Part 3 out of 9
nothing and to look up with unconscious eyes. But Firm put me out
altogether by his warmth, and made me flutter like a stupid little
"My darling," he said, smoothing back my hair with a kindness such
as I could not resent, and quieting me with his clear blue eyes,
"you are not fit for the stormy life to which your high spirit is
devoting you. You have not the hardness and bitterness of mind,
the cold self-possession and contempt of others, the power of
dissembling and the iron will--in a word, the fundamental
nastiness, without which you never could get through such a job.
Why, you can not be contemptuous even to me!"
"I should hope not. I should earn your contempt, if I could."
"There, you are ready to cry at the thought. Erema, do not mistake
yourself. Remember that your father would never have wished it--
would have given his life ten thousand times over to prevent it.
Why did he bring you to this remote, inaccessible part of the world
except to save you from further thought of evil? He knew that we
listen to no rumors here, no social scandals, or malignant lies;
but we value people as we find them. He meant this to be a haven
for you; and so it shall be if you will only rest; and you shall be
the queen of it. Instead of redressing his memory now, you would
only distress his spirit. What does he care for the world's gossip
now? But he does care for your happiness. I am not old enough to
tell you things as I should like to tell them. I wish I could--how
I wish I could! It would make all the difference to me."
"It would make no difference, Firm, to me; because I should know it
was selfishness. Not selfishness of yours, I mean, for you never
could be selfish; but the vilest selfishness of mine, the same as
starved my father. You can not see things as I see them, or else
you would not talk so. When you know that a thing is right, you do
it. Can you tell me otherwise? If you did, I should despise you."
"If you put it so, I can say no more. You will leave us forever,
"No, not forever. If the good God wills it, I will come back when
my work is done. Forgive me, dear Firm, and forget me."
"There is nothing to forgive, Erema; but a great deal I never can
hope to forgot."
OUT OF THE GOLDEN GATE
Little things, or what we call little, always will come in among
great ones, or at least among those which we call great. Before I
passed the Golden Gate in the clipper ship Bridal Veil (so called
from one of the Yosemite cascades) I found out what I had long
wished to know--why Firm had a crooked nose. At least, it could
hardly be called crooked if any body looked aright at it; but still
it departed from the bold straight line which nature must have
meant for it, every thing else about him being as straight as could
be required. This subject had troubled me more than once, though
of course it had nothing whatever to do with the point of view
whence I regarded him.
Suan Isco could not tell me, neither could Martin of the mill; I
certainly could not ask Firm himself, as the Sawyer told me to do
when once I put the question, in despair, to him. But now, as we
stood on the wharf exchanging farewells, perhaps forever, and tears
of anguish were in my eyes, and my heart was both full and empty,
ample and unexpected light was thrown on the curvature of Firm's
For a beautiful girl, of about my own age, and very nicely dressed,
came up and spoke to the Sawyer (who stood at my side), and then,
with a blush, took his grandson's hand. Firm took off his hat to
her very politely, but allowed her to see perhaps by his manner
that he was particularly engaged just now; and the young lady, with
a quick glance at me, walked off to rejoin her party. But a
garrulous old negro servant, who seemed to be in attendance upon
her, ran up and caught Firm by his coat, and peered up curiously at
"How young massa's poor nose dis long time? How him feel, spose
now again?" he inquired, with a deferential grin. "Young massa
ebber able take a pinch of good snuff? He! he! missy berry heavy
den? Missy no learn to dance de nose polka den?"
"What on earth does he mean?" I could not help asking, in spite of
our sorrowful farewell, as the negro went on with sundry other
jokes and cackles at his own facetiousness. And then Uncle Sam, to
divert my thoughts, while I waited for signal to say good-by, told
me how Firm got a slight twist to his nose.
Ephraim Gundry had been well taught, in all the common things a man
should learn, at a good quiet school at Frisco, which distinguished
itself from all other schools by not calling itself a college. And
when he was leaving to begin home life, with as much put into him
as he could manage--for his nature was not bookish--when he was
just seventeen years old, and tall and straight and upright, but
not set into great bodily strength, which could not yet be
expected, a terrible fire broke out in a great block of houses
newly occupied, over against the school-house front. Without
waiting for master's leave or matron's, the boys, in the
Californian style, jumped over the fencing and went to help. And
they found a great crowd collected, and flames flaring out of the
top of the house. At the top of the house, according to a stupid
and therefore general practice, was the nursery, made of more
nurses than children, as often happens with rich people. The
nurses had run away for their lives, taking two of the children
with them; but the third, a fine little girl of ten, had been left
behind, and now ran to the window with red hot flames behind her.
The window was open, and barbs of fire, like serpents' tongues,
played over it.
"Jump, child, jump! for God's sake, jump!" cried half a hundred
people, while the poor scared creature quivered on the ledge, and
shrank from the frightful depth below. At last, stung by a
scorching volley, she gathered her night-gown tight, and leaped,
trusting to the many faces and many arms raised toward her. But
though many gallant men were there, only one stood fast just where
she fell, and that one was the youth, Firm Gundry. Upon him she
fell, like a stone from heaven, and though he held up his arms in
the smoky glare, she came down badly: badly, at least, for him,
but, as her father said, providentially; for one of her soles, or
heels, alighted on the bridge of Ephraim's young nose. He caught
her on his chest, and forgetful of himself, he bore her to her
friends triumphantly, unharmed, and almost smiling. But the
symmetry of an important part of his face was spoiled forever.
When I heard of this noble affair, and thought of my own
pusillanimous rendering--for verily I had been low enough, from
rumors of Firm's pugnacity, to attribute these little defects of
line to some fisticuffs with some miner--I looked at Firm's nose
through the tears in my eyes, and had a great mind not to go away
at all. For what is the noblest of all things in man--as I
bitterly learned thereafter, and already had some guesses? Not the
power of moving multitudes with eloquence or by orders; not the
elevation of one tribe through the lowering of others, nor even the
imaginary lift of all by sentiments as yet above them: there may be
glory in all of these, but the greatness is not with them. It
remains with those who behave like Firm, and get their noses
However, I did not know those things at that time of life, though I
thought it right for every man to be brave and good; and I could
not help asking who the young lady was, as if that were part of the
heroism. The Sawyer, who never was unready for a joke, of however
ancient quality, gave a great wink at Firm (which I failed to
understand), and asked him how much the young lady was worth. He
expected that Firm would say, "Five hundred thousand dollars"--
which was about her value, I believe--and Uncle Sam wanted me to
hear it; not that he cared a single cent himself, but to let me
know what Firm could do.
Firm, however, was not to be led into any trap of that sort. He
knew me better than the old man did, and that nothing would stir me
to jealousy, and he quite disappointed the Sawyer.
"I have never asked what she is worth," he said, with a glance of
contempt at money; "but she scarcely seems worth looking at,
compared--compared with certain others."
In the distance I saw the young lady again, attempting no
attraction, but walking along quite harmlessly, with the talkative
negro after her. It would have been below me to pursue the
subject, and I waited for others to re-open it; but I heard no more
about her until I had been for more than a week at sea, and was
able again to feel interest. Then I heard that her name was Annie
Banks, of the firm of Heniker, Banks, and Co., who owned the ship I
But now it was nothing to me who she was, or how beautiful, or how
wealthy, when I clung for the last time to Uncle Sam, and implored
him not to forget me. Over and over again he promised to be full
of thoughts of me, even when the new mill was started, which would
be a most trying time. He bowed his tall white head into my
sheveled hair, and blessed and kissed me, although I never deserved
it, and a number of people were looking on. Then I laid my hand in
Firm's, and he did not lift it to his lips, or sigh, but pressed it
long and softly, and looked into my eyes without a word. And I
knew that there would be none to love like them, wherever I might
But the last of all to say "good-by" was my beloved Jowler. He
jumped into the boat after me (for we were obliged to have a boat,
the ship having laden further down), and he put his fore-paws on my
shoulders, and whined and drooped his under-jaw. And when he
looked at me as he used, to know whether I was in fun or earnest,
with more expression in his bright brown eyes than any human being
has, I fell back under his weight and sobbed, and could not look at
We had beautiful weather, and the view was glorious, as we passed
the Golden Gate, the entrance to what will one day be the capital
of the world, perhaps. For, as our captain said, all power and
human energy and strength are always going westward, and when they
come here they must stop, or else they would be going eastward
again, which they never yet have done. His argument may have been
right or wrong--and, indeed, it must have been one or the other--
but who could think of such things now, with a grander thing than
human power--human love fading away behind? I could not even bear
to see the glorious mountains sinking, but ran below and cried for
hours, until all was dark and calm.
The reason for my sailing by this particular ship, and, indeed,
rather suddenly, was that an old friend and Cornish cousin of Mr.
Gundry, who had spent some years in California, was now returning
to England by the Bridal Veil. This was Major Hockin, an officer
of the British army, now on half-pay, and getting on in years. His
wife was going home with him; for their children were married and
settled in England, all but one, now in San Francisco. And that
one being well placed in the firm of Heniker, Banks, and Co., had
obtained for his father and mother passage upon favorable terms,
which was, as we say, "an object to them."
For the Major, though admirably connected (as his kinship to
Colonel Gundry showed), and having a baronet not far off (if the
twists of the world were set aside), also having served his
country, and received a furrow on the top of his head, which made
him brush his hair up, nevertheless, or all the more for that, was
as poor as a British officer must be without official sesame. How
he managed to feed and teach a large and not clever family, and
train them all to fight their way in a battle worse than any of his
own, and make gentlemen and ladies of them, whatever they did or
wherever they went, he only knew, and his faithful wife, and the
Lord who helps brave poverty. Of such things he never spoke,
unless his temper was aroused by luxury and self-indulgence and
But now he was a little better off, through having his children off
his hands, and by means of a little property left him by a distant
relative. He was on his way home to see to this; and a better man
never returned to England, after always standing up for her.
Being a child in the ways of the world, and accustomed to large
people, I could not make out Major Hockin at first, and thought him
no more than a little man with many peculiarities. For he was not
so tall as myself, until he put his high-heeled boots on, and he
made such a stir about trifles at which Uncle Sam would have only
grunted, that I took him to be nothing more than a fidgety old
campaigner. He wore a black-rimmed double eyeglass with blue side-
lights at his temples, and his hat, from the shape of his forehead,
hung back; he had narrow white wiry whiskers, and a Roman nose, and
most prominent chin, and keen gray eyes with gingery brows, which
contracted, like sharp little gables over them, whenever any thing
displeased him. Rosy cheeks, tight-drawn, close-shaven, and
gleaming with friction of yellow soap, added vigor to the general
expression of his face, which was firm and quick and straightforward.
