Part 4 out of 9
ways, I did not even look after him, but turned away, and went
straight home along this road. Upon my word as an Englishman, and
as an officer of her Majesty, that is all I know of it. Now let us
go on to the--to the other place.
"We all of us knew in our hearts, I am sure, that the Captain spoke
the simple truth, and his face was grand as he looked at us. But
the constable thought it his duty to ask,
"'Did you hear no sound of a shot, my lord? For he fell within a
hundred yards of this.'
"'I heard no sound of any shot whatever. I heard an owl hooting as
I went home, and then the rattle of a heavy wagon, and the bells of
horses. I have said enough. Let us go forward.'
"We obeyed him at once; and even the constable looked right and
left, as if he had been wrong. He signed to the miller's man to
lead the way, and my lord walked proudly after him. The path was
only a little narrow track, with the grass, like a front of hair,
falling over it on the upper side and on the under, dropping away
like side curls; such a little path that I was wondering how a
great lord could walk over it. Then we came down a steep place to
a narrow bridge across a shallow river--abridge made of only two
planks and a rail, with a prop or two to carry them. And one end
of the handrail was fastened into a hollow and stubby old hawthorn-
tree, overhanging the bridge and the water a good way. And just
above this tree, and under its shadow, there came a dry cut into
the little river, not more than a yard or two above the wooden
bridge, a water-trough such as we have in Wales, miss, for the
water to run in, when the farmer pleases; but now there was no
water in it, only gravel.
"The cleverest of the miller's men, though, neither of them had
much intellect, stepped down at a beck from the constable, right
beneath the old ancient tree, and showed us the marks on the grass
and the gravel made by his lordship where he fell and lay. And it
seemed that he must have fallen off the bridge, yet not into the
water, but so as to have room for his body, if you see, miss,
partly on the bank, and partly in the hollow of the meadow trough.
"'Have you searched the place well?' the Captain asked. 'Have you
found any weapon or implement?'
"'We have found nothing but the corpse, so far,' the constable
answered, in a surly voice, not liking to be taught his business.
'My first duty was to save life, if I could. These men, upon
finding the body, ran for me, and knowing who it was, I came with
it to your house.'
"'You acted for the best, my man. Now search the place carefully,
while I stand here. I am on my parole, I shall not run away.
Jacob, go down and help them.'
"Whether from being in the army, or what, your father always spoke
in such a way that the most stiff-neckedest people began without
thinking to obey him. So the constable and the rest went down,
while the Captain and I stood upon the plank, looking at the four
"For a long time they looked about, according to their attitudes,
without finding any thing more than the signs of the manner in
which the poor lord fell, and of these the constable pulled out a
book and made a pencil memorial. But presently Jacob, a spry sort
of man, cried, 'Hulloa! whatever have I got hold of here? Many a
good craw-fish have I pulled out from this bank when the water
comes down the gully, but never one exactly like this here afore.'
"'Name of the Lord!' cried the constable, jumping behind the
hawthorn stump; 'don't point it at me, you looby! It's loaded,
loaded one barrel, don't you see? Put it down, with the muzzle
away from me.'
"'Hand it to me, Jacob,' the Captain said. 'You understand a gun,
and this goes off just the same.' Constable Jobbins have no fear.
'Yes, it is exactly as I thought. This pistol is one of the
double-barreled pair which I bought to take to India. The barrels
are rifled; it shoots as true as any rifle, and almost as hard up
to fifty yards. The right barrel has been fired, the other is
still loaded. The bullet I took from my father's body most
certainly came from this pistol.'
"'Can 'e say, can 'e say then, who done it, master?' asked Jacob, a
man very sparing of speech, but ready at a beck to jump at
constable and miller's men, if only law was with him. 'Can 'e give
a clear account, and let me chuck 'un in the river?'
"'No, Jacob, I can do nothing of the kind,' your father answered;
while the rural man came up and faced things, not being afraid of a
fight half so much as he was of an accident; by reason of his own
mother having been blown up by a gunpowder start at Dartford, yet
came down all right, miss, and had him three months afterward,
according to his own confession; nevertheless, he came up now as if
he had always been upright, in the world, and he said, 'My lord,
can you explain all this?'
"Your father looked at him with one of his strange gazes, as if he
were measuring the man while trying his own inward doing of his own
mind. Proud as your father was, as proud as ever can be without
cruelty, it is my firm belief, Miss Erema, going on a woman's
judgment, that if the man's eyes had come up to my master's sense
of what was virtuous, my master would have up and told him the
depth and contents of his mind and heart, although totally gone
"But Jobbins looked back at my lord with a grin, and his little
eyes, hard to put up with. 'Have you nothing to say, my lord?
Then I am afeared I must ask you just to come along of me.' And my
master went with him, miss, as quiet as a lamb; which Jobbins said,
and even Jacob fancied, was a conscience sign of guilt.
"Now after I have told you all this, Miss Erema, you know very
nearly as much as I do. To tell how the grief was broken to your
mother, and what her state of mind was, and how she sat up on the
pillows and cried, while things went on from bad to worse, and a
verdict of 'willful murder' was brought against your father by the
crowner's men, and you come headlong, without so much as the birds
in the ivy to chirp about you, right into the thick of the worst of
it. I do assure you, Miss Erema, when I look at your bright eyes
and clear figure, the Lord in heaven, who has made many cripples,
must have looked down special to have brought you as you are. For
trouble upon trouble fell in heaps, faster than I can wipe my eyes
to think. To begin with, all the servants but myself and gardener
Jacob ran away. They said that the old lord haunted the house, and
walked with his hand in the middle of his heart, pulling out a
bullet if he met any body, and sighing 'murder' three times, till
every hair was crawling. I took it on myself to fetch the Vicar of
the parish to lay the evil spirit, as they do in Wales. A nice
kind gentleman he was as you could see, and wore a velvet skull-
cap, and waited with his legs up. But whether he felt that the
power was not in him, or whether his old lordship was frightened of
the Church, they never made any opportunity between them to meet
and have it out, miss.
"Then it seemed as if Heaven, to avenge his lordship, rained down
pestilence upon that house. A horrible disease, the worst I ever
met, broke out upon the little harmless dears, the pride of my
heart and of every body's eyes, for lovelier or better ones never
came from heaven. They was all gone to heaven in a fortnight and
three days, and laid in the church-yard at one another's side, with
little beds of mould to the measure of their stature, and their
little carts and drums, as they made me promise, ready for the
judgment-day. Oh, my heart was broken, miss, my heart was broken!
I cried so, I thought I could never cry more.
"But when your dear mother, who knew nothing of all this (for we
put all their illness, by the doctor's orders, away at the further
end of the house), when she was a little better of grievous pain
and misery (for being so upset her time was hard), when she sat up
on the pillow, looking like a bride almost, except that she had
what brides hasn't--a little red thing in white flannel at her
side--then she says to me, 'I am ready, Betsy; it is high time for
all of them to see their little sister. They always love the baby
so, whenever there is a new one. And they are such men and women
to it. They have been so good this time that I have never heard
them once. And I am sure that I can trust them, Betsy, not to make
the baby cry. I do so long to see the darlings. Now do not even
whisper to them not to make a noise. They are too good to require
it; and it would hurt their little feelings.'
"I had better have been shot, my dear, according as the old lord
was, than have the pain that went through all my heart, to see the
mother so. She sat up, leaning on one arm, with the hand of the
other round your little head, and her beautiful hair was come out
of its loops, and the color in her cheeks was like a shell. Past
the fringe of the curtain, and behind it too, her soft bright eyes
were a-looking here and there for the first to come in of her
children. The Lord only knows what lies I told her, so as to be
satisfied without them. First I said they were all gone for a
walk; and then that the doctor had ordered them away; and then that
they had got the measles. That last she believed, because it was
worse than what I had said before of them; and she begged to see
Dr. Diggory about it, and I promised that she should as soon as he
had done his dinner. And then, with a little sigh, being very
weak, she went down into her nest again, with only you to keep her
"Well, that was bad enough, as any mortal sufferer might have said;
enough for one day at any rate. But there was almost worse to
come. For when I was having a little sit down stairs, with my
supper and half pint of ale (that comes like drawing a long breath
to us when spared out of sickrooms, miss), and having no nursery
now on my mind, was thinking of all the sad business, with only a
little girl in the back kitchen come in to muck up the dishes,
there appeared a good knock at the garden door, and I knew it for
the thumb of the Captain. I locked the young girl up, by knowing
what their tongues are, and then I let your father in, and the
candle-sight of him made my heart go low.
"He had come out of prison; and although not being tried, his
clothes were still in decency, they had great holes in them, and
the gloss all gone to a smell of mere hedges and ditches. The hat
on his head was quite out of the fashion, even if it could be
called a hat at all, and his beautiful beard had no sign of a comb,
and he looked as old again as he had looked a month ago.
"'I know all about it. You need not be afraid,' he said, as I took
him to the breakfast-room, where no one up stairs could hear us.
'I know that my children are all dead and buried, except the one
that was not born yet. Ill news flies quick. I know all about it.
George, Henrietta, Jack, Alf, little Vi, and Tiny. I have seen
their graves and counted them, while the fool of a policeman beat
his gloves through the hedge within a rod of me. Oh yes, I have
much to be thankful for. My life is in my own hand now.'
"'Oh, master; oh, Captain; oh, my lord!' I cried; 'for the sake of
God in heaven, don't talk like that. Think of your sweet wife,
your dear lady.'
"'Betsy,' he answered, with his eyes full upon me, noble, yet
frightful to look at, 'I am come to see my wife. Go and let her
know it, according to your own discretion.'
"My discretion would have been not to let him see her, but go on
and write to her from foreign countries, with the salt sea between
them; but I give you my word that I had no discretion, but from
pity and majesty obeyed him. I knew that he must have broken
prison, and by good rights ought to be starving. But I could no
more offer him the cold ham and pullet than take him by his beard
and shake him.
"'Is he come, at last, at last?' my poor mistress said, whose wits
were wandering after her children. 'At last, at last! Then he
will find them all.'
"'Yes, ma'am, at last, at the last he will,' I answered, while I
thought of the burial service, which I had heard three times in a
week--for the little ones went to their graves in pairs to save
ceremony; likewise of the Epistle of Saint Paul, which is not like
our Lord's way of talking at all, but arguing instead of
comforting. And not to catch her up in that weak state, I said,
'He will find every one of them, ma'am.'
"'Oh, but I want him for himself, for himself, as much as all the
rest put together,' my dear lady said, without listening to me, but
putting her hand to her ear to hearken for even so much as a mouse
on the stairs. 'Do bring him, Betsy; only bring him, Betsy, and
then let me go where my children are.'
