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T^oH^^ 



OF 1V1AD|IE$'' 



•h 



piOf^ENCE MAKHYAT 





600064466W 



A MOMENT OF MADNESS, 



AND OTHER STORIES. 



BY 



FLORENCE MARRYAT, 

AUTHOR OF * PHYLLIDA,' * FACING THE FOOTLIGHTS/ ETC., ETC 



IN THREE VOLUMES. 



VOL. III. 



LONDON : R V. WHITE & CO., 
31 SOUTHAMPTON STREET, STRAND, W.C. 



.1883. 

[Ail Rights reserved,^ 




CHEAP EDITION OF 

FLORENCE MARRY AT'S 

POPULAR NOVELS. 

Crown Svo, cloth^ 35. 6^/. 



hi all Booksellers in Town and Country, and at all Railway Bookstalls. 
MY SISTER THE ACTRESS. By Florence Marry at, 
Author of * A Broken Blossom,* * Phyllida,* ' How They 
Loved Him,* etc., etc. 

PHYLLIDA. By Florence Marryat, Author of *My 
Sister the Actress,* * A Broken Blossom,' etc., etc., etc. 

THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL. By Florence Marryat, 
Author of 'Love's Conflict,* *Phyllida,* *A Broken 
Blossom,* etc., etc., etc. 

A BROKEN BLOSSOM. By Florence Marryat, 
Author of * Phyllida,* * Facing the Footlights,' etc., etc. 



F. V. White & Co., 31 Soutliamptoii Street, Strand. 



COLSTON AND SON, PRINTERS, EDINBURGH. 



CONTENTS. 



LITTLE WHITE S^OISIS— Continued, 



PAGE 
I 



STILL WATERS, 21 



CHIT-CHAT FROM ANDALUSIA, . 



59 



THE SECRET OF ECONOMY, 



75 



* MOTHER,' 93 

IN THE HEART OF THE ARDENNES, 133 

A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHTMARE, . . 165 

THE GHOST OF CHARLOTTE CRAY, . 203 




LITTLE WHITE SOULS 

(Continued). 



ITHEL calls the woman some 
opprobrious epithet, but walks 
away nevertheless, and lets her 
do as she will; only the next day 
she writes a full account to Charlie of what 
she has gone through, and tells him she 
thinks all the servants are going mad. In 
which opinion he entirely agrees with her. 

'For "mad" read "bad,"' he writes 
back again, 'and I'm with you. There 
is no doubt upon the matter, my dear 
girl. The brutes don't like the cold, and 
are playing tricks upon you to try and 
force you to return to the plains. It is 
a common thing in this country. Don't 
give way to them, but tell them I'll stop 

VOL. III. A 



2 Little White Souls. 

their pay all round if anything unpleasant 
happens again. I think now you must 
confess it would have been better to take 
my advice and try a trip home instead. 
However, as you are at Mandalinati, don't 
come back until your object in going there 
is accomplished. I wish I could join you, 
but it is impossible just yet. Jack Lawless 
is obliged to go north on business, and I 
have promised to accompany him. Keep 
up a good heart, dearest, and don't let 
those brutes think they have any power 
to annoy or frighten you.' 

* Going north on business ! ' exclaims 
Ethel bitterly; 'and she is going too, I 
suppose ; and Charlie can find time to go 
with them, though he cannot come to me. 
Oh, it is too hard ! It is more than any 
woman can be expected to bear! I'm sure 
I wish I had gone to England instead. 
Then I should at least have had my dear 
sister to tell my troubles to, and he — he 
would have been free to flirt with that 
wretched woman as much as ever he 
chose.' 

And the poor wife lies in her bed that 
night too unhappy to sleep, while she 
pictures her husband doing all sorts of 
dishonourable things, instead of snoring. 



Little White Souls. 3 

as he really is, in his own deserted couch. 
Her room adjoins that in which the Dye 
is sleeping with her little girl, and the 
door between them stands wide open. 
From where she lies, Ethel can see part 
of the floor of Katie's bedroom, from 
which the moonlight is excluded in con- 
sequence of the great black shawl which 
the nurse continues to pin nightly across 
the window-pane. Suddenly, as she watches 
the shaded floor without thinking of it, a 
streak of moonshine darts right athwart 
it, as if a corner of the curtain had been 
raised. Always full of fears for her child, 
Ethel slips off her own bed, and with 
noiseless, unslippered feet runs into the 
next room, only in time to see part of a 
white dress upon the terrace as some un- 
seen hand hastily drops the shawl again. 
She crosses the floor, and opening the 
window, looks out. Nobody is in sight. 
From end to end of the broad terraces 
the moonlight lies undisturbed by any 
shadow, though she fancies her ear can 
discern the rustling of a garment sweeping 
the stone foundation. As she turns to the 
darkened chamber again, she finds the Dye 
is sitting up, awake and trembling. 

*Who raised that shawl just now, 



4 Little White Souls. 

Dye ? Tell me — I will know ! ' says Mrs 
Dun Stan. 

' Oh, mam ! How can poor Dye tell ? 
Perhaps it was the English lady come to 
take my little missy ! Oh ! when shall we 
go back to Mudlianah and be safe again ?' 

* English fiddlesticks ! Don't talk such 
rubbish to me. I am up to all your 
tricks, but you won't frighten me, and so 
you may tell the others. And I shall not 
go back to Mudlianah one day sooner for 
anything you may say or do — * 

Yet Mrs Ethel does not feel quite com- 
fortable, even though her words are so 
brave. But shortly afterwards her thoughts 
are turned into another direction, whether 
agreeably or otherwise, we shall see. As 
she is sitting at breakfast the next morning, 
a shouting of natives and a commotion in 
the courtyard warns her of a new arrival. 
She imagines it is her husband, and rushes 
to meet him. But, to her surprise and 
chagrin, the figure that emerges from the 
transit is that of Mrs Lawless looking as 
lovely in her travelling dress and rumpled 
hair as ever she did in the most extrava- 
gant costume de baL 

' Are you surprised to see me ? ' she 
cried, as she jumps to the ground. * Well, 



Little White Souls. 5 

my dear, you can hardly be more surprised 
than I am to find myself here. But the 
fact IS, Jack and the colonel are off to 
Hoolabad on business, so I thought I 
would take advantage of their absence to 
pay you a visit. And I hope you are glad 
to see me ? ' 

Of course Mrs Dunstan says she is glad, 
and in a measure her words are true. She 
is glad to keep this fascinating wicked 
flirt under her eye, where it is impossible 
she can tamper with the affections of her 
beloved Charlie, and she is glad of her 
company and conversation, which is as 
sociable and bright as a clever little woman 
can make it. Mrs Lawless is full of 
sympathy, too, with Mrs Dunstan's fears 
and the bad behaviour of her servants, and 
being a very good linguist, she promises 
to obtain all the information she can from 
them, and make them fully understand 
their mistress's intentions in return. 

* It's lucky I came, my dear,' she says 
brightly, * or they might have made them- 
selves still more offensive to you. But you 
have the dear colonel and Jack to thank 
for that, for I shouldn't have left home if 
they had not done so.' 

* Ah, just as I imagined,' thinks Ethel, 



6 Little White Souls. 

'she would not have left him unless she 
had been obliged, and she has the im- 
pudence to tell me so to my very face. 
However, she is here, and I must 
make the best of it, and be thankful 
it has happened so.' And so she lays 
herself out to please her guest in order 
to keep her by her as long as she pos- 
sibly can. 

But a few days after Cissy's arrival she 
receives a letter that evidently discom- 
poses her. She keeps on exclaiming, 
* How provoking ! ' and * How annoying ! ' 
as she peruses it, and folds it up with an 
unmistakable frown on her brow. 

* What is the matter ? ' demands Ethel. 
' I hope it is not bad news.' 

* Yes, it is very bad news. They have 
never gone after all, Mrs Dunstan, and 
Jack is so vexed I should have left Mud- 
lianah before he started.' 

* But now you are here, you will not 
think of returning directly, I hope,' says 
Ethel, in an anxious voice. 

' Oh no, I suppose not — it would be so 
childish — that is, unless Jack wishes me to 
do so. But I have hardly recovered from 
the effects of the journey yet ; those tran- 
sits shake so abominably. No, I shall 



Little White Souls. 7 

certainly stay here for a few weeks, unless 
my husband orders me to return.' 

Yet Mrs Lawless appears undecided 
and restless from that moment, which 
Mrs Dunstan ascribes entirely to her wish 
to return to Mudlianah, and her flirtation 
with the colonel, and the suspicion makes 
her receive any allusions to such a con- 
tingency with marked coolness. Cissy 
Lawless busies herself going amongst the 
natives, and talking with them about the 
late disturbances at the castle, and her 
report is not satisfactory. 

*Are you easily frightened, Mrs Dun- 
stan ?' she asks her one day suddenly. 

' No, I think not. Why?' 

' Because you must think me a fool if 
you like, but I am ; and the stories your 
servants have told me have made me quite 
nervous of remaining at the castle.' 

' A good excuse to leave me and go back 
to Mudlianah,' thinks Mrs Dunstan ; and 
then she draws herself up stiffly, and says, 
' Indeed ! You must be very credulous if 
you believe what natives say. What may 
these dreadful stories consist of?' 

• Oh ! I daresay you will turn them into 
ridicule, because, perhaps, you don't be- 
lieve in ghosts.' 



8 Little White Souls. 

* Ghosts! I should think not, indeed. 
Who does ? ' 

* I do, Mrs Dunstan, and for the good 
reason that I have seen more than one.' 

* You have seen a spirit ? What will 
you tell me next ? ' 

* That I hope you never may, for it is 
not a pleasant sight. But that has nothing 
to do with the present rumours. I find 
that your servants are really frightened of 
remaining at the castle. They say there 
is not a native in the villages round about 
who would enter it for love or money, and 
that the reason the Rajah Mati Singh has 
deserted it is on account of its reputation 
for being haunted.' 

* Every one has heard of that,' replies 
Ethel, with a heightened colour, *but no 
one believes it. Who should it be haunted 
by?' 