The weather being warm, and the tropics close at hand, Major Hockin
was dressed in a fine suit of Nankin, spruce and trim, and
beautifully made, setting off his spare and active figure, which,
though he was sixty-two years of age, seemed always to be ready
for a game of leap-frog.
We were three days out of the Golden Gate, and the hills of the
coast ridge were faint and small, and the spires of the lower
Nevada could only be caught when the hot haze lifted; and every
body lay about in our ship where it seemed to afford the least
smell and heat, and nobody for a moment dreamed--for we really all
were dreaming--of any body with energy enough to be disturbed about
any thing, when Major Hockin burst in upon us all (who were trying
not to be red-hot in the feeble shade of poop awnings), leading by
the hand an ancient woman, scarcely dressed with decency, and
howling in a tone very sad to hear.
"This lady has been robbed!" cried the Major; "robbed, not fifteen
feet below us. Robbed, ladies and gentlemen, of the most cherished
treasures of her life, the portrait of her only son, the savings of
a life of honest toil, her poor dead husband's tobacco-box, and a
fine cut of Colorado cheese."
"Ten pounds and a quarter, gospel true!" cried the poor woman,
wringing her hands, and searching for any kind face among us.
"Go to the captain," muttered one sleepy gentleman. "Go to the
devil," said another sleepy man: "what have we to do with it?"
"I will neither go to the captain," replied the Major, very
distinctly, "nor yet to the devil, as a fellow who is not a man has
dared to suggest to me--"
"All tied in my own pocket-handkerchief!" the poor old woman began
to scream; "the one with the three-cornered spots upon 'un. Only
two have I ever owned in all my life, and this was the very best of
'em. Oh dear! oh dear! that ever I should come to this exposing of
"Madam, you shall have justice done, as sure as my name is Hockin.
Gentlemen and ladies, if you are not all asleep, how would you like
to be treated so? Because the weather is a trifle warm, there you
lie like a parcel of Mexicans. If any body picked your pockets,
would you have life enough to roll over?"
"I don't think I should," said a fat young Briton, with a very
good-natured face; "but for a poor woman I can stand upright.
Major Hockin, here is a guinea for her. Perhaps more of us will
give a trifle."
"Well done!" cried the Major; "but not so much as that. Let us
first ascertain all the rights of the case. Perhaps half a crown
apiece would reach it."
Half a crown apiece would have gone beyond it, as we discovered
afterward, for the old lady's handkerchief was in her box, lost
under some more of her property; and the tide of sleepy charity
taking this direction under such vehement impulse, several other
steerage passengers lost their goods, but found themselves too late
in doing so. But the Major was satisfied, and the rude man who had
told him to go amiss, begged his pardon, and thus we sailed on
slowly and peaceably.
INSIDE THE CHANNEL
That little incident threw some light upon Major Hockin's
character. It was not for himself alone that he was so particular,
or, as many would call it, fidgety, to have every thing done
properly; for if any thing came to his knowledge which he thought
unfair to any one, it concerned him almost as much as if the wrong
had been done to his own home self. Through this he had fallen
into many troubles, for his impressions were not always accurate;
but they taught him nothing, or rather, as his wife said, "the
Major could not help it." The leading journals of the various
places in which Major Hockin sojourned had published his letters of
grievances sometimes, in the absence of the chief editor, and had
suffered in purse by doing so. But the Major always said,
"Ventilate it, ventilate the subject, my dear Sir; bring public
opinion to bear on it." And Mrs. Hockin always said that it was
her husband to whom belonged the whole credit of this new and
spirited use of the fine word "ventilation."
As betwixt this faithful pair, it is scarcely needful perhaps to
say that the Major was the master. His sense of justice dictated
that, as well as his general briskness. Though he was not at all
like Mr. Gundry in undervaluing female mind, his larger experience
and more frequent intercourse with our sex had taught him to do
justice to us; and it was pleasant to hear him often defer to the
judgment of ladies. But this he did more, perhaps, in theory than
in practice; yet it made all the ladies declare to one another that
he was a perfect gentleman. And so he was, though he had his
faults; but his faults were such as we approve of.
But Mrs. Hockin had no fault in any way worth speaking of. And
whatever she had was her husband's doing, through her desire to
keep up with him. She was pretty, even now in her sixtieth year,
and a great deal prettier because she never tried to look younger.
Silver hair, and gentle eyes, and a forehead in which all the cares
of eight children had scarcely imprinted a wrinkle, also a kind
expression of interest in whatever was spoken of, with a quiet
voice and smile, and a power of not saying too much at a time,
combined to make this lady pleasant.
Without any fuss or declaration, she took me immediately under her
care; and I doubt not that, after two years passed in the society
of Suan Isco and the gentle Sawyer, she found many things in me to
amend, which she did by example and without reproof. She shielded
me also in the cleverest way from the curiosity of the saloon,
which at first was very trying. For the Bridal Veil being a well-
known ship both for swift passages and for equipment, almost every
berth was taken, and when the weather was calm, quite a large
assembly sat down to dinner. Among these, of course, were some
ill-bred people, and my youth and reserve and self-consciousness,
and so on, made my reluctant face the mark for many a long and
searching gaze. My own wish had been not to dine thus in public;
but hearing that my absence would only afford fresh grounds for
curiosity, I took my seat between the Major and his wife, the
former having pledged himself to the latter to leave every thing to
her management. His temper was tried more than once to its utmost--
which was not a very great distance--but he kept his word, and did
not interfere; and I having had some experience with Firm, eschewed
all perception of glances. And as for all words, Mrs. Hockin met
them with an obtuse obliqueness; so that after a day or two it was
settled that nothing could be done about "Miss Wood."
It had been a very sore point to come to, and cost an unparalleled
shed of pride, that I should be shorn of two-thirds of my name, and
called "Miss Wood," like almost anybody else. I refused to
entertain such a very poor idea, and clung to the name which had
always been mine--for my father would never depart from it--and I
even burst into tears, which would, I suppose, be called
"sentimental;" but still the stern fact stared me in the face--I
must go as "Miss Wood," or not go at all. Upon this Major Hockin
had insisted; and even Colonel Gundry could not move him from his
Uncle Sam had done his utmost, as was said before, to stop me from
wishing to go at all; but when he found my whole heart bent upon
it, and even my soul imperiled by the sense of neglecting life's
chief duty, his own stern sense of right came in and sided with my
prayers to him. And so it was that he let me go, with pity for my
youth and sex, but a knowledge that I was in good hands, and an
inborn, perhaps "Puritanical" faith, that the Lord of all right
would see to me.
The Major, on the other hand, had none of this. He differed from
Uncle Sam as much as a trim-cut and highly cultured garden tree
differs from a great spreading king of the woods. He was not
without a strict sense of religion, especially when he had to march
men to church; and he never even used a bad word, except when
wicked facts compelled him. When properly let alone, and allowed
to nurse his own opinions, he had a respectable idea that all
things were certain to be ordered for the best; but nothing enraged
him so much as to tell him that when things went against him, or
even against his predictions.
It was lucky for me, then, that Major Hockin had taken a most
adverse view of my case. He formed his opinions with the greatest
haste, and with the greatest perseverance stuck to them; for he was
the most generous of mankind, if generous means one quite full of
his genus. And in my little case he had made up his mind that the
whole of the facts were against me. "Fact" was his favorite word,
and one which he always used with great effect, for nobody knows
very well what it means, as it does not belong to our language.
And so when he said that the facts were against me, who was there
to answer that facts are not truth?
This fast-set conclusion of his was known to me not through
himself, but through his wife. For I could not yet bring myself to
speak of the things that lay close at my heart to him, though I
knew that he must be aware of them. And he, like a gentleman, left
me to begin. I could often see that he was ready and quite eager
to give me the benefit of his opinion, which would only have turned
me against him, and irritated him, perhaps, with me. And having no
home in England, or, indeed, I might say, any where, I was to live
with the Major and his wife, supposing that they could arrange it
so, until I should discover relatives.
We had a long and stormy voyage, although we set sail so fairly;
and I thought that we never should round Cape Horn in the teeth of
the furious northeast winds; and after that we lay becalmed, I have
no idea in what latitude, though the passengers now talked quite
like seamen, at least till the sea got up again. However, at last
we made the English Channel, in the dreary days of November, and
after more peril there than any where else, we were safely docked
at Southampton. Here the Major was met by two dutiful daughters,
bringing their husbands and children, and I saw more of family life
(at a distance) than had fallen to my lot to observe before; and
although there were many little jars and brawls and cuts at one
another, I was sadly inclined to wish sometimes for some brothers
and sisters to quarrel with.
But having none to quarrel with, and none to love, except good Mrs.
Hockin, who went away by train immediately, I spent such a wretched
time in that town that I longed to be back in the Bridal Veil in
the very worst of weather. The ooze of the shore and the reek of
the water, and the dreary flatness of the land around (after the
glorious heaven-clad heights, which made me ashamed of littleness),
also the rough, stupid stare of the men, when I went about as an
American lady may freely do in America, and the sharpness of every
body's voice (instead of the genial tones which those who can not
produce them call "nasal," but which from a higher view are
cordial)--taken one after other, or all together, these things made
me think, in the first flush of thought, that England was not a
nice country. After a little while I found that I had been a great
deal too quick, as foreigners are with things which require quiet
comprehension. For instance, I was annoyed at having a stupid
woman put over me, as if I could not mind myself--a cook, or a
nurse, or housekeeper, or something very useful in the Hockin
family, but to me a mere incumbrance, and (as I thought in my wrath
sometimes) a spy. What was I likely to do, or what was any one
likely to do to me, in a thoroughly civilized country, that I could
not even stay in private lodgings, where I had a great deal to
think of, without this dull creature being forced upon me? But the
Major so ordered it, and I gave in.
There I must have staid for the slowest three mouths ever passed
without slow starvation finishing my growth, but not knowing how to
"form my mind," as I was told to do. Major Hockin came down once
or twice to see me, and though I did not like him, yet it was
almost enough to make me do so to see a little liveliness. But I
could not and would not put up with a frightful German baron of
music, with a polished card like a toast-rack, whom the Major tried
to impress on me. As if I could stop to take music lessons!
"Miss Wood," said Major Hockin, in his strongest manner, the last
time he came to see me, "I stand to you in loco parentis. That
means, with the duties, relationships, responsibilities, and what
not, of the unfortunate--I should say rather of the beloved--parent
deceased. I wish to be more careful of you than of a daughter of
my own--a great deal more careful, ten times, Miss Wood; I may say
a thousand times more careful, because you have not had the
discipline which a daughter of mine would have enjoyed. And you
are so impulsive when you take an idea! You judge every body by
your likings. That leads to error, error, error."
