Part 6 out of 10
friend Mr. Hargrave. About that time he frequently called at
Grassdale, and often dined with us, on which occasions I fear
Arthur would willingly have cast prudence and decorum to the winds,
and made 'a night of it,' as often as his friend would have
consented to join him in that exalted pastime; and if the latter
had chosen to comply, he might, in a night or two, have ruined the
labour of weeks, and overthrown with a touch the frail bulwark it
had cost me such trouble and toil to construct. I was so fearful
of this at first, that I humbled myself to intimate to him, in
private, my apprehensions of Arthur's proneness to these excesses,
and to express a hope that he would not encourage it. He was
pleased with this mark of confidence, and certainly did not betray
it. On that and every subsequent occasion his presence served
rather as a check upon his host, than an incitement to further acts
of intemperance; and he always succeeded in bringing him from the
dining-room in good time, and in tolerably good condition; for if
Arthur disregarded such intimations as 'Well, I must not detain you
from your lady,' or 'We must not forget that Mrs. Huntingdon is
alone,' he would insist upon leaving the table himself, to join me,
and his host, however unwillingly, was obliged to follow.
Hence I learned to welcome Mr. Hargrave as a real friend to the
family, a harmless companion for Arthur, to cheer his spirits and
preserve him from the tedium of absolute idleness and a total
isolation from all society but mine, and a useful ally to me. I
could not but feel grateful to him under such circumstances; and I
did not scruple to acknowledge my obligation on the first
convenient opportunity; yet, as I did so, my heart whispered all
was not right, and brought a glow to my face, which he heightened
by his steady, serious gaze, while, by his manner of receiving
those acknowledgments, he more than doubled my misgivings. His
high delight at being able to serve me was chastened by sympathy
for me and commiseration for himself - about, I know not what, for
I would not stay to inquire, or suffer him to unburden his sorrows
to me. His sighs and intimations of suppressed affliction seemed
to come from a full heart; but either he must contrive to retain
them within it, or breathe them forth in other ears than mine:
there was enough of confidence between us already. It seemed wrong
that there should exist a secret understanding between my husband's
friend and me, unknown to him, of which he was the object. But my
after-thought was, 'If it is wrong, surely Arthur's is the fault,
And indeed I know not whether, at the time, it was not for him
rather than myself that I blushed; for, since he and I are one, I
so identify myself with him, that I feel his degradation, his
failings, and transgressions as my own: I blush for him, I fear
for him; I repent for him, weep, pray, and feel for him as for
myself; but I cannot act for him; and hence I must be, and I am,
debased, contaminated by the union, both in my own eyes and in the
actual truth. I am so determined to love him, so intensely anxious
to excuse his errors, that I am continually dwelling upon them, and
labouring to extenuate the loosest of his principles and the worst
of his practices, till I am familiarised with vice, and almost a
partaker in his sins. Things that formerly shocked and disgusted
me, now seem only natural. I know them to be wrong, because reason
and God's word declare them to be so; but I am gradually losing
that instinctive horror and repulsion which were given me by
nature, or instilled into me by the precepts and example of my
aunt. Perhaps then I was too severe in my judgments, for I
abhorred the sinner as well as the sin; now I flatter myself I am
more charitable and considerate; but am I not becoming more
indifferent and insensate too? Fool that I was, to dream that I
had strength and purity enough to save myself and him! Such vain
presumption would be rightly served, if I should perish with him in
the gulf from which I sought to save him! Yet, God preserve me
from it, and him too! Yes, poor Arthur, I will still hope and pray
for you; and though I write as if you were some abandoned wretch,
past hope and past reprieve, it is only my anxious fears, my strong
desires that make me do so; one who loved you less would be less
bitter, less dissatisfied.
His conduct has, of late, been what the world calls irreproachable;
but then I know his heart is still unchanged; and I know that
spring is approaching, and deeply dread the consequences.
As he began to recover the tone and vigour of his exhausted frame,
and with it something of his former impatience of retirement and
repose, I suggested a short residence by the sea-side, for his
recreation and further restoration, and for the benefit of our
little one as well. But no: watering-places were so intolerably
dull; besides, he had been invited by one of his friends to spend a
month or two in Scotland for the better recreation of grouse-
shooting and deer-stalking, and had promise to go.
'Then you will leave me again, Arthur?' said I.
'Yes, dearest, but only to love you the better when I come back,
and make up for all past offences and short-comings; and you
needn't fear me this time: there are no temptations on the
mountains. And during my absence you may pay a visit to
Staningley, if you like: your uncle and aunt have long been
wanting us to go there, you know; but somehow there's such a
repulsion between the good lady and me, that I never could bring
myself up to the scratch.'
About the third week in August, Arthur set out for Scotland, and
Mr. Hargrave accompanied him thither, to my private satisfaction.
Shortly after, I, with little Arthur and Rachel, went to
Staningley, my dear old home, which, as well as my dear old friends
its inhabitants, I saw again with mingled feelings of pleasure and
pain so intimately blended that I could scarcely distinguish the
one from the other, or tell to which to attribute the various
tears, and smiles, and sighs awakened by those old familiar scenes,
and tones, and faces.
Arthur did not come home till several weeks after my return to
Grassdale; but I did not feel so anxious about him now; to think of
him engaged in active sports among the wild hills of Scotland, was
very different from knowing him to be immersed amid the corruptions
and temptations of London. His letters now; though neither long
nor loverlike, were more regular than ever they had been before;
and when he did return, to my great joy, instead of being worse
than when he went, he was more cheerful and vigorous, and better in
every respect. Since that time I have had little cause to
complain. He still has an unfortunate predilection for the
pleasures of the table, against which I have to struggle and watch;
but he has begun to notice his boy, and that is an increasing
source of amusement to him within-doors, while his fox-hunting and
coursing are a sufficient occupation for him without, when the
ground is not hardened by frost; so that he is not wholly dependent
on me for entertainment. But it is now January; spring is
approaching; and, I repeat, I dread the consequences of its
arrival. That sweet season, I once so joyously welcomed as the
time of hope and gladness, awakens now far other anticipations by
March 20th, 1824. The dreaded time is come, and Arthur is gone, as
I expected. This time he announced it his intention to make but a
short stay in London, and pass over to the Continent, where he
should probably stay a few weeks; but I shall not expect him till
after the lapse of many weeks: I now know that, with him, days
signify weeks, and weeks months.
July 30th. - He returned about three weeks ago, rather better in
health, certainly, than before, but still worse in temper. And
yet, perhaps, I am wrong: it is I that am less patient and
forbearing. I am tired out with his injustice, his selfishness and
hopeless depravity. I wish a milder word would do; I am no angel,
and my corruption rises against it. My poor father died last week:
Arthur was vexed to hear of it, because he saw that I was shocked
and grieved, and he feared the circumstance would mar his comfort.
When I spoke of ordering my mourning, he exclaimed, - 'Oh, I hate
black! But, however, I suppose you must wear it awhile, for form's
sake; but I hope, Helen, you won't think it your bounden duty to
compose your face and manners into conformity with your funereal
garb. Why should you sigh and groan, and I be made uncomfortable,
because an old gentleman in -shire, a perfect stranger to us both,
has thought proper to drink himself to death? There, now, I
declare you're crying! Well, it must be affectation.'
He would not hear of my attending the funeral, or going for a day
or two, to cheer poor Frederick's solitude. It was quite
unnecessary, he said, and I was unreasonable to wish it. What was
my father to me? I had never seen him but once since I was a baby,
and I well knew he had never cared a stiver about me; and my
brother, too, was little better than a stranger. 'Besides, dear
Helen,' said he, embracing me with flattering fondness, 'I cannot
spare you for a single day.'
'Then how have you managed without me these many days?' said I.
'Ah! then I was knocking about the world, now I am at home, and
home without you, my household deity, would be intolerable.'
'Yes, as long as I am necessary to your comfort; but you did not
say so before, when you urged me to leave you, in order that you
might get away from your home without me,' retorted I; but before
the words were well out of my mouth, I regretted having uttered
them. It seemed so heavy a charge: if false, too gross an insult;
if true, too humiliating a fact to be thus openly cast in his
teeth. But I might have spared myself that momentary pang of self-
reproach. The accusation awoke neither shame nor indignation in
him: he attempted neither denial nor excuse, but only answered
with a long, low, chuckling laugh, as if he viewed the whole
transaction as a clever, merry jest from beginning to end. Surely
that man will make me dislike him at last!
Sine as ye brew, my maiden fair,
Keep mind that ye maun drink the yill.
Yes; and I will drink it to the very dregs: and none but myself
shall know how bitter I find it!
August 20th. - We are shaken down again to about our usual
position. Arthur has returned to nearly his former condition and
habits; and I have found it my wisest plan to shut my eyes against
the past and future, as far as he, at least, is concerned, and live
only for the present: to love him when I can; to smile (if
possible) when he smiles, be cheerful when he is cheerful, and
pleased when he is agreeable; and when he is not, to try to make
him so; and if that won't answer, to bear with him, to excuse him,
and forgive him as well as I can, and restrain my own evil passions
from aggravating his; and yet, while I thus yield and minister to
his more harmless propensities to self-indulgence, to do all in my
power to save him from the worse.
But we shall not be long alone together. I shall shortly be called
upon to entertain the same select body of friends as we had the
autumn before last, with the addition of Mr. Hattersley and, at my
special request, his wife and child. I long to see Milicent, and
her little girl too. The latter is now above a year old; she will
be a charming playmate for my little Arthur.
September 30th. - Our guests have been here a week or two; but I
have had no leisure to pass any comments upon them till now. I
cannot get over my dislike to Lady Lowborough. It is not founded
on mere personal pique; it is the woman herself that I dislike,
because I so thoroughly disapprove of her. I always avoid her
company as much as I can without violating the laws of hospitality;
but when we do speak or converse together, it is with the utmost
civility, even apparent cordiality on her part; but preserve me
from such cordiality! It is like handling brier-roses and may-
blossoms, bright enough to the eye, and outwardly soft to the
touch, but you know there are thorns beneath, and every now and
then you feel them too; and perhaps resent the injury by crushing
them in till you have destroyed their power, though somewhat to the
detriment of your own fingers.
