Part 7 out of 10
so nearly at an end too - little more than a week - surely you can
endure my presence so long! I will not annoy you with any more of
my friendly impertinences.'
'Well, I have nothing more to say to you.'
'Have you mentioned this affair to Huntingdon?' asked she, as I was
leaving the room.
'How dare you mention his name to me!' was the only answer I gave.
No words have passed between us since, but such as outward decency
or pure necessity demanded.
Nineteenth. - In proportion as Lady Lowborough finds she has
nothing to fear from me, and as the time of departure draws nigh,
the more audacious and insolent she becomes. She does not scruple
to speak to my husband with affectionate familiarity in my
presence, when no one else is by, and is particularly fond of
displaying her interest in his health and welfare, or in anything
that concerns him, as if for the purpose of contrasting her kind
solicitude with my cold indifference. And he rewards her by such
smiles and glances, such whispered words, or boldly-spoken
insinuations, indicative of his sense of her goodness and my
neglect, as make the blood rush into my face, in spite of myself -
for I would be utterly regardless of it all - deaf and blind to
everything that passes between them, since the more I show myself
sensible of their wickedness the more she triumphs in her victory,
and the more he flatters himself that I love him devotedly still,
in spite of my pretended indifference. On such occasions I have
sometimes been startled by a subtle, fiendish suggestion inciting
me to show him the contrary by a seeming encouragement of
Hargrave's advances; but such ideas are banished in a moment with
horror and self-abasement; and then I hate him tenfold more than
ever for having brought me to this! - God pardon me for it and all
my sinful thoughts! Instead of being humbled and purified by my
afflictions, I feel that they are turning my nature into gall.
This must be my fault as much as theirs that wrong me. No true
Christian could cherish such bitter feelings as I do against him
and her, especially the latter: him, I still feel that I could
pardon - freely, gladly - on the slightest token of repentance; but
she - words cannot utter my abhorrence. Reason forbids, but
passion urges strongly; and I must pray and struggle long ere I
It is well that she is leaving to-morrow, for I could not well
endure her presence for another day. This morning she rose earlier
than usual. I found her in the room alone, when I went down to
'Oh, Helen! is it you?' said she, turning as I entered.
I gave an involuntary start back on seeing her, at which she
uttered a short laugh, observing, 'I think we are both
I came forward and busied myself with the breakfast things.
'This is the last day I shall burden your hospitality,' said she,
as she seated herself at the table. 'Ah, here comes one that will
not rejoice at it!' she murmured, half to herself, as Arthur
entered the room.
He shook hands with her and wished her good-morning: then, looking
lovingly in her face, and still retaining her hand in his, murmured
pathetically, 'The last - last day!'
'Yes,' said she with some asperity; 'and I rose early to make the
best of it - I have been here alone this half-hour, and you - you
lazy creature - '
'Well, I thought I was early too,' said he; 'but,' dropping his
voice almost to a whisper, 'you see we are not alone.'
'We never are,' returned she. But they were almost as good as
alone, for I was now standing at the window, watching the clouds,
and struggling to suppress my wrath.
Some more words passed between them, which, happily, I did not
overhear; but Annabella had the audacity to come and place herself
beside me, and even to put her hand upon my shoulder and say
softly, 'You need not grudge him to me, Helen, for I love him more
than ever you could do.'
This put me beside myself. I took her hand and violently dashed it
from me, with an expression of abhorrence and indignation that
could not be suppressed. Startled, almost appalled, by this sudden
outbreak, she recoiled in silence. I would have given way to my
fury and said more, but Arthur's low laugh recalled me to myself.
I checked the half-uttered invective, and scornfully turned away,
regretting that I had given him so much amusement. He was still
laughing when Mr. Hargrave made his appearance. How much of the
scene he had witnessed I do not know, for the door was ajar when he
entered. He greeted his host and his cousin both coldly, and me
with a glance intended to express the deepest sympathy mingled with
high admiration and esteem.
'How much allegiance do you owe to that man?' he asked below his
breath, as he stood beside me at the window, affecting to be making
observations on the weather.
'None,' I answered. And immediately returning to the table, I
employed myself in making the tea. He followed, and would have
entered into some kind of conversation with me, but the other
guests were now beginning to assemble, and I took no more notice of
him, except to give him his coffee.
After breakfast, determined to pass as little of the day as
possible in company with Lady Lowborough, I quietly stole away from
the company and retired to the library. Mr. Hargrave followed me
thither, under pretence of coming for a book; and first, turning to
the shelves, he selected a volume, and then quietly, but by no
means timidly, approaching me, he stood beside me, resting his hand
on the back of my chair, and said softly, 'And so you consider
yourself free at last?'
'Yes,' said I, without moving, or raising my eyes from my book,
'free to do anything but offend God and my conscience.'
There was a momentary pause.
'Very right,' said he, 'provided your conscience be not too
morbidly tender, and your ideas of God not too erroneously severe;
but can you suppose it would offend that benevolent Being to make
the happiness of one who would die for yours? - to raise a devoted
heart from purgatorial torments to a state of heavenly bliss, when
you could do it without the slightest injury to yourself or any
This was spoken in a low, earnest, melting tone, as he bent over
me. I now raised my head; and steadily confronting his gaze, I
answered calmly, 'Mr. Hargrave, do you mean to insult me?'
He was not prepared for this. He paused a moment to recover the
shook; then, drawing himself up and removing his hand from my
chair, he answered, with proud sadness, - 'That was not my
I just glanced towards the door, with a slight movement of the
head, and then returned to my book. He immediately withdrew. This
was better than if I had answered with more words, and in the
passionate spirit to which my first impulse would have prompted.
What a good thing it is to be able to command one's temper! I must
labour to cultivate this inestimable quality: God only knows how
often I shall need it in this rough, dark road that lies before me.
In the course of the morning I drove over to the Grove with the two
ladies, to give Milicent an opportunity for bidding farewell to her
mother and sister. They persuaded her to stay with them the rest
of the day, Mrs. Hargrave promising to bring her back in the
evening and remain till the party broke up on the morrow.
Consequently, Lady Lowborough and I had the pleasure of returning
TETE-E-TETE in the carriage together. For the first mile or two we
kept silence, I looking out of my window, and she leaning back in
her corner. But I was not going to restrict myself to any
particular position for her; when I was tired of leaning forward,
with the cold, raw wind in my face, and surveying the russet hedges
and the damp, tangled grass of their banks, I gave it up and leant
back too. With her usual impudence, my companion then made some
attempts to get up a conversation; but the monosyllables 'yes,' or
'no' or 'humph,' were the utmost her several remarks could elicit
from me. At last, on her asking my opinion upon some immaterial
point of discussion, I answered, - 'Why do you wish to talk to me,
Lady Lowborough? You must know what I think of you.'
'Well, if you will be so bitter against me,' replied she, 'I can't
help it; but I'm not going to sulk for anybody.'
Our short drive was now at an end. As soon as the carriage door
was opened, she sprang out, and went down the park to meet the
gentlemen, who were just returning from the woods. Of course I did
But I had not done with her impudence yet: after dinner, I retired
to the drawing-room, as usual, and she accompanied me, but I had
the two children with me, and I gave them my whole attention, and
determined to keep them till the gentlemen came, or till Milicent
arrived with her mother. Little Helen, however, was soon tired of
playing, and insisted upon going to sleep; and while I sat on the
sofa with her on my knee, and Arthur seated beside me, gently
playing with her soft, flaxen hair, Lady Lowborough composedly came
and placed herself on the other side.
'To-morrow, Mrs. Huntingdon,' said she, 'you will be delivered from
my presence, which, no doubt, you will be very glad of - it is
natural you should; but do you know I have rendered you a great
service? Shall I tell you what it is?'
'I shall be glad to hear of any service you have rendered me,' said
I, determined to be calm, for I knew by the tone of her voice she
wanted to provoke me.
'Well,' resumed she, 'have you not observed the salutary change in
Mr. Huntingdon? Don't you see what a sober, temperate man he is
become? You saw with regret the sad habits he was contracting, I
know: and I know you did your utmost to deliver him from them, but
without success, until I came to your assistance. I told him in
few words that I could not bear to see him degrade himself so, and
that I should cease to - no matter what I told him, but you see the
reformation I have wrought; and you ought to thank me for it.'
I rose and rang for the nurse.
'But I desire no thanks,' she continued; 'all the return I ask is,
that you will take care of him when I am gone, and not, by
harshness and neglect, drive him back to his old courses.'
I was almost sick with passion, but Rachel was now at the door. I
pointed to the children, for I could not trust myself to speak:
she took them away, and I followed.
'Will you, Helen?' continued the speaker.
I gave her a look that blighted the malicious smile on her face, or
checked it, at least for a moment, and departed. In the ante-room
I met Mr. Hargrave. He saw I was in no humour to be spoken to, and
suffered me to pass without a word; but when, after a few minutes'
seclusion in the library, I had regained my composure, and was
returning to join Mrs. Hargrave and Milicent, whom I had just heard
come downstairs and go into the drawing-room, I found him there
still lingering in the dimly-lighted apartment, and evidently
waiting for me.
'Mrs. Huntingdon,' said he as I passed, 'will you allow me one
'What is it then? be quick, if you please.'
'I offended you this morning; and I cannot live under your
'Then go, and sin no more,' replied I, turning away.
'No, no!' said he, hastily, setting himself before me. 'Pardon me,
but I must have your forgiveness. I leave you to-morrow, and I may
not have an opportunity of speaking to you again. I was wrong to
forget myself and you, as I did; but let me implore you to forget
and forgive my rash presumption, and think of me as if those words
had never been spoken; for, believe me, I regret them deeply, and
the loss of your esteem is too severe a penalty: I cannot bear
'Forgetfulness is not to be purchased with a wish; and I cannot
bestow my esteem on all who desire it, unless they deserve it too.'
'I shall think my life well spent in labouring to deserve it, if
you will but pardon this offence - will you?'
'Yes! but that is coldly spoken. Give me your hand and I'll
believe you. You won't? Then, Mrs. Huntingdon, you do not forgive
'Yes; here it is, and my forgiveness with it: only, SIN NO MORE.'
