Part 4 out of 4
it would be to express his concern at my departure; but it was only
to say,--'I should think you will be willing enough to go?'
'Yes--for some things,' I replied.
'For SOME things only--I wonder what should make you regret it?'
I was annoyed at this in some degree; because it embarrassed me: I
had only one reason for regretting it; and that was a profound
secret, which he had no business to trouble me about.
'Why,' said I--'why should you suppose that I dislike the place?'
'You told me so yourself,' was the decisive reply. 'You said, at
least, that you could not live contentedly, without a friend; and
that you had no friend here, and no possibility of making one--and,
besides, I know you MUST dislike it.'
'But if you remember rightly, I said, or meant to say, I could not
live contentedly without a friend in the world: I was not so
unreasonable as to require one always near me. I think I could be
happy in a house full of enemies, if--' but no; that sentence must
not be continued--I paused, and hastily added,--'And, besides, we
cannot well leave a place where we have lived for two or three
years, without some feeling of regret.'
'Will you regret to part with Miss Murray, your sole remaining
pupil and companion?'
'I dare say I shall in some degree: it was not without sorrow I
parted with her sister.'
'I can imagine that.'
'Well, Miss Matilda is quite as good--better in one respect.'
'What is that?'
'And the other is not?'
'I should not call her DIShonest; but it must be confessed she's a
'ARTFUL is she?--I saw she was giddy and vain--and now,' he added,
after a pause, 'I can well believe she was artful too; but so
excessively so as to assume an aspect of extreme simplicity and
unguarded openness. Yes,' continued he, musingly, 'that accounts
for some little things that puzzled me a trifle before.'
After that, he turned the conversation to more general subjects.
He did not leave me till we had nearly reached the park-gates: he
had certainly stepped a little out of his way to accompany me so
far, for he now went back and disappeared down Moss Lane, the
entrance of which we had passed some time before. Assuredly I did
not regret this circumstance: if sorrow had any place in my heart,
it was that he was gone at last--that he was no longer walking by
my side, and that that short interval of delightful intercourse was
at an end. He had not breathed a word of love, or dropped one hint
of tenderness or affection, and yet I had been supremely happy. To
be near him, to hear him talk as he did talk, and to feel that he
thought me worthy to be so spoken to--capable of understanding and
duly appreciating such discourse--was enough.
'Yes, Edward Weston, I could indeed be happy in a house full of
enemies, if I had but one friend, who truly, deeply, and faithfully
loved me; and if that friend were you--though we might be far
apart--seldom to hear from each other, still more seldom to meet--
though toil, and trouble, and vexation might surround me, still--it
would be too much happiness for me to dream of! Yet who can tell,'
said I within myself, as I proceeded up the park,--'who can tell
what this one month may bring forth? I have lived nearly three-
and-twenty years, and I have suffered much, and tasted little
pleasure yet; is it likely my life all through will be so clouded?
Is it not possible that God may hear my prayers, disperse these
gloomy shadows, and grant me some beams of heaven's sunshine yet?
Will He entirely deny to me those blessings which are so freely
given to others, who neither ask them nor acknowledge them when
received? May I not still hope and trust? I did hope and trust
for a while: but, alas, alas! the time ebbed away: one week
followed another, and, excepting one distant glimpse and two
transient meetings--during which scarcely anything was said--while
I was walking with Miss Matilda, I saw nothing of him: except, of
course, at church.
And now, the last Sunday was come, and the last service. I was
often on the point of melting into tears during the sermon--the
last I was to hear from him: the best I should hear from anyone, I
was well assured. It was over--the congregation were departing;
and I must follow. I had then seen him, and heard his voice, too,
probably for the last time. In the churchyard, Matilda was pounced
upon by the two Misses Green. They had many inquiries to make
about her sister, and I know not what besides. I only wished they
would have done, that we might hasten back to Horton Lodge: I
longed to seek the retirement of my own room, or some sequestered
nook in the grounds, that I might deliver myself up to my feelings-
-to weep my last farewell, and lament my false hopes and vain
delusions. Only this once, and then adieu to fruitless dreaming--
thenceforth, only sober, solid, sad reality should occupy my mind.
But while I thus resolved, a low voice close beside me said--'I
suppose you are going this week, Miss Grey?' 'Yes,' I replied. I
was very much startled; and had I been at all hysterically
inclined, I certainly should have committed myself in some way
then. Thank God, I was not.
'Well,' said Mr. Weston, 'I want to bid you good-bye--it is not
likely I shall see you again before you go.'
'Good-bye, Mr. Weston,' I said. Oh, how I struggled to say it
calmly! I gave him my hand. He retained it a few seconds in his.
'It is possible we may meet again,' said he; 'will it be of any
consequence to you whether we do or not?'
'Yes, I should be very glad to see you again.'
I COULD say no less. He kindly pressed my hand, and went. Now, I
was happy again--though more inclined to burst into tears than
ever. If I had been forced to speak at that moment, a succession
of sobs would have inevitably ensued; and as it was, I could not
keep the water out of my eyes. I walked along with Miss Murray,
turning aside my face, and neglecting to notice several successive
remarks, till she bawled out that I was either deaf or stupid; and
then (having recovered my self-possession), as one awakened from a
fit of abstraction, I suddenly looked up and asked what she had
CHAPTER XXI--THE SCHOOL
I left Horton Lodge, and went to join my mother in our new abode at
A-. I found her well in health, resigned in spirit, and even
cheerful, though subdued and sober, in her general demeanour. We
had only three boarders and half a dozen day-pupils to commence
with; but by due care and diligence we hoped ere long to increase
the number of both.
I set myself with befitting energy to discharge the duties of this
new mode of life. I call it NEW, for there was, indeed, a
considerable difference between working with my mother in a school
of our own, and working as a hireling among strangers, despised and
trampled upon by old and young; and for the first few weeks I was
by no means unhappy. 'It is possible we may meet again,' and 'will
it be of any consequence to you whether we do or not?'--Those words
still rang in my ear and rested on my heart: they were my secret
solace and support. 'I shall see him again.--He will come; or he
will write.' No promise, in fact, was too bright or too
extravagant for Hope to whisper in my ear. I did not believe half
of what she told me: I pretended to laugh at it all; but I was far
more credulous than I myself supposed; otherwise, why did my heart
leap up when a knock was heard at the front door, and the maid, who
opened it, came to tell my mother a gentleman wished to see her?
and why was I out of humour for the rest of the day, because it
proved to be a music-master come to offer his services to our
school? and what stopped my breath for a moment, when the postman
having brought a couple of letters, my mother said, 'Here, Agnes,
this is for you,' and threw one of them to me? and what made the
hot blood rush into my face when I saw it was directed in a
gentleman's hand? and why--oh! why did that cold, sickening sense
of disappointment fall upon me, when I had torn open the cover and
found it was ONLY a letter from Mary, which, for some reason or
other, her husband had directed for her?
