Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

Part 3 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

the stile, and traversed the path with his usual firm, elastic
tread, leaving me to ponder his words as I continued my course
alone. I had heard before that he had lost his mother not many
months before he came. She then was the last and dearest of his
early friends; and he had NO HOME. I pitied him from my heart: I
almost wept for sympathy. And this, I thought, accounted for the
shade of premature thoughtfulness that so frequently clouded his
brow, and obtained for him the reputation of a morose and sullen
disposition with the charitable Miss Murray and all her kin.
'But,' thought I, 'he is not so miserable as I should be under such
a deprivation: he leads an active life; and a wide field for
useful exertion lies before him. He can MAKE friends; and he can
make a home too, if he pleases; and, doubtless, he will please some
time. God grant the partner of that home may be worthy of his
choice, and make it a happy one--such a home as he deserves to
have! And how delightful it would be to--' But no matter what I
thought.

I began this book with the intention of concealing nothing; that
those who liked might have the benefit of perusing a fellow-
creature's heart: but we have some thoughts that all the angels in
heaven are welcome to behold, but not our brother-men--not even the
best and kindest amongst them.

By this time the Greens had taken themselves to their own abode,
and the Murrays had turned down the private road, whither I
hastened to follow them. I found the two girls warm in an animated
discussion on the respective merits of the two young officers; but
on seeing me Rosalie broke off in the middle of a sentence to
exclaim, with malicious glee -

'Oh-ho, Miss Grey! you're come at last, are you? No WONDER you
lingered so long behind; and no WONDER you always stand up so
vigorously for Mr. Weston when I abuse him. Ah-ha! I see it all
now!'

'Now, come, Miss Murray, don't be foolish,' said I, attempting a
good-natured laugh; 'you know such nonsense can make no impression
on me.'

But she still went on talking such intolerable stuff--her sister
helping her with appropriate fiction coined for the occasion--that
I thought it necessary to say something in my own justification.

'What folly all this is!' I exclaimed. 'If Mr. Weston's road
happened to be the same as mine for a few yards, and if he chose to
exchange a word or two in passing, what is there so remarkable in
that? I assure you, I never spoke to him before: except once.'

'Where? where? and when?' cried they eagerly.

'In Nancy's cottage.'

'Ah-ha! you've met him there, have you?' exclaimed Rosalie, with
exultant laughter. 'Ah! now, Matilda, I've found out why she's so
fond of going to Nancy Brown's! She goes there to flirt with Mr.
Weston.'

'Really, that is not worth contradicting--I only saw him there
once, I tell you--and how could I know he was coming?'

Irritated as I was at their foolish mirth and vexatious
imputations, the uneasiness did not continue long: when they had
had their laugh out, they returned again to the captain and
lieutenant; and, while they disputed and commented upon them, my
indignation rapidly cooled; the cause of it was quickly forgotten,
and I turned my thoughts into a pleasanter channel. Thus we
proceeded up the park, and entered the hall; and as I ascended the
stairs to my own chamber, I had but one thought within me: my
heart was filled to overflowing with one single earnest wish.
Having entered the room, and shut the door, I fell upon my knees
and offered up a fervent but not impetuous prayer: 'Thy will be
done,' I strove to say throughout; but, 'Father, all things are
possible with Thee, and may it be Thy will,' was sure to follow.
That wish--that prayer--both men and women would have scorned me
for--'But, Father, THOU wilt NOT despise!' I said, and felt that it
was true. It seemed to me that another's welfare was at least as
ardently implored for as my own; nay, even THAT was the principal
object of my heart's desire. I might have been deceiving myself;
but that idea gave me confidence to ask, and power to hope I did
not ask in vain. As for the primroses, I kept two of them in a
glass in my room until they were completely withered, and the
housemaid threw them out; and the petals of the other I pressed
between the leaves of my Bible--I have them still, and mean to keep
them always.

CHAPTER XIV--THE RECTOR

The following day was as fine as the preceding one. Soon after
breakfast Miss Matilda, having galloped and blundered through a few
unprofitable lessons, and vengeably thumped the piano for an hour,
in a terrible humour with both me and it, because her mamma would
not give her a holiday, had betaken herself to her favourite places
of resort, the yards, the stables, and the dog-kennels; and Miss
Murray was gone forth to enjoy a quiet ramble with a new
fashionable novel for her companion, leaving me in the schoolroom
hard at work upon a water-colour drawing which I had promised to do
for her, and which she insisted upon my finishing that day.

At my feet lay a little rough terrier. It was the property of Miss
Matilda; but she hated the animal, and intended to sell it,
alleging that it was quite spoiled. It was really an excellent dog
of its kind; but she affirmed it was fit for nothing, and had not
even the sense to know its own mistress.

The fact was she had purchased it when but a small puppy, insisting
at first that no one should touch it but herself; but soon becoming
tired of so helpless and troublesome a nursling, she had gladly
yielded to my entreaties to be allowed to take charge of it; and I,
by carefully nursing the little creature from infancy to
adolescence, of course, had obtained its affections: a reward I
should have greatly valued, and looked upon as far outweighing all
the trouble I had had with it, had not poor Snap's grateful
feelings exposed him to many a harsh word and many a spiteful kick
and pinch from his owner, and were he not now in danger of being
'put away' in consequence, or transferred to some rough, stony-
hearted master. But how could I help it? I could not make the dog
hate me by cruel treatment, and she would not propitiate him by
kindness.

However, while I thus sat, working away with my pencil, Mrs. Murray
came, half-sailing, half-bustling, into the room.

'Miss Grey,' she began,--'dear! how can you sit at your drawing
such a day as this?' (She thought I was doing it for my own
pleasure.) 'I WONDER you don't put on your bonnet and go out with
the young ladies.'

'I think, ma'am, Miss Murray is reading; and Miss Matilda is
amusing herself with her dogs.'

'If you would try to amuse Miss Matilda yourself a little more, I
think she would not be driven to seek amusement in the
companionship of dogs and horses and grooms, so much as she is; and
if you would be a little more cheerful and conversable with Miss
Murray, she would not so often go wandering in the fields with a
book in her hand. However, I don't want to vex you,' added she,
seeing, I suppose, that my cheeks burned and my hand trembled with
some unamiable emotion. 'Do, pray, try not to be so touchy--
there's no speaking to you else. And tell me if you know where
Rosalie is gone: and why she likes to be so much alone?'

'She says she likes to be alone when she has a new book to read.'

'But why can't she read it in the park or the garden?--why should
she go into the fields and lanes? And how is it that that Mr.
Hatfield so often finds her out? She told me last week he'd walked
his horse by her side all up Moss Lane; and now I'm sure it was he
I saw, from my dressing-room window, walking so briskly past the
park-gates, and on towards the field where she so frequently goes.
I wish you would go and see if she is there; and just gently remind
her that it is not proper for a young lady of her rank and
prospects to be wandering about by herself in that manner, exposed
to the attentions of anyone that presumes to address her; like some
poor neglected girl that has no park to walk in, and no friends to
take care of her: and tell her that her papa would be extremely
angry if he knew of her treating Mr. Hatfield in the familiar
manner that I fear she does; and--oh! if you--if ANY governess had
but half a mother's watchfulness--half a mother's anxious care, I
should be saved this trouble; and you would see at once the
necessity of keeping your eye upon her, and making your company
agreeable to-- Well, go--go; there's no time to be lost,' cried
she, seeing that I had put away my drawing materials, and was
waiting in the doorway for the conclusion of her address.

According to her prognostications, I found Miss Murray in her
favourite field just without the park; and, unfortunately, not
alone; for the tall, stately figure of Mr. Hatfield was slowly
sauntering by her side.

Here was a poser for me. It was my duty to interrupt the tete-a-
tete: but how was it to be done? Mr. Hatfield could not to be
driven away by so insignificant person as I; and to go and place
myself on the other side of Miss Murray, and intrude my unwelcome
presence upon her without noticing her companion, was a piece of
rudeness I could not be guilty of: neither had I the courage to
cry aloud from the top of the field that she was wanted elsewhere.
So I took the intermediate course of walking slowly but steadily
towards them; resolving, if my approach failed to scare away the
beau, to pass by and tell Miss Murray her mamma wanted her.

She certainly looked very charming as she strolled, lingering along
under the budding horse-chestnut trees that stretched their long
arms over the park-palings; with her closed book in one hand, and
in the other a graceful sprig of myrtle, which served her as a very
pretty plaything; her bright ringlets escaping profusely from her
little bonnet, and gently stirred by the breeze, her fair cheek
flushed with gratified vanity, her smiling blue eyes, now slyly
glancing towards her admirer, now gazing downward at her myrtle
sprig. But Snap, running before me, interrupted her in the midst
of some half-pert, half-playful repartee, by catching hold of her
dress and vehemently tugging thereat; till Mr. Hatfield, with his
cane, administered a resounding thwack upon the animal's skull, and
sent it yelping back to me with a clamorous outcry that afforded
the reverend gentleman great amusement: but seeing me so near, he
thought, I suppose, he might as well be taking his departure; and,
as I stooped to caress the dog, with ostentatious pity to show my
disapproval of his severity, I heard him say: 'When shall I see
you again, Miss Murray?'

'At church, I suppose,' replied she, 'unless your business chances
to bring you here again at the precise moment when I happen to be
walking by.'

'I could always manage to have business here, if I knew precisely
when and where to find you.'

'But if I would, I could not inform you, for I am so immethodical,
I never can tell to-day what I shall do to-morrow.'

'Then give me that, meantime, to comfort me,' said he, half
jestingly and half in earnest, extending his hand for the sprig of
myrtle.

'No, indeed, I shan't.'

'Do! PRAY do! I shall be the most miserable of men if you don't.
You cannot be so cruel as to deny me a favour so easily granted and
yet so highly prized!' pleaded he as ardently as if his life
depended on it.

By this time I stood within a very few yards of them, impatiently
waiting his departure.

'There then! take it and go,' said Rosalie.

He joyfully received the gift, murmured something that made her
blush and toss her head, but with a little laugh that showed her
displeasure was entirely affected; and then with a courteous
salutation withdrew.

'Did you ever see such a man, Miss Grey?' said she, turning to me;
'I'm so GLAD you came! I thought I never SHOULD, get rid of him;
and I was so terribly afraid of papa seeing him.'

'Has he been with you long?'

'No, not long, but he's so extremely impertinent: and he's always
hanging about, pretending his business or his clerical duties
require his attendance in these parts, and really watching for poor
me, and pouncing upon me wherever he sees me.'