"My name is not Miss Wood," I answered; "my name is 'Erema
Castlewood.' Whatever need may have been on board ship for nobody
knowing who I am, surely I may have my own name now."
When any body says "surely," at once up springs a question; nothing
being sure, and the word itself at heart quite interrogative. The
Major knew all those little things which manage women so manfully.
So he took me by the hand and led me to the light and looked at me.
I had not one atom of Russian twist or dyed China grass in my hair,
nor even the ubiquitous aid of horse and cow; neither in my face or
figure was I conscious of false presentment. The Major was welcome
to lead me to the light and to throw up all his spectacles and gaze
with all his eyes. My only vexation was with myself, because I
could not keep the weakness--which a stranger should not see--out
of my eyes, upon sudden remembrance who it was that used to have
the right to do such things to me. This it was, and nothing else,
that made me drop my eyes, perhaps.
"There, there, my dear!" said Major Hockin, in a softer voice than
usual. "Pretty fit you are to combat with the world, and defy the
world, and brave the world, and abolish the world--or at least the
world's opinion! 'Bo to a goose,' you can say, my dear; but no
'bo' to a gander. No, no; do quietly what I advise--by-the-bye,
you have never asked my advice."
I can not have been hypocritical, for of all things I detest that
most; but in good faith I said, being conquered by the Major's
relaxation of his eyes,
"Oh, why have you never offered it to me? You knew that I never
could ask for it."
For the moment he looked surprised, as if our ideas had gone
crosswise; and then he remembered many little symptoms of my faith
in his opinions; which was now growing inevitable, with his wife
and daughters, and many grandchildren--all certain that he was a
"Erema," he said, "you are a dear good girl, though sadly, sadly
romantic. I had no idea that you had so much sense. I will talk
with you, Erema, when we both have leisure."
"I am quite at leisure, Major Hockin," I replied, "and only too
happy to listen to you."
"Yes, yes, I dare say. You are in lodgings. You can do exactly as
you please. But I have a basin of ox-tail soup, a cutlet, and a
woodcock waiting for me at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Bless me! I am
five minutes late already. I will come and have a talk with you
"Thank you," I said; "we had better leave it. It seems of no
importance, compared--compared with--"
"My dinner!" said the Major; but he was offended, and so was I a
little, though neither of us meant to vex the other.
It would be unfair to Major Hockin to take him for an extravagant
man or a self-indulgent one because of the good dinner he had
ordered, and his eagerness to sit down to it. Through all the best
years of his life he had been most frugal, abstemious, and self-
denying, grudging every penny of his own expense, but sparing none
for his family. And now, when he found himself so much better off,
with more income and less outlay, he could not be blamed for
enjoying good things with the wholesome zest of abstinence.
For, coming to the point, and going well into the matter, the Major
had discovered that the "little property" left to him, and which he
was come to see to, really was quite a fine estate for any one who
knew how to manage it, and would not spare courage and diligence.
And of these two qualities he had such abundance that, without any
outlet, they might have turned him sour.
The property lately devised to him by his cousin, Sir Rufus Hockin,
had long been far more plague than profit to that idle baronet.
Sir Rufus hated all exertion, yet could not comfortably put up with
the only alternative--extortion. Having no knowledge of his cousin
Nick (except that he was indefatigable), and knowing his own son to
be lazier even than himself had been, longing also to inflict even
posthumous justice upon the land agent, with the glad consent of
his heir he left this distant, fretful, and naked spur of land to
his beloved cousin Major Nicholas Hockin.
The Major first heard of this unexpected increase of his belongings
while he was hovering, in the land of gold, between his desire to
speculate and his dread of speculation. At once he consulted our
Colonel Gundry, who met him by appointment at Sacramento; and Uncle
Sam having a vast idea of the value of land in England, which the
Major naturally made the most of, now being an English land-owner,
they spent a most pleasant evening, and agreed upon the line marked
out by Providence.
Thus it was that he came home, bringing (by kind arrangement) me,
who was much more trouble than comfort to him, and at first
disposed to be cold and curt. And thus it was that I was left so
long in that wretched Southampton, under the care of a very kind
person who never could understand me. And all this while (as I
ought to have known, without any one to tell me) Major Hockin was
testing the value and beating the bounds of his new estate, and
prolonging his dinner from one to two courses, or three if he had
been travelling. His property was large enough to afford him many
dinners, and rich enough (when rightly treated) to insure their
Bruntsea is a quiet little village on the southeast coast of
England, in Kent or in Sussex, I am not sure which, for it has a
constitution of its own, and says that it belongs to neither. It
used to be a place of size and valor, furnishing ships, and finding
money for patriotic purposes. And great people both embarked and
landed, one doing this and the other that, though nobody seems to
have ever done both, if history is to be relied upon. The glory of
the place is still preserved in a seal and an immemorial stick,
each of which is blessed with marks as incomprehensible as could be
wished, though both are to be seen for sixpence. The name of the
place is written in more than forty different ways, they say; and
the oldest inhabitant is less positive than the youngest how to
This village lies in the mouth, or rather at the eastern end of the
mouth, of a long and wide depression among the hills, through which
a sluggish river wins its muddy consummation. This river once went
far along the sea-brink, without entering (like a child who is
afraid to bathe), as the Adur does at Shoreham, and as many other
rivers do. And in those days the mouth and harbor were under the
cliff at Bruntsea, whence its seal and corporation, stick, and
other blessings. But three or four centuries ago the river was
drawn by a violent storm, like a badger from his barrel, and forced
to come straight out and face the sea, without any three miles of
dalliance. The time-serving water made the best of this, forsook
its ancient bed (as classic nymphs and fountains used to do), and
left poor Bruntsea with a dry bank, and no haven for a cockle-
shell. A new port, such as it is, incrusted the fickle jaw of the
river; piles were driven and earth-works formed, lest the water
should return to its old love; and Bruntsea, as concerned her
traffic, became but a mark of memory. Her noble corporation never
demanded their old channel, but regarded the whole as the will of
the Lord, and had the good sense to insist upon nothing except
their time-honored ceremonies.
In spite of all these and their importance, land became of no value
there. The owner of the Eastern Manor and of many ancient rights,
having no means of getting at them, sold them for an "old song,"
which they were; and the buyer was one of the Hockin race, a
shipwrecked mariner from Cornwall, who had been kindly treated
there, and took a fancy accordingly. He sold his share in some
mine to pay for it, settled here, and died here; and his son,
getting on in the world, built a house, and took to serious
smuggling. In the chalk cliff's eastward he found holes of honest
value to him, capable of cheap enlargement (which the Cornish holes
were not), and much more accessible from France. Becoming a
magistrate and deputy-lieutenant, he had the duty and privilege of
inquiring into his own deeds, which enabled him to check those few
who otherwise might have competed with him. He flourished, and
bought more secure estates; and his son, for activity against
smugglers, was made a gentle baronet.
These things now had passed away, and the first fee-simple of the
Hockin family became a mere load and incumbrance. Sir George and
Sir Robert and Sir Rufus, one after another, did not like the hints
about contraband dealings which met them whenever they deigned to
come down there, till at last the estate (being left to an agent)
cost a great deal more than he ever paid in. And thus--as should
have been more briefly told--the owner was our Major Hockin.
No wonder that this gentleman, with so many cares to attend to, had
no time at first to send for me. And no wonder that when he came
down to see me, he was obliged to have good dinners. For the work
done by him in those three months surprised every body except
himself, and made in old Bruntsea a stir unknown since the time of
the Spanish Armada. For he owned the house under the eastern
cliff, and the warren, and the dairy-farm inland, and the slope of
the ground where the sea used to come, and fields where the people
grew potatoes gratis, and all the eastern village, where the
tenants paid their rents whenever they found it rational.
A hot young man, in a place like this, would have done a great deal
of mischief. Either he would have accepted large views, and
applauded this fine communism (if he could afford it, and had no
wife), or else he would have rushed at every body headlong, and
batted them back to their abutments. Neither course would have
created half the excitement which the Major's did. At least, there
might have been more talk at first, but not a quarter so much in
sum total. Of those things, however, there is time enough to
speak, if I dare to say any thing about them.
The things more to my mind (and therefore more likely to be made
plain to another mind) are not the petty flickering phantoms of the
shadow we call human, and which alone we realize, and dwell inside
it and upon it, as if it were all creation; but the infinitely
nobler things of ever-changing but perpetual beauty, and no
selfishness. These, without deigning to us even sense to be aware
of them, shape our little minds and bodies and our large self-
importance, and fail to know when the lord or king who owns is
buried under them. To have perception of such mighty truths is
good for all of us: and I never had keener perception of them than
when I sat down on the Major's camp-stool, and saw all his land
around me, and even the sea--where all the fish were his, as soon
as he could catch them--and largely reflected that not a square
foot of the whole world would ever belong to me.
"Bruntlands," as the house was called, perhaps from standing well
above the sea, was sheltered by the curve of the eastern cliff,
which looked down over Bruntsea. The cliff was of chalk, very
steep toward the sea, and showing a prominent headland toward the
south, but prettily rising in grassy curves from the inland and
from the westward. And then, where it suddenly chined away from
land-slope into sea-front, a long bar of shingle began at right
angles to it, and, as level as a railroad, went to the river's
mouth, a league or so now to the westward. And beyond that another
line of white cliffs rose, and looked well till they came to their
headland. Inside this bank of shingle, from end to end, might be
traced the old course of the river, and to landward of that trough
at the hither end stood, or lay, the calm old village.
Forsaken as it was by the river, this village stuck to its ancient
site and home, and instead of migrating, contracted itself, and
cast off needless members. Shrunken Bruntsea clung about the
oldest of its churches, while the four others fell to rack and
ruin, and settled into cow-yards and barns, and places where old
men might sit and sigh. But Bruntsea distinctly and trenchantly
kept the old town's division into east and west.
East Bruntsea was wholly in the Major's manor, which had a special
charter; and most of the houses belonged to him. This ownership
hitherto had meant only that the landlord should do all the tumble-
down repairs (when the agent reported that they must be done), but
never must enter the door for his rent. The borough had been
disfranchised, though the snuggest of the snug for generations; and
the freemen, thus being robbed of their rights, had no power to
discharge their duties. And to complicate matters yet further, for
the few who wished to simplify them, the custom of "borough-
English" prevailed, and governed the descent of dilapidations,
making nice niceties for clever men of law.