He pressed my cold hand with sentimental fervour, but said nothing,
and stood aside to let me pass into the room, where all the company
were now assembled. Mr. Grimsby was seated near the door: on
seeing me enter, almost immediately followed by Hargrave, he leered
at me with a glance of intolerable significance, as I passed. I
looked him in the face, till he sullenly turned away, if not
ashamed, at least confounded for the moment. Meantime Hattersley
had seized Hargrave by the arm, and was whispering something in his
ear - some coarse joke, no doubt, for the latter neither laughed
nor spoke in answer, but, turning from him with a slight curl of
the lip, disengaged himself and went to his mother, who was telling
Lord Lowborough how many reasons she had to be proud of her son.
Thank heaven, they are all going to-morrow.
December 20th, 1824. - This is the third anniversary of our
felicitous union. It is now two months since our guests left us to
the enjoyment of each other's society; and I have had nine weeks'
experience of this new phase of conjugal life - two persons living
together, as master and mistress of the house, and father and
mother of a winsome, merry little child, with the mutual
understanding that there is no love, friendship, or sympathy
between them. As far as in me lies, I endeavour to live peaceably
with him: I treat him with unimpeachable civility, give up my
convenience to his, wherever it may reasonably be done, and consult
him in a business-like way on household affairs, deferring to his
pleasure and judgment, even when I know the latter to be inferior
to my own.
As for him, for the first week or two, he was peevish and low,
fretting, I suppose, over his dear Annabella's departure, and
particularly ill-tempered to me: everything I did was wrong; I was
cold-hearted, hard, insensate; my sour, pale face was perfectly
repulsive; my voice made him shudder; he knew not how he could live
through the winter with me; I should kill him by inches. Again I
proposed a separation, but it would not do: he was not going to be
the talk of all the old gossips in the neighbourhood: he would not
have it said that he was such a brute his wife could not live with
him. No; he must contrive to bear with me.
'I must contrive to bear with you, you mean,' said I; 'for so long
as I discharge my functions of steward and house-keeper, so
conscientiously and well, without pay and without thanks, you
cannot afford to part with me. I shall therefore remit these
duties when my bondage becomes intolerable.' This threat, I
thought, would serve to keep him in check, if anything would.
I believe he was much disappointed that I did not feel his
offensive sayings more acutely, for when he had said anything
particularly well calculated to hurt my feelings, he would stare me
searchingly in the face, and then grumble against my 'marble heart'
or my 'brutal insensibility.' If I had bitterly wept and deplored
his lost affection, he would, perhaps, have condescended to pity
me, and taken me into favour for a while, just to comfort his
solitude and console him for the absence of his beloved Annabella,
until he could meet her again, or some more fitting substitute.
Thank heaven, I am not so weak as that! I was infatuated once with
a foolish, besotted affection, that clung to him in spite of his
unworthiness, but it is fairly gone now - wholly crushed and
withered away; and he has none but himself and his vices to thank
At first (in compliance with his sweet lady's injunctions, I
suppose), he abstained wonderfully well from seeking to solace his
cares in wine; but at length he began to relax his virtuous
efforts, and now and then exceeded a little, and still continues to
do so; nay, sometimes, not a little. When he is under the exciting
influence of these excesses, he sometimes fires up and attempts to
play the brute; and then I take little pains to suppress my scorn
and disgust. When he is under the depressing influence of the
after-consequences, he bemoans his sufferings and his errors, and
charges them both upon me; he knows such indulgence injures his
health, and does him more harm than good; but he says I drive him
to it by my unnatural, unwomanly conduct; it will be the ruin of
him in the end, but it is all my fault; and then I am roused to
defend myself, sometimes with bitter recrimination. This is a kind
of injustice I cannot patiently endure. Have I not laboured long
and hard to save him from this very vice? Would I not labour still
to deliver him from it if I could? but could I do so by fawning
upon him and caressing him when I know that he scorns me? Is it my
fault that I have lost my influence with him, or that he has
forfeited every claim to my regard? And should I seek a
reconciliation with him, when I feel that I abhor him, and that he
despises me? and while he continues still to correspond with Lady
Lowborough, as I know he does? No, never, never, never! he may
drink himself dead, but it is NOT my fault!
Yet I do my part to save him still: I give him to understand that
drinking makes his eyes dull, and his face red and bloated; and
that it tends to render him imbecile in body and mind; and if
Annabella were to see him as often as I do, she would speedily be
disenchanted; and that she certainly will withdraw her favour from
him, if he continues such courses. Such a mode of admonition wins
only coarse abuse for me - and, indeed, I almost feel as if I
deserved it, for I hate to use such arguments; but they sink into
his stupefied heart, and make him pause, and ponder, and abstain,
more than anything else I could say.
At present I am enjoying a temporary relief from his presence: he
is gone with Hargrave to join a distant hunt, and will probably not
be back before to-morrow evening. How differently I used to feel
Mr. Hargrave is still at the Grove. He and Arthur frequently meet
to pursue their rural sports together: he often calls upon us
here, and Arthur not unfrequently rides over to him. I do not
think either of these soi-disant friends is overflowing with love
for the other; but such intercourse serves to get the time on, and
I am very willing it should continue, as it saves me some hours of
discomfort in Arthur's society, and gives him some better
employment than the sottish indulgence of his sensual appetites.
The only objection I have to Mr. Hargrave's being in the
neighbourhood, is that the fear of meeting him at the Grove
prevents me from seeing his sister so often as I otherwise should;
for, of late, he has conducted himself towards me with such
unerring propriety, that I have almost forgotten his former
conduct. I suppose he is striving to 'win my esteem.' If he
continue to act in this way, he may win it; but what then? The
moment he attempts to demand anything more, he will lose it again.
February 10th. - It is a hard, embittering thing to have one's kind
feelings and good intentions cast back in one's teeth. I was
beginning to relent towards my wretched partner; to pity his
forlorn, comfortless condition, unalleviated as it is by the
consolations of intellectual resources and the answer of a good
conscience towards God; and to think I ought to sacrifice my pride,
and renew my efforts once again to make his home agreeable and lead
him back to the path of virtue; not by false professions of love,
and not by pretended remorse, but by mitigating my habitual
coldness of manner, and commuting my frigid civility into kindness
wherever an opportunity occurred; and not only was I beginning to
think so, but I had already begun to act upon the thought - and
what was the result? No answering spark of kindness, no awakening
penitence, but an unappeasable ill-humour, and a spirit of
tyrannous exaction that increased with indulgence, and a lurking
gleam of self-complacent triumph at every detection of relenting
softness in my manner, that congealed me to marble again as often
as it recurred; and this morning he finished the business:- I think
the petrifaction is so completely effected at last that nothing can
melt me again. Among his letters was one which he perused with
symptoms of unusual gratification, and then threw it across the
table to me, with the admonition, -
'There! read that, and take a lesson by it!'
It was in the free, dashing hand of Lady Lowborough. I glanced at
the first page; it seemed full of extravagant protestations of
affection; impetuous longings for a speedy reunion - and impious
defiance of God's mandates, and railings against His providence for
having cast their lot asunder, and doomed them both to the hateful
bondage of alliance with those they could not love. He gave a
slight titter on seeing me change colour. I folded up the letter,
rose, and returned it to him, with no remark, but -
'Thank you, I will take a lesson by it!'
My little Arthur was standing between his knees, delightedly
playing with the bright, ruby ring on his finger. Urged by a
sudden, imperative impulse to deliver my son from that
contaminating influence, I caught him up in my arms and carried him
with me out of the room. Not liking this abrupt removal, the child
began to pout and cry. This was a new stab to my already tortured
heart. I would not let him go; but, taking him with me into the
library, I shut the door, and, kneeling on the floor beside him, I
embraced him, kissed him, wept over with him with passionate
fondness. Rather frightened than consoled by this, he turned
struggling from me, and cried out aloud for his papa. I released
him from my arms, and never were more bitter tears than those that
now concealed him from my blinded, burning eyes. Hearing his
cries, the father came to the room. I instantly turned away, lest
he should see and misconstrue my emotion. He swore at me, and took
the now pacified child away.
It is hard that my little darling should love him more than me; and
that, when the well-being and culture of my son is all I have to
live for, I should see my influence destroyed by one whose selfish
affection is more injurious than the coldest indifference or the
harshest tyranny could be. If I, for his good, deny him some
trifling indulgence, he goes to his father, and the latter, in
spite of his selfish indolence, will even give himself some trouble
to meet the child's desires: if I attempt to curb his will, or
look gravely on him for some act of childish disobedience, he knows
his other parent will smile and take his part against me. Thus,
not only have I the father's spirit in the son to contend against,
the germs of his evil tendencies to search out and eradicate, and
his corrupting intercourse and example in after-life to counteract,
but already he counteracts my arduous labour for the child's
advantage, destroys my influence over his tender mind, and robs me
of his very love; I had no earthly hope but this, and he seems to
take a diabolical delight in tearing it away.
But it is wrong to despair; I will remember the counsel of the
inspired writer to him 'that feareth the Lord and obeyeth the voice
of his servant, that sitteth in darkness and hath no light; let him
trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God!'
December 20th, 1825. - Another year is past; and I am weary of this
life. And yet I cannot wish to leave it: whatever afflictions
assail me here, I cannot wish to go and leave my darling in this
dark and wicked world alone, without a friend to guide him through
its weary mazes, to warn him of its thousand snares, and guard him
from the perils that beset him on every hand. I am not well fitted
to be his only companion, I know; but there is no other to supply
my place. I am too grave to minister to his amusements and enter
into his infantile sports as a nurse or a mother ought to do, and
often his bursts of gleeful merriment trouble and alarm me; I see
in them his father's spirit and temperament, and I tremble for the
consequences; and too often damp the innocent mirth I ought to
share. That father, on the contrary, has no weight of sadness on
his mind; is troubled with no fears, no scruples concerning his
son's future welfare; and at evenings especially, the times when
the child sees him the most and the oftenest, he is always
particularly jocund and open-hearted: ready to laugh and to jest
with anything or anybody but me, and I am particularly silent and
sad: therefore, of course, the child dotes upon his seemingly
joyous amusing, ever-indulgent papa, and will at any time gladly
exchange my company for his. This disturbs me greatly; not so much
for the sake of my son's affection (though I do prize that highly,
and though I feel it is my right, and know I have done much to earn
it) as for that influence over him which, for his own advantage, I
would strive to purchase and retain, and which for very spite his
father delights to rob me of, and, from motives of mere idle
egotism, is pleased to win to himself; making no use of it but to
torment me and ruin the child. My only consolation is, that he
spends comparatively little of his time at home, and, during the
months he passes in London or elsewhere, I have a chance of
recovering the ground I had lost, and overcoming with good the evil
he has wrought by his wilful mismanagement. But then it is a
bitter trial to behold him, on his return, doing his utmost to
subvert my labours and transform my innocent, affectionate,
tractable darling into a selfish, disobedient, and mischievous boy;
thereby preparing the soil for those vices he has so successfully
cultivated in his own perverted nature.
