Part 2 out of 3
It is just to Robert Beaufort to assure the reader that he wholly
disbelieved his brother's story of a private marriage. He considered
that tale, when heard for the first time, as the mere invention (and a
shallow one) of a man wishing to make the imprudent step he was about to
take as respectable as he could. The careless tone of his brother when
speaking upon the subject--his confession that of such a marriage there
were no distinct proofs, except a copy of a register (which copy Robert
had not found)--made his incredulity natural. He therefore deemed
himself under no obligation of delicacy or respect, to a woman through
whose means he had very nearly lost a noble succession--a woman who had
not even borne his brother's name--a woman whom nobody knew. Had Mrs.
Morton been Mrs. Beaufort, and the natural sons legitimate children,
Robert Beaufort, supposing their situation of relative power and
dependence to have been the same, would have behaved with careful and
scrupulous generosity. The world would have said, "Nothing can be
handsomer than Mr. Robert Beaufort's conduct!" Nay, if Mrs. Morton had
been some divorced wife of birth and connections, he would have made very
different dispositions in her favour: he would not have allowed the
connections to call him shabby. But here he felt that, all circumstances
considered, the world, if it spoke at all (which it would scarce think it
worth while to do), would be on his side. An artful woman--low-born,
and, of course, low-bred--who wanted to inveigle her rich and careless
paramour into marriage; what could be expected from the man she had
sought to injure--the rightful heir? Was it not very good in him to do
anything for her, and, if he provided for the children suitably to the
original station of the mother, did he not go to the very utmost of
reasonable expectation? He certainly thought in his conscience, such as
it was, that he had acted well--not extravagantly, not foolishly; but
well. He was sure the world would say so if it knew all: he was not
bound to do anything. He was not, therefore, prepared for Catherine's
short, haughty, but temperate reply to his letter: a reply which conveyed
a decided refusal of his offers--asserted positively her own marriage,
and the claims of her children--intimated legal proceedings--and was
signed in the name of Catherine Beaufort. Mr. Beaufort put the letter in
his bureau, labelled, "Impertinent answer from Mrs. Morton, Sept. 14,"
and was quite contented to forget the existence of the writer, until his
lawyer, Mr. Blackwell, informed him that a suit had been instituted by
Mr. Robert turned pale, but Blackwell composed him.
"Pooh, sir! you have nothing to fear. It is but an attempt to extort
money: the attorney is a low practitioner, accustomed to get up bad
cases: they can make nothing of it."
This was true: whatever the rights of the case, poor Catherine had no
proofs--no evidence--which could justify a respectable lawyer to advise
her proceeding to a suit. She named two witnesses of her marriage--one
dead, the other could not be heard of. She selected for the alleged
place in which the ceremony was performed a very remote village, in which
it appeared that the register had been destroyed. No attested copy
thereof was to be found, and Catherine was stunned on hearing that, even
if found, it was doubtful whether it could be received as evidence,
unless to corroborate actual personal testimony. It so happened that
when Philip, many years ago, had received a copy, he had not shown it to
Catherine, nor mentioned Mr. Jones's name as the copyist. In fact, then
only three years married to Catherine, his worldly caution had not yet
been conquered by confident experience of her generosity. As for the
mere moral evidence dependent on the publication of her bans in London,
that amounted to no proof whatever; nor, on inquiry at A----, did the
Welsh villagers remember anything further than that, some fifteen years
ago, a handsome gentleman had visited Mr. Price, and one or two rather
thought that Mr. Price had married him to a lady from London; evidence
quite inadmissible against the deadly, damning fact, that, for fifteen
years, Catherine had openly borne another name, and lived with Mr.
Beaufort ostensibly as his mistress. Her generosity in this destroyed
her case. Nevertheless, she found a low practitioner, who took her money
and neglected her cause; so her suit was heard and dismissed with
contempt. Henceforth, then, indeed, in the eyes of the law and the
public, Catherine was an impudent adventurer, and her sons were nameless
And now relieved from all fear, Mr. Robert Beaufort entered upon the full
enjoyment of his splendid fortune.
The house in Berkeley Square was furnished anew. Great dinners and gay
routs were given in the ensuing spring. Mr. and Mrs. Beaufort became
persons of considerable importance. The rich man had, even when poor,
been ambitious; his ambition now centred in his only son. Arthur had
always been considered a boy of talents and promise; to what might he not
now aspire? The term of his probation with the tutor was abridged, and
Arthur Beaufort was sent at once to Oxford.
Before he went to the university, during a short preparatory visit to his
father, Arthur spoke to him of the Mortons. "What has become of them,
sir? and what have you done for them?"
"Done for them!" said Mr. Beaufort, opening his eyes. "What should I do
for persons who have just been harassing me with the most unprincipled
litigation? My conduct to them has been too generous: that is, all
things considered. But when you are my age you will find there is very
little gratitude in the world, Arthur."
"Still, sir," said Arthur, with the good nature that belonged to him:
"still, my uncle was greatly attached to them; and the boys, at least,
"Well, well!" replied Mr. Beaufort, a little impatiently; "I believe
they want for nothing: I fancy they are with the mother's relations.
Whenever they address me in a proper manner they shall not find me
revengeful or hardhearted; but, since we are on this topic," continued
the father smoothing his shirt-frill with a care that showed his decorum
even in trifles, "I hope you see the results of that kind of connection,
and that you will take warning by your poor uncle's example. And now let
us change the subject; it is not a very pleasant one, and, at your age,
the less your thoughts turn on such matters the better."
Arthur Beaufort, with the careless generosity of youth, that gauges other
men's conduct by its own sentiments, believed that his father, who had
never been niggardly to himself, had really acted as his words implied;
and, engrossed by the pursuits of the new and brilliant career opened,
whether to his pleasures or his studies, suffered the objects of his
inquiries to pass from his thoughts.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Morton, for by that name we must still call her, and her
children, were settled in a small lodging in a humble suburb; situated on
the high road between Fernside and the metropolis. She saved from her
hopeless law-suit, after the sale of her jewels and ornaments, a
sufficient sum to enable her, with economy, to live respectably for a
year or two at least, during which time she might arrange her plans for
the future. She reckoned, as a sure resource, upon the assistance of her
relations; but it was one to which she applied with natural shame and
reluctance. She had kept up a correspondence with her father during his
life. To him, she never revealed the secret of her marriage, though she
did not write like a person conscious of error. Perhaps, as she always
said to her son, she had made to her husband a solemn promise never to
divulge or even hint that secret until he himself should authorise its
disclosure. For neither he nor Catherine ever contemplated separation or
death. Alas! how all of us, when happy, sleep secure in the dark
shadows, which ought to warn us of the sorrows that are to come! Still
Catherine's father, a man of coarse mind and not rigid principles, did
not take much to heart that connection which he assumed to be illicit.
She was provided for, that was some comfort: doubtless Mr. Beaufort would
act like a gentleman, perhaps at last make her an honest woman and a
lady. Meanwhile, she had a fine house, and a fine carriage, and fine
servants; and so far from applying to him for money, was constantly
sending him little presents. But Catherine only saw, in his permission
of her correspondence, kind, forgiving, and trustful affection, and she
loved him tenderly: when he died, the link that bound her to her family
was broken. Her brother succeeded to the trade; a man of probity and
honour, but somewhat hard and unamiable. In the only letter she had
received from him--the one announcing her father's death--he told her
plainly, and very properly, that he could not countenance the life she
led; that he had children growing up--that all intercourse between them
was at an end, unless she left Mr. Beaufort; when, if she sincerely
repented, he would still prove her affectionate brother.
Though Catherine had at the time resented this letter as unfeeling--now,
humbled and sorrow-stricken, she recognised the propriety of principle
from which it emanated. Her brother was well off for his station--she
would explain to him her real situation--he would believe her story. She
would write to him, and beg him at least to give aid to her poor
But this step she did not take till a considerable portion of her
pittance was consumed--till nearly three parts of a year since Beaufort's
death had expired--and till sundry warnings, not to be lightly heeded,
had made her forebode the probability of an early death for herself.
From the age of sixteen, when she had been placed by Mr. Beaufort at the
head of his household, she had been cradled, not in extravagance, but in
an easy luxury, which had not brought with it habits of economy and
thrift. She could grudge anything to herself, but to her children--his
children, whose every whim had been anticipated, she had not the heart to
be saving. She could have starved in a garret had she been alone; but
she could not see them wanting a comfort while she possessed a guinea.
Philip, to do him justice, evinced a consideration not to have been
expected from his early and arrogant recklessness. But Sidney, who could
expect consideration from such a child? What could he know of the change
of circumstances--of the value of money? Did he seem dejected, Catherine
would steal out and spend a week's income on the lapful of toys which she
brought home. Did he seem a shade more pale--did he complain of the
slightest ailment, a doctor must be sent for. Alas! her own ailments,
neglected and unheeded, were growing beyond the reach of medicine.
Anxious fearful--gnawed by regret for the past--the thought of famine in
the future--she daily fretted and wore herself away. She had cultivated
her mind during her secluded residence with Mr. Beaufort, but she had
learned none of the arts by which decayed gentlewomen keep the wolf from
the door; no little holiday accomplishments, which, in the day of need
turn to useful trade; no water-colour drawings, no paintings on velvet,
no fabrications of pretty gewgaws, no embroidery and fine needlework.
She was helpless--utterly helpless; if she had resigned herself to the
thought of service, she would not have had the physical strength for a
place of drudgery, and where could she have found the testimonials
necessary for a place of trust? A great change, at this time, was
apparent in Philip. Had he fallen, then, into kind hands, and under
guiding eyes, his passions and energies might have ripened into rare
qualities and great virtues. But perhaps as Goethe has somewhere said,
"Experience, after all, is the best teacher." He kept a constant guard
on his vehement temper--his wayward will; he would not have vexed his
mother for the world. But, strange to say (it was a great mystery in the
woman's heart), in proportion as he became more amiable, it seemed that
his mother loved him less. Perhaps she did not, in that change,
recognise so closely the darling of the old time; perhaps the very
weaknesses and importunities of Sidney, the hourly sacrifices the child
entailed upon her, endeared the younger son more to her from that natural
sense of dependence and protection which forms the great bond between
mother and child; perhaps too, as Philip had been one to inspire as much
pride as affection, so the pride faded away with the expectations that
had fed it, and carried off in its decay some of the affection that was
intertwined with it. However this be, Philip had formerly appeared the
more spoiled and favoured of the two: and now Sidney seemed all in all.
Thus, beneath the younger son's caressing gentleness, there grew up a
certain regard for self; it was latent, it took amiable colours; it had
even a certain charm and grace in so sweet a child, but selfishness it
was not the less. In this he differed from his brother. Philip was
self-willed: Sidney self-loving. A certain timidity of character,
endearing perhaps to the anxious heart of a mother, made this fault in
the younger boy more likely to take root. For, in bold natures, there is
a lavish and uncalculating recklessness which scorns self unconsciously
and though there is a fear which arises from a loving heart, and is but
sympathy for others--the fear which belongs to a timid character is but
egotism--but, when physical, the regard for one's own person: when moral,
the anxiety for one's own interests.
