The Grey Woman and other Tales
by Elizabeth Gaskell
THE GREY WOMAN AND OTHER TALES.
SMITH ELDER &Co 65 CORNHILL 1865]
THE GREY WOMAN. AND OTHER TALES.
BY MRS. GASKELL,
AUTHOR OF MARY BARTON, NORTH AND SOUTH, SYLVIA'S LOVERS,
COUSIN PHILLIS, CRANFORD, ETC.
LONDON: SMITH, ELDER AND CO., 65, CORNHILL. M.DCCC.LXV.
[The Right of Translation is reserved.]
THE GREY WOMAN.
CURIOUS IF TRUE.
SIX WEEKS AT
HAND AND HEART.
THE GREY WOMAN.
There is a mill by the Neckar-side, to which many people resort for
coffee, according to the fashion which is almost national in Germany.
There is nothing particularly attractive in the situation of this mill;
it is on the Mannheim (the flat and unromantic) side of Heidelberg. The
river turns the mill-wheel with a plenteous gushing sound; the
out-buildings and the dwelling-house of the miller form a well-kept
dusty quadrangle. Again, further from the river, there is a garden full
of willows, and arbours, and flower-beds not well kept, but very
profuse in flowers and luxuriant creepers, knotting and looping the
arbours together. In each of these arbours is a stationary table of
white painted wood, and light moveable chairs of the same colour and
I went to drink coffee there with some friends in 184. The stately
old miller came out to greet us, as some of the party were known to him
of old. He was of a grand build of a man, and his loud musical voice,
with its tone friendly and familiar, his rolling laugh of welcome, went
well with the keen bright eye, the fine cloth of his coat, and the
general look of substance about the place. Poultry of all kinds
abounded in the mill-yard, where there were ample means of livelihood
for them strewed on the ground; but not content with this, the miller
took out handfuls of corn from the sacks, and threw liberally to the
cocks and hens that ran almost under his feet in their eagerness. And
all the time he was doing this, as it were habitually, he was talking
to us, and ever and anon calling to his daughter and the serving-maids,
to bid them hasten the coffee we had ordered. He followed us to an
arbour, and saw us served to his satisfaction with the best of
everything we could ask for; and then left us to go round to the
different arbours and see that each party was properly attended to;
and, as he went, this great, prosperous, happy-looking man whistled
softly one of the most plaintive airs I ever heard.
His family have held this mill ever since the old Palatinate days;
or rather, I should say, have possessed the ground ever since then, for
two successive mills of theirs have been burnt down by the French. If
you want to see Scherer in a passion, just talk to him of the
possibility of a French invasion.
But at this moment, still whistling that mournful air, we saw the
miller going down the steps that led from the somewhat raised garden
into the mill-yard; and so I seemed to have lost my chance of putting
him in a passion.
We had nearly finished our coffee, and our kucken, and our
cinnamon cake, when heavy splashes fell on our thick leafy covering;
quicker and quicker they came, coming through the tender leaves as if
they were tearing them asunder; all the people in the garden were
hurrying under shelter, or seeking for their carriages standing
outside. Up the steps the miller came hastening, with a crimson
umbrella, fit to cover every one left in the garden, and followed by
his daughter, and one or two maidens, each bearing an umbrella.
Come into the housecome in, I say. It is a summer-storm, and will
flood the place for an hour or two, till the river carries it away.
And we followed him back into his own house. We went into the
kitchen first. Such an array of bright copper and tin vessels I never
saw; and all the wooden things were as thoroughly scoured. The red tile
floor was spotless when we went in, but in two minutes it was all over
slop and dirt with the tread of many feet; for the kitchen was filled,
and still the worthy miller kept bringing in more people under his
great crimson umbrella. He even called the dogs in, and made them lie
down under the tables.
His daughter said something to him in German, and he shook his head
merrily at her. Everybody laughed.
What did she say? I asked.
She told him to bring the ducks in next; but indeed if more people
come we shall be suffocated. What with the thundery weather, and the
stove, and all these steaming clothes, I really think we must ask leave
to pass on. Perhaps we might go in and see Frau Scherer.
My friend asked the daughter of the house for permission to go into
an inner chamber and see her mother. It was granted, and we went into a
sort of saloon, overlooking the Neckar; very small, very bright, and
very close. The floor was slippery with polish; long narrow pieces of
looking-glass against the walls reflected the perpetual motion of the
river opposite; a white porcelain stove, with some old-fashioned
ornaments of brass about it; a sofa, covered with Utrecht velvet, a
table before it, and a piece of worsted-worked carpet under it; a vase
of artificial flowers; and, lastly, an alcove with a bed in it, on
which lay the paralysed wife of the good miller, knitting busily,
formed the furniture. I spoke as if this was all that was to be seen in
the room; but, sitting quietly, while my friend kept up a brisk
conversation in a language which I but half understood, my eye was
caught by a picture in a dark corner of the room, and I got up to
examine it more nearly.
It was that of a young girl of extreme beauty; evidently of middle
rank. There was a sensitive refinement in her face, as if she almost
shrank from the gaze which, of necessity, the painter must have fixed
upon her. It was not over-well painted, but I felt that it must have
been a good likeness, from this strong impress of peculiar character
which I have tried to describe. From the dress, I should guess it to
have been painted in the latter half of the last century. And I
afterwards heard that I was right.
There was a little pause in the conversation.
Will you ask Frau Scherer who this is?
My friend repeated my question, and received a long reply in German.
Then she turned round and translated it to me.
It is the likeness of a great-aunt of her husband's. (My friend
was standing by me, and looking at the picture with sympathetic
curiosity.) See! here is the name on the open page of this Bible,
'Anna Scherer, 1778.' Frau Scherer says there is a tradition in the
family that this pretty girl, with her complexion of lilies and roses,
lost her colour so entirely through fright, that she was known by the
name of the Grey Woman. She speaks as if this Anna Scherer lived in
some state of life-long terror. But she does not know details; refers
me to her husband for them. She thinks he has some papers which were
written by the original of that picture for her daughter, who died in
this very house not long after our friend there was married. We can ask
Herr Scherer for the whole story if you like.
Oh yes, pray do! said I. And, as our host came in at this moment
to ask how we were faring, and to tell us that he had sent to
Heidelberg for carriages to convey us home, seeing no chance of the
heavy rain abating, my friend, after thanking him, passed on to my
Ah! said he, his face changing, the aunt Anna had a sad history.
It was all owing to one of those hellish Frenchmen; and her daughter
suffered for itthe cousin Ursula, as we all called her when I was a
child. To be sure, the good cousin Ursula was his child as well. The
sins of the fathers are visited on their children. The lady would like
to know all about it, would she? Well, there are papersa kind of
apology the aunt Anna wrote for putting an end to her daughter's
engagementor rather facts which she revealed, that prevented cousin
Ursula from marrying the man she loved; and so she would never have any
other good fellow, else I have heard say my father would have been
thankful to have made her his wife. All this time he was rummaging in
the drawer of an old-fashioned bureau, and now he turned round, with a
bundle of yellow MSS. in his hand, which he gave to my friend, saying,
Take it home, take it home, and if you care to make out our crabbed
German writing, you may keep it as long as you like, and read it at
your leisure. Only I must have it back again when you have done with
it, that's all.
And so we became possessed of the manuscript of the following
letter, which it was our employment, during many a long evening that
ensuing winter, to translate, and in some parts to abbreviate. The
letter began with some reference to the pain which she had already
inflicted upon her daughter by some unexplained opposition to a project
of marriage; but I doubt if, without the clue with which the good
miller had furnished us, we could have made out even this much from the
passionate, broken sentences that made us fancy that some scene between
the mother and daughterand possibly a third personhad occurred just
before the mother had begun to write.
Thou dost not love thy child, mother! Thou dost not care if her
heart is broken! Ah, God! and these words of my heart-beloved Ursula
ring in my ears as if the sound of them would fill them when I lie
a-dying. And her poor tear-stained face comes between me and everything
else. Child! hearts do not break; life is very tough as well as very
terrible. But I will not decide for thee. I will tell thee all; and
thou shalt bear the burden of choice. I may be wrong; I have little wit
left, and never had much, I think; but an instinct serves me in place
of judgment, and that instinct tells me that thou and thy Henri must
never be married. Yet I may be in error. I would fain make my child
happy. Lay this paper before the good priest Schriesheim; if, after
reading it, thou hast doubts which make thee uncertain. Only I will
tell thee all now, on condition that no spoken word ever passes between
us on the subject. It would kill me to be questioned. I should have to
see all present again.
My father held, as thou knowest, the mill on the Neckar, where thy
new-found uncle, Scherer, now lives. Thou rememberest the surprise with
which we were received there last vintage twelvemonth. How thy uncle
disbelieved me when I said that I was his sister Anna, whom he had long
believed to be dead, and how I had to lead thee underneath the picture,
painted of me long ago, and point out, feature by feature, the likeness
between it and thee; and how, as I spoke, I recalled first to my own
mind, and then by speech to his, the details of the time when it was
painted; the merry words that passed between us then, a happy boy and
girl; the position of the articles of furniture in the room; our
father's habits; the cherry-tree, now cut down, that shaded the window
of my bedroom, through which my brother was wont to squeeze himself, in
order to spring on to the topmost bough that would bear his weight; and
thence would pass me back his cap laden with fruit to where I sat on
the window-sill, too sick with fright for him to care much for eating
And at length Fritz gave way, and believed me to be his sister Anna,
even as though I were risen from the dead. And thou rememberest how he
fetched in his wife, and told her that I was not dead, but was come
back to the old home once more, changed as I was. And she would scarce
believe him, and scanned me with a cold, distrustful eye, till at
lengthfor I knew her of old as Babette MüllerI said that I was
well-to-do, and needed not to seek out friends for what they had to
give. And then she askednot me, but her husbandwhy I had kept
silent so long, leading allfather, brother, every one that loved me
in my own dear hometo esteem me dead. And then thine uncle (thou
rememberest?) said he cared not to know more than I cared to tell; that
I was his Anna, found again, to be a blessing to him in his old age, as
I had been in his boyhood. I thanked him in my heart for his trust; for
were the need for telling all less than it seems to me now I could not
speak of my past life. But she, who was my sister-in-law still, held
back her welcome, and, for want of that, I did not go to live in
Heidelberg as I had planned beforehand, in order to be near my brother
Fritz, but contented myself with his promise to be a father to my
Ursula when I should die and leave this weary world.
That Babette Müller was, as I may say, the cause of all my life's
suffering. She was a baker's daughter in Heidelberga great beauty, as
people said, and, indeed, as I could see for myself. I, toothou
sawest my picturewas reckoned a beauty, and I believe I was so.
Babette Müller looked upon me as a rival. She liked to be admired, and
had no one much to love her. I had several people to love methy
grandfather, Fritz, the old servant Kätchen, Karl, the head apprentice
at the milland I feared admiration and notice, and the being stared
at as the Schöne Müllerin, whenever I went to make my purchases in
Those were happy, peaceful days. I had Kätchen to help me in the
housework, and whatever we did pleased my brave old father, who was
always gentle and indulgent towards us women, though he was stern
enough with the apprentices in the mill. Karl, the oldest of these, was
his favourite; and I can see now that my father wished him to marry me,
and that Karl himself was desirous to do so. But Karl was rough-spoken,
and passionatenot with me, but with the othersand I shrank from him
in a way which, I fear, gave him pain. And then came thy uncle Fritz's
marriage; and Babette was brought to the mill to be its mistress. Not
that I cared much for giving up my post, for, in spite of my father's
great kindness, I always feared that I did not manage well for so large
a family (with the men, and a girl under Kätchen, we sat down eleven
each night to supper). But when Babette began to find fault with
Kätchen, I was unhappy at the blame that fell on faithful servants; and
by-and-by I began to see that Babette was egging on Karl to make more
open love to me, and, as she once said, to get done with it, and take
me off to a home of my own. My father was growing old, and did not
perceive all my daily discomfort. The more Karl advanced, the more I
disliked him. He was good in the main, but I had no notion of being
married, and could not bear any one who talked to me about it.
Things were in this way when I had an invitation to go to Carlsruhe
to visit a schoolfellow, of whom I had been very fond. Babette was all
for my going; I don't think I wanted to leave home, and yet I had been
very fond of Sophie Rupprecht. But I was always shy among strangers.
Somehow the affair was settled for me, but not until both Fritz and my
father had made inquiries as to the character and position of the
Rupprechts. They learned that the father had held some kind of inferior
position about the Grand-duke's court, and was now dead, leaving a
widow, a noble lady, and two daughters, the elder of whom was Sophie,
my friend. Madame Rupprecht was not rich, but more than
respectablegenteel. When this was ascertained, my father made no
opposition to my going; Babette forwarded it by all the means in her
power, and even my dear Fritz had his word to say in its favour. Only
Kätchen was against itKätchen and Karl. The opposition of Karl did
more to send me to Carlsruhe than anything. For I could have objected
to go; but when he took upon himself to ask what was the good of going
a-gadding, visiting strangers of whom no one knew anything, I yielded
to circumstancesto the pulling of Sophie and the pushing of Babette.
I was silently vexed, I remember, at Babette's inspection of my
clothes; at the way in which she settled that this gown was too
old-fashioned, or that too common, to go with me on my visit to a noble
lady; and at the way in which she took upon herself to spend the money
my father had given me to buy what was requisite for the occasion. And
yet I blamed myself, for every one else thought her so kind for doing
all this; and she herself meant kindly, too.
At last I quitted the mill by the Neckar-side. It was a long day's
journey, and Fritz went with me to Carlsruhe. The Rupprechts lived on
the third floor of a house a little behind one of the principal
streets, in a cramped-up court, to which we gained admittance through a
doorway in the street. I remember how pinched their rooms looked after
the large space we had at the mill, and yet they had an air of grandeur
about them which was new to me, and which gave me pleasure, faded as
some of it was. Madame Rupprecht was too formal a lady for me; I was
never at my ease with her; but Sophie was all that I had recollected
her at school: kind, affectionate, and only rather too ready with her
expressions of admiration and regard. The little sister kept out of our
way; and that was all we needed, in the first enthusiastic renewal of
our early friendship. The one great object of Madame Rupprecht's life
was to retain her position in society; and as her means were much
diminished since her husband's death, there was not much comfort,
though there was a great deal of show, in their way of living; just the
opposite of what it was at my father's house. I believe that my coming
was not too much desired by Madame Rupprecht, as I brought with me
another mouth to be fed; but Sophie had spent a year or more in
entreating for permission to invite me, and her mother, having once
consented, was too well bred not to give me a stately welcome.
The life in Carlsruhe was very different from what it was at home.
The hours were later, the coffee was weaker in the morning, the pottage
was weaker, the boiled beef less relieved by other diet, the dresses
finer, the evening engagements constant. I did not find these visits
pleasant. We might not knit, which would have relieved the tedium a
little; but we sat in a circle, talking together, only interrupted
occasionally by a gentleman, who, breaking out of the knot of men who
stood near the door, talking eagerly together, stole across the room on
tiptoe, his hat under his arm, and, bringing his feet together in the
position we called the first at the dancing-school, made a low bow to
the lady he was going to address. The first time I saw these manners I
could not help smiling; but Madame Rupprecht saw me, and spoke to me
next morning rather severely, telling me that, of course, in my country
breeding I could have seen nothing of court manners, or French
fashions, but that that was no reason for my laughing at them. Of
course I tried never to smile again in company. This visit to Carlsruhe
took place in '89, just when every one was full of the events taking
place at Paris; and yet at Carlsruhe French fashions were more talked
of than French politics. Madame Rupprecht, especially, thought a great
deal of all French people. And this again was quite different to us at
home. Fritz could hardly bear the name of a Frenchman; and it had
nearly been an obstacle to my visit to Sophie that her mother preferred
being called Madame to her proper title of Frau.
[Illustration p. 17: Monsieur de la Tourelle.]
One night I was sitting next to Sophie, and longing for the time
when we might have supper and go home, so as to be able to speak
together, a thing forbidden by Madame Rupprecht's rules of etiquette,
which strictly prohibited any but the most necessary conversation
passing between members of the same family when in society. I was
sitting, I say, scarcely keeping back my inclination to yawn, when two
gentlemen came in, one of whom was evidently a stranger to the whole
party, from the formal manner in which the host led him up, and
presented him to the hostess. I thought I had never seen any one so
handsome or so elegant. His hair was powdered, of course, but one could
see from his complexion that it was fair in its natural state. His
features were as delicate as a girl's, and set off by two little
mouches, as we called patches in those days, one at the left corner
of his mouth, the other prolonging, as it were, the right eye. His
dress was blue and silver. I was so lost in admiration of this
beautiful young man, that I was as much surprised as if the angel
Gabriel had spoken to me, when the lady of the house brought him
forward to present him to me. She called him Monsieur de la Tourelle,
and he began to speak to me in French; but though I understood him
perfectly, I dared not trust myself to reply to him in that language.
Then he tried German, speaking it with a kind of soft lisp that I
thought charming. But, before the end of the evening, I became a little
tired of the affected softness and effeminacy of his manners, and the
exaggerated compliments he paid me, which had the effect of making all
the company turn round and look at me. Madame Rupprecht was, however,
pleased with the precise thing that displeased me. She liked either
Sophie or me to create a sensation; of course she would have preferred
that it should have been her daughter, but her daughter's friend was
next best. As we went away, I heard Madame Rupprecht and Monsieur de la
Tourelle reciprocating civil speeches with might and main, from which I
found out that the French gentleman was coming to call on us the next
day. I do not know whether I was more glad or frightened, for I had
been kept upon stilts of good manners all the evening. But still I was
flattered when Madame Rupprecht spoke as if she had invited him,
because he had shown pleasure in my society, and even more gratified by
Sophie's ungrudging delight at the evident interest I had excited in so
fine and agreeable a gentleman. Yet, with all this, they had hard work
to keep me from running out of the salon the next day, when we heard
his voice inquiring at the gate on the stairs for Madame Rupprecht.
They had made me put on my Sunday gown, and they themselves were
dressed as for a reception.
When he was gone away, Madame Rupprecht congratulated me on the
conquest I had made; for, indeed, he had scarcely spoken to any one
else, beyond what mere civility required, and had almost invited
himself to come in the evening to bring some new song, which was all
the fashion in Paris, he said. Madame Rupprecht had been out all
morning, as she told me, to glean information about Monsieur de la
Tourelle. He was a propriétaire, had a small château on the Vosges
mountains; he owned land there, but had a large income from some
sources quite independent of this property. Altogether, he was a good
match, as she emphatically observed. She never seemed to think that I
could refuse him after this account of his wealth, nor do I believe she
would have allowed Sophie a choice, even had he been as old and ugly as
he was young and handsome. I do not quite knowso many events have
come to pass since then, and blurred the clearness of my
recollectionsif I loved him or not. He was very much devoted to me;
he almost frightened me by the excess of his demonstrations of love.
And he was very charming to everybody around me, who all spoke of him
as the most fascinating of men, and of me as the most fortunate of
girls. And yet I never felt quite at my ease with him. I was always
relieved when his visits were over, although I missed his presence when
he did not come. He prolonged his visit to the friend with whom he was
staying at Carlsruhe, on purpose to woo me. He loaded me with presents,
which I was unwilling to take, only Madame Rupprecht seemed to consider
me an affected prude if I refused them. Many of these presents
consisted of articles of valuable old jewellery, evidently belonging to
his family; by accepting these I doubled the ties which were formed
around me by circumstances even more than by my own consent. In those
days we did not write letters to absent friends as frequently as is
done now, and I had been unwilling to name him in the few letters that
I wrote home. At length, however, I learned from Madame Rupprecht that
she had written to my father to announce the splendid conquest I had
made, and to request his presence at my betrothal. I started with
astonishment. I had not realized that affairs had gone so far as this.
But when she asked me, in a stern, offended manner, what I had meant by
my conduct if I did not intend to marry Monsieur de la TourelleI had
received his visits, his presents, all his various advances without
showing any unwillingness or repugnance(and it was all true; I had
shown no repugnance, though I did not wish to be married to him,at
least, not so soon)what could I do but hang my head, and silently
consent to the rapid enunciation of the only course which now remained
for me if I would not be esteemed a heartless coquette all the rest of
There was some difficulty, which I afterwards learnt that my
sister-in-law had obviated, about my betrothal taking place from home.
My father, and Fritz especially, were for having me return to the mill,
and there be betrothed, and from thence be married. But the Rupprechts
and Monsieur de la Tourelle were equally urgent on the other side; and
Babette was unwilling to have the trouble of the commotion at the mill;
and also, I think, a little disliked the idea of the contrast of my
grander marriage with her own.
So my father and Fritz came over to the betrothal. They were to stay
at an inn in Carlsruhe for a fortnight, at the end of which time the
marriage was to take place. Monsieur de la Tourelle told me he had
business at home, which would oblige him to be absent during the
interval between the two events; and I was very glad of it, for I did
not think that he valued my father and my brother as I could have
wished him to do. He was very polite to them; put on all the soft,
grand manner, which he had rather dropped with me; and complimented us
all round, beginning with my father and Madame Rupprecht, and ending
with little Alwina. But he a little scoffed at the old-fashioned church
ceremonies which my father insisted on; and I fancy Fritz must have
taken some of his compliments as satire, for I saw certain signs of
manner by which I knew that my future husband, for all his civil words,
had irritated and annoyed my brother. But all the money arrangements
were liberal in the extreme, and more than satisfied, almost surprised,
my father. Even Fritz lifted up his eyebrows and whistled. I alone did
not care about anything. I was bewitched,in a dream,a kind of
despair. I had got into a net through my own timidity and weakness, and
I did not see how to get out of it. I clung to my own home-people that
fortnight as I had never done before. Their voices, their ways were all
so pleasant and familiar to me, after the constraint in which I had
been living. I might speak and do as I liked without being corrected by
Madame Rupprecht, or reproved in a delicate, complimentary way by
Monsieur de la Tourelle. One day I said to my father that I did not
want to be married, that I would rather go back to the dear old mill;
but he seemed to feel this speech of mine as a dereliction of duty as
great as if I had committed perjury; as if, after the ceremony of
betrothal, no one had any right over me but my future husband. And yet
he asked me some solemn questions; but my answers were not such as to
do me any good.
Dost thou know any fault or crime in this man that should prevent
God's blessing from resting on thy marriage with him? Dost thou feel
aversion or repugnance to him in any way?
And to all this what could I say? I could only stammer out that I
did not think I loved him enough; and my poor old father saw in this
reluctance only the fancy of a silly girl who did not know her own
mind, but who had now gone too far to recede.
So we were married, in the Court chapel, a privilege which Madame
Rupprecht had used no end of efforts to obtain for us, and which she
must have thought was to secure us all possible happiness, both at the
time and in recollection afterwards.
We were married; and after two days spent in festivity at Carlsruhe,
among all our new fashionable friends there, I bade good-by for ever to
my dear old father. I had begged my husband to take me by way of
Heidelberg to his old castle in the Vosges; but I found an amount of
determination, under that effeminate appearance and manner, for which I
was not prepared, and he refused my first request so decidedly that I
dared not urge it. Henceforth, Anna, said he, you will move in a
different sphere of life; and though it is possible that you may have
the power of showing favour to your relations from time to time, yet
much or familiar intercourse will be undesirable, and is what I cannot
allow. I felt almost afraid, after this formal speech, of asking my
father and Fritz to come and see me; but, when the agony of bidding
them farewell overcame all my prudence, I did beg them to pay me a
visit ere long. But they shook their heads, and spoke of business at
home, of different kinds of life, of my being a Frenchwoman now. Only
my father broke out at last with a blessing, and said, If my child is
unhappywhich God forbidlet her remember that her father's house is
ever open to her. I was on the point of crying out, Oh! take me back
then now, my father! oh, my father! when I felt, rather than saw, my
husband present near me. He looked on with a slightly contemptuous air;
and, taking my hand in his, he led me weeping away, saying that short
farewells were always the best when they were inevitable.
It took us two days to reach his château in the Vosges, for the
roads were bad and the way difficult to ascertain. Nothing could be
more devoted than he was all the time of the journey. It seemed as if
he were trying in every way to make up for the separation which every
hour made me feel the more complete between my present and my former
life. I seemed as if I were only now wakening up to a full sense of
what marriage was, and I dare say I was not a cheerful companion on the
tedious journey. At length, jealousy of my regret for my father and
brother got the better of M. de la Tourelle, and he became so much
displeased with me that I thought my heart would break with the sense
of desolation. So it was in no cheerful frame of mind that we
approached Les Rochers, and I thought that perhaps it was because I was
so unhappy that the place looked so dreary. On one side, the château
looked like a raw new building, hastily run up for some immediate
purpose, without any growth of trees or underwood near it, only the
remains of the stone used for building, not yet cleared away from the
immediate neighbourhood, although weeds and lichens had been suffered
to grow near and over the heaps of rubbish; on the other, were the
great rocks from which the place took its name, and rising close
against them, as if almost a natural formation, was the old castle,
whose building dated many centuries back.
It was not large nor grand, but it was strong and picturesque, and I
used to wish that we lived in it rather than in the smart,
half-furnished apartment in the new edifice, which had been hastily got
ready for my reception. Incongruous as the two parts were, they were
joined into a whole by means of intricate passages and unexpected
doors, the exact positions of which I never fully understood. M. de la
Tourelle led me to a suite of rooms set apart for me, and formally
installed me in them, as in a domain of which I was sovereign. He
apologised for the hasty preparation which was all he had been able to
make for me, but promised, before I asked, or even thought of
complaining, that they should be made as luxurious as heart could wish
before many weeks had elapsed. But when, in the gloom of an autumnal
evening, I caught my own face and figure reflected in all the mirrors,
which showed only a mysterious background in the dim light of the many
candles which failed to illuminate the great proportions of the
half-furnished salon, I clung to M. de la Tourelle, and begged to be
taken to the rooms he had occupied before his marriage, he seemed angry
with me, although he affected to laugh, and so decidedly put aside the
notion of my having any other rooms but these, that I trembled in
silence at the fantastic figures and shapes which my imagination called
up as peopling the background of those gloomy mirrors. There was my
boudoir, a little less drearymy bedroom, with its grand and tarnished
furniture, which I commonly made into my sitting-room, locking up the
various doors which led into the boudoir, the salon, the passagesall
but one, through which M. de la Tourelle always entered from his own
apartments in the older part of the castle. But this preference of mine
for occupying my bedroom annoyed M. de la Tourelle, I am sure, though
he did not care to express his displeasure. He would always allure me
back into the salon, which I disliked more and more from its complete
separation from the rest of the building by the long passage into which
all the doors of my apartment opened. This passage was closed by heavy
doors and portières, through which I could not hear a sound from the
other parts of the house, and, of course, the servants could not hear
any movement or cry of mine unless expressly summoned. To a girl
brought up as I had been in a household where every individual lived
all day in the sight of every other member of the family, never wanted
either cheerful words or the sense of silent companionship, this grand
isolation of mine was very formidable; and the more so, because M. de
la Tourelle, as landed proprietor, sportsman, and what not, was
generally out of doors the greater part of every day, and sometimes for
two or three days at a time. I had no pride to keep me from associating
with the domestics; it would have been natural to me in many ways to
have sought them out for a word of sympathy in those dreary days when I
was left so entirely to myself, had they been like our kindly German
servants. But I disliked them, one and all; I could not tell why. Some
were civil, but there was a familiarity in their civility which
repelled me; others were rude, and treated me more as if I were an
intruder than their master's chosen wife; and yet of the two sets I
liked these last the best.
The principal male servant belonged to this latter class. I was very
much afraid of him, he had such an air of suspicious surliness about
him in all he did for me; and yet M. de la Tourelle spoke of him as
most valuable and faithful. Indeed, it sometimes struck me that
Lefebvre ruled his master in some things; and this I could not make
out. For, while M. de la Tourelle behaved towards me as if I were some
precious toy or idol, to be cherished, and fostered, and petted, and
indulged, I soon found out how little I, or, apparently, any one else,
could bend the terrible will of the man who had on first acquaintance
appeared to me too effeminate and languid to exert his will in the
slightest particular. I had learnt to know his face better now; and to
see that some vehement depth of feeling, the cause of which I could not
fathom, made his grey eye glitter with pale light, and his lips
contract, and his delicate cheek whiten on certain occasions. But all
had been so open and above board at home, that I had no experience to
help me to unravel any mysteries among those who lived under the same
roof. I understood that I had made what Madame Rupprecht and her set
would have called a great marriage, because I lived in a château with
many servants, bound ostensibly to obey me as a mistress. I understood
that M. de la Tourelle was fond enough of me in his wayproud of my
beauty, I dare say (for he often enough spoke about it to me)but he
was also jealous, and suspicious, and uninfluenced by my wishes, unless
they tallied with his own. I felt at this time as if I could have been
fond of him too, if he would have let me; but I was timid from my
childhood, and before long my dread of his displeasure (coming down
like thunder into the midst of his love, for such slight causes as a
hesitation in reply, a wrong word, or a sigh for my father), conquered
my humorous inclination to love one who was so handsome, so
accomplished, so indulgent and devoted. But if I could not please him
when indeed I loved him, you may imagine how often I did wrong when I
was so much afraid of him as to quietly avoid his company for fear of
his outbursts of passion. One thing I remember noticing, that the more
M. de la Tourelle was displeased with me, the more Lefebvre seemed to
chuckle; and when I was restored to favour, sometimes on as sudden an
impulse as that which occasioned my disgrace, Lefebvre would look
askance at me with his cold, malicious eyes, and once or twice at such
times he spoke most disrespectfully to M. de la Tourelle.
I have almost forgotten to say that, in the early days of my life at
Les Rochers, M. de la Tourelle, in contemptuous indulgent pity at my
weakness in disliking the dreary grandeur of the salon, wrote up to the
milliner in Paris from whom my corbeille de mariage had come, to desire
her to look out for me a maid of middle age, experienced in the
toilette, and with so much refinement that she might on occasion serve
as companion to me.
A Norman woman, Amante by name, was sent to Les Rochers by the Paris
milliner, to become my maid. She was tall and handsome, though upwards
of forty, and somewhat gaunt. But, on first seeing her, I liked her;
she was neither rude nor familiar in her manners, and had a pleasant
look of straightforwardness about her that I had missed in all the
inhabitants of the château, and had foolishly set down in my own mind
as a national want. Amante was directed by M. de la Tourelle to sit in
my boudoir, and to be always within call. He also gave her many
instructions as to her duties in matters which, perhaps, strictly
belonged to my department of management. But I was young and
inexperienced, and thankful to be spared any responsibility.
I daresay it was true what M. de la Tourelle saidbefore many weeks
had elapsedthat, for a great lady, a lady of a castle, I became sadly
too familiar with my Norman waiting-maid. But you know that by birth we
were not very far apart in rank: Amante was the daughter of a Norman
farmer, I of a German miller; and besides that, my life was so lonely!
It almost seemed as if I could not please my husband. He had written
for some one capable of being my companion at times, and now he was
jealous of my free regard for herangry because I could sometimes
laugh at her original tunes and amusing proverbs, while when with him I
was too much frightened to smile.
From time to time families from a distance of some leagues drove
through the bad roads in their heavy carriages to pay us a visit, and
there was an occasional talk of our going to Paris when public affairs
should be a little more settled. These little events and plans were the
only variations in my life for the first twelve months, if I except the
alternations in M. de la Tourelle's temper, his unreasonable anger, and
his passionate fondness.
Perhaps one of the reasons that made me take pleasure and comfort in
Amante's society was, that whereas I was afraid of everybody (I do not
think I was half as much afraid of things as of persons), Amante feared
no one. She would quietly beard Lefebvre, and he respected her all the
more for it; she had a knack of putting questions to M. de la Tourelle,
which respectfully informed him that she had detected the weak point,
but forebore to press him too closely upon it out of deference to his
position as her master. And with all her shrewdness to others, she had
quite tender ways with me; all the more so at this time because she
knew, what I had not yet ventured to tell M. de la Tourelle, that
by-and-by I might become a motherthat wonderful object of mysterious
interest to single women, who no longer hope to enjoy such blessedness
It was once more autumn; late in October. But I was reconciled to my
habitation; the walls of the new part of the building no longer looked
bare and desolate; the débris had been so far cleared away by M.
de la Tourelle's desire as to make me a little flower-garden, in which
I tried to cultivate those plants that I remembered as growing at home.
Amante and I had moved the furniture in the rooms, and adjusted it to
our liking; my husband had ordered many an article from time to time
that he thought would give me pleasure, and I was becoming tame to my
apparent imprisonment in a certain part of the great building, the
whole of which I had never yet explored. It was October, as I say, once
more. The days were lovely, though short in duration, and M. de la
Tourelle had occasion, so he said, to go to that distant estate the
superintendence of which so frequently took him away from home. He took
Lefebvre with him, and possibly some more of the lacqueys; he often
did. And my spirits rose a little at the thought of his absence; and
then the new sensation that he was the father of my unborn babe came
over me, and I tried to invest him with this fresh character. I tried
to believe that it was his passionate love for me that made him so
jealous and tyrannical, imposing, as he did, restrictions on my very
intercourse with my dear father, from whom I was so entirely separated,
as far as personal intercourse was concerned.
I had, it is true, let myself go into a sorrowful review of all the
troubles which lay hidden beneath the seeming luxury of my life. I knew
that no one cared for me except my husband and Amante; for it was clear
enough to see that I, as his wife, and also as a parvenue, was
not popular among the few neighbours who surrounded us; and as for the
servants, the women were all hard and impudent-looking, treating me
with a semblance of respect that had more of mockery than reality in
it; while the men had a lurking kind of fierceness about them,
sometimes displayed even to M. de la Tourelle, who on his part, it must
be confessed, was often severe even to cruelty in his management of
them. My husband loved me, I said to myself, but I said it almost in
the form of a question. His love was shown fitfully, and more in ways
calculated to please himself than to please me. I felt that for no wish
of mine would he deviate one tittle from any predetermined course of
action. I had learnt the inflexibility of those thin, delicate lips; I
knew how anger would turn his fair complexion to deadly white, and
bring the cruel light into his pale blue eyes. The love I bore to any
one seemed to be a reason for his hating them, and so I went on pitying
myself one long dreary afternoon during that absence of his of which I
have spoken, only sometimes remembering to check myself in my
murmurings by thinking of the new unseen link between us, and then
crying afresh to think how wicked I was. Oh, how well I remember that
long October evening! Amante came in from time to time, talking away to
cheer metalking about dress and Paris, and I hardly know what, but
from time to time looking at me keenly with her friendly dark eyes, and
with serious interest, too, though all her words were about frivolity.
At length she heaped the fire with wood, drew the heavy silken curtains
close; for I had been anxious hitherto to keep them open, so that I
might see the pale moon mounting the skies, as I used to see herthe
same moonrise from behind the Kaiser Stuhl at Heidelberg; but the
sight made me cry, so Amante shut it out. She dictated to me as a nurse
does to a child.
Now, madame must have the little kitten to keep her company, she
said, while I go and ask Marthon for a cup of coffee. I remember that
speech, and the way it roused me, for I did not like Amante to think I
wanted amusing by a kitten. It might be my petulance, but this
speechsuch as she might have made to a childannoyed me, and I said
that I had reason for my lowness of spiritsmeaning that they were not
of so imaginary a nature that I could be diverted from them by the
gambols of a kitten. So, though I did not choose to tell her all, I
told her a part; and as I spoke, I began to suspect that the good
creature knew much of what I withheld, and that the little speech about
the kitten was more thoughtfully kind than it had seemed at first. I
said that it was so long since I had heard from my father; that he was
an old man, and so many things might happenI might never see him
againand I so seldom heard from him or my brother. It was a more
complete and total separation than I had ever anticipated when I
married, and something of my home and of my life previous to my
marriage I told the good Amante; for I had not been brought up as a
great lady, and the sympathy of any human being was precious to me.
Amante listened with interest, and in return told me some of the
events and sorrows of her own life. Then, remembering her purpose, she
set out in search of the coffee, which ought to have been brought to me
an hour before; but, in my husband's absence, my wishes were but seldom
attended to, and I never dared to give orders.
Presently she returned, bringing the coffee and a great large cake.
See! said she, setting it down. Look at my plunder. Madame must
eat. Those who eat always laugh. And, besides, I have a little news
that will please madame. Then she told me that, lying on a table in
the great kitchen, was a bundle of letters, come by the courier from
Strasburg that very afternoon: then, fresh from her conversation with
me, she had hastily untied the string that bound them, but had only
just traced out one that she thought was from Germany, when a
servant-man came in, and, with the start he gave her, she dropped the
letters, which he picked up, swearing at her for having untied and
disarranged them. She told him that she believed there was a letter
there for her mistress; but he only swore the more, saying, that if
there was it was no business of hers, or of his either, for that he had
the strictest orders always to take all letters that arrived during his
master's absence into the private sitting-room of the lattera room
into which I had never entered, although it opened out of my husband's
I asked Amante if she had not conquered and brought me this letter.
No, indeed, she replied, it was almost as much as her life was worth to
live among such a set of servants: it was only a month ago that Jacques
had stabbed Valentin for some jesting talk. Had I never missed
Valentinthat handsome young lad who carried up the wood into my
salon? Poor fellow! he lies dead and cold now, and they said in the
village he had put an end to himself, but those of the household knew
better. Oh! I need not be afraid; Jacques was gone, no one knew where;
but with such people it was not safe to upbraid or insist. Monsieur
would be at home the next day, and it would not be long to wait.
But I felt as if I could not exist till the next day, without the
letter. It might be to say that my father was ill, dyinghe might cry
for his daughter from his death-bed! In short, there was no end to the
thoughts and fancies that haunted me. It was of no use for Amante to
say that, after all, she might be mistakenthat she did not read
writing wellthat she had but a glimpse of the address; I let my
coffee cool, my food all became distasteful, and I wrung my hands with
impatience to get at the letter, and have some news of my dear ones at
home. All the time, Amante kept her imperturbable good temper, first
reasoning, then scolding. At last she said, as if wearied out, that if
I would consent to make a good supper, she would see what could be done
as to our going to monsieur's room in search of the letter, after the
servants were all gone to bed. We agreed to go together when all was
still, and look over the letters; there could be no harm in that; and
yet, somehow, we were such cowards we dared not do it openly and in the
face of the household.
Presently my supper came uppartridges, bread, fruits, and cream.
How well I remember that supper! We put the untouched cake away in a
sort of buffet, and poured the cold coffee out of the window, in order
that the servants might not take offence at the apparent fancifulness
of sending down for food I could not eat. I was so anxious for all to
be in bed, that I told the footman who served that he need not wait to
take away the plates and dishes, but might go to bed. Long after I
thought the house was quiet, Amante, in her caution, made me wait. It
was past eleven before we set out, with cat-like steps and veiled
light, along the passages, to go to my husband's room and steal my own
letter, if it was indeed there; a fact about which Amante had become
very uncertain in the progress of our discussion.
To make you understand my story, I must now try to explain to you
the plan of the château. It had been at one time a fortified place of
some strength, perched on the summit of a rock, which projected from
the side of the mountain. But additions had been made to the old
building (which must have borne a strong resemblance to the castles
overhanging the Rhine), and these new buildings were placed so as to
command a magnificent view, being on the steepest side of the rock,
from which the mountain fell away, as it were, leaving the great plain
of France in full survey. The ground-plan was something of the shape of
three sides of an oblong; my apartments in the modern edifice occupied
the narrow end, and had this grand prospect. The front of the castle
was old, and ran parallel to the road far below. In this were contained
the offices and public rooms of various descriptions, into which I
never penetrated. The back wing (considering the new building, in which
my apartments were, as the centre) consisted of many rooms, of a dark
and gloomy character, as the mountain-side shut out much of the sun,
and heavy pine woods came down within a few yards of the windows. Yet
on this sideon a projecting plateau of the rockmy husband had
formed the flower-garden of which I have spoken; for he was a great
cultivator of flowers in his leisure moments.
Now my bedroom was the corner room of the new buildings on the part
next to the mountain. Hence I could have let myself down into the
flower-garden by my hands on the window-sill on one side, without
danger of hurting myself; while the windows at right angles with these
looked sheer down a descent of a hundred feet at least. Going still
farther along this wing, you came to the old building; in fact, these
two fragments of the ancient castle had formerly been attached by some
such connecting apartments as my husband had rebuilt. These rooms
belonged to M. de la Tourelle. His bedroom opened into mine, his
dressing-room lay beyond; and that was pretty nearly all I knew, for
the servants, as well as he himself, had a knack of turning me back,
under some pretence, if ever they found me walking about alone, as I
was inclined to do, when first I came, from a sort of curiosity to see
the whole of the place of which I found myself mistress. M. de la
Tourelle never encouraged me to go out alone, either in a carriage or
for a walk, saying always that the roads were unsafe in those disturbed
times; indeed, I have sometimes fancied since that the flower-garden,
to which the only access from the castle was through his rooms, was
designed in order to give me exercise and employment under his own eye.
But to return to that night. I knew, as I have said, that M. de la
Tourelle's private room opened out of his dressing-room, and this out
of his bedroom, which again opened into mine, the corner-room. But
there were other doors into all these rooms, and these doors led into a
long gallery, lighted by windows, looking into the inner court. I do
not remember our consulting much about it; we went through my room into
my husband's apartment through the dressing-room, but the door of
communication into his study was locked, so there was nothing for it
but to turn back and go by the gallery to the other door. I recollect
noticing one or two things in these rooms, then seen by me for the
first time. I remember the sweet perfume that hung in the air, the
scent bottles of silver that decked his toilet-table, and the whole
apparatus for bathing and dressing, more luxurious even than those
which he had provided for me. But the room itself was less splendid in
its proportions than mine. In truth, the new buildings ended at the
entrance to my husband's dressing-room. There were deep window recesses
in walls eight or nine feet thick, and even the partitions between the
chambers were three feet deep; but over all these doors or windows
there fell thick, heavy draperies, so that I should think no one could
have heard in one room what passed in another. We went back into my
room, and out into the gallery. We had to shade our candle, from a fear
that possessed us, I don't know why, lest some of the servants in the
opposite wing might trace our progress towards the part of the castle
unused by any one except my husband. Somehow, I had always the feeling
that all the domestics, except Amante, were spies upon me, and that I
was trammelled in a web of observation and unspoken limitation
extending over all my actions.
There was a light in the upper room; we paused, and Amante would
have again retreated, but I was chafing under the delays. What was the
harm of my seeking my father's unopened letter to me in my husband's
study? I, generally the coward, now blamed Amante for her unusual
timidity. But the truth was, she had far more reason for suspicion as
to the proceedings of that terrible household than I had ever known of.
I urged her on, I pressed on myself; we came to the door, locked, but
with the key in it; we turned it, we entered; the letters lay on the
table, their white oblongs catching the light in an instant, and
revealing themselves to my eager eyes, hungering after the words of
love from my peaceful, distant home. But just as I pressed forward to
examine the letters, the candle which Amante held, caught in some
draught, went out, and we were in darkness. Amante proposed that we
should carry the letters back to my salon, collecting them as well as
we could in the dark, and returning all but the expected one for me;
but I begged her to return to my room, where I kept tinder and flint,
and to strike a fresh light; and so she went, and I remained alone in
the room, of which I could only just distinguish the size, and the
principal articles of furniture: a large table, with a deep,
overhanging cloth, in the middle, escritoires and other heavy articles
against the walls; all this I could see as I stood there, my hand on
the table close by the letters, my face towards the window, which, both
from the darkness of the wood growing high up the mountain-side and the
faint light of the declining moon, seemed only like an oblong of paler
purpler black than the shadowy room. How much I remembered from my one
instantaneous glance before the candle went out, how much I saw as my
eyes became accustomed to the darkness, I do not know, but even now, in
my dreams, comes up that room of horror, distinct in its profound
shadow. Amante could hardly have been gone a minute before I felt an
additional gloom before the window, and heard soft movements
outsidesoft, but resolute, and continued until the end was
accomplished, and the window raised.