Of late, however, I have seen nothing in her conduct towards Arthur
to anger or alarm me. During the first few days I thought she
seemed very solicitous to win his admiration. Her efforts were not
unnoticed by him: I frequently saw him smiling to himself at her
artful manoeuvres: but, to his praise be it spoken, her shafts
fell powerless by his side. Her most bewitching smiles, her
haughtiest frowns were ever received with the same immutable,
careless good-humour; till, finding he was indeed impenetrable, she
suddenly remitted her efforts, and became, to all appearance, as
perfectly indifferent as himself. Nor have I since witnessed any
symptom of pique on his part, or renewed attempts at conquest upon
This is as it should be; but Arthur never will let me be satisfied
with him. I have never, for a single hour since I married him,
known what it is to realise that sweet idea, 'In quietness and
confidence shall be your rest.' Those two detestable men, Grimsby
and Hattersley, have destroyed all my labour against his love of
wine. They encourage him daily to overstep the bounds of
moderation, and not unfrequently to disgrace himself by positive
excess. I shall not soon forget the second night after their
arrival. Just as I had retired from the dining-room with the
ladies, before the door was closed upon us, Arthur exclaimed, -
'Now then, my lads, what say you to a regular jollification?'
Milicent glanced at me with a half-reproachful look, as if I could
hinder it; but her countenance changed when she heard Hattersley's
voice, shouting through door and wall, - 'I'm your man! Send for
more wine: here isn't half enough!'
We had scarcely entered the drawing-room before we were joined by
'What can induce you to come so soon?' exclaimed his lady, with a
most ungracious air of dissatisfaction.
'You know I never drink, Annabella,' replied he seriously.
'Well, but you might stay with them a little: it looks so silly to
be always dangling after the women; I wonder you can!'
He reproached her with a look of mingled bitterness and surprise,
and, sinking into a chair, suppressed a heavy sigh, bit his pale
lips, and fixed his eyes upon the floor.
'You did right to leave them, Lord Lowborough,' said I. 'I trust
you will always continue to honour us so early with your company.
And if Annabella knew the value of true wisdom, and the misery of
folly and - and intemperance, she would not talk such nonsense -
even in jest.'
He raised his eyes while I spoke, and gravely turned them upon me,
with a half-surprised, half-abstracted look, and then bent them on
'At least,' said she, 'I know the value of a warm heart and a bold,
'Well, Annabella,' said he, in a deep and hollow tone, 'since my
presence is disagreeable to you, I will relieve you of it.'
'Are you going back to them, then?' said she, carelessly.
'No,' exclaimed he, with harsh and startling emphasis. 'I will not
go back to them! And I will never stay with them one moment longer
than I think right, for you or any other tempter! But you needn't
mind that; I shall never trouble you again by intruding my company
upon you so unseasonably.'
He left the room: I heard the hall-door open and shut, and
immediately after, on putting aside the curtain, I saw him pacing
down the park, in the comfortless gloom of the damp, cloudy
'It would serve you right, Annabella,' said I, at length, 'if Lord
Lowborough were to return to his old habits, which had so nearly
effected his ruin, and which it cost him such an effort to break:
you would then see cause to repent such conduct as this.'
'Not at all, my dear! I should not mind if his lordship were to
see fit to intoxicate himself every day: I should only the sooner
be rid of him.'
'Oh, Annabella!' cried Milicent. 'How can you say such wicked
things! It would, indeed, be a just punishment, as far as you are
concerned, if Providence should take you at your word, and make you
feel what others feel, that - ' She paused as a sudden burst of
loud talking and laughter reached us from the dining-room, in which
the voice of Hattersley was pre-eminently conspicuous, even to my
'What you feel at this moment, I suppose?' said Lady Lowborough,
with a malicious smile, fixing her eyes upon her cousin's
The latter offered no reply, but averted her face and brushed away
a tear. At that moment the door opened and admitted Mr. Hargrave,
just a little flushed, his dark eyes sparkling with unwonted
'Oh, I'm so glad you're come, Walter?' cried his sister. 'But I
wish you could have got Ralph to come too.'
'Utterly impossible, dear Milicent,' replied he, gaily. 'I had
much ado to get away myself. Ralph attempted to keep me by
violence; Huntingdon threatened me with the eternal loss of his
friendship; and Grimsby, worse than all, endeavoured to make me
ashamed of my virtue, by such galling sarcasms and innuendoes as he
knew would wound me the most. So you see, ladies, you ought to
make me welcome when I have braved and suffered so much for the
favour of your sweet society.' He smilingly turned to me and bowed
as he finished the sentence.
'Isn't he handsome now, Helen!' whispered Milicent, her sisterly
pride overcoming, for the moment, all other considerations.
'He would be,' I returned, 'if that brilliance of eye, and lip, and
cheek were natural to him; but look again, a few hours hence.'
Here the gentleman took a seat near me at the table, and petitioned
for a cup of coffee.
'I consider this an apt illustration of heaven taken by storm,'
said he, as I handed one to him. 'I am in paradise, now; but I
have fought my way through flood and fire to win it. Ralph
Hattersley's last resource was to set his back against the door,
and swear I should find no passage but through his body (a pretty
substantial one too). Happily, however, that was not the only
door, and I effected my escape by the side entrance through the
butler's pantry, to the infinite amazement of Benson, who was
cleaning the plate.'
Mr. Hargrave laughed, and so did his cousin; but his sister and I
remained silent and grave.
'Pardon my levity, Mrs. Huntingdon,' murmured he, more seriously,
as he raised his eyes to my face. 'You are not used to these
things: you suffer them to affect your delicate mind too sensibly.
But I thought of you in the midst of those lawless roysterers; and
I endeavoured to persuade Mr. Huntingdon to think of you too; but
to no purpose: I fear he is fully determined to enjoy himself this
night; and it will be no use keeping the coffee waiting for him or
his companions; it will be much if they join us at tea. Meantime,
I earnestly wish I could banish the thoughts of them from your mind
- and my own too, for I hate to think of them - yes - even of my
dear friend Huntingdon, when I consider the power he possesses over
the happiness of one so immeasurably superior to himself, and the
use he makes of it - I positively detest the man!'
'You had better not say so to me, then,' said I; 'for, bad as he
is, he is part of myself, and you cannot abuse him without
'Pardon me, then, for I would sooner die than offend you. But let
us say no more of him for the present, if you please.'
At last they came; but not till after ten, when tea, which had been
delayed for more than half an hour, was nearly over. Much as I had
longed for their coming, my heart failed me at the riotous uproar
of their approach; and Milicent turned pale, and almost started
from her seat, as Mr. Hattersley burst into the room with a
clamorous volley of oaths in his mouth, which Hargrave endeavoured
to check by entreating him to remember the ladies.
'Ah! you do well to remind me of the ladies, you dastardly
deserter,' cried he, shaking his formidable fist at his brother-in-
law. 'If it were not for them, you well know, I'd demolish you in
the twinkling of an eye, and give your body to the fowls of heaven
and the lilies of the fields!' Then, planting a chair by Lady
Lowborough's side, he stationed himself in it, and began to talk to
her with a mixture of absurdity and impudence that seemed rather to
amuse than to offend her; though she affected to resent his
insolence, and to keep him at bay with sallies of smart and
Meantime Mr. Grimsby seated himself by me, in the chair vacated by
Hargrave as they entered, and gravely stated that he would thank me
for a cup of tea: and Arthur placed himself beside poor Milicent,
confidentially pushing his head into her face, and drawing in
closer to her as she shrank away from him. He was not so noisy as
Hattersley, but his face was exceedingly flushed: he laughed
incessantly, and while I blushed for all I saw and heard of him, I
was glad that he chose to talk to his companion in so low a tone
that no one could hear what he said but herself.
'What fools they are!' drawled Mr. Grimsby, who had been talking
away, at my elbow, with sententious gravity all the time; but I had
been too much absorbed in contemplating the deplorable state of the
other two - especially Arthur - to attend to him.
'Did you ever hear such nonsense as they talk, Mrs. Huntingdon?' he
continued. 'I'm quite ashamed of them for my part: they can't
take so much as a bottle between them without its getting into
their heads - '
'You are pouring the cream into your saucer, Mr. Grimsby.'
'Ah! yes, I see, but we're almost in darkness here. Hargrave,
snuff those candles, will you?'
'They're wax; they don't require snuffing,' said I.
'"The light of the body is the eye,"' observed Hargrave, with a
sarcastic smile. '"If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be
full of light."'
Grimsby repulsed him with a solemn wave of the hand, and then
turning to me, continued, with the same drawling tones and strange
uncertainty of utterance and heavy gravity of aspect as before:
'But as I was saying, Mrs. Huntingdon, they have no head at all:
they can't take half a bottle without being affected some way;
whereas I - well, I've taken three times as much as they have to-
night, and you see I'm perfectly steady. Now that may strike you
as very singular, but I think I can explain it: you see their
brains - I mention no names, but you'll understand to whom I allude
- their brains are light to begin with, and the fumes of the
fermented liquor render them lighter still, and produce an entire
light-headedness, or giddiness, resulting in intoxication; whereas
my brains, being composed of more solid materials, will absorb a
considerable quantity of this alcoholic vapour without the
production of any sensible result - '
'I think you will find a sensible result produced on that tea,'
interrupted Mr. Hargrave, 'by the quantity of sugar you have put
into it. Instead of your usual complement of one lump, you have
put in six.'
'Have I so?' replied the philosopher, diving with his spoon into
the cup, and bringing up several half-dissolved pieces in
confirmation of the assertion. 'Hum! I perceive. Thus, Madam,
you see the evil of absence of mind - of thinking too much while
engaged in the common concerns of life. Now, if I had had my wits
about me, like ordinary men, instead of within me like a
philosopher, I should not have spoiled this cup of tea, and been
constrained to trouble you for another.'