"I was surprised at her manner of speaking, which I would not have
allowed to her, but more than all about her children, which she
could only have been dreaming yet, for nobody else came nigh her
except only me, miss, and you, miss, and for you to breathe words
was impossible. All you did was to lie very quiet, tucked up into
your mother's side; and as regular as the time-piece went, wide
came your eyes and your mouth to be fed. If your nature had been
cross or squally, 'baby's coffin No. 7' would have come after all
the other six, which the thief of a carpenter put down on his bill
as if it was so many shavings.
"Well, now, to tell you the downright truth, I have a lot of work
to do to-morrow, miss, with three basketfuls of washing coming
home, and a man about a tap that leaks and floods the inside of the
fender; and if I were to try to put before you the way that those
two for the last time of their lives went on to one another--the
one like a man and the other like a woman, full of sobs and
choking--my eyes would be in such a state to-morrow that the whole
of them would pity and cheat me. And I ought to think of you as
well, miss, who has been sadly harrowed listening when you was not
born yet. And to hear what went on, full of weeping, when yourself
was in the world, and able to cry for yourself, and all done over
your own little self, would leave you red eyes and no spirit for
the night, and no appetite in the morning; and so I will pass it
all over, if you please, and let him go out of the backdoor again.
"This he was obliged to do quick, and no mistake, glad as he might
have been to say more words, because the fellows who call
themselves officers, without any commission, were after him. False
it was to say, as was said, that he got out of Winchester jail
through money. That story was quite of a piece with the rest. His
own strength and skill it was that brought him out triumphantly, as
the scratches on his hands and cheeks might show. He did it for
the sake of his wife, no doubt. When he heard that the children
were all in their graves, and their mother in the way to follow
them, madness was better than his state of mind, as the officers
told me when they could not catch him--and sorry they would have
been to do it, I believe.
"To overhear my betters is the thing of all things most against my
nature; and my poor lady being unfit to get up, there was nothing
said on the landing, which is the weakest part of gentlefolks.
They must have said 'Good-by' to one another quite in silence, and
the Captain, as firm a man as ever lived, had lines on his face
that were waiting for tears, if nature should overcome bringing up.
Then I heard the words, 'for my sake,' and the other said, 'for
your sake,' a pledge that passed between them, making breath more
long than life is. But when your poor father was by the back-door,
going out toward the woods and coppices, he turned sharp round, and
he said, 'Betsy Bowen!' and I answered, 'Yes, at your service,
Sir.' 'You have been the best woman in the world,' he said--'the
bravest, best, and kindest. I leave my wife and my last child to
you. The Lord has been hard on me, but He will spare me those two.
I do hope and believe He will.'
"We heard a noise of horses in the valley, and the clank of swords--
no doubt the mounted police from Winchester a-crossing of the
Moonstock Bridge to search our house for the runaway. And the
Captain took my hand, and said, 'I trust them to you. Hide the
clothes I took off, that they may not know I have been here. I
trust my wife and little babe to you, and may God bless you,
"He had changed all his clothes, and he looked very nice, but a
sadder face was never seen. As he slipped through the hollyhocks I
said to myself, 'There goes a broken-hearted man, and he leaves a
broken heart behind.' And your dear mother died on the Saturday
night. Oh my! oh my! how sad it was!"
AT THE BANK
In telling that sad tale my faithful and soft-hearted nurse had
often proved her own mistake in saying, as she did, that tears can
ever be exhausted. And I, for my part, though I could scarcely cry
for eager listening, was worse off perhaps than if I had wetted
each sad fact as it went by. At any rate, be it this way or that,
a heavy and sore heart was left me, too distracted for asking
questions, and almost too depressed to grieve.
In the morning Mrs. Strouss was bustling here and there and every
where, and to look at her nice Welsh cheeks and aprons, and to hear
how she scolded the butcher's boy, nobody would for a moment
believe that her heart was deeper than her skin, as the saying of
the west country is. Major Hockin had been to see me last night,
for he never forgot a promise, and had left me in good hands, and
now he came again in the morning. According to his usual way of
taking up an opinion, he would not see how distracted I was, and
full of what I had heard overnight, but insisted on dragging me off
to the bank, that being in his opinion of more importance than old
stories. I longed to ask Betsy some questions which had been
crowding into my mind as she spoke, and while I lay awake at night;
however, I was obliged to yield to the business of the morning, and
the good Major's zeal and keen knowledge of the world; and he
really gave me no time to think.
"Yes, I understand all that as well as if I had heard every word of
it," he said, when he had led me helpless into the Hansom cab he
came in, and had slammed down the flood-gates in front of us. "You
must never think twice of what old women say" (Mrs. Strouss was
some twenty years younger than himself); "they always go prating
and finding mares'-nests, and then they always cry. Now did she
I would have given a hundred dollars to be able to say, "No, not
one drop;" but the truth was against me, and I said, "How could she
"Exactly!" the Major exclaimed, so loudly that the cabman thought
he was ordered to stop. "No, go on, cabby, if your horse can do
it. My dear, I beg your pardon, but you are so very simple! You
have not been among the eye-openers of the west. This comes of the
obsolete Uncle Sam."
"I would rather be simple than 'cute!'" I replied; "and my own
Uncle Sam will be never obsolete."
Silly as I was, I could never speak of the true Uncle Sam in this
far country without the bright shame of a glimmer in my eyes; and
with this, which I cared not to hide, I took my companion's hand
and stood upon the footway of a narrow and crowded lane.
"Move on! move on!" cried a man with a high-crowned hat japanned at
intervals, and, wondering at his rudeness to a lady, I looked at
him. But he only said, "Now move on, will you?" without any wrath,
and as if he were vexed at our littleness of mind in standing
still. Nobody heeded him any more than if he had said, "I am
starving," but it seemed a rude thing among ladies. Before I had
time to think more about this--for I always like to think of
things--I was led through a pair of narrow swinging doors, and down
a close alley between two counters full of people paying and
receiving money. The Major, who always knew how to get on, found a
white-haired gentleman in a very dingy corner, and whispered to him
in a confidential way, though neither had ever seen the other
before, and the white-haired gentleman gazed at me as sternly as if
I were a bank-note for at least a thousand pounds; and then he
said, "Step this way, young lady. Major Hockin, step this way,
The young lady "stepped that way" in wonder as to what English
English is, and then we were shown into a sacred little room, where
the daylight had glass reflectors for it, if it ever came to use
them. But as it cared very little to do this, from angular
disabilities, three bright gas-lights were burning in soft covers,
and fed the little room with a rich, sweet glow. And here shone
one of the partners of the bank, a very pleasant-looking gentleman,
and very nicely dressed.
"Major Hockin," he said, after looking at the card, "will you
kindly sit down, while I make one memorandum? I had the pleasure
of knowing your uncle well--at least I believe that the late Sir
Rufus was your uncle."
"Not so," replied the Major, well pleased, however. "I fear that I
am too old to have had any uncle lately. Sir Rufus Hockin was my
"Oh, indeed! To be sure, I should have known it, but Sir Rufus
being much your senior, the mistake was only natural. Now what can
I do to serve you, or perhaps this young lady--Miss Hockin, I
"No," said his visitor, "not Miss Hockin. I ought to have
introduced her, but for having to make my own introduction. Mr.
Shovelin, this lady is Miss Erema Castlewood, the only surviving
child of the late Captain George Castlewood, properly speaking,
Mr. Shovelin had been looking at me with as much curiosity as good
manners and his own particular courtesy allowed. And I fancied
that he felt that I could not be a Hockin.
"Oh, dear, dear me!" was all he said, though he wanted to say,
"God bless me!" or something more sudden and stronger. "Lord
Castlewood's daughter--poor George Castlewood! My dear young lady,
is it possible?"
"Yes, I am my father's child," I said; "and I am proud to hear that
I am like him."
"That you well may be," he answered, putting on his spectacles.
"You are astonished at my freedom, perhaps; you will allow for it,
or at least, you will not be angry with me, when you know that your
father was my dearest friend at Harrow; and that when his great
trouble fell upon him--"
Here Mr. Shovelin stopped, as behooves a man who begins to outrun
himself. He could not tell me that it was himself who had found
all the money for my father's escape, which cost much cash as well
as much good feeling. Neither did I, at the time, suspect it,
being all in the dark upon such points. Not knowing what to say, I
looked from the banker to the Major, and back again.
"Can you tell me the exact time?" the latter asked. "I am due in
the Temple at 12.30, and I never am a minute late, whatever
"You will want a swift horse," Mr. Shovelin answered, "or else this
will be an exception to your rule. It is twenty-one minutes past
"May I leave my charge to you, then, for a while? She will be very
quiet; she is always so. Erema, will you wait for me?"
I was not quick enough then to see that this was arranged between
them. Major Hockin perceived that Mr. Shovelin wished to have a
talk with me about dearer matters than money, having children of
his own, and being (as his eyes and forehead showed) a man of
peculiar views, perhaps, but clearly of general good-will.
"In an hour, in an hour, in less than an hour"--the Major
intensified his intentions always--"in three-quarters of an hour I
shall be back. Meanwhile, my dear, you will sit upon a stool, and
not say a word, nor make any attempt to do any thing every body is
not used to."
This vexed me, as if I were a savage here; and I only replied with
a very gentle bow, being glad to see his departure; for Major
Hockin was one of those people, so often to be met with, whom any
one likes or dislikes according to the changes of their behavior.
But Mr. Shovelin was different from that.
"Miss Castlewood, take this chair," he said; "a hard one, but
better than a stool, perhaps. Now how am I to talk to you--as an
inquirer upon business matters, or as the daughter of my old
friend? Your smile is enough. Well, and you must talk to me in
the same unreasonable manner. That being clearly established
between us, let us proceed to the next point. Your father, my old
friend, wandered from the track, and unfortunately lost his life in
a desolate part of America."
"No; oh no. It was nothing like that. He might have been alive,
and here at this moment, if I had not drunk and eaten every bit and
drop of his."
"Now don't, my dear child, don't be so romantic--I mean, look at
things more soberly. You did as you were ordered, I have no doubt;
George Castlewood always would have that. He was a most commanding
man. You do not quite resemble him in that respect, I think."
"Oh, but did he do it, did he do it?" I cried out. "You were at
school with him, and knew his nature. Was it possible for him to
do it, Sir?"
"As possible as it is for me to go down to Sevenoaks and shoot my
dear old father, who is spending a green and agreeable old age
there. Not that your grandfather, if I may say it without causing
pain to you, was either green or agreeable. He was an uncommonly
sharp old man; I might even say a hard one. As you never saw him,
you will not think me rude in saying that much. Your love, of
course, is for your father; and if your father had had a father of
larger spirit about money, he might have been talking to me
pleasantly now, instead of--instead of all these sad things."