'Well, your mamma thinks you ought not to go beyond the park or
garden without some discreet, matronly person like me to accompany
you, and keep off all intruders. She descried Mr. Hatfield
hurrying past the park-gates, and forthwith despatched me with
instructions to seek you up and to take care of you, and likewise
to warn--'

'Oh, mamma's so tiresome! As if I couldn't take care of myself.
She bothered me before about Mr. Hatfield; and I told her she might
trust me: I never should forget my rank and station for the most
delightful man that ever breathed. I wish he would go down on his
knees to-morrow, and implore me to be his wife, that I might just
show her how mistaken she is in supposing that I could ever--Oh, it
provokes me so! To think that I could be such a fool as to fall in
LOVE! It is quite beneath the dignity of a woman to do such a
thing. Love! I detest the word! As applied to one of our sex, I
think it a perfect insult. A preference I MIGHT acknowledge; but
never for one like poor Mr. Hatfield, who has not seven hundred a
year to bless himself with. I like to talk to him, because he's so
clever and amusing--I wish Sir Thomas Ashby were half as nice;
besides, I must have SOMEBODY to flirt with, and no one else has
the sense to come here; and when we go out, mamma won't let me
flirt with anybody but Sir Thomas--if he's there; and if he's NOT
there, I'm bound hand and foot, for fear somebody should go and
make up some exaggerated story, and put it into his head that I'm
engaged, or likely to be engaged, to somebody else; or, what is
more probable, for fear his nasty old mother should see or hear of
my ongoings, and conclude that I'm not a fit wife for her excellent
son: as if the said son were not the greatest scamp in
Christendom; and as if any woman of common decency were not a world
too good for him.'

'Is it really so, Miss Murray? and does your mamma know it, and yet
wish you to marry him?'

'To be sure, she does! She knows more against him than I do, I
believe: she keeps it from me lest I should be discouraged; not
knowing how little I care about such things. For it's no great
matter, really: he'll be all right when he's married, as mamma
says; and reformed rakes make the best husbands, EVERYBODY knows.
I only wish he were not so ugly--THAT'S all _I_ think about: but
then there's no choice here in the country; and papa WILL NOT let
us go to London--'

'But I should think Mr. Hatfield would be far better.'

'And so he would, if he were lord of Ashby Park--there's not a
doubt of it: but the fact is, I MUST have Ashby Park, whoever
shares it with me.'

'But Mr. Hatfield thinks you like him all this time; you don't
consider how bitterly he will be disappointed when he finds himself
mistaken.'

'NO, indeed! It will be a proper punishment for his presumption--
for ever DARING to think I could like him. I should enjoy nothing
so much as lifting the veil from his eyes.'

'The sooner you do it the better then.'

'No; I tell you, I like to amuse myself with him. Besides, he
doesn't really think I like him. I take good care of that: you
don't know how cleverly I manage. He may presume to think he can
induce me to like him; for which I shall punish him as he
deserves.'

'Well, mind you don't give too much reason for such presumption--
that's all,' replied I.

But all my exhortations were in vain: they only made her somewhat
more solicitous to disguise her wishes and her thoughts from me.
She talked no more to me about the Rector; but I could see that her
mind, if not her heart, was fixed upon him still, and that she was
intent upon obtaining another interview: for though, in compliance
with her mother's request, I was now constituted the companion of
her rambles for a time, she still persisted in wandering in the
fields and lanes that lay in the nearest proximity to the road;
and, whether she talked to me or read the book she carried in her
hand, she kept continually pausing to look round her, or gaze up
the road to see if anyone was coming; and if a horseman trotted by,
I could tell by her unqualified abuse of the poor equestrian,
whoever he might be, that she hated him BECAUSE he was not Mr.
Hatfield.

'Surely,' thought I, 'she is not so indifferent to him as she
believes herself to be, or would have others to believe her; and
her mother's anxiety is not so wholly causeless as she affirms.'

Three days passed away, and he did not make his appearance. On the
afternoon of the fourth, as we were walking beside the park-palings
in the memorable field, each furnished with a book (for I always
took care to provide myself with something to be doing when she did
not require me to talk), she suddenly interrupted my studies by
exclaiming -

'Oh, Miss Grey! do be so kind as to go and see Mark Wood, and take
his wife half-a-crown from me--I should have given or sent it a
week ago, but quite forgot. There!' said she, throwing me her
purse, and speaking very fast--'Never mind getting it out now, but
take the purse and give them what you like; I would go with you,
but I want to finish this volume. I'll come and meet you when I've
done it. Be quick, will you--and--oh, wait; hadn't you better read
to him a bit? Run to the house and get some sort of a good book.
Anything will do.'

I did as I was desired; but, suspecting something from her hurried
manner and the suddenness of the request, I just glanced back
before I quitted the field, and there was Mr. Hatfield about to
enter at the gate below. By sending me to the house for a book,
she had just prevented my meeting him on the road.

'Never mind!' thought I, 'there'll be no great harm done. Poor
Mark will be glad of the half-crown, and perhaps of the good book
too; and if the Rector does steal Miss Rosalie's heart, it will
only humble her pride a little; and if they do get married at last,
it will only save her from a worse fate; and she will be quite a
good enough partner for him, and he for her.'

Mark Wood was the consumptive labourer whom I mentioned before. He
was now rapidly wearing away. Miss Murray, by her liberality,
obtained literally the blessing of him that was ready to perish;
for though the half-crown could be of very little service to him,
he was glad of it for the sake of his wife and children, so soon to
be widowed and fatherless. After I had sat a few minutes, and read
a little for the comfort and edification of himself and his
afflicted wife, I left them; but I had not proceeded fifty yards
before I encountered Mr. Weston, apparently on his way to the same
abode. He greeted me in his usual quiet, unaffected way, stopped
to inquire about the condition of the sick man and his family, and
with a sort of unconscious, brotherly disregard to ceremony took
from my hand the book out of which I had been reading, turned over
its pages, made a few brief but very sensible remarks, and restored
it; then told me about some poor sufferer he had just been
visiting, talked a little about Nancy Brown, made a few
observations upon my little rough friend the terrier, that was
frisking at his feet, and finally upon the beauty of the weather,
and departed.

I have omitted to give a detail of his words, from a notion that
they would not interest the reader as they did me, and not because
I have forgotten them. No; I remember them well; for I thought
them over and over again in the course of that day and many
succeeding ones, I know not how often; and recalled every
intonation of his deep, clear voice, every flash of his quick,
brown eye, and every gleam of his pleasant, but too transient
smile. Such a confession will look very absurd, I fear: but no
matter: I have written it: and they that read it will not know
the writer.

While I was walking along, happy within, and pleased with all
around, Miss Murray came hastening to meet me; her buoyant step,
flushed cheek, and radiant smiles showing that she, too, was happy,
in her own way. Running up to me, she put her arm through mine,
and without waiting to recover breath, began--'Now, Miss Grey,
think yourself highly honoured, for I'm come to tell you my news
before I've breathed a word of it to anyone else.'

'Well, what is it?'

'Oh, SUCH news! In the first place, you must know that Mr.
Hatfield came upon me just after you were gone. I was in such a
way for fear papa or mamma should see him; but you know I couldn't
call you back again, and so!--oh, dear! I can't tell you all about
it now, for there's Matilda, I see, in the park, and I must go and
open my budget to her. But, however, Hatfield was most uncommonly
audacious, unspeakably complimentary, and unprecedentedly tender--
tried to be so, at least--he didn't succeed very well in THAT,
because it's not his vein. I'll tell you all he said another
time.'

'But what did YOU say--I'm more interested in that?'

'I'll tell you that, too, at some future period. I happened to be
in a very good humour just then; but, though I was complaisant and
gracious enough, I took care not to compromise myself in any
possible way. But, however, the conceited wretch chose to
interpret my amiability of temper his own way, and at length
presumed upon my indulgence so far--what do you think?--he actually
made me an offer!'

'And you--'

'I proudly drew myself up, and with the greatest coolness expressed
my astonishment at such an occurrence, and hoped he had seen
nothing in my conduct to justify his expectations. You should have
SEEN how his countenance fell! He went perfectly white in the
face. I assured him that I esteemed him and all that, but could
not possibly accede to his proposals; and if I did, papa and mamma
could never be brought to give their consent.'

'"But if they could," said he, "would yours be wanting?"

'"Certainly, Mr. Hatfield," I replied, with a cool decision which
quelled all hope at once. Oh, if you had seen how dreadfully
mortified he was--how crushed to the earth by his disappointment!
really, I almost pitied him myself.

'One more desperate attempt, however, he made. After a silence of
considerable duration, during which he struggled to be calm, and I
to be grave--for I felt a strong propensity to laugh--which would
have ruined all--he said, with the ghost of a smile--"But tell me
plainly, Miss Murray, if I had the wealth of Sir Hugh Meltham, or
the prospects of his eldest son, would you still refuse me? Answer
me truly, upon your honour."

'"Certainly," said I. "That would make no difference whatever."

'It was a great lie, but he looked so confident in his own
attractions still, that I determined not to leave him one stone
upon another. He looked me full in the face; but I kept my
countenance so well that he could not imagine I was saying anything
more than the actual truth.

'"Then it's all over, I suppose," he said, looking as if he could
have died on the spot with vexation and the intensity of his
despair. But he was angry as well as disappointed. There was he,
suffering so unspeakably, and there was I, the pitiless cause of it
all, so utterly impenetrable to all the artillery of his looks and
words, so calmly cold and proud, he could not but feel some
resentment; and with singular bitterness he began--"I certainly did
not expect this, Miss Murray. I might say something about your
past conduct, and the hopes you have led me to foster, but I
forbear, on condition--"

'"No conditions, Mr. Hatfield!" said I, now truly indignant at his
insolence.

'"Then let me beg it as a favour," he replied, lowering his voice
at once, and taking a humbler tone: "let me entreat that you will
not mention this affair to anyone whatever. If you will keep
silence about it, there need be no unpleasantness on either side--
nothing, I mean, beyond what is quite unavoidable: for my own
feelings I will endeavour to keep to myself, if I cannot annihilate
them--I will try to forgive, if I cannot forget the cause of my
sufferings. I will not suppose, Miss Murray, that you know how
deeply you have injured me. I would not have you aware of it; but
if, in addition to the injury you have already done me--pardon me,
but, whether innocently or not, you HAVE done it--and if you add to
it by giving publicity to this unfortunate affair, or naming it AT
ALL, you will find that I too can speak, and though you scorned my
love, you will hardly scorn my--"

'He stopped, but he bit his bloodless lip, and looked so terribly
fierce that I was quite frightened. However, my pride upheld me
still, and I answered disdainfully; "I do not know what motive you
suppose I could have for naming it to anyone, Mr. Hatfield; but if
I were disposed to do so, you would not deter me by threats; and it
is scarcely the part of a gentleman to attempt it."