'That is the sugar-basin, Mr. Grimsby. Now you have spoiled the
sugar too; and I'll thank you to ring for some more, for here is
Lord Lowborough at last; and I hope his lordship will condescend to
sit down with us, such as we are, and allow me to give him some
His lordship gravely bowed in answer to my appeal, but said
nothing. Meantime, Hargrave volunteered to ring for the sugar,
while Grimsby lamented his mistake, and attempted to prove that it
was owing to the shadow of the urn and the badness of the lights.
Lord Lowborough had entered a minute or two before, unobserved by
an one but me, and had been standing before the door, grimly
surveying the company. He now stepped up to Annabella, who sat
with her back towards him, with Hattersley still beside her, though
not now attending to her, being occupied in vociferously abusing
and bullying his host.
'Well, Annabella,' said her husband, as he leant over the back of
her chair, 'which of these three "bold, manly spirits" would you
have me to resemble?'
'By heaven and earth, you shall resemble us all!' cried Hattersley,
starting up and rudely seizing him by the arm. 'Hallo,
Huntingdon!' he shouted - 'I've got him! Come, man, and help me!
And d-n me, if I don't make him drunk before I let him go! He
shall make up for all past delinquencies as sure as I'm a living
There followed a disgraceful contest: Lord Lowborough, in
desperate earnest, and pale with anger, silently struggling to
release himself from the powerful madman that was striving to drag
him from the room. I attempted to urge Arthur to interfere in
behalf of his outraged guest, but he could do nothing but laugh.
'Huntingdon, you fool, come and help me, can't you!' cried
Hattersley, himself somewhat weakened by his excesses.
'I'm wishing you God-speed, Hattersley,' cried Arthur, 'and aiding
you with my prayers: I can't do anything else if my life depended
on it! I'm quite used up. Oh - oh!' and leaning back in his seat,
he clapped his hands on his sides and groaned aloud.
'Annabella, give me a candle!' said Lowborough, whose antagonist
had now got him round the waist and was endeavouring to root him
from the door-post, to which he madly clung with all the energy of
'I shall take no part in your rude sports!' replied the lady coldly
drawing back. 'I wonder you can expect it.' But I snatched up a
candle and brought it to him. He took it and held the flame to
Hattersley's hands, till, roaring like a wild beast, the latter
unclasped them and let him go. He vanished, I suppose to his own
apartment, for nothing more was seen of him till the morning.
Swearing and cursing like a maniac, Hattersley threw himself on to
the ottoman beside the window. The door being now free, Milicent
attempted to make her escape from the scene of her husband's
disgrace; but he called her back, and insisted upon her coming to
'What do you want, Ralph?' murmured she, reluctantly approaching
'I want to know what's the matter with you,' said he, pulling her
on to his knee like a child. 'What are you crying for, Milicent? -
'I'm not crying.'
'You are,' persisted he, rudely pulling her hands from her face.
'How dare you tell such a lie!'
'I'm not crying now,' pleaded she.
'But you have been, and just this minute too; and I will know what
for. Come, now, you shall tell me!'
'Do let me alone, Ralph! Remember, we are not at home.'
'No matter: you shall answer my question!' exclaimed her
tormentor; and he attempted to extort the confession by shaking
her, and remorselessly crushing her slight arms in the gripe of his
'Don't let him treat your sister in that way,' said I to Mr.
'Come now, Hattersley, I can't allow that,' said that gentleman,
stepping up to the ill-assorted couple. 'Let my sister alone, if
And he made an effort to unclasp the ruffian's fingers from her
arm, but was suddenly driven backward, and nearly laid upon the
floor by a violent blow on the chest, accompanied with the
admonition, 'Take that for your insolence! and learn to interfere
between me and mine again.'
'If you were not drunk, I'd have satisfaction for that!' gasped
Hargrave, white and breathless as much from passion as from the
immediate effects of the blow.
'Go to the devil!' responded his brother-in-law. 'Now, Milicent,
tell me what you were crying for.'
'I'll tell you some other time,' murmured she, 'when we are alone.'
'Tell me now!' said he, with another shake and a squeeze that made
her draw in her breath and bite her lip to suppress a cry of pain.
'I'll tell you, Mr. Hattersley,' said I. 'She was crying from pure
shame and humiliation for you; because she could not bear to see
you conduct yourself so disgracefully.'
'Confound you, Madam!' muttered he, with a stare of stupid
amazement at my 'impudence.' 'It was not that - was it, Milicent?'
She was silent.
'Come, speak up, child!'
'I can't tell now,' sobbed she.
'But you can say "yes" or "no" as well as "I can't tell." - Come!'
'Yes,' she whispered, hanging her head, and blushing at the awful
'Curse you for an impertinent hussy, then!' cried he, throwing her
from him with such violence that she fell on her side; but she was
up again before either I or her brother could come to her
assistance, and made the best of her way out of the room, and, I
suppose, up-stairs, without loss of time.
The next object of assault was Arthur, who sat opposite, and had,
no doubt, richly enjoyed the whole scene.
'Now, Huntingdon,' exclaimed his irascible friend, 'I will not have
you sitting there and laughing like an idiot!'
'Oh, Hattersley,' cried he, wiping his swimming eyes - 'you'll be
the death of me.'
'Yes, I will, but not as you suppose: I'll have the heart out of
your body, man, if you irritate me with any more of that imbecile
laughter! - What! are you at it yet? - There! see if that'll settle
you!' cried Hattersley, snatching up a footstool and hurting it at
the head of his host; but he as well as missed his aim, and the
latter still sat collapsed and quaking with feeble laughter, with
tears running down his face: a deplorable spectacle indeed.
Hattersley tried cursing and swearing, but it would not do: he
then took a number of books from the table beside him, and threw
them, one by one, at the object of his wrath; but Arthur only
laughed the more; and, finally, Hattersley rushed upon him in a
frenzy and seizing him by the shoulders, gave him a violent
shaking, under which he laughed and shrieked alarmingly. But I saw
no more: I thought I had witnessed enough of my husband's
degradation; and leaving Annabella and the rest to follow when they
pleased, I withdrew, but not to bed. Dismissing Rachel to her
rest, I walked up and down my room, in an agony of misery for what
had been done, and suspense, not knowing what might further happen,
or how or when that unhappy creature would come up to bed.
At last he came, slowly and stumblingly ascending the stairs,
supported by Grimsby and Hattersley, who neither of them walked
quite steadily themselves, but were both laughing and joking at
him, and making noise enough for all the servants to hear. He
himself was no longer laughing now, but sick and stupid. I will
write no more about that.
Such disgraceful scenes (or nearly such) have been repeated more
than once. I don't say much to Arthur about it, for, if I did, it
would do more harm than good; but I let him know that I intensely
dislike such exhibitions; and each time he has promised they should
never again be repeated. But I fear he is losing the little self-
command and self-respect he once possessed: formerly, he would
have been ashamed to act thus - at least, before any other
witnesses than his boon companions, or such as they. His friend
Hargrave, with a prudence and self-government that I envy for him,
never disgraces himself by taking more than sufficient to render
him a little 'elevated,' and is always the first to leave the table
after Lord Lowborough, who, wiser still, perseveres in vacating the
dining-room immediately after us: but never once, since Annabella
offended him so deeply, has he entered the drawing-room before the
rest; always spending the interim in the library, which I take care
to have lighted for his accommodation; or, on fine moonlight
nights, in roaming about the grounds. But I think she regrets her
misconduct, for she has never repeated it since, and of late she
has comported herself with wonderful propriety towards him,
treating him with more uniform kindness and consideration than ever
I have observed her to do before. I date the time of this
improvement from the period when she ceased to hope and strive for
October 5th. - Esther Hargrave is getting a fine girl. She is not
out of the school-room yet, but her mother frequently brings her
over to call in the mornings when the gentlemen are out, and
sometimes she spends an hour or two in company with her sister and
me, and the children; and when we go to the Grove, I always
contrive to see her, and talk more to her than to any one else, for
I am very much attached to my little friend, and so is she to me.
I wonder what she can see to like in me though, for I am no longer
the happy, lively girl I used to be; but she has no other society,
save that of her uncongenial mother, and her governess (as
artificial and conventional a person as that prudent mother could
procure to rectify the pupil's natural qualities), and, now and
then, her subdued, quiet sister. I often wonder what will be her
lot in life, and so does she; but her speculations on the future
are full of buoyant hope; so were mine once. I shudder to think of
her being awakened, like me, to a sense of their delusive vanity.
It seems as if I should feel her disappointment, even more deeply
than my own. I feel almost as if I were born for such a fate, but
she is so joyous and fresh, so light of heart and free of spirit,
and so guileless and unsuspecting too. Oh, it would be cruel to
make her feel as I feel now, and know what I have known!
Her sister trembles for her too. Yesterday morning, one of
October's brightest, loveliest days, Milicent and I were in the
garden enjoying a brief half-hour together with our children, while
Annabella was lying on the drawing-room sofa, deep in the last new
novel. We had been romping with the little creatures, almost as
merry and wild as themselves, and now paused in the shade of the
tall copper beech, to recover breath and rectify our hair,
disordered by the rough play and the frolicsome breeze, while they
toddled together along the broad, sunny walk; my Arthur supporting
the feebler steps of her little Helen, and sagaciously pointing out
to her the brightest beauties of the border as they passed, with
semi-articulate prattle, that did as well for her as any other mode
of discourse. From laughing at the pretty sight, we began to talk
of the children's future life; and that made us thoughtful. We
both relapsed into silent musing as we slowly proceeded up the
walk; and I suppose Milicent, by a train of associations, was led
to think of her sister.
'Helen,' said she, 'you often see Esther, don't you?'
'Not very often.'
'But you have more frequent opportunities of meeting her than I
have; and she loves you, I know, and reverences you too: there is
nobody's opinion she thinks so much of; and she says you have more
sense than mamma.'
'That is because she is self-willed, and my opinions more generally
coincide with her own than your mamma's. But what then, Milicent?'
