Part 5 out of 7
'No doubt,' said Louis; 'but, alas! if all had their deserts--'
'Then you really think he was too severe?'
'I think his constitutional character was hardly fit for so trying a
post, and that his family and school troubles reacted upon each
'You mean Clara's conduct; and dear grandmamma--oh! if she could but
have stayed with us! If you could have seen how haggard and grieved
he came home from Cheveleigh! I do not think he has been quite the
same ever since.'
'And No. 5 has never been the same,' said Louis.
'Tell me,' said Isabel, suddenly, 'are we very poor indeed?'
'I fear so, Isabel. Till James can find some employment, I fear
there is a stern struggle with poverty before you.'
'Does that mean living as the Faithfulls do?'
'Yes, I think your means will be nearly the same as theirs.'
'Fitzjocelyn,' said Isabel, after a long pause, 'I see what you have
been implying all this time, and I have been feeling it too. I have
been absorbed in my own pursuits, and not paid attention enough to
details of management, and so I have helped to fret and vex my
husband. You all think my habits an additional evil in this trial.'
'James has never said a word of the kind,' cried Louis.
'I know he has not; but I ought to have opened my eyes to it long
ago, and I thank you for helping me. There--will you take that
manuscript, and keep it out of my way? It has been a great tempter
to me. It is finished now, and it might bring in something. But I
can have only one thought now--how to make James happier and more at
'Then, Isabel, I don't think your misfortunes will be misfortunes.'
'To suffer for right principles should give strength for anything,'
said Isabel. 'Think what many better women than I have had to
endure, when they have had to be ashamed of their husband, not proud
of him! Now, I do hope and trust that God will help us, and carry us
and the children through with it!'
Louis felt that in this frame she was truly fit to cheer and sustain
James. How she might endure the actual struggle with penury, he
dared not imagine; at present he could only be carried along by her
James still lay on his tossed, uncomfortable bed in the evening
twilight. The long, lonely hours, when he imagined Louis to have
taken him at his word and gone home, had given him a miserable sense
of desertion, and as increasing sensations of illness took from him
the hopes of moving on that day, he became distracted at the thought
of the anxiety his silence would cause Isabel, and, after vainly
attempting to write, had been lying with the door open, watching for
some approaching step.
There was the familiar sound of a soft, gliding step on the stairs,
then a pause, and the sweet soft voice, 'My poor James, how sadly
uncomfortable you are!'
'My dear!' he cried, hastily raising himself, 'who has been
'No one, Fitzjocelyn was so kind as to come for me.'
'Ah! I wished you to have been spared this unpleasant business.'
'Do you think I could bear to stay away! Oh, James! have I been too
useless and helpless for you even to be glad to see me?'
'It was for your own sake,' he murmured, pressing her hand. 'Has
Fitzjocelyn told you?'
'Yes,' said Isabel, looking up, as she sat beside him. 'Never mind,
James. It is better to suffer wrong than to do it. I do not fear
but that, if we strive to do our duty, God will help us, and make it
turn out for the best for our children and ourselves.'
He grasped her hand in intense emotion.
'I know you are anxious about me,' added Isabel. 'My ways have been
too self-indulgent for you to think I can bear hardness. I made too
many professions at first; I will make no more now, but only tell you
that I trust to do my utmost, and not shrink from my duties. And
now, not a word more about it till you are better.'
SWEET USES OF ADVERSITY.
One furnace many times the good and bad will hold;
But what consumes the chaff will only cleanse the gold.
R. C. TRENCH.
During the succeeding days, James had little will or power to
consider his affairs; and Isabel, while attending on him, had time to
think over her plans. Happily, they had not a debt. Mrs. Frost had
so entirely impressed her grandson's mind with her own invariable
rule of paying her way, that it had been one of his grounds for pride
that he had never owed anything to any man.
They were thus free to choose their own course, but Lord Ormersfield
urged their remaining at Northwold for the present. He saw Mr.
Calcott, who had been exceedingly concerned at the turn affairs had
taken, and very far from wishing to depose James, though thinking
that he needed an exhortation to take heed to his ways. It had been
an improper reprimand, improperly received; but the Earl and the
Squire agreed that nothing but morbid fancy could conjure up
disgrace, such as need prevent James Frost from remaining in his own
house until he could obtain employment, provided he and his wife had
the resolution to contract their style of living under the eye of
This gave neither of them a moment's uneasiness. It was not the
direction of their pride; and even before James's aching head was
troubled with deliberation, Isabel had discussed her plan with the
Miss Faithfulls. She would imagine herself in a colony, and be
troubled with no more scruples about the conventional tasks of a lady
than if she were in the back-woods.
They would shut up some of the rooms, take one servant of all-work,
and Isabel would be nursery-maid herself. 'We may do quite as well
as the carpenter's wife,' she said; 'she has more children and less
income, and yet always seems to me the richest person whom I know.'
James groaned, and turned his face away. He could not forbid it, for
even Isabel's exertion must be permitted rather than the dishonour of
living beyond their means; and he consoled himself with thinking that
when the deadening inertness of his illness should leave him, he
should see some means of finding employment for himself, which would
save her from toil and exertion, and, in the meantime, with all his
keen self-reproach, it was a blessed thing to have been brought back
to his enthusiastic admiration for her, all discontents and drawbacks
utterly forgotten in her assiduous affection and gallant
Lord Ormersfield had readily acceded to his son's wish to bring the
party to spend Christmas at Ormersfield, as soon as James could be
moved. During their visit the changes were to be made, and before
setting out Isabel had to speak to the servants. Charlotte's
alacrity and usefulness had made her doubly esteemed during her
master's illness; and when he heard how she was to be disposed of,
he seemed much vexed. He said that she was a legacy from his
grandmother, and too innocent and pretty to be cast about among
strange servants in all the places where the Conways visited; and
that he would not have consented to the transfer, but that, under
their present circumstances, it was impossible to keep her. If any
evil came to her, it would be another miserable effect of his own
Isabel thought he exaggerated the dangers, and she spoke brightly to
Charlotte about fixing the day of her going to Estminster, so as to
be put into the ways of the place before her predecessor departed.
The tears at once came into Charlotte's eyes, and she answered, 'If
you please, ma'am, I should be very sorry to leave, unless I did not
'That is far from being the reason, Charlotte; but we cannot keep so
good a servant--Mr. Frost has given up--'
'I have been put out of the school,' said James, from his sofa, in
his stern sense of truth. 'We must live on as little as possible,
and therefore must part with you, Charlotte, though from no fault of
yours. You must look on us as your friends, and in any difficulty
apply to us; for, as Mrs. Frost says, we look on you as a charge from
Charlotte escaped to hide her tears; and when, a few minutes after,
the Ormersfield carriage arrived, and nurses and babies were packed
in, and her master walked feebly and languidly down stairs, and her
mistress turned round to say, kindly, 'You will let me know,
Charlotte?' she just articulated, 'Thank you, ma'am, I will write.'
Mr. Frost's words had not been news to Charlotte. His affairs had
been already pretty well understood and discussed, and the hard,
rude, grasping comments of the vulgar cook--nay, even of the genteel
nurse--had been so many wounds to the little maiden, bred up by Jane
in the simplicity of feudal reverence and affection for all that bore
the name of Frost Dynevor.
Her mistress left to the tender mercies of some servant such as
these, some one who might only care for her own ease and profit, and
not once think of who and what she had been! The little children
knocked about by some careless girl! Never, never! All the doubts
and scruples about putting her own weak head and vain heart in the
way of being made faithless to Tom revived, reinforced by her strong
and generous affection. A romantic purpose suddenly occurred to her,
flushing her cheek and brightening her eye. In that one impulse,
scrubbing, washing dishes, short lilac sleeves were either forgotten,
or acquired a positive glory, and while the cook was issuing her
invitations for a jollification and gossip at the expense of Mr. and
Mrs. Frost, Charlotte sat in her attic, amid Jane's verbenas, which
she had cherished there ever since their expulsion from the kitchen,
and wrote and cried, and left off, to read over, and feel satisfied
at, the felicity of her phrases, and the sentiment of her project.
'Dear and Honoured Madam,--Pardon the liberty I am taking but I am
sure that you and my reverend and redoubted master would not
willingly have inflicted so much pain as yesterday on a poor young
female which was brought up from an orphan child by my dear late
lamented mistress and owes everything to her and would never realize
the touching lines of the sublime poet
Deserted in his utmost need
By those his former bounty fed.
As to higher wages and a situation offering superior advantages such
as might prove attractive to other minds it has none to me. My turn
is for fidelity in obscurity and dear and honoured lady I am a poor
unprotected girl which has read in many volumes of the dangers of
going forth into the snares of a wealthy and powerful family and begs
you not to deprive her of the shelter of the peaceful roof which has
been her haven and has been the seen of the joys and sorrows of her
career. Dear lady pardon the liberty that I have taken but it would
brake my heart to leave you and master and the dear children
espeshilly in the present winter of adversity which I have hands to
help in to the best of my poor abilities. Dear and honoured lady I
have often been idle but I will be so no more I love the dear little
ladies with all my heart and I can cook and act in any capacity and
wages is no object I will not take none nor beer neither--and the
parlour tea-leaves will be sufficient. Dear and honoured master and
mistress forgive the liberty a poor girl has taken and lend a
favourable ear to my request for if you persist in parting with me I
know I shall not survive it.
'Your humble and faithful Servant,
Isabel received this letter while she was at breakfast with Lord
Ormersfield and Louis, and it was, of course, impossible to keep it
to herself. 'Talking of uo wages!' said the Earl. 'Send her off at
'You will despise me,' said Isabel, with tears in her eyes; 'but
there is something very touching in it, in spite of the affectation.
I believe she really means it.'
'Affectation is only matter of taste,' said Louis. 'Half the
simplicity of our day is only fashion; and Charlotte's letter, with a
few stops, and signed Chloe, would have figured handsomely in Mrs.
'It does not depend on me,' said Isabel; 'James could not bear her
going before, and I am sure he will not now.'
'I think he ought not,' said Louis. 'Poor girl! I do believe the
snares of wealthy families and fidelity in obscurity, really mean
with her the pomps and vanities versus duty and affection.'
'I am sure I would not drive her back to them,' said Isabel; 'but I
am only afraid the work will be too much for her strength.'
'The willing heart goes all the way,' said Louis; 'and maybe it will
be more wholesome than London, and sitting up.'
Isabel coloured and sighed; but added, that it would be infinite
relief on the children's account to keep some one so gentle-handed,
and so entirely to be trusted.