'"Pardon me, Miss Murray," said he, "I have loved you so intensely-
-I do still adore you so deeply, that I would not willingly offend
you; but though I never have loved, and never CAN love any woman as
I have loved you, it is equally certain that I never was so ill-
treated by any. On the contrary, I have always found your sex the
kindest and most tender and obliging of God's creation, till now."
(Think of the conceited fellow saying that!) "And the novelty and
harshness of the lesson you have taught me to-day, and the
bitterness of being disappointed in the only quarter on which the
happiness of my life depended, must excuse any appearance of
asperity. If my presence is disagreeable to you, Miss Murray," he
said (for I was looking about me to show how little I cared for
him, so he thought I was tired of him, I suppose)--"if my presence
is disagreeable to you, Miss Murray, you have only to promise me
the favour I named, and I will relieve you at once. There are many
ladies--some even in this parish--who would be delighted to accept
what you have so scornfully trampled under your feet. They would
be naturally inclined to hate one whose surpassing loveliness has
so completely estranged my heart from them and blinded me to their
attractions; and a single hint of the truth from me to one of these
would be sufficient to raise such a talk against you as would
seriously injure your prospects, and diminish your chance of
success with any other gentleman you or your mamma might design to
entangle."

'"What do your mean, sir?" said I, ready to stamp with passion.

'"I mean that this affair from beginning to end appears to me like
a case of arrant flirtation, to say the least of it--such a case as
you would find it rather inconvenient to have blazoned through the
world: especially with the additions and exaggerations of your
female rivals, who would be too glad to publish the matter, if I
only gave them a handle to it. But I promise you, on the faith of
a gentleman, that no word or syllable that could tend to your
prejudice shall ever escape my lips, provided you will--"

'"Well, well, I won't mention it," said I. "You may rely upon my
silence, if that can afford you any consolation."

'"You promise it?"

'"Yes," I answered; for I wanted to get rid of him now.

'"Farewell, then!" said he, in a most doleful, heart-sick tone; and
with a look where pride vainly struggled against despair, he turned
and went away: longing, no doubt, to get home, that he might shut
himself up in his study and cry--if he doesn't burst into tears
before he gets there.'

'But you have broken your promise already,' said I, truly horrified
at her perfidy.

'Oh! it's only to you; I know you won't repeat it.'

'Certainly, I shall not: but you say you are going to tell your
sister; and she will tell your brothers when they come home, and
Brown immediately, if you do not tell her yourself; and Brown will
blazon it, or be the means of blazoning it, throughout the
country.'

'No, indeed, she won't. We shall not tell her at all, unless it be
under the promise of the strictest secrecy.'

'But how can you expect her to keep her promises better than her
more enlightened mistress?'

'Well, well, she shan't hear it then,' said Miss Murray, somewhat
snappishly.

'But you will tell your mamma, of course,' pursued I; 'and she will
tell your papa.'

'Of course I shall tell mamma--that is the very thing that pleases
me so much. I shall now be able to convince her how mistaken she
was in her fears about me.'

'Oh, THAT'S it, is it? I was wondering what it was that delighted
you so much.'

'Yes; and another thing is, that I've humbled Mr. Hatfield so
charmingly; and another--why, you must allow me some share of
female vanity: I don't pretend to be without that most essential
attribute of our sex--and if you had seen poor Hatfield's intense
eagerness in making his ardent declaration and his flattering
proposal, and his agony of mind, that no effort of pride could
conceal, on being refused, you would have allowed I had some cause
to be gratified.'

'The greater his agony, I should think, the less your cause for
gratification.'

'Oh, nonsense!' cried the young lady, shaking herself with
vexation. 'You either can't understand me, or you won't. If I had
not confidence in your magnanimity, I should think you envied me.
But you will, perhaps, comprehend this cause of pleasure--which is
as great as any--namely, that I am delighted with myself for my
prudence, my self-command, my heartlessness, if you please. I was
not a bit taken by surprise, not a bit confused, or awkward, or
foolish; I just acted and spoke as I ought to have done, and was
completely my own mistress throughout. And here was a man,
decidedly good-looking--Jane and Susan Green call him bewitchingly
handsome I suppose they're two of the ladies he pretends would be
so glad to have him; but, however, he was certainly a very clever,
witty, agreeable companion--not what you call clever, but just
enough to make him entertaining; and a man one needn't be ashamed
of anywhere, and would not soon grow tired of; and to confess the
truth, I rather liked him--better even, of late, than Harry
Meltham--and he evidently idolised me; and yet, though he came upon
me all alone and unprepared, I had the wisdom, and the pride, and
the strength to refuse him--and so scornfully and coolly as I did:
I have good reason to be proud of that.'

'And are you equally proud of having told him that his having the
wealth of Sir Hugh Meltham would make no difference to you, when
that was not the case; and of having promised to tell no one of his
misadventure, apparently without the slightest intention of keeping
your promise?'

'Of course! what else could I do? You would not have had me--but I
see, Miss Grey, you're not in a good temper. Here's Matilda; I'll
see what she and mamma have to say about it.'

She left me, offended at my want of sympathy, and thinking, no
doubt, that I envied her. I did not--at least, I firmly believed I
did not. I was sorry for her; I was amazed, disgusted at her
heartless vanity; I wondered why so much beauty should be given to
those who made so bad a use of it, and denied to some who would
make it a benefit to both themselves and others.

But, God knows best, I concluded. There are, I suppose, some men
as vain, as selfish, and as heartless as she is, and, perhaps, such
women may be useful to punish them.

CHAPTER XV--THE WALK

'Oh, dear! I wish Hatfield had not been so precipitate!' said
Rosalie next day at four P.M., as, with a portentous yawn, she laid
down her worsted-work and looked listlessly towards the window.
'There's no inducement to go out now; and nothing to look forward
to. The days will be so long and dull when there are no parties to
enliven them; and there are none this week, or next either, that I
know of.'

'Pity you were so cross to him,' observed Matilda, to whom this
lamentation was addressed. 'He'll never come again: and I suspect
you liked him after all. I hoped you would have taken him for your
beau, and left dear Harry to me.'

'Humph! my beau must be an Adonis indeed, Matilda, the admired of
all beholders, if I am to be contented with him alone. I'm sorry
to lose Hatfield, I confess; but the first decent man, or number of
men, that come to supply his place, will be more than welcome.
It's Sunday to-morrow--I do wonder how he'll look, and whether
he'll be able to go through the service. Most likely he'll pretend
he's got a cold, and make Mr. Weston do it all.'

'Not he!' exclaimed Matilda, somewhat contemptuously. 'Fool as he
is, he's not so soft as that comes to.'

Her sister was slightly offended; but the event proved Matilda was
right: the disappointed lover performed his pastoral duties as
usual. Rosalie, indeed, affirmed he looked very pale and dejected:
he might be a little paler; but the difference, if any, was
scarcely perceptible. As for his dejection, I certainly did not
hear his laugh ringing from the vestry as usual, nor his voice loud
in hilarious discourse; though I did hear it uplifted in rating the
sexton in a manner that made the congregation stare; and, in his
transits to and from the pulpit and the communion-table, there was
more of solemn pomp, and less of that irreverent, self-confident,
or rather self-delighted imperiousness with which he usually swept
along--that air that seemed to say, 'You all reverence and adore
me, I know; but if anyone does not, I defy him to the teeth!' But
the most remarkable change was, that he never once suffered his
eyes to wander in the direction of Mr. Murray's pew, and did not
leave the church till we were gone.

Mr. Hatfield had doubtless received a very severe blow; but his
pride impelled him to use every effort to conceal the effects of
it. He had been disappointed in his certain hope of obtaining not
only a beautiful, and, to him, highly attractive wife, but one
whose rank and fortune might give brilliance to far inferior
charms: he was likewise, no doubt, intensely mortified by his
repulse, and deeply offended at the conduct of Miss Murray
throughout. It would have given him no little consolation to have
known how disappointed she was to find him apparently so little
moved, and to see that he was able to refrain from casting a single
glance at her throughout both services; though, she declared, it
showed he was thinking of her all the time, or his eyes would have
fallen upon her, if it were only by chance: but if they had so
chanced to fall, she would have affirmed it was because they could
not resist the attraction. It might have pleased him, too, in some
degree, to have seen how dull and dissatisfied she was throughout
that week (the greater part of it, at least), for lack of her usual
source of excitement; and how often she regretted having 'used him
up so soon,' like a child that, having devoured its plumcake too
hastily, sits sucking its fingers, and vainly lamenting its
greediness.

At length I was called upon, one fine morning, to accompany her in
a walk to the village. Ostensibly she went to get some shades of
Berlin wool, at a tolerably respectable shop that was chiefly
supported by the ladies of the vicinity: really--I trust there is
no breach of charity in supposing that she went with the idea of
meeting either with the Rector himself, or some other admirer by
the way; for as we went along, she kept wondering 'what Hatfield
would do or say, if we met him,' &c. &c.; as we passed Mr. Green's
park-gates, she 'wondered whether he was at home--great stupid
blockhead'; as Lady Meltham's carriage passed us, she 'wondered
what Mr. Harry was doing this fine day'; and then began to abuse
his elder brother for being 'such a fool as to get married and go
and live in London.'

'Why,' said I, 'I thought you wanted to live in London yourself.'

'Yes, because it's so dull here: but then he makes it still duller
by taking himself off: and if he were not married I might have him
instead of that odious Sir Thomas.'

Then, observing the prints of a horse's feet on the somewhat miry
road, she 'wondered whether it was a gentleman's horse,' and
finally concluded it was, for the impressions were too small to
have been made by a 'great clumsy cart-horse'; and then she
'wondered who the rider could be,' and whether we should meet him
coming back, for she was sure he had only passed that morning; and
lastly, when we entered the village and saw only a few of its
humble inhabitants moving about, she 'wondered why the stupid
people couldn't keep in their houses; she was sure she didn't want
to see their ugly faces, and dirty, vulgar clothes--it wasn't for
that she came to Horton!'

Amid all this, I confess, I wondered, too, in secret, whether we
should meet, or catch a glimpse of somebody else; and as we passed
his lodgings, I even went so far as to wonder whether he was at the
window. On entering the shop, Miss Murray desired me to stand in
the doorway while she transacted her business, and tell her if
anyone passed. But alas! there was no one visible besides the
villagers, except Jane and Susan Green coming down the single
street, apparently returning from a walk.

'Stupid things!' muttered she, as she came out after having
concluded her bargain. 'Why couldn't they have their dolt of a
brother with them? even he would be better than nothing.'

She greeted them, however, with a cheerful smile, and protestations
of pleasure at the happy meeting equal to their own. They placed
themselves one on each side of her, and all three walked away
chatting and laughing as young ladies do when they get together, if
they be but on tolerably intimate terms. But I, feeling myself to
be one too many, left them to their merriment and lagged behind, as
usual on such occasions: I had no relish for walking beside Miss
Green or Miss Susan like one deaf and dumb, who could neither speak
nor be spoken to.