'Well, since you have so much influence with her, I wish you would
seriously impress it upon her, never, on any account, or for
anybody's persuasion, to marry for the sake of money, or rank, or
establishment, or any earthly thing, but true affection and well-
'There is no necessity for that,' said I, 'for we have had some
discourse on that subject already, and I assure you her ideas of
love and matrimony are as romantic as any one could desire.'
'But romantic notions will not do: I want her to have true
'Very right: but in my judgment, what the world stigmatises as
romantic, is often more nearly allied to the truth than is commonly
supposed; for, if the generous ideas of youth are too often over-
clouded by the sordid views of after-life, that scarcely proves
them to be false.'
'Well, but if you think her ideas are what they ought to be,
strengthen them, will you? and confirm them, as far as you can; for
I had romantic notions once, and - I don't mean to say that I
regret my lot, for I am quite sure I don't, but - '
'I understand you,' said I; 'you are contented for yourself, but
you would not have your sister to suffer the same as you.'
'No - or worse. She might have far worse to suffer than I, for I
am really contented, Helen, though you mayn't think it: I speak
the solemn truth in saying that I would not exchange my husband for
any man on earth, if I might do it by the plucking of this leaf.'
'Well, I believe you: now that you have him, you would not
exchange him for another; but then you would gladly exchange some
of his qualities for those of better men.'
'Yes: just as I would gladly exchange some of my own qualities for
those of better women; for neither he nor I are perfect, and I
desire his improvement as earnestly as my own. And he will
improve, don't you think so, Helen? he's only six-and-twenty yet.'
'He may,' I answered,
'He will, he WILL!' repeated she.
'Excuse the faintness of my acquiescence, Milicent, I would not
discourage your hopes for the world, but mine have been so often
disappointed, that I am become as cold and doubtful in my
expectations as the flattest of octogenarians.'
'And yet you do hope, still, even for Mr. Huntingdon?'
'I do, I confess, "even" for him; for it seems as if life and hope
must cease together. And is he so much worse, Milicent, than Mr.
'Well, to give you my candid opinion, I think there is no
comparison between them. But you mustn't be offended, Helen, for
you know I always speak my mind, and you may speak yours too. I
'I am not offended, love; and my opinion is, that if there be a
comparison made between the two, the difference, for the most part,
is certainly in Hattersley's favour.'
Milicent's own heart told her how much it cost me to make this
acknowledgment; and, with a childlike impulse, she expressed her
sympathy by suddenly kissing my cheek, without a word of reply, and
then turning quickly away, caught up her baby, and hid her face in
its frock. How odd it is that we so often weep for each other's
distresses, when we shed not a tear for our own! Her heart had
been full enough of her own sorrows, but it overflowed at the idea
of mine; and I, too, shed tears at the sight of her sympathetic
emotion, though I had not wept for myself for many a week.
It was one rainy day last week; most of the company were killing
time in the billiard-room, but Milicent and I were with little
Arthur and Helen in the library, and between our books, our
children, and each other, we expected to make out a very agreeable
morning. We had not been thus secluded above two hours, however,
when Mr. Hattersley came in, attracted, I suppose, by the voice of
his child, as he was crossing the hall, for he is prodigiously fond
of her, and she of him.
He was redolent of the stables, where he had been regaling himself
with the company of his fellow-creatures the horses ever since
breakfast. But that was no matter to my little namesake; as soon
as the colossal person of her father darkened the door, she uttered
a shrill scream of delight, and, quitting her mother's side, ran
crowing towards him, balancing her course with outstretched arms,
and embracing his knee, threw back her head and laughed in his
face. He might well look smilingly down upon those small, fair
features, radiant with innocent mirth, those clear blue shining
eyes, and that soft flaxen hair cast back upon the little ivory
neck and shoulders. Did he not think how unworthy he was of such a
possession? I fear no such idea crossed his mind. He caught her
up, and there followed some minutes of very rough play, during
which it is difficult to say whether the father or the daughter
laughed and shouted the loudest. At length, however, the
boisterous pastime terminated, suddenly, as might be expected: the
little one was hurt, and began to cry; and the ungentle play-fellow
tossed it into its mother's lap, bidding her 'make all straight.'
As happy to return to that gentle comforter as it had been to leave
her, the child nestled in her arms, and hushed its cries in a
moment; and sinking its little weary head on her bosom, soon
Meantime Mr. Hattersley strode up to the fire, and interposing his
height and breadth between us and it, stood with arms akimbo,
expanding his chest, and gazing round him as if the house and all
its appurtenances and contents were his own undisputed possessions.
'Deuced bad weather this!' he began. 'There'll be no shooting to-
day, I guess.' Then, suddenly lifting up his voice, he regaled us
with a few bars of a rollicking song, which abruptly ceasing, he
finished the tune with a whistle, and then continued:- 'I say, Mrs.
Huntingdon, what a fine stud your husband has! not large, but good.
I've been looking at them a bit this morning; and upon my word,
Black Boss, and Grey Tom, and that young Nimrod are the finest
animals I've seen for many a day!' Then followed a particular
discussion of their various merits, succeeded by a sketch of the
great things he intended to do in the horse-jockey line, when his
old governor thought proper to quit the stage. 'Not that I wish
him to close his accounts,' added he: 'the old Trojan is welcome
to keep his books open as long as he pleases for me.'
'I hope so, indeed, Mr. Hattersley.'
'Oh, yes! It's only my way of talking. The event must come some
time, and so I look to the bright side of it: that's the right
plan - isn't it, Mrs. H.? What are you two doing here? By-the-by,
where's Lady Lowborough?'
'In the billiard-room.'
'What a splendid creature she is!' continued he, fixing his eyes on
his wife, who changed colour, and looked more and more disconcerted
as he proceeded. 'What a noble figure she has; and what
magnificent black eyes; and what a fine spirit of her own; and what
a tongue of her own, too, when she likes to use it. I perfectly
adore her! But never mind, Milicent: I wouldn't have her for my
wife, not if she'd a kingdom for her dowry! I'm better satisfied
with the one I have. Now then! what do you look so sulky for?
don't you believe me?'
'Yes, I believe you,' murmured she, in a tone of half sad, half
sullen resignation, as she turned away to stroke the hair of her
sleeping infant, that she had laid on the sofa beside her.
'Well, then, what makes you so cross? Come here, Milly, and tell
me why you can't be satisfied with my assurance.'
She went, and putting her little hand within his arm, looked up in
his face, and said softly, -
'What does it amount to, Ralph? Only to this, that though you
admire Annabella so much, and for qualities that I don't possess,
you would still rather have me than her for your wife, which merely
proves that you don't think it necessary to love your wife; you are
satisfied if she can keep your house, and take care of your child.
But I'm not cross; I'm only sorry; for,' added she, in a low,
tremulous accent, withdrawing her hand from his arm, and bending
her looks on the rug, 'if you don't love me, you don't, and it
can't be helped.'
'Very true; but who told you I didn't? Did I say I loved
'You said you adored her.'
'True, but adoration isn't love. I adore Annabella, but I don't
love her; and I love thee, Milicent, but I don't adore thee.' In
proof of his affection, he clutched a handful of her light brown
ringlets, and appeared to twist them unmercifully.
'Do you really, Ralph?' murmured she, with a faint smile beaming
through her tears, just putting up her hand to his, in token that
he pulled rather too hard.
'To be sure I do,' responded he: 'only you bother me rather,
'I bother you!' cried she, in very natural surprise.
'Yes, you - but only by your exceeding goodness. When a boy has
been eating raisins and sugar-plums all day, he longs for a squeeze
of sour orange by way of a change. And did you never, Milly,
observe the sands on the sea-shore; how nice and smooth they look,
and how soft and easy they feel to the foot? But if you plod
along, for half an hour, over this soft, easy carpet - giving way
at every step, yielding the more the harder you press, - you'll
find it rather wearisome work, and be glad enough to come to a bit
of good, firm rock, that won't budge an inch whether you stand,
walk, or stamp upon it; and, though it be hard as the nether
millstone, you'll find it the easier footing after all.'
'I know what you mean, Ralph,' said she, nervously playing with her
watchguard and tracing the figure on the rug with the point of her
tiny foot - 'I know what you mean: but I thought you always liked
to be yielded to, and I can't alter now.'
'I do like it,' replied he, bringing her to him by another tug at
her hair. 'You mustn't mind my talk, Milly. A man must have
something to grumble about; and if he can't complain that his wife
harries him to death with her perversity and ill-humour, he must
complain that she wears him out with her kindness and gentleness.'
'But why complain at all, unless because you are tired and
'To excuse my own failings, to be sure. Do you think I'll bear all
the burden of my sins on my own shoulders, as long as there's
another ready to help me, with none of her own to carry?'
'There is no such one on earth,' said she seriously; and then,
taking his hand from her head, she kissed it with an air of genuine
devotion, and tripped away to the door.
'What now?' said he. 'Where are you going?'
'To tidy my hair,' she answered, smiling through her disordered
locks; 'you've made it all come down.'
'Off with you then! - An excellent little woman,' he remarked when
she was gone, 'but a thought too soft - she almost melts in one's
hands. I positively think I ill-use her sometimes, when I've taken
too much - but I can't help it, for she never complains, either at
the time or after. I suppose she doesn't mind it.'
'I can enlighten you on that subject, Mr. Hattersley,' said I:
'she does mind it; and some other things she minds still more,
which yet you may never hear her complain of.'
'How do you know? - does she complain to you?' demanded he, with a
sudden spark of fury ready to burst into a flame if I should answer
'No,' I replied; 'but I have known her longer and studied her more
closely than you have done. - And I can tell you, Mr. Hattersley,
that Milicent loves you more than you deserve, and that you have it
in your power to make her very happy, instead of which you are her
evil genius, and, I will venture to say, there is not a single day
passes in which you do not inflict upon her some pang that you
might spare her if you would.'
'Well - it's not my fault,' said he, gazing carelessly up at the
ceiling and plunging his hands into his pockets: 'if my ongoings
don't suit her, she should tell me so.'