"You see a fine property here, Miss Wood," Major Hockin said to me,
as we sat, on the day after I was allowed to come, enjoying the
fresh breeze from the sea and the newness of the February air, and
looking abroad very generally: "a very fine property, but
neglected--shamefully, horribly, atrociously neglected--but capable
of noble things, of grand things, of magnificent, with a trifle of
"Oh, please not to talk of outlay, my dear," said good Mrs. Hockin,
gently; "it is such an odious word; and where in the world is it to
"Leave that to me. When I was a boy my favorite copy in my copy-
book was, 'Where there's a will there's a way.' Miss Wood, what is
your opinion? But wait, you must have time to understand the
subject. First we bring a railway--always the first step; why, the
line is already made for it by the course of the old river, and the
distance from Newport three miles and a half. It ought not to cost
quite 200 pounds a mile--the mere outlay for rails and sleepers.
The land is all mine, and--and of course other landed proprietors'.
Very well: these would all unite, of course; so that not a farthing
need be paid for land, which is the best half of the battle. We
have the station here--not too near my house; that would never do;
I could not bear the noise--but in a fine central place where
nobody on earth could object to it--lively, and close at hand for
all of them. Unluckily I was just too late. We have lost a
Parliamentary year through that execrable calm--you remember all
about it. Otherwise we would have had Billy Puff stabled at
Bruntsea by the first of May. But never mind; we shall do it all
the better and cheaper by taking our time about it. Very well: we
have the railway opened and the trade of the place developed. We
build a fine terrace of elegant villas, a crescent also, and a
large hotel replete with every luxury; and we form the finest sea-
parade in England by simply assisting nature. Half London comes
down here to bathe, to catch shrimps, to flirt, and to do the rest
of it. We become a select, salubrious, influential, and yet
economical place; and then what do we do, Mrs. Hockin?"
"My dear, how can I tell? But I hope that we should rest and be
"Not a bit of it. I should hope not, indeed. Erema, what do we do
"It is useless to ask me. Well, then, perhaps you set up a
"A saw-mill! What a notion of Paradise! No; this is what we do--
but remember that I speak in the strictest confidence; dishonest
antagonism might arise, if we ventilated our ideas too soon--Mrs.
Hockin and Miss Wood, we demand the restoration of our river!--the
return of our river to its ancient course."
"I see," said his wife; "oh, how grand that would be! and how
beautiful from our windows! That really, now, is a noble thought!"
"A just one--simply a just one. Justice ought not to be noble, my
dear, however rare it may be. Generosity, magnanimity, heroism,
and so on--those are the things we call noble, my dear."
"And the founding of cities. Oh, my dear, I remember, when I was
at school, it was always said, in what we called our histories,
that the founders of cities had honors paid them, and altars built,
and divinities done, and holidays held in their honor."
"To that I object," cried the Major, sternly. "If I founded fifty
cities, I would never allow one holiday. The Sabbath is enough;
one day in seven--fifteen per cent, of one's whole time; and twenty
per cent, of your Sunday goes in church. Very right, of course,
and loyal, and truly edifying--Mrs. Hockin's father was a
clergyman, Miss Wood; and the last thing I would ever allow on my
manor would be a Dissenting chapel; but still I will have no new
churches here, and a man who might go against me. They all want to
pick their own religious views, instead of reflecting who supports
them! It never used to be so; and such things shall never occur on
my manor. A good hotel, attendance included, and a sound and
moderate table d'hote; but no church, with a popish bag sent round,
and money to pay, 'without anything to eat.'"
"My dear! my dear!" cried Mrs. Hockin, "I never like you to talk
like that. You quite forget who my father was, and your own second
son such a very sound priest!"
"A priest! Don't let him come here," cried the Major, "or I'll let
him know what tonsure is, and read him the order of Melchisedec. A
priest! After going round the world three times, to come home and
be hailed as the father of a priest! Don't let him come near me,
or I'll sacrifice him."
"Now, Major, you are very proud of him," his good wife answered, as
he shook his stick. "How could he help taking orders when he was
under orders to do so? And his views are sound to the last degree,
most strictly correct and practical--at least except as to
"He holds that his own mother ought never to have been born! Miss
Wood, do you call that practical?"
"I have no acquaintance with such things," I replied; "we had none
of them in California. But is it practical, Major Hockin--of
course you know best in your engineering--I mean, would it not
require something like a tunnel for the river and the railway to
run on the same ground?"
"Why, bless me! That seems to have escaped my notice. You have
not been with old Uncle Sam for nothing. We shall have to appoint
you our chief engineer."
It seemed an unfortunate thing for me, and unfavorable to my
purpose, that my host, and even my hostess too, should be so
engrossed with their new estate, its beauties and capabilities.
Mrs. Hockin devoted herself at once to fowls and pigs and the like
extravagant economies, having bought, at some ill-starred moment, a
book which proved that hens ought to lay eggs in a manner to
support themselves, their families, and the family they belonged
to, at the price of one penny a dozen. Eggs being two shillings a
dozen in Bruntsea, here was a margin for profit--no less than two
thousand per cent, to be made, allowing for all accidents. The
lady also found another book, divulging for a shilling the author's
purely invaluable secret--how to work an acre of ground, pay house
rent, supply the house grandly, and give away a barrow-load of
vegetables every day to the poor of the parish, by keeping a pig--
if that pig were kept properly. And after that, pork and ham and
bacon came of him, while another golden pig went on.
Mrs. Hockin was very soft-hearted, and said that she never could
make bacon of a pig like that; and I answered that if she ever got
him it would be unwise to do so. However, the law was laid down in
both books that golden fowls and diamondic pigs must die the death
before they begin to overeat production; and the Major said, "To be
sure. Yes, yes. Let them come to good meat, and then off with
their heads." And his wife said that she was sure she could do it.
When it comes to a question of tare and tret, false sentiment must
At the moment, these things went by me as trifles, yet made me more
impatient. Being older now, and beholding what happens with
tolerance and complacence, I am only surprised that my good friends
were so tolerant of me and so complacent. For I must have been a
great annoyance to them, with my hurry and my one idea. Happily
they made allowance for me, which I was not old enough to make for
"Go to London, indeed! Go to London by yourself!" cried the Major,
with a red face, and his glasses up, when I told him one morning
that I could stop no longer without doing something. "Mary, my
dear, when you have done out there, will you come in and reason--if
you can--with Miss Wood. She vows that she is going to London, all
"Oh, Major Hockin--oh, Nicholas dear, such a thing has happened!"
Mrs. Hockin had scarcely any breath to tell us, as she came in
through the window. "You know that they have only had three
bushels, or, at any rate, not more than five, almost ever since
they came. Erema, you know as well as I do."
"Seven and three-quarter bushels of barley, at five and ninepence a
bushel, Mary," said the Major, pulling out a pocket-book; "besides
Indian corn, chopped meat, and potatoes."
"And fourteen pounds of paddy," I said--which was a paltry thing of
me; "not to mention a cake of graves, three sacks of brewers'
grains, and then--I forget what next."
"You are too bad, all of you. Erema, I never thought you would
turn against me so. And you made me get nearly all of it. But
please to look here. What do you call this? Is this no reward?
Is this not enough? Major, if you please, what do you call this?
What a pity you have had your breakfast!"
"A blessing--if this was to be my breakfast. I call that, my dear,
the very smallest egg I have seen since I took sparrows' nests. No
wonder they sell them at twelve a penny. I congratulate you upon
your first egg, my dear Mary."
"Well, I don't care," replied Mrs. Hockin, who had the sweetest
temper in the world. "Small beginnings make large endings; and an
egg must be always small at one end. You scorn my first egg, and
Erema should have had it if she had been good. But she was very
wicked, and I know not what to do with it."
"Blow it!" cried the Major. "I mean no harm, ladies. I never use
low language. What I mean is, make a pinhole at each end, give a
puff, and away goes two pennyworth, and you have a cabinet
specimen, which your egg is quite fitted by its cost to be. But
now, Mary, talk to Miss Wood, if you please. It is useless for me
to say any thing, and I have three appointments in the town"--he
always called it "the town" now--"three appointments, if not four;
yes, I may certainly say four. Talk to Miss Wood, my dear, if you
please. She wants to go to London, which would be absurd. Ladies
seem to enter into ladies' logic. They seem to be able to
appreciate it better, to see all the turns, and the ins and outs,
which no man has intellect enough to see, or at least to make head
or tail of. Good-by for the present; I had better be off."
"I should think you had," exclaimed Mrs. Hockin, as her husband
marched off, with his side-lights on, and his short, quick step,
and well-satisfied glance at the hill which belonged to him, and
the beach, over which he had rights of plunder--or, at least, Uncle
Sam would have called them so, strictly as he stood up for his own.
"Now come and talk quietly to me, my dear," Mrs. Hockin began, most
kindly, forgetting all the marvel of her first-born egg. "I have
noticed how restless you are, and devoid of all healthy interest in
any thing. 'Listless' is the word. 'Listless' is exactly what I
mean, Erema. When I was at your time of life, I could never have
gone about caring for nothing. I wonder that you knew that I even
had a fowl; much more how much they had eaten!"
"I really do try to do all I can, and that is a proof of it," I
said. "I am not quite so listless as you think. But those things
do seem so little to me."
"My dear, if you were happy, they would seem quite large, as, after
all the anxieties of my life, I am able now to think them. It is a
power to be thankful for, or, at least, I often think so. Look at
my husband! He has outlived and outlasted more trouble than any
one but myself could reckon up to him; and yet he is as brisk, as
full of life, as ready to begin a new thing to-morrow--when, at our
age, there may be no to-morrow, except in that better world, my
dear, of which it is high time for him and me to think, as I truly
hope we may spare the time to do."
"Oh, don't talk like that," I cried. "Please, Mrs. Hockin, to talk
of your hens and chicks--at least there will be chicks by-and-by.
I am almost sure there will, if you only persevere. It seems
unfair to set our minds on any other world till justice has been
done in this."
"You are very young, my child, or you would know that in that case
we never should think of it at all. But I don't want to preach you
a sermon, Erema, even if I could do so. I only just want you to
tell me what you think, what good you imagine that you can do."
"It is no imagination. I am sure that I can right my father's
wrongs. And I never shall rest till I do so."
"Are you sure that there is any wrong to right?" she asked, in the
warmth of the moment; and then, seeing perhaps how my color
changed, she looked at me sadly, and kissed my forehead.
"Oh, if you had only once seen him," I said; "without any
exaggeration, you would have been satisfied at once. That he could
ever have done any harm was impossible--utterly impossible. I am
not as I was. I can listen to almost any thing now quite calmly.
But never let me hear such a wicked thing again."
"You must not go on like that, Erema, unless you wish to lose all
your friends. No one can help being sorry for you. Very few girls
have been placed as you are. I am sure when I think of my own
daughters I can never be too thankful. But the very first thing
you have to learn, above all things, is to control yourself."
