you have beaten me in that game.'



'Will you try another, then?'



'No.'



'You acknowledge my superiority?'



'Yes, as a chess-player.'



I rose to resume my work.



'Where is Annabella?' said Hargrave, gravely, after glancing round

the room.



'Gone out with Lord Lowborough,' answered I, for he looked at me

for a reply.



'And not yet returned!' he said, seriously.



'I suppose not.'



'Where is Huntingdon?' looking round again.



'Gone out with Grimsby, as you know,' said Hattersley, suppressing

a laugh, which broke forth as he concluded the sentence.  Why did

he laugh?  Why did Hargrave connect them thus together?  Was it

true, then?  And was this the dreadful secret he had wished to

reveal to me?  I must know, and that quickly.  I instantly rose and

left the room to go in search of Rachel and demand an explanation

of her words; but Mr. Hargrave followed me into the anteroom, and

before I could open its outer door, gently laid his hand upon the

lock.  'May I tell you something, Mrs. Huntingdon?' said he, in a

subdued tone, with serious, downcast eyes.



'If it be anything worth hearing,' replied I, struggling to be

composed, for I trembled in every limb.



He quietly pushed a chair towards me.  I merely leant my hand upon

it, and bid him go on.



'Do not be alarmed,' said he:  'what I wish to say is nothing in

itself; and I will leave you to draw your own inferences from it.

You say that Annabella is not yet returned?'



'Yes, yes - go on!' said I, impatiently; for I feared my forced

calmness would leave me before the end of his disclosure, whatever

it might be.



'And you hear,' continued he, 'that Huntingdon is gone out with

Grimsby?'



'Well?'



'I heard the latter say to your husband - or the man who calls

himself so - '



'Go on, sir!'



He bowed submissively, and continued:  'I heard him say, - "I shall

manage it, you'll see!  They're gone down by the water; I shall

meet them there, and tell him I want a bit of talk with him about

some things that we needn't trouble the lady with; and she'll say

she can be walking back to the house; and then I shall apologise,

you know, and all that, and tip her a wink to take the way of the

shrubbery.  I'll keep him talking there, about those matters I

mentioned, and anything else I can think of, as long as I can, and

then bring him round the other way, stopping to look at the trees,

the fields, and anything else I can find to discourse of."'  Mr.

Hargrave paused, and looked at me.



Without a word of comment or further questioning, I rose, and

darted from the room and out of the house.  The torment of suspense

was not to be endured:  I would not suspect my husband falsely, on

this man's accusation, and I would not trust him unworthily - I

must know the truth at once.  I flew to the shrubbery.  Scarcely

had I reached it, when a sound of voices arrested my breathless

speed.



'We have lingered too long; he will be back,' said Lady

Lowborough's voice.



'Surely not, dearest!' was his reply; 'but you can run across the

lawn, and get in as quietly as you can; I'll follow in a while.'



My knees trembled under me; my brain swam round.  I was ready to

faint.  She must not see me thus.  I shrunk among the bushes, and

leant against the trunk of a tree to let her pass.



'Ah, Huntingdon!' said she reproachfully, pausing where I had stood

with him the night before - 'it was here you kissed that woman!'

she looked back into the leafy shade.  Advancing thence, he

answered, with a careless laugh, -



'Well, dearest, I couldn't help it.  You know I must keep straight

with her as long as I can.  Haven't I seen you kiss your dolt of a

husband scores of times? - and do I ever complain?'



'But tell me, don't you love her still - a little?' said she,

placing her hand on his arm, looking earnestly in his face - for I

could see them, plainly, the moon shining full upon them from

between the branches of the tree that sheltered me.



'Not one bit, by all that's sacred!' he replied, kissing her

glowing cheek.



'Good heavens, I must be gone!' cried she, suddenly breaking from

him, and away she flew.



There he stood before me; but I had not strength to confront him

now:  my tongue cleaved to the roof of my mouth; I was well-nigh

sinking to the earth, and I almost wondered he did not hear the

beating of my heart above the low sighing of the wind and the

fitful rustle of the falling leaves.  My senses seemed to fail me,

but still I saw his shadowy form pass before me, and through the

rushing sound in my ears I distinctly heard him say, as he stood

looking up the lawn, - 'There goes the fool!  Run, Annabella, run!

There - in with you!  Ah, - he didn't see!  That's right, Grimsby,

keep him back!'  And even his low laugh reached me as he walked

away.



'God help me now!' I murmured, sinking on my knees among the damp

weeds and brushwood that surrounded me, and looking up at the

moonlit sky, through the scant foliage above.  It seemed all dim

and quivering now to my darkened sight.  My burning, bursting heart

strove to pour forth its agony to God, but could not frame its

anguish into prayer; until a gust of wind swept over me, which,

while it scattered the dead leaves, like blighted hopes, around,

cooled my forehead, and seemed a little to revive my sinking frame.

Then, while I lifted up my soul in speechless, earnest

supplication, some heavenly influence seemed to strengthen me

within:  I breathed more freely; my vision cleared; I saw

distinctly the pure moon shining on, and the light clouds skimming

the clear, dark sky; and then I saw the eternal stars twinkling

down upon me; I knew their God was mine, and He was strong to save

and swift to hear.  'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,'

seemed whispered from above their myriad orbs.  No, no; I felt He

would not leave me comfortless:  in spite of earth and hell I

should have strength for all my trials, and win a glorious rest at

last!



Refreshed, invigorated, if not composed, I rose and returned to the

house.  Much of my new-born strength and courage forsook me, I

confess, as I entered it, and shut out the fresh wind and the

glorious sky:  everything I saw and heard seemed to sicken my heart

- the hall, the lamp, the staircase, the doors of the different

apartments, the social sound of talk and laughter from the drawing-

room.  How could I bear my future life!  In this house, among those

people - oh, how could I endure to live!  John just then entered

the hall, and seeing me, told me he had been sent in search of me,

adding that he had taken in the tea, and master wished to know if I

were coming.



'Ask Mrs. Hattersley to be so kind as to make the tea, John,' said

I.  'Say I am not well to-night, and wish to be excused.'



I retired into the large, empty dining-room, where all was silence

and darkness, but for the soft sighing of the wind without, and the

faint gleam of moonlight that pierced the blinds and curtains; and

there I walked rapidly up and down, thinking of my bitter thoughts

alone.  How different was this from the evening of yesterday!

That, it seems, was the last expiring flash of my life's happiness.

Poor, blinded fool that I was to be so happy!  I could now see the

reason of Arthur's strange reception of me in the shrubbery; the

burst of kindness was for his paramour, the start of horror for his

wife.  Now, too, I could better understand the conversation between

Hattersley and Grimsby; it was doubtless of his love for her they

spoke, not for me.



I heard the drawing-room door open:  a light quick step came out of

the ante-room, crossed the hall, and ascended the stairs.  It was

Milicent, poor Milicent, gone to see how I was - no one else cared

for me; but she still was kind.  I shed no tears before, but now

they came, fast and free.  Thus she did me good, without

approaching me.  Disappointed in her search, I heard her come down,

more slowly than she had ascended.  Would she come in there, and

find me out?  No, she turned in the opposite direction and re-

entered the drawing-room.  I was glad, for I knew not how to meet

her, or what to say.  I wanted no confidante in my distress.  I

deserved none, and I wanted none.  I had taken the burden upon

myself; let me bear it alone.



As the usual hour of retirement approached I dried my eyes, and

tried to clear my voice and calm my mind.  I must see Arthur to-

night, and speak to him; but I would do it calmly:  there should be

no scene - nothing to complain or to boast of to his companions -

nothing to laugh at with his lady-love.  When the company were

retiring to their chambers I gently opened the door, and just as he

passed, beckoned him in.



'What's to do with you, Helen?' said he.  'Why couldn't you come to

make tea for us? and what the deuce are you here for, in the dark?

What ails you, young woman:  you look like a ghost!' he continued,

surveying me by the light of his candle.



'No matter,' I answered, 'to you; you have no longer any regard for

me it appears; and I have no longer any for you.'



'Hal-lo! what the devil is this?' he muttered.



'I would leave you to-morrow,' continued I, 'and never again come

under this roof, but for my child' - I paused a moment to steady,

my voice.



'What in the devil's name is this, Helen?' cried he.  'What can you

be driving at?'



'You know perfectly well.  Let us waste no time in useless

explanation, but tell me, will you -?'



He vehemently swore he knew nothing about it, and insisted upon

hearing what poisonous old woman had been blackening his name, and

what infamous lies I had been fool enough to believe.



'Spare yourself the trouble of forswearing yourself and racking

your brains to stifle truth with falsehood,' I coldly replied.  'I

have trusted to the testimony of no third person.  I was in the

shrubbery this evening, and I saw and heard for myself.'



This was enough.  He uttered a suppressed exclamation of

consternation and dismay, and muttering, 'I shall catch it now!'

set down his candle on the nearest chair, and rearing his back

against the wall, stood confronting me with folded arms.



'Well, what then?' said he, with the calm insolence of mingled

shamelessness and desperation.



'Only this,' returned I; 'will you let me take our child and what

remains of my fortune, and go?'



'Go where?'



'Anywhere, where he will be safe from your contaminating influence,

and I shall be delivered from your presence, and you from mine.'



'No.'



'Will you let me have the child then, without the money?'



'No, nor yourself without the child.  Do you think I'm going to be

made the talk of the country for your fastidious caprices?'



'Then I must stay here, to be hated and despised.  But henceforth

we are husband and wife only in the name.'



'Very good.'



'I am your child's mother, and your housekeeper, nothing more.  So

you need not trouble yourself any longer to feign the love you

cannot feel:  I will exact no more heartless caresses from you, nor

offer nor endure them either.  I will not be mocked with the empty

husk of conjugal endearments, when you have given the substance to

another!'



'Very good, if you please.  We shall see who will tire first, my

lady.'



'If I tire, it will be of living in the world with you:  not of

living without your mockery of love.  When you tire of your sinful

ways, and show yourself truly repentant, I will forgive you, and,

perhaps, try to love you again, though that will be hard indeed.'



'Humph! and meantime you will go and talk me over to Mrs. Hargrave,

and write long letters to aunt Maxwell to complain of the wicked

wretch you have married?'



'I shall complain to no one.  Hitherto I have struggled hard to

hide your vices from every eye, and invest you with virtues you

never possessed; but now you must look to yourself.'



I left him muttering bad language to himself, and went up-stairs.



'You are poorly, ma'am,' said Rachel, surveying me with deep

anxiety.



'It is too true, Rachel,' said I, answering her sad looks rather

than her words.



'I knew it, or I wouldn't have mentioned such a thing.'



'But don't you trouble yourself about it,' said I, kissing her

pale, time-wasted cheek.  'I can bear it better than you imagine.'



'Yes, you were always for "bearing."  But if I was you I wouldn't

bear it; I'd give way to it, and cry right hard! and I'd talk too,

I just would - I'd let him know what it was to - '



'I have talked,' said I; 'I've said enough.'



'Then I'd cry,' persisted she.  'I wouldn't look so white and so

calm, and burst my heart with keeping it in.'



'I have cried,' said I, smiling, in spite of my misery; 'and I am

calm now, really:  so don't discompose me again, nurse:  let us say

no more about it, and don't mention it to the servants.  There, you

may go now.  Good-night; and don't disturb your rest for me:  I

shall sleep well - if I can.'



Notwithstanding this resolution, I found my bed so intolerable

that, before two o'clock, I rose, and lighting my candle by the

rushlight that was still burning, I got my desk and sat down in my

dressing-gown to recount the events of the past evening.  It was

better to be so occupied than to be lying in bed torturing my brain

with recollections of the far past and anticipations of the

dreadful future.  I have found relief in describing the very

circumstances that have destroyed my peace, as well as the little

trivial details attendant upon their discovery.  No sleep I could

have got this night would have done so much towards composing my

mind, and preparing me to meet the trials of the day.  I fancy so,

at least; and yet, when I cease writing, I find my head aches

terribly; and when I look into the glass, I am startled at my

haggard, worn appearance.



Rachel has been to dress me, and says I have had a sad night of it,

she can see.  Milicent has just looked in to ask me how I was.  I

told her I was better, but to excuse my appearance admitted I had

had a restless night.  I wish this day were over!  I shudder at the

thoughts of going down to breakfast.  How shall I encounter them

all?  Yet let me remember it is not I that am guilty:  I have no

cause to fear; and if they scorn me as a victim of their guilt, I

can pity their folly and despise their scorn.







CHAPTER XXXIV







Evening. - Breakfast passed well over:  I was calm and cool

throughout.  I answered composedly all inquiries respecting my

health; and whatever was unusual in my look or manner was generally

attributed to the trifling indisposition that had occasioned my

early retirement last night.  But how am I to get over the ten or

twelve days that must yet elapse before they go?  Yet why so long

for their departure?  When they are gone, how shall I get through

the months or years of my future life in company with that man - my

greatest enemy? for none could injure me as he has done.  Oh! when

I think how fondly, how foolishly I have loved him, how madly I

have trusted him, how constantly I have laboured, and studied, and

prayed, and struggled for his advantage; and how cruelly he has

trampled on my love, betrayed my trust, scorned my prayers and

tears, and efforts for his preservation, crushed my hopes,

destroyed my youth's best feelings, and doomed me to a life of

hopeless misery, as far as man can do it, it is not enough to say

that I no longer love my husband - I HATE him!  The word stares me

in the face like a guilty confession, but it is true:  I hate him -

I hate him!  But God have mercy on his miserable soul! and make him

see and feel his guilt - I ask no other vengeance!  If he could but

fully know and truly feel my wrongs I should be well avenged, and I

could freely pardon all; but he is so lost, so hardened in his

heartless depravity, that in this life I believe he never will.

But it is useless dwelling on this theme:  let me seek once more to

dissipate reflection in the minor details of passing events.



Mr. Hargrave has annoyed me all day long with his serious,

sympathising, and (as he thinks) unobtrusive politeness.  If it

were more obtrusive it would trouble me less, for then I could snub

him; but, as it is, he contrives to appear so really kind and

thoughtful that I cannot do so without rudeness and seeming

ingratitude.  I sometimes think I ought to give him credit for the

good feeling he simulates so well; and then again, I think it is my

duty to suspect him under the peculiar circumstances in which I am

placed.  His kindness may not all be feigned; but still, let not

the purest impulse of gratitude to him induce me to forget myself:

let me remember the game of chess, the expressions he used on the

occasion, and those indescribable looks of his, that so justly

roused my indignation, and I think I shall be safe enough.  I have

done well to record them so minutely.



I think he wishes to find an opportunity of speaking to me alone:

he has seemed to be on the watch all day; but I have taken care to

disappoint him - not that I fear anything he could say, but I have

trouble enough without the addition of his insulting consolations,

condolences, or whatever else he might attempt; and, for Milicent's

sake, I do not wish to quarrel with him.  He excused himself from

going out to shoot with the other gentlemen in the morning, under

the pretext of having letters to write; and instead of retiring for

that purpose into the library, he sent for his desk into the

morning-room, where I was seated with Milicent and Lady Lowborough.

They had betaken themselves to their work; I, less to divert my

mind than to deprecate conversation, had provided myself with a

book.  Milicent saw that I wished to be quiet, and accordingly let

me alone.  Annabella, doubtless, saw it too:  but that was no

reason why she should restrain her tongue, or curb her cheerful

spirits:  she accordingly chatted away, addressing herself almost

exclusively to me, and with the utmost assurance and familiarity,

growing the more animated and friendly the colder and briefer my

answers became.  Mr. Hargrave saw that I could ill endure it, and,

looking up from his desk, he answered her questions and

observations for me, as far as he could, and attempted to transfer

her social attentions from me to himself; but it would not do.

Perhaps she thought I had a headache, and could not bear to talk;

at any rate, she saw that her loquacious vivacity annoyed me, as I

could tell by the malicious pertinacity with which she persisted.

But I checked it effectually by putting into her hand the book I

had been trying to read, on the fly-leaf of which I had hastily

scribbled, -



'I am too well acquainted with your character and conduct to feel

any real friendship for you, and as I am without your talent for

dissimulation, I cannot assume the appearance of it.  I must,

therefore, beg that hereafter all familiar intercourse may cease

between us; and if I still continue to treat you with civility, as

if you were a woman worthy of consideration and respect, understand

that it is out of regard for your cousin Milicent's feelings, not

for yours.'



Upon perusing this she turned scarlet, and bit her lip.  Covertly

tearing away the leaf, she crumpled it up and put it in the fire,

and then employed herself in turning over the pages of the book,

and, really or apparently, perusing its contents.  In a little

while Milicent announced it her intention to repair to the nursery,

and asked if I would accompany her.



'Annabella will excuse us,' said she; 'she's busy reading.'



'No, I won't,' cried Annabella, suddenly looking up, and throwing

her book on the table; 'I want to speak to Helen a minute.  You may

go, Milicent, and she'll follow in a while.'  (Milicent went.)

'Will you oblige me, Helen?' continued she.



Her impudence astounded me; but I complied, and followed her into

the library.  She closed the door, and walked up to the fire.



'Who told you this?' said she.



'No one:  I am not incapable of seeing for myself.'



'Ah, you are suspicious!' cried she, smiling, with a gleam of hope.

Hitherto there had been a kind of desperation in her hardihood; now

she was evidently relieved.



'If I were suspicious,' I replied, 'I should have discovered your

infamy long before.  No, Lady Lowborough, I do not found my charge

upon suspicion.'



'On what do you found it, then?' said she, throwing herself into an

arm-chair, and stretching out her feet to the fender, with an

obvious effort to appear composed.



'I enjoy a moonlight ramble as well as you,' I answered, steadily

fixing my eyes upon her; 'and the shrubbery happens to be one of my

favourite resorts.'



She coloured again excessively, and remained silent, pressing her

finger against her teeth, and gazing into the fire.  I watched her

a few moments with a feeling of malevolent gratification; then,

moving towards the door, I calmly asked if she had anything more to

say.



'Yes, yes!' cried she eagerly, starting up from her reclining

posture.  'I want to know if you will tell Lord Lowborough?'



'Suppose I do?'



'Well, if you are disposed to publish the matter, I cannot dissuade

you, of course - but there will be terrible work if you do - and if

you don't, I shall think you the most generous of mortal beings -

and if there is anything in the world I can do for you - anything

short of - ' she hesitated.



'Short of renouncing your guilty connection with my husband, I

suppose you mean?' said I.



She paused, in evident disconcertion and perplexity, mingled with

anger she dared not show.



'I cannot renounce what is dearer than life,' she muttered, in a

low, hurried tone.  Then, suddenly raising her head and fixing her

gleaming eyes upon me, she continued earnestly:  'But, Helen - or

Mrs. Huntingdon, or whatever you would have me call you - will you

tell him?  If you are generous, here is a fitting opportunity for

the exercise of your magnanimity:  if you are proud, here am I -

your rival - ready to acknowledge myself your debtor for an act of

the most noble forbearance.'



'I shall not tell him.'



'You will not!' cried she, delightedly.  'Accept my sincere thanks,

then!'



She sprang up, and offered me her hand.  I drew back.



'Give me no thanks; it is not for your sake that I refrain.

Neither is it an act of any forbearance:  I have no wish to publish

your shame.  I should be sorry to distress your husband with the

knowledge of it.'



'And Milicent? will you tell her?'



'No:  on the contrary, I shall do my utmost to conceal it from her.

I would not for much that she should know the infamy and disgrace

of her relation!'



'You use hard words, Mrs. Huntingdon, but I can pardon you.'



'And now, Lady Lowborough,' continued I, 'let me counsel you to

leave this house as soon as possible.  You must be aware that your

continuance here is excessively disagreeable to me - not for Mr.

Huntingdon's sake,' said I, observing the dawn of a malicious smile

of triumph on her face - 'you are welcome to him, if you like him,

as far as I am concerned - but because it is painful to be always

disguising my true sentiments respecting you, and straining to keep

up an appearance of civility and respect towards one for whom I

have not the most distant shadow of esteem; and because, if you

stay, your conduct cannot possibly remain concealed much longer

from the only two persons in the house who do not know it already.

And, for your husband's sake, Annabella, and even for your own, I

wish - I earnestly advise and entreat you to break off this

unlawful connection at once, and return to your duty while you may,

before the dreadful consequences - '



'Yes, yes, of course,' said she, interrupting me with a gesture of

impatience.  'But I cannot go, Helen, before the time appointed for

our departure.  What possible pretext could I frame for such a

thing?  Whether I proposed going back alone - which Lowborough

would not hear of - or taking him with me, the very circumstance

itself would be certain to excite suspicion - and when our visit is

so nearly at an end too - little more than a week - surely you can

endure my presence so long!  I will not annoy you with any more of

my friendly impertinences.'



'Well, I have nothing more to say to you.'



'Have you mentioned this affair to Huntingdon?' asked she, as I was

leaving the room.



'How dare you mention his name to me!' was the only answer I gave.



No words have passed between us since, but such as outward decency

or pure necessity demanded.







CHAPTER XXXV







Nineteenth. - In proportion as Lady Lowborough finds she has

nothing to fear from me, and as the time of departure draws nigh,

the more audacious and insolent she becomes.  She does not scruple

to speak to my husband with affectionate familiarity in my

presence, when no one else is by, and is particularly fond of

displaying her interest in his health and welfare, or in anything

that concerns him, as if for the purpose of contrasting her kind

solicitude with my cold indifference.  And he rewards her by such

smiles and glances, such whispered words, or boldly-spoken

insinuations, indicative of his sense of her goodness and my

neglect, as make the blood rush into my face, in spite of myself -

for I would be utterly regardless of it all - deaf and blind to

everything that passes between them, since the more I show myself

sensible of their wickedness the more she triumphs in her victory,

and the more he flatters himself that I love him devotedly still,

in spite of my pretended indifference.  On such occasions I have

sometimes been startled by a subtle, fiendish suggestion inciting

me to show him the contrary by a seeming encouragement of

Hargrave's advances; but such ideas are banished in a moment with

horror and self-abasement; and then I hate him tenfold more than

ever for having brought me to this! - God pardon me for it and all

my sinful thoughts!  Instead of being humbled and purified by my

afflictions, I feel that they are turning my nature into gall.

This must be my fault as much as theirs that wrong me.  No true

Christian could cherish such bitter feelings as I do against him

and her, especially the latter:  him, I still feel that I could

pardon - freely, gladly - on the slightest token of repentance; but

she - words cannot utter my abhorrence.  Reason forbids, but

passion urges strongly; and I must pray and struggle long ere I

subdue it.



It is well that she is leaving to-morrow, for I could not well

endure her presence for another day.  This morning she rose earlier

than usual.  I found her in the room alone, when I went down to

breakfast.



'Oh, Helen! is it you?' said she, turning as I entered.



I gave an involuntary start back on seeing her, at which she

uttered a short laugh, observing, 'I think we are both

disappointed.'



I came forward and busied myself with the breakfast things.



'This is the last day I shall burden your hospitality,' said she,

as she seated herself at the table.  'Ah, here comes one that will

not rejoice at it!' she murmured, half to herself, as Arthur

entered the room.



He shook hands with her and wished her good-morning:  then, looking

lovingly in her face, and still retaining her hand in his, murmured

pathetically, 'The last - last day!'



'Yes,' said she with some asperity; 'and I rose early to make the

best of it - I have been here alone this half-hour, and you - you

lazy creature - '



'Well, I thought I was early too,' said he; 'but,' dropping his

voice almost to a whisper, 'you see we are not alone.'



'We never are,' returned she.  But they were almost as good as

alone, for I was now standing at the window, watching the clouds,

and struggling to suppress my wrath.



Some more words passed between them, which, happily, I did not

overhear; but Annabella had the audacity to come and place herself

beside me, and even to put her hand upon my shoulder and say

softly, 'You need not grudge him to me, Helen, for I love him more

than ever you could do.'



This put me beside myself.  I took her hand and violently dashed it

from me, with an expression of abhorrence and indignation that

could not be suppressed.  Startled, almost appalled, by this sudden

outbreak, she recoiled in silence.  I would have given way to my

fury and said more, but Arthur's low laugh recalled me to myself.

I checked the half-uttered invective, and scornfully turned away,

regretting that I had given him so much amusement.  He was still

laughing when Mr. Hargrave made his appearance.  How much of the

scene he had witnessed I do not know, for the door was ajar when he

entered.  He greeted his host and his cousin both coldly, and me

with a glance intended to express the deepest sympathy mingled with

high admiration and esteem.



'How much allegiance do you owe to that man?' he asked below his

breath, as he stood beside me at the window, affecting to be making

observations on the weather.



'None,' I answered.  And immediately returning to the table, I

employed myself in making the tea.  He followed, and would have

entered into some kind of conversation with me, but the other

guests were now beginning to assemble, and I took no more notice of

him, except to give him his coffee.



After breakfast, determined to pass as little of the day as

possible in company with Lady Lowborough, I quietly stole away from

the company and retired to the library.  Mr. Hargrave followed me

thither, under pretence of coming for a book; and first, turning to

the shelves, he selected a volume, and then quietly, but by no

means timidly, approaching me, he stood beside me, resting his hand

on the back of my chair, and said softly, 'And so you consider

yourself free at last?'



'Yes,' said I, without moving, or raising my eyes from my book,

'free to do anything but offend God and my conscience.'



There was a momentary pause.



'Very right,' said he, 'provided your conscience be not too

morbidly tender, and your ideas of God not too erroneously severe;

but can you suppose it would offend that benevolent Being to make

the happiness of one who would die for yours? - to raise a devoted

heart from purgatorial torments to a state of heavenly bliss, when

you could do it without the slightest injury to yourself or any

other?'



This was spoken in a low, earnest, melting tone, as he bent over

me.  I now raised my head; and steadily confronting his gaze, I

answered calmly, 'Mr. Hargrave, do you mean to insult me?'



He was not prepared for this.  He paused a moment to recover the

shook; then, drawing himself up and removing his hand from my

chair, he answered, with proud sadness, - 'That was not my

intention.'



I just glanced towards the door, with a slight movement of the

head, and then returned to my book.  He immediately withdrew.  This

was better than if I had answered with more words, and in the

passionate spirit to which my first impulse would have prompted.

What a good thing it is to be able to command one's temper!  I must

labour to cultivate this inestimable quality:  God only knows how

often I shall need it in this rough, dark road that lies before me.



In the course of the morning I drove over to the Grove with the two

ladies, to give Milicent an opportunity for bidding farewell to her

mother and sister.  They persuaded her to stay with them the rest

of the day, Mrs. Hargrave promising to bring her back in the

evening and remain till the party broke up on the morrow.

Consequently, Lady Lowborough and I had the pleasure of returning

TETE-E-TETE in the carriage together.  For the first mile or two we

kept silence, I looking out of my window, and she leaning back in

her corner.  But I was not going to restrict myself to any

particular position for her; when I was tired of leaning forward,

with the cold, raw wind in my face, and surveying the russet hedges

and the damp, tangled grass of their banks, I gave it up and leant

back too.  With her usual impudence, my companion then made some

attempts to get up a conversation; but the monosyllables 'yes,' or

'no' or 'humph,' were the utmost her several remarks could elicit

from me.  At last, on her asking my opinion upon some immaterial

point of discussion, I answered, - 'Why do you wish to talk to me,

Lady Lowborough?  You must know what I think of you.'



'Well, if you will be so bitter against me,' replied she, 'I can't

help it; but I'm not going to sulk for anybody.'



Our short drive was now at an end.  As soon as the carriage door

was opened, she sprang out, and went down the park to meet the

gentlemen, who were just returning from the woods.  Of course I did

not follow.



But I had not done with her impudence yet:  after dinner, I retired

to the drawing-room, as usual, and she accompanied me, but I had

the two children with me, and I gave them my whole attention, and

determined to keep them till the gentlemen came, or till Milicent

arrived with her mother.  Little Helen, however, was soon tired of

playing, and insisted upon going to sleep; and while I sat on the

sofa with her on my knee, and Arthur seated beside me, gently

playing with her soft, flaxen hair, Lady Lowborough composedly came

and placed herself on the other side.



'To-morrow, Mrs. Huntingdon,' said she, 'you will be delivered from

my presence, which, no doubt, you will be very glad of - it is

natural you should; but do you know I have rendered you a great

service?  Shall I tell you what it is?'



'I shall be glad to hear of any service you have rendered me,' said

I, determined to be calm, for I knew by the tone of her voice she

wanted to provoke me.



'Well,' resumed she, 'have you not observed the salutary change in

Mr. Huntingdon?  Don't you see what a sober, temperate man he is

become?  You saw with regret the sad habits he was contracting, I

know:  and I know you did your utmost to deliver him from them, but

without success, until I came to your assistance.  I told him in

few words that I could not bear to see him degrade himself so, and

that I should cease to - no matter what I told him, but you see the

reformation I have wrought; and you ought to thank me for it.'



I rose and rang for the nurse.



'But I desire no thanks,' she continued; 'all the return I ask is,

that you will take care of him when I am gone, and not, by

harshness and neglect, drive him back to his old courses.'



I was almost sick with passion, but Rachel was now at the door.  I

pointed to the children, for I could not trust myself to speak:

she took them away, and I followed.



'Will you, Helen?' continued the speaker.



I gave her a look that blighted the malicious smile on her face, or

checked it, at least for a moment, and departed.  In the ante-room

I met Mr. Hargrave.  He saw I was in no humour to be spoken to, and

suffered me to pass without a word; but when, after a few minutes'

seclusion in the library, I had regained my composure, and was

returning to join Mrs. Hargrave and Milicent, whom I had just heard

come downstairs and go into the drawing-room, I found him there

still lingering in the dimly-lighted apartment, and evidently

waiting for me.



'Mrs. Huntingdon,' said he as I passed, 'will you allow me one

word?'



'What is it then? be quick, if you please.'



'I offended you this morning; and I cannot live under your

displeasure.'



'Then go, and sin no more,' replied I, turning away.



'No, no!' said he, hastily, setting himself before me.  'Pardon me,

but I must have your forgiveness.  I leave you to-morrow, and I may

not have an opportunity of speaking to you again.  I was wrong to

forget myself and you, as I did; but let me implore you to forget

and forgive my rash presumption, and think of me as if those words

had never been spoken; for, believe me, I regret them deeply, and

the loss of your esteem is too severe a penalty:  I cannot bear

it.'



'Forgetfulness is not to be purchased with a wish; and I cannot

bestow my esteem on all who desire it, unless they deserve it too.'



'I shall think my life well spent in labouring to deserve it, if

you will but pardon this offence - will you?'



'Yes.'



'Yes! but that is coldly spoken.  Give me your hand and I'll

believe you.  You won't?  Then, Mrs. Huntingdon, you do not forgive

me!'



'Yes; here it is, and my forgiveness with it:  only, SIN NO MORE.'



He pressed my cold hand with sentimental fervour, but said nothing,

and stood aside to let me pass into the room, where all the company

were now assembled.  Mr. Grimsby was seated near the door:  on

seeing me enter, almost immediately followed by Hargrave, he leered

at me with a glance of intolerable significance, as I passed.  I

looked him in the face, till he sullenly turned away, if not

ashamed, at least confounded for the moment.  Meantime Hattersley

had seized Hargrave by the arm, and was whispering something in his

ear - some coarse joke, no doubt, for the latter neither laughed

nor spoke in answer, but, turning from him with a slight curl of

the lip, disengaged himself and went to his mother, who was telling

Lord Lowborough how many reasons she had to be proud of her son.



Thank heaven, they are all going to-morrow.







CHAPTER XXXVI







December 20th, 1824. - This is the third anniversary of our

felicitous union.  It is now two months since our guests left us to

the enjoyment of each other's society; and I have had nine weeks'

experience of this new phase of conjugal life - two persons living

together, as master and mistress of the house, and father and

mother of a winsome, merry little child, with the mutual

understanding that there is no love, friendship, or sympathy

between them.  As far as in me lies, I endeavour to live peaceably

with him:  I treat him with unimpeachable civility, give up my

convenience to his, wherever it may reasonably be done, and consult

him in a business-like way on household affairs, deferring to his

pleasure and judgment, even when I know the latter to be inferior

to my own.



As for him, for the first week or two, he was peevish and low,

fretting, I suppose, over his dear Annabella's departure, and

particularly ill-tempered to me:  everything I did was wrong; I was

cold-hearted, hard, insensate; my sour, pale face was perfectly

repulsive; my voice made him shudder; he knew not how he could live

through the winter with me; I should kill him by inches.  Again I

proposed a separation, but it would not do:  he was not going to be

the talk of all the old gossips in the neighbourhood:  he would not

have it said that he was such a brute his wife could not live with

him.  No; he must contrive to bear with me.



'I must contrive to bear with you, you mean,' said I; 'for so long

as I discharge my functions of steward and house-keeper, so

conscientiously and well, without pay and without thanks, you

cannot afford to part with me.  I shall therefore remit these

duties when my bondage becomes intolerable.'  This threat, I

thought, would serve to keep him in check, if anything would.



I believe he was much disappointed that I did not feel his

offensive sayings more acutely, for when he had said anything

particularly well calculated to hurt my feelings, he would stare me

searchingly in the face, and then grumble against my 'marble heart'

or my 'brutal insensibility.'  If I had bitterly wept and deplored

his lost affection, he would, perhaps, have condescended to pity

me, and taken me into favour for a while, just to comfort his

solitude and console him for the absence of his beloved Annabella,

until he could meet her again, or some more fitting substitute.

Thank heaven, I am not so weak as that!  I was infatuated once with

a foolish, besotted affection, that clung to him in spite of his

unworthiness, but it is fairly gone now - wholly crushed and

withered away; and he has none but himself and his vices to thank

for it.



At first (in compliance with his sweet lady's injunctions, I

suppose), he abstained wonderfully well from seeking to solace his

cares in wine; but at length he began to relax his virtuous

efforts, and now and then exceeded a little, and still continues to

do so; nay, sometimes, not a little.  When he is under the exciting

influence of these excesses, he sometimes fires up and attempts to

play the brute; and then I take little pains to suppress my scorn

and disgust.  When he is under the depressing influence of the

after-consequences, he bemoans his sufferings and his errors, and

charges them both upon me; he knows such indulgence injures his

health, and does him more harm than good; but he says I drive him

to it by my unnatural, unwomanly conduct; it will be the ruin of

him in the end, but it is all my fault; and then I am roused to

defend myself, sometimes with bitter recrimination.  This is a kind

of injustice I cannot patiently endure.  Have I not laboured long

and hard to save him from this very vice?  Would I not labour still

to deliver him from it if I could? but could I do so by fawning

upon him and caressing him when I know that he scorns me?  Is it my

fault that I have lost my influence with him, or that he has

forfeited every claim to my regard?  And should I seek a

reconciliation with him, when I feel that I abhor him, and that he

despises me? and while he continues still to correspond with Lady

Lowborough, as I know he does?  No, never, never, never! he may

drink himself dead, but it is NOT my fault!



Yet I do my part to save him still:  I give him to understand that

drinking makes his eyes dull, and his face red and bloated; and

that it tends to render him imbecile in body and mind; and if

Annabella were to see him as often as I do, she would speedily be

disenchanted; and that she certainly will withdraw her favour from

him, if he continues such courses.  Such a mode of admonition wins

only coarse abuse for me - and, indeed, I almost feel as if I

deserved it, for I hate to use such arguments; but they sink into

his stupefied heart, and make him pause, and ponder, and abstain,

more than anything else I could say.



At present I am enjoying a temporary relief from his presence:  he

is gone with Hargrave to join a distant hunt, and will probably not

be back before to-morrow evening.  How differently I used to feel

his absence!



Mr. Hargrave is still at the Grove.  He and Arthur frequently meet

to pursue their rural sports together:  he often calls upon us

here, and Arthur not unfrequently rides over to him.  I do not

think either of these soi-disant friends is overflowing with love

for the other; but such intercourse serves to get the time on, and

I am very willing it should continue, as it saves me some hours of

discomfort in Arthur's society, and gives him some better

employment than the sottish indulgence of his sensual appetites.

The only objection I have to Mr. Hargrave's being in the

neighbourhood, is that the fear of meeting him at the Grove

prevents me from seeing his sister so often as I otherwise should;

for, of late, he has conducted himself towards me with such

unerring propriety, that I have almost forgotten his former

conduct.  I suppose he is striving to 'win my esteem.'  If he

continue to act in this way, he may win it; but what then?  The

moment he attempts to demand anything more, he will lose it again.



February 10th. - It is a hard, embittering thing to have one's kind

feelings and good intentions cast back in one's teeth.  I was

beginning to relent towards my wretched partner; to pity his

forlorn, comfortless condition, unalleviated as it is by the

consolations of intellectual resources and the answer of a good

conscience towards God; and to think I ought to sacrifice my pride,

and renew my efforts once again to make his home agreeable and lead

him back to the path of virtue; not by false professions of love,

and not by pretended remorse, but by mitigating my habitual

coldness of manner, and commuting my frigid civility into kindness

wherever an opportunity occurred; and not only was I beginning to

think so, but I had already begun to act upon the thought - and

what was the result?  No answering spark of kindness, no awakening

penitence, but an unappeasable ill-humour, and a spirit of

tyrannous exaction that increased with indulgence, and a lurking

gleam of self-complacent triumph at every detection of relenting

softness in my manner, that congealed me to marble again as often

as it recurred; and this morning he finished the business:- I think

the petrifaction is so completely effected at last that nothing can

melt me again.  Among his letters was one which he perused with

symptoms of unusual gratification, and then threw it across the

table to me, with the admonition, -



'There! read that, and take a lesson by it!'



It was in the free, dashing hand of Lady Lowborough.  I glanced at

the first page; it seemed full of extravagant protestations of

affection; impetuous longings for a speedy reunion - and impious

defiance of God's mandates, and railings against His providence for

having cast their lot asunder, and doomed them both to the hateful

bondage of alliance with those they could not love.  He gave a

slight titter on seeing me change colour.  I folded up the letter,

rose, and returned it to him, with no remark, but -



'Thank you, I will take a lesson by it!'



My little Arthur was standing between his knees, delightedly

playing with the bright, ruby ring on his finger.  Urged by a

sudden, imperative impulse to deliver my son from that

contaminating influence, I caught him up in my arms and carried him

with me out of the room.  Not liking this abrupt removal, the child

began to pout and cry.  This was a new stab to my already tortured

heart.  I would not let him go; but, taking him with me into the

library, I shut the door, and, kneeling on the floor beside him, I

embraced him, kissed him, wept over with him with passionate

fondness.  Rather frightened than consoled by this, he turned

struggling from me, and cried out aloud for his papa.  I released

him from my arms, and never were more bitter tears than those that

now concealed him from my blinded, burning eyes.  Hearing his

cries, the father came to the room.  I instantly turned away, lest

he should see and misconstrue my emotion.  He swore at me, and took

the now pacified child away.