"Please not to slip away from me," I said, bluntly, having so often
met with that. "You believe, as every good person does, that my
father was wholly innocent. But do tell me who could have done it
instead. Somebody must have done it; that seems clear."
"Yes," replied Mr. Shovelin, with a look of calm consideration;
"somebody did it, undoubtedly; and that makes the difficulty of the
whole affair. 'Cui bono,' as the lawyers say. Two persons only
could have had any motive, so far as wealth and fortune go. The
first and most prominent, your father, who, of course, would come
into every thing (which made the suspicion so hot and strong); and
the other, a very nice gentleman, whom it is wholly impossible to
"Are you sure of that? People have more than suspected--they have
condemned--my father. After that, I can suspect any body. Who is
it? Please to tell me."
"It is the present Lord Castlewood, as he is beginning to be
called. He would not claim the title, or even put forward his
right in any way, until he had proof of your dear father's death;
and even then he behaved so well--"
"He did it! he did it!" I cried, in hot triumph. "My father's name
shall be clear of it. Can there be any doubt that he did it? How
very simple the whole of it becomes! Nothing astonishes me, except
the stupidity of people. He had every thing to gain, and nothing
to lose--a bad man, no doubt--though I never heard of him. And
putting it all on my father, of course, to come in himself, and
abide his time, till the misery killed my father. How simple, how
horribly simple, it becomes!"
"You are much too quick, too hot, too sudden. Excuse me a minute"--
as a silver bell struck--"I am wanted in the next room. But
before I go, let me give you a glass of cold water, and beg you to
dismiss that new idea from your mind."
I could see, as I took with a trembling hand the water he poured
out for me, that Mr. Shovelin was displeased. His kind and
handsome face grew hard. He had taken me for a nice young lady,
never much above the freezing-point, and he had found me boil over
in a moment. I was sorry to have grieved him; but if he had heard
Betsy Bowen's story, and seen her tell it, perhaps he would have
allowed for me. I sat down again, having risen in my warmth, and
tried to quiet and command myself by thinking of the sad points
only. Of these there were plenty to make pictures of, the like of
which had kept me awake all night; and I knew by this time, from
finding so much more of pity than real sympathy, that men think a
woman may well be all tears, but has no right to even the shadow of
a frown. That is their own prerogative.
And so, when Mr. Shovelin returned, with a bundle of papers which
had also vexed him--to judge by the way in which he threw them
down--I spoke very mildly, and said that I was very sorry for my
display of violence, but that if he knew all, he would pardon me;
and he pardoned me in a moment.
"I was going to tell you, my dear Miss Castlewood," he continued,
gently, "that your sudden idea must be dismissed, for reasons which
I think will content you. In the first place, the present Lord
Castlewood is, and always has been, an exemplary man, of great
piety and true gentleness; in the next place, he is an invalid, who
can not walk a mile with a crutch to help him, and so he has been
for a great many years; and lastly, if you have no faith in the
rest, he was in Italy at the time, and remained there for some
years afterward. There he received and sheltered your poor father
after his sad calamity, and was better than a brother to him, as
your father, in a letter to me, declared. So you see that you must
"That is not enough. I would beg his pardon on my knees, since he
helped my father, for he must have thought him innocent. Now, Mr.
Shovelin, you were my father's friend, and you are such a clever
"How do you know that, young lady? What a hurry you are always
"Oh, there can be no doubt about it. But you must not ask reasons,
if I am so quick. Now please to tell me what your own conclusion
is. I can talk of it calmly now; yes, quite calmly, because I
never think of any thing else. Only tell me what you really
believe, and I will keep it most strictly to myself."
"I am sure you will do that," he answered, smiling, "not only from
the power of your will, my dear, but also because I have nothing to
say. At first I was strongly inclined to believe (knowing, from my
certainty of your father, that the universal opinion must be wrong)
that the old lord had done it himself; for he always had been of a
headstrong and violent nature, which I am sure will never re-appear
in you. But the whole of the evidence went against this, and
little as I think of evidence, especially at an inquest, your
father's behavior confirmed what was sworn to. Your father knew
that his father had not made away with himself in a moment of
passion, otherwise he was not the man to break prison and fly
trial. He would have said, boldly, 'I am guiltless; there are many
things that I can not explain; I can not help that; I will face it
out. Condemn me, if you like, and I will suffer.' From your own
remembrance of your father's nature, is not that certainly the
course he would have taken?"
"I have not an atom of doubt about it. His flight and persistent
dread of trial puzzle me beyond imagination. Of his life he was
perfectly reckless, except, at least, for my sake."
"I know that he was," Mr. Shovelin replied; "as a boy he was
wonderfully fearless. As a man, with a sweet wife and a lot of
children, he might have begun to be otherwise. But when all those
were gone, and only a poor little baby left--"
"Yes, I suppose I was all that."
"Forgive me. I am looking back at you. Who could dream that you
would ever even live, without kith or kin to care for you? Your
life was saved by some good woman who took you away to Wales. But
when you were such a poor little relic, and your father could
scarcely have seen you, to have such a mite left must have been
almost a mockery of happiness. That motive could not have been
strong enough to prevent a man of proud honor from doing what honor
at once demanded. Your father would have returned and surrendered
as soon as he heard of his dear wife's death, if in the balance
there had been only you."
"Yes, Mr. Shovelin, perhaps he would. I was never very much as a
counter-balance. Yet my father loved me." I could have told him
of the pledge exchanged--"For my sake," and, "Yes, for your sake,"
with love and wedded honor set to fight cold desolate repute--but I
did not say a word about it.
"He loved you afterward, of course. But a man who has had seven
children is not enthusiastic about a baby. There must have been a
"But when I was the only one left alive. Surely I became valuable
then. I can not have been such a cipher."
"Yes, for a long time you would have been," replied the Saturnian
banker. "I do not wish to disparage your attractions when you were
a fortnight old. They may have begun already to be irresistible.
Excuse me; you have led me into the light vein, when speaking of a
most sad matter. You must blame your self-assertion for it. All I
wish to convey to you is my belief that something wholly unknown to
us, some dark mystery of which we have no inkling, lies at the
bottom of this terrible affair. Some strange motive there must
have been, strong enough even to overcome all ordinary sense of
honor, and an Englishman's pride in submitting to the law, whatever
may be the consequence. Consider that his 'flight from justice,'
as it was called, of course, by every one, condemned his case and
ruined his repute. Even for that he would not have cared so much
as for his own sense of right. And though he was a very lively
fellow, as I first remember him, full of tricks and jokes, and so
on, which in this busy age are out of date, I am certain that he
always had a stern sense of right. One never knows how love
affairs and weakness about children may alter almost any man; but
my firm conviction is that my dear old school-fellow, George
Castlewood, even with a wife and lovely children hanging altogether
upon his life, not only would not have broken jail, but would
calmly have given up his body to be hanged--pardon me, my dear, for
putting it so coarsely--if there had not been something paramount
to override even apparent honor. What it can have been I have no
idea, and I presume you have none."
"None whatever," I said at once, in answer to his inquiring gaze.
"I am quite taken by surprise; I never even thought of such a
thing. It has always seemed to me so natural that my dear father,
being shamefully condemned, because appearances were against him,
and nobody could enter into him, should, for the sake of his wife
and children, or even of one child like me, depart or banish
himself, or emigrate, or, as they might call it, run away.
Knowing that he never could have a fair trial, it was the only
straightforward and good and affectionate thing for him to do."
"You can not see things as men see them. We must not expect it of
you," Mr. Shovelin answered, with a kind but rather too superior
smile, which reminded me a little of dear Uncle Sam when he
listened to what, in his opinion, was only female reason; "but,
dear me, here is Major Hockin come! Punctuality is the soul of
"So I always declare," cried the Major, who was more than three-
quarters of an hour late, for which in my heart I thanked him. "My
watch keeps time to a minute, Sir, and its master to a second.
Well, I hope you have settled all questions of finance, and endowed
my young maid with a fortune."
"So far from that," Mr. Shovelin replied, in a tone very different
from that he used to me, "we have not even said one word of
business; all that has been left for your return. Am I to
understand that you are by appointment or relationship the guardian
of this young lady?"
"God forbid!" cried Major Hockin, shortly. I thought it very rude
of him, yet I could not help smiling to see how he threw his
glasses up and lifted his wiry crest of hair. "Not that she is
bad, I mean, but good, very good; indeed, I may say the very best
girl ever known outside of my own family. My cousin, Colonel
Gundry, who owns an immense estate in the most auriferous district
of all California, but will not spoil his splendid property by
mining, he will--he will tell you the very same thing, Sir."
"I am very glad to hear it," said the banker, smiling at me, while
I wondered what it was, but hoped that it meant my praises. "Now I
really fear that I must be very brief, though the daughter of my
oldest friend may well be preferred to business. But now we will
turn at once to business, if you please."
Mr. Shovelin went to a corner of the room, which might be called
his signal-box, having a little row of port-holes like a toy
frigate or accordion, and there he made sounds which brought steps
very promptly, one clerk carrying a mighty ledger, and the other a
"No plate," Major Hockin whispered to me, shaking his gray crest
with sorrow; "but there may be diamonds, you know, Erema. One
ounce of diamonds is worth a ton of plate."
"No," said Mr. Shovelin, whose ears were very keen, "I fear that
you will find nothing of mercantile value. Thank you, Mr.
Robinson; by-and-by perhaps we shall trouble you. Strictly
speaking, perhaps I should require the presence of your father's
lawyer, or of some one producing probate, ere I open this box, Miss
Castlewood. But having you here, and Major Hockin, and knowing
what I do about the matter (which is one of personal confidence), I
will dispense with formalities. We have given your father's
solicitor notice of this deposit, and requested his attention, but
he never has deigned to attend to it; so now we will dispense with
him. You see that the seal is unbroken; you know your father's
favorite seal, no doubt. The key is nothing; it was left to my
charge. You wish that I should open this?"
Certainly I did, and the banker split the seal with an ebony-
handled paper-knife, and very soon unlocked the steel-ribbed box,
whose weight was chiefly of itself. Some cotton-wool lay on the
top to keep the all-penetrative dust away, and then a sheet of blue
foolscap paper, partly covered with clear but crooked writing, and
under that some little twists of silver paper, screwed as if there
had been no time to tie them, and a packet of letters held together
by a glittering bracelet.
"Poor fellow!" Mr. Shovelin said, softly, while I held my breath,
and the Major had the courtesy to be silent. "This is his will; of
no value, I fear, in a pecuniary point of view, but of interest to
you his daughter. Shall I open it, Miss Castlewood, or send it to
"Open it, and never think of them," said I. "Like the rest, they
have forsaken him. Please to read it to yourself, and then tell
"Oh, I wish I had known this before!" cried the banker, after a
rapid glance or two. "Very kind, very flattering, I am sure! Yes,
I will do my duty by him; I wish there was more to be done in the
case. He has left me sole executor, and trustee of all his
property, for the benefit of his surviving child. Yet he never
gave me the smallest idea of expecting me to do this for him.