Happily, there were none of Arthur's 'friends' invited to Grassdale
last autumn: he took himself off to visit some of them instead. I
wish he would always do so, and I wish his friends were numerous
and loving enough to keep him amongst them all the year round. Mr.
Hargrave, considerably to my annoyance, did not go with him; but I
think I have done with that gentleman at last.
For seven or eight months he behaved so remarkably well, and
managed so skilfully too, that I was almost completely off my
guard, and was really beginning to look upon him as a friend, and
even to treat him as such, with certain prudent restrictions (which
I deemed scarcely necessary); when, presuming upon my unsuspecting
kindness, he thought he might venture to overstep the bounds of
decent moderation and propriety that had so long restrained him.
It was on a pleasant evening at the close of May: I was wandering
in the park, and he, on seeing me there as he rode past, made bold
to enter and approach me, dismounting and leaving his horse at the
gate. This was the first time he had ventured to come within its
inclosure since I had been left alone, without the sanction of his
mother's or sister's company, or at least the excuse of a message
from them. But he managed to appear so calm and easy, so
respectful and self-possessed in his friendliness, that, though a
little surprised, I was neither alarmed nor offended at the unusual
liberty, and he walked with me under the ash-trees and by the
water-side, and talked, with considerable animation, good taste,
and intelligence, on many subjects, before I began to think about
getting rid of him. Then, after a pause, during which we both
stood gazing on the calm, blue water - I revolving in my mind the
best means of politely dismissing my companion, he, no doubt,
pondering other matters equally alien to the sweet sights and
sounds that alone were present to his senses, - he suddenly
electrified me by beginning, in a peculiar tone, low, soft, but
perfectly distinct, to pour forth the most unequivocal expressions
of earnest and passionate love; pleading his cause with all the
bold yet artful eloquence he could summon to his aid. But I cut
short his appeal, and repulsed him so determinately, so decidedly,
and with such a mixture of scornful indignation, tempered with
cool, dispassionate sorrow and pity for his benighted mind, that he
withdrew, astonished, mortified, and discomforted; and, a few days
after, I heard that he had departed for London. He returned,
however, in eight or nine weeks, and did not entirely keep aloof
from me, but comported himself in so remarkable a manner that his
quick-sighted sister could not fail to notice the change.
'What have you done to Walter, Mrs. Huntingdon?' said she one
morning, when I had called at the Grove, and he had just left the
room after exchanging a few words of the coldest civility. 'He has
been so extremely ceremonious and stately of late, I can't imagine
what it is all about, unless you have desperately offended him.
Tell me what it is, that I may be your mediator, and make you
'I have done nothing willingly to offend him,' said I. 'If he is
offended, he can best tell you himself what it is about.'
'I'll ask him,' cried the giddy girl, springing up and putting her
head out of the window: 'he's only in the garden - Walter!'
'No, no, Esther! you will seriously displease me if you do; and I
shall leave you immediately, and not come again for months -
'Did you call, Esther?' said her brother, approaching the window
'Yes; I wanted to ask you - '
'Good-morning, Esther,' said I, talking her hand and giving it a
'To ask you,' continued she, 'to get me a rose for Mrs.
Huntingdon.' He departed. 'Mrs. Huntingdon,' she exclaimed,
turning to me and still holding me fast by the hand, 'I'm quite
shocked at you - you're just as angry, and distant, and cold as he
is: and I'm determined you shall be as good friends as ever before
'Esther, how can you be so rude!' cried Mrs. Hargrave, who was
seated gravely knitting in her easy-chair. 'Surely, you never will
learn to conduct yourself like a lady!'
'Well, mamma, you said yourself - ' But the young lady was
silenced by the uplifted finger of her mamma, accompanied with a
very stern shake of the head.
'Isn't she cross?' whispered she to me; but, before I could add my
share of reproof, Mr. Hargrave reappeared at the window with a
beautiful moss-rose in his hand.
'Here, Esther, I've brought you the rose,' said he, extending it
'Give it her yourself, you blockhead!' cried she, recoiling with a
spring from between us.
'Mrs. Huntingdon would rather receive it from you,' replied he, in
a very serious tone, but lowering his voice that his mother might
not hear. His sister took the rose and gave it to me.
'My brother's compliments, Mrs. Huntingdon, and he hopes you and he
will come to a better understanding by-and-by. Will that do,
Walter?' added the saucy girl, turning to him and putting her arm
round his neck, as he stood leaning upon the sill of the window -
'or should I have said that you are sorry you were so touchy? or
that you hope she will pardon your offence?'
'You silly girl! you don't know what you are talking about,'
replied he gravely.
'Indeed I don't: for I'm quite in the dark!'
'Now, Esther,' interposed Mrs. Hargrave, who, if equally benighted
on the subject of our estrangement, saw at least that her daughter
was behaving very improperly, 'I must insist upon your leaving the
'Pray don't, Mrs. Hargrave, for I'm going to leave it myself,' said
I, and immediately made my adieux.
About a week after Mr. Hargrave brought his sister to see me. He
conducted himself, at first, with his usual cold, distant, half-
stately, half-melancholy, altogether injured air; but Esther made
no remark upon it this time: she had evidently been schooled into
better manners. She talked to me, and laughed and romped with
little Arthur, her loved and loving playmate. He, somewhat to my
discomfort, enticed her from the room to have a run in the hall,
and thence into the garden. I got up to stir the fire. Mr.
Hargrave asked if I felt cold, and shut the door - a very
unseasonable piece of officiousness, for I had meditated following
the noisy playfellows if they did not speedily return. He then
took the liberty of walking up to the fire himself, and asking me
if I were aware that Mr. Huntingdon was now at the seat of Lord
Lowborough, and likely to continue there some time.
'No; but it's no matter,' I answered carelessly; and if my cheek
glowed like fire, it was rather at the question than the
information it conveyed.
'You don't object to it?' he said.
'Not at all, if Lord Lowborough likes his company.'
'You have no love left for him, then?'
'Not the least.'
'I knew that - I knew you were too high-minded and pure in your own
nature to continue to regard one so utterly false and polluted with
any feelings but those of indignation and scornful abhorrence!'
'Is he not your friend?' said I, turning my eyes from the fire to
his face, with perhaps a slight touch of those feelings he assigned
'He was,' replied he, with the same calm gravity as before; 'but do
not wrong me by supposing that I could continue my friendship and
esteem to a man who could so infamously, so impiously forsake and
injure one so transcendently - well, I won't speak of it. But tell
me, do you never think of revenge?'
'Revenge! No - what good would that do? - it would make him no
better, and me no happier.'
'I don't know how to talk to you, Mrs. Huntingdon,' said he,
smiling; 'you are only half a woman - your nature must be half
human, half angelic. Such goodness overawes me; I don't know what
to make of it.'
'Then, sir, I fear you must be very much worse than you should be,
if I, a mere ordinary mortal, am, by your own confession, so vastly
your superior; and since there exists so little sympathy between
us, I think we had better each look out for some more congenial
companion.' And forthwith moving to the window, I began to look
out for my little son and his gay young friend.
'No, I am the ordinary mortal, I maintain,' replied Mr. Hargrave.
'I will not allow myself to be worse than my fellows; but you,
Madam - I equally maintain there is nobody like you. But are you
happy?' he asked in a serious tone.
'As happy as some others, I suppose.'
'Are you as happy as you desire to be?'
'No one is so blest as that comes to on this side eternity.'
'One thing I know,' returned he, with a deep sad sigh; 'you are
immeasurably happier than I am.'
'I am very sorry for you, then,' I could not help replying.
'Are you, indeed? No, for if you were you would be glad to relieve
'And so I should if I could do so without injuring myself or any
'And can you suppose that I should wish you to injure yourself?
No: on the contrary, it is your own happiness I long for more than
mine. You are miserable now, Mrs. Huntingdon,' continued he,
looking me boldly in the face. 'You do not complain, but I see -
and feel - and know that you are miserable - and must remain so as
long as you keep those walls of impenetrable ice about your still
warm and palpitating heart; and I am miserable, too. Deign to
smile on me and I am happy: trust me, and you shall be happy also,
for if you are a woman I can make you so - and I will do it in
spite of yourself!' he muttered between his teeth; 'and as for
others, the question is between ourselves alone: you cannot injure
your husband, you know, and no one else has any concern in the
'I have a son, Mr. Hargrave, and you have a mother,' said I,
retiring from the window, whither he had followed me.
'They need not know,' he began; but before anything more could be
said on either side, Esther and Arthur re-entered the room. The
former glanced at Walter's flushed, excited countenance, and then
at mine - a little flushed and excited too, I daresay, though from
far different causes. She must have thought we had been
quarrelling desperately, and was evidently perplexed and disturbed
at the circumstance; but she was too polite or too much afraid of
her brother's anger to refer to it. She seated herself on the
sofa, and putting back her bright, golden ringlets, that were
scattered in wild profusion over her face, she immediately began to
talk about the garden and her little playfellow, and continued to
chatter away in her usual strain till her brother summoned her to
'If I have spoken too warmly, forgive me,' he murmured on taking
his leave, 'or I shall never forgive myself.' Esther smiled and
glanced at me: I merely bowed, and her countenance fell. She
thought it a poor return for Walter's generous concession, and was
disappointed in her friend. Poor child, she little knows the world
she lives in!