"I know it--I know it, of course," I said; "and I keep on trying my
very best. I am thoroughly ashamed of what I said, and I hope you
will try to forgive me."
"A very slight exertion is enough for that. But now, my dear, what
I want to know is this--and you will excuse me if I ask too much--
what good do you expect to get by going thus to London? Have you
any friend there, any body to trust, any thing settled as to what
you are to do?"
"Yes, every thing is settled in my own mind," I answered, very
bravely: "I have the address of a very good woman, found among my
father's papers, who nursed his children and understood his nature,
and always kept her faith in him. There must be a great many more
who do the same, and she will be sure to know them and introduce me
to them; and I shall be guided by their advice."
"But suppose that this excellent woman is dead, or not to be found,
or has changed her opinion?"
"Her opinion she never could change. But if she is not to be
found, I shall find her husband, or her children, or somebody; and
besides that, I have a hundred things to do. I have the address of
the agent through whom my father drew his income, though Uncle Sam
let me know as little as he could. And I know who his bankers were
(when he had a bank), and he may have left important papers there."
"Come, that looks a little more sensible, my dear; bankers may
always be relied upon. And there may be some valuable plate,
Erema. But why not let the Major go with you? His advice is so
"I know that it is, in all ordinary things. But I can not have him
now, for a very simple reason. He has made up his mind about my
dear father--horribly, horribly; I can't speak of it. And he never
changes his mind; and sometimes when I look at him I hate him."
"Erema, you are quite a violent girl, although you so seldom show
it. Is the whole world divided, then, into two camps--those who
think as you wish and those who are led by their judgment to think
otherwise? And are you to hate all who do not think as you wish?"
"No, because I do not hate you," I said; "I love you, though you do
not think as I wish. But that is only because you think your
husband must be right of course. But I can not like those who have
made up their minds according to their own coldness."
"Major Hockin is not cold at all. On the contrary, he is a warm-
hearted man--I might almost say hot-hearted."
"Yes, I know he is. And that makes it ten times worse. He takes
up every body's case--but mine."
"Sad as it is, you almost make me smile," my hostess answered,
gravely; "and yet it must be very bitter for you, knowing how just
and kind my husband is. I am sure that you will give him credit
for at least desiring to take your part. And doing so, at least
you might let him go with you, if only as a good protection."
"I have no fear of any one; and I might take him into society that
he would not like. In a good cause he would go any where, I know.
But in my cause, of course he would be scrupulous. Your kindness I
always can rely upon, and I hope in the end to earn his as well."
"My dear, he has never been unkind to you. I am certain that you
never can say that of him. Major Hockin unkind to a poor girl like
"The last thing I wish to claim is any body's pity," I answered,
less humbly than I should have spoken, though the pride was only in
my tone, perhaps. "If people choose to pity me, they are very
good, and I am not at all offended, because--because they can not
help it, perhaps, from not knowing any thing about me. I have
nothing whatever to be pitied for, except that I have lost my
father, and have nobody left to care for me, except Uncle Sam in
"Your Uncle Sam, as you call him, seems to be a very wonderful man,
Erema," said Mrs. Hockin, craftily, so far as there could be any
craft in her; "I never saw him--a great loss on my part. But the
Major went up to meet him somewhere, and came home with the stock
of his best tie broken, and two buttons gone from his waistcoat.
Does Uncle Sam make people laugh so much? or is it that he has some
extraordinary gift of inducing people to taste whiskey? My husband
is a very--most abstemious man, as you must be well aware, Miss
Wood, or we never should have been as we are, I am sure. But, for
the first time in all my life, I doubted his discretion on the
following day, when he had--what shall I say?--when he had been
exchanging sentiments with Uncle Sam."
"Uncle Sam never takes too much in any way," I replied to this new
attack; "he knows what he ought to take, and then he stops. Do you
think that it may have been his 'sentiments,' perhaps, that were
too strong and large for the Major?"
"Erema!" cried Mrs. Hockin, with amazement, as if I had no right to
think or express my thoughts on life so early; "if you can talk
politics at eighteen, you are quite fit to go any where. I have
heard a great deal of American ladies, and seen not a little of
them, as you know. But I thought that you called yourself an
English girl, and insisted particularly upon it."
"Yes, that I do; and I have good reason. I am born of an old
English family, and I hope to be no disgrace to it. But being
brought up in a number of ways, as I have been without thinking of
it, and being quite different from the fashionable girls Major
Hockin likes to walk with--"
"My dear, he never walks with any body but myself!"
"Oh yes, I remember! I was thinking of the deck. There are no
fashionable girls here yet. Till the terrace is built, and the
"There shall be neither terrace nor esplanade if the Major is to do
such things upon them."
"I am sure that he never would," I replied; "it was only their
dresses that he liked at all, and that very, to my mind,
extraordinary style, as well as unbecoming. You know what I mean,
Mrs. Hockin, that wonderful--what shall I call it?--way of looping
"Call me 'Aunt Mary,' my dear, as you did when the waves were so
dreadful. You mean that hideous Mexican poncho, as they called it,
stuck up here, and going down there. Erema, what observation you
have! Nothing ever seems to escape you. Did you ever see any
thing so indecorous?"
"It made me feel just as if I ought not to look at them," I
answered, with perfect truth, for so it did; "I have never been
accustomed to such things. But seeing how the Major approved of
them, and liked to be walking up and down between them, I knew that
they must be not only decorous, but attractive. There is no appeal
from his judgment, is there?"
"I agree with him upon every point, my dear child; but I have
always longed to say a few words about that. For I can not help
thinking that he went too far."
So far, then, there was nobody found to go into my case, and to
think with me, and to give me friendly countenance, with the
exception of Firm Gundry. And I feared that he tried to think with
me because of his faithful and manly love, more than from balance
of evidence. The Sawyer, of course, held my father guiltless,
through his own fidelity and simple ways; but he could not enter
into my set thought of a stern duty laid upon me, because to his
mind the opinion of the world mattered nothing so long as a man did
aright. For wisdom like this, if wisdom it is, I was a great deal
too young and ardent; and to me fair fame was of almost equal value
with clear conscience. And therefore, wise or foolish, rich or
poor, beloved or unloved, I must be listless about other things,
and restless in all, until I should establish truth and justice.
However, I did my best to be neither ungrateful nor stupidly
obstinate, and, beginning more and more to allow for honest though
hateful opinions, I yielded to dear Mrs. Hockin's wish that I
should not do any thing out of keeping with English ideas and
habits. In a word, I accepted the Major's kind offer to see me
quite safe in good hands in London, or else bring me straightway
back again. And I took only just things enough for a day or two,
meaning to come back by the end of the week. And I kissed Mrs.
Hockin just enough for that.
It would not be a new thing for me to say that "we never know what
is going to happen;" but, new or stale, it was true enough, as old
common sayings of common-sense (though spurned when not wanted)
show themselves. At first, indeed, it seemed as if I were come for
nothing, at least as concerned what I thought the chief business of
my journey. The Major had wished to go first to the bank, and
appeared to think nothing of any thing else; but I, on the other
hand, did not want him there, preferring to keep him out of my
money matters, and so he was obliged to let me have my way.
I always am sorry when I have been perverse, and it seemed to serve
me right for willfulness when no Betsy Bowen could be discovered
either at the place which we tried first, or that to which we were
sent thence. Major Hockin looked at me till I could have cried, as
much as to hint that the whole of my story was all of a piece, all
a wild-goose chase. And being more curious than ever now to go to
the bank and ransack, he actually called out to the cabman to drive
without delay to Messrs. Shovelin, Wayte, and Shovelin. But I
begged him to allow me just one minute while I spoke to the
servant-maid alone. Then I showed her a sovereign, at which she
opened her mouth in more ways than one, for she told me that
"though she had faithfully promised to say nothing about it,
because of a dreadful quarrel between her mistress and Mrs. Strouss
that was now, and a jealousy between them that was quite beyond
belief, she could not refuse such a nice young lady, if I would
promise faithfully not to tell." This promise I gave with
fidelity, and returning to the cabman, directed him to drive not to
Messrs. Shovelin, Wayte, and Shovelin just yet, but to No. 17
European Square, St. Katharine's.
From a maze of streets and rugged corners, and ins and outs nearly
as crooked as those of a narrow human nature, we turned at last
into European Square, which was no square at all, but an oblong
opening pitched with rough granite, and distinguished with a pump.
There were great thoroughfares within a hundred yards, but the
place itself seemed unnaturally quiet upon turning suddenly into
it, only murmurous with distant London din, as the spires of a
shell hold the heavings of the sea. After driving three or four
times round the pump, for the houses were numbered anyhow, we found
No. 17, and I jumped out.
"Now don't be in such a fierce hurry, Miss Wood," cried the Major,
who was now a little crusty; "English ladies allow themselves to be
handed out, without hurrying the gentlemen who have the honor."
"But I wanted to save you the honor," I said. "I will come back
immediately, if you will kindly wait." And with this I ran up the
old steps, and rang and knocked, while several bearded faces came
and gazed through dingy windows.
"Can I see Mrs. Strouss?" I asked, when a queer old man in faded
brown livery came to the door with a candle in his hand, though the
sun was shining.
"I am the Meesther Strouss; when you see me, you behold the good
Meeses Strouss also."
"Thank you, but that will not do," I replied; "my business is with
Mrs. Strouss alone."
He did not seem to like this at first sight, but politely put the
chain-bolt on the door while he retired to take advice; and the
Major looked out of the cab and laughed.
"You had better come back while you can," he said, "though they
seem in no hurry to swallow you."
This was intended to vex me, and I did not even turn my head to
him. The house looked very respectable, and there were railings to
"The house is very respectable," continued Major Hockin, who always
seemed to know what I was thinking of, and now in his quick manner
ran up the steps; "just look, the scraper is clean. You never see
that, or at least not often, except with respectable people,
"Pray what would my scraper be? and who is Erema?" cried a strong,
clear voice, as the chain of the door was set free, and a stout,
tall woman with a flush in her cheeks confronted us. "I never knew
more than one Erema--Good mercy!"
My eyes met hers, and she turned as pale as death, and fell back
into a lobby chair. She knew me by my likeness to my father,
falling on the memories started by my name; and strong as she was,
the surprise overcame her, at the sound of which up rushed the
small Herr Strouss.
"Vhat are you doing dere, all of you? vhat have you enterprised
with my frau? Explain, Vilhelmina, or I call de policemans, vhat I
should say de peelers."