Otherwise, of course, I should have had this old box opened years
"We must look at things as they are," said Major Hockin, for I
could say nothing. "The question is, what do you mean to do now?"
"Nothing whatever," said the banker, crisply, being displeased at
the other's tone; and then, seeing my surprise, he addressed
himself to me: "Nothing at present, but congratulate myself upon
my old friend's confidence, and, as Abernethy said, 'take advice.'
A banker must never encroach upon the province of the lawyer. But
so far as a layman may judge, Major Hockin, I think you will have
to transfer to me the care of this young lady."
"I shall be only too happy, I assure you," the Major answered,
truthfully. "My wife has a great regard for her, and so have I--
the very greatest, the strongest regard, and warm parental
feelings; as you know, Erema. But--but, I am not so young as I
was; and I have to develop my property."
"Of which she no longer forms a part," Mr. Shovelin answered, with
a smile at me, which turned into pleasure my momentary pain at the
other's calm abandonment. "You will find me prompt and proud to
claim her, as soon as I am advised that this will is valid; and
that I shall learn to-morrow."
In spite of pride, or by its aid, my foolish eyes were full of
tears, and I gave him a look of gratitude which reminded him of my
father, as he said in so many words.
"Oh, I hope it is valid! How I hope it is!" I exclaimed, turning
round to the Major, who smiled rather grimly, and said he hoped so
"But surely," he continued, "as we are all here, we should not
neglect the opportunity of inspecting the other contents of this
box. To me it appears that we are bound to do so; that it is our
plain duty to ascertain--Why, there might even be a later will.
Erema, my dear, you must be most anxious to get to the bottom of
So I was, but desired even more that his curiosity should be
foiled. "We must leave that to Mr. Shovelin," I said.
"Then for the present we will seal it down again," the banker
answered, quietly; "we can see that there is no other will, and a
later one would scarcely be put under this. The other little
packets, whatever they may be, are objects of curiosity, perhaps,
rather than of importance. They will keep till we have more
"We have taken up a great deal of your time, Sir, I am sure," said
the Major, finding that he could take no more. "We ought to be,
and we are, most grateful."
"Well," the banker answered, as we began to move, "such things do
not happen every day. But there is no friend like an old friend,
Erema, as I mean to call you now. I was to have been your
godfather; but I fear that you never have been baptized."
"What!" cried the Major, staring at us both. "Is such a thing
possible in a Christian land? Oh, how I have neglected my duty to
the Church! Come back with me to Bruntsea, and my son shall do it.
The church there is under my orders, I should hope; and we will
have a dinner party afterward. What a horrible neglect of duty!"
"But how could I help it?" I exclaimed, with some terror at Major
Hockin's bristling hair. "I can not remember--I am sure I can not
say. It may have been done in France, or somewhere, if there was
no time in England. At any rate, my father is not to be blamed."
"Papistical baptism is worse than none," the Major said,
impressively. "Never mind, my dear, we will make that all right.
You shall not be a savage always. We will take the opportunity to
change your name. Erema is popish and outlandish; one scarcely
knows how to pronounce it. You shall have a good English Christian
name--Jemima, Jane, or Sophy. Trust me to know a good name. Trust
"Jemima!" I cried. "Oh, Mr. Shovelin, save me from ever being
called Jemima! Rather would I never be baptized at all."
"I am no judge of names," he answered, smiling, as he shook hands
with us; "but, unless I am a very bad judge of faces, you will be
called just what you please."
"And I please to be called what my father called me. It may be
unlucky, as a gentleman told me, who did not know how to pronounce
it. However, it will do very well for me. You wish to see me,
then, to-morrow, Mr. Shovelin?"
"If you please; but later in the day, when I am more at leisure. I
do not run away very early. Come at half past four to this door,
and knock. I hear every sound at this door in my room; and the
place will be growing quiet then."
He showed us out into a narrow alley through a heavy door sheathed
with iron, and soon we recovered the fair light of day, and the
brawl and roar of a London street.
"Now where shall we go?" the Major asked, as soon as he had found a
cab again; for he was very polite in that way. "You kept early
hours with your 'uncle Sam,' as you call Colonel Gundry, a slow-
witted man, but most amusing when he likes, as slow-witted men very
often are. Now will you come and dine with me? I can generally
dine, as you, with virtuous indignation, found out at Southampton.
But we are better friends now, Miss Heathen."
"Yes, I have more than I can ever thank you for," I answered, very
gravely, for I never could become jocose to order, and sadness
still was uppermost. "I will go where you like. I am quite at
your orders, because Betsy Bowen is busy now. She will not have
done her work till six o'clock."
"Well done!" he cried. "Bravo, Young America! Frankness is the
finest of all good manners. And what a lot of clumsy deception it
saves! Then let us go and dine. I will imitate your truthfulness.
It was two words for myself, and one for you. The air of London
always makes me hungry after too much country air. It is wrong
altogether, but I can not help it. And going along, I smell hungry
smells coming out of deep holes with a plate at the top. Hungry I
mean to a man who has known what absolute starvation is--when a man
would thank God for a blue-bottle fly who had taken his own nip any
where. When I see the young fellows at the clubs pick this, and
poke that, and push away the other, may I be d----d--my dear, I beg
your pardon. Cabby, to the 'Grilled Bone and Scolloped Cockle,' at
the bottom of St. Ventricle Lane, you know."
This place seemed, from what the Major said, to have earned repute
for something special, something esteemed by the very clever
people, and only to be found in true virtue here. And he told me
that luxury and self-indulgence were the greatest sins of the
present age, and how he admired a man who came here to protest
against Epicureans, by dining (liquors not included) for the sum of
three and sixpence.
All this, no doubt, was wise and right; but I could not attend to
it properly now, and he might take me where he would, and have all
the talking to himself, according to his practice. And I might not
even have been able to say what this temple of bones and cockles
was like, except for a little thing which happened there. The
room, at the head of a twisting staircase, was low and dark, and
furnished almost like a farmhouse kitchen. It had no carpet, nor
even a mat, but a floor of black timber, and a ceiling colored
blue, with stars and comets, and a full moon near the fire-place.
On either side of the room stood narrow tables endwise to the
walls, inclosed with high-backed seats like settles, forming thus a
double set of little stalls or boxes, with scarcely space enough
between for waiters, more urgent than New York firemen, to push
their steaming and breathless way.
"Square or round, miss?" said one of them to me as soon as the
Major had set me on a bench, and before my mind had time to rally
toward criticism of the knives and forks, which deprecated any such
ordeal; and he cleverly whipped a stand for something dirty, over
something still dirtier, on the cloth.
"I don't understand what you mean," I replied to his highly zealous
aspect, while the Major sat smiling dryly at my ignorance, which
vexed me. "I have never received such a question before. Major
Hockin, will you kindly answer him?"
"Square," said the Major; "square for both." And the waiter, with
a glance of pity at me, hurried off to carry out his order.
"Erema, your mind is all up in the sky," my companion began to
remonstrate. "You ought to know better after all your travels."
"Then the sky should not fall and confuse me so," I said, pointing
to the Milky Way, not more than a yard above me; "but do tell me
what he meant, if you can. Is it about the formation of the soup?"
"Hush, my dear. Soup is high treason here until night, when they
make it of the leavings. His honest desire was to know whether you
would have a grilled bone of mutton, which is naturally round, you
know, or of beef, which, by the same law of nature, seems always to
be square, you know."
"Oh, I see," I replied, with some confusion, not at his osteology,
but at the gaze of a pair of living and lively eyes fastened upon
me. A gentleman, waiting for his bill, had risen in the next low
box, and stood calmly (as if he had done all his duty to himself)
gazing over the wooden back at me, who thus sat facing him. And
Major Hockin, following my glance, stood up and turned round to see
"What! Cousin Montague! Bless my heart, who could have dreamed of
lighting on you here? Come in, my dear follow; there is plenty of
room. Let me introduce you to my new ward, Miss Erema Castlewood.
Miss Castlewood, this is Sir Montague Hockin, the son of my
lamented first cousin Sir Rufus, of whom you have heard so much.
Well, to be sure! I have not seen you for an age. My dear fellow,
now how are you?"
"Miss Castlewood, please not to move; I sit any where. Major, I am
most delighted to see you. Over and over again I have been at the
point of starting for Bruntsea Island--it is an island now, isn't
it? My father would never believe that it was till I proved it
from the number of rabbits that came up. However, not a desolate
island now, if it contains you and all your energies, and Miss
Castlewood, as well as Mrs. Hockin."
"It is not an island, and it never shall be," the Major cried,
knocking a blue plate over, and spilling the salt inauspiciously.
"It never was an island, and it never shall be. My intention is to
reclaim it altogether. Oh, here come the squares. Well done! well
done! I quite forget the proper thing to have to drink. Are the
cockles in the pan, Mr. Waiter? Quite right, then; ten minutes is
the proper time; but they know that better than I do. I am very
sorry, Montague, that you have dined."
"Surely you would not call this a dinner; I take my true luncheon
afterward. But lately my appetite has been so bad that it must be
fed up at short intervals. You can understand that, perhaps, Miss
Castlewood. It makes the confectioners' fortunes, you know. The
ladies once came only twice to feed, but now they come three times,
I am assured by a young man who knows all about it. And cherry
brandy is the mildest form of tipple."
"Shocking scandal! abominable talk!" cried the Major, who took
every thing at its word. "I have heard all that sort of stuff ever
since I was as high as this table. Waiter, show me this
gentleman's bill. Oh well, oh well! you have not done so very
badly. Two squares and a round, with a jug of Steinberg, and a
pint of British stout with your Stilton. If this is your ante-
lunch, what will you do when you come to your real luncheon? But I
must not talk now; you may have it as you please."
"The truth of it is, Miss Castlewood," said the young man, while I
looked with some curiosity at my frizzling bone, with the cover
just whisked off, and drops of its juice (like the rays of a
lustre) shaking with soft inner wealth--"the truth of it is just
this, and no more: we fix our minds and our thoughts, and all the
rest of our higher intelligence, a great deal too much upon our
"No doubt we do," I was obliged to answer. "It is very sad to
think of, as soon as one has dined. But does that reflection
occur, as it should, at the proper time to be useful--I mean when
we are hungry?"
"I fear not; I fear that it is rather praeterite than practical."
"No big words now, my dear fellow," cried the Major. "You have had
your turn; let us have ours. But, Erema, you are eating nothing.
