Part 2 out of 8
sister) tells me I have not given her enough to eat. Poor father!
Dinner having reached its end, we stroll in the garden when the
weather is fine. When it rains, we make flannel petticoats for
poor old women. What a horrid thing old age is to look at! To be
ugly, to be helpless, to be miserably unfit for all the pleasures
of life--I hope I shall not live to be an old woman. What would
my father say if he saw this? For his sake, to say nothing of
my own feelings, I shall do well if I make it a custom to use
the lock of my journal.
Our next occupation is to join the Scripture class for girls,
and to help the teacher. This is a good discipline for Eunice's
temper, and--oh, I don't deny it!--for my temper, too. I may long
to box the ears of the whole class, but it is my duty to keep
a smiling face and to be a model of patience. From the Scripture
class we sometimes go to my father's lecture. At other times,
we may amuse ourselves as well as we can till the tea is ready.
After tea, we read books which instruct us, poetry and novels
being forbidden. When we are tired of the books we talk. When
supper is over, we have prayers again, and we go to bed. There
is our day. Oh, dear me! there is our day.
. . . . . . .
And how has Eunice succeeded in her second attempt at keeping
a diary? Here is what she has written. It has one merit that
nobody can deny--it is soon read:
"I hope papa will excuse me; I have nothing to write about
Over and over again I have tried to point out to my sister
the absurdity of calling her father by the infantile nickname
of papa. I have reminded her that she is (in years, at least) no
longer a child. "Why don't you call him father, as I do?" I asked
only the other day.
She made an absurd reply: "I used to call him papa when I was
a little girl."
"That," I reminded her, "doesn't justify you in calling him papa
And she actually answered: "Yes it does." What a strange state
of mind! And what a charming girl, in spite of her mind!
The morning post has brought with it a promise of some little
variety in our lives--or, to speak more correctly, in the life
of my sister.
Our new and nice friends, the Staveleys, have written to invite
Eunice to pay them a visit at their house in London. I don't
complain at being left at home. It would be unfilial, indeed,
if we both of us forsook our father; and last year it was
my turn to receive the first invitation, and to enjoy the change
of scene. The Staveleys are excellent people--strictly pious
members of the Methodist Connection--and exceedingly kind to
my sister and me. But it was just as well for my moral welfare
that I ended my visit to our friends when I did. With my fondness
for music, I felt the temptation of the Evil One trying me, when
I saw placards in the street announcing that the Italian Opera
was open. I had no wish to be a witness of the shameful and
sinful dancing which goes on (I am told) at the opera; but
I did feel my principles shaken when I thought of the wonderful
singers and the entrancing music. And this, when I knew what
an atmosphere of wickedness people breathe who enter a theater!
I reflect with horror on what _might_ have happened if I had
remained a little longer in London.
Helping Eunice to pack up, I put her journal into the box.
"You will find something to write about now," I told her. "While
I record everything that happens at home, you will keep your
diary of all that you do in London, and when you come back we
will show each other what we have written." My sister is a dear
creature. "I don't feel sure of being able to do it," she
answered; "but I promise to try." Good Eunice!
The air of London feels very heavy. There is a nasty smell of
smoke in London. There are too many people in London. They seem
to be mostly people in a hurry. The head of a country girl, when
she goes into the streets, turns giddy--I suppose through not
being used to the noise.
I do hope that it is London that has put me out of temper.
Otherwise, it must be I myself who am ill-tempered. I have not
yet been one whole day in the Staveleys' house, and they have
offended me already. I don't want Helena to hear of this from
other people, and then to ask me why I concealed it from her.
We are to read each other's journals when we are both at home
again. Let her see what I have to say for myself here.
There are seven Staveleys in all: Mr. and Mrs. (two); three young
Masters (five); two young Misses (seven). An eldest miss and
the second young Master are the only ones at home at the present
Mr., Mrs., and Miss kissed me when I arrived. Young Master only
shook hands. He looked as if he would have liked to kiss me too.
Why shouldn't he? It wouldn't have mattered. I don't myself like
kissing. What is the use of it? Where is the pleasure of it?
Mrs. was so glad to see me; she took hold of me by both hands.
She said: "My dear child, you are improving. You were wretchedly
thin when I saw you last. Now you are almost as well-developed
as your sister. I think you are prettier than your sister." Mr.
didn't agree to that. He and his wife began to dispute about me
before my face. I do call that an aggravating thing to endure.
Mr. said: "She hasn't got her sister's pretty gray eyes."
Mrs. said; "She has got pretty brown eyes, which are just as
Mr. said: "You can't compare her complexion with Helena's."
Mrs. said: "I like Eunice's pale complexion. So delicate."
Young Miss struck in: "I admire Helena's hair--light brown."
Young Master took his turn: "I prefer Eunice's hair--dark brown."
Mr. opened his great big mouth, and asked a question: "Which
of you two sisters is the oldest? I forget."
Mrs. answered for me: "Helena is the oldest; she told us so when
she was here last."
I really could _not_ stand that. "You must be mistaken," I burst
"Certainly not, my dear."
"Then Helena was mistaken." I was unwilling to say of my sister
that she had been deceiving them, though it did seem only too
Mr. and Mrs. looked at each other. Mrs. said: "You seem to be
very positive, Eunice. Surely, Helena ought to know."
I said: "Helena knows a good deal; but she doesn't know which
of us is the oldest of the two."
Mr. put in another question: "Do _you_ know?"
"No more than Helena does."
Mrs. said: "Don't you keep birthdays?"
I said: "Yes; we keep both our birthdays on the same day."
"On what day?"
"The first day of the New Year."
Mr. tried again: "You can't possibly be twins?"
"I don't know."
"Perhaps Helena knows?"
Mrs. took the next question out of her husband's mouth: "Come,
come, my dear! you must know how old you are."
"Yes; I do know that. I'm eighteen."
"And how old is Helena?"
Mrs. turned round to Mr.: "Do you hear that?"
Mr. said: "I shall write to her father, and ask what it means."
I said: "Papa will only tell you what he told us--years ago."
"What did your father say?"
"He said he had added our two ages together, and he meant to
divide the product between us. It's so long since, I don't
remember what the product was then. But I'll tell you what the
product is now. Our two ages come to thirty-six. Half thirty-six
is eighteen. I get one half, and Helena gets the other. When we
ask what it means, and when friends ask what it means, papa has
got the same answer for everybody, 'I have my reasons.' That's
all he says--and that's all I say."
I had no intention of making Mr. angry, but he did get angry.
He left off speaking to me by my Christian name; he called me by
my surname. He said: "Let me tell you, Miss Gracedieu, it is not
becoming in a young lady to mystify her elders."
I had heard that it was respectful in a young lady to call an old
gentleman, Sir, and to say, If you please. I took care to be
respectful now. "If you please, sir, write to papa. You will find
that I have spoken the truth."
A woman opened the door, and said to Mrs. Staveley: "Dinner,
ma'am." That stopped this nasty exhibition of our tempers. We had
a very good dinner.
. . . . . . .
The next day I wrote to Helena, asking her what she had really
said to the Staveleys about her age and mine, and telling her
what I had said. I found it too great a trial of my patience to
wait till she could see what I had written about the dispute in
my journal. The days, since then, have passed, and I have been
too lazy and stupid to keep my diary.
To-day it is different. My head is like a dark room with the
light let into it. I remember things; I think I can go on again.
We have religious exercises in this house, morning and evening,
just as we do at home. (Not to be compared with papa's religious
exercises.) Two days ago his answer came to Mr. Staveley's
letter. He did just what I had expected--said I had spoken truly,
and disappointed the family by asking to be excused if he
refrained from entering into explanations. Mr. said: "Very odd;"
and Mrs. agreed with him. Young Miss is not quite as friendly now
as she was at first. And young Master was impudent enough to ask
me if "I had got religion." To conclude the list of my worries,
I received an angry answer from Helena. "Nobody but a simpleton,"
she wrote, "would have contradicted me as you did. Who but you
could have failed to see that papa's strange objection to let
it be known which of us is the elder makes us ridiculous before
other people? My presence of mind prevented that. You ought to
have been grateful, and held your tongue." Perhaps Helena is
right--but I don't feel it so.
On Sunday we went to chapel twice. We also had a sermon read
at home, and a cold dinner. In the evening, a hot dispute on
religion between Mr. Staveley and his son. I don't blame them.
After being pious all day long on Sunday, I have myself felt
my piety give way toward evening.
There is something pleasant in prospect for to-morrow. All London
is going just now to the exhibition of pictures. We are going
with all London.
. . . . . . .
I don't know what is the matter with me tonight. I have
positively been to bed, without going to sleep! After tossing and
twisting and trying all sorts of positions, I am so angry with
myself that I have got up again. Rather than do nothing, I have
opened my ink-bottle, and I mean to go on with my journal.
Now I think of it, it seems likely that the exhibition of works
of art may have upset me.