It was in a small room in a lodging-house in the suburb of H---- that
Mrs. Morton was seated by the window, nervously awaiting the knock of the
postman, who was expected to bring her brother's reply to her letter. It
was therefore between ten and eleven o'clock--a morning in the merry
month of June. It was hot and sultry, which is rare in an English June.
A flytrap, red, white, and yellow, suspended from the ceiling, swarmed
with flies; flies were on the ceiling, flies buzzed at the windows; the
sofa and chairs of horsehair seemed stuffed with flies. There was an
air of heated discomfort in the thick, solid moreen curtains, in the
gaudy paper, in the bright-staring carpet, in the very looking-glass over
the chimney-piece, where a strip of mirror lay imprisoned in an embrace
of frame covered with yellow muslin. We may talk of the dreariness of
winter; and winter, no doubt, is desolate: but what in the world is more
dreary to eyes inured to the verdure and bloom of Nature--,
"The pomp of groves and garniture of fields,"
--than a close room in a suburban lodging-house; the sun piercing every
corner; nothing fresh, nothing cool, nothing fragrant to be seen, felt,
or inhaled; all dust, glare, noise, with a chandler's shop, perhaps, next
door? Sidney armed with a pair of scissors, was cutting the pictures out
of a story-book, which his mother had bought him the day before. Philip,
who, of late, had taken much to rambling about the streets--it may be, in
hopes of meeting one of those benevolent, eccentric, elderly gentlemen,
he had read of in old novels, who suddenly come to the relief of
distressed virtue; or, more probably, from the restlessness that belonged
to his adventurous temperament;--Philip had left the house since
"Oh! how hot this nasty room is!" exclaimed Sidney, abruptly, looking up
from his employment. "Sha'n't we ever go into the country, again,
"Not at present, my love."
"I wish I could have my pony; why can't I have my pony, mamma?"
"Because,--because--the pony is sold, Sidney."
"Who sold it?"
"He is a very naughty man, my uncle: is he not? But can't I have another
pony? It would be so nice, this fine weather!"
"Ah! my dear, I wish I could afford it: but you shall have a ride this
week! Yes," continued the mother, as if reasoning with herself, in
excuse of the extravagance, "he does not look well: poor child! he must
"A ride!--oh! that is my own kind mamma!" exclaimed Sidney, clapping his
hands. "Not on a donkey, you know!--a pony. The man down the street,
there, lets ponies. I must have the white pony with the long tail. But,
I say, mamma, don't tell Philip, pray don't; he would be jealous."
"No, not jealous, my dear; why do you think so?"
"Because he is always angry when I ask you for anything. It is very
unkind in him, for I don't care if he has a pony, too,--only not the
Here the postman's knock, loud and sudden, started Mrs. Morton from her
She pressed her hands tightly to her heart, as if to still its beating,
and went tremulously to the door; thence to the stairs, to anticipate the
lumbering step of the slipshod maidservent.
"Give it me, Jane; give it me!"
"One shilling and eightpence--double charged--if you please, ma'am!
"Mamma, may I tell Jane to engage the pony?"
"Not now, my love; sit down; be quiet: I--I am not well."
Sidney, who was affectionate and obedient, crept back peaceably to the
window, and, after a short, impatient sigh, resumed the scissors and the
story-book. I do not apologise to the reader for the various letters I
am obliged to lay before him; for character often betrays itself more in
letters than in speech. Mr. Roger Morton's reply was couched in these
"DEAR CATHERINE, I have received your letter of the 14th inst., and write
per return. I am very much grieved to hear of your afflictions; but,
whatever you say, I cannot think the late Mr. Beaufort acted like a
conscientious man, in forgetting to make his will, and leaving his little
ones destitute. It is all very well to talk of his intentions; but the
proof of the pudding is in the eating. And it is hard upon me, who have
a large family of my own, and get my livelihood by honest industry, to
have a rich gentleman's children to maintain. As for your story about
the private marriage, it may or not be. Perhaps you were taken in by
that worthless man, for a real marriage it could not be. And, as you
say, the law has decided that point; therefore, the less you say on the
matter the better. It all comes to the same thing. People are not bound
to believe what can't be proved. And even if what you say is true, you
are more to be blamed than pitied for holding your tongue so many years,
and discrediting an honest family, as ours has always been considered. I
am sure my wife would not have thought of such a thing for the finest
gentleman that ever wore shoe-leather. However, I don't want to hurt
your feelings; and I am sure I am ready to do whatever is right and
proper. You cannot expect that I should ask you to my house. My wife,
you know, is a very religious woman--what is called evangelical; but
that's neither here nor there: I deal with all people, churchmen and
dissenters--even Jews,--and don't trouble my head much about differences
in opinion. I dare say there are many ways to heaven; as I said, the
other day, to Mr. Thwaites, our member. But it is right to say my wife
will not hear of your coming here; and, indeed, it might do harm to my
business, for there are several elderly single gentlewomen, who buy
flannel for the poor at my shop, and they are very particular; as they
ought to be, indeed: for morals are very strict in this county, and
particularly in this town, where we certainly do pay very high church-
rates. Not that I grumble; for, though I am as liberal as any man, I am
for an established church; as I ought to be, since the dean is my best
customer. With regard to yourself I inclose you L10., and you will let
me know when it is gone, and I will see what more I can do. You say you
are very poorly, which I am sorry to hear; but you must pluck up your
spirits, and take in plain work; and I really think you ought to apply to
Mr. Robert Beaufort. He bears a high character; and notwithstanding your
lawsuit, which I cannot approve of, I dare say he might allow you L40.
or L50. a-year, if you apply properly, which would be the right thing in
him. So much for you. As for the boys--poor, fatherless creatures!--it
is very hard that they should be so punished for no fault of their own;
and my wife, who, though strict, is a good-hearted woman, is ready and
willing to do what I wish about them. You say the eldest is near sixteen
and well come on in his studies. I can get him a very good thing in a
light genteel way. My wife's brother, Mr. Christopher Plaskwith, is a
bookseller and stationer with pretty practice, in R----. He is a clever
man, and has a newspaper, which he kindly sends me every week; and,
though it is not my county, it has some very sensible views and is often
noticed in the London papers, as 'our provincial contemporary.'--Mr.
Plaskwith owes me some money, which I advanced him when he set up the
paper; and he has several times most honestly offered to pay me, in
shares in the said paper. But, as the thing might break, and I don't
like concerns I don't understand, I have not taken advantage of his very
handsome proposals. Now, Plaskwith wrote me word, two days ago, that he
wanted a genteel, smart lad, as assistant and 'prentice, and offered to
take my eldest boy; but we can't spare him. I write to Christopher by
this post; and if your youth will run down on the top of the coach, and
inquire for Mr. Plaskwith--the fare is trifling--I have no doubt he will
be engaged at once. But you will say, 'There's the premium to consider!'
No such thing; Kit will set off the premium against his debt to me; so
you will have nothing to pay. 'Tis a very pretty business; and the lad's
education will get him on; so that's off your mind. As to the little
chap, I'll take him at once. You say he is a pretty boy; and a pretty
boy is always a help in a linendraper's shop. He shall share and share
with my own young folks; and Mrs. Morton will take care of his washing
and morals. I conclude--(this is Mrs. M's. suggestion)--that he has had
the measles, cowpock, and whooping-cough, which please let me know. If
he behave well, which, at his age, we can easily break him into, he is
settled for life. So now you have got rid of two mouths to feed, and
have nobody to think of but yourself, which must be a great comfort.
Don't forget to write to Mr. Beaufort; and if he don't do something for
you he's not the gentleman I take him for; but you are my own flesh and
blood, and sha'n't starve; for, though I don't think it right in a man in
business to encourage what's wrong, yet, when a person's down in the
world, I think an ounce of hell is better than a pound of preaching. My
wife thinks otherwise, and wants to send you some tracts; but every
body can't be as correct as some folks. However, as I said before,
that's neither here nor there. Let me know when your boy comes down, and
also about the measles, cowpock, and whooping-cough; also if all's right
with Mr. Plaskwith. So now I hope you will feel more comfortable; and
"Your forgiving and affectionate brother,
"High Street, N----, June 13."
"P.S.--Mrs. M. says that she will be a mother to your little boy, and
that you had better mend up all his linen before you send him."
As Catherine finished this epistle, she lifted her eyes and beheld
Philip. He had entered noiselessly, and he remained silent, leaning
against the wall, and watching the face of his mother, which crimsoned
with painful humiliation while she read. Philip was not now the trim and
dainty stripling first introduced to the reader. He had outgrown his
faded suit of funereal mourning; his long-neglected hair hung elf-like
and matted down his cheeks; there was a gloomy look in his bright dark
eyes. Poverty never betrays itself more than in the features and form of
Pride. It was evident that his spirit endured, rather than accommodated
itself to, his fallen state; and, notwithstanding his soiled and
threadbare garments, and a haggardness that ill becomes the years of
palmy youth, there was about his whole mien and person a wild and savage
grandeur more impressive than his former ruffling arrogance of manner.
"Well, mother," said he, with a strange mixture of sternness in his
countenance and pity in his voice; "well, mother, and what says your
"You decided for us once before, decide again. But I need not ask you;
you would never--"
"I don't know," interrupted Philip, vaguely; "let me see what we are to
Mrs. Morton was naturally a woman of high courage and spirit, but
sickness and grief had worn down both; and though Philip was but sixteen,
there is something in the very nature of woman--especially in trouble--
which makes her seek to lean on some other will than her own. She gave
Philip the letter, and went quietly to sit down by Sidney.
"Your brother means well," said Philip, when he had concluded the
"Yes, but nothing is to be done; I cannot, cannot send poor Sidney to--
to--" and Mrs. Morton sobbed.
"No, my dear, dear mother, no; it would be terrible, indeed, to part you
and him. But this bookseller--Plaskwith--perhaps I shall be able to
support you both."
"Why, you do not think, Philip, of being an apprentice!--you, who have
been so brought up--you, who are so proud!"
"Mother, I would sweep the crossings for your sake I Mother, for your
sake I would go to my uncle Beaufort with my hat in my hand, for
halfpence. Mother, I am not proud--I would be honest, if I can--but when
I see you pining away, and so changed, the devil comes into me, and I
often shudder lest I should commit some crime--what, I don't know!"
"Come here, Philip--my own Philip--my son, my hope, my firstborn!"--and
the mother's heart gushed forth in all the fondness of early days.
"Don't speak so terribly, you frighten me!"
She threw her arms round his neck, and kissed him soothingly. He laid
his burning temples on her bosom, and nestled himself to her, as he had
been wont to do, after some stormy paroxysm of his passionate and wayward
infancy. So there they remained--their lips silent, their hearts
speaking to each other--each from each taking strange succour and holy
strength--till Philip rose, calm, and with a quiet smile, "Good-bye,
mother; I will go at once to Mr. Plaskwith."
"But you have no money for the coach-fare; here, Philip," and she placed
her purse in his hand, from which he reluctantly selected a few
shillings. "And mind, if the man is rude and you dislike him--mind, you
must not subject yourself to insolence and mortification."
"Oh, all will go well, don't fear," said Philip, cheerfully, and he left
Towards evening he had reached his destination. The shop was of goodly
exterior, with a private entrance; over the shop was written,
"Christopher Plaskwith, Bookseller and Stationer:" on the private door a
brass plate, inscribed with "R---- and ---- Mercury Office, Mr.