Take a knife and fork, Montague, and help her. The beauty of these
things consists entirely, absolutely, essentially, I may say, in
their having the smoke rushing out of them. A gush of steam like
this should follow every turn of the knife. But there! I am
spoiling every bit by talking so."
"Is that any fault of mine?" asked Sir Montague, in a tone which
made me look at him. The voice was not harsh, nor rough, nor
unpleasant, yet it gave me the idea that it could be all three, and
worse than all three, upon occasion. So I looked at him, which I
had refrained from doing, to see whether his face confirmed that
idea. To the best of my perception, it did not. Sir Montague
Hockin was rather good-looking, so far as form and color go, having
regular features, and clear blue eyes, very beautiful teeth, and a
golden beard. His appearance was grave, but not morose, as if he
were always examining things and people without condemning them.
It was evident that he expected to take the upper hand in general,
to play the first fiddle, to hold the top saw, to "be helped to all
the stuffing of the pumpkin," as dear Uncle Sam was fond of saying.
Of moderate stature, almost of middle age, and dressed nicely,
without any gewgaws, which look so common upon a gentleman's front,
he was likely to please more people than he displeased at first on-
The Major was now in the flush of goodwill, having found his dinner
genial; and being a good man, he yielded to a little sympathetic
anger with those who had done less justice to themselves. And in
this state of mind he begged us to take note of one thing--that his
ward should be christened in Bruntsea Church, as sure as all the
bells were his, according to their inscriptions, no later than next
Thursday week, that being the day for a good sirloin; and if Sir
Montague failed to come to see how they could manage things under
proper administration, he might be sure of one thing, if no more--
that Major Hockin would never speak to him again.
So many things now began to open upon me, to do and to think of,
that I scarcely knew which to begin with. I used to be told how
much wiser it was not to interfere with any thing--to let by-gones
be by-gones, and consider my own self only. But this advice never
came home to my case, and it always seemed an unworthy thing even
to be listening to it. And now I saw reason to be glad for
thanking people who advised me, and letting them go on to advise
themselves. For if I had listened to Major Hockin, or even Uncle
Sam for that part, where must I have been now? Why, simply knowing
no more than as a child I knew, and feeling miserable about it.
Whereas I had now at least something to go upon, and enough for a
long time to occupy my mind. The difficulty was to know what to do
first, and what to resolve to leave undone, or at least to put off
for the present. One of my special desires had been to discover
that man, that Mr. Goad, who had frightened me so about two years
back, and was said to be lost in the snow-drifts. But nobody like
him had ever been found, to the sorrow of the neighborhood; and
Sylvester himself had been disappointed, not even to know what to
do with his clothes.
His card, however, before he went off, had been left to the care of
Uncle Sam for security of the 15,000 dollars; and on it was
printed, with a glazing and much flourish, "Vypan, Goad, and
Terryer: Private Inquiry Office, Little England Polygon, W.C."
Uncle Sam, with a grunt and a rise of his foot, had sent this low
card flying to the fire, after I had kissed him so for all his
truth and loveliness; but I had caught it and made him give it to
me, as was only natural. And having this now, I had been quite
prepared to go and present it at its mean address, and ask what
they wanted me for in America, and what they would like to do with
me now, taking care to have either the Major close at hand, or else
a policeman well recommended.
But now I determined to wait a little while (if Betsy Bowen's
opinion should be at all the same as mine was), and to ask Mr.
Shovelin what he thought about it, before doing any thing that
might arouse a set of ideas quite opposite to mine, and so cause
trouble afterward. And being unable to think any better for the
time than to wait and be talked to, I got Major Hockin to take me
back again to the right number in European Square.
Here I found Mrs. Strouss (born Betsy Bowen) ready and eager to
hear a great deal more than I myself had heard that day. On the
other hand, I had many questions, arising from things said to me,
to which I required clear answers; and it never would do for her to
suppose that because she had known me come into this world, she
must govern the whole of my course therein. But it cost many words
and a great deal of demeanor to teach her that, good and faithful
as she was, I could not be always under her. Yet I promised to
take her advice whenever it agreed with my own opinions.
This pleased her, and she promised to offer it always, knowing how
well it would be received, and she told all her lodgers that they
might ring and ring, for she did not mean to answer any of their
bells; but if they wanted any thing, they must go and fetch it.
Being Germans, who are the most docile of men in England, whatever
they may be at home, they made no complaint, but retired to their
pipes in a pleasant condition of surprise at London habits.
Mrs. Strouss, being from her earliest years of a thrifty and
reputable turn of mind, had managed, in a large yet honest way, to
put by many things which must prove useful in the long-run, if kept
long enough. And I did hear--most careful as I am to pay no
attention to petty rumors--that the first thing that moved the
heart of Herr Strouss, and called forth his finest feelings, was a
winding-up chair, which came out to make legs, with a pocket for
tobacco, and a flat place for a glass.
This was certainly a paltry thought; and to think of such low
things grieved me. And now, when I looked at Mr. Strouss himself,
having heard of none of these things yet, I felt that my nurse
might not have done her best, yet might have done worse, when she
married him. For he seemed to have taken a liking toward me, and
an interest in my affairs, which redounded to his credit, if he
would not be too inquisitive. And now I gladly allowed him to be
present, and to rest in the chair which had captivated him,
although last night I could scarcely have borne to have heard in
his presence what I had to hear. To-night there was nothing
distressful to be said, compared, at least, with last night's tale;
whereas there were several questions to be put, in some of which
(while scouting altogether Uncle Sam's low estimate) two females
might, with advantage perhaps, obtain an opinion from the stronger
And now, as soon as I had told my two friends as well as I could
what had happened at the bank (with which they were pleased, as I
had been), those questions arose, and were, I believe, chiefly to
the following purport--setting aside the main puzzle of all.
Why did my father say, on that dreadful morning, that if his father
was dead, he himself had killed or murdered him? Betsy believed,
when she came to think, that he had even used the worse word of
How could the fatal shot have been discharged from his pistol--as
clearly it had been--a pistol, moreover, which, by his own account,
as Betsy now remembered, he had left in his quarters near
What was that horrible disease which had carried off all my poor
little brothers and sisters, and frightened kind neighbors and
servants away? Betsy said it was called "Differeria," as differing
so much from all other complaints. I had never yet heard of this,
but discovered, without asking further than of Mr. Strouss, that
she meant that urgent mandate for a levy of small angels which is
called on earth "diphtheria."
Who had directed those private inquirers, Vypan, Goad, and Terryer,
to send to the far West a member of their firm to get legal proof
of my dear father's death, and to bring me back, if possible? The
present Lord Castlewood never would have done so, according to what
Mr. Shovelin said; it was far more likely that (but for weak
health) he would have come forth himself to seek me, upon any
probable tidings. At once a religious and chivalrous man, he would
never employ mean agency. And while thinking of that, another
thought occurred--What had induced that low man Goad to give Uncle
Sam a date wrong altogether for the crime which began all our
misery? He had put it at ten, now twelve, years back, and dated it
in November, whereas it had happened in September month, six years
and two months before the date he gave. This question was out of
all answer to me, and also to Mrs. Strouss herself; but Herr
Strouss, being of a legal turn, believed that the law was to blame
for it. He thought that proceedings might be bound to begin, under
the Extradition Act, within ten years of the date of the crime; or
there might be some other stipulation compelling Mr. Goad to add
one to all his falsehoods; and not knowing any thing about it, both
of us thought it very likely.
Again, what could have been that last pledge which passed between
my father and mother, when they said "good-by" to one another, and
perhaps knew that it was forever, so far as this bodily world is
concerned? Was it any thing about a poor little sleeping and
whimpering creature like myself, who could not yet make any
difference to any living being except the mother? Or was it
concerning far more important things, justice, clear honor, good-
will, and duty, such as in the crush of time come upward with high
natures? And if so, was it not a promise from my mother, knowing
every thing, to say nothing, even at the quivering moment of lying
beneath the point of death?
This was a new idea for Betsy, who had concluded from the very
first that the pledge must be on my father's part--to wit, that he
had vowed not to surrender, or hurt himself in any way, for the
sake of his dear wife. And to my suggestion she could only say
that she never had seen it in that light; but the landings were so
narrow and the walls so soft that, with all her duty staring in her
face, neither she, nor the best servant ever in an apron, could be
held responsible to repeat their very words. And her husband said
that this was good--very good--so good as ever could be; and what
was to show now from the mouth of any one, after fifteen, sixteen,
eighteen, the years?
After this I had no other word to say, being still too young to
contradict people duly married and of one accord. No other word, I
mean, upon that point; though still I had to ask, upon matters more
immediate, what was the next thing for me, perhaps, to do. And
first of all it was settled among us that for me to present myself
at the head-quarters of Vypau, Goad, and Terryer would be a very
clumsy and stupid proceeding, and perhaps even dangerous. Of
course they would not reveal to me the author of those kind
inquiries about myself, which perhaps had cost the firm a very
valuable life, the life of Mr. Goad himself. And while I should
learn less than nothing from them, they would most easily extract
from me, or at any rate find out afterward, where I was living, and
what I was doing, and how I could most quietly be met and baffled,
and perhaps even made away with, so as to save all further trouble.
Neither was that the only point upon which I resolved to do
nothing. Herr Strouss was a very simple-minded man, yet full of
true sagacity, and he warmly advised, in his very worst English,
that none but my few trusty friends should be told of my visit to
"Why for make to know your enemies?" he asked, with one finger on
his forehead, which was his mode of indicating caution. "Enemies
find out vere soon, too soon, soon enough. Begin to plot--no, no,
young lady begin first. Vilhelmina, your man say the right. Is it
good, or is it bad?"
It appeared to us both to be good, so far as might be judged for
the present; and therefore I made up my mind to abstain from
calling even on my father's agent, unless Mr. Shovelin should think
it needful. In that and other matters I would act by his advice;
and so with better spirits than I long had owned, at finding so
much kindness, and with good hopes of the morrow, I went to the
snug little bedroom which my good nurse had provided.
Alas! What was my little grief on the morrow, compared to the deep
and abiding loss of many by a good man's death? When I went to the
door at which I had been told to knock, it was long before I got an
answer. And even when somebody came at last, so far from being my
guardian, it was only a poor old clerk, who said, "Hush, miss!" and
then prayed that the will of the Lord might be done. "Couldn't you
see the half-shutters up?" he continued, rather roughly. "'Tis a
bad job for many a poor man to-day. And it seems no more than
yesterday I was carrying him about!"
"Do you mean Mr. Shovelin?" I asked. "Is he poorly? Has any thing
happened? I can wait, or come again."
"The Lord has taken him to the mansions of the just, from his
private address at Sydenham Hill. A burning and a shining light!
May we like him be found watching in that day, with our lamps
trimmed and our loins girded!"