In mortal terror of people forcing an entrance at such an hour, and
in such a manner as to leave no doubt of their purpose, I would have
turned to fly when first I heard the noise, only that I feared by any
quick motion to catch their attention, as I also ran the danger of
doing by opening the door, which was all but closed, and to whose
handlings I was unaccustomed. Again, quick as lightning, I bethought me
of the hiding-place between the locked door to my husband's
dressing-room and the portière which covered it; but I gave that up, I
felt as if I could not reach it without screaming or fainting. So I
sank down softly, and crept under the table, hidden, as I hoped, by the
great, deep table-cover, with its heavy fringe. I had not recovered my
swooning senses fully, and was trying to reassure myself as to my being
in a place of comparative safety, for, above all things, I dreaded the
betrayal of fainting, and struggled hard for such courage as I might
attain by deadening myself to the danger I was in by inflicting intense
pain on myself. You have often asked me the reason of that mark on my
hand; it was where, in my agony, I bit out a piece of flesh with my
relentless teeth, thankful for the pain, which helped to numb my
terror. I say, I was but just concealed when I heard the window lifted,
and one after another stepped over the sill, and stood by me so close
that I could have touched their feet. Then they laughed and whispered;
my brain swam so that I could not tell the meaning of their words, but
I heard my husband's laughter among the restlow, hissing,
scornfulas he kicked something heavy that they had dragged in over
the floor, and which lay near me; so near, that my husband's kick, in
touching it, touched me too. I don't know whyI can't tell howbut
some feeling, and not curiosity, prompted me to put out my hand, ever
so softly, ever so little, and feel in the darkness for what lay
spurned beside me. I stole my groping palm upon the clenched and chilly
hand of a corpse!
Strange to say, this roused me to instant vividness of thought. Till
this moment I had almost forgotten Amante; now I planned with feverish
rapidity how I could give her a warning not to return; or rather, I
should say, I tried to plan, for all my projects were utterly futile,
as I might have seen from the first. I could only hope she would hear
the voices of those who were now busy in trying to kindle a light,
swearing awful oaths at the mislaid articles which would have enabled
them to strike fire. I heard her step outside coming nearer and nearer;
I saw from my hiding-place the line of light beneath the door more and
more distinctly; close to it her footstep paused; the men insideat
the time I thought they had been only two, but I found out afterwards
there were threepaused in their endeavours, and were quite still, as
breathless as myself, I suppose. Then she slowly pushed the door open
with gentle motion, to save her flickering candle from being again
extinguished. For a moment all was still. Then I heard my husband say,
as he advanced towards her (he wore riding-boots, the shape of which I
knew well, as I could see them in the light),
Amante, may I ask what brings you here into my private room?
He stood between her and the dead body of a man, from which ghastly
heap I shrank away as it almost touched me, so close were we all
together. I could not tell whether she saw it or not; I could give her
no warning, nor make any dumb utterance of signs to bid her what to
sayif, indeed, I knew myself what would be best for her to say.
Her voice was quite changed when she spoke; quite hoarse, and very
low; yet it was steady enough as she said, what was the truth, that she
had come to look for a letter which she believed had arrived for me
from Germany. Good, brave Amante! Not a word about me. M. de la
Tourelle answered with a grim blasphemy and a fearful threat. He would
have no one prying into his premises; madame should have her letters,
if there were any, when he chose to give them to her, if, indeed, he
thought it well to give them to her at all. As for Amante, this was her
first warning, but it was also her last; and, taking the candle out of
her hand, he turned her out of the room, his companions discreetly
making a screen, so as to throw the corpse into deep shadow. I heard
the key turn in the door after herif I had ever had any thought of
escape it was gone now. I only hoped that whatever was to befal me
might soon be over, for the tension of nerve was growing more than I
could bear. The instant she could be supposed to be out of hearing, two
voices began speaking in the most angry terms to my husband, upbraiding
him for not having detained her, gagged hernay, one was for killing
her, saying he had seen her eye fall on the face of the dead man, whom
he now kicked in his passion. Though the form of their speech was as if
they were speaking to equals, yet in their tone there was something of
fear. I am sure my husband was their superior, or captain, or somewhat.
He replied to them almost as if he were scoffing at them, saying it was
such an expenditure of labour having to do with fools; that, ten to
one, the woman was only telling the simple truth, and that she was
frightened enough by discovering her master in his room to be thankful
to escape and return to her mistress, to whom he could easily explain
on the morrow how he happened to return in the dead of night. But his
companions fell to cursing me, and saying that since M. de la Tourelle
had been married he was fit for nothing but to dress himself fine and
scent himself with perfume; that, as for me, they could have got him
twenty girls prettier, and with far more spirit in them. He quietly
answered that I suited him, and that was enough. All this time they
were doing somethingI could not see whatto the corpse; sometimes
they were too busy rifling the dead body, I believe, to talk; again
they let it fall with a heavy, resistless thud, and took to
quarrelling. They taunted my husband with angry vehemence, enraged at
his scoffing and scornful replies, his mocking laughter. Yes, holding
up his poor dead victim, the better to strip him of whatever he wore
that was valuable, I heard my husband laugh just as he had done when
exchanging repartees in the little salon of the Rupprechts at
Carlsruhe. I hated and dreaded him from that moment. At length, as if
to make an end of the subject, he said, with cool determination in his
Now, my good friends, what is the use of all this talking, when you
know in your hearts that, if I suspected my wife of knowing more than I
chose of my affairs, she would not outlive the day? Remember Victorine.
Because she merely joked about my affairs in an imprudent manner, and
rejected my advice to keep a prudent tongueto see what she liked, but
ask nothing and say nothingshe has gone a long journeylonger than
But this one is different to her; we knew all that Madame Victorine
knew, she was such a chatterbox; but this one may find out a vast deal,
and never breathe a word about it, she is so sly. Some fine day we may
have the country raised, and the gendarmes down upon us from Strasburg,
and all owing to your pretty doll, with her cunning ways of coming over
I think this roused M. de la Tourelle a little from his contemptuous
indifference, for he ground an oath through his teeth, and said, Feel!
this dagger is sharp, Henri. If my wife breathes a word, and I am such
a fool as not to have stopped her mouth effectually before she can
bring down gendarmes upon us, just let that good steel find its way to
my heart. Let her guess but one tittle, let her have but one slight
suspicion that I am not a 'grand propriétaire,' much less imagine that
I am a chief of Chauffeurs, and she follows Victorine on the long
journey beyond Paris that very day.
She'll outwit you yet; or I never judged women well. Those still
silent ones are the devil. She'll be off during some of your absences,
having picked out some secret that will break us all on the wheel.
Bah! said his voice; and then in a minute he added, Let her go if
she will. But, where she goes, I will follow; so don't cry before
By this time, they had nearly stripped the body; and the
conversation turned on what they should do with it. I learnt that the
dead man was the Sieur de Poissy, a neighbouring gentleman, whom I had
often heard of as hunting with my husband. I had never seen him, but
they spoke as if he had come upon them while they were robbing some
Cologne merchant, torturing him after the cruel practice of the
Chauffeurs, by roasting the feet of their victims in order to compel
them to reveal any hidden circumstances connected with their wealth, of
which the Chauffeurs afterwards made use; and this Sieur de Poissy
coming down upon them, and recognising M. de la Tourelle, they had
killed him, and brought him thither after nightfall. I heard him whom I
called my husband, laugh his little light laugh as he spoke of the way
in which the dead body had been strapped before one of the riders, in
such a way that it appeared to any passer-by as if, in truth, the
murderer were tenderly supporting some sick person. He repeated some
mocking reply of double meaning, which he himself had given to some one
who made inquiry. He enjoyed the play upon words, softly applauding his
own wit. And all the time the poor helpless outstretched arms of the
dead lay close to his dainty boot! Then another stooped (my heart
stopped beating), and picked up a letter lying on the grounda letter
that had dropped out of M. de Poissy's pocketa letter from his wife,
full of tender words of endearment and pretty babblings of love. This
was read aloud, with coarse ribald comments on every sentence, each
trying to outdo the previous speaker. When they came to some pretty
words about a sweet Maurice, their little child away with its mother on
some visit, they laughed at M. de la Tourelle, and told him that he
would be hearing such woman's drivelling some day. Up to that moment, I
think, I had only feared him, but his unnatural, half-ferocious reply
made me hate even more than I dreaded him. But now they grew weary of
their savage merriment; the jewels and watch had been apprised, the
money and papers examined; and apparently there was some necessity for
the body being interred quietly and before daybreak. They had not dared
to leave him where he was slain for fear lest people should come and
recognise him, and raise the hue and cry upon them. For they all along
spoke as if it was their constant endeavour to keep the immediate
neighbourhood of Les Rochers in the most orderly and tranquil
condition, so as never to give cause for visits from the gendarmes.
They disputed a little as to whether they should make their way into
the castle larder through the gallery, and satisfy their hunger before
the hasty interment, or afterwards. I listened with eager feverish
interest as soon as this meaning of their speeches reached my hot and
troubled brain, for at the time the words they uttered seemed only to
stamp themselves with terrible force on my memory, so that I could
hardly keep from repeating them aloud like a dull, miserable,
unconscious echo; but my brain was numb to the sense of what they said,
unless I myself were named, and then, I suppose, some instinct of
self-preservation stirred within me, and quickened my sense. And how I
strained my ears, and nerved my hands and limbs, beginning to twitch
with convulsive movements, which I feared might betray me! I gathered
every word they spoke, not knowing which proposal to wish for, but
feeling that whatever was finally decided upon, my only chance of
escape was drawing near. I once feared lest my husband should go to his
bedroom before I had had that one chance, in which case he would most
likely have perceived my absence. He said that his hands were soiled (I
shuddered, for it might be with life-blood), and he would go and
cleanse them; but some bitter jest turned his purpose, and he left the
room with the other twoleft it by the gallery door. Left me alone in
the dark with the stiffening corpse!
Now, now was my time, if ever; and yet I could not move. It was not
my cramped and stiffened joints that crippled me, it was the sensation
of that dead man's close presence. I almost fanciedI almost fancy
stillI heard the arm nearest to me move; lift itself up, as if once
more imploring, and fall in dead despair. At that fancyif fancy it
wereI screamed aloud in mad terror, and the sound of my own strange
voice broke the spell. I drew myself to the side of the table farthest
from the corpse, with as much slow caution as if I really could have
feared the clutch of that poor dead arm, powerless for evermore. I
softly raised myself up, and stood sick and trembling, holding by the
table, too dizzy to know what to do next. I nearly fainted, when a low
voice spokewhen Amante, from the outside of the door, whispered,
Madame! The faithful creature had been on the watch, had heard my
scream, and having seen the three ruffians troop along the gallery down
the stairs, and across the court to the offices in the other wing of
the castle, she had stolen to the door of the room in which I was. The
sound of her voice gave me strength; I walked straight towards it, as
one benighted on a dreary moor, suddenly perceiving the small steady
light which tells of human dwellings, takes heart, and steers straight
onward. Where I was, where that voice was, I knew not; but go to it I
must, or die. The door once openedI know not by which of usI fell
upon her neck, grasping her tight, till my hands ached with the tension
of their hold. Yet she never uttered a word. Only she took me up in her
vigorous arms, and bore me to my room, and laid me on my bed. I do not
know more; as soon as I was placed there I lost sense; I came to myself
with a horrible dread lest my husband was by me, with a belief that he
was in the room, in hiding, waiting to hear my first words, watching
for the least sign of the terrible knowledge I possessed to murder me.
I dared not breathe quicker, I measured and timed each heavy
inspiration; I did not speak, nor move, nor even open my eyes, for long
after I was in my full, my miserable senses. I heard some one treading
softly about the room, as if with a purpose, not as if for curiosity,
or merely to beguile the time; some one passed in and out of the salon;
and I still lay quiet, feeling as if death were inevitable, but wishing
that the agony of death were past. Again faintness stole over me; but
just as I was sinking into the horrible feeling of nothingness, I heard
Amante's voice close to me, saying,
Drink this, madame, and let us begone. All is ready.
I let her put her arm under my head and raise me, and pour something
down my throat. All the time she kept talking in a quiet, measured
voice, unlike her own, so dry and authoritative; she told me that a
suit of her clothes lay ready for me, that she herself was as much
disguised as the circumstances permitted her to be, that what
provisions I had left from my supper were stowed away in her pockets,
and so she went on, dwelling on little details of the most commonplace
description, but never alluding for an instant to the fearful cause why
flight was necessary. I made no inquiry as to how she knew, or what she
knew. I never asked her either then or afterwards, I could not bear
itwe kept our dreadful secret close. But I suppose she must have been
in the dressing-room adjoining, and heard all.
In fact, I dared not speak even to her, as if there were anything
beyond the most common event in life in our preparing thus to leave the
house of blood by stealth in the dead of night. She gave me
directionsshort condensed directions, without reasonsjust as you do
to a child; and like a child I obeyed her. She went often to the door
and listened; and often, too, she went to the window, and looked
anxiously out. For me, I saw nothing but her, and I dared not let my
eyes wander from her for a minute; and I heard nothing in the deep
midnight silence but her soft movements, and the heavy beating of my
own heart. At last she took my hand, and led me in the dark, through
the salon, once more into the terrible gallery, where across the black
darkness the windows admitted pale sheeted ghosts of light upon the
floor. Clinging to her I went; unquestioningfor she was human
sympathy to me after the isolation of my unspeakable terror. On we
went, turning to the left instead of to the right, past my suite of
sitting-rooms where the gilding was red with blood, into that unknown
wing of the castle that fronted the main road lying parallel far below.
She guided me along the basement passages to which we had now
descended, until we came to a little open door, through which the air
blew chill and cold, bringing for the first time a sensation of life to
me. The door led into a kind of cellar, through which we groped our way
to an opening like a window, but which, instead of being glazed, was
only fenced with iron bars, two of which were loose, as Amante
evidently knew, for she took them out with the ease of one who had
performed the action often before, and then helped me to follow her out
into the free, open air.
We stole round the end of the building, and on turning the
cornershe firstI felt her hold on me tighten for an instant, and
the next step I, too, heard distant voices, and the blows of a spade
upon the heavy soil, for the night was very warm and still.
We had not spoken a word; we did not speak now. Touch was safer and
as expressive. She turned down towards the high road; I followed. I did
not know the path; we stumbled again and again, and I was much bruised;
so doubtless was she; but bodily pain did me good. At last, we were on
the plainer path of the high road.
I had such faith in her that I did not venture to speak, even when
she paused, as wondering to which hand she should turn. But now, for
the first time, she spoke:
Which way did you come when he brought you here first?
I pointed, I could not speak.
We turned in the opposite direction; still going along the high
road. In about an hour, we struck up to the mountain-side, scrambling
far up before we even dared to rest; far up and away again before day
had fully dawned. Then we looked about for some place of rest and
concealment: and now we dared to speak in whispers. Amante told me that
she had locked the door of communication between his bedroom and mine,
and, as in a dream, I was aware that she had also locked and brought
away the key of the door between the latter and the salon.
He will have been too busy this night to think much about youhe
will suppose you are asleepI shall be the first to be missed; but
they will only just now be discovering our loss.
I remember those last words of hers made me pray to go on; I felt as
if we were losing precious time in thinking either of rest or
concealment; but she hardly replied to me, so busy was she in seeking
out some hiding-place. At length, giving it up in despair, we proceeded
onwards a little way; the mountain-side sloped downwards rapidly, and
in the full morning light we saw ourselves in a narrow valley, made by
a stream which forced its way along it. About a mile lower down there
rose the pale blue smoke of a village, a mill-wheel was lashing up the
water close at hand, though out of sight. Keeping under the cover of
every sheltering tree or bush, we worked our way down past the mill,
down to a one-arched bridge, which doubtless formed part of the road
between the village and the mill.
This will do, said she; and we crept under the space, and climbing
a little way up the rough stone-work, we seated ourselves on a
projecting ledge, and crouched in the deep damp shadow. Amante sat a
little above me, and made me lay my head on her lap. Then she fed me,
and took some food herself; and opening out her great dark cloak, she
covered up every light-coloured speck about us; and thus we sat,
shivering and shuddering, yet feeling a kind of rest through it all,
simply from the fact that motion was no longer imperative, and that
during the daylight our only chance of safety was to be still. But the
damp shadow in which we were sitting was blighting, from the
circumstance of the sunlight never penetrating there; and I dreaded
lest, before night and the time for exertion again came on, I should
feel illness creeping all over me. To add to our discomfort, it had
rained the whole day long, and the stream, fed by a thousand little
mountain brooklets, began to swell into a torrent, rushing over the
stones with a perpetual and dizzying noise.
Every now and then I was wakened from the painful doze into which I
continually fell, by a sound of horses' feet over our head: sometimes
lumbering heavily as if dragging a burden, sometimes rattling and
galloping, and with the sharper cry of men's voices coming cutting
through the roar of the waters. At length, day fell. We had to drop
into the stream, which came above our knees as we waded to the bank.
There we stood, stiff and shivering. Even Amante's courage seemed to
We must pass this night in shelter, somehow, said she. For indeed
the rain was coming down pitilessly. I said nothing. I thought that
surely the end must be death in some shape; and I only hoped that to
death might not be added the terror of the cruelty of men. In a minute
or so she had resolved on her course of action. We went up the stream
to the mill. The familiar sounds, the scent of the wheat, the flour
whitening the wallsall reminded me of home, and it seemed to me as if
I must struggle out of this nightmare and waken, and find myself once
more a happy girl by the Neckar-side. They were long in unbarring the
door at which Amante had knocked: at length, an old feeble voice
inquired who was there, and what was sought? Amante answered shelter
from the storm for two women; but the old woman replied, with
suspicious hesitation, that she was sure it was a man who was asking
for shelter, and that she could not let us in. But at length she
satisfied herself, and unbarred the heavy door, and admitted us. She
was not an unkindly woman; but her thoughts all travelled in one
circle, and that was, that her master, the miller, had told her on no
account to let any man into the place during his absence, and that she
did not know if he would not think two women as bad; and yet that as we
were not men, no one could say she had disobeyed him, for it was a
shame to let a dog be out such a night as this. Amante, with ready wit,
told her to let no one know that we had taken shelter there that night,
and that then her master could not blame her; and while she was thus
enjoining secrecy as the wisest course, with a view to far other people
than the miller, she was hastily helping me to take off my wet clothes,
and spreading them, as well as the brown mantle that had covered us
both, before the great stove which warmed the room with the effectual
heat that the old woman's failing vitality required. All this time the
poor creature was discussing with herself as to whether she had
disobeyed orders, in a kind of garrulous way that made me fear much for
her capability of retaining anything secret if she was questioned.
By-and-by, she wandered away to an unnecessary revelation of her
master's whereabouts: gone to help in the search for his landlord, the
Sieur de Poissy, who lived at the château just above, and who had not
returned from his chase the day before; so the intendant imagined he
might have met with some accident, and had summoned the neighbours to
beat the forest and the hill-side. She told us much besides, giving us
to understand that she would fain meet with a place as housekeeper
where there were more servants and less to do, as her life here was
very lonely and dull, especially since her master's son had gone
awaygone to the wars. She then took her supper, which was evidently
apportioned out to her with a sparing hand, as, even if the idea had
come into her head, she had not enough to offer us any. Fortunately,
warmth was all that we required, and that, thanks to Amante's cares,
was returning to our chilled bodies. After supper, the old woman grew
drowsy; but she seemed uncomfortable at the idea of going to sleep and
leaving us still in the house. Indeed, she gave us pretty broad hints
as to the propriety of our going once more out into the bleak and
stormy night; but we begged to be allowed to stay under shelter of some
kind; and, at last, a bright idea came over her, and she bade us mount
by a ladder to a kind of loft, which went half over the lofty
mill-kitchen in which we were sitting. We obeyed herwhat else could
we do?and found ourselves in a spacious floor, without any safeguard
or wall, boarding, or railing, to keep us from falling over into the
kitchen in case we went too near the edge. It was, in fact, the
store-room or garret for the household. There was bedding piled up,
boxes and chests, mill sacks, the winter store of apples and nuts,
bundles of old clothes, broken furniture, and many other things. No
sooner were we up there, than the old woman dragged the ladder, by
which we had ascended, away with a chuckle, as if she was now secure
that we could do no mischief, and sat herself down again once more, to
doze and await her master's return. We pulled out some bedding, and
gladly laid ourselves down in our dried clothes and in some warmth,
hoping to have the sleep we so much needed to refresh us and prepare us
for the next day. But I could not sleep, and I was aware, from her
breathing, that Amante was equally wakeful. We could both see through
the crevices between the boards that formed the flooring into the
kitchen below, very partially lighted by the common lamp that hung
against the wall near the stove on the opposite side to that on which
Far on in the night there were voices outside reached us in our
hiding-place; an angry knocking at the door, and we saw through the
chinks the old woman rouse herself up to go and open it for her master,
who came in, evidently half drunk. To my sick horror, he was followed
by Lefebvre, apparently as sober and wily as ever. They were talking
together as they came in, disputing about something; but the miller
stopped the conversation to swear at the old woman for having fallen
asleep, and, with tipsy anger, and even with blows, drove the poor old
creature out of the kitchen to bed. Then he and Lefebvre went on
talkingabout the Sieur de Poissy's disappearance. It seemed that
Lefebvre had been out all day, along with other of my husband's men,
ostensibly assisting in the search; in all probability trying to blind
the Sieur de Poissy's followers by putting them on a wrong scent, and
also, I fancied, from one or two of Lefebvre's sly questions, combining
the hidden purpose of discovering us.
Although the miller was tenant and vassal to the Sieur de Poissy, he
seemed to me to be much more in league with the people of M. de la
Tourelle. He was evidently aware, in part, of the life which Lefebvre
and the others led; although, again, I do not suppose he knew or
imagined one-half of their crimes; and also, I think, he was seriously
interested in discovering the fate of his master, little suspecting
Lefebvre of murder or violence. He kept talking himself, and letting
out all sorts of thoughts and opinions; watched by the keen eyes of
Lefebvre gleaming out below his shaggy eyebrows. It was evidently not
the cue of the latter to let out that his master's wife had escaped
from that vile and terrible den; but though he never breathed a word
relating to us, not the less was I certain he was thirsting for our
blood, and lying in wait for us at every turn of events. Presently he
got up and took his leave; and the miller bolted him out, and stumbled
off to bed. Then we fell asleep, and slept sound and long.
The next morning, when I awoke, I saw Amante, half raised, resting
on one hand, and eagerly gazing, with straining eyes, into the kitchen
below. I looked too, and both heard and saw the miller and two of his
men eagerly and loudly talking about the old woman, who had not
appeared as usual to make the fire in the stove, and prepare her
master's breakfast, and who now, late on in the morning, had been found
dead in her bed; whether from the effect of her master's blows the
night before, or from natural causes, who can tell? The miller's
conscience upbraided him a little, I should say, for he was eagerly
declaring his value for his housekeeper, and repeating how often she
had spoken of the happy life she led with him. The men might have their
doubts, but they did not wish to offend the miller, and all agreed that
the necessary steps should be taken for a speedy funeral. And so they
went out, leaving us in our loft, but so much alone, that, for the
first time almost, we ventured to speak freely, though still in a
hushed voice, pausing to listen continually. Amante took a more
cheerful view of the whole occurrence than I did. She said that, had
the old woman lived, we should have had to depart that morning, and
that this quiet departure would have been the best thing we could have
had to hope for, as, in all probability, the housekeeper would have
told her master of us and of our resting-place, and this fact would,
sooner or later, have been brought to the knowledge of those from whom
we most desired to keep it concealed; but that now we had time to rest,
and a shelter to rest in, during the first hot pursuit, which we knew
to a fatal certainty was being carried on. The remnants of our food,
and the stored-up fruit, would supply us with provision; the only thing
to be feared was, that something might be required from the loft, and
the miller or some one else mount up in search of it. But even then,
with a little arrangement of boxes and chests, one part might be so
kept in shadow that we might yet escape observation. All this comforted
me a little; but, I asked, how were we ever to escape? The ladder was
taken away, which was our only means of descent. But Amante replied
that she could make a sufficient ladder of the rope lying coiled among
other things, to drop us down the ten feet or sowith the advantage of
its being portable, so that we might carry it away, and thus avoid all
betrayal of the fact that any one had ever been hidden in the loft.
During the two days that intervened before we did escape, Amante
made good use of her time. She looked into every box and chest during
the man's absence at his mill; and finding in one box an old suit of
man's clothes, which had probably belonged to the miller's absent son,
she put them on to see if they would fit her; and, when she found that
they did, she cut her own hair to the shortness of a man's, made me
clip her black eyebrows as close as though they had been shaved, and by
cutting up old corks into pieces such as would go into her cheeks, she
altered both the shape of her face and her voice to a degree which I
should not have believed possible.
All this time I lay like one stunned; my body resting, and renewing
its strength, but I myself in an almost idiotic stateelse surely I
could not have taken the stupid interest which I remember I did in all
Amante's energetic preparations for disguise. I absolutely recollect
once the feeling of a smile coming over my stiff face as some new
exercise of her cleverness proved a success.
But towards the second day, she required me, too, to exert myself;
and then all my heavy despair returned. I let her dye my fair hair and
complexion with the decaying shells of the stored-up walnuts, I let her
blacken my teeth, and even voluntarily broke a front tooth the better
to effect my disguise. But through it all I had no hope of evading my
terrible husband. The third night the funeral was over, the drinking
ended, the guests gone; the miller put to bed by his men, being too
drunk to help himself. They stopped a little while in the kitchen,
talking and laughing about the new housekeeper likely to come; and
they, too, went off, shutting, but not locking the door. Everything
favoured us. Amante had tried her ladder on one of the two previous
nights, and could, by a dexterous throw from beneath, unfasten it from
the hook to which it was fixed, when it had served its office; she made
up a bundle of worthless old clothes in order that we might the better
preserve our characters of a travelling pedlar and his wife; she
stuffed a hump on her back, she thickened my figure, she left her own
clothes deep down beneath a heap of others in the chest from which she
had taken the man's dress which she wore; and with a few francs in her
pocketthe sole money we had either of us had about us when we
escapedwe let ourselves down the ladder, unhooked it, and passed into
the cold darkness of night again.
We had discussed the route which it would be well for us to take
while we lay perdues in our loft. Amante had told me then that her
reason for inquiring, when we first left Les Rochers, by which way I
had first been brought to it, was to avoid the pursuit which she was
sure would first be made in the direction of Germany; but that now she
thought we might return to that district of country where my German
fashion of speaking French would excite least observation. I thought
that Amante herself had something peculiar in her accent, which I had
heard M. de la Tourelle sneer at as Norman patois; but I said not a
word beyond agreeing to her proposal that we should bend our steps
towards Germany. Once there, we should, I thought, be safe. Alas! I
forgot the unruly time that was overspreading all Europe, overturning
all law, and all the protection which law gives.
How we wanderednot daring to ask our wayhow we lived, how we
struggled through many a danger and still more terrors of danger, I
shall not tell you now. I will only relate two of our adventures before
we reached Frankfort. The first, although fatal to an innocent lady,
was yet, I believe, the cause of my safety; the second I shall tell
you, that you may understand why I did not return to my former home, as
I had hoped to do when we lay in the miller's loft, and I first became
capable of groping after an idea of what my future life might be. I
cannot tell you how much in these doubtings and wanderings I became
attached to Amante. I have sometimes feared since, lest I cared for her
only because she was so necessary to my own safety; but, no! it was not
so; or not so only, or principally. She said once that she was flying
for her own life as well as for mine; but we dared not speak much on
our danger, or on the horrors that had gone before. We planned a little
what was to be our future course; but even for that we did not look
forward long; how could we, when every day we scarcely knew if we
should see the sun go down? For Amante knew or conjectured far more
than I did of the atrocity of the gang to which M. de la Tourelle
belonged; and every now and then, just as we seemed to be sinking into
the calm of security, we fell upon traces of a pursuit after us in all
directions. Once I rememberwe must have been nearly three weeks
wearily walking through unfrequented ways, day after day, not daring to
make inquiry as to our whereabouts, nor yet to seem purposeless in our
wanderingswe came to a kind of lonely roadside farrier's and
blacksmith's. I was so tired, that Amante declared that, come what
might, we would stay there all night; and accordingly she entered the
house, and boldly announced herself as a travelling tailor, ready to do
any odd jobs of work that might be required, for a night's lodging and
food for herself and wife. She had adopted this plan once or twice
before, and with good success; for her father had been a tailor in
Rouen, and as a girl she had often helped him with his work, and knew
the tailors' slang and habits, down to the particular whistle and cry
which in France tells so much to those of a trade. At this
blacksmith's, as at most other solitary houses far away from a town,
there was not only a store of men's clothes laid by as wanting mending
when the housewife could afford time, but there was a natural craving
after news from a distance, such news as a wandering tailor is bound to
furnish. The early November afternoon was closing into evening, as we
sat down, she cross-legged on the great table in the blacksmith's
kitchen, drawn close to the window, I close behind her, sewing at
another part of the same garment, and from time to time well scolded by
my seeming husband. All at once she turned round to speak to me. It was
only one word, Courage! I had seen nothing; I sat out of the light;
but I turned sick for an instant, and then I braced myself up into a
strange strength of endurance to go through I knew not what.
The blacksmith's forge was in a shed beside the house, and fronting
the road. I heard the hammers stop plying their continual rhythmical
beat. She had seen why they ceased. A rider had come up to the forge
and dismounted, leading his horse in to be re-shod. The broad red light
of the forge-fire had revealed the face of the rider to Amante, and she
apprehended the consequence that really ensued.
The rider, after some words with the blacksmith, was ushered in by
him into the house-place where we sat.
Here, good wife, a cup of wine and some galette for this
Anything, anything, madame, that I can eat and drink in my hand
while my horse is being shod. I am in haste, and must get on to Forbach
The blacksmith's wife lighted her lamp; Amante had asked her for it
five minutes before. How thankful we were that she had not more
speedily complied with our request! As it was, we sat in dusk shadow,
pretending to stitch away, but scarcely able to see. The lamp was
placed on the stove, near which my husband, for it was he, stood and
warmed himself. By-and-by he turned round, and looked all over the
room, taking us in with about the same degree of interest as the
inanimate furniture. Amante, cross-legged, fronting him, stooped over
her work, whistling softly all the while. He turned again to the stove,
impatiently rubbing his hands. He had finished his wine and galette,
and wanted to be off.
I am in haste, my good woman. Ask thy husband to get on more
quickly. I will pay him double if he makes haste.
The woman went out to do his bidding; and he once more turned round
to face us. Amante went on to the second part of the tune. He took it
up, whistled a second for an instant or so, and then the blacksmith's
wife re-entering, he moved towards her, as if to receive her answer the
One moment, monsieuronly one moment. There was a nail out of the
off-foreshoe which my husband is replacing; it would delay monsieur
again if that shoe also came off.
Madame is right, said he, but my haste is urgent. If madame knew
my reasons, she would pardon my impatience. Once a happy husband, now a
deserted and betrayed man, I pursue a wife on whom I lavished all my
love, but who has abused my confidence, and fled from my house,
doubtless to some paramour; carrying off with her all the jewels and
money on which she could lay her hands. It is possible madame may have
heard or seen something of her; she was accompanied in her flight by a
base, profligate woman from Paris, whom I, unhappy man, had myself
engaged for my wife's waiting-maid, little dreaming what corruption I
was bringing into my house!
Is it possible? said the good woman, throwing up her hands.
Amante went on whistling a little lower, out of respect to the
However, I am tracing the wicked fugitives; I am on their track
(and the handsome, effeminate face looked as ferocious as any demon's).
They will not escape me; but every minute is a minute of misery to me,
till I meet my wife. Madame has sympathy, has she not?
He drew his face into a hard, unnatural smile, and then both went
out to the forge, as if once more to hasten the blacksmith over his
Amante stopped her whistling for one instant.
Go on as you are, without change of an eyelid even; in a few
minutes he will be gone, and it will be over!
It was a necessary caution, for I was on the point of giving way,
and throwing myself weakly upon her neck. We went on; she whistling and
stitching, I making semblance to sew. And it was well we did so; for
almost directly he came back for his whip, which he had laid down and
forgotten; and again I felt one of those sharp, quick-scanning glances,
sent all round the room, and taking in all.
Then we heard him ride away; and then, it had been long too dark to
see well, I dropped my work, and gave way to my trembling and
shuddering. The blacksmith's wife returned. She was a good creature.
Amante told her I was cold and weary, and she insisted on my stopping
my work, and going to sit near the stove; hastening, at the same time,
her preparations for supper, which, in honour of us, and of monsieur's
liberal payment, was to be a little less frugal than ordinary. It was
well for me that she made me taste a little of the cider-soup she was
preparing, or I could not have held up, in spite of Amante's warning
look, and the remembrance of her frequent exhortations to act
resolutely up to the characters we had assumed, whatever befel. To
cover my agitation, Amante stopped her whistling, and began to talk;
and, by the time the blacksmith came in, she and the good woman of the
house were in full flow. He began at once upon the handsome gentleman,
who had paid him so well; all his sympathy was with him, and both he
and his wife only wished he might overtake his wicked wife, and punish
her as she deserved. And then the conversation took a turn, not
uncommon to those whose lives are quiet and monotonous; every one
seemed to vie with each other in telling about some horror; and the
savage and mysterious band of robbers called the Chauffeurs, who
infested all the roads leading to the Rhine, with Schinderhannes at
their head, furnished many a tale which made the very marrow of my
bones run cold, and quenched even Amante's power of talking. Her eyes
grew large and wild, her cheeks blanched, and for once she sought by
her looks help from me. The new call upon me roused me. I rose and
said, with their permission my husband and I would seek our bed, for
that we had travelled far and were early risers. I added that we would
get up betimes, and finish our piece of work. The blacksmith said we
should be early birds if we rose before him; and the good wife seconded
my proposal with kindly bustle. One other such story as those they had
been relating, and I do believe Amante would have fainted.
As it was, a night's rest set her up; we arose and finished our work
betimes, and shared the plentiful breakfast of the family. Then we had
to set forth again; only knowing that to Forbach we must not go, yet
believing, as was indeed the case, that Forbach lay between us and that
Germany to which we were directing our course. Two days more we
wandered on, making a round, I suspect, and returning upon the road to
Forbach, a league or two nearer to that town than the blacksmith's
house. But as we never made inquiries I hardly knew where we were, when
we came one night to a small town, with a good large rambling inn in
the very centre of the principal street. We had begun to feel as if
there were more safety in towns than in the loneliness of the country.
As we had parted with a ring of mine not many days before to a
travelling jeweller, who was too glad to purchase it far below its real
value to make many inquiries as to how it came into the possession of a
poor working tailor, such as Amante seemed to be, we resolved to stay
at this inn all night, and gather such particulars and information as
we could by which to direct our onward course.
We took our supper in the darkest corner of the salle-à-manger, having previously bargained for a small bedroom across the court, and
over the stables. We needed food sorely; but we hurried on our meal
from dread of any one entering that public room who might recognize us.
Just in the middle of our meal, the public diligence drove lumbering up
under the porte-cochère, and disgorged its passengers. Most of
them turned into the room where we sat, cowering and fearful, for the
door was opposite to the porter's lodge, and both opened on to the
wide-covered entrance from the street. Among the passengers came in a
young, fair-haired lady, attended by an elderly French maid. The poor
young creature tossed her head, and shrank away from the common room,
full of evil smells and promiscuous company, and demanded, in German
French, to be taken to some private apartment. We heard that she and
her maid had come in the coupé, and, probably from pride, poor young
lady! she had avoided all association with her fellow-passengers,
thereby exciting their dislike and ridicule. All these little pieces of
hearsay had a significance to us afterwards, though, at the time, the
only remark made that bore upon the future was Amante's whisper to me
that the young lady's hair was exactly the colour of mine, which she
had cut off and burnt in the stove in the miller's kitchen in one of
her descents from our hiding-place in the loft.
As soon as we could, we struck round in the shadow, leaving the
boisterous and merry fellow-passengers to their supper. We crossed the
court, borrowed a lantern from the ostler, and scrambled up the rude
steps to our chamber above the stable. There was no door into it; the
entrance was the hole into which the ladder fitted. The window looked
into the court. We were tired and soon fell asleep. I was wakened by a
noise in the stable below. One instant of listening, and I wakened
Amante, placing my hand on her mouth, to prevent any exclamation in her
half-roused state. We heard my husband speaking about his horse to the
ostler. It was his voice. I am sure of it. Amante said so too. We durst
not move to rise and satisfy ourselves. For five minutes or so he went
on giving directions. Then he left the stable, and, softly stealing to
our window, we saw him cross the court and re-enter the inn. We
consulted as to what we should do. We feared to excite remark or
suspicion by descending and leaving our chamber, or else immediate
escape was our strongest idea. Then the ostler left the stable, locking
the door on the outside.
We must try and drop through the windowif, indeed, it is well to
go at all, said Amante.
With reflection came wisdom. We should excite suspicion by leaving
without paying our bill. We were on foot, and might easily be pursued.
So we sat on our bed's edge, talking and shivering, while from across
the court the laughter rang merrily, and the company slowly dispersed
one by one, their lights flitting past the windows as they went
upstairs and settled each one to his rest.
We crept into our bed, holding each other tight, and listening to
every sound, as if we thought we were tracked, and might meet our death
at any moment. In the dead of night, just at the profound stillness
preceding the turn into another day, we heard a soft, cautious step
crossing the yard. The key into the stable was turnedsome one came
into the stablewe felt rather than heard him there. A horse started a
little, and made a restless movement with his feet, then whinnied
recognition. He who had entered made two or three low sounds to the
animal, and then led him into the court. Amante sprang to the window
with the noiseless activity of a cat. She looked out, but dared not
speak a word. We heard the great door into the street opena pause for
mounting, and the horse's footsteps were lost in distance.
Then Amante came back to me. It was he! he is gone! said she, and
once more we lay down, trembling and shaking.
This time we fell sound asleep. We slept long and late. We were
wakened by many hurrying feet, and many confused voices; all the world
seemed awake and astir. We rose and dressed ourselves, and coming down
we looked around among the crowd collected in the court-yard, in order
to assure ourselves he was not there before we left the shelter
of the stable.
The instant we were seen, two or three people rushed to us.
Have you heard?Do you know?That poor young ladyoh, come and
see! and so we were hurried, almost in spite of ourselves, across the
court, and up the great open stairs of the main building of the inn,
into a bed-chamber, where lay the beautiful young German lady, so full
of graceful pride the night before, now white and still in death. By
her stood the French maid, crying and gesticulating.
Oh, madame! if you had but suffered me to stay with you! Oh! the
baron, what will he say? and so she went on. Her state had but just
been discovered; it had been supposed that she was fatigued, and was
sleeping late, until a few minutes before. The surgeon of the town had
been sent for, and the landlord of the inn was trying vainly to enforce
order until he came, and, from time to time, drinking little cups of
brandy, and offering them to the guests, who were all assembled there,
pretty much as the servants were doing in the court-yard.
At last the surgeon came. All fell back, and hung on the words that
were to fall from his lips.
See! said the landlord. This lady came last night by the
diligence with her maid. Doubtless a great lady, for she must have a
She was Madame the Baroness de Roeder, said the French maid.
And was difficult to please in the matter of supper, and a
sleeping-room. She went to bed well, though fatigued. Her maid left
I begged to be allowed to sleep in her room, as we were in a
strange inn, of the character of which we knew nothing; but she would
not let me, my mistress was such a great lady.
And slept with my servants, continued the landlord. This
morning we thought madame was still slumbering; but when eight, nine,
ten, and near eleven o'clock came, I bade her maid use my pass-key, and
enter her room
The door was not locked, only closed. And here she was founddead
is she not, monsieur?with her face down on her pillow, and her
beautiful hair all scattered wild; she never would let me tie it up,
saying it made her head ache. Such hair! said the waiting-maid,
lifting up a long golden tress, and letting it fall again.
I remembered Amante's words the night before, and crept close up to
Meanwhile, the doctor was examining the body underneath the
bed-clothes, which the landlord, until now, had not allowed to be
disarranged. The surgeon drew out his hand, all bathed and stained with
blood; and holding up a short, sharp knife, with a piece of paper
fastened round it.
Here has been foul play, he said. The deceased lady has been
murdered. This dagger was aimed straight at her heart. Then, putting
on his spectacles, he read the writing on the bloody paper, dimmed and
horribly obscured as it was:
Ainsi les Chauffeurs se vengent.
Let us go! said I to Amante. Oh, let us leave this horrible
Wait a little, said she. Only a few minutes more. It will be
Immediately the voices of all proclaimed their suspicions of the
cavalier who had arrived last the night before. He had, they said, made
so many inquiries about the young lady, whose supercilious conduct all
in the salle-à-manger had been discussing on his entrance. They
were talking about her as we left the room; he must have come in
directly afterwards, and not until he had learnt all about her, had he
spoken of the business which necessitated his departure at dawn of day,
and made his arrangements with both landlord and ostler for the
possession of the keys of the stable and porte-cochère. In
short, there was no doubt as to the murderer, even before the arrival
of the legal functionary who had been sent for by the surgeon; but the
word on the paper chilled every one with terror. Les Chauffeurs, who
were they? No one knew, some of the gang might even then be in the room
overhearing, and noting down fresh objects for vengeance. In Germany, I
had heard little of this terrible gang, and I had paid no greater heed
to the stories related once or twice about them in Carlsruhe than one
does to tales about ogres. But here in their very haunts, I learnt the
full amount of the terror they inspired. No one would be legally
responsible for any evidence criminating the murderer. The public
prosecutor shrank from the duties of his office. What do I say? Neither
Amante nor I, knowing far more of the actual guilt of the man who had
killed that poor sleeping young lady, durst breathe a word. We appeared
to be wholly ignorant of everything: we, who might have told so much.
But how could we? we were broken down with terrific anxiety and
fatigue, with the knowledge that we, above all, were doomed victims;
and that the blood, heavily dripping from the bed-clothes on to the
floor, was dripping thus out of the poor dead body, because, when
living, she had been mistaken for me.
At length Amante went up to the landlord, and asked permission to
leave his inn, doing all openly and humbly, so as to excite neither
ill-will nor suspicion. Indeed, suspicion was otherwise directed, and
he willingly gave us leave to depart. A few days afterwards we were
across the Rhine, in Germany, making our way towards Frankfort, but
still keeping our disguises, and Amante still working at her trade.
On the way, we met a young man, a wandering journeyman from
Heidelberg. I knew him, although I did not choose that he should know
me. I asked him, as carelessly as I could, how the old miller was now?
He told me he was dead. This realization of the worst apprehensions
caused by his long silence shocked me inexpressibly. It seemed as
though every prop gave way from under me. I had been talking to Amante
only that very day of the safety and comfort of the home that awaited
her in my father's house; of the gratitude which the old man would feel
towards her; and how there, in that peaceful dwelling, far away from
the terrible land of France, she should find ease and security for all
the rest of her life. All this I thought I had to promise, and even yet
more had I looked for, for myself. I looked to the unburdening of my
heart and conscience by telling all I knew to my best and wisest
friend. I looked to his love as a sure guidance as well as a comforting
stay, and, behold, he was gone away from me for ever!
I had left the room hastily on hearing of this sad news from the
Heidelberger. Presently, Amante followed:
Poor madame, said she, consoling me to the best of her ability.