It is hard that my little darling should love him more than me; and

that, when the well-being and culture of my son is all I have to

live for, I should see my influence destroyed by one whose selfish

affection is more injurious than the coldest indifference or the

harshest tyranny could be.  If I, for his good, deny him some

trifling indulgence, he goes to his father, and the latter, in

spite of his selfish indolence, will even give himself some trouble

to meet the child's desires:  if I attempt to curb his will, or

look gravely on him for some act of childish disobedience, he knows

his other parent will smile and take his part against me.  Thus,

not only have I the father's spirit in the son to contend against,

the germs of his evil tendencies to search out and eradicate, and

his corrupting intercourse and example in after-life to counteract,

but already he counteracts my arduous labour for the child's

advantage, destroys my influence over his tender mind, and robs me

of his very love; I had no earthly hope but this, and he seems to

take a diabolical delight in tearing it away.



But it is wrong to despair; I will remember the counsel of the

inspired writer to him 'that feareth the Lord and obeyeth the voice

of his servant, that sitteth in darkness and hath no light; let him

trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God!'







CHAPTER XXXVII







December 20th, 1825. - Another year is past; and I am weary of this

life.  And yet I cannot wish to leave it:  whatever afflictions

assail me here, I cannot wish to go and leave my darling in this

dark and wicked world alone, without a friend to guide him through

its weary mazes, to warn him of its thousand snares, and guard him

from the perils that beset him on every hand.  I am not well fitted

to be his only companion, I know; but there is no other to supply

my place.  I am too grave to minister to his amusements and enter

into his infantile sports as a nurse or a mother ought to do, and

often his bursts of gleeful merriment trouble and alarm me; I see

in them his father's spirit and temperament, and I tremble for the

consequences; and too often damp the innocent mirth I ought to

share.  That father, on the contrary, has no weight of sadness on

his mind; is troubled with no fears, no scruples concerning his

son's future welfare; and at evenings especially, the times when

the child sees him the most and the oftenest, he is always

particularly jocund and open-hearted:  ready to laugh and to jest

with anything or anybody but me, and I am particularly silent and

sad:  therefore, of course, the child dotes upon his seemingly

joyous amusing, ever-indulgent papa, and will at any time gladly

exchange my company for his.  This disturbs me greatly; not so much

for the sake of my son's affection (though I do prize that highly,

and though I feel it is my right, and know I have done much to earn

it) as for that influence over him which, for his own advantage, I

would strive to purchase and retain, and which for very spite his

father delights to rob me of, and, from motives of mere idle

egotism, is pleased to win to himself; making no use of it but to

torment me and ruin the child.  My only consolation is, that he

spends comparatively little of his time at home, and, during the

months he passes in London or elsewhere, I have a chance of

recovering the ground I had lost, and overcoming with good the evil

he has wrought by his wilful mismanagement.  But then it is a

bitter trial to behold him, on his return, doing his utmost to

subvert my labours and transform my innocent, affectionate,

tractable darling into a selfish, disobedient, and mischievous boy;

thereby preparing the soil for those vices he has so successfully

cultivated in his own perverted nature.



Happily, there were none of Arthur's 'friends' invited to Grassdale

last autumn:  he took himself off to visit some of them instead.  I

wish he would always do so, and I wish his friends were numerous

and loving enough to keep him amongst them all the year round.  Mr.

Hargrave, considerably to my annoyance, did not go with him; but I

think I have done with that gentleman at last.



For seven or eight months he behaved so remarkably well, and

managed so skilfully too, that I was almost completely off my

guard, and was really beginning to look upon him as a friend, and

even to treat him as such, with certain prudent restrictions (which

I deemed scarcely necessary); when, presuming upon my unsuspecting

kindness, he thought he might venture to overstep the bounds of

decent moderation and propriety that had so long restrained him.

It was on a pleasant evening at the close of May:  I was wandering

in the park, and he, on seeing me there as he rode past, made bold

to enter and approach me, dismounting and leaving his horse at the

gate.  This was the first time he had ventured to come within its

inclosure since I had been left alone, without the sanction of his

mother's or sister's company, or at least the excuse of a message

from them.  But he managed to appear so calm and easy, so

respectful and self-possessed in his friendliness, that, though a

little surprised, I was neither alarmed nor offended at the unusual

liberty, and he walked with me under the ash-trees and by the

water-side, and talked, with considerable animation, good taste,

and intelligence, on many subjects, before I began to think about

getting rid of him.  Then, after a pause, during which we both

stood gazing on the calm, blue water - I revolving in my mind the

best means of politely dismissing my companion, he, no doubt,

pondering other matters equally alien to the sweet sights and

sounds that alone were present to his senses, - he suddenly

electrified me by beginning, in a peculiar tone, low, soft, but

perfectly distinct, to pour forth the most unequivocal expressions

of earnest and passionate love; pleading his cause with all the

bold yet artful eloquence he could summon to his aid.  But I cut

short his appeal, and repulsed him so determinately, so decidedly,

and with such a mixture of scornful indignation, tempered with

cool, dispassionate sorrow and pity for his benighted mind, that he

withdrew, astonished, mortified, and discomforted; and, a few days

after, I heard that he had departed for London.  He returned,

however, in eight or nine weeks, and did not entirely keep aloof

from me, but comported himself in so remarkable a manner that his

quick-sighted sister could not fail to notice the change.



'What have you done to Walter, Mrs. Huntingdon?' said she one

morning, when I had called at the Grove, and he had just left the

room after exchanging a few words of the coldest civility.  'He has

been so extremely ceremonious and stately of late, I can't imagine

what it is all about, unless you have desperately offended him.

Tell me what it is, that I may be your mediator, and make you

friends again.'



'I have done nothing willingly to offend him,' said I.  'If he is

offended, he can best tell you himself what it is about.'



'I'll ask him,' cried the giddy girl, springing up and putting her

head out of the window:  'he's only in the garden - Walter!'



'No, no, Esther! you will seriously displease me if you do; and I

shall leave you immediately, and not come again for months -

perhaps years.'



'Did you call, Esther?' said her brother, approaching the window

from without.



'Yes; I wanted to ask you - '



'Good-morning, Esther,' said I, talking her hand and giving it a

severe squeeze.



'To ask you,' continued she, 'to get me a rose for Mrs.

Huntingdon.'  He departed.  'Mrs. Huntingdon,' she exclaimed,

turning to me and still holding me fast by the hand, 'I'm quite

shocked at you - you're just as angry, and distant, and cold as he

is:  and I'm determined you shall be as good friends as ever before

you go.'



'Esther, how can you be so rude!' cried Mrs. Hargrave, who was

seated gravely knitting in her easy-chair.  'Surely, you never will

learn to conduct yourself like a lady!'



'Well, mamma, you said yourself - '  But the young lady was

silenced by the uplifted finger of her mamma, accompanied with a

very stern shake of the head.



'Isn't she cross?' whispered she to me; but, before I could add my

share of reproof, Mr. Hargrave reappeared at the window with a

beautiful moss-rose in his hand.



'Here, Esther, I've brought you the rose,' said he, extending it

towards her.



'Give it her yourself, you blockhead!' cried she, recoiling with a

spring from between us.



'Mrs. Huntingdon would rather receive it from you,' replied he, in

a very serious tone, but lowering his voice that his mother might

not hear.  His sister took the rose and gave it to me.



'My brother's compliments, Mrs. Huntingdon, and he hopes you and he

will come to a better understanding by-and-by.  Will that do,

Walter?' added the saucy girl, turning to him and putting her arm

round his neck, as he stood leaning upon the sill of the window -

'or should I have said that you are sorry you were so touchy? or

that you hope she will pardon your offence?'



'You silly girl! you don't know what you are talking about,'

replied he gravely.



'Indeed I don't:  for I'm quite in the dark!'



'Now, Esther,' interposed Mrs. Hargrave, who, if equally benighted

on the subject of our estrangement, saw at least that her daughter

was behaving very improperly, 'I must insist upon your leaving the

room!'



'Pray don't, Mrs. Hargrave, for I'm going to leave it myself,' said

I, and immediately made my adieux.



About a week after Mr. Hargrave brought his sister to see me.  He

conducted himself, at first, with his usual cold, distant, half-

stately, half-melancholy, altogether injured air; but Esther made

no remark upon it this time:  she had evidently been schooled into

better manners.  She talked to me, and laughed and romped with

little Arthur, her loved and loving playmate.  He, somewhat to my

discomfort, enticed her from the room to have a run in the hall,

and thence into the garden.  I got up to stir the fire.  Mr.

Hargrave asked if I felt cold, and shut the door - a very

unseasonable piece of officiousness, for I had meditated following

the noisy playfellows if they did not speedily return.  He then

took the liberty of walking up to the fire himself, and asking me

if I were aware that Mr. Huntingdon was now at the seat of Lord

Lowborough, and likely to continue there some time.



'No; but it's no matter,' I answered carelessly; and if my cheek

glowed like fire, it was rather at the question than the

information it conveyed.



'You don't object to it?' he said.



'Not at all, if Lord Lowborough likes his company.'



'You have no love left for him, then?'



'Not the least.'



'I knew that - I knew you were too high-minded and pure in your own

nature to continue to regard one so utterly false and polluted with

any feelings but those of indignation and scornful abhorrence!'



'Is he not your friend?' said I, turning my eyes from the fire to

his face, with perhaps a slight touch of those feelings he assigned

to another.



'He was,' replied he, with the same calm gravity as before; 'but do

not wrong me by supposing that I could continue my friendship and

esteem to a man who could so infamously, so impiously forsake and

injure one so transcendently - well, I won't speak of it.  But tell

me, do you never think of revenge?'



'Revenge!  No - what good would that do? - it would make him no

better, and me no happier.'



'I don't know how to talk to you, Mrs. Huntingdon,' said he,

smiling; 'you are only half a woman - your nature must be half

human, half angelic.  Such goodness overawes me; I don't know what

to make of it.'



'Then, sir, I fear you must be very much worse than you should be,

if I, a mere ordinary mortal, am, by your own confession, so vastly

your superior; and since there exists so little sympathy between

us, I think we had better each look out for some more congenial

companion.'  And forthwith moving to the window, I began to look

out for my little son and his gay young friend.



'No, I am the ordinary mortal, I maintain,' replied Mr. Hargrave.

'I will not allow myself to be worse than my fellows; but you,

Madam - I equally maintain there is nobody like you.  But are you

happy?' he asked in a serious tone.



'As happy as some others, I suppose.'



'Are you as happy as you desire to be?'



'No one is so blest as that comes to on this side eternity.'



'One thing I know,' returned he, with a deep sad sigh; 'you are

immeasurably happier than I am.'



'I am very sorry for you, then,' I could not help replying.



'Are you, indeed?  No, for if you were you would be glad to relieve

me.'



'And so I should if I could do so without injuring myself or any

other.'



'And can you suppose that I should wish you to injure yourself?

No:  on the contrary, it is your own happiness I long for more than

mine.  You are miserable now, Mrs. Huntingdon,' continued he,

looking me boldly in the face.  'You do not complain, but I see -

and feel - and know that you are miserable - and must remain so as

long as you keep those walls of impenetrable ice about your still

warm and palpitating heart; and I am miserable, too.  Deign to

smile on me and I am happy:  trust me, and you shall be happy also,

for if you are a woman I can make you so - and I will do it in

spite of yourself!' he muttered between his teeth; 'and as for

others, the question is between ourselves alone:  you cannot injure

your husband, you know, and no one else has any concern in the

matter.'



'I have a son, Mr. Hargrave, and you have a mother,' said I,

retiring from the window, whither he had followed me.



'They need not know,' he began; but before anything more could be

said on either side, Esther and Arthur re-entered the room.  The

former glanced at Walter's flushed, excited countenance, and then

at mine - a little flushed and excited too, I daresay, though from

far different causes.  She must have thought we had been

quarrelling desperately, and was evidently perplexed and disturbed

at the circumstance; but she was too polite or too much afraid of

her brother's anger to refer to it.  She seated herself on the

sofa, and putting back her bright, golden ringlets, that were

scattered in wild profusion over her face, she immediately began to

talk about the garden and her little playfellow, and continued to

chatter away in her usual strain till her brother summoned her to

depart.



'If I have spoken too warmly, forgive me,' he murmured on taking

his leave, 'or I shall never forgive myself.'  Esther smiled and

glanced at me:  I merely bowed, and her countenance fell.  She

thought it a poor return for Walter's generous concession, and was

disappointed in her friend.  Poor child, she little knows the world

she lives in!



Mr. Hargrave had not an opportunity of meeting me again in private

for several weeks after this; but when he did meet me there was

less of pride and more of touching melancholy in his manner than

before.  Oh, how he annoyed me!  I was obliged at last almost

entirely to remit my visits to the Grove, at the expense of deeply

offending Mrs. Hargrave and seriously afflicting poor Esther, who

really values my society for want of better, and who ought not to

suffer for the fault of her brother.  But that indefatigable foe

was not yet vanquished:  he seemed to be always on the watch.  I

frequently saw him riding lingeringly past the premises, looking

searchingly round him as he went - or, if I did not, Rachel did.

That sharp-sighted woman soon guessed how matters stood between us,

and descrying the enemy's movements from her elevation at the

nursery-window, she would give me a quiet intimation if she saw me

preparing for a walk when she had reason to believe he was about,

or to think it likely that he would meet or overtake me in the way

I meant to traverse.  I would then defer my ramble, or confine

myself for that day to the park and gardens, or, if the proposed

excursion was a matter of importance, such as a visit to the sick

or afflicted, I would take Rachel with me, and then I was never

molested.



But one mild, sunshiny day, early in November, I had ventured forth

alone to visit the village school and a few of the poor tenants,

and on my return I was alarmed at the clatter of a horse's feet

behind me, approaching at a rapid, steady trot.  There was no stile

or gap at hand by which I could escape into the fields, so I walked

quietly on, saying to myself, 'It may not be he after all; and if

it is, and if he do annoy me, it shall be for the last time, I am

determined, if there be power in words and looks against cool

impudence and mawkish sentimentality so inexhaustible as his.'



The horse soon overtook me, and was reined up close beside me.  It

was Mr. Hargrave.  He greeted me with a smile intended to be soft

and melancholy, but his triumphant satisfaction at having caught me

at last so shone through that it was quite a failure.  After

briefly answering his salutation and inquiring after the ladies at

the Grove, I turned away and walked on; but he followed and kept

his horse at my side:  it was evident he intended to be my

companion all the way.



'Well!  I don't much care.  If you want another rebuff, take it -

and welcome,' was my inward remark.  'Now, sir, what next?'



This question, though unspoken, was not long unanswered; after a

few passing observations upon indifferent subjects, he began in

solemn tones the following appeal to my humanity:-



'It will be four years next April since I first saw you, Mrs.

Huntingdon - you may have forgotten the circumstance, but I never

can.  I admired you then most deeply, but I dared not love you.  In

the following autumn I saw so much of your perfections that I could

not fail to love you, though I dared not show it.  For upwards of

three years I have endured a perfect martyrdom.  From the anguish

of suppressed emotions, intense and fruitless longings, silent

sorrow, crushed hopes, and trampled affections, I have suffered

more than I can tell, or you imagine - and you were the cause of

it, and not altogether the innocent cause.  My youth is wasting

away; my prospects are darkened; my life is a desolate blank; I

have no rest day or night:  I am become a burden to myself and

others, and you might save me by a word - a glance, and will not do

it - is this right?'



'In the first place, I don't believe you,' answered I; 'in the

second, if you will be such a fool, I can't hinder it.'



'If you affect,' replied he, earnestly, 'to regard as folly the

best, the strongest, the most godlike impulses of our nature, I

don't believe you.  I know you are not the heartless, icy being you

pretend to be - you had a heart once, and gave it to your husband.

When you found him utterly unworthy of the treasure, you reclaimed

it; and you will not pretend that you loved that sensual, earthly-

minded profligate so deeply, so devotedly, that you can never love

another?  I know that there are feelings in your nature that have

never yet been called forth; I know, too, that in your present

neglected lonely state you are and must be miserable.  You have it

in your power to raise two human beings from a state of actual

suffering to such unspeakable beatitude as only generous, noble,

self-forgetting love can give (for you can love me if you will);

you may tell me that you scorn and detest me, but, since you have

set me the example of plain speaking, I will answer that I do not

believe you.  But you will not do it! you choose rather to leave us

miserable; and you coolly tell me it is the will of God that we

should remain so.  You may call this religion, but I call it wild

fanaticism!'



'There is another life both for you and for me,' said I.  'If it be

the will of God that we should sow in tears now, it is only that we

may reap in joy hereafter.  It is His will that we should not

injure others by the gratification of our own earthly passions; and

you have a mother, and sisters, and friends who would be seriously

injured by your disgrace; and I, too, have friends, whose peace of

mind shall never be sacrificed to my enjoyment, or yours either,

with my consent; and if I were alone in the world, I have still my

God and my religion, and I would sooner die than disgrace my

calling and break my faith with heaven to obtain a few brief years

of false and fleeting happiness - happiness sure to end in misery

even here - for myself or any other!'



'There need be no disgrace, no misery or sacrifice in any quarter,'

persisted he.  'I do not ask you to leave your home or defy the

world's opinion.'  But I need not repeat all his arguments.  I

refuted them to the best of my power; but that power was

provokingly small, at the moment, for I was too much flurried with

indignation - and even shame - that he should thus dare to address

me, to retain sufficient command of thought and language to enable

me adequately to contend against his powerful sophistries.

Finding, however, that he could not be silenced by reason, and even

covertly exulted in his seeming advantage, and ventured to deride

those assertions I had not the coolness to prove, I changed my

course and tried another plan.



'Do you really love me?' said I, seriously, pausing and looking him

calmly in the face.



'Do I love you!' cried he.



'Truly?' I demanded.



His countenance brightened; he thought his triumph was at hand.  He

commenced a passionate protestation of the truth and fervour of his

attachment, which I cut short by another question:-



'But is it not a selfish love?  Have you enough disinterested

affection to enable you to sacrifice your own pleasure to mine?'



'I would give my life to serve you.'



'I don't want your life; but have you enough real sympathy for my

afflictions to induce you to make an effort to relieve them, at the

risk of a little discomfort to yourself?'



'Try me, and see.'



'If you have, never mention this subject again.  You cannot recur

to it in any way without doubling the weight of those sufferings

you so feelingly deplore.  I have nothing left me but the solace of

a good conscience and a hopeful trust in heaven, and you labour

continually to rob me of these.  If you persist, I must regard you

as my deadliest foe.'



'But hear me a moment - '



'No, sir!  You said you would give your life to serve me; I only

ask your silence on one particular point.  I have spoken plainly;

and what I say I mean.  If you torment me in this way any more, I

must conclude that your protestations are entirely false, and that

you hate me in your heart as fervently as you profess to love me!'



He bit his lip, and bent his eyes upon the ground in silence for a

while.



'Then I must leave you,' said he at length, looking steadily upon

me, as if with the last hope of detecting some token of

irrepressible anguish or dismay awakened by those solemn words.  'I

must leave you.  I cannot live here, and be for ever silent on the

all-absorbing subject of my thoughts and wishes.'



'Formerly, I believe, you spent but little of your time at home,' I

answered; 'it will do you no harm to absent yourself again, for a

while - if that be really necessary.'



'If that be really possible,' he muttered; 'and can you bid me go

so coolly?  Do you really wish it?'



'Most certainly I do.  If you cannot see me without tormenting me

as you have lately done, I would gladly say farewell and never see

you more.'



He made no answer, but, bending from his horse, held out his hand

towards me.  I looked up at his face, and saw therein such a look

of genuine agony of soul, that, whether bitter disappointment, or

wounded pride, or lingering love, or burning wrath were uppermost,

I could not hesitate to put my hand in his as frankly as if I bade

a friend farewell.  He grasped it very hard, and immediately put

spurs to his horse and galloped away.  Very soon after, I learned

that he was gone to Paris, where he still is; and the longer he

stays there the better for me.



I thank God for this deliverance!







CHAPTER XXXVIII







December 20th, 1826. - The fifth anniversary of my wedding-day,

and, I trust, the last I shall spend under this roof.  My

resolution is formed, my plan concocted, and already partly put in

execution.  My conscience does not blame me, but while the purpose

ripens let me beguile a few of these long winter evenings in

stating the case for my own satisfaction:  a dreary amusement

enough, but having the air of a useful occupation, and being

pursued as a task, it will suit me better than a lighter one.



In September, quiet Grassdale was again alive with a party of

ladies and gentlemen (so called), consisting of the same

individuals as those invited the year before last, with the

addition of two or three others, among whom were Mrs. Hargrave and

her younger daughter.  The gentlemen and Lady Lowborough were

invited for the pleasure and convenience of the host; the other

ladies, I suppose, for the sake of appearances, and to keep me in

check, and make me discreet and civil in my demeanour.  But the

ladies stayed only three weeks; the gentlemen, with two exceptions,

above two months:  for their hospitable entertainer was loth to

part with them and be left alone with his bright intellect, his

stainless conscience, and his loved and loving wife.



On the day of Lady Lowborough's arrival, I followed her into her

chamber, and plainly told her that, if I found reason to believe

that she still continued her criminal connection with Mr.

Huntingdon, I should think it my absolute duty to inform her

husband of the circumstance - or awaken his suspicions at least -

however painful it might be, or however dreadful the consequences.

She was startled at first by the declaration, so unexpected, and so

determinately yet calmly delivered; but rallying in a moment, she

coolly replied that, if I saw anything at all reprehensible or

suspicious in her conduct, she would freely give me leave to tell

his lordship all about it.  Willing to be satisfied with this, I

left her; and certainly I saw nothing thenceforth particularly

reprehensible or suspicious in her demeanour towards her host; but

then I had the other guests to attend to, and I did not watch them

narrowly - for, to confess the truth, I feared to see anything

between them.  I no longer regarded it as any concern of mine, and

if it was my duty to enlighten Lord Lowborough, it was a painful

duty, and I dreaded to be called to perform it.



But my fears were brought to an end in a manner I had not

anticipated.  One evening, about a fortnight after the visitors'

arrival, I had retired into the library to snatch a few minutes'

respite from forced cheerfulness and wearisome discourse, for after

so long a period of seclusion, dreary indeed as I had often found

it, I could not always bear to be doing violence to my feelings,

and goading my powers to talk, and smile and listen, and play the

attentive hostess, or even the cheerful friend:  I had just

ensconced myself within the bow of the window, and was looking out

upon the west, where the darkening hills rose sharply defined

against the clear amber light of evening, that gradually blended

and faded away into the pure, pale blue of the upper sky, where one

bright star was shining through, as if to promise - 'When that

dying light is gone, the world will not be left in darkness, and

they who trust in God, whose minds are unbeclouded by the mists of

unbelief and sin, are never wholly comfortless,' - when I heard a

hurried step approaching, and Lord Lowborough entered.  This room

was still his favourite resort.  He flung the door to with unusual

violence, and cast his hat aside regardless where it fell.  What

could be the matter with him?  His face was ghastly pale; his eyes

were fixed upon the ground; his teeth clenched:  his forehead

glistened with the dews of agony.  It was plain he knew his wrongs

at last!



Unconscious of my presence, he began to pace the room in a state of

fearful agitation, violently wringing his hands and uttering low

groans or incoherent ejaculations.  I made a movement to let him

know that he was not alone; but he was too preoccupied to notice

it.  Perhaps, while his back was towards me, I might cross the room

and slip away unobserved.  I rose to make the attempt, but then he

perceived me.  He started and stood still a moment; then wiped his

streaming forehead, and, advancing towards me, with a kind of

unnatural composure, said in a deep, almost sepulchral tone, -

'Mrs. Huntingdon, I must leave you to-morrow.'



'To-morrow!' I repeated.  'I do not ask the cause.'



'You know it then, and you can be so calm!' said he, surveying me

with profound astonishment, not unmingled with a kind of resentful

bitterness, as it appeared to me.



'I have so long been aware of - ' I paused in time, and added, 'of

my husband's character, that nothing shocks me.'



'But this - how long have you been aware of this?' demanded he,

laying his clenched hand on the table beside him, and looking me

keenly and fixedly in the face.



I felt like a criminal.



'Not long,' I answered.



'You knew it!' cried he, with bitter vehemence - 'and you did not

tell me!  You helped to deceive me!'



'My lord, I did not help to deceive you.'



'Then why did you not tell me?'



'Because I knew it would be painful to you.  I hoped she would

return to her duty, and then there would be no need to harrow your

feelings with such - '



'O God! how long has this been going on?  How long has it been,

Mrs. Huntingdon? - Tell me - I must know!' exclaimed, with intense

and fearful eagerness.



'Two years, I believe.'



'Great heaven! and she has duped me all this time!'  He turned away

with a suppressed groan of agony, and paced the room again in a

paroxysm of renewed agitation.  My heart smote me; but I would try

to console him, though I knew not how to attempt it.



'She is a wicked woman,' I said.  'She has basely deceived and

betrayed you.  She is as little worthy of your regret as she was of

your affection.  Let her injure you no further; abstract yourself

from her, and stand alone.'



'And you, Madam,' said he sternly, arresting himself, and turning

round upon me, 'you have injured me too by this ungenerous

concealment!'



There was a sudden revulsion in my feelings.  Something rose within

me, and urged me to resent this harsh return for my heartfelt

sympathy, and defend myself with answering severity.  Happily, I

did not yield to the impulse.  I saw his anguish as, suddenly

smiting his forehead, he turned abruptly to the window, and,

looking upward at the placid sky, murmured passionately, 'O God,

that I might die!' - and felt that to add one drop of bitterness to

that already overflowing cup would be ungenerous indeed.  And yet I

fear there was more coldness than gentleness in the quiet tone of

my reply:- 'I might offer many excuses that some would admit to be

valid, but I will not attempt to enumerate them - '



'I know them,' said he hastily:  'you would say that it was no

business of yours:  that I ought to have taken care of myself; that

if my own blindness has led me into this pit of hell, I have no

right to blame another for giving me credit for a larger amount of

sagacity than I possessed - '



'I confess I was wrong,' continued I, without regarding this bitter

interruption; 'but whether want of courage or mistaken kindness was

the cause of my error, I think you blame me too severely.  I told

Lady Lowborough two weeks ago, the very hour she came, that I

should certainly think it my duty to inform you if she continued to

deceive you:  she gave me full liberty to do so if I should see

anything reprehensible or suspicious in her conduct; I have seen

nothing; and I trusted she had altered her course.'



He continued gazing from the window while I spoke, and did not

answer, but, stung by the recollections my words awakened, stamped

his foot upon the floor, ground his teeth, and corrugated his brow,

like one under the influence of acute physical pain.



'It was wrong, it was wrong!' he muttered at length.  'Nothing can

excuse it; nothing can atone for it, - for nothing can recall those

years of cursed credulity; nothing obliterate them! - nothing,

nothing!' he repeated in a whisper, whose despairing bitterness

precluded all resentment.



'When I put the case to myself, I own it was wrong,' I answered;

'but I can only now regret that I did not see it in this light

before, and that, as you say, nothing can recall the past.'



Something in my voice or in the spirit of this answer seemed to

alter his mood.  Turning towards me, and attentively surveying my

face by the dim light, he said, in a milder tone than he had yet

employed, - 'You, too, have suffered, I suppose.'



'I suffered much, at first.'



'When was that?'



'Two years ago; and two years hence you will be as calm as I am

now, and far, far happier, I trust, for you are a man, and free to

act as you please.'



Something like a smile, but a very bitter one, crossed his face for

a moment.



'You have not been happy, lately?' he said, with a kind of effort

to regain composure, and a determination to waive the further

discussion of his own calamity.



'Happy?' I repeated, almost provoked at such a question.  'Could I

be so, with such a husband?'



'I have noticed a change in your appearance since the first years

of your marriage,' pursued he:  'I observed it to - to that

infernal demon,' he muttered between his teeth; 'and he said it was

your own sour temper that was eating away your bloom:  it was

making you old and ugly before your time, and had already made his

fireside as comfortless as a convent cell.  You smile, Mrs.

Huntingdon; nothing moves you.  I wish my nature were as calm as

yours.'



'My nature was not originally calm,' said I.  'I have learned to

appear so by dint of hard lessons and many repeated efforts.'



At this juncture Mr. Hattersley burst into the room.



'Hallo, Lowborough!' he began - 'Oh! I beg your pardon,' he

exclaimed on seeing me.  'I didn't know it was A TETE-E-TETE.

Cheer up, man,' he continued, giving Lord Lowborough a thump on the

back, which caused the latter to recoil from him with looks of

ineffable disgust and irritation.  'Come, I want to speak with you

a bit.'



'Speak, then.'



'But I'm not sure it would be quite agreeable to the lady what I

have to say.'



'Then it would not be agreeable to me,' said his lordship, turning

to leave the room.



'Yes, it would,' cried the other, following him into the hall.  'If

you've the heart of a man, it would be the very ticket for you.

It's just this, my lad,' he continued, rather lowering his voice,

but not enough to prevent me from hearing every word he said,

though the half-closed door stood between us.  'I think you're an

ill-used man - nay, now, don't flare up; I don't want to offend

you:  it's only my rough way of talking.  I must speak right out,

you know, or else not at all; and I'm come - stop now! let me

explain - I'm come to offer you my services, for though Huntingdon

is my friend, he's a devilish scamp, as we all know, and I'll be

your friend for the nonce.  I know what it is you want, to make

matters straight:  it's just to exchange a shot with him, and then

you'll feel yourself all right again; and if an accident happens -

why, that'll be all right too, I daresay, to a desperate fellow

like you.  Come now, give me your hand, and don't look so black

upon it.  Name time and place, and I'll manage the rest.'



'That,' answered the more low, deliberate voice of Lord Lowborough,

'is just the remedy my own heart, or the devil within it, suggested

- to meet him, and not to part without blood.  Whether I or he

should fall, or both, it would be an inexpressible relief to me, if

- '



'Just so!  Well then, - '



'No!' exclaimed his lordship, with deep, determined emphasis.

'Though I hate him from my heart, and should rejoice at any

calamity that could befall him, I'll leave him to God; and though I

abhor my own life, I'll leave that, too, to Him that gave it.'



'But you see, in this case,' pleaded Hattersley -



'I'll not hear you!' exclaimed his companion, hastily turning away.

'Not another word!  I've enough to do against the fiend within me.'



'Then you're a white-livered fool, and I wash my hands of you,'

grumbled the tempter, as he swung himself round and departed.



'Right, right, Lord Lowborough,' cried I, darting out and clasping

his burning hand, as he was moving away to the stairs.  'I begin to

think the world is not worthy of you!'  Not understanding this

sudden ebullition, he turned upon me with a stare of gloomy,

bewildered amazement, that made me ashamed of the impulse to which

I had yielded; but soon a more humanised expression dawned upon his

countenance, and before I could withdraw my hand, he pressed it

kindly, while a gleam of genuine feeling flashed from his eyes as

he murmured, 'God help us both!'



'Amen!' responded I; and we parted.



I returned to the drawing-room, where, doubtless, my presence would

be expected by most, desired by one or two.  In the ante-room was

Mr. Hattersley, railing against Lord Lowborough's poltroonery

before a select audience, viz. Mr. Huntingdon, who was lounging

against the table, exulting in his own treacherous villainy, and

laughing his victim to scorn, and Mr. Grimsby, standing by, quietly

rubbing his hands and chuckling with fiendish satisfaction.



In the drawing-room I found Lady Lowborough, evidently in no very

enviable state of mind, and struggling hard to conceal her

discomposure by an overstrained affectation of unusual cheerfulness

and vivacity, very uncalled-for under the circumstances, for she

had herself given the company to understand that her husband had

received unpleasant intelligence from home, which necessitated his

immediate departure, and that he had suffered it so to bother his

mind that it had brought on a bilious headache, owing to which, and

the preparations he judged necessary to hasten his departure, she

believed they would not have the pleasure of seeing him to-night.

However, she asserted, it was only a business concern, and so she

did not intend it should trouble her.  She was just saying this as

I entered, and she darted upon me such a glance of hardihood and

defiance as at once astonished and revolted me.



'But I am troubled,' continued she, 'and vexed too, for I think it

my duty to accompany his lordship, and of course I am very sorry to

part with all my kind friends so unexpectedly and so soon.'



'And yet, Annabella,' said Esther, who was sitting beside her, 'I

never saw you in better spirits in my life.'



'Precisely so, my love:  because I wish to make the best of your

society, since it appears this is to be the last night I am to

enjoy it till heaven knows when; and I wish to leave a good

impression on you all,' - she glanced round, and seeing her aunt's

eye fixed upon her, rather too scrutinizingly, as she probably

thought, she started up and continued:  'To which end I'll give you

a song - shall I, aunt? shall I, Mrs. Huntingdon? shall I ladies

and gentlemen all?  Very well.  I'll do my best to amuse you.'



She and Lord Lowborough occupied the apartments next to mine.  I

know not how she passed the night, but I lay awake the greater part

of it listening to his heavy step pacing monotonously up and down

his dressing-room, which was nearest my chamber.  Once I heard him

pause and throw something out of the window with a passionate

ejaculation; and in the morning, after they were gone, a keen-

bladed clasp-knife was found on the grass-plot below; a razor,

likewise, was snapped in two and thrust deep into the cinders of

the grate, but partially corroded by the decaying embers.  So

strong had been the temptation to end his miserable life, so

determined his resolution to resist it.



My heart bled for him as I lay listening to that ceaseless tread.

Hitherto I had thought too much of myself, too little of him:  now

I forgot my own afflictions, and thought only of his; of the ardent

affection so miserably wasted, the fond faith so cruelly betrayed,

the - no, I will not attempt to enumerate his wrongs - but I hated

his wife and my husband more intensely than ever, and not for my

sake, but for his.



They departed early in the morning, before any one else was down,

except myself, and just as I was leaving my room Lord Lowborough

was descending to take his place in the carriage, where his lady

was already ensconced; and Arthur (or Mr. Huntingdon, as I prefer

calling him, for the other is my child's name) had the gratuitous

insolence to come out in his dressing-gown to bid his 'friend'

good-by.



'What, going already, Lowborough!' said he.  'Well, good-morning.'

He smilingly offered his hand.



I think the other would have knocked him down, had he not

instinctively started back before that bony fist quivering with

rage and clenched till the knuckles gleamed white and glistening

through the skin.  Looking upon him with a countenance livid with

furious hate, Lord Lowborough muttered between his closed teeth a

deadly execration he would not have uttered had he been calm enough

to choose his words, and departed.



'I call that an unchristian spirit now,' said the villain.  'But

I'd never give up an old friend for the sake of a wife.  You may

have mine if you like, and I call that handsome; I can do no more

than offer restitution, can I?'



But Lowborough had gained the bottom of the stairs, and was now

crossing the hall; and Mr. Huntingdon, leaning over the banisters,

called out, 'Give my love to Annabella! and I wish you both a happy

journey,' and withdrew, laughing, to his chamber.



He subsequently expressed himself rather glad she was gone.  'She

was so deuced imperious and exacting,' said he.  'Now I shall be my

own man again, and feel rather more at my ease.'







CHAPTER XXXIX







My greatest source of uneasiness, in this time of trial, was my

son, whom his father and his father's friends delighted to

encourage in all the embryo vices a little child can show, and to

instruct in all the evil habits he could acquire - in a word, to

'make a man of him' was one of their staple amusements; and I need

say no more to justify my alarm on his account, and my

determination to deliver him at any hazard from the hands of such

instructors.  I first attempted to keep him always with me, or in

the nursery, and gave Rachel particular injunctions never to let

him come down to dessert as long as these 'gentlemen' stayed; but

it was no use:  these orders were immediately countermanded and

overruled by his father; he was not going to have the little fellow

moped to death between an old nurse and a cursed fool of a mother.

So the little fellow came down every evening in spite of his cross

mamma, and learned to tipple wine like papa, to swear like Mr.

Hattersley, and to have his own way like a man, and sent mamma to

the devil when she tried to prevent him.  To see such things done

with the roguish naivete of that pretty little child, and hear such

things spoken by that small infantile voice, was as peculiarly

piquant and irresistibly droll to them as it was inexpressibly

distressing and painful to me; and when he had set the table in a

roar he would look round delightedly upon them all, and add his

shrill laugh to theirs.  But if that beaming blue eye rested on me,

its light would vanish for a moment, and he would say, in some

concern, 'Mamma, why don't you laugh?  Make her laugh, papa - she

never will.'



Hence was I obliged to stay among these human brutes, watching an

opportunity to get my child away from them instead of leaving them

immediately after the removal of the cloth, as I should always

otherwise have done.  He was never willing to go, and I frequently

had to carry him away by force, for which he thought me very cruel

and unjust; and sometimes his father would insist upon my letting

him remain; and then I would leave him to his kind friends, and

retire to indulge my bitterness and despair alone, or to rack my

brains for a remedy to this great evil.



But here again I must do Mr. Hargrave the justice to acknowledge

that I never saw him laugh at the child's misdemeanours, nor heard

him utter a word of encouragement to his aspirations after manly

accomplishments.  But when anything very extraordinary was said or

done by the infant profligate, I noticed, at times, a peculiar

expression in his face that I could neither interpret nor define:

a slight twitching about the muscles of the mouth; a sudden flash

in the eye, as he darted a sudden glance at the child and then at

me:  and then I could fancy there arose a gleam of hard, keen,

sombre satisfaction in his countenance at the look of impotent

wrath and anguish he was too certain to behold in mine.  But on one

occasion, when Arthur had been behaving particularly ill, and Mr.

Huntingdon and his guests had been particularly provoking and

insulting to me in their encouragement of him, and I particularly

anxious to get him out of the room, and on the very point of

demeaning myself by a burst of uncontrollable passion - Mr.

Hargrave suddenly rose from his seat with an aspect of stern

determination, lifted the child from his father's knee, where he

was sitting half-tipsy, cocking his head and laughing at me, and

execrating me with words he little knew the meaning of, handed him

out of the room, and, setting him down in the hall, held the door

open for me, gravely bowed as I withdrew, and closed it after me.