James's decision was immediate. He called the letter a farrago, but
his laugh was mixed with tears at the faithful affection it
displayed. 'It was mere folly,' he said, 'to think of keeping her
without wages; but, if she would accept such as could be afforded
after taking a rough village girl for her food to do the hard work,
the experiment should be made, in the hope that the present straits
would only endure for a short time.
This little event seemed to have done him much good, and put him more
at peace with the world. He was grateful for Lord Ormersfield's
kindness and forbearance, and the enforced rest from work was
refreshing him; while Isabel had never been so cheerful and lively in
her life as now, when braced manfully for her work, full of energy,
and feeling that she must show herself happy and courageous to
support his depressed spirits. She was making a beginning--she was
practising herself in her nursery duties, and, to her surprise,
finding them quite charming; and little Kitty so delighted with all
she did for her, that all the hitherto unsounded depths of the
motherly heart were stirred up, and she could not think why she had
never found out her true happiness. She looked so bright and so
beautiful, that even Lord Ormersfield remarked it, pitying her for
trials which he thought she little realized; but Louis augured
better, believing that it was not ignorance but resolution which gave
animation and brilliancy to her dark eye and cheerfulness to her
Fitzjocelyn took her to Dynevor Terrace in the afternoon to settle
the matter with Charlotte; and, on the way, he took the opportunity
of telling her that he had been reading Sir Hubert, and admired him
very much, discussing him and Adeline with the same vivid interest as
her own sisters showed in them as persons, not mere personages.
Isabel said they already seemed to her to belong to a world much
farther back than the last fortnight.
'There is some puzzle in the middle,' said Louis. 'I can't make out
the hero whose addresses were so inconvenient to Adeline, and who ran
away from the pirates. He began as a crabbed old troubadour, who
made bad verses; and then he went on as a fantastic young Viscount,
skipping and talking nonsense.'
'Oh!' cried Isabel, much discomposed. 'Did I leave that piece there?
I took it to Estminster by mistake, and they told me of it. I should
have taken it out.'
'That would have been a pity,' said Louis, 'for the Viscount is a
much more living man than the old troubadour. When he had so many
plans of poems for the golden violet that he made none at all, I was
quite taken with him. I began to think I was going to have a
Isabel blushed and tried to laugh, but it was so unsuccessful that
Louis exclaimed in high glee--'There! I do believe I was the
fantastic Viscount! Oh! Isabel, it was too bad! I can fairly acquit
myself of skipping ever since I had the honour of your acquaintance.'
'Or of running away from the pirates,' said Isabel. 'No, it was a
great deal too bad, and very wrong indeed. It was when you did not
run away that I was so much ashamed, that I thought I had torn out
every atom. I never told any one--not even Virginia!'
Louis had a very hearty laugh, and, when Isabel gaw him so
excessively amused, she ventured to laugh too at her ancient
prejudice, and the strange chance which had made the fantastic
Viscount, Sir Roland's critic.
'You must restore him,' said Louis, returning to business. 'That old
troubadour is the one inconsistency in the story, evidently not
fitting into the original plot. I shall be delighted to sit for the
'I don't think you could now,' said Isabel. 'I think the motley must
have been in the spectacles with which I looked at you.'
'Ah! it is a true poem,' said Louis, 'it must have been a great
relief to your feelings! Shall I give it back to you?
'Oh! I can't touch it now!' cried Isabel. 'You may give it to me,
and if ever I have time to think again of it, I may touch it up, but
certainly not now.'
'And when you do, pray don't omit the Viscount. I can't lose my
chance of going down to posterity.'
He went his way, while Isabel repaired to the Terrace, and found
Charlotte awaiting her answer in much trepidation.
The low wages, instead of none at all, were a great disappointment,
doing away with all the honour and sentiment, and merely degrading
her in the eyes of her companions; but her attachment conquered this
objection, and face to face with her mistress, the affectation
departed, and left remaining such honest and sincere faithfulness and
affection, that Isabel felt as if a valuable and noble-hearted friend
had suddenly been made known to her. It was a silly little fanciful
heart, but it was sound to the core; and when Isabel said, 'There
will be very hard work, Charlotte, but we will try to do our best for
Mr. Frost and the children, and we will help each other,' Charlotte
felt as if no task could be too hard if it were to be met with such a
look and smile.
'Is it settled?' asked Lord Fitzjocelyn, as Charlotte opened the door
'Oh, yes, thank you, my Lord--'
'But, Charlotte, one thing is decided. Mrs. Frost can afford no more
eau de Cologne. The first hysterics and you go!'
He passed upstairs, and found Isabel beginning to dismantle the
drawing-room--'Which you arranged for us!' she said.
A long, deep sigh was the answer, and Louis mused for some moments
ere he said--'It is hard work to say good-bye to trifles with which
departed happiness seems connected.'
'Oh, no!' cried Isabel, eagerly. 'With such a home, the happiness
cannot be departed.'
'No, not with such a home!' said Louis, with a melancholy smile; 'but
I was selfish enough to be thinking who hung that picture--'
'I don't think you were the selfish person,' said Isabel.
'Patience and work!' said Louis, rousing himself. 'Some sort of good
time _must_ come,'--and he quickly put his hand to assist in putting
the Dresden shepherd and shepherdess into retirement, observing that
they seemed the genii of the place, and he set his mind on their
'I do not think,' said Isabel, as she afterwards narrated this scene
to her husband, 'that I ever realized his being so much attached to
Mary Ponsonby; I thought it was a convenient suitable thing in which
he followed his father's wishes, and I imagined he had quite
'He did not look interesting enough? Yes! he was slow in knowing his
own mind; but his heart once given there is no recalling it, whatever
his father may wish.'
'Or my mother,' said Isabel, smiling.
'Ah! I have never asked you what your party say of him in the London
'They say he quite provokes them by being such a diligent member, and
that people debate as to whether he will distinguish himself. Some
say he does not care enough, and others, that he has too many
'Just so! Public men are not made of that soft, scrupulous stuff,
which only hardens and toughens when principle is clear before him.
Well, as to society--'
'Virginia says he is hardly ever to be had; he is either at the
House, or he has something to do for his father; he slips out of
parties, and they never catch him unless they are in great want of a
gentleman to take them somewhere, and then no one is so useful.
Mamma has been setting innumerable little traps for him, but he
marches straight through them all, and only a little tone of irony
betrays that he sees through them. Every one likes him, and the only
complaint is, that he is so seldom to be seen, keeping almost
entirely to his father's set, always with his father--'
'Ay! I can bear to watch his submission better than formerly. His
attentions are in such perfect good taste that they are quite
beautiful; and his lordship has quite ceased snubbing, and begins to
have a glimmering that when Louis says something never dreamt of in
his philosophy, the defect may be in his understanding, and not in
'I could excuse him for not always understanding Fitzjocelyn! But
there never were two kinder people in the world; and I could not have
imagined that I should ever like Lord Ormersfield half so much.'
'He is improved. Louis's exclusive devotion has not been lost on
him. Holdsworth has been sitting with me, and talking of the great
change in the parish. He told me that at his first arrival here,
seven years ago, when he was very young, he found himself quite
disheartened and disgusted by the respectability of the place. Every
one was cold, distant, correct, and self-esteeming; so perfectly
contented with themselves and the routine, that he felt all his
ardour thrown away, and it seemed to him that he was pastor to a
steam-engine--a mere item in the proprieties of Ormersfield. He was
almost ready to exchange, out of weariness and impatience, when
Fitzjocelyn came home, and awoke fresh life and interest by his
absurdities, his wonderful philanthropies, and extraordinary schemes.
His sympathy and earnestness were the first refreshment and
encouragement; and Holdsworth declares that no one can guess the
benefit that he was to him even when he was most ridiculous. Since
that, he says, the change has been striking, though so gradual.
Louis has all the same freshness and energy, but without the
fluctuation and impetuosity. And his example of humility and
sincerity has worked, not only in reclaiming the wild outlying
people, but even awakening the comfortable dependents from their
self-satisfaction. Even Frampton is far from the impenetrable person
he used to be.'
'And I suppose they have done infinite good to the wild Marksedge
'Some are better, some are worse. I believe that people always are
worse when they reject good. I am glad to find, too, that the
improvements answer in a pecuniary point of view. His Lordship is
amazed at his son's sagacity, and they have never been so much at
ease in money matters.'
'Indeed! Well, I must own that I have always been struck with the
very small scale on which things are done here. Just the mere margin
of what is required by their station, barely an indulgence!'
'I fancy you must look into subscriptions for Fitzjocelyn's means,'
said James; 'and for the rest, they have no heart for new furniture
till he marries.'
'Well! I wonder if Mary is worth so much heart! It might be the
best thing for him if she would find some worthy merchant. He is
very young still, and looks younger. I should like him to begin the
'Ha! Isabel, you want to cook up a romance of your own for him.'
James was recovering cheerfulness. He thought he was bracing himself
to bear bravely with an unmerited wrong. The injustice of his
sentence hid from him the degree of justice; and with regard to his
own temper, he knew better what he restrained than what he expressed,
and habitually gave himself credit for what he did not say or do.
There was much that was really good in his present spirit, and it was
on the way to be better; but his was not the character to be
materially altered by the first brunt of a sudden shock. It was a
step that he had brought himself to forgive the trustees. He did not
yet see that he had any need to be forgiven.
At the end of three weeks James and Isabel returned to their home,
and to their new way of life; and Fitzjocelyn had only time to see
that they were beginning their struggle with good courage, before the
meeting of Parliament summoned him to London.
Isabel fully justified Miss Faithfull's prediction. She was too
truly high-minded to think any task beneath her; and with her heart
in, not out of her immediate work, she could not fail to be a happier
woman. Success gave as much pleasure in a household duty as in an
accomplishment--nay, far more when it was a victory over herself, and
an increase to the comfort of her husband. Her strength was much
tried, and the children often fatigued and harassed her; but there
was unspeakable compensation in their fondness and dependence on her,
and even in the actual services themselves. The only wonder began to
be how she could have ever trusted them in any hands but her own.