And then she told me by degrees what more she had learned respecting my
home, about which she knew almost as much as I did, from my frequent
talks on the subject both at Les Rochers and on the dreary, doleful
road we had come along. She had continued the conversation after I
left, by asking about my brother and his wife. Of course, they lived on
at the mill, but the man said (with what truth I know not, but I
believed it firmly at the time) that Babette had completely got the
upper hand of my brother, who only saw through her eyes and heard with
her ears. That there had been much Heidelberg gossip of late days about
her sudden intimacy with a grand French gentleman who had appeared at
the milla relation, by marriagemarried, in fact, to the miller's
sister, who, by all accounts, had behaved abominably and ungratefully.
But that was no reason for Babette's extreme and sudden intimacy with
him, going about everywhere with the French gentleman; and since he
left (as the Heidelberger said he knew for a fact) corresponding with
him constantly. Yet her husband saw no harm in it all, seemingly;
though, to be sure, he was so out of spirits, what with his father's
death and the news of his sister's infamy, that he hardly knew how to
hold up his head.
Now, said Amante, all this proves that M. de la Tourelle has
suspected that you would go back to the nest in which you were reared,
and that he has been there, and found that you have not yet returned;
but probably he still imagines that you will do so, and has accordingly
engaged your sister-in-law as a kind of informant. Madame has said that
her sister-in-law bore her no extreme good-will; and the defamatory
story he has got the start of us in spreading, will not tend to
increase the favour in which your sister-in-law holds you. No doubt the
assassin was retracing his steps when we met him near Forbach, and
having heard of the poor German lady, with her French maid, and her
pretty blonde complexion, he followed her. If madame will still be
guided by meand, my child, I beg of you still to trust me, said
Amante, breaking out of her respectful formality into the way of
talking more natural to those who had shared and escaped from common
dangersmore natural, too, where the speaker was conscious of a power
of protection which the other did not possesswe will go on to
Frankfort, and lose ourselves, for a time, at least, in the numbers of
people who throng a great town; and you have told me that Frankfort is
a great town. We will still be husband and wife; we will take a small
lodging, and you shall housekeep and live in-doors. I, as the rougher
and the more alert, will continue my father's trade, and seek work at
the tailors' shops.
I could think of no better plan, so we followed this out. In a back
street at Frankfort we found two furnished rooms to let on a sixth
story. The one we entered had no light from day; a dingy lamp swung
perpetually from the ceiling, and from that, or from the open door
leading into the bedroom beyond, came our only light. The bedroom was
more cheerful, but very small. Such as it was, it almost exceeded our
possible means. The money from the sale of my ring was almost
exhausted, and Amante was a stranger in the place, speaking only
French, moreover, and the good Germans were hating the French people
right heartily. However, we succeeded better than our hopes, and even
laid by a little against the time of my confinement. I never stirred
abroad, and saw no one, and Amante's want of knowledge of German kept
her in a state of comparative isolation.
At length my child was bornmy poor worse than fatherless child. It
was a girl, as I had prayed for. I had feared lest a boy might have
something of the tiger nature of its father, but a girl seemed all my
own. And yet not all my own, for the faithful Amante's delight and
glory in the babe almost exceeded mine; in outward show it certainly
We had not been able to afford any attendance beyond what a
neighbouring sage-femme could give, and she came frequently, bringing
in with her a little store of gossip, and wonderful tales culled out of
her own experience, every time. One day she began to tell me about a
great lady in whose service her daughter had lived as scullion, or some
such thing. Such a beautiful lady! with such a handsome husband. But
grief comes to the palace as well as to the garret, and why or
wherefore no one knew, but somehow the Baron de Roeder must have
incurred the vengeance of the terrible Chauffeurs; for not many months
ago, as madame was going to see her relations in Alsace, she was
stabbed dead as she lay in bed at some hotel on the road. Had I not
seen it in the Gazette? Had I not heard? Why, she had been told
that as far off as Lyons there were placards offering a heavy reward on
the part of the Baron de Roeder for information respecting the murderer
of his wife. But no one could help him, for all who could bear evidence
were in such terror of the Chauffeurs; there were hundreds of them she
had been told, rich and poor, great gentlemen and peasants, all leagued
together by most frightful oaths to hunt to the death any one who bore
witness against them; so that even they who survived the tortures to
which the Chauffeurs subjected many of the people whom they plundered,
dared not to recognise them again, would not dare, even did they see
them at the bar of a court of justice; for, if one were condemned, were
there not hundreds sworn to avenge his death?
I told all this to Amante, and we began to fear that if M. de la
Tourelle, or Lefebvre, or any of the gang at Les Rochers, had seen
these placards, they would know that the poor lady stabbed by the
former was the Baroness de Roeder, and that they would set forth again
in search of me.
This fresh apprehension told on my health and impeded my recovery.
We had so little money we could not call in a physician, at least, not
one in established practice. But Amante found out a young doctor for
whom, indeed, she had sometimes worked; and offering to pay him in
kind, she brought him to see me, her sick wife. He was very gentle and
thoughtful, though, like ourselves, very poor. But he gave much time
and consideration to the case, saying once to Amante that he saw my
constitution had experienced some severe shock from which it was
probable that my nerves would never entirely recover. By-and-by I shall
name this doctor, and then you will know, better than I can describe,
I grew strong in timestronger, at least. I was able to work a
little at home, and to sun myself and my baby at the garret-window in
the roof. It was all the air I dared to take. I constantly wore the
disguise I had first set out with; as constantly had I renewed the
disfiguring dye which changed my hair and complexion. But the perpetual
state of terror in which I had been during the whole months succeeding
my escape from Les Rochers made me loathe the idea of ever again
walking in the open daylight, exposed to the sight and recognition of
every passer-by. In vain Amante reasonedin vain the doctor urged.
Docile in every other thing, in this I was obstinate. I would not stir
out. One day Amante returned from her work, full of newssome of it
good, some such as to cause us apprehension. The good news was this;
the master for whom she worked as journeyman was going to send her with
some others to a great house at the other side of Frankfort, where
there were to be private theatricals, and where many new dresses and
much alteration of old ones would be required. The tailors employed
were all to stay at this house until the day of representation was
over, as it was at some distance from the town, and no one could tell
when their work would be ended. But the pay was to be proportionately
The other thing she had to say was this: she had that day met the
travelling jeweller to whom she and I had sold my ring. It was rather a
peculiar one, given to me by my husband; we had felt at the time that
it might be the means of tracing us, but we were penniless and
starving, and what else could we do? She had seen that this Frenchman
had recognised her at the same instant that she did him, and she
thought at the same time that there was a gleam of more than common
intelligence on his face as he did so. This idea had been confirmed by
his following her for some way on the other side of the street; but she
had evaded him with her better knowledge of the town, and the
increasing darkness of the night. Still it was well that she was going
to such a distance from our dwelling on the next day; and she had
brought me in a stock of provisions, begging me to keep within doors,
with a strange kind of fearful oblivion of the fact that I had never
set foot beyond the threshold of the house since I had first entered
itscarce ever ventured down the stairs. But, although my poor, my
dear, very faithful Amante was like one possessed that last night, she
spoke continually of the dead, which is a bad sign for the living. She
kissed youyes! it was you, my daughter, my darling, whom I bore
beneath my bosom away from the fearful castle of your fatherI call
him so for the first time, I must call him so once again before I have
doneAmante kissed you, sweet baby, blessed little comforter, as if
she never could leave off. And then she went away, alive.
Two days, three days passed away. That third evening I was sitting
within my bolted doorsyou asleep on your pillow by my sidewhen a
step came up the stair, and I knew it must be for me; for ours were the
topmost rooms. Some one knocked; I held my very breath. But some one
spoke, and I knew it was the good Doctor Voss. Then I crept to the
door, and answered.
Are you alone? asked I.
Yes, said he, in a still lower voice. Let me in. I let him in,
and he was as alert as I in bolting and barring the door. Then he came
and whispered to me his doleful tale. He had come from the hospital in
the opposite quarter of the town, the hospital which he visited; he
should have been with me sooner, but he had feared lest he should be
watched. He had come from Amante's death-bed. Her fears of the jeweller
were too well founded. She had left the house where she was employed
that morning, to transact some errand connected with her work in the
town; she must have been followed, and dogged on her way back through
solitary wood-paths, for some of the wood-rangers belonging to the
great house had found her lying there, stabbed to death, but not dead;
with the poniard again plunged through the fatal writing, once more;
but this time with the word un underlined, so as to show that the
assassin was aware of his previous mistake.
Ainsi les Chauffeurs se vengent.
They had carried her to the house, and given her restoratives till
she had recovered the feeble use of her speech. But, oh, faithful, dear
friend and sister! even then she remembered me, and refused to tell
(what no one else among her fellow workmen knew), where she lived or
with whom. Life was ebbing away fast, and they had no resource but to
carry her to the nearest hospital, where, of course, the fact of her
sex was made known. Fortunately both for her and for me, the doctor in
attendance was the very Doctor Voss whom we already knew. To him, while
awaiting her confessor, she told enough to enable him to understand the
position in which I was left; before the priest had heard half her tale
Amante was dead.
Doctor Voss told me he had made all sorts of détours, and
waited thus, late at night, for fear of being watched and followed. But
I do not think he was. At any rate, as I afterwards learnt from him,
the Baron Roeder, on hearing of the similitude of this murder with that
of his wife in every particular, made such a search after the
assassins, that, although they were not discovered, they were compelled
to take to flight for the time.
I can hardly tell you now by what arguments Dr. Voss, at first
merely my benefactor, sparing me a portion of his small modicum, at
length persuaded me to become his wife. His wife he called it, I called
it; for we went through the religious ceremony too much slighted at the
time, and as we were both Lutherans, and M. de la Tourelle had
pretended to be of the reformed religion, a divorce from the latter
would have been easily procurable by German law both ecclesiastical and
legal, could we have summoned so fearful a man into any court.
The good doctor took me and my child by stealth to his modest
dwelling; and there I lived in the same deep retirement, never seeing
the full light of day, although when the dye had once passed away from
my face my husband did not wish me to renew it. There was no need; my
yellow hair was grey, my complexion was ashen-coloured, no creature
could have recognized the fresh-coloured, bright-haired young woman of
eighteen months before. The few people whom I saw knew me only as
Madame Voss; a widow much older than himself, whom Dr. Voss had
secretly married. They called me the Grey Woman.
He made me give you his surname. Till now you have known no other
fatherwhile he lived you needed no father's love. Once only, only
once more, did the old terror come upon me. For some reason which I
forget, I broke through my usual custom, and went to the window of my
room for some purpose, either to shut or to open it. Looking out into
the street for an instant, I was fascinated by the sight of M. de la
Tourelle, gay, young, elegant as ever, walking along on the opposite
side of the street. The noise I had made with the window caused him to
look up; he saw me, an old grey woman, and he did not recognize me! Yet
it was not three years since we had parted, and his eyes were keen and
dreadful like those of the lynx.
I told M. Voss, on his return home, and he tried to cheer me, but
the shock of seeing M. de la Tourelle had been too terrible for me. I
was ill for long months afterwards.
Once again I saw him. Dead. He and Lefebvre were at last caught;
hunted down by the Baron de Roeder in some of their crimes. Dr. Voss
had heard of their arrest; their condemnation, their death; but he
never said a word to me, until one day he bade me show him that I loved
him by my obedience and my trust. He took me a long carriage journey,
where to I know not, for we never spoke of that day again; I was led
through a prison, into a closed court-yard, where, decently draped in
the last robes of death, concealing the marks of decapitation, lay M.
de la Tourelle, and two or three others, whom I had known at Les
After that conviction Dr. Voss tried to persuade me to return to a
more natural mode of life, and to go out more. But although I sometimes
complied with his wish, yet the old terror was ever strong upon me, and
he, seeing what an effort it was, gave up urging me at last.
You know all the rest. How we both mourned bitterly the loss of that
dear husband and fatherfor such I will call him everand as such you
must consider him, my child, after this one revelation is over.
Why has it been made, you ask. For this reason, my child. The lover,
whom you have only known as M. Lebrun, a French artist, told me but
yesterday his real name, dropped because the blood-thirsty republicans
might consider it as too aristocratic. It is Maurice de Poissy.
CURIOUS IF TRUE.
(EXTRACT FROM A LETTER FROM RICHARD WHITTINGHAM, ESQ.)
You were formerly so much amused at my pride in my descent from that
sister of Calvin's, who married a Whittingham, Dean of Durham, that I
doubt if you will be able to enter into the regard for my distinguished
relation that has led me to France, in order to examine registers and
archives, which, I thought, might enable me to discover collateral
descendants of the great reformer, with whom I might call cousins. I
shall not tell you of my troubles and adventures in this research; you
are not worthy to hear of them; but something so curious befel me one
evening last August, that if I had not been perfectly certain I was
wide awake, I might have taken it for a dream.
For the purpose I have named, it was necessary that I should make
Tours my head-quarters for a time. I had traced descendants of the
Calvin family out of Normandy into the centre of France; but I found it
was necessary to have a kind of permission from the bishop of the
diocese before I could see certain family papers, which had fallen into
the possession of the Church; and, as I had several English friends at
Tours, I awaited the answer to my request to Monseigneur de , at
that town. I was ready to accept any invitation; but I received very
few; and was sometimes a little at a loss what to do with my evenings.
The table d'hôte was at five o'clock; I did not wish to go to
the expense of a private sitting-room, disliked the dinnery atmosphere
of the salle à manger, could not play either at pool or
billiards, and the aspect of my fellow guests was unprepossessing
enough to make me unwilling to enter into any tête-à-tête
gamblings with them. So I usually rose from table early, and tried to
make the most of the remaining light of the August evenings in walking
briskly off to explore the surrounding country; the middle of the day
was too hot for this purpose, and better employed in lounging on a
bench in the Boulevards, lazily listening to the distant band, and
noticing with equal laziness the faces and figures of the women who
One Thursday evening, the 18th of August it was, I think, I had gone
further than usual in my walk, and I found that it was later than I had
imagined when I paused to turn back. I fancied I could make a round; I
had enough notion of the direction in which I was, to see that by
turning up a narrow straight lane to my left I should shorten my way
back to Tours. And so I believe I should have done, could I have found
an outlet at the right place, but field-paths are almost unknown in
that part of France, and my lane, stiff and straight as any street, and
marked into terribly vanishing perspective by the regular row of
poplars on each side, seemed interminable. Of course night came on, and
I was in darkness. In England I might have had a chance of seeing a
light in some cottage only a field or two off, and asking my way from
the inhabitants; but here I could see no such welcome sight; indeed, I
believe French peasants go to bed with the summer daylight, so if there
were any habitations in the neighbourhood I never saw them. At lastI
believe I must have walked two hours in the darkness,I saw the dusky
outline of a wood on one side of the weariful lane, and, impatiently
careless of all forest laws and penalties for trespassers, I made my
way to it, thinking that if the worst came to the worst, I could find
some covertsome shelter where I could lie down and rest, until the
morning light gave me a chance of finding my way back to Tours. But the
plantation, on the outskirts of what appeared to me a dense wood, was
of young trees, too closely planted to be more than slender stems
growing up to a good height, with scanty foliage on their summits. On I
went towards the thicker forest, and once there I slackened my pace,
and began to look about me for a good lair. I was as dainty as
Lochiel's grandchild, who made his grandsire indignant at the luxury of
his pillow of snow: this brake was too full of brambles, that felt damp
with dew; there was no hurry, since I had given up all hope of passing
the night between four walls; and I went leisurely groping about, and
trusting that there were no wolves to be poked up out of their summer
drowsiness by my stick, when all at once I saw a château before me, not
a quarter of a mile off, at the end of what seemed to be an ancient
avenue (now overgrown and irregular), which I happened to be crossing,
when I looked to my right, and saw the welcome sight. Large, stately,
and dark was its outline against the dusky night-sky; there were
pepper-boxes and tourelles and what-not fantastically going up into the
dim starlight. And more to the purpose still, though I could not see
the details of the building that I was now facing, it was plain enough
that there were lights in many windows, as if some great entertainment
was going on.
They are hospitable people, at any rate, thought I. Perhaps they
will give me a bed. I don't suppose French propriétaires have traps and
horses quite as plentiful as English gentlemen; but they are evidently
having a large party, and some of their guests may be from Tours, and
will give me a cast back to the Lion d'Or. I am not proud, and I am
dog-tired. I am not above hanging on behind, if need be.
So, putting a little briskness and spirit into my walk, I went up to
the door, which was standing open, most hospitably, and showing a large
lighted hall, all hung round with spoils of the chase, armour, &c, the
details of which I had not time to notice, for the instant I stood on
the threshold a huge porter appeared, in a strange, old-fashioned
dress, a kind of livery which well befitted the general appearance of
the house. He asked me, in French (so curiously pronounced that I
thought I had hit upon a new kind of patois), my name, and
whence I came. I thought he would not be much the wiser, still it was
but civil to give it before I made my request for assistance; so, in
reply, I said
My name is WhittinghamRichard Whittingham, an English gentleman,
staying at . To my infinite surprise, a light of pleased
intelligence came over the giant's face; he made me a low bow, and said
(still in the same curious dialect) that I was welcome, that I was long
Long expected! What could the fellow mean? Had I stumbled on a
nest of relations by John Calvin's side, who had heard of my
genealogical inquiries, and were gratified and interested by them? But
I was too much pleased to be under shelter for the night to think it
necessary to account for my agreeable reception before I enjoyed it.
Just as he was opening the great heavy battants of the door that
led from the hall to the interior, he turned round and said,
Apparently Monsieur le Géanquilleur is not come with you.
No! I am all alone; I have lost my way,and I was going on with
my explanation, when he, as if quite indifferent to it, led the way up
a great stone staircase, as wide as many rooms, and having on each
landing-place massive iron wickets, in a heavy framework; these the
porter unlocked with the solemn slowness of age. Indeed, a strange,
mysterious awe of the centuries that had passed away since this château
was built, came over me as I waited for the turning of the ponderous
keys in the ancient locks. I could almost have fancied that I heard a
mighty rushing murmur (like the ceaseless sound of a distant sea,
ebbing and flowing for ever and for ever), coming forth from the great
vacant galleries that opened out on each side of the broad staircase,
and were to be dimly perceived in the darkness above us. It was as if
the voices of generations of men yet echoed and eddied in the silent
air. It was strange, too, that my friend the porter going before me,
ponderously infirm, with his feeble old hands striving in vain to keep
the tall flambeau he held steadily before him,strange, I say, that he
was the only domestic I saw in the vast halls and passages, or met with
on the grand staircase. At length we stood before the gilded doors that
led into the saloon where the familyor it might be the company, so
great was the buzz of voiceswas assembled. I would have remonstrated
when I found he was going to introduce me, dusty and travel-smeared, in
a morning costume that was not even my best, into this grand salon, with nobody knew how many ladies and gentlemen assembled; but the
obstinate old man was evidently bent upon taking me straight to his
master, and paid no heed to my words.
The doors flew open, and I was ushered into a saloon curiously full
of pale light, which did not culminate on any spot, nor proceed from
any centre, nor flicker with any motion of the air, but filled every
nook and corner, making all things deliciously distinct; different from
our light of gas or candle, as is the difference between a clear
southern atmosphere and that of our misty England.
At the first moment, my arrival excited no attention, the apartment
was so full of people, all intent on their own conversation. But my
friend the porter went up to a handsome lady of middle age, richly
attired in that antique manner which fashion has brought round again of
late years, and, waiting first in an attitude of deep respect till her
attention fell upon him, told her my name and something about me, as
far as I could guess from the gestures of the one and the sudden glance
of the eye of the other.
She immediately came towards me with the most friendly actions of
greeting, even before she had advanced near enough to speak. Then,and
was it not strange?her words and accent were that of the commonest
peasant of the country. Yet she herself looked high-bred, and would
have been dignified had she been a shade less restless, had her
countenance worn a little less lively and inquisitive expression. I had
been poking a good deal about the old parts of Tours, and had had to
understand the dialect of the people who dwelt in the Marché au
Vendredi and similar places, or I really should not have understood my
handsome hostess, as she offered to present me to her husband, a
henpecked, gentlemanly man, who was more quaintly attired than she in
the very extreme of that style of dress. I thought to myself that in
France, as in England, it is the provincials who carry fashion to such
an excess as to become ridiculous.
However, he spoke (still in the patois) of his pleasure in
making my acquaintance, and led me to a strange uneasy easy-chair, much
of a piece with the rest of the furniture, which might have taken its
place without any anachronism by the side of that in the Hôtel Cluny.
Then again began the clatter of French voices, which my arrival had for
an instant interrupted, and I had leisure to look about me. Opposite to
me sat a very sweet-looking lady, who must have been a great beauty in
her youth, I should think, and would be charming in old age, from the
sweetness of her countenance. She was, however, extremely fat, and on
seeing her feet laid up before her on a cushion, I at once perceived
that they were so swollen as to render her incapable of walking, which
probably brought on her excessive embonpoint. Her hands were
plump and small, but rather coarse-grained in texture, not quite so
clean as they might have been, and altogether not so
aristocratic-looking as the charming face. Her dress was of superb
black velvet, ermine-trimmed, with diamonds thrown all abroad over it.
Not far from her stood the least little man I had ever seen; of such
admirable proportions no one could call him a dwarf, because with that
word we usually associate something of deformity; but yet with an elfin
look of shrewd, hard, worldly wisdom in his face that marred the
impression which his delicate regular little features would otherwise
have conveyed. Indeed, I do not think he was quite of equal rank with
the rest of the company, for his dress was inappropriate to the
occasion (and he apparently was an invited, while I was an involuntary
guest); and one or two of his gestures and actions were more like the
tricks of an uneducated rustic than anything else. To explain what I
mean: his boots had evidently seen much service, and had been
re-topped, re-heeled, re-soled to the extent of cobbler's powers. Why
should he have come in them if they were not his besthis only pair?
And what can be more ungenteel than poverty? Then again he had an
uneasy trick of putting his hand up to his throat, as if he expected to
find something the matter with it; and he had the awkward habitwhich
I do not think he could have copied from Dr. Johnson, because most
probably he had never heard of himof trying always to retrace his
steps on the exact boards on which he had trodden to arrive at any
particular part of the room. Besides, to settle the question, I once
heard him addressed as Monsieur Poucet, without any aristocratic de
for a prefix; and nearly every one else in the room was a marquis, at
I say, nearly every one; for some strange people had the entrée;
unless, indeed, they were, like me, benighted. One of the guests I
should have taken for a servant, but for the extraordinary influence he
seemed to have over the man I took for his master, and who never did
anything without, apparently, being urged thereto by this follower. The
master, magnificently dressed, but ill at ease in his clothes, as if
they had been made for some one else, was a weak-looking, handsome man,
continually sauntering about, and I almost guessed an object of
suspicion to some of the gentlemen present, which, perhaps, drove him
on the companionship of his follower, who was dressed something in the
style of an ambassador's chasseur; yet it was not a chasseur's dress
after all; it was something more thoroughly old-world; boots half way
up his ridiculously small legs, which clattered as he walked along, as
if they were too large for his little feet; and a great quantity of
grey fur, as trimming to coat, court-mantle, boots, capeverything.
You know the way in which certain countenances remind you perpetually
of some animal, be it bird or beast! Well, this chasseur (as I will
call him for want of a better name) was exceedingly like the great
Tom-cat that you have seen so often in my chambers, and laughed at
almost as often for his uncanny gravity of demeanour. Grey whiskers has
my Tomgrey whiskers had the chasseur: grey hair overshadows the upper
lip of my Tomgrey mustachios hid that of the chasseur. The pupils of
Tom's eyes dilate and contract as I had thought cats' pupils only could
do, until I saw those of the chasseur. To be sure, canny as Tom is, the
chasseur had the advantage in the more intelligent expression. He
seemed to have obtained most complete sway over his master or patron,
whose looks he watched, and whose steps he followed, with a kind of
distrustful interest that puzzled me greatly.
There were several other groups in the more distant part of the
saloon, all of the stately old school, all grand and noble, I
conjectured from their bearing. They seemed perfectly well acquainted
with each other, as if they were in the habit of meeting. But I was
interrupted in my observations by the tiny little gentleman on the
opposite side of the room coming across to take a place beside me. It
is no difficult matter to a Frenchman to slide into conversation, and
so gracefully did my pigmy friend keep up the character of the nation,
that we were almost confidential before ten minutes had elapsed.
Now I was quite aware that the welcome which all had extended to me,
from the porter up to the vivacious lady and meek lord of the castle,
was intended for some other person. But it required either a degree of
moral courage, of which I cannot boast, or the self-reliance and
conversational powers of a bolder and cleverer man than I, to undeceive
people who had fallen into so fortunate a mistake for me. Yet the
little man by my side insinuated himself so much into my confidence,
that I had half a mind to tell him of my exact situation, and to turn
him into a friend and an ally.
Madame is perceptibly growing older, said he, in the midst of my
perplexity, glancing at our hostess.
Madame is still a very fine woman, replied I.
Now, is it not strange, continued he, lowering his voice, how
women almost invariably praise the absent, or departed, as if they were
angels of light, while as for the present, or the livinghere he
shrugged up his little shoulders, and made an expressive pause. Would
you believe it! Madame is always praising her late husband to
monsieur's face; till, in fact, we guests are quite perplexed how to
look: for, you know, the late M. de Retz's character was quite
notorious,everybody has heard of him. All the world of Touraine,
thought I, but I made an assenting noise.
At this instant, monsieur our host came up to me, and with a civil
look of tender interest (such as some people put on when they inquire
after your mother, about whom they do not care one straw), asked if I
had heard lately how my cat was? How my cat was! What could the man
mean? My cat! Could he mean the tailless Tom, born in the Isle of Man,
and now supposed to be keeping guard against the incursions of rats and
mice into my chambers in London? Tom is, as you know, on pretty good
terms with some of my friends, using their legs for rubbing-posts
without scruple, and highly esteemed by them for his gravity of
demeanour, and wise manner of winking his eyes. But could his fame have
reached across the Channel? However, an answer must be returned to the
inquiry, as monsieur's face was bent down to mine with a look of polite
anxiety; so I, in my turn, assumed an expression of gratitude, and
assured him that, to the best of my belief, my cat was in remarkably
And the climate agrees with her?
Perfectly, said I, in a maze of wonder at this deep solicitude in
a tailless cat who had lost one foot and half an ear in some cruel
trap. My host smiled a sweet smile, and, addressing a few words to my
little neighbour, passed on.
How wearisome those aristocrats are! quoth my neighbour, with a
slight sneer. Monsieur's conversation rarely extends to more than two
sentences to any one. By that time his faculties are exhausted, and he
needs the refreshment of silence. You and I, monsieur, are, at any
rate, indebted to our own wits for our rise in the world!
Here again I was bewildered! As you know, I am rather proud of my
descent from families which, if not noble themselves, are allied to
nobility,and as to my rise in the worldif I had risen, it would
have been rather for balloon-like qualities than for mother-wit, to
being unencumbered with heavy ballast either in my head or my pockets.
However, it was my cue to agree: so I smiled again.
For my part, said he, if a man does not stick at trifles, if he
knows how to judiciously add to, or withhold facts, and is not
sentimental in his parade of humanity, he is sure to do well; sure to
affix a de or von to his name, and end his days in
comfort. There is an example of what I am sayingand he glanced
furtively at the weak-looking master of the sharp, intelligent servant,
whom I have called the chasseur.
Monsieur le Marquis would never have been anything but a miller's
son, if it had not been for the talents of his servant. Of course you
know his antecedents?
I was going to make some remarks on the changes in the order of the
peerage since the days of Louis XVI.going, in fact, to be very
sensible and historicalwhen there was a slight commotion among the
people at the other end of the room. Lacqueys in quaint liveries must
have come in from behind the tapestry, I suppose (for I never saw them
enter, though I sate right opposite to the doors), and were handing
about the slight beverages and slighter viands which are considered
sufficient refreshments, but which looked rather meagre to my hungry
appetite. These footmen were standing solemnly opposite to a
lady,beautiful, splendid as the dawn, butsound asleep in a
magnificent settee. A gentleman who showed so much irritation at her
ill-timed slumbers, that I think he must have been her husband, was
trying to awaken her with actions not far removed from shakings. All in
vain; she was quite unconscious of his annoyance, or the smiles of the
company, or the automatic solemnity of the waiting footman, or the
perplexed anxiety of monsieur and madame.
My little friend sat down with a sneer, as if his curiosity was
quenched in contempt.
Moralists would make an infinity of wise remarks on that scene,
said he. In the first place, note the ridiculous position into which
their superstitious reverence for rank and title puts all these people.
Because monsieur is a reigning prince over some minute principality,
the exact situation of which no one has as yet discovered, no one must
venture to take their glass of eau sucré till Madame la Princesse
awakens; and, judging from past experience, those poor lacqueys may
have to stand for a century before that happens. Nextalways speaking
as a moralist, you will observenote how difficult it is to break off
bad habits acquired in youth!
Just then the prince succeeded, by what means I did not see, in
awaking the beautiful sleeper. But at first she did not remember where
she was, and looking up at her husband with loving eyes, she smiled and
Is it you, my prince?
But he was too conscious of the suppressed amusement of the
spectators and his own consequent annoyance, to be reciprocally tender,
and turned away with some little French expression, best rendered into
English by Pooh, pooh, my dear!
After I had had a glass of delicious wine of some unknown quality,
my courage was in rather better plight than before, and I told my
cynical little neighbourwhom I must say I was beginning to
dislikethat I had lost my way in the wood, and had arrived at the
château quite by mistake.
He seemed mightily amused at my story; said that the same thing had
happened to himself more than once; and told me that I had better luck
than he had on one of these occasions, when, from his account, he must
have been in considerable danger of his life. He ended his story by
making me admire his boots, which he said he still wore, patched though
they were, and all their excellent quality lost by patching, because
they were of such a first-rate make for long pedestrian excursions.
Though, indeed, he wound up by saying, the new fashion of railroads
would seem to supersede the necessity for this description of boots.
When I consulted him as to whether I ought to make myself known to
my host and hostess as a benighted traveller, instead of the guest whom
they had taken me for, he exclaimed, By no means! I hate such
squeamish morality. And he seemed much offended by my innocent
question, as if it seemed by implication to condemn something in
himself. He was offended and silent; and just at this moment I caught
the sweet, attractive eyes of the lady oppositethat lady whom I named
at first as being no longer in the bloom of youth, but as being
somewhat infirm about the feet, which were supported on a raised
cushion before her. Her looks seemed to say, Come here, and let us
have some conversation together; and, with a bow of silent excuse to
my little companion, I went across to the lame old lady. She
acknowledged my coming with the prettiest gesture of thanks possible;
and, half apologetically, said, It is a little dull to be unable to
move about on such evenings as this; but it is a just punishment to me
for my early vanities. My poor feet, that were by nature so small, are
now taking their revenge for my cruelty in forcing them into such
little slippers.... Besides, monsieur, with a pleasant smile, I
thought it was possible you might be weary of the malicious sayings of
your little neighbour. He has not borne the best character in his
youth, and such men are sure to be cynical in their old age.
Who is he? asked I, with English abruptness.
His name is Poucet, and his father was, I believe, a wood-cutter,
or charcoal burner, or something of the sort. They do tell sad stories
of connivance at murder, ingratitude, and obtaining money on false
pretencesbut you will think me as bad as he if I go on with my
slanders. Rather let us admire the lovely lady coming up towards us,
with the roses in her handI never see her without roses, they are so
closely connected with her past history, as you are doubtless aware.
Ah, beauty! said my companion to the lady drawing near to us, it is
like you to come to me, now that I can no longer go to you. Then
turning to me, and gracefully drawing me into the conversation, she
said, You must know that, although we never met until we were both
married, we have been almost like sisters ever since. There have been
so many points of resemblance in our circumstances, and I think I may
say in our characters. We had each two elder sistersmine were but
half-sisters, thoughwho were not so kind to us as they might have
But have been sorry for it since, put in the other lady.
Since we have married princes, continued the same lady, with an
arch smile that had nothing of unkindness in it, for we both have
married far above our original stations in life; we are both unpunctual
in our habits, and, in consequence of this failing of ours, we have
both had to suffer mortification and pain.
And both are charming, said a whisper close behind me. My lord
the marquis, say itsay, 'And both are charming.'
And both are charming, was spoken aloud by another voice. I
turned, and saw the wily cat-like chasseur, prompting his master to
make civil speeches.
The ladies bowed with that kind of haughty acknowledgment which
shows that compliments from such a source are distasteful. But our trio
of conversation was broken up, and I was sorry for it. The marquis
looked as if he had been stirred up to make that one speech, and hoped
that he would not be expected to say more; while behind him stood the
chasseur, half impertinent and half servile in his ways and attitudes.
The ladies, who were real ladies, seemed to be sorry for the
awkwardness of the marquis, and addressed some trifling questions to
him, adapting themselves to the subjects on which he could have no
trouble in answering. The chasseur, meanwhile, was talking to himself
in a growling tone of voice. I had fallen a little into the background
at this interruption in a conversation which promised to be so
pleasant, and I could not help hearing his words.
Really, De Carabas grows more stupid every day. I have a great mind
to throw off his boots, and leave him to his fate. I was intended for a
court, and to a court I will go, and make my own fortune as I have made
his. The emperor will appreciate my talents.
And such are the habits of the French, or such his forgetfulness of
good manners in his anger, that he spat right and left on the
Just then a very ugly, very pleasant-looking man, came towards the
two ladies to whom I had lately been speaking, leading up to them a
delicate, fair woman, dressed all in the softest white, as if she were
vouée au blanc. I do not think there was a bit of colour about her.
I thought I heard her making, as she came along, a little noise of
pleasure, not exactly like the singing of a tea-kettle, nor yet like
the cooing of a dove, but reminding me of each sound.
Madame de Mioumiou was anxious to see you, said he, addressing the
lady with the roses, so I have brought her across to give you a
pleasure! What an honest, good face! but oh! how ugly! And yet I liked
his ugliness better than most persons' beauty. There was a look of
pathetic acknowledgment of his ugliness, and a deprecation of your too
hasty judgment, in his countenance that was positively winning. The
soft, white lady kept glancing at my neighbour the chasseur, as if they
had had some former acquaintance, which puzzled me very much, as they
were of such different rank. However, their nerves were evidently
strung to the same tune, for at a sound behind the tapestry, which was
more like the scuttering of rats and mice than anything else, both
Madame de Mioumiou and the chasseur started with the most eager look of
anxiety on their countenances, and by their restless
movementsmadame's panting, and the fiery dilation of his eyesone
might see that commonplace sounds affected them both in a manner very
different to the rest of the company. The ugly husband of the lovely
lady with the roses now addressed himself to me.
We are much disappointed, he said, in finding that monsieur is
not accompanied by his countrymanle grand Jean d'Angleterre; I cannot
pronounce his name rightlyand he looked at me to help him out.
Le grand Jean d'Angleterre! now who was le grand Jean
d'Angleterre? John Bull? John Russell? John Bright?
JeanJeancontinued the gentleman, seeing my embarrassment. Ah,
these terrible English names'Jean de Géanquilleur!'
I was as wise as ever. And yet the name struck me as familiar, but
slightly disguised. I repeated it to myself. It was mighty like John
the Giant-killer, only his friends always call that worthy Jack. I
said the name aloud.
Ah, that is it! said he. But why has he not accompanied you to
our little reunion to-night?
I had been rather puzzled once or twice before, but this serious
question added considerably to my perplexity. Jack the Giant-killer had
once, it is true, been rather an intimate friend of mine, as far as
(printer's) ink and paper can keep up a friendship, but I had not heard
his name mentioned for years; and for aught I knew he lay enchanted
with King Arthur's knights, who lie entranced until the blast of the
trumpets of four mighty kings shall call them to help at England's
need. But the question had been asked in serious earnest by that
gentleman, whom I more wished to think well of me than I did any other
person in the room. So I answered respectfully that it was long since I
had heard anything of my countryman; but that I was sure it would have
given him as much pleasure as it was doing myself to have been present
at such an agreeable gathering of friends. He bowed, and then the lame
lady took up the word.
To-night is the night when, of all the year, this great old forest
surrounding the castle is said to be haunted by the phantom of a little
peasant girl who once lived hereabouts; the tradition is that she was
devoured by a wolf. In former days I have seen her on this night out of
yonder window at the end of the gallery. Will you, ma belle, take
monsieur to see the view outside by the moonlight (you may possibly see
the phantom-child); and leave me to a little tête-à-tête with
With a gentle movement the lady with the roses complied with the
other's request, and we went to a great window, looking down on the
forest, in which I had lost my way. The tops of the far-spreading and
leafy trees lay motionless beneath us in that pale, wan light, which
shows objects almost as distinct in form, though not in colour, as by
day. We looked down on the countless avenues, which seemed to converge
from all quarters to the great old castle; and suddenly across one,
quite near to us, there passed the figure of a little girl, with the
capuchon on, that takes the place of a peasant girl's bonnet in
France. She had a basket on one arm, and by her, on the side to which
her head was turned, there went a wolf. I could almost have said it was
licking her hand, as if in penitent love, if either penitence or love
had ever been a quality of wolves,but though not of living, perhaps
it may be of phantom wolves.
There, we have seen her! exclaimed my beautiful companion. Though
so long dead, her simple story of household goodness and trustful
simplicity still lingers in the hearts of all who have ever heard of
her; and the country-people about here say that seeing that
phantom-child on this anniversary brings good luck for the year. Let us
hope that we shall share in the traditionary good fortune. Ah! here is
Madame de Retzshe retains the name of her first husband, you know, as
he was of higher rank than the present. We were joined by our hostess.
If monsieur is fond of the beauties of nature and art, said she,
perceiving that I had been looking at the view from the great window,
he will perhaps take pleasure in seeing the picture. Here she sighed,
with a little affectation of grief. You know the picture I allude to,
addressing my companion, who bowed assent, and smiled a little
maliciously, as I followed the lead of madame.
I went after her to the other end of the saloon, noting by the way
with what keen curiosity she caught up what was passing either in word
or action on each side of her. When we stood opposite to the end wall,
I perceived a full-length picture of a handsome, peculiar-looking man,
within spite of his good looksa very fierce and scowling
expression. My hostess clasped her hands together as her arms hung down
in front, and sighed once more. Then, half in soliloquy, she said
He was the love of my youth; his stern yet manly character first
touched this heart of mine. Whenwhen shall I cease to deplore his
Not being acquainted with her enough to answer this question (if,
indeed, it were not sufficiently answered by the fact of her second
marriage), I felt awkward; and, by way of saying something, I
The countenance strikes me as resembling something I have seen
beforein an engraving from an historical picture, I think; only, it
is there the principal figure in a group: he is holding a lady by her
hair, and threatening her with his scimitar, while two cavaliers are
rushing up the stairs, apparently only just in time to save her life.
Alas, alas! said she, you too accurately describe a miserable
passage in my life, which has often been represented in a false light.
The best of husbandshere she sobbed, and became slightly
inarticulate with her griefwill sometimes be displeased. I was young
and curious, he was justly angry with my disobediencemy brothers were
too hastythe consequence is, I became a widow!
After due respect for her tears, I ventured to suggest some
commonplace consolation. She turned round sharply:
No, monsieur: my only comfort is that I have never forgiven the
brothers who interfered so cruelly, in such an uncalled-for manner,
between my dear husband and myself. To quote my friend Monsieur
Sganarelle'Ce sont petites choses qui sont de temps en temps
necessaires dans l'amitié; et cinq ou six coups d'épée entre gens qui
s'aiment ne font que ragaillardir l'affection.' You observe the
colouring is not quite what it should be?
In this light the beard is of rather a peculiar tint, said I.
Yes: the painter did not do it justice. It was most lovely, and
gave him such a distinguished air, quite different from the common
herd. Stay, I will show you the exact colour, if you will come near
this flambeau! And going near the light, she took off a bracelet of
hair, with a magnificent clasp of pearls. It was peculiar, certainly. I
did not know what to say. His precious lovely beard! said she. And
the pearls go so well with the delicate blue!
Her husband, who had come up to us, and waited till her eye fell
upon him before venturing to speak, now said, It is strange Monsieur
Ogre is not yet arrived!
Not at all strange, said she, tartly. He was always very stupid,
and constantly falls into mistakes, in which he comes worse off; and it
is very well he does, for he is a credulous and cowardly fellow. Not at
all strange! If you willturning to her husband, so that I hardly
heard her words, until I caughtThen everybody would have their
rights, and we should have no more trouble. Is it not, monsieur?
If I were in England, I should imagine madame was speaking of the
reform bill, or the millennium,but I am in ignorance.
And just as I spoke, the great folding-doors were thrown open wide,
and every one started to their feet to greet a little old lady, leaning
on a thin black wandand
Madame la Féemarraine, was announced by a chorus of sweet shrill
And in a moment I was lying in the grass close by a hollow oak-tree,
with the slanting glory of the dawning day shining full in my face, and
thousands of little birds and delicate insects piping and warbling out
their welcome to the ruddy splendour.
SIX WEEKS AT HEPPENHEIM.
After I left Oxford, I determined to spend some months in travel
before settling down in life. My father had left me a few thousands,
the income arising from which would be enough to provide for all the
necessary requirements of a lawyer's education; such as lodgings in a
quiet part of London, fees and payment to the distinguished barrister
with whom I was to read; but there would be small surplus left over for
luxuries or amusements; and as I was rather in debt on leaving college,
since I had forestalled my income, and the expenses of my travelling
would have to be defrayed out of my capital, I determined that they
should not exceed fifty pounds. As long as that sum would last me I
would remain abroad; when it was spent my holiday should be over, and I
would return and settle down somewhere in the neighbourhood of Russell
Square, in order to be near Mr. 's chambers in Lincoln's-inn. I had
to wait in London for one day while my passport was being made out, and
I went to examine the streets in which I purposed to live; I had picked
them out, from studying a map, as desirable; and so they were, if
judged entirely by my reason; but their aspect was very depressing to
one country-bred, and just fresh from the beautiful street-architecture
of Oxford. The thought of living in such a monotonous gray district for
years made me all the more anxious to prolong my holiday by all the
economy which could eke out my fifty pounds. I thought I could make it
last for one hundred days at least. I was a good walker, and had no
very luxurious tastes in the matter of accommodation or food; I had as
fair a knowledge of German and French as any untravelled Englishman can
have; and I resolved to avoid expensive hotels such as my own
I have stated this much about myself to explain how I fell in with
the little story that I am going to record, but with which I had not
much to do,my part in it being little more than that of a
sympathizing spectator. I had been through France into Switzerland,
where I had gone beyond my strength in the way of walking, and I was on
my way home, when one evening I came to the village of Heppenheim, on
the Berg-Strasse. I had strolled about the dirty town of Worms all
morning, and dined in a filthy hotel; and after that I had crossed the
Rhine, and walked through Lorsch to Heppenheim. I was unnaturally tired
and languid as I dragged myself up the rough-paved and irregular
village street to the inn recommended to me. It was a large building,
with a green court before it. A cross-looking but scrupulously clean
hostess received me, and showed me into a large room with a
dinner-table in it, which, though it might have accommodated thirty or
forty guests, only stretched down half the length of the eating-room.
There were windows at each end of the room; two looked to the front of
the house, on which the evening shadows had already fallen; the
opposite two were partly doors, opening into a large garden full of
trained fruit-trees and beds of vegetables, amongst which rose-bushes
and other flowers seemed to grow by permission, not by original
intention. There was a stove at each end of the room, which, I suspect,
had originally been divided into two. The door by which I had entered
was exactly in the middle, and opposite to it was another, leading to a
great bed-chamber, which my hostess showed me as my sleeping quarters
for the night.