Plaskwith." Philip applied at the private entrance, and was shown by
a "neat-handed Phillis" into a small office-room. In a few minutes the
door opened, and the bookseller entered.
Mr. Christopher Plaskwith was a short, stout man, in drab-coloured
breeches, and gaiters to match; a black coat and waistcoat; he wore a
large watch-chain, with a prodigious bunch of seals, alternated by small
keys and old-fashioned mourning-rings. His complexion was pale and
sodden, and his hair short, dark, and sleek. The bookseller valued
himself on a likeness to Buonaparte; and affected a short, brusque,
peremptory manner, which he meant to be the indication of the vigorous
and decisive character of his prototype.
"So you are the young gentleman Mr. Roger Morton recommends?" Here Mr.
Plaskwith took out a huge pocketbook, slowly unclasped it, staring hard
at Philip, with what he designed for a piercing and penetrative survey.
"This is the letter--no! this is Sir Thomas Champerdown's order for fifty
copies of the last Mercury, containing his speech at the county meeting.
Your age, young man?--only sixteen?--look older;--that's not it--that's
not it--and this is it!--sit down. Yes, Mr. Roger Morton recommends you
--a relation--unfortunate circumstances--well educated--hum! Well, young
man, what have you to say for yourself?"
"Can you cast accounts?--know bookkeeping?"
"I know something of algebra, sir."
"Algebra!--oh, what else?"
"French and Latin."
"Hum!--may be useful. Why do you wear your hair so long?--look at mine.
What's your name?"
"Mr. Philip Morton, you have an intelligent countenance--I go a great
deal by countenances. You know the terms?--most favourable to you. No
premium--I settle that with Roger. I give board and bed--find your own
washing. Habits regular--'prenticeship only five years; when over, must
not set up in the same town. I will see to the indentures. When can you
"When you please, sir."
"Day after to-morrow, by six o'clock coach."
"But, sir," said Philip, "will there be no salary? something, ever so
small, that I could send to my another?"
"Salary, at sixteen?--board and bed-no premium! Salary, what for?
'Prentices have no salary!--you will have every comfort."
"Give me less comfort, that I may give my mother more;--a little money,
ever so little, and take it out of my board: I can do with one meal a
The bookseller was moved: he took a huge pinch of snuff out of his
waistcoat pocket, and mused a moment. He then said, as he re-examined
"Well, young man, I'll tell you what we will do. You shall come here
first upon trial;--see if we like each other before we sign the
indentures; allow you, meanwhile, five shillings a week. If you show
talent, will see if I and Roger can settle about some little allowance.
That do, eh?"
"I thank you, sir, yes," said Philip, gratefully. "Agreed, then. Follow
me--present you to Mrs. P." Thus saying, Mr. Plaskwith returned the
letter to the pocket-book, and the pocket-book to the pocket; and,
putting his arms behind his coat tails, threw up his chin, and strode
through the passage into a small parlour, that locked upon a small
garden. Here, seated round the table, were a thin lady, with a squint
(Mrs. Plaskwith), two little girls, the Misses Plaskwith, also with
squints, and pinafores; a young man of three or four-and-twenty, in
nankeen trousers, a little the worse for washing, and a black velveteen
jacket and waistcoat. This young gentleman was very much freckled; wore
his hair, which was dark and wiry, up at one side, down at the other; had
a short thick nose; full lips; and, when close to him, smelt of cigars.
Such was Mr. Plimmins, Mr. Plaskwith's factotum, foreman in the shop,
assistant editor to the Mercury. Mr. Plaskwith formally went the round
of the introduction; Mrs. P. nodded her head; the Misses P. nudged each
other, and grinned; Mr. Plimmins passed his hand through his hair,
glanced at the glass, and bowed very politely.
"Now, Mrs. P., my second cup, and give Mr. Morton his dish of tea. Must
be tired, sir--hot day. Jemima, ring--no, go to the stairs and call out
'more buttered toast.' That's the shorter way--promptitude is my rule in
life, Mr. Morton. Pray-hum, hum--have you ever, by chance, studied the
biography of the great Napoleon Buonaparte?"
Mr. Plimmins gulped down his tea, and kicked Philip under the table.
Philip looked fiercely at the foreman, and replied, sullenly, "No, sir."
"That's a pity. Napoleon Buonaparte was a very great man,--very! You
have seen his cast?--there it is, on the dumb waiter! Look at it! see a
"Likeness, sir? I never saw Napoleon Buonaparte."
"Never saw him! No, just look round the room. Who does that bust put
you in mind of? who does it resemble?"
Here Mr. Plaskwith rose, and placed himself in an attitude; his hand in
his waistcoat, and his face pensively inclined towards the tea-table.
"Now fancy me at St. Helena; this table is the ocean. Now, then, who is
that cast like, Mr. Philip Morton?"
"I suppose, sir, it is like you!"
"Ah, that it is! strikes every one! Does it not, Mrs. P., does it not?
And when you have known me longer, you will find a moral similitude--a
moral, sir! Straightforward--short--to the point--bold--determined!"
"Bless me, Mr. P.!" said Mrs. Plaskwith, very querulously, "do make
haste with your tea; the young gentleman, I suppose, wants to go home,
and the coach passes in a quarter of an hour."
"Have you seen Kean in Richard the Third, Mr. Morton?" asked Mr.
"I have never seen a play."
"Never seen a play! How very odd!"
"Not at all odd, Mr. Plimmins," said the stationer. "Mr. Morton has
known troubles--so hand him the hot toast."
Silent and morose, but rather disdainful than sad, Philip listened to the
babble round him, and observed the ungenial characters with which he was
to associate. He cared not to please (that, alas! had never been
especially his study); it was enough for him if he could see, stretching
to his mind's eye beyond the walls of that dull room, the long vistas
into fairer fortune. At sixteen, what sorrow can freeze the Hope, or
what prophetic fear whisper, "Fool!" to the Ambition? He would bear back
into ease and prosperity, if not into affluence and station, the dear
ones left at home. From the eminence of five shillings a week, he looked
over the Promised Land.
At length, Mr. Plaskwith, pulling out his watch, said, "Just in time to
catch the coach; make your bow and be off-smart's the word!" Philip
rose, took up his hat, made a stiff bow that included the whole group,
and vanished with his host.
Mrs. Plaskwith breathed more easily when he was gone. "I never seed a
more odd, fierce, ill-bred-looking young man! I declare I am quite
afraid of him. What an eye he has!"
"Uncommonly dark; what I may say gipsy-like," said Mr. Plimmins.
"He! he! You always do say such good things, Plimmins. Gipsy-like, he!
he! So he is! I wonder if be can tell fortunes?"
"He'll be long before he has a fortune of his own to tell. Ha! ha!"
"He! he! how very good! you are so pleasant, Plimmins."
While these strictures on his appearance were still going on, Philip had
already ascended the roof of the coach; and, waving his hand, with the
condescension of old times, to his future master, was carried away by the
"Express" in a whirlwind of dust.
"A very warm evening, sir," said a passenger seated at his right;
puffing, while he spoke, from a short German pipe, a volume of smoke in
"Very warm. Be so good as to smoke into the face of the gentleman on the
other side of you," returned Philip, petulantly.
"Ho, ho!" replied the passenger, with a loud, powerful laugh-the laugh of
a strong man. "You don't take to the pipe yet; you will by and by, when
you have known the cares and anxieties that I have gone through. A pipe!
--it is a great soother!--a pleasant comforter! Blue devils fly before
its honest breath! It ripens the brain--it opens the heart; and the man
who smokes thinks like a sage and acts like a Samaritan!"
Roused from his reverie by this quaint and unexpected declamation, Philip
turned his quick glance at his neighbour. He saw a man of great bulk and
immense physical power--broad-shouldered--deep-chested--not corpulent,
but taking the same girth from bone and muscle that a corpulent man does
from flesh. He wore a blue coat--frogged, braided, and buttoned to the
throat. A broad-brimmed straw hat, set on one side, gave a jaunty
appearance to a countenance which, notwithstanding its jovial complexion
and smiling mouth, had, in repose, a bold and decided character. It was
a face well suited to the frame, inasmuch as it betokened a mind capable
of wielding and mastering the brute physical force of body;--light eyes
of piercing intelligence; rough, but resolute and striking features, and
a jaw of iron. There was thought, there was power, there was passion in
the shaggy brow, the deep-ploughed lines, the dilated, nostril and the
restless play of the lips. Philip looked hard and grave, and the man
returned his look.
"What do you think of me, young gentleman?" asked the passenger, as he
replaced the pipe in his mouth. "I am a fine-looking man, am I not?"
"You seem a strange one."
"Strange!--Ay, I puzzle you, as I have done, and shall do, many. You
cannot read me as easily as I can read you. Come, shall I guess at your
character and circumstances? You are a gentleman, or something like it,
by birth;--that the tone of your voice tells me. You are poor, devilish
poor;--that the hole in your coat assures me. You are proud, fiery,
discontented, and unhappy;--all that I see in your face. It was because
I saw those signs that I spoke to you. I volunteer no acquaintance with
"I dare say not; for if you know all the unhappy you must have a
sufficiently large acquaintance," returned Philip.
"Your wit is beyond your years! What is your calling, if the question
does not offend you?"
"I have none as yet," said Philip, with a slight sigh, and a deep blush.
"More's the pity!" grunted the smoker, with a long emphatic nasal
intonation. "I should have judged that you were a raw recruit in the
camp of the enemy."
"Enemy! I don't understand you."
"In other words, a plant growing out of a lawyer's desk. I will explain.
There is one class of spiders, industrious, hard-working octopedes, who,
out of the sweat of their brains (I take it, by the by, that a spider
must have a fine craniological development), make their own webs and
catch their flies. There is another class of spiders who have no stuff
in them wherewith to make webs; they, therefore, wander about, looking
out for food provided by the toil of their neighbours. Whenever they
come to the web of a smaller spider, whose larder seems well supplied,
they rush upon his domain--pursue him to his hole--eat him up if they
can--reject him if he is too tough for their maws, and quietly possess
themselves of all the legs and wings they find dangling in his meshes:
these spiders I call enemies--the world calls them lawyers!"
Philip laughed: "And who are the first class of spiders?"
"Honest creatures who openly confess that they live upon flies. Lawyers
fall foul upon them, under pretence of delivering flies from their
clutches. They are wonderful blood-suckers, these lawyers, in spite of
all their hypocrisy. Ha! ha! ho! ho!"