I heard high words exchanged between him and his already half-

inebriated host as I departed, leading away my bewildered and

disconcerted boy.



But this should not continue:  my child must not be abandoned to

this corruption:  better far that he should live in poverty and

obscurity, with a fugitive mother, that in luxury and affluence

with such a father.  These guests might not be with us long, but

they would return again:  and he, the most injurious of the whole,

his child's worst enemy, would still remain.  I could endure it for

myself, but for my son it must be borne no longer:  the world's

opinion and the feelings of my friends must be alike unheeded here,

at least - alike unable to deter me from my duty.  But where should

I find an asylum, and how obtain subsistence for us both?  Oh, I

would take my precious charge at early dawn, take the coach to M-,

flee to the port of -, cross the Atlantic, and seek a quiet, humble

home in New England, where I would support myself and him by the

labour of my hands.  The palette and the easel, my darling

playmates once, must be my sober toil-fellows now.  But was I

sufficiently skilful as an artist to obtain my livelihood in a

strange land, without friends and without recommendation?  No; I

must wait a little; I must labour hard to improve my talent, and to

produce something worth while as a specimen of my powers, something

to speak favourably for me, whether as an actual painter or a

teacher.  Brilliant success, of course, I did not look for, but

some degree of security from positive failure was indispensable:  I

must not take my son to starve.  And then I must have money for the

journey, the passage, and some little to support us in our retreat

in case I should be unsuccessful at first:  and not too little

either:  for who could tell how long I might have to struggle with

the indifference or neglect of others, or my own inexperience or

inability to suit their tastes?



What should I do then?  Apply to my brother and explain my

circumstances and my resolves to him?  No, no:  even if I told him

all my grievances, which I should be very reluctant to do, he would

be certain to disapprove of the step:  it would seem like madness

to him, as it would to my uncle and aunt, or to Milicent.  No; I

must have patience and gather a hoard of my own.  Rachel should be

my only confidante - I thought I could persuade her into the

scheme; and she should help me, first, to find out a picture-dealer

in some distant town; then, through her means, I would privately

sell what pictures I had on hand that would do for such a purpose,

and some of those I should thereafter paint.  Besides this, I would

contrive to dispose of my jewels, not the family jewels, but the

few I brought with me from home, and those my uncle gave me on my

marriage.  A few months' arduous toil might well be borne by me

with such an end in view; and in the interim my son could not be

much more injured than he was already.



Having formed this resolution, I immediately set to work to

accomplish it, I might possibly have been induced to wax cool upon

it afterwards, or perhaps to keep weighing the pros and cons in my

mind till the latter overbalanced the former, and I was driven to

relinquish the project altogether, or delay the execution of it to

an indefinite period, had not something occurred to confirm me in

that determination, to which I still adhere, which I still think I

did well to form, and shall do better to execute.



Since Lord Lowborough's departure I had regarded the library as

entirely my own, a secure retreat at all hours of the day.  None of

our gentlemen had the smallest pretensions to a literary taste,

except Mr. Hargrave; and he, at present, was quite contented with

the newspapers and periodicals of the day.  And if, by any chance,

he should look in here, I felt assured he would soon depart on

seeing me, for, instead of becoming less cool and distant towards

me, he had become decidedly more so since the departure of his

mother and sisters, which was just what I wished.  Here, then, I

set up my easel, and here I worked at my canvas from daylight till

dusk, with very little intermission, saving when pure necessity, or

my duties to little Arthur, called me away:  for I still thought

proper to devote some portion of every day exclusively to his

instruction and amusement.  But, contrary to my expectation, on the

third morning, while I was thus employed, Mr. Hargrave did look in,

and did not immediately withdraw on seeing me.  He apologized for

his intrusion, and said he was only come for a book; but when he

had got it, he condescended to cast a glance over my picture.

Being a man of taste, he had something to say on this subject as

well as another, and having modestly commented on it, without much

encouragement from me, he proceeded to expatiate on the art in

general.  Receiving no encouragement in that either, he dropped it,

but did not depart.



'You don't give us much of your company, Mrs. Huntingdon,' observed

he, after a brief pause, during which I went on coolly mixing and

tempering my colours; 'and I cannot wonder at it, for you must be

heartily sick of us all.  I myself am so thoroughly ashamed of my

companions, and so weary of their irrational conversation and

pursuits - now that there is no one to humanize them and keep them

in check, since you have justly abandoned us to our own devices -

that I think I shall presently withdraw from amongst them, probably

within this week; and I cannot suppose you will regret my

departure.'



He paused.  I did not answer.



'Probably,' he added, with a smile, 'your only regret on the

subject will be that I do not take all my companions along with me.

I flatter myself, at times, that though among them I am not of

them; but it is natural that you should be glad to get rid of me.

I may regret this, but I cannot blame you for it.'



'I shall not rejoice at your departure, for you can conduct

yourself like a gentleman,' said I, thinking it but right to make

some acknowledgment for his good behaviour; 'but I must confess I

shall rejoice to bid adieu. to the rest, inhospitable as it may

appear.'



'No one can blame you for such an avowal,' replied he gravely:

'not even the gentlemen themselves, I imagine.  I'll just tell

you,' he continued, as if actuated by a sudden resolution, 'what

was said last night in the dining-room, after you left us:  perhaps

you will not mind it, as you're so very philosophical on certain

points,' he added with a slight sneer.  'They were talking about

Lord Lowborough and his delectable lady, the cause of whose sudden

departure is no secret amongst them; and her character is so well

known to them all, that, nearly related to me as she is, I could

not attempt to defend it.  Curse me!' he muttered, par parenthese,

'if I don't have vengeance for this!  If the villain must disgrace

the family, must he blazon it abroad to every low-bred knave of his

acquaintance?  I beg your pardon, Mrs. Huntingdon.  Well, they were

talking of these things, and some of them remarked that, as she was

separated from her husband, he might see her again when he

pleased.'



'"Thank you," said he; "I've had enough of her for the present:

I'll not trouble to see her, unless she comes to me."



'"Then what do you mean to do, Huntingdon, when we're gone?" said

Ralph Hattersley.  "Do you mean to turn from the error of your

ways, and be a good husband, a good father, and so forth; as I do,

when I get shut of you and all these rollicking devils you call

your friends?  I think it's time; and your wife is fifty times too

good for you, you know - "



'And he added some praise of you, which you would not thank me for

repeating, nor him for uttering; proclaiming it aloud, as he did,

without delicacy or discrimination, in an audience where it seemed

profanation to utter your name:  himself utterly incapable of

understanding or appreciating your real excellences.  Huntingdon,

meanwhile, sat quietly drinking his wine, - or looking smilingly

into his glass and offering no interruption or reply, till

Hattersley shouted out, - "Do you hear me, man?"



'"Yes, go on," said he.



'"Nay, I've done," replied the other:  "I only want to know if you

intend to take my advice."



'"What advice?"



'"To turn over a new leaf, you double-dyed scoundrel," shouted

Ralph, "and beg your wife's pardon, and be a good boy for the

future."



'"My wife! what wife?  I have no wife," replied Huntingdon, looking

innocently up from his glass, "or if I have, look you, gentlemen:

I value her so highly that any one among you, that can fancy her,

may have her and welcome:  you may, by Jove, and my blessing into

the bargain!"



'I - hem - someone asked if he really meant what he said; upon

which he solemnly swore he did, and no mistake.  What do you think

of that, Mrs. Huntingdon?' asked Mr. Hargrave, after a short pause,

during which I had felt he was keenly examining my half-averted

face.



'I say,' replied I, calmly, 'that what he prizes so lightly will

not be long in his possession.'



'You cannot mean that you will break your heart and die for the

detestable conduct of an infamous villain like that!'



'By no means:  my heart is too thoroughly dried to be broken in a

hurry, and I mean to live as long as I can.'



'Will you leave him then?'



'Yes.'



'When:  and how?' asked he, eagerly.



'When I am ready, and how I can manage it most effectually.'



'But your child?'



'My child goes with me.'



'He will not allow it.'



'I shall not ask him.'



'Ah, then, it is a secret flight you meditate! but with whom, Mrs.

Huntingdon?'



'With my son:  and possibly, his nurse.'



'Alone - and unprotected!  But where can you go? what can you do?

He will follow you and bring you back.'



'I have laid my plans too well for that.  Let me once get clear of

Grassdale, and I shall consider myself safe.'



Mr. Hargrave advanced one step towards me, looked me in the face,

and drew in his breath to speak; but that look, that heightened

colour, that sudden sparkle of the eye, made my blood rise in

wrath:  I abruptly turned away, and, snatching up my brush, began

to dash away at my canvas with rather too much energy for the good

of the picture.



'Mrs. Huntingdon,' said he with bitter solemnity, 'you are cruel -

cruel to me - cruel to yourself.'



'Mr. Hargrave, remember your promise.'



'I must speak:  my heart will burst if I don't!  I have been silent

long enough, and you must hear me!' cried he, boldly intercepting

my retreat to the door.  'You tell me you owe no allegiance to your

husband; he openly declares himself weary of you, and calmly gives

you up to anybody that will take you; you are about to leave him;

no one will believe that you go alone; all the world will say, "She

has left him at last, and who can wonder at it?  Few can blame her,

fewer still can pity him; but who is the companion of her flight?"

Thus you will have no credit for your virtue (if you call it such):

even your best friends will not believe in it; because it is

monstrous, and not to be credited but by those who suffer, from the

effects of it, such cruel torments that they know it to be indeed

reality.  But what can you do in the cold, rough world alone? you,

a young and inexperienced woman, delicately nurtured, and utterly -

'



'In a word, you would advise me to stay where I am,' interrupted I.

'Well, I'll see about it.'



'By all means, leave him!' cried he earnestly; 'but NOT alone!

Helen! let me protect you!'



'Never! while heaven spares my reason,' replied I, snatching away

the hand he had presumed to seize and press between his own.  But

he was in for it now; he had fairly broken the barrier:  he was

completely roused, and determined to hazard all for victory.



'I must not be denied!' exclaimed he, vehemently; and seizing both

my hands, he held them very tight, but dropped upon his knee, and

looked up in my face with a half-imploring, half-imperious gaze.

'You have no reason now:  you are flying in the face of heaven's

decrees.  God has designed me to be your comfort and protector - I

feel it, I know it as certainly as if a voice from heaven declared,

"Ye twain shall be one flesh" - and you spurn me from you - '



'Let me go, Mr. Hargrave!' said I, sternly.  But he only tightened

his grasp.



'Let me go!' I repeated, quivering with indignation.



His face was almost opposite the window as he knelt.  With a slight

start, I saw him glance towards it; and then a gleam of malicious

triumph lit up his countenance.  Looking over my shoulder, I beheld

a shadow just retiring round the corner.



'That is Grimsby,' said he deliberately.  'He will report what he

has seen to Huntingdon and all the rest, with such embellishments

as he thinks proper.  He has no love for you, Mrs. Huntingdon - no

reverence for your sex, no belief in virtue, no admiration for its

image.  He will give such a version of this story as will leave no

doubt at all about your character, in the minds of those who hear

it.  Your fair fame is gone; and nothing that I or you can say can

ever retrieve it.  But give me the power to protect you, and show

me the villain that dares to insult!'



'No one has ever dared to insult me as you are doing now!' said I,

at length releasing my hands, and recoiling from him.



'I do not insult you,' cried he:  'I worship you.  You are my

angel, my divinity!  I lay my powers at your feet, and you must and

shall accept them!' he exclaimed, impetuously starting to his feet.

'I will be your consoler and defender! and if your conscience

upbraid you for it, say I overcame you, and you could not choose

but yield!'



I never saw a man go terribly excited.  He precipitated himself

towards me.  I snatched up my palette-knife and held it against

him.  This startled him:  he stood and gazed at me in astonishment;

I daresay I looked as fierce and resolute as he.  I moved to the

bell, and put my hand upon the cord.  This tamed him still more.

With a half-authoritative, half-deprecating wave of the hand, he

sought to deter me from ringing.



'Stand off, then!' said I; he stepped back.  'And listen to me.  I

don't like you,' I continued, as deliberately and emphatically as I

could, to give the greater efficacy to my words; 'and if I were

divorced from my husband, or if he were dead, I would not marry

you.  There now!  I hope you're satisfied.'



His face grew blanched with anger.



'I am satisfied,' he replied, with bitter emphasis, 'that you are

the most cold-hearted, unnatural, ungrateful woman I ever yet

beheld!'



'Ungrateful, sir?'



'Ungrateful.'



'No, Mr. Hargrave, I am not.  For all the good you ever did me, or

ever wished to do, I most sincerely thank you:  for all the evil

you have done me, and all you would have done, I pray God to pardon

you, and make you of a better mind.'  Here the door was thrown

open, and Messrs. Huntingdon and Hattersley appeared without.  The

latter remained in the hall, busy with his ramrod and his gun; the

former walked in, and stood with his back to the fire, surveying

Mr. Hargrave and me, particularly the former, with a smile of

insupportable meaning, accompanied as it was by the impudence of

his brazen brow, and the sly, malicious, twinkle of his eye.



'Well, sir?' said Hargrave, interrogatively, and with the air of

one prepared to stand on the defensive.



'Well, sir,' returned his host.



'We want to know if you are at liberty to join us in a go at the

pheasants, Walter,' interposed Hattersley from without.  'Come!

there shall be nothing shot besides, except a puss or two; I'll

vouch for that.'



Walter did not answer, but walked to the window to collect his

faculties.  Arthur uttered a low whistle, and followed him with his

eyes.  A slight flush of anger rose to Hargrave's cheek; but in a

moment he turned calmly round, and said carelessly:



'I came here to bid farewell to Mrs. Huntingdon, and tell her I

must go to-morrow.'



'Humph!  You're mighty sudden in your resolution.  What takes you

off so soon, may I ask?'



'Business,' returned he, repelling the other's incredulous sneer

with a glance of scornful defiance.



'Very good,' was the reply; and Hargrave walked away.  Thereupon

Mr. Huntingdon, gathering his coat-laps under his arms, and setting

his shoulder against the mantel-piece, turned to me, and,

addressing me in a low voice, scarcely above his breath, poured

forth a volley of the vilest and grossest abuse it was possible for

the imagination to conceive or the tongue to utter.  I did not

attempt to interrupt him; but my spirit kindled within me, and when

he had done, I replied, 'If your accusation were true, Mr.

Huntingdon, how dare you blame me?'



'She's hit it, by Jove!' cried Hattersley, rearing his gun against

the wall; and, stepping into the room, he took his precious friend

by the arm, and attempted to drag him away.  'Come, my lad,' he

muttered; 'true or false, you've no right to blame her, you know,

nor him either; after what you said last night.  So come along.'



There was something implied here that I could not endure.



'Dare you suspect me, Mr. Hattersley?' said I, almost beside myself

with fury.



'Nay, nay, I suspect nobody.  It's all right, it's all right.  So

come along, Huntingdon, you blackguard.'



'She can't deny it!' cried the gentleman thus addressed, grinning

in mingled rage and triumph.  'She can't deny it if her life

depended on it!' and muttering some more abusive language, he

walked into the hall, and took up his hat and gun from the table.



'I scorn to justify myself to you!' said I.  'But you,' turning to

Hattersley, 'if you presume to have any doubts on the subject, ask

Mr. Hargrave.'



At this they simultaneously burst into a rude laugh that made my

whole frame tingle to the fingers' ends.



'Where is he?  I'll ask him myself!' said I, advancing towards

them.



Suppressing a new burst of merriment, Hattersley pointed to the

outer door.  It was half open.  His brother-in-law was standing on

the front without.



'Mr. Hargrave, will you please to step this way?' said I.



He turned and looked at me in grave surprise.



'Step this way, if you please!' I repeated, in so determined a

manner that he could not, or did not choose to resist its

authority.  Somewhat reluctantly he ascended the steps and advanced

a pace or two into the hall.



'And tell those gentlemen,' I continued - 'these men, whether or

not I yielded to your solicitations.'



'I don't understand you, Mrs. Huntingdon.'



'You do understand me, sir; and I charge you, upon your honour as a

gentleman (if you have any), to answer truly.  Did I, or did I

not?'



'No,' muttered he, turning away.



'Speak up, sir; they can't hear you.  Did I grant your request?



'You did not.'



'No, I'll be sworn she didn't,' said Hattersley, 'or he'd never

look so black.'



'I'm willing to grant you the satisfaction of a gentleman,

Huntingdon,' said Mr. Hargrave, calmly addressing his host, but

with a bitter sneer upon his countenance.



'Go to the deuce!' replied the latter, with an impatient jerk of

the head.  Hargrave withdrew with a look of cold disdain, saying, -

'You know where to find me, should you feel disposed to send a

friend.'



Muttered oaths and curses were all the answer this intimation

obtained.



'Now, Huntingdon, you see!' said Hattersley.  'Clear as the day.'



'I don't care what he sees,' said I, 'or what he imagines; but you,

Mr. Hattersley, when you hear my name belied and slandered, will

you defend it?'



'I will.'



I instantly departed and shut myself into the library.  What could

possess me to make such a request of such a man I cannot tell; but

drowning men catch at straws:  they had driven me desperate between

them; I hardly knew what I said.  There was no other to preserve my

name from being blackened and aspersed among this nest of boon

companions, and through them, perhaps, into the world; and beside

my abandoned wretch of a husband, the base, malignant Grimsby, and

the false villain Hargrave, this boorish ruffian, coarse and brutal

as he was, shone like a glow-worm in the dark, among its fellow

worms.



What a scene was this!  Could I ever have imagined that I should be

doomed to bear such insults under my own roof - to hear such things

spoken in my presence; nay, spoken to me and of me; and by those

who arrogated to themselves the name of gentlemen?  And could I

have imagined that I should have been able to endure it as calmly,

and to repel their insults as firmly and as boldly as I had done?

A hardness such as this is taught by rough experience and despair

alone.



Such thoughts as these chased one another through my mind, as I

paced to and fro the room, and longed - oh, how I longed - to take

my child and leave them now, without an hour's delay!  But it could

not be; there was work before me:  hard work, that must be done.



'Then let me do it,' said I, 'and lose not a moment in vain

repinings and idle chafings against my fate, and those who

influence it.'



And conquering my agitation with a powerful effort, I immediately

resumed my task, and laboured hard all day.



Mr. Hargrave did depart on the morrow; and I have never seen him

since.  The others stayed on for two or three weeks longer; but I

kept aloof from them as much as possible, and still continued my

labour, and have continued it, with almost unabated ardour, to the

present day.  I soon acquainted Rachel with my design, confiding

all my motives and intentions to her ear, and, much to my agreeable

surprise, found little difficulty in persuading her to enter into

my views.  She is a sober, cautious woman, but she so hates her

master, and so loves her mistress and her nursling, that after

several ejaculations, a few faint objections, and many tears and

lamentations that I should be brought to such a pass, she applauded

my resolution and consented to aid me with all her might:  on one

condition only:  that she might share my exile:  otherwise, she was

utterly inexorable, regarding it as perfect madness for me and

Arthur to go alone.  With touching generosity, she modestly offered

to aid me with her little hoard of savings, hoping I would 'excuse

her for the liberty, but really, if I would do her the favour to

accept it as a loan, she would be very happy.'  Of course I could

not think of such a thing; but now, thank heaven, I have gathered a

little hoard of my own, and my preparations are so far advanced

that I am looking forward to a speedy emancipation.  Only let the

stormy severity of this winter weather be somewhat abated, and

then, some morning, Mr. Huntingdon will come down to a solitary

breakfast-table, and perhaps be clamouring through the house for

his invisible wife and child, when they are some fifty miles on

their way to the Western world, or it may be more:  for we shall

leave him hours before the dawn, and it is not probable he will

discover the loss of both until the day is far advanced.



I am fully alive to the evils that may and must result upon the

step I am about to take; but I never waver in my resolution,

because I never forget my son.  It was only this morning, while I

pursued my usual employment, he was sitting at my feet, quietly

playing with the shreds of canvas I had thrown upon the carpet; but

his mind was otherwise occupied, for, in a while, he looked up

wistfully in my face, and gravely asked, - 'Mamma, why are you

wicked?'



'Who told you I was wicked, love?'



'Rachel.'



'No, Arthur, Rachel never said so, I am certain.'



'Well, then, it was papa,' replied he, thoughtfully.  Then, after a

reflective pause, he added, 'At least, I'll tell you how it was I

got to know:  when I'm with papa, if I say mamma wants me, or mamma

says I'm not to do something that he tells me to do, he always

says, "Mamma be damned," and Rachel says it's only wicked people

that are damned.  So, mamma, that's why I think you must be wicked:

and I wish you wouldn't.'



'My dear child, I am not.  Those are bad words, and wicked people

often say them of others better than themselves.  Those words

cannot make people be damned, nor show that they deserve it.  God

will judge us by our own thoughts and deeds, not by what others say

about us.  And when you hear such words spoken, Arthur, remember

never to repeat them:  it is wicked to say such things of others,

not to have them said against you.'



'Then it's papa that's wicked,' said he, ruefully.



'Papa is wrong to say such things, and you will be very wrong to

imitate him now that you know better.'



'What is imitate?'



'To do as he does.'



'Does he know better?'



'Perhaps he does; but that is nothing to you.'



'If he doesn't, you ought to tell him, mamma.'



'I have told him.'



The little moralist paused and pondered.  I tried in vain to divert

his mind from the subject.



'I'm sorry papa's wicked,' said he mournfully, at length, 'for I

don't want him to go to hell.'  And so saying he burst into tears.



I consoled him with the hope that perhaps his papa would alter and

become good before he died -; but is it not time to deliver him

from such a parent?







CHAPTER XL







January 10th, 1827. - While writing the above, yesterday evening, I

sat in the drawing-room.  Mr. Huntingdon was present, but, as I

thought, asleep on the sofa behind me.  He had risen, however,

unknown to me, and, actuated by some base spirit of curiosity, been

looking over my shoulder for I know not how long; for when I had

laid aside my pen, and was about to close the book, he suddenly

placed his hand upon it, and saying, - 'With your leave, my dear,

I'll have a look at this,' forcibly wrested it from me, and,

drawing a chair to the table, composedly sat down to examine it:

turning back leaf after leaf to find an explanation of what he had

read.  Unluckily for me, he was more sober that night than he

usually is at such an hour.



Of course I did not leave him to pursue this occupation in quiet:

I made several attempts to snatch the book from his hands, but he

held it too firmly for that; I upbraided him in bitterness and

scorn for his mean and dishonourable conduct, but that had no

effect upon him; and, finally, I extinguished both the candles, but

he only wheeled round to the fire, and raising a blaze sufficient

for his purposes, calmly continued the investigation.  I had

serious thoughts of getting a pitcher of water and extinguishing

that light too; but it was evident his curiosity was too keenly

excited to be quenched by that, and the more I manifested my

anxiety to baffle his scrutiny, the greater would be his

determination to persist in it besides it was too late.



'It seems very interesting, love,' said he, lifting his head and

turning to where I stood, wringing my hands in silent rage and

anguish; 'but it's rather long; I'll look at it some other time;

and meanwhile I'll trouble you for your keys, my dear.'



'What keys?'



'The keys of your cabinet, desk, drawers, and whatever else you

possess,' said he, rising and holding out his hand.



'I've not got them,' I replied.  The key of my desk, in fact, was

at that moment in the lock, and the others were attached to it.



'Then you must send for them,' said he; 'and if that old devil,

Rachel, doesn't immediately deliver them up, she tramps bag and

baggage tomorrow.'



'She doesn't know where they are,' I answered, quietly placing my

hand upon them, and taking them from the desk, as I thought,

unobserved.  'I know, but I shall not give them up without a

reason.'



'And I know, too,' said he, suddenly seizing my closed hand and

rudely abstracting them from it.  He then took up one of the

candles and relighted it by thrusting it into the fire.



'Now, then,' sneered he, 'we must have a confiscation of property.

But, first, let us take a peep into the studio.'



And putting the keys into his pocket, he walked into the library.

I followed, whether with the dim idea of preventing mischief, or

only to know the worst, I can hardly tell.  My painting materials

were laid together on the corner table, ready for to-morrow's use,

and only covered with a cloth.  He soon spied them out, and putting

down the candle, deliberately proceeded to cast them into the fire:

palette, paints, bladders, pencils, brushes, varnish:  I saw them

all consumed:  the palette-knives snapped in two, the oil and

turpentine sent hissing and roaring up the chimney.  He then rang

the bell.



'Benson, take those things away,' said he, pointing to the easel,

canvas, and stretcher; 'and tell the housemaid she may kindle the

fire with them:  your mistress won't want them any more.'



Benson paused aghast and looked at me.



'Take them away, Benson,' said I; and his master muttered an oath.



'And this and all, sir?' said the astonished servant, referring to

the half-finished picture.



'That and all,' replied the master; and the things were cleared

away.



Mr. Huntingdon then went up-stairs.  I did not attempt to follow

him, but remained seated in the arm-chair, speechless, tearless,

and almost motionless, till he returned about half-an-hour after,

and walking up to me, held the candle in my face and peered into my

eyes with looks and laughter too insulting to be borne.  With a

sudden stroke of my hand I dashed the candle to the floor.



'Hal-lo!' muttered he, starting back; 'she's the very devil for

spite.  Did ever any mortal see such eyes? - they shine in the dark

like a cat's.  Oh, you're a sweet one!'  So saying, he gathered up

the candle and the candlestick.  The former being broken as well as

extinguished, he rang for another.



'Benson, your mistress has broken the candle; bring another.'



'You expose yourself finely,' observed I, as the man departed.



'I didn't say I'd broken it, did I?' returned he.  He then threw my

keys into my lap, saying, - 'There! you'll find nothing gone but

your money, and the jewels, and a few little trifles I thought it

advisable to take into my own possession, lest your mercantile

spirit should be tempted to turn them into gold.  I've left you a

few sovereigns in your purse, which I expect to last you through

the month; at all events, when you want more you will be so good as

to give me an account of how that's spent.  I shall put you upon a

small monthly allowance, in future, for your own private expenses;

and you needn't trouble yourself any more about my concerns; I

shall look out for a steward, my dear - I won't expose you to the

temptation.  And as for the household matters, Mrs. Greaves must be

very particular in keeping her accounts; we must go upon an

entirely new plan - '



'What great discovery have you made now, Mr. Huntingdon?  Have I

attempted to defraud you?'



'Not in money matters, exactly, it seems; but it's best to keep out

of the way of temptation.'



Here Benson entered with the candles, and there followed a brief

interval of silence; I sitting still in my chair, and he standing

with his back to the fire, silently triumphing in my despair.



'And so,' said he at length, 'you thought to disgrace me, did you,

by running away and turning artist, and supporting yourself by the

labour of your hands, forsooth?  And you thought to rob me of my

son, too, and bring him up to be a dirty Yankee tradesman, or a

low, beggarly painter?'



'Yes, to obviate his becoming such a gentleman as his father.'



'It's well you couldn't keep your own secret - ha, ha!  It's well

these women must be blabbing.  If they haven't a friend to talk to,

they must whisper their secrets to the fishes, or write them on the

sand, or something; and it's well, too, I wasn't over full to-

night, now I think of it, or I might have snoozed away and never

dreamt of looking what my sweet lady was about; or I might have

lacked the sense or the power to carry my point like a man, as I

have done.'



Leaving him to his self-congratulations, I rose to secure my

manuscript, for I now remembered it had been left upon the drawing-

room table, and I determined, if possible, to save myself the

humiliation of seeing it in his hands again.  I could not bear the

idea of his amusing himself over my secret thoughts and

recollections; though, to be sure, he would find little good of

himself therein indited, except in the former part; and oh, I would

sooner burn it all than he should read what I had written when I

was such a fool as to love him!



'And by-the-by,' cried he, as I was leaving the room, 'you'd better

tell that d-d old sneak of a nurse to keep out of my way for a day

or two; I'd pay her her wages and send her packing to-morrow, but I

know she'd do more mischief out of the house than in it.'



And as I departed, he went on cursing and abusing my faithful

friend and servant with epithets I will not defile this paper with

repeating.  I went to her as soon as I had put away my book, and

told her how our project was defeated.  She was as much distressed

and horrified as I was - and more so than I was that night, for I

was partly stunned by the blow, and partly excited and supported

against it by the bitterness of my wrath.  But in the morning, when

I woke without that cheering hope that had been my secret comfort

and support so long, and all this day, when I have wandered about

restless and objectless, shunning my husband, shrinking even from

my child, knowing that I am unfit to be his teacher or companion,

hoping nothing for his future life, and fervently wishing he had

never been born, - I felt the full extent of my calamity, and I

feel it now.  I know that day after day such feelings will return

upon me.  I am a slave - a prisoner - but that is nothing; if it

were myself alone I would not complain, but I am forbidden to

rescue my son from ruin, and what was once my only consolation is

become the crowning source of my despair.



Have I no faith in God?  I try to look to Him and raise my heart to

heaven, but it will cleave to the dust.  I can only say, 'He hath

hedged me about, that I cannot get out:  He hath made my chain

heavy.  He hath filled me with bitterness - He hath made me drunken

with wormwood.'  I forget to add, 'But though He cause grief, yet

will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.

For He doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.'

I ought to think of this; and if there be nothing but sorrow for me

in this world, what is the longest life of misery to a whole

eternity of peace?  And for my little Arthur - has he no friend but

me?  Who was it said, 'It is not the will of your Father which is

in heaven that one of these little ones should perish?'







CHAPTER XLI







March 20th. - Having now got rid of Mr. Huntingdon for a season, my

spirits begin to revive.  He left me early in February; and the

moment he was gone, I breathed again, and felt my vital energy

return; not with the hope of escape - he has taken care to leave me

no visible chance of that - but with a determination to make the

best of existing circumstances.  Here was Arthur left to me at

last; and rousing from my despondent apathy, I exerted all my

powers to eradicate the weeds that had been fostered in his infant

mind, and sow again the good seed they had rendered unproductive.

Thank heaven, it is not a barren or a stony soil; if weeds spring

fast there, so do better plants.  His apprehensions are more quick,

his heart more overflowing with affection than ever his father's

could have been, and it is no hopeless task to bend him to

obedience and win him to love and know his own true friend, as long

as there is no one to counteract my efforts.



I had much trouble at first in breaking him of those evil habits

his father had taught him to acquire, but already that difficulty

is nearly vanquished now:  bad language seldom defiles his mouth,

and I have succeeded in giving him an absolute disgust for all

intoxicating liquors, which I hope not even his father or his

father's friends will be able to overcome.  He was inordinately

fond of them for so young a creature, and, remembering my

unfortunate father as well as his, I dreaded the consequences of

such a taste.  But if I had stinted him, in his usual quantity of

wine, or forbidden him to taste it altogether, that would only have

increased his partiality for it, and made him regard it as a

greater treat than ever.  I therefore gave him quite as much as his

father was accustomed to allow him; as much, indeed, as he desired

to have - but into every glass I surreptitiously introduced a small

quantity of tartar-emetic, just enough to produce inevitable nausea

and depression without positive sickness.  Finding such

disagreeable consequences invariably to result from this

indulgence, he soon grew weary of it, but the more he shrank from

the daily treat the more I pressed it upon him, till his reluctance

was strengthened to perfect abhorrence.  When he was thoroughly

disgusted with every kind of wine, I allowed him, at his own

request, to try brandy-and-water, and then gin-and-water, for the

little toper was familiar with them all, and I was determined that

all should be equally hateful to him.  This I have now effected;

and since he declares that the taste, the smell, the sight of any

one of them is sufficient to make him sick, I have given up teasing

him about them, except now and then as objects of terror in cases

of misbehaviour.  'Arthur, if you're not a good boy I shall give

you a glass of wine,' or 'Now, Arthur, if you say that again you

shall have some brandy-and-water,' is as good as any other threat;

and once or twice, when he was sick, I have obliged the poor child

to swallow a little wine-and-water without the tartar-emetic, by

way of medicine; and this practice I intend to continue for some

time to come; not that I think it of any real service in a physical

sense, but because I am determined to enlist all the powers of

association in my service; I wish this aversion to be so deeply

grounded in his nature that nothing in after-life may be able to

overcome it.



Thus, I flatter myself, I shall secure him from this one vice; and

for the rest, if on his father's return I find reason to apprehend

that my good lessons will be all destroyed - if Mr. Huntingdon

commence again the game of teaching the child to hate and despise

his mother, and emulate his father's wickedness - I will yet

deliver my son from his hands.  I have devised another scheme that

might be resorted to in such a case; and if I could but obtain my

brother's consent and assistance, I should not doubt of its

success.  The old hall where he and I were born, and where our

mother died, is not now inhabited, nor yet quite sunk into decay,

as I believe.  Now, if I could persuade him to have one or two

rooms made habitable, and to let them to me as a stranger, I might

live there, with my child, under an assumed name, and still support

myself by my favourite art.  He should lend me the money to begin

with, and I would pay him back, and live in lowly independence and

strict seclusion, for the house stands in a lonely place, and the

neighbourhood is thinly inhabited, and he himself should negotiate

the sale of my pictures for me.  I have arranged the whole plan in

my head:  and all I want is to persuade Frederick to be of the same

mind as myself.  He is coming to see me soon, and then I will make

the proposal to him, having first enlightened him upon my

circumstances sufficiently to excuse the project.



Already, I believe, he knows much more of my situation than I have

told him.  I can tell this by the air of tender sadness pervading

his letters; and by the fact of his so seldom mentioning my

husband, and generally evincing a kind of covert bitterness when he

does refer to him; as well as by the circumstance of his never

coming to see me when Mr. Huntingdon is at home.  But he has never

openly expressed any disapprobation of him or sympathy for me; he

has never asked any questions, or said anything to invite my

confidence.  Had he done so, I should probably have had but few

concealments from him.  Perhaps he feels hurt at my reserve.  He is

a strange being; I wish we knew each other better.  He used to

spend a month at Staningley every year, before I was married; but,

since our father's death, I have only seen him once, when he came

for a few days while Mr. Huntingdon was away.  He shall stay many

days this time, and there shall be more candour and cordiality

between us than ever there was before, since our early childhood.

My heart clings to him more than ever; and my soul is sick of

solitude.



April 16th. - He is come and gone.  He would not stay above a

fortnight.  The time passed quickly, but very, very happily, and it

has done me good.  I must have a bad disposition, for my

misfortunes have soured and embittered me exceedingly:  I was

beginning insensibly to cherish very unamiable feelings against my

fellow-mortals, the male part of them especially; but it is a

comfort to see there is at least one among them worthy to be

trusted and esteemed; and doubtless there are more, though I have

never known them, unless I except poor Lord Lowborough, and he was

bad enough in his day.  But what would Frederick have been, if he

had lived in the world, and mingled from his childhood with such

men as these of my acquaintance? and what will Arthur be, with all

his natural sweetness of disposition, if I do not save him from

that world and those companions?  I mentioned my fears to

Frederick, and introduced the subject of my plan of rescue on the

evening after his arrival, when I presented my little son to his

uncle.



'He is like you, Frederick,' said I, 'in some of his moods:  I

sometimes think he resembles you more than his father; and I am

glad of it.'



'You flatter me, Helen,' replied he, stroking the child's soft,

wavy locks.



'No, you will think it no compliment when I tell you I would rather

have him to resemble Benson than his father.'



He slightly elevated his eyebrows, but said nothing.



'Do you know what sort of man Mr. Huntingdon is?' said I.



'I think I have an idea.'



'Have you so clear an idea that you can hear, without surprise or

disapproval, that I meditate escaping with that child to some

secret asylum, where we can live in peace, and never see him

again?'



'Is it really so?'



'If you have not,' continued I, 'I'll tell you something more about

him'; and I gave a sketch of his general conduct, and a more

particular account of his behaviour with regard to his child, and

explained my apprehensions on the latter's account, and my

determination to deliver him from his father's influence.



Frederick was exceedingly indignant against Mr. Huntingdon, and

very much grieved for me; but still he looked upon my project as

wild and impracticable.  He deemed my fears for Arthur

disproportioned to the circumstances, and opposed so many

objections to my plan, and devised so many milder methods for

ameliorating my condition, that I was obliged to enter into further

details to convince him that my husband was utterly incorrigible,

and that nothing could persuade him to give up his son, whatever

became of me, he being as fully determined the child should not

leave him, as I was not to leave the child; and that, in fact,

nothing would answer but this, unless I fled the country, as I had

intended before.  To obviate that, he at length consented to have

one wing of the old hall put into a habitable condition, as a place

of refuge against a time of need; but hoped I would not take

advantage of it unless circumstances should render it really

necessary, which I was ready enough to promise:  for though, for my

own sake, such a hermitage appears like paradise itself, compared

with my present situation, yet for my friends' sakes, for Milicent

and Esther, my sisters in heart and affection, for the poor tenants

of Grassdale, and, above all, for my aunt, I will stay if I

possibly can.



July 29th. - Mrs. Hargrave and her daughter are come back from

London.  Esther is full of her first season in town; but she is

still heart-whole and unengaged.  Her mother sought out an

excellent match for her, and even brought the gentleman to lay his

heart and fortune at her feet; but Esther had the audacity to

refuse the noble gifts.  He was a man of good family and large

possessions, but the naughty girl maintained he was old as Adam,

ugly as sin, and hateful as - one who shall be nameless.



'But, indeed, I had a hard time of it,' said she:  'mamma was very

greatly disappointed at the failure of her darling project, and

very, very angry at my obstinate resistance to her will, and is so

still; but I can't help it.  And Walter, too, is so seriously

displeased at my perversity and absurd caprice, as he calls it,

that I fear he will never forgive me - I did not think he could be

so unkind as he has lately shown himself.  But Milicent begged me

not to yield, and I'm sure, Mrs. Huntingdon, if you had seen the

man they wanted to palm upon me, you would have advised me not to

take him too.'



'I should have done so whether I had seen him or not,' said I; 'it

is enough that you dislike him.'



'I knew you would say so; though mamma affirmed you would be quite

shocked at my undutiful conduct.  You can't imagine how she

lectures me:  I am disobedient and ungrateful; I am thwarting her

wishes, wronging my brother, and making myself a burden on her

hands.  I sometimes fear she'll overcome me after all.  I have a

strong will, but so has she, and when she says such bitter things,

it provokes me to such a pass that I feel inclined to do as she

bids me, and then break my heart and say, "There, mamma, it's all

your fault!"'



'Pray don't!' said I.  'Obedience from such a motive would be

positive wickedness, and certain to bring the punishment it

deserves.  Stand firm, and your mamma will soon relinquish her

persecution; and the gentleman himself will cease to pester you

with his addresses if he finds them steadily rejected.'