Her husband's affection and consideration were sources of joy ever
renewed; and though natural irritability and pressing anxieties might
now and then betray him into a hasty word, his penitence so far
surpassed the momentary pain it might have cost her, that she was
obliged to do her utmost to comfort him. She sometimes found herself
awkward or ignorant, and sometimes flagged from over-exertion; yet
throughout, James's approval, and her own sense that she was striving
to do her best, kept her mind at rest. Above all, the secret of her
happiness was, that the shock of adversity had awakened her from her
previous deadness and sluggishness of soul, and made her alive to a
feeling of trust and support, a frame of mind ever repenting, ever
striving onwards. Thus she went bravely through the very class of
trials that she would once have thought merely lowering, inglorious,
and devoid of poetry. What would have been in itself sordid, gained
a sweetness from the light of love and duty, and never in all her
dreamy ease had she been as cheerful and lighthearted as in the midst
of hardship and rigid economy. Her equable temper and calm composure
came to her aid; and where a more nervous and excitable woman would
have preyed upon herself, and sunk under imaginary troubles, she was
always ready to soothe and sustain the anxious and sensitive nature
of her husband. After all, hers was the lightest share of the trial.
To her, the call was to act, and to undergo misfortunes occasioned by
no fault of hers; to him, the call was the one most galling to an
active and eager man--namely, to endure, and worse, to see endured,
the penalty of his own errors. In vain did he seek for employment.
A curacy, without a fair emolument, would have been greater poverty
than their present condition, as long as the house was unlet; and,
though he answered advertisements and made applications, the only
eligible situations failed; and he knew, among so many candidates,
the last to be chosen would be a person of violent temper, unable to
bear rebuke. Disappointment came upon disappointment, and the
literary work, with which, through Louis's exertions, he had been
supplied, was not likely to bring in any speedy return.
All that he could do was to take more than his part in domestic
trifles, such as most men would have scorned, and to relieve his wife
as far as possible of the children, often at the cost of his writing.
He bore the brunt of many a trial of which she was scarcely aware--
slights from the harsh vulgar, and compassion from the kind vulgar;
and the proud self-assertion was gone which had hardened him to all
such stings. To his lot fell the misery of weighing and balancing
what comforts could best be cut off without positive injury to his
wife and little ones. To consider whether an empty house should be
repaired for a doubtful tenant, to make the venture, and have it
rejected, was a severe vexation, when the expense trenched on
absolute necessaries, and hardly less trying was it to be forced to
accept the rent of the House Beautiful, knowing how ill it could be
spared; and yet, that without it he must lapse into the hopeless
abyss of debt. Moreover, there was
The terrible heart thrill
To have no power of giving
to some of the poor who had learnt to look to the Terrace in his
grandmother's time, and meals were curtailed, that those in greater
need might not be left quite unaided.
Nor was this the only cause for which James underwent actual stern
privation. The reign of bad cookery was over. Charlotte, if
unmethodical, was delicately neat; and though she kept them waiting
for their dinner, always served it up with the precision of past
prosperity. Cheap cookery and cottage economy were the study, and
the results were pronounced admirable; but the master was the
dispenser; and when a modicum of meat was to make nourishing a
mountain of rice, or an ocean of broth, it would occur to him, as he
helped Isabel, that the piece de resistance would hardly hold out for
the kitchen devourers. He would take the recipe at its word, and
dine on the surrounding structure; and in spite of the cottage
economy, he was nearly as hungry after dinner as before it, and
people began to say that he had never recovered his looks since his
illness. These daily petty acts of self-denial and self-restraint
had begun to tame his spirit and open his eyes in a manner that
neither precept nor example had yet effected.
Charlotte had imbibed to the full the spirit of patient exertion
which pervaded the house. Mrs. Martha had told her she was a foolish
girl, and would be tired of the place in a fortnight; but when she
did not see her tired, she would often rush in after her two
mistresses were shut up for the evening, scold Charlotte for her want
of method, and finish all that was left undone, while Charlotte went
up to the nursery to release her mistress. As to novels and
sentiment, they had gone after Sir Hubert; and though Charlotte was
what Martha expressively called 'fairly run off her feet,' she had
never looked better nor happier. Her mistress treated her like a
friend; she doted on the children, and the cook was out of the
kitchen; Delaford was off her mind, and neither stairs nor even
knife-cleaning could hurt her feelings. To be sure, her subordinate,
a raw girl from Marksgedge, devoured all that was set before her, and
what was not eatable, she broke; but as she had been sent from home
with no injunctions but to 'look sharp and get stout,' so she was
only fulfilling her vocation, and on some question of beer, her
mother came and raved at Charlotte, and would have raved at Mrs.
Frost, if her dignified presence had not overawed her. So she only
took the girl away in offence, and Charlotte was much happier with an
occasional charwoman to share her labours.
There was much happiness in No. 5, notwithstanding that the spring
and summer of 1851 were very hard times; and perhaps felt the more,
because the sunny presence of Louis Fitzjocelyn did not shine there
He was detained in London all the Easter recess by his father's
illness. Lord Ormersfield was bound hand and foot by a severe attack
of rheumatism, caught almost immediately after his going to London.
It seemed to have taken a strong hold of his constitution, and
lingered on for weeks, so that he could barely move from his armchair
by the fire, and began to give himself up as henceforth to be a
crippled old man--a view out of which Louis and Sir Miles Oakstead
tried by turns to laugh him; indeed, Sir Miles accused him of wanting
to continue his monopoly of his son--and of that doubly-devoted
attention by which Louis enlivened his convalescence.
Society had very little chance with Fitzjocelyn now, unless he was
fairly hunted out by the Earl, who was always haunted by ungrounded
alarms for his health and spirits, and never allowed him to fail in
the morning rides, which were in fact his great refreshment, as much
from the quiet and the change of scene, as from the mere air and
'Father,' said he, coming in one day a little after Easter, 'you are
a very wise man!'
'Eh!' said the Earl, looking up in wonder and expectation excited by
this prelude, hoping for the fulfilment of some political prediction.
'He is a wise man,' proceeded Louis, 'who does not put faith in
treasures, especially butlers; also, who does not bring a schoolboy
to London with nothing to do!'
'What now?' said the Earl. 'Is young Conway in a scrape?'
'I am,' said Fitzjocelyn; 'I have made a discovery, and I don't
exactly see what to do with it. You see I have been taking the boy
out riding with me, as the only thing I could well do for him these
holidays. You must know he is very good and patronizing; I believe
he thinks he could put me up to a few things in time. Well, to-day,
as we passed a questionable-looking individual, Walter bowed, as if
highly elated by the honour of his acquaintance, and explained to me
that he was the celebrated--I forget who, but that's owing to my
defective education. The fact is, that this Delaford, to whom my
aunt implicitly trusts, has been introducing this unlucky boy to a
practical course of Bell's Life--things that I went through Eton, and
never even heard of.' And he detailed some of them.
'No more than she might have expected,' said Lord Ormersfield.
'And what is to be done?'
'I should say, never interfere between people and their servants,
still less between them and their sons. You will do no good.'
'I cannot see this go on!' cried Louis. 'The boy told me all, by way
of showing me his superiority. I believe he wants to introduce me to
some of his distinguished friends. They flatter him, and make him a
great man; and as to any scruples about his mother, Delaford has
disposed of her objections as delicate weaknesses. When I began to
look grave, the poor boy set it down to my neglected training, always
spending my holidays in the country, and not knowing what fast men
are up to.'
'And so he goes to destruction--just the sort of boy that does,' said
the Earl, with due acquiescence in the course of the world.
'He need not,' exclaimed Louis. 'He is a nice boy, a very nice boy,
if only he cared for his mother, or knew right from wrong.'
Lord Ormersfield smiled at these slight exceptions.
'He is heartily fond of Isabel,' said Louis. 'If I thought Jem could
do any good, I would send for him; but he has made my auut so much
afraid of unworldliness just now, that I only wonder she lets Miss
King stay on.'
'You had better leave it alone,' said the Earl, 'unless you can do
anything with the boy. I am glad that I am not his guardian!'
'I wish I was,' sighed Louis.
'I suppose you will grow older some day,' said Lord Ormersfield.
'However, I see you will not be contented without going your own way
'When the Earl saw his son the next day, Louis looked radiant at
having taken one step. He had seen his aunt, and she had endured the
revelation with more equanimity than he could have supposed possible.
'It was a house where they took things easily,' as he said; a house
where nothing was more feared than a scene; and Lady Conway had
thanked her nephew greatly for his communication; promised what he
did not ask, that he should not be betrayed to Walter; assured him
that the butler should be dismissed, without giving any reason,
before the summer holidays; and for the few remaining days before
Walter returned to Eton, she thought she might reckon on her dear
Fitzjocelyn for keeping his eye upon him: no doubt all would be right
when Delaford was once gone.
It was the old want of a high standard--the love of ease rather than
the love of right. The Earl laughed at her short-sighted policy, and
resented her saddling Louis with the care of her son; while Louis
philosophized upon good-nature, and its use and abuse.
Whether Mr. Delaford learnt that Sir Walter had betrayed him to Lord
Fitzjocelyn, or whether he took alarm from the young gentleman being
kept under surveillance, he scented danger; and took the initiative,
by announcing to my Lady that he intended to retire from his
situation into private life at the month's end.
Lady Conway rejoiced in being spared the fabrication by which she had
intended to dismiss her paragon without hurting his feelings, thanked
Fitzjocelyn more than ever, and was sure that dear Walter would do
But no sooner had Delaford departed than a series of discoveries
began to be made. Lady Conway's bills reached back to dates far
beyond those of the cheques which she had put into Delaford's hands
to pay them, and a tissue of peculation began to reveal itself, so
alarming and bewildering to her, that she implored her nephew to
investigate it for her.
Louis, rather against the will of his father, who was jealous of any
additional tasks thrown on him, entered into the matter with the head
of an accountant, and the zeal of a pursuer of justice; and stirred
up a frightful mass of petty and unblushing fraud, long practised as
a mere matter of course upon the mistress, who had set the example of
easy-going, insincere self-seeking. It involved the whole household
so completely, that there was no alternative but a clearance of every
servant, whether innocent or guilty, and a fresh beginning. Indeed,
so great had been the debts which had accumulated, that there was no
doubt that the treacherous butler must have been gambling to a great
extent with his mistress's money; and the loss was so heavy that Lady
Conway found she should be obliged to retrench, 'just when she should
have been so glad to have helped poor dear Isabel!' She must even
give up a season in London, but dear Virginia was far too good and
sensible to repine.
Lord Ormersfield, who had become much interested in the
investigation, and assisted much by his advice, wanted her to go to
Thornton Conway; and Louis urged the step warmly as the best hope for
Walter. But she could not live there, she said, without far too
heavy an expenditure; and she would make visits for the present, and
find some cheap place abroad, where the girls could have masters.