If the place had been much less clean and inviting, I should have
remained there; I was almost surprised myself at my vis inertiæ; once
seated in the last warm rays of the slanting sun by the garden window,
I was disinclined to move, or even to speak. My hostess had taken my
orders as to my evening meal, and had left me. The sun went down, and I
grew shivery. The vast room looked cold and bare; the darkness brought
out shadows that perplexed me, because I could not fully make out the
objects that produced them after dazzling my eyes by gazing out into
the crimson light.
Some one came in; it was the maiden to prepare for my supper. She
began to lay the cloth at one end of the large table. There was a
smaller one close by me. I mustered up my voice, which seemed a little
as if it was getting beyond my control, and called to her,
Will you let me have my supper here on this table?
She came near; the light fell on her while I was in shadow. She was
a tall young woman, with a fine strong figure, a pleasant face,
expressive of goodness and sense, and with a good deal of comeliness
about it, too, although the fair complexion was bronzed and reddened by
weather, so as to have lost much of its delicacy, and the features, as
I had afterwards opportunity enough of observing, were anything but
regular. She had white teeth, however, and well-opened blue
eyesgrave-looking eyes which had shed tears for past sorrowplenty
of light-brown hair, rather elaborately plaited, and fastened up by two
great silver pins. That was allperhaps more than allI noticed that
first night. She began to lay the cloth where I had directed. A shiver
passed over me: she looked at me, and then said,
The gentleman is cold: shall I light the stove?
Something vexed meI am not usually so impatient: it was the
coming-on of serious illnessI did not like to be noticed so closely;
I believed that food would restore me, and I did not want to have my
meal delayed, as I feared it might be by the lighting of the stove; and
most of all I was feverishly annoyed by movement. I answered sharply
No; bring supper quickly; that is all I want.
Her quiet, sad eyes met mine for a moment; but I saw no change in
their expression, as if I had vexed her by my rudeness: her countenance
did not for an instant lose its look of patient sense, and that is
pretty nearly all I can remember of Thekla that first evening at
I suppose I ate my supper, or tried to do so, at any rate; and I
must have gone to bed, for days after I became conscious of lying
there, weak as a new-born babe, and with a sense of past pain in all my
weary limbs. As is the case in recovering from fever, one does not care
to connect facts, much less to reason upon them; so how I came to be
lying in that strange bed, in that large, half-furnished room; in what
house that room was; in what town, in what country, I did not take the
trouble to recal. It was of much more consequence to me then to
discover what was the well-known herb that gave the scent to the clean,
coarse sheets in which I lay. Gradually I extended my observations,
always confining myself to the present. I must have been well cared-for
by some one, and that lately, too, for the window was shaded, so as to
prevent the morning sun from coming in upon the bed; there was the
crackling of fresh wood in the great white china stove, which must have
been newly replenished within a short time.
By-and-by the door opened slowly. I cannot tell why, but my impulse
was to shut my eyes as if I were still asleep. But I could see through
my apparently closed eyelids. In came, walking on tip-toe, with a slow
care that defeated its object, two men. The first was aged from thirty
to forty, in the dress of a Black Forest peasant,old-fashioned coat
and knee-breeches of strong blue cloth, but of a thoroughly good
quality; he was followed by an older man, whose dress, of more
pretension as to cut and colour (it was all black), was, nevertheless,
as I had often the opportunity of observing afterwards, worn
Their first sentences, in whispered German, told me who they were:
the landlord of the inn where I was lying a helpless log, and the
village doctor who had been called in. The latter felt my pulse, and
nodded his head repeatedly in approbation. I had instinctively known
that I was getting better, and hardly cared for this confirmation; but
it seemed to give the truest pleasure to the landlord, who shook the
hand of the doctor, in a pantomime expressive of as much thankfulness
as if I had been his brother. Some low-spoken remarks were made, and
then some question was asked, to which, apparently, my host was unable
to reply. He left the room, and in a minute or two returned, followed
by Thekla, who was questioned by the doctor, and replied with a quiet
clearness, showing how carefully the details of my illness had been
observed by her. Then she left the room, and, as if every minute had
served to restore to my brain its power of combining facts, I was
suddenly prompted to open my eyes, and ask in the best German I could
muster what day of the month it was; not that I clearly remembered the
date of my arrival at Heppenheim, but I knew it was about the beginning
Again the doctor conveyed his sense of extreme satisfaction in a
series of rapid pantomimic nods, and then replied in deliberate but
tolerable English, to my great surprise,
It is the 29th of September, my dear sir. You must thank the dear
God. Your fever has made its course of twenty-one days. Now patience
and care must be practised. The good host and his household will have
the care; you must have the patience. If you have relations in England,
I will do my endeavours to tell them the state of your health.
I have no near relations, said I, beginning in my weakness to cry,
as I remembered, as if it had been a dream, the days when I had father,
Chut, chut! said he; then, turning to the landlord, he told him in
German to make Thekla bring me one of her good bouillons; after which I
was to have certain medicines, and to sleep as undisturbedly as
possible. For days, he went on, I should require constant watching and
careful feeding; every twenty minutes I was to have something, either
wine or soup, in small quantities.
A dim notion came into my hazy mind that my previous husbandry of my
fifty pounds, by taking long walks and scanty diet, would prove in the
end very bad economy; but I sank into dozing unconsciousness before I
could quite follow out my idea. I was roused by the touch of a spoon on
my lips; it was Thekla feeding me. Her sweet, grave face had something
approaching to a mother's look of tenderness upon it, as she gave me
spoonful after spoonful with gentle patience and dainty care: and then
I fell asleep once more. When next I wakened it was night; the stove
was lighted, and the burning wood made a pleasant crackle, though I
could only see the outlines and edges of red flame through the crevices
of the small iron door. The uncurtained window on my left looked into
the purple, solemn night. Turning a little, I saw Thekla sitting near a
table, sewing diligently at some great white piece of household work.
Every now and then she stopped to snuff the candle; sometimes she began
to ply her needle again immediately; but once or twice she let her busy
hands lie idly in her lap, and looked into the darkness, and thought
deeply for a moment or two; these pauses always ended in a kind of
sobbing sigh, the sound of which seemed to restore her to
self-consciousness, and she took to her sewing even more diligently
than before. Watching her had a sort of dreamy interest for me; this
diligence of hers was a pleasant contrast to my repose; it seemed to
enhance the flavour of my rest. I was too much of an animal just then
to have my sympathy, or even my curiosity, strongly excited by her look
of sad remembrance, or by her sighs.
After a while she gave a little start, looked at a watch lying by
her on the table, and came, shading the candle by her hand, softly to
my bedside. When she saw my open eyes she went to a porringer placed at
the top of the stove, and fed me with soup. She did not speak while
doing this. I was half aware that she had done it many times since the
doctor's visit, although this seemed to be the first time that I was
fully awake. She passed her arm under the pillow on which my head
rested, and raised me a very little; her support was as firm as a man's
could have been. Again back to her work, and I to my slumbers, without
a word being exchanged.
It was broad daylight when I wakened again; I could see the sunny
atmosphere of the garden outside stealing in through the nicks at the
side of the shawl hung up to darken the rooma shawl which I was sure
had not been there when I had observed the window in the night. How
gently my nurse must have moved about while doing her thoughtful act!
My breakfast was brought me by the hostess; she who had received me
on my first arrival at this hospitable inn. She meant to do everything
kindly, I am sure; but a sick room was not her place; by a thousand
little mal-adroitnesses she fidgeted me past bearing; her shoes
creaked, her dress rustled; she asked me questions about myself which
it irritated me to answer; she congratulated me on being so much
better, while I was faint for want of the food which she delayed giving
me in order to talk. My host had more sense in him when he came in,
although his shoes creaked as well as hers. By this time I was somewhat
revived, and could talk a little; besides, it seemed churlish to be
longer without acknowledging so much kindness received.
I am afraid I have been a great trouble, said I. I can only say
that I am truly grateful.
His good broad face reddened, and he moved a little uneasily.
I don't see how I could have done otherwise than Ithan we,
did, replied he, in the soft German of the district. We were all glad
enough to do what we could; I don't say it was a pleasure, because it
is our busiest time of year,but then, said he, laughing a little
awkwardly, as if he feared his expression might have been
misunderstood, I don't suppose it has been a pleasure to you either,
sir, to be laid up so far from home.
I may as well tell you now, sir, that we had to look over your
papers and clothes. In the first place, when you were so ill I would
fain have let your kinsfolk know, if I could have found a clue; and
besides, you needed linen.
I am wearing a shirt of yours though, said I, touching my sleeve.
Yes, sir! said he again, reddening a little. I told Thekla to
take the finest out of the chest; but I am afraid you find it coarser
than your own.
For all answer I could only lay my weak hand on the great brown paw
resting on the bed-side. He gave me a sudden squeeze in return that I
thought would have crushed my bones.
I beg your pardon, sir, said he, misinterpreting the sudden look
of pain which I could not repress; but watching a man come out of the
shadow of death into life makes one feel very friendly towards him.
No old or true friend that I have had could have done more for me
than you, and your wife, and Thekla, and the good doctor.
I am a widower, said he, turning round the great wedding-ring that
decked his third finger. My sister keeps house for me, and takes care
of the children,that is to say, she does it with the help of Thekla,
the house-maiden. But I have other servants, he continued. I am well
to do, the good God be thanked! I have land, and cattle, and vineyards.
It will soon be our vintage-time, and then you must go and see my
grapes as they come into the village. I have a 'chasse,' too, in
the Odenwald; perhaps one day you will be strong enough to go and shoot
the 'chevreuil' with me.
His good, true heart was trying to make me feel like a welcome
guest. Some time afterwards I learnt from the doctor thatmy poor
fifty pounds being nearly all expendedmy host and he had been brought
to believe in my poverty, as the necessary examination of my clothes
and papers showed so little evidence of wealth. But I myself have but
little to do with my story; I only name these things, and repeat these
conversations, to show what a true, kind, honest man my host was. By
the way, I may as well call him by his name henceforward, Fritz Müller.
The doctor's name, Wiedermann.
I was tired enough with this interview with Fritz Müller; but when
Dr. Wiedermann came he pronounced me to be much better; and through the
day much the same course was pursued as on the previous one: being fed,
lying still, and sleeping, were my passive and active occupations. It
was a hot, sunshiny day, and I craved for air. Fresh air does not enter
into the pharmacopoeia of a German doctor; but somehow I obtained my
wish. During the morning hours the window through which the sun
streamedthe window looking on to the front courtwas opened a
little; and through it I heard the sounds of active life, which gave me
pleasure and interest enough. The hen's cackle, the cock's exultant
call when he had found the treasure of a grain of corn,the movements
of a tethered donkey, and the cooing and whirring of the pigeons which
lighted on the window-sill, gave me just subjects enough for interest.
Now and then a cart or carriage drove up,I could hear them ascending
the rough village street long before they stopped at the Halbmond,
the village inn. Then there came a sound of running and haste in the
house; and Thekla was always called for in sharp, imperative tones. I
heard little children's footsteps, too, from time to time; and once
there must have been some childish accident or hurt, for a shrill,
plaintive little voice kept calling out, Thekla, Thekla, liebe
Thekla. Yet, after the first early morning hours, when my hostess
attended on my wants, it was always Thekla who came to give me my food
or my medicine; who redded up my room; who arranged the degree of
light, shifting the temporary curtain with the shifting sun; and always
as quietly and deliberately as though her attendance upon me were her
sole work. Once or twice my hostess came into the large eating-room
(out of which my room opened), and called Thekla away from whatever was
her occupation in my room at the time, in a sharp, injured, imperative
whisper. Once I remember it was to say that sheets were wanted for some
stranger's bed, and to ask where she, the speaker, could have put the
keys, in a tone of irritation, as though Thekla were responsible for
Fräulein Müller's own forgetfulness.
Night came on; the sounds of daily life died away into silence; the
children's voices were no more heard; the poultry were all gone to
roost; the beasts of burden to their stables; and travellers were
housed. Then Thekla came in softly and quietly, and took up her
appointed place, after she had done all in her power for my comfort. I
felt that I was in no state to be left all those weary hours which
intervened between sunset and sunrise; but I did feel ashamed that this
young woman, who had watched by me all the previous night, and for
aught I knew, for many before, and had worked hard, been run off her
legs, as English servants would say, all day long, should come and take
up her care of me again; and it was with a feeling of relief that I saw
her head bend forwards, and finally rest on her arms, which had fallen
on the white piece of sewing spread before her on the table. She slept;
and I slept. When I wakened dawn was stealing into the room, and making
pale the lamplight. Thekla was standing by the stove, where she had
been preparing the bouillon I should require on wakening. But she did
not notice my half-open eyes, although her face was turned towards the
bed. She was reading a letter slowly, as if its words were familiar to
her, yet as though she were trying afresh to extract some fuller or
some different meaning from their construction. She folded it up softly
and slowly, and replaced it in her pocket with the quiet movement
habitual to her. Then she looked before her, not at me, but at vacancy
filled up by memories; and as the enchanter brought up the scenes and
people which she saw, but I could not, her eyes filled with
tearstears that gathered almost imperceptibly to herself as it would
seemfor when one large drop fell on her hands (held slightly together
before her as she stood) she started a little, and brushed her eyes
with the back of her hand, and then came towards the bed to see if I
was awake. If I had not witnessed her previous emotion, I could never
have guessed that she had any hidden sorrow or pain from her manner;
tranquil, self-restrained as usual. The thought of this letter haunted
me, especially as more than once I, wakeful or watchful during the
ensuing nights, either saw it in her hands, or suspected that she had
been recurring to it from noticing the same sorrowful, dreamy look upon
her face when she thought herself unobserved. Most likely every one has
noticed how inconsistently out of proportion some ideas become when one
is shut up in any place without change of scene or thought. I really
grew quite irritated about this letter. If I did not see it, I
suspected it lay perdu in her pocket. What was in it? Of course
it was a love-letter; but if so, what was going wrong in the course of
her love? I became like a spoilt child in my recovery; every one whom I
saw for the time being was thinking only of me, so it was perhaps no
wonder that I became my sole object of thought; and at last the
gratification of my curiosity about this letter seemed to me a duty
that I owed to myself. As long as my fidgety inquisitiveness remained
ungratified, I felt as if I could not get well. But to do myself
justice, it was more than inquisitiveness. Thekla had tended me with
the gentle, thoughtful care of a sister, in the midst of her busy life.
I could often hear the Fräulein's sharp voice outside blaming her for
something that had gone wrong; but I never heard much from Thekla in
reply. Her name was called in various tones by different people, more
frequently than I could count, as if her services were in perpetual
requisition, yet I was never neglected, or even long uncared-for. The
doctor was kind and attentive; my host friendly and really generous;
his sister subdued her acerbity of manner when in my room, but Thekla
was the one of all to whom I owed my comforts, if not my life. If I
could do anything to smooth her path (and a little money goes a great
way in these primitive parts of Germany), how willingly would I give
it? So one night I beganshe was no longer needed to watch by my
bedside, but she was arranging my room before leaving me for the
Thekla, said I, you don't belong to Heppenheim, do you?
She looked at me, and reddened a little.
No. Why do you ask?
You have been so good to me that I cannot help wanting to know more
about you. I must needs feel interested in one who has been by my side
through my illness as you have. Where do your friends live? Are your
All this time I was driving at the letter.
I was born at Altenahr. My father is an innkeeper there. He owns
the 'Golden Stag.' My mother is dead, and he has married again, and has
And your stepmother is unkind to you, said I, jumping to a
Who said so? asked she, with a shade of indignation in her tone.
She is a right good woman, and makes my father a good wife.
Then why are you here living so far from home?
Now the look came back to her face which I had seen upon it during
the night hours when I had watched her by stealth; a dimming of the
grave frankness of her eyes, a light quiver at the corners of her
mouth. But all she said was, It was better.
Somehow, I persisted with the wilfulness of an invalid. I am half
ashamed of it now.
But why better, Thekla? Was there How should I put it? I
stopped a little, and then rushed blindfold at my object: Has not that
letter which you read so often something to do with your being here?
She fixed me with her serious eyes till I believe I reddened far
more than she; and I hastened to pour out, incoherently enough, my
conviction that she had some secret care, and my desire to help her if
she was in any trouble.
You cannot help me, said she, a little softened by my explanation,
though some shade of resentment at having been thus surreptitiously
watched yet lingered in her manner. It is an old story; a sorrow gone
by, past, at least it ought to be, only sometimes I am foolishher
tones were softening nowand it is punishment enough that you have
seen my folly.
If you had a brother here, Thekla, you would let him give you his
sympathy if he could not give you his help, and you would not blame
yourself if you had shown him your sorrow, should you? I tell you
again, let me be as a brother to you.
In the first place, sirthis sir was to mark the distinction
between me and the imaginary brotherI should have been ashamed to
have shown even a brother my sorrow, which is also my reproach and my
disgrace. These were strong words; and I suppose my face showed that I
attributed to them a still stronger meaning than they warranted; but
honi soit qui mal y pensefor she went on dropping her eyes and
My shame and my reproach is this: I have loved a man who has not
loved meshe grasped her hands together till the fingers made deep
white dents in the rosy fleshand I can't make out whether he ever
did, or whether he did once and is changed now; if only he did once
love me, I could forgive myself.
With hasty, trembling hands she began to rearrange the tisane and
medicines for the night on the little table at my bed-side. But, having
got thus far, I was determined to persevere.
Thekla, said I, tell me all about it, as you would to your
mother, if she were alive. There are often misunderstandings which,
never set to rights, make the misery and desolation of a life-time.
She did not speak at first. Then she pulled out the letter, and
said, in a quiet, hopeless tone of voice:
You can read German writing? Read that, and see if I have any
reason for misunderstanding.
The letter was signed Franz Weber, and dated from some small town
in SwitzerlandI forget whatabout a month previous to the time when
I read it. It began with acknowledging the receipt of some money which
had evidently been requested by the writer, and for which the thanks
were almost fulsome; and then, by the quietest transition in the world,
he went on to consult her as to the desirability of his marrying some
girl in the place from which he wrote, saying that this Anna Somebody
was only eighteen and very pretty, and her father a well-to-do
shopkeeper, and adding, with coarse coxcombry, his belief that he was
not indifferent to the maiden herself. He wound up by saying that, if
this marriage did take place, he should certainly repay the various
sums of money which Thekla had lent him at different times.
I was some time in making out all this. Thekla held the candle for
me to read it; held it patiently and steadily, not speaking a word till
I had folded up the letter again, and given it back to her. Then our
There is no misunderstanding possible, is there, sir? asked she,
with a faint smile.
No, I replied; but you are well rid of such a fellow.
She shook her head a little. It shows his bad side, sir. We have
all our bad sides. You must not judge him harshly; at least, I cannot.
But then we were brought up together.
Yes; his father kept the other inn, and our parents, instead of
being rivals, were great friends. Franz is a little younger than I, and
was a delicate child. I had to take him to school, and I used to be so
proud of it and of my charge. Then he grew strong, and was the
handsomest lad in the village. Our fathers used to sit and smoke
together, and talk of our marriage, and Franz must have heard as much
as I. Whenever he was in trouble, he would come to me for what advice I
could give him; and he danced twice as often with me as with any other
girl at all the dances, and always brought his nosegay to me. Then his
father wished him to travel, and learn the ways at the great hotels on
the Rhine before he settled down in Altenahr. You know that is the
custom in Germany, sir. They go from town to town as journeymen,
learning something fresh everywhere, they say.
I knew that was done in trades, I replied.
Oh, yes; and among inn-keepers, too, she said. Most of the
waiters at the great hotels in Frankfort, and Heidelberg, and Mayence,
and, I daresay, at all the other places, are the sons of innkeepers in
small towns, who go out into the world to learn new ways, and perhaps
to pick up a little English and French; otherwise, they say, they
should never get on. Franz went off from Altenahr on his journeyings
four years ago next May-day; and before he went, he brought me back a
ring from Bonn, where he bought his new clothes. I don't wear it now;
but I have got it upstairs, and it comforts me to see something that
shows me it was not all my silly fancy. I suppose he fell among bad
people, for he soon began to play for money,and then he lost more
than he could always payand sometimes I could help him a little, for
we wrote to each other from time to time, as we knew each other's
addresses; for the little ones grew around my father's hearth, and I
thought that I, too, would go forth into the world and earn my own
living, so thatwell, I will tell the truthI thought that by going
into service, I could lay by enough for buying a handsome stock of
household linen, and plenty of pans and kettles againstagainst what
will never come to pass now.
Do the German women buy the pots and kettles, as you call them,
when they are married? asked I, awkwardly, laying hold of a trivial
question to conceal the indignant sympathy with her wrongs which I did
not like to express.
Oh, yes; the bride furnishes all that is wanted in the kitchen, and
all the store of house-linen. If my mother had lived, it would have
been laid by for me, as she could have afforded to buy it, but my
stepmother will have hard enough work to provide for her own four
little girls. However, she continued, brightening up, I can help her,
for now I shall never marry; and my master here is just and liberal,
and pays me sixty florins a year, which is high wages. (Sixty florins
are about five pounds sterling.) And now, good-night, sir. This cup to
the left holds the tisane, that to the right the acorn-tea. She shaded
the candle, and was leaving the room. I raised myself on my elbow, and
called her back.
Don't go on thinking about this man, said I. He was not good
enough for you. You are much better unmarried.
Perhaps so, she answered gravely. But you cannot do him justice;
you do not know him.
A few minutes after, I heard her soft and cautious return; she had
taken her shoes off, and came in her stockinged feet up to my bedside,
shading the light with her hand. When she saw that my eyes were open,
she laid down two letters on the table, close by my night-lamp.
Perhaps, some time, sir, you would take the trouble to read these
letters; you would then see how noble and clever Franz really is. It is
I who ought to be blamed, not he.
No more was said that night.
Some time the next morning I read the letters. They were filled with
vague, inflated, sentimental descriptions of his inner life and
feelings; entirely egotistical, and intermixed with quotations from
second-rate philosophers and poets. There was, it must be said, nothing
in them offensive to good principle or good feeling, however much they
might be opposed to good taste. I was to go into the next room that
afternoon for the first time of leaving my sick chamber. All morning I
lay and ruminated. From time to time I thought of Thekla and Franz
Weber. She was the strong, good, helpful character, he the weak and
vain; how strange it seemed that she should have cared for one so
dissimilar; and then I remembered the various happy marriages when to
an outsider it seemed as if one was so inferior to the other that their
union would have appeared a subject for despair if it had been looked
at prospectively. My host came in, in the midst of these meditations,
bringing a great flowered dressing-gown, lined with flannel, and the
embroidered smoking-cap which he evidently considered as belonging to
this Indian-looking robe. They had been his father's, he told me; and
as he helped me to dress, he went on with his communications on small
family matters. His inn was flourishing; the numbers increased every
year of those who came to see the church at Heppenheim: the church
which was the pride of the place, but which I had never yet seen. It
was built by the great Kaiser Karl. And there was the Castle of
Starkenburg, too, which the Abbots of Lorsch had often defended,
stalwart churchmen as they were, against the temporal power of the
emperors. And Melibocus was not beyond a walk either. In fact, it was
the work of one person to superintend the inn alone; but he had his
farm and his vineyards beyond, which of themselves gave him enough to
do. And his sister was oppressed with the perpetual calls made upon her
patience and her nerves in an inn; and would rather go back and live at
Worms. And his children wanted so much looking after. By the time he
had placed himself in a condition for requiring my full sympathy, I had
finished my slow toilette; and I had to interrupt his confidences, and
accept the help of his good strong arm to lead me into the great
eating-room, out of which my chamber opened. I had a dreamy
recollection of the vast apartment. But how pleasantly it was changed!
There was the bare half of the room, it is true, looking as it had done
on that first afternoon, sunless and cheerless, with the long,
unoccupied table, and the necessary chairs for the possible visitors;
but round the windows that opened on the garden a part of the room was
enclosed by the household clothes'-horses hung with great pieces of the
blue homespun cloth of which the dress of the Black Forest peasant is
made. This shut-in space was warmed by the lighted stove, as well as by
the lowering rays of the October sun. There was a little round walnut
table with some flowers upon it, and a great cushioned armchair placed
so as to look out upon the garden and the hills beyond. I felt sure
that this was all Thekla's arrangement; I had rather wondered that I
had seen so little of her this day. She had come once or twice on
necessary errands into my room in the morning, but had appeared to be
in great haste, and had avoided meeting my eye. Even when I had
returned the letters, which she had entrusted to me with so evident a
purpose of placing the writer in my good opinion, she had never
inquired as to how far they had answered her design; she had merely
taken them with some low word of thanks, and put them hurriedly into
her pocket. I suppose she shrank from remembering how fully she had
given me her confidence the night before, now that daylight and actual
life pressed close around her. Besides, there surely never was anyone
in such constant request as Thekla. I did not like this estrangement,
though it was the natural consequence of my improved health, which
would daily make me less and less require services which seemed so
urgently claimed by others. And, moreover, after my host left meI
fear I had cut him a little short in the recapitulation of his domestic
difficulties, but he was too thorough and good-hearted a man to bear
maliceI wanted to be amused or interested. So I rang my little
hand-bell, hoping that Thekla would answer it, when I could have fallen
into conversation with her, without specifying any decided want.
Instead of Thekla the Fräulein came, and I had to invent a wish; for I
could not act as a baby, and say that I wanted my nurse. However, the
Fräulein was better than no one, so I asked her if I could have some
grapes, which had been provided for me on every day but this, and which
were especially grateful to my feverish palate. She was a good, kind
woman, although, perhaps, her temper was not the best in the world; and
she expressed the sincerest regret as she told me that there were no
more in the house. Like an invalid I fretted at my wish not being
granted, and spoke out.
But Thekla told me the vintage was not till the fourteenth; and you
have a vineyard close beyond the garden on the slope of the hill out
there, have you not?
Yes; and grapes for the gathering. But perhaps the gentleman does
not know our laws. Until the vintage(the day of beginning the vintage
is fixed by the Grand Duke, and advertised in the public papers)until
the vintage, all owners of vineyards may only go on two appointed days
in every week to gather their grapes; on those two days (Tuesdays and
Fridays this year) they must gather enough for the wants of their
families; and if they do not reckon rightly, and gather short measure,
why they have to go without. And these two last days the Half-Moon has
been besieged with visitors, all of whom have asked for grapes. But
to-morrow the gentleman can have as many as he will; it is the day for
What a strange kind of paternal law, I grumbled out. Why is it so
ordained? Is it to secure the owners against pilfering from their
I am sure I cannot tell, she replied. Country people in these
villages have strange customs in many ways, as I daresay the English
gentleman has perceived. If he would come to Worms he would see a
different kind of life.
But not a view like this, I replied, caught by a sudden change of
lightsome cloud passing away from the sun, or something. Right
outside of the windows was, as I have so often said, the garden.
Trained plum-trees with golden leaves, great bushes of purple,
Michaelmas daisy, late flowering roses, apple-trees partly stripped of
their rosy fruit, but still with enough left on their boughs to require
the props set to support the luxuriant burden; to the left an arbour
covered over with honeysuckle and other sweet-smelling creepersall
bounded by a low gray stone wall which opened out upon the steep
vineyard, that stretched up the hill beyond, one hill of a series
rising higher and higher into the purple distance. Why is there a rope
with a bunch of straw tied in it stretched across the opening of the
garden into the vineyard? I inquired, as my eye suddenly caught upon
It is the country way of showing that no one must pass along that
path. To-morrow the gentleman will see it removed; and then he shall
have the grapes. Now I will go and prepare his coffee. With a curtsey,
after the fashion of Worms gentility, she withdrew. But an
under-servant brought me my coffee; and with her I could not exchange a
word: she spoke in such an execrable patois. I went to bed early,
weary, and depressed. I must have fallen asleep immediately, for I
never heard any one come to arrange my bed-side table; yet in the
morning I found that every usual want or wish of mine had been attended
I was wakened by a tap at my door, and a pretty piping child's voice
asking, in broken German, to come in. On giving the usual permission,
Thekla entered, carrying a great lovely boy of two years old, or
thereabouts, who had only his little night-shirt on, and was all
flushed with sleep. He held tight in his hands a great cluster of
muscatel and noble grapes. He seemed like a little Bacchus, as she
carried him towards me with an expression of pretty loving pride upon
her face as she looked at him. But when he came close to methe grim,
wasted, unshornhe turned quick away, and hid his face in her neck,
still grasping tight his bunch of grapes. She spoke to him rapidly and
softly, coaxing him as I could tell full well, although I could not
follow her words; and in a minute or two the little fellow obeyed her,
and turned and stretched himself almost to overbalancing out of her
arms, and half-dropped the fruit on the bed by me. Then he clutched at
her again, burying his face in her kerchief, and fastening his little
fists in her luxuriant hair.
[Illustration p. 129: He seemed like a little Bacchus.]
It is my master's only boy, said she, disentangling his fingers
with quiet patience, only to have them grasp her braids afresh. He is
my little Max, my heart's delight, only he must not pull so hard. Say
his 'to-meet-again,' and kiss his hand lovingly, and we will go. The
promise of a speedy departure from my dusky room proved irresistible;
he babbled out his Aufwiedersehen, and kissing his chubby hand, he was
borne away joyful and chattering fast in his infantile half-language. I
did not see Thekla again until late afternoon, when she brought me in
my coffee. She was not like the same creature as the blooming, cheerful
maiden whom I had seen in the morning; she looked wan and careworn,
older by several years.
What is the matter, Thekla? said I, with true anxiety as to what
might have befallen my good, faithful nurse.
She looked round before answering. I have seen him, she said. He
has been here, and the Fräulein has been so angry! She says she will
tell my master. Oh, it has been such a day! The poor young woman, who
was usually so composed and self-restrained, was on the point of
bursting into tears; but by a strong effort she checked herself, and
tried to busy herself with rearranging the white china cup, so as to
place it more conveniently to my hand.
Come, Thekla, said I, tell me all about it. I have heard loud
voices talking, and I fancied something had put the Fräulein out; and
Lottchen looked flurried when she brought me my dinner. Is Franz here?
How has he found you out?
He is here. Yes, I am sure it is he; but four years makes such a
difference in a man; his whole look and manner seemed so strange to me;
but he knew me at once, and called me all the old names which we used
to call each other when we were children; and he must needs tell me how
it had come to pass that he had not married that Swiss Anna. He said he
had never loved her; and that now he was going home to settle, and he
hoped that I would come too, and There she stopped short.
And marry him, and live at the inn at Altenahr, said I, smiling,
to reassure her, though I felt rather disappointed about the whole
No, she replied. Old Weber, his father, is dead; he died in debt,
and Franz will have no money. And he was always one that needed money.
Some are, you know; and while I was thinking, and he was standing near
me, the Fräulein came in; andandI don't wonderfor poor Franz is
not a pleasant-looking man now-a-daysshe was very angry, and called
me a bold, bad girl, and said she could have no such goings on at the
'Halbmond,' but would tell my master when he came home from the
But you could have told her that you were old friends. I
hesitated, before saying the word lovers, but, after a pause, out it
Franz might have said so, she replied, a little stiffly. I could
not; but he went off as soon as she bade him. He went to the 'Adler'
over the way, only saying he would come for my answer to-morrow
morning. I think it was he that should have told her what we
wereneighbours' children and early friendsnot have left it all to
me. Oh, said she, clasping her hands tight together, she will make
such a story of it to my master.
Never mind, said I, tell the master I want to see him, as soon as
he comes in from the forest, and trust me to set him right before the
Fräulein has the chance to set him wrong.
She looked up at me gratefully, and went away without any more
words. Presently the fine burly figure of my host stood at the opening
to my enclosed sitting-room. He was there, three-cornered hat in hand,
looking tired and heated as a man does after a hard day's work, but as
kindly and genial as ever, which is not what every man is who is called
to business after such a day, before he has had the necessary food and
I had been reflecting a good deal on Thekla's story; I could not
quite interpret her manner to-day to my full satisfaction; but yet the
love which had grown with her growth, must assuredly have been called
forth by her lover's sudden reappearance; and I was inclined to give
him some credit for having broken off an engagement to Swiss Anna,
which had promised so many worldly advantages; and, again, I had
considered that if he was a little weak and sentimental, it was Thekla,
who would marry him by her own free will, and perhaps she had sense and
quiet resolution enough for both. So I gave the heads of the little
history I have told you to my good friend and host, adding that I
should like to have a man's opinion of this man; but that if he were
not an absolute good-for-nothing, and if Thekla still loved him, as I
believed, I would try and advance them the requisite money towards
establishing themselves in the hereditary inn at Altenahr.
Such was the romantic ending to Thekla's sorrows, I had been
planning and brooding over for the last hour. As I narrated my tale,
and hinted at the possible happy conclusion that might be in store, my
host's face changed. The ruddy colour faded, and his look became almost
sterncertainly very grave in expression. It was so unsympathetic,
that I instinctively cut my words short. When I had done, he paused a
little, and then said: You would wish me to learn all I can respecting
this stranger now at the 'Adler,' and give you the impression I receive
of the fellow.
Exactly so, said I; I want to learn all I can about him for
For Thekla's sake I will do it, he gravely repeated.
And come to me to-night, even if I am gone to bed?
Not so, he replied. You must give me all the time you can in a
matter like this.
But he will come for Thekla's answer in the morning.
Before he comes you shall know all I can learn.
I was resting during the fatigues of dressing the next day, when my
host tapped at my door. He looked graver and sterner than I had ever
seen him do before; he sat down almost before I had begged him to do
He is not worthy of her, he said. He drinks brandy right hard; he
boasts of his success at play, andhere he set his teeth hardhe
boasts of the women who have loved him. In a village like this, sir,
there are always those who spend their evenings in the gardens of the
inns; and this man, after he had drank his fill, made no secrets; it
needed no spying to find out what he was, else I should not have been
the one to do it.
Thekla must be told of this, said I. She is not the woman to love
any one whom she cannot respect.
Herr Müller laughed a low bitter laugh, quite unlike himself. Then
As for that matter, sir, you are young; you have had no great
experience of women. From what my sister tells me there can be little
doubt of Thekla's feeling towards him. She found them standing together
by the window; his arm round Thekla's waist, and whispering in her
earand to do the maiden justice she is not the one to suffer such
familiarities from every one. Nocontinued he, still in the same
contemptuous toneyou'll find she will make excuses for his faults
and vices; or else, which is perhaps more likely, she will not believe
your story, though I who tell it you can vouch for the truth of every
word I say. He turned short away and left the room. Presently I saw
his stalwart figure in the hill-side vineyard, before my windows,
scaling the steep ascent with long regular steps, going to the forest
beyond. I was otherwise occupied than in watching his progress during
the next hour; at the end of that time he re-entered my room, looking
heated and slightly tired, as if he had been walking fast, or labouring
hard; but with the cloud off his brows, and the kindly light shining
once again out of his honest eyes.
I ask your pardon, sir, he began, for troubling you afresh. I
believe I was possessed by the devil this morning. I have been thinking
it over. One has perhaps no right to rule for another person's
happiness. To have such ahere the honest fellow choked a
littlesuch a woman as Thekla to love him ought to raise any man.
Besides, I am no judge for him or for her. I have found out this
morning that I love her myself, and so the end of it is, that if you,
sir, who are so kind as to interest yourself in the matter, and if you
think it is really her heart's desire to marry this manwhich ought to
be his salvation both for earth and heavenI shall be very glad to go
halves with you in any place for setting them up in the inn at
Altenahr; only allow me to see that whatever money we advance is well
and legally tied up, so that it is secured to her. And be so kind as to
take no notice of what I have said about my having found out that I
have loved her; I named it as a kind of apology for my hard words this
morning, and as a reason why I was not a fit judge of what was best.
He had hurried on, so that I could not have stopped his eager speaking
even had I wished to do so; but I was too much interested in the
revelation of what was passing in his brave tender heart to desire to
stop him. Now, however, his rapid words tripped each other up, and his
speech ended in an unconscious sigh.
But, I said, since you were here Thekla has come to me, and we
have had a long talk. She speaks now as openly to me as she would if I
were her brother; with sensible frankness, where frankness is wise,
with modest reticence, where confidence would be unbecoming. She came
to ask me, if I thought it her duty to marry this fellow, whose very
appearance, changed for the worse, as she says it is, since she last
saw him four years ago, seemed to have repelled her.
She could let him put his arm round her waist yesterday, said Herr
Müller, with a return of his morning's surliness.
And she would marry him now if she could believe it to be her duty.
For some reason of his own, this Franz Weber has tried to work upon
this feeling of hers. He says it would be the saving of him.
As if a man had not strength enough in hima man who is good for
aughtto save himself, but needed a woman to pull him through life!
Nay, I replied, hardly able to keep from smiling. You yourself
said, not five minutes ago, that her marrying him might be his
salvation both for earth and heaven.
That was when I thought she loved the fellow, he answered quick.
Nowbut what did you say to her, sir?
I told her, what I believe to be as true as gospel, that as she
owned she did not love him any longer now his real self had come to
displace his remembrance, that she would be sinning in marrying him;
doing evil that possible good might come. I was clear myself on this
point, though I should have been perplexed how to advise, if her love
had still continued.
And what answer did she make?
She went over the history of their lives; she was pleading against
her wishes to satisfy her conscience. She said that all along through
their childhood she had been his strength; that while under her
personal influence he had been negatively good; away from her, he had
fallen into mischief
Not to say vice, put in Herr Müller.
And now he came to her penitent, in sorrow, desirous of amendment,
asking her for the love she seems to have considered as tacitly
plighted to him in years gone by
And which he has slighted and insulted. I hope you told her of his
words and conduct last night in the 'Adler' gardens?
No. I kept myself to the general principle, which, I am sure, is a
true one. I repeated it in different forms; for the idea of the duty of
self-sacrifice had taken strong possession of her fancy. Perhaps, if I
had failed in setting her notion of her duty in the right aspect, I
might have had recourse to the statement of facts, which would have
pained her severely, but would have proved to her how little his words
of penitence and promises of amendment were to be trusted to.
And it ended?
Ended by her being quite convinced that she would be doing wrong
instead of right if she married a man whom she had entirely ceased to
love, and that no real good could come from a course of action based on
That is right and true, he replied, his face broadening into
But she says she must leave your service, and go elsewhere.
Leave my service she shall; go elsewhere she shall not.
I cannot tell what you may have the power of inducing her to do;
but she seems to me very resolute.
Why? said he, firing round at me, as if I had made her resolute.
She says your sister spoke to her before the maids of the
household, and before some of the townspeople, in a way that she could
not stand; and that you yourself by your manner to her last night
showed how she had lost your respect. She added, with her face of pure
maidenly truth, that he had come into such close contact with her only
the instant before your sister had entered the room.
With your leave, sir, said Herr Müller, turning towards the door,
I will go and set all that right at once.
It was easier said than done. When I next saw Thekla, her eyes were
swollen up with crying, but she was silent, almost defiant towards me.
A look of resolute determination had settled down upon her face. I
learnt afterwards that parts of my conversation with Herr Müller had
been injudiciously quoted by him in the talk he had had with her. I
thought I would leave her to herself, and wait till she unburdened
herself of the feeling of unjust resentment towards me. But it was days
before she spoke to me with anything like her former frankness. I had
heard all about it from my host long before.
He had gone to her straight on leaving me; and like a foolish,
impetuous lover, had spoken out his mind and his wishes to her in the
presence of his sister, who, it must be remembered, had heard no
explanation of the conduct which had given her propriety so great a
shock the day before. Herr Müller thought to re-instate Thekla in his
sister's good opinion by giving her in the Fräulein's very presence the
highest possible mark of his own love and esteem. And there in the
kitchen, where the Fräulein was deeply engaged in the hot work of
making some delicate preserve on the stove, and ordering Thekla about
with short, sharp displeasure in her tones, the master had come in, and
possessing himself of the maiden's hand, had, to her infinite
surpriseto his sister's infinite indignationmade her the offer of
his heart, his wealth, his life; had begged of her to marry him. I
could gather from his account that she had been in a state of trembling
discomfiture at first; she had not spoken, but had twisted her hand out
of his, and had covered her face with her apron. And then the Fräulein
had burst forthaccursed words he called her speech. Thekla
uncovered her face to listen; to listen to the end; to listen to the
passionate recrimination between the brother and the sister. And then
she went up, close up to the angry Fräulein, and had said quite
quietly, but with a manner of final determination which had evidently
sunk deep into her suitor's heart, and depressed him into hopelessness,
that the Fräulein had no need to disturb herself; that on this very day
she had been thinking of marrying another man, and that her heart was
not like a room to let, into which as one tenant went out another might
enter. Nevertheless, she felt the master's goodness. He had always
treated her well from the time when she had entered the house as his
servant. And she should be sorry to leave him; sorry to leave the
children; very sorry to leave little Max: yes, she should even be sorry
to leave the Fräulein, who was a good woman, only a little too apt to
be hard on other women. But she had already been that very day and
deposited her warning at the police office; the busy time would be soon
over, and she should be glad to leave their service on All Saints' Day.
Then (he thought) she had felt inclined to cry, for she suddenly braced
herself up, and said, yes, she should be very glad; for somehow, though
they had been kind to her, she had been very unhappy at Heppenheim; and
she would go back to her home for a time, and see her old father and
kind stepmother, and her nursling half-sister Ida, and be among her own
I could see it was this last part that most of all rankled in Herr
Müller's mind. In all probability Franz Weber was making his way back
to Heppenheim too; and the bad suspicion would keep welling up that
some lingering feeling for her old lover and disgraced playmate was
making her so resolute to leave and return to Altenahr.
For some days after this I was the confidant of the whole household,
excepting Thekla. She, poor creature, looked miserable enough; but the
hardy, defiant expression was always on her face. Lottchen spoke out
freely enough; the place would not be worth having if Thekla left it;
it was she who had the head for everything, the patience for
everything; who stood between all the under-servants and the Fräulein's
tempers. As for the children, poor motherless children! Lottchen was
sure that the master did not know what he was doing when he allowed his
sister to turn Thekla awayand all for what? for having a lover, as
every girl had who could get one. Why, the little boy Max slept in the
room which Lottchen shared with Thekla; and she heard him in the night
as quickly as if she was his mother; when she had been sitting up with
me, when I was so ill, Lottchen had had to attend to him; and it was
weary work after a hard day to have to get up and soothe a teething
child; she knew she had been cross enough sometimes; but Thekla was
always good and gentle with him, however tired he was. And as Lottchen
left the room I could hear her repeating that she thought she should
leave when Thekla went, for that her place would not be worth having.
Even the Fräulein had her word of regretregret mingled with
self-justification. She thought she had been quite right in speaking to
Thekla for allowing such familiarities; how was she to know that the
man was an old friend and playmate? He looked like a right profligate
good-for-nothing. And to have a servant take up her scolding as an
unpardonable offence, and persist in quitting her place, just when she
had learnt all her work, and was so useful in the householdso useful
that the Fräulein could never put up with any fresh, stupid
house-maiden, but, sooner than take the trouble of teaching the new
servant where everything was, and how to give out the stores if she was
busy, she would go back to Worms. For, after all, housekeeping for a
brother was thankless work; there was no satisfying men; and Heppenheim
was but a poor ignorant village compared to Worms.
She must have spoken to her brother about her intention of leaving
him, and returning to her former home; indeed a feeling of coolness had
evidently grown up between the brother and sister during these latter
days. When one evening Herr Müller brought in his pipe, and, as his
custom had sometimes been, sat down by my stove to smoke, he looked
gloomy and annoyed. I let him puff away, and take his own time. At
length he began,
I have rid the village of him at last. I could not bear to have him
here disgracing Thekla with speaking to her whenever she went to the
vineyard or the fountain. I don't believe she likes him a bit.
No more do I, I said. He turned on me.
Then why did she speak to him at all? Why cannot she like an honest
man who likes her? Why is she so bent on going home to Altenahr?