'Oh, no! mamma will weary all about her before she tires herself

with her exertions; and as for Mr. Oldfield, she has given him to

understand that I have refused his offer, not from any dislike of

his person, but merely because I am giddy and young, and cannot at

present reconcile myself to the thoughts of marriage under any

circumstances:  but by next season, she has no doubt, I shall have

more sense, and hopes my girlish fancies will be worn away.  So she

has brought me home, to school me into a proper sense of my duty,

against the time comes round again.  Indeed, I believe she will not

put herself to the expense of taking me up to London again, unless

I surrender:  she cannot afford to take me to town for pleasure and

nonsense, she says, and it is not every rich gentleman that will

consent to take me without a fortune, whatever exalted ideas I may

have of my own attractions.'



'Well, Esther, I pity you; but still, I repeat, stand firm.  You

might as well sell yourself to slavery at once, as marry a man you

dislike.  If your mother and brother are unkind to you, you may

leave them, but remember you are bound to your husband for life.'



'But I cannot leave them unless I get married, and I cannot get

married if nobody sees me.  I saw one or two gentlemen in London

that I might have liked, but they were younger sons, and mamma

would not let me get to know them - one especially, who I believe

rather liked me - but she threw every possible obstacle in the way

of our better acquaintance.  Wasn't it provoking?'



'I have no doubt you would feel it so, but it is possible that if

you married him, you might have more reason to regret it hereafter

than if you married Mr. Oldfield.  When I tell you not to marry

without love, I do not advise you to marry for love alone:  there

are many, many other things to be considered.  Keep both heart and

hand in your own possession, till you see good reason to part with

them; and if such an occasion should never present itself, comfort

your mind with this reflection, that though in single life your

joys may not be very many, your sorrows, at least, will not be more

than you can bear.  Marriage may change your circumstances for the

better, but, in my private opinion, it is far more likely to

produce a contrary result.'



'So thinks Milicent; but allow me to say I think otherwise.  If I

thought myself doomed to old-maidenhood, I should cease to value my

life.  The thoughts of living on, year after year, at the Grove - a

hanger-on upon mamma and Walter, a mere cumberer of the ground (now

that I know in what light they would regard it), is perfectly

intolerable; I would rather run away with the butler.'



'Your circumstances are peculiar, I allow; but have patience, love;

do nothing rashly.  Remember you are not yet nineteen, and many

years are yet to pass before any one can set you down as an old

maid:  you cannot tell what Providence may have in store for you.

And meantime, remember you have a right to the protection and

support of your mother and brother, however they may seem to grudge

it.'



'You are so grave, Mrs. Huntingdon,' said Esther, after a pause.

'When Milicent uttered the same discouraging sentiments concerning

marriage, I asked if she was happy:  she said she was; but I only

half believed her; and now I must put the same question to you.'



'It is a very impertinent question,' laughed I, 'from a young girl

to a married woman so many years her senior, and I shall not answer

it.'



'Pardon me, dear madam,' said she, laughingly throwing herself into

my arms, and kissing me with playful affection; but I felt a tear

on my neck, as she dropped her head on my bosom and continued, with

an odd mixture of sadness and levity, timidity and audacity, - 'I

know you are not so happy as I mean to be, for you spend half your

life alone at Grassdale, while Mr. Huntingdon goes about enjoying

himself where and how he pleases.  I shall expect my husband to

have no pleasures but what he shares with me; and if his greatest

pleasure of all is not the enjoyment of my company, why, it will be

the worse for him, that's all.'



'If such are your expectations of matrimony, Esther, you must,

indeed, be careful whom you marry - or rather, you must avoid it

altogether.'







CHAPTER XLII







September 1st. - No Mr. Huntingdon yet.  Perhaps he will stay among

his friends till Christmas; and then, next spring, he will be off

again.  If he continue this plan, I shall be able to stay at

Grassdale well enough - that is, I shall be able to stay, and that

is enough; even an occasional bevy of friends at the shooting

season may be borne, if Arthur get so firmly attached to me, so

well established in good sense and principles before they come that

I shall be able, by reason and affection, to keep him pure from

their contaminations.  Vain hope, I fear! but still, till such a

time of trial comes I will forbear to think of my quiet asylum in

the beloved old hall.



Mr. and Mrs. Hattersley have been staying at the Grove a fortnight:

and as Mr. Hargrave is still absent, and the weather was remarkably

fine, I never passed a day without seeing my two friends, Milicent

and Esther, either there or here.  On one occasion, when Mr.

Hattersley had driven them over to Grassdale in the phaeton, with

little Helen and Ralph, and we were all enjoying ourselves in the

garden - I had a few minutes' conversation with that gentleman,

while the ladies were amusing themselves with the children.



'Do you want to hear anything of your husband, Mrs. Huntingdon?'

said he.



'No, unless you can tell me when to expect him home.'



'I can't. - You don't want him, do you?' said he, with a broad

grin.



'No.'



'Well, I think you're better without him, sure enough - for my

part, I'm downright weary of him.  I told him I'd leave him if he

didn't mend his manners, and he wouldn't; so I left him.  You see,

I'm a better man than you think me; and, what's more, I have

serious thoughts of washing my hands of him entirely, and the whole

set of 'em, and comporting myself from this day forward with all

decency and sobriety, as a Christian and the father of a family

should do.  What do you think of that?'



'It is a resolution you ought to have formed long ago.'



'Well, I'm not thirty yet; it isn't too late, is it?'



'No; it is never too late to reform, as long as you have the sense

to desire it, and the strength to execute your purpose.'



'Well, to tell you the truth, I've thought of it often and often

before; but he's such devilish good company, is Huntingdon, after

all.  You can't imagine what a jovial good fellow he is when he's

not fairly drunk, only just primed or half-seas-over.  We all have

a bit of a liking for him at the bottom of our hearts, though we

can't respect him.'



'But should you wish yourself to be like him?'



'No, I'd rather be like myself, bad as I am.'



'You can't continue as bad as you are without getting worse and

more brutalised every day, and therefore more like him.'



I could not help smiling at the comical, half-angry, half-

confounded look he put on at this rather unusual mode of address.



'Never mind my plain speaking,' said I; 'it is from the best of

motives.  But tell me, should you wish your sons to be like Mr.

Huntingdon - or even like yourself?'



'Hang it! no.'



'Should you wish your daughter to despise you - or, at least, to

feel no vestige of respect for you, and no affection but what is

mingled with the bitterest regret?'



'Oh, no!  I couldn't stand that.'



'And, finally, should you wish your wife to be ready to sink into

the earth when she hears you mentioned; and to loathe the very

sound of your voice, and shudder at your approach?'



'She never will; she likes me all the same, whatever I do.'



'Impossible, Mr. Hattersley! you mistake her quiet submission for

affection.'



'Fire and fury - '



'Now don't burst into a tempest at that.  I don't mean to say she

does not love you - she does, I know, a great deal better than you

deserve; but I am quite sure, that if you behave better, she will

love you more, and if you behave worse, she will love you less and

less, till all is lost in fear, aversion, and bitterness of soul,

if not in secret hatred and contempt.  But, dropping the subject of

affection, should you wish to be the tyrant of her life - to take

away all the sunshine from her existence, and make her thoroughly

miserable?'



'Of course not; and I don't, and I'm not going to.'



'You have done more towards it than you suppose.'



'Pooh, pooh! she's not the susceptible, anxious, worriting creature

you imagine:  she's a little meek, peaceable, affectionate body;

apt to be rather sulky at times, but quiet and cool in the main,

and ready to take things as they come.'



'Think of what she was five years ago, when you married her, and

what she is now.'



'I know she was a little plump lassie then, with a pretty pink and

white face:  now she's a poor little bit of a creature, fading and

melting away like a snow-wreath.  But hang it! - that's not my

fault.'



'What is the cause of it then?  Not years, for she's only five-and-

twenty.'



'It's her own delicate health, and confound it, madam! what would

you make of me? - and the children, to be sure, that worry her to

death between them.'



'No, Mr. Hattersley, the children give her more pleasure than pain:

they are fine, well-dispositioned children - '



'I know they are - bless them!'



'Then why lay the blame on them? - I'll tell you what it is:  it's

silent fretting and constant anxiety on your account, mingled, I

suspect, with something of bodily fear on her own.  When you behave

well, she can only rejoice with trembling; she has no security, no

confidence in your judgment or principles; but is continually

dreading the close of such short-lived felicity; when you behave

ill, her causes of terror and misery are more than any one can tell

but herself.  In patient endurance of evil, she forgets it is our

duty to admonish our neighbours of their transgressions.  Since you

will mistake her silence for indifference, come with me, and I'll

show you one or two of her letters - no breach of confidence, I

hope, since you are her other half.'



He followed me into the library.  I sought out and put into his

hands two of Milicent's letters:  one dated from London, and

written during one of his wildest seasons of reckless dissipation;

the other in the country, during a lucid interval.  The former was

full of trouble and anguish; not accusing him, but deeply

regretting his connection with his profligate companions, abusing

Mr. Grimsby and others, insinuating bitter things against Mr.

Huntingdon, and most ingeniously throwing the blame of her

husband's misconduct on to other men's shoulders.  The latter was

full of hope and joy, yet with a trembling consciousness that this

happiness would not last; praising his goodness to the skies, but

with an evident, though but half-expressed wish, that it were based

on a surer foundation than the natural impulses of the heart, and a

half-prophetic dread of the fall of that house so founded on the

sand, - which fall had shortly after taken place, as Hattersley

must have been conscious while he read.



Almost at the commencement of the first letter I had the unexpected

pleasure of seeing him blush; but he immediately turned his back to

me, and finished the perusal at the window.  At the second, I saw

him, once or twice, raise his hand, and hurriedly pass it across

his face.  Could it be to dash away a tear?  When he had done,

there was an interval spent in clearing his throat and staring out

of the window, and then, after whistling a few bars of a favourite

air, he turned round, gave me back the letters, and silently shook

me by the hand.



'I've been a cursed rascal, God knows,' said he, as he gave it a

hearty squeeze, 'but you see if I don't make amends for it - d-n me

if I don't!'



'Don't curse yourself, Mr. Hattersley; if God had heard half your

invocations of that kind, you would have been in hell long before

now - and you cannot make amends for the past by doing your duty

for the future, inasmuch as your duty is only what you owe to your

Maker, and you cannot do more than fulfil it:  another must make

amends for your past delinquencies.  If you intend to reform,

invoke God's blessing, His mercy, and His aid; not His curse.'



'God help me, then - for I'm sure I need it.  Where's Milicent?'



'She's there, just coming in with her sister.'



He stepped out at the glass door, and went to meet them.  I

followed at a little distance.  Somewhat to his wife's

astonishment, he lifted her off from the ground, and saluted her

with a hearty kiss and a strong embrace; then placing his two hands

on her shoulders, he gave her, I suppose, a sketch of the great

things he meant to do, for she suddenly threw her arms round him,

and burst into tears, exclaiming, - 'Do, do, Ralph - we shall be so

happy!  How very, very good you are!'



'Nay, not I,' said he, turning her round, and pushing her towards

me.  'Thank her; it's her doing.'



Milicent flew to thank me, overflowing with gratitude.  I

disclaimed all title to it, telling her her husband was predisposed

to amendment before I added my mite of exhortation and

encouragement, and that I had only done what she might, and ought

to have done herself.



'Oh, no!' cried she; 'I couldn't have influenced him, I'm sure, by

anything that I could have said.  I should only have bothered him

by my clumsy efforts at persuasion, if I had made the attempt.'



'You never tried me, Milly,' said he.



Shortly after they took their leave.  They are now gone on a visit

to Hattersley's father.  After that they will repair to their

country home.  I hope his good resolutions will not fall through,

and poor Milicent will not be again disappointed.  Her last letter

was full of present bliss, and pleasing anticipations for the

future; but no particular temptation has yet occurred to put his

virtue to the test.  Henceforth, however, she will doubtless be

somewhat less timid and reserved, and he more kind and thoughtful.

- Surely, then, her hopes are not unfounded; and I have one bright

spot, at least, whereon to rest my thoughts.







CHAPTER XLIII







October 10th. - Mr. Huntingdon returned about three weeks ago.  His

appearance, his demeanour and conversation, and my feelings with

regard to him, I shall not trouble myself to describe.  The day

after his arrival, however, he surprised me by the announcement of

an intention to procure a governess for little Arthur:  I told him

it was quite unnecessary, not to say ridiculous, at the present

season:  I thought I was fully competent to the task of teaching

him myself - for some years to come, at least:  the child's

education was the only pleasure and business of my life; and since

he had deprived me of every other occupation, he might surely leave

me that.



He said I was not fit to teach children, or to be with them:  I had

already reduced the boy to little better than an automaton; I had

broken his fine spirit with my rigid severity; and I should freeze

all the sunshine out of his heart, and make him as gloomy an

ascetic as myself, if I had the handling of him much longer.  And

poor Rachel, too, came in for her share of abuse, as usual; he

cannot endure Rachel, because he knows she has a proper

appreciation of him.



I calmly defended our several qualifications as nurse and

governess, and still resisted the proposed addition to our family;

but he cut me short by saying it was no use bothering about the

matter, for he had engaged a governess already, and she was coming

next week; so that all I had to do was to get things ready for her

reception.  This was a rather startling piece of intelligence.  I

ventured to inquire her name and address, by whom she had been

recommended, or how he had been led to make choice of her.



'She is a very estimable, pious young person,' said he; 'you

needn't be afraid.  Her name is Myers, I believe; and she was

recommended to me by a respectable old dowager:  a lady of high

repute in the religious world.  I have not seen her myself, and

therefore cannot give you a particular account of her person and

conversation, and so forth; but, if the old lady's eulogies are

correct, you will find her to possess all desirable qualifications

for her position:  an inordinate love of children among the rest.'



All this was gravely and quietly spoken, but there was a laughing

demon in his half-averted eye that boded no good, I imagined.

However, I thought of my asylum in -shire, and made no further

objections.



When Miss Myers arrived, I was not prepared to give her a very

cordial reception.  Her appearance was not particularly calculated

to produce a favourable impression at first sight, nor did her

manners and subsequent conduct, in any degree, remove the prejudice

I had already conceived against her.  Her attainments were limited,

her intellect noways above mediocrity.  She had a fine voice, and

could sing like a nightingale, and accompany herself sufficiently

well on the piano; but these were her only accomplishments.  There

was a look of guile and subtlety in her face, a sound of it in her

voice.  She seemed afraid of me, and would start if I suddenly

approached her.  In her behaviour she was respectful and

complaisant, even to servility:  she attempted to flatter and fawn

upon me at first, but I soon checked that.  Her fondness for her

little pupil was overstrained, and I was obliged to remonstrate

with her on the subject of over-indulgence and injudicious praise;

but she could not gain his heart.  Her piety consisted in an

occasional heaving of sighs, and uplifting of eyes to the ceiling,

and the utterance of a few cant phrases.  She told me she was a

clergyman's daughter, and had been left an orphan from her

childhood, but had had the good fortune to obtain a situation in a

very pious family; and then she spoke so gratefully of the kindness

she had experienced from its different members, that I reproached

myself for my uncharitable thoughts and unfriendly conduct, and

relented for a time, but not for long:  my causes of dislike were

too rational, my suspicions too well founded for that; and I knew

it was my duty to watch and scrutinize till those suspicions were

either satisfactorily removed or confirmed.



I asked the name and residence of the kind and pious family.  She

mentioned a common name, and an unknown and distant place of abode,

but told me they were now on the Continent, and their present

address was unknown to her.  I never saw her speak much to Mr.

Huntingdon; but he would frequently look into the school-room to

see how little Arthur got on with his new companion, when I was not

there.  In the evening, she sat with us in the drawing-room, and

would sing and play to amuse him or us, as she pretended, and was

very attentive to his wants, and watchful to anticipate them,

though she only talked to me; indeed, he was seldom in a condition

to be talked to.  Had she been other than she was, I should have

felt her presence a great relief to come between us thus, except,

indeed, that I should have been thoroughly ashamed for any decent

person to see him as he often was.



I did not mention my suspicions to Rachel; but she, having

sojourned for half a century in this land of sin and sorrow, has

learned to be suspicious herself.  She told me from the first she

was 'down of that new governess,' and I soon found she watched her

quite as narrowly as I did; and I was glad of it, for I longed to

know the truth:  the atmosphere of Grassdale seemed to stifle me,

and I could only live by thinking of Wildfell Hall.



At last, one morning, she entered my chamber with such intelligence

that my resolution was taken before she had ceased to speak.  While

she dressed me I explained to her my intentions and what assistance

I should require from her, and told her which of my things she was

to pack up, and what she was to leave behind for herself, as I had

no other means of recompensing her for this sudden dismissal after

her long and faithful service:  a circumstance I most deeply

regretted, but could not avoid.



'And what will you do, Rachel?' said I; 'will you go home, or seek

another place?'



'I have no home, ma'am, but with you,' she replied; 'and if I leave

you I'll never go into place again as long as I live.'



'But I can't afford to live like a lady now,' returned I:  'I must

be my own maid and my child's nurse.'



'What signifies!' replied she, in some excitement.  'You'll want

somebody to clean and wash, and cook, won't you?  I can do all

that; and never mind the wages:  I've my bits o' savings yet, and

if you wouldn't take me I should have to find my own board and

lodging out of 'em somewhere, or else work among strangers:  and

it's what I'm not used to:  so you can please yourself, ma'am.'

Her voice quavered as she spoke, and the tears stood in her eyes.



'I should like it above all things, Rachel, and I'd give you such

wages as I could afford:  such as I should give to any servant-of-

all-work I might employ:  but don't you see I should be dragging

you down with me when you have done nothing to deserve it?'



'Oh, fiddle!' ejaculated she.



'And, besides, my future way of living will be so widely different

to the past:  so different to all you have been accustomed to - '



'Do you think, ma'am, I can't bear what my missis can? surely I'm

not so proud and so dainty as that comes to; and my little master,

too, God bless him!'



'But I'm young, Rachel; I sha'n't mind it; and Arthur is young too:

it will be nothing to him.'



'Nor me either:  I'm not so old but what I can stand hard fare and

hard work, if it's only to help and comfort them as I've loved like

my own bairns:  for all I'm too old to bide the thoughts o' leaving

'em in trouble and danger, and going amongst strangers myself.'



'Then you sha'n't, Rachel!' cried I, embracing my faithful friend.

'We'll all go together, and you shall see how the new life suits

you.'



'Bless you, honey!' cried she, affectionately returning my embrace.

'Only let us get shut of this wicked house, and we'll do right

enough, you'll see.'



'So think I,' was my answer; and so that point was settled.



By that morning's post I despatched a few hasty lines to Frederick,

beseeching him to prepare my asylum for my immediate reception:

for I should probably come to claim it within a day after the

receipt of that note:  and telling him, in few words, the cause of

my sudden resolution.  I then wrote three letters of adieu:  the

first to Esther Hargrave, in which I told her that I found it

impossible to stay any longer at Grassdale, or to leave my son

under his father's protection; and, as it was of the last

importance that our future abode should be unknown to him and his

acquaintance, I should disclose it to no one but my brother,

through the medium of whom I hoped still to correspond with my

friends.  I then gave her his address, exhorted her to write

frequently, reiterated some of my former admonitions regarding her

own concerns, and bade her a fond farewell.



The second was to Milicent; much to the same effect, but a little

more confidential, as befitted our longer intimacy, and her greater

experience and better acquaintance with my circumstances.



The third was to my aunt:  a much more difficult and painful

undertaking, and therefore I had left it to the last; but I must

give her some explanation of that extraordinary step I had taken:

and that quickly, for she and my uncle would no doubt hear of it

within a day or two after my disappearance, as it was probable that

Mr. Huntingdon would speedily apply to them to know what was become

of me.  At last, however, I told her I was sensible of my error:  I

did not complain of its punishment, and I was sorry to trouble my

friends with its consequences; but in duty to my son I must submit

no longer; it was absolutely necessary that he should be delivered

from his father's corrupting influence.  I should not disclose my

place of refuge even to her, in order that she and my uncle might

be able, with truth, to deny all knowledge concerning it; but any

communications addressed to me under cover to my brother would be

certain to reach me.  I hoped she and my uncle would pardon the

step I had taken, for if they knew all, I was sure they would not

blame me; and I trusted they would not afflict themselves on my

account, for if I could only reach my retreat in safety and keep it

unmolested, I should be very happy, but for the thoughts of them;

and should be quite contented to spend my life in obscurity,

devoting myself to the training up of my child, and teaching him to

avoid the errors of both his parents.



These things were done yesterday:  I have given two whole days to

the preparation for our departure, that Frederick may have more

time to prepare the rooms, and Rachel to pack up the things:  for

the latter task must be done with the utmost caution and secrecy,

and there is no one but me to assist her.  I can help to get the

articles together, but I do not understand the art of stowing them

into the boxes, so as to take up the smallest possible space; and

there are her own things to do, as well as mine and Arthur's.  I

can ill afford to leave anything behind, since I have no money,

except a few guineas in my purse; and besides, as Rachel observed,

whatever I left would most likely become the property of Miss

Myers, and I should not relish that.



But what trouble I have had throughout these two days, struggling

to appear calm and collected, to meet him and her as usual, when I

was obliged to meet them, and forcing myself to leave my little

Arthur in her hands for hours together!  But I trust these trials

are over now:  I have laid him in my bed for better security, and

never more, I trust, shall his innocent lips be defiled by their

contaminating kisses, or his young ears polluted by their words.

But shall we escape in safety?  Oh, that the morning were come, and

we were on our way at least!  This evening, when I had given Rachel

all the assistance I could, and had nothing left me but to wait,

and wish and tremble, I became so greatly agitated that I knew not

what to do.  I went down to dinner, but I could not force myself to

eat.  Mr. Huntingdon remarked the circumstance.



'What's to do with you now?' said he, when the removal of the

second course gave him time to look about him.



'I am not well,' I replied:  'I think I must lie down a little; you

won't miss me much?'



'Not the least:  if you leave your chair, it'll do just as well -

better, a trifle,' he muttered, as I left the room, 'for I can

fancy somebody else fills it.'



'Somebody else may fill it to-morrow,' I thought, but did not say.

'There!  I've seen the last of you, I hope,' I muttered, as I

closed the door upon him.



Rachel urged me to seek repose at once, to recruit my strength for

to-morrow's journey, as we must be gone before the dawn; but in my

present state of nervous excitement that was entirely out of the

question.  It was equally out of the question to sit, or wander

about my room, counting the hours and the minutes between me and

the appointed time of action, straining my ears and trembling at

every sound, lest someone should discover and betray us after all.

I took up a book and tried to read:  my eyes wandered over the

pages, but it was impossible to bind my thoughts to their contents.

Why not have recourse to the old expedient, and add this last event

to my chronicle?  I opened its pages once more, and wrote the above

account - with difficulty, at first, but gradually my mind became

more calm and steady.  Thus several hours have passed away:  the

time is drawing near; and now my eyes feel heavy and my frame

exhausted.  I will commend my cause to God, and then lie down and

gain an hour or two of sleep; and then! -



Little Arthur sleeps soundly.  All the house is still:  there can

be no one watching.  The boxes were all corded by Benson, and

quietly conveyed down the back stairs after dusk, and sent away in

a cart to the M- coach-office.  The name upon the cards was Mrs.

Graham, which appellation I mean henceforth to adopt.  My mother's

maiden name was Graham, and therefore I fancy I have some claim to

it, and prefer it to any other, except my own, which I dare not

resume.







CHAPTER XLIV







October 24th. - Thank heaven, I am free and safe at last.  Early we

rose, swiftly and quietly dressed, slowly and stealthily descended

to the hall, where Benson stood ready with a light, to open the

door and fasten it after us.  We were obliged to let one man into

our secret on account of the boxes, &c.  All the servants were but

too well acquainted with their master's conduct, and either Benson

or John would have been willing to serve me; but as the former was

more staid and elderly, and a crony of Rachel's besides, I of

course directed her to make choice of him as her assistant and

confidant on the occasion, as far as necessity demanded, I only

hope he may not be brought into trouble thereby, and only wish I

could reward him for the perilous service he was so ready to

undertake.  I slipped two guineas into his hand, by way of

remembrance, as he stood in the doorway, holding the candle to

light our departure, with a tear in his honest grey eye, and a host

of good wishes depicted on his solemn countenance.  Alas!  I could

offer no more:  I had barely sufficient remaining for the probable

expenses of the journey.



What trembling joy it was when the little wicket closed behind us,

as we issued from the park!  Then, for one moment, I paused, to

inhale one draught of that cool, bracing air, and venture one look

back upon the house.  All was dark and still:  no light glimmered

in the windows, no wreath of smoke obscured the stars that sparkled

above it in the frosty sky.  As I bade farewell for ever to that

place, the scene of so much guilt and misery, I felt glad that I

had not left it before, for now there was no doubt about the

propriety of such a step - no shadow of remorse for him I left

behind.  There was nothing to disturb my joy but the fear of

detection; and every step removed us further from the chance of

that.



We had left Grassdale many miles behind us before the round red sun

arose to welcome our deliverance; and if any inhabitant of its

vicinity had chanced to see us then, as we bowled along on the top

of the coach, I scarcely think they would have suspected our

identity.  As I intend to be taken for a widow, I thought it

advisable to enter my new abode in mourning:  I was, therefore,

attired in a plain black silk dress and mantle, a black veil (which

I kept carefully over my face for the first twenty or thirty miles

of the journey), and a black silk bonnet, which I had been

constrained to borrow of Rachel, for want of such an article

myself.  It was not in the newest fashion, of course; but none the

worse for that, under present circumstances.  Arthur was clad in

his plainest clothes, and wrapped in a coarse woollen shawl; and

Rachel was muffled in a grey cloak and hood that had seen better

days, and gave her more the appearance of an ordinary though decent

old woman, than of a lady's-maid.



Oh, what delight it was to be thus seated aloft, rumbling along the

broad, sunshiny road, with the fresh morning breeze in my face,

surrounded by an unknown country, all smiling - cheerfully,

gloriously smiling in the yellow lustre of those early beams; with

my darling child in my arms, almost as happy as myself, and my

faithful friend beside me:  a prison and despair behind me,

receding further, further back at every clatter of the horses'

feet; and liberty and hope before!  I could hardly refrain from

praising God aloud for my deliverance, or astonishing my fellow-

passengers by some surprising outburst of hilarity.



But the journey was a very long one, and we were all weary enough

before the close of it.  It was far into the night when we reached

the town of L-, and still we were seven miles from our journey's

end; and there was no more coaching, nor any conveyance to be had,

except a common cart, and that with the greatest difficulty, for

half the town was in bed.  And a dreary ride we had of it, that

last stage of the journey, cold and weary as we were; sitting on

our boxes, with nothing to cling to, nothing to lean against,

slowly dragged and cruelly shaken over the rough, hilly roads.  But

Arthur was asleep in Rachel's lap, and between us we managed pretty

well to shield him from the cold night air.



At last we began to ascend a terribly steep and stony lane, which,

in spite of the darkness, Rachel said she remembered well:  she had

often walked there with me in her arms, and little thought to come

again so many years after, under such circumstances as the present.

Arthur being now awakened by the jolting and the stoppages, we all

got out and walked.  We had not far to go; but what if Frederick

should not have received my letter? or if he should not have had

time to prepare the rooms for our reception, and we should find

them all dark, damp, and comfortless, destitute of food, fire, and

furniture, after all our toil?



At length the grim, dark pile appeared before us.  The lane

conducted us round by the back way.  We entered the desolate court,

and in breathless anxiety surveyed the ruinous mass.  Was it all

blackness and desolation?  No; one faint red glimmer cheered us

from a window where the lattice was in good repair.  The door was

fastened, but after due knocking and waiting, and some parleying

with a voice from an upper window, we were admitted by an old woman

who had been commissioned to air and keep the house till our

arrival, into a tolerably snug little apartment, formerly the

scullery of the mansion, which Frederick had now fitted up as a

kitchen.  Here she procured us a light, roused the fire to a

cheerful blaze, and soon prepared a simple repast for our

refreshment; while we disencumbered ourselves of our travelling-

gear, and took a hasty survey of our new abode.  Besides the

kitchen, there were two bedrooms, a good-sized parlour, and another

smaller one, which I destined for my studio, all well aired and

seemingly in good repair, but only partly furnished with a few old

articles, chiefly of ponderous black oak, the veritable ones that

had been there before, and which had been kept as antiquarian

relics in my brother's present residence, and now, in all haste,

transported back again.



The old woman brought my supper and Arthur's into the parlour, and

told me, with all due formality, that 'the master desired his

compliments to Mrs. Graham, and he had prepared the rooms as well

as he could upon so short a notice; but he would do himself the

pleasure of calling upon her to-morrow, to receive her further

commands.'



I was glad to ascend the stern-looking stone staircase, and lie

down in the gloomy, old-fashioned bed, beside my little Arthur.  He

was asleep in a minute; but, weary as I was, my excited feelings

and restless cogitations kept me awake till dawn began to struggle

with the darkness; but sleep was sweet and refreshing when it came,

and the waking was delightful beyond expression.  It was little

Arthur that roused me, with his gentle kisses.  He was here, then,

safely clasped in my arms, and many leagues away from his unworthy

father!  Broad daylight illumined the apartment, for the sun was

high in heaven, though obscured by rolling masses of autumnal

vapour.



The scene, indeed, was not remarkably cheerful in itself, either

within or without.  The large bare room, with its grim old

furniture, the narrow, latticed windows, revealing the dull, grey

sky above and the desolate wilderness below, where the dark stone

walls and iron gate, the rank growth of grass and weeds, and the

hardy evergreens of preternatural forms, alone remained to tell

that there had been once a garden, - and the bleak and barren

fields beyond might have struck me as gloomy enough at another

time; but now, each separate object seemed to echo back my own

exhilarating sense of hope and freedom:  indefinite dreams of the

far past and bright anticipations of the future seemed to greet me

at every turn.  I should rejoice with more security, to be sure,

had the broad sea rolled between my present and my former homes;

but surely in this lonely spot I might remain unknown; and then I

had my brother here to cheer my solitude with his occasional

visits.



He came that morning; and I have had several interviews with him

since; but he is obliged to be very cautious when and how he comes;

not even his servants or his best friends must know of his visits

to Wildfell - except on such occasions as a landlord might be

expected to call upon a stranger tenant - lest suspicion should be

excited against me, whether of the truth or of some slanderous

falsehood.



I have now been here nearly a fortnight, and, but for one

disturbing care, the haunting dread of discovery, I am comfortably

settled in my new home:  Frederick has supplied me with all

requisite furniture and painting materials:  Rachel has sold most

of my clothes for me, in a distant town, and procured me a wardrobe

more suitable to my present position:  I have a second-hand piano,

and a tolerably well-stocked bookcase in my parlour; and my other

room has assumed quite a professional, business-like appearance

already.  I am working hard to repay my brother for all his

expenses on my account; not that there is the slightest necessity

for anything of the kind, but it pleases me to do so:  I shall have

so much more pleasure in my labour, my earnings, my frugal fare,

and household economy, when I know that I am paying my way

honestly, and that what little I possess is legitimately all my

own; and that no one suffers for my folly - in a pecuniary way at

least.  I shall make him take the last penny I owe him, if I can

possibly effect it without offending him too deeply.  I have a few

pictures already done, for I told Rachel to pack up all I had; and

she executed her commission but too well - for among the rest, she

put up a portrait of Mr. Huntingdon that I had painted in the first

year of my marriage.  It struck me with dismay, at the moment, when

I took it from the box and beheld those eyes fixed upon me in their

mocking mirth, as if exulting still in his power to control my

fate, and deriding my efforts to escape.



How widely different had been my feelings in painting that portrait

to what they now were in looking upon it!  How I had studied and

toiled to produce something, as I thought, worthy of the original!

what mingled pleasure and dissatisfaction I had had in the result

of my labours! - pleasure for the likeness I had caught;

dissatisfaction, because I had not made it handsome enough.  Now, I

see no beauty in it - nothing pleasing in any part of its

expression; and yet it is far handsomer and far more agreeable -

far less repulsive I should rather say - than he is now:  for these

six years have wrought almost as great a change upon himself as on

my feelings regarding him.  The frame, however, is handsome enough;

it will serve for another painting.  The picture itself I have not

destroyed, as I had first intended; I have put it aside; not, I

think, from any lurking tenderness for the memory of past

affection, nor yet to remind me of my former folly, but chiefly

that I may compare my son's features and countenance with this, as

he grows up, and thus be enabled to judge how much or how little he

resembles his father - if I may be allowed to keep him with me

still, and never to behold that father's face again - a blessing I

hardly dare reckon upon.



It seems Mr. Huntingdon is making every exertion to discover the

place of my retreat.  He has been in person to Staningley, seeking

redress for his grievances - expecting to hear of his victims, if

not to find them there - and has told so many lies, and with such

unblushing coolness, that my uncle more than half believes him, and

strongly advocates my going back to him and being friends again.

But my aunt knows better:  she is too cool and cautious, and too

well acquainted with both my husband's character and my own to be

imposed upon by any specious falsehoods the former could invent.

But he does not want me back; he wants my child; and gives my

friends to understand that if I prefer living apart from him, he

will indulge the whim and let me do so unmolested, and even settle

a reasonable allowance on me, provided I will immediately deliver

up his son.  But heaven help me!  I am not going to sell my child

for gold, though it were to save both him and me from starving:  it

would be better that he should die with me than that he should live

with his father.



Frederick showed me a letter he had received from that gentleman,

full of cool impudence such as would astonish any one who did not

know him, but such as, I am convinced, none would know better how

to answer than my brother.  He gave me no account of his reply,

except to tell me that he had not acknowledged his acquaintance

with my place of refuge, but rather left it to be inferred that it

was quite unknown to him, by saying it was useless to apply to him,

or any other of my relations, for information on the subject, as it

appeared I had been driven to such extremity that I had concealed

my retreat even from my best friends; but that if he had known it,

or should at any time be made aware of it, most certainly Mr.

Huntingdon would be the last person to whom he should communicate

the intelligence; and that he need not trouble himself to bargain

for the child, for he (Frederick) fancied he knew enough of his

sister to enable him to declare, that wherever she might be, or

however situated, no consideration would induce her to deliver him

up.



30th. - Alas! my kind neighbours will not let me alone.  By some

means they have ferreted me out, and I have had to sustain visits

from three different families, all more or less bent upon

discovering who and what I am, whence I came, and why I have chosen

such a home as this.  Their society is unnecessary to me, to say

the least, and their curiosity annoys and alarms me:  if I gratify

it, it may lead to the ruin of my son, and if I am too mysterious

it will only excite their suspicions, invite conjecture, and rouse

them to greater exertions - and perhaps be the means of spreading

my fame from parish to parish, till it reach the ears of some one

who will carry it to the Lord of Grassdale Manor.



I shall be expected to return their calls, but if, upon inquiry, I

find that any of them live too far away for Arthur to accompany me,

they must expect in vain for a while, for I cannot bear to leave

him, unless it be to go to church, and I have not attempted that

yet:  for - it may be foolish weakness, but I am under such

constant dread of his being snatched away, that I am never easy

when he is not by my side; and I fear these nervous terrors would

so entirely disturb my devotions, that I should obtain no benefit

from the attendance.  I mean, however, to make the experiment next

Sunday, and oblige myself to leave him in charge of Rachel for a

few hours.  It will be a hard task, but surely no imprudence; and

the vicar has been to scold me for my neglect of the ordinances of

religion.  I had no sufficient excuse to offer, and I promised, if

all were well, he should see me in my pew next Sunday; for I do not

wish to be set down as an infidel; and, besides, I know I should

derive great comfort and benefit from an occasional attendance at

public worship, if I could only have faith and fortitude to compose

my thoughts in conformity with the solemn occasion, and forbid them

to be for ever dwelling on my absent child, and on the dreadful

possibility of finding him gone when I return; and surely God in

His mercy will preserve me from so severe a trial:  for my child's

own sake, if not for mine, He will not suffer him to be torn away.



November 3rd. - I have made some further acquaintance with my

neighbours.  The fine gentleman and beau of the parish and its

vicinity (in his own estimation, at least) is a young . . . .



* * * * *



Here it ended.  The rest was torn away.  How cruel, just when she

was going to mention me! for I could not doubt it was your humble

servant she was about to mention, though not very favourably, of

course.  I could tell that, as well by those few words as by the

recollection of her whole aspect and demeanour towards me in the

commencement of our acquaintance.  Well!  I could readily forgive

her prejudice against me, and her hard thoughts of our sex in

general, when I saw to what brilliant specimens her experience had

been limited.



Respecting me, however, she had long since seen her error, and

perhaps fallen into another in the opposite extreme:  for if, at

first, her opinion of me had been lower than I deserved, I was

convinced that now my deserts were lower than her opinion; and if

the former part of this continuation had been torn away to avoid

wounding my feelings, perhaps the latter portion had been removed

for fear of ministering too much to my self-conceit.  At any rate,

I would have given much to have seen it all - to have witnessed the

gradual change, and watched the progress of her esteem and

friendship for me, and whatever warmer feeling she might have; to

have seen how much of love there was in her regard, and how it had

grown upon her in spite of her virtuous resolutions and strenuous

exertions to - but no, I had no right to see it:  all this was too

sacred for any eyes but her own, and she had done well to keep it

from me.







CHAPTER XLV







Well, Halford, what do you think of all this? and while you read

it, did you ever picture to yourself what my feelings would

probably be during its perusal?  Most likely not; but I am not

going to descant upon them now:  I will only make this

acknowledgment, little honourable as it may be to human nature, and

especially to myself, - that the former half of the narrative was,

to me, more painful than the latter, not that I was at all

insensible to Mrs. Huntingdon's wrongs or unmoved by her

sufferings, but, I must confess, I felt a kind of selfish

gratification in watching her husband's gradual decline in her good

graces, and seeing how completely he extinguished all her affection

at last.  The effect of the whole, however, in spite of all my

sympathy for her, and my fury against him, was to relieve my mind

of an intolerable burden, and fill my heart with joy, as if some

friend had roused me from a dreadful nightmare.



It was now near eight o'clock in the morning, for my candle had

expired in the midst of my perusal, leaving me no alternative but

to get another, at the expense of alarming the house, or to go to

bed, and wait the return of daylight.  On my mother's account, I

chose the latter; but how willingly I sought my pillow, and how

much sleep it brought me, I leave you to imagine.