Was it then come to this--that I should be DISAPPOINTED to receive
a letter from my only sister: and because it was not written by a
comparative stranger? Dear Mary! and she had written it so kindly-
-and thinking I should be so pleased to have it!--I was not worthy
to read it! And I believe, in my indignation against myself, I
should have put it aside till I had schooled myself into a better
frame of mind, and was become more deserving of the honour and
privilege of its perusal: but there was my mother looking on, and
wishful to know what news it contained; so I read it and delivered
it to her, and then went into the schoolroom to attend to the
pupils: but amidst the cares of copies and sums--in the intervals
of correcting errors here, and reproving derelictions of duty
there, I was inwardly taking myself to task with far sterner
severity. 'What a fool you must be,' said my head to my heart, or
my sterner to my softer self;--'how could you ever dream that he
would write to you? What grounds have you for such a hope--or that
he will see you, or give himself any trouble about you--or even
think of you again?' 'What grounds?'--and then Hope set before me
that last, short interview, and repeated the words I had so
faithfully treasured in my memory. 'Well, and what was there in
that?--Who ever hung his hopes upon so frail a twig? What was
there in those words that any common acquaintance might not say to
another? Of course, it was possible you might meet again: he
might have said so if you had been going to New Zealand; but that
did not imply any INTENTION of seeing you--and then, as to the
question that followed, anyone might ask that: and how did you
answer?--Merely with a stupid, commonplace reply, such as you would
have given to Master Murray, or anyone else you had been on
tolerably civil terms with.' 'But, then,' persisted Hope, 'the
tone and manner in which he spoke.' 'Oh, that is nonsense! he
always speaks impressively; and at that moment there were the
Greens and Miss Matilda Murray just before, and other people
passing by, and he was obliged to stand close beside you, and to
speak very low, unless he wished everybody to hear what he said,
which--though it was nothing at all particular--of course, he would
rather not.' But then, above all, that emphatic, yet gentle
pressure of the hand, which seemed to say, 'TRUST me;' and many
other things besides--too delightful, almost too flattering, to be
repeated even to one's self. 'Egregious folly--too absurd to
require contradiction--mere inventions of the imagination, which
you ought to be ashamed of. If you would but consider your own
unattractive exterior, your unamiable reserve, your foolish
diffidence--which must make you appear cold, dull, awkward, and
perhaps ill-tempered too;--if you had but rightly considered these
from the beginning, you would never have harboured such
presumptuous thoughts: and now that you have been so foolish, pray
repent and amend, and let us have no more of it!'
I cannot say that I implicitly obeyed my own injunctions: but such
reasoning as this became more and more effective as time wore on,
and nothing was seen or heard of Mr. Weston; until, at last, I gave
up hoping, for even my heart acknowledged it was all in vain. But
still, I would think of him: I would cherish his image in my mind;
and treasure every word, look, and gesture that my memory could
retain; and brood over his excellences and his peculiarities, and,
in fact, all I had seen, heard, or imagined respecting him.
'Agnes, this sea air and change of scene do you no good, I think:
I never saw you look so wretched. It must be that you sit too
much, and allow the cares of the schoolroom to worry you. You must
learn to take things easy, and to be more active and cheerful; you
must take exercise whenever you can get it, and leave the most
tiresome duties to me: they will only serve to exercise my
patience, and, perhaps, try my temper a little.'
So said my mother, as we sat at work one morning during the Easter
holidays. I assured her that my employments were not at all
oppressive; that I was well; or, if there was anything amiss, it
would be gone as soon as the trying months of spring were over:
when summer came I should be as strong and hearty as she could wish
to see me: but inwardly her observation startled me. I knew my
strength was declining, my appetite had failed, and I was grown
listless and desponding;--and if, indeed, he could never care for
me, and I could never see him more--if I was forbidden to minister
to his happiness--forbidden, for ever, to taste the joys of love,
to bless, and to be blessed--then, life must be a burden, and if my
heavenly Father would call me away, I should be glad to rest. But
it would not do to die and leave my mother. Selfish, unworthy
daughter, to forget her for a moment! Was not her happiness
committed in a great measure to my charge?--and the welfare of our
young pupils too? Should I shrink from the work that God had set
before me, because it was not fitted to my taste? Did not He know
best what I should do, and where I ought to labour?--and should I
long to quit His service before I had finished my task, and expect
to enter into His rest without having laboured to earn it? 'No; by
His help I will arise and address myself diligently to my appointed
duty. If happiness in this world is not for me, I will endeavour
to promote the welfare of those around me, and my reward shall be
hereafter.' So said I in my heart; and from that hour I only
permitted my thoughts to wander to Edward Weston--or at least to
dwell upon him now and then--as a treat for rare occasions: and,
whether it was really the approach of summer or the effect of these
good resolutions, or the lapse of time, or all together,
tranquillity of mind was soon restored; and bodily health and
vigour began likewise, slowly, but surely, to return.
Early in June, I received a letter from Lady Ashby, late Miss
Murray. She had written to me twice or thrice before, from the
different stages of her bridal tour, always in good spirits, and
professing to be very happy. I wondered every time that she had
not forgotten me, in the midst of so much gaiety and variety of
scene. At length, however, there was a pause; and it seemed she
had forgotten me, for upwards of seven months passed away and no
letter. Of course, I did not break my heart about THAT, though I
often wondered how she was getting on; and when this last epistle
so unexpectedly arrived, I was glad enough to receive it. It was
dated from Ashby Park, where she was come to settle down at last,
having previously divided her time between the continent and the
metropolis. She made many apologies for having neglected me so
long, assured me she had not forgotten me, and had often intended
to write, &c. &c., but had always been prevented by something. She
acknowledged that she had been leading a very dissipated life, and
I should think her very wicked and very thoughtless; but,
notwithstanding that, she thought a great deal, and, among other
things, that she should vastly like to see me. 'We have been
several days here already,' wrote she. 'We have not a single
friend with us, and are likely to be very dull. You know I never
had a fancy for living with my husband like two turtles in a nest,
were he the most delightful creature that ever wore a coat; so do
take pity upon me and come. I suppose your Midsummer holidays
commence in June, the same as other people's; therefore you cannot
plead want of time; and you must and shall come--in fact, I shall
die if you don't. I want you to visit me as a friend, and stay a
long time. There is nobody with me, as I told you before, but Sir
Thomas and old Lady Ashby: but you needn't mind them--they'll
trouble us but little with their company. And you shall have a
room to yourself, whenever you like to retire to it, and plenty of
books to read when my company is not sufficiently amusing. I
forget whether you like babies; if you do, you may have the
pleasure of seeing mine--the most charming child in the world, no
doubt; and all the more so, that I am not troubled with nursing it-
-I was determined I wouldn't be bothered with that. Unfortunately,
it is a girl, and Sir Thomas has never forgiven me: but, however,
if you will only come, I promise you shall be its governess as soon
as it can speak; and you shall bring it up in the way it should go,
and make a better woman of it than its mamma. And you shall see my
poodle, too: a splendid little charmer imported from Paris: and
two fine Italian paintings of great value--I forget the artist.