*You know what a bad character the 
rajah bears for cruelty and oppression. 
They say he built this castle for a harem, 
and kidnapped a beautiful English woman, 
a soldier s daughter, and confined her here 
for some years. But, finding one day that 
she had been attempting to communicate 
with her own people, he had her most bar- 
barously put to death, with her child and 



Little White Souls. 9 

the servants he suspected of conniving with 
her. Then he established a native harem 
here, but was obliged to remove it, for no 
infant born in the house ever lived. They 
say that as soon as a child is born under 
this roof, the spirit of the white woman 
appears to carry it away in place of her 
own. But the natives declare that she is 
not satisfied with the souls of black chil- 
dren, and that she will continue to appear 
until she has secured a white child like the 
one that was murdered before her eyes. 
And your servants assure me that she has 
been seen by several of them since coming 
here, and they feel certain that she is wait- 
ing for your baby to be born that she may 
carry it away.' 

* What folly ! ' cries Mrs Dunstan, whose 
cheeks have nevertheless grown very red. 
* It's all a ruse in order to make me go 
home again. In the first place, I should 
be ashamed to believe in such nonsense, 
and in the second, I do not expect my 
baby to be born until I am back in 
Mudlianah.' 

* But accidents happen some times, you 
know, dear Mrs Dunstan, and it would be 
a terrible thing if you were taken ill up 
here. Don't you think, all things con- 



lO Little White Souls. 

sidered, it would be more prudent for you 
to go home again ? ' 

* No, I do not/ replied Mrs Dunstan, 
decidedly. * I came here for my child's 
health, and I shall stay until it is re-estab- 
lished.' 

* But you must feel so lonely by your- 
self.' 

' I have plenty to do and to think of,* 
says Ethel, *and I never want company 
whilst I am with my little Katie.' 

She is determined to take neither pity 
nor advice from the woman who is so 
anxious to join the colonel again. 

* I am glad to hear you say so/ replied 
Mrs Lawless, somewhat timidly, * because 
it makes it easier for me to tell you that 
I am afraid I must leave you. I dare- 
say you will think me very foolish, but 
I am too nervous to remain any longer 
at Mandalinati. I have not slept a wink 
for the last three nights. I must go back 
to Jack.' 

* Oh ! you must go back to Jack ! ' 
repeats Mrs Dunstan, with a sneer at Mrs 
Lawless. * I hate duplicity I Why can't 
you tell the truth at once ? ' 

* Mrs Dunstan ! What do you mean } ' 

* I mean that I know why you are going 



Little White Souls. 1 1 

back to Mudlianah as well as you do your- 
self. It's all very well to lay it upon " Jack," 
or this ridiculous ghost; but you don't 
deceive me. I have known your treachery 
for a long time past. It is not " Jack " you 
go back to cantonment for — but my hus- 
band, and you are a bad, wicked woman.' 

* For your husband ! ' cried Cissy Law- 
less, jumping to her feet. * How dare you 
insult me in this manner! What have 
I ever done to make you credit such an 
absurdity 1 ' 

* You may call it an absurdity, madam, 
if you choose, but I call it a diabolical 
wickedness. Haven't you made appoint- 
ments with him, and walked at night in the 
garden with him, and done all you could 
to make him faithless to his poor, trusting 
wife ? And you a married woman, too. 
You ought to be ashamed of yourself! ' 

* Mrs Dunstan, I will not stand this 
language any longer. I flirt with your 
husband ! — ^a man old enough to be my 
father ! You must be out of your senses ! 
Why, he must be fifty if he's a day ! ' 

* He's not fifty,' screams Ethel, in her 
rage. * He was only forty-two last birth- 
day.' 

' I don't believe it. His hair is as grey 



12 Little White Souls. 

as a badger. Flirt with the colonel, indeed. 
When I want to flirt I shall look for a 
younger and a handsomer man than your 
husband, I can tell you.' 

* You'd flirt with him if he were eighty, 
you bold, forward girl, and I shall take 
good care to inform Mr Lawless of the 
way you have been carrying on with him.' 

* I shall go down at once, and tell him 
myself. You don't suppose I would re- 
main your guest after what has happened 
for an hour longer than is absolutely 
necessary. I wish you good morning, 
Mrs Dunstan, and a civil tongue for the 
future.' 

* Oh, of course, you'll go to Mudlianah. 
I was quite prepared for that, and an ex- 
cellent excuse you have found to get back 
again. Good day, madam, and the less 
we meet before you start the better. 
Grey haired, indeed ! Why, many men 
are grey at thirty, and I've often been 
told that he used to be called " Handsome 
Charlie " when he first joined the service.' 

But the wife's indignant protests do 
not reach the ears of Cissy Lawless, who 
retires to her own apartments and does 
not leave them until she gets into the 
transit again and is rattled back to Mud- 



Little White Souls. 13 

Kanah. When she is fairly off there is no 
denying that Ethel feels very lonely and 
very miserable. She is not so brave as 
she pretends to be, and she is conscious 
that she has betrayed her jealous feelings 
in a most unladylike manner, which will 
make Charlie very angry with her when 
he comes to hear of it. So what between 
her rage and her despair, she passes the 
afternoon and evening in a very hysterical 
condition of weeping and moaning, and 
the excitement and fatigue, added to 
terror at the stories she has heard, bring 
on the very calamity against which Mrs 
Lawless warned her. In the middle of 
the night she is compelled by illness to 
summon her Dye to her assistance, and two 
frightened women do their best to alarm 
each other still more, until with the morn- 
ing's light a poor little baby is born into 
the world, who had no business, strictly 
speaking, to have entered it till two months 
later, and the preparations for whose 
advent are all down at Mudlianah. Poor 
Ethel has only strength after the event to 
write a few faint lines in pencil to Colonel 
Dunstan, telling him she is dying, and 
begging him to come to her at once, and 
then to lie down in a state of utter despair. 



14 Little White Sauls. 

which would assail most women under the 
circumstances. She has not sufficient 
energy even to reprove the Dye, who 
laments over the poor baby as if it were a 
doomed creature, and keeps starting ner- 
vously, as night draws on again, at every 
shadow, as though she expected to see the 
old gentleman at her elbow. 

She wears out Ethel's patience at last, 
for the young mother is depressed and 
feeble and longs for sleep. So she orders 
the nurse to lay her little infant on her 
arm, and to go into the next room as usual 
and lie down beside Katie's cot ; and after 
some expostulation, and many shakings 
of her head, the Dye complies with her 
mistress's request. For some time after 
she is left alone, Ethel lies awake, too 
exhausted even to sleep, and as she does 
so, her mind is filled with the stories she 
has heard, and she clasps her little fragile 
infant closer to her bosom as she recalls 
the history of the poor murdered mother, 
whose child was barbarously slaughtered 
before her eyes. But she has too much 
faith in the teaching of her childhood quite 
to credit such a marvellous story, and she 
composes herself by prayer and holy 
thoughts until she sinks into a calm and 



Little White Souls. 15 

dreamless slumber. When she wakes 
some hours after, it is not suddenly, but 
as though some one were pulling her back 
to consciousness. Slowly she realises her 
situation, and feels that somebody, the 
Dye she supposes, is trying to take the 
baby from her arms without disturbing 
her. 

* Don't take him from me, dye,' she 
murmurs, sleepily ; * he is so good — he has 
not moved all night.' 

But the gentle pressure still continues, 
and then Ethel opens her eyes and sees 
not the Dye but a woman, tall and finely 
formed, and fair as the day, with golden 
hair floating over her shoulders, and a wild, 
mad look in her large blue eyes, who is 
quietly but forcibly taking the baby from 
her. Already she has one bare arm under 
the child, and the other over him — and her 
figure is bent forward, so that her beautiful 
face is almost on a level with that of Mrs 
Dunstan's. 

* Who are you ? What are you doing ? ' 
exclaims Ethel in a voice of breathless 
alarm, although she does not at once com- 
prehend why she should experience it. 
The woman makes no answer, but 
with her eyes fixed on the child with 



i6 Little White Souls. 

a sort of wild triumph draws it steadily 
towards her. 

* Leave my baby alone ! How dare 
you touch him ? ' cries Ethel, and then 
she calls aloud, * Dye ! Dye ! come to 
me I' 

But at the sound of her voice the 
woman draws the child hastily away, 
and Ethel sees it reposing on her arm, 
whilst she slowly folds her white robes 
about the little form, and hides it from 
view. 

* Dye ! Dye ! ' again screams the mother, 
and as the nurse rushes to her assistance 
the spirit woman slowly fades away, with 
a smile of success upon her lips. 

* Bring a light. Quick ! ' cries Ethel. 
* The woman has been here ; she has 
stolen my baby. Oh, Dye, make haste ! 
help me to get out of bed. I will get it 
back again if I die in the attempt' 

The Dye runs for a lamp, and brings it 
to the bedside as Mrs Dunstan is attempt- 
ing to leave it. 

* Missus dreaming !' she exclaims quickly, 
as the light falls on the pillow. * The baby 
is there — safe asleep. Missus get into bed 
again, and cover up well, or she will catch 
cold ! ' 



Little White Souls. 17 

* Ah ! my baby/ cries Ethel, hysterically, 
as she seizes the tiny creature in her arms, 
* is he really there ? Thank God ! It was 
only a dream. But, Dye, what is the 
matter with him, and why is he so stiff 
and cold ? He cannot — he cannot be — 
dead ! ' 

Yes, it was true ! It was not a dream 
after all. The white woman has carried 
the soul of the white child away with her, 
and left nothing but the senseless little 
body behind. As Ethel realises the extent 
of her misfortune, and the means by which 
it has been perpetrated, she sinks back 
upon her pillow in a state of utter uncon- 
sciousness. 

* ••••••• 

When she once more becomes aware of all 
that is passing around her, she finds her 
husband by her bedside, and Cissy Lawless 
acting the part of the most devoted of 
nurses. 