'Is she not exactly the wife you wanted? Did you not tell Mr.
Huntingdon you must have one that would submit to anything without
a murmur, and never blame you, whatever you did?'
'True, but we shouldn't always have what we want: it spoils the
best of us, doesn't it? How can I help playing the deuce when I
see it's all one to her whether I behave like a Christian or like a
scoundrel, such as nature made me? and how can I help teasing her
when she's so invitingly meek and mim, when she lies down like a
spaniel at my feet and never so much as squeaks to tell me that's
'If you are a tyrant by nature, the temptation is strong, I allow;
but no generous mind delights to oppress the weak, but rather to
cherish and protect.'
'I don't oppress her; but it's so confounded flat to be always
cherishing and protecting; and then, how can I tell that I am
oppressing her when she "melts away and makes no sign"? I
sometimes think she has no feeling at all; and then I go on till
she cries, and that satisfies me.'
'Then you do delight to oppress her?'
'I don't, I tell you! only when I'm in a bad humour, or a
particularly good one, and want to afflict for the pleasure of
comforting; or when she looks flat and wants shaking up a bit. And
sometimes she provokes me by crying for nothing, and won't tell me
what it's for; and then, I allow, it enrages me past bearing,
especially when I'm not my own man.'
'As is no doubt generally the case on such occasions,' said I.
'But in future, Mr. Hattersley, when you see her looking flat, or
crying for "nothing" (as you call it), ascribe it all to yourself:
be assured it is something you have done amiss, or your general
misconduct, that distresses her.'
'I don't believe it. If it were, she should tell me so: I don't
like that way of moping and fretting in silence, and saying
nothing: it's not honest. How can she expect me to mend my ways
at that rate?'
'Perhaps she gives you credit for having more sense than you
possess, and deludes herself with the hope that you will one day
see your own errors and repair them, if left to your own
'None of your sneers, Mrs. Huntingdon. I have the sense to see
that I'm not always quite correct, but sometimes I think that's no
great matter, as long as I injure nobody but myself - '
'It is a great matter,' interrupted I, 'both to yourself (as you
will hereafter find to your cost) and to all connected with you,
most especially your wife. But, indeed, it is nonsense to talk
about injuring no one but yourself: it is impossible to injure
yourself, especially by such acts as we allude to, without injuring
hundreds, if not thousands, besides, in a greater or less, degree,
either by the evil you do or the good you leave undone.'
'And as I was saying,' continued he, 'or would have said if you
hadn't taken me up so short, I sometimes think I should do better
if I were joined to one that would always remind me when I was
wrong, and give me a motive for doing good and eschewing evil, by
decidedly showing her approval of the one and disapproval of the
'If you had no higher motive than the approval of your fellow-
mortal, it would do you little good.'
'Well, but if I had a mate that would not always be yielding, and
always equally kind, but that would have the spirit to stand at bay
now and then, and honestly tell me her mind at all times, such a
one as yourself for instance. Now, if I went on with you as I do
with her when I'm in London, you'd make the house too hot to hold
me at times, I'll be sworn.'
'You mistake me: I'm no termagant.'
'Well, all the better for that, for I can't stand contradiction, in
a general way, and I'm as fond of my own will as another; only I
think too much of it doesn't answer for any man.'
'Well, I would never contradict you without a cause, but certainly
I would always let you know what I thought of your conduct; and if
you oppressed me, in body, mind, or estate, you should at least
have no reason to suppose "I didn't mind it."'
'I know that, my lady; and I think if my little wife were to follow
the same plan, it would be better for us both.'
'I'll tell her.'
'No, no, let her be; there's much to be said on both sides, and,
now I think upon it, Huntingdon often regrets that you are not more
like her, scoundrelly dog that he is, and you see, after all, you
can't reform him: he's ten times worse than I. He's afraid of
you, to be sure; that is, he's always on his best behaviour in your
presence - but - '
'I wonder what his worst behaviour is like, then?' I could not
'Why, to tell you the truth, it's very bad indeed - isn't it,
Hargrave?' said he, addressing that gentleman, who had entered the
room unperceived by me, for I was now standing near the fire, with
my back to the door. 'Isn't Huntingdon,' he continued, 'as great a
reprobate as ever was d-d?'
'His lady will not hear him censured with impunity,' replied Mr.
Hargrave, coming forward; 'but I must say, I thank God I am not
'Perhaps it would become you better,' said I, 'to look at what you
are, and say, "God be merciful to me a sinner."'
'You are severe,' returned he, bowing slightly and drawing himself
up with a proud yet injured air. Hattersley laughed, and clapped
him on the shoulder. Moving from under his hand with a gesture of
insulted dignity, Mr. Hargrave took himself away to the other end
of the rug.
'Isn't it a shame, Mrs. Huntingdon?' cried his brother-in-law; 'I
struck Walter Hargrave when I was drunk, the second night after we
came, and he's turned a cold shoulder on me ever since; though I
asked his pardon the very morning after it was done!'
'Your manner of asking it,' returned the other, 'and the clearness
with which you remembered the whole transaction, showed you were
not too drunk to be fully conscious of what you were about, and
quite responsible for the deed.'
'You wanted to interfere between me and my wife,' grumbled
Hattersley, 'and that is enough to provoke any man.'
'You justify it, then?' said his opponent, darting upon him a most
'No, I tell you I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't been under
excitement; and if you choose to bear malice for it after all the
handsome things I've said, do so and be d-d!'
'I would refrain from such language in a lady's presence, at
least,' said Mr. Hargrave, hiding his anger under a mask of
'What have I said?' returned Hattersley: 'nothing but heaven's
truth. He will be damned, won't he, Mrs. Huntingdon, if he doesn't
forgive his brother's trespasses?'
'You ought to forgive him, Mr. Hargrave, since he asks you,' said
'Do you say so? Then I will!' And, smiling almost frankly, he
stepped forward and offered his hand. It was immediately clasped
in that of his relative, and the reconciliation was apparently
cordial on both sides.
'The affront,' continued Hargrave, turning to me, 'owed half its
bitterness to the fact of its being offered in your presence; and
since you bid me forgive it, I will, and forget it too.'
'I guess the best return I can make will be to take myself off,'
muttered Hattersley, with a broad grin. His companion smiled, and
he left the room. This put me on my guard. Mr. Hargrave turned
seriously to me, and earnestly began, -
'Dear Mrs. Huntingdon, how I have longed for, yet dreaded, this
hour! Do not be alarmed,' he added, for my face was crimson with
anger: 'I am not about to offend you with any useless entreaties
or complaints. I am not going to presume to trouble you with the
mention of my own feelings or your perfections, but I have
something to reveal to you which you ought to know, and which, yet,
it pains me inexpressibly - '
'Then don't trouble yourself to reveal it!'
'But it is of importance - '
'If so I shall hear it soon enough, especially if it is bad news,
as you seem to consider it. At present I am going to take the
children to the nursery.'
'But can't you ring and send them?'
'No; I want the exercise of a run to the top of the house. Come,
'But you will return?'
'Not yet; don't wait.'
'Then when may I see you again?'
'At lunch,' said I, departing with little Helen in one arm and
leading Arthur by the hand.
He turned away, muttering some sentence of impatient censure or
complaint, in which 'heartless' was the only distinguishable word.
'What nonsense is this, Mr. Hargrave?' said I, pausing in the
doorway. 'What do you mean?'
'Oh, nothing; I did not intend you should hear my soliloquy. But
the fact is, Mrs. Huntingdon, I have a disclosure to make, painful
for me to offer as for you to hear; and I want you to give me a few
minutes of your attention in private at any time and place you like
to appoint. It is from no selfish motive that I ask it, and not
for any cause that could alarm your superhuman purity: therefore
you need not kill me with that look of cold and pitiless disdain.
I know too well the feelings with which the bearers of bad tidings
are commonly regarded not to - '
'What is this wonderful piece of intelligence?' said I, impatiently
interrupting him. 'If it is anything of real importance, speak it
in three words before I go.'
'In three words I cannot. Send those children away and stay with
'No; keep your bad tidings to yourself. I know it is something I
don't want to hear, and something you would displease me by
'You have divined too truly, I fear; but still, since I know it, I
feel it my duty to disclose it to you.'
'Oh, spare us both the infliction, and I will exonerate you from
the duty. You have offered to tell; I have refused to hear: my
ignorance will not be charged on you.'
'Be it so: you shall not hear it from me. But if the blow fall
too suddenly upon you when it comes, remember I wished to soften
I left him. I was determined his words should not alarm me. What
could he, of all men, have to reveal that was of importance for me
to hear? It was no doubt some exaggerated tale about my
unfortunate husband that he wished to make the most of to serve his
own bad purposes.
6th. - He has not alluded to this momentous mystery since, and I
have seen no reason to repent of my unwillingness to hear it. The
threatened blow has not been struck yet, and I do not greatly fear
it. At present I am pleased with Arthur: he has not positively
disgraced himself for upwards of a fortnight, and all this last
week has been so very moderate in his indulgence at table that I
can perceive a marked difference in his general temper and
appearance. Dare I hope this will continue?
Seventh. - Yes, I will hope! To-night I heard Grimsby and
Hattersley grumbling together about the inhospitality of their
host. They did not know I was near, for I happened to be standing
behind the curtain in the bow of the window, watching the moon
rising over the clump of tall dark elm-trees below the lawn, and
wondering why Arthur was so sentimental as to stand without,
leaning against the outer pillar of the portico, apparently
watching it too.
'So, I suppose we've seen the last of our merry carousals in this
house,' said Mr. Hattersley; 'I thought his good-fellowship
wouldn't last long. But,' added he, laughing, 'I didn't expect it
would meet its end this way. I rather thought our pretty hostess
would be setting up her porcupine quills, and threatening to turn
us out of the house if we didn't mind our manners.'