Doubtless you will be able to discover prodigious beauties in them,
which you must point out to me, as I only admire by hearsay; and
many elegant curiosities besides, which I purchased at Rome and
elsewhere; and, finally, you shall see my new home--the splendid
house and grounds I used to covet so greatly. Alas! how far the
promise of anticipation exceeds the pleasure of possession!
There's a fine sentiment! I assure you I am become quite a grave
old matron: pray come, if it be only to witness the wonderful
change. Write by return of post, and tell me when your vacation
commences, and say that you will come the day after, and stay till
the day before it closes--in mercy to
I showed this strange epistle to my mother, and consulted her on
what I ought to do. She advised me to go; and I went--willing
enough to see Lady Ashby, and her baby, too, and to do anything I
could to benefit her, by consolation or advice; for I imagined she
must be unhappy, or she would not have applied to me thus--but
feeling, as may readily be conceived, that, in accepting the
invitation, I made a great sacrifice for her, and did violence to
my feelings in many ways, instead of being delighted with the
honourable distinction of being entreated by the baronet's lady to
visit her as a friend. However, I determined my visit should be
only for a few days at most; and I will not deny that I derived
some consolation from the idea that, as Ashby Park was not very far
from Horton, I might possibly see Mr. Weston, or, at least, hear
something about him.
CHAPTER XXII--THE VISIT
Ashby Park was certainly a very delightful residence. The mansion
was stately without, commodious and elegant within; the park was
spacious and beautiful, chiefly on account of its magnificent old
trees, its stately herds of deer, its broad sheet of water, and the
ancient woods that stretched beyond it: for there was no broken
ground to give variety to the landscape, and but very little of
that undulating swell which adds so greatly to the charm of park
scenery. And so, this was the place Rosalie Murray had so longed
to call her own, that she must have a share of it, on whatever
terms it might be offered--whatever price was to be paid for the
title of mistress, and whoever was to be her partner in the honour
and bliss of such a possession! Well I am not disposed to censure
She received me very kindly; and, though I was a poor clergyman's
daughter, a governess, and a schoolmistress, she welcomed me with
unaffected pleasure to her home; and--what surprised me rather--
took some pains to make my visit agreeable. I could see, it is
true, that she expected me to be greatly struck with the
magnificence that surrounded her; and, I confess, I was rather
annoyed at her evident efforts to reassure me, and prevent me from
being overwhelmed by so much grandeur--too much awed at the idea of
encountering her husband and mother-in-law, or too much ashamed of
my own humble appearance. I was not ashamed of it at all; for,
though plain, I had taken good care not to shabby or mean, and
should have been pretty considerably at my ease, if my
condescending hostess had not taken such manifest pains to make me
so; and, as for the magnificence that surrounded her, nothing that
met my eyes struck me or affected me half so much as her own
altered appearance. Whether from the influence of fashionable
dissipation, or some other evil, a space of little more than twelve
months had had the effect that might be expected from as many
years, in reducing the plumpness of her form, the freshness of her
complexion, the vivacity of her movements, and the exuberance of
I wished to know if she was unhappy; but I felt it was not my
province to inquire: I might endeavour to win her confidence; but,
if she chose to conceal her matrimonial cares from me, I would
trouble her with no obtrusive questions. I, therefore, at first,
confined myself to a few general inquiries about her health and
welfare, and a few commendations on the beauty of the park, and of
the little girl that should have been a boy: a small delicate
infant of seven or eight weeks old, whom its mother seemed to
regard with no remarkable degree of interest or affection, though
full as much as I expected her to show.
Shortly after my arrival, she commissioned her maid to conduct me
to my room and see that I had everything I wanted; it was a small,
unpretending, but sufficiently comfortable apartment. When I
descended thence--having divested myself of all travelling
encumbrances, and arranged my toilet with due consideration for the
feelings of my lady hostess, she conducted me herself to the room I
was to occupy when I chose to be alone, or when she was engaged
with visitors, or obliged to be with her mother-in-law, or
otherwise prevented, as she said, from enjoying the pleasure of my
society. It was a quiet, tidy little sitting-room; and I was not
sorry to be provided with such a harbour of refuge.
'And some time,' said she, 'I will show you the library: I never
examined its shelves, but, I daresay, it is full of wise books; and
you may go and burrow among them whenever you please. And now you
shall have some tea--it will soon be dinner-time, but I thought, as
you were accustomed to dine at one, you would perhaps like better
to have a cup of tea about this time, and to dine when we lunch:
and then, you know, you can have your tea in this room, and that
will save you from having to dine with Lady Ashby and Sir Thomas:
which would be rather awkward--at least, not awkward, but rather--
a--you know what I mean. I thought you mightn't like it so well--
especially as we may have other ladies and gentlemen to dine with
'Certainly,' said I, 'I would much rather have it as you say, and,
if you have no objection, I should prefer having all my meals in
'Because, I imagine, it would be more agreeable to Lady Ashby and
'Nothing of the kind.'
'At any rate it would be more agreeable to me.'
She made some faint objections, but soon conceded; and I could see
that the proposal was a considerable relief to her.
'Now, come into the drawing-room,' said she. 'There's the dressing
bell; but I won't go yet: it's no use dressing when there's no one
to see you; and I want to have a little discourse.'
The drawing-room was certainly an imposing apartment, and very
elegantly furnished; but I saw its young mistress glance towards me
as we entered, as if to notice how I was impressed by the
spectacle, and accordingly I determined to preserve an aspect of
stony indifference, as if I saw nothing at all remarkable. But
this was only for a moment: immediately conscience whispered, 'Why
should I disappoint her to save my pride? No--rather let me
sacrifice my pride to give her a little innocent gratification.'
And I honestly looked round, and told her it was a noble room, and
very tastefully furnished. She said little, but I saw she was
She showed me her fat French poodle, that lay curled up on a silk
cushion, and the two fine Italian paintings: which, however, she
would not give me time to examine, but, saying I must look at them
some other day, insisted upon my admiring the little jewelled watch
she had purchased in Geneva; and then she took me round the room to
point out sundry articles of vertu she had brought from Italy: an
elegant little timepiece, and several busts, small graceful
figures, and vases, all beautifully carved in white marble. She
spoke of these with animation, and heard my admiring comments with
a smile of pleasure: that soon, however, vanished, and was
followed by a melancholy sigh; as if in consideration of the
insufficiency of all such baubles to the happiness of the human
heart, and their woeful inability to supply its insatiate demands.