But this time I was not long alone. It struck me, first, as very
odd, that just as I was thinking about Mr. Weston he should come up
and accost me; but afterwards, on due reflection, I thought there
was nothing odd about it, unless it were the fact of his speaking
to me; for on such a morning and so near his own abode, it was
natural enough that he should be about; and as for my thinking of
him, I had been doing that, with little intermission, ever since we
set out on our journey; so there was nothing remarkable in that.

'You are alone again, Miss Grey,' said he.

'Yes.'

'What kind of people are those ladies--the Misses Green?'

'I really don't know.'

'That's strange--when you live so near and see them so often!'

'Well, I suppose they are lively, good-tempered girls; but I
imagine you must know them better than I do, yourself, for I never
exchanged a word with either of them.'

'Indeed? They don't strike me as being particularly reserved.'

'Very likely they are not so to people of their own class; but they
consider themselves as moving in quite a different sphere from me!'

He made no reply to this: but after a short pause, he said,--'I
suppose it's these things, Miss Grey, that make you think you could
not live without a home?'

'Not exactly. The fact is I am too socially disposed to be able to
live contentedly without a friend; and as the only friends I have,
or am likely to have, are at home, if it--or rather, if they were
gone--I will not say I could not live--but I would rather not live
in such a desolate world.'

'But why do you say the only friends you are likely to have? Are
you so unsociable that you cannot make friends?'

'No, but I never made one yet; and in my present position there is
no possibility of doing so, or even of forming a common
acquaintance. The fault may be partly in myself, but I hope not
altogether.'

'The fault is partly in society, and partly, I should think, in
your immediate neighbours: and partly, too, in yourself; for many
ladies, in your position, would make themselves be noticed and
accounted of. But your pupils should be companions for you in some
degree; they cannot be many years younger than yourself.'

'Oh, yes, they are good company sometimes; but I cannot call them
friends, nor would they think of bestowing such a name on me--they
have other companions better suited to their tastes.'

'Perhaps you are too wise for them. How do you amuse yourself when
alone--do you read much?'

'Reading is my favourite occupation, when I have leisure for it and
books to read.'

From speaking of books in general, he passed to different books in
particular, and proceeded by rapid transitions from topic to topic,
till several matters, both of taste and opinion, had been discussed
considerably within the space of half an hour, but without the
embellishment of many observations from himself; he being evidently
less bent upon communicating his own thoughts and predilections,
than on discovering mine. He had not the tact, or the art, to
effect such a purpose by skilfully drawing out my sentiments or
ideas through the real or apparent statement of his own, or leading
the conversation by imperceptible gradations to such topics as he
wished to advert to: but such gentle abruptness, and such single-
minded straightforwardness, could not possibly offend me.

'And why should he interest himself at all in my moral and
intellectual capacities: what is it to him what I think or feel?'
I asked myself. And my heart throbbed in answer to the question.

But Jane and Susan Green soon reached their home. As they stood
parleying at the park-gates, attempting to persuade Miss Murray to
come in, I wished Mr. Weston would go, that she might not see him
with me when she turned round; but, unfortunately, his business,
which was to pay one more visit to poor Mark Wood, led him to
pursue the same path as we did, till nearly the close of our
journey. When, however, he saw that Rosalie had taken leave of her
friends and I was about to join her, he would have left me and
passed on at a quicker pace; but, as he civilly lifted his hat in
passing her, to my surprise, instead of returning the salute with a
stiff, ungracious bow, she accosted him with one of her sweetest
smiles, and, walking by his side, began to talk to him with all
imaginable cheerfulness and affability; and so we proceeded all
three together.

After a short pause in the conversation, Mr. Weston made some
remark addressed particularly to me, as referring to something we
had been talking of before; but before I could answer, Miss Murray
replied to the observation and enlarged upon it: he rejoined; and,
from thence to the close of the interview, she engrossed him
entirely to herself. It might be partly owing to my own stupidity,
my want of tact and assurance: but I felt myself wronged: I
trembled with apprehension; and I listened with envy to her easy,
rapid flow of utterance, and saw with anxiety the bright smile with
which she looked into his face from time to time: for she was
walking a little in advance, for the purpose (as I judged) of being
seen as well as heard. If her conversation was light and trivial,
it was amusing, and she was never at a loss for something to say,
or for suitable words to express it in. There was nothing pert or
flippant in her manner now, as when she walked with Mr. Hatfield,
there was only a gentle, playful kind of vivacity, which I thought
must be peculiarly pleasing to a man of Mr. Weston's disposition
and temperament.

When he was gone she began to laugh, and muttered to herself, 'I
thought I could do it!'

'Do what?' I asked.

'Fix that man.'

'What in the world do you mean?'

'I mean that he will go home and dream of me. I have shot him
through the heart!'

'How do you know?'

'By many infallible proofs: more especially the look he gave me
when he went away. It was not an impudent look--I exonerate him
from that--it was a look of reverential, tender adoration. Ha, ha!
he's not quite such a stupid blockhead as I thought him!'

I made no answer, for my heart was in my throat, or something like
it, and I could not trust myself to speak. 'O God, avert it!' I
cried, internally--'for his sake, not for mine!'

Miss Murray made several trivial observations as we passed up the
park, to which (in spite of my reluctance to let one glimpse of my
feelings appear) I could only answer by monosyllables. Whether she
intended to torment me, or merely to amuse herself, I could not
tell--and did not much care; but I thought of the poor man and his
one lamb, and the rich man with his thousand flocks; and I dreaded
I knew not what for Mr. Weston, independently of my own blighted
hopes.

Right glad was I to get into the house, and find myself alone once
more in my own room. My first impulse was to sink into the chair
beside the bed; and laying my head on the pillow, to seek relief in
a passionate burst of tears: there was an imperative craving for
such an indulgence; but, alas! I must restrain and swallow back my
feelings still: there was the bell--the odious bell for the
schoolroom dinner; and I must go down with a calm face, and smile,
and laugh, and talk nonsense--yes, and eat, too, if possible, as if
all was right, and I was just returned from a pleasant walk.

CHAPTER XVI--THE SUBSTITUTION

Next Sunday was one of the gloomiest of April days--a day of thick,
dark clouds, and heavy showers. None of the Murrays were disposed
to attend church in the afternoon, excepting Rosalie: she was bent
upon going as usual; so she ordered the carriage, and I went with
her: nothing loth, of course, for at church I might look without
fear of scorn or censure upon a form and face more pleasing to me
than the most beautiful of God's creations; I might listen without
disturbance to a voice more charming than the sweetest music to my
ears; I might seem to hold communion with that soul in which I felt
so deeply interested, and imbibe its purest thoughts and holiest
aspirations, with no alloy to such felicity except the secret
reproaches of my conscience, which would too often whisper that I
was deceiving my own self, and mocking God with the service of a
heart more bent upon the creature than the Creator.

Sometimes, such thoughts would give me trouble enough; but
sometimes I could quiet them with thinking--it is not the man, it
is his goodness that I love. 'Whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are honest and of
good report, think on these things.' We do well to worship God in
His works; and I know none of them in which so many of His
attributes--so much of His own spirit shines, as in this His
faithful servant; whom to know and not to appreciate, were obtuse
insensibility in me, who have so little else to occupy my heart.

Almost immediately after the conclusion of the service, Miss Murray
left the church. We had to stand in the porch, for it was raining,
and the carriage was not yet come. I wondered at her coming forth
so hastily, for neither young Meltham nor Squire Green was there;
but I soon found it was to secure an interview with Mr. Weston as
he came out, which he presently did. Having saluted us both, he
would have passed on, but she detained him; first with observations
upon the disagreeable weather, and then with asking if he would be
so kind as to come some time to-morrow to see the granddaughter of
the old woman who kept the porter's lodge, for the girl was ill of
a fever, and wished to see him. He promised to do so.

'And at what time will you be most likely to come, Mr. Weston? The
old woman will like to know when to expect you--you know such
people think more about having their cottages in order when decent
people come to see them than we are apt to suppose.'

Here was a wonderful instance of consideration from the thoughtless
Miss Murray. Mr. Weston named an hour in the morning at which he
would endeavour, to be there. By this time the carriage was ready,
and the footman was waiting, with an open umbrella, to escort Miss
Murray through the churchyard. I was about to follow; but Mr.
Weston had an umbrella too, and offered me the benefit of its
shelter, for it was raining heavily.

'No, thank you, I don't mind the rain,' I said. I always lacked
common sense when taken by surprise.

'But you don't LIKE it, I suppose?--an umbrella will do you no harm
at any rate,' he replied, with a smile that showed he was not
offended; as a man of worse temper or less penetration would have
been at such a refusal of his aid. I could not deny the truth of
his assertion, and so went with him to the carriage; he even
offered me his hand on getting in: an unnecessary piece of
civility, but I accepted that too, for fear of giving offence. One
glance he gave, one little smile at parting--it was but for a
moment; but therein I read, or thought I read, a meaning that
kindled in my heart a brighter flame of hope than had ever yet
arisen.

'I would have sent the footman back for you, Miss Grey, if you'd
waited a moment--you needn't have taken Mr. Weston's umbrella,'
observed Rosalie, with a very unamiable cloud upon her pretty face.

'I would have come without an umbrella, but Mr. Weston offered me
the benefit of his, and I could not have refused it more than I did
without offending him,' replied I, smiling placidly; for my inward
happiness made that amusing, which would have wounded me at another
time.

The carriage was now in motion. Miss Murray bent forwards, and
looked out of the window as we were passing Mr. Weston. He was
pacing homewards along the causeway, and did not turn his head.

'Stupid ass!' cried she, throwing herself back again in the seat.
'You don't know what you've lost by not looking this way!'

'What has he lost?'

'A bow from me, that would have raised him to the seventh heaven!'

I made no answer. I saw she was out of humour, and I derived a
secret gratification from the fact, not that she was vexed, but
that she thought she had reason to be so. It made me think my
hopes were not entirely the offspring of my wishes and imagination.

'I mean to take up Mr. Weston instead of Mr. Hatfield,' said my
companion, after a short pause, resuming something of her usual
cheerfulness. 'The ball at Ashby Park takes place on Tuesday, you
know; and mamma thinks it very likely that Sir Thomas will propose
to me then: such things are often done in the privacy of the ball-
room, when gentlemen are most easily ensnared, and ladies most
enchanting. But if I am to be married so soon, I must make the
best of the present time: I am determined Hatfield shall not be
the only man who shall lay his heart at my feet, and implore me to
accept the worthless gift in vain.'