And so her establishment was broken up, and Louis wrote warm
congratulations to James that poor little Charlotte had not been
tempted into the robber's den. Isabel could not help reading the
whole history to Charlotte, who turned white at the notion of such
wickedness, and could hardly utter a word; though afterwards, as she
sat rocking little Mercy to sleep, she bestowed a great deal of good
advice on her, 'never to mind what nobody said to her, above all,
when they talked like a book, for there were a great many snakes and
vipers in the grass, and 'twas best to know good friends when one had
them.' And coupled with her moralizing, there was no small degree of
humble thankfulness for the impulse that had directed her away from
the evil. How could she ever have met Tom again if she had shared in
the stigma on the dishonest household? Simple-hearted loyalty had
been a guard against more perils than she had even imagined!
THE VALLEY OF HUMILIATION.
This Valley is that from whence also the King will give to His their
Vineyards; and they that go through it shall sing, as Christian did,
for all he met with Apollyon.
The close of the session still found Lord Ormersfield so stiff, bent,
and suffering, that Louis with some difficulty persuaded him into
trying the experiment of foreign baths, and in a few weeks' time they
were both established at the Hotel du Grand Monarque at Aix-la-
The removing his son to a dull watering-place, when he had so many
avocations at home, had been a great vexation to the Earl; but he was
delighted at the versatile spirits which made a holiday and delight
of the whole, and found an endless fund of interest and occupation
even in his attendance on the wearisome routine of health-seeking.
German books, natural history, the associations of the place, and the
ever-fresh study of the inhabitants and the visitors, were food
enough for his lively conversation; and the Earl, inspirited by
improving health, thought he had never enjoyed his son so much.
They were already old inhabitants of their hotel, when one afternoon
they were much amused by finding a consequential courier
gesticulating vehemently to the whole establishment on the apartments
he was to secure for a superb Milord Anglais, who seemed to require
half the hotel. Their sitting-room, overlooking the court, was
especially coveted, and the landlord even followed them upstairs with
many excuses to ask if they could exchange it for another for only
two days. Lord Ormersfield's negative had all the exceeding
politeness of offended dignity; and Louis was much amused at the
surmises, with which he consoled himself, that this was nothing but
some trumpery speculator, most likely a successful quack doctor--no
one else went about in such a style.
In a grave, grand way, he was not a little curious, and took care to
place himself where he could command a view of the court; while
Louis, making no secret of his own amusement, worked up an excitement
to entertain his father, and stood watching at the window.
'Crack! crack! there are the postilion's whips! Now for the Grand
Monarque himself--thundering under the archway! Why, there are only
two of them, after all!--a lady and a little yellow old man! Father,
you are right after all--he is the very pattern of a successful
quack! How tall the lady is! Halloo!' and he stood transfixed for a
moment, then sprang to the door, replying to his father's astonished
question--'Clara! Clara Dynevor!'
The party were in course of proceeding up the principal staircase-
the tall figure of a young lady in mourning moving on with so
stately, so quiet, and almost weary a manner, that Louis for a moment
drew back, doubting whether the remarkable height had not deceived
him. Her head was turned away, and she was following the host,
scarcely exerting herself to gaze round, when she came close to the
open door, where Louis moved slightly forwards. There was a little
ecstatic shriek, and both her hands were clasped in his, while her
face was glowing with animation and delight.
'I don't know how to believe it!' she said; 'can you be here?'
'We are curing my father. Had you not heard of his illness?'
'I hear nothing,' said Clara, sadly, as she held out her hand to Lord
Ormersfield, who had also come to meet her; and her uncle, who
followed close behind, was full of cordial rejoicings on the
There was Jane Beckett also, whom Louis next intercepted on her way
to the bedrooms, laden with bags, and smiling most joyously to see
him. 'To be sure, my young Lord! And your papa here too, my Lord!
Well! who'll be coming abroad next, I wonder?'
'I wonder at nothing since I have met you here, Jane.'
'And I am right glad of it, my Lord. You'll cheer up poor Miss Clara
a bit, I hope--for--Bless me! wont those Frenchmen never learn to
carry that box right side up?'
And off rushed Jane to a never-ending war of many tongues in defence
of Clara's finery; while Louis, following into the sitting-room,
found Mr. Dynevor inviting his father to the private dinner which he
had ordered for greater dignity.
The proposal was accepted for the sake of spending the evening
together, but little was thus gained; for, excepting for that one
little scream, Louis would hardly have felt himself in the company of
his Giraffe. She had become a very fine-looking person, not quite
handsome, but not many degrees from it, and set off by profuse hair,
and every advantage of figure and dress; while her manner was self-
possessed and formal, indifferent towards ordinary people, but warm
and coaxing towards her uncle. Blunt--almost morose to others--he
was fondling and affectionate towards her; continually looking at the
others as if to claim admiration of her, appealing to her every
moment, and even when talking himself, his keen eye still seeming to
watch every word or gesture.
The talk was all Switzerland and Italy--routes and pictures,
mountains and cathedrals--all by rote, and with no spirit nor heart
in the discussion--not a single word coming near home, nothing to
show that Dynevor Terrace had any existence. Louis bade Clara good-
night, mortified at the absence of all token of feeling for her
brother, and more than half repenting his advice to remain with her
uncle. How could the warm-hearted girl have become this cold,
haughty being, speaking by mechanism? He scarcely felt inclined to
see her again; but early the next morning, as he was at breakfast
with his father, there was a knock at the door, and a voice said,
'May I come in?' and as Louis opened, there stood the true Clara, all
blushes and abruptness. 'I beg your pardon if it is wrong,' she
said, 'but I could not help it. I must hear of him--of James.'
Lord Ormersfield welcomed her in an almost fatherly manner, and made
her sit down, telling her that she had come at a good moment, since
Louis had just received a letter; but he feared that it was not a
very good account of Isabel.
'Isabel! Is anything the matter?'
'You are behindhand. Had you not heard of the arrival of number
'I never hear anything,' said Clara, her eyes overflowing.
'Ha! not since we last met?' asked the Earl.
'They wrote once or twice; but you know they thought me wrong, and it
has all died away since I went abroad. The last letter I had was
dated in November.'
'You know nothing since that time!'
'No; I often thought of writing to Miss Faithfull, but I could not
bear to show how it was, since they would not answer me. So I made
bold to come to you, for I cannot ask before my uncle. He is quite
passionate at the very name.'
'He is kind to you?' asked Lord Ormersfield, hastily.
'Most kind, except for that, the only thing I care about. But you
have a letter! Oh! I am famishing to hear of them!'
She did not even know of the loss of the school; and her distress was
extreme as she heard of their straits. 'It must be killing Isabel,'
she said; 'if I could but be at home to work for her!'
'Isabel has come out beyond all praise,' said Louis. 'I am afraid
there is much for them to undergo; but I do believe they are much
happier in the midst of it.'
'Everybody must be happy in Dynevor Terrace,' said Clara.
Louis shook his head and smiled, adding, 'But, Clara, I do believe,
if it were to come over again, Jem would hardly act in the same way.'
'Do you think he has forgiven me?'
'Judge for yourself.'
Her hand trembling, she caught at the well-known handwriting that to
her seemed as if it could hardly be the property of any one else; and
it was well for her that Louis had partly prepared her for the tone
of depression, and the heavy trials it revealed, when she had been
figuring to herself the writer enjoying all the felicity from which
she was banished.
'No. 5, Dynevor Terrace, Sept. 14th, 1851.
'Dear Fitzjocelyn,--I ought to have written yesterday; but I took the
whole duty at Ormersfield on Sunday, and was too lazy the next day to
do more than keep the children out of the way, and look after Isabel;
for, though I am told not to be uneasy, she does not regain strength
as she has done before. Over-exertion, or bad nursing, one or both,
tell upon her; and I wish we may not have too dear a bargain in the
nurse whom she chose for cheapness' sake. My lectures were to have
paid the expenses, but the author's need is not always the first
consideration; the money will not be forthcoming till Christmas, and
meantime we cannot launch out. However, Ormersfield partridges are
excellent fare for Isabel, and I could return thanks for the abundant
supply that would almost seem disproportionate; but you can guess the
value as substantial comforts. A box of uneatable grouse from
Beauchastel, carriage twelve shillings, was a cruel subject of
gratitude; but those good people mean more kindly than I deserve; and
when Isabel is well again, we shall rub on. This little one promises
more resemblance to her than the others. We propose to call her
Frances, after my poor mother and sister. Do you remember the thrill
of meeting their names in Cheveleigh church? That memorial was well
done of my uncle. If these children were to be left as we were, you
would, I know, be their best friend; but I have a certain desire to
see your own assurance to that effect. Don't fancy this any
foreboding, but four daughters bind a man to life, and I sometimes
feel as if I hardly deserved to see good days. If I am spared to
bring up these children, I hope to make them understand the
difference between independence and pride.
'I have been looking back on my life; I have had plenty of time
during these months of inaction, which I begin to see were fit
discipline. Till Holdsworth left his parish under my charge the
other day for six weeks, I have exercised no office of my ministry,
as you know that Mr. Purvis's tone with me cut me off from anything
that could seem like meddling with him. I never felt more grateful
to any man than I did when Holdsworth made the proposal. It was as
if my penance were accepted for the spirit against which you too
justly warned me before my Ordination. Sunday was something between
a very sorrowful and a very happy day.
'I did not see the whole truth at first. I was only aware of my
unhappy temper, which had provoked the immediate punishment; but the
effort (generally a failure) to prevent my irritability from adding
to the distresses I had brought on my poor wife, opened my eyes to
much that I had never understood. Yet I had presumed to become an
instructor--I deemed myself irreproachable!
'I believe the origin of the whole was, that I never distinguished a
fierce spirit of self-exaltation from my grandmother's noble
resolution to be independent. It was a demon which took the
semblance of good, and left no room for demons of a baser sort. Even
as a boy at the Grammar-school, I kept out of evil from the pride of
proving myself gentlemanly under any circumstances; the motive was
not a bit better than that which made me bully you. I can never
remember being without an angry and injured feeling that my uncle's
neglect left my grandmother burdened, and obliged me to receive an
inferior education; and with this, a certain hope that he would never
put himself in the right, nor lay me under obligations. You saw how
this motive actuated me, when I never discerned it. I trust that I
was not insincere, though presumptuous and self-deceiving I was to an
extent which I can only remember with horror. If it approached to
sacrilege, may the wilful blindness be forgiven! At least, I knew it
not; and with all my heart I meant to fulfil the vows I had taken on
me. Thus, when my uncle actually returned, there was a species of
revengeful satisfaction in making my profession interfere with his
views, when he had made it the only one eligible for me. How ill I
behaved--how obstinately I set myself against all mediation--how I
wrapped myself in self-approval--you know better than I do. My
conceit, and absurdity, and thanklessness, have risen up before me;
and I remember offers that would have involved no sacrifice of my
clerical obligations--offers that I would not even consider--classing
them all as 'mere truckling with my conscience.' What did I take for
'Ever since, things have gone from bad to worse, grieving my dear
grandmother's last year, and estranging me from my poor little sister
because she would not follow my dictation. At last my sins brought
down the penalty, and I would not grieve except for the innocent who
suffer with me. Perhaps, but for them, I should never have felt it.