Then, stretching herself upon a couch, she motioned me to a
capacious easy-chair that stood opposite--not before the fire, but
before a wide open window; for it was summer, be it remembered; a
sweet, warm evening in the latter half of June. I sat for a moment
in silence, enjoying the still, pure air, and the delightful
prospect of the park that lay before me, rich in verdure and
foliage, and basking in yellow sunshine, relieved by the long
shadows of declining day. But I must take advantage of this pause:
I had inquiries to make, and, like the substance of a lady's
postscript, the most important must come last. So I began with
asking after Mr. and Mrs. Murray, and Miss Matilda and the young
I was told that papa had the gout, which made him very ferocious;
and that he would not give up his choice wines, and his substantial
dinners and suppers, and had quarrelled with his physician, because
the latter had dared to say that no medicine could cure him while
he lived so freely; that mamma and the rest were well. Matilda was
still wild and reckless, but she had got a fashionable governess,
and was considerably improved in her manners, and soon to be
introduced to the world; and John and Charles (now at home for the
holidays) were, by all accounts, 'fine, bold, unruly, mischievous
'And how are the other people getting on?' said I--'the Greens, for
'Ah! Mr. Green is heart-broken, you know,' replied she, with a
languid smile: 'he hasn't got over his disappointment yet, and
never will, I suppose. He's doomed to be an old bachelor; and his
sisters are doing their best to get married.'
'And the Melthams?'
'Oh, they're jogging on as usual, I suppose: but I know very
little about any of them--except Harry,' said she, blushing
slightly, and smiling again. 'I saw a great deal of him while we
were in London; for, as soon as he heard we were there, he came up
under pretence of visiting his brother, and either followed me,
like a shadow, wherever I went, or met me, like a reflection, at
every turn. You needn't look so shocked, Miss Grey; I was very
discreet, I assure you, but, you know, one can't help being
admired. Poor fellow! He was not my only worshipper; though he
was certainly the most conspicuous, and, I think, the most devoted
among them all. And that detestable--ahem--and Sir Thomas chose to
take offence at him--or my profuse expenditure, or something--I
don't exactly know what--and hurried me down to the country at a
moment's notice; where I'm to play the hermit, I suppose, for
And she bit her lip, and frowned vindictively upon the fair domain
she had once so coveted to call her own.
'And Mr. Hatfield,' said I, 'what is become of him?'
Again she brightened up, and answered gaily--'Oh! he made up to an
elderly spinster, and married her, not long since; weighing her
heavy purse against her faded charms, and expecting to find that
solace in gold which was denied him in love--ha, ha!'
'Well, and I think that's all--except Mr. Weston: what is he
'I don't know, I'm sure. He's gone from Horton.'
'How long since? and where is he gone to?'
'I know nothing about him,' replied she, yawning--'except that he
went about a month ago--I never asked where' (I would have asked
whether it was to a living or merely another curacy, but thought it
better not); 'and the people made a great rout about his leaving,'
continued she, 'much to Mr. Hatfield's displeasure; for Hatfield
didn't like him, because he had too much influence with the common
people, and because he was not sufficiently tractable and
submissive to him--and for some other unpardonable sins, I don't
know what. But now I positively must go and dress: the second
bell will ring directly, and if I come to dinner in this guise, I
shall never hear the end of it from Lady Ashby. It's a strange
thing one can't be mistress in one's own house! Just ring the
bell, and I'll send for my maid, and tell them to get you some tea.
Only think of that intolerable woman--'
'No;--my mother-in-law--and my unfortunate mistake! Instead of
letting her take herself off to some other house, as she offered to
do when I married, I was fool enough to ask her to live here still,
and direct the affairs of the house for me; because, in the first
place, I hoped we should spend the greater part of the year, in
town, and in the second place, being so young and inexperienced, I
was frightened at the idea of having a houseful of servants to
manage, and dinners to order, and parties to entertain, and all the
rest of it, and I thought she might assist me with her experience;
never dreaming she would prove a usurper, a tyrant, an incubus, a
spy, and everything else that's detestable. I wish she was dead!'
She then turned to give her orders to the footman, who had been
standing bolt upright within the door for the last half minute, and
had heard the latter part of her animadversions; and, of course,
made his own reflections upon them, notwithstanding the inflexible,
wooden countenance he thought proper to preserve in the drawing-
room. On my remarking afterwards that he must have heard her, she
replied--'Oh, no matter! I never care about the footmen; they're
mere automatons: it's nothing to them what their superiors say or
do; they won't dare to repeat it; and as to what they think--if
they presume to think at all--of course, nobody cares for that. It
would be a pretty thing indeed, it we were to be tongue-tied by our
So saying, she ran off to make her hasty toilet, leaving me to
pilot my way back to my sitting-room, where, in due time, I was
served with a cup of tea. After that, I sat musing on Lady Ashby's
past and present condition; and on what little information I had
obtained respecting Mr. Weston, and the small chance there was of
ever seeing or hearing anything more of him throughout my quiet,
drab-colour life: which, henceforth, seemed to offer no
alternative between positive rainy days, and days of dull grey
clouds without downfall. At length, however, I began to weary of
my thoughts, and to wish I knew where to find the library my
hostess had spoken of; and to wonder whether I was to remain there
doing nothing till bed-time.
As I was not rich enough to possess a watch, I could not tell how
time was passing, except by observing the slowly lengthening
shadows from the window; which presented a side view, including a
corner of the park, a clump of trees whose topmost branches had
been colonized by an innumerable company of noisy rooks, and a high
wall with a massive wooden gate: no doubt communicating with the
stable-yard, as a broad carriage-road swept up to it from the park.
The shadow of this wall soon took posession of the whole of the
ground as far as I could see, forcing the golden sunlight to
retreat inch by inch, and at last take refuge in the very tops of
the trees. Ere long, even they were left in shadow--the shadow of
the distant hills, or of the earth itself; and, in sympathy for the
busy citizens of the rookery, I regretted to see their habitation,
so lately bathed in glorious light, reduced to the sombre, work-a-
day hue of the lower world, or of my own world within. For a
moment, such birds as soared above the rest might still receive the
lustre on their wings, which imparted to their sable plumage the
hue and brilliance of deep red gold; at last, that too departed.
Twilight came stealing on; the rooks became more quiet; I became
more weary, and wished I were going home to-morrow. At length it
grew dark; and I was thinking of ringing for a candle, and betaking
myself to bed, when my hostess appeared, with many apologies for
having neglected me so long, and laying all the blame upon that
'nasty old woman,' as she called her mother-in-law.