'You didn't foresee this, then?' answered Grimsby, with a guttural
chuckle. 'But he'll change again when he's sick of her. If we
come here a year or two hence, we shall have all our own way,
'I don't know,' replied the other: 'she's not the style of woman
you soon tire of. But be that as it may, it's devilish provoking
now that we can't be jolly, because he chooses to be on his good
'It's all these cursed women!' muttered Grimsby: 'they're the very
bane of the world! They bring trouble and discomfort wherever they
come, with their false, fair faces and their deceitful tongues.'
At this juncture I issued from my retreat, and smiling on Mr.
Grimsby as I passed, left the room and went out in search of
Arthur. Having seen him bend his course towards the shrubbery, I
followed him thither, and found him just entering the shadowy walk.
I was so light of heart, so overflowing with affection, that I
sprang upon him and clasped him in my arms. This startling conduct
had a singular effect upon him: first, he murmured, 'Bless you,
darling!' and returned my close embrace with a fervour like old
times, and then he started, and, in a tone of absolute terror,
exclaimed, 'Helen! what the devil is this?' and I saw, by the faint
light gleaming through the overshadowing tree, that he was
positively pale with the shock.
How strange that the instinctive impulse of affection should come
first, and then the shock of the surprise! It shows, at least,
that the affection is genuine: he is not sick of me yet.
'I startled you, Arthur,' said I, laughing in my glee. 'How
nervous you are!'
'What the deuce did you do it for?' cried he, quite testily,
extricating himself from my arms, and wiping his forehead with his
handkerchief. 'Go back, Helen - go back directly! You'll get your
death of cold!'
'I won't, till I've told you what I came for. They are blaming
you, Arthur, for your temperance and sobriety, and I'm come to
thank you for it. They say it is all "these cursed women," and
that we are the bane of the world; but don't let them laugh or
grumble you out of your good resolutions, or your affection for
He laughed. I squeezed him in my arms again, and cried in tearful
earnest, 'Do, do persevere! and I'll love you better than ever I
'Well, well, I will!' said he, hastily kissing me. 'There, now,
go. You mad creature, how could you come out in your light evening
dress this chill autumn night?'
'It is a glorious night,' said I.
'It is a night that will give you your death, in another minute.
Run away, do!'
'Do you see my death among those trees, Arthur?' said I, for he was
gazing intently at the shrubs, as if he saw it coming, and I was
reluctant to leave him, in my new-found happiness and revival of
hope and love. But he grew angry at my delay, so I kissed him and
ran back to the house.
I was in such a good humour that night: Milicent told me I was the
life of the party, and whispered she had never seen me so
brilliant. Certainly, I talked enough for twenty, and smiled upon
them all. Grimsby, Hattersley, Hargrave, Lady Lowborough, all
shared my sisterly kindness. Grimsby stared and wondered;
Hattersley laughed and jested (in spite of the little wine he had
been suffered to imbibe), but still behaved as well as he knew how.
Hargrave and Annabella, from different motives and in different
ways, emulated me, and doubtless both surpassed me, the former in
his discursive versatility and eloquence, the latter in boldness
and animation at least. Milicent, delighted to see her husband,
her brother, and her over-estimated friend acquitting themselves so
well, was lively and gay too, in her quiet way. Even Lord
Lowborough caught the general contagion: his dark greenish eyes
were lighted up beneath their moody brows; his sombre countenance
was beautified by smiles; all traces of gloom and proud or cold
reserve had vanished for the time; and he astonished us all, not
only by his general cheerfulness and animation, but by the positive
flashes of true force and brilliance he emitted from time to time.
Arthur did not talk much, but he laughed, and listened to the rest,
and was in perfect good-humour, though not excited by wine. So
that, altogether, we made a very merry, innocent, and entertaining
9th. - Yesterday, when Rachel came to dress me for dinner, I saw
that she had been crying. I wanted to know the cause of it, but
she seemed reluctant to tell. Was she unwell? No. Had she heard
bad news from her friends? No. Had any of the servants vexed her?
'Oh, no, ma'am!' she answered; 'it's not for myself.'
'What then, Rachel? Have you been reading novels?'
'Bless you, no!' said she, with a sorrowful shake of the head; and
then she sighed and continued: 'But to tell you the truth, ma'am,
I don't like master's ways of going on.'
'What do you mean, Rachel? He's going on very properly at
'Well, ma'am, if you think so, it's right.'
And she went on dressing my hair, in a hurried way, quite unlike
her usual calm, collected manner, murmuring, half to herself, she
was sure it was beautiful hair: she 'could like to see 'em match
it.' When it was done, she fondly stroked it, and gently patted my
'Is that affectionate ebullition intended for my hair, or myself,
nurse?' said I, laughingly turning round upon her; but a tear was
even now in her eye.
'What do you mean, Rachel?' I exclaimed.
'Well, ma'am, I don't know; but if - '
'Well, if I was you, I wouldn't have that Lady Lowborough in the
house another minute - not another minute I wouldn't!
I was thunderstruck; but before I could recover from the shock
sufficiently to demand an explanation, Milicent entered my room, as
she frequently does when she is dressed before me; and she stayed
with me till it was time to go down. She must have found me a very
unsociable companion this time, for Rachel's last words rang in my
ears. But still I hoped, I trusted they had no foundation but in
some idle rumour of the servants from what they had seen in Lady
Lowborough's manner last month; or perhaps from something that had
passed between their master and her during her former visit. At
dinner I narrowly observed both her and Arthur, and saw nothing
extraordinary in the conduct of either, nothing calculated to
excite suspicion, except in distrustful minds, which mine was not,
and therefore I would not suspect.
Almost immediately after dinner Annabella went out with her husband
to share his moonlight ramble, for it was a splendid evening like
the last. Mr. Hargrave entered the drawing-room a little before
the others, and challenged me to a game of chess. He did it
without any of that sad but proud humility he usually assumes in
addressing me, unless he is excited with wine. I looked at his
face to see if that was the case now. His eye met mine keenly, but
steadily: there was something about him I did not understand, but
he seemed sober enough. Not choosing to engage with him, I
referred him to Milicent.
'She plays badly,' said he, 'I want to match my skill with yours.
Come now! you can't pretend you are reluctant to lay down your
work. I know you never take it up except to pass an idle hour,
when there is nothing better you can do.'
'But chess-players are so unsociable,' I objected; 'they are no
company for any but themselves.'
'There is no one here but Milicent, and she - '
'Oh, I shall be delighted to watch you!' cried our mutual friend.
'Two such players - it will be quite a treat! I wonder which will
'Now, Mrs. Huntingdon,' said Hargrave, as he arranged the men on
the board, speaking distinctly, and with a peculiar emphasis, as if
he had a double meaning to all his words, 'you are a good player,
but I am a better: we shall have a long game, and you will give me
some trouble; but I can be as patient as you, and in the end I
shall certainly win.' He fixed his eyes upon me with a glance I
did not like, keen, crafty, bold, and almost impudent; - already
half triumphant in his anticipated success.
'I hope not, Mr. Hargrave!' returned I, with vehemence that must
have startled Milicent at least; but he only smiled and murmured,
'Time will show.'
We set to work: he sufficiently interested in the game, but calm
and fearless in the consciousness of superior skill: I, intensely
eager to disappoint his expectations, for I considered this the
type of a more serious contest, as I imagined he did, and I felt an
almost superstitious dread of being beaten: at all events, I could
ill endure that present success should add one tittle to his
conscious power (his insolent self-confidence I ought to say), or
encourage for a moment his dream of future conquest. His play was
cautious and deep, but I struggled hard against him. For some time
the combat was doubtful: at length, to my joy, the victory seemed
inclining to my side: I had taken several of his best pieces, and
manifestly baffled his projects. He put his hand to his brow and
paused, in evident perplexity. I rejoiced in my advantage, but
dared not glory in it yet. At length, he lifted his head, and
quietly making his move, looked at me and said, calmly, 'Now you
think you will win, don't you?'
'I hope so,' replied I, taking his pawn that he had pushed into the
way of my bishop with so careless an air that I thought it was an
oversight, but was not generous enough, under the circumstances, to
direct his attention to it, and too heedless, at the moment, to
foresee the after-consequences of my move.
'It is those bishops that trouble me,' said he; 'but the bold
knight can overleap the reverend gentlemen,' taking my last bishop
with his knight; 'and now, those sacred persons once removed, I
shall carry all before me.'
'Oh, Walter, how you talk!' cried Milicent; 'she has far more
pieces than you still.'
'I intend to give you some trouble yet,' said I; 'and perhaps, sir,
you will find yourself checkmated before you are aware. Look to
The combat deepened. The game was a long one, and I did give him
some trouble: but he was a better player than I.
'What keen gamesters you are!' said Mr. Hattersley, who had now
entered, and been watching us for some time. 'Why, Mrs.
Huntingdon, your hand trembles as if you had staked your all upon
it! and, Walter, you dog, you look as deep and cool as if you were
certain of success, and as keen and cruel as if you would drain her
heart's blood! But if I were you, I wouldn't beat her, for very
fear: she'll hate you if you do - she will, by heaven! I see it
in her eye.'
'Hold your tongue, will you?' said I: his talk distracted me, for
I was driven to extremities. A few more moves, and I was
inextricably entangled in the snare of my antagonist.
'Check,' cried he: I sought in agony some means of escape.
'Mate!' he added, quietly, but with evident delight. He had
suspended the utterance of that last fatal syllable the better to
enjoy my dismay. I was foolishly disconcerted by the event.
Hattersley laughed; Milicent was troubled to see me so disturbed.
Hargrave placed his hand on mine that rested on the table, and
squeezing it with a firm but gentle pressure, murmured, 'Beaten,
beaten!' and gazed into my face with a look where exultation was
blended with an expression of ardour and tenderness yet more
'No, never, Mr. Hargrave!' exclaimed I, quickly withdrawing my
'Do you deny?' replied he, smilingly pointing to the board. 'No,
no,' I answered, recollecting how strange my conduct must appear:
'you have beaten me in that game.'
'Will you try another, then?'
'You acknowledge my superiority?'
'Yes, as a chess-player.'
I rose to resume my work.