Nor do I feel tempted to murmur; for there is a strange peace with us
throughout, in spite of a sad heart and too many explosions of my
miserable temper, and the sight of the hardships so bravely met by my
dear wife. But for all this, I should never have known what she is!
She whispered to me last evening, when she saw me looking tired and
depressed, that she had no fears for the future, for this had been
the happiest year of her life. Nothing can make her forget to soothe
'I have written a long rigmarole all about myself; but an outpouring
is sometimes a relief, and you have borne with me often enough to do
so now. My poor Clara's pardon, and some kind of clerical duty, are
my chief wishes; but my failures in the early part of the year have
taught me how unworthy I am to stir a step in soliciting anything of
the kind. Did I tell you how some ten of the boys continue to touch
their hats to me? and Smith, the butcher's son, often comes to borrow
a book, and consult me on some of the difficulties that his father
throws in his way. He is a fine fellow, and at least I hope that my
two years at the school did him no harm. I was much impressed with
the orderliness at Ormersfield Sunday-school. I wish I could have
got half as much religious knowledge into my poor boys. I walked
through your turnips in the South field, and thought they wanted
rain. Frampton tells me the Inglewood harvest is in very good
condition; but I will see the bailiff, and give you more particulars,
when I can be better spared from home for a few hours. Kitty's
assistance in writing has discomposed these last few lines.
Clara turned away and groaned aloud several times as she read; but
all she said, as she gave it back to Louis, was, 'What is to be done?
You must talk to my uncle.'
'Ah, Clara! young gentlemen of the nineteenth century make but a bad
hand of the part of benevolent fairy.'
'I don't think my speaking would be of any use,' said Clara. 'Oh, if
this only would have been a boy!'
Lord Ormersfield undertook to sound Mr. Dynevor, and found an early
opportunity of asking whether he had heard of poor James's
misfortune. Yes, he had known it long ago. No wonder, with such a
temper. Kept it from the child, though. Would not have her always
hankering after them.
Was he aware of his great distress and difficulties? Ha, ha! thought
so! Fine lady wife! No end of children--served him right!--to bring
down his pride.
Lord Ormersfield hazarded a hint that James had seen his errors, and
the school was no longer in the way.
'No, no!' said Oliver. 'Too late now. Drink as he has brewed. He
should have thought twice before he broke my poor mother's heart with
his cantankerous ways. Cheveleigh beneath him, forsooth! I'm not
going to have it cut up for a lot of trumpery girls! I've settled
the property and whatever other pickings there may be upon my little
Clara--grateful, and worthy of it! Her husband shall take Dynevor
name and arms--unless, to be sure, he had a title of his own. The
girl was much admired at Rome last winter, had a fair offer or two,
but not a word will she say to any of them. I can't tell what's in
her head, not I!'
And he looked knowingly at Lord Ormersfield, and willingly extended
his stay at Aix-la-Chapelle, letting Fitzjocelyn organize expeditions
from thence to Liege and other places in the neighbourhood.
The two cousins were so glad to be together, and the Earl so much
pleased that Louis should have anything which gave him so much
delight as this meeting with his old playfellow, that he did all in
his power to facilitate and prolong their intercourse. He often
sacrificed himself to Oliver's prosings on the Equatorial navigation,
that the two young people might be at liberty; and he invited Clara
to their early breakfast and walk before her uncle wanted her in the
morning. These were Clara's times of greatest happiness, except that
it gave her a new and strange sensation to be talked to by his
lordship like a grown-up--nay, a sensible woman. Once she said to
herself, laughing, 'He really treats me almost as if I were poor Mary
herself.' And then came another flash: 'Perhaps he would even like
me on the same terms!' And then she laughed again, and shook her
head: 'No, no, my Lord, your son is much too good for that! Uncle
Oliver would not have looked so benignant at us when we were sitting
in the gardens last night, if he had known that I was giving Louis
all my Lima letters. I wish they were more worth having! It was
very stupid of me not to know Mary better, so that we write like two
old almanacs. However, my letter from hence will be worth its
journey to Peru.'
Clara's heart was several degrees lighter, both from the pleasure of
the meeting and a suggestion of the Earl's, upon which she had at
once acted, and which seemed, even as she laid pen to paper, to bring
her somewhat nearer to her brother.
Her letter arrived at No. 5, on the next Monday morning at breakfast-
time. It did not at first attract the attention of James. The
Sunday exertions had again left a mental and physical lassitude,
showing how much care and privation had told upon his strength; and
Isabel's still tardy convalescence weighed him down with anxiety for
the future, and almost with despair, as he thought of the comforts
for want of which she suffered, though so patiently and silently
dispensing with them. To his further vexation, he had, on the
previous Saturday, seen Charlotte receiving at the back-door an
amount of meat beyond her orders; and, having checked himself because
too angry and too much grieved to speak at once, had reserved the
reproof for the Monday, when Charlotte brought in her book of petty
Failing to detect the obnoxious item, he said, 'Where's the account
of the meat that came in on Saturday?'
'There, sir!' said Charlotte, indicating the legitimate amount, but
'That was not all?' he said, with a look of stern, interrogation.
'Oh! if you please, sir, that was nothing!'
'This will not do, Charlotte! I can have nothing taken into my house
without being paid for. I insist on knowing what you could mean?'
'Oh, sir!' tearfully exclaimed the girl, 'it is paid for--I'll show
you the account, if you will--with my own money. I'd not have had
you hear of it for the world; but I could not bear that nurse's
insinuations about her meat five times a-day--she that never nursed
nothing like a real lady before! But I meant no harm, sir; and I
hope you'll excuse the liberty, for I did not mean to take none; and
I'm sure I'm quite contented for my own part, nor never meant to
'I know you did not, Charlotte! You are only too patient and kind--'
But his voice broke down, and he was forced silently to sign to her
to leave him.
'Can humiliation go farther!' he thought. 'My boasted independence
ending in this poor, faithful servant being stung, by the sneers of
this hired woman, into eking out her scanty meals with her own
Little Catharine, who had been gazing with dilated black eyes, came
scrambling on his knee to caress him, perceiving that he was grieved.
'Ah! Kitty, Kitty!' he said, 'it is well that you are too young to
feel these troubles!'
'Papa! letter!' cried Kitty, waving the unregarded letter in the
triumph of discovery.
'The Reverend James Frost.' It was the writing formed by his own
copies, which he could not see without a sharp pang of self-reproach
for cruel injustice and unkindness.
Kitty slid down with the empty envelope to act reading to the twins,
whom she caught by turns as they crawled away, and set up straight
before her. Her operations and their remonstrances, though as loud
as they were inarticulate, passed utterly unheard and unheeded by
their father, as he read:--
'Hotel du Grand Monarque. Aix-la-Chapelle,
'My Dearest James,--As a mere matter of honesty and justice, I may
venture to write to you. You always accepted from dear grandmamma
the income from the money in the Stocks. I did not know that half of
it has since come to me, till Lord Ormersfield paid me this last
year's dividend; and if you will not have his enclosed cheque for it,
put it in the fire, for I will never have it in any form. It is not
my uncle's, but my own; and if you would make me very happy, write to
me here. You must not suppose that I am trying to buy a letter; but
I look on this as yours, and I thought you had it till Lord
Ormersfield told me about it. We met him and Louis quite
unexpectedly--the best thing that has happened to me for years,
though they told me much that grieves me exceedingly--but I cannot
write about it till I know that I may. Tell me of dear Isabel and
the babes. My heart yearns after them! it would leap up at the sight
of a stone from the Terrace!
'Your ever affectionate
His first impulse was, as though he feared to repent, to turn to his
desk, the tears of feeling still in his eyes, and dash off these
'Your bounty, my dearest sister, is scarcely less welcome than the
forgiving spirit which prompted it. I will not conceal that I was
sorely in need of means to supply Isabel with the comforts that she
requires. That your affection can survive my treatment last year,
makes me equally grateful to you and ashamed of what then took
He scarcely dared to look upon those phrases. Great as were his
needs, and kindly as the proffer was made, it was new and painful to
him to be under any such obligation, and he could hardly bend his
spirit to know that never again should he be able to feel that he had
never been beholden for money to a living creature. And while he
felt it due to his sister to own the full extent of the benefit, he
weighed his words as he wrote on, lest the simplest facts should look
like a craving for further assistance.
Charlotte came up to remove the breakfast, and he looked up to give
an order for some nourishing dainty for her mistress, adding, 'What
did that mutton come to? No, I am not displeased with you, but Miss
Clara has sent me some money.'
His assurance was needed, for Charlotte went down thinking she had
never seen master look so stern. He had spoken from a sense that the
truth was due to the generous girl, but each word had been intense
pain. He wrote on, often interrupted by little riots among the
children, and finally by a sharp contention, the twins having
possessed themselves of a paper-knife, which Kitty, with precocious
notions of discipline, considered as forbidden; and little Mercy was
rapped over the fingers in the struggle. The roar brought down
interference, and Kitty fell into disgrace; but when, after long
persuasion, she was induced to yield the paper-cutter, kiss and make
friends, Mercy, instead of embracing, locked her fingers into her
dark curls, and tugged at them in a way so opposite to her name, that
all Kitty's offence was forgotten in her merit for stopping her
scream half-way at the sight of her father's uplifted finger, and his
whisper of 'Poor mamma!'
That life of worry and baby squabbles, the reflection of his own
faults, was hard to bear; and with a feeling of seeking a refuge,
when the two little ones had fallen into their noonday sleep, and
were left with their mother to the care of good Miss Mercy, he set
out for some parish work at Ormersfield, still taking with him little
Kitty, whose quicksilver nature would never relieve her elders by a
He was afraid to speak to Isabel until he should have composed
himself, and, harassed and weary in spirits and in frame, he walked
slowly, very sore at the domestic discovery, and scarcely feeling the
diminution of the immediate pressure in the new sense of degradation.
He could own that it was merited, and was arguing with himself that
patience and gratitude were the needful proofs that the evil temper
had been expelled. He called back his thankfulness for his wife's
safety, his children's health, the constancy of his kind friends, and
the undeserved ardour of his young sister's affection, as well as
poor little Charlotte's unselfishness. The hard exasperated feeling
that once envenomed every favour, and barbed every dart that wounded
him, was gone; he could own the loving kindness bestowed on him, both
from Heaven and by man, and began to find peace and repose in culling
the low fragrant blossoms which cheered even the Valley of
He turned down the shady lane, overhung by the beech-trees of Mr.