'If I didn't sit with her in the drawing-room while Sir Thomas is
taking his wine,' said she, 'she would never forgive me; and then,
if I leave the room the instant he comes--as I have done once or
twice--it is an unpardonable offence against her dear Thomas. SHE
never showed such disrespect to HER husband: and as for affection,
wives never think of that now-a-days, she supposes: but things
were different in HER time--as if there was any good to be done by
staying in the room, when he does nothing but grumble and scold
when he's in a bad humour, talk disgusting nonsense when he's in a
good one, and go to sleep on the sofa when he's too stupid for
either; which is most frequently the case now, when he has nothing
to do but to sot over his wine.'
'But could you not try to occupy his mind with something better;
and engage him to give up such habits? I'm sure you have powers of
persuasion, and qualifications for amusing a gentleman, which many
ladies would be glad to possess.'
'And so you think I would lay myself out for his amusement! No:
that's not MY idea of a wife. It's the husband's part to please
the wife, not hers to please him; and if he isn't satisfied with
her as she is--and thankful to possess her too--he isn't worthy of
her, that's all. And as for persuasion, I assure you I shan't
trouble myself with that: I've enough to do to bear with him as he
is, without attempting to work a reform. But I'm sorry I left you
so long alone, Miss Grey. How have you passed the time?'
'Chiefly in watching the rooks.'
'Mercy, how dull you must have been! I really must show you the
library; and you must ring for everything you want, just as you
would in an inn, and make yourself comfortable. I have selfish
reasons for wishing to make you happy, because I want you to stay
with me, and not fulfil your horrid threat of running away in a day
'Well, don't let me keep you out of the drawing-room any longer to-
night, for at present I am tired and wish to go to bed.'
CHAPTER XXIII--THE PARK
I came down a little before eight, next morning, as I knew by the
striking of a distant clock. There was no appearance of breakfast.
I waited above an hour before it came, still vainly longing for
access to the library; and, after that lonely repast was concluded,
I waited again about an hour and a half in great suspense and
discomfort, uncertain what to do. At length Lady Ashby came to bid
me good-morning. She informed me she had only just breakfasted,
and now wanted me to take an early walk with her in the park. She
asked how long I had been up, and on receiving my answer, expressed
the deepest regret, and again promised to show me the library. I
suggested she had better do so at once, and then there would be no
further trouble either with remembering or forgetting. She
complied, on condition that I would not think of reading, or
bothering with the books now; for she wanted to show me the
gardens, and take a walk in the park with me, before it became too
hot for enjoyment; which, indeed, was nearly the case already. Of
course I readily assented; and we took our walk accordingly.
As we were strolling in the park, talking of what my companion had
seen and heard during her travelling experience, a gentleman on
horseback rode up and passed us. As he turned, in passing, and
stared me full in the face, I had a good opportunity of seeing what
he was like. He was tall, thin, and wasted, with a slight stoop in
the shoulders, a pale face, but somewhat blotchy, and disagreeably
red about the eyelids, plain features, and a general appearance of
languor and flatness, relieved by a sinister expression in the
mouth and the dull, soulless eyes.
'I detest that man!' whispered Lady Ashby, with bitter emphasis, as
he slowly trotted by.
'Who is it?' I asked, unwilling to suppose that she should so speak
of her husband.
'Sir Thomas Ashby,' she replied, with dreary composure.
'And do you DETEST him, Miss Murray?' said I, for I was too much
shocked to remember her name at the moment.
'Yes, I do, Miss Grey, and despise him too; and if you knew him you
would not blame me.'
'But you knew what he was before you married him.'
'No; I only thought so: I did not half know him really. I know
you warned me against it, and I wish I had listened to you: but
it's too late to regret that now. And besides, mamma ought to have
known better than either of us, and she never said anything against
it--quite the contrary. And then I thought he adored me, and would
let me have my own way: he did pretend to do so at first, but now
he does not care a bit about me. Yet I should not care for that:
he might do as he pleased, if I might only be free to amuse myself
and to stay in London, or have a few friends down here: but HE
WILL do as he pleases, and I must be a prisoner and a slave. The
moment he saw I could enjoy myself without him, and that others
knew my value better than himself, the selfish wretch began to
accuse me of coquetry and extravagance; and to abuse Harry Meltham,
whose shoes he was not worthy to clean. And then he must needs
have me down in the country, to lead the life of a nun, lest I
should dishonour him or bring him to ruin; as if he had not been
ten times worse every way, with his betting-book, and his gaming-
table, and his opera-girls, and his Lady This and Mrs. That--yes,
and his bottles of wine, and glasses of brandy-and-water too! Oh,
I would give ten thousand worlds to be Mss Murray again! It is TOO
bad to feel life, health, and beauty wasting away, unfelt and
unenjoyed, for such a brute as that!' exclaimed she, fairly
bursting into tears in the bitterness of her vexation.
Of course, I pitied her exceedingly; as well for her false idea of
happiness and disregard of duty, as for the wretched partner with
whom her fate was linked. I said what I could to comfort her, and
offered such counsels as I thought she most required: advising
her, first, by gentle reasoning, by kindness, example, and
persuasion, to try to ameliorate her husband; and then, when she
had done all she could, if she still found him incorrigible, to
endeavour to abstract herself from him--to wrap herself up in her
own integrity, and trouble herself as little about him as possible.
I exhorted her to seek consolation in doing her duty to God and
man, to put her trust in Heaven, and solace herself with the care
and nurture of her little daughter; assuring her she would be amply
rewarded by witnessing its progress in strength and wisdom, and
receiving its genuine affection.
'But I can't devote myself entirely to a child,' said she; 'it may
die--which is not at all improbable.'
'But, with care, many a delicate infant has become a strong man or
'But it may grow so intolerably like its father that I shall hate
'That is not likely; it is a little girl, and strongly resembles
'No matter; I should like it better if it were a boy--only that its
father will leave it no inheritance that he can possibly squander
away. What pleasure can I have in seeing a girl grow up to eclipse
me, and enjoy those pleasures that I am for ever debarred from?
But supposing I could be so generous as to take delight in this,
still it is ONLY a child; and I can't centre all my hopes in a
child: that is only one degree better than devoting oneself to a
dog. And as for all the wisdom and goodness you have been trying
to instil into me--that is all very right and proper, I daresay,
and if I were some twenty years older, I might fructify by it: but
people must enjoy themselves when they are young; and if others
won't let them--why, they must hate them for it!'