'If you mean Mr. Weston to be one of your victims,' said I, with
affected indifference, 'you will have to make such overtures
yourself that you will find it difficult to draw back when he asks
you to fulfil the expectations you have raised.'

'I don't suppose he will ask me to marry him, nor should I desire
it: that would be rather too much presumption! but I intend him to
feel my power. He has felt it already, indeed: but he shall
ACKNOWLEDGE it too; and what visionary hopes he may have, he must
keep to himself, and only amuse me with the result of them--for a
time.'

'Oh! that some kind spirit would whisper those words in his ear,' I
inwardly exclaimed. I was far too indignant to hazard a reply to
her observation aloud; and nothing more was said about Mr. Weston
that day, by me or in my hearing. But next morning, soon after
breakfast, Miss Murray came into the schoolroom, where her sister
was employed at her studies, or rather her lessons, for studies
they were not, and said, 'Matilda, I want you to take a walk with
me about eleven o'clock.'

'Oh, I can't, Rosalie! I have to give orders about my new bridle
and saddle-cloth, and speak to the rat-catcher about his dogs:
Miss Grey must go with you.'

'No, I want you,' said Rosalie; and calling her sister to the
window, she whispered an explanation in her ear; upon which the
latter consented to go.

I remembered that eleven was the hour at which Mr. Weston proposed
to come to the porter's lodge; and remembering that, I beheld the
whole contrivance. Accordingly, at dinner, I was entertained with
a long account of how Mr. Weston had overtaken them as they were
walking along the road; and how they had had a long walk and talk
with him, and really found him quite an agreeable companion; and
how he must have been, and evidently was, delighted with them and
their amazing condescension, &c. &c.

CHAPTER XVII--CONFESSIONS

As I am in the way of confessions I may as well acknowledge that,
about this time, I paid more attention to dress than ever I had
done before. This is not saying much--for hitherto I had been a
little neglectful in that particular; but now, also, it was no
uncommon thing to spend as much as two minutes in the contemplation
of my own image in the glass; though I never could derive any
consolation from such a study. I could discover no beauty in those
marked features, that pale hollow cheek, and ordinary dark brown
hair; there might be intellect in the forehead, there might be
expression in the dark grey eyes, but what of that?--a low Grecian
brow, and large black eyes devoid of sentiment would be esteemed
far preferable. It is foolish to wish for beauty. Sensible people
never either desire it for themselves or care about it in others.
If the mind be but well cultivated, and the heart well disposed, no
one ever cares for the exterior. So said the teachers of our
childhood; and so say we to the children of the present day. All
very judicious and proper, no doubt; but are such assertions
supported by actual experience?

We are naturally disposed to love what gives us pleasure, and what
more pleasing than a beautiful face--when we know no harm of the
possessor at least? A little girl loves her bird--Why? Because it
lives and feels; because it is helpless and harmless? A toad,
likewise, lives and feels, and is equally helpless and harmless;
but though she would not hurt a toad, she cannot love it like the
bird, with its graceful form, soft feathers, and bright, speaking
eyes. If a woman is fair and amiable, she is praised for both
qualities, but especially the former, by the bulk of mankind: if,
on the other hand, she is disagreeable in person and character, her
plainness is commonly inveighed against as her greatest crime,
because, to common observers, it gives the greatest offence; while,
if she is plain and good, provided she is a person of retired
manners and secluded life, no one ever knows of her goodness,
except her immediate connections. Others, on the contrary, are
disposed to form unfavourable opinions of her mind, and
disposition, if it be but to excuse themselves for their
instinctive dislike of one so unfavoured by nature; and visa versa
with her whose angel form conceals a vicious heart, or sheds a
false, deceitful charm over defects and foibles that would not be
tolerated in another. They that have beauty, let them be thankful
for it, and make a good use of it, like any other talent; they that
have it not, let them console themselves, and do the best they can
without it: certainly, though liable to be over-estimated, it is a
gift of God, and not to be despised. Many will feel this who have
felt that they could love, and whose hearts tell them that they are
worthy to be loved again; while yet they are debarred, by the lack
of this or some such seeming trifle, from giving and receiving that
happiness they seem almost made to feel and to impart. As well
might the humble glowworm despise that power of giving light
without which the roving fly might pass her and repass her a
thousand times, and never rest beside her: she might hear her
winged darling buzzing over and around her; he vainly seeking her,
she longing to be found, but with no power to make her presence
known, no voice to call him, no wings to follow his flight;--the
fly must seek another mate, the worm must live and die alone.

Such were some of my reflections about this period. I might go on
prosing more and more, I might dive much deeper, and disclose other
thoughts, propose questions the reader might be puzzled to answer,
and deduce arguments that might startle his prejudices, or,
perhaps, provoke his ridicule, because he could not comprehend
them; but I forbear.

Now, therefore, let us return to Miss Murray. She accompanied her
mamma to the ball on Tuesday; of course splendidly attired, and
delighted with her prospects and her charms. As Ashby Park was
nearly ten miles distant from Horton Lodge, they had to set out
pretty early, and I intended to have spent the evening with Nancy
Brown, whom I had not seen for a long time; but my kind pupil took
care I should spend it neither there nor anywhere else beyond the
limits of the schoolroom, by giving me a piece of music to copy,
which kept me closely occupied till bed-time. About eleven next
morning, as soon as she had left her room, she came to tell me her
news. Sir Thomas had indeed proposed to her at the ball; an event
which reflected great credit on her mamma's sagacity, if not upon
her skill in contrivance. I rather incline to the belief that she
had first laid her plans, and then predicted their success. The
offer had been accepted, of course, and the bridegroom elect was
coming that day to settle matters with Mr. Murray.

Rosalie was pleased with the thoughts of becoming mistress of Ashby
Park; she was elated with the prospect of the bridal ceremony and
its attendant splendour and eclat, the honeymoon spent abroad, and
the subsequent gaieties she expected to enjoy in London and
elsewhere; she appeared pretty well pleased too, for the time
being, with Sir Thomas himself, because she had so lately seen him,
danced with him, and been flattered by him; but, after all, she
seemed to shrink from the idea of being so soon united: she wished
the ceremony to be delayed some months, at least; and I wished it
too. It seemed a horrible thing to hurry on the inauspicious
match, and not to give the poor creature time to think and reason
on the irrevocable step she was about to take. I made no
pretension to 'a mother's watchful, anxious care,' but I was amazed
and horrified at Mrs. Murray's heartlessness, or want of thought
for the real good of her child; and by my unheeded warnings and
exhortations, I vainly strove to remedy the evil. Miss Murray only
laughed at what I said; and I soon found that her reluctance to an
immediate union arose chiefly from a desire to do what execution
she could among the young gentlemen of her acquaintance, before she
was incapacitated from further mischief of the kind. It was for
this cause that, before confiding to me the secret of her
engagement, she had extracted a promise that I would not mention a
word on the subject to any one. And when I saw this, and when I
beheld her plunge more recklessly than ever into the depths of
heartless coquetry, I had no more pity for her. 'Come what will,'
I thought, 'she deserves it. Sir Thomas cannot be too bad for her;
and the sooner she is incapacitated from deceiving and injuring
others the better.'

The wedding was fixed for the first of June. Between that and the
critical ball was little more than six weeks; but, with Rosalie's
accomplished skill and resolute exertion, much might be done, even
within that period; especially as Sir Thomas spent most of the
interim in London; whither he went up, it was said, to settle
affairs with his lawyer, and make other preparations for the
approaching nuptials. He endeavoured to supply the want of his
presence by a pretty constant fire of billets-doux; but these did
not attract the neighbours' attention, and open their eyes, as
personal visits would have done; and old Lady Ashby's haughty, sour
spirit of reserve withheld her from spreading the news, while her
indifferent health prevented her coming to visit her future
daughter-in-law; so that, altogether, this affair was kept far
closer than such things usually are.

Rosalie would sometimes show her lover's epistles to me, to
convince me what a kind, devoted husband he would make. She showed
me the letters of another individual, too, the unfortunate Mr.
Green, who had not the courage, or, as she expressed it, the
'spunk,' to plead his cause in person, but whom one denial would
not satisfy: he must write again and again. He would not have
done so if he could have seen the grimaces his fair idol made over
his moving appeals to her feelings, and heard her scornful
laughter, and the opprobrious epithets she heaped upon him for his
perseverance.

'Why don't you tell him, at once, that you are engaged?' I asked.

'Oh, I don't want him to know that,' replied she. 'If he knew it,
his sisters and everybody would know it, and then there would be an
end of my--ahem! And, besides, if I told him that, he would think
my engagement was the only obstacle, and that I would have him if I
were free; which I could not bear that any man should think, and
he, of all others, at least. Besides, I don't care for his
letters,' she added, contemptuously; 'he may write as often as he
pleases, and look as great a calf as he likes when I meet him; it
only amuses me.'

Meantime, young Meltham was pretty frequent in his visits to the
house or transits past it; and, judging by Matilda's execrations
and reproaches, her sister paid more attention to him than civility
required; in other words, she carried on as animated a flirtation
as the presence of her parents would admit. She made some attempts
to bring Mr. Hatfield once more to her feet; but finding them
unsuccessful, she repaid his haughty indifference with still
loftier scorn, and spoke of him with as much disdain and
detestation as she had formerly done of his curate. But, amid all
this, she never for a moment lost sight of Mr. Weston. She
embraced every opportunity of meeting him, tried every art to
fascinate him, and pursued him with as much perseverance as if she
really loved him and no other, and the happiness of her life
depended upon eliciting a return of affection. Such conduct was
completely beyond my comprehension. Had I seen it depicted in a
novel, I should have thought it unnatural; had I heard it described
by others, I should have deemed it a mistake or an exaggeration;
but when I saw it with my own eyes, and suffered from it too, I
could only conclude that excessive vanity, like drunkenness,
hardens the heart, enslaves the faculties, and perverts the
feelings; and that dogs are not the only creatures which, when
gorged to the throat, will yet gloat over what they cannot devour,
and grudge the smallest morsel to a starving brother.

She now became extremely beneficent to the poor cottagers. Her
acquaintance among them was more widely extended, her visits to
their humble dwellings were more frequent and excursive than they
had ever been before. Hereby, she earned among them the reputation
of a condescending and very charitable young lady; and their
encomiums were sure to be repeated to Mr. Weston: whom also she
had thus a daily chance of meeting in one or other of their abodes,
or in her transits to and fro; and often, likewise, she could
gather, through their gossip, to what places he was likely to go at
such and such a time, whether to baptize a child, or to visit the
aged, the sick, the sad, or the dying; and most skilfully she laid
her plans accordingly. In these excursions she would sometimes go
with her sister--whom, by some means, she had persuaded or bribed
to enter into her schemes--sometimes alone, never, now, with me; so
that I was debarred the pleasure of seeing Mr. Weston, or hearing
his voice even in conversation with another: which would certainly
have been a very great pleasure, however hurtful or however fraught
with pain. I could not even see him at church: for Miss Murray,
under some trivial pretext, chose to take possession of that corner
in the family pew which had been mine ever since I came; and,
unless I had the presumption to station myself between Mr. and Mrs.
Murray, I must sit with my back to the pulpit, which I accordingly
did.