Mr. Hargrave had not an opportunity of meeting me again in private
for several weeks after this; but when he did meet me there was
less of pride and more of touching melancholy in his manner than
before. Oh, how he annoyed me! I was obliged at last almost
entirely to remit my visits to the Grove, at the expense of deeply
offending Mrs. Hargrave and seriously afflicting poor Esther, who
really values my society for want of better, and who ought not to
suffer for the fault of her brother. But that indefatigable foe
was not yet vanquished: he seemed to be always on the watch. I
frequently saw him riding lingeringly past the premises, looking
searchingly round him as he went - or, if I did not, Rachel did.
That sharp-sighted woman soon guessed how matters stood between us,
and descrying the enemy's movements from her elevation at the
nursery-window, she would give me a quiet intimation if she saw me
preparing for a walk when she had reason to believe he was about,
or to think it likely that he would meet or overtake me in the way
I meant to traverse. I would then defer my ramble, or confine
myself for that day to the park and gardens, or, if the proposed
excursion was a matter of importance, such as a visit to the sick
or afflicted, I would take Rachel with me, and then I was never
But one mild, sunshiny day, early in November, I had ventured forth
alone to visit the village school and a few of the poor tenants,
and on my return I was alarmed at the clatter of a horse's feet
behind me, approaching at a rapid, steady trot. There was no stile
or gap at hand by which I could escape into the fields, so I walked
quietly on, saying to myself, 'It may not be he after all; and if
it is, and if he do annoy me, it shall be for the last time, I am
determined, if there be power in words and looks against cool
impudence and mawkish sentimentality so inexhaustible as his.'
The horse soon overtook me, and was reined up close beside me. It
was Mr. Hargrave. He greeted me with a smile intended to be soft
and melancholy, but his triumphant satisfaction at having caught me
at last so shone through that it was quite a failure. After
briefly answering his salutation and inquiring after the ladies at
the Grove, I turned away and walked on; but he followed and kept
his horse at my side: it was evident he intended to be my
companion all the way.
'Well! I don't much care. If you want another rebuff, take it -
and welcome,' was my inward remark. 'Now, sir, what next?'
This question, though unspoken, was not long unanswered; after a
few passing observations upon indifferent subjects, he began in
solemn tones the following appeal to my humanity:-
'It will be four years next April since I first saw you, Mrs.
Huntingdon - you may have forgotten the circumstance, but I never
can. I admired you then most deeply, but I dared not love you. In
the following autumn I saw so much of your perfections that I could
not fail to love you, though I dared not show it. For upwards of
three years I have endured a perfect martyrdom. From the anguish
of suppressed emotions, intense and fruitless longings, silent
sorrow, crushed hopes, and trampled affections, I have suffered
more than I can tell, or you imagine - and you were the cause of
it, and not altogether the innocent cause. My youth is wasting
away; my prospects are darkened; my life is a desolate blank; I
have no rest day or night: I am become a burden to myself and
others, and you might save me by a word - a glance, and will not do
it - is this right?'
'In the first place, I don't believe you,' answered I; 'in the
second, if you will be such a fool, I can't hinder it.'
'If you affect,' replied he, earnestly, 'to regard as folly the
best, the strongest, the most godlike impulses of our nature, I
don't believe you. I know you are not the heartless, icy being you
pretend to be - you had a heart once, and gave it to your husband.
When you found him utterly unworthy of the treasure, you reclaimed
it; and you will not pretend that you loved that sensual, earthly-
minded profligate so deeply, so devotedly, that you can never love
another? I know that there are feelings in your nature that have
never yet been called forth; I know, too, that in your present
neglected lonely state you are and must be miserable. You have it
in your power to raise two human beings from a state of actual
suffering to such unspeakable beatitude as only generous, noble,
self-forgetting love can give (for you can love me if you will);
you may tell me that you scorn and detest me, but, since you have
set me the example of plain speaking, I will answer that I do not
believe you. But you will not do it! you choose rather to leave us
miserable; and you coolly tell me it is the will of God that we
should remain so. You may call this religion, but I call it wild
'There is another life both for you and for me,' said I. 'If it be
the will of God that we should sow in tears now, it is only that we
may reap in joy hereafter. It is His will that we should not
injure others by the gratification of our own earthly passions; and
you have a mother, and sisters, and friends who would be seriously
injured by your disgrace; and I, too, have friends, whose peace of
mind shall never be sacrificed to my enjoyment, or yours either,
with my consent; and if I were alone in the world, I have still my
God and my religion, and I would sooner die than disgrace my
calling and break my faith with heaven to obtain a few brief years
of false and fleeting happiness - happiness sure to end in misery
even here - for myself or any other!'
'There need be no disgrace, no misery or sacrifice in any quarter,'
persisted he. 'I do not ask you to leave your home or defy the
world's opinion.' But I need not repeat all his arguments. I
refuted them to the best of my power; but that power was
provokingly small, at the moment, for I was too much flurried with
indignation - and even shame - that he should thus dare to address
me, to retain sufficient command of thought and language to enable
me adequately to contend against his powerful sophistries.
Finding, however, that he could not be silenced by reason, and even
covertly exulted in his seeming advantage, and ventured to deride
those assertions I had not the coolness to prove, I changed my
course and tried another plan.
'Do you really love me?' said I, seriously, pausing and looking him
calmly in the face.
'Do I love you!' cried he.
'Truly?' I demanded.
His countenance brightened; he thought his triumph was at hand. He
commenced a passionate protestation of the truth and fervour of his
attachment, which I cut short by another question:-
'But is it not a selfish love? Have you enough disinterested
affection to enable you to sacrifice your own pleasure to mine?'
'I would give my life to serve you.'
'I don't want your life; but have you enough real sympathy for my
afflictions to induce you to make an effort to relieve them, at the
risk of a little discomfort to yourself?'
'Try me, and see.'
'If you have, never mention this subject again. You cannot recur
to it in any way without doubling the weight of those sufferings
you so feelingly deplore. I have nothing left me but the solace of
a good conscience and a hopeful trust in heaven, and you labour
continually to rob me of these. If you persist, I must regard you
as my deadliest foe.'
'But hear me a moment - '
'No, sir! You said you would give your life to serve me; I only
ask your silence on one particular point. I have spoken plainly;
and what I say I mean. If you torment me in this way any more, I
must conclude that your protestations are entirely false, and that
you hate me in your heart as fervently as you profess to love me!'
He bit his lip, and bent his eyes upon the ground in silence for a
'Then I must leave you,' said he at length, looking steadily upon
me, as if with the last hope of detecting some token of
irrepressible anguish or dismay awakened by those solemn words. 'I
must leave you. I cannot live here, and be for ever silent on the
all-absorbing subject of my thoughts and wishes.'
'Formerly, I believe, you spent but little of your time at home,' I
answered; 'it will do you no harm to absent yourself again, for a
while - if that be really necessary.'
'If that be really possible,' he muttered; 'and can you bid me go
so coolly? Do you really wish it?'
'Most certainly I do. If you cannot see me without tormenting me
as you have lately done, I would gladly say farewell and never see
He made no answer, but, bending from his horse, held out his hand
towards me. I looked up at his face, and saw therein such a look
of genuine agony of soul, that, whether bitter disappointment, or
wounded pride, or lingering love, or burning wrath were uppermost,
I could not hesitate to put my hand in his as frankly as if I bade
a friend farewell. He grasped it very hard, and immediately put
spurs to his horse and galloped away. Very soon after, I learned
that he was gone to Paris, where he still is; and the longer he
stays there the better for me.
I thank God for this deliverance!
December 20th, 1826. - The fifth anniversary of my wedding-day,
and, I trust, the last I shall spend under this roof. My
resolution is formed, my plan concocted, and already partly put in
execution. My conscience does not blame me, but while the purpose
ripens let me beguile a few of these long winter evenings in
stating the case for my own satisfaction: a dreary amusement
enough, but having the air of a useful occupation, and being
pursued as a task, it will suit me better than a lighter one.
In September, quiet Grassdale was again alive with a party of
ladies and gentlemen (so called), consisting of the same
individuals as those invited the year before last, with the
addition of two or three others, among whom were Mrs. Hargrave and
her younger daughter. The gentlemen and Lady Lowborough were
invited for the pleasure and convenience of the host; the other
ladies, I suppose, for the sake of appearances, and to keep me in
check, and make me discreet and civil in my demeanour. But the
ladies stayed only three weeks; the gentlemen, with two exceptions,
above two months: for their hospitable entertainer was loth to
part with them and be left alone with his bright intellect, his
stainless conscience, and his loved and loving wife.
On the day of Lady Lowborough's arrival, I followed her into her
chamber, and plainly told her that, if I found reason to believe
that she still continued her criminal connection with Mr.
Huntingdon, I should think it my absolute duty to inform her
husband of the circumstance - or awaken his suspicions at least -
however painful it might be, or however dreadful the consequences.
She was startled at first by the declaration, so unexpected, and so
determinately yet calmly delivered; but rallying in a moment, she
coolly replied that, if I saw anything at all reprehensible or
suspicious in her conduct, she would freely give me leave to tell
his lordship all about it. Willing to be satisfied with this, I
left her; and certainly I saw nothing thenceforth particularly
reprehensible or suspicious in her demeanour towards her host; but
then I had the other guests to attend to, and I did not watch them
narrowly - for, to confess the truth, I feared to see anything
between them. I no longer regarded it as any concern of mine, and
if it was my duty to enlighten Lord Lowborough, it was a painful
duty, and I dreaded to be called to perform it.
But my fears were brought to an end in a manner I had not
anticipated. One evening, about a fortnight after the visitors'
arrival, I had retired into the library to snatch a few minutes'
respite from forced cheerfulness and wearisome discourse, for after
so long a period of seclusion, dreary indeed as I had often found
it, I could not always bear to be doing violence to my feelings,
and goading my powers to talk, and smile and listen, and play the
attentive hostess, or even the cheerful friend: I had just
ensconced myself within the bow of the window, and was looking out
upon the west, where the darkening hills rose sharply defined
against the clear amber light of evening, that gradually blended
and faded away into the pure, pale blue of the upper sky, where one
bright star was shining through, as if to promise - 'When that
dying light is gone, the world will not be left in darkness, and
they who trust in God, whose minds are unbeclouded by the mists of
unbelief and sin, are never wholly comfortless,' - when I heard a
hurried step approaching, and Lord Lowborough entered. This room
was still his favourite resort. He flung the door to with unusual
violence, and cast his hat aside regardless where it fell. What
could be the matter with him? His face was ghastly pale; his eyes
were fixed upon the ground; his teeth clenched: his forehead
glistened with the dews of agony. It was plain he knew his wrongs
Unconscious of my presence, he began to pace the room in a state of
fearful agitation, violently wringing his hands and uttering low
groans or incoherent ejaculations. I made a movement to let him
know that he was not alone; but he was too preoccupied to notice
it. Perhaps, while his back was towards me, I might cross the room
and slip away unobserved. I rose to make the attempt, but then he
perceived me. He started and stood still a moment; then wiped his
streaming forehead, and, advancing towards me, with a kind of
unnatural composure, said in a deep, almost sepulchral tone, -
'Mrs. Huntingdon, I must leave you to-morrow.'
'To-morrow!' I repeated. 'I do not ask the cause.'
'You know it then, and you can be so calm!' said he, surveying me
with profound astonishment, not unmingled with a kind of resentful
bitterness, as it appeared to me.
'I have so long been aware of - ' I paused in time, and added, 'of
my husband's character, that nothing shocks me.'
'But this - how long have you been aware of this?' demanded he,
laying his clenched hand on the table beside him, and looking me
keenly and fixedly in the face.
I felt like a criminal.
'Not long,' I answered.
'You knew it!' cried he, with bitter vehemence - 'and you did not
tell me! You helped to deceive me!'
'My lord, I did not help to deceive you.'
'Then why did you not tell me?'
'Because I knew it would be painful to you. I hoped she would
return to her duty, and then there would be no need to harrow your
feelings with such - '
'O God! how long has this been going on? How long has it been,
Mrs. Huntingdon? - Tell me - I must know!' exclaimed, with intense
and fearful eagerness.
'Two years, I believe.'
'Great heaven! and she has duped me all this time!' He turned away
with a suppressed groan of agony, and paced the room again in a
paroxysm of renewed agitation. My heart smote me; but I would try
to console him, though I knew not how to attempt it.
'She is a wicked woman,' I said. 'She has basely deceived and
betrayed you. She is as little worthy of your regret as she was of
your affection. Let her injure you no further; abstract yourself
from her, and stand alone.'
'And you, Madam,' said he sternly, arresting himself, and turning
round upon me, 'you have injured me too by this ungenerous
There was a sudden revulsion in my feelings. Something rose within
me, and urged me to resent this harsh return for my heartfelt
sympathy, and defend myself with answering severity. Happily, I
did not yield to the impulse. I saw his anguish as, suddenly
smiting his forehead, he turned abruptly to the window, and,
looking upward at the placid sky, murmured passionately, 'O God,
that I might die!' - and felt that to add one drop of bitterness to
that already overflowing cup would be ungenerous indeed. And yet I
fear there was more coldness than gentleness in the quiet tone of
my reply:- 'I might offer many excuses that some would admit to be
valid, but I will not attempt to enumerate them - '
'I know them,' said he hastily: 'you would say that it was no
business of yours: that I ought to have taken care of myself; that
if my own blindness has led me into this pit of hell, I have no
right to blame another for giving me credit for a larger amount of
sagacity than I possessed - '
'I confess I was wrong,' continued I, without regarding this bitter
interruption; 'but whether want of courage or mistaken kindness was
the cause of my error, I think you blame me too severely. I told
Lady Lowborough two weeks ago, the very hour she came, that I
should certainly think it my duty to inform you if she continued to
deceive you: she gave me full liberty to do so if I should see
anything reprehensible or suspicious in her conduct; I have seen
nothing; and I trusted she had altered her course.'
He continued gazing from the window while I spoke, and did not
answer, but, stung by the recollections my words awakened, stamped
his foot upon the floor, ground his teeth, and corrugated his brow,
like one under the influence of acute physical pain.
'It was wrong, it was wrong!' he muttered at length. 'Nothing can
excuse it; nothing can atone for it, - for nothing can recall those
years of cursed credulity; nothing obliterate them! - nothing,
nothing!' he repeated in a whisper, whose despairing bitterness
precluded all resentment.
'When I put the case to myself, I own it was wrong,' I answered;
'but I can only now regret that I did not see it in this light
before, and that, as you say, nothing can recall the past.'
Something in my voice or in the spirit of this answer seemed to
alter his mood. Turning towards me, and attentively surveying my
face by the dim light, he said, in a milder tone than he had yet
employed, - 'You, too, have suffered, I suppose.'
'I suffered much, at first.'
'When was that?'
'Two years ago; and two years hence you will be as calm as I am
now, and far, far happier, I trust, for you are a man, and free to
act as you please.'
Something like a smile, but a very bitter one, crossed his face for
'You have not been happy, lately?' he said, with a kind of effort
to regain composure, and a determination to waive the further
discussion of his own calamity.
'Happy?' I repeated, almost provoked at such a question. 'Could I
be so, with such a husband?'
'I have noticed a change in your appearance since the first years
of your marriage,' pursued he: 'I observed it to - to that
infernal demon,' he muttered between his teeth; 'and he said it was
your own sour temper that was eating away your bloom: it was
making you old and ugly before your time, and had already made his
fireside as comfortless as a convent cell. You smile, Mrs.
Huntingdon; nothing moves you. I wish my nature were as calm as
'My nature was not originally calm,' said I. 'I have learned to
appear so by dint of hard lessons and many repeated efforts.'
At this juncture Mr. Hattersley burst into the room.
'Hallo, Lowborough!' he began - 'Oh! I beg your pardon,' he
exclaimed on seeing me. 'I didn't know it was A TETE-E-TETE.
Cheer up, man,' he continued, giving Lord Lowborough a thump on the
back, which caused the latter to recoil from him with looks of
ineffable disgust and irritation. 'Come, I want to speak with you
'But I'm not sure it would be quite agreeable to the lady what I
have to say.'
'Then it would not be agreeable to me,' said his lordship, turning
to leave the room.
'Yes, it would,' cried the other, following him into the hall. 'If
you've the heart of a man, it would be the very ticket for you.
It's just this, my lad,' he continued, rather lowering his voice,
but not enough to prevent me from hearing every word he said,
though the half-closed door stood between us. 'I think you're an
ill-used man - nay, now, don't flare up; I don't want to offend
you: it's only my rough way of talking. I must speak right out,
you know, or else not at all; and I'm come - stop now! let me
explain - I'm come to offer you my services, for though Huntingdon
is my friend, he's a devilish scamp, as we all know, and I'll be
your friend for the nonce. I know what it is you want, to make
matters straight: it's just to exchange a shot with him, and then
you'll feel yourself all right again; and if an accident happens -
why, that'll be all right too, I daresay, to a desperate fellow
like you. Come now, give me your hand, and don't look so black
upon it. Name time and place, and I'll manage the rest.'
'That,' answered the more low, deliberate voice of Lord Lowborough,
'is just the remedy my own heart, or the devil within it, suggested
- to meet him, and not to part without blood. Whether I or he
should fall, or both, it would be an inexpressible relief to me, if
'Just so! Well then, - '
'No!' exclaimed his lordship, with deep, determined emphasis.
'Though I hate him from my heart, and should rejoice at any
calamity that could befall him, I'll leave him to God; and though I
abhor my own life, I'll leave that, too, to Him that gave it.'
'But you see, in this case,' pleaded Hattersley -
'I'll not hear you!' exclaimed his companion, hastily turning away.
'Not another word! I've enough to do against the fiend within me.'
'Then you're a white-livered fool, and I wash my hands of you,'
grumbled the tempter, as he swung himself round and departed.
'Right, right, Lord Lowborough,' cried I, darting out and clasping
his burning hand, as he was moving away to the stairs. 'I begin to
think the world is not worthy of you!' Not understanding this
sudden ebullition, he turned upon me with a stare of gloomy,
bewildered amazement, that made me ashamed of the impulse to which
I had yielded; but soon a more humanised expression dawned upon his
countenance, and before I could withdraw my hand, he pressed it
kindly, while a gleam of genuine feeling flashed from his eyes as
he murmured, 'God help us both!'
'Amen!' responded I; and we parted.
I returned to the drawing-room, where, doubtless, my presence would
be expected by most, desired by one or two. In the ante-room was
Mr. Hattersley, railing against Lord Lowborough's poltroonery
before a select audience, viz. Mr. Huntingdon, who was lounging
against the table, exulting in his own treacherous villainy, and
laughing his victim to scorn, and Mr. Grimsby, standing by, quietly
rubbing his hands and chuckling with fiendish satisfaction.
In the drawing-room I found Lady Lowborough, evidently in no very
enviable state of mind, and struggling hard to conceal her
discomposure by an overstrained affectation of unusual cheerfulness
and vivacity, very uncalled-for under the circumstances, for she
had herself given the company to understand that her husband had
received unpleasant intelligence from home, which necessitated his
immediate departure, and that he had suffered it so to bother his
mind that it had brought on a bilious headache, owing to which, and
the preparations he judged necessary to hasten his departure, she
believed they would not have the pleasure of seeing him to-night.
However, she asserted, it was only a business concern, and so she
did not intend it should trouble her. She was just saying this as
I entered, and she darted upon me such a glance of hardihood and
defiance as at once astonished and revolted me.
'But I am troubled,' continued she, 'and vexed too, for I think it
my duty to accompany his lordship, and of course I am very sorry to
part with all my kind friends so unexpectedly and so soon.'
'And yet, Annabella,' said Esther, who was sitting beside her, 'I
never saw you in better spirits in my life.'
'Precisely so, my love: because I wish to make the best of your
society, since it appears this is to be the last night I am to
enjoy it till heaven knows when; and I wish to leave a good
impression on you all,' - she glanced round, and seeing her aunt's
eye fixed upon her, rather too scrutinizingly, as she probably
thought, she started up and continued: 'To which end I'll give you
a song - shall I, aunt? shall I, Mrs. Huntingdon? shall I ladies
and gentlemen all? Very well. I'll do my best to amuse you.'
She and Lord Lowborough occupied the apartments next to mine. I
know not how she passed the night, but I lay awake the greater part
of it listening to his heavy step pacing monotonously up and down
his dressing-room, which was nearest my chamber. Once I heard him
pause and throw something out of the window with a passionate
ejaculation; and in the morning, after they were gone, a keen-
bladed clasp-knife was found on the grass-plot below; a razor,
likewise, was snapped in two and thrust deep into the cinders of
the grate, but partially corroded by the decaying embers. So
strong had been the temptation to end his miserable life, so
determined his resolution to resist it.
My heart bled for him as I lay listening to that ceaseless tread.
Hitherto I had thought too much of myself, too little of him: now
I forgot my own afflictions, and thought only of his; of the ardent
affection so miserably wasted, the fond faith so cruelly betrayed,
the - no, I will not attempt to enumerate his wrongs - but I hated
his wife and my husband more intensely than ever, and not for my
sake, but for his.
They departed early in the morning, before any one else was down,
except myself, and just as I was leaving my room Lord Lowborough
was descending to take his place in the carriage, where his lady
was already ensconced; and Arthur (or Mr. Huntingdon, as I prefer
calling him, for the other is my child's name) had the gratuitous
insolence to come out in his dressing-gown to bid his 'friend'
'What, going already, Lowborough!' said he. 'Well, good-morning.'
He smilingly offered his hand.
I think the other would have knocked him down, had he not
instinctively started back before that bony fist quivering with
rage and clenched till the knuckles gleamed white and glistening
through the skin. Looking upon him with a countenance livid with
furious hate, Lord Lowborough muttered between his closed teeth a
deadly execration he would not have uttered had he been calm enough
to choose his words, and departed.
'I call that an unchristian spirit now,' said the villain. 'But
I'd never give up an old friend for the sake of a wife. You may
have mine if you like, and I call that handsome; I can do no more
than offer restitution, can I?'
But Lowborough had gained the bottom of the stairs, and was now
crossing the hall; and Mr. Huntingdon, leaning over the banisters,
called out, 'Give my love to Annabella! and I wish you both a happy
journey,' and withdrew, laughing, to his chamber.
He subsequently expressed himself rather glad she was gone. 'She
was so deuced imperious and exacting,' said he. 'Now I shall be my
own man again, and feel rather more at my ease.'
My greatest source of uneasiness, in this time of trial, was my
son, whom his father and his father's friends delighted to
encourage in all the embryo vices a little child can show, and to
instruct in all the evil habits he could acquire - in a word, to
'make a man of him' was one of their staple amusements; and I need
say no more to justify my alarm on his account, and my
determination to deliver him at any hazard from the hands of such
instructors. I first attempted to keep him always with me, or in
the nursery, and gave Rachel particular injunctions never to let
him come down to dessert as long as these 'gentlemen' stayed; but
it was no use: these orders were immediately countermanded and
overruled by his father; he was not going to have the little fellow
moped to death between an old nurse and a cursed fool of a mother.
So the little fellow came down every evening in spite of his cross
mamma, and learned to tipple wine like papa, to swear like Mr.
Hattersley, and to have his own way like a man, and sent mamma to
the devil when she tried to prevent him. To see such things done
with the roguish naivete of that pretty little child, and hear such
things spoken by that small infantile voice, was as peculiarly
piquant and irresistibly droll to them as it was inexpressibly
distressing and painful to me; and when he had set the table in a
roar he would look round delightedly upon them all, and add his
shrill laugh to theirs. But if that beaming blue eye rested on me,
its light would vanish for a moment, and he would say, in some
concern, 'Mamma, why don't you laugh? Make her laugh, papa - she
Hence was I obliged to stay among these human brutes, watching an
opportunity to get my child away from them instead of leaving them
immediately after the removal of the cloth, as I should always
otherwise have done. He was never willing to go, and I frequently
had to carry him away by force, for which he thought me very cruel
and unjust; and sometimes his father would insist upon my letting
him remain; and then I would leave him to his kind friends, and
retire to indulge my bitterness and despair alone, or to rack my
brains for a remedy to this great evil.
But here again I must do Mr. Hargrave the justice to acknowledge
that I never saw him laugh at the child's misdemeanours, nor heard
him utter a word of encouragement to his aspirations after manly
accomplishments. But when anything very extraordinary was said or
done by the infant profligate, I noticed, at times, a peculiar
expression in his face that I could neither interpret nor define:
a slight twitching about the muscles of the mouth; a sudden flash
in the eye, as he darted a sudden glance at the child and then at
me: and then I could fancy there arose a gleam of hard, keen,
sombre satisfaction in his countenance at the look of impotent
wrath and anguish he was too certain to behold in mine. But on one
occasion, when Arthur had been behaving particularly ill, and Mr.
Huntingdon and his guests had been particularly provoking and
insulting to me in their encouragement of him, and I particularly
anxious to get him out of the room, and on the very point of
demeaning myself by a burst of uncontrollable passion - Mr.
Hargrave suddenly rose from his seat with an aspect of stern
determination, lifted the child from his father's knee, where he
was sitting half-tipsy, cocking his head and laughing at me, and
execrating me with words he little knew the meaning of, handed him
out of the room, and, setting him down in the hall, held the door
open for me, gravely bowed as I withdrew, and closed it after me.
I heard high words exchanged between him and his already half-
inebriated host as I departed, leading away my bewildered and
But this should not continue: my child must not be abandoned to
this corruption: better far that he should live in poverty and
obscurity, with a fugitive mother, that in luxury and affluence
with such a father. These guests might not be with us long, but
they would return again: and he, the most injurious of the whole,
his child's worst enemy, would still remain. I could endure it for
myself, but for my son it must be borne no longer: the world's
opinion and the feelings of my friends must be alike unheeded here,
at least - alike unable to deter me from my duty. But where should
I find an asylum, and how obtain subsistence for us both? Oh, I
would take my precious charge at early dawn, take the coach to M-,
flee to the port of -, cross the Atlantic, and seek a quiet, humble
home in New England, where I would support myself and him by the
labour of my hands. The palette and the easel, my darling
playmates once, must be my sober toil-fellows now. But was I
sufficiently skilful as an artist to obtain my livelihood in a
strange land, without friends and without recommendation? No; I
must wait a little; I must labour hard to improve my talent, and to
produce something worth while as a specimen of my powers, something
to speak favourably for me, whether as an actual painter or a
teacher. Brilliant success, of course, I did not look for, but
some degree of security from positive failure was indispensable: I
must not take my son to starve. And then I must have money for the
journey, the passage, and some little to support us in our retreat
in case I should be unsuccessful at first: and not too little
either: for who could tell how long I might have to struggle with
the indifference or neglect of others, or my own inexperience or
inability to suit their tastes?
What should I do then? Apply to my brother and explain my
circumstances and my resolves to him? No, no: even if I told him
all my grievances, which I should be very reluctant to do, he would
be certain to disapprove of the step: it would seem like madness
to him, as it would to my uncle and aunt, or to Milicent. No; I
must have patience and gather a hoard of my own. Rachel should be
my only confidante - I thought I could persuade her into the
scheme; and she should help me, first, to find out a picture-dealer
in some distant town; then, through her means, I would privately
sell what pictures I had on hand that would do for such a purpose,
and some of those I should thereafter paint. Besides this, I would
contrive to dispose of my jewels, not the family jewels, but the
few I brought with me from home, and those my uncle gave me on my
marriage. A few months' arduous toil might well be borne by me
with such an end in view; and in the interim my son could not be
much more injured than he was already.
Having formed this resolution, I immediately set to work to
accomplish it, I might possibly have been induced to wax cool upon
it afterwards, or perhaps to keep weighing the pros and cons in my
mind till the latter overbalanced the former, and I was driven to
relinquish the project altogether, or delay the execution of it to
an indefinite period, had not something occurred to confirm me in
that determination, to which I still adhere, which I still think I
did well to form, and shall do better to execute.
Since Lord Lowborough's departure I had regarded the library as
entirely my own, a secure retreat at all hours of the day. None of
our gentlemen had the smallest pretensions to a literary taste,
except Mr. Hargrave; and he, at present, was quite contented with
the newspapers and periodicals of the day. And if, by any chance,
he should look in here, I felt assured he would soon depart on
seeing me, for, instead of becoming less cool and distant towards
me, he had become decidedly more so since the departure of his
mother and sisters, which was just what I wished. Here, then, I
set up my easel, and here I worked at my canvas from daylight till
dusk, with very little intermission, saving when pure necessity, or
my duties to little Arthur, called me away: for I still thought
proper to devote some portion of every day exclusively to his
instruction and amusement. But, contrary to my expectation, on the
third morning, while I was thus employed, Mr. Hargrave did look in,
and did not immediately withdraw on seeing me. He apologized for
his intrusion, and said he was only come for a book; but when he
had got it, he condescended to cast a glance over my picture.
Being a man of taste, he had something to say on this subject as
well as another, and having modestly commented on it, without much
encouragement from me, he proceeded to expatiate on the art in
general. Receiving no encouragement in that either, he dropped it,
but did not depart.
'You don't give us much of your company, Mrs. Huntingdon,' observed
he, after a brief pause, during which I went on coolly mixing and
tempering my colours; 'and I cannot wonder at it, for you must be
heartily sick of us all. I myself am so thoroughly ashamed of my
companions, and so weary of their irrational conversation and
pursuits - now that there is no one to humanize them and keep them
in check, since you have justly abandoned us to our own devices -
that I think I shall presently withdraw from amongst them, probably
within this week; and I cannot suppose you will regret my
He paused. I did not answer.
'Probably,' he added, with a smile, 'your only regret on the
subject will be that I do not take all my companions along with me.
I flatter myself, at times, that though among them I am not of
them; but it is natural that you should be glad to get rid of me.
I may regret this, but I cannot blame you for it.'