'Where is Annabella?' said Hargrave, gravely, after glancing round
'Gone out with Lord Lowborough,' answered I, for he looked at me
for a reply.
'And not yet returned!' he said, seriously.
'I suppose not.'
'Where is Huntingdon?' looking round again.
'Gone out with Grimsby, as you know,' said Hattersley, suppressing
a laugh, which broke forth as he concluded the sentence. Why did
he laugh? Why did Hargrave connect them thus together? Was it
true, then? And was this the dreadful secret he had wished to
reveal to me? I must know, and that quickly. I instantly rose and
left the room to go in search of Rachel and demand an explanation
of her words; but Mr. Hargrave followed me into the anteroom, and
before I could open its outer door, gently laid his hand upon the
lock. 'May I tell you something, Mrs. Huntingdon?' said he, in a
subdued tone, with serious, downcast eyes.
'If it be anything worth hearing,' replied I, struggling to be
composed, for I trembled in every limb.
He quietly pushed a chair towards me. I merely leant my hand upon
it, and bid him go on.
'Do not be alarmed,' said he: 'what I wish to say is nothing in
itself; and I will leave you to draw your own inferences from it.
You say that Annabella is not yet returned?'
'Yes, yes - go on!' said I, impatiently; for I feared my forced
calmness would leave me before the end of his disclosure, whatever
it might be.
'And you hear,' continued he, 'that Huntingdon is gone out with
'I heard the latter say to your husband - or the man who calls
himself so - '
'Go on, sir!'
He bowed submissively, and continued: 'I heard him say, - "I shall
manage it, you'll see! They're gone down by the water; I shall
meet them there, and tell him I want a bit of talk with him about
some things that we needn't trouble the lady with; and she'll say
she can be walking back to the house; and then I shall apologise,
you know, and all that, and tip her a wink to take the way of the
shrubbery. I'll keep him talking there, about those matters I
mentioned, and anything else I can think of, as long as I can, and
then bring him round the other way, stopping to look at the trees,
the fields, and anything else I can find to discourse of."' Mr.
Hargrave paused, and looked at me.
Without a word of comment or further questioning, I rose, and
darted from the room and out of the house. The torment of suspense
was not to be endured: I would not suspect my husband falsely, on
this man's accusation, and I would not trust him unworthily - I
must know the truth at once. I flew to the shrubbery. Scarcely
had I reached it, when a sound of voices arrested my breathless
'We have lingered too long; he will be back,' said Lady
'Surely not, dearest!' was his reply; 'but you can run across the
lawn, and get in as quietly as you can; I'll follow in a while.'
My knees trembled under me; my brain swam round. I was ready to
faint. She must not see me thus. I shrunk among the bushes, and
leant against the trunk of a tree to let her pass.
'Ah, Huntingdon!' said she reproachfully, pausing where I had stood
with him the night before - 'it was here you kissed that woman!'
she looked back into the leafy shade. Advancing thence, he
answered, with a careless laugh, -
'Well, dearest, I couldn't help it. You know I must keep straight
with her as long as I can. Haven't I seen you kiss your dolt of a
husband scores of times? - and do I ever complain?'
'But tell me, don't you love her still - a little?' said she,
placing her hand on his arm, looking earnestly in his face - for I
could see them, plainly, the moon shining full upon them from
between the branches of the tree that sheltered me.
'Not one bit, by all that's sacred!' he replied, kissing her
'Good heavens, I must be gone!' cried she, suddenly breaking from
him, and away she flew.
There he stood before me; but I had not strength to confront him
now: my tongue cleaved to the roof of my mouth; I was well-nigh
sinking to the earth, and I almost wondered he did not hear the
beating of my heart above the low sighing of the wind and the
fitful rustle of the falling leaves. My senses seemed to fail me,
but still I saw his shadowy form pass before me, and through the
rushing sound in my ears I distinctly heard him say, as he stood
looking up the lawn, - 'There goes the fool! Run, Annabella, run!
There - in with you! Ah, - he didn't see! That's right, Grimsby,
keep him back!' And even his low laugh reached me as he walked
'God help me now!' I murmured, sinking on my knees among the damp
weeds and brushwood that surrounded me, and looking up at the
moonlit sky, through the scant foliage above. It seemed all dim
and quivering now to my darkened sight. My burning, bursting heart
strove to pour forth its agony to God, but could not frame its
anguish into prayer; until a gust of wind swept over me, which,
while it scattered the dead leaves, like blighted hopes, around,
cooled my forehead, and seemed a little to revive my sinking frame.
Then, while I lifted up my soul in speechless, earnest
supplication, some heavenly influence seemed to strengthen me
within: I breathed more freely; my vision cleared; I saw
distinctly the pure moon shining on, and the light clouds skimming
the clear, dark sky; and then I saw the eternal stars twinkling
down upon me; I knew their God was mine, and He was strong to save
and swift to hear. 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,'
seemed whispered from above their myriad orbs. No, no; I felt He
would not leave me comfortless: in spite of earth and hell I
should have strength for all my trials, and win a glorious rest at
Refreshed, invigorated, if not composed, I rose and returned to the
house. Much of my new-born strength and courage forsook me, I
confess, as I entered it, and shut out the fresh wind and the
glorious sky: everything I saw and heard seemed to sicken my heart
- the hall, the lamp, the staircase, the doors of the different
apartments, the social sound of talk and laughter from the drawing-
room. How could I bear my future life! In this house, among those
people - oh, how could I endure to live! John just then entered
the hall, and seeing me, told me he had been sent in search of me,
adding that he had taken in the tea, and master wished to know if I
'Ask Mrs. Hattersley to be so kind as to make the tea, John,' said
I. 'Say I am not well to-night, and wish to be excused.'
I retired into the large, empty dining-room, where all was silence
and darkness, but for the soft sighing of the wind without, and the
faint gleam of moonlight that pierced the blinds and curtains; and
there I walked rapidly up and down, thinking of my bitter thoughts
alone. How different was this from the evening of yesterday!
That, it seems, was the last expiring flash of my life's happiness.
Poor, blinded fool that I was to be so happy! I could now see the
reason of Arthur's strange reception of me in the shrubbery; the
burst of kindness was for his paramour, the start of horror for his
wife. Now, too, I could better understand the conversation between
Hattersley and Grimsby; it was doubtless of his love for her they
spoke, not for me.
I heard the drawing-room door open: a light quick step came out of
the ante-room, crossed the hall, and ascended the stairs. It was
Milicent, poor Milicent, gone to see how I was - no one else cared
for me; but she still was kind. I shed no tears before, but now
they came, fast and free. Thus she did me good, without
approaching me. Disappointed in her search, I heard her come down,
more slowly than she had ascended. Would she come in there, and
find me out? No, she turned in the opposite direction and re-
entered the drawing-room. I was glad, for I knew not how to meet
her, or what to say. I wanted no confidante in my distress. I
deserved none, and I wanted none. I had taken the burden upon
myself; let me bear it alone.
As the usual hour of retirement approached I dried my eyes, and
tried to clear my voice and calm my mind. I must see Arthur to-
night, and speak to him; but I would do it calmly: there should be
no scene - nothing to complain or to boast of to his companions -
nothing to laugh at with his lady-love. When the company were
retiring to their chambers I gently opened the door, and just as he
passed, beckoned him in.
'What's to do with you, Helen?' said he. 'Why couldn't you come to
make tea for us? and what the deuce are you here for, in the dark?
What ails you, young woman: you look like a ghost!' he continued,
surveying me by the light of his candle.
'No matter,' I answered, 'to you; you have no longer any regard for
me it appears; and I have no longer any for you.'
'Hal-lo! what the devil is this?' he muttered.
'I would leave you to-morrow,' continued I, 'and never again come
under this roof, but for my child' - I paused a moment to steady,
'What in the devil's name is this, Helen?' cried he. 'What can you
be driving at?'
'You know perfectly well. Let us waste no time in useless
explanation, but tell me, will you -?'
He vehemently swore he knew nothing about it, and insisted upon
hearing what poisonous old woman had been blackening his name, and
what infamous lies I had been fool enough to believe.
'Spare yourself the trouble of forswearing yourself and racking
your brains to stifle truth with falsehood,' I coldly replied. 'I
have trusted to the testimony of no third person. I was in the
shrubbery this evening, and I saw and heard for myself.'
This was enough. He uttered a suppressed exclamation of
consternation and dismay, and muttering, 'I shall catch it now!'
set down his candle on the nearest chair, and rearing his back
against the wall, stood confronting me with folded arms.
'Well, what then?' said he, with the calm insolence of mingled
shamelessness and desperation.
'Only this,' returned I; 'will you let me take our child and what
remains of my fortune, and go?'
'Anywhere, where he will be safe from your contaminating influence,
and I shall be delivered from your presence, and you from mine.'
'Will you let me have the child then, without the money?'
'No, nor yourself without the child. Do you think I'm going to be
made the talk of the country for your fastidious caprices?'
'Then I must stay here, to be hated and despised. But henceforth
we are husband and wife only in the name.'
'I am your child's mother, and your housekeeper, nothing more. So
you need not trouble yourself any longer to feign the love you
cannot feel: I will exact no more heartless caresses from you, nor
offer nor endure them either. I will not be mocked with the empty
husk of conjugal endearments, when you have given the substance to
'Very good, if you please. We shall see who will tire first, my
'If I tire, it will be of living in the world with you: not of
living without your mockery of love. When you tire of your sinful
ways, and show yourself truly repentant, I will forgive you, and,
perhaps, try to love you again, though that will be hard indeed.'
'Humph! and meantime you will go and talk me over to Mrs. Hargrave,
and write long letters to aunt Maxwell to complain of the wicked
wretch you have married?'
'I shall complain to no one. Hitherto I have struggled hard to
hide your vices from every eye, and invest you with virtues you
never possessed; but now you must look to yourself.'
I left him muttering bad language to himself, and went up-stairs.
'You are poorly, ma'am,' said Rachel, surveying me with deep
'It is too true, Rachel,' said I, answering her sad looks rather
than her words.