"Stop!" cried the Major, and he stopped at once, not for the word,
which would have had no power, although I knew nothing about it
then, but because he had received a sign which assured him that
here was a brother Mason. In a moment the infuriated husband
vanished into the rational and docile brother.
"Ladies and gentlemans, valk in, if you please," he said, to my
great astonishment; "Vilhelmina and my good self make you velcome
to our poor house. Vilhelmina, arise and say so."
"Go to the back kitchen, Hans," replied Wilhelmina, whose name was
"Betsy," "and don't come out until I tell you. You will find work
to do there, and remember to pump up. I wish to hear things that
you are not to hear, mind you. Shut yourself in, and if you soap
the door to deceive me, I shall know it."
"Vere goot, vere goot," said the philosophical German; "I never
meddle with nothing, Vilhelmina, no more than vhat I do for de
money and de house."
Betsy, however, was not quite so sure of that. With no more
ceremony she locked him in, and then came back to us, who could not
make things out.
"My husband is the bravest of the brave," she told us, while she
put down his key on the table; "and a nobler man never lived; I am
sure of that. But every one of them foreigners--excuse me, Sir,
you are an Englishman?"
"I am," replied the Major, pulling up his little whiskers; "I am
so, madam, and nothing you can say will in any way hurt my
feelings. I am above nationalities."
"Just so, Sir. Then you will feel with me when I say that they
foreigners is dreadful. Oh, the day that I ever married one of
'em--but there, I ought to be ashamed of myself, and my lord's
daughter facing me."
"Do you know me?" I asked, with hot color in my face, and my eyes,
I dare say, glistening. "Are you sure that you know me? And then
please to tell me how."
As I spoke I was taking off the close silk bonnet which I had worn
for travelling, and my hair, having caught in a pin, fell round me,
and before I could put it up, or even think of it, I lay in the
great arms of Betsy Bowen, as I used to lie when I was a little
baby, and when my father was in his own land, with a home and wife
and seven little ones. And to think of this made me keep her
company in crying, and it was some time before we did any thing
"Well, well," replied the Major, who detested scenes, except when
he had made them; "I shall be off. You are in good hands; and the
cabman pulled out his watch when we stopped. So did I. But he is
sure to beat me. They draw the minute hand on with a magnet, I am
told, while the watch hangs on their badge, and they can swear they
never opened it. Wonderful age, very wonderful age, since the time
when you and I were young, ma'am."
"Yes, Sir; to be sure, Sir!" Mrs. Strouss replied, as she wiped her
eyes to speak of things; "but the most wonderfulest of all things,
don't you think, is the going of the time, Sir? No cabby can make
it go faster while he waits, or slower while he is a-driving, than
the minds inside of us manage it. Why, Sir, it wore only like
yesterday that this here tall, elegant, royal young lady was a-
lying on my breast, and what a hand she was to kick! And I said
that her hair was sure to grow like this. If I was to tell you
only half what comes across me--"
"If you did, ma'am, the cabman would make his fortune, and I should
lose mine, which is more than I can afford. Erema, after dinner I
shall look you up. I know a good woman when I see her, Mrs.
Strouss, which does not happen every day. I can trust Miss
Castlewood with you. Good-by, good-by for the present."
It was the first time he had ever called me by my proper name, and
that made me all the more pleased with it.
"You see, Sir, why I were obliged to lock him in," cried the "good
woman," following to the door, to clear every blur from her
virtues; "for his own sake I done it, for I felt my cry a-coming,
and to see me cry--Lord bless you, the effect upon him is to call
out for a walking-stick and a pint of beer."
"All right, ma'am, all right!" the Major answered, in a tone which
appeared to me unfeeling. "Cabman, are you asleep there? Bring
the lady's bag this moment."
As the cab disappeared without my even knowing where to find that
good protector again in this vast maze of millions, I could not
help letting a little cold fear encroach on the warmth of my
outburst. I had heard so much in America of the dark, subtle
places of London, and the wicked things that happen all along the
Thames, discovered or invented by great writers of their own, that
the neighborhood of the docks and the thought of rats (to which I
could never grow accustomed) made me look with a flash perhaps of
doubt at my new old friend.
"You are not sure of me, Miss Erema," said Mrs. Strouss, without
taking offense. "After all that has happened, who can blame it on
you? But your father was not so suspicious, miss. It might have
been better for him if he had--according, leastways, to my belief,
which a team of wild horses will never drag out."
"Oh, only let me hear you talk of that!" I exclaimed, forgetting
all other things. "You know more about it than any body I have
ever met with, except my own father, who would never tell a word."
"And quite right he was, miss, according to his views. But come to
my little room, unless you are afraid. I can tell you some things
that your father never knew."
"Afraid! do you think I am a baby still? But I can not bear that
Mr. Strouss should be locked up on my account."
"Then he shall come out," said Mrs. Strouss, looking at me very
pleasantly. "That was just like your father, Miss Erema. But I
fall into the foreign ways, being so much with the foreigners."
Whether she thought it the custom among "foreigners" for wives to
lock their husbands in back kitchens was more than she ever took
the trouble to explain. But she walked away, in her stout, firm
manner, and presently returned with Mr. Strouss, who seemed to be
quite contented, and made me a bow with a very placid smile.
"He is harmless; his ideas are most grand and good," his wife
explained to me, with a nod at him. "But I could not have you in
with the gentleman, Hans. He always makes mistakes with the
gentlemen, miss, but with the ladies he behaves quite well."
"Yes, yes, with the ladies I am nearly always goot," Herr Strouss
replied, with diffidence. "The ladies comprehend me right, all
right, because I am so habitual with my wife. But the gentlemans
in London have no comprehension of me."
"Then the loss is on their side," I answered, with a smile; and he
said, "Yes, yes, they lose vere much by me."
Now I scarcely know whether it would be more clear to put into
narrative what I heard from Betsy Bowen, now Wilhelmina Strouss, or
to let her tell the whole in her own words, exactly as she herself
told it then to me. The story was so dark and sad--or at least to
myself it so appeared--that even the little breaks and turns of
lighter thought or livelier manner, which could scarcely fail to
vary now and then the speaker's voice, seemed almost to grate and
jar upon its sombre monotone. On the other hand, by omitting
these, and departing from her homely style, I might do more of harm
than good through failing to convey impressions, or even facts, so
accurately. Whereas the gist and core and pivot of my father's
life and fate are so involved (though not evolved) that I would not
miss a single point for want of time or diligence. Therefore let
me not deny Mrs. Strouss, my nurse, the right to put her words in
her own way. And before she began to do this she took the trouble
to have every thing cleared away and the trays brought down, that
her boarders (chiefly German) might leave their plates and be
driven to their pipes.
"If you please, Miss Castlewood," Mrs. Strouss said, grandly, "do
you or do you not approve of the presence of 'my man,' as he calls
himself?--an improper expression, in my opinion; such, however, is
their nature. He can hold his tongue as well as any man, though
none of them are very sure at that. And he knows pretty nigh as
much as I do, so far as his English can put things together, being
better accustomed in German. For when we were courting I was fain
to tell him all, not to join him under any false pretenses, miss,
which might give him grounds against me."
"Yes, yes, it is all vere goot and true--so goot and true as can
"And you might find him come very handy, my dear, to run of any
kind of messages. He can do that very well, I assure you, miss--
better than any Englishman."
Seeing that he wished to stay, and that she desired it, I begged
him to stop, though it would have been more to my liking to hear
the tale alone.
"Then sit by the door, Hans, and keep off the draught," said his
Wilhelmina, kindly. "He is not very tall, miss, but he has good
shoulders; I scarcely know what I should do without him. Well,
now, to begin at the very beginning: I am a Welshwoman, as you may
have heard. My father was a farmer near Abergavenny, holding land
under Sir Watkin Williams, an old friend of your family. My father
had too many girls, and my mother scarcely knew what to do with the
lot of us. So some of us went out to service, while the boys staid
at home to work the land. One of my sisters was lady's-maid to
Lady Williams, Sir Watkin's wife, at the time when your father came
visiting there for the shooting of the moor-fowl, soon after his
marriage with your mother. What a sweet good lady your mother was!
I never saw the like before or since. No sooner did I set eyes
upon her but she so took my fancy that I would have gone round the
world with her. We Welsh are a very hot people, they say--not
cold-blooded, as the English are. So, wise or foolish, right,
wrong, or what might be, nothing would do for me but to take
service, if I could, under Mrs. Castlewood. Your father was called
Captain Castlewood then--as fine a young man as ever clinked a
spur, but without any boast or conceit about him; and they said
that your grandfather, the old lord, kept him very close and spare,
although he was the only son. Now this must have been--let me see,
how long ago?--about five-and-twenty years, I think. How old are
you now, Miss Erema? I can keep the weeks better than the years,
"I was eighteen on my last birthday. But never mind about the
"But the time makes all the difference, miss, although at the time
we may never think so. Well, then, it must have been better than
six-and-twenty year agone; for though you came pretty fast, in the
Lord's will, there was eight years between you and the first-born
babe, who was only just a-thinking of when I begin to tell. But to
come back to myself, as was--mother had got too many of us still,
and she was glad enough to let me go, however much she might cry
over it, as soon as Lady Williams got me the place. My place was
to wait upon the lady first, and make myself generally useful, as
they say. But it was not very long before I was wanted in other
more important ways, and having been brought up among so many
children, they found me very handy with the little ones; and being
in a poor way, as they were then--for people, I mean, of their
birth and place--they were glad enough soon to make head nurse of
me, although I was under-two-and-twenty.
"We did not live at the old lord's place, which is under the hills
looking on the river Thames, but we had a quiet little house in
Hampshire; for the Captain was still with his regiment, and only
came to and fro to us. But a happier little place there could not
be, with the flowers, and the cow, and the birds all day, and the
children running gradually according to their age, and the pretty
brook shining in the valley. And as to the paying of their way, it
is true that neither of them was a great manager. The Captain
could not bear to keep his pretty wife close; and she, poor thing,
was trying always to surprise him with other presents besides all
the beautiful babies. But they never were in debt all round, as
the liars said when the trouble burst; and if they owed two or
three hundred pounds, who could justly blame them?
"For the old lord, instead of going on as he should, and widening
his purse to the number of the mouths, was niggling at them always
for offense or excuse, to take away what little he allowed them.
The Captain had his pay, which would go in one hand, and the lady
had a little money of her own; but still it was cruel for brought-
up people to have nothing better to go on with. Not that the old
lord was a miser neither; but it was said, and how far true I know
not, that he never would forgive your father for marrying the
daughter of a man he hated. And some went so far as to say that if
he could have done it, he would have cut your father out of all the
old family estates. But such a thing never could I believe of a
nobleman having his own flesh and blood.