Calcott's park, and as he lifted Kitty in his arms to allow her the
robin-redbreast, he did not feel out of tune with the bird's sweet
autumnal notes, nor with the child's merry little voice, but each
refreshed his worn and contrite spirit.
The sound of hoofs approaching made him turn his head; and while
Kitty announced 'horse!' and 'man!' he recognised Mr. Calcott, and
felt abashed, and willing to find a retreat from the meeting; but
there was no avoiding it, and he expected, as usual, to be passed
with a bow; but the Squire slackened his pace as he overtook him, and
called out, good-humouredly, 'Ha, Mr. Frost, good morning' (once it
would have been Jem). 'I always know you by the little lady on your
shoulder. I was intending to call on you this afternoon on a little
business; but if you will step up to the house with me, I shall be
James's heart beat thick with undefined hope; but, after all, it
might be only to witness some paper. After what had occurred, and
Mrs. Calcott considering herself affronted by Isabel, bare civility
was forgiveness; and he walked up the drive with the Squire, who had
dismounted, and was inquiring with cordial kindness for Mrs. Frost,
yet with a little awkwardness, as if uncertain on what terms they
stood, more as if he himself were to blame than the young clergyman.
Arriving at the house, James answered for his little girl's absence
of shyness, and she was turned over to the Miss Calcotts, while the
Squire conducted him to the study, and began with hesitation and
something of apology--'It had struck him--it was not worth much--he
hardly liked to propose it, and yet till something better should turn
up--anything was better than doing nothing.' To which poor James
heartily agreed. The board of guardians, where Mr. Calcott presided,
were about to elect a chaplain to the union workhouse; the salary
would be only fifty pounds, but if Mr. Frost would be willing to
offer himself, it would be a great blessing to the inmates, and there
would be no opposition.
Mr. Caloott, making the proposal from sincere goodwill, but with some
dread how the Pendragon blood would receive it, was absolutely
astounded by the effect.
Fifty pounds additional per annum was a boon only to be appreciated
after such a pinching year as the past; the gratitude for the old
Squire's kind pardon was so strong, and the blessing of re-admission
to pastoral work touched him so deeply, that, in his weakened and
dejected state, he could not restrain his tears, nor for some moments
utter a word. At last he said, 'Oh, Mr. Calcott, I have not deserved
this at your hands.'
'There, there,' said the Squire, trying to laugh it off, though he
too became husky, 'say no more about it. It is a poor thing, and
can't be made better; but it will be a real kindness to us to look
after the place.'
'Let me say thus much,' said James, 'for I cannot be at peace till I
have done so--I am aware that I acted unjustifiably in that whole
affair, both when elected and dismissed.'
'No, no, don't let's go over that again!' said Mr. Calcott, in dread
of a scene. 'An over-ardent friend may be a misfortune, and you were
very young. Not that I would have taken your resignation if it had
been left to me, but the world is grown mighty tender. I dare aay
you never flogged a boy like what I underwent fifty years ago, and
was the better for it,' and he launched into some frightful old-world
stories of the like inflictions, hoping to lead away from
personalities, but James was resolved to say what was on his mind.
'It was not severity,' he said, 'it was temper. I richly deserved
some portion of the rebuke, and it would have been well for me if
that same temper had allowed me to listen to you, sir, or to reason.'
'Well,' said Mr. Calcott, kindly, 'you think very rightly about the
matter, and a man of six-and-twenty has time to be wiser, as I tell
Mrs. Calcott, when Sydney treats us to some of his theories. And now
you have said your say, you must let me say mine, and that is, that
there are very few young couples--aye, or old ones--who would have
had the sense to go on as you are doing, fighting it out in your own
neighbourhood without nonsense or false shame. I honour you and Mrs.
Frost for it, both of you!'
James coloured deeply. He could have found commendation an
impertinence, but the old Squire was a sort of patriarch in the
county, and appreciation of Isabel's conduct must give him pleasure.
He stammered something about her having held up wonderfully, and the
salary being an immense relief, and then took refuge in matter-of-
fact inquiries on his intended functions.
This lasted till nearly half-past one, and Mr. Calcott insisted on
his staying to luncheon. He found the ladies greatly amused with
their little guest--a very small, but extremely forward and spirited
child, not at all pretty, with her brown skin and womanly eyes, but
looking most thoroughly a lady, even in her little brown holland
frock, and white sun-bonnet, her mamma's great achievement. Neither
shy nor sociable, she had allowed no one to touch her, but had
entrenched herself in a corner behind a chair, through the back of
which she answered all civilities, with more self-possession than
distinctness, and convulsed the party with laughing, when they asked
if she could play at bo-peep, by replying that 'the children did.'
She sprang from her place of refuge to his knee as soon as he
entered, and occupied that post all luncheon time, comporting herself
with great discretion. There was something touching in the sight of
the tenderness of the young father, taking off her bonnet, and
settling her straggling curls with no unaccustomed hands; and Mrs.
Calcott's heart was moved, as she remarked his worn, almost hollow
cheeks, his eyes still quick, but sunk and softened, his figure spare
and thin, and even his dress not without signs of poverty; and she
began making kind volunteers of calling on Mrs. Frost, nor were these
received as once they would have been.
'He is the only young man,' said Mr. Calcott, standing before the
fire, with his hands behind him, as soon as the guest had departed,
'except his cousin at Ormersfield, whom I ever knew to confess that
he had been mistaken. That's the difference between them and the
rest, not excepting your son Sydney, Mrs. Calcott.'
Mamma and sisters cried in chorus, that Sydney had no occasion for
The Squire gave his short, dry laugh, and repeated that 'Jem Frost
and young Fitzjocelyn differed from other youths, not in being right
but in being wrong.'
On which topic Mrs. Calcott enlarged, compassionating poor Mr. Frost
with a double quantity of pity for his helpless beauty of a fine
lady-wife; charitably owning, however, that she really seemed
improved by her troubles. She should have thought better of her if
she had not kept that smart housemaid, who looked so much above her
station, and whom the housekeeper had met running about the lanes in
the dark, the very night when Mr. Frost was so ill.
'Pshaw! my dear,' said her husband, 'cannot you let people be judges
of their own affairs?'
It was what he had said on the like occasions for the last thirty
years; but Mrs. Calcott was as wise as ever in other folks' matters.
The fine lady-wife had meanwhile been arranging a little surprise for
her husband. She was too composed to harass herself at his not
returning at midday, she knew him and Kitty to be quite capable of
taking care of each other, and could imagine him detained by parish
work, and disposing of the little maiden with Betty Gervas, or some
other Ormersfield friend, but she had thought him looking fagged and
worried, she feared his being as tired as he had been on the Sunday,
and she could not bear that he should drink tea uncomfortably in the
study, tormented by the children. So she had repaired to the
parlour, and Miss Mercy, after many remonstrances, had settled her
there; and when the good little lady had gone home to her sister's
tea, Isabel lay on the sofa, wrapped in her large soft shawl,
languidly attempting a little work, and feeling the room dreary, and
herself very weak, and forlorn, and desponding, as she thought of
James's haggard face, and the fresh anxieties that would be entailed
on him if she should become sickly and ailing. The tear gathered on
her eyelash as she said to herself, 'I would not exert myself when I
could; perhaps now I cannot, when I would give worlds to lighten one
of his cares!' And then she saw one little bit of furniture standing
awry, in the manner that used so often to worry his fastidious eye;
and, in the spirit of doing anything to please him, she moved across
the room to rectify it, and then sat down in the large easy chair,
wearied by the slight exertion, and becoming even more depressed and
hopeless; 'though,' as she told herself, 'all is sure to be ordered
well. The past struggle has been good--the future will be good if we
can but treat it rightly.'
Just as the last gleams were fading on the tops of the Ormersfield
coppices, she heard the hall-door, and James's footstep; and it was
more than the ordinary music of his 'coming up the stair;' there was
a spring and life in it that thrilled into her heart, and glanced in
her eye, as she sat up in her chair, to welcome him with no forced
And as he came in with a pleased exclamation, his voice had no longer
the thin, worn sound, as if only resolute resignation prevented
peevishness; there was a cheerfulness and solidity in the tone, as he
came fondly to her side, regretted having missed her first
appearance, and feared she had been long alone.
'Oh, no; but I was afraid you would be so tired! Carrying Kitty all
the way, too! But you look so much brighter.'
'I am brighter,' said James. 'Two things have happened for which I
ought to be very thankful. My dear, can you bear to be wife to the
chaplain of the Union at fifty pounds a-year!'
'Oh! have you something to do? cried Isabel; 'I am so glad! Now we
shall be a little more off your mind. And you will do so much good!
I have heard Miss Mercy say how much she wished there were some one
to put those poor people in the right way.'
'Yes; I hope that concentrated earnestness of attention may do
something to make up for my deficiency in almost every other
qualification,' said James. 'At least, I feel some of the importance
of the charge, and never was anything more welcome.'
'And how did it happen?'
'People are more forgiving than I could have hoped. Mr. Calcott has
offered me this, in the kindest way; and as if that were not enough,
see what poor little Clara says.'
'Poor little Clara!' said Isabel, reading the letter; 'you don't mean
to disappoint her!'
'I should be a brute if I did. No; I wrote to her this morning to
thank her for her pardoning spirit.'
'You should have told me; I should like to send her my love. I am
glad she has not quite forgotten us, though she mistook the way to
her own happiness.'
'Isabel! unless I were to transport you to Cheveleigh a year ago,
nothing would persuade you of my utter wrong-headedness.'
'Nor that, perhaps,' said Isabel, with a calm smile.
'Not my having brought you to be grateful for the Union chaplaincy?'
'Not if you had brought me to the Union literally,' said Isabel,
smiling. 'Indeed, dear James, I think we have both been so much the
better and happier for this last year, that I would not have been
without it for any consideration; and if any mistakes on your part
led to it, they were mistakes on the right side. Don't shake your
head, for you know they were what only a good man could have made.'
'That may be all very well for a wife to believe!'
And the rest of the little dispute was concluded, as Charlotte came
smiling up with the tea.
'BIDE A WEE.'
Come unto these yellow sands,
And then take hands!
The Ponsonby family were spending the hot season at Chorillos, the
Peruvian watering-place, an irregular assembly of cane-built, mud-
besmeared ranches, close on the shore of the Pacific, with the
mountains seeming to rise immediately in the rear.