At the first appearance of dawn, I rose, and brought the manuscript

to the window, but it was impossible to read it yet.  I devoted

half an hour to dressing, and then returned to it again.  Now, with

a little difficulty, I could manage; and with intense and eager

interest, I devoured the remainder of its contents.  When it was

ended, and my transient regret at its abrupt conclusion was over, I

opened the window and put out my head to catch the cooling breeze,

and imbibe deep draughts of the pure morning air.  A splendid

morning it was; the half-frozen dew lay thick on the grass, the

swallows were twittering round me, the rooks cawing, and cows

lowing in the distance; and early frost and summer sunshine mingled

their sweetness in the air.  But I did not think of that:  a

confusion of countless thoughts and varied emotions crowded upon me

while I gazed abstractedly on the lovely face of nature.  Soon,

however, this chaos of thoughts and passions cleared away, giving

place to two distinct emotions:  joy unspeakable that my adored

Helen was all I wished to think her - that through the noisome

vapours of the world's aspersions and my own fancied convictions,

her character shone bright, and clear, and stainless as that sun I

could not bear to look on; and shame and deep remorse for my own

conduct.



Immediately after breakfast I hurried over to Wildfell Hall.

Rachel had risen many degrees in my estimation since yesterday.  I

was ready to greet her quite as an old friend; but every kindly

impulse was checked by the look of cold distrust she cast upon me

on opening the door.  The old virgin had constituted herself the

guardian of her lady's honour, I suppose, and doubtless she saw in

me another Mr. Hargrave, only the more dangerous in being more

esteemed and trusted by her mistress.



'Missis can't see any one to-day, sir - she's poorly,' said she, in

answer to my inquiry for Mrs. Graham.



'But I must see her, Rachel,' said I, placing my hand on the door

to prevent its being shut against me.



'Indeed, sir, you can't,' replied she, settling her countenance in

still more iron frigidity than before.



'Be so good as to announce me.'



'It's no manner of use, Mr. Markham; she's poorly, I tell you.'



Just in time to prevent me from committing the impropriety of

taking the citadel by storm, and pushing forward unannounced, an

inner door opened, and little Arthur appeared with his frolicsome

playfellow, the dog.  He seized my hand between both his, and

smilingly drew me forward.



'Mamma says you're to come in, Mr. Markham,' said he, 'and I am to

go out and play with Rover.'



Rachel retired with a sigh, and I stepped into the parlour and shut

the door.  There, before the fire-place, stood the tall, graceful

figure, wasted with many sorrows.  I cast the manuscript on the

table, and looked in her face.  Anxious and pale, it was turned

towards me; her clear, dark eyes were fixed on mine with a gaze so

intensely earnest that they bound me like a spell.



'Have you looked it over?' she murmured.  The spell was broken.



'I've read it through,' said I, advancing into the room, - 'and I

want to know if you'll forgive me - if you can forgive me?'



She did not answer, but her eyes glistened, and a faint red mantled

on her lip and cheek.  As I approached, she abruptly turned away,

and went to the window.  It was not in anger, I was well assured,

but only to conceal or control her emotion.  I therefore ventured

to follow and stand beside her there, - but not to speak.  She gave

me her hand, without turning her head, and murmured in a voice she

strove in vain to steady, - 'Can you forgive me?'



It might be deemed a breach of trust, I thought, to convey that

lily hand to my lips, so I only gently pressed it between my own,

and smilingly replied, - 'I hardly can.  You should have told me

this before.  It shows a want of confidence - '



'Oh, no,' cried she, eagerly interrupting me; 'it was not that.  It

was no want of confidence in you; but if I had told you anything of

my history, I must have told you all, in order to excuse my

conduct; and I might well shrink from such a disclosure, till

necessity obliged me to make it.  But you forgive me? - I have done

very, very wrong, I know; but, as usual, I have reaped the bitter

fruits of my own error, - and must reap them to the end.'



Bitter, indeed, was the tone of anguish, repressed by resolute

firmness, in which this was spoken.  Now, I raised her hand to my

lips, and fervently kissed it again and again; for tears prevented

any other reply.  She suffered these wild caresses without

resistance or resentment; then, suddenly turning from me, she paced

twice or thrice through the room.  I knew by the contraction of her

brow, the tight compression of her lips, and wringing of her hands,

that meantime a violent conflict between reason and passion was

silently passing within.  At length she paused before the empty

fire-place, and turning to me, said calmly - if that might be

called calmness which was so evidently the result of a violent

effort, - 'Now, Gilbert, you must leave me - not this moment, but

soon - and you must never come again.'



'Never again, Helen? just when I love you more than ever.'



'For that very reason, if it be so, we should not meet again.  I

thought this interview was necessary - at least, I persuaded myself

it was so - that we might severally ask and receive each other's

pardon for the past; but there can be no excuse for another.  I

shall leave this place, as soon as I have means to seek another

asylum; but our intercourse must end here.'



'End here!' echoed I; and approaching the high, carved chimney-

piece, I leant my hand against its heavy mouldings, and dropped my

forehead upon it in silent, sullen despondency.



'You must not come again,' continued she.  There was a slight

tremor in her voice, but I thought her whole manner was provokingly

composed, considering the dreadful sentence she pronounced.  'You

must know why I tell you so,' she resumed; 'and you must see that

it is better to part at once:  - if it be hard to say adieu for

ever, you ought to help me.'  She paused.  I did not answer.  'Will

you promise not to come? - if you won't, and if you do come here

again, you will drive me away before I know where to find another

place of refuge - or how to seek it.'



'Helen,' said I, turning impatiently towards her, 'I cannot discuss

the matter of eternal separation calmly and dispassionately as you

can do.  It is no question of mere expedience with me; it is a

question of life and death!'



She was silent.  Her pale lips quivered, and her fingers trembled

with agitation, as she nervously entwined them in the hair-chain to

which was appended her small gold watch - the only thing of value

she had permitted herself to keep.  I had said an unjust and cruel

thing; but I must needs follow it up with something worse.



'But, Helen!' I began in a soft, low tone, not daring to raise my

eyes to her face, 'that man is not your husband:  in the sight of

heaven he has forfeited all claim to - '  She seized my arm with a

grasp of startling energy.



'Gilbert, don't!' she cried, in a tone that would have pierced a

heart of adamant.  'For God's sake, don't you attempt these

arguments!  No fiend could torture me like this!'



'I won't, I won't!' said I, gently laying my hand on hers; almost

as much alarmed at her vehemence as ashamed of my own misconduct.



'Instead of acting like a true friend,' continued she, breaking

from me, and throwing herself into the old arm-chair, 'and helping

me with all your might - or rather taking your own part in the

struggle of right against passion - you leave all the burden to me;

- and not satisfied with that, you do your utmost to fight against

me - when you know that! - ' she paused, and hid her face in her

handkerchief.



'Forgive me, Helen!' pleaded I.  'I will never utter another word

on the subject.  But may we not still meet as friends?'



'It will not do,' she replied, mournfully shaking her head; and

then she raised her eyes to mine, with a mildly reproachful look

that seemed to say, 'You must know that as well as I.'



'Then what must we do?' cried I, passionately.  But immediately I

added in a quieter tone - 'I'll do whatever you desire; only don't

say that this meeting is to be our last.'



'And why not?  Don't you know that every time we meet the thoughts

of the final parting will become more painful?  Don't you feel that

every interview makes us dearer to each other than the last?'



The utterance of this last question was hurried and low, and the

downcast eyes and burning blush too plainly showed that she, at

least, had felt it.  It was scarcely prudent to make such an

admission, or to add - as she presently did - 'I have power to bid

you go, now:  another time it might be different,' - but I was not

base enough to attempt to take advantage of her candour.



'But we may write,' I timidly suggested.  'You will not deny me

that consolation?'



'We can hear of each other through my brother.'



'Your brother!'  A pang of remorse and shame shot through me.  She

had not heard of the injury he had sustained at my hands; and I had

not the courage to tell her.  'Your brother will not help us,' I

said:  'he would have all communion between us to be entirely at an

end.'



'And he would be right, I suppose.  As a friend of both, he would

wish us both well; and every friend would tell us it was our

interest, as well as our duty, to forget each other, though we

might not see it ourselves.  But don't be afraid, Gilbert,' she

added, smiling sadly at my manifest discomposure; 'there is little

chance of my forgetting you.  But I did not mean that Frederick

should be the means of transmitting messages between us - only that

each might know, through him, of the other's welfare; - and more

than this ought not to be:  for you are young, Gilbert, and you

ought to marry - and will some time, though you may think it

impossible now:  and though I hardly can say I wish you to forget

me, I know it is right that you should, both for your own

happiness, and that of your future wife; - and therefore I must and

will wish it,' she added resolutely.



'And you are young too, Helen,' I boldly replied; 'and when that

profligate scoundrel has run through his career, you will give your

hand to me - I'll wait till then.'



But she would not leave me this support.  Independently of the

moral evil of basing our hopes upon the death of another, who, if

unfit for this world, was at least no less so for the next, and

whose amelioration would thus become our bane and his greatest

transgression our greatest benefit, - she maintained it to be

madness:  many men of Mr. Huntingdon's habits had lived to a ripe

though miserable old age.  'And if I,' said she, 'am young in

years, I am old in sorrow; but even if trouble should fail to kill

me before vice destroys him, think, if he reached but fifty years

or so, would you wait twenty or fifteen - in vague uncertainty and

suspense - through all the prime of youth and manhood - and marry

at last a woman faded and worn as I shall be - without ever having

seen me from this day to that? - You would not,' she continued,

interrupting my earnest protestations of unfailing constancy, - 'or

if you would, you should not.  Trust me, Gilbert; in this matter I

know better than you.  You think me cold and stony-hearted, and you

may, but - '



'I don't, Helen.'



'Well, never mind:  you might if you would:  but I have not spent

my solitude in utter idleness, and I am not speaking now from the

impulse of the moment, as you do.  I have thought of all these

matters again and again; I have argued these questions with myself,

and pondered well our past, and present, and future career; and,

believe me, I have come to the right conclusion at last.  Trust my

words rather than your own feelings now, and in a few years you

will see that I was right - though at present I hardly can see it

myself,' she murmured with a sigh as she rested her head on her

hand.  'And don't argue against me any more:  all you can say has

been already said by my own heart and refuted by my reason.  It was

hard enough to combat those suggestions as they were whispered

within me; in your mouth they are ten times worse, and if you knew

how much they pain me you would cease at once, I know.  If you knew

my present feelings, you would even try to relieve them at the

expense of your own.'



'I will go - in a minute, if that can relieve you - and NEVER

return!' said I, with bitter emphasis.  'But, if we may never meet,

and never hope to meet again, is it a crime to exchange our

thoughts by letter?  May not kindred spirits meet, and mingle in

communion, whatever be the fate and circumstances of their earthly

tenements?'



'They may, they may!' cried she, with a momentary burst of glad

enthusiasm.  'I thought of that too, Gilbert, but I feared to

mention it, because I feared you would not understand my views upon

the subject.  I fear it even now - I fear any kind friend would

tell us we are both deluding ourselves with the idea of keeping up

a spiritual intercourse without hope or prospect of anything

further - without fostering vain regrets and hurtful aspirations,

and feeding thoughts that should be sternly and pitilessly left to

perish of inanition.'



'Never mind our kind friends:  if they can part our bodies, it is

enough; in God's name, let them not sunder our souls!' cried I, in

terror lest she should deem it her duty to deny us this last

remaining consolation.



'But no letters can pass between us here,' said she, 'without

giving fresh food for scandal; and when I departed, I had intended

that my new abode should be unknown to you as to the rest of the

world; not that I should doubt your word if you promised not to

visit me, but I thought you would be more tranquil in your own mind

if you knew you could not do it, and likely to find less difficulty

in abstracting yourself from me if you could not picture my

situation to your mind.  But listen,' said she, smilingly putting

up her finger to check my impatient reply:  'in six months you

shall hear from Frederick precisely where I am; and if you still

retain your wish to write to me, and think you can maintain a

correspondence all thought, all spirit - such as disembodied souls

or unimpassioned friends, at least, might hold, - write, and I will

answer you.'



'Six months!'



'Yes, to give your present ardour time to cool, and try the truth

and constancy of your soul's love for mine.  And now, enough has

been said between us.  Why can't we part at once?' exclaimed she,

almost wildly, after a moment's pause, as she suddenly rose from

her chair, with her hands resolutely clasped together.  I thought

it was my duty to go without delay; and I approached and half

extended my hand as if to take leave - she grasped it in silence.

But this thought of final separation was too intolerable:  it

seemed to squeeze the blood out of my heart; and my feet were glued

to the floor.



'And must we never meet again?' I murmured, in the anguish of my

soul.



'We shall meet in heaven.  Let us think of that,' said she in a

tone of desperate calmness; but her eyes glittered wildly, and her

face was deadly pale.



'But not as we are now,' I could not help replying.  'It gives me

little consolation to think I shall next behold you as a

disembodied spirit, or an altered being, with a frame perfect and

glorious, but not like this! - and a heart, perhaps, entirely

estranged from me.'



'No, Gilbert, there is perfect love in heaven!'



'So perfect, I suppose, that it soars above distinctions, and you

will have no closer sympathy with me than with any one of the ten

thousand thousand angels and the innumerable multitude of happy

spirits round us.'



'Whatever I am, you will be the same, and, therefore, cannot

possibly regret it; and whatever that change may be we know it must

be for the better.'



'But if I am to be so changed that I shall cease to adore you with

my whole heart and soul, and love you beyond every other creature,

I shall not be myself; and though, if ever I win heaven at all, I

must, I know, be infinitely better and happier than I am now, my

earthly nature cannot rejoice in the anticipation of such

beatitude, from which itself and its chief joy must be excluded.'



'Is your love all earthly, then?'



'No, but I am supposing we shall have no more intimate communion

with each other than with the rest.'



'If so, it will be because we love them more, and not each other

less.  Increase of love brings increase of happiness, when it is

mutual, and pure as that will be.'



'But can you, Helen, contemplate with delight this prospect of

losing me in a sea of glory?'



'I own I cannot; but we know not that it will be so; - and I do

know that to regret the exchange of earthly pleasures for the joys

of heaven, is as if the grovelling caterpillar should lament that

it must one day quit the nibbled leaf to soar aloft and flutter

through the air, roving at will from flower to flower, sipping

sweet honey from their cups, or basking in their sunny petals.  If

these little creatures knew how great a change awaited them, no

doubt they would regret it; but would not all such sorrow be

misplaced?  And if that illustration will not move you, here is

another:- We are children now; we feel as children, and we

understand as children; and when we are told that men and women do

not play with toys, and that our companions will one day weary of

the trivial sports and occupations that interest them and us so

deeply now, we cannot help being saddened at the thoughts of such

an alteration, because we cannot conceive that as we grow up our

own minds will become so enlarged and elevated that we ourselves

shall then regard as trifling those objects and pursuits we now so

fondly cherish, and that, though our companions will no longer join

us in those childish pastimes, they will drink with us at other

fountains of delight, and mingle their souls with ours in higher

aims and nobler occupations beyond our present comprehension, but

not less deeply relished or less truly good for that, while yet

both we and they remain essentially the same individuals as before.

But, Gilbert, can you really derive no consolation from the thought

that we may meet together where there is no more pain and sorrow,

no more striving against sin, and struggling of the spirit against

the flesh; where both will behold the same glorious truths, and

drink exalted and supreme felicity from the same fountain of light

and goodness - that Being whom both will worship with the same

intensity of holy ardour - and where pure and happy creatures both

will love with the same divine affection?  If you cannot, never

write to me!'



'Helen, I can! if faith would never fail.'



'Now, then,' exclaimed she, 'while this hope is strong within us -

'



'We will part,' I cried.  'You shall not have the pain of another

effort to dismiss me.  I will go at once; but - '



I did not put my request in words:  she understood it

instinctively, and this time she yielded too - or rather, there was

nothing so deliberate as requesting or yielding in the matter:

there was a sudden impulse that neither could resist.  One moment I

stood and looked into her face, the next I held her to my heart,

and we seemed to grow together in a close embrace from which no

physical or mental force could rend us.  A whispered 'God bless

you!' and 'Go - go!' was all she said; but while she spoke she held

me so fast that, without violence, I could not have obeyed her.  At

length, however, by some heroic effort, we tore ourselves apart,

and I rushed from the house.



I have a confused remembrance of seeing little Arthur running up

the garden-walk to meet me, and of bolting over the wall to avoid

him - and subsequently running down the steep fields, clearing the

stone fences and hedges as they came in my way, till I got

completely out of sight of the old hall and down to the bottom of

the hill; and then of long hours spent in bitter tears and

lamentations, and melancholy musings in the lonely valley, with the

eternal music in my ears, of the west wind rushing through the

overshadowing trees, and the brook babbling and gurgling along its

stony bed; my eyes, for the most part, vacantly fixed on the deep,

chequered shades restlessly playing over the bright sunny grass at

my feet, where now and then a withered leaf or two would come

dancing to share the revelry; but my heart was away up the hill in

that dark room where she was weeping desolate and alone - she whom

I was not to comfort, not to see again, till years or suffering had

overcome us both, and torn our spirits from their perishing abodes

of clay.



There was little business done that day, you may be sure.  The farm

was abandoned to the labourers, and the labourers were left to

their own devices.  But one duty must be attended to; I had not

forgotten my assault upon Frederick Lawrence; and I must see him to

apologise for the unhappy deed.  I would fain have put it off till

the morrow; but what if he should denounce me to his sister in the

meantime?  No, no!  I must ask his pardon to-day, and entreat him

to be lenient in his accusation, if the revelation must be made.  I

deferred it, however, till the evening, when my spirits were more

composed, and when - oh, wonderful perversity of human nature! -

some faint germs of indefinite hopes were beginning to rise in my

mind; not that I intended to cherish them, after all that had been

said on the subject, but there they must lie for a while, uncrushed

though not encouraged, till I had learnt to live without them.



Arrived at Woodford, the young squire's abode, I found no little

difficulty in obtaining admission to his presence.  The servant

that opened the door told me his master was very ill, and seemed to

think it doubtful whether he would be able to see me.  I was not

going to be baulked, however.  I waited calmly in the hall to be

announced, but inwardly determined to take no denial.  The message

was such as I expected - a polite intimation that Mr. Lawrence

could see no one; he was feverish, and must not be disturbed.



'I shall not disturb him long,' said I; 'but I must see him for a

moment:  it is on business of importance that I wish to speak to

him.'



'I'll tell him, sir,' said the man.  And I advanced further into

the hall and followed him nearly to the door of the apartment where

his master was - for it seemed he was not in bed.  The answer

returned was that Mr. Lawrence hoped I would be so good as to leave

a message or a note with the servant, as he could attend to no

business at present.



'He may as well see me as you,' said I; and, stepping past the

astonished footman, I boldly rapped at the door, entered, and

closed it behind me.  The room was spacious and handsomely

furnished - very comfortably, too, for a bachelor.  A clear, red

fire was burning in the polished grate:  a superannuated greyhound,

given up to idleness and good living, lay basking before it on the

thick, soft rug, on one corner of which, beside the sofa, sat a

smart young springer, looking wistfully up in its master's face -

perhaps asking permission to share his couch, or, it might be, only

soliciting a caress from his hand or a kind word from his lips.

The invalid himself looked very interesting as he lay reclining

there, in his elegant dressing-gown, with a silk handkerchief bound

across his temples.  His usually pale face was flushed and

feverish; his eyes were half closed, until he became sensible of my

presence - and then he opened them wide enough:  one hand was

thrown listlessly over the back of the sofa, and held a small

volume, with which, apparently, he had been vainly attempting to

beguile the weary hours.  He dropped it, however, in his start of

indignant surprise as I advanced into the room and stood before him

on the rug.  He raised himself on his pillows, and gazed upon me

with equal degrees of nervous horror, anger, and amazement depicted

on his countenance.



'Mr. Markham, I scarcely expected this!' he said; and the blood

left his cheek as he spoke.



'I know you didn't,' answered I; 'but be quiet a minute, and I'll

tell you what I came for.'  Unthinkingly, I advanced a step or two

nearer.  He winced at my approach, with an expression of aversion

and instinctive physical fear anything but conciliatory to my

feelings.  I stepped back, however.



'Make your story a short one,' said he, putting his hand on the

small silver bell that stood on the table beside him, 'or I shall

be obliged to call for assistance.  I am in no state to bear your

brutalities now, or your presence either.'  And in truth the

moisture started from his pores and stood on his pale forehead like

dew.



Such a reception was hardly calculated to diminish the difficulties

of my unenviable task.  It must be performed however, in some

fashion; and so I plunged into it at once, and floundered through

it as I could.



'The truth is, Lawrence,' said I, 'I have not acted quite correctly

towards you of late - especially on this last occasion; and I'm

come to - in short, to express my regret for what has been done,

and to beg your pardon.  If you don't choose to grant it,' I added

hastily, not liking the aspect of his face, 'it's no matter; only

I've done my duty - that's all.'



'It's easily done,' replied he, with a faint smile bordering on a

sneer:  'to abuse your friend and knock him on the head without any

assignable cause, and then tell him the deed was not quite correct,

but it's no matter whether he pardons it or not.'



'I forgot to tell you that it was in consequence of a mistake,' -

muttered I.  'I should have made a very handsome apology, but you

provoked me so confoundedly with your -.  Well, I suppose it's my

fault.  The fact is, I didn't know that you were Mrs. Graham's

brother, and I saw and heard some things respecting your conduct

towards her which were calculated to awaken unpleasant suspicions,

that, allow me to say, a little candour and confidence on your part

might have removed; and, at last, I chanced to overhear a part of a

conversation between you and her that made me think I had a right

to hate you.'



'And how came you to know that I was her brother?' asked he, in

some anxiety.



'She told me herself.  She told me all.  She knew I might be

trusted.  But you needn't disturb yourself about that, Mr.

Lawrence, for I've seen the last of her!'



'The last!  Is she gone, then?'



'No; but she has bid adieu to me, and I have promised never to go

near that house again while she inhabits it.'  I could have groaned

aloud at the bitter thoughts awakened by this turn in the

discourse.  But I only clenched my hands and stamped my foot upon

the rug.  My companion, however, was evidently relieved.



'You have done right,' he said, in a tone of unqualified

approbation, while his face brightened into almost a sunny

expression.  'And as for the mistake, I am sorry for both our sakes

that it should have occurred.  Perhaps you can forgive my want of

candour, and remember, as some partial mitigation of the offence,

how little encouragement to friendly confidence you have given me

of late.'



'Yes, yes - I remember it all:  nobody can blame me more than I

blame myself in my own heart; at any rate, nobody can regret more

sincerely than I do the result of my brutality, as you rightly term

it.'



'Never mind that,' said he, faintly smiling; 'let us forget all

unpleasant words on both sides, as well as deeds, and consign to

oblivion everything that we have cause to regret.  Have you any

objection to take my hand, or you'd rather not?'  It trembled

through weakness as he held it out, and dropped before I had time

to catch it and give it a hearty squeeze, which he had not the

strength to return.



'How dry and burning your hand is, Lawrence,' said I.  'You are

really ill, and I have made you worse by all this talk.'



'Oh, it is nothing; only a cold got by the rain.'



'My doing, too.'



'Never mind that.  But tell me, did you mention this affair to my

sister?'



'To confess the truth, I had not the courage to do so; but when you

tell her, will you just say that I deeply regret it, and - ?'



'Oh, never fear!  I shall say nothing against you, as long as you

keep your good resolution of remaining aloof from her.  She has not

heard of my illness, then, that you are aware of?'



'I think not.'



'I'm glad of that, for I have been all this time tormenting myself

with the fear that somebody would tell her I was dying, or

desperately ill, and she would be either distressing herself on

account of her inability to hear from me or do me any good, or

perhaps committing the madness of coming to see me.  I must

contrive to let her know something about it, if I can,' continued

he, reflectively, 'or she will be hearing some such story.  Many

would be glad to tell her such news, just to see how she would take

it; and then she might expose herself to fresh scandal.'



'I wish I had told her,' said I.  'If it were not for my promise, I

would tell her now.'



'By no means!  I am not dreaming of that; - but if I were to write

a short note, now, not mentioning you, Markham, but just giving a

slight account of my illness, by way of excuse for my not coming to

see her, and to put her on her guard against any exaggerated

reports she may hear, - and address it in a disguised hand - would

you do me the favour to slip it into the post-office as you pass?

for I dare not trust any of the servants in such a case.'



Most willingly I consented, and immediately brought him his desk.

There was little need to disguise his hand, for the poor fellow

seemed to have considerable difficulty in writing at all, so as to

be legible.  When the note was done, I thought it time to retire,

and took leave, after asking if there was anything in the world I

could do for him, little or great, in the way of alleviating his

sufferings, and repairing the injury I had done.



'No,' said he; 'you have already done much towards it; you have

done more for me than the most skilful physician could do:  for you

have relieved my mind of two great burdens - anxiety on my sister's

account, and deep regret upon your own:  for I do believe these two

sources of torment have had more effect in working me up into a

fever than anything else; and I am persuaded I shall soon recover

now.  There is one more thing you can do for me, and that is, come

and see me now and then - for you see I am very lonely here, and I

promise your entrance shall not be disputed again.'



I engaged to do so, and departed with a cordial pressure of the

hand.  I posted the letter on my way home, most manfully resisting

the temptation of dropping in a word from myself at the same time.







CHAPTER XLVI







I felt strongly tempted, at times, to enlighten my mother and

sister on the real character and circumstances of the persecuted

tenant of Wildfell Hall, and at first I greatly regretted having

omitted to ask that lady's permission to do so; but, on due

reflection, I considered that if it were known to them, it could

not long remain a secret to the Millwards and Wilsons, and such was

my present appreciation of Eliza Millward's disposition, that, if

once she got a clue to the story, I should fear she would soon find

means to enlighten Mr. Huntingdon upon the place of his wife's

retreat.  I would therefore wait patiently till these weary six

months were over, and then, when the fugitive had found another

home, and I was permitted to write to her, I would beg to be

allowed to clear her name from these vile calumnies:  at present I

must content myself with simply asserting that I knew them to be

false, and would prove it some day, to the shame of those who

slandered her.  I don't think anybody believed me, but everybody

soon learned to avoid insinuating a word against her, or even

mentioning her name in my presence.  They thought I was so madly

infatuated by the seductions of that unhappy lady that I was

determined to support her in the very face of reason; and meantime

I grow insupportably morose and misanthropical from the idea that

every one I met was harbouring unworthy thoughts of the supposed

Mrs. Graham, and would express them if he dared.  My poor mother

was quite distressed about me; but I couldn't help it - at least I

thought I could not, though sometimes I felt a pang of remorse for

my undutiful conduct to her, and made an effort to amend, attended

with some partial success; and indeed I was generally more

humanised in my demeanour to her than to any one else, Mr. Lawrence

excepted.  Rose and Fergus usually shunned my presence; and it was

well they did, for I was not fit company for them, nor they for me,

under the present circumstances.



Mrs. Huntingdon did not leave Wildfell Hall till above two months

after our farewell interview.  During that time she never appeared

at church, and I never went near the house:  I only knew she was

still there by her brother's brief answers to my many and varied

inquiries respecting her.  I was a very constant and attentive

visitor to him throughout the whole period of his illness and

convalescence; not only from the interest I took in his recovery,

and my desire to cheer him up and make the utmost possible amends

for my former 'brutality,' but from my growing attachment to

himself, and the increasing pleasure I found in his society -

partly from his increased cordiality to me, but chiefly on account

of his close connection, both in blood and in affection, with my

adored Helen.  I loved him for it better than I liked to express:

and I took a secret delight in pressing those slender white

fingers, so marvellously like her own, considering he was not a

woman, and in watching the passing changes in his fair, pale

features, and observing the intonations of his voice, detecting

resemblances which I wondered had never struck me before.  He

provoked me at times, indeed, by his evident reluctance to talk to

me about his sister, though I did not question the friendliness of

his motives in wishing to discourage my remembrance of her.



His recovery was not quite so rapid as he had expected it to be; he

was not able to mount his pony till a fortnight after the date of

our reconciliation; and the first use he made of his returning

strength was to ride over by night to Wildfell Hall, to see his

sister.  It was a hazardous enterprise both for him and for her,

but he thought it necessary to consult with her on the subject of

her projected departure, if not to calm her apprehensions

respecting his health, and the worst result was a slight relapse of

his illness, for no one knew of the visit but the inmates of the

old Hall, except myself; and I believe it had not been his

intention to mention it to me, for when I came to see him the next

day, and observed he was not so well as he ought to have been, he

merely said he had caught cold by being out too late in the

evening.



'You'll never be able to see your sister, if you don't take care of

yourself,' said I, a little provoked at the circumstance on her

account, instead of commiserating him.



'I've seen her already,' said he, quietly.



'You've seen her!' cried I, in astonishment.



'Yes.'  And then he told me what considerations had impelled him to

make the venture, and with what precautions he had made it.



'And how was she?' I eagerly asked.



'As usual,' was the brief though sad reply.



'As usual - that is, far from happy and far from strong.'



'She is not positively ill,' returned he; 'and she will recover her

spirits in a while, I have no doubt - but so many trials have been

almost too much for her.  How threatening those clouds look,'

continued he, turning towards the window.  'We shall have thunder-

showers before night, I imagine, and they are just in the midst of

stacking my corn.  Have you got yours all in yet?'



'No.  And, Lawrence, did she - did your sister mention me?'



'She asked if I had seen you lately.'



'And what else did she say?'



'I cannot tell you all she said,' replied he, with a slight smile;

'for we talked a good deal, though my stay was but short; but our

conversation was chiefly on the subject of her intended departure,

which I begged her to delay till I was better able to assist her in

her search after another home.'



'But did she say no more about me?'



'She did not say much about you, Markham.  I should not have

encouraged her to do so, had she been inclined; but happily she was

not:  she only asked a few questions concerning you, and seemed

satisfied with my brief answers, wherein she showed herself wiser

than her friend; and I may tell you, too, that she seemed to be far

more anxious lest you should think too much of her, than lest you

should forget her.'



'She was right.'



'But I fear your anxiety is quite the other way respecting her.'



'No, it is not:  I wish her to be happy; but I don't wish her to

forget me altogether.  She knows it is impossible that I should

forget her; and she is right to wish me not to remember her too

well.  I should not desire her to regret me too deeply; but I can

scarcely imagine she will make herself very unhappy about me,

because I know I am not worthy of it, except in my appreciation of

her.'



'You are neither of you worthy of a broken heart, - nor of all the

sighs, and tears, and sorrowful thoughts that have been, and I fear

will be, wasted upon you both; but, at present, each has a more

exalted opinion of the other than, I fear, he or she deserves; and

my sister's feelings are naturally full as keen as yours, and I

believe more constant; but she has the good sense and fortitude to

strive against them in this particular; and I trust she will not

rest till she has entirely weaned her thoughts - ' he hesitated.



'From me,' said I.



'And I wish you would make the like exertions,' continued he.



'Did she tell you that that was her intention?'



'No; the question was not broached between us:  there was no

necessity for it, for I had no doubt that such was her

determination.'



'To forget me?'



'Yes, Markham!  Why not?'



'Oh, well!' was my only audible reply; but I internally answered, -

'No, Lawrence, you're wrong there:  she is not determined to forget

me.  It would be wrong to forget one so deeply and fondly devoted

to her, who can so thoroughly appreciate her excellencies, and

sympathise with all her thoughts, as I can do, and it would be

wrong in me to forget so excellent and divine a piece of God's

creation as she, when I have once so truly loved and known her.'

But I said no more to him on that subject.  I instantly started a

new topic of conversation, and soon took leave of my companion,

with a feeling of less cordiality towards him than usual.  Perhaps

I had no right to be annoyed at him, but I was so nevertheless.



In little more than a week after this I met him returning from a

visit to the Wilsons'; and I now resolved to do him a good turn,

though at the expense of his feelings, and perhaps at the risk of

incurring that displeasure which is so commonly the reward of those

who give disagreeable information, or tender their advice unasked.

In this, believe me, I was actuated by no motives of revenge for

the occasional annoyances I had lately sustained from him, - nor

yet by any feeling of malevolent enmity towards Miss Wilson, but

purely by the fact that I could not endure that such a woman should

be Mrs. Huntingdon's sister, and that, as well for his own sake as

for hers, I could not bear to think of his being deceived into a

union with one so unworthy of him, and so utterly unfitted to be

the partner of his quiet home, and the companion of his life.  He

had had uncomfortable suspicions on that head himself, I imagined;

but such was his inexperience, and such were the lady's powers of

attraction, and her skill in bringing them to bear upon his young

imagination, that they had not disturbed him long; and I believe

the only effectual causes of the vacillating indecision that had

preserved him hitherto from making an actual declaration of love,

was the consideration of her connections, and especially of her

mother, whom he could not abide.  Had they lived at a distance, he

might have surmounted the objection, but within two or three miles

of Woodford it was really no light matter.



'You've been to call on the Wilsons, Lawrence,' said I, as I walked

beside his pony.



'Yes,' replied he, slightly averting his face:  'I thought it but

civil to take the first opportunity of returning their kind

attentions, since they have been so very particular and constant in

their inquiries throughout the whole course of my illness.'



'It's all Miss Wilson's doing.'



'And if it is,' returned he, with a very perceptible blush, 'is

that any reason why I should not make a suitable acknowledgment?'



'It is a reason why you should not make the acknowledgment she

looks for.'



'Let us drop that subject if you please,' said he, in evident

displeasure.



'No, Lawrence, with your leave we'll continue it a while longer;

and I'll tell you something, now we're about it, which you may

believe or not as you choose - only please to remember that it is

not my custom to speak falsely, and that in this case I can have no

motive for misrepresenting the truth - '



'Well, Markham, what now?'



'Miss Wilson hates your sister.  It may be natural enough that, in

her ignorance of the relationship, she should feel some degree of

enmity against her, but no good or amiable woman would be capable

of evincing that bitter, cold-blooded, designing malice towards a

fancied rival that I have observed in her.'



'Markham!'



'Yes - and it is my belief that Eliza Millward and she, if not the

very originators of the slanderous reports that have been

propagated, were designedly the encouragers and chief disseminators

of them.  She was not desirous to mix up your name in the matter,

of course, but her delight was, and still is, to blacken your

sister's character to the utmost of her power, without risking too

greatly the exposure of her own malevolence!'



'I cannot believe it,' interrupted my companion, his face burning

with indignation.



'Well, as I cannot prove it, I must content myself with asserting

that it is so to the best of my belief; but as you would not

willingly marry Miss Wilson if it were so, you will do well to be

cautious, till you have proved it to be otherwise.'



'I never told you, Markham, that I intended to marry Miss Wilson,'

said he, proudly.



'No, but whether you do or not, she intends to marry you.'



'Did she tell you so?'



'No, but - '



'Then you have no right to make such an assertion respecting her.'

He slightly quickened his pony's pace, but I laid my hand on its

mane, determined he should not leave me yet.



'Wait a moment, Lawrence, and let me explain myself; and don't be

so very - I don't know what to call it - inaccessible as you are. -

I know what you think of Jane Wilson; and I believe I know how far

you are mistaken in your opinion:  you think she is singularly

charming, elegant, sensible, and refined:  you are not aware that

she is selfish, cold-hearted, ambitious, artful, shallow-minded - '



'Enough, Markham - enough!'



'No; let me finish:- you don't know that, if you married her, your

home would be rayless and comfortless; and it would break your

heart at last to find yourself united to one so wholly incapable of

sharing your tastes, feelings, and ideas - so utterly destitute of

sensibility, good feeling, and true nobility of soul.'



'Have you done?' asked my companion quietly.



'Yes; - I know you hate me for my impertinence, but I don't care if

it only conduces to preserve you from that fatal mistake.'



'Well!' returned he, with a rather wintry smile - 'I'm glad you

have overcome or forgotten your own afflictions so far as to be

able to study so deeply the affairs of others, and trouble your

head so unnecessarily about the fancied or possible calamities of

their future life.'



We parted - somewhat coldly again:  but still we did not cease to

be friends; and my well-meant warning, though it might have been

more judiciously delivered, as well as more thankfully received,

was not wholly unproductive of the desired effect:  his visit to

the Wilsons was not repeated, and though, in our subsequent

interviews, he never mentioned her name to me, nor I to him, - I

have reason to believe he pondered my words in his mind, eagerly

though covertly sought information respecting the fair lady from

other quarters, secretly compared my character of her with what he

had himself observed and what he heard from others, and finally

came to the conclusion that, all things considered, she had much

better remain Miss Wilson of Ryecote Farm than be transmuted into

Mrs. Lawrence of Woodford Hall.  I believe, too, that he soon

learned to contemplate with secret amazement his former

predilection, and to congratulate himself on the lucky escape he

had made; but he never confessed it to me, or hinted one word of

acknowledgment for the part I had had in his deliverance, but this

was not surprising to any one that knew him as I did.



As for Jane Wilson, she, of course, was disappointed and embittered

by the sudden cold neglect and ultimate desertion of her former

admirer.  Had I done wrong to blight her cherished hopes?  I think

not; and certainly my conscience has never accused me, from that

day to this, of any evil design in the matter.







CHAPTER XLVII







One morning, about the beginning of November, while I was inditing

some business letters, shortly after breakfast, Eliza Millward came

to call upon my sister.  Rose had neither the discrimination nor

the virulence to regard the little demon as I did, and they still

preserved their former intimacy.  At the moment of her arrival,

however, there was no one in the room but Fergus and myself, my

mother and sister being both of them absent, 'on household cares

intent'; but I was not going to lay myself out for her amusement,

whoever else might so incline:  I merely honoured her with a

careless salutation and a few words of course, and then went on

with my writing, leaving my brother to be more polite if he chose.

But she wanted to tease me.



'What a pleasure it is to find you at home, Mr. Markham!' said she,

with a disingenuously malicious smile.  'I so seldom see you now,

for you never come to the vicarage.  Papa, is quite offended, I can

tell you,' she added playfully, looking into my face with an

impertinent laugh, as she seated herself, half beside and half

before my desk, off the corner of the table.



'I have had a good deal to do of late,' said I, without looking up

from my letter.



'Have you, indeed!  Somebody said you had been strangely neglecting

your business these last few months.'



'Somebody said wrong, for, these last two months especially, I have

been particularly plodding and diligent.'