I found a dreadfully large number of pictures, matched by
a dreadfully large number of people to look at them. It is not
possible for me to write about what I saw: there was too much
of it. Besides, the show disappointed me. I would rather write
about a disagreement (oh, dear, another dispute!) I had with
Mrs. Staveley. The cause of it was a famous artist; not himself,
but his works. He exhibited four pictures--what they call figure
subjects. Mrs. Staveley had a pencil. At every one of the great
man's four pictures, she made a big mark of admiration on her
catalogue. At the fourth one, she spoke to me: "Perfectly
beautiful, Eunice, isn't it?"
I said I didn't know. She said: "You strange girl, what do you
mean by that?"
It would have been rude not to have given the best answer I could
find. I said: "I never saw the flesh of any person's face like
the flesh in the faces which that man paints. He reminds me of
wax-work. Why does he paint the same waxy flesh in all four of
his pictures? I don't see the same colored flesh in all the faces
about us." Mrs. Staveley held up her hand, by way of stopping me.
She said: "Don't speak so loud, Eunice; you are only exposing
your own ignorance."
A voice behind us joined in. The voice said: "Excuse me, Mrs.
Staveley, if I expose _my_ ignorance. I entirely agree with
the young lady."
I felt grateful to the person who took my part, just when I was
at a loss what to say for myself, and I looked round. The person
was a young gentleman.
He wore a beautiful blue frock-coat, buttoned up. I like a
frock-coat to be buttoned up. He had light-colored trousers and
gray gloves and a pretty cane. I like light-colored trousers and
gray gloves and a pretty cane. What color his eyes were is more
than I can say; I only know they made me hot when they looked
at me. Not that I mind being made hot; it is surely better than
being made cold. He and Mrs. Staveley shook hands.
They seemed to be old friends. I wished I had been an old
friend--not for any bad reason, I hope. I only wanted to shake
hands, too. What Mrs. Staveley said to him escaped me, somehow.
I think the picture escaped me also; I don't remember noticing
anything except the young gentleman, especially when he took off
his hat to me. He looked at me twice before he went away. I got
hot again. I said to Mrs. Staveley: "Who is he?"
She laughed at me. I said again: "Who is he?" She said: "He is
young Mr. Dunboyne." I said: "Does he live in London?" She
laughed again. I said again: "Does he live in London?" She said:
"He is here for a holiday; he lives with his father at Fairmount,
Young Mr. Dunboyne--here for a holiday--lives with his father
at Fairmount, in Ireland. I have said that to myself fifty times
over. And here it is, saying itself for the fifty-first time in
my Journal. I must indeed be a simpleton, as Helena says. I had
better go to bed again.
Not long before I left home, I heard one of our two servants
telling the other about a person who had been "bewitched." Are
you bewitched when you don't understand your own self? That has
been my curious case, since I returned from the picture show.
This morning I took my drawing materials out of my box, and tried
to make a portrait of young Mr. Dunboyne from recollection. I
succeeded pretty well with his frock-coat and cane; but, try as
I might, his face was beyond me. I have never drawn anything so
badly since I was a little girl; I almost felt ready to cry. What
a fool I am!
This morning I received a letter from papa--it was in reply
to a letter that I had written to him--so kind, so beautifully
expressed, so like himself, that I felt inclined to send him a
confession of the strange state of feeling that has come over me,
and to ask him to comfort and advise me. On second thoughts,
I was afraid to do it. Afraid of papa! I am further away from
understanding myself than ever.
Mr. Dunboyne paid us a visit in the afternoon. Fortunately,
before we went out.
I thought I would have a good look at him; so as to know his face
better than I had known it yet. Another disappointment was
in store for me. Without intending it, I am sure, he did what
no other young man has ever done--he made me feel confused.
Instead of looking at him, I sat with my head down, and listened
to his talk. His voice--this is high praise--reminded me
of papa's voice. It seemed to persuade me as papa persuades
his congregation. I felt quite at ease again. When he went away,
we shook hands. He gave my hand a little squeeze. I gave him back
the squeeze--without knowing why. When he was gone, I wished
I had not done it--without knowing why, either.
I heard his Christian name for the first time to-day. Mrs.
Staveley said to me: "We are going to have a dinner-party. Shall
I ask Philip Dunboyne?" I said to Mrs. Staveley: "Oh, do!"
She is an old woman; her eyes are dim. At times, she can look
mischievous. She looked at me mischievously now. I wished I had
not been so eager to have Mr. Dunboyne asked to dinner.
A fear has come to me that I may have degraded myself. My spirits
are depressed. This, as papa tells us in his sermons, is a
miserable world. I am sorry I accepted the Staveleys' invitation.
I am sorry I went to see the pictures. When that young man comes
to dinner, I shall say I have got a headache, and shall stop
upstairs by myself. I don't think I like his Christian name.
I hate London. I hate everybody.
What I wrote up above, yesterday, is nonsense. I think his
Christian name is perfect. I like London. I love everybody.
He came to dinner to-day. I sat next to him. How beautiful a
dress-coat is, and a white cravat! We talked. He wanted to know
what my Christian name was. I was so pleased when I found he was
one of the few people who like it. His hair curls naturally.
In color, it is something between my hair and Helena's. He wears
his beard. How manly! It curls naturally, like his hair; it
smells deliciously of some perfume which is new to me. He has
white hands; his nails look as if he polished them; I should like
to polish my nails if I knew how. Whatever I said, he agreed with
me; I felt satisfied with my own conversation, for the first time
in my life. Helena won't find me a simpleton when I go home. What
exquisite things dinner-parties are!
My sister told me (when we said good-by) to be particular in
writing down my true opinion of the Staveleys. Helena wishes
to compare what she thinks of them with what I think of them.
My opinion of Mr. Staveley is--I don't like him. My opinion of
Miss Staveley is--I can't endure her. As for Master Staveley,
my clever sister will understand that _he_ is beneath notice.
But, oh, what a wonderful woman Mrs. Staveley is! We went out
together, after luncheon today, for a walk in Kensington Gardens.
Never have I heard any conversation to compare with Mrs.
Staveley's. Helena shall enjoy it here, at second hand. I am
quite changed in two things. First: I think more of myself than I
ever did before. Second: writing is no longer a difficulty to me.
I could fill a hundred journals, without once stopping to think.
Mrs. Staveley began nicely; "I suppose, Eunice, you have often
been told that you have a good figure, and that you walk well?"
I said: "Helena thinks my figure is better than my face. But do
I really walk well? Nobody ever told me that."
She answered: "Philip Dunboyne thinks so. He said to me, 'I
resist the temptation because I might be wanting in respect if
I gave way to it. But I should like to follow her when she goes
out--merely for the pleasure of seeing her walk.' "
I stood stockstill. I said nothing. When you are as proud as
a peacock (which never happened to me before), I find you can't
move and can't talk. You can only enjoy yourself.
Kind Mrs. Staveley had more things to tell me. She said: "I am
interested in Philip. I lived near Fairmount in the time before
I was married; and in those days he was a child. I want him to
marry a charming girl, and be happy."
What made me think directly of Miss Staveley? What made me mad
to know if she was the charming girl? I was bold enough to ask
the question. Mrs. Staveley turned to me with that mischievous
look which I have noticed already. I felt as if I had been
running at the top of my speed, and had not got my breath
But this good motherly friend set me at my ease. She explained
herself: "Philip is not much liked, poor fellow, in our house.
My husband considers him to be weak and vain and fickle. And
my daughter agrees with her father. There are times when she is
barely civil to Philip. He is too good-natured to complain, but
_I_ see it. Tell me, my dear, do you like Philip?"
"Of course I do!" Out it came in those words, before I could
stop it. Was there something unbecoming to a young lady in saying
what I had just said? Mrs. Staveley seemed to be more amused
than angry with me. She took my arm kindly, and led me along
with her. "My dear, you are as clear as crystal, and as true
as steel. You are a favorite of mine already."
What a delightful woman! as I said just now. I asked if she
really liked me as well as she liked my sister.
She said: "Better."
I didn't expect that, and didn't want it. Helena is my superior.
She is prettier than I am, cleverer than I am, better worth
liking than I am. Mrs. Staveley shifted the talk back to Philip.
I ought to have said Mr. Philip. No, I won't; I shall call him
Philip. If I had a heart of stone, I should feel interested in
him, after what Mrs. Staveley has told me.
Such a sad story, in some respects. Mother dead; no brothers or
sisters. Only the father left; he lives a dismal life on a lonely
stormy coast. Not a severe old gentleman, for all that. His
reasons for taking to retirement are reasons (so Mrs. Staveley
says) which nobody knows. He buries himself among his books, in
an immense library; and he appears to like it. His son has not
been brought up. like other young men, at school and college.
He is a great scholar, educated at home by his father. To hear
this account of his learning depressed me. It seemed to put such
a distance between us. I asked Mrs. Staveley if he thought me
ignorant. As long as I live I shall remember the reply: "He
thinks you charming."
Any other girl would have been satisfied with this. I am the
miserable creature who is always making mistakes. My stupid
curiosity spoiled the charm of Mrs. Staveley's conversation.