* It was so wrong of me to leave you, 
dear, in that hurried manner,' she whispers 
one day when Mrs Dunstan is convales- 
cent, * but I was so angry to think you 
could suspect me of flirting with your dear 
old husband. I ought to have told you 
from the first what all those meetings and 

VOL. III. B 



1 8 Little White Souls. 

letters meant, and I should have done so 
only they involved the character of my 
darling Jack. The fact is, dear, my boy 
got into a terrible scrape up country — and 
the colonel says the less we talk of it the 
better — however, it had something to do 
with that horrid gambling that men will 
indulge in, and it very nearly lost Jack his 
commission, and would have done so if it 
hadn't been for the dear colonel. But he 
and I plotted and worked together till we 
got Jack out of his scrape, and now we're 
as happy as two kings ; and you will be so 
too, won't you dear Mrs Dunstan, now 
that you are well again, and know that 
your Charlie has flirted no more than 
yourself ? ' 

* I have been terribly to blame,' replies 
poor Ethel. * I see that now, and I have 
suffered for it too, bitterly.' 

* We have all suffered, my darling,' says 
the colonel, tenderly ; ' but it may teach 
us a valuable lesson, never to believe that 
which we have not proved.' 

* And never to disbelieve that which we 
have not disproved,' retorts Ethel. ' If I 
had only been a little more credulous and 
a little less boastful of my own courage, I 
might not have lived to see my child torn 



Little White Souls. 19 

from my arms by the spirit of the white 
woman/ 

And whatever Ethel Dunstan beHeved 
or not, I have only, in concluding her story, 
to reiterate my assertion that the circum- 
stances of it are strictly true. 



THE END. 



STILL WATERS, 




OFTEN wonder if when, as the 
Bible tells us, *the secrets of all 
hearts shall be revealed,' they 
will be revealed to our fellow- 
creatures as well as to the Almighty Judge 
of men. 

I am not usually given to philosophise, 
but the above remark was drawn from me 
by the receipt of a letter this morning from 
my niece, Justina Trevor, announcing the 
death of her * dear friend,' Mrs Benson, 
which recalled the remembrance of an in- 
cident that took place a few months since, 
whilst I was staying at Durham Hall, in 
Derbyshire, the estate of her late husband, 
Sir Harry Trevor. I am an old bachelor, 
though not so old as I look ; yet when I 



22 Still Waters. 

confess that I write * General ' before my 
name, and have served most of my time 
in hot climates, it will readily be believed 
that no one would take me for a chicken. 
It was after an absence of fourteen years 
that, last November, I arrived in England, 
and put up at an hotel near Covent Gar- 
den, which had been a favourite resort of 
mine during my last stay in London. But 
I soon found that I had made a great 
mistake, for town was dark, damp, dirty, 
deserted, detestable ; in fact, no adjective, 
however long and however strong, could 
convey an adequate idea of the impression 
made upon me by a review of the great 
metropolis ; and it was with a feeling of 
intense relief that I perused a letter from 
my niece Justina, to whom I had duly 
announced my advent, in which she in- 
sisted that her ' dear uncle ' must spend 
his first Christmas in England nowhere 
but at Durham Hall, with Sir Harry and 
herself. Now Justina, if not my only, is 
certainly my nearest relative, and / knew 
that she knew that I was an old fellow on 
the shady side of sixty-five, with a couple 
of pounds or so laid by in the Oriental 
Bank, and with no one to leave them to 
but herself or her children ; but I was 



Still Waters. 2X 



:> 



not going to let that fact interfere with 
my prospects of present comfort ; and so, 
ordering my servant to repack my travel- 
ling cases, the next day but one saw us 
€71 route for Derbyshire. 

It was evening when I arrived at Dur- 
ham Hall, but even on a first view I could 
not help being struck with the munificent 
manner in which all the arrangements of 
the household seemed to be conducted, 
and reflected with shame on the un- 
worthy suspicion I had entertained re- 
specting those two pounds of mine in the 
Oriental Bank, which I now felt would be 
but as a drop in the ocean to the display 
of wealth which surrounded me. The 
hall was full of guests, assembled to enjoy 
the hunting and shooting season, and to 
spend the coming Christmas, and amongst 
them I heard several persons of title men- 
tioned ; but my host and hostess paid as 
much attention to me as though I had 
been the noblest there, and I felt gratified 
by the reception awarded me. 

I found my niece but little altered, con- 
sidering the number of years which had 
elapsed since I had last seen her ; her 
children were a fine, blooming set of boys 
and girls, whilst her husband, both in ap- 



24 Still Waters. 

pearance and manners, far exceeded my 
expectations. For it so happened that I 
had not seen Sir Harry Trevor before, my 
niece's marriage having taken place during 
my absence from England ; but Justina 
had never ceased to correspond with me, 
and from her letters I knew that the union 
had been as happy as it was prosperous. 
But now that I met him I was more than 
pleased, and voted his wife a most fortu- 
nate woman. Of unusual height and mus- 
cular build, Sir Harry Trevor possessed 
one of those fair, frank Saxon faces which 
look as if their owners had never known 
trouble. His bright blue eyes shone with 
careless mirth and his yellow beard curled 
about a mouth ever ready to smile in unison 
with the outstretching of his friendly hand. 

He was a specimen of a free, manly, and 
contented Englishman, who had everything 
he could desire in this world, and was 
thankful for it. As for Justina, she seemed 
perfectly to adore him ; her eyes followed 
his figure wherever it moved ; she hung 
upon his words, and refused to stir from 
home, even to take a drive or walk, unless 
he were by her side. 

* I must congratulate you upon your 
husband,' I said to her, as we sat together 



Still Waters. 25 

on the second day of my visit. * I think 
he is one of the finest fellows I ever came 
across, and seems as good as he is hand- 
some/ 

'Ah, he is, indeed!' she replied, with 
ready enthusiasm ; * and you have seen the 
least part of him, uncle. It would be im- 
possible for me to tell you how good he is 
in all things. We have been married now 
for more than ten years, and during that 
time I have never had an unkind word 
from him, nor do I believe he has ever 
kept a thought from me. He is as open 
as the day, and could not keep a secret if 
he tried. Dear fellow ! ' and something 
very like a tear twinkled in the wife's eyes. 

*Ay, ay/ I rephed, * that's right. I 
don't know much about matrimony, my 
dear, but if man and wife never have a 
secret from one another they can't go far 
wrong. And now perhaps you will en- 
lighten me a little about these guests of 
yours, for there is such a number of them 
that I feel quite confused.' 

Justina passed her hand across her eyes 
and laughed. 

* Yes, that is dear Harry's whim. He will 
fill the house at Christmas from top to base- 
ment, and I let him have his way, though all 



26 Still Waters, 

my visitors are not of my own choosing. 
With whom shall I commence, uncle ? ' 

We were sitting on a sofa together dur- 
ing the half-hour before dinner, and one 
by one the guests, amounting perhaps to 
fifteen or twenty, came lounging into the 
drawing-room. 

* Who, then, is that very handsome wo- 
man with the scarlet flower in her hair ? ' 

* Oh, do you call her handsome ? ' (I 
could tell at once from the tone of Justina's 
voice that the owner of the scarlet flower 
was no favourite of hers.) * That is Lady 
Amabel Scott, a cousin of Harry's : indeed, 
if she were not, she should never come 
into my house. Now, there's a woman, 
uncle, whom I can't bear — a forward, pre- 
suming, flirting creature, with no desire on 
earth but to attract admiration. Look 
how she's dressed this evening — absurd, 
for a home party. I wonder that her hus- 
band, Mr Warden Scott (that is he looking 
over the photograph book), can allow her 
to go on so ! It is quite disgraceful. I 
consider a flirting married woman one of 
the most dangerous members of society.' 

* But you can have no reason to fear her 
attacks,* I said, confidently. 

The colour mounted to her face. My 



Still Waters, 27 

niece is not a pretty woman — indeed, I had 
already wondered several times what made 
Trevor fall in love with her — but this little 
touch of indignation improved her. 

^ Of course not! But Lady Amabel spares 
no one, and dear Harry is so good-natured 
that he refuses to see how conspicuous she 
makes both him and herself. I have tried 
to convince him of it several times, but he 
is too kind to think evil of any one, and so 
I must be as patient as I can till she goes. 
Thank Heaven, she does not spend her 
Christmas with us ! For my part, I can't 
understand how one can see any beauty in 
a woman with a turned-up nose.' 

* Ho, ho ! ' I thought to myself ; ' this is 
where the shoe pinches, is it ? And if a 
lady will secure an uncommonly good- 
looking and agreeable man all to herself, 
she must expect to see others attempt to 
share the prize with her.' 

Poor Justina! With as many blessings 
as one would think heart could desire, she 
was not above poisoning her life's happi- 
ness by a touch of jealousy ; and so I pitied 
her. It is a terrible foe with which to 
contend. 

* But this is but one off the list,' I con- 
tinued, wishing to divert her mind from 



\ .. 









Aittrz -:.i- 






i« 



28 Still Waters. 

the contemplation of Sir Harry's cousin. 
'Who are those two dark girls standing 
together at the side table ? and who is 
that quiet-looking little lady who has just 
entered with the tall man in spectacles ? ' 

*Oh, those — the girls — are the Misses 
Rushton ; they are pretty, are they not ? — 
were considered quite the belles of last 
season — and the old lady on the opposite 
side of the fireplace is their mother : their 
father died some years since/ 

* But the gentleman in spectacles ? He 
looks quite a character.' 

*Yes, and is considered so, but he is 
very good and awfully clever. That is 
Professor Benson : you must know him 
and his wife too, the ** quiet-looking little 
lady/' as you called her just now. They 
are the greatest friends I have in the 
world, and it was at their house that I first 
met Harry. I am sure you would like 
Mary Benson, uncle ; she is shy, but has 
an immense deal in her, and is the kindest 
creature I ever knew. You would get on 
capitally together. I must introduce you 
to each other after dinner. And the pro- 
fessor and she are so attached — quite a 
model couple, I can assure you.' 

'Indeed! But whom have we here?' 



Still Waters. 29 

as the door was thrown open to admit five 
gentlemen and two ladies. 

* Lord and Lady Mowbray ; Colonel 
Green and his son and daughter ; Captain 
Mackay and Mr Cecil St John/ whispered 
Lady Trevor, and as she concluded dinner 
was announced, and our dialogue ended. 