'Ah! well, there's nothing like active employment, I suppose, to

console the afflicted; - and, excuse me, Mr. Markham, but you look

so very far from well, and have been, by all accounts, so moody and

thoughtful of late, - I could almost think you have some secret

care preying on your spirits.  Formerly,' said she timidly, 'I

could have ventured to ask you what it was, and what I could do to

comfort you:  I dare not do it now.'



'You're very kind, Miss Eliza.  When I think you can do anything to

comfort me, I'll make bold to tell you.'



'Pray do! - I suppose I mayn't guess what it is that troubles you?'



'There's no necessity, for I'll tell you plainly.  The thing that

troubles me the most at present is a young lady sitting at my

elbow, and preventing me from finishing my letter, and, thereafter,

repairing to my daily business.'



Before she could reply to this ungallant speech, Rose entered the

room; and Miss Eliza rising to greet her, they both seated

themselves near the fire, where that idle lad Fergus was standing,

leaning his shoulder against the corner of the chimney-piece, with

his legs crossed and his hands in his breeches-pockets.



'Now, Rose, I'll tell you a piece of news - I hope you have not

heard it before:  for good, bad, or indifferent, one always likes

to be the first to tell.  It's about that sad Mrs. Graham - '



'Hush-sh-sh!' whispered Fergus, in a tone of solemn import.  '"We

never mention her; her name is never heard."'  And glancing up, I

caught him with his eye askance on me, and his finger pointed to

his forehead; then, winking at the young lady with a doleful shake

of the head, be whispered - 'A monomania - but don't mention it -

all right but that.'



'I should be sorry to injure any one's feelings,' returned she,

speaking below her breath.  'Another time, perhaps.'



'Speak out, Miss Eliza!' said I, not deigning to notice the other's

buffooneries:  'you needn't fear to say anything in my presence.'



'Well,' answered she, 'perhaps you know already that Mrs. Graham's

husband is not really dead, and that she had run away from him?'  I

started, and felt my face glow; but I bent it over my letter, and

went on folding it up as she proceeded.  'But perhaps you did not

know that she is now gone back to him again, and that a perfect

reconciliation has taken place between them?  Only think,' she

continued, turning to the confounded Rose, 'what a fool the man

must be!'



'And who gave you this piece of intelligence, Miss Eliza?' said I,

interrupting my sister's exclamations.



'I had it from a very authentic source.'



'From whom, may I ask?'



'From one of the servants at Woodford.'



'Oh!  I was not aware that you were on such intimate terms with Mr.

Lawrence's household.'



'It was not from the man himself that I heard it, but he told it in

confidence to our maid Sarah, and Sarah told it to me.'



'In confidence, I suppose?  And you tell it in confidence to us?

But I can tell you that it is but a lame story after all, and

scarcely one-half of it true.'



While I spoke I completed the sealing and direction of my letters,

with a somewhat unsteady hand, in spite of all my efforts to retain

composure, and in spite of my firm conviction that the story was a

lame one - that the supposed Mrs. Graham, most certainly, had not

voluntarily gone back to her husband, or dreamt of a

reconciliation.  Most likely she was gone away, and the tale-

bearing servant, not knowing what was become of her, had

conjectured that such was the case, and our fair visitor had

detailed it as a certainty, delighted with such an opportunity of

tormenting me.  But it was possible - barely possible - that some

one might have betrayed her, and she had been taken away by force.

Determined to know the worst, I hastily pocketed my two letters,

and muttered something about being too late for the post, left the

room, rushed into the yard, and vociferously called for my horse.

No one being there, I dragged him out of the stable myself,

strapped the saddle on to his back and the bridle on to his head,

mounted, and speedily galloped away to Woodford.  I found its owner

pensively strolling in the grounds.



'Is your sister gone?' were my first words as I grasped his hand,

instead of the usual inquiry after his health.



'Yes, she's gone,' was his answer, so calmly spoken that my terror

was at once removed.



'I suppose I mayn't know where she is?' said I, as I dismounted,

and relinquished my horse to the gardener, who, being the only

servant within call, had been summoned by his master, from his

employment of raking up the dead leaves on the lawn, to take him to

the stables.



My companion gravely took my arm, and leading me away to the

garden, thus answered my question, - 'She is at Grassdale Manor, in

-shire.'



'Where?' cried I, with a convulsive start.



'At Grassdale Manor.'



'How was it?' I gasped.  'Who betrayed her?'



'She went of her own accord.'



'Impossible, Lawrence!  She could not be so frantic!' exclaimed I,

vehemently grasping his arm, as if to force him to unsay those

hateful words.



'She did,' persisted he in the same grave, collected manner as

before; 'and not without reason,' he continued, gently disengaging

himself from my grasp.  'Mr. Huntingdon is ill.'



'And so she went to nurse him?'



'Yes.'



'Fool!' I could not help exclaiming, and Lawrence looked up with a

rather reproachful glance.  'Is he dying, then?'



'I think not, Markham.'



'And how many more nurses has he?  How many ladies are there

besides to take care of him?'



'None; he was alone, or she would not have gone.'



'Oh, confound it!  This is intolerable!'



'What is?  That he should be alone?'



I attempted no reply, for I was not sure that this circumstance did

not partly conduce to my distraction.  I therefore continued to

pace the walk in silent anguish, with my hand pressed to my

forehead; then suddenly pausing and turning to my companion, I

impatiently exclaimed, 'Why did she take this infatuated step?

What fiend persuaded her to it?'



'Nothing persuaded her but her own sense of duty.'



'Humbug!'



'I was half inclined to say so myself, Markham, at first.  I assure

you it was not by my advice that she went, for I detest that man as

fervently as you can do, - except, indeed, that his reformation

would give me much greater pleasure than his death; but all I did

was to inform her of the circumstance of his illness (the

consequence of a fall from his horse in hunting), and to tell her

that that unhappy person, Miss Myers, had left him some time ago.'



'It was ill done!  Now, when he finds the convenience of her

presence, he will make all manner of lying speeches and false, fair

promises for the future, and she will believe him, and then her

condition will be ten times worse and ten times more irremediable

than before.'



'There does not appear to be much ground for such apprehensions at

present,' said he, producing a letter from his pocket.  'From the

account I received this morning, I should say - '



It was her writing!  By an irresistible impulse I held out my hand,

and the words, 'Let me see it,' involuntarily passed my lips.  He

was evidently reluctant to grant the request, but while he

hesitated I snatched it from his hand.  Recollecting myself,

however, the minute after, I offered to restore it.



'Here, take it,' said I, 'if you don't want me to read it.'



'No,' replied he, 'you may read it if you like.'



I read it, and so may you.





Grassdale, Nov. 4th.



Dear Frederick, - I know you will be anxious to hear from me, and I

will tell you all I can.  Mr. Huntingdon is very ill, but not

dying, or in any immediate danger; and he is rather better at

present than he was when I came.  I found the house in sad

confusion:  Mrs. Greaves, Benson, every decent servant had left,

and those that were come to supply their places were a negligent,

disorderly set, to say no worse - I must change them again, if I

stay.  A professional nurse, a grim, hard old woman, had been hired

to attend the wretched invalid.  He suffers much, and has no

fortitude to bear him through.  The immediate injuries he sustained

from the accident, however, were not very severe, and would, as the

doctor says, have been but trifling to a man of temperate habits,

but with him it is very different.  On the night of my arrival,

when I first entered his room, he was lying in a kind of half

delirium.  He did not notice me till I spoke, and then he mistook

me for another.



'Is it you, Alice, come again?' he murmured.  'What did you leave

me for?'



'It is I, Arthur - it is Helen, your wife,' I replied.



'My wife!' said he, with a start.  'For heaven's sake, don't

mention her - I have none.  Devil take her,' he cried, a moment

after, 'and you, too!  What did you do it for?'



I said no more; but observing that he kept gazing towards the foot

of the bed, I went and sat there, placing the light so as to shine

full upon me, for I thought he might be dying, and I wanted him to

know me.  For a long time he lay silently looking upon me, first

with a vacant stare, then with a fixed gaze of strange growing

intensity.  At last he startled me by suddenly raising himself on

his elbow and demanding in a horrified whisper, with his eyes still

fixed upon me, 'Who is it?'



'It is Helen Huntingdon,' said I, quietly rising at the same time,

and removing to a less conspicuous position.



'I must be going mad,' cried he, 'or something - delirious,

perhaps; but leave me, whoever you are.  I can't bear that white

face, and those eyes.  For God's sake go, and send me somebody else

that doesn't look like that!'



I went at once, and sent the hired nurse; but next morning I

ventured to enter his chamber again, and, taking the nurse's place

by his bedside, I watched him and waited on him for several hours,

showing myself as little as possible, and only speaking when

necessary, and then not above my breath.  At first he addressed me

as the nurse, but, on my crossing the room to draw up the window-

blinds, in obedience to his directions, he said, 'No, it isn't

nurse; it's Alice.  Stay with me, do!  That old hag will be the

death of me.'



'I mean to stay with you,' said I.  And after that he would call me

Alice, or some other name almost equally repugnant to my feelings.

I forced myself to endure it for a while, fearing a contradiction

might disturb him too much; but when, having asked for a glass of

water, while I held it to his lips, he murmured, 'Thanks, dearest!'

I could not help distinctly observing, 'You would not say so if you

knew me,' intending to follow that up with another declaration of

my identity; but he merely muttered an incoherent reply, so I

dropped it again, till some time after, when, as I was bathing his

forehead and temples with vinegar and water to relieve the heat and

pain in his head, he observed, after looking earnestly upon me for

some minutes, 'I have such strange fancies - I can't get rid of

them, and they won't let me rest; and the most singular and

pertinacious of them all is your face and voice - they seem just

like hers.  I could swear at this moment that she was by my side.'



'She is,' said I.



'That seems comfortable,' continued he, without noticing my words;

'and while you do it, the other fancies fade away - but this only

strengthens. - Go on - go on, till it vanishes, too.  I can't stand

such a mania as this; it would kill me!'



'It never will vanish,' said I, distinctly, 'for it is the truth!'



'The truth!' he cried, starting, as if an asp had stung him.  'You

don't mean to say that you are really she?'



'I do; but you needn't shrink away from me, as if I were your

greatest enemy:  I am come to take care of you, and do what none of

them would do.'



'For God's sake, don't torment me now!' cried he in pitiable

agitation; and then he began to mutter bitter curses against me, or

the evil fortune that had brought me there; while I put down the

sponge and basin, and resumed my seat at the bed-side.



'Where are they?' said he:  'have they all left me - servants and

all?'



'There are servants within call if you want them; but you had

better lie down now and be quiet:  none of them could or would

attend you as carefully as I shall do.'



'I can't understand it at all,' said he, in bewildered perplexity.

'Was it a dream that - ' and he covered his eyes with his hands, as

if trying to unravel the mystery.



'No, Arthur, it was not a dream, that your conduct was such as to

oblige me to leave you; but I heard that you were ill and alone,

and I am come back to nurse you.  You need not fear to trust me

tell me all your wants, and I will try to satisfy them.  There is

no one else to care for you; and I shall not upbraid you now.'



'Oh! I see,' said he, with a bitter smile; 'it's an act of

Christian charity, whereby you hope to gain a higher seat in heaven

for yourself, and scoop a deeper pit in hell for me.'



'No; I came to offer you that comfort and assistance your situation

required; and if I could benefit your soul as well as your body,

and awaken some sense of contrition and - '



'Oh, yes; if you could overwhelm me with remorse and confusion of

face, now's the time.  What have you done with my son?'



'He is well, and you may see him some time, if you will compose

yourself, but not now.'



'Where is he?'



'He is safe.'



'Is he here?'



'Wherever he is, you will not see him till you have promised to

leave him entirely under my care and protection, and to let me take

him away whenever and wherever I please, if I should hereafter

judge it necessary to remove him again.  But we will talk of that

to-morrow:  you must be quiet now.'



'No, let me see him now, I promise, if it must be so.'



'No - '



'I swear it, as God is in heaven!  Now, then, let me see him.'



'But I cannot trust your oaths and promises:  I must have a written

agreement, and you must sign it in presence of a witness:  but not

to-day - to-morrow.'



'No, to-day; now,' persisted he:  and he was in such a state of

feverish excitement, and so bent upon the immediate gratification

of his wish, that I thought it better to grant it at once, as I saw

he would not rest till I did.  But I was determined my son's

interest should not be forgotten; and having clearly written out

the promise I wished Mr. Huntingdon to give upon a slip of paper, I

deliberately read it over to him, and made him sign it in the

presence of Rachel.  He begged I would not insist upon this:  it

was a useless exposure of my want of faith in his word to the

servant.  I told him I was sorry, but since he had forfeited my

confidence, he must take the consequence.  He next pleaded

inability to hold the pen.  'Then we must wait until you can hold

it,' said I.  Upon which he said he would try; but then he could

not see to write.  I placed my finger where the signature was to

be, and told him he might write his name in the dark, if he only

knew where to put it.  But he had not power to form the letters.

'In that case, you must be too ill to see the child,' said I; and

finding me inexorable, he at length managed to ratify the

agreement; and I bade Rachel send the boy.



All this may strike you as harsh, but I felt I must not lose my

present advantage, and my son's future welfare should not be

sacrificed to any mistaken tenderness for this man's feelings.

Little Arthur had not forgotten his father, but thirteen months of

absence, during which he had seldom been permitted to hear a word

about him, or hardly to whisper his name, had rendered him somewhat

shy; and when he was ushered into the darkened room where the sick

man lay, so altered from his former self, with fiercely flushed

face and wildly-gleaming eyes - he instinctively clung to me, and

stood looking on his father with a countenance expressive of far

more awe than pleasure.



'Come here, Arthur,' said the latter, extending his hand towards

him.  The child went, and timidly touched that burning hand, but

almost started in alarm, when his father suddenly clutched his arm

and drew him nearer to his side.



'Do you know me?' asked Mr. Huntingdon, intently perusing his

features.



'Yes.'



'Who am I?'



'Papa.'



'Are you glad to see me?'



'Yes.'



'You're not!' replied the disappointed parent, relaxing his hold,

and darting a vindictive glance at me.



Arthur, thus released, crept back to me and put his hand in mine.

His father swore I had made the child hate him, and abused and

cursed me bitterly.  The instant he began I sent our son out of the

room; and when he paused to breathe, I calmly assured him that he

was entirely mistaken; I had never once attempted to prejudice his

child against him.



'I did indeed desire him to forget you,' I said, 'and especially to

forget the lessons you taught him; and for that cause, and to

lessen the danger of discovery, I own I have generally discouraged

his inclination to talk about you; but no one can blame me for

that, I think.'



The invalid only replied by groaning aloud, and rolling his head on

a pillow in a paroxysm of impatience.



'I am in hell, already!' cried he.  'This cursed thirst is burning

my heart to ashes!  Will nobody -?'



Before he could finish the sentence I had poured out a glass of

some acidulated, cooling drink that was on the table, and brought

it to him.  He drank it greedily, but muttered, as I took away the

glass, - 'I suppose you're heaping coals of fire on my head, you

think?'



Not noticing this speech, I asked if there was anything else I

could do for him.



'Yes; I'll give you another opportunity of showing your Christian

magnanimity,' sneered he:  'set my pillow straight, and these

confounded bed-clothes.'  I did so.  'There:  now get me another

glass of that slop.'  I complied.  'This is delightful, isn't it?'

said he with a malicious grin, as I held it to his lips; 'you never

hoped for such a glorious opportunity?'



'Now, shall I stay with you?' said I, as I replaced the glass on

the table:  'or will you be more quiet if I go and send the nurse?'



'Oh, yes, you're wondrous gentle and obliging!  But you've driven

me mad with it all!' responded he, with an impatient toss.



'I'll leave you, then,' said I; and I withdrew, and did not trouble

him with my presence again that day, except for a minute or two at

a time, just to see how he was and what he wanted.



Next morning the doctor ordered him to be bled; and after that he

was more subdued and tranquil.  I passed half the day in his room

at different intervals.  My presence did not appear to agitate or

irritate him as before, and he accepted my services quietly,

without any bitter remarks:  indeed, he scarcely spoke at all,

except to make known his wants, and hardly then.  But on the

morrow, that is to say, in proportion as he recovered from the

state of exhaustion and stupefaction, his ill-nature appeared to

revive.



'Oh, this sweet revenge!' cried he, when I had been doing all I

could to make him comfortable and to remedy the carelessness of his

nurse.  'And you can enjoy it with such a quiet conscience too,

because it's all in the way of duty.'



'It is well for me that I am doing my duty,' said I, with a

bitterness I could not repress, 'for it is the only comfort I have;

and the satisfaction of my own conscience, it seems, is the only

reward I need look for!'



He looked rather surprised at the earnestness of my manner.



'What reward did you look for?' he asked.



'You will think me a liar if I tell you; but I did hope to benefit

you:  as well to better your mind as to alleviate your present

sufferings; but it appears I am to do neither; your own bad spirit

will not let me.  As far as you are concerned, I have sacrificed my

own feelings, and all the little earthly comfort that was left me,

to no purpose; and every little thing I do for you is ascribed to

self-righteous malice and refined revenge!'



'It's all very fine, I daresay,' said he, eyeing me with stupid

amazement; 'and of course I ought to be melted to tears of

penitence and admiration at the sight of so much generosity and

superhuman goodness; but you see I can't manage it.  However, pray

do me all the good you can, if you do really find any pleasure in

it; for you perceive I am almost as miserable just now as you need

wish to see me.  Since you came, I confess, I have had better

attendance than before, for these wretches neglected me shamefully,

and all my old friends seem to have fairly forsaken me.  I've had a

dreadful time of it, I assure you:  I sometimes thought I should

have died:  do you think there's any chance?'



'There's always a chance of death; and it is always well to live

with such a chance in view.'



'Yes, yes! but do you think there's any likelihood that this

illness will have a fatal termination?'



'I cannot tell; but, supposing it should, how are you prepared to

meet the event?'



'Why, the doctor told me I wasn't to think about it, for I was sure

to get better if I stuck to his regimen and prescriptions.'



'I hope you may, Arthur; but neither the doctor nor I can speak

with certainty in such a case; there is internal injury, and it is

difficult to know to what extent.'



'There now! you want to scare me to death.'



'No; but I don't want to lull you to false security.  If a

consciousness of the uncertainty of life can dispose you to serious

and useful thoughts, I would not deprive you of the benefit of such

reflections, whether you do eventually recover or not.  Does the

idea of death appal you very much?'



'It's just the only thing I can't bear to think of; so if you've

any - '



'But it must come some time,' interrupted I, 'and if it be years

hence, it will as certainly overtake you as if it came to-day, -

and no doubt be as unwelcome then as now, unless you - '



'Oh, hang it! don't torment me with your preachments now, unless

you want to kill me outright.  I can't stand it, I tell you.  I've

sufferings enough without that.  If you think there's danger, save

me from it; and then, in gratitude, I'll hear whatever you like to

say.'



I accordingly dropped the unwelcome topic.  And now, Frederick, I

think I may bring my letter to a close.  From these details you may

form your own judgment of the state of my patient, and of my own

position and future prospects.  Let me hear from you soon, and I

will write again to tell you how we get on; but now that my

presence is tolerated, and even required, in the sick-room, I shall

have but little time to spare between my husband and my son, - for

I must not entirely neglect the latter:  it would not do to keep

him always with Rachel, and I dare not leave him for a moment with

any of the other servants, or suffer him to be alone, lest he

should meet them.  If his father get worse, I shall ask Esther

Hargrave to take charge of him for a time, till I have reorganised

the household at least; but I greatly prefer keeping him under my

own eye.



I find myself in rather a singular position:  I am exerting my

utmost endeavours to promote the recovery and reformation of my

husband, and if I succeed, what shall I do?  My duty, of course, -

but how?  No matter; I can perform the task that is before me now,

and God will give me strength to do whatever He requires hereafter.

Good-by, dear Frederick.



HELEN HUNTINGDON.





'What do you think of it?' said Lawrence, as I silently refolded

the letter.



'It seems to me,' returned I, 'that she is casting her pearls

before swine.  May they be satisfied with trampling them under

their feet, and not turn again and rend her!  But I shall say no

more against her:  I see that she was actuated by the best and

noblest motives in what she has done; and if the act is not a wise

one, may heaven protect her from its consequences!  May I keep this

letter, Lawrence? - you see she has never once mentioned me

throughout - or made the most distant allusion to me; therefore,

there can be no impropriety or harm in it.'



'And, therefore, why should you wish to keep it?'



'Were not these characters written by her hand? and were not these

words conceived in her mind, and many of them spoken by her lips?'



'Well,' said he.  And so I kept it; otherwise, Halford, you could

never have become so thoroughly acquainted with its contents.



'And when you write,' said I, 'will you have the goodness to ask

her if I may be permitted to enlighten my mother and sister on her

real history and circumstance, just so far as is necessary to make

the neighbourhood sensible of the shameful injustice they have done

her?  I want no tender messages, but just ask her that, and tell

her it is the greatest favour she could do me; and tell her - no,

nothing more.  You see I know the address, and I might write to her

myself, but I am so virtuous as to refrain.'



'Well, I'll do this for you, Markham.'



'And as soon as you receive an answer, you'll let me know?'



'If all be well, I'll come myself and tell you immediately.'







CHAPTER XLVIII







Five or six days after this Mr. Lawrence paid us the honour of a

call; and when he and I were alone together - which I contrived as

soon as possible by bringing him out to look at my cornstacks - he

showed me another letter from his sister.  This one he was quite

willing to submit to my longing gaze; he thought, I suppose, it

would do me good.  The only answer it gave to my message was this:-



'Mr. Markham is at liberty to make such revelations concerning me

as he judges necessary.  He will know that I should wish but little

to be said on the subject.  I hope he is well; but tell him he must

not think of me.'



I can give you a few extracts from the rest of the letter, for I

was permitted to keep this also - perhaps, as an antidote to all

pernicious hopes and fancies.



* * * * *



He is decidedly better, but very low from the depressing effects of

his severe illness and the strict regimen he is obliged to observe

- so opposite to all his previous habits.  It is deplorable to see

how completely his past life has degenerated his once noble

constitution, and vitiated the whole system of his organization.

But the doctor says he may now be considered out of danger, if he

will only continue to observe the necessary restrictions.  Some

stimulating cordials he must have, but they should be judiciously

diluted and sparingly used; and I find it very difficult to keep

him to this.  At first, his extreme dread of death rendered the

task an easy one; but in proportion as he feels his acute suffering

abating, and sees the danger receding, the more intractable he

becomes.  Now, also, his appetite for food is beginning to return;

and here, too, his long habits of self-indulgence are greatly

against him.  I watch and restrain him as well as I can, and often

get bitterly abused for my rigid severity; and sometimes he

contrives to elude my vigilance, and sometimes acts in opposition

to my will.  But he is now so completely reconciled to my

attendance in general that he is never satisfied when I am not by

his side.  I am obliged to be a little stiff with him sometimes, or

he would make a complete slave of me; and I know it would be

unpardonable weakness to give up all other interests for him.  I

have the servants to overlook, and my little Arthur to attend to, -

and my own health too, all of which would be entirely neglected

were I to satisfy his exorbitant demands.  I do not generally sit

up at night, for I think the nurse who has made it her business is

better qualified for such undertakings than I am; - but still, an

unbroken night's rest is what I but seldom enjoy, and never can

venture to reckon upon; for my patient makes no scruple of calling

me up at an hour when his wants or his fancies require my presence.

But he is manifestly afraid of my displeasure; and if at one time

he tries my patience by his unreasonable exactions, and fretful

complaints and reproaches, at another he depresses me by his abject

submission and deprecatory self-abasement when he fears he has gone

too far.  But all this I can readily pardon; I know it is chiefly

the result of his enfeebled frame and disordered nerves.  What

annoys me the most, is his occasional attempts at affectionate

fondness that I can neither credit nor return; not that I hate him:

his sufferings and my own laborious care have given him some claim

to my regard - to my affection even, if he would only be quiet and

sincere, and content to let things remain as they are; but the more

he tries to conciliate me, the more I shrink from him and from the

future.



'Helen, what do you mean to do when I get well?' he asked this

morning.  'Will you run away again?'



'It entirely depends upon your own conduct.'



'Oh, I'll be very good.'



'But if I find it necessary to leave you, Arthur, I shall not "run

away":  you know I have your own promise that I may go whenever I

please, and take my son with me.'



'Oh, but you shall have no cause.'  And then followed a variety of

professions, which I rather coldly checked.



'Will you not forgive me, then?' said he.



'Yes, - I have forgiven you:  but I know you cannot love me as you

once did - and I should be very sorry if you were to, for I could

not pretend to return it:  so let us drop the subject, and never

recur to it again.  By what I have done for you, you may judge of

what I will do - if it be not incompatible with the higher duty I

owe to my son (higher, because he never forfeited his claims, and

because I hope to do more good to him than I can ever do to you);

and if you wish me to feel kindly towards you, it is deeds not

words which must purchase my affection and esteem.'



His sole reply to this was a slight grimace, and a scarcely

perceptible shrug.  Alas, unhappy man! words, with him, are so much

cheaper than deeds; it was as if I had said, 'Pounds, not pence,

must buy the article you want.'  And then he sighed a querulous,

self-commiserating sigh, as if in pure regret that he, the loved

and courted of so many worshippers, should be now abandoned to the

mercy of a harsh, exacting, cold-hearted woman like that, and even

glad of what kindness she chose to bestow.



'It's a pity, isn't it?' said I; and whether I rightly divined his

musings or not, the observation chimed in with his thoughts, for he

answered - 'It can't be helped,' with a rueful smile at my

penetration.



* * * * *



I have I seen Esther Hargrave twice.  She is a charming creature,

but her blithe spirit is almost broken, and her sweet temper almost

spoiled, by the still unremitting persecutions of her mother in

behalf of her rejected suitor - not violent, but wearisome and

unremitting like a continual dropping.  The unnatural parent seems

determined to make her daughter's life a burden, if she will not

yield to her desires.



'Mamma does all she can,' said she, 'to make me feel myself a

burden and incumbrance to the family, and the most ungrateful,

selfish, and undutiful daughter that ever was born; and Walter,

too, is as stern and cold and haughty as if he hated me outright.

I believe I should have yielded at once if I had known, from the

beginning, how much resistance would have cost me; but now, for

very obstinacy's sake, I will stand out!'



'A bad motive for a good resolve,' I answered.  'But, however, I

know you have better motives, really, for your perseverance:  and I

counsel you to keep them still in view.'



'Trust me I will.  I threaten mamma sometimes that I'll run away,

and disgrace the family by earning my own livelihood, if she

torments me any more; and then that frightens her a little.  But I

will do it, in good earnest, if they don't mind.'



'Be quiet and patient a while,' said I, 'and better times will

come.'



Poor girl!  I wish somebody that was worthy to possess her would

come and take her away - don't you, Frederick?



* * * * *



If the perusal of this letter filled me with dismay for Helen's

future life and mine, there was one great source of consolation:

it was now in my power to clear her name from every foul aspersion.

The Millwards and the Wilsons should see with their own eyes the

bright sun bursting from the cloud - and they should be scorched

and dazzled by its beams; - and my own friends too should see it -

they whose suspicions had been such gall and wormwood to my soul.

To effect this I had only to drop the seed into the ground, and it

would soon become a stately, branching herb:  a few words to my

mother and sister, I knew, would suffice to spread the news

throughout the whole neighbourhood, without any further exertion on

my part.



Rose was delighted; and as soon as I had told her all I thought

proper - which was all I affected to know - she flew with alacrity

to put on her bonnet and shawl, and hasten to carry the glad

tidings to the Millwards and Wilsons - glad tidings, I suspect, to

none but herself and Mary Millward - that steady, sensible girl,

whose sterling worth had been so quickly perceived and duly valued

by the supposed Mrs. Graham, in spite of her plain outside; and

who, on her part, had been better able to see and appreciate that

lady's true character and qualities than the brightest genius among

them.



As I may never have occasion to mention her again, I may as well

tell you here that she was at this time privately engaged to

Richard Wilson - a secret, I believe, to every one but themselves.

That worthy student was now at Cambridge, where his most exemplary

conduct and his diligent perseverance in the pursuit of learning

carried him safely through, and eventually brought him with hard-

earned honours, and an untarnished reputation, to the close of his

collegiate career.  In due time he became Mr. Millward's first and

only curate - for that gentleman's declining years forced him at

last to acknowledge that the duties of his extensive parish were a

little too much for those vaunted energies which he was wont to

boast over his younger and less active brethren of the cloth.  This

was what the patient, faithful lovers had privately planned and

quietly waited for years ago; and in due time they were united, to

the astonishment of the little world they lived in, that had long

since declared them both born to single blessedness; affirming it

impossible that the pale, retiring bookworm should ever summon

courage to seek a wife, or be able to obtain one if he did, and

equally impossible that the plain-looking, plain-dealing,

unattractive, unconciliating Miss Millward should ever find a

husband.



They still continued to live at the vicarage, the lady dividing her

time between her father, her husband, and their poor parishioners,

- and subsequently her rising family; and now that the Reverend

Michael Millward has been gathered to his fathers, full of years

and honours, the Reverend Richard Wilson has succeeded him to the

vicarage of Linden-hope, greatly to the satisfaction of its

inhabitants, who had so long tried and fully proved his merits, and

those of his excellent and well-loved partner.



If you are interested in the after fate of that lady's sister, I

can only tell you - what perhaps you have heard from another

quarter - that some twelve or thirteen years ago she relieved the

happy couple of her presence by marrying a wealthy tradesman of L-;

and I don't envy him his bargain.  I fear she leads him a rather

uncomfortable life, though, happily, he is too dull to perceive the

extent of his misfortune.  I have little enough to do with her

myself:  we have not met for many years; but, I am well assured,

she has not yet forgotten or forgiven either her former lover, or

the lady whose superior qualities first opened his eyes to the

folly of his boyish attachment.



As for Richard Wilson's sister, she, having been wholly unable to

recapture Mr. Lawrence, or obtain any partner rich and elegant

enough to suit her ideas of what the husband of Jane Wilson ought

to be, is yet in single blessedness.  Shortly after the death of

her mother she withdrew the light of her presence from Ryecote

Farm, finding it impossible any longer to endure the rough manners

and unsophisticated habits of her honest brother Robert and his

worthy wife, or the idea of being identified with such vulgar

people in the eyes of the world, and took lodgings in - the county

town, where she lived, and still lives, I suppose, in a kind of

close-fisted, cold, uncomfortable gentility, doing no good to

others, and but little to herself; spending her days in fancy-work

and scandal; referring frequently to her 'brother the vicar,' and

her 'sister, the vicar's lady,' but never to her brother the farmer

and her sister the farmer's wife; seeing as much company as she can

without too much expense, but loving no one and beloved by none -

a cold-hearted, supercilious, keenly, insidiously censorious old

maid.







CHAPTER XLIX







Though Mr. Lawrence's health was now quite re-established, my

visits to Woodford were as unremitting as ever; though often less

protracted than before.  We seldom talked about Mrs. Huntingdon;

but yet we never met without mentioning her, for I never sought his

company but with the hope of hearing something about her, and he

never sought mine at all, because he saw me often enough without.

But I always began to talk of other things, and waited first to see

if he would introduce the subject.  If he did not, I would casually

ask, 'Have you heard from your sister lately?'  If he said 'No,'

the matter was dropped:  if he said 'Yes,' I would venture to

inquire, 'How is she?' but never 'How is her husband?' though I

might be burning to know; because I had not the hypocrisy to

profess any anxiety for his recovery, and I had not the face to

express any desire for a contrary result.  Had I any such desire? -

I fear I must plead guilty; but since you have heard my confession,

you must hear my justification as well  - a few of the excuses, at

least, wherewith I sought to pacify my own accusing conscience.



In the first place, you see, his life did harm to others, and

evidently no good to himself; and though I wished it to terminate,

I would not have hastened its close if, by the lifting of a finger,

I could have done so, or if a spirit had whispered in my ear that a

single effort of the will would be enough, - unless, indeed, I had

the power to exchange him for some other victim of the grave, whose

life might be of service to his race, and whose death would be

lamented by his friends.  But was there any harm in wishing that,

among the many thousands whose souls would certainly be required of

them before the year was over, this wretched mortal might be one?

I thought not; and therefore I wished with all my heart that it

might please heaven to remove him to a better world, or if that

might not be, still to take him out of this; for if he were unfit

to answer the summons now, after a warning sickness, and with such

an angel by his side, it seemed but too certain that he never would

be - that, on the contrary, returning health would bring returning

lust and villainy, and as he grew more certain of recovery, more

accustomed to her generous goodness, his feelings would become more

callous, his heart more flinty and impervious to her persuasive

arguments - but God knew best.  Meantime, however, I could not but

be anxious for the result of His decrees; knowing, as I did, that

(leaving myself entirely out of the question), however Helen might

feel interested in her husband's welfare, however she might deplore

his fate, still while he lived she must be miserable.



A fortnight passed away, and my inquiries were always answered in

the negative.  At length a welcome 'yes' drew from me the second

question.  Lawrence divined my anxious thoughts, and appreciated my

reserve.  I feared, at first, he was going to torture me by

unsatisfactory replies, and either leave me quite in the dark

concerning what I wanted to know, or force me to drag the

information out of him, morsel by morsel, by direct inquiries.

'And serve you right,' you will say; but he was more merciful; and

in a little while he put his sister's letter into my hand.  I

silently read it, and restored it to him without comment or remark.

This mode of procedure suited him so well, that thereafter he

always pursued the plan of showing me her letters at once, when

'inquired' after her, if there were any to show - it was so much

less trouble than to tell me their contents; and I received such

confidences so quietly and discreetly that he was never induced to

discontinue them.



But I devoured those precious letters with my eyes, and never let

them go till their contents were stamped upon my mind; and when I

got home, the most important passages were entered in my diary

among the remarkable events of the day.



The first of these communications brought intelligence of a serious

relapse in Mr. Huntingdon's illness, entirely the result of his own

infatuation in persisting in the indulgence of his appetite for

stimulating drink.  In vain had she remonstrated, in vain she had

mingled his wine with water:  her arguments and entreaties were a

nuisance, her interference was an insult so intolerable that, at

length, on finding she had covertly diluted the pale port that was

brought him, he threw the bottle out of window, swearing he would

not be cheated like a baby, ordered the butler, on pain of instant

dismissal, to bring a bottle of the strongest wine in the cellar,

and affirming that he should have been well long ago if he had been

let to have his own way, but she wanted to keep him weak in order

that she might have him under her thumb - but, by the Lord Harry,

he would have no more humbug - seized a glass in one hand and the

bottle in the other, and never rested till he had drunk it dry.

Alarming symptoms were the immediate result of this 'imprudence,'

as she mildly termed it - symptoms which had rather increased than

diminished since; and this was the cause of her delay in writing to

her brother.  Every former feature of his malady had returned with

augmented virulence:  the slight external wound, half healed, had

broken out afresh; internal inflammation had taken place, which

might terminate fatally if not soon removed.  Of course, the

wretched sufferer's temper was not improved by this calamity - in

fact, I suspect it was well nigh insupportable, though his kind

nurse did not complain; but she said she had been obliged at last

to give her son in charge to Esther Hargrave, as her presence was

so constantly required in the sick-room that she could not possibly

attend to him herself; and though the child had begged to be

allowed to continue with her there, and to help her to nurse his

papa, and though she had no doubt he would have been very good and

quiet, she could not think of subjecting his young and tender

feelings to the sight of so much suffering, or of allowing him to

witness his father's impatience, or hear the dreadful language he

was wont to use in his paroxysms of pain or irritation.



The latter (continued she) most deeply regrets the step that has

occasioned his relapse; but, as usual, he throws the blame upon me.

If I had reasoned with him like a rational creature, he says, it

never would have happened; but to be treated like a baby or a fool

was enough to put any man past his patience, and drive him to

assert his independence even at the sacrifice of his own interest.

He forgets how often I had reasoned him 'past his patience' before.

He appears to be sensible of his danger; but nothing can induce him

to behold it in the proper light.  The other night, while I was

waiting on him, and just as I had brought him a draught to assuage

his burning thirst, he observed, with a return of his former

sarcastic bitterness, 'Yes, you're mighty attentive now!  I suppose

there's nothing you wouldn't do for me now?'



'You know,' said I, a little surprised at his manner, 'that I am

willing to do anything I can to relieve you.'



'Yes, now, my immaculate angel; but when once you have secured your

reward, and find yourself safe in heaven, and me howling in hell-

fire, catch you lifting a finger to serve me then!  No, you'll look

complacently on, and not so much as dip the tip of your finger in

water to cool my tongue!'



'If so, it will be because of the great gulf over which I cannot

pass; and if I could look complacently on in such a case, it would

be only from the assurance that you were being purified from your

sins, and fitted to enjoy the happiness I felt. - But are you

determined, Arthur, that I shall not meet you in heaven?'



'Humph!  What should I do there, I should like to know?'



'Indeed, I cannot tell; and I fear it is too certain that your

tastes and feelings must be widely altered before you can have any

enjoyment there.  But do you prefer sinking, without an effort,

into the state of torment you picture to yourself?'



'Oh, it's all a fable,' said he, contemptuously.



'Are you sure, Arthur? are you quite sure?  Because, if there is

any doubt, and if you should find yourself mistaken after all, when

it is too late to turn - '



'It would be rather awkward, to be sure,' said he; 'but don't

bother me now - I'm not going to die yet.  I can't and won't,' he

added vehemently, as if suddenly struck with the appalling aspect

of that terrible event.  'Helen, you must save me!'  And he

earnestly seized my hand, and looked into my face with such

imploring eagerness that my heart bled for him, and I could not

speak for tears.



* * * * *



The next letter brought intelligence that the malady was fast

increasing; and the poor sufferer's horror of death was still more

distressing than his impatience of bodily pain.  All his friends

had not forsaken him; for Mr. Hattersley, hearing of his danger,

had come to see him from his distant home in the north.  His wife

had accompanied him, as much for the pleasure of seeing her dear

friend, from whom she had been parted so long, as to visit her

mother and sister.



Mrs. Huntingdon expressed herself glad to see Milicent once more,

and pleased to behold her so happy and well.  She is now at the

Grove, continued the letter, but she often calls to see me.  Mr.

