by Alfred H.
One day, I will not say how many years ago, a young woman stepped
from a country waggon that had just arrived at the famous Chelsea inn,
the Goat and Compasses, a name formed by corrupting time out of the
pious original, God encompasseth us.
The young woman seemed about eighteen years of age and was neatly
dressed, though in the plain rustic fashion of the times. She was well
formed and good-looking, both form and looks giving indications of the
ruddy health due to the bright sun and the fresh air of the country.
After stepping from the waggon, which the driver immediately led
into the court-yard, the girl stood for a moment uncertain which way to
go, when the mistress of the inn, who had come to the door, observed
her hesitation, and asked her to enter and take a rest.
The young woman readily accepted the invitation, and soon after, by
the kindness of the landlady, found herself by the fireside of a nicely
sanded parlour, with a good meal before herwelcome indeed after her
long and tedious journey.
And so, my girl, said the landlady, after having heard the whole
particulars of the young woman's situation and history, so thou hast
come all this way to seek service, and hast no friend but John Hodge,
the waggoner? Truly, he is like to give thee but small help, wench,
towards getting a place.
Is service, then, difficult to be had? asked the young woman,
Ay, marry, good situations, at least, are somewhat hard to find.
But have a good heart, child, said the landlady, and as she continued
she looked round her with an air of pride and dignity; thou see'st
what I have come to, myself; and I left the country a young thing, just
like thyself, with as little to look to. But 'tisn't every one, for
certain, that must look for such a fortune, and, in any case, it must
first be worked for. I showed myself a good servant before my poor old
Jacob, heaven rest his soul, made me mistress of 'the Goat and
Compasses.' So mind thee, girl
The landlady's speech might have continued indefinitelyfor the
good dame loved well to hear the sound of her own voicebut for the
interruption occasioned by the entrance of a gentleman, whom the
landlady rose and welcomed heartily.
Ha! dame, said the new-comer, who was a stout respectably attired
man of middle age, how sells the good ale? Scarcely a drop left in thy
cellars, I hope?
Enough left to give your worship a draught after your long walk,
said the landlady, as she rose to fulfil the promise implied in her
words. I did not walk, was the gentleman's reply, but took a pair of
oars down the river. Thou know'st, dame, I always come to Chelsea
myself to see if thou lackest anything.
Ay, sir, replied the landlady, and it is by that way of doing
business that you have made yourself, as all the city says, the richest
man in the Brewers' Corporation, if not in all London itself.
Well, dame, the better for me if it is so, said the brewer, with a
smile; but let us have thy mug, and this pretty friend of thine shall
pleasure us, mayhap, by tasting with us.
The landlady was not long in producing a stoup of ale, knowing that
her visitor never set an example hurtful to his own interests by
countenancing the consumption of foreign spirits.
Right, hostess, said the brewer, when he had tasted it, well made
and well kept, and that is giving both thee and me our dues. Now,
pretty one, said he, filling one of the measures or glasses which had
been placed beside the stoup, wilt thou drink this to thy sweetheart's
The poor country girl to whom this was addressed declined the
proffer civilly, and with a blush; but the landlady exclaimed:
Come, silly wench, drink his worship's health; he is more likely to
do thee a service, if it so please him, than John the waggoner. The
girl has come many a mile, continued the hostess, to seek a place in
town, that she may burden her family no more at home.
To seek service! exclaimed the brewer; why, then, it is perhaps
well met with us. Has she brought a character with her, or can you
speak for her, dame?
She has never yet been from home, sir, but her face is her
character, said the kind-hearted landlady; I warrant me she will be a
diligent and trusty one.
Upon thy prophecy, hostess, will I take her into my own service;
for but yesterday was my housekeeper complaining of the want of help,
since my office in the corporation has brought me more into the way of
entertaining the people of the ward.
Ere the wealthy brewer and deputy left the Goat and Compasses,
arrangements were made for sending the country girl to his house in the
city on the following day.
Proud of having done a kind action, the garrulous hostess took
advantage of the circumstance to deliver a long harangue to the young
woman on her new duties, and on the dangers to which youth is exposed
in large cities. The girl listened to her with modest thankfulness, but
a more minute observer than the good landlady might have seen in the
eye and countenance of the girl a quiet firmness of expression, such as
might have shown the lecture to be unnecessary. However, the landlady's
lecture ended, and towards the evening of the day following her arrival
at the Goat and Compasses, the girl found herself installed as
housemaid in the home of the rich brewer.
The fortunes of this girl it is our purpose to follow. It was not
long before the post of housekeeper became vacant, and the girl,
recommended by her own industry and skill, became housekeeper in the
brewer's family. In this situation she was brought more than formerly
into contact with her master, who found ample grounds for admiring her
propriety of conduct, as well as her skilful economy of management. By
degrees he began to find her presence necessary to his happiness; and
at length offered her his hand. It was accepted; and she, who but four
or five years before had left her country home a poor peasant girl,
became the wife of one of the richest citizens of London.
For many years, Mr. Aylesbury, for such was the name of the brewer,
and his wife, lived in happiness and comfort together. He was a man of
good family and connections, and consequently of higher breeding than
his wife could boast of, but on no occasion had he ever to blush for
the partner whom he had chosen.
Her calm, inborn strength, if not dignity, of character, united with
an extreme quickness of perception, made her fill her place at her
husband's table with as much grace and credit as if she had been born
to the station. As time ran on, Mr. Aylesbury became an alderman, and,
subsequently, a sheriff of the city, and in consequence of the latter
elevation, was knighted.