They had gone for Mr. Ponsonby's health, and Rosita's amusement; and
in the latter object they had completely succeeded. In her bathing-
dress, full trousers, and a beautifully-embroidered blouse, belted at
the waist, a broad-brimmed straw hat, and her raven hair braided in
two long tresses, she wandered on the shore with many another fair
Limenian, or entered the sea under the protection of a brown Indian;
and, supported by mates or gourds, would float for hours together
among her companions, splashing about, and playing all sorts of
frolics, like so many mermaids.
In the evening she returned to more terrestrial joys, and arraying
herself in some of her infinite varieties of ball-dresses, with
flowers and jewels in her hair, a tiny Panama hat cocked jauntily on
the top of her head, and a rich shawl with one end thrown over the
shoulder, she would step daintily out in her black satin shoes, with
old Xavier in attendance, or sometimes with Robson as her cavalier,
to meet her friends on the beach, or make a call in the lamp-lit
corridor of some other rancho. There were innumerable balls, dances,
and pic-nics to the rich and fertile villages and haciendas around,
and fetes of every description almost every evening; visits to the
tombs of the old Peruvians, whose graves were often rudely and
lightly searched for the sake of their curious images and golden
ornaments. The Senora declared it was the most lovely summer she had
ever spent, and that nothing should induce her to return to Lima
while her friends remained there.
The other object, of re-invigorating Mr. Ponsonby, had not been
attained. He had been ailing for some time past, and, instead of
deriving benefit from the sea-breezes, only missed the comforts of
home. He was so testy and exacting that Mary would have seldom liked
to leave him to himself, even if she had been disposed to lead the
life of a fish; and she was seldom away from him, unless Robson came
down from Lima to transact business with him.
Mary dreaded these interviews, for her father always emerged from
them doubly irritable and dispirited; and when Rosita claimed the
Senor Robson as her knight for her evening promenade, and the father
and daughter were left alone together, he would blame the one lady
for going, the other for staying--then draw out his papers again, and
attempt to go over them, with a head already aching and confused--be
angry at Mary's entreaties that he would lay them aside, or allow her
to help him--and presently be obliged with a sigh to desist, and lie
back in his chair, while she fanned him, or cooled his forehead with
iced water. Yet he was always eager and excited for Robson to come;
and a delay of a day would put his temper in such a state that his
wife kept out of his sight, leaving Mary to soothe him as she might.
'Mary,' said her father one evening, when she was standing at the
window of the corridor, refreshing her eye with gazing at the
glorious sunset in the midst of a pile of crimson and purple clouds,
reflected in the ocean--'Mary, Ward is going to Mew York next week.'
'So soon?' said Mary.
'Aye, and he is coming here to-morrow to see you.'
Mary still looked out with a sort of interest to see a little gold
flake change its form as it traversed a grand violet tower.
'I hope you will make him a more reasonable answer than you did last
time,' said her father; 'it is too bad to keep the poor man dangling
on at this rate! And such a man!'
'I am very sorry for it, but I cannot help it,' said Mary; 'no one
can be kinder or more forbearing than he has been, but I wish he
would look elsewhere.'
'So you have not got that nonsense out of your head!' exclaimed Mr.
Ponsonby, with muttered words that Mary would not hear. 'All my
fault for ever sending you among that crew! Coming between you and
the best match in Lima--the best fellow in the world--strict enough
to content Melicent or your mother either! What have you to say
against him, Mary? I desire to know that.'
'Nothing, papa,' said Mary, 'except that I wish he could make a
'I tell you, you and he were made for each other. It is the most
provoking thing in the world, that you will go on in this obstinate
way! I can't even ask the man to do me a kindness, with having an
eye to these abominable affairs, that are all going to the dogs.
There's old Dynevor left his senses behind him when he went off to
play the great man in England, writing every post for remittances,
when he knows what an outlay we've been at for machinery; and there's
the Equatorial Company cutting its own throat at Guayaquil, and that
young fellow up at the San Benito not half to be trusted--Robson
can't make out his accounts; and here am I such a wretch that I can
hardly tell what two and two make; and here's Ward, the very fellow
to come in and set all straight in the nick of time; and I can't ask
him so much as to look at a paper for me, because I'm not to lay
myself under an obligation.'
'But, papa, if our affairs are not prosperous, it would not be fair
to connect Mr. Ward or any one with them.'
'Never you trouble yourself about that! You'll come in for a pretty
fortune of your own, whatever happens to that abominable cheat of a
Company; and that might be saved if only I was the man I was, or
Dynevor was here. If Ward would give us a loan, and turn his mind to
it, we should be on our legs in an instant. It is touch and go just
now!--I declare, Mary,' he broke out again after an interval, 'I
never saw anything so selfish as you are! Lingering and pining on
about this foolish young man, who has never taken any notice of you
since you have been out here, and whom you hear is in love with
another woman--married to her very likely by this time--or, maybe,
only wishing you were married and out of his way.'
'I do not believe so,' answered Mary, stoutly.
'What! you did not see Oliver's letter from that German place?'
'Yes, I did,' said Mary; 'but I know his manner to Clara.'
'You do? You take things coolly, upon my word!'
'No,' said Mary. 'I know they are like brother and sister, and Clara
could never have written to me as she has done, had there been any
such notion. But that is not the point, papa. What I know is, that
while my feelings are what they are at present, it would not be right
of me to accept any one; and so I shall tell Mr. Ward, if he is still
determined to see me. Pray forgive me, dear papa. I do admire and
honour him very much, but I cannot do any more; and I am sorry I have
seemed pining or discontented, for I tried not to be so.'
A grim grunt was all the answer that Mr. Ponsonby vouchsafed. His
conscience, though not his lips, acquitted poor Mary of discontent or
pining, as indeed it was the uniform cheerfulness of her demeanour
that had misled him into thinking the unfortunate affair forgotten.
He showed no symptoms of speaking again; and Mary, leaning back in
her chair, had leisure to recover herself after the many severe
strokes that had been made at her. There was one which she had
rebutted valiantly at the moment, but which proved to have been a
poisoned dart--that suggestion that it might be selfish in her not to
set Louis even more free, by her own marriage!
She revolved the probabilities: Clara, formed, guided, supported by
himself, the companion of his earlier youth, preferred to all others,
and by this time, no doubt, developed into all that was admirable.
What would be more probable than their mutual love? And when Mary
went over all the circumstances of her own strange courtship, she
could not but recur to her mother's original impression, that Louis
had not known what he was doing. Those last weeks had made her feel
rather than believe otherwise, but they were far in the distance now,
and he had been so young! It was not unlikely that even yet, while
believing himself faithful to her, his heart was in Clara's keeping,
and that the news of her marriage would reveal to them both, in one
rush of happiness, that they were destined for each other from the
Mary felt intense pain, and yet a strange thrill of joy, to think
that Louis might at last be happy.
She drew Clara's last letter out of her basket, and re-read it, in
hopes of some contradiction. Clara's letters had all hitherto been
stiff. She had not been acknowledged to be in the secret of Mary's
engagement while it subsisted, and this occasioned a delicacy in
writing to her on any subject connected with it; and so the mention
of the meeting at the 'Grand Monarque' came in tamely, and went off
quickly into Lord Ormersfield's rheumatism and Charlemagne's tomb.
But the remarkable thing in the letter was the unusual perfume of
happiness that pervaded it; the conventional itinerary was abandoned,
and there was a tendency to droll sayings--nay, some shafts from a
quiver at which Mary could guess. She had set all down as the
exhilaration of Louis's presence, but perhaps that exhilaration, was
to a degree in which she alone could sympathize.
Mary was no day-dreamer; and yet, ere Rosita's satin shoe was on the
threshold, she had indulged in the melancholy fabric of a castle at
Ormersfield, in which she had no share, except the consciousness that
it had been her self-sacrifice that had given Louis at last the
felicity for which he was so well fitted.
But at night, in her strange little room, lying in her hammock, and
looking up through her one unglazed window, high up in the roof, to
the stars that slowly travelled across the space, she came back to a
more collected opinion. She had no right to sacrifice Mr. Ward as
well as herself. Louis could not be more free than she had made him
already, and it would be doing evil that good might come, to accept
the addresses of one man while she could not detach her heart from
another. 'Have I ever really tried yet? she thought. 'Perhaps I am
punishing him and poor Mr. Ward, because, as papa says, I have
languished, and have never tried in earnest to wean my thoughts from
him. He was the one precious memory, besides my dear mother, and she
never thought it would come to good. He will turn out to have been
constant to Clara all the time, though he did not know it.'
Even if Mr. Ponsonby had been in full health, he would have had no
inclination to spare Mary the conversation with Mr. Ward, who took
his hot nine miles' ride from Lima in the early morning, before the
shadow of the mountains had been drawn up from the arid barren slope
leading to Chorillos.
He came in time for the late breakfast, when the table was loaded
with various beautiful tropical fruits, tempting after his ride, and
in his state of suspense. He talked of his journey, and of his
intended absence, and his regret, in a manner half mechanical, half
dreamy, which made Mary quite sorry for him; it was melancholy for a
man of his age to have fixed so many fond hopes where disappointment
was in store for him. She wished to deal as kindly with him as she
could, and did not shrink away when her father left them, muttering
something about a letter, and Rosita went to take her siesta.
With anxious diffidence he ventured to ask whether she remembered
what had passed between them on the San Benito mountain.
'Yes, Mr. Ward, but I am afraid I do not think differently now, in
spite of all your kindness.'
Poor Mr. Ward's countenance underwent a change, as if he had hoped
more. 'Your father had given me reason to trust,' he said, 'that you
had recovered your spirits; otherwise I should hardly have presumed
to intrude on you. And yet, before so long an absence, you cannot
wonder that I longed to hear something decisive.'
'Indeed I wished what I said before to be decisive. I am very sorry
to give pain to one so much kinder than I deserve, and to whom I look
up so much, but you see, Mr. Ward, I cannot say what is untrue.'
'Miss Ponsonby,' said Mr. Ward, 'I think you may be acting on a most
noble but mistaken view. I can well believe that what you have once
experienced you can never feel again. That would be more than I
should dare to ask. My own feeling for you is such that I believe I
should be able to rejoice in hearing of the fulfilment of your
happiness, in your own way; but since there seems no such
probability, cannot you grant me what you can still give, which would
be enough to cause me the greatest joy to which I have ever aspired;
and if my most devoted affection could be any sufficient return, you
know that it is yours already.'