Hattersley spends much of his time at Arthur's bed-side.  With more

good feeling than I gave him credit for, he evinces considerable

sympathy for his unhappy friend, and is far more willing than able

to comfort him.  Sometimes he tries to joke and laugh with him, but

that will not do; sometimes he endeavours to cheer him with talk

about old times, and this at one time may serve to divert the

sufferer from his own sad thoughts; at another, it will only plunge

him into deeper melancholy than before; and then Hattersley is

confounded, and knows not what to say, unless it be a timid

suggestion that the clergyman might be sent for.  But Arthur will

never consent to that:  he knows he has rejected the clergyman's

well-meant admonitions with scoffing levity at other times, and

cannot dream of turning to him for consolation now.



Mr. Hattersley sometimes offers his services instead of mine, but

Arthur will not let me go:  that strange whim still increases, as

his strength declines - the fancy to have me always by his side.  I

hardly ever leave him, except to go into the next room, where I

sometimes snatch an hour or so of sleep when he is quiet; but even

then the door is left ajar, that he may know me to be within call.

I am with him now, while I write, and I fear my occupation annoys

him; though I frequently break off to attend to him, and though Mr.

Hattersley is also by his side.  That gentleman came, as he said,

to beg a holiday for me, that I might have a run in the park, this

fine frosty morning, with Milicent and Esther and little Arthur,

whom he had driven over to see me.  Our poor invalid evidently felt

it a heartless proposition, and would have felt it still more

heartless in me to accede to it.  I therefore said I would only go

and speak to them a minute, and then come back.  I did but exchange

a few words with them, just outside the portico, inhaling the

fresh, bracing air as I stood, and then, resisting the earnest and

eloquent entreaties of all three to stay a little longer, and join

them in a walk round the garden, I tore myself away and returned to

my patient.  I had not been absent five minutes, but he reproached

me bitterly for my levity and neglect.  His friend espoused my

cause.



'Nay, nay, Huntingdon,' said he, 'you're too hard upon her; she

must have food and sleep, and a mouthful of fresh air now and then,

or she can't stand it, I tell you.  Look at her, man! she's worn to

a shadow already.'



'What are her sufferings to mine?' said the poor invalid.  'You

don't grudge me these attentions, do you, Helen?'



'No, Arthur, if I could really serve you by them.  I would give my

life to save you, if I might.'



'Would you, indeed?  No!'



'Most willingly I would.'



'Ah! that's because you think yourself more fit to die!'



There was a painful pause.  He was evidently plunged in gloomy

reflections; but while I pondered for something to say that might

benefit without alarming him, Hattersley, whose mind had been

pursuing almost the same course, broke silence with, 'I say,

Huntingdon, I would send for a parson of some sort:  if you didn't

like the vicar, you know, you could have his curate, or somebody

else.'



'No; none of them can benefit me if she can't,' was the answer.

And the tears gushed from his eyes as he earnestly exclaimed, 'Oh,

Helen, if I had listened to you, it never would have come to this!

and if I had heard you long ago - oh, God! how different it would

have been!'



'Hear me now, then, Arthur,' said I, gently pressing his hand.



'It's too late now,' said he despondingly.  And after that another

paroxysm of pain came on; and then his mind began to wander, and we

feared his death was approaching:  but an opiate was administered:

his sufferings began to abate, he gradually became more composed,

and at length sank into a kind of slumber.  He has been quieter

since; and now Hattersley has left him, expressing a hope that he

shall find him better when he calls to-morrow.



'Perhaps I may recover,' he replied; 'who knows?  This may have

been the crisis.  What do you think, Helen?'  Unwilling to depress

him, I gave the most cheering answer I could, but still recommended

him to prepare for the possibility of what I inly feared was but

too certain.  But he was determined to hope.  Shortly after he

relapsed into a kind of doze, but now he groans again.



There is a change.  Suddenly he called me to his side, with such a

strange, excited manner, that I feared he was delirious, but he was

not.  'That was the crisis, Helen!' said he, delightedly.  'I had

an infernal pain here - it is quite gone now.  I never was so easy

since the fall - quite gone, by heaven!' and he clasped and kissed

my hand in the very fulness of his heart; but finding I did not

participate his joy, he quickly flung it from him, and bitterly

cursed my coldness and insensibility.  How could I reply?  Kneeling

beside him, I took his hand and fondly pressed it to my lips - for

the first time since our separation - and told him, as well as

tears would let me speak, that it was not that that kept me silent:

it was the fear that this sudden cessation of pain was not so

favourable a symptom as he supposed.  I immediately sent for the

doctor:  we are now anxiously awaiting him.  I will tell you what

he says.  There is still the same freedom from pain, the same

deadness to all sensation where the suffering was most acute.



My worst fears are realised:  mortification has commenced.  The

doctor has told him there is no hope.  No words can describe his

anguish.  I can write no more.



* * * * *



The next was still more distressing in the tenor of its contents.

The sufferer was fast approaching dissolution - dragged almost to

the verge of that awful chasm he trembled to contemplate, from

which no agony of prayers or tears could save him.  Nothing could

comfort him now; Hattersley's rough attempts at consolation were

utterly in vain.  The world was nothing to him:  life and all its

interests, its petty cares and transient pleasures, were a cruel

mockery.  To talk of the past was to torture him with vain remorse;

to refer to the future was to increase his anguish; and yet to be

silent was to leave him a prey to his own regrets and

apprehensions.  Often he dwelt with shuddering minuteness on the

fate of his perishing clay - the slow, piecemeal dissolution

already invading his frame:  the shroud, the coffin, the dark,

lonely grave, and all the horrors of corruption.



'If I try,' said his afflicted wife, 'to divert him from these

things - to raise his thoughts to higher themes, it is no better:-

"Worse and worse!" he groans.  "If there be really life beyond the

tomb, and judgment after death, how can I face it?" - I cannot do

him any good; he will neither be enlightened, nor roused, nor

comforted by anything I say; and yet he clings to me with

unrelenting pertinacity - with a kind of childish desperation, as

if I could save him from the fate he dreads.  He keeps me night and

day beside him.  He is holding my left hand now, while I write; he

has held it thus for hours:  sometimes quietly, with his pale face

upturned to mine:  sometimes clutching my arm with violence - the

big drops starting from his forehead at the thoughts of what he

sees, or thinks he sees, before him.  If I withdraw my hand for a

moment it distresses him.



'"Stay with me, Helen," he says; "let me hold you so:  it seems as

if harm could not reach me while you are here.  But death will come

- it is coming now - fast, fast! - and - oh, if I could believe

there was nothing after!"



'"Don't try to believe it, Arthur; there is joy and glory after, if

you will but try to reach it!"



'"What, for me?" he said, with something like a laugh.  "Are we not

to be judged according to the deeds done in the body?  Where's the

use of a probationary existence, if a man may spend it as he

pleases, just contrary to God's decrees, and then go to heaven with

the best - if the vilest sinner may win the reward of the holiest

saint, by merely saying, "I repent!"'



'"But if you sincerely repent - "



'"I can't repent; I only fear."



'"You only regret the past for its consequences to yourself?"



'"Just so - except that I'm sorry to have wronged you, Nell,

because you're so good to me."



'"Think of the goodness of God, and you cannot but be grieved to

have offended Him."



'"What is God? - I cannot see Him or hear Him. - God is only an

idea."



'"God is Infinite Wisdom, and Power, and Goodness - and LOVE; but

if this idea is too vast for your human faculties - if your mind

loses itself in its overwhelming infinitude, fix it on Him who

condescended to take our nature upon Him, who was raised to heaven

even in His glorified human body, in whom the fulness of the

Godhead shines."



'But he only shook his head and sighed.  Then, in another paroxysm

of shuddering horror, he tightened his grasp on my hand and arm,

and, groaning and lamenting, still clung to me with that wild,

desperate earnestness so harrowing to my soul, because I know I

cannot help him.  I did my best to soothe and comfort him.



'"Death is so terrible," he cried, "I cannot bear it!  You don't

know, Helen - you can't imagine what it is, because you haven't it

before you! and when I'm buried, you'll return to your old ways and

be as happy as ever, and all the world will go on just as busy and

merry as if I had never been; while I - "  He burst into tears.



'"You needn't let that distress you," I said; "we shall all follow

you soon enough."



'"I wish to God I could take you with me now!" he exclaimed:  "you

should plead for me."



'"No man can deliver his brother, nor make agreement unto God for

him," I replied:  "it cost more to redeem their souls - it cost the

blood of an incarnate God, perfect and sinless in Himself, to

redeem us from the bondage of the evil one:- let Him plead for

you."



'But I seem to speak in vain.  He does not now, as formerly, laugh

these blessed truths to scorn:  but still he cannot trust, or will

not comprehend them.  He cannot linger long.  He suffers

dreadfully, and so do those that wait upon him.  But I will not

harass you with further details:  I have said enough, I think, to

convince you that I did well to go to him.'



* * * * *



Poor, poor Helen! dreadful indeed her trials must have been!  And I

could do nothing to lessen them - nay, it almost seemed as if I had

brought them upon her myself by my own secret desires; and whether

I looked at her husband's sufferings or her own, it seemed almost

like a judgment upon myself for having cherished such a wish.



The next day but one there came another letter.  That too was put

into my hands without a remark, and these are its contents:-





Dec. 5th.



He is gone at last.  I sat beside him all night, with my hand fast

looked in his, watching the changes of his features and listening

to his failing breath.  He had been silent a long time, and I

thought he would never speak again, when he murmured, faintly but

distinctly, - 'Pray for me, Helen!'



'I do pray for you, every hour and every minute, Arthur; but you

must pray for yourself.'



His lips moved, but emitted no sound; - then his looks became

unsettled; and, from the incoherent, half-uttered words that

escaped him from time to time, supposing him to be now unconscious,

I gently disengaged my hand from his, intending to steal away for a

breath of air, for I was almost ready to faint; but a convulsive

movement of the fingers, and a faintly whispered 'Don't leave me!'

immediately recalled me:  I took his hand again, and held it till

he was no more - and then I fainted.  It was not grief; it was

exhaustion, that, till then, I had been enabled successfully to

combat.  Oh, Frederick! none can imagine the miseries, bodily and

mental, of that death-bed!  How could I endure to think that that

poor trembling soul was hurried away to everlasting torment? it

would drive me mad.  But, thank God, I have hope - not only from a

vague dependence on the possibility that penitence and pardon might

have reached him at the last, but from the blessed confidence that,

through whatever purging fires the erring spirit may be doomed to

pass - whatever fate awaits it - still it is not lost, and God, who

hateth nothing that He hath made, will bless it in the end!



His body will be consigned on Thursday to that dark grave he so

much dreaded; but the coffin must be closed as soon as possible.

If you will attend the funeral, come quickly, for I need help.



HELEN HUNTINGDON.







CHAPTER L







On reading this I had no reason to disguise my joy and hope from

Frederick Lawrence, for I had none to be ashamed of.  I felt no joy

but that his sister was at length released from her afflictive,

overwhelming toil - no hope but that she would in time recover from

the effects of it, and be suffered to rest in peace and quietness,

at least, for the remainder of her life.  I experienced a painful

commiseration for her unhappy husband (though fully aware that he

had brought every particle of his sufferings upon himself, and but

too well deserved them all), and a profound sympathy for her own

afflictions, and deep anxiety for the consequences of those

harassing cares, those dreadful vigils, that incessant and

deleterious confinement beside a living corpse - for I was

persuaded she had not hinted half the sufferings she had had to

endure.



'You will go to her, Lawrence?' said I, as I put the letter into

his hand.



'Yes, immediately.'



'That's right!  I'll leave you, then, to prepare for your

departure.'



'I've done that already, while you were reading the letter, and

before you came; and the carriage is now coming round to the door.'



Inly approving his promptitude, I bade him good-morning, and

withdrew.  He gave me a searching glance as we pressed each other's

hands at parting; but whatever he sought in my countenance, he saw

there nothing but the most becoming gravity - it might be mingled

with a little sternness in momentary resentment at what I suspected

to be passing in his mind.



Had I forgotten my own prospects, my ardent love, my pertinacious

hopes?  It seemed like sacrilege to revert to them now, but I had

not forgotten them.  It was, however, with a gloomy sense of the

darkness of those prospects, the fallacy of those hopes, and the

vanity of that affection, that I reflected on those things as I

remounted my horse and slowly journeyed homewards.  Mrs. Huntingdon

was free now; it was no longer a crime to think of her - but did

she ever think of me?  Not now - of course it was not to be

expected - but would she when this shock was over?  In all the

course of her correspondence with her brother (our mutual friend,

as she herself had called him) she had never mentioned me but once

- and that was from necessity.  This alone afforded strong

presumption that I was already forgotten; yet this was not the

worst:  it might have been her sense of duty that had kept her

silent:  she might be only trying to forget; but in addition to

this, I had a gloomy conviction that the awful realities she had

seen and felt, her reconciliation with the man she had once loved,

his dreadful sufferings and death, must eventually efface from her

mind all traces of her passing love for me.  She might recover from

these horrors so far as to be restored to her former health, her

tranquillity, her cheerfulness even - but never to those feelings

which would appear to her, henceforth, as a fleeting fancy, a vain,

illusive dream; especially as there was no one to remind her of my

existence - no means of assuring her of my fervent constancy, now

that we were so far apart, and delicacy forbade me to see her or to

write to her, for months to come at least.  And how could I engage

her brother in my behalf? how could I break that icy crust of shy

reserve?  Perhaps he would disapprove of my attachment now as

highly as before; perhaps he would think me too poor - too lowly

born, to match with his sister.  Yes, there was another barrier:

doubtless there was a wide distinction between the rank and

circumstances of Mrs. Huntingdon, the lady of Grassdale Manor, and

those of Mrs. Graham, the artist, the tenant of Wildfell Hall.  And

it might be deemed presumption in me to offer my hand to the

former, by the world, by her friends, if not by herself; a penalty

I might brave, if I were certain she loved me; but otherwise, how

could I?  And, finally, her deceased husband, with his usual

selfishness, might have so constructed his will as to place

restrictions upon her marrying again.  So that you see I had

reasons enough for despair if I chose to indulge it.



Nevertheless, it was with no small degree of impatience that I

looked forward to Mr. Lawrence's return from Grassdale:  impatience

that increased in proportion as his absence was prolonged.  He

stayed away some ten or twelve days.  All very right that he should

remain to comfort and help his sister, but he might have written to

tell me how she was, or at least to tell me when to expect his

return; for he might have known I was suffering tortures of anxiety

for her, and uncertainty for my own future prospects.  And when he

did return, all he told me about her was, that she had been greatly

exhausted and worn by her unremitting exertions in behalf of that

man who had been the scourge of her life, and had dragged her with

him nearly to the portals of the grave, and was still much shaken

and depressed by his melancholy end and the circumstances attendant

upon it; but no word in reference to me; no intimation that my name

had ever passed her lips, or even been spoken in her presence.  To

be sure, I asked no questions on the subject; I could not bring my

mind to do so, believing, as I did, that Lawrence was indeed averse

to the idea of my union with his sister.



I saw that he expected to be further questioned concerning his

visit, and I saw too, with the keen perception of awakened

jealousy, or alarmed self-esteem, or by whatever name I ought to

call it, that he rather shrank from that impending scrutiny, and

was no less pleased than surprised to find it did not come.  Of

course, I was burning with anger, but pride obliged me to suppress

my feelings, and preserve a smooth face, or at least a stoic

calmness, throughout the interview.  It was well it did, for,

reviewing the matter in my sober judgment, I must say it would have

been highly absurd and improper to have quarrelled with him on such

an occasion.  I must confess, too, that I wronged him in my heart:

the truth was, he liked me very well, but he was fully aware that a

union between Mrs. Huntingdon and me would be what the world calls

a mesalliance; and it was not in his nature to set the world at

defiance; especially in such a case as this, for its dread laugh,

or ill opinion, would be far more terrible to him directed against

his sister than himself.  Had he believed that a union was

necessary to the happiness of both, or of either, or had he known

how fervently I loved her, he would have acted differently; but

seeing me so calm and cool, he would not for the world disturb my

philosophy; and though refraining entirely from any active

opposition to the match, he would yet do nothing to bring it about,

and would much rather take the part of prudence, in aiding us to

overcome our mutual predilections, than that of feeling, to

encourage them.  'And he was in the right of it,' you will say.

Perhaps he was; at any rate, I had no business to feel so bitterly

against him as I did; but I could not then regard the matter in

such a moderate light; and, after a brief conversation upon

indifferent topics, I went away, suffering all the pangs of wounded

pride and injured friendship, in addition to those resulting from

the fear that I was indeed forgotten, and the knowledge that she I

loved was alone and afflicted, suffering from injured health and

dejected spirits, and I was forbidden to console or assist her:

forbidden even to assure her of my sympathy, for the transmission

of any such message through Mr. Lawrence was now completely out of

the question.



But what should I do?  I would wait, and see if she would notice

me, which of course she would not, unless by some kind message

intrusted to her brother, that, in all probability, he would not

deliver, and then, dreadful thought! she would think me cooled and

changed for not returning it, or, perhaps, he had already given her

to understand that I had ceased to think of her.  I would wait,

however, till the six months after our parting were fairly passed

(which would be about the close of February), and then I would send

her a letter, modestly reminding her of her former permission to

write to her at the close of that period, and hoping I might avail

myself of it - at least to express my heartfelt sorrow for her late

afflictions, my just appreciation of her generous conduct, and my

hope that her health was now completely re-established, and that

she would, some time, be permitted to enjoy those blessings of a

peaceful, happy life, which had been denied her so long, but which

none could more truly be said to merit than herself - adding a few

words of kind remembrance to my little friend Arthur, with a hope

that he had not forgotten me, and perhaps a few more in reference

to bygone times, to the delightful hours I had passed in her

society, and my unfading recollection of them, which was the salt

and solace of my life, and a hope that her recent troubles had not

entirely banished me from her mind.  If she did not answer this, of

course I should write no more:  if she did (as surely she would, in

some fashion), my future proceedings should be regulated by her

reply.



Ten weeks was long to wait in such a miserable state of

uncertainty; but courage! it must be endured! and meantime I would

continue to see Lawrence now and then, though not so often as

before, and I would still pursue my habitual inquiries after his

sister, if he had lately heard from her, and how she was, but

nothing more.



I did so, and the answers I received were always provokingly

limited to the letter of the inquiry:  she was much as usual:  she

made no complaints, but the tone of her last letter evinced great

depression of mind:  she said she was better:  and, finally, she

said she was well, and very busy with her son's education, and with

the management of her late husband's property, and the regulation

of his affairs.  The rascal had never told me how that property was

disposed, or whether Mr. Huntingdon had died intestate or not; and

I would sooner die than ask him, lest he should misconstrue into

covetousness my desire to know.  He never offered to show me his

sister's letters now, and I never hinted a wish to see them.

February, however, was approaching; December was past; January, at

length, was almost over - a few more weeks, and then, certain

despair or renewal of hope would put an end to this long agony of

suspense.



But alas! it was just about that time she was called to sustain

another blow in the death of her uncle - a worthless old fellow

enough in himself, I daresay, but he had always shown more kindness

and affection to her than to any other creature, and she had always

been accustomed to regard him as a parent.  She was with him when

he died, and had assisted her aunt to nurse him during the last

stage of his illness.  Her brother went to Staningley to attend the

funeral, and told me, upon his return, that she was still there,

endeavouring to cheer her aunt with her presence, and likely to

remain some time.  This was bad news for me, for while she

continued there I could not write to her, as I did not know the

address, and would not ask it of him.  But week followed week, and

every time I inquired about her she was still at Staningley.



'Where is Staningley?' I asked at last.



'In -shire,' was the brief reply; and there was something so cold

and dry in the manner of it, that I was effectually deterred from

requesting a more definite account.



'When will she return to Grassdale?' was my next question.



'I don't know.'



'Confound it!' I muttered.



'Why, Markham?' asked my companion, with an air of innocent

surprise.  But I did not deign to answer him, save by a look of

silent, sullen contempt, at which he turned away, and contemplated

the carpet with a slight smile, half pensive, half amused; but

quickly looking up, he began to talk of other subjects, trying to

draw me into a cheerful and friendly conversation, but I was too

much irritated to discourse with him, and soon took leave.



You see Lawrence and I somehow could not manage to get on very well

together.  The fact is, I believe, we were both of us a little too

touchy.  It is a troublesome thing, Halford, this susceptibility to

affronts where none are intended.  I am no martyr to it now, as you

can bear me witness:  I have learned to be merry and wise, to be

more easy with myself and more indulgent to my neighbours, and I

can afford to laugh at both Lawrence and you.



Partly from accident, partly from wilful negligence on my part (for

I was really beginning to dislike him), several weeks elapsed

before I saw my friend again.  When we did meet, it was he that

sought me out.  One bright morning, early in June, he came into the

field, where I was just commencing my hay harvest.



'It is long since I saw you, Markham,' said he, after the first few

words had passed between us.  'Do you never mean to come to

Woodford again?'



'I called once, and you were out.'



'I was sorry, but that was long since; I hoped you would call

again, and now I have called, and you were out, which you generally

are, or I would do myself the pleasure of calling more frequently;

but being determined to see you this time, I have left my pony in

the lane, and come over hedge and ditch to join you; for I am about

to leave Woodford for a while, and may not have the pleasure of

seeing you again for a month or two.'



'Where are you going?'



'To Grassdale first,' said he, with a half-smile he would willingly

have suppressed if he could.



'To Grassdale!  Is she there, then?'



'Yes, but in a day or two she will leave it to accompany Mrs.

Maxwell to F- for the benefit of the sea air, and I shall go with

them.'  (F- was at that time a quiet but respectable watering-

place:  it is considerably more frequented now.)



Lawrence seemed to expect me to take advantage of this circumstance

to entrust him with some sort of a message to his sister; and I

believe he would have undertaken to deliver it without any material

objections, if I had had the sense to ask him, though of course he

would not offer to do so, if I was content to let it alone.  But I

could not bring myself to make the request, and it was not till

after he was gone, that I saw how fair an opportunity I had lost;

and then, indeed, I deeply regretted my stupidity and my foolish

pride, but it was now too late to remedy the evil.



He did not return till towards the latter end of August.  He wrote

to me twice or thrice from F-, but his letters were most

provokingly unsatisfactory, dealing in generalities or in trifles

that I cared nothing about, or replete with fancies and reflections

equally unwelcome to me at the time, saying next to nothing about

his sister, and little more about himself.  I would wait, however,

till he came back; perhaps I could get something more out of him

then.  At all events, I would not write to her now, while she was

with him and her aunt, who doubtless would be still more hostile to

my presumptuous aspirations than himself.  When she was returned to

the silence and solitude of her own home, it would be my fittest

opportunity.



When Lawrence came, however, he was as reserved as ever on the

subject of my keen anxiety.  He told me that his sister had derived

considerable benefit from her stay at F- that her son was quite

well, and - alas! that both of them were gone, with Mrs. Maxwell,

back to Staningley, and there they stayed at least three months.

But instead of boring you with my chagrin, my expectations and

disappointments, my fluctuations of dull despondency and flickering

hope, my varying resolutions, now to drop it, and now to persevere

- now to make a bold push, and now to let things pass and patiently

abide my time, - I will employ myself in settling the business of

one or two of the characters introduced in the course of this

narrative, whom I may not have occasion to mention again.



Some time before Mr. Huntingdon's death Lady Lowborough eloped with

another gallant to the Continent, where, having lived a while in

reckless gaiety and dissipation, they quarrelled and parted.  She

went dashing on for a season, but years came and money went:  she

sunk, at length, in difficulty and debt, disgrace and misery; and

died at last, as I have heard, in penury, neglect, and utter

wretchedness.  But this might be only a report:  she may be living

yet for anything I or any of her relatives or former acquaintances

can tell; for they have all lost sight of her long years ago, and

would as thoroughly forget her if they could.  Her husband,

however, upon this second misdemeanour, immediately sought and

obtained a divorce, and, not long after, married again.  It was

well he did, for Lord Lowborough, morose and moody as he seemed,

was not the man for a bachelor's life.  No public interests, no

ambitious projects, or active pursuits, - or ties of friendship

even (if he had had any friends), could compensate to him for the

absence of domestic comforts and endearments.  He had a son and a

nominal daughter, it is true, but they too painfully reminded him

of their mother, and the unfortunate little Annabella was a source

of perpetual bitterness to his soul.  He had obliged himself to

treat her with paternal kindness:  he had forced himself not to

hate her, and even, perhaps, to feel some degree of kindly regard

for her, at last, in return for her artless and unsuspecting

attachment to himself; but the bitterness of his self-condemnation

for his inward feelings towards that innocent being, his constant

struggles to subdue the evil promptings of his nature (for it was

not a generous one), though partly guessed at by those who knew

him, could be known to God and his own heart alone; - so also was

the hardness of his conflicts with the temptation to return to the

vice of his youth, and seek oblivion for past calamities, and

deadness to the present misery of a blighted heart a joyless,

friendless life, and a morbidly disconsolate mind, by yielding

again to that insidious foe to health, and sense, and virtue, which

had so deplorably enslaved and degraded him before.



The second object of his choice was widely different from the

first.  Some wondered at his taste; some even ridiculed it - but in

this their folly was more apparent than his.  The lady was about

his own age - i.e., between thirty and forty - remarkable neither

for beauty, nor wealth, nor brilliant accomplishments; nor any

other thing that I ever heard of, except genuine good sense,

unswerving integrity, active piety, warm-hearted benevolence, and a

fund of cheerful spirits.  These qualities, however, as you way

readily imagine, combined to render her an excellent mother to the

children, and an invaluable wife to his lordship.  He, with his

usual self-depreciation, thought her a world too good for him, and

while he wondered at the kindness of Providence in conferring such

a gift upon him, and even at her taste in preferring him to other

men, he did his best to reciprocate the good she did him, and so

far succeeded that she was, and I believe still is, one of the

happiest and fondest wives in England; and all who question the

good taste of either partner may be thankful if their respective

selections afford them half the genuine satisfaction in the end, or

repay their preference with affection half as lasting and sincere.



If you are at all interested in the fate of that low scoundrel,

Grimsby, I can only tell you that he went from bad to worse,

sinking from bathos to bathos of vice and villainy, consorting only

with the worst members of his club and the lowest dregs of society

- happily for the rest of the world - and at last met his end in a

drunken brawl, from the hands, it is said, of some brother

scoundrel he had cheated at play.



As for Mr. Hattersley, he had never wholly forgotten his resolution

to 'come out from among them,' and behave like a man and a

Christian, and the last illness and death of his once jolly friend

Huntingdon so deeply and seriously impressed him with the evil of

their former practices, that he never needed another lesson of the

kind.  Avoiding the temptations of the town, he continued to pass

his life in the country, immersed in the usual pursuits of a

hearty, active, country gentleman; his occupations being those of

farming, and breeding horses and cattle, diversified with a little

hunting and shooting, and enlivened by the occasional companionship

of his friends (better friends than those of his youth), and the

society of his happy little wife (now cheerful and confiding as

heart could wish), and his fine family of stalwart sons and

blooming daughters.  His father, the banker, having died some years

ago and left him all his riches, he has now full scope for the

exercise of his prevailing tastes, and I need not tell you that

Ralph Hattersley, Esq., is celebrated throughout the country for

his noble breed of horses.







CHAPTER LI







We will now turn to a certain still, cold, cloudy afternoon about

the commencement of December, when the first fall of snow lay

thinly scattered over the blighted fields and frozen roads, or

stored more thickly in the hollows of the deep cart-ruts and

footsteps of men and horses impressed in the now petrified mire of

last month's drenching rains.  I remember it well, for I was

walking home from the vicarage with no less remarkable a personage

than Miss Eliza Millward by my side.  I had been to call upon her

father, - a sacrifice to civility undertaken entirely to please my

mother, not myself, for I hated to go near the house; not merely on

account of my antipathy to the once so bewitching Eliza, but

because I had not half forgiven the old gentleman himself for his

ill opinion of Mrs. Huntingdon; for though now constrained to

acknowledge himself mistaken in his former judgment, he still

maintained that she had done wrong to leave her husband; it was a

violation of her sacred duties as a wife, and a tempting of

Providence by laying herself open to temptation; and nothing short

of bodily ill-usage (and that of no trifling nature) could excuse

such a step - nor even that, for in such a case she ought to appeal

to the laws for protection.  But it was not of him I intended to

speak; it was of his daughter Eliza.  Just as I was taking leave of

the vicar, she entered the room, ready equipped for a walk.



'I was just coming to see, your sister, Mr. Markham,' said she;

'and so, if you have no objection, I'll accompany you home.  I like

company when I'm walking out - don't you?'



'Yes, when it's agreeable.'



'That of course,' rejoined the young lady, smiling archly.



So we proceeded together.



'Shall I find Rose at home, do you think?' said she, as we closed

the garden gate, and set our faces towards Linden-Car.



'I believe so.'



'I trust I shall, for I've a little bit of news for her - if you

haven't forestalled me.'



'I?'



'Yes:  do you know what Mr. Lawrence is gone for?'  She looked up

anxiously for my reply.



'Is he gone?' said I; and her face brightened.



'Ah! then he hasn't told you about his sister?'



'What of her?' I demanded in terror, lest some evil should have

befallen her.



'Oh, Mr. Markham, how you blush!' cried she, with a tormenting

laugh.  'Ha, ha, you have not forgotten her yet.  But you had

better be quick about it, I can tell you, for - alas, alas! - she's

going to be married next Thursday!'



'No, Miss Eliza, that's false.'



'Do you charge me with a falsehood, sir?'



'You are misinformed.'



'Am I?  Do you know better, then?'



'I think I do.'



'What makes you look so pale then?' said she, smiling with delight

at my emotion.  'Is it anger at poor me for telling such a fib?

Well, I only "tell the tale as 'twas told to me:" I don't vouch for

the truth of it; but at the same time, I don't see what reason

Sarah should have for deceiving me, or her informant for deceiving

her; and that was what she told me the footman told her:- that Mrs.

Huntingdon was going to be married on Thursday, and Mr. Lawrence

was gone to the wedding.  She did tell me the name of the

gentleman, but I've forgotten that.  Perhaps you can assist me to

remember it.  Is there not some one that lives near - or frequently

visits the neighbourhood, that has long been attached to her? - a

Mr. - oh, dear! Mr. - '



'Hargrave?' suggested I, with a bitter smile.



'You're right,' cried she; 'that was the very name.'



'Impossible, Miss Eliza!' I exclaimed, in a tone that made her

start.



'Well, you know, that's what they told me,' said she, composedly

staring me in the face.  And then she broke out into a long shrill

laugh that put me to my wit's end with fury.



'Really you must excuse me,' cried she.  'I know it's very rude,

but ha, ha, ha! - did you think to marry her yourself?  Dear, dear,

what a pity! - ha, ha, ha!  Gracious, Mr. Markham, are you going to

faint?  Oh, mercy! shall I call this man?  Here, Jacob - '  But

checking the word on her lips, I seized her arm and gave it, I

think, a pretty severe squeeze, for she shrank into herself with a

faint cry of pain or terror; but the spirit within her was not

subdued:  instantly rallying, she continued, with well-feigned

concern, 'What can I do for you?  Will you have some water - some

brandy?  I daresay they have some in the public-house down there,

if you'll let me run.'



'Have done with this nonsense!' cried I, sternly.  She looked

confounded - almost frightened again, for a moment.  'You know I

hate such jests,' I continued.



'Jests indeed!  I wasn't jesting!'



'You were laughing, at all events; and I don't like to be laughed

at,' returned I, making violent efforts to speak with proper

dignity and composure, and to say nothing but what was coherent and

sensible.  'And since you are in such a merry mood, Miss Eliza, you

must be good enough company for yourself; and therefore I shall

leave you to finish your walk alone - for, now I think of it, I

have business elsewhere; so good-evening.'



With that I left her (smothering her malicious laughter) and turned

aside into the fields, springing up the bank, and pushing through

the nearest gap in the hedge.  Determined at once to prove the

truth - or rather the falsehood - of her story, I hastened to

Woodford as fast as my legs could carry me; first veering round by

a circuitous course, but the moment I was out of sight of my fair

tormentor cutting away across the country, just as a bird might

fly, over pasture-land, and fallow, and stubble, and lane, clearing

hedges and ditches and hurdles, till I came to the young squire's

gates.  Never till now had I known the full fervour of my love -

the full strength of my hopes, not wholly crushed even in my hours

of deepest despondency, always tenaciously clinging to the thought

that one day she might be mine, or, if not that, at least that

something of my memory, some slight remembrance of our friendship

and our love, would be for ever cherished in her heart.  I marched

up to the door, determined, if I saw the master, to question him

boldly concerning his sister, to wait and hesitate no longer, but

cast false delicacy and stupid pride behind my back, and know my

fate at once.



'Is Mr. Lawrence at home?' I eagerly asked of the servant that

opened the door.



'No, sir, master went yesterday,' replied he, looking very alert.



'Went where?'



'To Grassdale, sir - wasn't you aware, sir?  He's very close, is

master,' said the fellow, with a foolish, simpering grin.  'I

suppose, sir - '



But I turned and left him, without waiting to hear what he

supposed.  I was not going to stand there to expose my tortured

feelings to the insolent laughter and impertinent curiosity of a

fellow like that.



But what was to be done now?  Could it be possible that she had

left me for that man?  I could not believe it.  Me she might

forsake, but not to give herself to him!  Well, I would know the

truth; to no concerns of daily life could I attend while this

tempest of doubt and dread, of jealousy and rage, distracted me.  I

would take the morning coach from L- (the evening one would be

already gone), and fly to Grassdale - I must be there before the

marriage.  And why?  Because a thought struck me that perhaps I

might prevent it - that if I did not, she and I might both lament

it to the latest moment of our lives.  It struck me that someone

might have belied me to her:  perhaps her brother; yes, no doubt

her brother had persuaded her that I was false and faithless, and

taking advantage of her natural indignation, and perhaps her

desponding carelessness about her future life, had urged her,

artfully, cruelly, on to this other marriage, in order to secure

her from me.  If this was the case, and if she should only discover

her mistake when too late to repair it - to what a life of misery

and vain regret might she be doomed as well as me; and what remorse

for me to think my foolish scruples had induced it all!  Oh, I must

see her - she must know my truth even if I told it at the church

door!  I might pass for a madman or an impertinent fool - even she

might be offended at such an interruption, or at least might tell

me it was now too late.  But if I could save her, if she might be

mine! - it was too rapturous a thought!



Winged by this hope, and goaded by these fears, I hurried homewards

to prepare for my departure on the morrow.  I told my mother that

urgent business which admitted no delay, but which I could not then

explain, called me away.



My deep anxiety and serious preoccupation could not be concealed

from her maternal eyes; and I had much ado to calm her

apprehensions of some disastrous mystery.



That night there came a heavy fall of snow, which so retarded the

progress of the coaches on the following day that I was almost

driven to distraction.  I travelled all night, of course, for this

was Wednesday:  to-morrow morning, doubtless, the marriage would

take place.  But the night was long and dark:  the snow heavily

clogged the wheels and balled the horses' feet; the animals were

consumedly lazy; the coachman most execrably cautious; the

passengers confoundedly apathetic in their supine indifference to

the rate of our progression.  Instead of assisting me to bully the

several coachmen and urge them forward, they merely stared and

grinned at my impatience:  one fellow even ventured to rally me

upon it - but I silenced him with a look that quelled him for the

rest of the journey; and when, at the last stage, I would have

taken the reins into my own hand, they all with one accord opposed

it.



It was broad daylight when we entered M- and drew up at the 'Rose

and Crown.'  I alighted and called aloud for a post-chaise to

Grassdale.  There was none to be had:  the only one in the town was

under repair.  'A gig, then - a fly - car - anything - only be

quick!'  There was a gig, but not a horse to spare.  I sent into

the town to seek one:  but they were such an intolerable time about

it that I could wait no longer - I thought my own feet could carry

me sooner; and bidding them send the conveyance after me, if it

were ready within an hour, I set off as fast as I could walk.  The

distance was little more than six miles, but the road was strange,

and I had to keep stopping to inquire my way; hallooing to carters

and clodhoppers, and frequently invading the cottages, for there

were few abroad that winter's morning; sometimes knocking up the

lazy people from their beds, for where so little work was to be

done, perhaps so little food and fire to be had, they cared not to

curtail their slumbers.  I had no time to think of them, however;

aching with weariness and desperation, I hurried on.  The gig did

not overtake me:  and it was well I had not waited for it;

vexatious rather, that I had been fool enough to wait so long.



At length, however, I entered the neighbourhood of Grassdale.  I

approached the little rural church - but lo! there stood a train of

carriages before it; it needed not the white favours bedecking the

servants and horses, nor the merry voices of the village idlers

assembled to witness the show, to apprise me that there was a

wedding within.  I ran in among them, demanding, with breathless

eagerness, had the ceremony long commenced?  They only gaped and

stared.  In my desperation, I pushed past them, and was about to

enter the churchyard gate, when a group of ragged urchins, that had

been hanging like bees to the window, suddenly dropped off and made

a rush for the porch, vociferating in the uncouth dialect of their

country something which signified, 'It's over - they're coming

out!'



If Eliza Millward had seen me then she might indeed have been

delighted.  I grasped the gate-post for support, and stood intently

gazing towards the door to take my last look on my soul's delight,

my first on that detested mortal who had torn her from my heart,

and doomed her, I was certain, to a life of misery and hollow, vain

repining - for what happiness could she enjoy with him?  I did not

wish to shock her with my presence now, but I had not power to move

away.  Forth came the bride and bridegroom.  Him I saw not; I had

eyes for none but her.  A long veil shrouded half her graceful

form, but did not hide it; I could see that while she carried her

head erect, her eyes were bent upon the ground, and her face and

neck were suffused with a crimson blush; but every feature was

radiant with smiles, and gleaming through the misty whiteness of

her veil were clusters of golden ringlets!  Oh, heavens! it was not

my Helen!  The first glimpse made me start - but my eyes were

darkened with exhaustion and despair.  Dare I trust them?  'Yes -

it is not she!  It was a younger, slighter, rosier beauty - lovely

indeed, but with far less dignity and depth of soul - without that

indefinable grace, that keenly spiritual yet gentle charm, that

ineffable power to attract and subjugate the heart - my heart at

least.  I looked at the bridegroom - it was Frederick Lawrence!  I

wiped away the cold drops that were trickling down my forehead, and

stepped back as he approached; but, his eyes fell upon me, and he

knew me, altered as my appearance must have been.