And with a loud, rough chuckle, more expressive of malignity than mirth,
the man turned himself round, applied vigorously to his pipe, and sank
into a silence which, as mile after mile glided past the wheels, he did
not seem disposed to break. Neither was Philip inclined to be
communicative. Considerations for his own state and prospects swallowed
up the curiosity he might otherwise have felt as to his singular
neighbour. He had not touched food since the early morning. Anxiety had
made him insensible to hunger, till he arrived at Mr. Plaskwith's; and
then, feverish, sore, and sick at heart, the sight of the luxuries
gracing the tea-table only revolted him. He did not now feel hunger, but
he was fatigued and faint. For several nights the sleep which youth can
so ill dispense with had been broken and disturbed; and now, the rapid
motion of the coach, and the free current of a fresher and more
exhausting air than he had been accustomed to for many months, began to
operate on his nerves like the intoxication of a narcotic. His eyes grew
heavy; indistinct mists, through which there seemed to glare the various
squints of the female Plaskwiths, succeeded the gliding road and the
dancing trees. His head fell on his bosom; and thence, instinctively
seeking the strongest support at hand, inclined towards the stout smoker,
and finally nestled itself composedly on that gentleman's shoulder. The
passenger, feeling this unwelcome and unsolicited weight, took the pipe,
which he had already thrice refilled, from his lips, and emitted an angry
and impatient snort; finding that this produced no effect, and that the
load grew heavier as the boy's sleep grew deeper, he cried, in a loud
voice, "Holla! I did not pay my fare to be your bolster, young man!" and
shook himself lustily. Philip started, and would have fallen sidelong
from the coach, if his neighbour had not griped him hard with a hand that
could have kept a young oak from falling.
"Rouse yourself!--you might have had an ugly tumble." Philip muttered
something inaudible, between sleeping and waking, and turned his dark
eyes towards the man; in that glance there was so much unconscious, but
sad and deep reproach, that the passenger felt touched and ashamed.
Before however, he could say anything in apology or conciliation, Philip
had again fallen asleep. But this time, as if he had felt and resented
the rebuff he had received, he inclined his head away from his neighbour,
against the edge of a box on the roof--a dangerous pillow, from which any
sudden jolt might transfer him to the road below.
"Poor lad!--he looks pale!" muttered the man, and he knocked the weed
from his pipe, which he placed gently in his pocket. "Perhaps the smoke
was too much for him--he seems ill and thin," and he took the boy's long
lean fingers in his own. "His cheek is hollow!--what do I know but it
may be with fasting? Pooh! I was a brute. Hush, coachee, hush! don't
talk so loud, and be d---d to you--he will certainly be off!" and the
man softly and creepingly encircled the boy's waist with his huge arm.
"Now, then, to shift his head; so-so,--that's right." Philip's sallow
cheek and long hair were now tenderly lapped on the soliloquist's bosom.
"Poor wretch! he smiles; perhaps he is thinking of home, and the
butterflies he ran after when he was an urchin--they never come back,
those days;--never--never--never! I think the wind veers to the east; he
may catch cold;"--and with that, the man, sliding the head for a moment,
and with the tenderness of a woman, from his breast to his shoulder,
unbuttoned his coat (as he replaced the weight, no longer unwelcomed, in
its former part), and drew the lappets closely round the slender frame of
the sleeper, exposing his own sturdy breast--for he wore no waistcoat--to
the sharpening air. Thus cradled on that stranger's bosom, wrapped from
the present and dreaming perhaps--while a heart scorched by fierce and
terrible struggles with life and sin made his pillow--of a fair and
unsullied future, slept the fatherless and friendless boy.
"_Constance_. My life, my joy, my food, my all the world,
My widow-comfort."--King John.
Amidst the glare of lamps--the rattle of carriages--the lumbering of
carts and waggons--the throng, the clamour, the reeking life and
dissonant roar of London, Philip woke from his happy sleep. He woke
uncertain and confused, and saw strange eyes bent on him kindly and
"You have slept well, my lad!" said the passenger, in the deep ringing
voice which made itself heard above all the noises around.
"And you have suffered me to incommode you thus!" said Philip, with more
gratitude in his voice and look than, perhaps, he had shown to any one
out of his own family since his birth.
"You have had but little kindness shown you, my poor boy, if you think so
much of this."
"No--all people were very kind to me once. I did not value it then."
Here the coach rolled heavily down the dark arch of the inn-yard.
"Take care of yourself, my boy! You look ill;" and in the dark the man
slipped a sovereign into Philip's hand.
"I don't want money. Though I thank you heartily all the same; it would
be a shame at my age to be a beggar. But can you think of an employment
where I can make something?--what they offer me is so trifling. I have a
mother and a brother--a mere child, sir--at home."
"Employment!" repeated the man; and as the coach now stopped at the
tavern door, the light of the lamp fell full on his marked face. "Ay, I
know of employment; but you should apply to some one else to obtain it
for you! As for me, it is not likely that we shall meet again!"
"I am sorry for that!--What and who are you?" asked Philip, with a rude
and blunt curiosity.
"Me!" returned the passenger, with his deep laugh. "Oh! I know some
people who call me an honest fellow. Take the employment offered you,
no matter how trifling the wages--keep out of harm's way. Good night to
So saying, he quickly descended from the roof, and, as he was directing
the coachman where to look for his carpetbag, Philip saw three or four
well-dressed men make up to him, shake him heartily by the hand, and
welcome him with great seeming cordiality.
Philip sighed. "He has friends," he muttered to himself; and, paying his
fare, he turned from the bustling yard, and took his solitary way home.
A week after his visit to R----, Philip was settled on his probation at
Mr. Plaskwith's, and Mrs. Morton's health was so decidedly worse, that
she resolved to know her fate, and consult a physician. The oracle was
at first ambiguous in its response. But when Mrs. Morton said firmly,
"I have duties to perform; upon your candid answer rest my Plans with
respect to my children--left, if I die suddenly, destitute in the
world,"--the doctor looked hard in her face, saw its calm resolution, and
"Lose no time, then, in arranging your plans; life is uncertain with all
--with you, especially; you may live some time yet, but your constitution
is much shaken--I fear there is water on the chest. No, ma'am-no fee. I
will see you again."
The physician turned to Sidney, who played with his watch-chain, and
smiled up in his face.
"And that child, sir?" said the mother, wistfully, forgetting the dread
fiat pronounced against herself,--"he is so delicate!"
"Not at all, ma'am,--a very fine little fellow;" and the doctor patted
the boy's head, and abruptly vanished.
"Ah! mamma, I wish you would ride--I wish you would take the white
"Poor boy! poor boy!" muttered the mother; "I must not be selfish." She
covered her face with her hands, and began to think!
Could she, thus doomed, resolve on declining her brother's offer? Did it
not, at least, secure bread and shelter to her child? When she was dead,
might not a tie, between the uncle and nephew, be snapped asunder? Would
he be as kind to the boy as now when she could commend him with her own
lips to his care--when she could place that precious charge into his
hands? With these thoughts, she formed one of those resolutions which
have all the strength of self-sacrificing love. She would put the boy
from her, her last solace and comfort; she would die alone,--alone!
"Constance. When I shall meet him in the court of heaven, I shall
not know him."--King John.
One evening, the shop closed and the business done, Mr. Roger Morton and
his family sat in that snug and comfortable retreat which generally backs
the warerooms of an English tradesman. Happy often, and indeed happy, is
that little sanctuary, near to, and yet remote from, the toil and care of
the busy mart from which its homely ease and peaceful security are drawn.
Glance down those rows of silenced shops in a town at night, and picture
the glad and quiet groups gathered within, over that nightly and social
meal which custom has banished from the more indolent tribes who neither
toil nor spin. Placed between the two extremes of life, the tradesman,
who ventures not beyond his means, and sees clear books and sure gains,
with enough of occupation to give healthful excitement, enough of fortune
to greet each new-born child without a sigh, might be envied alike by
those above and those below his state--if the restless heart of men ever
"And so the little boy is not to come?" said Mrs. Morton as she crossed
her knife and fork, and pushed away her plate, in token that she had done
"I don't know.--Children, go to bed; there--there--that will do. Good
night!--Catherine does not say either yes or no. She wants time to
"It was a very handsome offer on our part; some folks never know when
they are well off."
"That is very true, my dear, and you are a very sensible person. Kate
herself might have been an honest woman, and, what is more, a very rich
woman, by this time. She might have married Spencer, the young brewer--
an excellent man, and well to do!"
"Spencer! I don't remember him."
"No: after she went off, he retired from business, and left the place.
I don't know what's become of him. He was mightily taken with her, to be
sure. She was uncommonly handsome, my sister Catherine."
"Handsome is as handsome does, Mr. Morton," said the wife, who was very
much marked with the small-pox. "We all have our temptations and trials;
this is a vale of tears, and without grace we are whited sepulchers."
Mr. Morton mixed his brandy and water, and moved his chair into its
"You saw your brother's letter," said he, after a pause; "he gives young
Philip a very good character."
"The human heart is very deceitful," replied Mrs. Morton, who, by the
way, spoke through her nose. "Pray Heaven he may be what he seems; but
what's bred in the bone comes out in the flesh."
"We must hope the best," said Mr. Morton, mildly; "and--put another lump
into the grog, my dear."
"It is a mercy, I'm thinking, that we didn't have the other little boy.
I dare say he has never even been taught his catechism: them people don't
know what it is to be a mother. And, besides, it would have been very
awkward, Mr. M.; we could never have said who he was: and I've no doubt
Miss Pryinall would have been very curious."
"Miss Pryinall be ----!" Mr. Morton checked himself, took a large
draught of the brandy and water, and added, "Miss Pryinall wants to have
a finger in everybody's pie."
"But she buys a deal of flannel, and does great good to the town; it was
she who found out that Mrs. Giles was no better than she should be."
"Poor Mrs. Giles!--she came to the workhouse."
"Poor Mrs. Giles, indeed! I wonder, Mr. Morton, that you, a married man
with a family, should say, poor Mrs. Giles!"
"My dear, when people who have been well off come to the workhouse, they
may be called poor:--but that's neither here nor there; only, if the boy
does come to us, we must look sharp upon Miss Pryinall."
"I hope he won't come,--it will be very unpleasant. And when a man has a
wife and family, the less he meddles with other folks and their little
ones, the better. For as the Scripture says, 'A man shall cleave to his
Here a sharp, shrill ring at the bell was heard, and Mrs. Morton broke
"Well! I declare! at this hour; who can that be? And all gone to bed!
Do go and see, Mr. Morton."
Somewhat reluctantly and slowly, Mr. Morton rose; and, proceeding to the
passage, unbarred the door. A brief and muttered conversation followed,
to the great irritability of Mrs. Morton, who stood in the passage--the
candle in her hand.
"What is the matter, Mr. M.?"
Mr. Morton turned back, looking agitated.
"Where's my hat? oh, here. My sister is come, at the inn."
"Gracious me! She does not go for to say she is your sister?"
"No, no: here's her note-calls herself a lady that's ill. I shall be
"She can't come here--she sha'n't come here, Mr. M. I'm an honest woman--
she can't come here. You understand--"
Mr. Morton had naturally a stern countenance, stern to every one but his
wife. The shrill tone to which he was so long accustomed jarred then on
his heart as well as his ear. He frowned:
"Pshaw! woman, you have no feeling!" said he, and walked out of the
house, pulling his hat over his brows. That was the only rude speech Mr.
Morton had ever made to his better half. She treasured it up in her
heart and memory; it was associated with the sister and the child; and
she was not a woman who ever forgave.
Mr. Morton walked rapidly through the still, moon-lit streets, till he
reached the inn. A club was held that night in one of the rooms below;
and as he crossed the threshold, the sound of "hip-hip-hurrah!" mingled
with the stamping of feet and the jingling of glasses, saluted his
entrance. He was a stiff, sober, respectable man,--a man who, except at
elections--he was a great politician--mixed in none of the revels of his
more boisterous townsmen. The sounds, the spot, were ungenial to him.