And yet it seemed to be a harmless question; I only said I should
like to know what profession Philip belonged to.
Mrs. Staveley answered: "No profession."
I foolishly put a wrong meaning on this. I said: "Is he idle?"
Mrs. Staveley laughed. "My dear, he is an only son--and his
father is a rich man."
That stopped me--at last.
We have enough to live on in comfort at home--no more. Papa has
told us himself that he is not (and can never hope to be) a rich
man. This is not the worst of it. Last year, he refused to marry
a young couple, both belonging to our congregation. This was
very unlike his usual kind self. Helena and I asked him for
his reasons. They were reasons that did not take long to give.
The young gentleman's father was a rich man. He had forbidden
his son to marry a sweet girl--because she had no fortune.
I have no fortune. And Philip's father is a rich man.
The best thing I can do is to wipe my pen, and shut up
my Journal, and go home by the next train.
. . . . . . .
I have a great mind to burn my Journal. It tells me that I had
better not think of Philip any more.
On second thoughts, I won't destroy my Journal; I will only put
it away. If I live to be an old woman, it may amuse me to open
my book again, and see how foolish the poor wretch was when she
What is this aching pain in my heart?
I don't remember it at any other time in my life. Is it trouble?
How can I tell?--I have had so little trouble. It must be many
years since I was wretched enough to cry. I don't even understand
why I am crying now. My last sorrow, so far as I can remember,
was the toothache. Other girls' mothers comfort them when they
are wretched. If my mother had lived--it's useless to think about
that. We lost her, while I and my sister were too young to
understand our misfortune.
I wish I had never seen Philip.
This seems an ungrateful wish. Seeing him at the picture-show was
a new enjoyment. Sitting next to him at dinner was a happiness
that I don't recollect feeling, even when Papa has been most
sweet and kind to me. I ought to be ashamed of myself to confess
this. Shall I write to my sister? But how should she know what is
the matter with me, when I don't know it myself? Besides, Helena
is angry; she wrote unkindly to me when she answered my last
There is a dreadful loneliness in this great house at night.
I had better say my prayers, and try to sleep. If it doesn't
make me feel happier, it will prevent me spoiling my Journal
by dropping tears on it.
. . . . . . .
What an evening of evenings this has been! Last night it was
crying that kept me awake. To-night I can't sleep for joy.
Philip called on us again to-day. He brought with him tickets
for the performance of an Oratorio. Sacred music is not forbidden
music among our people. Mrs. Staveley and Miss Staveley went to
the concert with us. Philip and I sat next to each other.
My sister is a musician--I am nothing. That sounds bitter; but
I don't mean it so. All I mean is, that I like simple little
songs, which I can sing to myself by remembering the tune. There,
my musical enjoyment ends. When voices and instruments burst out
together by hundreds, I feel bewildered. I also get attacked
by fidgets. This last misfortune is sure to overtake me when
choruses are being performed. The unfortunate people employed
are made to keep singing the same words, over and over and over
again, till I find it a perfect misery to listen to them. The
choruses were unendurable in the performance to-night. This is
one of them: "Here we are all alone in the wilderness--alone in
the wilderness--in the wilderness alone, alone, alone--here we
are in the wilderness--alone in the wilderness--all all alone
in the wilderness," and soon, till I felt inclined to call for
the learned person who writes Oratorios, and beg him to give
the poor music a more generous allowance of words.
Whenever I looked at Philip, I found him looking at me. Perhaps
he saw from the first that the music was wearying music to my
ignorant ears. With his usual delicacy he said nothing for some
time. But when he caught me yawning (though I did my best to hide
it, for it looked like being ungrateful for the tickets), then he
could restrain himself no longer. He whispered in my ear:
"You are getting tired of this. And so am I."
"I am trying to like it," I whispered back.
"Don't try," he answered. "Let's talk."
He meant, of course, talk in whispers. We were a good deal
annoyed--especially when the characters were all alone in the
wilderness--by bursts of singing and playing which interrupted us
at the most interesting moments. Philip persevered with a manly
firmness. What could I do but follow his example--at a distance?
He said: "Is it really true that your visit to Mrs. Staveley is
coming to an end?"
I answered: "It comes to an end the day after to-morrow."
"Are you sorry to be leaving your friends in London?"
What I might have said if he had made that inquiry a day earlier,
when I was the most miserable creature living, I would rather not
try to guess. Being quite happy as things were, I could honestly
tell him I was sorry.
"You can't possibly be as sorry as I am, Eunice. May I call you
by your pretty name?"
"Yes, if you please."
"You will leave a blank in my life when you go away--"
There another chorus stopped him, just as I was eager for more.
It was such a delightfully new sensation to hear a young
gentleman telling me that I had left a blank in his life.
The next change in the Oratorio brought up a young lady, singing
alone. Some people behind us grumbled at the smallness of her
voice. We thought her voice perfect. It seemed to lend itself
so nicely to our whispers.
He said: "Will you help me to think of you while you are away?
I want to imagine what your life is at home. Do you live in
a town or in the country?"
I told him the name of our town. When we give a person
information, I have always heard that we ought to make it
complete. So I mentioned our address in the town. But I was
troubled by a doubt. Perhaps he preferred the country. Being
anxious about this, I said: "Would you rather have heard that
I live in the country?"
"Live where you may, Eunice, the place will be a favorite place
of mine. Besides, your town is famous. It has a public attraction
which brings visitors to it."
I made another of those mistakes which no sensible girl, in
my position, would have committed. I asked if he alluded to
our new market-place.
He set me right in the sweetest manner: "I alluded to a building
hundreds of years older than your market-place--your beautiful
Fancy my not having thought of the cathedral! This is what comes
of being a Congregationalist. If I had belonged to the Church of
England, I should have forgotten the market-place, and remembered
the cathedral. Not that I want to belong to the Church of
England. Papa's chapel is good enough for me.
The song sung by the lady with the small voice was so pretty
that the audience encored it. Didn't Philip and I help them! With
the sweetest smiles the lady sang it all over again. The people
behind us left the concert.
He said: "Do you know, I take the greatest interest in
cathedrals. I propose to enjoy the privilege and pleasure of
seeing _your_ cathedral early next week."
I had only to look at him to see that I was the cathedral. It was
no surprise to hear next that he thought of "paying his respects
to Mr. Gracedieu." He begged me to tell him what sort of
reception he might hope to meet with when he called at our house.
I got so excited in doing justice to papa that I quite forgot
to whisper when the next question came. Philip wanted to know if
Mr. Gracedieu disliked strangers. When I answered, "Oh dear, no!"
I said it out loud, so that the people heard me. Cruel, cruel
people! They all turned round and stared. One hideous old woman
actually said, "Silence!" Miss Staveley looked disgusted. Even
kind Mrs. Staveley lifted her eyebrows in astonishment.
Philip, dear Philip, protected and composed me.
He held my hand devotedly till the end of the performance. When
he put us into the carriage, I was last. He whispered in my ear:
"Expect me next week." Miss Staveley might be as ill-natured as
she pleased, on the way home. It didn't matter what she said.
The Eunice of yesterday might have been mortified and offended.
The Eunice of to-day was indifferent to the sharpest things that
could be said to her.
. . . . . . .
All through yesterday's delightful evening, I never once thought
of Philip's father. When I woke this morning, I remembered that
old Mr. Dunboyne was a rich man. I could eat no breakfast for
thinking of the poor girl who was not allowed to marry her young
gentleman, because she had no money.
Mrs. Staveley waited to speak to me till the rest of them had
left us together. I had expected her to notice that I looked dull
and dismal. No! her cleverness got at my secret in quite another
She said: "How do you feel after the concert? You must be hard to
please indeed if you were not satisfied with the accompaniments
"The accompaniments of the Oratorio?"
"No, my dear. The accompaniments of Philip."
I suppose I ought to have laughed. In my miserable state of mind,
it was not to be done. I said: "I hope Mr. Dunboyne's father will
not hear how kind he was to me."
Mrs. Staveley asked why.
My bitterness overflowed at my tongue. I said: "Because papa
is a poor man."
"And Philip's papa is a rich man," says Mrs. Staveley, putting
my own thought into words for me. "Where do you get these ideas,
Eunice? Surely, you are not allowed to read novels?"
"And you have certainly never seen a play?"
"Clear your head, child, of the nonsense that has got into it--I
can't think how. Rich Mr. Dunboyne has taught his heir to despise
the base act of marrying for money. He knows that Philip will
meet young ladies at my house; and he has written to me on
the subject of his son's choice of a wife. 'Let Philip find good
principles, good temper, and good looks; and I promise beforehand
to find the money.' There is what he says. Are you satisfied with
Philip's father, now?"
I jumped up in a state of ecstasy. Just as I had thrown my arms
round Mrs. Staveley's neck, the servant came in with a letter,
and handed it to me.
Helena had written again, on this last day of my visit. Her
letter was full of instructions for buying things that she wants,
before I leave London. I read on quietly enough until I came to
the postscript. The effect of it on me may be told in two words:
I screamed. Mrs. Staveley was naturally alarmed. "Bad news?"
she asked. Being quite unable to offer an opinion, I read
the postscript out loud, and left her to judge for herself.
This was Helena's news from home:
"I must prepare you for a surprise, before your return. You will
find a strange lady established at home. Don't suppose there is
any prospect of her bidding us good-by, if we only wait long
enough. She is already (with father's full approval) as much a
member of the family as we are. You shall form your own unbiased
opinion of her, Eunice. For the present, I say no more."
I asked Mrs. Staveley what she thought of my news from home.
She said: "Your father approves of the lady, my dear. I suppose
it's good news."
But Mrs. Staveley did not look as if she believed in the good
news, for all that.
To-day I went as usual to the Scripture-class for girls. It was
harder work than ever, teaching without Eunice to help me.
Indeed, I felt lonely all day without my sister. When I got home,
I rather hoped that some friend might have come to see us, and
have been asked to stay to tea. The housemaid opened the door
to me. I asked Maria if anybody had called.
"Yes, miss; a lady, to see the master."
"Never saw her before, miss, in all my life." I put no more
questions. Many ladies visit my father. They call it consulting
the Minister. He advises them in their troubles, and guides them
in their religious difficulties, and so on. They come and go in
a sort of secrecy. So far as I know, they are mostly old maids,
and they waste the Minister's time.
When my father came in to tea, I began to feel some curiosity
about the lady who had called on him. Visitors of that sort,
in general, never appear to dwell on his mind after they have
gone away; he sees too many of them, and is too well accustomed
to what they have to say. On this particular evening, however,
I perceived appearances that set me thinking; he looked worried
"Has anything happened, father, to vex you?" I said.
"Is the lady concerned in it?"
"What lady, my dear?"
"The lady who called on you while I was out."
"Who told you she had called on me?"
"I asked Maria--"
"That will do, Helena, for the present."
He drank his tea and went back to his study, instead of staying
a while, and talking pleasantly as usual. My respect submitted
to his want of confidence in me; but my curiosity was in a state
of revolt. I sent for Maria, and proceeded to make my own
discoveries, with this result:
No other person had called at the house. Nothing had happened,
except the visit of the mysterious lady. "She looked between
young and old. And, oh dear me, she was certainly not pretty.
Not dressed nicely, to my mind; but they do say dress is a matter
Try as I might, I could get no more than that out of our stupid
Later in the evening, the cook had occasion to consult me about
supper. This was a person possessing the advantages of age and
experience. I asked if she had seen the lady. The cook's reply
promised something new: "I can't say I saw the lady; but I heard
"Do you mean that you heard her speaking?"
"Where was she crying?"
"In the master's study."
"How did you come to hear her?"
"Am I to understand, miss, that you suspect me of listening?"
Is a lie told by a look as bad as a lie told by words? I looked
shocked at the bare idea of suspecting a respectable person of
listening. The cook's sense of honor was satisfied; she readily
explained herself: "I was passing the door, miss, on my way
Here my discoveries came to an end. It was certainly possible
that an afflicted member of my father's congregation might have
called on him to be comforted. But he sees plenty of afflicted
ladies, without looking worried and anxious after they leave him.
Still suspecting something out of the ordinary course of events,
I waited hopefully for our next meeting at supper-time. Nothing
came of it. My father left me by myself again, when the meal was
over. He is always courteous to his daughters; and he made an
apology: "Excuse me, Helena, I want to think."
. . . . . . .
I went to bed in a vile humor, and slept badly; wondering, in
the long wakeful hours, what new rebuff I should meet with on
the next day.
At breakfast this morning I was agreeably surprised. No signs
of anxiety showed themselves in my father's face. Instead of
retiring to his study when we rose from the table, he proposed
taking a turn in the garden: "You are looking pale, Helena, and
you will be the better for a little fresh air. Besides, I have
something to say to you."
Excitement, I am sure, is good for young women. I saw in his
face, I heard in his last words, that the mystery of the lady
was at last to be revealed. The sensation of languor and fatigue
which follows a disturbed night left me directly.
My father gave me his arm, and we walked slowly up and down the
"When that lady called on me yesterday," he began, "you wanted
to know who she was, and you were surprised and disappointed when
I refused to gratify your curiosity. My silence was not a selfish
silence, Helena. I was thinking of you and your sister; and I was
at a loss how to act for the best. You shall hear why my children
were in my mind, presently. I must tell you first that I have
arrived at a decision; I hope and believe on reasonable grounds.
Ask me any questions you please; my silence will be no longer
an obstacle in your way."
This was so very encouraging that I said at once: "I should like
to know who the lady is."
"The lady is related to me," he answered. "We are cousins."
Here was a disclosure that I had not anticipated. In the little
that I have seen of the world, I have observed that cousins
--when they happen to be brought together under interesting
circumstances--can remember their relationship, and forget
their relationship, just as it suits them. "Is your cousin
a married lady?" I ventured to inquire.
Short as it was, that reply might perhaps mean more than appeared
on the surface. The cook had heard the lady crying. What sort of
tender agitation was answerable for those tears? Was it possible,
barely possible, that Eunice and I might go to bed, one night,
a widower's daughters, and wake up the next day to discover
"Have I or my sister ever seen the lady?" I asked.
"Never. She has been living abroad; and I have not seen her
myself since we were both young people."
My excellent innocent father! Not the faintest idea of what I had
been thinking of was in his mind. Little did he suspect how
welcome was the relief that he had afforded to his daughter's
wicked doubts of him. But he had not said a word yet about
his cousin's personal appearance. There might be remains of good
looks which the housemaid was too stupid to discover.
"After the long interval that has passed since you met," I said,
"I suppose she has become an old woman?"
"No, my dear. Let us say, a middle-aged woman."
"Perhaps she is still an attractive person?"
He smiled. "I am afraid, Helena, that would never have been
a very accurate description of her."
I now knew all that I wanted to know about this alarming person,
excepting one last morsel of information which my father had
"We have been talking about the lady for some time," I said;
"and you have not yet told me her name."
Father looked a little embarrassed "It's not a very pretty name,"
he answered. "My cousin, my unfortunate cousin, is--Miss
I burst out with such a loud "Oh!" that he laughed. I caught
the infection, and laughed louder still. Bless Miss Jillgall!
The interview promised to become an easy one for both of us,
thanks to her name. I was in good spirits, and I made no attempt
to restrain them. "The next time Miss Jillgall honors you with
a visit," I said, "you must give me an opportunity of being
presented to her."
He made a strange reply: "You may find your opportunity, Helena,
sooner than you anticipate."
Did this mean that she was going to call again in a day or two?
I am afraid I spoke flippantly. I said: "Oh, father, another lady
fascinated by the popular preacher?"
The garden chairs were near us. He signed to me gravely to be
seated by his side, and said to himself: "This is my fault."
"What is your fault?" I asked.
"I have left you in ignorance, my dear, of my cousin's sad story.
It is soon told; and, if it checks your merriment, it will make
amends by deserving your sympathy. I was indebted to her father,
when I was a boy, for acts of kindness which I can never forget.
He was twice married. The death of his first wife left him with
one child--once my playfellow; now the lady whose visit has
excited your curiosity. His second wife was a Belgian. She
persuaded him to sell his business in London, and to invest
the money in a partnership with a brother of hers, established
as a sugar-refiner at Antwerp. The little daughter accompanied
her father to Belgium. Are you attending to me, Helena?"
I was waiting for the interesting part of the story, and was
wondering when he would get to it.
"As time went on," he resumed, "the new partner found that
the value of the business at Antwerp had been greatly overrated.
After a long struggle with adverse circumstances, he decided on
withdrawing from the partnership before the whole of his capital
was lost in a failing commercial speculation. The end of it was
that he retired, with his daughter, to a small town in East
Flanders; the wreck of his property having left him with an
income of no more than two hundred pounds a year."
I showed my father that I was attending to him now, by inquiring
what had become of the Belgian wife. Those nervous quiverings,
which Eunice has mentioned in her diary, began to appear in
"It is too shameful a story," he said, "to be told to a young
girl. The marriage was dissolved by law; and the wife was
the person to blame. I am sure, Helena, you don't wish to hear
any more of _this_ part of the story."
I did wish. But I saw that he expected me to say No--so I said
"The father and daughter," he went on, "never so much as thought
of returning to their own country. They were too poor to live
comfortably in England. In Belgium their income was sufficient
for their wants. On the father's death, the daughter remained
in the town. She had friends there, and friends nowhere else;
and she might have lived abroad to the end of her days, but for
a calamity to which we are all liable. A long and serious illness
completely prostrated her. Skilled medical attendance, costing
large sums of money for the doctors' traveling expenses, was
imperatively required. Experienced nurses, summoned from a
distant hospital, were in attendance night and day. Luxuries, far
beyond the reach of her little income, were absolutely required
to support her wasted strength at the time of her tedious
recovery. In one word, her resources were sadly diminished, when
the poor creature had paid her debts, and had regained her hold
on life. At that time, she unhappily met with the man who has
It was getting interesting at last. "Ruined her?" I repeated.
"Do you mean that he robbed her?"
"That, Helena, is exactly what I mean--and many and many a
helpless woman has been robbed in the same way. The man of whom
I am now speaking was a lawyer in large practice. He bore an
excellent character, and was highly respected for his exemplary
life. My cousin (not at all a discreet person, I am bound to
admit) was induced to consult him on her pecuniary affairs.
He expressed the most generous sympathy--offered to employ
her little capital in his business--and pledged himself to pay
her double the interest for her money, which she had been in
the habit of receiving from the sound investment chosen by
"And of course he got the money, and never paid the interest?"
Eager to hear the end, I interrupted the story in those
inconsiderate words. My father's answer quietly reproved me.
"He paid the interest regularly as long as he lived."
"And what happened when he died?"
"He died a bankrupt; the secret profligacy of his life was
at last exposed. Nothing, actually nothing, was left for his
creditors. The unfortunate creature, whose ugly name has amused
you, must get help somewhere, or must go to the workhouse."
If I had been in a state of mind to attend to trifles, this would
have explained the reason why the cook had heard Miss Jillgall
crying. But the prospect before me--the unendurable prospect
of having a strange woman in the house--had showed itself too
plainly to be mistaken. I could think of nothing else. With
infinite difficulty I assumed a momentary appearance of
composure, and suggested that Miss Jillgall's foreign friends
might have done something to help her.
My father defended her foreign friends. "My dear, they were poor
people, and did all they could afford to do. But for their
kindness, my cousin might not have been able to return to
"And to cast herself on your mercy," I added, "in the character
of a helpless woman."
"No, Helena! Not to cast herself on my mercy--but to find my
house open to her, as her father's house was open to me in the
bygone time. I am her only surviving relative; and, while I live,
she shall not be a helpless woman."
I began to wish that I had not spoken out so plainly. My father's
sweet temper--I do so sincerely wish I had inherited it!--made
the kindest allowances for me.
"I understand the momentary bitterness of feeling that has
escaped you," he said; "I may almost say that I expected it. My
only hesitation in this matter has been caused by my sense of
what I owe to my children. It was putting your endurance, and
your sister's endurance, to a trial to expect you to receive a
stranger (and that stranger not a young girl like yourselves) as
one of the household, living with you in the closest intimacy of
family life. The consideration which has decided me does justice,
I hope, to you and Eunice, as well as to myself. I think that
some allowance is due from my daughters to the father who has
always made loving allowance for _them_. Am I wrong in believing
that my good children have not forgotten this, and have only
waited for the occasion to feel the pleasure of rewarding me?"
It was beautifully put. There was but one thing to be done--I
kissed him. And there was but one thing to be said. I asked at
what time we might expect to receive Miss Jillgall.
"She is staying, Helena, at a small hotel in the town. I have
already sent to say that we are waiting to see her. Perhaps you
will look at the spare bedroom?"
"It shall be got ready, father, directly."
I ran into the house; I rushed upstairs into the room that is
Eunice's and mine; I locked the door, and then I gave way to my
rage, before it stifled me. I stamped on the floor, I clinched my
fists, I cast myself on the bed, I reviled that hateful woman by
every hard word that I could throw at her. Oh, the luxury of it!
the luxury of it!
Cold water and my hairbrush soon made me fit to be seen again.
As for the spare room, it looked a great deal too comfortable for
an incubus from foreign parts. The one improvement that I could
have made, if a friend of mine had been expected, was suggested
by the window-curtains. I was looking at a torn place in one of
them, and determined to leave it unrepaired, when I felt an arm
slipped round my waist from behind. A voice, so close that it
tickled my neck, said: "Dear girl, what friends we shall be!"
I turned round, and confronted Miss Jillgall.
If I am not a good girl, where is a good girl to be found? This
is in Eunice's style. It sometimes amuses me to mimic my simple
I have just torn three pages out of my diary, in deference
to the expression of my father's wishes. He took the first
opportunity which his cousin permitted him to enjoy of speaking
to me privately; and his object was to caution me against hastily
relying on first impressions of anybody--especially of Miss
Jillgall. "Wait for a day or two," he said; "and then form
your estimate of the new member of our household."
The stormy state of my temper had passed away, and had left
my atmosphere calm again. I could feel that I had received good
advice; but unluckily it reached me too late.
I had formed my estimate of Miss Jillgall, and had put it in
writing for my own satisfaction, at least an hour before my
father found himself at liberty to speak to me. I don't agree
with him in distrusting first impressions; and I had proposed to
put my opinion to the test, by referring to what I had written
about his cousin at a later time. However, after what he had
said to me, I felt bound in filial duty to take the pages out
of my book, and to let two days pass before I presumed to enjoy
the luxury of hating Miss Jillgall.
On one thing I am determined: Eunice shall not form a hasty
opinion, either. She shall undergo the same severe discipline of
self-restraint to which her sister is obliged to submit. Let us
be just, as somebody says, before we are generous. No more for
. . . . . . .
I open my diary again--after the prescribed interval has elapsed.
The first impression produced on me by the new member of our
household remains entirely unchanged.
Have I already made the remark that, when one removes a page from
a book, it does not necessarily follow that one destroys the page
afterward? or did I leave this to be inferred? In either case,
my course of proceeding was the same. I ordered some paste to be
made. Then I unlocked a drawer, and found my poor ill-used
leaves, and put them back in my Journal. An act of justice is
surely not the less praiseworthy because it is an act of justice
done to one's self.
My father has often told me that he revises his writings on
religious subjects. I may harmlessly imitate that good example,
by revising my restored entry. It is now a sufficiently
remarkable performance to be distinguished by a title. Let
me call it:
Impressions of Miss Jillgall.
My first impression was a strong one--it was produced by
the state of this lady's breath. In other words, I was obliged
to let her kiss me. It is a duty to be considerate toward human
infirmity. I will only say that I thought I should have fainted.
My second impression draws a portrait, and produces a striking
Figure, little and lean--hair of a dirty drab color which we see
in string--small light gray eyes, sly and restless, and deeply
sunk in the head--prominent cheekbones, and a florid complexion--
an inquisitive nose, turning up at the end--a large mouth and
a servile smile--raw-looking hands, decorated with black
mittens--a misfitting white jacket and a limp skirt--manners
familiar--temper cleverly hidden--voice too irritating to be
mentioned. Whose portrait is this? It is the portrait of Miss
Jillgall, taken in words.
Her true character is not easy to discover; I suspect that it
will only show itself little by little. That she is a born
meddler in other people's affairs, I think I can see already.
I also found out that she trusted to flattery as the easiest
means of making herself agreeable. She tried her first experiment
"You charming girl," she began, "your bright face encourages me
to ask a favor. Pray make me useful! The one aspiration of my
life is to be useful. Unless you employ me in that way, I have no
right to intrude myself into your family circle. Yes, yes, I know
that your father has opened his house and his heart to me. But
I dare not found any claim--your name is Helena, isn't it? Dear
Helena, I dare not found any claim on what I owe to your father's
"Why not?" I inquired.
"Because your father is not a man--"
I was rude enough to interrupt her: "What is he, then?"
"An angel," Miss Jillgall answered, solemnly. "A destitute
earthly creature like me must not look up as high as your father.
I might be dazzled."
This was rather more than I could endure patiently. "Let us try,"
I suggested, "if we can't understand each other, at starting."
Miss Jillgall's little eyes twinkled in their bony caverns.
"The very thing I was going to propose!" she burst out.
"Very well," I went on; "then, let me tell you plainly that
flattery is not relished in this house."
"Flattery?" She put her hand to her head as she repeated the
word, and looked quite bewildered. "Dear Helena, I have lived all
my life in East Flanders, and my own language is occasionally
strange to me. Can you tell me what flattery is in Flemish?"
"I don't understand Flemish."
"How very provoking! You don't understand Flemish, and I don't
understand Flattery. I should so like to know what it means.
Ah, I see books in this lovely room. Is there a dictionary among
them?" She darted to the bookcase, and discovered a dictionary.
"Now I shall understand Flattery," she remarked--"and then we
shall understand each other. Oh, let me find it for myself!" She
ran her raw red finger along the alphabetical headings at the top
of each page. "'FAD.' That won't do. 'FIE.' Further on still.
'FLE.' Too far the other way. 'FLA.' Here we are! 'Flattery:
False praise. Commendation bestowed for the purpose of gaining
favor and influence.' Oh, Helena, how cruel of you!" She dropped
the book, and sank into a chair--the picture, if such a thing can
be, of a broken-hearted old maid.
I should most assuredly have taken the opportunity of leaving her
to her own devices, if I had been free to act as I pleased. But
my interests as a daughter forbade me to make an enemy of my
father's cousin, on the first day when she had entered the house.
I made an apology, very neatly expressed.
She jumped up--let me do her justice; Miss Jillgall is as nimble
as a monkey--and (Faugh!) she kissed me for the second time.
If I had been a man, I am afraid I should have called for that
deadly poison (we are all temperance people in this house) known
by the name of Brandy.
"If you will make me love you," Miss Jillgall explained, "you
must expect to be kissed. Dear girl, let us go back to my poor
little petition. Oh, do make me useful! There are so many things
I can do: you will find me a treasure in the house. I write
a good hand; I understand polishing furniture; I can dress hair
(look at my own hair); I play and sing a little when people want
to be amused; I can mix a salad and knit stockings--who is this?"
The cook came in, at the moment, to consult me; I introduced her.
"And, oh," cried Miss Jillgall, in ecstasy, "I can cook! Do,
please, let me see the kitchen."
The cook's face turned red. She had come to me to make a
confession; and she had not (as she afterward said) bargained for
the presence of a stranger. For the first time in her life she
took the liberty of whispering to me: "I must ask you, miss, to
let me send up the cauliflower plain boiled; I don't understand
the directions in the book for doing it in the foreign way."
Miss Jillgall's ears--perhaps because they are so large--possess
a quickness of hearing quite unparalleled in my experience. Not
one word of the cook's whispered confession had escaped her.
"Here," she declared, "is an opportunity of making myself useful!
What is the cook's name? Hannah? Take me downstairs, Hannah, and
I'll show you how to do the cauliflower in the foreign way. She
seems to hesitate. Is it possible that she doesn't believe me?
Listen, Hannah, and judge for yourself if I am deceiving you.
Have you boiled the cauliflower? Very well; this is what you must
do next. Take four ounces of grated cheese, two ounces of best
butter, the yolks of four eggs, a little bit of glaze,
lemon-juice, nutmeg--dear, dear, how black she looks. What have
I said to offend her?"
The cook passed over the lady who had presumed to instruct her,
as if no such person had been present, and addressed herself
to me: "If I am to be interfered with in my own kitchen, miss,
I will ask you to suit yourself at a month's notice."
Miss Jillgall wrung her hands in despair.
"I meant so kindly," she said; "and I seem to have made mischief.
With the best intentions, Helena, I have set you and your servant
at variance. I really didn't know you had such a temper, Hannah,"
she declared, following the cook to the door. "I'm sure there's
nothing I am not ready to do to make it up with you. Perhaps you
have not got the cheese downstairs? I'm ready to go out and buy
it for you. I could show you how to keep eggs sweet and fresh
for weeks together. Your gown doesn't fit very well; I shall
be glad to improve it, if you will leave it out for me after
you have gone to bed. There!" cried Miss Jillgall, as the cook
majestically left the room, without even looking at her, "I have
done my best to make it up, and you see how my advances are
received. What more could I have done? I really ask you, dear,
as a friend, what more _could_ I have done?"
I had it on the tip of my tongue to say: "The cook doesn't ask
you to buy cheese for her, or to teach her how to keep eggs,
or to improve the fit of her gown; all she wants is to have her
kitchen to herself." But here again it was necessary to remember
that this odious person was my father's guest.
"Pray don't distress yourself," I began; "I am sure you are not
to blame, Miss Jillgall--"
"Don't call me Miss Jillgall. I call you Helena. Call me Selina."
I had really not supposed it possible that she could be more
unendurable than ever. When she mentioned her Christian name,
she succeeded nevertheless in producing that result. In the whole
list of women's names, is there any one to be found so absolutely
sickening as "Selina"? I forced myself to pronounce it; I made
another neatly-expressed apology; I said English servants were
so very peculiar. Selina was more than satisfied; she was quite
"Is that it, indeed? An explanation was all I wanted. How good of
you! And now tell me--is there no chance, in the house or out of
the house, of my making myself useful? Oh, what's that? Do I see
a chance? I do! I do!"
Miss Jillgall's eyes are more than mortal. At one time, they are
microscopes. At another time, they are telescopes. She discovered
(right across the room) the torn place in the window-curtain. In
an instant, she snatched a dirty little leather case out of her
pocket, threaded her needle and began darning the curtain. She
sang over her work. "My heart is light, my will is free--" I can
repeat no more of it. When I heard her singing voice, I became
reckless of consequences, and ran out of the room with my hands
over my ears.
When I reached the foot of the stairs, my father called me
into his study.
I found him at his writing-table, with such a heap of torn-up
paper in his waste-basket that it overflowed on to the floor. He
explained to me that he had been destroying a large accumulation
of old letters, and had ended (when his employment began to grow
wearisome) in examining his correspondence rather carelessly. The
result was that he had torn up a letter, and a copy of the reply,
which ought to have been set aside as worthy of preservation.
After collecting the fragments, he had heaped them on the table.
If I could contrive to put them together again on fair sheets of
paper, and fasten them in their right places with gum, I should
be doing him a service, at a time when he was too busy to set
his mistake right for himself.
Here was the best excuse that I could desire for keeping out of
Miss Jillgall's way. I cheerfully set to work on the restoration
of the letters, while my father went on with his writing.
Having put the fragments together--excepting a few gaps caused
by morsels that had been lost--I was unwilling to fasten them
down with gum, until I could feel sure of not having made any
mistakes; especially in regard to some of the lost words which
I had been obliged to restore by guess-work. So I copied the
letters, and submitted them, in the first place, to my father's
He praised me in the prettiest manner for the care that I had
taken. But, when he began, after some hesitation, to read my
copy, I noticed a change. The smile left his face, and the
nervous quiverings showed themselves again.
"Quite right, my child," he said, in low sad tones.
On returning to my side of the table, I expected to see him
resume his writing. He crossed the room to the window and stood
(with his back to me) looking out.
When I had first discovered the sense of the letters, they failed
to interest me. A tiresome woman, presuming on the kindness
of a good-natured man to beg a favor which she had no right
to ask, and receiving a refusal which she had richly deserved,
was no remarkable event in my experience as my father's
secretary and copyist. But the change in his face, while he read
the correspondence, altered my opinion of the letters. There was
more in them evidently than I had discovered. I kept my manuscript
copy--here it is:
From Miss Elizabeth Chance to the Rev. Abel Gracedieu.
(Date of year, 1859. Date of month, missing.)
"DEAR SIR--You have, I hope, not quite forgotten the interesting
conversation that we had last year in the Governor's rooms. I am
afraid I spoke a little flippantly at the time; but I am sure
you will believe me when I say that this was out of no want
of respect to yourself. My pecuniary position being far from
prosperous, I am endeavoring to obtain the vacant situation of
housekeeper in a public institution the prospectus of which I
inclose. You will see it is a rule of the place that a candidate
must be a single woman (which I am), and must be recommended
by a clergyman. You are the only reverend gentleman whom it is
my good fortune to know, and the thing is of course a mere
formality. Pray excuse this application, and oblige me by acting
as my reference.
"P. S.--Please address: Miss E. Chance, Poste Restante, St.
"From the Rev. Abel Gracedieu to Miss Chance.
"MADAM--The brief conversation to which your letter alludes, took
place at an accidental meeting between us. I then saw you for
the first time, and I have not seen you since. It is impossible
for me to assert the claim of a perfect stranger, like yourself,
to fill a situation of trust. I must beg to decline acting as
"Your obedient servant,
. . . . . . .
My father was still at the window.
In that idle position he could hardly complain of me for
interrupting him, if I ventured to talk about the letters which
I had put together. If my curiosity displeased him, he had only
to say so, and there would be an end to any allusions of mine
to the subject. My first idea was to join him at the window.
On reflection, and still perceiving that he kept his back turned
on me, I thought it might be more prudent to remain at the table.
"This Miss Chance seems to be an impudent person?" I said.
"Was she a young woman, when you met with her?"
"What sort of a woman to look at? Ugly?"
Here were three answers which Eunice herself would have been
quick enough to interpret as three warnings to say no more.
I felt a little hurt by his keeping his back turned on me. At
the same time, and naturally, I think, I found my interest in
Miss Chance (I don't say my friendly interest) considerably
increased by my father's unusually rude behavior. I was also
animated by an irresistible desire to make him turn round and
look at me.
"Miss Chance's letter was written many years ago," I resumed.
"I wonder what has become of her since she wrote to you."
"I know nothing about her."
"Not even whether she is alive or dead?"
"Not even that. What do these questions mean, Helena?"
I declare he looked as if he suspected me!
"Why don't you speak out?" he said. "Have I ever taught you
to conceal your thoughts? Have I ever been a hard father, who
discouraged you when you wished to confide in him? What are you
thinking about? Do _you_ know anything of this woman?"
"Oh, father, what a question! I never even heard of her till
I put the torn letters together. I begin to wish you had not
asked me to do it."
"So do I. It never struck me that you would feel such
extraordinary--I had almost said, such vulgar--curiosity about
a worthless letter."
This roused my temper. When a young lady is told that she is
vulgar, if she has any self-conceit--I mean self-respect--she
feels insulted. I said something sharp in my turn. It was in
the way of argument. I do not know how it may be with other young
persons, I never reason so well myself as when I am angry.
"You call it a worthless letter," I said, "and yet you think it
"Have you nothing more to say to me than that?" he asked.
"Nothing more," I answered.
He changed again. After having looked unaccountably angry, he now
looked unaccountably relieved.
"I will soon satisfy you," he said, "that I have a good reason
for preserving a worthless letter. Miss Chance, my dear, is not
a woman to be trusted. If she saw her advantage in making a bad
use of my reply, I am afraid she would not hesitate to do it.
Even if she is no longer living, I don't know into what vile
hands my letter may not have fallen, or how it might be falsified
for some wicked purpose. Do you see now how a correspondence may
become accidentally important, though it is of no value in
I could say "Yes" to this with a safe conscience.
But there were some perplexities still left in my mind. It seemed
strange that Miss Chance should (apparently) have submitted to
the severity of my father's reply. "I should have thought,"
I said to him, "that she would have sent you another impudent
letter--or perhaps have insisted on seeing you, and using her
tongue instead of her pen."
"She could do neither the one nor the other, Helena. Miss Chance
will never find out my address again; I have taken good care of
He spoke in a loud voice, with a flushed face--as if it was quite
a triumph to have prevented this woman from discovering his
address. What reason could he have for being so anxious to keep
her away from him? Could I venture to conclude that there was
a mystery in the life of a man so blameless, so truly pious?
It shocked one even to think of it.
There was a silence between us, to which the housemaid offered
a welcome interruption. Dinner was ready.
He kissed me before we left the room. "One word more, Helena,"
he said, "and I have done. Let there be no more talk between us
about Elizabeth Chance."
Miss Jillgall joined us at the dinner-table, in a state of
excitement, carrying a book in her hand.
I am inclined, on reflection, to suspect that she is quite clever
enough to have discovered that I hate her--and that many of
the aggravating things she says and does are assumed, out of
retaliation, for the purpose of making me angry. That ugly face
is a double face, or I am much mistaken.
To return to the dinner-table, Miss Jillgall addressed herself,
with an air of playful penitence, to my father.
"Dear cousin, I hope I have not done wrong. Helena left me all by
myself. When I had finished darning the curtain, I really didn't
know what to do. So I opened all the bedroom doors upstairs and
looked into the rooms. In the big room with two beds--oh, I am
so ashamed--I found this book. Please look at the first page."
My father looked at the title-page: "Doctor Watts's Hymns. Well,
Selina, what is there to be ashamed of in this?"
"Oh, no! no! It's the wrong page. Do look at the other page--the
one that comes first before that one."
My patient father turned to the blank page.
"Ah," he said quietly, "my other daughter's name is written in
it--the daughter whom you have not seen. Well?"
Miss Jillgall clasped her hands distractedly. "It's my ignorance
I'm so ashamed of. Dear cousin, forgive me, enlighten me. I don't
know how to pronounce your other daughter's name. Do you call her
The dinner was getting cold. I was provoked into saying: "No, we
She had evidently not forgiven me for leaving her by herself.
"Pardon me, Helena, when I want information I don't apply to you:
I sit, as it were, at the feet of your learned father. Dear
cousin, is it--"
Even my father declined to wait for his dinner any longer.
"Pronounce it as you like, Selina. Here we say Euni'ce--with the
accent on the 'i' and with the final 'e' sounded: Eu-ni'-see. Let
me give you some soup."
Miss Jillgall groaned. "Oh, how difficult it seems to be! Quite
beyond my poor brains! I shall ask the dear girl's leave to call
her Euneece. What very strong soup! Isn't it rather a waste of
meat? Give me a little more, please."
I discovered another of Miss Jillgall's peculiarities. Her
appetite was enormous, and her ways were greedy. You heard her
eat her soup. She devoured the food on her plate with her eyes
before she put it into her mouth; and she criticised our English
cookery in the most impudent manner, under pretense of asking
humbly how it was done. There was, however, some temporary
compensation for this. We had less of her talk while she was
eating her dinner.
With the removal of the cloth, she recovered the use of her
tongue; and she hit on the one subject of all others which proves
to be the sorest trial to my father's patience.
"And now, dear cousin, let us talk of your other daughter,
our absent Euneece. I do so long to see her. When is she
"In a few days more."
"How glad I am! And do tell me--which is she? Your oldest girl
or your youngest?"
"Neither the one nor the other, Selina."
"Oh, my head! my head! This is even worse than the accent on
the 'i' and the final 'e.' Stop! I am cleverer than I thought
I was. You mean that the girls are twins. Are they both so
exactly like each other that I shan't know which is which?
When the subject of our ages was unluckily started at Mrs.
Staveley's, I had slipped out of the difficulty easily by
assuming the character of the eldest sister--an example of ready
tact which my dear stupid Eunice doesn't understand. In my
father's presence, it is needless to say that I kept silence,
and left it to him. I was sorry to be obliged to do this. Owing
to his sad state of health, he is easily irritated--especially
by inquisitive strangers.
"I must leave you," he answered, without taking the slightest
notice of what Miss Jillgall had said to him. "My work is waiting
She stopped him on his way to the door. "Oh, tell me--can't
I help you?"
"Thank you; no."
"Well--but tell me one thing. Am I right about the twins?"
"You are wrong."
Miss Jillgall's demonstrative hands flew up into the air again,
and expressed the climax of astonishment by quivering over her
head. "This is positively maddening," she declared. "What does
"Take my advice, cousin. Don't attempt to find out what it
He left the room. Miss Jillgall appealed to me. I imitated my
father's wise brevity of expression: "Sorry to disappoint you,
Selina; I know no more about it than you do. Come upstairs."
Every step of the way up to the drawing-room was marked by
a protest or an inquiry. Did I expect her to believe that I
couldn't say which of us was the elder of the two? that I didn't
really know what my father's motive was for this extraordinary
mystification? that my sister and I had submitted to be robbed,
as it were, of our own ages, and had not insisted on discovering
which of us had come into the world first? that our friends had
not put an end to this sort of thing by comparing us personally,
and discovering which was the elder sister by investigation of
our faces? To all this I replied: First, that I did certainly
expect her to believe whatever I might say: Secondly, that what
she was pleased to call the "mystification" had begun when we
were both children; that habit had made it familiar to us in
the course of years; and above all, that we were too fond of our
good father to ask for explanations which we knew by experience
would distress him: Thirdly, that friends did try to discover,
by personal examination, which was the elder sister, and differed
perpetually in their conclusions; also that we had amused
ourselves by trying the same experiment before our
looking-glasses, and that Eunice thought Helena was the oldest,
and Helena thought Eunice was the oldest: Fourthly (and finally),
that the Reverend Mr. Gracedieu's cousin had better drop
the subject, unless she was bent on making her presence in
the house unendurable to the Reverend Mr. Gracedieu himself.
I write it with a sense of humiliation; Miss Jillgall listened
attentively to all I had to say--and then took me completely by
surprise. This inquisitive, meddlesome, restless, impudent woman
suddenly transformed herself into a perfect model of amiability
and decorum. She actually said she agreed with me, and was much
obliged for my good advice!
A stupid young woman, in my place, would have discovered that
this was not natural, and that Miss Jillgall was presenting
herself to me in disguise, to reach some secret end of her own.
I am not a stupid young woman; I ought to have had at my service
penetration enough to see through and through Cousin Selina.
Well! Cousin Selina was an impenetrable mystery to me.
The one thing to be done was to watch her. I was at least sly
enough to take up a book, and pretend to be reading it. How
She looked round the room, and discovered our pretty
writing-table; a present to my father from his congregation.
After a little consideration, she sat down to write a letter.
"When does the post go out?" she asked.
I mentioned the hour; and she began her letter. Before she could
have written more than the first two or three lines, she turned
round on her seat, and began talking to me.
"Do you like writing letters, my dear?"
"Yes--but then I have not many letters to write."
"Only a few friends, Helena, but those few worthy to be loved?
My own case exactly. Has your father told you of my troubles? Ah,
I am glad of that. It spares me the sad necessity of confessing
what I have suffered. Oh, how good my friends, my new friends,
were to me in that dull little Belgian town! One of them was
generosity personified--ah, she had suffered, too! A vile husband
who had deceived and deserted her. Oh, the men! When she heard
of the loss of my little fortune, that noble creature got up
a subscription for me, and went round herself to collect. Think
of what I owe to her! Ought I to let another day pass without
writing to my benefactress? Am I not bound in gratitude to make
her happy in the knowledge of _my_ happiness--I mean the refuge
opened to me in this hospitable house?"
She twisted herself back again to the writing-table, and went on
with her letter.
I have not attempted to conceal my stupidity. Let me now record
a partial recovery of my intelligence.
It was not to be denied that Miss Jillgall had discovered a good
reason for writing to her friend; but I was at a loss to
understand why she should have been so anxious to mention the
reason. Was it possible--after the talk which had passed between
us--that she had something mischievous to say in her letter,
relating to my father or to me? Was she afraid I might suspect
this? And had she been so communicative for the purpose of
leading my suspicions astray? These were vague guesses; but, try
as I might, I could arrive at no clearer view of what was passing
in Miss Jillgall's mind. What would I not have given to be able
to look over her shoulder, without discovery!
She finished her letter, and put the address, and closed the
envelope. Then she turned round toward me again.
"Have you got a foreign postage stamp, dear?"
If I could look at nothing else, I was resolved to look at her
envelope. It was only necessary to go to the study, and to apply
to my father. I returned with the foreign stamp, and I stuck it
on the envelope with my own hand.
There was nothing to interest _me_ in the address, as I ought
to have foreseen, if I had not been too much excited for
the exercise of a little common sense. Miss Jillgall's wonderful
friend was only remarkable by her ugly foreign name--MRS.
Here I am, writing my history of myself, once more, by my own
bedside. Some unexpected events have happened while I have been
away. One of them is the absence of my sister.
Helena has left home on a visit to a northern town by the
seaside. She is staying in the house of a minister (one of papa's
friends), and is occupying a position of dignity in which I
should certainly lose my head. The minister and his wife and
daughters propose to set up a Girls' Scripture Class, on the plan
devised by papa; and they are at a loss, poor helpless people, to
know how to begin. Helena has volunteered to set the thing going.
And there she is now, advising everybody, governing everybody,
encouraging everybody--issuing directions, finding fault,
rewarding merit--oh, dear, let me put it all in one word,
and say: thoroughly enjoying herself.
Another event has happened, relating to papa. It so distressed me
that I even forgot to think of Philip--for a little while.
Traveling by railway (I suppose because I am not used to it)
gives me the headache. When I got to our station here, I thought
it would do me more good to walk home than to ride in the noisy
omnibus. Half-way between the railway and the town, I met one
of the doctors. He is a member of our congregation; and he it was
who recommended papa, some time since, to give up his work as
a minister and take a long holiday in foreign parts.
"I am glad to have met with you," the doctor said. "Your sister,
I find, is away on a visit; and I want to speak to one of you
about your father."
It seemed that he had been observing papa, in chapel, from what
he called his own medical point of view. He did not conceal from
me that he had drawn conclusions which made him feel uneasy. "It
may be anxiety," he said, "or it may be overwork. In either case,
your father is in a state of nervous derangement, which is likely
to lead to serious results--unless he takes the advice that
I gave him when he last consulted me. There must be no more
hesitation about it. Be careful not to irritate him--but remember
that he must rest. You and your sister have some influence over
him; he won't listen to me."
Poor dear papa! I did see a change in him for the worse--though
I had only been away for so short a time.
When I put my arms round his neck, and kissed him, he turned
pale, and then flushed up suddenly: the tears came into his eyes.
Oh, it was hard to follow the doctor's advice, and not to cry,
too; but I succeeded in controlling myself. I sat on his knee,
and made him tell me all that I have written here about Helena.
This led to our talking next of the new lady, who is to live with
us as a member of the family. I began to feel less uneasy at the
prospect of being introduced to this stranger, when I heard that
she was papa's cousin. And when he mentioned her name, and saw
how it amused me, his poor worn face brightened into a smile. "Go
and find her," he said, "and introduce yourself. I want to hear,
Eunice, if you and my cousin are likely to get on well together."
The servants told me that Miss Jillgall was in the garden.
I searched here, there, and everywhere, and failed to find her.
The place was so quiet, it looked so deliciously pure and bright,
after smoky dreary London, that I sat down at the further end of
the garden and let my mind take me back to Philip. What was he
doing at that moment, while I was thinking of him? Perhaps he was
in the company of other young ladies, who drew all his thoughts
away to themselves? Or perhaps he was writing to his father in
Ireland, and saying something kindly and prettily about me? Or
perhaps he was looking forward, as anxiously as I do, to our
meeting next week.
I have had my plans, and I have changed my plans.
On the railway journey, I thought I would tell papa at once
of the new happiness which seems to have put a new life into me.
It would have been delightful to make my confession to that first
and best and dearest of friends; but my meeting with the doctor
spoiled it all. After what he had said to me, I discovered a
risk. If I ventured to tell papa that my heart was set on a young
gentleman who was a stranger to him, could I be sure that he
would receive my confession favorably? There was a chance that
it might irritate him--and the fault would then be mine of doing
what I had been warned to avoid. It might be safer in every way
to wait till Philip paid his visit, and he and papa had been
introduced to each other and charmed with each other. Could
Helena herself have arrived at a wiser conclusion? I declare
I felt proud of my own discretion.
In this enjoyable frame of mind I was disturbed by a woman's
voice. The tone was a tone of distress, and the words reached
my ears from the end of the garden: "Please, miss, let me in."
A shrubbery marks the limit of our little bit of pleasure-ground.
On the other side of it there is a cottage standing on the edge
of the common. The most good-natured woman in the world lives
here. She is our laundress--married to a stupid young fellow
named Molly, and blessed with a plump baby as sweet-tempered
at herself. Thinking it likely that the piteous voice which had
disturbed me might be the voice of Mrs. Molly, I was astonished
to hear her appealing to anybody (perhaps to me?) to "let her
in." So I passed through the shrubbery, wondering whether
the gate had been locked during my absence in London. No;
it was as easy to open as ever.
The cottage door was not closed.
I saw our amiable laundress in the passage, on her knees, trying
to open an inner door which seemed to be locked. She had her eye
at the keyhole; and, once again, she called out: "Please, miss,
let me in." I waited to see if the door would be opened--nothing
happened. I waited again, to hear if some person inside would
answer--nobody spoke. But somebody, or something, made a sound
of splashing water on the other side of the door.
I showed myself, and asked what was the matter.
Mrs. Molly looked at me helplessly. She said: "Miss Eunice,
it's the baby."
"What has the baby done?" I inquired.
Mrs. Molly got on her feet, and whispered in my ear: "You know
he's a fine child?"
"Well, miss, he's bewitched a lady."
The very person I had been trying to find! I asked where she was.
The laundress pointed dolefully to the locked door: "In there."
"And where is your baby?"
The poor woman still pointed to the door: "I'm beginning to
doubt, miss, whether it is my baby."
"Nonsense, Mrs. Molly. If it isn't yours, whose baby can it be?"
Her puzzled face made this singular reply more funny still.
The splashing of water on the other side of the door began
again. "What is Miss Jillgall doing now?" I said.
"Washing the baby, miss. A week ago, she came in here, one
morning; very pleasant and kind, I must own. She found me putting
on the baby's things. She says: 'What a cherub!' which I took
as a compliment. She says: 'I shall call again to-morrow.' She
called again so early that she found the baby in his crib. 'You
be a good soul,' she says, 'and go about your work, and leave
the child to me.' I says: 'Yes, miss, but please to wait till
I've made him fit to be seen.' She says: 'That's just what I mean
to do myself.' I stared; and I think any other person would have
done the same in my place. 'If there's one thing more than
another I enjoy,' she says, 'it's making myself useful. Mrs.
Molly, I've taken a fancy to your boy-baby,' she says, 'and
I mean to make myself useful to _him_.' If you will believe me,
Miss Jillgall has only let me have one opportunity of putting my
own child tidy. She was late this morning, and I got my chance,
and had the boy on my lap, drying him--when in she burst like
a blast of wind, and snatched the baby away from me. 'This is
your nasty temper,' she says; 'I declare I'm ashamed of you!' And
there she is, with the door locked against me, washing the child
all over again herself. Twice I've knocked, and asked her to let
me in, and can't even get an answer. They do say there's luck in
odd numbers; suppose I try again?" Mrs. Molly knocked, and the
proverb proved to be true; she got an answer from Miss Jillgall
at last: "If you don't be quiet and go away, you shan't have the
baby back at all." Who could help it?--I burst out laughing. Miss
Jillgall (as I supposed from the tone of her voice) took severe
notice of this act of impropriety. "Who's that laughing?" she
called out; "give yourself a name." I gave my name. The door was
instantly thrown open with a bang. Papa's cousin appeared, in
a disheveled state, with splashes of soap and water all over her.
She held the child in one arm, and she threw the other arm round
my neck. "Dearest Euneece, I have been longing to see you. How do
you like Our baby?"
To the curious story of my introduction to Miss Jillgall, I ought
perhaps to add that I have got to be friends with her already.
I am the friend of anybody who amuses me. What will Helena say
when she reads this?
When people are interested in some event that is coming, do they
find the dull days, passed in waiting for it, days which they are
not able to remember when they look back? This is my unfortunate
case. Night after night, I have gone to bed without so much
as opening my Journal. There was nothing worth writing about,
nothing that I could recollect, until the postman came to-day.
I ran downstairs, when I heard his ring at the bell, and stopped
Maria on her way to the study. There, among papa's usual handful
of letters, was a letter for me.
"DEAR MISS EUNICE:
. . . . . . .
"Yours ever truly."
I quote the passages in Philip's letter which most deeply