Now, also, I never walked home with my pupils: they said their
mamma thought it did not look well to see three people out of the
family walking, and only two going in the carriage; and, as they
greatly preferred walking in fine weather, I should be honoured by
going with the seniors. 'And besides,' said they, 'you can't walk
as fast as we do; you know you're always lagging behind.' I knew
these were false excuses, but I made no objections, and never
contradicted such assertions, well knowing the motives which
dictated them. And in the afternoons, during those six memorable
weeks, I never went to church at all. If I had a cold, or any
slight indisposition, they took advantage of that to make me stay
at home; and often they would tell me they were not going again
that day, themselves, and then pretend to change their minds, and
set off without telling me: so managing their departure that I
never discovered the change of purpose till too late. Upon their
return home, on one of these occasions, they entertained me with an
animated account of a conversation they had had with Mr. Weston as
they came along. 'And he asked if you were ill, Miss Grey,' said
Matilda; 'but we told him you were quite well, only you didn't want
to come to church--so he'll think you're turned wicked.'

All chance meetings on week-days were likewise carefully prevented;
for, lest I should go to see poor Nancy Brown or any other person,
Miss Murray took good care to provide sufficient employment for all
my leisure hours. There was always some drawing to finish, some
music to copy, or some work to do, sufficient to incapacitate me
from indulging in anything beyond a short walk about the grounds,
however she or her sister might be occupied.

One morning, having sought and waylaid Mr. Weston, they returned in
high glee to give me an account of their interview. 'And he asked
after you again,' said Matilda, in spite of her sister's silent but
imperative intimation that she should hold her tongue. 'He
wondered why you were never with us, and thought you must have
delicate health, as you came out so seldom.'

'He didn't Matilda--what nonsense you're talking!'

'Oh, Rosalie, what a lie! He did, you know; and you said--Don't,
Rosalie--hang it!--I won't be pinched so! And, Miss Grey, Rosalie
told him you were quite well, but you were always so buried in your
books that you had no pleasure in anything else.'

'What an idea he must have of me!' I thought.

'And,' I asked, 'does old Nancy ever inquire about me?'

'Yes; and we tell her you are so fond of reading and drawing that
you can do nothing else.'

'That is not the case though; if you had told her I was so busy I
could not come to see her, it would have been nearer the truth.'

'I don't think it would,' replied Miss Murray, suddenly kindling
up; 'I'm sure you have plenty of time to yourself now, when you
have so little teaching to do.'

It was no use beginning to dispute with such indulged, unreasoning
creatures: so I held my peace. I was accustomed, now, to keeping
silence when things distasteful to my ear were uttered; and now,
too, I was used to wearing a placid smiling countenance when my
heart was bitter within me. Only those who have felt the like can
imagine my feelings, as I sat with an assumption of smiling
indifference, listening to the accounts of those meetings and
interviews with Mr. Weston, which they seemed to find such pleasure
in describing to me; and hearing things asserted of him which, from
the character of the man, I knew to be exaggerations and
perversions of the truth, if not entirely false--things derogatory
to him, and flattering to them--especially to Miss Murray--which I
burned to contradict, or, at least, to show my doubts about, but
dared not; lest, in expressing my disbelief, I should display my
interest too. Other things I heard, which I felt or feared were
indeed too true: but I must still conceal my anxiety respecting
him, my indignation against them, beneath a careless aspect;
others, again, mere hints of something said or done, which I longed
to hear more of, but could not venture to inquire. So passed the
weary time. I could not even comfort myself with saying, 'She will
soon be married; and then there may be hope.'

Soon after her marriage the holidays would come; and when I
returned from home, most likely, Mr. Weston would be gone, for I
was told that he and the Rector could not agree (the Rector's
fault, of course), and he was about to remove to another place.

No--besides my hope in God, my only consolation was in thinking
that, though he know it not, I was more worthy of his love than
Rosalie Murray, charming and engaging as she was; for I could
appreciate his excellence, which she could not: I would devote my
life to the promotion of his happiness; she would destroy his
happiness for the momentary gratification of her own vanity. 'Oh,
if he could but know the difference!' I would earnestly exclaim.
'But no! I would not have him see my heart: yet, if he could but
know her hollowness, her worthless, heartless frivolity, he would
then be safe, and I should be--ALMOST happy, though I might never
see him more!'

I fear, by this time, the reader is well nigh disgusted with the
folly and weakness I have so freely laid before him. I never
disclosed it then, and would not have done so had my own sister or
my mother been with me in the house. I was a close and resolute
dissembler--in this one case at least. My prayers, my tears, my
wishes, fears, and lamentations, were witnessed by myself and
heaven alone.

When we are harassed by sorrows or anxieties, or long oppressed by
any powerful feelings which we must keep to ourselves, for which we
can obtain and seek no sympathy from any living creature, and which
yet we cannot, or will not wholly crush, we often naturally seek
relief in poetry--and often find it, too--whether in the effusions
of others, which seem to harmonize with our existing case, or in
our own attempts to give utterance to those thoughts and feelings
in strains less musical, perchance, but more appropriate, and
therefore more penetrating and sympathetic, and, for the time, more
soothing, or more powerful to rouse and to unburden the oppressed
and swollen heart. Before this time, at Wellwood House and here,
when suffering from home-sick melancholy, I had sought relief twice
or thrice at this secret source of consolation; and now I flew to
it again, with greater avidity than ever, because I seemed to need
it more. I still preserve those relics of past sufferings and
experience, like pillars of witness set up in travelling through
the vale of life, to mark particular occurrences. The footsteps
are obliterated now; the face of the country may be changed; but
the pillar is still there, to remind me how all things were when it
was reared. Lest the reader should be curious to see any of these
effusions, I will favour him with one short specimen: cold and
languid as the lines may seem, it was almost a passion of grief to
which they owed their being:-

Oh, they have robbed me of the hope
My spirit held so dear;
They will not let me hear that voice
My soul delights to hear.

They will not let me see that face
I so delight to see;
And they have taken all thy smiles,
And all thy love from me.

Well, let them seize on all they can; -
One treasure still is mine, -
A heart that loves to think on thee,
And feels the worth of thine.

Yes, at least, they could not deprive me of that: I could think of
him day and night; and I could feel that he was worthy to be
thought of. Nobody knew him as I did; nobody could appreciate him
as I did; nobody could love him as I--could, if I might: but there
was the evil. What business had I to think so much of one that
never thought of me? Was it not foolish? was it not wrong? Yet,
if I found such deep delight in thinking of him, and if I kept
those thoughts to myself, and troubled no one else with them, where
was the harm of it? I would ask myself. And such reasoning
prevented me from making any sufficient effort to shake off my
fetters.

But, if those thoughts brought delight, it was a painful, troubled
pleasure, too near akin to anguish; and one that did me more injury
than I was aware of. It was an indulgence that a person of more
wisdom or more experience would doubtless have denied herself. And
yet, how dreary to turn my eyes from the contemplation of that
bright object and force them to dwell on the dull, grey, desolate
prospect around: the joyless, hopeless, solitary path that lay
before me. It was wrong to be so joyless, so desponding; I should
have made God my friend, and to do His will the pleasure and the
business of my life; but faith was weak, and passion was too
strong.

In this time of trouble I had two other causes of affliction. The
first may seem a trifle, but it cost me many a tear: Snap, my
little dumb, rough-visaged, but bright-eyed, warm-hearted
companion, the only thing I had to love me, was taken away, and
delivered over to the tender mercies of the village rat-catcher, a
man notorious for his brutal treatment of his canine slaves. The
other was serious enough; my letters from home gave intimation that
my father's health was worse. No boding fears were expressed, but
I was grown timid and despondent, and could not help fearing that
some dreadful calamity awaited us there. I seemed to see the black
clouds gathering round my native hills, and to hear the angry
muttering of a storm that was about to burst, and desolate our
hearth.

CHAPTER XVIII--MIRTH AND MOURNING

The 1st of June arrived at last: and Rosalie Murray was transmuted
into Lady Ashby. Most splendidly beautiful she looked in her
bridal costume. Upon her return from church, after the ceremony,
she came flying into the schoolroom, flushed with excitement, and
laughing, half in mirth, and half in reckless desperation, as it
seemed to me.

'Now, Miss Grey, I'm Lady Ashby!' she exclaimed. 'It's done, my
fate is sealed: there's no drawing back now. I'm come to receive
your congratulations and bid you good-by; and then I'm off for
Paris, Rome, Naples, Switzerland, London--oh, dear! what a deal I
shall see and hear before I come back again. But don't forget me:
I shan't forget you, though I've been a naughty girl. Come, why
don't you congratulate me?'

'I cannot congratulate you,' I replied, 'till I know whether this
change is really for the better: but I sincerely hope it is; and I
wish you true happiness and the best of blessings.'

'Well, good-by, the carriage is waiting, and they're calling me.'

She gave me a hasty kiss, and was hurrying away; but, suddenly
returning, embraced me with more affection than I thought her
capable of evincing, and departed with tears in her eyes. Poor
girl! I really loved her then; and forgave her from my heart all
the injury she had done me--and others also: she had not half
known it, I was sure; and I prayed God to pardon her too.

During the remainder of that day of festal sadness, I was left to
my own devices. Being too much unhinged for any steady occupation,
I wandered about with a book in my hand for several hours, more
thinking than reading, for I had many things to think about. In
the evening, I made use of my liberty to go and see my old friend
Nancy once again; to apologize for my long absence (which must have
seemed so neglectful and unkind) by telling her how busy I had
been; and to talk, or read, or work for her, whichever might be
most acceptable, and also, of course, to tell her the news of this
important day: and perhaps to obtain a little information from her
in return, respecting Mr. Weston's expected departure. But of this
she seemed to know nothing, and I hoped, as she did, that it was
all a false report. She was very glad to see me; but, happily, her
eyes were now so nearly well that she was almost independent of my
services. She was deeply interested in the wedding; but while I
amused her with the details of the festive day, the splendours of
the bridal party and of the bride herself, she often sighed and
shook her head, and wished good might come of it; she seemed, like
me, to regard it rather as a theme for sorrow than rejoicing. I
sat a long time talking to her about that and other things--but no
one came.