'I knew it, or I wouldn't have mentioned such a thing.'
'But don't you trouble yourself about it,' said I, kissing her
pale, time-wasted cheek. 'I can bear it better than you imagine.'
'Yes, you were always for "bearing." But if I was you I wouldn't
bear it; I'd give way to it, and cry right hard! and I'd talk too,
I just would - I'd let him know what it was to - '
'I have talked,' said I; 'I've said enough.'
'Then I'd cry,' persisted she. 'I wouldn't look so white and so
calm, and burst my heart with keeping it in.'
'I have cried,' said I, smiling, in spite of my misery; 'and I am
calm now, really: so don't discompose me again, nurse: let us say
no more about it, and don't mention it to the servants. There, you
may go now. Good-night; and don't disturb your rest for me: I
shall sleep well - if I can.'
Notwithstanding this resolution, I found my bed so intolerable
that, before two o'clock, I rose, and lighting my candle by the
rushlight that was still burning, I got my desk and sat down in my
dressing-gown to recount the events of the past evening. It was
better to be so occupied than to be lying in bed torturing my brain
with recollections of the far past and anticipations of the
dreadful future. I have found relief in describing the very
circumstances that have destroyed my peace, as well as the little
trivial details attendant upon their discovery. No sleep I could
have got this night would have done so much towards composing my
mind, and preparing me to meet the trials of the day. I fancy so,
at least; and yet, when I cease writing, I find my head aches
terribly; and when I look into the glass, I am startled at my
haggard, worn appearance.
Rachel has been to dress me, and says I have had a sad night of it,
she can see. Milicent has just looked in to ask me how I was. I
told her I was better, but to excuse my appearance admitted I had
had a restless night. I wish this day were over! I shudder at the
thoughts of going down to breakfast. How shall I encounter them
all? Yet let me remember it is not I that am guilty: I have no
cause to fear; and if they scorn me as a victim of their guilt, I
can pity their folly and despise their scorn.
Evening. - Breakfast passed well over: I was calm and cool
throughout. I answered composedly all inquiries respecting my
health; and whatever was unusual in my look or manner was generally
attributed to the trifling indisposition that had occasioned my
early retirement last night. But how am I to get over the ten or
twelve days that must yet elapse before they go? Yet why so long
for their departure? When they are gone, how shall I get through
the months or years of my future life in company with that man - my
greatest enemy? for none could injure me as he has done. Oh! when
I think how fondly, how foolishly I have loved him, how madly I
have trusted him, how constantly I have laboured, and studied, and
prayed, and struggled for his advantage; and how cruelly he has
trampled on my love, betrayed my trust, scorned my prayers and
tears, and efforts for his preservation, crushed my hopes,
destroyed my youth's best feelings, and doomed me to a life of
hopeless misery, as far as man can do it, it is not enough to say
that I no longer love my husband - I HATE him! The word stares me
in the face like a guilty confession, but it is true: I hate him -
I hate him! But God have mercy on his miserable soul! and make him
see and feel his guilt - I ask no other vengeance! If he could but
fully know and truly feel my wrongs I should be well avenged, and I
could freely pardon all; but he is so lost, so hardened in his
heartless depravity, that in this life I believe he never will.
But it is useless dwelling on this theme: let me seek once more to
dissipate reflection in the minor details of passing events.
Mr. Hargrave has annoyed me all day long with his serious,
sympathising, and (as he thinks) unobtrusive politeness. If it
were more obtrusive it would trouble me less, for then I could snub
him; but, as it is, he contrives to appear so really kind and
thoughtful that I cannot do so without rudeness and seeming
ingratitude. I sometimes think I ought to give him credit for the
good feeling he simulates so well; and then again, I think it is my
duty to suspect him under the peculiar circumstances in which I am
placed. His kindness may not all be feigned; but still, let not
the purest impulse of gratitude to him induce me to forget myself:
let me remember the game of chess, the expressions he used on the
occasion, and those indescribable looks of his, that so justly
roused my indignation, and I think I shall be safe enough. I have
done well to record them so minutely.
I think he wishes to find an opportunity of speaking to me alone:
he has seemed to be on the watch all day; but I have taken care to
disappoint him - not that I fear anything he could say, but I have
trouble enough without the addition of his insulting consolations,
condolences, or whatever else he might attempt; and, for Milicent's
sake, I do not wish to quarrel with him. He excused himself from
going out to shoot with the other gentlemen in the morning, under
the pretext of having letters to write; and instead of retiring for
that purpose into the library, he sent for his desk into the
morning-room, where I was seated with Milicent and Lady Lowborough.
They had betaken themselves to their work; I, less to divert my
mind than to deprecate conversation, had provided myself with a
book. Milicent saw that I wished to be quiet, and accordingly let
me alone. Annabella, doubtless, saw it too: but that was no
reason why she should restrain her tongue, or curb her cheerful
spirits: she accordingly chatted away, addressing herself almost
exclusively to me, and with the utmost assurance and familiarity,
growing the more animated and friendly the colder and briefer my
answers became. Mr. Hargrave saw that I could ill endure it, and,
looking up from his desk, he answered her questions and
observations for me, as far as he could, and attempted to transfer
her social attentions from me to himself; but it would not do.
Perhaps she thought I had a headache, and could not bear to talk;
at any rate, she saw that her loquacious vivacity annoyed me, as I
could tell by the malicious pertinacity with which she persisted.
But I checked it effectually by putting into her hand the book I
had been trying to read, on the fly-leaf of which I had hastily
'I am too well acquainted with your character and conduct to feel
any real friendship for you, and as I am without your talent for
dissimulation, I cannot assume the appearance of it. I must,
therefore, beg that hereafter all familiar intercourse may cease
between us; and if I still continue to treat you with civility, as
if you were a woman worthy of consideration and respect, understand
that it is out of regard for your cousin Milicent's feelings, not
Upon perusing this she turned scarlet, and bit her lip. Covertly
tearing away the leaf, she crumpled it up and put it in the fire,
and then employed herself in turning over the pages of the book,
and, really or apparently, perusing its contents. In a little
while Milicent announced it her intention to repair to the nursery,
and asked if I would accompany her.
'Annabella will excuse us,' said she; 'she's busy reading.'
'No, I won't,' cried Annabella, suddenly looking up, and throwing
her book on the table; 'I want to speak to Helen a minute. You may
go, Milicent, and she'll follow in a while.' (Milicent went.)
'Will you oblige me, Helen?' continued she.
Her impudence astounded me; but I complied, and followed her into
the library. She closed the door, and walked up to the fire.
'Who told you this?' said she.
'No one: I am not incapable of seeing for myself.'
'Ah, you are suspicious!' cried she, smiling, with a gleam of hope.
Hitherto there had been a kind of desperation in her hardihood; now
she was evidently relieved.
'If I were suspicious,' I replied, 'I should have discovered your
infamy long before. No, Lady Lowborough, I do not found my charge
'On what do you found it, then?' said she, throwing herself into an
arm-chair, and stretching out her feet to the fender, with an
obvious effort to appear composed.
'I enjoy a moonlight ramble as well as you,' I answered, steadily
fixing my eyes upon her; 'and the shrubbery happens to be one of my
She coloured again excessively, and remained silent, pressing her
finger against her teeth, and gazing into the fire. I watched her
a few moments with a feeling of malevolent gratification; then,
moving towards the door, I calmly asked if she had anything more to
'Yes, yes!' cried she eagerly, starting up from her reclining
posture. 'I want to know if you will tell Lord Lowborough?'
'Suppose I do?'
'Well, if you are disposed to publish the matter, I cannot dissuade
you, of course - but there will be terrible work if you do - and if
you don't, I shall think you the most generous of mortal beings -
and if there is anything in the world I can do for you - anything
short of - ' she hesitated.
'Short of renouncing your guilty connection with my husband, I
suppose you mean?' said I.
She paused, in evident disconcertion and perplexity, mingled with
anger she dared not show.
'I cannot renounce what is dearer than life,' she muttered, in a
low, hurried tone. Then, suddenly raising her head and fixing her
gleaming eyes upon me, she continued earnestly: 'But, Helen - or
Mrs. Huntingdon, or whatever you would have me call you - will you
tell him? If you are generous, here is a fitting opportunity for
the exercise of your magnanimity: if you are proud, here am I -
your rival - ready to acknowledge myself your debtor for an act of
the most noble forbearance.'
'I shall not tell him.'
'You will not!' cried she, delightedly. 'Accept my sincere thanks,
She sprang up, and offered me her hand. I drew back.
'Give me no thanks; it is not for your sake that I refrain.
Neither is it an act of any forbearance: I have no wish to publish
your shame. I should be sorry to distress your husband with the
knowledge of it.'
'And Milicent? will you tell her?'
'No: on the contrary, I shall do my utmost to conceal it from her.
I would not for much that she should know the infamy and disgrace
of her relation!'
'You use hard words, Mrs. Huntingdon, but I can pardon you.'
'And now, Lady Lowborough,' continued I, 'let me counsel you to
leave this house as soon as possible. You must be aware that your
continuance here is excessively disagreeable to me - not for Mr.
Huntingdon's sake,' said I, observing the dawn of a malicious smile
of triumph on her face - 'you are welcome to him, if you like him,
as far as I am concerned - but because it is painful to be always
disguising my true sentiments respecting you, and straining to keep
up an appearance of civility and respect towards one for whom I
have not the most distant shadow of esteem; and because, if you
stay, your conduct cannot possibly remain concealed much longer
from the only two persons in the house who do not know it already.
And, for your husband's sake, Annabella, and even for your own, I
wish - I earnestly advise and entreat you to break off this
unlawful connection at once, and return to your duty while you may,
before the dreadful consequences - '
'Yes, yes, of course,' said she, interrupting me with a gesture of
impatience. 'But I cannot go, Helen, before the time appointed for
our departure. What possible pretext could I frame for such a
thing? Whether I proposed going back alone - which Lowborough
would not hear of - or taking him with me, the very circumstance
itself would be certain to excite suspicion - and when our visit is