She speaks to him because she has known him from a child, and has a
faithful pity for one whom she has known so innocent, and who is now so
lost in all good men's regard. As for not liking an honest man(though
I may have my own opinion about that)liking goes by fancy, as we say
in English; and Altenahr is her home; her father's house is at
Altenahr, as you know.
I wonder if he will go there, quoth Herr Müller, after two or
three more puffs. He was fast at the 'Adler;' he could not pay his
score, so he kept on staying here, saying that he should receive a
letter from a friend with money in a day or two; lying in wait, too,
for Thekla, who is well-known and respected all through Heppenheim: so
his being an old friend of hers made him have a kind of standing. I
went in this morning and paid his score, on condition that he left the
place this day; and he left the village as merrily as a cricket, caring
no more for Thekla than for the Kaiser who built our church: for he
never looked back at the 'Halbmond,' but went whistling down the road.
That is a good riddance, said I.
Yes. But my sister says she must return to Worms. And Lottchen has
given notice; she says the place will not be worth having when Thekla
leaves. I wish I could give notice too.
Try Thekla again.
Not I, said he, reddening. It would seem now as if I only wanted
her for a housekeeper. Besides, she avoids me at every turn, and will
not even look at me. I am sure she bears me some ill-will about that
There was silence between us for some time, which he at length
The pastor has a good and comely daughter. Her mother is a famous
housewife. They often have asked me to come to the parsonage and smoke
a pipe. When the vintage is over, and I am less busy, I think I will go
there, and look about me.
When is the vintage? asked I. I hope it will take place soon, for
I am growing so well and strong I fear I must leave you shortly; but I
should like to see the vintage first.
Oh, never fear! you must not travel yet awhile; and Government has
fixed the grape-gathering to begin on the fourteenth.
What a paternal Government! How does it know when the grapes will
be ripe? Why cannot every man fix his own time for gathering his own
That has never been our way in Germany. There are people employed
by the Government to examine the vines, and report when the grapes are
ripe. It is necessary to make laws about it; for, as you must have
seen, there is nothing but the fear of the law to protect our vineyards
and fruit-trees; there are no enclosures along the Berg-Strasse, as you
tell me you have in England; but, as people are only allowed to go into
the vineyards on stated days, no one, under pretence of gathering his
own produce, can stray into his neighbour's grounds and help himself,
without some of the duke's foresters seeing him.
Well, said I, to each country its own laws.
I think it was on that very evening that Thekla came in for
something. She stopped arranging the tablecloth and the flowers, as if
she had something to say, yet did not know how to begin. At length I
found that her sore, hot heart, wanted some sympathy; her hand was
against every one's, and she fancied every one had turned against her.
She looked up at me, and said, a little abruptly,
Does the gentleman know that I go on the fifteenth?
So soon? said I, with surprise. I thought you were to remain here
till All Saints' Day.
So I should have doneso I must have doneif the Fräulein had not
kindly given me leave to accept of a placea very good place tooof
housekeeper to a widow lady at Frankfort. It is just the sort of
situation I have always wished for. I expect I shall be so happy and
Methinks the lady doth profess too much, came into my mind. I saw
she expected me to doubt the probability of her happiness, and was in a
Of course, said I, you would hardly have wished to leave
Heppenheim if you had been happy here; and every new place always
promises fair, whatever its performance may be. But wherever you go,
remember you have always a friend in me.
Yes, she replied, I think you are to be trusted. Though, from my
experience, I should say that of very few men.
You have been unfortunate, I answered; many men would say the
same of women.
She thought a moment, and then said, in a changed tone of voice,
The Fräulein here has been much more friendly and helpful of these
late days than her brother; yet I have served him faithfully, and have
cared for his little Max as though he were my own brother. But this
morning he spoke to me for the first time for many days,he met me in
the passage, and, suddenly stopping, he said he was glad I had met with
so comfortable a place, and that I was at full liberty to go whenever I
liked: and then he went quickly on, never waiting for my answer.
And what was wrong in that? It seems to me he was trying to make
you feel entirely at your ease, to do as you thought best, without
regard to his own interests.
Perhaps so. It is silly, I know, she continued, turning full on me
her grave, innocent eyes; but one's vanity suffers a little when every
one is so willing to part with one.
Thekla! I owe you a great debtlet me speak to you openly. I know
that your master wanted to marry you, and that you refused him. Do not
deceive yourself. You are sorry for that refusal now?
She kept her serious look fixed upon me; but her face and throat
reddened all over.
No, said she, at length; I am not sorry. What can you think I am
made of; having loved one man ever since I was a little child until a
fortnight ago, and now just as ready to love another? I know you do not
rightly consider what you say, or I should take it as an insult.
You loved an ideal man; he disappointed you, and you clung to your
remembrance of him. He came, and the reality dispelled all illusions.
I do not understand philosophy, said she. I only know that I
think that Herr Müller had lost all respect for me from what his sister
had told him; and I know that I am going away; and I trust I shall be
happier in Frankfort than I have been here of late days. So saying,
she left the room.
I was wakened up on the morning of the fourteenth by the merry
ringing of church bells, and the perpetual firing and popping off of
guns and pistols. But all this was over by the time I was up and
dressed, and seated at breakfast in my partitioned room. It was a
perfect October day; the dew not yet off the blades of grass,
glistening on the delicate gossamer webs, which stretched from flower
to flower in the garden, lying in the morning shadow of the house. But
beyond the garden, on the sunny hill-side, men, women, and children
were clambering up the vineyards like ants,busy, irregular in
movement, clustering together, spreading wide apart,I could hear the
shrill merry voices as I sat,and all along the valley, as far as I
could see, it was much the same; for every one filled his house for the
day of the vintage, that great annual festival. Lottchen, who had
brought in my breakfast, was all in her Sunday best, having risen early
to get her work done and go abroad to gather grapes. Bright colours
seemed to abound; I could see dots of scarlet, and crimson, and orange
through the fading leaves; it was not a day to languish in the house;
and I was on the point of going out by myself, when Herr Müller came in
to offer me his sturdy arm, and help me in walking to the vineyard. We
crept through the garden scented with late flowers and sunny fruit,we
passed through the gate I had so often gazed at from the easy-chair,
and were in the busy vineyard; great baskets lay on the grass already
piled nearly full of purple and yellow grapes. The wine made from these
was far from pleasant to my taste; for the best Rhine wine is made from
a smaller grape, growing in closer, harder clusters; but the larger and
less profitable grape is by far the most picturesque in its mode of
growth, and far the best to eat into the bargain. Wherever we trod, it
was on fragrant, crushed vine-leaves; every one we saw had his hands
and face stained with the purple juice. Presently I sat down on a sunny
bit of grass, and my host left me to go farther afield, to look after
the more distant vineyards. I watched his progress. After he left me,
he took off coat and waistcoat, displaying his snowy shirt and
gaily-worked braces; and presently he was as busy as any one. I looked
down on the village; the gray and orange and crimson roofs lay glowing
in the noonday sun. I could see down into the streets; but they were
all emptyeven the old people came toiling up the hill-side to share
in the general festivity. Lottchen had brought up cold dinners for a
regiment of men; every one came and helped himself. Thekla was there,
leading the little Karoline, and helping the toddling steps of Max; but
she kept aloof from me; for I knew, or suspected, or had probed too
much. She alone looked sad and grave, and spoke so little, even to her
friends, that it was evident to see that she was trying to wean herself
finally from the place. But I could see that she had lost her short,
defiant manner. What she did say was kindly and gently spoken. The
Fräulein came out late in the morning, dressed, I suppose, in the
latest Worms fashionquite different to anything I had ever seen
before. She came up to me, and talked very graciously to me for some
Here comes the proprietor (squire) and his lady, and their dear
children. See, the vintagers have tied bunches of the finest grapes on
to a stick, heavier than the children or even the lady can carry. Look!
look! how he bows!one can tell he has been an attaché at
Vienna. That is the court way of bowing thereholding the hat right
down before them, and bending the back at right angles. How graceful!
And here is the doctor! I thought he would spare time to come up here.
Well, doctor, you will go all the more cheerfully to your next patient
for having been up into the vineyards. Nonsense, about grapes making
other patients for you. Ah, here is the pastor and his wife, and the
Fräulein Anna. Now, where is my brother, I wonder? Up in the far
vineyard, I make no doubt. Mr. Pastor, the view up above is far finer
than what it is here, and the best grapes grow there; shall I accompany
you and madame, and the dear Fräulein? The gentleman will excuse me.
I was left alone. Presently I thought I would walk a little farther,
or at any rate change my position. I rounded a corner in the pathway,
and there I found Thekla, watching by little sleeping Max. He lay on
her shawl; and over his head she had made an arching canopy of broken
vine-branches, so that the great leaves threw their cool, flickering
shadows on his face. He was smeared all over with grape-juice, his
sturdy fingers grasped a half-eaten bunch even in his sleep. Thekla was
keeping Lina quiet by teaching her how to weave a garland for her head
out of field-flowers and autumn-tinted leaves. The maiden sat on the
ground, with her back to the valley beyond, the child kneeling by her,
watching the busy fingers with eager intentness. Both looked up as I
drew near, and we exchanged a few words.
Where is the master? I asked. I promised to await his return; he
wished to give me his arm down the wooden steps; but I do not see him.
He is in the higher vineyard, said Thekla, quietly, but not
looking round in that direction. He will be some time there, I should
think. He went with the pastor and his wife; he will have to speak to
his labourers and his friends. My arm is strong, and I can leave Max in
Lina's care for five minutes. If you are tired, and want to go back,
let me help you down the steps; they are steep and slippery.
I had turned to look up the valley. Three or four hundred yards off,
in the higher vineyard, walked the dignified pastor, and his homely,
decorous wife. Behind came the Fräulein Anna, in her short-sleeved
Sunday gown, daintily holding a parasol over her luxuriant brown hair.
Close behind her came Herr Müller, stopping now to speak to his
men,again, to cull out a bunch of grapes to tie on to the Fräulein's
stick; and by my feet sate the proud serving-maid in her country dress,
waiting for my answer, with serious, up-turned eyes, and sad, composed
No, I am much obliged to you, Thekla; and if I did not feel so
strong I would have thankfully taken your arm. But I only wanted to
leave a message for the master, just to say that I have gone home.
Lina will give it to the father when he comes down, said Thekla.
I went slowly down into the garden. The great labour of the day was
over, and the younger part of the population had returned to the
village, and were preparing the fireworks and pistol-shootings for the
evening. Already one or two of those well-known German carts (in the
shape of a V) were standing near the vineyard gates, the patient oxen
meekly waiting while basketful after basketful of grapes were being
emptied into the leaf-lined receptacle.
As I sat down in my easy-chair close to the open window through
which I had entered, I could see the men and women on the hill-side
drawing to a centre, and all stand round the pastor, bareheaded, for a
minute or so. I guessed that some words of holy thanksgiving were being
said, and I wished that I had stayed to hear them, and mark my especial
gratitude for having been spared to see that day. Then I heard the
distant voices, the deep tones of the men, the shriller pipes of women
and children, join in the German harvest-hymn, which is generally sung
on such occasions; then silence, while I concluded that a blessing
was spoken by the pastor, with outstretched arms; and then they once
more dispersed, some to the village, some to finish their labours for
the day among the vines. I saw Thekla coming through the garden with
Max in her arms, and Lina clinging to her woollen skirts. Thekla made
for my open window; it was rather a shorter passage into the house than
round by the door. I may come through, may I not? she asked, softly.
I fear Max is not well; I cannot understand his look, and he wakened
up so strange! She paused to let me see the child's face; it was
flushed almost to a crimson look of heat, and his breathing was
laboured and uneasy, his eyes half-open and filmy.
Something is wrong, I am sure, said I. I don't know anything
about children, but he is not in the least like himself.
She bent down and kissed the cheek so tenderly that she would not
have bruised the petal of a rose. Heart's darling, she murmured. He
quivered all over at her touch, working his fingers in an unnatural
kind of way, and ending with a convulsive twitching all over his body.
Lina began to cry at the grave, anxious look on our faces.
You had better call the Fräulein to look at him, said I. I feel
sure he ought to have a doctor; I should say he was going to have a
The Fräulein and the master are gone to the pastor's for coffee,
and Lottchen is in the higher vineyard, taking the men their bread and
beer. Could you find the kitchen girl, or old Karl? he will be in the
stables, I think. I must lose no time. Almost without waiting for my
reply, she had passed through the room, and in the empty house I could
hear her firm, careful footsteps going up the stair; Lina's pattering
beside her; and the one voice wailing, the other speaking low comfort.
I was tired enough, but this good family had treated me too much
like one of their own for me not to do what I could in such a case as
this. I made my way out into the street, for the first time since I had
come to the house on that memorable evening six weeks ago. I bribed the
first person I met to guide me to the doctor's, and send him straight
down to the Halbmond, not staying to listen to the thorough scolding
he fell to giving me; then on to the parsonage, to tell the master and
the Fräulein of the state of things at home.
I was sorry to be the bearer of bad news into such a festive chamber
as the pastor's. There they sat, resting after heat and fatigue, each
in their best gala dress, the table spread with Dicker-milch,
potato-salad, cakes of various shapes and kindsall the dainty cates
dear to the German palate. The pastor was talking to Herr Müller, who
stood near the pretty young Fräulein Anna, in her fresh white
chemisette, with her round white arms, and her youthful coquettish
airs, as she prepared to pour out the coffee; our Fräulein was talking
busily to the Frau Mama; the younger boys and girls of the family
filling up the room. A ghost would have startled the assembled party
less than I did, and would probably have been more welcome, considering
the news I brought. As he listened, the master caught up his hat and
went forth, without apology or farewell. Our Fräulein made up for both,
and questioned me fully; but now she, I could see, was in haste to go,
although restrained by her manners, and the kind-hearted Frau Pastorin
soon set her at liberty to follow her inclination. As for me I was
dead-beat, and only too glad to avail myself of the hospitable couple's
pressing request that I would stop and share their meal. Other magnates
of the village came in presently, and relieved me of the strain of
keeping up a German conversation about nothing at all with entire
strangers. The pretty Fräulein's face had clouded over a little at Herr
Müller's sudden departure; but she was soon as bright as could be,
giving private chase and sudden little scoldings to her brothers, as
they made raids upon the dainties under her charge. After I was duly
rested and refreshed, I took my leave; for I, too, had my quieter
anxieties about the sorrow in the Müller family.
The only person I could see at the Halbmond was Lottchen; every
one else was busy about the poor little Max, who was passing from one
fit into another. I told Lottchen to ask the doctor to come in and see
me before he took his leave for the night, and tired as I was, I kept
up till after his visit, though it was very late before he came; I
could see from his face how anxious he was. He would give me no opinion
as to the child's chances of recovery, from which I guessed that he had
not much hope. But when I expressed my fear he cut me very short.
The truth is, you know nothing about it; no more do I, for that
matter. It is enough to try any man, much less a father, to hear his
perpetual moansnot that he is conscious of pain, poor little worm;
but if she stops for a moment in her perpetual carrying him backwards
and forwards, he plains so piteously it is enough toenough to make a
man bless the Lord who never led him into the pit of matrimony. To see
the father up there, following her as she walks up and down the room,
the child's head over her shoulder, and Müller trying to make the heavy
eyes recognize the old familiar ways of play, and the chirruping sounds
which he can scarce make for cryingI shall be here to-morrow early,
though before that either life or death will have come without the old
All night long I dreamt my feverish dreamof the vineyardthe
carts, which held little coffins instead of baskets of grapesof the
pastor's daughter, who would pull the dying child out of Thekla's arms;
it was a bad, weary night! I slept long into the morning; the broad
daylight filled my room, and yet no one had been near to waken me! Did
that mean life or death? I got up and dressed as fast as I could; for I
was aching all over with the fatigue of the day before. Out into the
sitting-room; the table was laid for breakfast, but no one was there. I
passed into the house beyond, up the stairs, blindly seeking for the
room where I might know whether it was life or death. At the door of a
room I found Lottchen crying; at the sight of me in that unwonted place
she started, and began some kind of apology, broken both by tears and
smiles, as she told me that the doctor said the danger was overpast,
and that Max was sleeping a gentle peaceful slumber in Thekla's
armsarms that had held him all through the livelong night.
Look at him, sir; only go in softly; it is a pleasure to see the
child to-day; tread softly, sir.
She opened the chamber-door. I could see Thekla sitting, propped up
by cushions and stools, holding her heavy burden, and bending over him
with a look of tenderest love. Not far off stood the Fräulein, all
disordered and tearful, stirring or seasoning some hot soup, while the
master stood by her impatient. As soon as it was cooled or seasoned
enough he took the basin and went to Thekla, and said something very
low; she lifted up her head, and I could see her face; pale, weary with
watching, but with a soft peaceful look upon it, which it had not worn
for weeks. Fritz Müller began to feed her, for her hands were occupied
in holding his child; I could not help remembering Mrs. Inchbald's
pretty description of Dorriforth's anxiety in feeding Miss Milner; she
compares it, if I remember rightly, to that of a tender-hearted boy,
caring for his darling bird, the loss of which would embitter all the
joys of his holidays. We closed the door without noise, so as not to
waken the sleeping child. Lottchen brought me my coffee and bread; she
was ready either to laugh or to weep on the slightest occasion. I could
not tell if it was in innocence or mischief. She asked me the following
Do you think Thekla will leave to-day, sir?
In the afternoon I heard Thekla's step behind my extemporary screen.
I knew it quite well. She stopped for a moment before emerging into my
She was trying to look as composed as usual, but, perhaps because
her steady nerves had been shaken by her night's watching, she could
not help faint touches of dimples at the corners of her mouth, and her
eyes were veiled from any inquisitive look by their drooping lids.
I thought you would like to know that the doctor says Max is quite
out of danger now. He will only require care.
Thank you, Thekla; Doctor has been in already this afternoon to
tell me so, and I am truly glad.
She went to the window, and looked out for a moment. Many people
were in the vineyards again to-day; although we, in our household
anxiety, had paid them but little heed. Suddenly she turned round into
the room, and I saw that her face was crimson with blushes. In another
instant Herr Müller entered by the window.
Has she told you, sir? said he, possessing himself of her hand,
and looking all a-glow with happiness. Hast thou told our good
friend? addressing her.
No. I was going to tell him, but I did not know how to begin.
Then I will prompt thee. Say after me'I have been a wilful,
She wrenched her hand out of his, half-laughingI am a foolish
woman, for I have promised to marry him. But he is a still more foolish
man, for he wishes to marry me. That is what I say.
And I have sent Babette to Frankfort with the pastor. He is going
there, and will explain all to Frau v. Schmidt; and Babette will serve
her for a time. When Max is well enough to have the change of air the
doctor prescribes for him, thou shalt take him to Altenahr, and thither
will I also go; and become known to thy people and thy father. And
before Christmas the gentleman here shall dance at our wedding.
I must go home to England, dear friends, before many days are over.
Perhaps we may travel together as far as Remagen. Another year I will
come back to Heppenheim and see you.
As I planned it, so it was. We left Heppenheim all together on a
lovely All-Saints' Day. The day beforethe day of All-SoulsI had
watched Fritz and Thekla lead little Lina up to the Acre of God, the
Field of Rest, to hang the wreath of immortelles on her mother's grave.
Peace be with the dead and the living.
LIBBIE MARSH'S THREE ERAS.
Last November but one, there was a flitting in our neighbourhood;
hardly a flitting, after all, for it was only a single person changing
her place of abode from one lodging to another; and instead of a
cartload of drawers and baskets, dressers and beds, with old king clock
at the top of all, it was only one large wooden chest to be carried
after the girl, who moved slowly and heavily along the streets,
listless and depressed, more from the state of her mind than of her
body. It was Libbie Marsh, who had been obliged to quit her room in
Dean Street, because the acquaintances whom she had been living with
were leaving Manchester. She tried to think herself fortunate in having
met with lodgings rather more out of the town, and with those who were
known to be respectable; she did indeed try to be contented, but in
spite of her reason, the old feeling of desolation came over her, as
she was now about to be thrown again entirely among strangers.
No. 2, Court, Albemarle Street, was reached at last, and the
pace, slow as it was, slackened as she drew near the spot where she was
to be left by the man who carried her box, for, trivial as her
acquaintance with him was, he was not quite a stranger, as every one
else was, peering out of their open doors, and satisfying themselves it
was only Dixon's new lodger.
Dixon's house was the last on the left-hand side of the court. A
high dead brick wall connected it with its opposite neighbour. All the
dwellings were of the same monotonous pattern, and one side of the
court looked at its exact likeness opposite, as if it were seeing
itself in a looking-glass.
Dixon's house was shut up, and the key left next door; but the woman
in whose charge it was left knew that Libbie was expected, and came
forward to say a few explanatory words, to unlock the door, and stir
the dull grey ashes that were lazily burning in the grate: and then she
returned to her own house, leaving poor Libbie standing alone with the
great big chest in the middle of the house-place floor, with no one to
say a word to (even a common-place remark would have been better than
this dull silence), that could help her to repel the fast-coming tears.
Dixon and his wife, and their eldest girl, worked in factories, and
were absent all day from the house: the youngest child, also a little
girl, was boarded out on the week-days at the neighbour's where the
door-key was deposited, but although busy making dirt-pies, at the
entrance to the court, when Libbie came in, she was too young to care
much about her parents' new lodger. Libbie knew that she was to sleep
with the elder girl in the front bedroom, but, as you may fancy, it
seemed a liberty even to go upstairs to take off her things, when no
one was at home to marshal the way up the ladder-like steps. So she
could only take off her bonnet, and sit down, and gaze at the now
blazing fire, and think sadly on the past, and on the lonely creature
she was in this wide worldfather and mother gone, her little brother
long since deadhe would been more than nineteen had he been alive,
but she only thought of him as the darling baby; her only friends (to
call friends) living far away at their new house; her employers, kind
enough people in their way, but too rapidly twirling round on this
bustling earth to have leisure to think of the little work-woman,
excepting when they wanted gowns turned, carpets mended, or household
linen darned; and hardly even the natural though hidden hope of a young
girl's heart, to cheer her on with the bright visions of a home of her
own at some future day, where, loving and beloved, she might fulfil a
woman's dearest duties.
For Libbie was very plain, as she had known so long that the
consciousness of it had ceased to mortify her. You can hardly live in
Manchester without having some idea of your personal appearance: the
factory lads and lasses take good care of that; and if you meet them at
the hours when they are pouring out of the mills, you are sure to hear
a good number of truths, some of them combined with such a spirit of
impudent fun, that you can scarcely keep from laughing, even at the
joke against yourself. Libbie had often and often been greeted by such
questions asHow long is it since you were a beauty?What would
you take a day to stand in the fields to scare away the birds? &c.,
for her to linger under any impression as to her looks.
While she was thus musing, and quietly crying, under the pictures
her fancy had conjured up, the Dixons came dropping in, and surprised
her with her wet cheeks and quivering lips.
She almost wished to have the stillness again that had so oppressed
her an hour ago, they talked and laughed so loudly and so much, and
bustled about so noisily over everything they did. Dixon took hold of
one iron handle of her box, and helped her to bump it upstairs, while
his daughter Anne followed to see the unpacking, and what sort of
clothes little sewing body had gotten. Mrs. Dixon rattled out her
tea-things, and put the kettle on, fetched home her youngest child,
which added to the commotion. Then she called Anne downstairs, and sent
her for this thing and that: eggs to put to the cream, it was so thin;
ham, to give a relish to the bread and butter; some new bread, hot, if
she could get it. Libbie heard all these orders, given at full pitch of
Mrs. Dixon's voice, and wondered at their extravagance, so different
from the habits of the place where she had last lodged. But they were
fine spinners, in the receipt of good wages; and confined all day in an
atmosphere ranging from seventy-five to eighty degrees. They had lost
all natural, healthy appetite for simple food, and, having no higher
tastes, found their greatest enjoyment in their luxurious meals.
When tea was ready, Libbie was called downstairs, with a rough but
hearty invitation, to share their meal; she sat mutely at the corner of
the tea-table, while they went on with their own conversation about
people and things she knew nothing about, till at length she ventured
to ask for a candle, to go and finish her unpacking before bedtime, as
she had to go out sewing for several succeeding days. But once in the
comparative peace of her bedroom, her energy failed her, and she
contented herself with locking her Noah's ark of a chest, and put out
her candle, and went to sit by the window, and gaze out at the bright
heavens; for ever and ever the blue sky, that bends over all, sheds
down a feeling of sympathy with the sorrowful at the solemn hours when
the ceaseless stars are seen to pace its depths.
By-and-by her eye fell down to gazing at the corresponding window to
her own, on the opposite side of the court. It was lighted, but the
blind was drawn down: upon the blind she saw, first unconsciously, the
constant weary motion of a little spectral shadow, a child's hand and
armno more; long, thin fingers hanging down from the wrist, while the
arm moved up and down, as if keeping time to the heavy pulses of dull
pain. She could not help hoping that sleep would soon come to still
that incessant, feeble motion: and now and then it did cease, as if the
little creature had dropped into a slumber from very weariness; but
presently the arm jerked up with the fingers clenched, as if with a
sudden start of agony. When Anne came up to bed, Libbie was still
sitting, watching the shadow, and she directly asked to whom it
It will be Margaret Hall's lad. Last summer, when it was so hot,
there was no biding with the window shut at night, and theirs was open
too: and many's the time he has waked me with his moans; they say he's
been better sin' cold weather came.
Is he always in bed? Whatten ails him? asked Libbie.
Summat's amiss wi' his backbone, folks say; he's better and worse,
like. He's a nice little chap enough, and his mother's not that bad
either; only my mother and her had words, so now we don't speak.
Libbie went on watching, and when she next spoke, to ask who and
what his mother was, Anne Dixon was fast asleep.
Time passed away, and as usual unveiled the hidden things. Libbie
found out that Margaret Hall was a widow, who earned her living as a
washerwoman; that the little suffering lad was her only child, her
dearly beloved. That while she scolded, pretty nearly, everybody else,
till her name was up in the neighbourhood for a termagant, to him she
was evidently most tender and gentle. He lay alone on his little bed,
near the window, through the day, while she was away toiling for a
livelihood. But when Libbie had plain sewing to do at her lodgings,
instead of going out to sew, she used to watch from her bedroom window
for the time when the shadows opposite, by their mute gestures, told
that the mother had returned to bend over her child, to smooth his
pillow, to alter his position, to get him his nightly cup of tea. And
often in the night Libbie could not help rising gently from bed, to see
if the little arm was waving up and down, as was his accustomed habit
when sleepless from pain.
Libbie had a good deal of sewing to do at home that winter, and
whenever it was not so cold as to benumb her fingers, she took it
upstairs, in order to watch the little lad in her few odd moments of
pause. On his better days he could sit up enough to peep out of his
window, and she found he liked to look at her. Presently she ventured
to nod to him across the court; and his faint smile, and ready nod back
again, showed that this gave him pleasure. I think she would have been
encouraged by this smile to have proceeded to a speaking acquaintance,
if it had not been for his terrible mother, to whom it seemed to be
irritation enough to know that Libbie was a lodger at the Dixons' for
her to talk at her whenever they encountered each other, and to live
evidently in wait for some good opportunity of abuse.
With her constant interest in him, Libbie soon discovered his great
want of an object on which to occupy his thoughts, and which might
distract his attention, when alone through the long day, from the pain
he endured. He was very fond of flowers. It was November when she had
first removed to her lodgings, but it had been very mild weather, and a
few flowers yet lingered in the gardens, which the country people
gathered into nosegays, and brought on market-days into Manchester. His
mother had brought him a bunch of Michaelmas daisies the very day
Libbie had become a neighbour, and she watched their history. He put
them first in an old teapot, of which the spout was broken off and the
lid lost; and he daily replenished the teapot from the jug of water his
mother left near him to quench his feverish thirst. By-and-by, one or
two of the constellation of lilac stars faded, and then the time he had
hitherto spent in admiring, almost caressing them, was devoted to
cutting off those flowers whose decay marred the beauty of the nosegay.
It took him half the morning, with his feeble, languid motions, and his
cumbrous old scissors, to trim up his diminished darlings. Then at last
he seemed to think he had better preserve the few that remained by
drying them; so they were carefully put between the leaves of the old
Bible; and then, whenever a better day came, when he had strength
enough to lift the ponderous book, he used to open the pages to look at
his flower friends. In winter he could have no more living flowers to
Libbie thought and thought, till at last an idea flashed upon her
mind, that often made a happy smile steal over her face as she stitched
away, and that cheered her through the solitary winterfor solitary it
continued to be, though the Dixons were very good sort of people, never
pressed her for payment, if she had had but little work to do that
week; never grudged her a share of their extravagant meals, which were
far more luxurious than she could have met with anywhere else, for her
previously agreed payment in case of working at home; and they would
fain have taught her to drink rum in her tea, assuring her that she
should have it for nothing and welcome. But they were too touchy, too
prosperous, too much absorbed in themselves, to take off Libbie's
feeling of solitariness; not half as much as the little face by day,
and the shadow by night, of him with whom she had never yet exchanged a
Her idea was this: her mother came from the east of England, where,
as perhaps you know, they have the pretty custom of sending presents on
St. Valentine's day, with the donor's name unknown, and, of course, the
mystery constitutes half the enjoyment. The fourteenth of February was
Libbie's birthday too, and many a year, in the happy days of old, had
her mother delighted to surprise her with some little gift, of which
she more than half-guessed the giver, although each Valentine's day the
manner of its arrival was varied. Since then the fourteenth of February
had been the dreariest of all the year, because the most haunted by
memory of departed happiness. But now, this year, if she could not have
the old gladness of heart herself, she would try and brighten the life
of another. She would save, and she would screw, but she would buy a
canary and a cage for that poor little laddie opposite, who wore out
his monotonous life with so few pleasures, and so much pain.
I doubt I may not tell you here of the anxieties and the fears, of
the hopes and the self-sacrificesall, perhaps small in the tangible
effect as the widow's mite, yet not the less marked by the viewless
angels who go about continually among uswhich varied Libbie's life
before she accomplished her purpose. It is enough to say it was
accomplished. The very day before the fourteenth she found time to go
with her half-guinea to a barber's who lived near Albemarle Street, and
who was famous for his stock of singing-birds. There are enthusiasts
about all sorts of things, both good and bad, and many of the weavers
in Manchester know and care more about birds than any one would easily
credit. Stubborn, silent, reserved men on many things, you have only to
touch on the subject of birds to light up their faces with brightness.
They will tell you who won the prizes at the last canary show, where
the prize birds may be seen, and give you all the details of those
funny, but pretty and interesting mimicries of great people's cattle
shows. Among these amateurs, Emanuel Morris the barber was an oracle.
He took Libbie into his little back room, used for private shaving
of modest men, who did not care to be exhibited in the front shop
decked out in the full glories of lather; and which was hung round with
birds in rude wicker cages, with the exception of those who had won
prizes, and were consequently honoured with gilt-wire prisons. The
longer and thinner the body of the bird was, the more admiration it
received, as far as external beauty went; and when, in addition to
this, the colour was deep and clear, and its notes strong and varied,
the more did Emanuel dwell upon its perfections. But these were all
prize birds; and, on inquiry, Libbie heard, with some little sinking at
heart, that their price ran from one to two guineas.
I'm not over-particular as to shape and colour, said she, I
should like a good singer, that's all!
She dropped a little in Emanuel's estimation. However, he showed her
his good singers, but all were above Libbie's means.
After all, I don't think I care so much about the singing very
loud; it's but a noise after all, and sometimes noise fidgets folks.
They must be nesh folks as is put out with the singing o' birds,
replied Emanuel, rather affronted.
It's for one who is poorly, said Libbie, deprecatingly.
Well, said he, as if considering the matter, folk that are
cranky, often take more to them as shows 'em love, than to them as is
clever and gifted. Happen yo'd rather have this'n, opening a
cage-door, and calling to a dull-coloured bird, sitting moped up in a
corner, HereJupiter, Jupiter!
The bird smoothed its feathers in an instant, and, uttering a little
note of delight, flew to Emanuel, putting his beak to his lips, as if
kissing him, and then, perching on his head, it began a gurgling warble
of pleasure, not by any means so varied or so clear as the song of the
others, but which pleased Libbie more; for she was always one to find
out she liked the gooseberries that were accessible, better than the
grapes that were beyond her reach. The price too was just right, so she
gladly took possession of the cage, and hid it under her cloak,
preparatory to carrying it home. Emanuel meanwhile was giving her
directions as to its food, with all the minuteness of one loving his
Will it soon get to know any one? asked she.
Give him two days only, and you and he'll be as thick as him and me
are now. You've only to open his door, and call him, and he'll follow
you round the room; but he'll first kiss you, and then perch on your
head. He only wants larning, which I've no time to give him, to do many
What's his name? I did not rightly catch it.
Jupiter,it's not common; but the town's o'errun with Bobbies and
Dickies, and as my birds are thought a bit out o' the way, I like to
have better names for 'em, so I just picked a few out o' my lad's
school books. It's just as ready, when you're used to it, to say
Jupiter as Dicky.
I could bring my tongue round to Peter better; would he answer to
Peter? asked Libbie, now on the point of departing.
Happen he might; but I think he'd come readier to the three
On Valentine's day, Jupiter's cage was decked round with ivy leaves,
making quite a pretty wreath on the wicker work; and to one of them was
pinned a slip of paper, with these words, written in Libbie's best
From your faithful Valentine. Please take notice his name is Peter,
and he'll come if you call him, after a bit.
But little work did Libbie do that afternoon, she was so engaged in
watching for the messenger who was to bear her present to her little
valentine, and run away as soon as he had delivered up the canary, and
explained to whom it was sent.
At last he came; then there was a pause before the woman of the
house was at liberty to take it upstairs. Then Libbie saw the little
face flush up into a bright colour, the feeble hands tremble with
delighted eagerness, the head bent down to try and make out the writing
(beyond his power, poor lad, to read), the rapturous turning round of
the cage in order to see the canary in every point of view, head, tail,
wings, and feet; an intention in which Jupiter, in his uneasiness at
being again among strangers, did not second, for he hopped round so, as
continually to present a full front to the boy. It was a source of
never wearying delight to the little fellow, till daylight closed in;
he evidently forgot to wonder who had sent it him, in his gladness at
his possession of such a treasure; and when the shadow of his mother
darkened on the blind, and the bird had been exhibited, Libbie saw her
do what, with all her tenderness, seemed rarely to have entered into
her thoughtsshe bent down and kissed her boy, in a mother's sympathy
with the joy of her child.
The canary was placed for the night between the little bed and
window; and when Libbie rose once, to take her accustomed peep, she saw
the little arm put fondly round the cage, as if embracing his new
treasure even in his sleep. How Jupiter slept this first night is quite
So ended the first day in Libbie's three eras in last year.
The brightest, fullest daylight poured down into No. 2, Court,
Albemarle Street, and the heat, even at the early hour of five, as at
the noontide on the June days of many years past.
The court seemed alive, and merry with voices and laughter. The
bedroom windows were open wide, and had been so all night, on account
of the heat; and every now and then you might see a head and a pair of
shoulders, simply encased in shirt sleeves, popped out, and you might
hear the inquiry passed from one to the other,Well, Jack, and where
art thee bound for?
Why, what an old-fashioned chap thou be'st. Thy grandad afore thee
went to Dunham: but thou wert always a slow coach. I'm off to
Alderley,me and my missis.
Ay, that's because there's only thee and thy missis. Wait till thou
hast gotten four childer, like me, and thou'lt be glad enough to take
'em to Dunham, oud-fashioned way, for fourpence apiece.
I'd still go to Alderley; I'd not be bothered with my children;
they should keep house at home.
A pair of hands, the person to whom they belonged invisible, boxed
his ears on this last speech, in a very spirited, though playful,
manner, and the neighbours all laughed at the surprised look of the
speaker, at this assault from an unseen foe. The man who had been
holding conversation with him cried out,
Sarved him right, Mrs. Slater: he knows nought about it yet; but
when he gets them he'll be as loth to leave the babbies at home on a
Whitsuntide as any on us. We shall live to see him in Dunham Park yet,
wi' twins in his arms, and another pair on 'em clutching at daddy's
coat-tails, let alone your share of youngsters, missis.
At this moment our friend Libbie appeared at her window, and Mrs.
Slater, who had taken her discomfited husband's place, called out,
Elizabeth Marsh, where are Dixons and you bound to?
Dixons are not up yet; he said last night he'd take his holiday out
in lying in bed. I'm going to the old-fashioned place, Dunham.
Thou art never going by thyself, moping!
No. I'm going with Margaret Hall and her lad, replied Libbie,
hastily withdrawing from the window, in order to avoid hearing any
remarks on the associates she had chosen for her day of pleasurethe
scold of the neighbourhood, and her sickly, ailing child!
But Jupiter might have been a dove, and his ivy leaves an olive
branch, for the peace he had brought, the happiness he had caused, to
three individuals at least. For of course it could not long be a
mystery who had sent little Frank Hall his valentine; nor could his
mother long entertain her hard manner towards one who had given her
child a new pleasure. She was shy, and she was proud, and for some time
she struggled against the natural desire of manifesting her gratitude;
but one evening, when Libbie was returning home, with a bundle of work
half as large as herself, as she dragged herself along through the
heated streets, she was overtaken by Margaret Hall, her burden gently
pulled from her, and her way home shortened, and her weary spirits
soothed and cheered, by the outpourings of Margaret's heart; for the
barrier of reserve once broken down, she had much to say, to thank her
for days of amusement and happy employment for her lad, to speak of his
gratitude, to tell of her hopes and fears,the hopes and fears that
made up the dates of her life. From that time, Libbie lost her awe of
the termagant in interest for the mother, whose all was ventured in so
frail a bark. From this time, Libbie was a fast friend with both mother
and son, planning mitigations for the sorrowful days of the latter as
eagerly as poor Margaret Hall, and with far more success. His life had
flickered up under the charm and excitement of the last few months. He
even seemed strong enough to undertake the journey to Dunham, which
Libbie had arranged as a Whitsuntide treat, and for which she and his
mother had been hoarding up for several weeks. The canal boat left
Knott-mill at six, and it was now past five; so Libbie let herself out
very gently, and went across to her friends. She knocked at the door of
their lodging-room, and, without waiting for an answer, entered.
Franky's face was flushed, and he was trembling with
excitement,partly with pleasure, but partly with some eager wish not
He wants sore to take Peter with him, said his mother to Libbie,
as if referring the matter to her. The boy looked imploringly at her.
He would like it, I know; for one thing, he'd miss me sadly, and
chirrup for me all day long, he'd be so lonely. I could not be half so
happy a-thinking on him, left alone here by himself. Then, Libbie, he's
just like a Christian, so fond of flowers and green leaves, and them
sort of things. He chirrups to me so when mother brings me a pennyworth
of wall-flowers to put round his cage. He would talk if he could, you
know; but I can tell what he means quite as one as if he spoke. Do let
Peter go, Libbie; I'll carry him in my own arms.
So Jupiter was allowed to be of the party. Now Libbie had overcome
the great difficulty of conveying Franky to the boat, by offering to
slay for a coach, and the shouts and exclamations of the neighbours
told them that their conveyance awaited them at the bottom of the
court. His mother carried Franky, light in weight, though heavy in
helplessness, and he would hold the cage, believing that he was thus
redeeming his pledge, that Peter should be a trouble to no one. Libbie
proceeded to arrange the bundle containing their dinner, as a support
in the corner of the coach. The neighbours came out with many blunt
speeches, and more kindly wishes, and one or two of them would have
relieved Margaret of her burden, if she would have allowed it. The
presence of that little crippled fellow seemed to obliterate all the
angry feelings which had existed between his mother and her neighbours,
and which had formed the politics of that little court for many a day.
And now they were fairly off! Franky bit his lips in attempted
endurance of the pain the motion caused him; he winced and shrank,
until they were fairly on a Macadamized thoroughfare, when he closed
his eyes, and seemed desirous of a few minutes' rest. Libbie felt very
shy, and very much afraid of being seen by her employers, set up in a
coach! and so she hid herself in a corner, and made herself as small
as possible; while Mrs. Hall had exactly the opposite feeling, and was
delighted to stand up, stretching out of the window, and nodding to
pretty nearly every one they met or passed on the foot-paths; and they
were not a few, for the streets were quite gay, even at that early
hour, with parties going to this or that railway station, or to the
boats which crowded the canals on this bright holiday week; and almost
every one they met seemed to enter into Mrs. Hall's exhilaration of
feeling, and had a smile or nod in return. At last she plumped down by
Libbie, and exclaimed, I never was in a coach but once afore, and that
was when I was a-going to be married. It's like heaven; and all done
over with such beautiful gimp, too! continued she, admiring the lining
of the vehicle. Jupiter did not enjoy it so much.
As if the holiday time, the lovely weather, and the sweet hour of
prime had a genial influence, as no doubt they have, everybody's heart
seemed softened towards poor Franky. The driver lifted him out with the
tenderness of strength, and bore him carefully down to the boat; the
people then made way, and gave him the best seat in their power,or
rather I should call it a couch, for they saw he was weary, and
insisted on his lying down,an attitude he would have been ashamed to
assume without the protection of his mother and Libbie, who now
appeared, bearing their baskets and carrying Peter.
Away the boat went, to make room for others, for every conveyance,
both by land and water, is in requisition in Whitsun-week, to give the
hard-worked crowds the opportunity of enjoying the charms of the
country. Even every standing-place in the canal packets was occupied,
and as they glided along, the banks were lined with people, who seemed
to find it object enough to watch the boats go by, packed close and
full with happy beings brimming with anticipations of a day's pleasure.
The country through which they passed is as uninteresting as can well
be imagined; but still it is the country: and the screams of delight
from the children, and the low laughs of pleasure from the parents, at
every blossoming tree that trailed its wreath against some cottage
wall, or at the tufts of late primroses which lingered in the cool
depths of grass along the canal banks, the thorough relish of
everything, as if dreading to let the least circumstance of this happy
day pass over without its due appreciation, made the time seem all too
short, although it took two hours to arrive at a place only eight miles
from Manchester. Even Franky, with all his impatience to see Dunham
woods (which I think he confused with London, believing both to be
paved with gold), enjoyed the easy motion of the boat so much, floating
along, while pictures moved before him, that he regretted when the time
came for landing among the soft, green meadows, that came sloping down
to the dancing water's brim. His fellow-passengers carried him to the
park, and refused all payment, although his mother had laid by sixpence
on purpose, as a recompense for this service.
Oh, Libbie, how beautiful! Oh, mother, mother! is the whole world
out of Manchester as beautiful as this? I did not know trees were like
this! Such green homes for birds! Look, Peter! would not you like to be
there, up among those boughs? But I can't let you go, you know, because
you're my little bird brother, and I should be quite lost without you.
They spread a shawl upon the fine mossy turf, at the root of a
beech-tree, which made a sort of natural couch, and there they laid
him, and bade him rest, in spite of the delight which made him believe
himself capable of any exertion. Where he lay,always holding
Jupiter's cage, and often talking to him as to a playfellow,he was on
the verge of a green area, shut in by magnificent trees, in all the
glory of their early foliage, before the summer heats had deepened
their verdure into one rich, monotonous tint. And hither came party
after party; old men and maidens, young men and children,whole
families trooped along after the guiding fathers, who bore the youngest
in their arms, or astride upon their backs, while they turned round
occasionally to the wives, with whom they shared some fond local
remembrance. For years has Dunham Park been the favourite resort of the
Manchester work-people; for more years than I can tell; probably ever
since the Duke, by his canals, opened out the system of cheap
travelling. Its scenery, too, which presents such a complete contrast
to the whirl and turmoil of Manchester; so thoroughly woodland, with
its ancestral trees (here and there lightning blanched); its verdurous
walls; its grassy walks, leading far away into some glade, where you
start at the rabbit rustling among the last year's fern, and where the
wood-pigeon's call seems the only fitting and accordant sound. Depend
upon it, this complete sylvan repose, this accessible quiet, this
lapping the soul in green images of the country, forms the most
complete contrast to a town's-person, and consequently has over such
the greatest power to charm.