Shall I confess that I sometimes looked towards the door with a
half-expectant wish to see it open and give entrance to Mr. Weston,
as had happened once before? and that, returning through the lanes
and fields, I often paused to look round me, and walked more slowly
than was at all necessary--for, though a fine evening, it was not a
hot one--and, finally, felt a sense of emptiness and disappointment
at having reached the house without meeting or even catching a
distant glimpse of any one, except a few labourers returning from
their work?

Sunday, however, was approaching: I should see him then: for now
that Miss Murray was gone, I could have my old corner again. I
should see him, and by look, speech, and manner, I might judge
whether the circumstance of her marriage had very much afflicted
him. Happily I could perceive no shadow of a difference: he wore
the same aspect as he had worn two months ago--voice, look, manner,
all alike unchanged: there was the same keen-sighted, unclouded
truthfulness in his discourse, the same forcible clearness in his
style, the same earnest simplicity in all he said and did, that
made itself, not marked by the eye and ear, but felt upon the
hearts of his audience.

I walked home with Miss Matilda; but HE DID NOT JOIN US. Matilda
was now sadly at a loss for amusement, and wofully in want of a
companion: her brothers at school, her sister married and gone,
she too young to be admitted into society; for which, from
Rosalie's example, she was in some degree beginning to acquire a
taste--a taste at least for the company of certain classes of
gentlemen; at this dull time of year--no hunting going on, no
shooting even--for, though she might not join in that, it was
SOMETHING to see her father or the gamekeeper go out with the dogs,
and to talk with them on their return, about the different birds
they had bagged. Now, also, she was denied the solace which the
companionship of the coachman, grooms, horses, greyhounds, and
pointers might have afforded; for her mother having,
notwithstanding the disadvantages of a country life, so
satisfactorily disposed of her elder daughter, the pride of her
heart had begun seriously to turn her attention to the younger;
and, being truly alarmed at the roughness of her manners, and
thinking it high time to work a reform, had been roused at length
to exert her authority, and prohibited entirely the yards, stables,
kennels, and coach-house. Of course, she was not implicitly
obeyed; but, indulgent as she had hitherto been, when once her
spirit was roused, her temper was not so gentle as she required
that of her governesses to be, and her will was not to be thwarted
with impunity. After many a scene of contention between mother and
daughter, many a violent outbreak which I was ashamed to witness,
in which the father's authority was often called in to confirm with
oaths and threats the mother's slighted prohibitions--for even HE
could see that 'Tilly, though she would have made a fine lad, was
not quite what a young lady ought to be'--Matilda at length found
that her easiest plan was to keep clear of the forbidden regions;
unless she could now and then steal a visit without her watchful
mother's knowledge.

Amid all this, let it not be imagined that I escaped without many a
reprimand, and many an implied reproach, that lost none of its
sting from not being openly worded; but rather wounded the more
deeply, because, from that very reason, it seemed to preclude self-
defence. Frequently, I was told to amuse Miss Matilda with other
things, and to remind her of her mother's precepts and
prohibitions. I did so to the best of my power: but she would not
be amused against her will, and could not against her taste; and
though I went beyond mere reminding, such gentle remonstrances as I
could use were utterly ineffectual.

'DEAR Miss Grey! it is the STRANGEST thing. I suppose you can't
help it, if it's not in your nature--but I WONDER you can't win the
confidence of that girl, and make your society at LEAST as
agreeable to her as that of Robert or Joseph!'

'They can talk the best about the things in which she is most
interested,' I replied.

'Well! that is a strange confession, HOWEVER, to come from her
GOVERNESS! Who is to form a young lady's tastes, I wonder, if the
governess doesn't do it? I have known governesses who have so
completely identified themselves with the reputation of their young
ladies for elegance and propriety in mind and manners, that they
would blush to speak a word against them; and to hear the slightest
blame imputed to their pupils was worse than to be censured in
their own persons--and I really think it very natural, for my
part.'

'Do you, ma'am?'

'Yes, of course: the young lady's proficiency and elegance is of
more consequence to the governess than her own, as well as to the
world. If she wishes to prosper in her vocation she must devote
all her energies to her business: all her ideas and all her
ambition will tend to the accomplishment of that one object. When
we wish to decide upon the merits of a governess, we naturally look
at the young ladies she professes to have educated, and judge
accordingly. The JUDICIOUS governess knows this: she knows that,
while she lives in obscurity herself, her pupils' virtues and
defects will be open to every eye; and that, unless she loses sight
of herself in their cultivation, she need not hope for success.
You see, Miss Grey, it is just the same as any other trade or
profession: they that wish to prosper must devote themselves body
and soul to their calling; and if they begin to yield to indolence
or self-indulgence they are speedily distanced by wiser
competitors: there is little to choose between a person that ruins
her pupils by neglect, and one that corrupts them by her example.
You will excuse my dropping these little hints: you know it is all
for your own good. Many ladies would speak to you much more
strongly; and many would not trouble themselves to speak at all,
but quietly look out for a substitute. That, of course, would be
the EASIEST plan: but I know the advantages of a place like this
to a person in your situation; and I have no desire to part with
you, as I am sure you would do very well if you will only think of
these things and try to exert yourself a LITTLE more: then, I am
convinced, you would SOON acquire that delicate tact which alone is
wanting to give you a proper influence over the mind of your
pupil.'

I was about to give the lady some idea of the fallacy of her
expectations; but she sailed away as soon as she had concluded her
speech. Having said what she wished, it was no part of her plan to
await my answer: it was my business to hear, and not to speak.

However, as I have said, Matilda at length yielded in some degree
to her mother's authority (pity it had not been exerted before);
and being thus deprived of almost every source of amusement, there
was nothing for it but to take long rides with the groom and long
walks with the governess, and to visit the cottages and farmhouses
on her father's estate, to kill time in chatting with the old men
and women that inhabited them. In one of these walks, it was our
chance to meet Mr. Weston. This was what I had long desired; but
now, for a moment, I wished either he or I were away: I felt my
heart throb so violently that I dreaded lest some outward signs of
emotion should appear; but I think he hardly glanced at me, and I
was soon calm enough. After a brief salutation to both, he asked
Matilda if she had lately heard from her sister.

'Yes,' replied she. 'She was at Paris when she wrote, and very
well, and very happy.'

She spoke the last word emphatically, and with a glance
impertinently sly. He did not seem to notice it, but replied, with
equal emphasis, and very seriously -

'I hope she will continue to be so.'

'Do you think it likely?' I ventured to inquire: for Matilda had
started off in pursuit of her dog, that was chasing a leveret.

'I cannot tell,' replied he. 'Sir Thomas may be a better man than
I suppose; but, from all I have heard and seen, it seems a pity
that one so young and gay, and--and interesting, to express many
things by one word--whose greatest, if not her only fault, appears
to be thoughtlessness--no trifling fault to be sure, since it
renders the possessor liable to almost every other, and exposes him
to so many temptations--but it seems a pity that she should be
thrown away on such a man. It was her mother's wish, I suppose?'

'Yes; and her own too, I think, for she always laughed at my
attempts to dissuade her from the step.'

'You did attempt it? Then, at least, you will have the
satisfaction of knowing that it is no fault of yours, if any harm
should come of it. As for Mrs. Murray, I don't know how she can
justify her conduct: if I had sufficient acquaintance with her,
I'd ask her.'

'It seems unnatural: but some people think rank and wealth the
chief good; and, if they can secure that for their children, they
think they have done their duty.'

'True: but is it not strange that persons of experience, who have
been married themselves, should judge so falsely?' Matilda now
came panting back, with the lacerated body of the young hare in her
hand.

'Was it your intention to kill that hare, or to save it, Miss
Murray?' asked Mr. Weston, apparently puzzled at her gleeful
countenance.

'I pretended to want to save it,' she answered, honestly enough,
'as it was so glaringly out of season; but I was better pleased to
see it lolled. However, you can both witness that I couldn't help
it: Prince was determined to have her; and he clutched her by the
back, and killed her in a minute! Wasn't it a noble chase?'

'Very! for a young lady after a leveret.'

There was a quiet sarcasm in the tone of his reply which was not
lost upon her; she shrugged her shoulders, and, turning away with a
significant 'Humph!' asked me how I had enjoyed the fun. I replied
that I saw no fun in the matter; but admitted that I had not
observed the transaction very narrowly.

'Didn't you see how it doubled--just like an old hare? and didn't
you hear it scream?'

'I'm happy to say I did not.'

'It cried out just like a child.'

'Poor little thing! What will you do with it?'

'Come along--I shall leave it in the first house we come to. I
don't want to take it home, for fear papa should scold me for
letting the dog kill it.'

Mr. Weston was now gone, and we too went on our way; but as we
returned, after having deposited the hare in a farm-house, and
demolished some spice-cake and currant-wine in exchange, we met him
returning also from the execution of his mission, whatever it might
be. He carried in his hand a cluster of beautiful bluebells, which
he offered to me; observing, with a smile, that though he had seen
so little of me for the last two months, he had not forgotten that
bluebells were numbered among my favourite flowers. It was done as
a simple act of goodwill, without compliment or remarkable
courtesy, or any look that could be construed into 'reverential,
tender adoration' (vide Rosalie Murray); but still, it was
something to find my unimportant saying so well remembered: it was
something that he had noticed so accurately the time I had ceased
to be visible.

'I was told,' said he, 'that you were a perfect bookworm, Miss
Grey: so completely absorbed in your studies that you were lost to
every other pleasure.'

'Yes, and it's quite true!' cried Matilda.

'No, Mr. Weston: don't believe it: it's a scandalous libel.
These young ladies are too fond of making random assertions at the
expense of their friends; and you ought to be careful how you
listen to them.'

'I hope THIS assertion is groundless, at any rate.'

'Why? Do you particularly object to ladies studying?'

'No; but I object to anyone so devoting himself or herself to
study, as to lose sight of everything else. Except under peculiar
circumstances, I consider very close and constant study as a waste
of time, and an injury to the mind as well as the body.'

'Well, I have neither the time nor the inclination for such
transgressions.'

We parted again.

Well! what is there remarkable in all this? Why have I recorded
it? Because, reader, it was important enough to give me a cheerful
evening, a night of pleasing dreams, and a morning of felicitous
hopes. Shallow-brained cheerfulness, foolish dreams, unfounded
hopes, you would say; and I will not venture to deny it:
suspicions to that effect arose too frequently in my own mind. But
our wishes are like tinder: the flint and steel of circumstances
are continually striking out sparks, which vanish immediately,
unless they chance to fall upon the tinder of our wishes; then,
they instantly ignite, and the flame of hope is kindled in a
moment.