For the moment I was too surprised to speak, and the kind old man
led me into the passage, seeing how pale and faint I was. He
belonged, like his master, and a great part of their business, to a
simple religious persuasion, or faith, which now is very seldom
"It was just in this way," he said, as soon as tears had enabled me
to speak--for even at the first sight I had felt affection toward
my new guardian. "Our master is a very punctual man, for five-and-
thirty years never late--never late once till this morning. Excuse
me, miss, I ought to be ashamed. The Lord knoweth what is best for
us. Well, you threw him out a good bit yesterday, and there was
other troubles. And he had to work late last night, I hear; for
through his work he would go, be it anyhow--diligent in business,
husbanding the time--and when he came down to breakfast this
morning, he prayed with his household as usual, but they noticed
his voice rather weak and queer; and the mistress looked at him
when he got up from his knees; but he drank his cup of tea and he
ate his bit of toast, which was all he ever took for breakfast.
But presently when his cob came up to the door--for he always rode
in to business, miss, no matter what the weather was--he went to
kiss his wife and his daughters all round, according to their ages;
and he got through them all, when away he fell down, with the
riding-whip in one hand, and expired on a piece of Indian matting."
"How terrible!" I exclaimed, with a sob. And the poor old man, in
spite of all his piety, was sobbing.
"No, miss; not a bit of terror about it, to a man prepared as he
was. He had had some warning just a year ago; and the doctors all
told him he must leave off work. He could no more do without his
proper work than he could without air or victuals. What this old
established concern will do without him, our Divine Master only
knows. And a pinch coming on in Threadneedle Street, I hear--but I
scarcely know what I am saying, miss; I was thinking of the camel
and the needle."
"I will not repeat what you have not meant to tell," I answered,
seeing his confusion, and the clumsy turn he had made of it. "Only
tell me what dear Mr. Shovelin died of."
"Heart-disease, miss. You might know in a moment. Nothing kills
like that. His poor father died of it, thirty years agone. And
the better people are, the more they get it."
AT THE PUMP
This blow was so sharp and heavy that I lost for the moment all
power to go on. The sense of ill fortune fell upon me, as it falls
upon stronger people, when a sudden gleam of hope, breaking through
long troubles, mysteriously fades away.
Even the pleasure of indulging in the gloom of evil luck was a
thing to be ashamed of now, when I thought of that good man's
family thus, without a moment's warning, robbed of love and
hope and happiness. But Mrs. Strouss, who often brooded on
predestination, imbittered all my thoughts by saying, or rather
conveying without words, that my poor fathers taint of some Divine
ill-will had re-appeared, and even killed his banker.
Betsy held most Low-Church views, by nature being a Dissenter. She
called herself a Baptist, and in some strange way had stopped me
thus from ever having been baptized. I do not understand these
things, and the battles fought about them; but knowing that my
father was a member of the English Church, I resolved to be the
same, and told Betsy that she ought not to set up against her
master's doctrine. Then she herself became ashamed of trying to
convert me, not only because of my ignorance (which made argument
like shooting into the sea), but chiefly because she could mention
no one of title with such theology.
This settled the question at once; and remembering (to my shame)
what opinions I had held even of Suan Isco, while being in the very
same predicament myself, reflecting also what Uncle Sam and Firm
would have thought of me, had they known it, I anticipated the
Major and his dinner party by going to a quiet ancient clergyman,
who examined me, and being satisfied with little, took me to an old
City church of deep and damp retirement. And here, with a great
din of traffic outside, and a mildewy depth of repose within, I was
presented by certain sponsors (the clerk and his wife and his
wife's sister), and heard good words, and hope to keep the
impression, both outward and inward, gently made upon me.
I need not say that I kept, and now received with authority, my old
name; though the clerk prefixed an aspirate to it, and indulged in
two syllables only. But the ancient parson knew its meaning, and
looked at me with curiosity; yet, being a gentleman of the old
school, put never a question about it.
Now this being done, and full tidings thereof sent off to Mrs.
Hockin, to save trouble to the butcher, or other disappointment, I
scarcely knew how to be moving next, though move I must before very
long. For it cost me a great deal of money to stay in European
Square like this, albeit Herr Strouss was of all men the most
generous, by his own avowal, and his wife (by the same test) noble-
hearted among women. Yet each of them spoke of the other's
pecuniary views in such a desponding tone (when the other was out
of the way), and so lamented to have any thing at all to say about
cash--by compulsion of the other--also both, when met together,
were so large and reckless, and not to be insulted by a thought of
payment, that it came to pass that my money did nothing but run
away between them.
This was not their fault at all, but all my own, for being unable
to keep my secret about the great nugget. The Major had told me
not to speak of this, according to wise experience; and I had not
the smallest intention of doing an atom of mischief in that way;
but somehow or other it came out one night when I was being pitied
for my desolation. And all the charges against me began to be
doubled from that moment.
If this had been all, I should not have cared so much, being quite
content that my money should go as fast as it came in to me. But
there was another thing here which cost me as much as my board and
lodgings and all the rest of my expenses. And that was the iron
pump in European Square. For this pump stood in the very centre of
a huddled district of famine, filth, and fever. When once I had
seen from the leads of our house the quag of reeking life around,
the stubs and snags of chimney-pots, the gashes among them entitled
streets, and the broken blains called houses, I was quite ashamed
of paying any thing to become a Christian.
Betsy, who stood by me, said that it was better than it used to be,
and that all these people lived in comfort of their own ideas,
fiercely resented all interference, and were good to one another in
their own rough way. It was more than three years since there had
been a single murder among them, and even then the man who was
killed confessed that he deserved it. She told me, also, that in
some mining district of Wales, well known to her, things were a
great deal worse than here, although the people were not half so
poor. And finally, looking at a ruby ring which I had begged her
to wear always, for the sake of her truth to me, she begged me to
be wiser than to fret about things that I could not change. "All
these people, whose hovels I saw, had the means of grace before
them, and if they would not stretch forth their hands, it was only
because they were vessels of wrath. Her pity was rather for our
poor black brethren who had never enjoyed no opportunities, and
therefore must be castaways."
Being a stranger, and so young, and accustomed to receive my
doctrine (since first I went to America), I dropped all intention
of attempting any good in places where I might be murdered. But I
could not help looking at the pump which was in front, and the poor
things who came there for water, and, most of all, the children.
With these it was almost the joy of the day, and perhaps the only
joy, to come into this little open space and stand, and put their
backs up stiffly, and stare about, ready for some good luck to turn
up--such as a horse to hold, or a man coming out of the docks with
a half-penny to spare--and then, in failure of such golden hope, to
dash about, in and out, after one another, splashing, and kicking
over their own cans, kettles, jars, or buckets, and stretching
their dirty little naked legs, and showing very often fine white
chests, and bright teeth wet with laughter. And then, when this
chivy was done, and their quick little hearts beat aloud with
glory, it was pretty to see them all rally round the pump, as
crafty as their betters, and watching with sly humor each other's
readiness to begin again.
Then suddenly a sense of neglected duty would seize some little
body with a hand to its side, nine times out of ten a girl,
whose mother, perhaps, lay sick at home, and a stern idea of
responsibility began to make the buckets clank. Then might you
see, if you cared to do so, orderly management have its turn--a
demand for pins and a tucking up of skirts (which scarcely seemed
worthy of the great young fuss), large children scolding little
ones not a bit more muddy than themselves, the while the very least
child of all, too young as yet for chivying, and only come for
company, would smooth her comparatively clean frock down, and look
up at her sisters with condemnatory eyes.
Trivial as they were, these things amused me much, and made a
little checker of reflected light upon the cloud of selfish gloom,
especially when the real work began, and the children, vying with
one another, set to at the iron handle. This was too large for
their little hands to grasp, and by means of some grievance inside,
or perhaps through a cruel trick of the plumber, up went the long
handle every time small fingers were too confiding, and there it
stood up like the tail of a rampant cow, or a branch inaccessible,
until an old shawl or the cord of a peg-top could be cast up on
high to reduce it. But some engineering boy, "highly gifted," like
Uncle Sam's self, "with machinery," had discovered an ingenious
cure for this. With the help of the girls he used to fasten a fat
little thing, about twelve months old, in the bend at the middle of
the handle, and there (like a ham on the steelyard) hung this baby
and enjoyed seesaw, and laughed at its own utility.
I never saw this, and the splashing and dribbling and play and
bright revelry of water, without forgetting all sad counsel and
discretion, and rushing out as if the dingy pump were my own
delicious Blue River. People used to look at me from the windows
with pity and astonishment, supposing me to be crazed or frantic,
especially the Germans. For to run out like this, without a pocket
full of money, would have been insanity; and to run out with it, to
their minds, was even clearer proof of that condition. For the
money went as quickly as the water of the pump; on this side and on
that it flew, each child in succession making deeper drain upon it,
in virtue of still deeper woes. They were dreadful little story-
tellers, I am very much afraid; and the long faces pulled, as soon
as I came out, in contrast with all the recent glee and frolic,
suggested to even the youngest charity suspicions of some
inconsistency. However, they were so ingenious and clever that
they worked my pockets like the pump itself, only with this unhappy
difference, that the former had no inexhaustible spring of silver,
or even of copper.
And thus, by a reason (as cogent as any of more exalted nature),
was I driven back to my head-quarters, there to abide till a fresh
supply should come. For Uncle Sam, generous and noble as he was,
did not mean to let me melt all away at once my share of the great
Blue River nugget, any more than to make ducks and drakes of his
own. Indeed, that rock of gold was still untouched, and healthily
reposing in a banker's cellar in the good town of Sacramento.
People were allowed to go in and see it upon payment of a dollar,
and they came out so thirsty from feasting upon it that a bar was
set up, and a pile of money made--all the gentlemen, and ladies
even worse than they, taking a reckless turn about small money
after seeing that. But dear Uncle Sam refused every cent of the
profit of all this excitable work. It was wholly against his wish
that any thing so artificial should be done at all, and his sense
of religion condemned it. He said, in his very first letter to me,
that even a heathen must acknowledge this champion nugget as the
grandest work of the Lord yet discovered in America--a country more
full of all works of the Lord than the rest of the world put
together. And to keep it in a cellar, without any air or sun,
grated harshly upon his ideas of right.
However, he did not expect every body to think exactly as he did,
and if they could turn a few dollars upon it, they were welcome, as
having large families. And the balance might go to his credit
against the interest on any cash advanced to him. Not that he
meant to be very fast with this, never having run into debt in all
This, put shortly, was the reason why I could not run to the pump
any longer. I had come into England with money enough to last me
(according to the Sawyer's calculations) for a year and a half of
every needful work; whereas, in less than half that time, I was
arriving at my last penny. This reminded me of my dear father, who
was nearly always in trouble about money (although so strictly
upright); and at first I was proud to be like him about this, till
I came to find the disadvantages.