As the only persons in whom my niece 
had expressed much interest were Lady 
Amabel Scott and Mrs Benson, I took 
care to observe these two ladies very nar- 
rowly during my leisure moments at the 
dinner-table, and came to the conclusion 
that, so far as I could judge, her estimate 
was not far wrong of either of them. Lady 
Amabel was a decided beauty, notwith- 
standing the * turned-up nose ' of which 
her hostess had spoken so contemptu- 
ously ; it was also pretty evident that she 
was a decided flirt. During my lengthened 
career of five-and-sixty years, I had always 
been credited with having a keen eye for 
the good points of a woman or a horse ; 
but seldom had I met with such vivid 
colouring, such flashing eyes, and such 
bright speaking looks as now shone upon 
me across the table from the cousin of Sir 
Harry Trevor. She was a lovely blonde, 
in the heyday of her youth and beauty, 



30 Still Waters. 

and she used her power unsparingly and 
without reserve. My observation quick- 
ened by what Justina's flash of jealousy 
had revealed, I now perceived, or thought 
I perceived, that our host was by no means 
insensible to the attractions of his fair 
guest, for, after conducting her in to dinner 
and placing her by his side, he devoted 
every second not demanded by the rights 
of hospitality to her amusement. Yet, 
Lady Amabel seemed anything but desir- 
ous of engrossing his attention ; on the 
contrary, her arrows of wit flew far and 
wide, and her bright glances flashed much 
in the same manner, some of their beams 
descending even upon me, spite of my 
grey hairs and lack of acquaintanceship. 
One could easily perceive that she was a 
universal favourite ; but as Mr Warden 
Scott seemed quite satisfied with the state 
of affairs, and calmly enjoyed his dinner, 
whilst his wife's admirers, in their fervent 
admiration, neglected to eat theirs, I could 
not see that any one had a right to com- 
plain, and came to the conclusion that my 
niece, like many another of her sex, had 
permitted jealousy to blind her judgment. 

I felt still more convinced of this when 
I turned to the contemplation of the other 



Still Waters. xt 



o 



lady to whom she had directed my atten- 
tion — the professor's wife, who was her 
dearest friend, and through whose means 
she had first met Sir Harry Trevor. There 
was certainly nothing to excite the evil 
passions of either man or woman in Mrs 
Benson. Small and insignificant in figure, 
she was not even pleasing in countenance ; 
indeed, I voted her altogether uninterest- 
ing, until she suddenly raised two large 
brown eyes, soft as a spaniel's and shy as 
a deer's, and regarded me. She dropped 
them again instantly, but as she did so I 
observed that her lashes were long and 
dark, and looked the longer and darker 
for resting on perfectly pallid cheeks. Au 
restCy Mrs Benson had not a feature that 
would repay the trouble of looking at 
twice, and the plain, dark dress she wore 
still farther detracted from her appearance. 
But she looked a good, quiet, harmless 
little thing, who, if she really possessed 
the sense Lady Trevor attributed to her, 
might prove a very valuable and worthy 
friend. But she was certainly not the 
style of woman to cause any one a heart- 
ache, or to make a wife rue the day she 
met her. 

And indeed, when, dinner being over, 



32 Still Waters. 

we joined the ladies in the drawing-room, 
and I saw her surrounded by my grand- 
nephews and nieces, who seemed by one 
accord to have singled her out for perse- 
cution, I thought she looked much more 
Hke a governess or some one in a depen- 
dent situation than the most welcome guest 
at Durham Hall. Sir Harry seemed 
pleased with her notice of his children, for 
he took a seat by her side and entered into 
conversation with her, the first time that I 
had seen him pay his wife's friend so open 
a compliment. Now I watched eagerly 
for the * great deal' that by Justina's ac- 
count was * in her ; ' but I was disappointed, 
for she seemed disinclined for a tHe-a-titey 
and after a few futile attempts to draw her 
out, I was not surprised to see her host 
quit his position and wander after Lady 
Amabel Scott into the back drawing-room, 
whither my niece's eyes followed him in a 
restless and uneasy manner. 

' I promised to introduce you to Mrs 
Benson, uncle,' she exclaimed, as she per- 
ceived that I was watching her, and willy- 
nilly, I was taken forcible possession of, 
and soon found myself occupying the chair 
left vacant by Sir Harry. 

' We can so very seldom persuade Mary 



SHU Waters. 38 

to stay with us ; and when she does comfe', 
her visits are so brief that we are oWiged 
to make a great deal of them whilst they 
last/ was part of Justina's introduction 
speech ; and on that hint I commenced to 
speak of the charms of the country and my 
wonder that Mrs Benson did not oftener 
take occasion to enjoy them. But barely 
an answer, far less an idea, could I extract! 
frbni my niece's valued friend. Mrs Ben- 
son's brown eyes were not once raised to 
tneet mine, and the replies which I forced 
from her lips came in monosyllables. , I 
tried another theme, but with no better 
success ; and had just decided that ^hd 
Ivas as stupid as she looked, when, to my 
great relief, the professor arrived with a 
tnessage from Lady Trevor, and bore his 
wife off into another room. j 

. Several days passed without bringing 
forth much incident. The gentlemen 
spent most of their time in. the shooting-* 
covers or hunting-field, and did not meet 
the ladies until evening re-assembled them 
in the driawing-room ; on which occasioihs 
I used to get as far as I could from Lady 
Trevor and the professor's wife, and .iii 
consequence generally found myself iji ^hd 
Yicinity off Sir. Harry and I^ady AmabeL 

VOL. III. c 



34 Still Waters. 

Yet, free and intimate as seemed their 
intercourse with one another, and narrowly 
as, in Justina*s interest, I watched them, I 
could perceive nothing in their conduct 
which was not justified by their relation- 
ship, and treated it as a matter of the 
smallest consequence, until one afternoon 
about a fortnight after my arrival at Dur- 
ham Hall. 

With the exception of Sir Harry himself, 
who had business to transact with his 
bailiff, we had all been out shooting, and 
as, after a hard day's work, I was toiling 
up to my bedroom to dress for dinner, 
I had occasion to pass the study appro- 
priated to the master of the house, and 
with a sudden desire to give him an ac- 
count of our sport, incontinently turned 
the handle of the door. As I did so I 
heard an exclamation and the rustle of a 
woman's dress, which were sufficient to 
make me halt upon the threshold of the 
half-opened door, and ask if I might enter. 

* Come in, by all means/ exclaimed Sir 
Harry. He was lying back indolently in 
his arm-chair beside a table strewn with 
books and papers, — a little flushed, per- 
haps, but otherwise himself, and, to my 
astonishment, quite alone. Yet I was 



Still Waters. 35 

positive that I had heard the unmistakable 
sound of a woman's dress sweeping the 
carpet. Involuntarily I glanced around 
the room ; but there was no egress. 

Sir Harry caught my look of inquiry, 
and seemed annoyed. * What are you 
staring at, Wilmer } ' he demanded, in the 
curtest tone I had yet heard from him. 

* May I not glance round your den } ' I 
replied courteously. * I have not had the 
honour of seeing it before.' 

Then I entered into a few details with 
him concerning the day's sport we had 
enjoyed ; but I took care to be brief, for I 
saw that my presence there displeased 
him, and I could not get the rustle of that 
dress out of my mind. As I concluded, 
and with some remark upon the lateness 
of the hour, turned to leave the room, a 
cough sounded from behind a large Indian 
screen which stood in one corner. It was 
the faintest, most subdued of coughs, but 
sufficiently tangible to be sworn to ; and 
as it fell upon my ear I could not help a 
change of countenance. 

' All right ! * said my host, with affected 
nonchalance, as he rose and almost backed 
me to the door. ' We'll have a talk over 
all this after dinner, Wilmer ; sorry I 



36 Still Waters. 

wasn't with you ; but, as you say, it's late. 
Au revoir !' and simultaneously the study 
door closed upon me. 

I was very much startled and very much 
shocked. I had not a doubt that I was 
correct in my surmise that Sir Harry had 
some visitor in his room whom he had 
thought it necessary to conceal from me ; 
and though Hope suggested that it might 
have been his wife, Common Sense rose 
up to refute so absurd an idea. Added to 
which, I had not traversed twenty yards 
after leaving him before I met Justina 
attired in her walking things, and just 
returning from a stroll round the garden. 

* Is it very late, uncle .^' she demanded, 
with a smile, as we encountered one an- 
other. * I have been out with the children. 
Have you seen Mary or Lady Amabel ? 
I am afraid they will think I have neglected 
them shamefully this afternoon.' 

I answered her questions indifferently, 
thinking the while that she had no occa- 
sion to blame herself for not having paid 
sufficient attention to Lady Amabel Scott, 
for that it was she whom I had surprised 
iite-cL'tite with Sir Harry Trevor, I had 
not a shadow of doubt. 

Well, I was not the one to judge them, 



Still Waters. 37 

nor to bring them to judgment; but I 
thought very hard things of Sir Harry's 
cousin during the dressing hour, and pitied 
my poor niece, who must some day inevit- 
ably learn that it was a true instinct which 
had made her shrink from her beautiful 
guest. And during the evening which 
followed my discovery, I turned with dis- 
gust from the lightning glances which 
darted from Lady Amabel's blue eyes, and 
the arch smile which helped to make them 
so seductive. I could no longer think her 
beauty harmless : the red curves of her 
mouth were cruel serpents in my mind ; 
poisoned arrows flew from her lips ; there 
was no innocence left in look, or word, or 
action ; and I found myself turning with 
a sensation of relief to gaze at the Quaker- 
like attire, the downcast eyes, and modest 
appearance of the professor's wife, whilst 
I inwardly blamed myself for having ever 
been so foolish as to be gulled into believ- 
ing that the flaunting beauty of Lady 
Amabel Scott was superior to Mrs Benson's 
quiet graces. 

I did not have much to say to Sir Harry 
Trevor during that evening: indignation 
for his deception towards Justina made me 
disinclined to speak to him, whilst he, for 



38 Still Waters. 

his part, seemed anxious to avoid me. For 
a few days more all went on as usual : my 
host's affability soon returned, and every 
one, my niece included, appeared so smil- 
ing and contented, that I almost began to 
think I must have been mistaken, and that 
there could have been no real motive for 
concealing Lady Amabel in Sir Harry's 
room, except perhaps her own girlish love 
of fun. I tried to think the best I could 
of both of them ; and a day came but too 
soon when I was thankful that I had so 
tried. 