'Is that you, Markham?' said he, startled and confounded at the

apparition - perhaps, too, at the wildness of my looks.



'Yes, Lawrence; is that you?' I mustered the presence of mind to

reply.



He smiled and coloured, as if half-proud and half-ashamed of his

identity; and if he had reason to be proud of the sweet lady on his

arm, he had no less cause to be ashamed of having concealed his

good fortune so long.



'Allow me to introduce you to my bride,' said he, endeavouring to

hide his embarrassment by an assumption of careless gaiety.

'Esther, this is Mr. Markham; my friend Markham, Mrs. Lawrence,

late Miss Hargrave.'



I bowed to the bride, and vehemently wrung the bridegroom's hand.



'Why did you not tell me of this?' I said, reproachfully,

pretending a resentment I did not feel (for in truth I was almost

wild with joy to find myself so happily mistaken, and overflowing

with affection to him for this and for the base injustice I felt

that I had done him in my mind - he might have wronged me, but not

to that extent; and as I had hated him like a demon for the last

forty hours, the reaction from such a feeling was so great that I

could pardon all offences for the moment - and love him in spite of

them too).



'I did tell you,' said he, with an air of guilty confusion; 'you

received my letter?'



'What letter?'



'The one announcing my intended marriage.'



'I never received the most distant hint of such an intention.'



'It must have crossed you on your way then - it should have reached

you yesterday morning - it was rather late, I acknowledge.  But

what brought you here, then, if you received no information?'



It was now my turn to be confounded; but the young lady, who had

been busily patting the snow with her foot during our short sotto-

voce colloquy, very opportunely came to my assistance by pinching

her companion's arm and whispering a suggestion that his friend

should be invited to step into the carriage and go with them; it

being scarcely agreeable to stand there among so many gazers, and

keeping their friends waiting into the bargain.



'And so cold as it is too!' said he, glancing with dismay at her

slight drapery, and immediately handing her into the carriage.

'Markham, will you come?  We are going to Paris, but we can drop

you anywhere between this and Dover.'



'No, thank you.  Good-by - I needn't wish you a pleasant journey;

but I shall expect a very handsome apology, some time, mind, and

scores of letters, before we meet again.'



He shook my hand, and hastened to take his place beside his lady.

This was no time or place for explanation or discourse:  we had

already stood long enough to excite the wonder of the village

sight-seers, and perhaps the wrath of the attendant bridal party;

though, of course, all this passed in a much shorter time than I

have taken to relate, or even than you will take to read it.  I

stood beside the carriage, and, the window being down, I saw my

happy friend fondly encircle his companion's waist with his arm,

while she rested her glowing cheek on his shoulder, looking the

very impersonation of loving, trusting bliss.  In the interval

between the footman's closing the door and taking his place behind

she raised her smiling brown eyes to his face, observing,

playfully, - 'I fear you must think me very insensible, Frederick:

I know it is the custom for ladies to cry on these occasions, but I

couldn't squeeze a tear for my life.'



He only answered with a kiss, and pressed her still closer to his

bosom.



'But what is this?' he murmured.  'Why, Esther, you're crying now!'



'Oh, it's nothing - it's only too much happiness - and the wish,'

sobbed she, 'that our dear Helen were as happy as ourselves.'



'Bless you for that wish!' I inwardly responded, as the carriage

rolled away - 'and heaven grant it be not wholly vain!'



I thought a cloud had suddenly darkened her husband's face as she

spoke.  What did he think?  Could he grudge such happiness to his

dear sister and his friend as he now felt himself?  At such a

moment it was impossible.  The contrast between her fate and his

must darken his bliss for a time.  Perhaps, too, he thought of me:

perhaps he regretted the part he had had in preventing our union,

by omitting to help us, if not by actually plotting against us.  I

exonerated him from that charge now, and deeply lamented my former

ungenerous suspicions; but he had wronged us, still - I hoped, I

trusted that he had.  He had not attempted to cheek the course of

our love by actually damming up the streams in their passage, but

he had passively watched the two currents wandering through life's

arid wilderness, declining to clear away the obstructions that

divided them, and secretly hoping that both would lose themselves

in the sand before they could be joined in one.  And meantime he

had been quietly proceeding with his own affairs; perhaps, his

heart and head had been so full of his fair lady that he had had

but little thought to spare for others.  Doubtless he had made his

first acquaintance with her - his first intimate acquaintance at

least - during his three months' sojourn at F-, for I now

recollected that he had once casually let fall an intimation that

his aunt and sister had a young friend staying with them at the

time, and this accounted for at least one-half his silence about

all transactions there.  Now, too, I saw a reason for many little

things that had slightly puzzled me before; among the rest, for

sundry departures from Woodford, and absences more or less

prolonged, for which he never satisfactorily accounted, and

concerning which he hated to be questioned on his return.  Well

might the servant say his master was 'very close.'  But why this

strange reserve to me?  Partly, from that remarkable idiosyncrasy

to which I have before alluded; partly, perhaps, from tenderness to

my feelings, or fear to disturb my philosophy by touching upon the

infectious theme of love.







CHAPTER LII







The tardy gig had overtaken me at last.  I entered it, and bade the

man who brought it drive to Grassdale Manor - I was too busy with

my own thoughts to care to drive it myself.  I would see Mrs.

Huntingdon - there could be no impropriety in that now that her

husband had been dead above a year - and by her indifference or her

joy at my unexpected arrival I could soon tell whether her heart

was truly mine.  But my companion, a loquacious, forward fellow,

was not disposed to leave me to the indulgence of my private

cogitations.



'There they go!' said he, as the carriages filed away before us.

'There'll be brave doings on yonder to-day, as what come to-morra.

- Know anything of that family, sir? or you're a stranger in these

parts?'



'I know them by report.'



'Humph!  There's the best of 'em gone, anyhow.  And I suppose the

old missis is agoing to leave after this stir's gotten overed, and

take herself off, somewhere, to live on her bit of a jointure; and

the young 'un - at least the new 'un (she's none so very young) -

is coming down to live at the Grove.'



'Is Mr. Hargrave married, then?'



'Ay, sir, a few months since.  He should a been wed afore, to a

widow lady, but they couldn't agree over the money:  she'd a rare

long purse, and Mr. Hargrave wanted it all to hisself; but she

wouldn't let it go, and so then they fell out.  This one isn't

quite as rich, nor as handsome either, but she hasn't been married

before.  She's very plain, they say, and getting on to forty or

past, and so, you know, if she didn't jump at this hopportunity,

she thought she'd never get a better.  I guess she thought such a

handsome young husband was worth all 'at ever she had, and he might

take it and welcome, but I lay she'll rue her bargain afore long.

They say she begins already to see 'at he isn't not altogether that

nice, generous, perlite, delightful gentleman 'at she thought him

afore marriage - he begins a being careless and masterful already.

Ay, and she'll find him harder and carelesser nor she thinks on.'



'You seem to be well acquainted with him,' I observed.



'I am, sir; I've known him since he was quite a young gentleman;

and a proud 'un he was, and a wilful.  I was servant yonder for

several years; but I couldn't stand their niggardly ways - she got

ever longer and worse, did missis, with her nipping and screwing,

and watching and grudging; so I thought I'd find another place.'



'Are we not near the house?' said I, interrupting him.



'Yes, sir; yond's the park.'



My heart sank within me to behold that stately mansion in the midst

of its expansive grounds.  The park as beautiful now, in its wintry

garb, as it could be in its summer glory:  the majestic sweep, the

undulating swell and fall, displayed to full advantage in that robe

of dazzling purity, stainless and printless - save one long,

winding track left by the trooping deer - the stately timber-trees

with their heavy-laden branches gleaming white against the dull,

grey sky; the deep, encircling woods; the broad expanse of water

sleeping in frozen quiet; and the weeping ash and willow drooping

their snow-clad boughs above it - all presented a picture, striking

indeed, and pleasing to an unencumbered mind, but by no means

encouraging to me.  There was one comfort, however, - all this was

entailed upon little Arthur, and could not under any circumstances,

strictly speaking, be his mother's.  But how was she situated?

Overcoming with a sudden effort my repugnance to mention her name

to my garrulous companion, I asked him if he knew whether her late

husband had left a will, and how the property had been disposed of.

Oh, yes, he knew all about it; and I was quickly informed that to

her had been left the full control and management of the estate

during her son's minority, besides the absolute, unconditional

possession of her own fortune (but I knew that her father had not

given her much), and the small additional sum that had been settled

upon her before marriage.



Before the close of the explanation we drew up at the park-gates.

Now for the trial.  If I should find her within - but alas! she

might be still at Staningley:  her brother had given me no

intimation to the contrary.  I inquired at the porter's lodge if

Mrs. Huntingdon were at home.  No, she was with her aunt in -shire,

but was expected to return before Christmas.  She usually spent

most of her time at Staningley, only coming to Grassdale

occasionally, when the management of affairs, or the interest of

her tenants and dependents, required her presence.



'Near what town is Staningley situated?' I asked.  The requisite

information was soon obtained.  'Now then, my man, give me the

reins, and we'll return to M-.  I must have some breakfast at the

"Rose and Crown," and then away to Staningley by the first coach

for -.'



At M- I had time before the coach started to replenish my forces

with a hearty breakfast, and to obtain the refreshment of my usual

morning's ablutions, and the amelioration of some slight change in

my toilet, and also to despatch a short note to my mother

(excellent son that I was), to assure her that I was still in

existence, and to excuse my non-appearance at the expected time.

It was a long journey to Staningley for those slow-travelling days,

but I did not deny myself needful refreshment on the road, nor even

a night's rest at a wayside inn, choosing rather to brook a little

delay than to present myself worn, wild, and weather-beaten before

my mistress and her aunt, who would be astonished enough to see me

without that.  Next morning, therefore, I not only fortified myself

with as substantial a breakfast as my excited feelings would allow

me to swallow, but I bestowed a little more than usual time and

care upon my toilet; and, furnished with a change of linen from my

small carpet-bag, well-brushed clothes, well-polished boots, and

neat new gloves, I mounted 'The Lightning,' and resumed my journey.

I had nearly two stages yet before me, but the coach, I was

informed, passed through the neighbourhood of Staningley, and

having desired to be set down as near the Hall as possible, I had

nothing to do but to sit with folded arms and speculate upon the

coming hour.



It was a clear, frosty morning.  The very fact of sitting exalted

aloft, surveying the snowy landscape and sweet sunny sky, inhaling

the pure, bracing air, and crunching away over the crisp frozen

snow, was exhilarating enough in itself; but add to this the idea

of to what goal I was hastening, and whom I expected to meet, and

you may have some faint conception of my frame of mind at the time

- only a faint one, though:  for my heart swelled with unspeakable

delight, and my spirits rose almost to madness, in spite of my

prudent endeavours to bind them down to a reasonable platitude by

thinking of the undeniable difference between Helen's rank and

mine; of all that she had passed through since our parting; of her

long, unbroken silence; and, above all, of her cool, cautious aunt,

whose counsels she would doubtless be careful not to slight again.

These considerations made my heart flutter with anxiety, and my

chest heave with impatience to get the crisis over; but they could

not dim her image in my mind, or mar the vivid recollection of what

had been said and felt between us, or destroy the keen anticipation

of what was to be:  in fact, I could not realise their terrors now.

Towards the close of the journey, however, a couple of my fellow-

passengers kindly came to my assistance, and brought me low enough.



'Fine land this,' said one of them, pointing with his umbrella to

the wide fields on the right, conspicuous for their compact

hedgerows, deep, well-cut ditches, and fine timber-trees, growing

sometimes on the borders, sometimes in the midst of the enclosure:

'very fine land, if you saw it in the summer or spring.'



'Ay,' responded the other, a gruff elderly man, with a drab

greatcoat buttoned up to the chin, and a cotton umbrella between

his knees.  'It's old Maxwell's, I suppose.'



'It was his, sir; but he's dead now, you're aware, and has left it

all to his niece.'



'All?'



'Every rood of it, and the mansion-house and all! every hatom of

his worldly goods, except just a trifle, by way of remembrance, to

his nephew down in -shire, and an annuity to his wife.'



'It's strange, sir!'



'It is, sir; and she wasn't his own niece neither.  But he had no

near relations of his own - none but a nephew he'd quarrelled with;

and he always had a partiality for this one.  And then his wife

advised him to it, they say:  she'd brought most of the property,

and it was her wish that this lady should have it.'



'Humph!  She'll be a fine catch for somebody.'



'She will so.  She's a widow, but quite young yet, and uncommon

handsome:  a fortune of her own, besides, and only one child, and

she's nursing a fine estate for him in -.  There'll be lots to

speak for her! 'fraid there's no chance for uz' - (facetiously

jogging me with his elbow, as well as his companion) - 'ha, ha, ha!

No offence, sir, I hope?' - (to me).  'Ahem!  I should think she'll

marry none but a nobleman myself.  Look ye, sir,' resumed he,

turning to his other neighbour, and pointing past me with his

umbrella, 'that's the Hall:  grand park, you see, and all them

woods - plenty of timber there, and lots of game.  Hallo! what

now?'



This exclamation was occasioned by the sudden stoppage of the coach

at the park-gates.



'Gen'leman for Staningley Hall?' cried the coachman and I rose and

threw my carpet-bag on to the ground, preparatory to dropping

myself down after it.



'Sickly, sir?' asked my talkative neighbour, staring me in the

face.  I daresay it was white enough.



'No.  Here, coachman!'



'Thank'ee, sir. - All right!'



The coachman pocketed his fee and drove away, leaving me, not

walking up the park, but pacing to and fro before its gates, with

folded arms, and eyes fixed upon the ground, an overwhelming force

of images, thoughts, impressions crowding on my mind, and nothing

tangibly distinct but this:  My love had been cherished in vain -

my hope was gone for ever; I must tear myself away at once, and

banish or suppress all thoughts of her, like the remembrance of a

wild, mad dream.  Gladly would I have lingered round the place for

hours, in the hope of catching at least one distant glimpse of her

before I went, but it must not be - I must not suffer her to see

me; for what could have brought me hither but the hope of reviving

her attachment, with a view hereafter to obtain her hand?  And

could I bear that she should think me capable of such a thing? - of

presuming upon the acquaintance - the love, if you will -

accidentally contracted, or rather forced upon her against her

will, when she was an unknown fugitive, toiling for her own

support, apparently without fortune, family, or connections; to

come upon her now, when she was reinstated in her proper sphere,

and claim a share in her prosperity, which, had it never failed

her, would most certainly have kept her unknown to me for ever?

And this, too, when we had parted sixteen months ago, and she had

expressly forbidden me to hope for a re-union in this world, and

never sent me a line or a message from that day to this.  No!  The

very idea was intolerable.



And even if she should have a lingering affection for me still,

ought I to disturb her peace by awakening those feelings? to

subject her to the struggles of conflicting duty and inclination -

to whichsoever side the latter might allure, or the former

imperatively call her - whether she should deem it her duty to risk

the slights and censures of the world, the sorrow and displeasure

of those she loved, for a romantic idea of truth and constancy to

me, or to sacrifice her individual wishes to the feelings of her

friends and her own sense of prudence and the fitness of things?

No - and I would not!  I would go at once, and she should never

know that I had approached the place of her abode:  for though I

might disclaim all idea of ever aspiring to her hand, or even of

soliciting a place in her friendly regard, her peace should not be

broken by my presence, nor her heart afflicted by the sight of my

fidelity.



'Adieu then, dear Helen, forever!  Forever adieu!'



So said I - and yet I could not tear myself away.  I moved a few

paces, and then looked back, for one last view of her stately home,

that I might have its outward form, at least, impressed upon my

mind as indelibly as her own image, which, alas! I must not see

again - then walked a few steps further; and then, lost in

melancholy musings, paused again and leant my back against a rough

old tree that grew beside the road.







CHAPTER LIII







While standing thus, absorbed in my gloomy reverie, a gentleman's

carriage came round the corner of the road.  I did not look at it;

and had it rolled quietly by me, I should not have remembered the

fact of its appearance at all; but a tiny voice from within it

roused me by exclaiming, 'Mamma, mamma, here's Mr. Markham!'



I did not hear the reply, but presently the same voice answered,

'It is indeed, mamma - look for yourself.'



I did not raise my eyes, but I suppose mamma looked, for a clear

melodious voice, whose tones thrilled through my nerves, exclaimed,

'Oh, aunt! here's Mr. Markham, Arthur's friend!  Stop, Richard!'



There was such evidence of joyous though suppressed excitement in

the utterance of those few words - especially that tremulous, 'Oh,

aunt' - that it threw me almost off my guard.  The carriage stopped

immediately, and I looked up and met the eye of a pale, grave,

elderly lady surveying me from the open window.  She bowed, and so

did I, and then she withdrew her head, while Arthur screamed to the

footman to let him out; but before that functionary could descend

from his box a hand was silently put forth from the carriage

window.  I knew that hand, though a black glove concealed its

delicate whiteness and half its fair proportions, and quickly

seizing it, I pressed it in my own - ardently for a moment, but

instantly recollecting myself, I dropped it, and it was immediately

withdrawn.



'Were you coming to see us, or only passing by?' asked the low

voice of its owner, who, I felt, was attentively surveying my

countenance from behind the thick black veil which, with the

shadowing panels, entirely concealed her own from me.



'I - I came to see the place,' faltered I.



'The place,' repeated she, in a tone which betokened more

displeasure or disappointment than surprise.



'Will you not enter it, then?'



'If you wish it.'



'Can you doubt?'



'Yes, yes! he must enter,' cried Arthur, running round from the

other door; and seizing my hand in both his, he shook it heartily.



'Do you remember me, sir?' said he.



'Yes, full well, my little man, altered though you are,' replied I,

surveying the comparatively tall, slim young gentleman, with his

mother's image visibly stamped upon his fair, intelligent features,

in spite of the blue eyes beaming with gladness, and the bright

locks clustering beneath his cap.



'Am I not grown?' said he, stretching himself up to his full

height.



'Grown! three inches, upon my word!'



'I was seven last birthday,' was the proud rejoinder.  'In seven

years more I shall be as tall as you nearly.'



'Arthur,' said his mother, 'tell him to come in.  Go on, Richard.'



There was a touch of sadness as well as coldness in her voice, but

I knew not to what to ascribe it.  The carriage drove on and

entered the gates before us.  My little companion led me up the

park, discoursing merrily all the way.  Arrived at the hall-door, I

paused on the steps and looked round me, waiting to recover my

composure, if possible - or, at any rate, to remember my new-formed

resolutions and the principles on which they were founded; and it

was not till Arthur had been for some time gently pulling my coat,

and repeating his invitations to enter, that I at length consented

to accompany him into the apartment where the ladies awaited us.



Helen eyed me as I entered with a kind of gentle, serious scrutiny,

and politely asked after Mrs. Markham and Rose.  I respectfully

answered her inquiries.  Mrs. Maxwell begged me to be seated,

observing it was rather cold, but she supposed I had not travelled

far that morning.



'Not quite twenty miles,' I answered.



'Not on foot!'



'No, Madam, by coach.'



'Here's Rachel, sir,' said Arthur, the only truly happy one amongst

us, directing my attention to that worthy individual, who had just

entered to take her mistress's things.  She vouchsafed me an almost

friendly smile of recognition - a favour that demanded, at least, a

civil salutation on my part, which was accordingly given and

respectfully returned - she had seen the error of her former

estimation of my character.



When Helen was divested of her lugubrious bonnet and veil, her

heavy winter cloak, &c., she looked so like herself that I knew not

how to bear it.  I was particularly glad to see her beautiful black

hair, unstinted still, and unconcealed in its glossy luxuriance.



'Mamma has left off her widow's cap in honour of uncle's marriage,'

observed Arthur, reading my looks with a child's mingled simplicity

and quickness of observation.  Mamma looked grave and Mrs. Maxwell

shook her head.  'And aunt Maxwell is never going to leave off

hers,' persisted the naughty boy; but when he saw that his pertness

was seriously displeasing and painful to his aunt, he went and

silently put his arm round her neck, kissed her cheek, and withdrew

to the recess of one of the great bay-windows, where he quietly

amused himself with his dog, while Mrs. Maxwell gravely discussed

with me the interesting topics of the weather, the season, and the

roads.  I considered her presence very useful as a check upon my

natural impulses - an antidote to those emotions of tumultuous

excitement which would otherwise have carried me away against my

reason and my will; but just then I felt the restraint almost

intolerable, and I had the greatest difficulty in forcing myself to

attend to her remarks and answer them with ordinary politeness; for

I was sensible that Helen was standing within a few feet of me

beside the fire.  I dared not look at her, but I felt her eye was

upon me, and from one hasty, furtive glance, I thought her cheek

was slightly flushed, and that her fingers, as she played with her

watch-chain, were agitated with that restless, trembling motion

which betokens high excitement.



'Tell me,' said she, availing herself of the first pause in the

attempted conversation between her aunt and me, and speaking fast

and low, with her eyes bent on the gold chain - for I now ventured

another glance - 'Tell me how you all are at Linden-hope - has

nothing happened since I left you?'



'I believe not.'



'Nobody dead? nobody married?'



'No.'



'Or - or expecting to marry? - No old ties dissolved or new ones

formed? no old friends forgotten or supplanted?'



She dropped her voice so low in the last sentence that no one could

have caught the concluding words but myself, and at the same time

turned her eyes upon me with a dawning smile, most sweetly

melancholy, and a look of timid though keen inquiry that made my

cheeks tingle with inexpressible emotions.



'I believe not,' I answered.  'Certainly not, if others are as

little changed as I.'  Her face glowed in sympathy with mine.



'And you really did not mean to call?' she exclaimed.



'I feared to intrude.'



'To intrude!' cried she, with an impatient gesture.  'What - ' but

as if suddenly recollecting her aunt's presence, she checked

herself, and, turning to that lady, continued - 'Why, aunt, this

man is my brother's close friend, and was my own intimate

acquaintance (for a few short months at least), and professed a

great attachment to my boy - and when he passes the house, so many

scores of miles from his home, he declines to look in for fear of

intruding!'



'Mr. Markham is over-modest,' observed Mrs. Maxwell.



'Over-ceremonious rather,' said her niece - 'over - well, it's no

matter.'  And turning from me, she seated herself in a chair beside

the table, and pulling a book to her by the cover, began to turn

over the leaves in an energetic kind of abstraction.



'If I had known,' said I, 'that you would have honoured me by

remembering me as an intimate acquaintance, I most likely should

not have denied myself the pleasure of calling upon you, but I

thought you had forgotten me long ago.'



'You judged of others by yourself,' muttered she without raising

her eyes from the book, but reddening as she spoke, and hastily

turning over a dozen leaves at once.



There was a pause, of which Arthur thought he might venture to

avail himself to introduce his handsome young setter, and show me

how wonderfully it was grown and improved, and to ask after the

welfare of its father Sancho.  Mrs. Maxwell then withdrew to take

off her things.  Helen immediately pushed the book from her, and

after silently surveying her son, his friend, and his dog for a few

moments, she dismissed the former from the room under pretence of

wishing him to fetch his last new book to show me.  The child

obeyed with alacrity; but I continued caressing the dog.  The

silence might have lasted till its master's return, had it depended

on me to break it; but, in half a minute or less, my hostess

impatiently rose, and, taking her former station on the rug between

me and the chimney corner, earnestly exclaimed -



'Gilbert, what is the matter with you? - why are you so changed?

It is a very indiscreet question, I know,' she hastened to add:

'perhaps a very rude one - don't answer it if you think so - but I

hate mysteries and concealments.'



'I am not changed, Helen - unfortunately I am as keen and

passionate as ever - it is not I, it is circumstances that are

changed.'



'What circumstances?  Do tell me!'  Her cheek was blanched with the

very anguish of anxiety - could it be with the fear that I had

rashly pledged my faith to another?



'I'll tell you at once,' said I.  'I will confess that I came here

for the purpose of seeing you (not without some monitory misgivings

at my own presumption, and fears that I should be as little welcome

as expected when I came), but I did not know that this estate was

yours until enlightened on the subject of your inheritance by the

conversation of two fellow-passengers in the last stage of my

journey; and then I saw at once the folly of the hopes I had

cherished, and the madness of retaining them a moment longer; and

though I alighted at your gates, I determined not to enter within

them; I lingered a few minutes to see the place, but was fully

resolved to return to M- without seeing its mistress.'



'And if my aunt and I had not been just returning from our morning

drive, I should have seen and heard no more of you?'



'I thought it would be better for both that we should not meet,'

replied I, as calmly as I could, but not daring to speak above my

breath, from conscious inability to steady my voice, and not daring

to look in her face lest my firmness should forsake me altogether.

'I thought an interview would only disturb your peace and madden

me.  But I am glad, now, of this opportunity of seeing you once

more and knowing that you have not forgotten me, and of assuring

you that I shall never cease to remember you.'



There was a moment's pause.  Mrs. Huntingdon moved away, and stood

in the recess of the window.  Did she regard this as an intimation

that modesty alone prevented me from asking her hand? and was she

considering how to repulse me with the smallest injury to my

feelings?  Before I could speak to relieve her from such a

perplexity, she broke the silence herself by suddenly turning

towards me and observing -



'You might have had such an opportunity before - as far, I mean, as

regards assuring me of your kindly recollections, and yourself of

mine, if you had written to me.'



'I would have done so, but I did not know your address, and did not

like to ask your brother, because I thought he would object to my

writing; but this would not have deterred me for a moment, if I

could have ventured to believe that you expected to hear from me,

or even wasted a thought upon your unhappy friend; but your silence

naturally led me to conclude myself forgotten.'



'Did you expect me to write to you, then?'



'No, Helen - Mrs. Huntingdon,' said I, blushing at the implied

imputation, 'certainly not; but if you had sent me a message

through your brother, or even asked him about me now and then - '



'I did ask about you frequently.  I was not going to do more,'

continued she, smiling, 'so long as you continued to restrict

yourself to a few polite inquiries about my health.'



'Your brother never told me that you had mentioned my name.'



'Did you ever ask him?'



'No; for I saw he did not wish to be questioned about you, or to

afford the slightest encouragement or assistance to my too

obstinate attachment.'  Helen did not reply.  'And he was perfectly

right,' added I.  But she remained in silence, looking out upon the

snowy lawn.  'Oh, I will relieve her of my presence,' thought I;

and immediately I rose and advanced to take leave, with a most

heroic resolution - but pride was at the bottom of it, or it could

not have carried me through.



'Are you going already?' said she, taking the hand I offered, and

not immediately letting it go.



'Why should I stay any longer?'



'Wait till Arthur comes, at least.'



Only too glad to obey, I stood and leant against the opposite side

of the window.



'You told me you were not changed,' said my companion:  'you are -

very much so.'



'No, Mrs. Huntingdon, I only ought to be.'



'Do you mean to maintain that you have the same regard for me that

you had when last we met?'



'I have; but it would be wrong to talk of it now.'



'It was wrong to talk of it then, Gilbert; it would not now -

unless to do so would be to violate the truth.'



I was too much agitated to speak; but, without waiting for an

answer, she turned away her glistening eye and crimson cheek, and

threw up the window and looked out, whether to calm her own,

excited feelings, or to relieve her embarrassment, or only to pluck

that beautiful half-blown Christmas-rose that grew upon the little

shrub without, just peeping from the snow that had hitherto, no

doubt, defended it from the frost, and was now melting away in the

sun.  Pluck it, however, she did, and having gently dashed the

glittering powder from its leaves, approached it to her lips and

said:



'This rose is not so fragrant as a summer flower, but it has stood

through hardships none of them could bear:  the cold rain of winter

has sufficed to nourish it, and its faint sun to warm it; the bleak

winds have not blanched it, or broken its stem, and the keen frost

has not blighted it.  Look, Gilbert, it is still fresh and blooming

as a flower can be, with the cold snow even now on its petals. -

Will you have it?'



I held out my hand:  I dared not speak lest my emotion should

overmaster me.  She laid the rose across my palm, but I scarcely

closed my fingers upon it, so deeply was I absorbed in thinking

what might be the meaning of her words, and what I ought to do or

say upon the occasion; whether to give way to my feelings or

restrain them still.  Misconstruing this hesitation into

indifference - or reluctance even - to accept her gift, Helen

suddenly snatched it from my hand, threw it out on to the snow,

shut down the window with an emphasis, and withdrew to the fire.



'Helen, what means this?' I cried, electrified at this startling

change in her demeanour.



'You did not understand my gift,' said she - 'or, what is worse,

you despised it.  I'm sorry I gave it you; but since I did make

such a mistake, the only remedy I could think of was to take it

away.'



'You misunderstood me cruelly,' I replied, and in a minute I had

opened the window again, leaped out, picked up the flower, brought

it in, and presented it to her, imploring her to give it me again,

and I would keep it for ever for her sake, and prize it more highly

than anything in the world I possessed.



'And will this content you?' said she, as she took it in her hand.



'It shall,' I answered.



'There, then; take it.'



I pressed it earnestly to my lips, and put it in my bosom, Mrs.

Huntingdon looking on with a half-sarcastic smile.



'Now, are you going?' said she.



'I will if - if I must.'



'You are changed,' persisted she - 'you are grown either very proud

or very indifferent.'



'I am neither, Helen - Mrs. Huntingdon.  If you could see my heart

- '



'You must be one, - if not both.  And why Mrs. Huntingdon? - why

not Helen, as before?'



'Helen, then - dear Helen!' I murmured.  I was in an agony of

mingled love, hope, delight, uncertainty, and suspense.



'The rose I gave you was an emblem of my heart,' said she; 'would

you take it away and leave me here alone?'



'Would you give me your hand too, if I asked it?'



'Have I not said enough?' she answered, with a most enchanting

smile.  I snatched her hand, and would have fervently kissed it,

but suddenly checked myself, and said, -



'But have you considered the consequences?'



'Hardly, I think, or I should not have offered myself to one too

proud to take me, or too indifferent to make his affection outweigh

my worldly goods.'



Stupid blockhead that I was! - I trembled to clasp her in my arms,

but dared not believe in so much joy, and yet restrained myself to

say, -



'But if you should repent!'



'It would be your fault,' she replied:  'I never shall, unless you

bitterly disappoint me.  If you have not sufficient confidence in

my affection to believe this, let me alone.'



'My darling angel - my own Helen,' cried I, now passionately

kissing the hand I still retained, and throwing my left arm around

her, 'you never shall repent, if it depend on me alone.  But have

you thought of your aunt?'  I trembled for the answer, and clasped

her closer to my heart in the instinctive dread of losing my new-

found treasure.



'My aunt must not know of it yet,' said she.  'She would think it a

rash, wild step, because she could not imagine how well I know you;

but she must know you herself, and learn to like you.  You must

leave us now, after lunch, and come again in spring, and make a

longer stay, and cultivate her acquaintance, and I know you will

like each other.'



'And then you will be mine,' said I, printing a kiss upon her lips,

and another, and another; for I was as daring and impetuous now as

I had been backward and constrained before.



'No - in another year,' replied she, gently disengaging herself

from my embrace, but still fondly clasping my hand.



'Another year!  Oh, Helen, I could not wait so long!'



'Where is your fidelity?'



'I mean I could not endure the misery of so long a separation.'



'It would not be a separation:  we will write every day:  my spirit

shall be always with you, and sometimes you shall see me with your

bodily eye.  I will not be such a hypocrite as to pretend that I

desire to wait so long myself, but as my marriage is to please

myself, alone, I ought to consult my friends about the time of it.'



'Your friends will disapprove.'



'They will not greatly disapprove, dear Gilbert,' said she,

earnestly kissing my hand; 'they cannot, when they know you, or, if

they could, they would not be true friends - I should not care for

their estrangement.  Now are you satisfied?'  She looked up in my

face with a smile of ineffable tenderness.



'Can I be otherwise, with your love?  And you do love me, Helen?'

said I, not doubting the fact, but wishing to hear it confirmed by

her own acknowledgment.



'If you loved as I do,' she earnestly replied, 'you would not have

so nearly lost me - these scruples of false delicacy and pride

would never thus have troubled you - you would have seen that the

greatest worldly distinctions and discrepancies of rank, birth, and

fortune are as dust in the balance compared with the unity of

accordant thoughts and feelings, and truly loving, sympathising

hearts and souls.'



'But this is too much happiness,' said I, embracing her again; 'I

have not deserved it, Helen - I dare not believe in such felicity:

and the longer I have to wait, the greater will be my dread that

something will intervene to snatch you from me - and think, a

thousand things may happen in a year! - I shall be in one long

fever of restless terror and impatience all the time.  And besides,

winter is such a dreary season.'



'I thought so too,' replied she gravely:  'I would not be married

in winter - in December, at least,' she added, with a shudder - for

in that month had occurred both the ill-starred marriage that had

bound her to her former husband, and the terrible death that

released her - 'and therefore I said another year, in spring.'



'Next spring?'



'No, no - next autumn, perhaps.'



'Summer, then?'



'Well, the close of summer.  There now! be satisfied.'



While she was speaking Arthur re-entered the room - good boy for

keeping out so long.



'Mamma, I couldn't find the book in either of the places you told

me to look for it' (there was a conscious something in mamma's

smile that seemed to say, 'No, dear, I knew you could not'), 'but

Rachel got it for me at last.  Look, Mr. Markham, a natural

history, with all kinds of birds and beasts in it, and the reading

as nice as the pictures!'



In great good humour I sat down to examine the book, and drew the

little fellow between my knees.  Had he come a minute before I

should have received him less graciously, but now I affectionately

stroked his curling looks, and even kissed his ivory forehead:  he

was my own Helen's son, and therefore mine; and as such I have ever

since regarded him.  That pretty child is now a fine young man:  he

has realised his mother's brightest expectations, and is at present

residing in Grassdale Manor with his young wife - the merry little

Helen Hattersley of yore.



I had not looked through half the book before Mrs. Maxwell appeared

to invite me into the other room to lunch.  That lady's cool,

distant manners rather chilled me at first; but I did my best to

propitiate her, and not entirely without success, I think, even in

that first short visit; for when I talked cheerfully to her, she

gradually became more kind and cordial, and when I departed she

bade me a gracious adieu, hoping ere long to have the pleasure of

seeing me again.



'But you must not go till you have seen the conservatory, my aunt's

winter garden,' said Helen, as I advanced to take leave of her,

with as much philosophy and self-command as I could summon to my

aid.



I gladly availed myself of such a respite, and followed her into a

large and beautiful conservatory, plentifully furnished with

flowers, considering the season - but, of course, I had little

attention to spare for them.  It was not, however, for any tender

colloquy that my companion had brought me there:-



'My aunt is particularly fond of flowers,' she observed, 'and she

is fond of Staningley too:  I brought you here to offer a petition

in her behalf, that this may be her home as long as she lives, and

- if it be not our home likewise - that I may often see her and be

with her; for I fear she will be sorry to lose me; and though she

leads a retired and contemplative life, she is apt to get low-

spirited if left too much alone.'



'By all means, dearest Helen! - do what you will with your own.  I

should not dream of wishing your aunt to leave the place under any

circumstances; and we will live either here or elsewhere as you and

she may determine, and you shall see her as often as you like.  I

know she must be pained to part with you, and I am willing to make

any reparation in my power.  I love her for your sake, and her

happiness shall be as dear to me as that of my own mother.'



'Thank you, darling! you shall have a kiss for that.  Good-by.

There now - there, Gilbert - let me go - here's Arthur; don't

astonish his infantile brain with your madness.'



* * * * *



But it is time to bring my narrative to a close.  Any one but you

would say I had made it too long already.  But for your

satisfaction I will add a few words more; because I know you will

have a fellow-feeling for the old lady, and will wish to know the

last of her history.  I did come again in spring, and, agreeably to

Helen's injunctions, did my best to cultivate her acquaintance.

She received me very kindly, having been, doubtless, already

prepared to think highly of my character by her niece's too

favourable report.  I turned my best side out, of course, and we

got along marvellously well together.  When my ambitious intentions

were made known to her, she took it more sensibly than I had

ventured to hope.  Her only remark on the subject, in my hearing,

was -



'And so, Mr. Markham, you are going to rob me of my niece, I

understand.  Well!  I hope God will prosper your union, and make my

dear girl happy at last.  Could she have been contented to remain

single, I own I should have been better satisfied; but if she must

marry again, I know of no one, now living and of a suitable age, to

whom I would more willingly resign her than yourself, or who would

be more likely to appreciate her worth and make, her truly happy,

as far as I can tell.'



Of course I was delighted with the compliment, and hoped to show

her that she was not mistaken in her favourable judgment.



'I have, however, one request to offer,' continued she.  'It seems

I am still to look on Staningley as my home:  I wish you to make it

yours likewise, for Helen is attached to the place and to me - as I

am to her.  There are painful associations connected with

Grassdale, which she cannot easily overcome; and I shall not molest

you with my company or interference here:  I am a very quiet

person, and shall keep my own apartments, and attend to my own

concerns, and only see you now and then.'



Of course I most readily consented to this; and we lived in the

greatest harmony with our dear aunt until the day of her death,

which melancholy event took place a few years after - melancholy,

not to herself (for it came quietly upon her, and she was glad to

reach her journey's end), but only to the few loving friends and

grateful dependents she left behind.



To return, however, to my own affairs:  I was married in summer, on

a glorious August morning.  It took the whole eight months, and all

Helen's kindness and goodness to boot, to overcome my mother's

prejudices against my bride-elect, and to reconcile her to the idea

of my leaving Linden Grange and living so far away.  Yet she was

gratified at her son's good fortune after all, and proudly

attributed it all to his own superior merits and endowments.  I

bequeathed the farm to Fergus, with better hopes of its prosperity

than I should have had a year ago under similar circumstances; for

he had lately fallen in love with the Vicar of L-'s eldest daughter

- a lady whose superiority had roused his latent virtues, and

stimulated him to the most surprising exertions, not only to gain

her affection and esteem, and to obtain a fortune sufficient to

aspire to her hand, but to render himself worthy of her, in his own

eyes, as well as in those of her parents; and in the end he was

successful, as you already know.  As for myself, I need not tell

you how happily my Helen and I have lived together, and how blessed

we still are in each other's society, and in the promising young

scions that are growing up about us.  We are just now looking

forward to the advent of you and Rose, for the time of your annual

visit draws nigh, when you must leave your dusty, smoky, noisy,

toiling, striving city for a season of invigorating relaxation and

social retirement with us.



Till then, farewell,



GILBERT MARKHAM.



STANINGLEY:  June 10TH, 1847.











End of the Project Gutenberg eText The Tenant of Wildfell Hall




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