He paused, and the colour of shame rose to his brow. He was ashamed to
be there--ashamed to meet the desolate and, as he believed, erring
A pretty maidservant, heated and flushed with orders and compliments,
crossed his path with a tray full of glasses.
"There's a lady come by the Telegraph?"
"Yes, sir, upstairs, No. 2, Mr. Morton."
Mr. Morton! He shrank at the sound of his own name.
"My wife's right," he muttered. "After all, this is more unpleasant than
I thought for."
The slight stairs shook under his hasty tread. He opened the door of No.
2, and that Catherine, whom he had last seen at her age of gay sixteen,
radiant with bloom, and, but for her air of pride, the model for a Hebe,
--that Catherine, old ere youth was gone, pale, faded, the dark hair
silvered over, the cheeks hollow, and the eye dim,--that Catherine fell
upon his breast!
"God bless you, brother! How kind to come! How long since we have met!"
"Sit down, Catherine, my dear sister. You are faint--you are very much
changed-very. I should not have known you."
"Brother, I have brought my boy; it is painful to part from him--very--
very painful: but it is right, and God's will be done." She turned, as
she spoke, towards a little, deformed rickety dwarf of a sofa, that
seemed to hide itself in the darkest corner of the low, gloomy room; and
Morton followed her. With one hand she removed the shawl that she had
thrown over the child, and placing the forefinger of the other upon her
lips-lips that smiled then--she whispered,--"We will not wake him, he is
so tired. But I would not put him to bed till you had seen him."
And there slept poor Sidney, his fair cheek pillowed on his arm; the
soft, silky ringlets thrown from the delicate and unclouded brow; the
natural bloom increased by warmth and travel; the lovely face so innocent
and hushed; the breathing so gentle and regular, as if never broken by a
Mr. Morton drew his hand across his eyes.
There was something very touching in the contrast between that wakeful,
anxious, forlorn woman, and the slumber of the unconscious boy. And in
that moment, what breast upon which the light of Christian pity--of
natural affection, had ever dawned, would, even supposing the world's
judgment were true, have recalled Catherine's reputed error? There is
so divine a holiness in the love of a mother, that no matter how the
tie that binds her to the child was formed, she becomes, as it were,
consecrated and sacred; and the past is forgotten, and the world and its
harsh verdicts swept away, when that love alone is visible; and the God,
who watches over the little one, sheds His smile over the human deputy,
in whose tenderness there breathes His own!
"You will be kind to him--will you not?" said Mrs. Morton; and the
appeal was made with that trustful, almost cheerful tone which implies,
'Who would not be kind to a thing so fair and helpless?' "He is very
sensitive and very docile; you will never have occasion to say a hard
word to him--never! you have children of your own, brother."
"He is a beautiful boy-beautiful. I will be a father to him!"
As he spoke,--the recollection of his wife--sour, querulous, austere--
came over him, but he said to himself, "She must take to such a child,--
women always take to beauty." He bent down and gently pressed his lips
to Sidney's forehead: Mrs. Morton replaced the shawl, and drew her
brother to the other end of the room.
"And now," she said, colouring as she spoke, "I must see your wife,
brother: there is so much to say about a child that only a woman will
recollect. Is she very good-tempered and kind, your wife? You know I
never saw her; you married after--after I left."
"She is a very worthy woman," said Mr. Morton, clearing his throat, "and
brought me some money; she has a will of her own, as most women have; but
that's neither here nor there--she is a good wife as wives go; and
prudent and painstaking--I don't know what I should do without her."
"Brother, I have one favour to request--a great favour."
"Anything I can do in the way of money?"
"It has nothing to do with money. I can't live long--don't shake your
head--I can't live long. I have no fear for Philip, he has so much
spirit--such strength of character--but that child! I cannot bear to
leave him altogether; let me stay in this town--I can lodge anywhere; but
to see him sometimes--to know I shall be in reach if he is ill--let me
stay here--let me die here!"
"You must not talk so sadly--you are young yet--younger than I am--I
don't think of dying."
"Heaven forbid! but--"
"Well--well," interrupted Mr. Morton, who began to fear his feelings
would hurry him into some promise which his wife would not suffer him to
keep; "you shall talk to Margaret,--that is Mrs. Morton--I will get her
to see you--yes, I think I can contrive that; and if you can arrange with
her to stay,--but you see, as she brought the money, and is a very
"I will see her; thank you--thank you; she cannot refuse me."
"And, brother," resumed Mrs. Morton, after a short pause, and speaking in
a firm voice--"and is it possible that you disbelieve my story?--that
you, like all the rest, consider my children the sons of shame?"
There was an honest earnestness in Catherine's voice, as she spoke,
that might have convinced many. But Mr. Morton was a man of facts, a
practical man--a man who believed that law was always right, and that
the improbable was never true.
He looked down as he answered, "I think you have been a very ill-used
woman, Catherine, and that is all I can say on the matter; let us drop
"No! I was not ill-used; my husband--yes, my husband--was noble and
generous from first to last. It was for the sake of his children's
prospects--for the expectations they, through him, might derive from his
proud uncle--that he concealed our marriage. Do not blame Philip--do not
condemn the dead."
"I don't want to blame any one," said Mr. Morton, rather angrily; "I am a
plain man--a tradesman, and can only go by what in my class seems fair
and honest, which I can't think Mr. Beaufort's conduct was, put it how
you will; if he marries you as you think, he gets rid of a witness, he
destroys a certificate, and he dies without a will. How ever, all that's
neither here nor there. You do quite right not to take the name of
Beaufort, since it is an uncommon name, and would always make the story
public. Least said, soonest mended. You must always consider that your
children will be called natural children, and have their own way to make.
No harm in that! Warm day for your journey." Catherine sighed, and
wiped her eyes; she no longer reproached the world, since the son of her
own mother disbelieved her.
The relations talked together for some minutes on the past--the present;
but there was embarrassment and constraint on both sides--it was so
difficult to avoid one subject; and after sixteen years of absence,
there is little left in common, even between those who once played
together round their parent's knees. Mr. Morton was glad at last to find
an excuse in Catherine's fatigue to leave her. "Cheer up, and take a
glass of something warm before you go to bed. Good night!" these were
his parting words.
Long was the conference, and sleepless the couch, of Mr. and Mrs. Morton.
At first that estimable lady positively declared she would not and could
not visit Catherine (as to receiving her, that was out of the question).
But she secretly resolved to give up that point in order to insist with
greater strength upon another-viz., the impossibility of Catherine
remaining in the town; such concession for the purpose of resistance
being a very common and sagacious policy with married ladies.
Accordingly, when suddenly, and with a good grace, Mrs. Morton appeared
affected by her husband's eloquence, and said, "Well, poor thing! if she
is so ill, and you wish it so much, I will call to-morrow," Mr. Morton
felt his heart softened towards the many excellent reasons which his wife
urged against allowing Catherine to reside in the town. He was a
political character--he had many enemies; the story of his seduced
sister, now forgotten, would certainly be raked up; it would affect his
comfort, perhaps his trade, certainly his eldest daughter, who was now
thirteen; it would be impossible then to adopt the plan hitherto resolved
upon--of passing off Sidney as the legitimate orphan of a distant
relation; it would be made a great handle for gossip by Miss Pryinall.
Added to all these reasons, one not less strong occurred to Mr. Morton
himself--the uncommon and merciless rigidity of his wife would render all
the other women in the town very glad of any topic that would humble her
own sense of immaculate propriety. Moreover, he saw that if Catherine
did remain, it would be a perpetual source of irritation in his own home;
he was a man who liked an easy life, and avoided, as far as possible, all
food for domestic worry. And thus, when at length the wedded pair turned
back to back, and composed themselves to sleep, the conditions of peace
were settled, and the weaker party, as usual in diplomacy, sacrificed to
the interests of the united powers. After breakfast the next morning,
Mrs. Morton sallied out on her husband's arm. Mr. Morton was rather a
handsome man, with an air and look grave, composed, severe, that had
tended much to raise his character in the town.
Mrs. Morton was short, wiry, and bony. She had won her husband by making
desperate love to him, to say nothing of a dower that enabled him to
extend his business, new-front, as well as new-stock his shop, and rise
into the very first rank of tradesmen in his native town. He still
believed that she was excessively fond of him--a common delusion of
husbands, especially when henpecked. Mrs. Morton was, perhaps, fond of
him in her own way; for though her heart was not warm, there may be a
great deal of fondness with very little feeling. The worthy lady was now
clothed in her best. She had a proper pride in showing the rewards that
belong to female virtue. Flowers adorned her Leghorn bonnet, and her
green silk gown boasted four flounces,--such, then, was, I am told, the
fashion. She wore, also, a very handsome black shawl, extremely heavy,
though the day was oppressively hot, and with a deep border; a smart
_sevigni_ brooch of yellow topazes glittered in her breast; a huge gilt
serpent glared from her waistband; her hair, or more properly speaking
her _front_, was tortured into very tight curls, and her feet into very
tight half-laced boots, from which the fragrance of new leather had not
yet departed. It was this last infliction, for _il faut souffrir pour
etre belle_, which somewhat yet more acerbated the ordinary acid of Mrs.
Morton's temper. The sweetest disposition is ruffled when the shoe
pinches; and it so happened that Mrs. Roger Morton was one of those
ladies who always have chilblains in the winter and corns in the summer.
"So you say your sister is a beauty?"
"Was a beauty, Mrs. M.,--was a beauty. People alter."
"A bad conscience, Mr. Morton, is--"
"My dear, can't you walk faster?"
"If you had my corns, Mr. Morton, you would not talk in that way!"
The happy pair sank into silence, only broken by sundry "How d'ye dos?"
and "Good mornings!" interchanged with their friends, till they arrived
at the inn.
"Let us go up quickly," said Mrs. Morton.
And quiet--quiet to gloom, did the inn, so noisy overnight, seem by
morning. The shutters partially closed to keep out the sun--the taproom
deserted--the passage smelling of stale smoke--an elderly dog, lazily
snapping at the flies, at the foot of the staircase--not a soul to be
seen at the bar. The husband and wife, glad to be unobserved, crept on
tiptoe up the stairs, and entered Catherine's apartment.
Catherine was seated on the sofa, and Sidney-dressed, like Mrs. Roger
Morton, to look his prettiest, nor yet aware of the change that awaited
his destiny, but pleased at the excitement of seeing new friends, as
handsome children sure of praise and petting usually are--stood by her
"My wife--Catherine," said Mr. Morton. Catherine rose eagerly, and gazed
searchingly on her sister-in-law's hard face. She swallowed the
convulsive rising at her heart as she gazed, and stretched out both her
hands, not so much to welcome as to plead. Mrs. Roger Morton drew
herself up, and then dropped a courtesy--it was an involuntary piece of
good breeding--it was extorted by the noble countenance, the matronly
mien of Catherine, different from what she had anticipated--she dropped
the courtesy, and Catherine took her hand and pressed it.
"This is my son;" she turned away her head. Sidney advanced towards his
protectress who was to be, and Mrs. Roger muttered:
"Come here, my dear! A fine little boy!"
"As fine a child as ever I saw!" said Mr. Morton, heartily, as he took
Sidney on his lap, and stroked down his, golden hair.