Presently Libbie found out she was very hungry. Now they were but
provided with dinner, which was, of course, to be eaten as near twelve
o'clock as might be; and Margaret Hall, in her prudence, asked a
working-man near to tell her what o'clock it was.
Nay, said he, I'll ne'er look at clock or watch to-day. I'll not
spoil my pleasure by finding out how fast it's going away. If thou'rt
hungry, eat. I make my own dinner hour, and I have eaten mine an hour
So they had their veal pies, and then found out it was only about
half-past ten o'clock; by so many pleasurable events had that morning
been marked. But such was their buoyancy of spirits, that they only
enjoyed their mistake, and joined in the general laugh against the man
who had eaten his dinner somewhere about nine. He laughed most heartily
of all, till, suddenly stopping, he said,
I must not go on at this rate; laughing gives one such an
Oh! if that's all, said a merry-looking man, lying at full length,
and brushing the fresh scent out of the grass, while two or three
little children tumbled over him, and crept about him, as kittens or
puppies frolic with their parents, if that's all, we'll have a
subscription of eatables for them improvident folk as have eaten their
dinner for their breakfast. Here's a sausage pasty and a handful of
nuts for my share. Bring round a hat, Bob, and see what the company
Bob carried out the joke, much to little Franky's amusement; and no
one was so churlish as to refuse, although the contributions varied
from a peppermint drop up to a veal pie and a sausage pasty.
It's a thriving trade, said Bob, as he emptied his hatful of
provisions on the grass by Libbie's side. Besides, it's tiptop, too,
to live on the public. Hark! what is that?
The laughter and the chat were suddenly hushed, and mothers told
their little ones to listen,as, far away in the distance, now sinking
and falling, now swelling and clear, came a ringing peal of children's
voices, blended together in one of those psalm tunes which we are all
of us familiar with, and which bring to mind the old, old days, when
we, as wondering children, were first led to worship Our Father, by
those beloved ones who have since gone to the more perfect worship.
Holy was that distant choral praise, even to the most thoughtless; and
when it, in fact, was ended, in the instant's pause, during which the
ear awaits the repetition of the air, they caught the noontide hum and
buzz of the myriads of insects who danced away their lives in the
glorious day; they heard the swaying of the mighty woods in the soft
but resistless breeze, and then again once more burst forth the merry
jests and the shouts of childhood; and again the elder ones resumed
their happy talk, as they lay or sat under the greenwood tree. Fresh
parties came dropping in; some laden with wild flowersalmost with
branches of hawthorn, indeed; while one or two had made prizes of the
earliest dog-roses, and had cast away campion, stitchwort, ragged
robin, all to keep the lady of the hedges from being obscured or hidden
by the community.
One after another drew near to Franky, and looked on with interest
as he lay sorting the flowers given to him. Happy parents stood by,
with their household bands around them, in health and comeliness, and
felt the sad prophecy of those shrivelled limbs, those wasted fingers,
those lamp-like eyes, with their bright, dark lustre. His mother was
too eagerly watching his happiness to read the meaning of those grave
looks, but Libbie saw them and understood them; and a chill shudder
went through her, even on that day, as she thought on the future.
Ay! I thought we should give you a start!
A start they did give, with their terrible slap on Libbie's back, as
she sat idly grouping flowers, and following out her sorrowful
thoughts. It was the Dixons. Instead of keeping their holiday by lying
in bed, they and their children had roused themselves, and had come by
the omnibus to the nearest point. For an instant the meeting was an
awkward one, on account of the feud between Margaret Hall and Mrs.
Dixon, but there was no long resisting of kindly mother Nature's
soothings, at that holiday time, and in that lonely tranquil spot; or
if they could have been unheeded, the sight of Franky would have awed
every angry feeling into rest, so changed was he since the Dixons had
last seen him; and since he had been the Puck or Robin Goodfellow of
the neighbourhood, whose marbles were always rolling under other
people's feet, and whose top-strings were always hanging in nooses to
catch the unwary. Yes, he, the feeble, mild, almost girlish-looking
lad, had once been a merry, happy rogue, and as such often cuffed by
Mrs. Dixon, the very Mrs. Dixon who now stood gazing with the tears in
her eyes. Could she, in sight of him, the changed, the fading, keep up
a quarrel with his mother?
How long hast thou been here? asked Dixon.
Welly on for all day, answered Libbie.
Hast never been to see the deer, or the king and queen oaks? Lord,
His wife pinched his arm, to remind him of Franky's helpless
condition, which of course tethered the otherwise willing feet. But
Dixon had a remedy. He called Bob, and one or two others, and each
taking a corner of the strong plaid shawl, they slung Franky as in a
hammock, and thus carried him merrily along, down the wood paths, over
the smooth, grassy turf, while the glimmering shine and shadow fell on
his upturned face. The women walked behind, talking, loitering along,
always in sight of the hammock; now picking up some green treasure from
the ground, now catching at the low hanging branches of the
horse-chestnut. The soul grew much on this day, and in these woods, and
all unconsciously, as souls do grow. They followed Franky's
hammock-bearers up a grassy knoll, on the top of which stood a group of
pine trees, whose stems looked like dark red gold in the sunbeams. They
had taken Franky there to show him Manchester, far away in the blue
plain, against which the woodland foreground cut with a soft clear
line. Far, far away in the distance on that flat plain, you might see
the motionless cloud of smoke hanging over a great town, and that was
Manchester,ugly, smoky Manchester, dear, busy, earnest, noble-working
Manchester; where their children had been born, and where, perhaps,
some lay buried; where their homes were, and where God had cast their
lives, and told them to work out their destiny.
Hurrah! for oud smoke-jack! cried Bob, putting Franky softly down
on the grass, before he whirled his hat round, preparatory to a shout.
Hurrah! hurrah! from all the men. There's the rim of my hat lying
like a quoit yonder, observed Bob quietly, as he replaced his brimless
hat on his head with the gravity of a judge.
Here's the Sunday-school children a-coming to sit on this shady
side, and have their buns and milk. Hark! they're singing the
They sat close at hand, so that Franky could hear the words they
sang, in rings of children, making, in their gay summer prints, newly
donned for that week, garlands of little faces, all happy and bright
upon that green hill-side. One little Dot of a girl came shily behind
Franky, whom she had long been watching, and threw her half-bun at his
side, and then ran away and hid herself, in very shame at the boldness
of her own sweet impulse. She kept peeping from her screen at Franky
all the time; and he meanwhile was almost too much pleased and happy to
eat; the world was so beautiful, and men, women, and children all so
tender and kind; so softened, in fact, by the beauty of this earth, so
unconsciously touched by the spirit of love, which was the Creator of
this lovely earth. But the day drew to an end; the heat declined; the
birds once more began their warblings; the fresh scents again hung
about plant, and tree, and grass, betokening the fragrant presence of
the reviving dew, andthe boat time was near. As they trod the
meadow-path once more, they were joined by many a party they had
encountered during the day, all abounding in happiness, all full of the
day's adventures. Long-cherished quarrels had been forgotten, new
friendships formed. Fresh tastes and higher delights had been imparted
that day. We have all of us our look, now and then, called up by some
noble or loving thought (our highest on earth), which will be our
likeness in heaven. I can catch the glance on many a face, the glancing
light of the cloud of glory from heaven, which is our home. That look
was present on many a hard-worked, wrinkled countenance, as they turned
backwards to catch a longing, lingering look at Dunham woods, fast
deepening into blackness of night, but whose memory was to haunt, in
greenness and freshness, many a loom, and workshop, and factory, with
images of peace and beauty.
That night, as Libbie lay awake, revolving the incidents of the day,
she caught Franky's voice through the open windows. Instead of the
frequent moan of pain, he was trying to recall the burden of one of the
Here we suffer grief and pain,
Here we meet to part again;
In Heaven we part no more.
Oh! that will be joyful, &c.
She recalled his question, the whispered question, to her, in the
happiest part of the day. He asked Libbie, Is Dunham like heaven? the
people here are as kind as angels, and I don't want heaven to be more
beautiful than this place. If you and mother would but die with me, I
should like to die, and live always there! She had checked him, for
she feared he was impious; but now the young child's craving for some
definite idea of the land to which his inner wisdom told him he was
hastening, had nothing in it wrong, or even sorrowful, for
In Heaven we part no more.
The church clocks had struck three; the crowds of gentlemen
returning to business, after their early dinners, had disappeared
within offices and warehouses; the streets were clear and quiet, and
ladies were venturing to sally forth for their afternoon shoppings and
their afternoon calls.
Slowly, slowly, along the streets, elbowed by life at every turn, a
little funeral wound its quiet way. Four men bore along a child's
coffin; two women with bowed heads followed meekly.
I need not tell you whose coffin it was, or who were those two
mourners. All was now over with little Frank Hall: his romps, his
games, his sickening, his suffering, his death. All was now over, but
the Resurrection and the Life.
His mother walked as in a stupor. Could it be that he was dead! If
he had been less of an object of her thoughts, less of a motive for her
labours, she could sooner have realized it. As it was, she followed his
poor, cast-off, worn-out body as if she were borne along by some
oppressive dream. If he were really dead, how could she be still alive?
Libbie's mind was far less stunned, and consequently far more
active, than Margaret Hall's. Visions, as in a phantasmagoria, came
rapidly passing before herrecollections of the time (which seemed now
so long ago) when the shadow of the feebly-waving arm first caught her
attention; of the bright, strangely isolated day at Dunham Park, where
the world had seemed so full of enjoyment, and beauty, and life; of the
long-continued heat, through which poor Franky had panted away his
strength in the little close room, where there was no escaping the hot
rays of the afternoon sun; of the long nights when his mother and she
had watched by his side, as he moaned continually, whether awake or
asleep; of the fevered moaning slumber of exhaustion; of the pitiful
little self-upbraidings for his own impatience of suffering, only
impatient in his own eyesmost true and holy patience in the sight of
others; and then the fading away of life, the loss of power, the
increased unconsciousness, the lovely look of angelic peace, which
followed the dark shadow on the countenance, where was hewhat was he
And so they laid him in his grave, and heard the solemn funeral
words; but far off in the distance, as if not addressed to them.
Margaret Hall bent over the grave to catch one last glanceshe had
not spoken, nor sobbed, nor done aught but shiver now and then, since
the morning; but now her weight bore more heavily on Libbie's arm, and
without sigh or sound she fell an unconscious heap on the piled-up
gravel. They helped Libbie to bring her round; but long after her
half-opened eyes and altered breathing showed that her senses were
restored, she lay, speechless and motionless, without attempting to
rise from her strange bed, as if the earth contained nothing worth even
that trifling exertion.
At last Libbie and she left that holy, consecrated spot, and bent
their steps back to the only place more consecrated still; where he had
rendered up his spirit; and where memories of him haunted each common,
rude piece of furniture that their eyes fell upon. As the woman of the
house opened the door, she pulled Libbie on one side, and said
Anne Dixon has been across to see you; she wants to have a word
I cannot go now, replied Libbie, as she pushed hastily along, in
order to enter the room (his room), at the same time with the
childless mother: for, as she had anticipated, the sight of that empty
spot, the glance at the uncurtained open window, letting in the fresh
air, and the broad, rejoicing light of day, where all had so long been
darkened and subdued, unlocked the waters of the fountain, and long and
shrill were the cries for her boy that the poor woman uttered.
Oh! dear Mrs. Hall, said Libbie, herself drenched in tears, do
not take on so badly; I'm sure it would grieve him sore if he
were alive, and you know he isBible tells us so; and may be he's here
watching how we go on without him, and hoping we don't fret over much.
Mrs. Hall's sobs grew worse and more hysterical.
Oh! listen, said Libbie, once more struggling against her own
increasing agitation. Listen! there's Peter chirping as he always does
when he's put about, frightened like; and you know he that's gone could
never abide to hear the canary chirp in that shrill way.
Margaret Hall did check herself, and curb her expressions of agony,
in order not to frighten the little creature he had loved; and as her
outward grief subsided, Libbie took up the large old Bible, which fell
open at the never-failing comfort of the fourteenth chapter of St.
How often these large family Bibles do open at that chapter! as if,
unused in more joyous and prosperous times, the soul went home to its
words of loving sympathy when weary and sorrowful, just as the little
child seeks the tender comfort of its mother in all its griefs and
And Margaret put back her wet, ruffled, grey hair from her heated,
tear-stained, woeful face, and listened with such earnest eyes, trying
to form some idea of the Father's house, where her boy had gone to
They were interrupted by a low tap at the door. Libbie went. Anne
Dixon has watched you home, and wants to have a word with you, said
the woman of the house, in a whisper. Libbie went back and closed the
book, with a word of explanation to Margaret Hall, and then ran
downstairs, to learn the reason of Anne's anxiety to see her.
Oh, Libbie! she burst out with, and then, checking herself with
the remembrance of Libbie's last solemn duty, how's Margaret Hall?
But, of course, poor thing, she'll fret a bit at first; she'll be some
time coming round, mother says, seeing it's as well that poor lad is
taken; for he'd always ha' been a cripple, and a trouble to herhe was
a fine lad once, too.
She had come full of another and a different subject; but the sight
of Libbie's sad, weeping face, and the quiet, subdued tone of her
manner, made her feel it awkward to begin on any other theme than the
one which filled up her companion's mind. To her last speech Libbie
No doubt, Anne, it's ordered for the best; but oh! don't call him,
don't think he could ever ha' been, a trouble to his mother, though he
were a cripple. She loved him all the more for each thing she had to do
for himI am sure I did. Libbie cried a little behind her apron. Anne
Dixon felt still more awkward in introducing the discordant subject.
Well! 'flesh is grass,' Bible says, and having fulfilled the
etiquette of quoting a text if possible, if not of making a moral
observation on the fleeting nature of earthly things, she thought she
was at liberty to pass on to her real errand.
You must not go on moping yourself, Libbie Marsh. What I wanted
special for to see you this afternoon, was to tell you, you must come
to my wedding to-morrow. Nanny Dawson has fallen sick, and there's none
as I should like to have bridesmaid in her place as well as you.
To-morrow! Oh, I cannot!indeed I cannot!
Libbie did not answer, and Anne Dixon grew impatient.
Surely, in the name o' goodness, you're never going to baulk
yourself of a day's pleasure for the sake of yon little cripple that's
dead and gone!
No,it's not baulking myself ofdon't be angry, Anne Dixon, with
him, please; but I don't think it would be a pleasure to me,I don't
feel as if I could enjoy it; thank you all the same. But I did love
that little lad very dearlyI did, sobbing a little, and I can't
forget him and make merry so soon.
WellI never! exclaimed Anne, almost angrily.
Indeed, Anne, I feel your kindness, and you and Bob have my best
wishes,that's what you have; but even if I went, I should be thinking
all day of him, and of his poor, poor mother, and they say it's bad to
think very much on them that's dead, at a wedding.
Nonsense, said Anne, I'll take the risk of the ill-luck. After
all, what is marrying? Just a spree, Bob says. He often says he does
not think I shall make him a good wife, for I know nought about house
matters, wi' working in a factory; but he says he'd rather be uneasy
wi' me than easy wi' anybody else. There's love for you! And I tell him
I'd rather have him tipsy than any one else sober.
Oh! Anne Dixon, hush! you don't know yet what it is to have a
drunken husband. I have seen something of it: father used to get
fuddled, and, in the long run, it killed mother, let aloneoh! Anne,
God above only knows what the wife of a drunken man has to bear. Don't
tell, said she, lowering her voice, but father killed our little baby
in one of his bouts; mother never looked up again, nor father either,
for that matter, only his was in a different way. Mother will have
gotten to little Jemmie now, and they'll be so happy together,and
perhaps Franky too. Oh! said she, recovering herself from her train of
thought, never say aught lightly of the wife's lot whose husband is
given to drink!
Dear, what a preachment. I tell you what, Libbie, you're as born an
old maid as ever I saw. You'll never be married to either drunken or
Libbie's face went rather red, but without losing its meek
I know that as well as you can tell me; and more reason, therefore,
as God has seen fit to keep me out of woman's natural work, I should
try and find work for myself. I mean, seeing Anne Dixon's puzzled
look, that as I know I'm never likely to have a home of my own, or a
husband that would look to me to make all straight, or children to
watch over or care for, all which I take to be woman's natural work, I
must not lose time in fretting and fidgetting after marriage, but just
look about me for somewhat else to do. I can see many a one misses it
in this. They will hanker after what is ne'er likely to be theirs,
instead of facing it out, and settling down to be old maids; and, as
old maids, just looking round for the odd jobs God leaves in the world
for such as old maids to do. There's plenty of such work, and there's
the blessing of God on them as does it. Libbie was almost out of
breath at this outpouring of what had long been her inner thoughts.
That's all very true, I make no doubt, for them as is to be old
maids; but as I'm not, please God to-morrow comes, you might have
spared your breath to cool your porridge. What I want to know is,
whether you'll be bridesmaid to-morrow or not. Come, now do; it will do
you good, after all your working, and watching, and slaving yourself
for that poor Franky Hall.
It was one of my odd jobs, said Libbie, smiling, though her eyes
were brimming over with tears; but, dear Anne, said she, recovering
itself, I could not do it to-morrow, indeed I could not.
And I can't wait, said Anne Dixon, almost sulkily, Bob and I put
it off from to-day, because of the funeral, and Bob had set his heart
on its being on Michaelmas-day; and mother says the goose won't keep
beyond to-morrow. Do come: father finds eatables, and Bob finds drink,
and we shall be so jolly! and after we've been to church, we're to walk
round the town in pairs, white satin ribbon in our bonnets, and
refreshments at any public-house we like, Bob says. And after dinner
there's to be a dance. Don't be a fool; you can do no good by staying.
Margaret Hall will have to go out washing, I'll be bound.
Yes, she must go to Mrs. Wilkinson's, and, for that matter, I must
go working too. Mrs. Williams has been after me to make her girl's
winter things ready; only I could not leave Franky, he clung so to me.
Then you won't be bridesmaid! is that your last word?
It is; you must not be angry with me, Anne Dixon, said Libbie,
But Anne was gone without a reply.
With a heavy heart Libbie mounted the little staircase, for she felt
how ungracious her refusal of Anne's kindness must appear, to one who
understood so little the feelings which rendered her acceptance of it a
On opening the door she saw Margaret Hall, with the Bible open on
the table before her. For she had puzzled out the place where Libbie
was reading, and, with her finger under the line, was spelling out the
words of consolation, piecing the syllables together aloud, with the
earnest anxiety of comprehension with which a child first learns to
read. So Libbie took the stool by her side, before she was aware that
any one had entered the room.
What did she want you for? asked Margaret. But I can guess; she
wanted you to be at th' wedding that is to come off this week, they
say. Ay, they'll marry, and laugh, and dance, all as one as if my boy
was alive, said she, bitterly. Well, he was neither kith nor kin of
yours, so I maun try and be thankful for what you've done for him, and
not wonder at your forgetting him afore he's well settled in his
I never can forget him, and I'm not going to the wedding, said
Libbie, quietly, for she understood the mother's jealousy of her dead
I must go work at Mrs. Williams' to-morrow, she said, in
explanation, for she was unwilling to boast of her tender, fond regret,
which had been her principal motive for declining Anne's invitation.
And I mun go washing, just as if nothing had happened, sighed
forth Mrs. Hall, and I mun come home at night, and find his place
empty, and all still where I used to be sure of hearing his voice ere
ever I got up the stair: no one will ever call me mother again. She
fell crying pitifully, and Libbie could not speak for her own emotion
for some time. But during this silence she put the keystone in the arch
of thoughts she had been building up for many days; and when Margaret
was again calm in her sorrow, Libbie said, Mrs. Hall, I should
likewould you like me to come for to live here altogether?
Margaret Hall looked up with a sudden light in her countenance,
which encouraged Libbie to go on.
I could sleep with you, and pay half, you know; and we should be
together in the evenings; and her as was home first would watch for the
other, and (dropping her voice) we could talk of him at nights, you
She was going on, but Mrs. Hall interrupted her.
Oh, Libbie Marsh! and can you really think of coming to live wi'
me. I should like it abovebut no! it must not be; you've no notion on
what a creature I am, at times; more like a mad one when I'm in a rage,
and I cannot keep it down. I seem to get out of bed wrong side in the
morning, and I must have my passion out with the first person I meet.
Why, Libbie, said she, with a doleful look of agony on her face, I
even used to fly out on him, poor sick lad as he was, and you may judge
how little you can keep it down frae that. No, you must not come. I
must live alone now, sinking her voice into the low tones of despair.
But Libbie's resolution was brave and strong. I'm not afraid, said
she, smiling. I know you better than you know yourself, Mrs. Hall.
I've seen you try of late to keep it down, when you've been boiling
over, and I think you'll go on a-doing so. And at any rate, when you've
had your fit out, you're very kind, and I can forget if you've been a
bit put out. But I'll try not to put you out. Do let me come: I think
he would like us to keep together. I'll do my very best to make you
It's me! it's me as will be making your life miserable with my
temper; or else, God knows, how my heart clings to you. You and me is
folk alone in the world, for we both loved one who is dead, and who had
none else to love him. If you will live with me, Libbie, I'll try as I
never did afore to be gentle and quiet-tempered. Oh! will you try me,
Libbie Marsh? So out of the little grave there sprang a hope and a
resolution, which made life an object to each of the two.
When Elizabeth Marsh returned home the next evening from her day's
labours, Anne (Dixon no longer) crossed over, all in her bridal finery,
to endeavour to induce her to join the dance going on in her father's
Dear Anne, this is good of you, a-thinking of me to-night, said
Libbie, kissing her, and though I cannot come,I've promised Mrs.
Hall to be with her,I shall think on you, and I trust you'll be
happy. I have got a little needle-case I have looked out for you; stay,
here it is,I wish it were moreonly
Only, I know what. You've been a-spending all your money in nice
things for poor Franky. Thou'rt a real good un, Libbie, and I'll keep
your needle-book to my dying day, that I will. Seeing Anne in such a
friendly mood, emboldened Libbie to tell her of her change of place; of
her intention of lodging henceforward with Margaret Hall.
Thou never will! Why father and mother are as fond of thee as can
be; they'll lower thy rent if that's what it isand thou knowst they
never grudge thee bit or drop. And Margaret Hall, of all folk, to lodge
wi'! She's such a Tartar! Sooner than not have a quarrel, she'd fight
right hand against left. Thou'lt have no peace of thy life. What on
earth can make you think of such a thing, Libbie Marsh?
She'll be so lonely without me, pleaded Libbie. I'm sure I could
make her happier, even if she did scold me a bit now and then, than
she'd be a living alone, and I'm not afraid of her; and I mean to do my
best not to vex her: and it will ease her heart, maybe, to talk to me
at times about Franky. I shall often see your father and mother, and I
shall always thank them for their kindness to me. But they have you and
little Mary, and poor Mrs. Hall has no one.
Anne could only repeat, Well, I never! and hurry off to tell the
news at home.
But Libbie was right. Margaret Hall is a different woman to the
scold of the neighbourhood she once was; touched and softened by the
two purifying angels, Sorrow and Love. And it is beautiful to see her
affection, her reverence, for Libbie Marsh. Her dead mother could
hardly have cared for her more tenderly than does the hard-hearted
washerwoman, not long ago so fierce and unwomanly. Libbie, herself, has
such peace shining on her countenance, as almost makes it beautiful, as
she tenders the services of a daughter to Franky's mother, no longer
the desolate lonely orphan, a stranger on the earth.
Do you ever read the moral, concluding sentence of a story? I never
do, but I once (in the year 1811, I think) heard of a deaf old lady,
living by herself, who did; and as she may have left some descendants
with the same amiable peculiarity, I will put in, for their benefit,
what I believe to be the secret of Libbie's peace of mind, the real
reason why she no longer feels oppressed at her own loneliness in the
She has a purpose in life; and that purpose is a holy one.
CHRISTMAS STORMS AND SUNSHINE.
In the town of (no matter where) there circulated two local
newspapers (no matter when). Now the Flying Post was long
established and respectablealias bigoted and Tory; the Examiner
was spirited and intelligentalias new-fangled and democratic. Every
week these newspapers contained articles abusing each other; as cross
and peppery as articles could be, and evidently the production of
irritated minds, although they seemed to have one stereotyped
commencement,Though the article appearing in last week's Post
(or Examiner) is below contempt, yet we have been induced, &c.,
&c., and every Saturday the Radical shopkeepers shook hands together,
and agreed that the Post was done for, by the slashing, clever
Examiner; while the more dignified Tories began by regretting that
Johnson should think that low paper, only read by a few of the vulgar,
worth wasting his wit upon; however the Examiner was at its last
It was not though. It lived and flourished; at least it paid its
way, as one of the heroes of my story could tell. He was chief
compositor, or whatever title may be given to the head-man of the
mechanical part of a newspaper. He hardly confined himself to that
department. Once or twice, unknown to the editor, when the manuscript
had fallen short, he had filled up the vacant space by compositions of
his own; announcements of a forthcoming crop of green peas in December;
a grey thrush having been seen, or a white hare, or such interesting
phenomena; invented for the occasion, I must confess; but what of that?
His wife always knew when to expect a little specimen of her husband's
literary talent by a peculiar cough, which served as prelude; and,
judging from this encouraging sign, and the high-pitched and emphatic
voice in which he read them, she was inclined to think, that an Ode to
an early Rose-bud, in the corner devoted to original poetry, and a
letter in the correspondence department, signed Pro Bono Publico,
were her husband's writing, and to hold up her head accordingly.
I never could find out what it was that occasioned the Hodgsons to
lodge in the same house as the Jenkinses. Jenkins held the same office
in the Tory paper as Hodgson did in the Examiner, and, as I said
before, I leave you to give it a name. But Jenkins had a proper sense
of his position, and a proper reverence for all in authority, from the
king down to the editor and sub-editor. He would as soon have thought
of borrowing the king's crown for a nightcap, or the king's sceptre for
a walking-stick, as he would have thought of filling up any spare
corner with any production of his own; and I think it would have even
added to his contempt of Hodgson (if that were possible), had he known
of the productions of his brain, as the latter fondly alluded to the
paragraphs he inserted, when speaking to his wife.
Jenkins had his wife too. Wives were wanting to finish the
completeness of the quarrel, which existed one memorable Christmas
week, some dozen years ago, between the two neighbours, the two
compositors. And with wives, it was a very pretty, a very complete
quarrel. To make the opposing parties still more equal, still more
well-matched, if the Hodgsons had a baby (such a baby!a poor, puny
little thing"), Mrs. Jenkins had a cat (such a cat! a great, nasty,
miowling tom-cat, that was always stealing the milk put by for little
Angel's supper"). And now, having matched Greek with Greek, I must
proceed to the tug of war. It was the day before Christmas; such a cold
east wind! such an inky sky! such a blue-black look in people's faces,
as they were driven out more than usual, to complete their purchases
for the next day's festival.
Before leaving home that morning, Jenkins had given some money to
his wife to buy the next day's dinner.
My dear, I wish for turkey and sausages. It may be a weakness, but
I own I am partial to sausages. My deceased mother was. Such tastes are
hereditary. As to the sweetswhether plum-pudding or mince-piesI
leave such considerations to you; I only beg you not to mind expense.
Christmas comes but once a year.
And again he had called out from the bottom of the first flight of
stairs, just close to the Hodgsons' door (such ostentatiousness, as
Mrs. Hodgson observed), You will not forget the sausages, my dear?
I should have liked to have had something above common, Mary, said
Hodgson, as they too made their plans for the next day, but I think
roast beef must do for us. You see, love, we've a family.
Only one, Jem! I don't want more than roast beef, though, I'm sure.
Before I went to service, mother and me would have thought roast beef a
very fine dinner.
Well, let's settle it then, roast beef and a plum-pudding; and now,
good-by. Mind and take care of little Tom. I thought he was a bit
hoarse this morning.
And off he went to his work.
Now, it was a good while since Mrs. Jenkins and Mrs. Hodgson had
spoken to each other, although they were quite as much in possession of
the knowledge of events and opinions as though they did. Mary knew that
Mrs. Jenkins despised her for not having a real lace cap, which Mrs.
Jenkins had; and for having been a servant, which Mrs. Jenkins had not;
and the little occasional pinchings which the Hodgsons were obliged to
resort to, to make both ends meet, would have been very patiently
endured by Mary, if she had not winced under Mrs. Jenkins's knowledge
of such economy. But she had her revenge. She had a child, and Mrs.
Jenkins had none. To have had a child, even such a puny baby as little
Tom, Mrs. Jenkins would have worn commonest caps, and cleaned grates,
and drudged her fingers to the bone. The great unspoken disappointment
of her life soured her temper, and turned her thoughts inward, and made
her morbid and selfish.
Hang that cat! he's been stealing again! he's gnawed the cold
mutton in his nasty mouth till it's not fit to set before a Christian;
and I've nothing else for Jem's dinner. But I'll give it him now I've
caught him, that I will!
So saying, Mary Hodgson caught up her husband's Sunday cane, and
despite pussy's cries and scratches, she gave him such a beating as she
hoped might cure him of his thievish propensities; when lo! and behold,
Mrs. Jenkins stood at the door with a face of bitter wrath.
Aren't you ashamed of yourself, ma'am, to abuse a poor dumb animal,
ma'am, as knows no better than to take food when he sees it, ma'am? He
only follows the nature which God has given, ma'am; and it's a pity
your nature, ma'am, which I've heard, is of the stingy saving species,
does not make you shut your cupboard-door a little closer. There is
such a thing as law for brute animals. I'll ask Mr. Jenkins, but I
don't think them Radicals has done away with that law yet, for all
their Reform Bill, ma'am. My poor precious love of a Tommy, is he hurt?
and is his leg broke for taking a mouthful of scraps, as most people
would give away to a beggar,if he'd take 'em? wound up Mrs. Jenkins,
casting a contemptuous look on the remnant of a scrag end of mutton.
Mary felt very angry and very guilty. For she really pitied the poor
limping animal as he crept up to his mistress, and there lay down to
bemoan himself; she wished she had not beaten him so hard, for it
certainly was her own careless way of never shutting the cupboard-door
that had tempted him to his fault. But the sneer at her little bit of
mutton turned her penitence to fresh wrath, and she shut the door in
Mrs. Jenkins's face, as she stood caressing her cat in the lobby, with
such a bang, that it wakened little Tom, and he began to cry.
Everything was to go wrong with Mary to-day. Now baby was awake, who
was to take her husband's dinner to the office? She took the child in
her arms, and tried to hush him off to sleep again, and as she sung she
cried, she could hardly tell why,a sort of reaction from her violent
angry feelings. She wished she had never beaten the poor cat; she
wondered if his leg was really broken. What would her mother say if she
knew how cross and cruel her little Mary was getting? If she should
live to beat her child in one of her angry fits?
It was of no use lullabying while she sobbed so; it must be given
up, and she must just carry her baby in her arms, and take him with her
to the office, for it was long past dinner-time. So she pared the
mutton carefully, although by so doing she reduced the meat to an
infinitesimal quantity, and taking the baked potatoes out of the oven,
she popped them piping hot into her basket with the et-cæteras of
plate, butter, salt, and knife and fork.
It was, indeed, a bitter wind. She bent against it as she ran, and
the flakes of snow were sharp and cutting as ice. Baby cried all the
way, though she cuddled him up in her shawl. Then her husband had made
his appetite up for a potato pie, and (literary man as he was) his body
got so much the better of his mind, that he looked rather black at the
cold mutton. Mary had no appetite for her own dinner when she arrived
at home again. So, after she had tried to feed baby, and he had
fretfully refused to take his bread and milk, she laid him down as
usual on his quilt, surrounded by playthings, while she sided away, and
chopped suet for the next day's pudding. Early in the afternoon a
parcel came, done up first in brown paper, then in such a white,
grass-bleached, sweet-smelling towel, and a note from her dear, dear
mother; in which quaint writing she endeavoured to tell her daughter
that she was not forgotten at Christmas time; but that learning that
Farmer Burton was killing his pig, she had made interest for some of
his famous pork, out of which she had manufactured some sausages, and
flavoured them just as Mary used to like when she lived at home.
Dear, dear mother! said Mary to herself. There never was any one
like her for remembering other folk. What rare sausages she used to
make! Home things have a smack with 'em, no bought things can ever
have. Set them up with their sausages! I've a notion if Mrs. Jenkins
had ever tasted mother's she'd have no fancy for them town-made things
Fanny took in just now.
And so she went on thinking about home, till the smiles and the
dimples came out again at the remembrance of that pretty cottage, which
would look green even now in the depth of winter, with its pyracanthus,
and its holly-bushes, and the great Portugal laurel that was her
mother's pride. And the back path through the orchard to Farmer
Burton's; how well she remembered it. The bushels of unripe apples she
had picked up there, and distributed among his pigs, till he had
scolded her for giving them so much green trash.
She was interruptedher baby (I call him a baby, because his father
and mother did, and because he was so little of his age, but I rather
think he was eighteen months old,) had fallen asleep some time before
among his playthings; an uneasy, restless sleep; but of which Mary had
been thankful, as his morning's nap had been too short, and as she was
so busy. But now he began to make such a strange crowing noise, just
like a chair drawn heavily and gratingly along a kitchen-floor! His
eyes was open, but expressive of nothing but pain.
Mother's darling! said Mary, in terror, lifting him up. Baby, try
not to make that noise. Hush, hush, darling; what hurts him? But the
noise came worse and worse.
Fanny! Fanny! Mary called in mortal fright, for her baby was
almost black with his gasping breath, and she had no one to ask for aid
or sympathy but her landlady's daughter, a little girl of twelve or
thirteen, who attended to the house in her mother's absence, as daily
cook in gentlemen's families. Fanny was more especially considered the
attendant of the upstairs lodgers (who paid for the use of the kitchin,
for Jenkins could not abide the smell of meat cooking"), but just now
she was fortunately sitting at her afternoon's work of darning
stockings, and hearing Mrs. Hodgson's cry of terror, she ran to her
sitting-room, and understood the case at a glance.
He's got the croup! Oh, Mrs. Hodgson, he'll die as sure as fate.
Little brother had it, and he died in no time. The doctor said he could
do nothing for himit had gone too far. He said if we'd put him in a
warm bath at first, it might have saved him; but, bless you! he was
never half so bad as your baby. Unconsciously there mingled in her
statement some of a child's love of producing an effect; but the
increasing danger was clear enough.
Oh, my baby! my baby! Oh, love, love! don't look so ill; I cannot
bear it. And my fire so low! There, I was thinking of home, and picking
currants, and never minding the fire. Oh, Fanny! what is the fire like
in the kitchen? Speak.
Mother told me to screw it up, and throw some slack on as soon as
Mrs. Jenkins had done with it, and so I did. It's very low and black.
But, oh, Mrs. Hodgson! let me run for the doctorI cannot abear to
hear him, it's so like little brother.
Through her streaming tears Mary motioned her to go; and trembling,
sinking, sick at heart, she laid her boy in his cradle, and ran to fill
Mrs. Jenkins, having cooked her husband's snug little dinner, to
which he came home; having told him her story of pussy's beating, at
which he was justly and dignifiedly indignant, saying it was all of a
piece with that abusive Examiner; having received the sausages,
and turkey, and mince pies, which her husband had ordered; and cleaned
up the room, and prepared everything for tea, and coaxed and duly
bemoaned her cat (who had pretty nearly forgotten his beating, but very
much enjoyed the petting), having done all these and many other things,
Mrs. Jenkins sate down to get up the real lace cap. Every thread was
pulled out separately, and carefully stretched: when, what was that?
Outside, in the street, a chorus of piping children's voices sang the
old carol she had heard a hundred times in the days of her youth:
As Joseph was a walking he heard an angel sing,
'This night shall be born our heavenly King.
He neither shall be born in housen nor in hall,
Nor in the place of Paradise, but in an ox's stall.
He neither shall be clothed in purple nor in pall,
But all in fair linen, as were babies all:
He neither shall be rocked in silver nor in gold,
But in a wooden cradle that rocks on the mould,' &c.
She got up and went to the window. There, below, stood the group of
grey black little figures, relieved against the snow, which now
enveloped everything. For old sake's sake, as she phrased it, she
counted out a halfpenny apiece for the singers, out of the copper bag,
and threw them down below.
The room had become chilly while she had been counting out and
throwing down her money, so she stirred her already glowing fire, and
sat down right before itbut not to stretch her lace; like Mary
Hodgson, she began to think over long-past days, on softening
remembrances of the dead and gone, on words long forgotten, on holy
stories heard at her mother's knee.
I cannot think what's come over me to-night, said she, half aloud,
recovering herself by the sound of her own voice from her train of
thoughtMy head goes wandering on them old times. I'm sure more texts
have come into my head with thinking on my mother within this last half
hour, than I've thought on for years and years. I hope I'm not going to
die. Folks say, thinking too much on the dead betokens we're going to
join 'em; I should be loth to go just yetsuch a fine turkey as we've
got for dinner to-morrow, too!
Knock, knock, knock, at the door, as fast as knuckles could go. And
then, as if the comer could not wait, the door was opened, and Mary
Hodgson stood there as white as death.
Mrs. Jenkins!oh, your kettle is boiling, thank God! Let me have
the water for my baby, for the love of God! He's got croup, and is
Mrs. Jenkins turned on her chair with a wooden inflexible look on
her face, that (between ourselves) her husband knew and dreaded for all
his pompous dignity.
I'm sorry I can't oblige you, ma'am; my kettle is wanted for my
husband's tea. Don't be afeared, Tommy, Mrs. Hodgson won't venture to
intrude herself where she's not desired. You'd better send for the
doctor, ma'am, instead of wasting your time in wringing your hands,
ma'ammy kettle is engaged.
Mary clasped her hands together with passionate force, but spoke no
word of entreaty to that wooden facethat sharp, determined voice;
but, as she turned away, she prayed for strength to bear the coming
trial, and strength to forgive Mrs. Jenkins.
Mrs. Jenkins watched her go away meekly, as one who has no hope, and
then she turned upon herself as sharply as she ever did on any one
What a brute I am, Lord forgive me! What's my husband's tea to a
baby's life? In croup, too, where time is everything. You crabbed old
vixen, you!any one may know you never had a child!
She was down stairs (kettle in hand) before she had finished her
self-upbraiding; and when in Mrs. Hodgson's room, she rejected all
thanks (Mary had not the voice for many words), saying, stiffly, I do
it for the poor babby's sake, ma'am, hoping he may live to have mercy
to poor dumb beasts, if he does forget to lock his cupboards.
But she did everything, and more than Mary, with her young
inexperience, could have thought of. She prepared the warm bath, and
tried it with her husband's own thermometer (Mr. Jenkins was as
punctual as clockwork in noting down the temperature of every day). She
let his mother place her baby in the tub, still preserving the same
rigid, affronted aspect, and then she went upstairs without a word.
Mary longed to ask her to stay, but dared not; though, when she left
the room, the tears chased each other down her cheeks faster than ever.
Poor young mother! how she counted the minutes till the doctor should
come. But, before he came, down again stalked Mrs. Jenkins, with
something in her hand.
I've seen many of these croup-fits, which, I take it, you've not,
ma'am. Mustard plaisters is very sovereign, put on the throat; I've
been up and made one, ma'am, and, by your leave, I'll put it on the
poor little fellow.
Mary could not speak, but she signed her grateful assent.
It began to smart while they still kept silence; and he looked up to
his mother as if seeking courage from her looks to bear the stinging
pain; but she was softly crying, to see him suffer, and her want of
courage reacted upon him, and he began to sob aloud. Instantly Mrs.
Jenkins's apron was up, hiding her face: Peep-bo, baby, said she, as
merrily as she could. His little face brightened, and his mother having
once got the cue, the two women kept the little fellow amused, until
his plaister had taken effect.
He's better,oh, Mrs. Jenkins, look at his eyes! how different!
And he breathes quite softly
As Mary spoke thus, the doctor entered. He examined his patient.
Baby was really better.
It has been a sharp attack, but the remedies you have applied have
been worth all the Pharmacopoeia an hour later.I shall send a
powder, &c. &c.
Mrs. Jenkins stayed to hear this opinion; and (her heart wonderfully
more easy) was going to leave the room, when Mary seized her hand and
kissed it; she could not speak her gratitude.
Mrs. Jenkins looked affronted and awkward, and as if she must go
upstairs and wash her hand directly.
But, in spite of these sour looks, she came softly down an hour or
so afterwards to see how baby was.
The little gentleman slept well after the fright he had given his
friends; and on Christmas morning, when Mary awoke and looked at the
sweet little pale face lying on her arm, she could hardly realize the
danger he had been in.
When she came down (later than usual), she found the household in a
commotion. What do you think had happened? Why, pussy had been a
traitor to his best friend, and eaten up some of Mr. Jenkins's own
especial sausages; and gnawed and tumbled the rest so, that they were
not fit to be eaten! There were no bounds to that cat's appetite! he
would have eaten his own father if he had been tender enough. And now
Mrs. Jenkins stormed and criedHang the cat!
Christmas Day, too! and all the shops shut! What was turkey without
sausages? gruffly asked Mr. Jenkins.
Oh, Jem! whispered Mary, hearken what a piece of work he's making
about sausages,I should like to take Mrs. Jenkins up some of
mother's; they're twice as good as bought sausages.
I see no objection, my dear. Sausages do not involve intimacies,
else his politics are what I can no ways respect.
But, oh, Jem, if you had seen her last night about baby! I'm sure
she may scold me for ever, and I'll not answer. I'd even make her cat
welcome to the sausages. The tears gathered to Mary's eyes as she
kissed her boy.
Better take 'em upstairs, my dear, and give them to the cat's
mistress. And Jem chuckled at his saying.
Mary put them on a plate, but still she loitered.
What must I say, Jem? I never know.
SayI hope you'll accept of these sausages, as my motherno,
that's not grammar;say what comes uppermost, Mary, it will be sure to
So Mary carried them upstairs and knocked at the door; and when told
to come in, she looked very red, but went up to Mrs. Jenkins, saying,
Please take these. Mother made them. And was away before an answer
could be given.
Just as Hodgson was ready to go to church, Mrs. Jenkins came
downstairs, and called Fanny. In a minute, the latter entered the
Hodgsons' room, and delivered Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins's compliments, and
they would be particular glad if Mr. and Mrs. Hodgson would eat their
dinner with them.
And carry baby upstairs in a shawl, be sure, added Mrs. Jenkins's
voice in the passage, close to the door, whither she had followed her
messenger. There was no discussing the matter, with the certainty of
every word being overheard.
Mary looked anxiously at her husband. She remembered his saying he
did not approve of Mr. Jenkins's politics.
Do you think it would do for baby? asked he.
Oh, yes, answered she, eagerly; I would wrap him up so warm.
And I've got our room up to sixty-five already, for all it's so
frosty, added the voice outside.
Now, how do you think they settled the matter? The very best way in
the world. Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins came down into the Hodgsons' room, and
dined there. Turkey at the top, roast beef at the bottom, sausages at
one side, potatoes at the other. Second course, plum-pudding at the
top, and mince pies at the bottom.
And after dinner, Mrs. Jenkins would have baby on her knee; and he
seemed quite to take to her; she declared he was admiring the real lace
on her cap, but Mary thought (though she did not say so) that he was
pleased by her kind looks and coaxing words. Then he was wrapped up and
carried carefully upstairs to tea, in Mrs. Jenkins's room. And after
tea, Mrs. Jenkins, and Mary, and her husband, found out each other's
mutual liking for music, and sat singing old glees and catches, till I
don't know what o'clock, without one word of politics or newspapers.