The grave earnestness with which he spoke went to Mary's heart, and
the tears came into her eyes. She felt it almost wrong to withstand
a man of so much weight and worth; but she spoke steadily--'This is
very kind--very kind indeed; but I do not feel as if it would be
'Will you not let me be the judge of what will satisfy me?'
'You cannot judge of my feelings, Mr. Ward. You must believe me
that, with all my esteem and gratitude, I do not yet feel as if I
should be acting rightly by you or by any one else, under my present
'You do not _yet_ feel?'
Mary felt that the word was a mistake. 'I do not think I ever
shall,' she added.
'You will not call it persecution, if I answer that perhaps I may
make the venture once more,' he said. 'I shall live on that word
'yet' while I am at New York. I will tease you no more now; but
remember that, though I am too old to expect to be a young lady's
first choice, I never saw the woman whom I could love, or of whom I
could feel so sure that she would bring a blessing with her; and I do
believe that, if you would trust me, I could make you happy. There!
I ask no answer. I only shall think of my return next year, and not
reckon on that. I know you will tell me whatever is true.' He
pressed her hand, and would fain have smiled reassuringly.
He took leave much more kindly than Mary thought she deserved, and
did not appear to be in low spirits. She feared that ahe had raised
unwarrantable hopes, but the truth was, that Mr. Ponsonby had
privately assured him that, though she could not yet believe it, poor
girl! the young man in England would be married before many months
were over to old Dynevor's niece. There would be no more difficulty
by the time he came back, for she liked him heartily already, and was
a sensible girl.
So Mr. Ward departed, and Mary was relieved, although she missed his
honest manly homage, and sound wise tone of thought, where she had so
few to love or lean on. She thought that she ought to try to put
herself out of the way of her cousins at home as much as possible,
and so she did not try to make time to write to Clara, and time did
not come unsought, for her father's health did not improve; and when
they returned to Lima, he engrossed her care almost entirely, while
his young wife continued her gaieties, and Mary had reason to think
the saya y manto disguise was frequently donned; but it was so much
the custom of ladies of the same degree, that Mary thought it neither
desirable nor likely to be effectual to inform her father, and incite
him to interfere. She devoted herself to his comfort, and
endeavoured to think as little as she heard of English cousins.
There was not much to hear. After returning home quite well, Lord
Ormersfield was laid up again by the first cold winds, and another
summer of German brunnens was in store for him and Louis. Lady
Conway had taken a cottage in the Isle of Wight, where Walter, having
found the Christmas holidays very dull, and shown that he could get
into mischief as well without Delaford as with him, she sent him off
in a sort of honourable captivity to James and Isabel, expecting that
he would find it a great punishment. Instead of this, the change
from luxury to their hard life seemed to him a sort of pic-nic. He
enjoyed the 'fun' of the waiting on themselves, had the freedom of
Ormersfield park for sport; and at home, his sister, whom he had
always loved and respected more than any one else. James had time to
attend to him, and to promote all his better tastes and feelings; and
above all, he lost his heart to his twin nieces. It was exceedingly
droll to see the half quarrelsome coquetries between the three, and
to hear Walter's grand views for the two little maidens as soon as he
should be of age. James and Louis agreed that there could not be
much harm in him, while he could conform so happily to such a way of
life. Everything is comparative, and the small increase to James's
income had been sufficient to relieve him from present pinching and
anxiety in the scale of life to which he and Isabel had become
habituated. His chaplaincy gave full employment for heart and head
to a man so energetic and earnest; he felt himself useful there, and
threw himself into it with all his soul; and, what was more
wonderful, he had never yet quarrelled with the guardians; and the
master told Mr. Calcott that he had heard Mr. Frost was a fiery
gentleman, but he had always seen him particularly gentle, especially
with the children in school. The old women could never say enough in
his praise, and doated on the little brown fairy who often
There was plenty to be done at home--little luxury, and not much
rest; but Isabel's strength and spirits seemed a match for all, in
her own serene quiet way, and the days passed very happily.
Charlotte had a workhouse girl under her, who neither ate nor broke
so vehemently as her predecessor. One night, when Charlotte sat
mending and singing in the nursery, the girl came plodding up in her
heavy shoes, aaying, 'There's one wanting to see ye below.'
'One! Who can it be?' cried Charlotte, her heart bounding at the
thought of a denouement to her own romance.
'He looks like a gentleman,' said the girl, 'and he wanted not to see
master, but Miss Arnold most particular.' More hopes for Charlotte.
She had nearly made one bound downstairs, but waited to lay awful
commands on the girl not to leave the children on no account; then
flew down, pausing at the foot of the stairs to draw herself up, and
remember dignity and maidenliiiess. Alas for her hopes! It was
Delaford! His whiskers still were sleek and curly; he still had a
grand air; but his boots were less polished--his hat had lost the
gloss--and he looked somewhat the worse for wear.
Poor Charlotte started back as if she had seen a wild beast in her
kitchen. She had heard of his dishonesty, and her thoughts flew
distractedly to her spoons, murder, and the children. And here he
was advancing gracefully to take her hand. She jumped back, and
exclaimed, faintly, 'Mr. Delaford, please go away! I can't think
what you come here for!'
'Ah! I see, you have listened to the voice of unkind scandal,' said
Mr. Delaford. 'I have been unfortunate, Miss Arnold--unfortunate and
misunderstood--guilty never. On the brink of quitting for ever an
ungrateful country, I could not deny myself the last sad satisfaction
of visiting the spot where my brightest hours have been passed;' and
he looked so pathetic, that Charlotte felt her better sense melting,
and spoke in a hurry--
'Please don't, Mr. Delaford, I've had enough of all that. Please go,
and take my best wishes, as long as you don't come here, for I know
all about you.'
But the intruder only put his hand upon his heart, and declared that
he had been misrepresented; and let a cruel world think of him as it
might, there was one breast in which he could not bear that a false
opinion, of him should prevail. And therewith he reached a chair,
and Charlotte found herself seated and listening to him, neither
believing, nor wishing to believe him, longing that he would take
himself away, but bewildered by his rhetoric. In the first place, he
had been hastily judged; he had perhaps yielded too much to Sir
Walter--but youth, &c.; and when Lady Conway's means were in his
hands, it had seemed better--he knew now that it had been a weakness,
but so he had judged at the time--to supply the young gentleman's
little occasions, than to make an eclat. Moreover, if he had not
been the most unfortunate wretch in the world, a few lucky hits would
have enabled him to restore the whole before Lord Fitzjocelyn hurried
on the inquiry; but the young gentleman thought he acted for the
best, and Mr. Delaford magnanimously forgave him.
Charlotte could not follow through half the labyrinth; and sat
pinching the corner of her apron, with a vague idea that perhaps he
was not so bad as was supposed; but what would happen if her master
should find him there? She never looked up, nor made any answer,
till he began to give her a piteous account of his condition; how he
did not know where to turn, nor what to do; and was gradually
beginning to sell off his 'little wardrobe to purchase the
necessaries of life.' Then the contrast began to tell on her soft
heart, and she looked up with a sound of compassion.
In the wreck of his fortunes and hopes, he had thought of her; he
knew she had too generous a spirit to crush a wretch trodden down by
adversity, who had loved her truly, and who had once had some few
hopes of requital. Those were, alas! at an end; yet still he saw
that 'woman, lovely woman, in our hours of ease'--And here he
stumbled in his quotation, but the fact was, that his hopes being
blasted in England, he had decided on trying his fortune in another
hemisphere; but, unfortunately, he had not even sufficient means to
pay for a passage of the humblest description, and if he could
venture to entreat for a--in fact, a loan--it should be most
faithfully and gratefully restored the moment the fickle goddess
should smile on him.
Charlotte felt a gleam of joy at the prospect of getting rid of him
on any terms. She belonged to a class who seldom find the golden
mean in money matters, being either exceedingly close and saving, or
else lavish either on themselves or other people. Good old Jane had
never succeeded in saving; all her halfpence went to the beggars, and
all her silver melted into halfpence, or into little presents; and on
the receipt of her wages, she always rushed on to the shop like a
child with a new shilling. Reading had given Charlotte a few
theories on the subject, but her practice had not gone far. She
always meant to put into the savings' bank; but hiring books, and
daintiness, though not finery, in dress, had prevented her means from
ever amounting to a sum, in her opinion, worth securing. The spirit
of economy in the household had so far infected her that she had, in
spite of her small wages, more in hand than ever before, and when she
found what Mr. Delaford wanted, a strange mixture of feelings
actuated her. She pitied the change in his fortunes; she could not
but be softened by his flattering sayings,--she could not bear that
he should not have another chance of retrieving his character--she
knew she had trifled unjustifiably with his feelings, if he had any,-
-and she had a sense of being in fault. And so the little maiden ran
upstairs, peeped into her red-leather work-box, pulled out her bead-
purse, and extracted therefrom three bright gold sovereigns, and ran
downstairs again, trembling at her own venturesomeness, afraid that
their voices might be heard. She put the whole before Delaford,
'There--that is all that lays in my power. Don't mention it, pray.
Now, please go, and a happy journey to you.'
How she wished his acknowledgments and faithful promises were over!
He did hint something about refreshment, bread-and-cheese and beer,
fare which he used to despise as 'decidedly low,' but Charlotte was
obdurate here, and at last he took his leave. There stood the poor,
foolish, generous little thing, raking out the last embers of the
kitchen fire, conscious that she had probably done the silliest
action of her life, very much ashamed, and afraid of any one knowing
it; and yet strangely light of heart, as if she had done something to
atone for the past permission that she had granted him to play with
'Some day she might tell Tom all about it, and she did not think he
would be angry, for he knew what it was to have nowhere to go, and to
want to try for one more chance.'
Late and early at employ;
Still on thy golden stores intent;
Thy summer in heaping and hoarding is spent,
What thy winter will never enjoy.
'Stitch! stitch!' said James Frost, entering the nursery on a fine
August evening, and finding his wife with the last beams of sunshine
glistening on her black braids of hair, as she sat singing and
working beside the cot where slept, all tossed and rosy, the yearling
child. 'Stitch! stitch! If I could but do needlework!'
'Ah!' said Isabel, playfully, lifting up a sweeter face than had ever
been admired in Miss Conway, 'if you will make your kittens such
little romps, what would you have but mending?'
'Is it my fault? I am very sorry I entailed such a business on you.
You were at that frock when I went to evening prayers at the Union,
and it is not mended yet.'
'Almost; and see what a perfect performance it is, all the spots
joining as if they had never been rent. I never was so proud of
anything as of my mending capabilities. Besides, I have not been
doing it all the time: this naughty little Fanny was in such a