This displeased Mrs. Roger Morton, but she sat herself down, and said it
was "very warm."
"Now go to that lady, my dear," said Mr. Morton. "Is she not a very nice
lady?--don't you think you shall like her very much?"
Sidney, the best-mannered child in the world, went boldly up to Mrs.
Morton, as he was bid. Mrs. Morton was embarrassed. Some folks are so
with other folk's children: a child either removes all constraint from a
party, or it increases the constraint tenfold. Mrs. Morton, however,
forced a smile, and said, "I have a little boy at home about your age."
"Have you?" exclaimed Catherine, eagerly; and as if that confession made
them friends at once, she drew a chair close to her sister-in-law's,--"My
brother has told you all?"
"And I shall stay here--in the town somewhere--and see him sometimes?"
Mrs. Roger Morton glanced at her husband--her husband glanced at the
door--and Catherine's quick eye turned from one to the other.
"Mr. Morton will explain, ma' am," said the wife.
"E-hem!--Catherine, my dear, I am afraid that is out of the question,"
began Mr. Morton, who, when fairly put to it, could be business-like
enough. "You see bygones are bygones, and it is no use raking them up.
But many people in the town will recollect you."
"No one will see me--no one, but you and Sidney."
"It will be sure to creep out; won't it, Mrs. Morton?"
"Quite sure. Indeed, ma'am, it is impossible. Mr. Morton is so very
respectable, and his neighbours pay so much attention to all he does; and
then, if we have an election in the autumn, you see, ma'am, he has a
great stake in the place, and is a public character."
"That's neither here nor there," said Mr. Morton. "But I say, Catherine,
can your little boy go into the other room for a moment? Margaret,
suppose you take him and make friends."
Delighted to throw on her husband the burden of explanation, which she
had originally meant to have all the importance of giving herself in her
most proper and patronising manner, Mrs. Morton twisted her fingers into
the boy's hand, and, opening the door that communicated with the bedroom,
left the brother and sister alone. And then Mr. Morton, with more tact
and delicacy than might have been expected from him, began to soften to
Catherine the hard ship of the separation he urged. He dwelt principally
on what was best for the child. Boys were so brutal in their intercourse
with each other. He had even thought it better represent Philip to Mr.
Plaskwith as a more distant relation than he was; and he begged, by the
by, that Catherine would tell Philip to take the hint. But as for
Sidney, sooner or later, he would go to a day-school--have companions
of his own age--if his birth were known, he would be exposed to many
mortifications--so much better, and so very easy, to bring him up as the
lawful, that is the legal, offspring of some distant relation.
"And," cried poor Catherine, clasping her bands, "when I am dead, is he
never to know that I was his mother?" The anguish of that question
thrilled the heart of the listener. He was affected below all the
surface that worldly thoughts and habits had laid, stratum by stratum,
over the humanities within. He threw his arms round Catherine, and
strained her to his breast:
"No, my sister--my poor sister-he shall know it when he is old enough to
understand, and to keep his own secret. He shall know, too, how we all
loved and prized you once; how young you were, how flattered and tempted;
how you were deceived, for I know that--on my soul I do--I know it was
not your fault. He shall know, too, how fondly you loved your child, and
how you sacrificed, for his sake, the very comfort of being near him. He
shall know it all--all--"
"My brother--my brother, I resign him--I am content. God reward you.
I will go--go quickly. I know you will take care of him now."
"And you see," resumed Mr. Morton, re-settling himself, and wiping his
eyes, "it is best, between you and me, that Mrs. Morton should have her
own way in this. She is a very good woman--very; but it's prudent not to
vex her. You may come in now, Mrs. Morton."
Mrs. Morton and Sidney reappeared.
"We have settled it all," said the husband. "When can we have him?"
"Not to-day," said Mrs. Roger Morton; "you see, ma'am, we must get his
bed ready, and his sheets well aired: I am very particular."
"Certainly, certainly. Will he sleep alone?--pardon me."
"He shall have a room to himself," said Mr. Morton. "Eh, my dear? Next
to Martha's. Martha is our parlourmaid--very good-natured girl, and fond
Mrs. Morton looked grave, thought a moment, and said, "Yes, he can have
"Who can have that room?" asked Sidney, innocently. "You, my dear,"
replied Mr. Morton.
"And where will mamma sleep? I must sleep near mamma."
"Mamma is going away," said Catherine, in a firm voice, in which the
despair would only have been felt by the acute ear of sympathy,--"going
away for a little time: but this gentleman and lady will be very--very
kind to you."
"We will do our best, ma'am," said Mrs. Morton.
And as she spoke, a sudden light broke on the boy's mind--he uttered a
loud cry, broke from his aunt, rushed to his mother's breast, and hid his
face there, sobbing bitterly.
"I am afraid he has been very much spoiled," whispered Mrs. Roger Morton.
"I don't think we need stay longer--it will look suspicious. Good
morning, ma'am: we shall be ready to-morrow."
"Good-bye, Catherine," said Mr. Morton; and he added, as he kissed her,
"Be of good heart, I will come up by myself and spend the evening with
It was the night after this interview. Sidney had gone to his new home;
they had been all kind to him--Mr. Morton, the children, Martha the
parlour-maid. Mrs. Roger herself had given him a large slice of bread
and jam, but had looked gloomy all the rest of the evening: because, like
a dog in a strange place, he refused to eat. His little heart was full,
and his eyes, swimming with tears, were turned at every moment to the
door. But he did not show the violent grief that might have been
expected. His very desolation, amidst the unfamiliar faces, awed and
chilled him. But when Martha took him to bed, and undressed him, and he
knelt down to say his prayers, and came to the words, "Pray God bless
dear mamma, and make me a good child," his heart could contain its load
no longer, and be sobbed with a passion that alarmed the good-natured
servant. She had been used, however, to children, and she soothed and
caressed him, and told him of all the nice things he would do, and the
nice toys he would have; and at last, silenced, if not convinced, his
eyes closed, and, the tears yet wet on their lashes, he fell asleep.
It had been arranged that Catherine should return home that night by a
late coach, which left the town at twelve. It was already past eleven.
Mrs. Morton had retired to bed; and her husband, who had, according to
his wont, lingered behind to smoke a cigar over his last glass of brandy
and water, had just thrown aside the stump, and was winding up his watch,
when he heard a low tap at his window. He stood mute and alarmed, for
the window opened on a back lane, dark and solitary at night, and, from
the heat of the weather, the iron-cased shutter was not yet closed; the
sound was repeated, and he heard a faint voice. He glanced at the poker,
and then cautiously moved to the window, and looked forth,--"Who's
"It is I--it is Catherine! I cannot go without seeing my boy. I must
see him--I must, once more!"
"My dear sister, the place is shut up--it is impossible. God bless me,
if Mrs. Morton should hear you!"
"I have walked before this window for hours--I have waited till all is
hushed in your house, till no one, not even a menial, need see the mother
stealing to the bed of her child. Brother, by the memory of our own
mother, I command you to let me look, for the last time, upon my boy's
As Catherine said this, standing in that lonely street--darkness and
solitude below, God and the stars above--there was about her a majesty
which awed the listener. Though she was so near, her features were not
very clearly visible; but her attitude--her hand raised aloft--the
outline of her wasted but still commanding form, were more impressive
from the shadowy dimness of the air.
"Come round, Catherine," said Mr. Morton after a pause; "I will admit
He shut the window, stole to the door, unbarred it gently, and admitted
his visitor. He bade her follow him; and, shading the light with his
hand, crept up the stairs. Catherine's step made no sound.
They passed, unmolested, and unheard, the room in which the wife was
drowsily reading, according to her custom before she tied her nightcap
and got into bed, a chapter in some pious book. They ascended to the
chamber where Sidney lay; Morton opened the door cautiously, and stood at
the threshold, so holding the candle that its light might not wake the
child, though it sufficed to guide Catherine to the bed. The room was
small, perhaps close, but scrupulously clean; for cleanliness was Mrs.
Roger Morton's capital virtue. The mother, with a tremulous hand, drew
aside the white curtains, and checked her sobs as she gazed on the young
quiet face that was turned towards her. She gazed some moments in
passionate silence; who shall say, beneath that silence, what thoughts,
what prayers moved and stirred!
Then bending down, with pale, convulsive lips she kissed the little hands
thrown so listlessly on the coverlet of the pillow on which the head lay.
After this she turned her face to her brother with a mute appeal in her
glance, took a ring from her finger--a ring that had never till then left
it--the ring which Philip Beaufort had placed there the day after that
child was born. "Let him wear this round his neck," said she, and
stopped, lest she should sob aloud, and disturb the boy. In that gift
she felt as if she invoked the father's spirit to watch over the
friendless orphan; and then, pressing together her own hands firmly, as
we do in some paroxysm of great pain, she turned from the room, descended
the stairs, gained the street, and muttered to her brother, "I am happy
now; peace be on these thresholds!" Before he could answer she was gone.
"Thus things are strangely wrought,
While joyful May doth last;
Take May in Time--when May is gone
The pleasant time is past."--RICHARD EDWARDS.
From the Paradise of Dainty Devices.
It was that period of the year when, to those who look on the surface of
society, London wears its most radiant smile; when shops are gayest, and
trade most brisk; when down the thoroughfares roll and glitter the
countless streams of indolent and voluptuous life; when the upper class
spend, and the middle class make; when the ball-room is the Market of
Beauty, and the club-house the School for Scandal; when the hells yawn
for their prey, and opera-singers and fiddlers--creatures hatched from
gold, as the dung-flies from the dung-swarm, and buzz, and fatten, round
the hide of the gentle Public In the cant phase, it was "the London
season." And happy, take it altogether, happy above the rest of the
year, even for the hapless, is that period of ferment and fever. It is
not the season for duns, and the debtor glides about with a less anxious
eye; and the weather is warm, and the vagrant sleeps, unfrozen, under the
starlit portico; and the beggar thrives, and the thief rejoices--for the
rankness of the civilisation has superfluities clutched by all. And out
of the general corruption things sordid and things miserable crawl forth
to bask in the common sunshine--things that perish when the first autumn
winds whistle along the melancholy city. It is the gay time for the heir
and the beauty, and the statesman and the lawyer, and the mother with her
young daughters, and the artist with his fresh pictures, and the poet
with his new book. It is the gay time, too, for the starved journeyman,
and the ragged outcast that with long stride and patient eyes follows,
for pence, the equestrian, who bids him go and be d---d in vain. It is a
gay time for the painted harlot in a crimson pelisse; and a gay time for
the old hag that loiters about the thresholds of the gin-shop, to buy
back, in a draught, the dreams of departed youth. It is gay, in fine, as
the fulness of a vast city is ever gay--for Vice as for Innocence, for
Poverty as for Wealth. And the wheels of every single destiny wheel on
the merrier, no matter whether they are bound to Heaven or to Hell.
Arthur Beaufort, the young heir, was at his father's house. He was fresh
from Oxford, where he had already discovered that learning is not better
than house and land. Since the new prospects opened to him, Arthur
Beaufort was greatly changed. Naturally studious and prudent, had his
fortunes remained what they had been before his uncle's death, he would
probably have become a laborious and distinguished man. But though his
abilities were good, he had not those restless impulses which belong to
Genius--often not only its glory, but its curse. The Golden Rod cast his
energies asleep at once. Good-natured to a fault, and somewhat
vacillating in character, he adopted the manner and the code of the rich
young idlers who were his equals at College. He became, like them,
careless, extravagant, and fond of pleasure. This change, if it
deteriorated his mind, improved his exterior. It was a change that
could not but please women; and of all women his mother the most. Mrs.