It was about a week after the litde inci- 
dent related above that Sir Harry Trevor 
was shooting over his preserves, accom- 
panied by his guests. We had had a 
capital day's sport and an excellent lun- 
cheon — at which latter some of the ladies 
had condescended to join us — ^and were 
beating the last cover preparatory to a 
return to Durham Hall, when the report 
of a firearm was quickly followed by the 
news that Sir Harry Trevor had been 
wounded. 

I was separated from him by a couple of 
fields when I first heard of the accident, 
but it did not take me long to reach his 
side, when I perceived, to my horror, that 



Still Waters. 39 

h^ was fast bleeding to death, having been 
shpt through the lungs by the discharge of 
hiai own gun whilst getting through the 
hedge. I had seen men die from gunshot 
wouQds received under various circum- 
stances, and I felt sure that Sir Harry's 
hours were numbered ; yet, of course, all 
that was possible was done at once, and 
five minutes had not elapsed before mes- 
sengers w^re flying in all directions — one 
for the doctor, another for the carriage, a 
third for cordials to support the sinking 
man ; whilst I entreated Mr Warden Scott 
and several others to walk back to the 
Hall as though nothing particular had 
happened, and try to prevent the imme- 
diate circulation of the full extent of the 
bad news. Meanwhile, I remained by the 
wounded man, who evidently suspected, by 
the sinking within him, that he was dying. 

* Wilmer ! ' he gasped, * old fellow, have 
I settled my hash 1 ' 

* I trust not. Sir Harry,' I commenced ; 
but I suppose that my eyes contradicted 
my words. 

* Don't say any more,' he replied, with 
difficulty. ' My head a little higher — 
thanks. I feel it will soon be over.' 

And so he lay for a few moments, sup- 



4t> S ft// Waters. 

ported on my knee, with his fast glazing 
eyes turned upward to the December sky, 
and his breath coming in short, quick 
jerks. 

The men who had remained with me 
seemed as though they could not endure 
the sight of his sufferings ; one or two 
gazed at him speechless and almost as pale 
as himself; but the majority had turned 
away to hide their feelings. 

* Wilmer,' he whispered presently, but 
in a much fainter voice than before, * it's 
coming fast now ; ' and then, to my sur- 
prise, just as I thought he was about to 
draw his last breath, he suddenly broke 
into speech that was almost a sob — ' Oh, 
if I could only have seen her again ! I 
wouldn't mind it half so much if I could 
but have seen Pet again ! Call her, Wil- 
mer ; in God's name, call her ! — call Pet 
to me — only once again — only once ! 
Pet! Pet! Pet!' And with that name 
upon his lips, each time uttered in a 
shorter and fainter voice, and with a wild 
look of entreaty in his eyes, Sir Harry 
Trevor let his head drop back heavily 
upon my knees and died. 

When the doctor and the carriage ar- 
rived, the only thing left for us to do was 



Still Waters. ^x 

to convey the corpse of its master back to 
Durham Hall. 

For the first few hours I was too much 
shocked by the suddenness of the blow 
which had descended on us to have leisure 
to think of anything else. In one moment 
the house of feasting had been turned into 
the house of mourning ; and frightened 
guests were looking into each other's faces, 
and wondering what would be the correct 
thing for them to do. Of my poor niece I 
saw nothing. The medical man had under- 
taken to break the news of her bereave- 
ment to her, and I confess that I was 
sufficiently cowardly to shrink from en- 
countering the sorrow which I could do 
nothing to mitigate. 

As I passed along the silent corridors 
(lately so full of mirth and revelry) that 
evening, I met servants and travelling- 
cases at every turn, by which I concluded, 
and rightly, that the Christmas guests were 
about at once to take their departure ; and 
on rising in the morning, I found that, with 
the exception of Lady Amabel and Mi- 
Warden Scott, who, as relatives of the 
deceased, intended to remain until after 
the funeral, and the professor and Mrs 
Benson, on whose delicate frame the shock 



42 Still Waters. 

of Sir Harry's death was said to have had 
such an effect as to render her unfit for 
travelling, Durham Hall was clear. 

Lady Amabel had wept herself almost 
dry : her eyes were swollen, her features 
disfigured, her whole appearance changed 
from the violence of her grief, and every 
ten minutes she was ready to burst out 
afresh. 

We had not been together half-an-hour 
on the following morning before she was 
sobbing by my side, entreating me to give 
her every particular of ' poor dear Harry's' 
death, and to say if there was anything she 
could do for Justina or the children ; and 
notwithstanding the repugnance with which 
her conduct had inspired me, I could not 
repulse her then. However she had 
sinned, the crime and its occasion were 
both past — Sir Harry was laid out ready 
for his burial, and she was grieving for 
him. 

I am an old man, long past such follies 
myself, and I hope I am a virtuous man ; 
but all my virtue could not prevent my 
pitying Lady Amabel in her distress, and 
affording her such comfort as was possible. 
And so (a little curiosity still mingling 
with my compassion) I related to her in 



Still Waters, 43 

detail, whilst I narrowly watched her 
features, the last words which had been 
spoken by her cousin. But if she guessed 
for whom that dying entreaty had been 
urged, she did not betray herself. 

• Poor fellow ! ' was her only remark as 
she wiped her streaming eyes — * poor dear 
Harry ! Used he to call Justina " Pet .^ " 
I never heard him do so.' 

Whereupon I decided that Lady Amabel 
was too politic to be very miserable, and 
that my pity had been wasted on her. 

Of Mrs Benson I saw nothing, but 
the professor talked about attending the 
funeral, and therefore I concluded that my 
niece had invited them, being such inti- 
mate friends, to remain for that ceremony. 

On the afternoon of the same day I was 
told that Justina desired to speak to me. 
I sought the room where she was sitting, 
with folded hands and darkened windows, 
with nervous reluctance ; but I need not 
have dreaded a scene, for her grief was 
too great for outward show, and I found 
her in a state which appeared to me 
unnaturally calm. 

* Uncle,' she said, after a moment's 
pause, during which we had silently 
shaken hands, * will you take these keys 



44 Still Waters. 

and go down into — into — his study for 
me, and bring up the desks and papers 
which you will find in the escritoire? 
I do not like to send a servant/ 

I took the keys which she extended 
to me, and, not able to trust myself to 
answer, kissed her forehead and left the 
room again. As I turned the handle of 
the study door I shuddered, the action so 
vividly recalled to me the first and last 
occasion upon which I had done so. The 
afternoon was now far advanced, and dusk 
was approaching : the blinds of the study 
windows also were pulled down, which 
caused the room to appear almost in dark- 
ness. As I groped my way toward the es- 
critoire I stumbled over some article lying 
across my path, something which lay 
extended on the hearth-rug, and which 
even by that feeble light I could discern 
was a prostrated body. 

With my mind full of murderous 
accidents, I rushed to the window and 
drew up the blind, when to my astonish- 
ment I found that the person over whom 
I had nearly fallen was no other than 
poor little Mrs Benson, who was lying 
in a dead faint before the arm-chair. 
Fainting women not being half so much 



.Still Waters. 45 

in my line as wounded men, I felt quite 
uncertain in this case how to act, and 
.without considering how the professor's 
wife had come to be in the study or for 
what reason, my first impulse was to ring 
for assistance. But a second thought, 
which came I know not how or whence, 
made me lift the fragile, senseless body in 
my arms and carry it outside the study 
door into the passage before I called for 
help, which then I did lustily, and female 
servants came and bore the poor * quiet- 
looking little lady * away to her own apart- 
ments and the care of her husband, leaving 
me free to execute the errand upon which 
I had been sent. Still, as I collected the 
desk and papers required by my niece, 
I could not help reflecting on the circum- 
stance I have related as being a strange 
one, and could only account for it in my 
own mind by the probable fact that Mrs 
Benson had required some book from the 
late Sir Harry's shelves, and, miscalcu^ 
lating her strength, had left her bedroom 
with .the design of fetching it, and failed 
before she could accomplish her purpose! 
I heard several comments made on the 
occurrence, during the melancholy meal 
which we now called 'dinner,' by her 



4^ Still Waters. 

husband and Lady Amabel Scott, and 
they both agreed with me as to the 
probable reason of it ; and as soon as 
the cloth was removed the professor left 
us to spend the evening with his wife, 
who was considered sufficiently ill to re- 
quire medical attendance. 

We were a rather silent trio in the 
drawing-room — Lady Amabel, Mr Scott, 
and I — for ordinary occupations seemed 
forbidden, and every topic harped back to 
the miserable accident which had left 
the hall without a master. The servants 
with lengthened faces, as though attending 
a funeral, had dumbly proffered us tea 
and coffee, and we had drunk them with- 
out considering whether we required 
them, so welcome seemed anything to do ; 
and I was seriously considering whether 
it would appear discourteous in me to 
leave the hall and return on the day of 
the funeral, when a circumstance occurred 
which proved more than sufficiently ex- 
citing for all of us. 

I had taken the desk, papers, and 
keys, and delivered them into my niece s 
hands, and I had ventured at the same 
time to ask whether it would not be a 
comfort to her to see Mrs Benson or some 



Still Waters. 47 

other friend, instead of sitting in utter 
loAtliness and gloom. But Justina had 
visibly shrunk from the proposal ; more 
thaA that, she had begged me not to 
ren^W it. * I sent for you, uncle,' she 
said, * because I needed help, but don't 
let arty one make it a precedent for trying 
to sed me. I couldnt speak to any one : 
it would drive me mad. Leave me alone : 
my onljr relief is in solitude and prayer.* 

And so I had left her, feeling that 
doubtlels she was right, and communi- 
cating her wishes on the subject to Lady » 
Amabel Scott, who had several times 
expressed a desire to gain admittance to 
her widowed cousin. 