"But, money or no money, rich or poor, your father and mother, I
assure you, my dear, were as happy as the day was long. For they
loved one another and their children dearly, and they did not care
for any mixing with the world. The Captain had enough of that when
put away in quarters; likewise his wife could do without it better
and better at every birth, though once she had been the very gayest
of the gay, which you never will be, Miss Erema.
"Now, my dear, you look so sad and so 'solid,' as we used to say,
that if I can go on at all, I must have something ready. I am
quite an old nurse now, remember. Hans, go across the square, and
turn on the left hand round the corner, and then three more streets
toward the right, and you see one going toward the left, and you go
about seven doors down it, and then you see a corner with a lamp-
"Vilhelmina, I do see de lamp-post at de every corner."
"That will teach you to look more bright, Hans. Then you find a
shop window with three blue bottles, and a green one in the
"How can be any middle to three, without it is one of them?"
"Then let it be two of them. How you contradict me! Take this
little bottle, and the man with a gold braid round a cap, and a
tassel with a tail to it, will fill it for four-pence when you tell
him who you are."
"Yes, yes; I do now comprehend. You send me vhere I never find de
vay, because I am in de vay, Vilhelmina!"
I was most thankful to Mrs. Strouss for sending her husband
(however good and kind-hearted he might be) to wander among many
shops of chemists, rather than to keep his eyes on me, while I
listened to things that were almost sure to make me want my eyes my
own. My nurse had seen, as any good nurse must, that, grown and
formed as I might be, the nature of the little child that cries for
its mother was in me still.
"It is very sad now," Mrs. Strouss began again, without replying to
my grateful glance; "Miss Erema, it is so sad that I wish I had
never begun with it. But I see by your eyes--so like your
father's, but softer, my dear, and less troublesome--that you will
have the whole of it out, as he would with me once when I told him
a story for the sake of another servant. It was just about a month
before you were born, when the trouble began to break on us. And
when once it began, it never stopped until all that were left ran
away from it. I have read in the newspapers many and many sad
things coming over whole families, such as they call 'shocking
tragedies;' but none of them, to my mind, could be more galling
than what I had to see with my very own eyes.
"It must have been close upon the middle of September when old Lord
Castlewood came himself to see his son's house and family at
Shoxford. We heard that he came down a little on the sudden to see
to the truth of some rumors which had reached him about our style
of living. It was the first time he had ever been there; for
although he had very often been invited, he could not bear to be
under the roof of the daughter, as he said, of his enemy. The
Captain, just happening to come home on leave for his autumn
holiday, met his father quite at his own door--the very last place
to expect him. He afterward acknowledged that he was not pleased
for his father to come 'like a thief in the night.' However, they
took him in and made him welcome, and covered up their feelings
nicely, as high-bred people do.
"What passed among them was unknown to any but themselves, except
so far as now I tell you. A better dinner than usual for two was
ready, to celebrate the master's return and the beginning of his
holiday; and the old lord, having travelled far that day, was
persuaded to sit down with them. The five eldest children (making
all except the baby, for you was not born, miss, if you please)
they were to have sat up at table, as pretty as could be--three
with their high cushioned stools, and two in their arm-chairs
screwed on mahogany, stuffed with horsehair, and with rods in
front, that the little dears might not tumble out in feeding, which
they did--it was a sight to see them! And how they would give to
one another, with their fingers wet and shining, and saying, 'Oo,
dat for oo.' Oh dear, Miss Erema, you were never born to see it!
What a blessing for you! All those six dear darlings laid in their
little graves within six weeks, with their mother planted under
them; and the only wonder is that you yourself was not upon her
"Pay you no heed to me, Miss Erema, when you see me a-whimpering in
and out while I am about it. It makes my chest go easy, miss, I do
assure you, though not at the time of life to understand it. All
they children was to have sat up for the sake of their dear father,
as I said just now; but because of their grandfather all was
ordered back. And back they come, as good as gold, with Master
George at the head of them, and asked me what milk-teeth was.
Grandpa had said that 'a dinner was no dinner if milk-teeth were
allowed at it.' The hard old man, with his own teeth false! He
deserved to sit down to no other dinner--and he never did, miss.
"You may be sure that I had enough to do to manage all the little
ones and answer all their questions; but never having seen a live
lord before, and wanting to know if the children would be like him
before so very long, I went quietly down stairs, and the biggest of
my dears peeped after me. And then, by favor of the parlor-maid--
for they kept neither butler nor footman now--I saw the Lord
Castlewood, sitting at his ease, with a glass of port-wine before
him, and my sweet mistress (the Captain's wife, and your mother, if
you understand, miss) doing her very best, thinking of her
children, to please him and make the polite to him. To me he
seemed very much to be thawing to her--if you can understand, miss,
what my meaning is--and the Captain was looking at them with a
smile, as if it were just what he had hoped for. From my own
eyesight I can contradict the lies put about by nobody knows who,
that the father and the son were at hot words even then.
"And I even heard my master, when they went out at the door, vainly
persuading his father to take such a bed as they could offer him.
And good enough it would have been for ten lords; for I saw nothing
wonderful in him, nor fit to compare any way with the Captain. But
he would not have it, for no other reason of ill-will or temper,
but only because he had ordered his bed at the Moonstock Inn, where
his coach and four were resting.
"'I expect you to call me in the morning, George,' I heard him say,
as clear as could be, while his son was helping his coat on. 'I am
glad I have seen you. There are worse than you. And when the
times get better, I will see what I can do.'
"With him this meant more than it might have done; for he was not a
man of much promises, as you might tell by his face almost, with
his nose so stern, and his mouth screwed down, and the wrinkles the
wrong way for smiling. I could not tell what the Captain answered,
for the door banged on them, and it woke the baby, who was
dreaming, perhaps, about his lordship's face, and his little teeth
gave him the wind on his chest, and his lungs was like bellows--
"Well, that stopped me, Miss Erema, from being truly accurate in my
testimony. What with walking the floor, and thumping his back, and
rattling of the rings to please him--when they put me on the
Testament, cruel as they did, with the lawyers' eyes eating into
me, and both my ears buzzing with sorrow and fright, I may have
gone too far, with my heart in my mouth, for my mind to keep out of
contradiction, wishful as I was to tell the whole truth in a manner
to hurt nobody. And without any single lie or glaze of mine, I do
assure you, miss, that I did more harm than good; every body in the
room--a court they called it, and no bigger than my best parlor--
one and all they were convinced that I would swear black was white
to save my master and mistress! And certainly I would have done
so, and the Lord in heaven thought the better of me, for the sake
of all they children, if I could have made it stick together, as
they do with practice."
At thought of the little good she had done, and perhaps the great
mischief, through excess of zeal, Mrs. Strouss was obliged to stop,
and put her hand to her side, and sigh. And eager as I was for
every word of this miserable tale, no selfish eagerness could deny
her need of refreshment, and even of rest; for her round cheeks
were white, and her full breast trembled. And now she was
beginning to make snatches at my hand, as if she saw things she
could only tell thus.
"I am only astonished, my dear," said my nurse, as soon as she had
had some tea and toast, and scarcely the soft roe of a red herring,
"that you can put up so well, and abide with my instincts in the
way you do. None of your family could have done it, to my
knowledge of their dispositions, much less the baby that was next
above you. But it often comes about to go in turns like that;
'one, three, five, and seven is sweet, while two, four, and six is
a-squalling with their feet.' But the Lord forgive me for an ill
word of them, with their precious little bodies washed, and laying
in their patterns till the judgment-day.
"But putting by the words I said in the dirty little room they
pleased to call a 'court,' and the Testament so filthy that no lips
could have a hold of it, my meaning is to tell you, miss, the very
things that happened, so that you may fairly judge of them. The
Captain came back from going with his father, I am sure, in less
than twenty minutes, and smoking a cigar in his elegant way, quite
happy and contented, for I saw him down the staircase. As for sign
of any haste about him, or wiping of his forehead, or fumbling with
his handkerchief, or being in a stew in any sort of way--as the
stupid cook who let him in declared, by reason of her own having
been at the beer-barrel--solemnly, miss, as I hope to go to heaven,
there was nothing of the sort about him.
"He went into the dining-room, and mistress, who had been up stairs
to see about the baby, went down to him; and there I heard them
talking as pleasant and as natural as they always were together.
Not one of them had the smallest sense of trouble hanging over
them; and they put away both the decanters and cruets, and came up
to bed in their proper order, the master stopping down just to
finish his cigar and see to the doors and the bringing up the
silver, because there was no man-servant now. And I heard him
laughing at some little joke he made as he went into the bedroom.
A happier household never went to bed, nor one with better hopes of
a happy time to come. And the baby slept beside his parents in his
little cot, as his mother liked to have him, with his blessed mouth
"Now we three (cook and Susan and myself) were accustomed to have a
good time of it whenever the master first came home and the
mistress was taken up with him. We used to count half an hour more
in bed, without any of that wicked bell-clack, and then go on to
things according to their order, without any body to say any thing.
Accordingly we were all snug in bed, and turning over for another
tuck of sleep, when there came a most vicious ringing of the outer
bell. 'You get up, Susan,' I heard the cook say, for there only
was a door between us; and Susan said, 'Blest if I will! Only
Tuesday you put me down about it when the baker came.' Not a peg
would either of them stir, no more than to call names on one
another; so I slipped on my things, with the bell going clatter all
the while, like the day of judgment. I felt it to be hard upon me,
and I went down cross a little--just enough to give it well to a
body I were not afraid of.
"But the Lord in His mercy remember me, miss! When I opened the
door, I had no blood left. There stood two men, with a hurdle on
their shoulders, and on the hurdle a body, with the head hanging
down, and the front of it slouching, like a sack that has been
stolen from; and behind it there was an authority with two buttons
on his back, and he waited for me to say something; but to do so
was beyond me. Not a bit of caution or of fear about my sham
dress-up, as the bad folk put it afterward; the whole of such
thoughts was beyond me outright, and no thought of any thing came
inside me, only to wait and wonder.
"'This corpse belongeth here, as I am informed,' said the man, who
seemed to be the master of it, and was proud to be so. 'Young
woman, don't you please to stand like that, or every duffer in the
parish will be here, and the boys that come hankering after it.
You be off!' he cried out to a boy who was calling some more round
the corner. 'Now, young woman, we must come in if you please, and
the least said the soonest mended.'
"'Oh, but my mistress, my mistress!' I cried; 'and her time up, as
nigh as may be, any day or night before new moon. 'Oh, Mr.