Beaufort was a lady of high birth; and in marrying her, Robert had hoped
much from the interest of her connections; but a change in the ministry
had thrown her relations out of power; and, beyond her dowry, he obtained
no worldly advantage with the lady of his mercenary choice. Mrs.
Beaufort was a woman whom a word or two will describe. She was
thoroughly commonplace--neither bad nor good, neither clever nor silly.
She was what is called well-bred; that is, languid, silent, perfectly
dressed, and insipid. Of her two children, Arthur was almost the
exclusive favourite, especially after he became the heir to such
brilliant fortunes. For she was so much the mechanical creature of the
world, that even her affection was warm or cold in proportion as the
world shone on it. Without being absolutely in love with her husband,
she liked him--they suited each other; and (in spite of all the
temptations that had beset her in their earlier years, for she had been
esteemed a beauty--and lived, as worldly people must do, in circles where
examples of unpunished gallantry are numerous and contagious) her conduct
had ever been scrupulously correct. She had little or no feeling for
misfortunes with which she had never come into contact; for those with
which she had--such as the distresses of younger sons, or the errors of
fashionable women, or the disappointments of "a proper ambition"--she had
more sympathy than might have been supposed, and touched on them with all
the tact of well-bred charity and ladylike forbearance. Thus, though she
was regarded as a strict person in point of moral decorum, yet in society
she was popular-as women at once pretty and inoffensive generally are.
To do Mrs. Beaufort justice, she had not been privy to the letter her
husband wrote to Catherine, although not wholly innocent of it. The fact
is, that Robert had never mentioned to her the peculiar circumstances
that made Catherine an exception from ordinary rules--the generous
propositions of his brother to him the night before his death; and,
whatever his incredulity as to the alleged private marriage, the perfect
loyalty and faith that Catherine had borne to the deceased,--he had
merely observed, "I must do something, I suppose, for that woman; she
very nearly entrapped my poor brother into marrying her; and he would
then, for what I know, have cut Arthur out of the estates. Still, I must
do something for her--eh?"
"Yes, I think so. What was she?-very low?"
"A tradesman's daughter."
"The children should be provided for according to the rank of the mother;
that's the general rule in such cases: and the mother should have about
the same provision she might have looked for if she had married a
tradesman and been left a widow. I dare say she was a very artful kind
of person, and don't deserve anything; but it is always handsomer, in the
eyes of the world, to go by the general rules people lay down as to money
So spoke Mrs. Beaufort. She concluded her husband had settled the
matter, and never again recurred to it. Indeed, she had never liked the
late Mr. Beaufort, whom she considered _mauvais ton_.
In the breakfast-room at Mr. Beaufort's, the mother and son were seated;
the former at work, the latter lounging by the window: they were not
alone. In a large elbow-chair sat a middle-aged man, listening, or
appearing to listen, to the prattle of a beautiful little girl--Arthur
Beaufort's sister. This man was not handsome, but there was a certain
elegance in his air, and a certain intelligence in his countenance, which
made his appearance pleasing. He had that kind of eye which is often
seen with red hair--an eye of a reddish hazel, with very long lashes; the
eyebrows were dark, and clearly defined; and the short hair showed to
advantage the contour of a small well-shaped head. His features were
irregular; the complexion had been sanguine, but was now faded, and a
yellow tinge mingled with the red. His face was more wrinkled,
especially round the eyes--which, when he laughed, were scarcely visible
--than is usual even in men ten years older. But his teeth were still of
a dazzling whiteness; nor was there any trace of decayed health in his
countenance. He seemed one who had lived hard; but who had much yet left
in the lamp wherewith to feed the wick. At the first glance he appeared
slight, as he lolled listlessly in his chair--almost fragile. But, at a
nearer examination, you perceived that, in spite of the small extremities
and delicate bones, his frame was constitutionally strong. Without being
broad in the shoulders, he was exceedingly deep in the chest--deeper than
men who seemed giants by his side; and his gestures had the ease of one
accustomed to an active life. He had, indeed, been celebrated in his
youth for his skill in athletic exercises, but a wound, received in a
duel many years ago, had rendered him lame for life--a misfortune which
interfered with his former habits, and was said to have soured his
temper. This personage, whose position and character will be described
hereafter, was Lord Lilburne, the brother of Mrs. Beaufort.
"So, Camilla," said Lord Lilburne to his niece, as carelessly, not
fondly, he stroked down her glossy ringlets, "you don't like Berkeley
Square as you did Gloucester Place."
"Oh, no! not half so much! You see I never walk out in the fields,
--[Now the Regent's Park.]--nor make daisy-chains at Primrose Hill. I
don't know what mamma means," added the child, in a whisper, "in saying
we are better off here."
Lord Lilburne smiled, but the smile was a half sneer. "You will know
quite soon enough, Camilla; the understandings of young ladies grow up
very quickly on this side of Oxford Street. Well, Arthur, and what are
your plans to-day?"
"Why," said Arthur, suppressing a yawn, "I have promised to ride out with
a friend of mine, to see a horse that is for sale somewhere in the
As he spoke, Arthur rose, stretched himself, looked in the glass, and
then glanced impatiently at the window.
"He ought to be here by this time."
"He! who?" said Lord Lilburne, "the horse or the other animal--I mean
"The friend," answered Arthur, smiling, but colouring while he smiled,
for he half suspected the quiet sneer of his uncle.
"Who is your friend, Arthur?" asked Mrs. Beaufort, looking up from her
"Watson, an Oxford man. By the by, I must introduce him to you."
"Watson! what Watson? what family of Watson? Some Watsons are good and
some are bad," said Mrs. Beaufort, musingly.
"Then they are very unlike the rest of mankind," observed Lord Lilburne,
"Oh! my Watson is a very gentlemanlike person, I assure you," said
Arthur, half-laughing, "and you need not be ashamed of him." Then,
rather desirous of turning the conversation, he continued, "So my father
will be back from Beaufort Court to-day?"
"Yes; he writes in excellent spirits. He says the rents will bear
raising at least ten per cent., and that the house will not require much
Here Arthur threw open the window.
"Ah, Watson! how are you? How d'ye do, Marsden? Danvers, too! that's
capital! the more the merrier! I will be down in an instant. But would
you not rather come in?"
"An agreeable inundation," murmured Lord Lilburne. "Three at a time: he
takes your house for Trinity College."
A loud, clear voice, however, declined the invitation; the horses were
heard pawing without. Arthur seized his hat and whip, and glanced to his
mother and uncle, smilingly. "Good-bye! I shall be out till dinner.
Kiss me, my pretty Milly!" And as his sister, who had run to the window,
sickening for the fresh air and exercise he was about to enjoy, now
turned to him wistful and mournful eyes, the kind-hearted young man took
her in his arms, and whispered while he kissed her:
"Get up early to-morrow, and we'll have such a nice walk together."
Arthur was gone: his mother's gaze had followed his young and graceful
figure to the door.
"Own that he is handsome, Lilburne. May I not say more:--has he not the
"My dear sister, your son will be rich. As for his air, he has plenty of
airs, but wants graces."
"Then who could polish him like yourself?"
"Probably no one. But had I a son--which Heaven forbid!--he should not
have me for his Mentor. Place a young man--(go and shut the door,
Camilla!)--between two vices--women and gambling, if you want to polish
him into the fashionable smoothness. _Entre nous_, the varnish is a
Mrs. Beaufort sighed. Lord Lilburne smiled. He had a strange pleasure
in hurting the feelings of others. Besides, he disliked youth: in his
own youth he had enjoyed so much that he grew sour when he saw the young.
Meanwhile Arthur Beaufort and his friends, careless of the warmth of the
day, were laughing merrily, and talking gaily, as they made for the
suburb of H----.
"It is an out-of-the-way place for a horse, too," said Sir Harry Danvers.
"But I assure you," insisted Mr. Watson, earnestly, that my groom, who is
a capital judge, says it is the cleverest hack he ever mounted. It has
won several trotting matches. It belonged to a sporting tradesman, now
done up. The advertisement caught me."
"Well," said Arthur, gaily, "at all events the ride is delightful. What
weather! You must all dine with me at Richmond to-morrow--we will row
"And a little chicken-hazard, at the M---, afterwards," said Mr. Marsden,
who was an elder, not a better, man than the rest--a handsome, saturnine
man--who had just left Oxford, and was already known on the turf.
"Anything you please," said Arthur, making his horse curvet.
Oh, Mr. Robert Beaufort! Mr. Robert Beaufort! could your prudent,
scheming, worldly heart but feel what devil's tricks your wealth was
playing with a son who if poor had been the pride of the Beauforts! On
one side of our pieces of old we see the saint trampling down the dragon.
False emblem! Reverse it on the coin! In the real use of the gold, it
is the dragon who tramples down the saint! But on--on! the day is bright
and your companions merry; make the best of your green years, Arthur
The young men had just entered the suburb of H---, and were spurring on
four abreast at a canter. At that time an old man, feeling his way
before him with a stick,--for though not quite blind, he saw
imperfectly,--was crossing the road. Arthur and his friends, in loud
converse, did not observe the poor passenger. He stopped abruptly, for
his ear caught the sound of danger--it was too late: Mr. Marsden's horse,
hard-mouthed, and high-stepping, came full against him. Mr. Marsden
"Hang these old men! always in the way," said he, plaintively, and in the
tone of a much-injured person, and, with that, Mr. Marsden rode on. But
the others, who were younger--who were not gamblers--who were not yet
grinded down into stone by the world's wheels--the others halted. Arthur
Beaufort leaped from his horse, and the old man was already in his arms;
but he was severely hurt. The blood trickled from his forehead; he
complained of pains in his side and limbs.
"Lean on me, my poor fellow! Do you live far off? I will take you home."
"Not many yards. This would not have happened if I had had my dog.
Never mind, sir, go your way. It is only an old man--what of that? I
wish I had my dog."
"I will join you," said Arthur to his friends; "my groom has the
direction. I will just take the poor old man home, and send for a
surgeon. I shall not be long."
"So like you, Beaufort: the best fellow in the world!" said Mr. Watson,
with some emotion. "And there's Marsden positively, dismounted, and
looking at his horse's knees as if they could be hurt! Here's a
sovereign for you, my man."
"And here's another," said Sir Harry; "so that's settled. Well, you will
join us, Beaufort? You see the yard yonder. We'll wait twenty minutes
for you. Come on, Watson." The old man had not picked up the sovereigns
thrown at his feet, neither had he thanked the donors. And on his
countenance there was a sour, querulous, resentful expression.
"Must a man be a beggar because he is run over, or because he is half
blind?" said he, turning his dim, wandering eyes painfully towards
Arthur. "Well, I wish I had my dog!"
"I will supply his place," said Arthur, soothingly. "Come, lean on me--
heavier; that's right. You are not so bad,--eh?"
"Um!--the sovereigns!--it is wicked to leave them in the kennel!"