'The best way to enjoy yourself is to do what is right and hate
nobody. The end of Religion is not to teach us how to die, but how
to live; and the earlier you become wise and good, the more of
happiness you secure. And now, Lady Ashby, I have one more piece
of advice to offer you, which is, that you will not make an enemy
of your mother-in-law. Don't get into the way of holding her at
arms' length, and regarding her with jealous distrust. I never saw
her, but I have heard good as well as evil respecting her; and I
imagine that, though cold and haughty in her general demeanour, and
even exacting in her requirements, she has strong affections for
those who can reach them; and, though so blindly attached to her
son, she is not without good principles, or incapable of hearing
reason. If you would but conciliate her a little, and adopt a
friendly, open manner--and even confide your grievances to her--
real grievances, such as you have a right to complain of--it is my
firm belief that she would, in time, become your faithful friend,
and a comfort and support to you, instead of the incubus you
describe her.' But I fear my advice had little effect upon the
unfortunate young lady; and, finding I could render myself so
little serviceable, my residence at Ashby Park became doubly
painful. But still, I must stay out that day and the following
one, as I had promised to do so: though, resisting all entreaties
and inducements to prolong my visit further, I insisted upon
departing the next morning; affirming that my mother would be
lonely without me, and that she impatiently expected my return.
Nevertheless, it was with a heavy heart that I bade adieu to poor
Lady Ashby, and left her in her princely home. It was no slight
additional proof of her unhappiness, that she should so cling to
the consolation of my presence, and earnestly desire the company of
one whose general tastes and ideas were so little congenial to her
own--whom she had completely forgotten in her hour of prosperity,
and whose presence would be rather a nuisance than a pleasure, if
she could but have half her heart's desire.
CHAPTER XXIV--THE SANDS
Our school was not situated in the heart of the town: on entering
A--- from the north-west there is a row of respectable-looking
houses, on each side of the broad, white road, with narrow slips of
garden-ground before them, Venetian blinds to the windows, and a
flight of steps leading to each trim, brass-handled door. In one
of the largest of these habitations dwelt my mother and I, with
such young ladies as our friends and the public chose to commit to
our charge. Consequently, we were a considerable distance from the
sea, and divided from it by a labyrinth of streets and houses. But
the sea was my delight; and I would often gladly pierce the town to
obtain the pleasure of a walk beside it, whether with the pupils,
or alone with my mother during the vacations. It was delightful to
me at all times and seasons, but especially in the wild commotion
of a rough sea-breeze, and in the brilliant freshness of a summer
I awoke early on the third morning after my return from Ashby Park-
-the sun was shining through the blind, and I thought how pleasant
it would be to pass through the quiet town and take a solitary
ramble on the sands while half the world was in bed. I was not
long in forming the resolution, nor slow to act upon it. Of course
I would not disturb my mother, so I stole noiselessly downstairs,
and quietly unfastened the door. I was dressed and out, when the
church clock struck a quarter to six. There was a feeling of
freshness and vigour in the very streets; and when I got free of
the town, when my foot was on the sands and my face towards the
broad, bright bay, no language can describe the effect of the deep,
clear azure of the sky and ocean, the bright morning sunshine on
the semicircular barrier of craggy cliffs surmounted by green
swelling hills, and on the smooth, wide sands, and the low rocks
out at sea--looking, with their clothing of weeds and moss, like
little grass-grown islands--and above all, on the brilliant,
sparkling waves. And then, the unspeakable purity--and freshness
of the air! There was just enough heat to enhance the value of the
breeze, and just enough wind to keep the whole sea in motion, to
make the waves come bounding to the shore, foaming and sparkling,
as if wild with glee. Nothing else was stirring--no living
creature was visible besides myself. My footsteps were the first
to press the firm, unbroken sands;--nothing before had trampled
them since last night's flowing tide had obliterated the deepest
marks of yesterday, and left them fair and even, except where the
subsiding water had left behind it the traces of dimpled pools and
little running streams.
Refreshed, delighted, invigorated, I walked along, forgetting all
my cares, feeling as if I had wings to my feet, and could go at
least forty miles without fatigue, and experiencing a sense of
exhilaration to which I had been an entire stranger since the days
of early youth. About half-past six, however, the grooms began to
come down to air their masters' horses--first one, and then
another, till there were some dozen horses and five or six riders:
but that need not trouble me, for they would not come as far as the
low rocks which I was now approaching. When I had reached these,
and walked over the moist, slippery sea-weed (at the risk of
floundering into one of the numerous pools of clear, salt water
that lay between them), to a little mossy promontory with the sea
splashing round it, I looked back again to see who next was
stirring. Still, there were only the early grooms with their
horses, and one gentleman with a little dark speck of a dog running
before him, and one water-cart coming out of the town to get water
for the baths. In another minute or two, the distant bathing
machines would begin to move, and then the elderly gentlemen of
regular habits and sober quaker ladies would be coming to take
their salutary morning walks. But however interesting such a scene
might be, I could not wait to witness it, for the sun and the sea
so dazzled my eyes in that direction, that I could but afford one
glance; and then I turned again to delight myself with the sight
and the sound of the sea, dashing against my promontory--with no
prodigious force, for the swell was broken by the tangled sea-weed
and the unseen rocks beneath; otherwise I should soon have been
deluged with spray. But the tide was coming in; the water was
rising; the gulfs and lakes were filling; the straits were
widening: it was time to seek some safer footing; so I walked,
skipped, and stumbled back to the smooth, wide sands, and resolved
to proceed to a certain bold projection in the cliffs, and then
Presently, I heard a snuffling sound behind me and then a dog came
frisking and wriggling to my feet. It was my own Snap--the little
dark, wire-haired terrier! When I spoke his name, he leapt up in
my face and yelled for joy. Almost as much delighted as himself, I
caught the little creature in my arms, and kissed him repeatedly.
But how came he to be there? He could not have dropped from the
sky, or come all that way alone: it must be either his master, the
rat-catcher, or somebody else that had brought him; so, repressing
my extravagant caresses, and endeavouring to repress his likewise,
I looked round, and beheld--Mr. Weston!
'Your dog remembers you well, Miss Grey,' said he, warmly grasping
the hand I offered him without clearly knowing what I was about.
'You rise early.'
'Not often so early as this,' I replied, with amazing composure,
considering all the circumstances of the case.
'How far do you purpose to extend your walk?'
'I was thinking of returning--it must be almost time, I think.'
He consulted his watch--a gold one now--and told me it was only
five minutes past seven.
'But, doubtless, you have had a long enough walk,' said he, turning
towards the town, to which I now proceeded leisurely to retrace my
steps; and he walked beside me.
'In what part of the town do you live?' asked he. 'I never could
Never could discover? Had he endeavoured to do so then? I told
him the place of our abode. He asked how we prospered in our
affairs. I told him we were doing very well--that we had had a
considerable addition to our pupils after the Christmas vacation,
and expected a still further increase at the close of this.
'You must be an accomplished instructor,' he observed.