Before they parted, Mary had coaxed pussy on to her knee; for Mrs.
Jenkins would not part with baby, who was sleeping on her lap.
When you're busy, bring him to me. Do, now, it will be a real
favour. I know you must have a deal to do, with another coming; let him
come up to me. I'll take the greatest of cares of him; pretty darling,
how sweet he looks when he's asleep!
When the couples were once more alone, the husbands unburdened their
minds to their wives.
Mr. Jenkins said to hisDo you know, Burgess tried to make me
believe Hodgson was such a fool as to put paragraphs into the
Examiner now and then; but I see he knows his place, and has got
too much sense to do any such thing.
Hodgson saidMary, love, I almost fancy from Jenkins's way of
speaking (so much civiler than I expected), he guesses I wrote that
'Pro Bono' and the 'Rose-bud,'at any rate, I've no objection to your
naming it, if the subject should come uppermost; I should like him to
know I'm a literary man.
Well! I've ended my tale; I hope you don't think it too long; but,
before I go, just let me say one thing.
If any of you have any quarrels, or misunderstandings, or
coolnesses, or cold shoulders, or shynesses, or tiffs, or miffs, or
huffs, with any one else, just make friends before Christmas,you will
be so much merrier if you do.
I ask it of you for the sake of that old angelic song, heard so many
years ago by the shepherds, keeping watch by night, on Bethlehem
HAND AND HEART.
Mother, I should so like to have a great deal of money, said
little Tom Fletcher one evening, as he sat on a low stool by his
mother's knee. His mother was knitting busily by the firelight, and
they had both been silent for some time.
What would you do with a great deal of money if you had it?
Oh! I don't knowI would do a great many things. But should not
you like to have a great deal of money, mother? persisted he.
Perhaps I should, answered Mrs. Fletcher. I am like you
sometimes, dear, and think that I should be very glad of a little more
money. But then I don't think I am like you in one thing, for I have
always some little plan in my mind, for which I should want the money.
I never wish for it just for its own sake.
Why, mother! there are so many things we could do if we had but
money;real good, wise things I mean.
And if we have real good, wise things in our head to do, which
cannot be done without money, I can quite enter into the wish for
money. But you know, my little boy, you did not tell me of any good or
No! I believe I was not thinking of good or wise things just then,
but only how much I should like money to do what I liked, answered
little Tom ingenuously, looking up in his mother's face. She smiled
down upon him, and stroked his head. He knew she was pleased with him
for having told her openly what was passing in his mind. Presently he
Mother, if you wanted to do something very good and wise, and if
you could not do it without money, what should you do?
There are two ways of obtaining money for such wants; one is by
earning; and the other is by saving. Now both are good, because both
imply self-denial. Do you understand me, Tom? If you have to earn
money, you must steadily go on doing what you do not like perhaps; such
as working when you would like to be playing, or in bed, or sitting
talking with me over the fire. You deny yourself these little
pleasures; and that is a good habit in itself, to say nothing of the
industry and energy you have to exert in working. If you save money,
you can easily see how you exercise self-denial. You do without
something you wish for in order to possess the money it would have
cost. Inasmuch as self-denial, energy, and industry are all good
things, you do well either to earn or to save. But you see the purpose
for which you want the money must be taken into consideration. You say,
for 'something wise and good.' Either earning or saving becomes holy in
this case. I must then think which will be most consistent with my
other duties, before I decide whether I will earn or save money.
I don't quite know what you mean, mother.
I will try and explain myself. You know I have to keep a little
shop, and to try and get employment in knitting stockings, and to clean
my house, and to mend our clothes, and many other things. Now, do you
think I should be doing my duty if I left you in the evenings, when you
come home from school, to go out as a waiter at ladies' parties? I
could earn a good deal of money by it, and I could spend it well among
those who are poorer than I am (such as lame Harry), but then I should
be leaving you alone in the little time that we have to be together; I
do not think I should be doing right even for our 'good and wise
purpose' to earn money, if it took me away from you at nights: do you,
No, indeed; you never mean to do it, do you, mother?
No, said she, smiling; at any rate not till you are older. You
see at present then, I cannot earn money, if I want a little
more than usual to help a sick neighbour. I must then try and save
money. Nearly every one can do that.
Can we, mother? We are so careful of everything. Ned Dixon
calls us stingy: what could we save?
Oh, many and many a little thing. We use many things which are
luxuries; which we do not want, but only use them for pleasure. Tea and
sugarbutterour Sunday's dinner of bacon or meatthe grey ribbon I
bought for my bonnet, because you thought it prettier than the black,
which was cheaper; all these are luxuries. We use very little tea or
sugar, it is true; but we might do without any.
You did do without any, mother, for a long, long time, you know, to
help widow Black; it was only for your bad head-aches.
Well! but you see we can save money; a penny, a halfpenny a day, or
even a penny a week, would in time make a little store ready to be
applied to the 'good and wise' purpose, when the time comes. But do you
know, my little boy, I think we may be considering money too much as
the only thing required if we want to do a kindness.
If it is not the only thing, it is the chief thing, at any rate.
No, love, it is not the chief thing. I should think very poorly of
that beggar who liked sixpence given with a curse (as I have sometimes
heard it), better than the kind and gentle words some people use in
refusing to give. The curse sinks deep into the heart; or if it does
not, it is a proof that the poor creature has been made hard before by
harsh treatment. And mere money can do little to cheer a sore heart. It
is kindness only that can do this. Now we have all of us kindness in
our power. The little child of two years old, who can only just totter
about, can show kindness?
Can I, mother?
To be sure, dear; and you often do, only perhaps not quite so often
as you might do. Neither do I. But instead of wishing for money (of
which I don't think either you or I are ever likely to have much),
suppose you try to-morrow how you can make people happier, by thinking
of little loving actions of help. Let us try and take for our text,
'Silver and gold I have none, but such as I have give I unto thee.'
Ay, mother, we will.
Must I tell you about little Tom's to-morrow.
I do not know if little Tom dreamed of what his mother and he had
been talking about, but I do know that the first thing he thought
about, when he awoke in the morning, was his mother's saying that he
might try how many kind actions he could do that day without money; and
he was so impatient to begin, that he jumped up and dressed himself,
although it was more than an hour before his usual time of getting up.
All the time he kept wondering what a little boy like him, only eight
years old, could do for other people; till at last he grew so puzzled
with inventing occasions for showing kindness, that he very wisely
determined to think no more about it, but learn his lessons very
perfectly; that was the first thing he had to do; and then he would
try, without too much planning beforehand, to keep himself ready to
lend a helping hand, or to give a kind word, when the right time came.
So he screwed himself into a corner, out of the way of his mother's
sweeping and dusting, and tucked his feet up on the rail of the chair,
turned his face to the wall, and in about half an hour's time, he could
turn round with a light heart, feeling he had learnt his lesson well,
and might employ his time as he liked till breakfast was ready. He
looked round the room; his mother had arranged all neatly, and was now
gone to the bedroom; but the coal-scuttle and the can for water were
empty, and Tom ran away to fill them; and as he came back with the
latter from the pump, he saw Ann Jones (the scold of the neighbourhood)
hanging out her clothes on a line stretched across from side to side of
the little court, and speaking very angrily and loudly to her little
girl, who was getting into some mischief in the house-place, as her
mother perceived through the open door.
There never were such plagues as my children are, to be sure, said
Ann Jones, as she went into her house, looking very red and passionate.
Directly after, Tom heard the sound of a slap, and then a little
child's cry of pain.
I wonder, thought he, if I durst go and offer to nurse and play
with little Hester. Ann Jones is fearful cross, and just as likely to
take me wrong as right; but she won't box me for mother's sake; mother
nursed Jemmy many a day through the fever, so she won't slap me, I
think. Any rate, I'll try. But it was with a beating heart he said to
the fierce-looking Mrs. Jones, Please, may I go and play with Hester.
May be I could keep her quiet while you're busy hanging out clothes.
What! and let you go slopping about, I suppose, just when I'd made
all ready for my master's breakfast. Thank you, but my own children's
mischief is as much as I reckon on; I'll have none of strange lads in
I did not mean to do mischief or slop, said Tom, a little sadly at
being misunderstood in his good intentions. I only wanted to help.
If you want to help, lift me up those clothes' pegs, and save me
stooping; my back's broken with it.
Tom would much rather have gone to play with and amuse little
Hester; but it was true enough that giving Mrs. Jones the clothes' pegs
as she wanted them would help her as much; and perhaps keep her from
being so cross with her children if they did anything to hinder her.
Besides, little Hester's cry had died away, and she was evidently
occupied in some new pursuit (Tom could only hope that it was not in
mischief this time); so he began to give Ann the pegs as she wanted
them, and she, soothed by his kind help, opened her heart a little to
I wonder how it is your mother has trained you up to be so handy,
Tom; you're as good as a girlbetter than many a girl. I don't think
Hester in three years' time will be as thoughtful as you. There! (as a
fresh scream reached them from the little ones inside the house), they
are at some mischief again; but I'll teach 'em, said she, getting down
from her stool in a fresh access of passion.
Let me go, said Tom, in a begging voice, for he dreaded the cruel
sound of another slap. I'll lift the basket of pegs on to a stool, so
that you need not stoop; and I'll keep the little ones safe out of
mischief till you're done. Do let me go, missus.
With some grumblings at losing his help, she let him go into the
house-place. He found Hester, a little girl of five, and two younger
ones. They had been fighting for a knife, and in the struggle, the
second, Johnnie, had cut his fingernot very badly, but he was
frightened at the sight of the blood; and Hester, who might have
helped, and who was really sorry, stood sullenly aloof, dreading the
scolding her mother always gave her if either of the little ones hurt
themselves while under her care.
Hester, said Tom, will you get me some cold water, please? it
will stop the bleeding better than anything. I daresay you can find me
a basin to hold it.
Hester trotted off, pleased at Tom's confidence in her power. When
the bleeding was partly stopped, he asked her to find him a bit of rag,
and she scrambled under the dresser for a little piece she had hidden
there the day before. Meanwhile, Johnny ceased crying, he was so
interested in all the preparation for dressing his little wound, and so
much pleased to find himself an object of so much attention and
consequence. The baby, too, sat on the floor, gravely wondering at the
commotion; and thus busily occupied, they were quiet and out of
mischief till Ann Jones came in, and, having hung out her clothes, and
finished that morning's piece of work, she was ready to attend to her
children in her rough, hasty kind of way.
[Illustration p. 220: The Cut Finger.]
Well! I'm sure, Tom, you've tied it up as neatly as I could have
done. I wish I'd always such an one as you to see after the children;
but you must run off now, lad, your mother was calling you as I came
in, and I said I'd send yougood-by, and thank you.
As Tom was going away, the baby, sitting in square gravity on the
floor, but somehow conscious of Tom's gentle helpful ways, put up her
mouth to be kissed; and he stooped down in answer to the little
gesture, feeling very happy, and very full of love and kindliness.
After breakfast, his mother told him it was school time, and he must
set off, as she did not like him to run in out of breath and flurried,
just when the schoolmaster was going to begin; but she wished him to
come in decently and in order, with quiet decorum, and thoughtfulness
as to what he was going to do. So Tom got his cap and his bag, and went
off with a light heart, which I suppose made his footsteps light, for
he found himself above half way to school while it wanted yet a quarter
to the time. So he slackened his pace, and looked about him a little
more than he had been doing. There was a little girl on the other side
of the street carrying a great big basket, and lugging along a little
child just able to walk; but who, I suppose, was tired, for he was
crying pitifully, and sitting down every two or three steps. Tom ran
across the street, for, as perhaps you have found out, he was very fond
of babies, and could not bear to hear them cry.
Little girl, what is he crying about? Does he want to be carried?
I'll take him up, and carry him as far as I go alongside of you.
So saying, Tom was going to suit the action to the word; but the
baby did not choose that any one should carry him but his sister, and
refused Tom's kindness. Still he could carry the heavy basket of
potatoes for the little girl, which he did as far as their road lay
together, when she thanked him, and bade him good-by, and said she
could manage very well now, her home was so near. So Tom went into
school very happy and peaceful; and had a good character to take home
to his mother for that morning's lesson.
It happened that this very day was the weekly half-holiday, so that
Tom had many hours unoccupied that afternoon. Of course, his first
employment after dinner was to learn his lessons for the next day; and
then, when he had put his books away, he began to wonder what he should
He stood lounging against the door wishing all manner of idle
wishes; a habit he was apt to fall into. He wished he were the little
boy who lived opposite, who had three brothers ready to play with him
on half-holidays; he wished he were Sam Harrison, whose father had
taken him one day a trip by the railroad; he wished he were the little
boy who always went with the omnibuses,it must be so pleasant to go
riding about on the step, and to see so many people; he wished he were
a sailor, to sail away to the countries where grapes grew wild, and
monkeys and parrots were to be had for the catching. Just as he was
wishing himself the little Prince of Wales, to drive about in a
goat-carriage, and wondering if he should not feel very shy with the
three great ostrich-feathers always niddle-noddling on his head, for
people to know him by, his mother came from washing up the dishes, and
saw him deep in the reveries little boys and girls are apt to fall into
when they are the only children in a house.
My dear Tom, said she, why don't you go out, and make the most of
this fine afternoon?
Oh, mother, answered he (suddenly recalled to the fact that he was
little Tom Fletcher, instead of the Prince of Wales, and consequently
feeling a little bit flat), it is so dull going out by myself. I have
no one to play with. Can't you go with me, motherjust this once, into
Poor Mrs. Fletcher heartily wished she could gratify this very
natural desire of her little boy; but she had the shop to mind, and
many a little thing besides to do; it was impossible. But however much
she might regret a thing, she was too faithful to repine. So, after a
moment's thought, she said, cheerfully, Go into the fields for a walk,
and see how many wild flowers you can bring me home, and I'll get down
father's jug for you to put them in when you come back.
But, mother, there are so few pretty flowers near a town, said
Tom, a little unwillingly, for it was a coming down from being Prince
of Wales, and he was not yet quite reconciled to it.
Oh dear! there are a great many if you'll only look for them. I
dare say you'll make me up as many as twenty different kinds.
Will you reckon daisies, mother?
To be sure; they are just as pretty as any.
Oh, if you'll reckon such as them, I dare say I can bring you more
So off he ran; his mother watching him till he was out of sight, and
then she returned to her work. In about two hours he came back, his
pale cheeks looking quite rosy, and his eyes quite bright. His country
walk, taken with cheerful spirits, had done him all the good his mother
desired, and had restored his usually even, happy temper.
Look, mother! here are three-and-twenty different kinds; you said I
might count all, so I have even counted this thing like a nettle with
lilac flowers, and this little common blue thing.
Robin-run-in-the-hedge is its name, said his mother. It's very
pretty if you look at it close. One, two, threeshe counted them all
over, and there really were three-and-twenty. She went to reach down
the best jug.
Mother, said little Tom, do you like them very much?
Yes, very much, said she, not understanding his meaning. He was
silent, and gave a little sigh. Why, my dear?
Oh, onlyit does not signify if you like them very much; but I
thought how nice it would be to take them to lame Harry, who can never
walk so far as the fields, and can hardly know what summer is like, I
Oh, that will be very nice; I am glad you thought of it.
Lame Harry was sitting by himself, very patiently, in a neighbouring
cellar. He was supported by his daughter's earnings; but as she worked
in a factory, he was much alone.
If the bunch of flowers had looked pretty in the fields, they looked
ten times as pretty in the cellar to which they were now carried. Lame
Harry's eyes brightened up with pleasure at the sight; and he began to
talk of the times long ago, when he was a little boy in the country,
and had a corner of his father's garden to call his own, and grow
lad's-love and wall-flower in. Little Tom put them in water for him,
and put the jug on the table by him; on which his daughter had placed
the old Bible, worn with much reading, although treated with careful
reverence. It was lying open, with Harry's horn spectacles put in to
mark the place.
I reckon my spectacles are getting worn out; they are not so clear
as they used to be; they are dim-like before my eyes, and it hurts me
to read long together, said Harry. It's a sad miss to me. I never
thought the time long when I could read; but now I keep wearying for
the day to be over, though the nights, when I cannot sleep for my legs
paining me, are almost as bad. However, it's the Lord's will.
Would you like meI cannot read very well aloud, but I'd do my
best, if you'd like me to read a bit to you. I'll just run home and get
my tea, and be back directly. And off Tom ran.
He found it very pleasant reading aloud to lame Harry, for the old
man had so much to say that was worth listening to, and was so glad of
a listener, that I think there was as much talking as reading done that
evening. But the Bible served as a text-book to their conversation; for
in a long life old Harry had seen and heard so much, which he had
connected with events, or promises, or precepts contained in the
Scriptures, that it was quite curious to find how everything was
brought in and dove-tailed, as an illustration of what they were
When Tom got up to go away, lame Harry gave him many thanks, and
told him he would not sleep the worse for having made an old man's
evening so pleasant. Tom came home in high self-satisfaction. Mother,
said he, it's all very true what you said about the good that may be
done without money: I've done many pieces of good to-day without a
farthing. First, said he, taking hold of his little finger, I helped
Ann Jones with hanging out her clothes when she was
His mother had been listening while she turned over the pages of the
New Testament which lay by her, and now having found what she wanted,
she put her arm gently round his waist, and drew him fondly towards
her. He saw her finger put under one passage, and read,
Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.
He was silent in a moment.
Then his mother spoke in her soft low voice:Dearest Tom, though I
don't want us to talk about it, as if you had been doing more than just
what you ought, I am glad you have seen the truth of what I said; how
far more may be done by the loving heart than by mere money-giving; and
every one may have the loving heart.
I have told you of one day of little Tom's life, when he was eight
years old, and lived with his mother. I must now pass over a year, and
tell you of a very different kind of life he had then to lead. His
mother had never been very strong, and had had a good deal of anxiety;
at last she was taken ill, and soon felt that there was no hope for her
recovery. For a long time the thought of leaving her little boy was a
great distress to her, and a great trial to her faith. But God
strengthened her, and sent his peace into her soul, and before her
death she was content to leave her precious child in his hands, who is
a Father to the fatherless, and defendeth the cause of the widow.
When she felt that she had not many more days to live, she sent for
her husband's brother, who lived in a town not many miles off; and gave
her little Tom in charge to him to bring up.
There are a few pounds in the savings-bankI don't know how many
exactlyand the furniture and bit of stock in the shop; perhaps they
would be enough to bring him up to be a joiner, like his father before
She spoke feebly, and with many pauses. Her brother-in-law, though a
rough kind of man, wished to do all he could to make her feel easy in
her last moments, and touched with the reference to his dead brother,
promised all she required.
I'll take him back with me afterthe funeral, he was going to
say, but he stopped. She smiled gently, fully understanding his
We shall, may be, not be so tender with him as you've been; but
I'll see he comes to no harm. It will be a good thing for him to rough
it a bit with other children,he's too nesh for a boy; but I'll pay
them if they aren't kind to him in the long run, never fear.
Though this speech was not exactly what she liked, there was quite
enough of good feeling in it to make her thankful for such a protector
and friend for her boy. And so, thankful for the joys she had had, and
thankful for the sorrows which had taught her meekness, thankful for
life, and thankful for death, she died.
Her brother-in-law arranged all as she had wished. After the quiet
simple funeral was over, he took Tom by the hand, and set off on the
six-mile walk to his home. Tom had cried till he could cry no more, but
sobs came quivering up from his heart every now and then, as he passed
some well-remembered cottage, or thorn-bush, or tree on the road. His
uncle was very sorry for him, but did not know what to say, or how to
Now mind, lad, thou com'st to me if thy cousins are o'er hard upon
thee. Let me hear if they misuse thee, and I'll give it them.
Tom shrunk from the idea that this gave him of the cousins, whose
companionship he had, until then, been looking forward to as a
pleasure. He was not reassured when, after threading several streets
and by-ways, they came into a court of dingy-looking houses, and his
uncle opened the door of one, from which the noise of loud, if not
angry voices was heard.
A tall large woman was whirling one child out of her way with a
rough movement of her arm; while she was scolding a boy a little older
than Tom, who stood listening sullenly to her angry words.
I'll tell father of thee, I will, said she; and turning to uncle
John, she began to pour out her complaints against Jack, without taking
any notice of little Tom, who clung to his uncle's hand as to a
protector in the scene of violence into which he had entered.
Well, well, wife!I'll leather Jack the next time I catch him
letting the water out of the pipe; but now get this lad and me some
tea, for we're weary and tired.
His aunt seemed to wish Jack might be leathered now, and to be angry
with her husband for not revenging her injuries; for an injury it was
that the boy had done her in letting the water all run off, and that on
the very eve of the washing day. The mother grumbled as she left off
mopping the wet floor, and went to the fire to stir it up ready for the
kettle, without a word of greeting to her little nephew, or of welcome
to her husband. On the contrary, she complained of the trouble of
getting tea ready afresh, just when she had put slack on the fire, and
had no water in the house to fill the kettle with. Her husband grew
angry, and Tom was frightened to hear his uncle speaking sharply.
If I can't have a cup of tea in my own house without all this ado,
I'll go to the Spread Eagle, and take Tom with me. They've a bright
fire there at all times, choose how they manage it; and no scolding
wives. Come, Tom, let's be off.
Jack had been trying to scrape acquaintance with his cousin by winks
and grimaces behind his mother's back, and now made a sign of drinking
out of an imaginary glass. But Tom clung to his uncle, and softly
pulled him down again on his chair, from which he had risen to go to
If you please, ma'am, said he, sadly frightened of his aunt, I
think I could find the pump, if you'd let me try.
She muttered something like an acquiescence; so Tom took up the
kettle, and, tired as he was, went out to the pump. Jack, who had done
nothing but mischief all day, stood amazed, but at last settled that
his cousin was a softy.
When Tom came back, he tried to blow the fire with the broken
bellows, and at last the water boiled, and the tea was made. Thou'rt a
rare lad, Tom, said his uncle. I wonder when our Jack will be of as
This comparison did not please either Jack or his mother, who liked
to keep to herself the privilege of directing their father's
dissatisfaction with his children. Tom felt their want of kindliness
towards him; and now that he had nothing to do but rest and eat, he
began to feel very sad, and his eyes kept filling with tears, which he
brushed away with the back of his hand, not wishing to have them seen.
But his uncle noticed him.
Thou had'st better have had a glass at the Spread Eagle, said he,
No; I only am rather tired. May I go to bed? said he, longing for
a good cry unobserved under the bed-clothes.
Where's he to sleep? asked the husband of the wife.
Nay, said she, still offended on Jack's account, that's thy
look-out. He's thy flesh and blood, not mine.
Come, wife, said uncle John, he's an orphan, poor chap. An orphan
is kin to every one.
She was softened directly, for she had much kindness in her,
although this evening she had been so much put out.
There's no place for him but with Jack and Dick. We've the baby,
and the other three are packed close enough.
She took Tom up to the little back room, and stopped to talk with
him for a minute or two, for her husband's words had smitten her heart,
and she was sorry for the ungracious reception she had given Tom at
Jack and Dick are never in bed till we come, and it's work enough
to catch them then on fine evenings, said she, as she took the candle
Tom tried to speak to God as his mother had taught him, out of the
fulness of his little heart, which was heavy enough that night. He
tried to think how she would have wished him to speak and to do, and
when he felt puzzled with the remembrance of the scene of disorder and
anger which he had seen, he earnestly prayed God would make and keep
clear his path before him. And then he fell asleep.
He had had a long dream of other and happier days, and had thought
he was once more taking a Sunday evening walk with his mother, when he
was roughly wakened up by his cousins.
I say, lad, you're lying right across the bed. You must get up, and
let Dick and me come in, and then creep into the space that's left.
Tom got up dizzy and half awake. His cousins got into bed, and then
squabbled about the largest share. It ended in a kicking match, during
which Tom stood shivering by the bedside.
I'm sure we're pinched enough as it is, said Dick at last. And
why they've put Tom in with us I can't think. But I'll not stand it.
Tom shan't sleep with us. He may lie on the floor, if he likes. I'll
not hinder him.
He expected an opposition from Tom, and was rather surprised when he
heard the little fellow quietly lie down, and cover himself as well as
he could with his clothes. After some more quarrelling, Jack and Dick
fell asleep. But in the middle of the night Dick awoke, and heard by
Tom's breathing that he was still awake, and was crying gently.
What! molly-coddle, crying for a softer bed? asked Dick.
Oh, noI don't care for thatifoh! if mother were but alive,
little Tom sobbed aloud.
I say, said Dick, after a pause. There's room at my back, if
you'll creep in. There! don't be afraidwhy, how cold you are, lad.
Dick was sorry for his cousin's loss, but could not speak about it.
However, his kind tone sank into Tom's heart, and he fell asleep once
The three boys all got up at the same time in the morning, but were
not inclined to talk. Jack and Dick put on their clothes as fast as
possible, and ran downstairs; but this was quite a different way of
going on to what Tom had been accustomed. He looked about for some kind
of basin or mug to wash in; there was nonenot even a jug of water in
the room. He slipped on a few necessary clothes, and went downstairs,
found a pitcher, and went off to the pump. His cousins, who were
playing in the court, laughed at him, and would not tell him where the
soap was kept: he had to look some minutes before he could find it.
Then he went back to the bedroom; but on entering it from the fresh
air, the smell was so oppressive that he could not endure it. Three
people had been breathing the air all night, and had used up every
particle many times over and over again; and each time that it had been
sent out from the lungs, it was less fit than before to be breathed
again. They had not felt how poisonous it was while they stayed in it;
they had only felt tired and unrefreshed, with a dull headache; but now
that Tom came back again into it, he could not mistake its oppressive
nature. He went to the window to try and open it. It was what people
call a Yorkshire light, where you know one-half has to be pushed on
one side. It was very stiff, for it had not been opened for a long
time. Tom pushed against it with all his might; at length it gave way
with a jerk; and the shake sent out a cracked pane, which fell on the
floor in a hundred little bits. Tom was sadly frightened when he saw
what he had done. He would have been sorry to have done mischief at any
time, but he had seen enough of his aunt the evening before to find out
that she was sharp, and hasty, and cross; and it was hard to have to
begin the first day in his new home by getting into a scrape. He sat
down on the bedside, and began to cry. But the morning air blowing in
upon him, refreshed him, and made him feel stronger. He grew braver as
he washed himself in the pure, cold water. She can't be cross with me
longer than a day; by to-night it will be all over; I can bear it for a
Dick came running upstairs for something he had forgotten.
My word, Tom! but you'll catch it! exclaimed he, when he saw the
broken window. He was half pleased at the event, and half sorry for
Tom. Mother did so beat Jack last week for throwing a stone right
through the window downstairs. He kept out of the way till night, but
she was on the look-out for him, and as soon as she saw him, she caught
hold of him and gave it him. Eh! Tom, I would not be you for a deal!
Tom began to cry again at this account of his aunt's anger; Dick
became more and more sorry for him.
I'll tell thee what; we'll go down and say it was a lad in yon
back-yard throwing stones, and that one went smack through the window.
I've got one in my pocket that will just do to show.
No, said Tom, suddenly stopping crying. I dare not do that.
Daren't! Why you'll have to dare much more if you go down and face
mother without some such story.
No! I shan't. I shan't have to dare God's anger. Mother taught me
to fear that; she said I need never be really afraid of aught else.
Just be quiet, Dick, while I say my prayers.
Dick watched his little cousin kneel down by the bed, and bury his
face in the clothes; he did not say any set prayer (which Dick was
accustomed to think was the only way of praying), but Tom seemed, by
the low murmuring which Dick heard, to be talking to a dear friend; and
though at first he sobbed and cried, as he asked for help and strength,
yet when he got up, his face looked calm and bright, and he spoke
quietly as he said to Dick, Now I'm ready to go and tell aunt.
Aunt meanwhile had missed her pitcher and her soap, and was in no
good-tempered mood when Tom came to make his confession. She had been
hindered in her morning's work by his taking her things away; and now
he was come to tell her of the pane being broken and that it must be
mended, and money must go all for a child's nonsense.
She gave him (as he had been led to expect) one or two very sharp
blows. Jack and Dick looked on with curiosity, to see how he would take
it; Jack, at any rate, expecting a hearty crying from softy (Jack
himself had cried loudly at his last beating), but Tom never shed a
tear, though his face did go very red, and his mouth did grow set with
the pain. But what struck the boys more even than his being hard in
bearing such blows, was his quietness afterwards. He did not grumble
loudly, as Jack would have done, nor did he turn sullen, as was Dick's
custom; but the minute afterwards he was ready to run an errand for his
aunt; nor did he make any mention of the hard blows, when his uncle
came in to breakfast, as his aunt had rather expected he would. She was
glad he did not, for she knew her husband would have been displeased to
know how early she had begun to beat his orphan nephew. So she almost
felt grateful to Tom for his silence, and certainly began to be sorry
she had struck him so hard.
Poor Tom! he did not know that his cousins were beginning to respect
him, nor that his aunt was learning to like him; and he felt very
lonely and desolate that first morning. He had nothing to do. Jack went
to work at the factory; and Dick went grumbling to school. Tom wondered
if he was to go to school again, but he did not like to ask. He sat on
a little stool, as much out of his terrible aunt's way as he could. She
had her youngest child, a little girl of about a year and a half old,
crawling about on the floor. Tom longed to play with her; but he was
not sure how far his aunt would like it. But he kept smiling at her,
and doing every little thing he could to attract her attention and make
her come to him. At last she was coaxed to come upon his knee. His aunt
saw it, and though she did not speak, she did not look displeased. He
did everything he could think of to amuse little Annie; and her mother
was very glad to have her attended to. When Annie grew sleepy, she
still kept fast hold of one of Tom's fingers in her little, round, soft
hand, and he began to know the happy feeling of loving somebody again.
Only the night before, when his cousins had made him get out of bed, he
had wondered if he should live to be an old man, and never have anybody
to love all that long time; but now his heart felt quite warm to the
little thing that lay on his lap.
She'll tire you, Tom, said her mother, you'd better let me put
her down in the cot.
Oh, no! said he, please don't! I like so much to have her here.
He never moved, though she lay very heavy on his arm, for fear of
When she did rouse up, his aunt said, Thank you, Tom. I've got my
work done rarely with you for a nurse. Now take a run in the yard, and
play yourself a bit.
His aunt was learning something, and Tom was teaching, though they
would both have been very much surprised to hear it. Whenever, in a
family, every one is selfish, and (as it is called) stands up for his
own rights, there are no feelings of gratitude; the gracefulness of
thanks is never called for; nor can there be any occasion for
thoughtfulness for others when those others are sure to get the start
in thinking for themselves, and taking care of number one. Tom's aunt
had never had to remind Jack or Dick to go out to play. They were ready
enough to see after their own pleasures.
Well! dinner-time came, and all the family gathered to the meal. It
seemed to be a scramble who should be helped first, and cry out for the
best pieces. Tom looked very red. His aunt in her new-born liking for
him, helped him early to what she thought he would like. But he did not
begin to eat. It had been his mother's custom to teach her little son
to say a simple grace with her before they began their dinner. He
expected his uncle to follow the same observance; and waited. Then he
felt very hot and shy; but, thinking that it was right to say it, he
put away his shyness, and very quietly, but very solemnly said the old
accustomed sentence of thanksgiving. Jack burst out laughing when he
had done; for which Jack's father gave him a sharp rap and a sharp
word, which made him silent through the rest of the dinner. But,
excepting Jack, who was angry, I think all the family were the happier
for having listened reverently (if with some surprise) to Tom's
thanksgiving. They were not an ill-disposed set of people, but wanted
thoughtfulness in their every-day life; that sort of thoughtfulness
which gives order to a home, and makes a wise and holy spirit of love
the groundwork of order.
From that first day Tom never went back in the regard he began then
to win. He was useful to his aunt, and patiently bore her hasty ways,
until for very shame she left off being hasty with one who was always
so meek and mild. His uncle sometimes said he was more like a girl than
a boy, as was to be looked for from being brought up for so many years
by a woman; but that was the greatest fault he ever had to find with
him; and in spite of it, he really respected him for the very qualities
which are most truly manly; for the courage with which he dared to do
what was right, and the quiet firmness with which he bore many kinds of
pain. As for little Annie, her friendship and favour and love were the
delight of Tom's heart. He did not know how much the others were
growing to like him, but Annie showed it in every way, and he loved her
in return most dearly. Dick soon found out how useful Tom could be to
him in his lessons; for though older than his cousin, Master Dick was a
regular dunce, and had never even wished to learn till Tom came; and
long before Jack could be brought to acknowledge it, Dick maintained
that Tom had a great deal of pluck in him, though it was not of Jack's
Now I shall jump another year, and tell you a very little about the
household twelve months after Tom had entered it. I said above that his
aunt had learned to speak less crossly to one who was always gentle
after her scoldings. By-and-by her ways to all became less hasty and
passionate, for she grew ashamed of speaking to any one in an angry way
before Tom; he always looked so sad and sorry to hear her. She has also
spoken to him sometimes about his mother; at first because she thought
he would like it; but latterly because she became really interested to
hear of her ways; and Tom being an only child, and his mother's friend
and companion, has been able to tell her of many household arts of
comfort, which coming quite unconscious of any purpose, from the lips
of a child, have taught her many things which she would have been too
proud to learn from an older person. Her husband is softened by the
additional cleanliness and peace of his home. He does not now
occasionally take refuge in a public-house, to get out of the way of
noisy children, an unswept hearth, and a scolding wife. Once when Tom
was ill for a day or two, his uncle missed the accustomed grace, and
began to say it himself. He is now the person to say Silence, boys;
and then to ask the blessing on the meal. It makes them gather round
the table, instead of sitting down here and there in the comfortless,
unsociable way they used to do. Tom and Dick go to school together now,
and Dick is getting on famously, and will soon be able to help his next
brother over his lessons, as Tom has helped him.
Even Jack has been heard to acknowledge that Tom has pluck in him;
and as pluck in Jack's mind is a short way of summing up all the
virtues, he has lately become very fond of his cousin. Tom does not
think about happiness, but is happy; and I think we may hope that he,
and the household among whom he is adopted, will go from strength to
Now do you not see how much happier this family are from the one
circumstance of a little child's coming among them? Could money have
made one-tenth part of this real and increasing happiness? I think you
will all say no. And yet Tom was no powerful person; he was not clever;
he was very friendless at first; but he was loving and good; and on
those two qualities, which any of us may have if we try, the blessing
of God lies in rich abundance.
BESSY'S TROUBLES AT HOME.
Well, mother, I've got you a Southport ticket, said Bessy Lee, as
she burst into a room where a pale, sick woman lay dressed on the
outside of a bed. Aren't you glad? asked she, as her mother moved
uneasily, but did not speak.
Yes, dear, I'm very thankful to you; but your sudden coming in has
made my heart flutter so, I'm ready to choke.
Poor Bessy's eyes filled with tears: but, it must be owned, they
were tears half of anger. She had taken such pains, ever since the
doctor said that Southport was the only thing for her mother, to get
her an order from some subscriber to the charity; and she had rushed to
her, in the full glow of success, and now her mother seemed more put
out by the noise she had made on coming in, than glad to receive the
news she had brought.
Mrs. Lee took her hand and tried to speak, but, as she said, she was
almost choked with the palpitation at her heart.
You think it very silly in me, dear, to be so easily startled; but
it is not altogether silliness; it is I am so weak that every little
noise gives me quite a fright. I shall be better, love, please God,
when I come back from Southport. I am so glad you've got the order, for
you've taken a deal of pains about it. Mrs. Lee sighed.
Don't you want to go? asked Bessy, rather sadly. You always seem
so sorrowful and anxious when we talk about it.
It's partly my being ailing that makes me anxious, I know, said
Mrs. Lee. But it seems as if so many things might happen while I was
Bessy felt a little impatient. Young people in strong health can
hardly understand the fears that beset invalids. Bessy was a
kind-hearted girl, but rather headstrong, and just now a little
disappointed. She forgot that her mother had had to struggle hard with
many cares ever since she had been left a widow, and that her illness
now had made her nervous.
What nonsense, mother! What can happen? I can take care of the
house and the little ones, and Tom and Jem can take care of themselves.
What is to happen?
Jenny may fall into the fire, murmured Mrs. Lee, who found little
comfort in being talked to in this way. Or your father's watch may be
stolen while you are in, talking with the neighbours, or
Now come, mother, you know I've had the charge of Jenny ever since
father died, and you began to go out washingand I'll lock father's
watch up in the box in our room.
Then Tom and Jem won't know at what time to go to the factory.
Besides, Bessy, said she, raising herself up, they're are but young
lads, and there's a deal of temptation to take them away from their
homes, if their homes are not comfortable and pleasant to them. It's
that, more than anything, I've been fretting about all the time I've
been ill,that I've lost the power of making this house the cleanest
and brightest place they know. But it's no use fretting, said she,
falling back weakly upon the bed and sighing. I must leave it in God's
hands. He raiseth up and He bringeth low.
Bessy stood silent for a minute or two. Then she said, Well,
mother, I will try to make home comfortable for the lads, if you'll but
keep your mind easy, and go off to Southport quiet and cheerful.
I'll try, said Mrs. Lee, taking hold of Bessy's hand, and looking
up thankfully in her face.
The next Wednesday she set off, leaving home with a heavy heart,
which, however, she struggled against, and tried to make more faithful.
But she wished her three weeks at Southport were over.
Tom and Jem were both older than Bessy, and she was fifteen. Then
came Bill and Mary and little Jenny. They were all good children, and
all had faults. Tom and Jem helped to support the family by their
earnings at the factory, and gave up their wages very cheerfully for
this purpose, to their mother, who, however, insisted on a little being
put by every week in the savings' bank. It was one of her griefs now
that, when the doctor ordered her some expensive delicacy in the way of
diet during her illness (a thing which she persisted in thinking she
could have done without), her boys had gone and taken their money out
in order to procure it for her. The article in question did not cost
one quarter of the amount of their savings, but they had put off
returning the remainder into the bank, saying the doctor's bill had yet
to be paid, and that it seemed so silly to be always taking money in
and out. But meanwhile Mrs. Lee feared lest it should be spent, and
begged them to restore it to the savings' bank. This had not been done
when she left for Southport. Bill and Mary went to school. Little Jenny
was the darling of all, and toddled about at home, having been her
sister Bessy's especial charge when all went on well, and the mother
used to go out to wash.
Mrs. Lee, however, had always made a point of giving all her
children who were at home a comfortable breakfast at seven, before she
set out to her day's work; and she prepared the boys' dinner ready for
Bessy to warm for them. At night, too, she was anxious to be at home as
soon after her boys as she could; and many of her employers respected
her wish, and, finding her hard-working and conscientious, took care to
set her at liberty early in the evening.
Bessy felt very proud and womanly when she returned home from seeing
her mother off by the railway. She looked round the house with a new
feeling of proprietorship, and then went to claim little Jenny from the
neighbour's where she had been left while Bessy had gone to the
station. They asked her to stay and have a bit of chat; but she replied
that she could not, for that it was near dinner-time, and she refused
the invitation that was then given her to go in some evening. She was
full of good plans and resolutions.
That afternoon she took Jenny and went to her teacher's to borrow a
book, which she meant to ask one of her brothers to read to her in the
evenings while she worked. She knew that it was a book which Jem would
like, for though she had never read it, one of her school-fellows had
told her it was all about the sea, and desert islands, and
cocoanut-trees, just the things that Jem liked to hear about. How happy
they would all be this evening.
She hurried Jenny off to bed before her brothers came home; Jenny
did not like to go so early, and had to be bribed and coaxed to give up
the pleasure of sitting on brother Tom's knee; and when she was in bed,
she could not go to sleep, and kept up a little whimper of distress.
Bessy kept calling out to her, now in gentle, now in sharp tones, as
she made the hearth clean and bright against her brothers' return, as
she settled Bill and Mary to their next day's lessons, and got her work
ready for a happy evening.
Presently the elder boys came in.
Where's Jenny? asked Tom, the first thing.
I've put her to bed, said Bessy. I've borrowed a book for you to
read to me while I darn the stockings; and it was time for Jenny to
Mother never puts her to bed so soon, said Tom, dissatisfied.
But she'd be so in the way of any quietness over our reading, said
I don't want to read, said Tom; I want Jenny to sit on my knee,
as she always does, while I eat my supper.
Tom, Tom, dear Tom! called out little Jenny, who had heard his
voice, and, perhaps, a little of the conversation.
Tom made but two steps upstairs, and re-appeared with Jenny in his
arms, in her night-clothes. The little girl looked at Bessy half
triumphant and half afraid. Bessy did not speak, but she was evidently
very much displeased. Tom began to eat his porridge with Jenny on his
knee. Bessy sat in sullen silence; she was vexed with Tom, vexed with
Jenny, and vexed with Jem, to gratify whose taste for reading travels
she had especially borrowed this book, which he seemed to care so
little about. She brooded over her fancied wrongs, ready to fall upon
the first person who might give the slightest occasion for anger. It
happened to be poor little Jenny, who, by some awkward movement,
knocked over the jug of milk, and made a great splash on Bessy's clean
Never mind! said Tom, as Jenny began to cry. I like my porridge
as well without milk as with it.
Oh, never mind! said Bessy, her colour rising, and her breath
growing shorter. Never mind dirtying anything, Jenny; it's only giving
trouble to Bessy! But I'll make you mind, continued she, as she caught
a glance of intelligence peep from Jem's eyes to Tom; and she slapped
Jenny's head. The moment she had done it she was sorry for it; she
could have beaten herself now with the greatest pleasure for having
given way to passion; for she loved little Jenny dearly, and she saw
that she really had hurt her. But Jem, with his loud, deep, For shame,
Bessy! and Tom, with his excess of sympathy with his little sister's
wrongs, checked back any expression which Bessy might have uttered of
sorrow and regret. She sat there ten times more unhappy than she had
been before the accident, hardening her heart to the reproaches of her
conscience, yet feeling most keenly that she had been acting wrongly.
No one seemed to notice her; this was the evening she had planned and
arranged for so busily; and the others, who never thought about it at
all, were all quiet and happy, at least in outward appearance, while
she was so wretched. By-and-by, she felt the touch of a little soft
hand stealing into her own. She looked to see who it was; it was Mary,
who till now had been busy learning her lessons, but uncomfortably
conscious of the discordant spirit prevailing in the room; and who had
at last ventured up to Bessy, as the one who looked the most unhappy,
to express, in her own little gentle way, her sympathy in sorrow. Mary
was not a quick child; she was plain and awkward in her ways, and did
not seem to have many words in which to tell her feelings, but she was
very tender and loving, and submitted meekly and humbly to the little
slights and rebuffs she often met with for her stupidity.
Dear Bessy! good night! said she, kissing her sister; and, at the
soft kiss, Bessy's eyes filled with tears, and her heart began to melt.
Jenny, continued Mary, going to the little spoilt, wilful girl,
will you come to bed with me, and I'll tell you stories about school,
and sing you my songs as I undress? Come, little one! said she,
holding out her arms. Jenny was tempted by this speech, and went off to
bed in a more reasonable frame of mind than any one had dared to hope.
And now all seemed clear and open for the reading, but each was too
proud to propose it. Jem, indeed, seemed to have forgotten the book
altogether, he was so busy whittling away at a piece of wood. At last
Tom, by a strong effort, said, Bessy, mayn't we have the book now?
No! said Jem, don't begin reading, for I must go out and try and
make Ned Bates give me a piece of ash-wooddeal is just good for
Oh! said Bessy, I don't want any one to read this book who does
not like it. But I know mother would be better pleased if you were
stopping at home quiet, rather than rambling to Ned Bates's at this
time of night.
I know what mother would like as well as you, and I'm not going to
be preached to by a girl, said Jem, taking up his cap and going out.