Judges then, of our surprise, equal and 
unmitigated, when, as we sat in the 
drawing-^foom that evening, the door 
silently Opened and Justina stood before 
us! If ihe had been the ghost of Sir 
Harry himself risen from the dead, she 
could hafdly have given us a greater 
start 

'Justiil&!' I exclaimed, but as she ad- 
vanced toward us with her eyes riveted 
on Lady Amabel, I saw that something 
more than usual was the matter, and drew 
backwards Justina's countenance was 



48 sail Waters. 

deadly pale ; her dark hair, unbound frdm 
the night before, flowed over the white-? 
dressing gown which she had worn all day ; 
and stern and rigid she walked into the 
midst of our little circle, holding a packet 
of letters in her hand. 

'Amabel Scott/ she hissed rather thart 
said as she fixed a look of perfect hatred 
on the beautiful face of her dead husband's 
cousin, * I have detected you. You mad^ 
me miserable whilst he Was alive — rybu 
know it — with your bold looks and your 
forward manners and your shdmelesSj 
open attentions; but it is my turn now, 
aftd before your husband I will tell you 
that — ' ; 

* Hush, hush, Justina!' I exclaimed, 
fearful what revelation might not be 
corning next. * You are; forgetting your- 
self ; this is no time for such explanations* 
Remember what lies upstairs.' 

'Let her go on,' interposed Lady 
Ainabel Scott, with wide-open, astonished 
eyes ; * I am not afraid. I wish to hear qf 
what she accuses me.' I ' 

She had risen from her seat as soon a3 
3he understood the purport of the widow's 
speech, and crossed over to her husband'3 
side ; and knowing, what 1 did of her, J 



Still Waters. 49 

was yet glad to see that Warden Scott 
threw his arm about her for encourage- 
ment and support. She may have been 
thoughtless and faulty, but she was so 
young, and he was gone. Besides, no 
man can stand by calmly and see one 
woman pitted against another. 

* Of what do you accuse me ? ' demanded 
Lady Amabel, with heightened colour. 

* Of what do I accuse you ? ' almost 
screamed Justina. * Of perfidy, of treach- 
ery, toward him,' pointing to Mr Warden 
Scott, * and toward me. I accuse you of 
attempting to win my dear husband's affec- 
tions from me — which you never did, thank 
God ! — and of rendering this home as de- 
solate as it was happy. But you failed — 
you failed ! ' 

* Where are your proofs ? ' said the other 
woman, quietly. 

* There I ^ exclaimed my niece, as she 
threw some four or five letters down upon 
the table — ' there ! I brought them for 
your husband to peruse. He kept them ; 
generous and good as he was, he would 
have spared you an open exposure, but I 
have no such feelings in the matter. Are 
you to go from this house into another to 
pursue the same course of action, and per- 

VOL. III. D 



50 Still Waters. 

haps with better success ? No, not if I 
can prevent it ! * 

Her jealousy, rage, and grief seemed 
to have overpowered her ; Justina was 
almost beside herself. I entreated her to 
retire, but it was of no avail. * Not till 
Warden Scott tells me what he thinks of 
his wife writing those letters with a view 
to seducing the affections of a married 
man/ she persisted. 

Mr Scott turned the letters over carelessly, 

* They are not from my wife/ he quietly 
replied. 

* Do you dare to say so } ' exclaimed 
Justina to Lady Amabel. 

* Certainly. I never wrote one of them. 
I have never written a letter to Harry 
since he was married. I have never had 
any occasion to do so.' 

The widow turned towards me with an 
ashen-greyface, whichitwaspitiful to behold. 

* Whose are they, then } ' she whispered, 
hoarsely. 

* I do not know, my dear,' I replied ; 
* surely it matters little now. You will 
be ill if you excite yourself in this manner. 
Let me conduct you back to your room ; ' 
but before I could do so she had fallen ia 
a fit at my feet. Of course, all then was 



Still Waters. 51 

hurry and confusion, and when I returned 
to the drawing-room I found Lady Amabel 
crying in her husband's arms. 

' Oh, Warden dear/ she was saying, ' I 
shall never forgive myself. This all comes 
of my wretched flirting. It's no good your 
shaking your head ; you know I flirt, and 
so does every one else ; but I never meant 
anything by it, darling, and I thought all 
the world knew how much I loved you.* 

* Don't be a goose ! ' replied her hus- 
band, as he put her gently away from him ; 
* but if you think Tm going to let you re- 
main in this house after what that d — d 
woman — Oh, here is General Wilmer! 
Well, General, after the very unpleasant 
manner in which your niece has been en- 
tertaining us, you will not be surprised to 
hear that I shall take my wife away from 
Durham Hall to-night. When Lady Tre- 
vor comes to her senses you will perhaps 
kindly explain to her the reason of our 
departure, for nothing under such an in- 
sult should have prevented my paying my 
last respects to the memory of a man who 
never behaved otherwise than as a gentle- 
man to either of us.' 

I apologised for Justina as best I was 
able, represented that her mind must really 



52 Still Waters. 

have become unhinged by her late trouble, 
and that she would probably be very sorry 
for what she had said by-and-by ; but I 
was not surprised that my arguments had 
no avail in inducing Mr Scott to permit 
his wife to remain at Durham Hall, and in 
a few hours they had left the house. When 
they were gone I took up the letters, which 
still lay upon the table, and examined 
them. They were addressed to Sir Harry, 
written evidently in a woman's hand, and 
teemed with expressions of the warmest 
affection. I was not surprised that the 
perusal of them had excited poor Justinas 
wrathful jealousy. Turning to the signa- 
tures, I found that they all concluded with 
the same words, * Your loving and faithful 
Pet.' In a moment my mind had flown 
back to the dying speech of poor Sir 
Harry, and had absolved Lady Amabel 
Scott from all my former suspicions. She 
was not the woman who had penned these 
letters ; she had not been in the last 
thoughts of her cousin. Who, then, had 
been ? That was a mystery on which 
Death had set his seal, perhaps for ever. 
Before I retired to rest that night I in- 
quired for my poor niece, and heard that 
she had Mrs Benson with her. I was 



Still Waters, 53 

glad of that : the women were fond of one 
another, and Justina, I felt, would pour all 
her griefs into the sympathising ear of the 
professor's wife, and derive comfort from 
weeping over them afresh with her. But 
after I had got into bed I remembered 
that I had left the letters lying on the 
drawing-room table, where they would be 
liable to be inspected by the servants, and 
blow the breath of the family scandal far 
and wide. It was much past midnight, 
for I had sat up late, and all the household, 
if not asleep, had retired to their own 
apartments ; and so, wrapping a dressing- 
gown about me, and thrusting my feet into 
slippers, I lighted my candle, and de- 
scended noiselessly to the lower apart- 
ments. But when I reached the drawing- 
room the letters were gone : neither on the 
table nor the ottoman nor the floor were 
they to be seen ; and so, vexed at my 
own carelessness, but concluding that the 
servants, when extinguishing the lights, 
had perceived and put the papers away in 
some place of safety, I prepared to return 
to my own room. 

The bedrooms at Durham Hall were 
situated on either side of a corridor, and 
fearful of rousing the family or being caught 



54 5/^7/ Waters. 

in deshabile, I trod on tiptoe, shading my 
candle with my hand. It was owing to 
this circumstance, I suppose, that I had 
reached the centre of the corridor without 
causing the least suspicion of my presence; 
hut as I passed by the apartment where 
the remains of my unfortunate host lay 
ready for burial, the door suddenly opened 
and a light appeared upon the threshold. 
I halted, expecting to see emerge the figure 
of my widowed niece, but lifting my eyes, 
to my astonishment I encountered the 
shrinking, almost terrified, gaze of the 
professors wife. Robed in her night- 
dress, pallid as the corpse which lay within, 
her large frightened eyes apparently the 
only living things about her, she stood 
staring at me as though she had been 
entrancec^. Her brown hair floated over 
her shoulders, her feet were bare ; one 
hand held a lighted candle, the other 
grasped the packet of letters of which I 
liad been in search. So we stood for a 
moment regarding one another — I taking 
in these small but important details ; she 
looking as though she implored my mercy 
and forbearance. And then I drew back 
with the gesture of respect due to her 
sex, and, clad in her white dress, she 



SHU Waters, 55 

swept past me like a startled spirit and 
disappeared. 

I gained my own room, but it was not 
to sleep. A thousand incidents, insignifi- 
cant in themselves, but powerful when 
welded into one, sprang up in my mind to 
convince me that Justina and I and every- 
body had been on a wrong tack, and 
that in the professor's wife, the * quiet- 
looking little lady' with her Quaker-like 
robes, downcast eyes and modest appear- 
ance, in the * best friend ' that my niece 
had ever possessed, I had discovered the 
writer of those letters, the concealed visitor 
in Sir Harry's room, the * Pet' whose name 
had been the last sound heard to issue 
from his dying lips. For many hours I 
lay awake pondering over the best course 
for me to pursue. I could not bear the 
thought of undeceiving my poor niece, 
whose heart had already suffered so much ; 
besides, it seemed like sacrilege to drag to 
light the secrets of the dead. At the same 
time I felt that Mrs Benson should receive 
some hint that her presence in Durham 
Hall, at that juncture, if desired, was no 
longer desirable. And the next day, find-- 
ing she was not likely to accord me an 
interview, I made the reception of the 



56 sail Waters. 

missing letters a pretext for demanding 
one. She came to her room door holding 
them in her hand, and the marks of trouble 
were so distinct in her face that I had to 
summon all my courage to go through the 
task which I considered my duty. 

* You found these in the drawing-room 
last night .> ' I said, as I received them from 
her. 

' I did/ she answered, but her voice 
trembled and her lips were very white. 
She seemed to know by instinct what was 
coming. 

*And you went to find them because 
they are your own ? * She made no answer. 
* Mrs Benson, I know your secret, but I 
will respect it on one condition — ^that you 
leave the Hall as soon as possible. You 
must be aware that this is no place for 
you/ 

* I never wished to come,' she answered, 
weeping. 

* I can believe it, but for the sake of 
your friend, of your husband, of yourself, 
quit it as soon as possible. Here are your 
letters — you had better burn them. I 
only wished to ascertain that they were 
yours.' 

' General Wilmer — * she commenced 



Still Waters. 57 

gaspingly, and then she turned away and 
could say no more. 

' Do you wish to speak to me ? ' I asked 
her gently. 