'I shall not rejoice at your departure, for you can conduct
yourself like a gentleman,' said I, thinking it but right to make
some acknowledgment for his good behaviour; 'but I must confess I
shall rejoice to bid adieu. to the rest, inhospitable as it may
'No one can blame you for such an avowal,' replied he gravely:
'not even the gentlemen themselves, I imagine. I'll just tell
you,' he continued, as if actuated by a sudden resolution, 'what
was said last night in the dining-room, after you left us: perhaps
you will not mind it, as you're so very philosophical on certain
points,' he added with a slight sneer. 'They were talking about
Lord Lowborough and his delectable lady, the cause of whose sudden
departure is no secret amongst them; and her character is so well
known to them all, that, nearly related to me as she is, I could
not attempt to defend it. Curse me!' he muttered, par parenthese,
'if I don't have vengeance for this! If the villain must disgrace
the family, must he blazon it abroad to every low-bred knave of his
acquaintance? I beg your pardon, Mrs. Huntingdon. Well, they were
talking of these things, and some of them remarked that, as she was
separated from her husband, he might see her again when he
'"Thank you," said he; "I've had enough of her for the present:
I'll not trouble to see her, unless she comes to me."
'"Then what do you mean to do, Huntingdon, when we're gone?" said
Ralph Hattersley. "Do you mean to turn from the error of your
ways, and be a good husband, a good father, and so forth; as I do,
when I get shut of you and all these rollicking devils you call
your friends? I think it's time; and your wife is fifty times too
good for you, you know - "
'And he added some praise of you, which you would not thank me for
repeating, nor him for uttering; proclaiming it aloud, as he did,
without delicacy or discrimination, in an audience where it seemed
profanation to utter your name: himself utterly incapable of
understanding or appreciating your real excellences. Huntingdon,
meanwhile, sat quietly drinking his wine, - or looking smilingly
into his glass and offering no interruption or reply, till
Hattersley shouted out, - "Do you hear me, man?"
'"Yes, go on," said he.
'"Nay, I've done," replied the other: "I only want to know if you
intend to take my advice."
'"To turn over a new leaf, you double-dyed scoundrel," shouted
Ralph, "and beg your wife's pardon, and be a good boy for the
'"My wife! what wife? I have no wife," replied Huntingdon, looking
innocently up from his glass, "or if I have, look you, gentlemen:
I value her so highly that any one among you, that can fancy her,
may have her and welcome: you may, by Jove, and my blessing into
'I - hem - someone asked if he really meant what he said; upon
which he solemnly swore he did, and no mistake. What do you think
of that, Mrs. Huntingdon?' asked Mr. Hargrave, after a short pause,
during which I had felt he was keenly examining my half-averted
'I say,' replied I, calmly, 'that what he prizes so lightly will
not be long in his possession.'
'You cannot mean that you will break your heart and die for the
detestable conduct of an infamous villain like that!'
'By no means: my heart is too thoroughly dried to be broken in a
hurry, and I mean to live as long as I can.'
'Will you leave him then?'
'When: and how?' asked he, eagerly.
'When I am ready, and how I can manage it most effectually.'
'But your child?'
'My child goes with me.'
'He will not allow it.'
'I shall not ask him.'
'Ah, then, it is a secret flight you meditate! but with whom, Mrs.
'With my son: and possibly, his nurse.'
'Alone - and unprotected! But where can you go? what can you do?
He will follow you and bring you back.'
'I have laid my plans too well for that. Let me once get clear of
Grassdale, and I shall consider myself safe.'
Mr. Hargrave advanced one step towards me, looked me in the face,
and drew in his breath to speak; but that look, that heightened
colour, that sudden sparkle of the eye, made my blood rise in
wrath: I abruptly turned away, and, snatching up my brush, began
to dash away at my canvas with rather too much energy for the good
of the picture.
'Mrs. Huntingdon,' said he with bitter solemnity, 'you are cruel -
cruel to me - cruel to yourself.'
'Mr. Hargrave, remember your promise.'
'I must speak: my heart will burst if I don't! I have been silent
long enough, and you must hear me!' cried he, boldly intercepting
my retreat to the door. 'You tell me you owe no allegiance to your
husband; he openly declares himself weary of you, and calmly gives
you up to anybody that will take you; you are about to leave him;
no one will believe that you go alone; all the world will say, "She
has left him at last, and who can wonder at it? Few can blame her,
fewer still can pity him; but who is the companion of her flight?"
Thus you will have no credit for your virtue (if you call it such):
even your best friends will not believe in it; because it is
monstrous, and not to be credited but by those who suffer, from the
effects of it, such cruel torments that they know it to be indeed
reality. But what can you do in the cold, rough world alone? you,
a young and inexperienced woman, delicately nurtured, and utterly -
'In a word, you would advise me to stay where I am,' interrupted I.
'Well, I'll see about it.'
'By all means, leave him!' cried he earnestly; 'but NOT alone!
Helen! let me protect you!'
'Never! while heaven spares my reason,' replied I, snatching away
the hand he had presumed to seize and press between his own. But
he was in for it now; he had fairly broken the barrier: he was
completely roused, and determined to hazard all for victory.
'I must not be denied!' exclaimed he, vehemently; and seizing both
my hands, he held them very tight, but dropped upon his knee, and
looked up in my face with a half-imploring, half-imperious gaze.
'You have no reason now: you are flying in the face of heaven's
decrees. God has designed me to be your comfort and protector - I
feel it, I know it as certainly as if a voice from heaven declared,
"Ye twain shall be one flesh" - and you spurn me from you - '
'Let me go, Mr. Hargrave!' said I, sternly. But he only tightened
'Let me go!' I repeated, quivering with indignation.
His face was almost opposite the window as he knelt. With a slight
start, I saw him glance towards it; and then a gleam of malicious
triumph lit up his countenance. Looking over my shoulder, I beheld
a shadow just retiring round the corner.
'That is Grimsby,' said he deliberately. 'He will report what he
has seen to Huntingdon and all the rest, with such embellishments
as he thinks proper. He has no love for you, Mrs. Huntingdon - no
reverence for your sex, no belief in virtue, no admiration for its
image. He will give such a version of this story as will leave no
doubt at all about your character, in the minds of those who hear
it. Your fair fame is gone; and nothing that I or you can say can
ever retrieve it. But give me the power to protect you, and show
me the villain that dares to insult!'
'No one has ever dared to insult me as you are doing now!' said I,
at length releasing my hands, and recoiling from him.
'I do not insult you,' cried he: 'I worship you. You are my
angel, my divinity! I lay my powers at your feet, and you must and
shall accept them!' he exclaimed, impetuously starting to his feet.
'I will be your consoler and defender! and if your conscience
upbraid you for it, say I overcame you, and you could not choose
I never saw a man go terribly excited. He precipitated himself
towards me. I snatched up my palette-knife and held it against
him. This startled him: he stood and gazed at me in astonishment;
I daresay I looked as fierce and resolute as he. I moved to the
bell, and put my hand upon the cord. This tamed him still more.
With a half-authoritative, half-deprecating wave of the hand, he
sought to deter me from ringing.
'Stand off, then!' said I; he stepped back. 'And listen to me. I
don't like you,' I continued, as deliberately and emphatically as I
could, to give the greater efficacy to my words; 'and if I were
divorced from my husband, or if he were dead, I would not marry
you. There now! I hope you're satisfied.'
His face grew blanched with anger.
'I am satisfied,' he replied, with bitter emphasis, 'that you are
the most cold-hearted, unnatural, ungrateful woman I ever yet
'No, Mr. Hargrave, I am not. For all the good you ever did me, or
ever wished to do, I most sincerely thank you: for all the evil
you have done me, and all you would have done, I pray God to pardon
you, and make you of a better mind.' Here the door was thrown
open, and Messrs. Huntingdon and Hattersley appeared without. The
latter remained in the hall, busy with his ramrod and his gun; the
former walked in, and stood with his back to the fire, surveying
Mr. Hargrave and me, particularly the former, with a smile of
insupportable meaning, accompanied as it was by the impudence of
his brazen brow, and the sly, malicious, twinkle of his eye.
'Well, sir?' said Hargrave, interrogatively, and with the air of
one prepared to stand on the defensive.
'Well, sir,' returned his host.
'We want to know if you are at liberty to join us in a go at the
pheasants, Walter,' interposed Hattersley from without. 'Come!
there shall be nothing shot besides, except a puss or two; I'll
vouch for that.'
Walter did not answer, but walked to the window to collect his
faculties. Arthur uttered a low whistle, and followed him with his
eyes. A slight flush of anger rose to Hargrave's cheek; but in a
moment he turned calmly round, and said carelessly:
'I came here to bid farewell to Mrs. Huntingdon, and tell her I
must go to-morrow.'
'Humph! You're mighty sudden in your resolution. What takes you
off so soon, may I ask?'
'Business,' returned he, repelling the other's incredulous sneer
with a glance of scornful defiance.
'Very good,' was the reply; and Hargrave walked away. Thereupon
Mr. Huntingdon, gathering his coat-laps under his arms, and setting
his shoulder against the mantel-piece, turned to me, and,
addressing me in a low voice, scarcely above his breath, poured
forth a volley of the vilest and grossest abuse it was possible for
the imagination to conceive or the tongue to utter. I did not
attempt to interrupt him; but my spirit kindled within me, and when
he had done, I replied, 'If your accusation were true, Mr.
Huntingdon, how dare you blame me?'
'She's hit it, by Jove!' cried Hattersley, rearing his gun against
the wall; and, stepping into the room, he took his precious friend
by the arm, and attempted to drag him away. 'Come, my lad,' he
muttered; 'true or false, you've no right to blame her, you know,
nor him either; after what you said last night. So come along.'
There was something implied here that I could not endure.
'Dare you suspect me, Mr. Hattersley?' said I, almost beside myself
'Nay, nay, I suspect nobody. It's all right, it's all right. So
come along, Huntingdon, you blackguard.'
'She can't deny it!' cried the gentleman thus addressed, grinning
in mingled rage and triumph. 'She can't deny it if her life
depended on it!' and muttering some more abusive language, he
walked into the hall, and took up his hat and gun from the table.