Tom yawned and went up to bed. Bessy sat brooding over the evening.
So much as I thought and I planned! I'm sure I tried to do what was
right, and make the boys happy at home. And yet nothing has happened as
I wanted it to do. Every one has been so cross and contrary. Tom would
take Jenny up when she ought to have been in bed. Jem did not care a
straw for this book that I borrowed on purpose for him, but sat
laughing. I saw, though he did not think I did, when all was going
provoking and vexatious. Maryno! Mary was a help and a comfort, as
she always is, I think, though she is so stupid over her book. Mary
always contrives to get people right, and to have her own way somehow;
and yet I'm sure she does not take half the trouble I do to please
Jem came back soon, disappointed because Ned Bates was out, and
could not give him any ash-wood. Bessy said it served him right for
going at that time of night, and the brother and sister spoke angrily
to each other all the way upstairs, and parted without even saying
good-night. Jenny was asleep when Bessy entered the bedroom which she
shared with her sisters and her mother; but she saw Mary's wakeful eyes
looking at her as she came in.
Oh, Mary, said she, I wish mother was back. The lads would mind
her, and now I see they'll just go and get into mischief to spite and
I don't think it's for that, said Mary, softly. Jem did want that
ash-wood, I know, for he told me in the morning he didn't think that
deal would do. He wants to make a wedge to keep the window from
rattling so on windy nights; you know how that fidgets mother.
The next day, little Mary, on her way to school, went round by Ned
Bates's to beg a piece of wood for her brother Jem; she brought it home
to him at dinner-time, and asked him to be so good as to have
everything ready for a quiet whittling at night, while Tom or Bessy
read aloud. She told Jenny she would make haste with her lessons, so as
to be ready to come to bed early, and talk to her about school (a
grand, wonderful place, in Jenny's eyes), and thus Mary quietly and
gently prepared for a happy evening, by attending to the kind of
happiness for which every one wished.
While Mary had thus been busy preparing for a happy evening, Bessy
had been spending part of the afternoon at a Mrs. Foster's, a neighbour
of her mother's, and a very tidy, industrious old widow. Mrs. Foster
earned part of her livelihood by working for the shops where knitted
work of all kinds is to be sold; and Bessy's attention was caught,
almost as soon as she went in, by a very gay piece of wool-knitting, in
a new stitch, that was to be used as a warm covering for the feet.
After admiring its pretty looks, Bessy thought how useful it might be
to her mother; and when Mrs. Foster heard this, she offered to teach
Bessy how to do it. But where were the wools to come from? Those which
Mrs. Foster used were provided her by the shop; and she was a very poor
womantoo poor to make presents, though rich enough (as we all are) to
give help of many other kinds, and willing too to do what she could
(which some of us are not).
The two sat perplexed. How much did you say it would cost? said
Bessy at last; as if the article was likely to have become cheaper,
since she asked the question before.
Well! it's sure to be more than two shillings if it's German wool.
You might get it for eighteenpence if you could be content with
But I've not got eighteenpence, said Bessy, gloomily.
I could lend it you, said Mrs. Foster, if I was sure of having it
back before Monday. But it's part of my rent-money. Could you make
sure, do you think?
Oh, yes! said Bessy, eagerly. At least I'd try. But perhaps I had
better not take it, for after all I don't know where I could get it.
What Tom and Jem earn is little enough for the house, now that mother's
washing is cut off.
They are good, dutiful lads, to give it to their mother, said Mrs.
Foster, sighing: for she thought of her own boys, that had left her in
her old age to toil on, with faded eyesight and weakened strength.
Oh! but mother makes them each keep a shilling out of it for
themselves, said Bessy, in a complaining tone, for she wanted money,
and was inclined to envy any one who possessed it.
That's right enough, said Mrs. Foster. They that earn it should
have some of the power over it.
But about this wool; this eighteenpence! I wish I was a boy and
could earn money. I wish mother would have let me go to work in the
Come now, Bessy, I can have none of that nonsense. Thy mother knows
what's best for thee; and I'm not going to hear thee complain of what
she has thought right. But may be, I can help you to a way of gaining
eighteenpence. Mrs. Scott at the worsted shop told me that she should
want some one to clean on Saturday; now you're a good strong girl, and
can do a woman's work if you've a mind. Shall I say you will go? and
then I don't mind if I lend you my eighteenpence. You'll pay me before
I want my rent on Monday.
Oh! thank you, dear Mrs. Foster, said Bessy. I can scour as well
as any woman, mother often says so; and I'll do my best on Saturday;
they shan't blame you for having spoken up for me.
No, Bessy, they won't, I'm sure, if you do your best. You're a good
sharp girl for your years.
Bessy lingered for some time, hoping that Mrs. Foster would remember
her offer of lending her the money; but finding that she had quite
forgotten it, she ventured to remind the kind old woman. That it was
nothing but forgetfulness, was evident from the haste with which Mrs.
Foster bustled up to her tea-pot and took from it the money required.
You're as welcome to it as can be, Bessy, as long as I'm sure of
its being repaid by Monday. But you're in a mighty hurry about this
coverlet, continued she, as she saw Bessy put on her bonnet and
prepare to go out. Stay, you must take patterns, and go to the right
shop in St. Mary's Gate. Why, your mother won't be back this three
No. But I can't abide waiting, and I want to set to it before it is
dark; and you'll teach me the stitch, won't you, when I come back with
the wools? I won't be half an hour away.
But Mary and Bill had to abide waiting that afternoon; for though
the neighbour at whose house the key was left could let them into the
house, there was no supper ready for them on their return from school;
even Jenny was away spending the afternoon with a playfellow; the fire
was nearly out, the milk had been left at a neighbour's; altogether
home was very comfortless to the poor tired children, and Bill grumbled
terribly; Mary's head ached, and the very tones of her brother's voice,
as he complained, gave her pain; and for a minute she felt inclined to
sit down and cry. But then she thought of many little sayings which she
had heard from her teachersuch as Never complain of what you can
cure, Bear and forbear, and several other short sentences of a
similar description. So she began to make up the fire, and asked Bill
to fetch some chips; and when he gave her the gruff answer, that he did
not see any use in making a fire when there was nothing to cook by it,
she went herself and brought the wood without a word of complaint.
Presently Bill said, Here! you lend me those bellows; you're not
blowing it in the right way; girls never do! He found out that Mary
was wise in making a bright fire ready; for before the blowing was
ended, the neighbour with whom the milk had been left brought it in,
and little handy Mary prepared the porridge as well as the mother
herself could have done. They had just ended when Bessy came in almost
breathless; for she had suddenly remembered, in the middle of her
knitting-lesson, that Bill and Mary must be at home from school.
Oh! she said, that's right. I have so hurried myself! I was
afraid the fire would be out. Where's Jenny? You were to have called
for her, you know, as you came from school. Dear! how stupid you are,
Mary. I am sure I told you over and over again. Now don't cry, silly
child. The best thing you can do is to run off back again for her.
But my lessons, Bessy. They are so bad to learn. It's tables day
to-morrow, pleaded Mary.
Nonsense; tables are as easy as can be. I can say up to sixteen
times sixteen in no time.
But you know, Bessy, I'm very stupid, and my head aches so
Well! the air will do it good. Really, Mary, I would go myself,
only I'm so busy; and you know Bill is too careless, mother says, to
fetch Jenny through the streets; and besides they would quarrel, and
you can always manage Jenny.
Mary sighed, and went away to bring her sister home. Bessy sat down
to her knitting. Presently Bill came up to her with some question about
his lesson. She told him the answer without looking at the book; it was
all wrong, and made nonsense; but Bill did not care to understand what
he learnt, and went on saying, Twelve inches make one shilling, as
contentedly as if it were right.
Mary brought Jenny home quite safely. Indeed, Mary always did
succeed in everything, except learning her lessons well; and sometimes,
if the teacher could have known how many tasks fell upon the willing,
gentle girl at home, she would not have thought that poor Mary was slow
or a dunce; and such thoughts would come into the teacher's mind
sometimes, although she fully appreciated Mary's sweetness and humility
To-night she tried hard at her tables, and all to no use. Her head
ached so, she could not remember them, do what she would. She longed to
go to her mother, whose cool hands around her forehead always seemed to
do her so much good, and whose soft, loving words were such a help to
her when she had to bear pain. She had arranged so many plans for
to-night, and now all were deranged by Bessy's new fancy for knitting.
But Mary did not see this in the plain, clear light in which I have put
it before you. She only was sorry that she could not make haste with
her lessons, as she had promised Jenny, who was now upbraiding her with
the non-fulfilment of her words. Jenny was still up when Tom and Jem
came in. They spoke sharply to Bessy for not having their porridge
ready; and while she was defending herself, Mary, even at the risk of
imperfect lessons, began to prepare the supper for her brothers. She
did it all so quietly, that, almost before they were aware, it was
ready for them; and Bessy, suddenly ashamed of herself, and touched by
Mary's quiet helpfulness, bent down and kissed her, as once more she
settled to the never-ending difficulty of her lesson.
Mary threw her arms round Bessy's neck, and began to cry, for this
little mark of affection went to her heart; she had been so longing for
a word or a sign of love in her suffering.
Come, Molly, said Jem, don't cry like a baby; but he spoke very
kindly. What's the matter? the old headache come back? Never mind. Go
to bed, and it will be better in the morning.
But I can't go to bed. I don't know my lesson! Mary looked
happier, though the tears were in her eyes.
I know mine, said Bill, triumphantly.
Come here, said Jem. There! I've time enough to whittle away at
this before mother comes back. Now let's see this difficult lesson.
Jem's help soon enabled Mary to conquer her lesson; but, meanwhile,
Jenny and Bill had taken to quarrelling in spite of Bessy's scolding,
administered in small sharp doses, as she looked up from her
Well, said Tom, with this riot on one side, and this dull lesson
on the other, and Bessy as cross as can be in the midst, I can
understand what makes a man go out to spend his evenings from home.
Bessy looked up, suddenly wakened up to a sense of the danger which
her mother had dreaded.
Bessy thought it was very fortunate that it fell on a Saturday, of
all days in the week, that Mrs. Scott wanted her; for Mary would be at
home, who could attend to the household wants of everybody; and so she
satisfied her conscience at leaving the post of duty that her mother
had assigned to her, and that she had promised to fulfil. She was so
eager about her own plans that she did not consider this; she did not
consider at all, or else I think she would have seen many things to
which she seemed to be blind now. When were Mary's lessons for Monday
to be learnt? Bessy knew as well as we do, that lesson-learning was
hard work to Mary. If Mary worked as hard as she could after morning
school she could hardly get the house cleaned up bright and comfortable
before her brothers came home from the factory, which loosed early on
the Saturday afternoon; and if pails of water, chairs heaped up one on
the other, and tables put topsy-turvy on the dresser, were the most
prominent objects in the house-place, there would be no temptation for
the lads to stay at home; besides which, Mary, tired and weary (however
gentle she might be), would not be able to give the life to the evening
that Bessy, a clever, spirited girl, near their own age, could easily
do, if she chose to be interested and sympathising in what they had to
tell. But Bessy did not think of all this. What she did think about was
the pleasant surprise she should give her mother by the warm and pretty
covering for her feet, which she hoped to present her with on her
return home. And if she had done the duties she was pledged to on her
mother's departure first, if they had been compatible with her plan of
being a whole day absent from home, in order to earn the money for the
wools, the project of the surprise would have been innocent and
Bessy prepared everything for dinner before she left home that
Saturday morning. She made a potato-pie all ready for putting in the
oven; she was very particular in telling Mary what was to be cleaned,
and how it was all to be cleaned; and then she kissed the children, and
ran off to Mrs. Scott's. Mary was rather afraid of the responsibility
thrust upon her; but still she was pleased that Bessy could trust her
to do so much. She took Jenny to the ever-useful neighbour, as she and
Bill went to school; but she was rather frightened when Mrs. Jones
began to grumble about these frequent visits of the child.
I was ready enough to take care of the wench when thy mother was
ill; there was reason for that. And the child is a nice child enough,
when she is not cross; but still there are some folks, it seems, who,
if you give them an inch, will take an ell. Where's Bessy, that she
can't mind her own sister?
Gone out charing, said Mary, clasping the little hand in hers
tighter, for she was afraid of Mrs. Jones's anger.
I could go out charing every day in the week if I'd the face to
trouble other folks with my children, said Mrs. Jones, in a surly
Shall I take her back, ma'am? said Mary, timidly, though she knew
this would involve her staying away from school, and being blamed by
the dear teacher. But Mrs. Jones growled worse than she bit, this time
No, said she, you may leave her with me. I suppose she's had her
Yes; and I'll fetch her away as soon as ever I can after twelve.
If Mary had been one to consider the hardships of her little lot,
she might have felt this morning's occurrence as one;that she, who
dreaded giving trouble to anybody, and was painfully averse from asking
any little favour for herself, should be the very one on whom it fell
to presume upon another person's kindness. But Mary never did think of
any hardships; they seemed the natural events of life, and as if it was
fitting and proper that she, who managed things badly, and was such a
dunce, should be blamed. Still she was rather flurried by Mrs. Jones's
scolding; and almost wished that she had taken Jenny home again. Her
lessons were not well said, owing to the distraction of her mind.
When she went for Jenny she found that Mrs. Jones, repenting of her
sharp words, had given the little girl bread and treacle, and made her
very comfortable; so much so that Jenny was not all at once ready to
leave her little playmates, and when once she had set out on the road,
she was in no humour to make haste. Mary thought of the potato-pie and
her brothers, and could almost have cried, as Jenny, heedless of her
sister's entreaties, would linger at the picture-shops.
I shall be obliged to go and leave you, Jenny! I must get dinner
I don't care, said Jenny. I don't want any dinner, and I can come
home quite well by myself.
Mary half longed to give her a fright, it was so provoking. But she
thought of her mother, who was so anxious always about Jenny, and she
did not do it. She kept patiently trying to attract her onwards, and at
last they were at home. Mary stirred up the fire, which was to all
appearance quite black; it blazed up, but the oven was cold. She put
the pie in, and blew the fire; but the paste was quite white and soft
when her brothers came home, eager and hungry.
Oh! Mary, what a manager you are! said Tom. Any one else would
have remembered and put the pie in in time.
Mary's eyes filled full of tears; but she did not try to justify
herself. She went on blowing, till Jem took the bellows, and kindly
told her to take off her bonnet, and lay the cloth. Jem was always
kind. He gave Tom the best baked side of the pie, and quietly took the
side himself where the paste was little better than dough, and the
potatoes quite hard; and when he caught Mary's little anxious face
watching him, as he had to leave part of his dinner untasted, he said,
Mary, I should like this pie warmed up for supper; there is nothing so
good as potato-pie made hot the second time.
Tom went off saying, Mary, I would not have you for a wife on any
account. Why, my dinner would never be ready, and your sad face would
take away my appetite if it were.
But Jem kissed her and said, Never mind, Mary! you and I will live
together, old maid and old bachelor.
So she could set to with spirit to her cleaning, thinking there
never was such a good brother as Jem; and as she dwelt upon his
perfections, she thought who it was who had given her such a good, kind
brother, and felt her heart full of gratitude to Him. She scoured and
cleaned in right-down earnest. Jenny helped her for some time,
delighted to be allowed to touch and lift things. But then she grew
tired; and Bill was out of doors; so Mary had to do all by herself, and
grew very nervous and frightened, lest all should not be finished and
tidy against Tom came home. And the more frightened she grew, the worse
she got on. Her hands trembled, and things slipped out of them; and she
shook so, she could not lift heavy pieces of furniture quickly and
sharply; and in the middle the clock struck the hour for her brothers'
return, when all ought to have been tidy and ready for tea. She gave it
up in despair, and began to cry.
Oh, Bessy, Bessy! why did you go away? I have tried hard, and I
cannot do it, said she aloud, as if Bessy could hear.
Dear Mary, don't cry, said Jenny, suddenly coming away from her
play. I'll help you. I am very strong. I can do anything. I can lift
that pan off the fire.
The pan was full of boiling water, ready for Mary. Jenny took hold
of the handle, and dragged it along the bar over the fire. Mary sprung
forwards in terror to stop the little girl. She never knew how it was,
but the next moment her arm and side were full of burning pain, which
turned her sick and dizzy, and Jenny was crying passionately beside
Oh, Mary! Mary! Mary! my hand is so scalded. What shall I do? I
cannot bear it. It's all about my feet on the ground. She kept shaking
her hand to cool it by the action of the air. Mary thought that she
herself was dying, so acute and terrible was the pain; she could hardly
keep from screaming out aloud; but she felt that if she once began she
could not stop herself, so she sat still, moaning, and the tears
running down her face like rain. Go, Jenny, said she, and tell some
one to come.
I can't, I can't, my hand hurts so, said Jenny. But she flew
wildly out of the house the next minute, crying out, Mary is dead.
Come, come, come! For Mary could bear it no longer; but had fainted
away, and looked, indeed, like one that was dead. Neighbours flocked
in; and one ran for a doctor. In five minutes Tom and Jem came home.
What a home it seems! People they hardly knew standing in the
house-place, which looked as if it had never been cleanedall was so
wet, and in such disorder, and dirty with the trampling of many feet;
Jenny still crying passionately, but half comforted at being at present
the only authority as to how the affair happened; and faint moans from
the room upstairs, where some women were cutting the clothes off poor
Mary, preparatory for the doctor's inspection. Jem said directly, Some
one go straight to Mrs. Scott's, and fetch our Bessy. Her place is
here, with Mary.
And then he civilly, but quietly, dismissed all the unnecessary and
useless people, feeling sure that in case of any kind of illness, quiet
was the best thing. Then he went upstairs.
Mary's face was scarlet now with violent pain; but she smiled a
little through her tears at seeing Jem. As for him, he cried outright.
I don't think it was anybody's fault, Jem, said she, softly. It
was very heavy to lift.
Are you in great pain, dear? asked Jem, in a whisper.
I think I'm killed, Jem. I do think I am. And I did so want to see
Nonsense! said the woman who had been helping Mary. For, as she
said afterwards, whether Mary died or lived, crying was a bad thing for
her; and she saw the girl was ready to cry when she thought of her
mother, though she had borne up bravely all the time the clothes were
Bessy's face, which had been red with hard running, faded to a dead
white when she saw Mary; she looked so shocked and ill that Jem had not
the heart to blame her, although the minute before she came in, he had
been feeling very angry with her. Bessy stood quite still at the foot
of Mary's bed, never speaking a word, while the doctor examined her
side and felt her pulse; only great round tears gathered in her eyes,
and rolled down her cheeks, as she saw Mary quiver with pain. Jem
followed the doctor downstairs. Then Bessy went and knelt beside Mary,
and wiped away the tears that were trickling down the little face.
Is it very bad, Mary? asked Bessy.
Oh yes! yes! if I speak, I shall scream.
Then Bessy covered her head in the bed-clothes and cried outright.
I was not cross, was I? I did not mean to bebut I hardly know
what I am saying, moaned out little Mary. Please forgive me, Bessy,
if I was cross.
God forgive me! said Bessy, very low. They were the first words
she had spoken since she came home. But there could be no more talking
between the sisters, for now the woman returned who had at first been
assisting Mary. Presently Jem came to the door, and beckoned. Bessy
rose up, and went with, him below. Jem looked very grave, yet not so
sad as he had done before the doctor came. He says she must go into
the infirmary. He will see about getting her in.
Oh, Jem! I did so want to nurse her myself! said Bessy,
imploringly. It was all my own fault, (she choked with crying); and
I thought I might do that for her, to make up.
My dear Bessy,before he had seen Bessy, he had thought he could
never call her dear again, but now he beganMy dear Bessy, we both
want Mary to get better, don't we? I am sure we do. And we want to take
the best way of making her so, whatever that is; well, then, I think we
must not be considering what we should like best just for ourselves,
but what people, who know as well as doctors do, say is the right way.
I can't remember all that he said; but I'm clear that he told me, all
wounds on the skin required more and better air to heal in than Mary
could have here: and there the doctor will see her twice a day, if need
Bessy shook her head, but could not speak at first. At last she
said, Jem, I did so want to do something for her. No one could nurse
her as I should.
Jem was silent. At last he took Bessy's hand, for he wanted to say
something to her that he was afraid might vex her, and yet that he
thought he ought to say.
Bessy! said he, when mother went away, you planned to do all
things right at home, and to make us all happy. I know you did. Now may
I tell you how I think you went wrong? Don't be angry, Bessy.
I think I shall never have spirit enough in me to be angry again,
said Bessy, humbly and sadly.
So much the better, dear. But don't over-fret about Mary. The
doctor has good hopes of her, if he can get her into the infirmary.
Now, I'm going on to tell you how I think you got wrong after mother
left. You see, Bessy, you wanted to make us all happy your wayas you
liked; just as you are wanting now to nurse Mary in your way, and as
you like. Now, as far as I can make out, those folks who make home the
happiest, are people who try and find out how others think they could
be happy, and then, if it's not wrong, help them on with their wishes
as far as they can. You know, you wanted us all to listen to your book;
and very kind it was in you to think of it; only, you see, one wanted
to whittle, and another wanted to do this or that, and then you were
vexed with us all. I don't say but what I should have been if I had
been in your place, and planned such a deal for others; only lookers-on
always see a deal; and I saw that if you'd done what poor little Mary
did next day, we should all have been far happier. She thought how she
could forward us in our plans, instead of trying to force a plan of her
own on us. She got me my right sort of wood for whittling, and arranged
all nicely to get the little ones off to bed, so as to get the house
quiet, if you wanted some reading, as she thought you did. And that's
the way, I notice, some folks have of making a happy home. Others may
mean just as well, but they don't hit the thing.
I dare say it's true, said Bessy. But sometimes you all hang
about as if you did not know what to do. And I thought reading travels
would just please you all.
Jem was touched by Bessy's humble way of speaking, so different from
her usual cheerful, self-confident manner. He answered, I know you
did, dear. And many a time we should have been glad enough of it, when
we had nothing to do, as you say.
I had promised mother to try and make you all happy, and this is
the end of it! said Bessy, beginning to cry afresh.
But, Bessy! I think you were not thinking of your promise, when you
fixed to go out and char.
I thought of earning money.
Earning money would not make us happy. We have enough, with care
and management. If you were to have made us happy, you should have been
at home, with a bright face, ready to welcome us; don't you think so,
I did not want the money for home. I wanted to make mother a
present of such a pretty thing!
Poor mother! I am afraid we must send for her home now. And she has
only been three days at Southport!
Oh! said Bessy, startled by this notion of Jem's; don't, don't
send for mother. The doctor did say so much about her going to
Southport being the only thing for her, and I did so try to get her an
order! It will kill her, Jem! indeed it will; you don't know how weak
and frightened she is,oh, Jem, Jem!
Jem felt the truth of what his sister was saying. At last, he
resolved to leave the matter for the doctor to decide, as he had
attended his mother, and now knew exactly how much danger there was
about Mary. He proposed to Bessy that they should go and relieve the
kind neighbour who had charge of Mary.
But you won't send for mother, pleaded Bessy; if it's the best
thing for Mary, I'll wash up her things to-night, all ready for her to
go into the infirmary. I won't think of myself, Jem.
Well! I must speak to the doctor, said Jem. I must not try and
fix any way just because we wish it, but because it is right.
All night long, Bessy washed and ironed, and yet was always ready to
attend to Mary when Jem called her. She took Jenny's scalded hand in
charge as well, and bathed it with the lotion the doctor sent; and all
was done so meekly and patiently that even Tom was struck with it, and
admired the change. The doctor came very early. He had prepared
everything for Mary's admission into the infirmary. And Jem consulted
him about sending for his mother home. Bessy sat trembling, awaiting
I am very unwilling to sanction any concealment. And yet, as you
say, your mother is in a very delicate state. It might do her serious
harm if she had any shock. Well! suppose for this once, I take it on
myself. If Mary goes on as I hope, whywell! well! we'll see. Mind
that your mother is told all when she comes home. And if our poor Mary
grows worsebut I'm not afraid of that, with infirmary care and
nursingbut if she does, I'll write to your mother myself, and arrange
with a kind friend I have at Southport all about sending her home. And
now, said he, turning suddenly to Bessy, tell me what you were doing
from home when this happened. Did not your mother leave you in charge
of all at home?
Yes, sir! said Bessy, trembling. But, sir, I thought I could earn
money to make mother a present!
Thought! fiddle-de-dee. I'll tell you what; never you neglect the
work clearly laid out for you by either God or man, to go making work
for yourself, according to your own fancies. God knows what you are
most fit for. Do that. And then wait; if you don't see your next duty
clearly. You will not long be idle in this world, if you are ready for
a summons. Now let me see that you send Mary all clean and tidy to the
Jem was holding Bessy's hand. She has washed everything and made it
fit for a queen. Our Bessy worked all night long, and was content to
let me be with Mary (where she wished sore to be), because I could lift
her better, being the stronger.
That's right. Even when you want to be of service to others, don't
think how to please yourself.
I have not much more to tell you about Bessy. This sad accident of
Mary's did her a great deal of good, although it cost her so much
sorrow at first. It taught her several lessons, which it is good for
every woman to learn, whether she is called upon, as daughter, sister,
wife, or mother, to contribute to the happiness of a home. And Mary
herself was hardly more thoughtful and careful to make others happy in
their own way, provided that way was innocent, than was Bessy
hereafter. It was a struggle between her and Mary which could be the
least selfish, and do the duties nearest to them with the most
faithfulness and zeal. The mother stayed at Southport her full time,
and came home well and strong. Then Bessy put her arms round her
mother's neck, and told her alland far more severely against herself
than either the doctor or Jem did, when they related the same story
I am not in the habit of seeing the Household Words
regularly; but a friend, who lately sent me some of the back numbers,
recommended me to read all the papers relating to the Detective and
Protective Police, which I accordingly didnot as the generality of
readers have done, as they appeared week by week, or with pauses
between, but consecutively, as a popular history of the Metropolitan
Police; and, as I suppose it may also be considered, a history of the
police force in every large town in England. When I had ended these
papers, I did not feel disposed to read any others at that time, but
preferred falling into a train of reverie and recollection.
First of all I remembered, with a smile, the unexpected manner in
which a relation of mine was discovered by an acquaintance, who had
mislaid or forgotten Mr. B.'s address. Now my dear cousin, Mr. B.,
charming as he is in many points, has the little peculiarity of liking
to change his lodgings once every three months on an average, which
occasions some bewilderment to his country friends, who have no sooner
learnt the 19, Belle Vue Road, Hampstead, than they have to take pains
to forget that address, and to remember the 27½, Upper Brown Street,
Camberwell; and so on, till I would rather learn a page of Walker's
Pronouncing Dictionary, than try to remember the variety of
directions which I have had to put on my letters to Mr. B. during the
last three years. Last summer it pleased him to remove to a beautiful
village not ten miles out of London, where there is a railway station.
Thither his friend sought him. (I do not now speak of the following
scent there had been through three or four different lodgings, where
Mr. B. had been residing, before his country friend ascertained that he
was now lodging at R.) He spent the morning in making inquiries as
to Mr. B.'s whereabouts in the village; but many gentlemen were lodging
there for the summer, and neither butcher nor baker could inform him
where Mr. B. was staying; his letters were unknown at the post-office,
which was accounted for by the circumstance of their always being
directed to his office in town. At last the country friend sauntered
back to the railway-office, and while he waited for the train he made
inquiry, as a last resource, of the book-keeper at the station. No,
sir, I cannot tell you where Mr. B. lodgesso many gentlemen go by the
trains; but I have no doubt but that the person standing by that pillar
can inform you. The individual to whom he directed the inquirer's
attention had the appearance of a tradesmanrespectable enough, yet
with no pretensions to gentility, and had, apparently, no more urgent
employment than lazily watching the passengers who came dropping in to
the station. However, when he was spoken to, he answered civilly and
promptly. Mr. B.? tall gentleman, with light hair? Yes, sir, I know
Mr. B. He lodges at No. 8, Morton Villashas done these three weeks or
more; but you'll not find him there, sir, now. He went to town by the
eleven o'clock train, and does not usually return until the half-past
The country friend had no time to lose in returning to the village,
to ascertain the truth of this statement. He thanked his informant, and
said he would call on Mr. B. at his office in town; but before he left
Rstation, he asked the book-keeper who the person was to whom he
had referred him for information as to his friend's place of residence.
One of the Detective Police, sir, was the answer. I need hardly say
that Mr. B., not without a little surprise, confirmed the accuracy of
the policeman's report in every particular.
When I heard this anecdote of my cousin and his friend, I thought
that there could be no more romances written on the same kind of plot
as Caleb Williams; the principal interest of which, to the superficial
reader, consists in the alternation of hope and fear, that the hero
may, or may not, escape his pursuer. It is long since I have read the
story, and I forget the name of the offended and injured gentleman,
whose privacy Caleb has invaded; but I know that his pursuit of
Calebhis detection of the various hiding-places of the latterhis
following up of slight cluesall, in fact, depended upon his own
energy, sagacity, and perseverance. The interest was caused by the
struggle of man against man; and the uncertainty as to which would
ultimately be successful in his object; the unrelenting pursuer, or the
ingenious Caleb, who seeks by every device to conceal himself. Now, in
1851, the offended master would set the Detective Police to work; there
would be no doubt as to their success; the only question would be as to
the time that would elapse before the hiding-place could be detected,
and that could not be a question long. It is no longer a struggle
between man and man, but between a vast organized machinery, and a
weak, solitary individual; we have no hopes, no fearsonly certainty.
But if the materials of pursuit and evasion, as long as the chase is
confined to England, are taken away from the store-house of the
romancer, at any rate we can no more be haunted by the idea of the
possibility of mysterious disappearances; and any one who has
associated much with those who were alive at the end of the last
century, can testify that there was some reason for such fears.
When I was a child, I was sometimes permitted to accompany a
relation to drink tea with a very clever old lady, of one hundred and
twentyor, so I thought then; I now think she, perhaps, was only about
seventy. She was lively, and intelligent, and had seen and known much
that was worth narrating. She was a cousin of the Sneyds, the family
whence Mr. Edgeworth took two of his wives; had known Major André; had
mixed in the Old Whig Society that the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire
and Buff and Blue Mrs. Crewe gathered round them; her father had been
one of the early patrons of the lovely Miss Linley. I name these facts
to show that she was too intelligent and cultivated by association, as
well as by natural powers, to lend an over-easy credence to the
marvellous; and yet I have heard her relate stories of disappearances
which haunted my imagination longer than any tale of wonder. One of her
stories was this:Her father's estate lay in Shropshire, and his
park-gates opened right on to a scattered village of which he was
landlord. The houses formed a straggling irregular streethere a
garden, next a gable-end of a farm, there a row of cottages, and so on.
Now, at the end house or cottage lived a very respectable man and his
wife. They were well known in the village, and were esteemed for the
patient attention which they paid to the husband's father, a paralytic
old man. In winter, his chair was near the fire; in summer, they
carried him out into the open space in front of the house to bask in
the sunshine, and to receive what placid amusement he could from
watching the little passings to and fro of the villagers. He could not
move from his bed to his chair without help. One hot and sultry June
day, all the village turned out to the hay-fields. Only the very old
and the very young remained.
The old father of whom I have spoken was carried out to bask in the
sunshine that afternoon as usual, and his son and daughter-in-law went
to the hay-making. But when they came home in the early evening, their
paralysed father had disappearedwas gone! and from that day forwards,
nothing more was ever heard of him. The old lady, who told this story,
said with the quietness that always marked the simplicity of her
narration, that every inquiry which her father could make was made, and
that it could never be accounted for. No one had observed any stranger
in the village; no small household robbery, to which the old man might
have been supposed an obstacle, had been committed in his son's
dwelling that afternoon. The son and daughter-in-law (noted too for
their attention to the helpless father) had been a-field among all the
neighbours the whole of the time. In short, it never was accounted for;
and left a painful impression on many minds.
I will answer for it, the Detective Police would have ascertained
every fact relating to it in a week.
This story from its mystery was painful, but had no consequences to
make it tragical. The next which I shall tell (and although
traditionary, these anecdotes of disappearances which I relate in this
paper are correctly repeated, and were believed by my informants to be
strictly true), had consequences, and melancholy ones too. The scene of
it is in a little country-town, surrounded by the estates of several
gentlemen of large property. About a hundred years ago there lived in
this small town an attorney, with his mother and sister. He was agent
for one of the squires near, and received rents for him on stated days,
which of course were well known. He went at these times to a small
public-house, perhaps five miles from , where the tenants met him,
paid their rents, and were entertained at dinner afterwards. One night
he did not return from this festivity. He never returned. The gentleman
whose agent he was, employed the Dogberrys of the time to find him, and
the missing cash; the mother, whose support and comfort he was, sought
him with all the perseverance of faithful love. But he never returned;
and by-and-by the rumour spread that he must have gone abroad with the
money; his mother heard the whispers all around her, and could not
disprove it; and so her heart broke, and she died. Years after, I think
as many as fifty, the well-to-do butcher and grazier of died; but,
before his death, he confessed that he had waylaid Mr. on the heath
close to the town, almost within call of his own house, intending only
to rob him, but meeting with more resistance than he anticipated, had
been provoked to stab him; and had buried him that very night deep
under the loose sand of the heath. There his skeleton was found; but
too late for his poor mother to know that his fame was cleared. His
sister, too, was dead, unmarried, for no one liked the possibilities
which might arise from being connected with the family. None cared if
he was guilty or innocent now.
If our Detective Police had only been in existence!
This last is hardly a story of unaccounted-for disappearance. It is
only unaccounted for in one generation. But disappearances never to be
accounted for on any supposition are not uncommon, among the traditions
of the last century. I have heard (and I think I have read it in one of
the earlier numbers of Chambers's Journal), of a marriage which
took place in Lincolnshire about the year 1750. It was not then de
rigueur that the happy couple should set out on a wedding journey;
but instead, they and their friends had a merry jovial dinner at the
house of either bride or groom; and in this instance the whole party
adjourned to the bridegroom's residence, and dispersed, some to ramble
in the garden, some to rest in the house until the dinner-hour. The
bridegroom, it is to be supposed, was with his bride, when he was
suddenly summoned away by a domestic, who said that a stranger wished
to speak to him; and henceforward he was never seen more. The same
tradition hangs about an old deserted Welsh Hall standing in a wood
near Festiniog; there, too, the bridegroom was sent for to give
audience to a stranger on his wedding-day, and disappeared from the
face of the earth from that time; but there, they tell in addition,
that the bride lived long,that she passed her three-score years and
ten, but that daily during all those years, while there was light of
sun or moon to lighten the earth, she sat watching,watching at one
particular window which commanded a view of the approach to the house.
Her whole faculties, her whole mental powers, became absorbed in that
weary watching; long before she died, she was childish, and only
conscious of one wishto sit in that long high window, and watch the
road, along which he might come. She was as faithful as Evangeline, if
pensive and inglorious.
That these two similar stories of disappearance on a wedding-day
obtained, as the French say, shows us that anything which adds to our
facility of communication, and organization of means, adds to our
security of life. Only let a bridegroom try to disappear from an
untamed Katherine of a bride, and he will soon be brought home,
like a recreant coward, overtaken by the electric telegraph, and
clutched back to his fate by a detective policeman.
Two more stories of disappearance, and I have done. I will give you
the last in date first, because it is the most melancholy; and we will
wind up cheerfully (after a fashion). Some time between 1820 and 1830,
there lived in North Shields a respectable old woman, and her son, who
was trying to struggle into sufficient knowledge of medicine, to go out
as ship-surgeon in a Baltic vessel, and perhaps in this manner to earn
money enough to spend a session in Edinburgh. He was furthered in all
his plans by the late benevolent Dr. G, of that town. I believe the
usual premium was not required in his case; the young man did many
useful errands and offices which a finer young gentleman would have
considered beneath him; and he resided with his mother in one of the
alleys (or chares,) which lead down from the main street of North
Shields to the river. Dr. Ghad been with a patient all night, and
left her very early on a winter's morning to return home to bed; but
first he stepped down to his apprentice's home, and bade him get up,
and follow him to his own house, where some medicine was to be mixed,
and then taken to the lady. Accordingly the poor lad came, prepared the
dose, and set off with it some time between five and six on a winter's
morning. He was never seen again. Dr. Gwaited, thinking he was at
his mother's house; she waited, considering that he had gone to his
day's work. And meanwhile, as people remembered afterwards, the small
vessel bound to Edinburgh sailed out of port. The mother expected him
back her whole life long; but some years afterwards occurred the
discoveries of the Hare and Burke horrors, and people seemed to gain a
dark glimpse at his fate; but I never heard that it was fully
ascertained, or indeed more than surmised. I ought to add that all who
knew him spoke emphatically as to his steadiness of purpose, and
conduct, so as to render it improbable in the highest degree that he
had run off to sea, or suddenly changed his plan of life in any way.
My last story is one of a disappearance which was accounted for
after many years. There is a considerable street in Manchester leading
from the centre of the town to some of the suburbs. This street is
called at one part Garratt, and afterwards, where it emerges into
gentility and, comparatively, country, Brook Street. It derives its
former name from an old black-and-white hall of the time of Richard the
Third, or thereabouts, to judge from the style of building; they have
closed in what is left of the old hall now; but a few years since this
old house was visible from the main road; it stood low on some vacant
ground, and appeared to be half in ruins. I believe it was occupied by
several poor families who rented tenements in the tumble-down dwelling.
But formerly it was Gerard Hall, (what a difference between Gerard and
Garratt!) and was surrounded by a park with a clear brook running
through it, with pleasant fish-ponds, (the name of these was preserved
until very lately, on a street near,) orchards, dovecotes, and similar
appurtenances to the manor-houses of former days. I am almost sure that
the family to whom it belonged were Mosleys, probably a branch of the
tree of the lord of the Manor of Manchester. Any topographical work of
the last century relating to their district would give the name of the
last proprietor of the old stock, and it is to him that my story
Many years ago there lived in Manchester two old maiden ladies, of
high respectability. All their lives had been spent in the town, and
they were fond of relating the changes which had taken place within
their recollection, which extended back to seventy or eighty years from
the present time. They knew much of its traditionary history from their
father, as well; who, with his father before him, had been respectable
attorneys in Manchester, during the greater part of the last century:
they were, also, agents for several of the county families, who, driven
from their old possessions by the enlargement of the town, found some
compensation in the increased value of any land which they might choose
to sell. Consequently the Messrs. S, father and son, were
conveyancers in good repute, and acquainted with several secret pieces
of family history, one of which related to Garratt Hall.
The owner of this estate, some time in the first half of the last
century, married young; he and his wife had several children, and lived
together in a quiet state of happiness for many years. At last,
business of some kind took the husband up to London; a week's journey
in those days. He wrote and announced his arrival; I do not think he
ever wrote again. He seemed to be swallowed up in the abyss of the
metropolis, for no friend (and the lady had many and powerful friends)
could ever ascertain for her what had become of him; the prevalent idea
was that he had been attacked by some of the street-robbers who prowled
about in those days, that he had resisted, and had been murdered. His
wife gradually gave up all hopes of seeing him again, and devoted
herself to the care of her children; and so they went on, tranquilly
enough, until the heir came of age, when certain deeds were necessary
before he could legally take possession of the property. These deeds
Mr. S (the family lawyer) stated had been given up by him into the
missing gentleman's keeping just before the last mysterious journey to
London, with which I think they were in some way concerned. It was
possible that they were still in existence; some one in London might
have them in possession, and be either conscious or unconscious of
their importance. At any rate, Mr. S's advice to his client was
that he should put an advertisement in the London papers, worded so
skilfully that any one who might hold the important documents should
understand to what it referred, and no one else. This was accordingly
done; and although repeated at intervals for some time, it met with no
success. But at last a mysterious answer was sent; to the effect that
the deeds were in existence, and should be given up; but only on
certain conditions, and to the heir himself. The young man, in
consequence, went up to London, and adjourned, according to directions,
to an old house in Barbican, where he was told by a man, apparently
awaiting him, that he must submit to be blindfolded, and must follow
his guidance. He was taken through several long passages before he left
the house; at the termination of one of these he was put into a
sedan-chair, and carried about for an hour or more; he always reported
that there were many turnings, and that he imagined he was set down
finally not very far from his starting point.
When his eyes were unbandaged, he was in a decent sitting-room, with
tokens of family occupation lying about. A middle-aged gentleman
entered, and told him that, until a certain time had elapsed (which
should be indicated to him in a particular way, but of which the length
was not then named), he must swear to secrecy as to the means by which
he obtained possession of the deeds. This oath was taken; and then the
gentleman, not without some emotion, acknowledged himself to be the
missing father of the heir. It seems that he had fallen in love with a
damsel, a friend of the person with whom he lodged. To this young woman
he had represented himself as unmarried; she listened willingly to his
wooing, and her father, who was a shopkeeper in the City, was not
averse to the match, as the Lancashire squire had a goodly presence,
and many similar qualities, which the shopkeeper thought might be
acceptable to his customers. The bargain was struck; the descendant of
a knightly race married the only daughter of the City shopkeeper, and
became a junior partner in the business. He told his son that he had
never repented the step he had taken; that his lowly-born wife was
sweet, docile, and affectionate; that his family by her was large; and
that he and they were thriving and happy. He inquired after his first
(or rather, I should say, his true) wife with friendly affection;
approved of what she had done with regard to his estate, and the
education of his children; but said that he considered he was dead to
her, as she was to him. When he really died he promised that a
particular message, the nature of which he specified, should be sent to
his son at Garrett; until then they would not hear more of each other;
for it was of no use attempting to trace him under his incognito, even
if the oath did not render such an attempt forbidden. I dare say the
youth had no great desire to trace out the father, who had been one in
name only. He returned to Lancashire; took possession of the property
at Manchester; and many years elapsed before he received the mysterious
intimation of his father's real death. After that, he named the
particulars connected with the recovery of the title-deeds to Mr. S.,
and one or two intimate friends. When the family became extinct, or
removed from Garratt, it became no longer any very closely kept secret,
and I was told the tale of the disappearance by Miss S., the aged
daughter of the family agent.
Once more, let me say I am thankful I live in the days of the
Detective Police; if I am murdered, or commit bigamy, at any rate my
friends will have the comfort of knowing all about it.
A correspondent has favoured us with the sequel of the disappearance
of the pupil of Dr. G., who vanished from North Shields, in charge of
certain potions he was entrusted with, very early one morning, to
convey to a patient:Dr. G.'s son married my sister, and the young
man who disappeared was a pupil in the house. When he went out with the
medicine, he was hardly dressed, having merely thrown on some clothes;
and he went in slipperswhich incidents induced the belief that he was
made away with. After some months his family put on mourning; and the
G.'s (very timid people) were so sure that he was murdered, that
they wrote verses to his memory, and became sadly worn by terror. But,
after a long time (I fancy, but am not sure, about a year and a half),
came a letter from the young man, who was doing well in America. His
explanation was, that a vessel was lying at the wharf about to sail in
the morning, and the youth, who had long meditated evasion, thought it
a good opportunity, and stepped on board, after leaving the medicine at
the proper door. I spent some weeks at Dr. G.'s after the occurrence;
and very doleful we used to be about it. But the next time I went they
were, naturally, very angry with the inconsiderate young man.
London: Printed by SMITH, ELDER &Co., 15½, Old Bailey, E.C.
1. Wir pflügen und wir streuen
Den Saamen auf das Land;
Das Wachsen und Gedeihen
Steht in des höchsten Hand.
Er sendet Thau und Regen,
Und Sonn und Mondesschein;
Von Ihm kommt aller Segen,
Von unserm Gott allein:
Alle gute Gabe kommt her
Von Gott dem Herrn,
Drum dankt und hofft auf Ihn.