Afterwards the important place which the wealthy brewer filled in
the city called down upon him the attention and favour of the king,
Charles I., then anxious to conciliate the goodwill of the citizens,
and the city knight received the farther honour of a baronetcy.
Lady Aylesbury, in the first years of her married life, gave birth
to a daughter, who proved an only child, and around whom, as was
natural, all the hopes and wishes of the parents entwined themselves.
This daughter had only reached the age of seventeen when her father
died, leaving an immense fortune behind him.
It was at first thought that the widow and her daughter would become
inheritors of this without the shadow of a dispute. But it proved
otherwise. Certain relatives of the deceased brewer set up a plea upon
the foundation of a will made in their favour before he married.
With her wonted firmness, Lady Aylesbury immediately took steps for
the vindication of her rights.
A young lawyer, who had been a frequent guest at her husband's
table, and of whose abilities she had formed a high opinion, was the
person whom she fixed upon as her legal representative. Edward Hyde
was, indeed, a youth of great ability. Though only twenty-four years of
age at the period referred to, and though he had spent much of his
youthful time in the society of the gay and fashionable of the day, he
had not neglected the pursuits to which his family's wish, as well as
his own tastes, had devoted him. But it was with considerable
hesitation, and with a feeling of anxious diffidence, that he consented
to undertake the charge of Lady Aylesbury's case; for certain feelings
were at work in his heart which made him fearful of the responsibility,
and anxious about the result.
The young lawyer, however, became counsel for the brewer's widow and
daughter, and, by a striking display of eloquence and legal knowledge,
gained their suit.
Two days afterwards, the successful pleader was seated beside his
two clients. Lady Aylesbury's usual manner was quiet and composed, but
she now spoke warmly of her gratitude to the preserver of her daughter
from want, and also tendered a feea payment munificent, indeed, for
The young barrister did not seem at ease during Lady Aylesbury's
expression of her feelings. He shifted upon his chair, changed colour,
looked to Miss Aylesbury, played with the purse before him, tried to
speak, but stopped short, and changed colour again. Thinking only of
best expressing her own gratitude, Lady Aylesbury appeared not to
observe her visitor's confusion, but rose, saying:
In token that I hold your services above compensation in the way of
money, I wish also to give you a memorial of my gratitude in another
As she spoke thus, she drew from her pocket a bunch of keys such as
every lady carried in those days, and left the room.
What passed during her absence between the young people whom she had
left together will be shown by the sequel. When Lady Aylesbury
returned, she found her daughter standing with averted eyes, with her
hand in that of the young barrister, who knelt on the mother's
entrance, and besought her consent to their union. Confessions of
mutual affection ensued, and Lady Aylesbury was not long in giving her
consent to their wishes.
Give me leave, however, said she to the lover, to place around
your neck the memorial which I intended for you. The chainit was a
superb gold onewas a token of gratitude, from the ward in which he
lived, to my dear husband. Lady Aylesbury's calm, serious eyes were
filled with tears as she threw the chain round Edward's neck, saying,
These links were borne on the neck of a worthy and an honoured man.
May thou, my beloved son, attain to still higher honours.
The wish was fulfilled, though not until danger and suffering had
tried severely the parties concerned. The son-in-law of Lady Aylesbury
became an eminent member of the English bar, and also an important
speaker in Parliament.
When Oliver Cromwell brought the king to the scaffold, and
established the Commonwealth, Sir Edward Hydefor he had held a
government post, and had been knightedwas too prominent a member of
the royalist party to escape the attention of the new rulers, and was
obliged to reside upon the continent till the Restoration.
While abroad, he was so much esteemed by the exiled prince
(afterwards Charles II.) as to be appointed Lord High Chancellor of
England, which appointment was confirmed when the king was restored to
his throne. Some years afterwards, Hyde was elevated to the peerage,
first in the rank of a baron, and subsequently as Earl of Clarendon, a
title which he made famous in English history.
These events, so briefly narrated, occupied considerable time,
during which Lady Aylesbury passed her days in quiet and retirement.
She had now the gratification of beholding her daughter Countess of
Clarendon, and of seeing the grandchildren who had been born to her
mingling as equals with the noblest in the land.
But a still more exalted fate awaited the descendants of the poor
friendless girl who had come to London, in search of service, in a
waggoner's van. Her granddaughter, Anne Hyde, a young lady of spirit,
wit, and beauty, had been appointed, while her family were living
abroad, one of the maids of honour to the Princess of Orange, and in
that situation had attracted so strongly the regard of James, Duke of
York, and brother of Charles II., that he contracted a private marriage
The birth of a child forced on a public announcement of this
contract, and ere long the granddaughter of Lady Aylesbury was openly
received by the Royal Family, and the people of England, as Duchess of
York, and sister-in-law of the sovereign.
Lady Aylesbury did not long survive this event. But ere she sunk
into the grave, at a ripe old age, she saw her descendants
heirs-presumptive of the British Crown. King Charles had married, but
had no children, and, accordingly, his brother's family had the
prospect and the right of succession. And, in reality, two immediate
descendants of the poor peasant girl did ultimately fill the
throneMary (wife of William III.), and Queen Anne.
Such were the fortunes of the young woman whom the worthy landlady
of the Goat and Compasses was fearful of encouraging to rash hopes by
a reference to the lofty position it had been her good fortune to
attain in life. In one assertion, at least, the hostess was undoubtedly
rightsuccess in life must be laboured for in some way or other.
Without the prudence and propriety of conduct which won the esteem and
love of her wealthy employer, the sequel of the country girl's history
could not have been such as it was.