Constable, Mr. Rural Polishman, take it to the tool shed, if you
ever had a wife, Sir.' Now even this was turned against us as if I
had expected it. They said that I must have known who it was, and
to a certain length so I did, miss, but only by the dress and the
manner of the corpse, and lying with an attitude there was no
"I can not tell you now, my dear, exactly how things followed. My
mind was gone all hollow with the sudden shock upon it. However, I
had thought enough to make no noise immediate, nor tell the other
foolish girls, who would have set up bellowing. Having years to
deal with little ones brings knowledge of the rest to us. I think
that I must have gone to master's door, where Susan's orders were
to put his shaving water in a tin, and fetched him out, with no
disturbance, only in his dressing-gown. And when I told him what
it was, his rosy color turned like sheets, and he just said,
'Hush!' and nothing more. And guessing what he meant, I ran and
put my things on properly.
"But having time to think, the shock began to work upon me, and I
was fit for nothing when I saw the children smiling up with their
tongues out for their bread and milk, as they used to begin the day
with. And I do assure you, Miss Erema, my bitterest thought was of
your coming, though unknown whether male or female, but both most
inconvenient then, with things in such a state of things. You have
much to answer for, miss, about it; but how was you to help it,
"The tool-shed door was too narrow to let the hurdle and the body
in, and finding some large sea-kale pots standing out of use
against the door, the two men (who were tired with the weight and
fright, I dare say) set down their burden upon these, under a row
of hollyhocks, at the end of the row of bee-hives. And here they
wiped their foreheads with some rags they had for handkerchiefs, or
one of them with his own sleeve, I should say, and, gaining their
breath, they began to talk with the boldness of the sunrise over
them. But Mr. Rural Polishman, as he was called in those parts,
was walking up and down on guard, and despising of their foolish
"My master, the Captain, your father, miss, came out of a window
and down the cross-walk, while I was at the green door peeping, for
I thought that I might be wanted, if only to take orders what was
to be done inside. The constable stiffly touched his hat, and
marched to the head of the hurdle, and said,
"'Do you know this gentleman?'
"Your father took no more notice of him than if he had been a stiff
hollyhock, which he might have resembled if he had been good-
looking. The Captain thought highly of discipline always, and no
kinder gentleman could there be to those who gave his dues to him.
But that man's voice had a low and dirty impertinent sort of a
twang with it. Nothing could have been more unlucky. Every thing
depended on that fellow in an ignorant neighborhood like that; and
his lordship, for such he was now, of course, would not even deign
to answer him. He stood over his head in his upright way by a good
foot, and ordered him here and there, as the fellow had been
expecting, I do believe, to order his lordship. And that made the
bitterest enemy of him, being newly sent into these parts, and
puffed up with authority. And the two miller's men could not help
grinning, for he had waved them about like a pair of dogs.
"But to suppose that my master 'was unmoved, and took it brutally'
(as that wretch of a fellow swore afterward), only shows what a
stuck-up dolt he was. For when my master had examined his father,
and made his poor body be brought in and spread on the couch in the
dining-room, and sent me hot-foot for old Dr. Diggory down at the
bottom of Shoxford, Susan peeped in through the crack of the door,
with the cook to hold her hand behind, and there she saw the
Captain on his knees at the side of his father's corpse, not saying
a word, only with his head down. And when the doctor came back
with me, with his night-gown positive under his coat, the first
thing he said was, 'My dear Sir--my lord, I mean--don't take on so;
such things will always happen in this world;' which shows that my
master was no brute.
"Then the Captain stood up in his strength and height, without any
pride and without any shame, only in the power of a simple heart,
and he said words fit to hang him:
"'This is my doing! There is no one else to blame. If my father
is dead, I have killed him!'
"Several of us now were looking in, and the news going out like a
winnowing woman with no one to shut the door after her; our passage
was crowding with people that should have had a tar-brush in their
faces. And of course a good score of them ran away to tell that
the Captain had murdered his father. The milk-man stood there with
his yoke and cans, and his naily boots on our new oil-cloth, and,
not being able to hide himself plainly, he pulled out his slate and
began to make his bill.
"'Away with you all!' your father said, coming suddenly out of the
dining-room, while the doctor was unbuttoning my lord, who was dead
with all his day clothes on; and every body brushed away like flies
at the depth of his voice and his stature. Then he bolted the
door, with only our own people and the doctor and the constable
inside. Your mother was sleeping like a lamb, as I could swear,
having had a very tiring day the day before, and being well away
from the noise of the passage, as well as at a time when they must
sleep whenever sleep will come, miss. Bless her gentle heart, what
a blessing to be out of all that scare of it!
"All this time, you must understand, there was no sign yet what had
happened to his lordship, over and above his being dead. All of us
thought, if our minds made bold to think, that it must have pleased
the Lord to take his lordship either with an appleplexy or a sudden
heart-stroke, or, at any rate, some other gracious way not having
any flow of blood in it. But now, while your father was gone up
stairs--for he knew that his father was dead enough--to be sure
that your mother was quiet, and perhaps to smooth her down for
trouble, and while I was run away to stop the ranting of the
children, old Dr. Diggory and that rural officer were handling poor
Lord Castlewood. They set him to their liking, and they cut his
clothes off--so Susan told me afterward--and then they found why
they were forced to do so, which I need not try to tell you, miss.
Only they found that he was not dead from any wise visitation, but
because he had been shot with a bullet through his heart.
"Old Dr. Diggory came out shaking, and without any wholesome sense
to meet what had arisen, after all his practice with dead men, and
he called out 'Murder!' with a long thing in his hand, till my
master leaped down the stairs, twelve at a time, and laid his
strong hand on the old fool's mouth.
"'Would you kill my wife?' he said; 'you shall not kill my wife.'
"'Captain Castlewood,' the constable answered, pulling out his
staff importantly, 'consider yourself my prisoner.'
"The Captain could have throttled him with one hand, and Susan
thought he would have done it. But, instead of that, he said,
'Very well; do your duty. But let me see what you mean by it.'
Then he walked back again to the body of his father, and saw that
he had been murdered.
"But, oh, Miss Erema, you are so pale! Not a bit of food have you
had for hours. I ought not to have told you such a deal of it to
once. Let me undo all your things, my dear, and give you something
cordial; and then lie down and sleep a bit."
"No, thank you, nurse," I answered, calling all my little courage
back. "No sleep for me until I know every word. And to think of
all my father had to see and bear! I am not fit to be his
"Well, now," continued Mrs. Strouss, as soon as I could persuade
her to go on, "if I were to tell you every little thing that went
on among them, miss, I should go on from this to this day week, or
I might say this day fortnight, and then not half be done with it.
And the worst of it is that those little things make all the odds
in a case of that sort, showing what the great things were. But
only a counselor at the Old Bailey could make head or tail of the
goings on that followed.
"For some reason of his own, unknown to any living being but
himself, whether it were pride (as I always said) or something
deeper (as other people thought), he refused to have any one on
earth to help him, when he ought to have had the deepest lawyer to
be found. The constable cautioned him to say nothing, as it seems
is laid down in their orders, for fear of crimination. And he
smiled at this, with a high contempt, very fine to see, but not
bodily wise. But even that jack-in-office could perceive that the
poor Captain thought of his sick wife up stairs, and his little
children, ten times for one thought he ever gave to his own
position. And yet I must tell you that he would have no denial,
but to know what it was that had killed his parent. When old Dr.
Diggory's hands were shaking so that his instrument would not bite
on the thing lodged in his lordship's back, after passing through
and through him, and he was calling for somebody to run for his
assistant, who do you think did it for him, Miss Erema? As sure as
I sit here, the Captain! His face was like a rock, and his hands
no less; and he said, 'Allow me, doctor. I have been in action.'
And he fetched out the bullet--which showed awful nerve, according
to my way of thinking--as if he had been a man with three rows of
"'This bullet is just like those of my own pistol!' he cried, and
he sat down hard with amazement. You may suppose how this went
against him, when all he desired was to know and tell the truth;
and people said that of course he got it out, after a bottleful of
doctors failed, because he knew best how it was put in.'
"'I shall now go and see the place, if you please, or whether you
please or not,' my master said. 'Constable, you may come and point
it out, unless you prefer going to your breakfast. My word is
enough that I shall not run away. Otherwise, as you have acted on
your own authority, I shall act on mine, and tie you until you have
obtained a warrant. Take your choice, my man; and make it quickly,
while I offer it.'
"The rural polishman stared at this, being used on the other hand
to be made much of. But seeing how capable the Captain was of
acting up to any thing, he made a sulky scrape, and said, 'Sir, as
you please for the present,' weighting his voice on those last
three words, as much as to say, 'Pretty soon you will be
handcuffed.' 'Then,' said my master, 'I shall also insist on the
presence of two persons, simply to use their eyes without any fear
or favor. One is my gardener, a very honest man, but apt to be
late in the morning. The other is a faithful servant, who has been
with us for several years. Their names are Jacob Rigg and Betsy
Bowen. You may also bring two witnesses, if you choose. And the
miller's men, of course, will come. But order back all others.'
"'That is perfectly fair and straightforward, my lord,' the
constable answered, falling naturally into abeyance to orders. 'I
am sure that all of us wishes your lordship kindly out of this rum
scrape. But my duty is my duty.'
"With a few more words we all set forth, six in number, and no
more; for the constable said that the miller's men, who had first
found the late Lord Castlewood, were witnesses enough for him. And
Jacob Rigg, whose legs were far apart (as he said) from trenching
celery, took us through the kitchen-garden, and out at a gap, which
saved every body knowing.
"Then we passed through a copse or two, and across a meadow, and
then along the turnpike-road, as far as now I can remember. And
along that we went to a stile on the right, without any house for a
long way off. And from that stile a foot-path led down a slope of
grass land to the little river, and over a hand-bridge, and up
another meadow full of trees and bushes, to a gate which came out
into the road again a little to this side of the Moonstock Inn,
saving a quarter of a mile of road, which ran straight up the
valley and turned square at the stone bridge to get to the same
"I can not expect to be clear to you, miss, though I see it all now
as I saw it then, every tree, and hump, and hedge of it; only about
the distances from this to that, and that to the other, they would
be beyond me. You must be on the place itself; and I never could
carry distances--no, nor even clever men, I have heard my master
say. But when he came to that stile he stopped and turned upon all
of us clearly, and as straight as any man of men could be. 'Here I
saw my father last, at a quarter past ten o'clock last night, or
within a few minutes of that time. I wished to see him to his inn,
but he would not let me do so, and he never bore contradiction. He
said that he knew the way well, having fished more than thirty
years ago up and down this stream. He crossed this stile, and we
shook hands over it, and the moon being bright, I looked into his
face, and he said, "My boy, God bless you!" Knowing his short