But alas! that very morning, my flickering flame of hope was
dismally quenched by a letter from my mother, which spoke so
seriously of my father's increasing illness, that I feared there
was little or no chance of his recovery; and, close at hand as the
holidays were, I almost trembled lest they should come too late for
me to meet him in this world. Two days after, a letter from Mary
told me his life was despaired of, and his end seemed fast
approaching. Then, immediately, I sought permission to anticipate
the vacation, and go without delay. Mrs. Murray stared, and
wondered at the unwonted energy and boldness with which I urged the
request, and thought there was no occasion to hurry; but finally
gave me leave: stating, however, that there was 'no need to be in
such agitation about the matter--it might prove a false alarm after
all; and if not--why, it was only in the common course of nature:
we must all die some time; and I was not to suppose myself the only
afflicted person in the world;' and concluding with saying I might
have the phaeton to take me to O-. 'And instead of REPINING, Miss
Grey, be thankful for the PRIVILEGES you enjoy. There's many a
poor clergyman whose family would be plunged into ruin by the event
of his death; but you, you see, have influential friends ready to
continue their patronage, and to show you every consideration.'

I thanked her for her 'consideration,' and flew to my room to make
some hurried preparations for my departure. My bonnet and shawl
being on, and a few things hastily crammed into my largest trunk, I
descended. But I might have done the work more leisurely, for no
one else was in a hurry; and I had still a considerable time to
wait for the phaeton. At length it came to the door, and I was
off: but, oh, what a dreary journey was that! how utterly
different from my former passages homewards! Being too late for
the last coach to -, I had to hire a cab for ten miles, and then a
car to take me over the rugged hills.

It was half-past ten before I reached home. They were not in bed.

My mother and sister both met me in the passage--sad--silent--pale!
I was so much shocked and terror-stricken that I could not speak,
to ask the information I so much longed yet dreaded to obtain.

'Agnes!' said my mother, struggling to repress some strong emotion.

'Oh, Agnes!' cried Mary, and burst into tears.

'How is he?' I asked, gasping for the answer.

'Dead!'

It was the reply I had anticipated: but the shock seemed none the
less tremendous.

CHAPTER XIX--THE LETTER

My father's mortal remains had been consigned to the tomb; and we,
with sad faces and sombre garments, sat lingering over the frugal
breakfast-table, revolving plans for our future life. My mother's
strong mind had not given way beneath even this affliction: her
spirit, though crushed, was not broken. Mary's wish was that I
should go back to Horton Lodge, and that our mother should come and
live with her and Mr. Richardson at the vicarage: she affirmed
that he wished it no less than herself, and that such an
arrangement could not fail to benefit all parties; for my mother's
society and experience would be of inestimable value to them, and
they would do all they could to make her happy. But no arguments
or entreaties could prevail: my mother was determined not to go.
Not that she questioned, for a moment, the kind wishes and
intentions of her daughter; but she affirmed that so long as God
spared her health and strength, she would make use of them to earn
her own livelihood, and be chargeable to no one; whether her
dependence would be felt as a burden or not. If she could afford
to reside as a lodger in--vicarage, she would choose that house
before all others as the place of her abode; but not being so
circumstanced, she would never come under its roof, except as an
occasional visitor: unless sickness or calamity should render her
assistance really needful, or until age or infirmity made her
incapable of maintaining herself.

'No, Mary,' said she, 'if Richardson and you have anything to
spare, you must lay it aside for your family; and Agnes and I must
gather honey for ourselves. Thanks to my having had daughters to
educate, I have not forgotten my accomplishments. God willing, I
will check this vain repining,' she said, while the tears coursed
one another down her cheeks in spite of her efforts; but she wiped
them away, and resolutely shaking back her head, continued, 'I will
exert myself, and look out for a small house, commodiously situated
in some populous but healthy district, where we will take a few
young ladies to board and educate--if we can get them--and as many
day pupils as will come, or as we can manage to instruct. Your
father's relations and old friends will be able to send us some
pupils, or to assist us with their recommendations, no doubt: I
shall not apply to my own. What say you to it, Agnes? will you be
willing to leave your present situation and try?'

'Quite willing, mamma; and the money I have saved will do to
furnish the house. It shall be taken from the bank directly.'

'When it is wanted: we must get the house, and settle on
preliminaries first.'

Mary offered to lend the little she possessed; but my mother
declined it, saying that we must begin on an economical plan; and
she hoped that the whole or part of mine, added to what we could
get by the sale of the furniture, and what little our dear papa had
contrived to lay aside for her since the debts were paid, would be
sufficient to last us till Christmas; when, it was hoped, something
would accrue from our united labours. It was finally settled that
this should be our plan; and that inquiries and preparations should
immediately be set on foot; and while my mother busied herself with
these, I should return to Horton Lodge at the close of my four
weeks' vacation, and give notice for my final departure when things
were in train for the speedy commencement of our school.

We were discussing these affairs on the morning I have mentioned,
about a fortnight after my father's death, when a letter was
brought in for my mother, on beholding which the colour mounted to
her face--lately pale enough with anxious watchings and excessive
sorrow. 'From my father!' murmured she, as she hastily tore off
the cover. It was many years since she had heard from any of her
own relations before. Naturally wondering what the letter might
contain, I watched her countenance while she read it, and was
somewhat surprised to see her bite her lip and knit her brows as if
in anger. When she had done, she somewhat irreverently cast it on
the table, saying with a scornful smile,--'Your grandpapa has been
so kind as to write to me. He says he has no doubt I have long
repented of my "unfortunate marriage," and if I will only
acknowledge this, and confess I was wrong in neglecting his advice,
and that I have justly suffered for it, he will make a lady of me
once again--if that be possible after my long degradation--and
remember my girls in his will. Get my desk, Agnes, and send these
things away: I will answer the letter directly. But first, as I
may be depriving you both of a legacy, it is just that I should
tell you what I mean to say. I shall say that he is mistaken in
supposing that I can regret the birth of my daughters (who have
been the pride of my life, and are likely to be the comfort of my
old age), or the thirty years I have passed in the company of my
best and dearest friend;--that, had our misfortunes been three
times as great as they were (unless they had been of my bringing
on), I should still the more rejoice to have shared them with your
father, and administered what consolation I was able; and, had his
sufferings in illness been ten times what they wore, I could not
regret having watched over and laboured to relieve them;--that, if
he had married a richer wife, misfortunes and trials would no doubt
have come upon him still; while I am egotist enough to imagine that
no other woman could have cheered him through them so well: not
that I am superior to the rest, but I was made for him, and he for
me; and I can no more repent the hours, days, years of happiness we
have spent together, and which neither could have had without the
other, than I can the privilege of having been his nurse in
sickness, and his comfort in affliction.

'Will this do, children?--or shall I say we are all very sorry for
what has happened during the last thirty years, and my daughters
wish they had never been born; but since they have had that
misfortune, they will be thankful for any trifle their grandpapa
will be kind enough to bestow?'

Of course, we both applauded our mother's resolution; Mary cleared
away the breakfast things; I brought the desk; the letter was
quickly written and despatched; and, from that day, we heard no
more of our grandfather, till we saw his death announced in the
newspaper a considerable time after--all his worldly possessions,
of course, being left to our wealthy unknown cousins.

CHAPTER XX--THE FAREWELL

A house in A---, the fashionable watering-place, was hired for our
seminary; and a promise of two or three pupils was obtained to
commence with. I returned to Horton Lodge about the middle of
July, leaving my mother to conclude the bargain for the house, to
obtain more pupils, to sell off the furniture of our old abode, and
to fit out the new one.

We often pity the poor, because they have no leisure to mourn their
departed relatives, and necessity obliges them to labour through
their severest afflictions: but is not active employment the best
remedy for overwhelming sorrow--the surest antidote for despair?
It may be a rough comforter: it may seem hard to be harassed with
the cares of life when we have no relish for its enjoyments; to be
goaded to labour when the heart is ready to break, and the vexed
spirit implores for rest only to weep in silence: but is not
labour better than the rest we covet? and are not those petty,
tormenting cares less hurtful than a continual brooding over the
great affliction that oppresses us? Besides, we cannot have cares,
and anxieties, and toil, without hope--if it be but the hope of
fulfilling our joyless task, accomplishing some needful project, or
escaping some further annoyance. At any rate, I was glad my mother
had so much employment for every faculty of her action-loving
frame. Our kind neighbours lamented that she, once so exalted in
wealth and station, should be reduced to such extremity in her time
of sorrow; but I am persuaded that she would have suffered thrice
as much had she been left in affluence, with liberty to remain in
that house, the scene of her early happiness and late affliction,
and no stern necessity to prevent her from incessantly brooding
over and lamenting her bereavement.

I will not dilate upon the feelings with which I left the old
house, the well-known garden, the little village church--then
doubly dear to me, because my father, who, for thirty years, had
taught and prayed within its walls, lay slumbering now beneath its
flags--and the old bare hills, delightful in their very desolation,
with the narrow vales between, smiling in green wood and sparkling
water--the house where I was born, the scene of all my early
associations, the place where throughout life my earthly affections
had been centred;--and left them to return no more! True, I was
going back to Horton Lodge, where, amid many evils, one source of
pleasure yet remained: but it was pleasure mingled with excessive
pain; and my stay, alas! was limited to six weeks. And even of
that precious time, day after day slipped by and I did not see him:
except at church, I never saw him for a fortnight after my return.
It seemed a long time to me: and, as I was often out with my
rambling pupil, of course hopes would keep rising, and
disappointments would ensue; and then, I would say to my own heart,
'Here is a convincing proof--if you would but have the sense to see
it, or the candour to acknowledge it--that he does not care for
you. If he only thought HALF as much about you as you do about
him, he would have contrived to meet you many times ere this: you
must know that, by consulting your own feelings. Therefore, have
done with this nonsense: you have no ground for hope: dismiss, at
once, these hurtful thoughts and foolish wishes from your mind, and
turn to your own duty, and the dull blank life that lies before
you. You might have known such happiness was not for you.'

But I saw him at last. He came suddenly upon me as I was crossing
a field in returning from a visit to Nancy Brown, which I had taken
the opportunity of paying while Matilda Murray was riding her
matchless mare. He must have heard of the heavy loss I had
sustained: he expressed no sympathy, offered no condolence: but
almost the first words he uttered were,--'How is your mother?' And
this was no matter-of-course question, for I never told him that I
had a mother: he must have learned the fact from others, if he
knew it at all; and, besides, there was sincere goodwill, and even
deep, touching, unobtrusive sympathy in the tone and manner of the
inquiry. I thanked him with due civility, and told him she was as
well as could be expected. 'What will she do?' was the next
question. Many would have deemed it an impertinent one, and given
an evasive reply; but such an idea never entered my head, and I
gave a brief but plain statement of my mother's plans and
prospects.

'Then you will leave this place shortly?' said he.

'Yes, in a month.'

He paused a minute, as if in thought. When he spoke again, I hoped

Book of the day: