Part 5 out of 10
dainties and delicacies. Now, in the first place, I should be loth
to wait till to-morrow when I have the means of appeasing my hunger
already before me: in the second place, the solid viands of to-day
are more to my taste than the dainties that are promised me; in the
third place, I don't see to-morrow's banquet, and how can I tell
that it is not all a fable, got up by the greasy-faced fellow that
is advising me to abstain in order that he may have all the good
victuals to himself? in the fourth place, this table must be spread
for somebody, and, as Solomon says, "Who can eat, or who else can
hasten hereunto more than I?" and finally, with your leave, I'll
sit down and satisfy my cravings of to-day, and leave to-morrow to
shift for itself - who knows but what I may secure both this and
'But you are not required to abstain from the substantial dinner of
to-day: you are only advised to partake of these coarser viands in
such moderation as not to incapacitate you from enjoying the
choicer banquet of to-morrow. If, regardless of that counsel, you
choose to make a beast of yourself now, and over-eat and over-drink
yourself till you turn the good victuals into poison, who is to
blame if, hereafter, while you are suffering the torments of
yesterday's gluttony and drunkenness, you see more temperate men
sitting down to enjoy themselves at that splendid entertainment
which you are unable to taste?'
'Most true, my patron saint; but again, our friend Solomon says,
"There is nothing better for a man than to eat and to drink, and to
'And again,' returned I, 'he says, "Rejoice, O young man, in thy
youth; and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of
thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will
bring thee into judgment."'
'Well, but, Helen, I'm sure I've been very good these last few
weeks. What have you seen amiss in me, and what would you have me
'Nothing more than you do, Arthur: your actions are all right so
far; but I would have your thoughts changed; I would have you to
fortify yourself against temptation, and not to call evil good, and
good evil; I should wish you to think more deeply, to look further,
and aim higher than you do.'
March 25th. - Arthur is getting tired - not of me, I trust, but of
the idle, quiet life he leads - and no wonder, for he has so few
sources of amusement: he never reads anything but newspapers and
sporting magazines; and when he sees me occupied with a book, he
won't let me rest till I close it. In fine weather he generally
manages to get through the time pretty well, but on rainy days, of
which we have had a good many of late, it is quite painful to
witness his ennui. I do all I can to amuse him, but it is
impossible to get him to feel interested in what I most like to
talk about, while, on the other hand, he likes to talk about things
that cannot interest me - or even that annoy me - and these please
him - the most of all: for his favourite amusement is to sit or
loll beside me on the sofa, and tell me stories of his former
amours, always turning upon the ruin of some confiding girl or the
cozening of some unsuspecting husband; and when I express my horror
and indignation, he lays it all to the charge of jealousy, and
laughs till the tears run down his cheeks. I used to fly into
passions or melt into tears at first, but seeing that his delight
increased in proportion to my anger and agitation, I have since
endeavoured to suppress my feelings and receive his revelations in
the silence of calm contempt; but still he reads the inward
struggle in my face, and misconstrues my bitterness of soul for his
unworthiness into the pangs of wounded jealousy; and when he has
sufficiently diverted himself with that, or fears my displeasure
will become too serious for his comfort, he tries to kiss and
soothe me into smiles again - never were his caresses so little
welcome as then! This is double selfishness displayed to me and to
the victims of his former love. There are times when, with a
momentary pang - a flash of wild dismay, I ask myself, 'Helen, what
have you done?' But I rebuke the inward questioner, and repel the
obtrusive thoughts that crowd upon me; for were he ten times as
sensual and impenetrable to good and lofty thoughts, I well know I
have no right to complain. And I don't and won't complain. I do
and will love him still; and I do not and will not regret that I
have linked my fate with his.
April 4th. - We have had a downright quarrel. The particulars are
as follows: Arthur had told me, at different intervals, the whole
story of his intrigue with Lady F-, which I would not believe
before. It was some consolation, however, to find that in this
instance the lady had been more to blame than he, for he was very
young at the time, and she had decidedly made the first advances,
if what he said was true. I hated her for it, for it seemed as if
she had chiefly contributed to his corruption; and when he was
beginning to talk about her the other day, I begged he would not
mention her, for I detested the very sound of her name.
'Not because you loved her, Arthur, mind, but because she injured
you and deceived her husband, and was altogether a very abominable
woman, whom you ought to be ashamed to mention.'
But he defended her by saying that she had a doting old husband,
whom it was impossible to love.
'Then why did she marry him?' said I.
'For his money,' was the reply.
'Then that was another crime, and her solemn promise to love and
honour him was another, that only increased the enormity of the
'You are too severe upon the poor lady,' laughed he. 'But never
mind, Helen, I don't care for her now; and I never loved any of
them half as much as I do you, so you needn't fear to be forsaken
'If you had told me these things before, Arthur, I never should
have given you the chance.'
'Wouldn't you, my darling?'
'Most certainly not!'
He laughed incredulously.
'I wish I could convince you of it now!' cried I, starting up from
beside him: and for the first time in my life, and I hope the
last, I wished I had not married him.
'Helen,' said he, more gravely, 'do you know that if I believed you
now I should be very angry? but thank heaven I don't. Though you
stand there with your white face and flashing eyes, looking at me
like a very tigress, I know the heart within you perhaps a trifle
better than you know it yourself.'
Without another word I left the room and locked myself up in my own
chamber. In about half an hour he came to the door, and first he
tried the handle, then he knocked.
'Won't you let me in, Helen?' said he.
'No; you have displeased me,' I replied, 'and I don't want to see
your face or hear your voice again till the morning.'
He paused a moment as if dumfounded or uncertain how to answer such
a speech, and then turned and walked away. This was only an hour
after dinner: I knew he would find it very dull to sit alone all
the evening; and this considerably softened my resentment, though
it did not make me relent. I was determined to show him that my
heart was not his slave, and I could live without him if I chose;
and I sat down and wrote a long letter to my aunt, of course
telling her nothing of all this. Soon after ten o'clock I heard
him come up again, but he passed my door and went straight to his
own dressing-room, where he shut himself in for the night.
I was rather anxious to see how he would meet me in the morning,
and not a little disappointed to behold him enter the breakfast-
room with a careless smile.
'Are you cross still, Helen?' said he, approaching as if to salute
me. I coldly turned to the table, and began to pour out the
coffee, observing that he was rather late.
He uttered a low whistle and sauntered away to the window, where he
stood for some minutes looking out upon the pleasing prospect of
sullen grey clouds, streaming rain, soaking lawn, and dripping
leafless trees, and muttering execrations on the weather, and then
sat down to breakfast. While taking his coffee he muttered it was
'You should not have left it so long,' said I.
He made no answer, and the meal was concluded in silence. It was a
relief to both when the letter-bag was brought in. It contained
upon examination a newspaper and one or two letters for him, and a
couple of letters for me, which he tossed across the table without
a remark. One was from my brother, the other from Milicent
Hargrave, who is now in London with her mother. His, I think, were
business letters, and apparently not much to his mind, for he
crushed them into his pocket with some muttered expletives that I
should have reproved him for at any other time. The paper he set
before him, and pretended to be deeply absorbed in its contents
during the remainder of breakfast, and a considerable time after.
The reading and answering of my letters, and the direction of
household concerns, afforded me ample employment for the morning:
after lunch I got my drawing, and from dinner till bed-time I read.
Meanwhile, poor Arthur was sadly at a loss for something to amuse
him or to occupy his time. He wanted to appear as busy and as
unconcerned as I did. Had the weather at all permitted, he would
doubtless have ordered his horse and set off to some distant
region, no matter where, immediately after breakfast, and not
returned till night: had there been a lady anywhere within reach,
of any age between fifteen and forty-five, he would have sought
revenge and found employment in getting up, or trying to get up, a
desperate flirtation with her; but being, to my private
satisfaction, entirely cut off from both these sources of
diversion, his sufferings were truly deplorable. When he had done
yawning over his paper and scribbling short answers to his shorter
letters, he spent the remainder of the morning and the whole of the
afternoon in fidgeting about from room to room, watching the
clouds, cursing the rain, alternately petting and teasing and
abusing his dogs, sometimes lounging on the sofa with a book that
he could not force himself to read, and very often fixedly gazing
at me when he thought I did not perceive it, with the vain hope of
detecting some traces of tears, or some tokens of remorseful
anguish in my face. But I managed to preserve an undisturbed
though grave serenity throughout the day. I was not really angry:
I felt for him all the time, and longed to be reconciled; but I
determined he should make the first advances, or at least show some
signs of an humble and contrite spirit first; for, if I began, it
would only minister to his self-conceit, increase his arrogance,
and quite destroy the lesson I wanted to give him.
He made a long stay in the dining-room after dinner, and, I fear,
took an unusual quantity of wine, but not enough to loosen his
tongue: for when he came in and found me quietly occupied with my
book, too busy to lift my head on his entrance, he merely murmured
an expression of suppressed disapprobation, and, shutting the door
with a bang, went and stretched himself at full length on the sofa,
and composed himself to sleep. But his favourite cocker, Dash,
that had been lying at my feet, took the liberty of jumping upon
him and beginning to lick his face. He struck it off with a smart
blow, and the poor dog squeaked and ran cowering back to me. When
he woke up, about half an hour after, he called it to him again,
but Dash only looked sheepish and wagged the tip of his tail. He
called again more sharply, but Dash only clung the closer to me,
and licked my hand, as if imploring protection. Enraged at this,
his master snatched up a heavy book and hurled it at his head. The
poor dog set up a piteous outcry, and ran to the door. I let him
out, and then quietly took up the book.
'Give that book to me,' said Arthur, in no very courteous tone. I
gave it to him.
'Why did you let the dog out?' he asked; 'you knew I wanted him.'
'By what token?' I replied; 'by your throwing the book at him? but
perhaps it was intended for me?'
'No; but I see you've got a taste of it,' said he, looking at my
hand, that had also been struck, and was rather severely grazed.
I returned to my reading, and he endeavoured to occupy himself in
the same manner; but in a little while, after several portentous
yawns, he pronounced his book to be 'cursed trash,' and threw it on
the table. Then followed eight or ten minutes of silence, during
the greater part of which, I believe, he was staring at me. At
last his patience was tired out.
'What is that book, Helen?' he exclaimed.
I told him.
'Is it interesting?'
I went on reading, or pretending to read, at least - I cannot say
there was much communication between my eyes and my brain; for,
while the former ran over the pages, the latter was earnestly
wondering when Arthur would speak next, and what he would say, and
what I should answer. But he did not speak again till I rose to
make the tea, and then it was only to say he should not take any.
He continued lounging on the sofa, and alternately closing his eyes
and looking at his watch and at me, till bed-time, when I rose, and
took my candle and retired.
'Helen!' cried he, the moment I had left the room. I turned back,
and stood awaiting his commands.
'What do you want, Arthur?' I said at length.
'Nothing,' replied he. 'Go!'
I went, but hearing him mutter something as I was closing the door,
I turned again. It sounded very like 'confounded slut,' but I was
quite willing it should be something else.
'Were you speaking, Arthur?' I asked.
'No,' was the answer, and I shut the door and departed. I saw
nothing more of him till the following morning at breakfast, when
he came down a full hour after the usual time.
'You're very late,' was my morning's salutation.
'You needn't have waited for me,' was his; and he walked up to the
window again. It was just such weather as yesterday.
'Oh, this confounded rain!' he muttered. But, after studiously
regarding it for a minute or two, a bright idea, seemed to strike
him, for he suddenly exclaimed, 'But I know what I'll do!' and then
returned and took his seat at the table. The letter-bag was
already there, waiting to be opened. He unlocked it and examined
the contents, but said nothing about them.
'Is there anything for me?' I asked.
He opened the newspaper and began to read.
'You'd better take your coffee,' suggested I; 'it will be cold
'You may go,' said he, 'if you've done; I don't want you.'
I rose and withdrew to the next room, wondering if we were to have
another such miserable day as yesterday, and wishing intensely for
an end of these mutually inflicted torments. Shortly after I heard
him ring the bell and give some orders about his wardrobe that
sounded as if he meditated a long journey. He then sent for the
coachman, and I heard something about the carriage and the horses,
and London, and seven o'clock to-morrow morning, that startled and
disturbed me not a little.
'I must not let him go to London, whatever comes of it,' said I to
myself; 'he will run into all kinds of mischief, and I shall be the
cause of it. But the question is, How am I to alter his purpose?
Well, I will wait awhile, and see if he mentions it.'
I waited most anxiously, from hour to hour; but not a word was
spoken, on that or any other subject, to me. He whistled and
talked to his dogs, and wandered from room to room, much the same
as on the previous day. At last I began to think I must introduce
the subject myself, and was pondering how to bring it about, when
John unwittingly came to my relief with the following message from
'Please, sir, Richard says one of the horses has got a very bad
cold, and he thinks, sir, if you could make it convenient to go the
day after to-morrow, instead of to-morrow, he could physic it to-
day, so as - '
'Confound his impudence!' interjected the master.
'Please, sir, he says it would be a deal better if you could,'
persisted John, 'for he hopes there'll be a change in the weather
shortly, and he says it's not likely, when a horse is so bad with a
cold, and physicked and all - '
'Devil take the horse!' cried the gentleman. 'Well, tell him I'll
think about it,' he added, after a moment's reflection. He cast a
searching glance at me, as the servant withdrew, expecting to see
some token of deep astonishment and alarm; but, being previously
prepared, I preserved an aspect of stoical indifference. His
countenance fell as he met my steady gaze, and he turned away in
very obvious disappointment, and walked up to the fire-place, where
he stood in an attitude of undisguised dejection, leaning against
the chimney-piece with his forehead sunk upon his arm.
'Where do you want to go, Arthur?' said I.
'To London,' replied he, gravely.
'What for?' I asked.
'Because I cannot be happy here.'
'Because my wife doesn't love me.'
'She would love you with all her heart, if you deserved it.'
'What must I do to deserve it?'
This seemed humble and earnest enough; and I was so much affected,
between sorrow and joy, that I was obliged to pause a few seconds
before I could steady my voice to reply.
'If she gives you her heart,' said I, 'you must take it,
thankfully, and use it well, and not pull it in pieces, and laugh
in her face, because she cannot snatch it away.'
He now turned round, and stood facing me, with his back to the
fire. 'Come, then, Helen, are you going to be a good girl?' said
This sounded rather too arrogant, and the smile that accompanied it
did not please me. I therefore hesitated to reply. Perhaps my
former answer had implied too much: he had heard my voice falter,
and might have seen me brush away a tear.
'Are you going to forgive me, Helen?' he resumed, more humbly.
'Are you penitent?' I replied, stepping up to him and smiling in
'Heart-broken!' he answered, with a rueful countenance, yet with a
merry smile just lurking within his eyes and about the corners of
his mouth; but this could not repulse me, and I flew into his arms.
He fervently embraced me, and though I shed a torrent of tears, I
think I never was happier in my life than at that moment.
'Then you won't go to London, Arthur?' I said, when the first
transport of tears and kisses had subsided.
'No, love, - unless you will go with me.'
'I will, gladly,' I answered, 'if you think the change will amuse
you, and if you will put off the journey till next week.'
He readily consented, but said there was no need of much
preparation, as he should not be for staying long, for he did not
wish me to be Londonized, and to lose my country freshness and
originality by too much intercourse with the ladies of the world.
I thought this folly; but I did not wish to contradict him now: I
merely said that I was of very domestic habits, as he well knew,
and had no particular wish to mingle with the world.
So we are to go to London on Monday, the day after to-morrow. It
is now four days since the termination of our quarrel, and I am
sure it has done us both good: it has made me like Arthur a great
deal better, and made him behave a great deal better to me. He has
never once attempted to annoy me since, by the most distant
allusion to Lady F-, or any of those disagreeable reminiscences of
his former life. I wish I could blot them from my memory, or else
get him to regard such matters in the same light as I do. Well! it
is something, however, to have made him see that they are not fit
subjects for a conjugal jest. He may see further some time. I
will put no limits to my hopes; and, in spite of my aunt's
forebodings and my own unspoken fears, I trust we shall be happy
On the eighth of April we went to London, on the eighth of May I
returned, in obedience to Arthur's wish; very much against my own,
because I left him behind. If he had come with me, I should have
been very glad to get home again, for he led me such a round of
restless dissipation while there, that, in that short space of
time, I was quite tired out. He seemed bent upon displaying me to
his friends and acquaintances in particular, and the public in
general, on every possible occasion, and to the greatest possible
advantage. It was something to feel that he considered me a worthy
object of pride; but I paid dear for the gratification: for, in
the first place, to please him I had to violate my cherished
predilections, my almost rooted principles in favour of a plain,
dark, sober style of dress - I must sparkle in costly jewels and
deck myself out like a painted butterfly, just as I had, long
since, determined I would never do - and this was no trifling
sacrifice; in the second place, I was continually straining to
satisfy his sanguine expectations and do honour to his choice by my
general conduct and deportment, and fearing to disappoint him by
some awkward misdemeanour, or some trait of inexperienced ignorance
about the customs of society, especially when I acted the part of
hostess, which I was not unfrequently called upon to do; and, in
the third place, as I intimated before, I was wearied of the throng
and bustle, the restless hurry and ceaseless change of a life so
alien to all my previous habits. At last, he suddenly discovered
that the London air did not agree with me, and I was languishing
for my country home, and must immediately return to Grassdale.
I laughingly assured him that the case was not so urgent as he
appeared to think it, but I was quite willing to go home if he was.
He replied that he should be obliged to remain a week or two
longer, as he had business that required his presence.
'Then I will stay with you,' said I.
'But I can't do with you, Helen,' was his answer: 'as long as you
stay I shall attend to you and neglect my business.'
'But I won't let you,' I returned; 'now that I know you have
business to attend to, I shall insist upon your attending to it,
and letting me alone; and, to tell the truth, I shall be glad of a
little rest. I can take my rides and walks in the Park as usual;
and your business cannot occupy all your time: I shall see you at
meal-times, and in the evenings at least, and that will be better
than being leagues away and never seeing you at all.'
'But, my love, I cannot let you stay. How can I settle my affairs
when I know that you are here, neglected -?'
'I shall not feel myself neglected: while you are doing your duty,
Arthur, I shall never complain of neglect. If you had told me
before, that you had anything to do, it would have been half done
before this; and now you must make up for lost time by redoubled
exertions. Tell me what it is; and I will be your taskmaster,
instead of being a hindrance.'
'No, no,' persisted the impracticable creature; 'you must go home,
Helen; I must have the satisfaction of knowing that you are safe
and well, though far away. Your bright eyes are faded, and that
tender, delicate bloom has quite deserted your cheek.'
'That is only with too much gaiety and fatigue.'
'It is not, I tell you; it is the London air: you are pining for
the fresh breezes of your country home, and you shall feel them
before you are two days older. And remember your situation,
dearest Helen; on your health, you know, depends the health, if not
the life, of our future hope.'
'Then you really wish to get rid of me?'
'Positively, I do; and I will take you down myself to Grassdale,
and then return. I shall not be absent above a week or fortnight
'But if I must go, I will go alone: if you must stay, it is
needless to waste your time in the journey there and back.'
But he did not like the idea of sending me alone.
'Why, what helpless creature do you take me for,' I replied, 'that
you cannot trust me to go a hundred miles in our own carriage, with
our own footman and a maid to attend me? If you come with me I
shall assuredly keep you. But tell me, Arthur, what is this
tiresome business; and why did you never mention it before?'
'It is only a little business with my lawyer,' said he; and he told
me something about a piece of property he wanted to sell, in order
to pay off a part of the incumbrances on his estate; but either the
account was a little confused, or I was rather dull of
comprehension, for I could not clearly understand how that should
keep him in town a fortnight after me. Still less can I now
comprehend how it should keep him a month, for it is nearly that
time since I left him, and no signs of his return as yet. In every
letter he promises to be with me in a few days, and every time
deceives me, or deceives himself. His excuses are vague and
insufficient. I cannot doubt that he has got among his former
companions again. Oh, why did I leave him! I wish - I do
intensely wish he would return!
June 29th. - No Arthur yet; and for many days I have been looking
and longing in vain for a letter. His letters, when they come, are
kind, if fair words and endearing epithets can give them a claim to
the title - but very short, and full of trivial excuses and
promises that I cannot trust; and yet how anxiously I look forward
to them I how eagerly I open and devour one of those little,
hastily-scribbled returns for the three or four long letters,
hitherto unanswered, he has had from me!
Oh, it is cruel to leave me so long alone! He knows I have no one
but Rachel to speak to, for we have no neighbours here, except the
Hargraves, whose residence I can dimly descry from these upper
windows embosomed among those low, woody hills beyond the Dale. I
was glad when I learnt that Milicent was so near us; and her
company would be a soothing solace to me now; but she is still in
town with her mother; there is no one at the Grove but little
Esther and her French governess, for Walter is always away. I saw
that paragon of manly perfections in London: he seemed scarcely to
merit the eulogiums of his mother and sister, though he certainly
appeared more conversable and agreeable than Lord Lowborough, more
candid and high-minded than Mr. Grimsby, and more polished and
gentlemanly than Mr. Hattersley, Arthur's only other friend whom he
judged fit to introduce to me. - Oh, Arthur, why won't you come?
why won't you write to me at least? You talked about my health:
how can you expect me to gather bloom and vigour here, pining in
solitude and restless anxiety from day to day? - It would serve you
right to come back and find my good looks entirely wasted away. I
would beg my uncle and aunt, or my brother, to come and see me, but
I do not like to complain of my loneliness to them, and indeed
loneliness is the least of my sufferings. But what is he, doing -
what is it that keeps him away? It is this ever-recurring
question, and the horrible suggestions it raises, that distract me.
July 3rd. - My last bitter letter has wrung from him an answer at
last, and a rather longer one than usual; but still I don't know
what to make of it. He playfully abuses me for the gall and
vinegar of my latest effusion, tells me I can have no conception of
the multitudinous engagements that keep him away, but avers that,
in spite of them all, he will assuredly be with me before the close
of next week; though it is impossible for a man so circumstanced as
he is to fix the precise day of his return: meantime he exhorts me
to the exercise of patience, 'that first of woman's virtues,' and
desires me to remember the saying, 'Absence makes the heart grow
fonder,' and comfort myself with the assurance that the longer he
stays away the better he shall love me when he returns; and till he
does return, he begs I will continue to write to him constantly,
for, though he is sometimes too idle and often too busy to answer
my letters as they come, he likes to receive them daily; and if I
fulfil my threat of punishing his seeming neglect by ceasing to
write, he shall be so angry that he will do his utmost to forget
me. He adds this piece of intelligence respecting poor Milicent
'Your little friend Milicent is likely, before long, to follow your
example, and take upon her the yoke of matrimony in conjunction
with a friend of mine. Hattersley, you know, has not yet fulfilled
his direful threat of throwing his precious person away on the
first old maid that chose to evince a tenderness for him; but he
still preserves a resolute determination to see himself a married
man before the year is out. "Only," said he to me, "I must have
somebody that will let me have my own way in everything - not like
your wife, Huntingdon: she is a charming creature, but she looks
as if she had a will of her own, and could play the vixen upon
occasion" (I thought "you're right there, man," but I didn't say
so). "I must have some good, quiet soul that will let me just do
what I like and go where I like, keep at home or stay away, without
a word of reproach or complaint; for I can't do with being
bothered." "Well," said I, "I know somebody that will suit you to
a tee, if you don't care for money, and that's Hargrave's sister,
Milicent." He desired to be introduced to her forthwith, for he
said he had plenty of the needful himself, or should have when his
old governor chose to quit the stage. So you see, Helen, I have
managed pretty well, both for your friend and mine.'
Poor Milicent! But I cannot imagine she will ever be led to accept
such a suitor - one so repugnant to all her ideas of a man to be
honoured and loved.
5th. - Alas! I was mistaken. I have got a long letter from her
this morning, telling me she is already engaged, and expects to be
married before the close of the month.
'I hardly know what to say about it,' she writes, 'or what to
think. To tell you the truth, Helen, I don't like the thoughts of
it at all. If I am to be Mr. Hattersley's wife, I must try to love
him; and I do try with all my might; but I have made very little
progress yet; and the worst symptom of the case is, that the
further he is from me the better I like him: he frightens me with
his abrupt manners and strange hectoring ways, and I dread the
thoughts of marrying him. "Then why have you accepted him?" you
will ask; and I didn't know I had accepted him; but mamma tells me
I have, and he seems to think so too. I certainly didn't mean to
do so; but I did not like to give him a flat refusal, for fear
mamma should be grieved and angry (for I knew she wished me to
marry him), and I wanted to talk to her first about it: So I gave
him what I thought was an evasive, half negative answer; but she
says it was as good as an acceptance, and he would think me very
capricious if I were to attempt to draw back - and indeed I was so
confused and frightened at the moment, I can hardly tell what I
said. And next time I saw him, he accosted me in all confidence as
his affianced bride, and immediately began to settle matters with
mamma. I had not courage to contradict them then, and how can I do
it now? I cannot; they would think me mad. Besides, mamma is so
delighted with the idea of the match; she thinks she has managed so
well for me; and I cannot bear to disappoint her. I do object
sometimes, and tell her what I feel, but you don't know how she
talks. Mr. Hattersley, you know, is the son of a rich banker, and
as Esther and I have no fortunes, and Walter very little, our dear
mamma is very anxious to see us all well married, that is, united
to rich partners. It is not my idea of being well married, but she
means it all for the best. She says when I am safe off her hands
it will be such a relief to her mind; and she assures me it will be
a good thing for the family as well as for me. Even Walter is
pleased at the prospect, and when I confessed my reluctance to him,
he said it was all childish nonsense. Do you think it nonsense,
Helen? I should not care if I could see any prospect of being able
to love and admire him, but I can't. There is nothing about him to
hang one's esteem and affection upon; he is so diametrically
opposite to what I imagined my husband should be. Do write to me,
and say all you can to encourage me. Don't attempt to dissuade me,
for my fate is fixed: preparations for the important event are
already going on around me; and don't say a word against Mr.
Hattersley, for I want to think well of him; and though I have
spoken against him myself, it is for the last time: hereafter, I
shall never permit myself to utter a word in his dispraise, however
he may seem to deserve it; and whoever ventures to speak
slightingly of the man I have promised to love, to honour, and
obey, must expect my serious displeasure. After all, I think he is
quite as good as Mr. Huntingdon, if not better; and yet you love
him, and seem to be happy and contented; and perhaps I may manage
as well. You must tell me, if you can, that Mr. Hattersley is
better than he seems - that he is upright, honourable, and open-
hearted - in fact, a perfect diamond in the rough. He may be all
this, but I don't know him. I know only the exterior, and what, I
trust, is the worst part of him.'
She concludes with 'Good-by, dear Helen. I am waiting anxiously
for your advice - but mind you let it be all on the right side.'
Alas! poor Milicent, what encouragement can I give you? or what
advice - except that it is better to make a bold stand now, though
at the expense of disappointing and angering both mother and
brother and lover, than to devote your whole life, hereafter, to
misery and vain regret?
Saturday, 13th. - The week is over, and he is not come. All the
sweet summer is passing away without one breath of pleasure to me
or benefit to him. And I had all along been looking forward to
this season with the fond, delusive hope that we should enjoy it so
sweetly together; and that, with God's help and my exertions, it
would be the means of elevating his mind, and refining his taste to
a due appreciation of the salutary and pure delights of nature, and
peace, and holy love. But now - at evening, when I see the round
red sun sink quietly down behind those woody hills, leaving them
sleeping in a warm, red, golden haze, I only think another lovely
day is lost to him and me; and at morning, when roused by the
flutter and chirp of the sparrows, and the gleeful twitter of the
swallows - all intent upon feeding their young, and full of life
and joy in their own little frames - I open the window to inhale
the balmy, soul-reviving air, and look out upon the lovely
landscape, laughing in dew and sunshine - I too often shame that
glorious scene with tears of thankless misery, because he cannot
feel its freshening influence; and when I wander in the ancient
woods, and meet the little wild flowers smiling in my path, or sit
in the shadow of our noble ash-trees by the water-side, with their
branches gently swaying in the light summer breeze that murmurs
through their feathery foliage - my ears full of that low music
mingled with the dreamy hum of insects, my eyes abstractedly gazing
on the glassy surface of the little lake before me, with the trees
that crowd about its bank, some gracefully bending to kiss its
waters, some rearing their stately heads high above, but stretching
their wide arms over its margin, all faithfully mirrored far, far
down in its glassy depth - though sometimes the images are
partially broken by the sport of aquatic insects, and sometimes,
for a moment, the whole is shivered into trembling fragments by a
transient breeze that sweeps the surface too roughly - still I have
no pleasure; for the greater the happiness that nature sets before
me, the more I lament that he is not here to taste it: the greater
the bliss we might enjoy together, the more I feel our present
wretchedness apart (yes, ours; he must be wretched, though he may
not know it); and the more my senses are pleased, the more my heart
is oppressed; for he keeps it with him confined amid the dust and
smoke of London - perhaps shut up within the walls of his own
But most of all, at night, when I enter my lonely chamber, and look
out upon the summer moon, 'sweet regent of the sky,' floating above
me in the 'black blue vault of heaven,' shedding a flood of silver
radiance over park, and wood, and water, so pure, so peaceful, so
divine - and think, Where is he now? - what is he doing at this
moment? wholly unconscious of this heavenly scene - perhaps
revelling with his boon companions, perhaps - God help me, it is
too - too much!
23rd. - Thank heaven, he is come at last! But how altered! flushed
and feverish, listless and languid, his beauty strangely
diminished, his vigour and vivacity quite departed. I have not
upbraided him by word or look; I have not even asked him what he
has been doing. I have not the heart to do it, for I think he is
ashamed of himself-he must be so indeed, and such inquiries could
not fail to be painful to both. My forbearance pleases him -
touches him even, I am inclined to think. He says he is glad to be
home again, and God knows how glad I am to get him back, even as he
is. He lies on the sofa, nearly all day long; and I play and sing
to him for hours together. I write his letters for him, and get
him everything he wants; and sometimes I read to him, and sometimes
I talk, and sometimes only sit by him and soothe him with silent
caresses. I know he does not deserve it; and I fear I am spoiling
him; but this once, I will forgive him, freely and entirely. I
will shame him into virtue if I can, and I will never let him leave
He is pleased with my attentions - it may be, grateful for them.
He likes to have me near him: and though he is peevish and testy
with his servants and his dogs, he is gentle and kind to me. What
he would be, if I did not so watchfully anticipate his wants, and
so carefully avoid, or immediately desist from doing anything that
has a tendency to irritate or disturb him, with however little
reason, I cannot tell. How intensely I wish he were worthy of all
this care! Last night, as I sat beside him, with his head in my
lap, passing my fingers through his beautiful curls, this thought
made my eyes overflow with sorrowful tears - as it often does; but
this time, a tear fell on his face and made him look up. He
smiled, but not insultingly.
'Dear Helen!' he said - 'why do you cry? you know that I love you'
(and he pressed my hand to his feverish lips), 'and what more could
'Only, Arthur, that you would love yourself as truly and as
faithfully as you are loved by me.'
'That would be hard, indeed!' he replied, tenderly squeezing my
August 24th. - Arthur is himself again, as lusty and reckless, as
light of heart and head as ever, and as restless and hard to amuse
as a spoilt child, and almost as full of mischief too, especially
when wet weather keeps him within doors. I wish he had something
to do, some useful trade, or profession, or employment - anything
to occupy his head or his hands for a few hours a day, and give him
something besides his own pleasure to think about. If he would
play the country gentleman and attend to the farm - but that he
knows nothing about, and won't give his mind to consider, - or if
he would take up with some literary study, or learn to draw or to
play - as he is so fond of music, I often try to persuade him to
learn the piano, but he is far too idle for such an undertaking:
he has no more idea of exerting himself to overcome obstacles than
he has of restraining his natural appetites; and these two things
are the ruin of him. I lay them both to the charge of his harsh
yet careless father, and his madly indulgent mother. - If ever I am
a mother I will zealously strive against this crime of over-
indulgence. I can hardly give it a milder name when I think of the
evils it brings.
Happily, it will soon be the shooting season, and then, if the
weather permit, he will find occupation enough in the pursuit and
destruction of the partridges and pheasants: we have no grouse, or
he might have been similarly occupied at this moment, instead of
lying under the acacia-tree pulling poor Dash's ears. But he says
it is dull work shooting alone; he must have a friend or two to
'Let them be tolerably decent then, Arthur,' said I. The word
'friend' in his mouth makes me shudder: I know it was some of his
'friends' that induced him to stay behind me in London, and kept
him away so long: indeed, from what he has unguardedly told me, or
hinted from time to time, I cannot doubt that he frequently showed
them my letters, to let them see how fondly his wife watched over
his interests, and how keenly she regretted his absence; and that
they induced him to remain week after week, and to plunge into all
manner of excesses, to avoid being laughed at for a wife-ridden
fool, and, perhaps, to show how far he could venture to go without
danger of shaking the fond creature's devoted attachment. It is a
hateful idea, but I cannot believe it is a false one.
'Well,' replied he, 'I thought of Lord Lowborough for one; but
there is no possibility of getting him without his better half, our
mutual friend, Annabella; so we must ask them both. You're not
afraid of her, are you, Helen?' he asked, with a mischievous
twinkle in his eyes.
'Of course not,' I answered: 'why should I? And who besides?'
'Hargrave for one. He will be glad to come, though his own place
is so near, for he has little enough land of his own to shoot over,
and we can extend our depredations into it, if we like; and he is
thoroughly respectable, you know, Helen - quite a lady's man: and
I think, Grimsby for another: he's a decent, quiet fellow enough.
You'll not object to Grimsby?'
'I hate him: but, however, if you wish it, I'll try to endure his
presence for a while.'
'All a prejudice, Helen, a mere woman's antipathy.'
'No; I have solid grounds for my dislike. And is that all?'
'Why, yes, I think so. Hattersley will be too busy billing and
cooing, with his bride to have much time to spare for guns and dogs
at present,' he replied. And that reminds me, that I have had
several letters from Milicent since her marriage, and that she
either is, or pretends to be, quite reconciled to her lot. She
professes to have discovered numberless virtues and perfections in
her husband, some of which, I fear, less partial eyes would fail to
distinguish, though they sought them carefully with tears; and now
that she is accustomed to his loud voice, and abrupt, uncourteous
manners, she affirms she finds no difficulty in loving him as a
wife should do, and begs I will burn that letter wherein she spoke
so unadvisedly against him. So that I trust she may yet be happy;
but, if she is, it will be entirely the reward of her own goodness
of heart; for had she chosen to consider herself the victim of
fate, or of her mother's worldly wisdom, she might have been
thoroughly miserable; and if, for duty's sake, she had not made
every effort to love her husband, she would, doubtless, have hated
him to the end of her days.
Sept. 23rd. - Our guests arrived about three weeks ago. Lord and
Lady Lowborough have now been married above eight months; and I
will do the lady the credit to say that her husband is quite an
altered man; his looks, his spirits, and his temper, are all
perceptibly changed for the better since I last saw him. But there
is room for improvement still. He is not always cheerful, nor
always contented, and she often complains of his ill-humour, which,
however, of all persons, she ought to be the last to accuse him of,
as he never displays it against her, except for such conduct as
would provoke a saint. He adores her still, and would go to the
world's end to please her. She knows her power, and she uses it
too; but well knowing that to wheedle and coax is safer than to
command, she judiciously tempers her despotism with flattery and
blandishments enough to make him deem himself a favoured and a
But she has a way of tormenting him, in which I am a fellow-
sufferer, or might be, if I chose to regard myself as such. This
is by openly, but not too glaringly, coquetting with Mr.
Huntingdon, who is quite willing to be her partner in the game; but
I don't care for it, because, with him, I know there is nothing but
personal vanity, and a mischievous desire to excite my jealousy,
and, perhaps, to torment his friend; and she, no doubt, is actuated
by much the same motives; only, there is more of malice and less of
playfulness in her manoeuvres. It is obviously, therefore, my
interest to disappoint them both, as far as I am concerned, by
preserving a cheerful, undisturbed serenity throughout; and,
accordingly, I endeavour to show the fullest confidence in my
husband, and the greatest indifference to the arts of my attractive
guest. I have never reproached the former but once, and that was
for laughing at Lord Lowborough's depressed and anxious countenance
one evening, when they had both been particularly provoking; and
then, indeed, I said a good deal on the subject, and rebuked him
sternly enough; but he only laughed, and said, - 'You can feel for
him, Helen, can't you?'
'I can feel for anyone that is unjustly treated,' I replied, 'and I
can feel for those that injure them too.'
'Why, Helen, you are as jealous as he is!' cried he, laughing still
more; and I found it impossible to convince him of his mistake.
So, from that time, I have carefully refrained from any notice of
the subject whatever, and left Lord Lowborough to take care of
himself. He either has not the sense or the power to follow my
example, though he does try to conceal his uneasiness as well as he
can; but still, it will appear in his face, and his ill-humour will
peep out at intervals, though not in the expression of open
resentment - they never go far enough for that. But I confess I do
feel jealous at times, most painfully, bitterly so; when she sings
and plays to him, and he hangs over the instrument, and dwells upon
her voice with no affected interest; for then I know he is really
delighted, and I have no power to awaken similar fervour. I can
amuse and please him with my simple songs, but not delight him
28th. - Yesterday, we all went to the Grove, Mr. Hargrave's much-
neglected home. His mother frequently asks us over, that she may
have the pleasure of her dear Walter's company; and this time she
had invited us to a dinner-party, and got together as many of the
country gentry as were within reach to meet us. The entertainment
was very well got up; but I could not help thinking about the cost
of it all the time. I don't like Mrs. Hargrave; she is a hard,
pretentious, worldly-minded woman. She has money enough to live
very comfortably, if she only knew how to use it judiciously, and
had taught her son to do the same; but she is ever straining to
keep up appearances, with that despicable pride that shuns the
semblance of poverty as of a shameful crime. She grinds her
dependents, pinches her servants, and deprives even her daughters
and herself of the real comforts of life, because she will not
consent to yield the palm in outward show to those who have three
times her wealth; and, above all, because she is determined her
cherished son shall be enabled to 'hold up his head with the
highest gentlemen in the land.' This same son, I imagine, is a man
of expensive habits, no reckless spendthrift and no abandoned
sensualist, but one who likes to have 'everything handsome about
him,' and to go to a certain length in youthful indulgences, not so
much to gratify his own tastes as to maintain his reputation as a
man of fashion in the world, and a respectable fellow among his own
lawless companions; while he is too selfish to consider how many
comforts might be obtained for his fond mother and sisters with the
money he thus wastes upon himself: as long as they can contrive to
make a respectable appearance once a year, when they come to town,
he gives himself little concern about their private stintings and
struggles at home. This is a harsh judgment to form of 'dear,
noble-minded, generous-hearted Walter,' but I fear it is too just.
Mrs. Hargrave's anxiety to make good matches for her daughters is
partly the cause, and partly the result, of these errors: by
making a figure in the world, and showing them off to advantage,
she hopes to obtain better chances for them; and by thus living
beyond her legitimate means, and lavishing so much on their
brother, she renders them portionless, and makes them burdens on
her hands. Poor Milicent, I fear, has already fallen a sacrifice
to the manoeuvrings of this mistaken mother, who congratulates
herself on having so satisfactorily discharged her maternal duty,
and hopes to do as well for Esther. But Esther is a child as yet,
a little merry romp of fourteen: as honest-hearted, and as
guileless and simple as her sister, but with a fearless spirit of
her own, that I fancy her mother will find some difficulty in
bending to her purposes.
October 9th. - It was on the night of the 4th, a little after tea,
that Annabella had been singing and playing, with Arthur as usual
at her side: she had ended her song, but still she sat at the
instrument; and he stood leaning on the back of her chair,
conversing in scarcely audible tones, with his face in very close
proximity with hers. I looked at Lord Lowborough. He was at the
other end of the room, talking with Messrs. Hargrave and Grimsby;
but I saw him dart towards his lady and his host a quick, impatient
glance, expressive of intense disquietude, at which Grimsby smiled.
Determined to interrupt the TETE-E-TETE, I rose, and, selecting a
piece of music from the music stand, stepped up to the piano,
intending to ask the lady to play it; but I stood transfixed and
speechless on seeing her seated there, listening, with what seemed
an exultant smile on her flushed face to his soft murmurings, with
her hand quietly surrendered to his clasp. The blood rushed first
to my heart, and then to my head; for there was more than this:
almost at the moment of my approach, he cast a hurried glance over
his shoulder towards the other occupants of the room, and then
ardently pressed the unresisting hand to his lips. On raising his
eyes, he beheld me, and dropped them again, confounded and
dismayed. She saw me too, and confronted me with a look of hard
defiance. I laid the music on the piano, and retired. I felt ill;
but I did not leave the room: happily, it was getting late, and
could not be long before the company dispersed.
I went to the fire, and leant my head against the chimney-piece.
In a minute or two, some one asked me if I felt unwell. I did not
answer; indeed, at the time, I knew not what was said; but I
mechanically looked up, and saw Mr. Hargrave standing beside me on
'Shall I get you a glass of wine?' said he.
'No, thank you,' I replied; and, turning from him, I looked round.
Lady Lowborough was beside her husband, bending over him as he sat,
with her hand on his shoulder, softly talking and smiling in his
face; and Arthur was at the table, turning over a book of
engravings. I seated myself in the nearest chair; and Mr.
Hargrave, finding his services were not desired, judiciously
withdrew. Shortly after, the company broke up, and, as the guests
were retiring to their rooms, Arthur approached me, smiling with
the utmost assurance.
'Are you very angry, Helen?' murmured he.
'This is no jest, Arthur,' said I, seriously, but as calmly as I
could - 'unless you think it a jest to lose my affection for ever.'
'What! so bitter?' he exclaimed, laughingly, clasping my hand
between both his; but I snatched it away, in indignation - almost
in disgust, for he was obviously affected with wine.
'Then I must go down on my knees,' said he; and kneeling before me,
with clasped hands, uplifted in mock humiliation, he continued
imploringly - 'Forgive me, Helen - dear Helen, forgive me, and I'll
never do it again!' and, burying his face in his handkerchief, he
affected to sob aloud.
Leaving him thus employed, I took my candle, and, slipping quietly
from the room, hastened up-stairs as fast as I could. But he soon
discovered that I had left him, and, rushing up after me, caught me
in his arms, just as I had entered the chamber, and was about to
shut the door in his face.
'No, no, by heaven, you sha'n't escape me so!' he cried. Then,
alarmed at my agitation, he begged me not to put myself in such a
passion, telling me I was white in the face, and should kill myself
if I did so.
'Let me go, then,' I murmured; and immediately he released me - and
it was well he did, for I was really in a passion. I sank into the
easy-chair and endeavoured to compose myself, for I wanted to speak
to him calmly. He stood beside me, but did not venture to touch me
or to speak for a few seconds; then, approaching a little nearer,
he dropped on one knee - not in mock humility, but to bring himself
nearer my level, and leaning his hand on the arm of the chair, he
began in a low voice: 'It is all nonsense, Helen - a jest, a mere
nothing - not worth a thought. Will you never learn,' he continued
more boldly, 'that you have nothing to fear from me? that I love
you wholly and entirely? - or if,' he added with a lurking smile,
'I ever give a thought to another, you may well spare it, for those
fancies are here and gone like a flash of lightning, while my love
for you burns on steadily, and for ever, like the sun. You little
exorbitant tyrant, will not that -?'
'Be quiet a moment, will you, Arthur?' said I, 'and listen to me -
and don't think I'm in a jealous fury: I am perfectly calm. Feel
my hand.' And I gravely extended it towards him - but closed it
upon his with an energy that seemed to disprove the assertion, and
made him smile. 'You needn't smile, sir,' said I, still tightening
my grasp, and looking steadfastly on him till he almost quailed
before me. 'You may think it all very fine, Mr. Huntingdon, to
amuse yourself with rousing my jealousy; but take care you don't
rouse my hate instead. And when you have once extinguished my
love, you will find it no easy matter to kindle it again.'
'Well, Helen, I won't repeat the offence. But I meant nothing by
it, I assure you. I had taken too much wine, and I was scarcely
myself at the time.'
'You often take too much; and that is another practice I detest.'
He looked up astonished at my warmth. 'Yes,' I continued; 'I never
mentioned it before, because I was ashamed to do so; but now I'll
tell you that it distresses me, and may disgust me, if you go on
and suffer the habit to grow upon you, as it will if you don't
check it in time. But the whole system of your conduct to Lady
Lowborough is not referable to wine; and this night you knew
perfectly well what you were doing.'
'Well, I'm sorry for it,' replied he, with more of sulkiness than
contrition: 'what more would you have?'
'You are sorry that I saw you, no doubt,' I answered coldly.
'If you had not seen me,' he muttered, fixing his eyes on the
carpet, 'it would have done no harm.'
My heart felt ready to burst; but I resolutely swallowed back my
emotion, and answered calmly,
'You think not?'
'No,' replied he, boldly. 'After all, what have I done? It's
nothing - except as you choose to make it a subject of accusation
'What would Lord Lowborough, your friend, think, if he knew all? or
what would you yourself think, if he or any other had acted the
same part to me, throughout, as you have to Annabella?'
'I would blow his brains out.'
'Well, then, Arthur, how can you call it nothing - an offence for
which you would think yourself justified in blowing another man's
brains out? Is it nothing to trifle with your friend's feelings
and mine - to endeavour to steal a woman's affections from her
husband - what he values more than his gold, and therefore what it
is more dishonest to take? Are the marriage vows a jest; and is it
nothing to make it your sport to break them, and to tempt another
to do the same? Can I love a man that does such things, and coolly
maintains it is nothing?'
'You are breaking your marriage vows yourself,' said he,
indignantly rising and pacing to and fro. 'You promised to honour
and obey me, and now you attempt to hector over me, and threaten
and accuse me, and call me worse than a highwayman. If it were not
for your situation, Helen, I would not submit to it so tamely. I
won't be dictated to by a woman, though she be my wife.'
'What will you do then? Will you go on till I hate you, and then
accuse me of breaking my vows?'
He was silent a. moment, and then replied: 'You never will hate
me.' Returning and resuming his former position at my feet, he
repeated more vehemently - 'You cannot hate me as long as I love
'But how can I believe that you love me, if you continue to act in
this way? Just imagine yourself in my place: would you think I
loved you, if I did so? Would you believe my protestations, and
honour and trust me under such circumstances? '
'The cases are different,' he replied. 'It is a woman's nature to
be constant - to love one and one only, blindly, tenderly, and for
ever - bless them, dear creatures! and you above them all; but you
must have some commiseration for us, Helen; you must give us a
little more licence, for, as Shakespeare has it -
However we do praise ourselves,
Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm,
More longing, wavering, sooner lost and won
Than women's are.'
'Do you mean by that, that your fancies are lost to me, and won by
'No! heaven is my witness that I think her mere dust and ashes in
comparison with you, and shall continue to think so, unless you
drive me from you by too much severity. She is a daughter of
earth; you are an angel of heaven; only be not too austere in your
divinity, and remember that I am a poor, fallible mortal. Come
now, Helen; won't you forgive me?' he said, gently taking my hand,
and looking up with an innocent smile.
'If I do, you will repeat the offence.'
'I swear by - '
'Don't swear; I'll believe your word as well as your oath. I wish
I could have confidence in either.'
'Try me, then, Helen: only trust and pardon me this once, and you
shall see! Come, I am in hell's torments till you speak the word.'
I did not speak it, but I put my hand on his shoulder and kissed
his forehead, and then burst into tears. He embraced me tenderly;
and we have been good friends ever since. He has been decently
temperate at table, and well-conducted towards Lady Lowborough.
The first day he held himself aloof from her, as far as he could
without any flagrant breach of hospitality: since that he has been
friendly and civil, but nothing more - in my presence, at least,
nor, I think, at any other time; for she seems haughty and
displeased, and Lord Lowborough is manifestly more cheerful, and
more cordial towards his host than before. But I shall be glad
when they are gone, for I have so little love for Annabella that it
is quite a task to be civil to her, and as she is the only woman
here besides myself, we are necessarily thrown so much together.
Next time Mrs. Hargrave calls I shall hail her advent as quite a
relief. I have a good mind to ask Arthur's leave to invite the old
lady to stay with us till our guests depart. I think I will. She
will take it as a kind attention, and, though I have little relish
for her society, she will be truly welcome as a third to stand
between Lady Lowborough and me.
The first time the latter and I were alone together, after that
unhappy evening, was an hour or two after breakfast on the
following day, when the gentlemen were gone out, after the usual
time spent in the writing of letters, the reading of newspapers,
and desultory conversation. We sat silent for two or three
minutes. She was busy with her work, and I was running over the
columns of a paper from which I had extracted all the pith some
twenty minutes before. It was a moment of painful embarrassment to
me, and I thought it must be infinitely more so to her; but it
seems I was mistaken. She was the first to speak; and, smiling
with the coolest assurance, she began, -
'Your husband was merry last night, Helen: is he often so?'
My blood boiled in my face; but it was better she should seem to
attribute his conduct to this than to anything else.
'No,' replied I, 'and never will be so again, I trust.'
'You gave him a curtain lecture, did you?'
'No! but I told him I disliked such conduct, and he promised me not
to repeat it.'
'I thought he looked rather subdued this morning,' she continued;
'and you, Helen? you've been weeping, I see - that's our grand
resource, you know. But doesn't it make your eyes smart? and do
you always find it to answer?'
'I never cry for effect; nor can I conceive how any one can.'
'Well, I don't know: I never had occasion to try it; but I think
if Lowborough were to commit such improprieties, I'd make him cry.
I don't wonder at your being angry, for I'm sure I'd give my
husband a lesson he would not soon forget for a lighter offence
than that. But then he never will do anything of the kind; for I
keep him in too good order for that.'
'Are you sure you don't arrogate too much of the credit to
yourself. Lord Lowborough was quite as remarkable for his
abstemiousness for some time before you married him, as he is now,
I have heard.'
'Oh, about the wine you mean - yes, he's safe enough for that. And
as to looking askance to another woman, he's safe enough for that
too, while I live, for he worships the very ground I tread on.'
'Indeed! and are you sure you deserve it?'
'Why, as to that, I can't say: you know we're all fallible
creatures, Helen; we none of us deserve to be worshipped. But are
you sure your darling Huntingdon deserves all the love you give to
I knew not what to answer to this. I was burning with anger; but I
suppressed all outward manifestations of it, and only bit my lip
and pretended to arrange my work.
'At any rate,' resumed she, pursuing her advantage, 'you can
console yourself with the assurance that you are worthy of all the
love he gives to you.'
'You flatter me,' said I; 'but, at least, I can try to be worthy of
it.' And then I turned the conversation.
December 25th. - Last Christmas I was a bride, with a heart
overflowing with present bliss, and full of ardent hopes for the
future, though not unmingled with foreboding fears. Now I am a
wife: my bliss is sobered, but not destroyed; my hopes diminished,
but not departed; my fears increased, but not yet thoroughly
confirmed; and, thank heaven, I am a mother too. God has sent me a
soul to educate for heaven, and give me a new and calmer bliss, and
stronger hopes to comfort me.
Dec. 25th, 1823. - Another year is gone. My little Arthur lives
and thrives. He is healthy, but not robust, full of gentle
playfulness and vivacity, already affectionate, and susceptible of
passions and emotions it will be long ere he can find words to
express. He has won his father's heart at last; and now my
constant terror is, lest he should be ruined by that father's
thoughtless indulgence. But I must beware of my own weakness too,
for I never knew till now how strong are a parent's temptations to
spoil an only child.
I have need of consolation in my son, for (to this silent paper I
may confess it) I have but little in my husband. I love him still;
and he loves me, in his own way - but oh, how different from the
love I could have given, and once had hoped to receive! How little
real sympathy there exists between us; how many of my thoughts and
feelings are gloomily cloistered within my own mind; how much of my
higher and better self is indeed unmarried - doomed either to
harden and sour in the sunless shade of solitude, or to quite
degenerate and fall away for lack of nutriment in this unwholesome
soil! But, I repeat, I have no right to complain; only let me
state the truth - some of the truth, at least, - and see hereafter
if any darker truths will blot these pages. We have now been full
two years united; the 'romance' of our attachment must be worn
away. Surely I have now got down to the lowest gradation in
Arthur's affection, and discovered all the evils of his nature: if
there be any further change, it must be for the better, as we
become still more accustomed to each other; surely we shall find no
lower depth than this. And, if so, I can bear it well - as well,
at least, as I have borne it hitherto.
Arthur is not what is commonly called a bad man: he has many good
qualities; but he is a man without self-restraint or lofty
aspirations, a lover of pleasure, given up to animal enjoyments:
he is not a bad husband, but his notions of matrimonial duties and
comforts are not my notions. Judging from appearances, his idea of
a wife is a thing to love one devotedly, and to stay at home to
wait upon her husband, and amuse him and minister to his comfort in
every possible way, while he chooses to stay with her; and, when he
is absent, to attend to his interests, domestic or otherwise, and
patiently wait his return, no matter how he may be occupied in the
Early in spring he announced his intention of going to London: his
affairs there demanded his attendance, he said, and he could refuse
it no longer. He expressed his regret at having to leave me, but
hoped I would amuse myself with the baby till he returned.
'But why leave me?' I said. 'I can go with you: I can be ready at
'You would not take that child to town?'
'Yes; why not?'
The thing was absurd: the air of the town would be certain to
disagree with him, and with me as a nurse; the late hours and
London habits would not suit me under such circumstances; and
altogether he assured me that it would be excessively troublesome,
injurious, and unsafe. I over-ruled his objections as well as I
could, for I trembled at the thoughts of his going alone, and would
sacrifice almost anything for myself, much even for my child, to
prevent it; but at length he told me, plainly, and somewhat
testily, that he could not do with me: he was worn out with the
baby's restless nights, and must have some repose. I proposed
separate apartments; but it would not do.
'The truth is, Arthur,' I said at last, 'you are weary of my
company, and determined not to have me with you. You might as well
have said so at once.'
He denied it; but I immediately left the room, and flew to the
nursery, to hide my feelings, if I could not soothe them, there.
I was too much hurt to express any further dissatisfaction with his
plans, or at all to refer to the subject again, except for the
necessary arrangements concerning his departure and the conduct of
affairs during his absence, till the day before he went, when I
earnestly exhorted him to take care of himself and keep out of the
way of temptation. He laughed at my anxiety, but assured me there
was no cause for it, and promised to attend to my advice.
'I suppose it is no use asking you to fix a day for your return?'
'Why, no; I hardly can, under the circumstances; but be assured,
love, I shall not be long away.'
'I don't wish to keep you a prisoner at home,' I replied; 'I should
not grumble at your staying whole months away - if you can be happy
so long without me - provided I knew you were safe; but I don't
like the idea of your being there among your friends, as you call
'Pooh, pooh, you silly girl! Do you think I can't take care of
'You didn't last time. But THIS time, Arthur,' I added, earnestly,
'show me that you can, and teach me that I need not fear to trust
He promised fair, but in such a manner as we seek to soothe a
child. And did he keep his promise? No; and henceforth I can
never trust his word. Bitter, bitter confession! Tears blind me
while I write. It was early in March that he went, and he did not
return till July. This time he did not trouble himself to make
excuses as before, and his letters were less frequent, and shorter
and less affectionate, especially after the first few weeks: they
came slower and slower, and more terse and careless every time.
But still, when I omitted writing, he complained of my neglect.
When I wrote sternly and coldly, as I confess I frequently did at
the last, he blamed my harshness, and said it was enough to scare
him from his home: when I tried mild persuasion, he was a little
more gentle in his replies, and promised to return; but I had
learnt, at last, to disregard his promises.
Those were four miserable months, alternating between intense
anxiety, despair, and indignation, pity for him and pity for
myself. And yet, through all, I was not wholly comfortless: I had
my darling, sinless, inoffensive little one to console me; but even
this consolation was embittered by the constantly-recurring
thought, 'How shall I teach him hereafter to respect his father,
and yet to avoid his example?'
But I remembered that I had brought all these afflictions, in a
manner wilfully, upon myself; and I determined to bear them without
a murmur. At the same time I resolved not to give myself up to
misery for the transgressions of another, and endeavoured to divert
myself as much as I could; and besides the companionship of my
child, and my dear, faithful Rachel, who evidently guessed my
sorrows and felt for them, though she was too discreet to allude to
them, I had my books and pencil, my domestic affairs, and the
welfare and comfort of Arthur's poor tenants and labourers to
attend to: and I sometimes sought and obtained amusement in the
company of my young friend Esther Hargrave: occasionally I rode
over to see her, and once or twice I had her to spend the day with
me at the Manor. Mrs. Hargrave did not visit London that season:
having no daughter to marry, she thought it as well to stay at home
and economise; and, for a wonder, Walter came down to join her in
the beginning of June, and stayed till near the close of August.
The first time I saw him was on a sweet, warm evening, when I was
sauntering in the park with little Arthur and Rachel, who is head-
nurse and lady's-maid in one - for, with my secluded life and
tolerably active habits, I require but little attendance, and as
she had nursed me and coveted to nurse my child, and was moreover
so very trustworthy, I preferred committing the important charge to
her, with a young nursery-maid under her directions, to engaging
any one else: besides, it saves money; and since I have made
acquaintance with Arthur's affairs, I have learnt to regard that as
no trifling recommendation; for, by my own desire, nearly the whole
of the income of my fortune is devoted, for years to come, to the
paying off of his debts, and the money he contrives to squander
away in London is incomprehensible. But to return to Mr. Hargrave.
I was standing with Rachel beside the water, amusing the laughing
baby in her arms with a twig of willow laden with golden catkins,
when, greatly to my surprise, he entered the park, mounted on his
costly black hunter, and crossed over the grass to meet me. He
saluted me with a very fine compliment, delicately worded, and
modestly delivered withal, which he had doubtless concocted as he
rode along. He told me he had brought a message from his mother,
who, as he was riding that way, had desired him to call at the
Manor and beg the pleasure of my company to a friendly family
'There is no one to meet but ourselves,' said he; 'but Esther is
very anxious to see you; and my mother fears you will feel solitary
in this great house so much alone, and wishes she could persuade
you to give her the pleasure of your company more frequently, and
make yourself at home in our more humble dwelling, till Mr.
Huntingdon's return shall render this a little more conducive to
'She is very kind,' I answered, 'but I am not alone, you see; - and
those whose time is fully occupied seldom complain of solitude.'
'Will you not come to-morrow, then? She will be sadly disappointed
if you refuse.'
I did not relish being thus compassionated for my loneliness; but,
however, I promised to come.
'What a sweet evening this is!' observed he, looking round upon the
sunny park, with its imposing swell and slope, its placid water,
and majestic clumps of trees. 'And what a paradise you live in!'
'It is a lovely evening,' answered I; and I sighed to think how
little I had felt its loveliness, and how little of a paradise
sweet Grassdale was to me - how still less to the voluntary exile
from its scenes. Whether Mr. Hargrave divined my thoughts, I
cannot tell, but, with a half-hesitating, sympathising seriousness
of tone and manner, he asked if I had lately heard from Mr.
'Not lately,' I replied.
'I thought not,' he muttered, as if to himself, looking
thoughtfully on the ground.
'Are you not lately returned from London?' I asked.
'And did you see him there?'
'Yes - I saw him.'
'Was he well?'
'Yes - that is,' said he, with increasing hesitation and an
appearance of suppressed indignation, 'he was as well as - as he
deserved to be, but under circumstances I should have deemed
incredible for a man so favoured as he is.' He here looked up and
pointed the sentence with a serious bow to me. I suppose my face
'Pardon me, Mrs. Huntingdon,' he continued, 'but I cannot suppress
my indignation when I behold such infatuated blindness and
perversion of taste; - but, perhaps, you are not aware - ' He
'I am aware of nothing, sir - except that he delays his coming
longer than I expected; and if, at present, he prefers the society
of his friends to that of his wife, and the dissipations of the
town to the quiet of country life, I suppose I have those friends
to thank for it. Their tastes and occupations are similar to his,
and I don't see why his conduct should awaken either their
indignation or surprise.'
'You wrong me cruelly,' answered he. 'I have shared but little of
Mr. Huntingdon's society for the last few weeks; and as for his
tastes and occupations, they are quite beyond me - lonely wanderer
as I am. Where I have but sipped and tasted, he drains the cup to
the dregs; and if ever for a moment I have sought to drown the
voice of reflection in madness and folly, or if I have wasted too
much of my time and talents among reckless and dissipated
companions, God knows I would gladly renounce them entirely and for
ever, if I had but half the blessings that man so thanklessly casts
behind his back - but half the inducements to virtue and domestic,
orderly habits that he despises - but such a home, and such a
partner to share it! It is infamous!' he muttered, between his
teeth. 'And don't think, Mrs. Huntingdon,' he added aloud, 'that I
could be guilty of inciting him to persevere in his present
pursuits: on the contrary, I have remonstrated with him again and
again; I have frequently expressed my surprise at his conduct, and
reminded him of his duties and his privileges - but to no purpose;
he only - '
'Enough, Mr. Hargrave; you ought to be aware that whatever my
husband's faults may be, it can only aggravate the evil for me to
hear them from a stranger's lips.'
'Am I then a stranger?' said he in a sorrowful tone. 'I am your
nearest neighbour, your son's godfather, and your husband's friend;
may I not be yours also?'
'Intimate acquaintance must precede real friendship; I know but
little of you, Mr. Hargrave, except from report.'
'Have you then forgotten the six or seven weeks I spent under your
roof last autumn? I have not forgotten them. And I know enough of
you, Mrs. Huntingdon, to think that your husband is the most
enviable man in the world, and I should be the next if you would
deem me worthy of your friendship.'
'If you knew more of me, you would not think it, or if you did you
would not say it, and expect me to be flattered by the compliment.'
I stepped backward as I spoke. He saw that I wished the
conversation to end; and immediately taking the hint, he gravely
bowed, wished me good-evening, and turned his horse towards the
road. He appeared grieved and hurt at my unkind reception of his
sympathising overtures. I was not sure that I had done right in
speaking so harshly to him; but, at the time, I had felt irritated
- almost insulted by his conduct; it seemed as if he was presuming
upon the absence and neglect of my husband, and insinuating even
more than the truth against him.
Rachel had moved on, during our conversation, to some yards'
distance. He rode up to her, and asked to see the child. He took
it carefully into his arms, looked upon it with an almost paternal
smile, and I heard him say, as I approached, -
'And this, too, he has forsaken!'
He then tenderly kissed it, and restored it to the gratified nurse.
'Are you fond of children, Mr. Hargrave?' said I, a little softened
'Not in general,' he replied, 'but that is such a sweet child, and
so like its mother,' he added in a lower tone.
'You are mistaken there; it is its father it resembles.'
'Am I not right, nurse?' said he, appealing to Rachel.
'I think, sir, there's a bit of both,' she replied.
He departed; and Rachel pronounced him a very nice gentleman. I
had still my doubts on the subject.
In the course of the following six weeks I met him several times,
but always, save once, in company with his mother, or his sister,
or both. When I called on them, he always happened to be at home,
and, when they called on me, it was always he that drove them over
in the phaeton. His mother, evidently, was quite delighted with
his dutiful attentions and newly-acquired domestic habits.
The time that I met him alone was on a bright, but not oppressively
hot day, in the beginning of July: I had taken little Arthur into
the wood that skirts the park, and there seated him on the moss-
cushioned roots of an old oak; and, having gathered a handful of
bluebells and wild-roses, I was kneeling before him, and presenting
them, one by one, to the grasp of his tiny fingers; enjoying the
heavenly beauty of the flowers, through the medium of his smiling
eyes: forgetting, for the moment, all my cares, laughing at his
gleeful laughter, and delighting myself with his delight, - when a
shadow suddenly eclipsed the little space of sunshine on the grass
before us; and looking up, I beheld Walter Hargrave standing and
gazing upon us.
'Excuse me, Mrs. Huntingdon,' said he, 'but I was spell-bound; I
had neither the power to come forward and interrupt you, nor to
withdraw from the contemplation of such a scene. How vigorous my
little godson grows! and how merry he is this morning!' He
approached the child, and stooped to take his hand; but, on seeing
that his caresses were likely to produce tears and lamentations,
instead of a reciprocation of friendly demonstrations, he prudently
'What a pleasure and comfort that little creature must be to you,
Mrs. Huntingdon!' he observed, with a touch of sadness in his
intonation, as he admiringly contemplated the infant.
'It is,' replied I; and then I asked after his mother and sister.
He politely answered my inquiries, and then returned again to the
subject I wished to avoid; though with a degree of timidity that
witnessed his fear to offend.
'You have not heard from Huntingdon lately?' he said.
'Not this week,' I replied. Not these three weeks, I might have
'I had a letter from him this morning. I wish it were such a one
as I could show to his lady.' He half drew from his waistcoat-
pocket a letter with Arthur's still beloved hand on the address,
scowled at it, and put it back again, adding - 'But he tells me he
is about to return next week.'
'He tells me so every time he writes.'
'Indeed! well, it is like him. But to me he always avowed it his
intention to stay till the present month.'
It struck me like a blow, this proof of premeditated transgression
and systematic disregard of truth.
'It is only of a piece with the rest of his conduct,' observed Mr.
Hargrave, thoughtfully regarding me, and reading, I suppose, my
feelings in my face.
'Then he is really coming next week?' said I, after a pause.
'You may rely upon it, if the assurance can give you any pleasure.
And is it possible, Mrs. Huntingdon, that you can rejoice at his
return?' he exclaimed, attentively perusing my features again.
'Of course, Mr. Hargrave; is he not my husband?'
'Oh, Huntingdon; you know not what you slight!' he passionately
I took up my baby, and, wishing him good-morning, departed, to
indulge my thoughts unscrutinized, within the sanctum of my home.
And was I glad? Yes, delighted; though I was angered by Arthur's
conduct, and though I felt that he had wronged me, and was
determined he should feel it too.
On the following morning I received a few lines from him myself,
confirming Hargrave's intimations respecting his approaching
return. And he did come next week, but in a condition of body and
mind even worse than before. I did not, however, intend to pass
over his derelictions this time without a remark; I found it would
not do. But the first day he was weary with his journey, and I was
glad to get him back: I would not upbraid him then; I would wait
till to-morrow. Next morning he was weary still: I would wait a
little longer. But at dinner, when, after breakfasting at twelve
o'clock on a bottle of soda-water and a cup of strong coffee, and
lunching at two on another bottle of soda-water mingled with
brandy, he was finding fault with everything on the table, and
declaring we must change our cook, I thought the time was come.
'It is the same cook as we had before you went, Arthur,' said I.
'You were generally pretty well satisfied with her then.'
'You must have been letting her get into slovenly habits, then,
while I was away. It is enough to poison one, eating such a
disgusting mess!' And he pettishly pushed away his plate, and
leant back despairingly in his chair.
'I think it is you that are changed, not she,' said I, but with the
utmost gentleness, for I did not wish to irritate him.
'It may be so,' he replied carelessly, as he seized a tumbler of
wine and water, adding, when he had tossed it off, 'for I have an
infernal fire in my veins, that all the waters of the ocean cannot
'What kindled it?' I was about to ask, but at that moment the
butler entered and began to take away the things.
'Be quick, Benson; do have done with that infernal clatter!' cried
his master. 'And don't bring the cheese, unless you want to make
me sick outright!'
Benson, in some surprise, removed the cheese, and did his best to
effect a quiet and speedy clearance of the rest; but,
unfortunately, there was a rumple in the carpet, caused by the
hasty pushing back of his master's chair, at which he tripped and
stumbled, causing a rather alarming concussion with the trayful of
crockery in his hands, but no positive damage, save the fall and
breaking of a sauce tureen; but, to my unspeakable shame and
dismay, Arthur turned furiously around upon him, and swore at him
with savage coarseness. The poor man turned pale, and visibly
trembled as he stooped to pick up the fragments.
'He couldn't help it, Arthur,' said I; 'the carpet caught his foot,
and there's no great harm done. Never mind the pieces now, Benson;
you can clear them away afterwards.'
Glad to be released, Benson expeditiously set out the dessert and
'What could you mean, Helen, by taking the servant's part against
me,' said Arthur, as soon as the door was closed, 'when you knew I
'I did not know you were distracted, Arthur: and the poor man was
quite frightened and hurt at your sudden explosion.'
'Poor man, indeed! and do you think I could stop to consider the
feelings of an insensate brute like that, when my own nerves were
racked and torn to pieces by his confounded blunders?'
'I never heard you complain of your nerves before.'
'And why shouldn't I have nerves as well as you?'
'Oh, I don't dispute your claim to their possession, but I never
complain of mine.'
'No, how should you, when you never do anything to try them?'
'Then why do you try yours, Arthur?'
'Do you think I have nothing to do but to stay at home and take
care of myself like a woman?'
'Is it impossible, then, to take care of yourself like a man when
you go abroad? You told me that you could, and would too; and you
promised - '
'Come, come, Helen, don't begin with that nonsense now; I can't
'Can't bear what? - to be reminded of the promises you have
'Helen, you are cruel. If you knew how my heart throbbed, and how
every nerve thrilled through me while you spoke, you would spare
me. You can pity a dolt of a servant for breaking a dish; but you
have no compassion for me when my head is split in two and all on
fire with this consuming fever.'