It must not even for a moment be imagined that this made any
difference in the behavior of any one toward me. Mrs. Strouss,
Herr Strouss, the lady on the stairs, and a very clever woman who
had got no rooms, but was kindly accommodated every where, as well
as the baron on the first floor front, and the gentleman from a
hotel at Hanover, who looked out the other way, and even the
children at the pump--not one made any difference toward me (as an
enemy might, perhaps, suppose) because my last half crown was gone.
It was admitted upon every side that I ought to be forgiven for my
random cast of money, because I knew no better, and was sure to
have more in a very little time. And the children of the pump came
to see me go away, through streets of a mile and a half, I should
think; and they carried my things, looking after one another, so
that none could run away. And being forbidden at the platform
gate, for want of respectability, they set up a cheer, and I waved
my hat, and promised, amidst great applause, to come back with it
full of sixpences.
COCKS AND COXCOMBS
Major Hockin brought the only fly as yet to be found in Bruntsea,
to meet me at Newport, where the railway ended at present, for want
of further encouragement.
"Very soon you go," he cried out to the bulkheads, or buffers, or
whatever are the things that close the career of a land-engine.
"Station-master, you are very wise in putting in your very best
cabbage plants there. You understand your own company. Well done!
If I were to offer you a shilling apiece for those young early
Yorks, what would you say, now?"
"Weel, a think I should say nah, Sir," the Scotch station-master
made answer, with a grin, while he pulled off his cap of office and
put on a dissolute Glengary. "They are a veery fine young kail,
that always pays for planting."
"The villain!" said the Major, as I jumped into the fly. "However,
I suppose he does quite right. Set a thief to watch a thief. The
company are big rogues, and he tries to be a bigger. We shall cut
through his garden in about three months, just when his cabbages
are getting firm, and their value will exceed that of pine-apples.
The surveyor will come down and certify, and the 'damage to crops'
will be at least five pounds, when they have no right to sow even
mustard and cress, and a saucepan would hold all the victuals on
From this I perceived that my host was as full of his speculative
schemes as ever; and soon he made the driver of the one-horse fly
turn aside from the unfenced road and take the turf. "Coachman,"
he cried, "just drive along the railway; you won't have the chance
There was no sod turned yet and no rod set up; but the driver
seemed to know what was meant, and took us over the springy turf
where once had run the river. And the salt breath of the sea came
over the pebble ridge, full of appetite and briskness, after so
"It is one of the saddest things I ever heard of," Major Hockin
began to say to me. "Poor Shovelin! poor Shovelin! A man of large
capital--the very thing we want. It might have been the making of
this place. I have very little doubt that I must have brought him
to see our great natural advantages--the beauty of the situation,
the salubrity of the air, the absence of all clay, or marsh, or
noxious deposit, the bright crisp turf, and the noble underlay of
chalk, which (if you perceive my meaning) can not retain any damp,
but transmits it into sweet natural wells. Why, driver, where the
devil are you driving us?"
"No fear, your honor. I know every trick of it. It won't come
over the wheels, I do believe, and it does all the good in the
world to his sand-cracks. Whoa-ho, my boy, then! And the young
lady's feet might go up upon the cushion, if her boots is thin,
Sir; and Mr. Rasper will excuse of it."
"What the"--something hot--"do you mean, Sir?" the Major roared
over the water, which seemed to be deepening as we went on. "Pull
out this instant; pull out, I tell you, or you shall have three
months' hard labor. May I be d----d now--my dear, I beg your
pardon for speaking with such sincerity--I simply mean, may I go
straightway to the devil, if I don't put this fellow on the tread-
mill. Oh, you can pull out now, then, can you?"
"If your honor pleases, I never did pull in," the poor driver
answered, being frightened at the excitement of the lord of the
manor. "My orders was, miss, to drive along the line coming on now
just to Bruntsea, and keep in the middle of that same I did, and
this here little wet is a haxident--a haxident of the full moon, I
do assure you, and the wind coming over the sea, as you might say.
These pebbles is too round, miss, to stick to one another; you
couldn't expect it of them; and sometimes the water here and there
comes a-leaking like through the bottom. I have seed it so, ever
since I can remember."
"I don't believe a word of it," the Major said, as we waited a
little for the vehicle to drain, and I made a nosegay of the bright
sea flowers. "Tell me no lies, Sir; you belong to the West
Bruntseyans, and you have driven us into a vile bog to scare me.
They have bribed you. I see the whole of it. Tell me the truth,
and you shall have five shillings."
The driver looked over the marshes as if he had never received such
an offer before. Five shillings for a falsehood would have seemed
the proper thing, and have called for a balance of considerations,
and made a demand upon his energies. But to earn five shillings by
the truth had never fallen to his luck before; and he turned to me,
because I smiled, and he said, "Will you taste the water, miss?"
"Bless me!" cried the Major, "now I never thought of that. Common
people have such ways about things they are used to! I might have
stood here for a month, and never have thought of that way to
settle it. Ridiculously simple. Give me a taste, Erema. Ah, that
is the real beauty of our coast, my dear! The strongest proportion
of the saline element--I should know the taste of it any where. No
sea-weed, no fishy particles, no sludge, no beards of oysters. The
pure, uncontaminated, perfect brine, that sets every male and
female on his legs, varicose, orthopedic--I forget their
scientifics, but I know the smack of it."
"Certainly," I said, "it is beautifully salt. It will give you an
appetite for dinner, Major Hockin. I could drink a pint of it,
after all that smoke. But don't you think it is a serious thing
for the sea itself to come pouring through the bottom of this
pebble bank in this way?"
"Not at all. No, I rather like it. It opens up many strictly
practical ideas. It adds very much to the value of the land. For
instance, a 'salt-lick,' as your sweet Yankees call it--and set up
an infirmary for foot and mouth disease. And better still, the
baths, the baths, my dear. No expense for piping, or pumping, or
any thing. Only place your marble at the proper level, and twice a
day you have the grand salubrious sparkling influx of ocean's self,
self-filtered, and by its own operation permeated with a fine
siliceous element. What foreign mud could compete with such a
"But supposing there should come too much of it," I said, "and wash
both the baths and the bathers away?"
"Such an idea is ridiculous. It can be adjusted to a nicety. I am
very glad I happened to observe this thing, this--this noble
phenomenon. I shall speak to Montague about it at once, before I
am half an hour older. My dear, you have made a conquest; I quite
forgot to tell you; but never mind that for the present. Driver,
here is half a crown for you. Your master will put down the fly to
my account. He owes me a heriot. I shall claim his best beast,
the moment he gets one without a broken wind."
As the Major spoke, he got out at his own door with all his wonted
alacrity; but instead of offering me his hand, as he always had
done in London, he skipped up his nine steps, on purpose (as I saw)
that somebody else might come down for me. And this was Sir
Montague Hockin, as I feared was only too likely from what had been
said. If I had even suspected that this gentleman was at
Bruntlands, I would have done my utmost to stay where I was, in
spite of all absence of money. Betsy would gladly have allowed me
to remain, without paying even a farthing, until it should become
convenient. Pride had forbidden me to speak of this; but I would
have got over that pride much rather than meet this Sir Montague
Hockin thus. Some instinct told me to avoid him altogether; and
having so little now of any other guidance, I attached, perhaps,
foolish importance to that.
However, it was not the part of a lady to be rude to any one
through instinct; and I knew already that in England young women
are not quite such masters of their own behavior as in the far West
they are allowed to be. And so I did my best that, even in my
eyes, he should not see how vexed I was at meeting him. And soon
it appeared that this behavior, however painful to me, was no less
wise than good, because both with my host and hostess this new
visitor was already at the summit of all good graces. He had
conquered the Major by admiration of all his schemes and upshots,
and even offering glimmers of the needful money in the distance;
and Mrs. Hockin lay quite at his feet ever since he had opened a
hamper and produced a pair of frizzled fowls, creatures of an
extraordinary aspect, toothed all over like a dandelion plant, with
every feather sticking inside out. When I saw them, I tried for my
life not to laugh, and biting my lips very hard, quite succeeded,
until the cock opened up a pair of sleepy eyes, covered with comb
and very sad inversions, and glancing with complacency at his wife
(who stood beneath him, even more turned inside out), capered with
his twiggy legs, and gave a long, sad crow. Mrs. Hockin looked at
him with intense delight.
"Erema, is it possible that you laugh? I thought that you never
laughed, Erema. At any rate, if you ever do indulge, you might
choose a fitter opportunity, I think. You have spoiled his
demonstration altogether--see, he does not understand such
unkindness--and it is the very first he has uttered since he came.
Oh, poor Fluffsky!"
"I am very, very sorry. But how was I to help it? I would not, on
any account, have stopped him if I had known he was so sensitive.
Fluffsky, do please to begin again."
"These beggars are nothing at all, I can assure you," said Sir
Montague, coming to my aid, when Fluffsky spurned all our prayers
for one more crow. "Mrs. Hockin, if you really would like to have
a fowl that even Lady Clara Crowcombe has not got, you shall have
it in a week, or a fortnight, or, at any rate, a month, if I can
manage it. They are not to be had except through certain channels,
and the fellows who write the poultry books have never even heard
"Oh, how delighted I shall be! Lady Clara despises all her
neighbors so. But do they lay eggs? Half the use of keeping
poultry, when you never kill them, is to get an egg for breakfast;
and Major Hockin looks round and says, 'Now is this our own?' and I
can not say that it is; and I am vexed with the books, and he
begins to laugh at me. People said it was for want of chalk, but
they walk upon nothing but chalk, as you can see."
"And their food, Mrs. Hockin. They are walking upon that. Starve
them for a week, and forty eggs at least will reward you for stern
But all this little talk I only tell to show how good and soft Mrs.
Hockin was; and her husband, in spite of all his self-opinion, and
resolute talk about money and manorial dues, in his way, perhaps,
was even less to be trusted to get his cash out of any poor and
On the very day after my return from London I received a letter
from "Colonel Gundry" (as we always called the Sawyer now, through
his kinship to the Major), and, as it can not easily be put into
less compass, I may as well give his very words:
"DEAR MISS REMA,--Your last favor to hand, with thanks. Every
thing is going on all right with us. The mill is built up, and
goes better than ever; more orders on hand than we can get through.
We have not cracked the big nugget yet. Expect the government to
take him at a trifle below value, for Washington Museum. Must have
your consent; but, for my part, would rather let him go there than
break him. Am ready to lose a few dollars upon him, particularly
as he might crack up all quartzy in the middle. They offer to take
him by weight at three dollars and a half per pound below standard.
Please say if agreeable.