'No, it is my mother,' I replied; 'she manages things so well, and
is so active, and clever, and kind.'
'I should like to know your mother. Will you introduce me to her
some time, if I call?'
'And will you allow me the privilege of an old friend, of looking
in upon you now and then?'
'Yes, if--I suppose so.'
This was a very foolish answer, but the truth was, I considered
that I had no right to invite anyone to my mother's house without
her knowledge; and if I had said, 'Yes, if my mother does not
object,' it would appear as if by his question I understood more
than was expected; so, SUPPOSING she would not, I added, 'I suppose
so:' but of course I should have said something more sensible and
more polite, if I had had my wits about me. We continued our walk
for a minute in silence; which, however, was shortly relieved (no
small relief to me) by Mr. Weston commenting upon the brightness of
the morning and the beauty of the bay, and then upon the advantages
A--- possessed over many other fashionable places of resort.
'You don't ask what brings me to A--- ' said he. 'You can't
suppose I'm rich enough to come for my own pleasure.'
'I heard you had left Horton.'
'You didn't hear, then, that I had got the living of F-?'
F--- was a village about two miles distant from A-.
'No,' said I; 'we live so completely out of the world, even here,
that news seldom reaches me through any quarter; except through the
medium of the--Gazette. But I hope you like your new parish; and
that I may congratulate you on the acquisition?'
'I expect to like my parish better a year or two hence, when I have
worked certain reforms I have set my heart upon--or, at least,
progressed some steps towards such an achievement. But you may
congratulate me now; for I find it very agreeable to HAVE a parish
all to myself, with nobody to interfere with me--to thwart my plans
or cripple my exertions: and besides, I have a respectable house
in a rather pleasant neighbourhood, and three hundred pounds a
year; and, in fact, I have nothing but solitude to complain of, and
nothing but a companion to wish for.'
He looked at me as he concluded: and the flash of his dark eyes
seemed to set my face on fire; greatly to my own discomfiture, for
to evince confusion at such a juncture was intolerable. I made an
effort, therefore, to remedy the evil, and disclaim all personal
application of the remark by a hasty, ill-expressed reply, to the
effect that, if he waited till he was well known in the
neighbourhood, he might have numerous opportunities for supplying
his want among the residents of F--- and its vicinity, or the
visitors of A---, if he required so ample a choice: not
considering the compliment implied by such an assertion, till his
answer made me aware of it.
'I am not so presumptuous as to believe that,' said he, 'though you
tell it me; but if it were so, I am rather particular in my notions
of a companion for life, and perhaps I might not find one to suit
me among the ladies you mention.'
'If you require perfection, you never will.'
'I do not--I have no right to require it, as being so far from
Here the conversation was interrupted by a water-cart lumbering
past us, for we were now come to the busy part of the sands; and,
for the next eight or ten minutes, between carts and horses, and
asses, and men, there was little room for social intercourse, till
we had turned our backs upon the sea, and begun to ascend the
precipitous road leading into the town. Here my companion offered
me his arm, which I accepted, though not with the intention of
using it as a support.
'You don't often come on to the sands, I think,' said he, 'for I
have walked there many times, both morning and evening, since I
came, and never seen you till now; and several times, in passing
through the town, too, I have looked about for your school--but I
did not think of the--Road; and once or twice I made inquiries, but
without obtaining the requisite information.'
When we had surmounted the acclivity, I was about to withdraw my
arm from his, but by a slight tightening of the elbow was tacitly
informed that such was not his will, and accordingly desisted.
Discoursing on different subjects, we entered the town, and passed
through several streets. I saw that he was going out of his way to
accompany me, notwithstanding the long walk that was yet before
him; and, fearing that he might be inconveniencing himself from
motives of politeness, I observed--'I fear I am taking you out of
your way, Mr. Weston--I believe the road to F--- lies quite in
'I'll leave you at the end of the next street,' said he.
'And when will you come to see mamma?'
The end of the next street was nearly the conclusion of my journey.
He stopped there, however, bid me good-morning, and called Snap,
who seemed a little doubtful whether to follow his old mistress or
his new master, but trotted away upon being summoned by the latter.
'I won't offer to restore him to you, Miss Grey,' said Mr. Weston,
smiling, 'because I like him.'
'Oh, I don't want him,' replied I, 'now that he has a good master;
I'm quite satisfied.'
'You take it for granted that I am a good one, then?'
The man and the dog departed, and I returned home, full of
gratitude to heaven for so much bliss, and praying that my hopes
might not again be crushed.
'Well, Agnes, you must not take such long walks again before
breakfast,' said my mother, observing that I drank an extra cup of
coffee and ate nothing--pleading the heat of the weather, and the
fatigue of my long walk as an excuse. I certainly did feel
feverish and tired too.
'You always do things by extremes: now, if you had taken a SHORT
walk every morning, and would continue to do so, it would do you
'Well, mamma, I will.'
'But this is worse than lying in bed or bending over your books:
you have quite put yourself into a fever.'
'I won't do it again,' said I.
I was racking my brains with thinking how to tell her about Mr.
Weston, for she must know he was coming to-morrow. However, I
waited till the breakfast things were removed, and I was more calm
and cool; and then, having sat down to my drawing, I began--'I met
an old friend on the sands to-day, mamma.'
'An old friend! Who could it be?'
'Two old friends, indeed. One was a dog;' and then I reminded her
of Snap, whose history I had recounted before, and related the
incident of his sudden appearance and remarkable recognition; 'and
the other,' continued I, 'was Mr. Weston, the curate of Horton.'
'Mr. Weston! I never heard of him before.'
'Yes, you have: I've mentioned him several times, I believe: but
you don't remember.'
'I've heard you speak of Mr. Hatfield.'
'Mr. Hatfield was the rector, and Mr. Weston the curate: I used to
mention him sometimes in contradistinction to Mr. Hatfield, as
being a more efficient clergyman. However, he was on the sands
this morning with the dog--he had bought it, I suppose, from the
rat-catcher; and he knew me as well as it did--probably through its
means: and I had a little conversation with him, in the course of
which, as he asked about our school, I was led to say something
about you, and your good management; and he said he should like to
know you, and asked if I would introduce him to you, if he should
take the liberty of calling to-morrow; so I said I would. Was I
'Of course. What kind of a man is he?'
'A very RESPECTABLE man, I think: but you will see him to-morrow.
He is the new vicar of F---, and as he has only been there a few
weeks, I suppose he has made no friends yet, and wants a little
The morrow came. What a fever of anxiety and expectation I was in
from breakfast till noon--at which time he made his appearance!
Having introduced him to my mother, I took my work to the window,
and sat down to await the result of the interview. They got on
extremely well together--greatly to my satisfaction, for I had felt
very anxious about what my mother would think of him. He did not
stay long that time: but when he rose to take leave, she said she
should be happy to see him, whenever he might find it convenient to
call again; and when he was gone, I was gratified by hearing her
say,--'Well! I think he's a very sensible man. But why did you
sit back there, Agnes,' she added, 'and talk so little?'