He leant his head on his hand, and sighed. I went to him and put
my hand on his forehead. It was burning indeed.
'Then come with me into the drawing-room, Arthur; and don't take
any more wine: you have taken several glasses since dinner, and
eaten next to nothing all the day. How can that make you better?'
With some coaxing and persuasion, I got him to leave the table.
When the baby was brought I tried to amuse him with that; but poor
little Arthur was cutting his teeth, and his father could not bear
his complaints: sentence of immediate banishment was passed upon
him on the first indication of fretfulness; and because, in the
course of the evening, I went to share his exile for a little
while, I was reproached, on my return, for preferring my child to
my husband. I found the latter reclining on the sofa just as I had
'Well!' exclaimed the injured man, in a tone of pseudo-resignation.
'I thought I wouldn't send for you; I thought I'd just see how long
it would please you to leave me alone.'
'I have not been very long, have I, Arthur? I have not been an
hour, I'm sure.'
'Oh, of course, an hour is nothing to you, so pleasantly employed;
but to me - '
'It has not been pleasantly employed,' interrupted I. 'I have been
nursing our poor little baby, who is very far from well, and I
could not leave him till I got him to sleep.'
'Oh, to be sure, you're overflowing with kindness and pity for
everything but me.'
'And why should I pity you? What is the matter with you?'
'Well! that passes everything! After all the wear and tear that
I've had, when I come home sick and weary, longing for comfort, and
expecting to find attention and kindness, at least from my wife,
she calmly asks what is the matter with me!'
'There is nothing the matter with you,' returned I, 'except what
you have wilfully brought upon yourself, against my earnest
exhortation and entreaty.'
'Now, Helen,' said he emphatically, half rising from his recumbent
posture, 'if you bother me with another word, I'll ring the bell
and order six bottles of wine, and, by heaven, I'll drink them dry
before I stir from this place!'
I said no more, but sat down before the table and drew a book
'Do let me have quietness at least!' continued he, 'if you deny me
every other comfort;' and sinking back into his former position,
with an impatient expiration between a sigh and a groan, he
languidly closed his eyes, as if to sleep.
What the book was that lay open on the table before me, I cannot
tell, for I never looked at it. With an elbow on each side of it,
and my hands clasped before my eyes, I delivered myself up to
silent weeping. But Arthur was not asleep: at the first slight
sob, he raised his head and looked round, impatiently exclaiming,
'What are you crying for, Helen? What the deuce is the matter
'I'm crying for you, Arthur,' I replied, speedily drying my tears;
and starting up, I threw myself on my knees before him, and
clasping his nerveless hand between my own, continued: 'Don't you
know that you are a part of myself? And do you think you can
injure and degrade yourself, and I not feel it?'
'Degrade myself, Helen?'
'Yes, degrade! What have you been doing all this time?'
'You'd better not ask,' said he, with a faint smile.
'And you had better not tell; but you cannot deny that you have
degraded yourself miserably. You have shamefully wronged yourself,
body and soul, and me too; and I can't endure it quietly, and I
'Well, don't squeeze my hand so frantically, and don't agitate me
so, for heaven's sake! Oh, Hattersley! you were right: this woman
will be the death of me, with her keen feelings and her interesting
force of character. There, there, do spare me a little.'
'Arthur, you must repent!' cried I, in a frenzy of desperation,
throwing my arms around him and burying my face in his bosom. 'You
shall say you are sorry for what you have done!'
'Well, well, I am.'
'You are not! you'll do it again.'
'I shall never live to do it again if you treat me so savagely,'
replied he, pushing me from him. 'You've nearly squeezed the
breath out of my body.' He pressed his hand to his heart, and
looked really agitated and ill.
'Now get me a glass of wine,' said he, 'to remedy what you've done,
you she tiger! I'm almost ready to faint.'
I flew to get the required remedy. It seemed to revive him
'What a shame it is,' said I, as I took the empty glass from his
hand, 'for a strong young man like you to reduce yourself to such a
'If you knew all, my girl, you'd say rather, "What a wonder it is
you can bear it so well as you do!" I've lived more in these four
months, Helen, than you have in the whole course of your existence,
or will to the end of your days, if they numbered a hundred years;
so I must expect to pay for it in some shape.'
'You will have to pay a higher price than you anticipate, if you
don't take care: there will be the total loss of your own health,
and of my affection too, if that is of any value to you.'
'What! you're at that game of threatening me with the loss of your
affection again, are you? I think it couldn't have been very
genuine stuff to begin with, if it's so easily demolished. If you
don't mind, my pretty tyrant, you'll make me regret my choice in
good earnest, and envy my friend Hattersley his meek little wife:
she's quite a pattern to her sex, Helen. He had her with him in
London all the season, and she was no trouble at all. He might
amuse himself just as he pleased, in regular bachelor style, and
she never complained of neglect; he might come home at any hour of
the night or morning, or not come home at all; be sullen, sober, or
glorious drunk; and play the fool or the madman to his own heart's
desire, without any fear or botheration. She never gives him a
word of reproach or complaint, do what he will. He says there's
not such a jewel in all England, and swears he wouldn't take a
kingdom for her.'
'But he makes her life a curse to her.'
'Not he! She has no will but his, and is always contented and
happy as long as he is enjoying himself.'
'In that case she is as great a fool as he is; but it is not so. I
have several letters from her, expressing the greatest anxiety
about his proceedings, and complaining that you incite him to
commit those extravagances - one especially, in which she implores
me to use my influence with you to get you away from London, and
affirms that her husband never did such things before you came, and
would certainly discontinue them as soon as you departed and left
him to the guidance of his own good sense.'
'The detestable little traitor! Give me the letter, and he shall
see it as sure as I'm a living man.'
'No, he shall not see it without her consent; but if he did, there
is nothing there to anger him, nor in any of the others. She never
speaks a word against him: it is only anxiety for him that she
expresses. She only alludes to his conduct in the most delicate
terms, and makes every excuse for him that she can possibly think
of; and as for her own misery, I rather feel it than see it
expressed in her letters.'
'But she abuses me; and no doubt you helped her.'
'No; I told her she over-rated my influence with you, that I would
gladly draw you away from the temptations of the town if I could,
but had little hope of success, and that I thought she was wrong in
supposing that you enticed Mr. Hattersley or any one else into
error. I had myself held the contrary opinion at one time, but I
now believed that you mutually corrupted each other; and, perhaps,
if she used a little gentle but serious remonstrance with her
husband, it might be of some service; as, though he was more rough-
hewn than mine, I believed he was of a less impenetrable material.'
'And so that is the way you go on - heartening each other up to
mutiny, and abusing each other's partners, and throwing out
implications against your own, to the mutual gratification of
'According to your own account,' said I, 'my evil counsel has had
but little effect upon her. And as to abuse and aspersions, we are
both of us far too deeply ashamed of the errors and vices of our
other halves, to make them the common subject of our
correspondence. Friends as we are, we would willingly keep your
failings to ourselves - even from ourselves if we could, unless by
knowing them we could deliver you from them.'
'Well, well! don't worry me about them: you'll never effect any
good by that. Have patience with me, and bear with my languor and
crossness a little while, till I get this cursed low fever out of
my veins, and then you'll find me cheerful and kind as ever. Why
can't you be gentle and good, as you were last time? - I'm sure I
was very grateful for it.'
'And what good did your gratitude do? I deluded myself with the
idea that you were ashamed of your transgressions, and hoped you
would never repeat them again; but now you have left me nothing to
'My case is quite desperate, is it? A very blessed consideration,
if it will only secure me from the pain and worry of my dear
anxious wife's efforts to convert me, and her from the toil and
trouble of such exertions, and her sweet face and silver accents
from the ruinous effects of the same. A burst of passion is a fine
rousing thing upon occasion, Helen, and a flood of tears is
marvellously affecting, but, when indulged too often, they are both
deuced plaguy things for spoiling one's beauty and tiring out one's
Thenceforth I restrained my tears and passions as much as I could.
I spared him my exhortations and fruitless efforts at conversion
too, for I saw it was all in vain: God might awaken that heart,
supine and stupefied with self-indulgence, and remove the film of
sensual darkness from his eyes, but I could not. His injustice and
ill-humour towards his inferiors, who could not defend themselves,
I still resented and withstood; but when I alone was their object,
as was frequently the case, I endured it with calm forbearance,
except at times, when my temper, worn out by repeated annoyances,
or stung to distraction by some new instance of irrationality, gave
way in spite of myself, and exposed me to the imputations of
fierceness, cruelty, and impatience. I attended carefully to his
wants and amusements, but not, I own, with the same devoted
fondness as before, because I could not feel it; besides, I had now
another claimant on my time and care - my ailing infant, for whose
sake I frequently braved and suffered the reproaches and complaints
of his unreasonably exacting father.
But Arthur is not naturally a peevish or irritable man; so far from
it, that there was something almost ludicrous in the incongruity of
this adventitious fretfulness and nervous irritability, rather
calculated to excite laughter than anger, if it were not for the
intensely painful considerations attendant upon those symptoms of a
disordered frame, and his temper gradually improved as his bodily
health was restored, which was much sooner than would have been the
case but for my strenuous exertions; for there was still one thing
about him that I did not give up in despair, and one effort for his
preservation that I would not remit. His appetite for the stimulus
of wine had increased upon him, as I had too well foreseen. It was
now something more to him than an accessory to social enjoyment:
it was an important source of enjoyment in itself. In this time of
weakness and depression he would have made it his medicine and
support, his comforter, his recreation, and his friend, and thereby
sunk deeper and deeper, and bound himself down for ever in the
bathos whereinto he had fallen. But I determined this should never
be, as long as I had any influence left; and though I could not
prevent him from taking more than was good for him, still, by
incessant perseverance, by kindness, and firmness, and vigilance,
by coaxing, and daring, and determination, I succeeded in
preserving him from absolute bondage to that detestable propensity,
so insidious in its advances, so inexorable in its tyranny, so
disastrous in its effects.
And here I must not forget that I am not a little indebted to his