"I fear, my dear, that there are bad times coming for all of us
here in this part. Not about money, but a long sight worse; bad
will, and contention, and rebellion, perhaps. What we hear
concerning it is not much here; but even here thoughts are very
much divided. Ephraim takes a different view from mine; which is
not a right thing for a grandson to do; and neighbor Sylvester goes
with him. The Lord send agreement and concord among us; but, if He
doeth so, He must change his mind first, for every man is borrowing
his neighbor's gun.
"If there is any thing that you can do to turn Ephraim back to his
duty, my dear, I am sure that, for love of us, you will do it. If
Firm was to run away from me now, and go fighting on behalf of
slavery, I never should care more for naught upon this side of
Jordan; and the new mill might go to Jericho; though it does look
uncommon handsome now, I can assure you, and tears through its work
like a tiger.
"Noting symptoms in your last of the price of things in England,
and having carried over some to your account, inclosed please to
find a bill for five hundred dollars, though not likely to be
wanted yet. Save a care of your money, my dear; but pay your way
handsome, as a Castlewood should do. Jowler goes his rounds twice
a day looking for you; and somebody else never hangs his hat up
without casting one eye at the corner you know. Sylvester's girl
was over here last week, dashing about as usual. If Firm goes
South, he may have her, for aught I care, and never see saw-mill
again. But I hope that the Lord will spare my old days such
disgrace and tribulation.
"About you know what, my dear, be not overanxious. I have been
young, and now am old, as the holy Psalmist says; and the more I
see of the ways of men, the less I verily think of them. Their
good esteem, their cap in hand, their fair fame, as they call it,
goes by accident, and fortune, the whim of the moment, and the way
the clever ones have of tickling them. A great man laughs at the
flimsy of it, and a good one goes to his conscience. Your father
saw these things at their value. I have often grieved that you can
not see them so; but perhaps I have liked you none the worse, my
"Don't forget about going South. A word from you may stop him. It
is almost the only hope I have, and even that may be too late.
Suan Isco and Martin send messages. The flowers are on your
father's grave. I have got a large order for pine cradles in great
haste, but have time to be,
That letter, while it relieved me in one way, from the want of
money, cost me more than ten times five hundred dollars' worth of
anxiety. The Sawyer had written to me twice ere this--kind, simple
letters, but of no importance, except for their goodness and
affection. But now it was clear that when he wrote this letter he
must have been sadly put out and upset. His advice to me was
beyond all value; but he seemed to have kept none at home for
himself. He was carried quite out of his large, staid ways when he
wrote those bitter words about poor Firm--the very apple of his
eye, as the holy Psalmist says. And, knowing the obstinacy of them
both, I dreaded clash between them.
Having got money enough to last long with one brought up to
simplicity, and resolved to have nothing to do for a while with
charity or furnished lodgings (what though kept by one's own
nurse), I cast about now for good reason to be off from all the
busy works at Bruntsea. So soon after such a tremendous blow, it
was impossible for me to push my own little troubles and concerns
upon good Mr. Shovelin's family, much as I longed to know what was
to become of my father's will, if any thing. But my desire to be
doing something, or, at least, to get away for a time from
Bruntsea, was largely increased by Sir Montague Hockin's strange
behavior toward me.
That young man, if still he could be called young--which, at my
age, scarcely seemed to be his right, for he must have been ten
years older than poor Firm--began more and more every day to come
after me, just when I wanted to be quite alone. There was nothing
more soothing to my thoughts and mind (the latter getting quiet
from the former, I suppose) than for the whole of me to rest a
while in such a little scollop of the shingle as a new-moon tide,
in little crescents, leaves just below high-water mark. And now it
was new-moon tide again, a fortnight after the flooding of our fly
by the activity of the full moon; and, feeling how I longed to
understand these things--which seem to be denied to all who are of
the same sex as the moon herself--I sat in a very nice nick, where
no wind could make me look worse than nature willed. But of my own
looks I never did think twice, unless there was any one to speak of
such a subject.
Here I was sitting in the afternoon of a gentle July day, wondering
by what energy of nature all these countless pebbles were produced,
and not even a couple to be found among them fit to lie side by
side and purely tally with each other. Right and left, for miles
and miles, millions multiplied into millions; yet I might hold any
one in my palm and be sure that it never had been there before.
And of the quiet wavelets even, taking their own time and manner,
in default of will of wind, all to come and call attention to their
doom by arching over, and endeavoring to make froth, were any two
in sound and size, much more in shape and shade, alike? Every one
had its own little business, of floating pop-weed or foam bubbles
or of blistered light, to do; and every one, having done it, died
and subsided into its successor.
"A trifle sentimental, are we?" cried a lively voice behind me, and
the waves of my soft reflections fell, and instead of them stood
Sir Montague Hockin, with a hideous parasol.
I never received him with worse grace, often as I had repulsed him;
but he was one of those people who think that women are all whims
"I grieve to intrude upon large ideas," he said, as I rose and
looked at him, "but I act under positive orders now. A lady knows
what is best for a lady. Mrs. Hockin has been looking from the
window, and she thinks that you ought not to be sitting in the sun
like this. There has been a case of sun-stroke at Southbourne--a
young lady meditating under the cliff--and she begs you to accept
this palm leaf."
I thought of the many miles I had wandered under the fierce
Californian sun; but I would not speak to him of that. "Thank
you," I said; "it was very kind of her to think of it, and of you
to do it. But will it be safe for you to go back without it?"
"Oh, why should I do so?" he answered, with a tone of mock pathos
which provoked me always, though I never could believe it to be
meant in ridicule of me, for that would have been too low a thing;
and, besides, I never spoke so. "Could you bear to see me slain by
the shafts of the sun? Miss Castlewood, this parasol is amply
large for both of us."
I would not answer him in his own vein, because I never liked his
vein at all; though I was not so entirely possessed as to want
every body to be like myself.
"Thank you; I mean to stay here," I said; "you may either leave the
parasol or take it, whichever will be less troublesome. At any
rate, I shall not use it."
A gentleman, according to my ideas, would have bowed and gone upon
his way; but Sir Montague Hockin would have no rebuff. He seemed
to look upon me as a child, such as average English girls, fresh
from little schools, would be. Nothing more annoyed me, after all
my thoughts and dream of some power in myself, than this.
"Perhaps I might tell you a thing or two," he said, while I kept
gazing at some fishing-boats, and sat down again, as a sign for him
to go--"a little thing or two of which you have no idea, even in
your most lonely musings, which might have a very deep interest for
you. Do you think that I came to this hole to see the sea? Or
that fussy old muff of a Major's doings?"
"Perhaps you would like me to tell him your opinion of his
intellect and great plans," I answered. "And after all his
kindness to you!"
"You never will do that," he said; "because you are a lady, and
will not repeat what is said in confidence. I could help you
materially in your great object, if you would only make a friend of
"And what would your own object be? The pure anxiety to do right?"
"Partly, and I might say mainly, that; also an ambition for your
good opinion, which seems so inaccessible. But you will think me
selfish if I even hint at any condition of any kind. Every body I
have ever met with likes me, except Miss Castlewood."
As he spoke he glanced down his fine amber-colored beard, shining
in the sun, and even in the sun showing no gray hair (for a reason
which Mrs. Hockin told me afterward), and he seemed to think it
hard that a man with such a beard should be valued lightly.
"I do not see why we should talk," I said, "about either likes or
dislikes. Only, if you have any thing to tell, I shall be very
much obliged to you."
This gentleman looked at me in a way which I have often observed
in England. A general idea there prevails that the free and
enlightened natives of the West are in front of those here in
intelligence, and to some extent, therefore, in dishonesty. But
there must be many cases where the two are not the same.
"No," I replied, while he was looking at his buttons, which had
every British animal upon them; "I mean nothing more than the
simple thing I say. If you ought to tell me any thing, tell it. I
am accustomed to straightforward people. But they disappoint one
by their never knowing any thing."
"But I know something," he answered, with a nod of grave,
mysterious import; "and perhaps I will tell you some day, when
admitted, if ever I have such an honor, to some little degree of
"Oh, please not to think of yourself," I exclaimed, in a manner
which must have amused him. "In such a case, the last thing that
you should do is that. Think only of what is right and honorable,
and your duty toward a lady. Also your duty to the laws of your
country. I am not at all sure that you ought not to be arrested.
But perhaps it is nothing at all, after all; only something
invented to provoke me."
"In that case, I can only drop the subject," he answered, with that
stern gleam of the eyes which I had observed before, and detested.
"I was also to tell you that we dine to-day an hour before the
usual time, that my cousin may go out in the boat for whiting. The
sea will be as smooth as glass. Perhaps you will come with us."
With these words, he lifted his hat and went off, leaving me in a
most uncomfortable state, as he must have known if he had even
tried to think. For I could not get the smallest idea what he
meant; and, much as I tried to believe that he must be only
pretending, for reasons of his own, to have something important to
tell me, scarcely was it possible to be contented so. A thousand
absurd imaginations began to torment me as to what he meant. He
lived in London so much, for instance, that he had much quicker
chance of knowing whatever there was to know; again, he was a man
of the world, full of short, sharp sagacity, and able to penetrate
what I could not; then, again, he kept a large account with
Shovelin, Wayte, and Shovelin, as Major Hockin chanced to say; and
I knew not that a banker's reserve is much deeper than his deposit;
moreover--which, to my mind, was almost stronger proof than any
thing--Sir Montague Hockin was of smuggling pedigree, and likely to
be skillful in illicit runs of knowledge.
However, in spite of all this uneasiness, not another word would I
say to him about it, waiting rather for him to begin again upon it.
But, though I waited and waited, as, perhaps, with any other person
I scarcely could have done, he would not condescend to give me even
another look about it.
Disliking that gentleman more and more for his supercilious conduct
and certainty of subduing me, I naturally turned again to my good
host and hostess. But here there was very little help or support
to be obtained at present. Major Hockin was laying the foundations
of "The Bruntsea Assembly-Rooms, Literary Institute, Mutual
Improvement Association, Lyceum, and Baths, from sixpence upward;"
while Mrs. Hockin had a hatch of "White Sultans," or, rather, a
prolonged sitting of eggs, fondly hoped to hatch at last, from
having cost so much, like a chicken-hearted Conference. Much as I
sorrowed at her disappointment--for the sitting cost twelve
guineas--I could not feel quite guiltless of a petty and ignoble
smile, when, after hoping against hope, upon the thirtieth day she
placed her beautifully sound eggs in a large bowl of warm water, in
which they floated as calmly as if their price was a penny a dozen.
The poor lady tried to believe that they were spinning with
vitality; but at last she allowed me to break one, and lo! it had
been half boiled by the advertiser. "This is very sad," cried Mrs.