'Because you talked so well, mamma, I thought you required no
assistance from me: and, besides, he was your visitor, not mine.'
After that, he often called upon us--several times in the course of
a week. He generally addressed most of his conversation to my
mother: and no wonder, for she could converse. I almost envied
the unfettered, vigorous fluency of her discourse, and the strong
sense evinced by everything she said--and yet, I did not; for,
though I occasionally regretted my own deficiencies for his sake,
it gave me very great pleasure to sit and hear the two beings I
loved and honoured above every one else in the world, discoursing
together so amicably, so wisely, and so well. I was not always
silent, however; nor was I at all neglected. I was quite as much
noticed as I would wish to be: there was no lack of kind words and
kinder looks, no end of delicate attentions, too fine and subtle to
be grasped by words, and therefore indescribable--but deeply felt
Ceremony was quickly dropped between us: Mr. Weston came as an
expected guest, welcome at all times, and never deranging the
economy of our household affairs. He even called me 'Agnes:' the
name had been timidly spoken at first, but, finding it gave no
offence in any quarter, he seemed greatly to prefer that
appellation to 'Miss Grey;' and so did I. How tedious and gloomy
were those days in which he did not come! And yet not miserable;
for I had still the remembrance of the last visit and the hope of
the next to cheer me. But when two or three days passed without my
seeing him, I certainly felt very anxious--absurdly, unreasonably
so; for, of course, he had his own business and the affairs of his
parish to attend to. And I dreaded the close of the holidays, when
MY business also would begin, and I should be sometimes unable to
see him, and sometimes--when my mother was in the schoolroom--
obliged to be with him alone: a position I did not at all desire,
in the house; though to meet him out of doors, and walk beside him,
had proved by no means disagreeable.
One evening, however, in the last week of the vacation, he arrived-
-unexpectedly: for a heavy and protracted thunder-shower during
the afternoon had almost destroyed my hopes of seeing him that day;
but now the storm was over, and the sun was shining brightly.
'A beautiful evening, Mrs. Grey!' said he, as he entered. 'Agnes,
I want you to take a walk with me to--' (he named a certain part of
the coast--a bold hill on the land side, and towards the sea a
steep precipice, from the summit of which a glorious view is to be
had). 'The rain has laid the dust, and cooled and cleared the air,
and the prospect will be magnificent. Will you come?'
'Can I go, mamma?'
'Yes; to be sure.'
I went to get ready, and was down again in a few minutes; though,
of course, I took a little more pains with my attire than if I had
merely been going out on some shopping expedition alone. The
thunder-shower had certainly had a most beneficial effect upon the
weather, and the evening was most delightful. Mr. Weston would
have me to take his arm; he said little during our passage through
the crowded streets, but walked very fast, and appeared grave and
abstracted. I wondered what was the matter, and felt an indefinite
dread that something unpleasant was on his mind; and vague
surmises, concerning what it might be, troubled me not a little,
and made me grave and silent enough. But these fantasies vanished
upon reaching the quiet outskirts of the town; for as soon as we
came within sight of the venerable old church, and the--hill, with
the deep blue beyond it, I found my companion was cheerful enough.
'I'm afraid I've been walking too fast for you, Agnes,' said he:
'in my impatience to be rid of the town, I forgot to consult your
convenience; but now we'll walk as slowly as you please. I see, by
those light clouds in the west, there will be a brilliant sunset,
and we shall be in time to witness its effect upon the sea, at the
most moderate rate of progression.'
When we had got about half-way up the hill, we fell into silence
again; which, as usual, he was the first to break.
'My house is desolate yet, Miss Grey,' he smilingly observed, 'and
I am acquainted now with all the ladies in my parish, and several
in this town too; and many others I know by sight and by report;
but not one of them will suit me for a companion; in fact, there is
only one person in the world that will: and that is yourself; and
I want to know your decision?'
'Are you in earnest, Mr. Weston?'
'In earnest! How could you think I should jest on such a subject?'
He laid his hand on mine, that rested on his arm: he must have
felt it tremble--but it was no great matter now.
'I hope I have not been too precipitate,' he said, in a serious
tone. 'You must have known that it was not my way to flatter and
talk soft nonsense, or even to speak the admiration that I felt;
and that a single word or glance of mine meant more than the honied
phrases and fervent protestations of most other men.'
I said something about not liking to leave my mother, and doing
nothing without her consent.
'I settled everything with Mrs. Grey, while you were putting on
your bonnet,' replied he. 'She said I might have her consent, if I
could obtain yours; and I asked her, in case I should be so happy,
to come and live with us--for I was sure you would like it better.
But she refused, saying she could now afford to employ an
assistant, and would continue the school till she could purchase an
annuity sufficient to maintain her in comfortable lodgings; and,
meantime, she would spend her vacations alternately with us and
your sister, and should be quite contented if you were happy. And
so now I have overruled your objections on her account. Have you
'You love me then?' said be, fervently pressing my hand.
Here I pause. My Diary, from which I have compiled these pages,
goes but little further. I could go on for years, but I will
content myself with adding, that I shall never forget that glorious
summer evening, and always remember with delight that steep hill,
and the edge of the precipice where we stood together, watching the
splendid sunset mirrored in the restless world of waters at our
feet--with hearts filled with gratitude to heaven, and happiness,
and love--almost too full for speech.
A few weeks after that, when my mother had supplied herself with an
assistant, I became the wife of Edward Weston; and never have found
cause to repent it, and am certain that I never shall. We have had
trials, and we know that we must have them again; but we bear them
well together, and endeavour to fortify ourselves and each other
against the final separation--that greatest of all afflictions to
the survivor. But, if we keep in mind the glorious heaven beyond,
where both may meet again, and sin and sorrow are unknown, surely
that too may be borne; and, meantime, we endeavour to live to the
glory of Him who has scattered so many blessings in our path.
Edward, by his strenuous exertions, has worked surprising reforms
in his parish, and is esteemed and loved by its inhabitants--as he
deserves; for whatever his faults may be as a man (and no one is
entirely without), I defy anybody to blame him as a pastor, a
husband, or a father.
Our children, Edward, Agnes, and little Mary, promise well; their
education, for the time being, is chiefly committed to me; and they
shall want no good thing that a mother's care can give. Our modest
income is amply sufficient for our requirements: and by practising
the economy we learnt in harder times, and never attempting to
imitate our richer neighbours, we manage not only to enjoy comfort
and contentment ourselves, but to have every year something to lay
by for our children, and something to give to those who need it.
And now I think I have said sufficient.