Arthur smiled. "Here they are, sir."
The old man slid the coins into his pocket, and Arthur continued to talk,
though he got but short answers, and those only in the way of direction,
till at last the old man stopped at the door of a small house near the
After twice ringing the bell, the door was opened by a middle-aged woman,
whose appearance was above that of a common menial; dressed, somewhat
gaily for her years, in a cap seated very far back on a black _touroet_,
and decorated with red ribands, an apron made out of an Indian silk
handkerchief, a puce-coloured sarcenet gown, black silk stockings, long
gilt earrings, and a watch at her girdle.
"Bless us and save us, sir! What has happened?" exclaimed this worthy
personage, holding up her hands.
"Pish! I am faint: let me in. I don't want your aid any more, sir.
Thank you. Good day!"
Not discouraged by this farewell, the churlish tone of which fell
harmless on the invincibly sweet temper of Arthur, the young man
continued to assist the sufferer along the narrow passage into a little
old-fashioned parlour; and no sooner was the owner deposited on his worm-
eaten leather chair than he fainted away. On reaching the house, Arthur
had sent his servant (who had followed him with the horses) for the
nearest surgeon; and while the woman was still employed, after taking off
the sufferer's cravat, in burning feathers under his nose, there was
heard a sharp rap and a shrill ring. Arthur opened the door, and
admitted a smart little man in nankeen breeches and gaiters. He bustled
into the room.
"What's this--bad accident--um--um! Sad thing, very sad. Open the
window. A glass of water--a towel."
"So--so: I see--I see--no fracture--contusion. Help him off with his
coat. Another chair, ma'am; put up his poor legs. What age is he,
ma'am?--Sixty-eight! Too old to bleed. Thank you. How is it, sir?
Poorly, to be sure will be comfortable presently--faintish still? Soon
put all to rights."
"Tray! Tray! Where's my dog, Mrs. Boxer?"
"Lord, sir, what do you want with your dog now? He is in the back-yard."
"And what business has my dog in the back-yard?" almost screamed the
sufferer, in accents that denoted no diminution of vigour. "I thought as
soon as my back was turned my dog would be ill-used! Why did I go
without my dog? Let in my dog directly, Mrs. Boxer!"
"All right, you see, sir," said the apothecary, turning to Beaufort--
"no cause for alarm--very comforting that little passion--does him good--
sets one's mind easy. How did it happen? Ah, I understand! knocked
down--might have been worse. Your groom (sharp fellow!) explained in a
trice, sir. Thought it was my old friend here by the description.
Worthy man--settled here a many year--very odd-eccentric (this in a
whisper). Came off instantly: just at dinner--cold lamb and salad.
'Mrs. Perkins,' says I, 'if any one calls for me, I shall be at No. 4,
Prospect Place.' Your servant observed the address, sir. Oh, very
sharp fellow! See how the old gentleman takes to his dog--fine little
dog--what a stump of a tail! Deal of practice--expect two accouchements
every hour. Hot weather for childbirth. So says I to Mrs. Perkins, 'If
Mrs. Plummer is taken, or Mrs. Everat, or if old Mr. Grub has another
fit, send off at once to No. 4. Medical men should be always in the way-
that's my maxim. Now, sir, where do you feel the pain?"
"In my ears, sir."
"Bless me, that looks bad. How long have you felt it?"
"Ever since you have been in the room."
"Oh! I take. Ha! ha!--very eccentric--very!" muttered the apothecary,
a little disconcerted. "Well, let him lie down, ma'am. I'll send him a
little quieting draught to be taken directly--pill at night, aperient in
the morning. If wanted, send for me--always to be found. Bless me,
that's my boy Bob's ring. Please to open the door, ma' am. Know his
ring--very peculiar knack of his own. Lay ten to one it is Mrs. Plummer,
or perhaps. Mrs. Everat--her ninth child in eight years--in the grocery
line. A woman in a thousand, sir!"
Here a thin boy, with very short coat-sleeves, and very large hands,
burst into the room with his mouth open. "Sir--Mr. Perkins--sir!"
"I know--I know-coming. Mrs. Plummer or Mrs. Everat?"
"No, sir; it be the poor lady at Mrs. Lacy's; she be taken desperate.
Mrs. Lacy's girl has just been over to the shop, and made me run here to
"Mrs. Lacy's! oh, I know. Poor Mrs. Morton! Bad case--very bad--must be
off. Keep him quiet, ma'am. Good day! Look in to-morrow-nine o'clock.
Put a little lint with the lotion on the head, ma'am. Mrs. Morton! Ah!
bad job that."
Here the apothecary had shuffled himself off to the street door, when
Arthur laid his hand on his arm.
"Mrs. Morton! Did you say Morton, sir? What kind of a person--is she
"Hopeless case, sir--general break-up. Nice woman--quite the lady--known
better days, I'm sure."
"Has she any children--sons?"
"Two--both away now--fine lads--quite wrapped up in them--youngest
"Good heavens! it must be she--ill, and dying, and destitute, perhaps,"--
exclaimed Arthur, with real and deep feeling; "I will go with you, sir.
I fancy that I know this lady--that," he added generously, "I am related
"Do you?--glad to hear it. Come along, then; she ought to have some one
near her besides servants: not but what Jenny, the maid, is uncommonly
kind. Dr. -----, who attends her sometimes, said to me, says he, 'It is
the mind, Mr. Perkins; I wish we could get back her boys."
"And where are they?"
"'Prenticed out, I fancy. Master Sidney--"
"Ah! that was his name--pretty name. D'ye know Sir Sidney Smith?--
extraordinary man, sir! Master Sidney was a beautiful child--quite
spoiled. She always fancied him ailing--always sending for me. 'Mr.
Perkins,' said she, 'there's something the matter with my child; I'm sure
there is, though he won't own it. He has lost his appetite--had a
headache last night.' 'Nothing the matter, ma'am,' says I; 'wish you'd
think more of yourself.'
"These mothers are silly, anxious, poor creatures. Nater, sir, Nater--
wonderful thing--Nater!--Here we are."
And the apothecary knocked at the private door of a milliner and hosier's
"Thy child shall live, and I will see it nourished."--Titus Andronicus.
As might be expected, the excitement and fatigue of Catherine's journey
to N---- had considerably accelerated the progress of disease. And when
she reached home, and looked round the cheerless rooms all solitary, all
hushed--Sidney gone, gone from her for ever, she felt, indeed, as if the
last reed on which she had leaned was broken, and her business upon earth
was done. Catherine was not condemned to absolute poverty--the poverty
which grinds and gnaws, the poverty of rags and famine. She had still
left nearly half of such portion of the little capital, realised by the
sale of her trinkets, as had escaped the clutch of the law; and her
brother had forced into her hands a note for L20. with an assurance that
the same sum should be paid to her half-yearly. Alas! there was little
chance of her needing it again! She was not, then, in want of means to
procure the common comforts of life. But now a new passion had entered
into her breast--the passion of the miser; she wished to hoard every
sixpence as some little provision for her children. What was the use of
her feeding a lamp nearly extinguished, and which was fated to be soon
broken up and cast amidst the vast lumber-house of Death? She would
willingly have removed into a more homely lodging, but the servant of the
house had been so fond of Sidney--so kind to him. She clung to one
familiar face on which there seemed to live the reflection of her
child's. But she relinquished the first floor for the second; and there,
day by day, she felt her eyes grow heavier and heavier beneath the clouds
of the last sleep. Besides the aid of Mr. Perkins, a kind enough man in
his way, the good physician whom she had before consulted, still attended
her, and refused his fee. Shocked at perceiving that she rejected every
little alleviation of her condition, and wishing at least to procure for
her last hours the society of one of her sons, he had inquired the
address of the elder; and on the day preceding the one in which Arthur
discovered her abode, he despatched to Philip the following letter:
"SIR:--Being called in to attend your mother in a lingering illness, which
I fear may prove fatal, I think it my duty to request you to come to her
as soon as you receive this. Your presence cannot but be a great comfort
to her. The nature of her illness is such that it is impossible to
calculate exactly how long she may be spared to you; but I am sure her
fate might be prolonged, and her remaining days more happy, if she could
be induced to remove into a better air and a more quiet neighbourhood, to
take more generous sustenance, and, above all, if her mind could be set
more at ease as to your and your brother's prospects. You must pardon me
if I have seemed inquisitive; but I have sought to draw from your mother
some particulars as to her family and connections, with a wish to
represent to them her state of mind. She is, however, very reserved on
these points. If, however, you have relations well to do in the world, I
think some application to them should be made. I fear the state of her
affairs weighs much upon your poor mother's mind; and I must leave you to
judge how far it can be relieved by the good feeling of any persons upon
whom she may have legitimate claims. At all events, I repeat my wish
that you should come to her forthwith.
"I am, &c."
After the physician had despatched this letter, a sudden and marked
alteration for the worse took place in his patient's disorder; and in the
visit he had paid that morning, he saw cause to fear that her hours on
earth would be much fewer than he had before anticipated. He had left
her, however, comparatively better; but two hours after his departure,
the symptoms of her disease had become very alarming, and the good-
natured servant girl, her sole nurse, and who had, moreover, the whole
business of the other lodgers to attend to, had, as we have seen, thought
it necessary to summon the apothecary in the interval that must elapse
before she could reach the distant part of the metropolis in which Dr.
On entering the chamber, Arthur felt all the remorse, which of right
belonged to his father, press heavily on his soul. What a contrast, that
mean and solitary chamber, and its comfortless appurtenances, to the
graceful and luxurious abode where, full of health and hope, he had last
beheld her, the mother of Philip Beaufort's children! He remained silent
till Mr. Perkins, after a few questions, retired to send his drugs. He
then approached the bed; Catherine, though very weak and suffering much
pain, was still sensible. She turned her dim eyes on the young man; but
she did not recognise his features.
"You do not remember me?" said he, in a voice struggling with tears: "I
am Arthur--Arthur Beaufort." Catherine made no answer.
"Good Heavens! Why do I see you here? I believed you with your friends
--your children provided for--as became my father to do. He assured me
that you were so." Still no answer.
And then the young man, overpowered with the feelings of a sympathising
and generous nature, forgetting for a while Catherine's weakness, poured
forth a torrent of inquiries, regrets, and self-upbraidings, which
Catherine at first little heeded. But the name of her children, repeated
again and again, struck upon that chord which, in a woman's heart, is the
last to break; and she raised herself in her bed, and looked at her
"Your father," she said, then--"your father was unlike my Philip; but I
see things differently now. For me, all bounty is too late; but my
children--to-morrow they may have no mother. The law is with you, but
not justice! You will be rich and powerful;--will you befriend my
"Through life, so help me Heaven!" exclaimed Arthur, falling on his
knees beside the bed.
What then passed between them it is needless to detail; for it was
little, save broken repetitions of the same prayer and the same response.
But there was so much truth and earnestness in Arthur's voice and
countenance, that Catherine felt as if an angel had come there to
administer comfort. And when late in the day the physician entered, he
found his patient leaning on the breast of her young visitor, and looking
on his face with a happy smile.
The physician gathered enough from the appearance of Arthur and the
gossip of Mr. Perkins, to conjecture that one of the rich relations he
had attributed to Catherine was arrived. Alas! for her it was now indeed