* No — nothing ; it is useless,* she 
answered with a tearless, despairing grief 
which was far more shocking to behold 
than either Justina's or Lady Amabel's. 
* He is gone, and there is nothing left ; 
but thank you for your forbearance — and 
good-bye.' 

So we parted, and to this day, excepting 
that she is released from all that could 
annoy or worry her, I have learned nothing 
more. How long they loved, how much 
or in what degree of guilt or innocence, I 
neither know nor have cared to guess at ; 
it is sufficient for me that it was so, and 
that while Justina was accusing the beau- 
tiful Lady Amabel Scott of attempting to 
win her husband's heart from her, it had 
been given away long before to the woman 
whom she termed her dearest friend — to 
the woman who had apparently no beauty, 
or wit, or accomplishments with which to 
steal away a man's love from its rightful 
owner, but who nevertheless was his * lov- 
ing and faithful Pet,' and the last thought 
upon his dying lips. 



58 Still Waters. 

Professor and Mrs Benson never returned 
to Durham Hall. It was not long after- 
wards that I heard from my niece that his 
wife's failing health had compelled the pro- 
fessor to go abroad ; and to-day she writes 
me news from Nice that Mrs Benson is 
dead. Poor Pet! I wonder if those 
scared brown eyes have lost their frightened 
look in heaven ? 

I believe that Justina has made an 
ample apology for her rudeness to Lady 
Amabel and Mr Warden Scott. I know I 
represented that it was her duty to do so, 
and that she promised it should be done. 
As for herself, she is gradually recovering 
from the effects of her bereavement, and 
finding comfort in the society of her sons 
and daughters ; and perhaps, amongst the 
surprises which I have already spoken of 
as likely to await us in another sphere, 
they will not be least which prove how 
very soon we have been forgotten by those 
we left in the world behind us. 





CHIT-CHAT FROM 
ANDALUSIA, 




COUPLE of springs ago, busi- 
ness compelling some friends of 
mine to cross over into Spain, 
I gladly accepted the cordial 
invitation they extended to me to visit 
with them that * splendid realm of old 
romance.' 

Our destination was Utrera, a small 
town situated between Seville and Xeres, 
and lying in the midst of those vast plains 
so often mentioned in the Conquest of 
Granada. 

I confess that I was rather disappointed 
to find how hurriedly we passed through 



6o Chit-Chat from Andalusia. 

Madrid and Seville, and I longed to be 
permitted to linger for a little space within 
their walls ; but ours was not entirely a 
party of pleasure, and a diversion was soon 
created in my thoughts by our arrival at 
Utrera, which, from a distance, presented 
a most Oriental appearance. The houses, 
many of which are built in the Moorish 
fashion and dazzlingly white, stand out 
clearly defined against the deep blue south- 
ern sky ; the tall tower of Santiago, with 
little perhaps but its unusual height to 
recommend it to a stranger's notice, has, 
nevertheless, an imposing appearance ; and 
even a palm tree, which, solitary and alone, 
rears its stately head in the centre of the 
town, puts in its claim for adding in no 
small degree to the effect of the whole 
picture. Notwithstanding, with all the 
combined advantages of white houses, tall 
towers, solitary palm trees and romantic 
situations, I would advise no one who is 
not a traveller at heart or intent upon his 
worldly profit to fix his residence in this 
primitive little Andalusian town. 

We first took up our quarters at the 
posada, with the intention of remaining 
there during our stay, but were soon ob- 
liged to abandon the idea, for, though the 



Chit 'Chat from Andalusia. 6i 

best inn in Utrera, it was most uncom- 
fortable, and noisy beyond description. 

We began to look about us, therefore, 
and were soon installed in a small but 
beautifully clean and cool-looking house in 
a street leading out of the plaza, and 
found no reason to be discontented with 
our abode. It boasted of a pleasant patio 
(or inner courtyard) and a wide verandah 
or gallery, into which our rooms opened. 
As the days grew warmer (and very warm 
indeed they grew after a while) this patio 
was our greatest comfort ; for, following 
the example of our neighbours, we had it 
covered with an awning, and spent the 
greater part of the day, seated with our 
books or work, beside its mimic fountain. 
But if we gained in material comfort by 
exchanging the noisy and dirty posada for 
apartments of our own, we had also drawn 
down upon ourselves the burden of house- 
keeping, which we found in Spain to be no 
sinecure. Some friends who had resided 
a few months in the town, and acquired a 
fair knowledge of the language, manners, 
and customs of the natives of Utrera, 
volunteered to send us a maid, warranted 
honest and a tolerable proficient in the art 
of cookery. But she proved a care-full 



62 Chit'Chat front Andalusia. 

blessing. To give her her due, she pos- 
sessed one good quality, and we found by 
experience that it was about the only one 
she or her sisterhood could boast of : she 
was very fond of water. The floors of our 
new house were formed of stone, partially 
covered by strips of matting which were 
easily removed ; and we soon lived in a per- 
petual swamp. Antonia was always both 
ready and willing to * clean up,' and never 
seemed happier than when dashing water 
in all directions, or brushing away vigor- 
ously at the matting with her little short- 
handled broom. 

By the way, I wonder why Spanish 
women prefer to bend double over their 
sweeping, instead of adopting our easier 
method of performing the same operation ? 
In vain did I strive to convince Antonia 
of the advantages attendant on the use of 
a broom with a long handle : she only 
smiled, shook her head, and went obstin- 
ately on her weary way. 

The water for our own consumption was 
drawn daily from the Moorish aqueduct 
just outside the town, and brought to us 
by the aguador, an old fellow who wore a 
rusty black velvet turban hat stuck full of 
cigarettes, besides having one always in 



Chit-Chat from Andalusia. 63 

his mouth. He would pour the water 
from his wooden barrels into a large butt 
which stood in the kitchen ; but as we 
discovered that he (together with all who 
felt so inclined) dipped his glass, with the 
fingers that held it, into the reservoir 
"whenever he wished to quench his thirst, 
'we speedily invested in a filter. 

We soon found that it was utterly im- 
possible to infuse any ideas of cookery or 
housework into the head of the fair Anto- 
nia. If we showed her how to lay the 
tablecloth and place the dishes, she eyed 
us with surprise, bordering on contempt, 
that ladies should perform such menial 
offices ; and the next day all our instruc- 
tions were as though they had never been. 
It was the same with everything, until we 
decided that it was far less trouble to wait 
on ourselves, and our life at Utrera re- 
solved itself into a picnic without an end. 

Nevertheless, when we arose one morn- 
ing to find that Antonia (wearied perhaps 
of English suggestions) had quietly walked 
off and left us to shift entirely for our- 
selves, we felt inclined to think that we 
had undervalued her. But she had re- 
ceived her wages on the day before, and 
we learned afterward that under those 



64 Chit-Chat from Andaltisia, 

circumstances it is a common thinor for 
Spanish servants to quit their places with- 
out any warning, and return home for a 
while to live at their ease on the produce 
of their labour. 

Our next attendant was Pepa, a bright, 
dark-eyed girl, y^ho always looked so pic- 
turesque, with a spray of starry jessamine 
or scarlet verbena coquettishly placed in 
her black hair, that it was impossible not 
to overlook her misdemeanours. She had 
such an arch way of tossing her head and 
shaking her long gold earrings that there 
was no resisting her ; and indeed Pepa 
was but too well aware of the fact herself, 
and made the best use of her knowledge. 

But the dinners were still our b^tes notrs, 
and in these, notwithstanding all her pretti- 
ness, she could help us little better than 
her predecessor. The meat which we 
procured was simply uneatable, but happily 
animal food is little needed in those south- 
ern climes, and we had plenty of game. 
Hares, partridges, and wild ducks were 
most abundant ; and a woman used con- 
stantly to call on us with live quails for 
sale, which she would despatch by sticking 
one of their own feathers into their brains. 

Of course, everything was more or less 



Chit-Chat front Andalusia. 65 

spoiled which we entrusted to the tender 
mercies of our handmaid ; but fortunately 
there were no epicures amongst us, and 
we generally received the goods the gods 
provided with contentment if not grati- 
tude, and had many resources to turn to 
in order to eke out a distasteful meal The 
bread was excellent, and we always had 
an abundance of oranges, chestnuts, melons, 
and pomegranates ; so that, under the cir- 
cumstances, we were not to be pitied. 

But one day Pepa, disheartened by her 
repeated failures, begged to be allowed to 
serve us a Spanish dinner, after tasting 
which, she affirmed, we should never de- 
sire to eat any other ; and having received 
the permission of her mistress, she set to 
work, and at the usual hour triumphantly 
placed the national dish of * puchero ' upon 
the table. We gathered round it rather 
doubtfully, but after the first timid trial 
pronounced it * not so bad, though rather 
rich/ It seemed to contain a little of 
everything — beef, lard, garlic, garbanzos 
(or small, hard beans), lettuce, pepper, 
potatoes, and I know not what besides ; 
and the mixture had been kept simmering 
in an earthenware pot for hours. The 
next dish served by Pepa was * gaspacho/ 

VOL. III. E 



66 Chit-Chat from Andalusia. 

or a Spanish salad, which is mixed quite 
differently from an English one, and to 
most tastes not so palatable. And then 
she placed before us a large dish of rice, 
profusely sprinkled with cinnamon, and 
various small cakes fried in oil ; and 
Pepa s Spanish dinner (which, by the way, 
was only a sample, I suppose, of the most 
ordinary national fare) was concluded. 

We were thankful that it had been suffi- 
ciently good to enable us to praise it 
enough to give her satisfaction, though we 
were compelled to adopt more than one 
ruse in order, without hurting her feelings, 
to escape having the same feast repeated 
every day. 