'I scorn to justify myself to you!' said I. 'But you,' turning to
Hattersley, 'if you presume to have any doubts on the subject, ask
At this they simultaneously burst into a rude laugh that made my
whole frame tingle to the fingers' ends.
'Where is he? I'll ask him myself!' said I, advancing towards
Suppressing a new burst of merriment, Hattersley pointed to the
outer door. It was half open. His brother-in-law was standing on
the front without.
'Mr. Hargrave, will you please to step this way?' said I.
He turned and looked at me in grave surprise.
'Step this way, if you please!' I repeated, in so determined a
manner that he could not, or did not choose to resist its
authority. Somewhat reluctantly he ascended the steps and advanced
a pace or two into the hall.
'And tell those gentlemen,' I continued - 'these men, whether or
not I yielded to your solicitations.'
'I don't understand you, Mrs. Huntingdon.'
'You do understand me, sir; and I charge you, upon your honour as a
gentleman (if you have any), to answer truly. Did I, or did I
'No,' muttered he, turning away.
'Speak up, sir; they can't hear you. Did I grant your request?
'You did not.'
'No, I'll be sworn she didn't,' said Hattersley, 'or he'd never
look so black.'
'I'm willing to grant you the satisfaction of a gentleman,
Huntingdon,' said Mr. Hargrave, calmly addressing his host, but
with a bitter sneer upon his countenance.
'Go to the deuce!' replied the latter, with an impatient jerk of
the head. Hargrave withdrew with a look of cold disdain, saying, -
'You know where to find me, should you feel disposed to send a
Muttered oaths and curses were all the answer this intimation
'Now, Huntingdon, you see!' said Hattersley. 'Clear as the day.'
'I don't care what he sees,' said I, 'or what he imagines; but you,
Mr. Hattersley, when you hear my name belied and slandered, will
you defend it?'
I instantly departed and shut myself into the library. What could
possess me to make such a request of such a man I cannot tell; but
drowning men catch at straws: they had driven me desperate between
them; I hardly knew what I said. There was no other to preserve my
name from being blackened and aspersed among this nest of boon
companions, and through them, perhaps, into the world; and beside
my abandoned wretch of a husband, the base, malignant Grimsby, and
the false villain Hargrave, this boorish ruffian, coarse and brutal
as he was, shone like a glow-worm in the dark, among its fellow
What a scene was this! Could I ever have imagined that I should be
doomed to bear such insults under my own roof - to hear such things
spoken in my presence; nay, spoken to me and of me; and by those
who arrogated to themselves the name of gentlemen? And could I
have imagined that I should have been able to endure it as calmly,
and to repel their insults as firmly and as boldly as I had done?
A hardness such as this is taught by rough experience and despair
Such thoughts as these chased one another through my mind, as I
paced to and fro the room, and longed - oh, how I longed - to take
my child and leave them now, without an hour's delay! But it could
not be; there was work before me: hard work, that must be done.
'Then let me do it,' said I, 'and lose not a moment in vain
repinings and idle chafings against my fate, and those who
And conquering my agitation with a powerful effort, I immediately
resumed my task, and laboured hard all day.
Mr. Hargrave did depart on the morrow; and I have never seen him
since. The others stayed on for two or three weeks longer; but I
kept aloof from them as much as possible, and still continued my
labour, and have continued it, with almost unabated ardour, to the
present day. I soon acquainted Rachel with my design, confiding
all my motives and intentions to her ear, and, much to my agreeable
surprise, found little difficulty in persuading her to enter into
my views. She is a sober, cautious woman, but she so hates her
master, and so loves her mistress and her nursling, that after
several ejaculations, a few faint objections, and many tears and
lamentations that I should be brought to such a pass, she applauded
my resolution and consented to aid me with all her might: on one
condition only: that she might share my exile: otherwise, she was
utterly inexorable, regarding it as perfect madness for me and
Arthur to go alone. With touching generosity, she modestly offered
to aid me with her little hoard of savings, hoping I would 'excuse
her for the liberty, but really, if I would do her the favour to
accept it as a loan, she would be very happy.' Of course I could
not think of such a thing; but now, thank heaven, I have gathered a
little hoard of my own, and my preparations are so far advanced
that I am looking forward to a speedy emancipation. Only let the
stormy severity of this winter weather be somewhat abated, and
then, some morning, Mr. Huntingdon will come down to a solitary
breakfast-table, and perhaps be clamouring through the house for
his invisible wife and child, when they are some fifty miles on
their way to the Western world, or it may be more: for we shall
leave him hours before the dawn, and it is not probable he will
discover the loss of both until the day is far advanced.
I am fully alive to the evils that may and must result upon the
step I am about to take; but I never waver in my resolution,
because I never forget my son. It was only this morning, while I
pursued my usual employment, he was sitting at my feet, quietly
playing with the shreds of canvas I had thrown upon the carpet; but
his mind was otherwise occupied, for, in a while, he looked up
wistfully in my face, and gravely asked, - 'Mamma, why are you
'Who told you I was wicked, love?'
'No, Arthur, Rachel never said so, I am certain.'
'Well, then, it was papa,' replied he, thoughtfully. Then, after a
reflective pause, he added, 'At least, I'll tell you how it was I
got to know: when I'm with papa, if I say mamma wants me, or mamma
says I'm not to do something that he tells me to do, he always
says, "Mamma be damned," and Rachel says it's only wicked people
that are damned. So, mamma, that's why I think you must be wicked:
and I wish you wouldn't.'
'My dear child, I am not. Those are bad words, and wicked people
often say them of others better than themselves. Those words
cannot make people be damned, nor show that they deserve it. God
will judge us by our own thoughts and deeds, not by what others say
about us. And when you hear such words spoken, Arthur, remember
never to repeat them: it is wicked to say such things of others,
not to have them said against you.'
'Then it's papa that's wicked,' said he, ruefully.
'Papa is wrong to say such things, and you will be very wrong to
imitate him now that you know better.'
'What is imitate?'
'To do as he does.'
'Does he know better?'
'Perhaps he does; but that is nothing to you.'
'If he doesn't, you ought to tell him, mamma.'
'I have told him.'
The little moralist paused and pondered. I tried in vain to divert
his mind from the subject.
'I'm sorry papa's wicked,' said he mournfully, at length, 'for I
don't want him to go to hell.' And so saying he burst into tears.
I consoled him with the hope that perhaps his papa would alter and
become good before he died -; but is it not time to deliver him
from such a parent?
January 10th, 1827. - While writing the above, yesterday evening, I
sat in the drawing-room. Mr. Huntingdon was present, but, as I
thought, asleep on the sofa behind me. He had risen, however,
unknown to me, and, actuated by some base spirit of curiosity, been
looking over my shoulder for I know not how long; for when I had
laid aside my pen, and was about to close the book, he suddenly
placed his hand upon it, and saying, - 'With your leave, my dear,
I'll have a look at this,' forcibly wrested it from me, and,
drawing a chair to the table, composedly sat down to examine it:
turning back leaf after leaf to find an explanation of what he had
read. Unluckily for me, he was more sober that night than he
usually is at such an hour.
Of course I did not leave him to pursue this occupation in quiet:
I made several attempts to snatch the book from his hands, but he
held it too firmly for that; I upbraided him in bitterness and
scorn for his mean and dishonourable conduct, but that had no
effect upon him; and, finally, I extinguished both the candles, but
he only wheeled round to the fire, and raising a blaze sufficient
for his purposes, calmly continued the investigation. I had
serious thoughts of getting a pitcher of water and extinguishing
that light too; but it was evident his curiosity was too keenly
excited to be quenched by that, and the more I manifested my
anxiety to baffle his scrutiny, the greater would be his
determination to persist in it besides it was too late.
'It seems very interesting, love,' said he, lifting his head and
turning to where I stood, wringing my hands in silent rage and
anguish; 'but it's rather long; I'll look at it some other time;
and meanwhile I'll trouble you for your keys, my dear.'
'The keys of your cabinet, desk, drawers, and whatever else you
possess,' said he, rising and holding out his hand.
'I've not got them,' I replied. The key of my desk, in fact, was
at that moment in the lock, and the others were attached to it.
'Then you must send for them,' said he; 'and if that old devil,
Rachel, doesn't immediately deliver them up, she tramps bag and
'She doesn't know where they are,' I answered, quietly placing my
hand upon them, and taking them from the desk, as I thought,
unobserved. 'I know, but I shall not give them up without a
'And I know, too,' said he, suddenly seizing my closed hand and
rudely abstracting them from it. He then took up one of the
candles and relighted it by thrusting it into the fire.
'Now, then,' sneered he, 'we must have a confiscation of property.
But, first, let us take a peep into the studio.'
And putting the keys into his pocket, he walked into the library.
I followed, whether with the dim idea of preventing mischief, or
only to know the worst, I can hardly tell. My painting materials
were laid together on the corner table, ready for to-morrow's use,
and only covered with a cloth. He soon spied them out, and putting
down the candle, deliberately proceeded to cast them into the fire:
palette, paints, bladders, pencils, brushes, varnish: I saw them
all consumed: the palette-knives snapped in two, the oil and
turpentine sent hissing and roaring up the chimney. He then rang
'Benson, take those things away,' said he, pointing to the easel,
canvas, and stretcher; 'and tell the housemaid she may kindle the
fire with them: your mistress won't want them any more.'
Benson paused aghast and looked at me.
'Take them away, Benson,' said I; and his master muttered an oath.
'And this and all, sir?' said the astonished servant, referring to
the half-finished picture.
'That and all,' replied the master; and the things were cleared
Mr. Huntingdon then went up-stairs. I did not attempt to follow
him, but remained seated in the arm-chair, speechless, tearless,
and almost motionless, till he returned about half-an-hour after,
and walking up to me, held the candle in my face and peered into my
eyes with looks and laughter too insulting to be borne. With a
sudden stroke of my hand I dashed the candle to the floor.
'Hal-lo!' muttered he, starting back; 'she's the very devil for
spite. Did ever any mortal see such eyes? - they shine in the dark
like a cat's. Oh, you're a sweet one!' So saying, he gathered up
the candle and the candlestick. The former being broken as well as