There are not many 'lions' in Utrera, 
but, such as they are, of course we visited 
them. The principal one perhaps is in 
the vaults beneath the church of Santiago, 
but we were scarcely prepared for the 
ghastly spectacle which met our gaze there. 
It appears that, many years ago, while 
digging for some purpose round the church, 
the workmen found several bodies, which, 
owing to some peculiar quality of the soil 
in which they had been buried, were in 
a wonderful state of preservation ; and, by 
order of the authorities, they were placed 



Chit-Chat from Andalusia. 67 

in upright positions against the walls of 
the church vaults. The old sacristan, who 
acted as our cicerone, pointed out the 
bodies to us with his lighted torch, and 
directed our attention especially to one, 
evidently that of a very stout woman, 
which had still a jacket and skirt clinging 
to it. Strange to say, the bodies were all 
clothed, although in most cases it had 
become difficult to distinguish the gar- 
ments from the remains, for all seemed to 
partake of the same hue and texture. It 
is a humbling sight to look upon the dead 
after they have turned again to their dust, 
and with but a semblance of the human 
frame left clinging to them, as though in 
mockery of our mortality. We could not 
bear to see the idlers who had followed our 
party down into the vaults jeering at the 
appearance of these poor carcases, and 
touching them in a careless and irreverent 
manner. Had we had our way, they 
should all have been tenderly consigned 
again to the bosom of their mother earth, 
and we experienced a strange sensation of 
relief as we turned our backs upon them 
and emerged once more into the open air. 
The principal object of a stroll in Utrera 
IS a visit to the Church of Consolation, 



68 Chit Chat from Andalusia. 

which stands on the outskirts of the town, 
at the end of a long walk bordered with 
lines of olive trees. At intervals along the 
way benches are placed, and here on Sun- 
days and feast-days the inhabitants congre- 
gate as they come to and from the church. 
The latter is an interesting edifice, though 
its architecture is unpretending enough. 

Its nave is lofty, and on the white- 
washed walls hang hundreds of little 
waxen and silver limbs, and effigies, with 
articles of children's clothing and an end- 
less assortment of plaited tails of hair. 
These are all offerings made to * Our Lady 
of Consolation,' in fulfilment of vows or 
as tokens of thanksgiving for recovery 
from sickness ; and there is something 
very touching in the idea of these women 
giving up their most cherished possessions 
(for every one knows how justly proud the 
Spanish are of their magnificent hair) as 
tributes of gratitude to her from whom 
they have received the favours. 

The walls near the western door of the 
Church of Consolation are hung with in- 
numerable pictures, each bearing so strong 
a resemblance to the other, both in style 
and subject, that they might have been 
drawn by the same hand. As works of 



Chit-Chat from Andaltisia. 69 

art they are valueless, for even the rules 
of perspective are ignored in a most 
comical manner, and with slight variations 
they all represent the same subject. On 
one hand is an invalid man, woman or 
child, as the case may be, and on the other 
a kneeling figure imploring aid for them 
of the * Virgin of Consolation/ who is also 
portrayed appearing to the suppliant, and 
encircled by a golden halo. Beneath the 
painting is inscribed the name of the 
patient, the nature of his disease, and the 
date of his recovery. 

At the back of the church is a large 
garden belonging to one of the richest pro- 
prietors in the neighbourhood of Utrera, 
and as the midday heat became more op- 
pressive it was a favourite haunt of ours 
during the cool of the evening, when the 
air was laden with the perfume of orange 
blossoms and other sweet-smelling flowers. 
The owners of the garden permitted 
it to grow wild, but that circumstance 
only enhanced its beauty. The orange 
trees were laden with golden fruit, of which 
we were courteously invited to gather as 
much as we pleased. But our visits to 
this charming retreat were necessarily 
short, for, as in most southern lati- 



70 Chit'Ckat from Andalusia. 

tudes, there was scarcely any twilight in 
Utrera, and it always seemed as though 
the ringing of the Angelus were a signal 
for the nights immediately to set in. But 
what glorious nights they were ! The 
dingy oil-lamps in the streets (for gas is 
an innovation which had not yet found its 
way there) were little needed, as the sky 
always seemed to be one bright blaze of 
beautiful stars. 

The cemetery at Utrera is a quiet spot, 
surrounded by a high white wall and thickly 
planted with cypress trees, which give it 
a most solemn and melancholy appearance. 
They have the custom there (I am not 
sure it is not prevalent in other parts 
of Spain) of burying the dead in recesses 
in the walls, which are built expressly of 
an immense thickness ; the coffins are 
shoved into these large pigeon-holes, and 
the opening is closed with a marble slab, 
which bears the inscription usual in such 
cases, somewhat after the fashion of open- 
air catacombs. But little respect seemed 
to be shown to the dead. 

One day I met some children bearing a 
bier, upon which was stretched the corpse 
of a little girl clothed in white garments, 
and with a wreath of flowers placed upon 



Chit-Chat from Andalusia. 71 

the placid brow. The children, apparently 
quite unaware of the reverence due to 
their sacred burden, carelessly laughed and 
chatted as they bore it along the highway, 
sometimes sitting down to rest, and then 
hurrying forward with unseemly haste, as 
though to make up for lost time. A tall 
man, wrapped in a huge cloak, and who 
evidently belonged to the little cortige^ 
followed at a distance, but he too performed 
the duty at his leisure, and seemed to find 
nothing extraordinary or out of the way 
in the children's want of decorum. 

With the exception of periodical visits 
to the Church of Consolation before men- 
tioned, the people of Utrera rarely seemed 
to leave their houses. To walk for the 
sake of walking is an idea which finds 
little favour with a Spanish lady, and my 
friends and myself were looked upon as 
very strange beings for taking so much 
exercise and caring to explore the sur- 
rounding country. 

But to our English taste it was pleasant 
to stroll up the Cadiz road until we reached 
a small mound situated thereon, which was 
belted with shady trees and amply provided 
with stone seats. This elevation com- 
manded the view of a vast extent of 



72 Chit-Chat from Andalusia. 

country, with the grand frowning hills of 
the Sierra Nevada in the far distance, 
which the gorgeous sunsets always in- 
vested with a strange, unearthly beauty. 
The intense solitude of the scene, too, was 
not without its own peculiar charm. At 
intervals the silence would be broken by 
the approach of a picturesque - looking 
peasant bestriding a mule, the silvery 
jangle of whose bells had been heard in 
the calm atmosphere for some time before 
he made his personal appearance. These 
muleteers never failed to interrupt the 
monotonous chants they are so fond of 
singing, to wish us a friendly * Buenas 
tardes ' (* Good evening *) while proceeding 
on their way, and then we would listen to 
the sound of the mule's bells and the 
low rich voice of his master until both 
died away in the distance, and the scene 
resumed its normal condition of undisturbed 
tranquillity. 

We made an expedition once, by the 
new railroad, to Moron, a very old town 
perched on an almost perpendicular rock 
and visible for miles distant. The heat 
was intense, but we toiled manfully up the 
steep and execrably-paved street from the 
station, and, weary and footsore, were 



Chit-Chat from Andalusia. 7^ 

thankful to find ourselves within the cool 
walls of the fine old church. It possesses 
some valuable Murillos — one of which, 
representing the head of our Blessed Lord, 
is especially beautiful. The altar-rails, 
screen and reredos are all richly gilt, and 
the sacristan, taking us into the vestry, un- 
locked several massively carved chests, 
ivhich disclosed some valuable plate and 
precious stones ; referring to which, he 
boasted, with pardonable pride, that Utrera 
could not produce anything half so hand- 
some. And indeed the inhabitants of 
Moron may well congratulate themselves 
on these treasures having escaped the 
grasp of the French during the war, 
for the sacristan related to us how 
everything had been hidden away and 
miraculously preserved from the hands 
of the spoiler. 

But my chit-chat is drawing to a close. 
It was not without a certain regret that we 
bade farewell to Utrera, for during the 
whole of our stay there we had experienced 
nothing but kindness from all with whom 
we had come in contact, and the memory 
of our sojourn in that little out-of-the-way 
Andalusian town, if not fraught with 
brilliant recollections, will, at all events 



74 Chit-Chat from Andalusia. 

take Its rank with that portion of the past 
which has been too peaceful to rise up 
again to trouble us. And it were well if 
we could say the same for every part of our 
storm-ridden lives. 



THE END. 



THE SECRET OF ECONOMY. 




PPARENTLY, there has been 
much to say and write lately 
upon domestic economy. From 
the time, indeed, that the ques- 
tion of the possibility of marriage upon 
three hundred a-year was mooted, the 
subject has never fairly been dropped. 

Men with incomes of less than three 
hundred a-year do not seem to like the 
idea, that they are bound in consequence to 
renounce all thoughts of matrimony, and 
inquiries respecting the matter from ag- 
grieved bachelors are constantly cropping 
up in those corners of the weekly papers 
devoted to correspondence. They have 
even gone so far lately as to suggest, since 
it seems impossible in this century of riots 
and rinderpest to curtail one's expenses, 



76 The Secret of Economy. 

whether it may not be both lawful and 
feasible to curtail one's family. 

The question of, on how much, or on 
how little, a certain number of persons can 
exist, is certainly one which affects the 
mass, but which, to be answered with fair- 
ness, must be put individually. There are 
women and women. What one house- 
keeper can accomplish on three hundred a- 
year, another cannot effect on three thou- 
sand, for it is not incompatible with many 
luxuries to possess very little comfort ; and 
comfort is, after all, the essence of domestic 
felicity. 

Yet, it is not fair to lay the whole blame of 
the impossibility of marriage in these days 
upon a moderate income, on the extrava- 
gance of women, for the difficulty is just as 
often attributable to the disinclination of 
men to resign the luxuries to which they 
have been accustomed. For every really 
extravagantly disposed female mind there 
may be found two thriftily disposed ones ; 
and had such minds but been endued with 
the proper knowledge to carry out their 
efforts to do well, existence might not be 
found so difficult a matter as it appears to 
be at present. 

It is true that the *girl of the period' 



The Secret of Economy. 7 7 

(not the Saturday Reviewer^ s * girl * by any 
manner of means), is, generally, better 
dressed and more accustomed to luxury 
than her mother was before her. But it 
must be remembered that the expenses of 
a girl before marriage are regulated by the 
wishes of her parents, and because they 
like to see her sail about in the last Parisian 
fashion, it by no means follows that she 
will always expect to be dressed the same, 
or that she will not cheerfully resign some 
of the luxuries she has been accustomed 
to, to meet the means of the man who has 
taken it upon himself to support her. 

Apropos of which I have far oftener 
been called upon to remonstrate with 
newly-married female friends on their folly 
in stripping the trousseaux, which had been 
prepared for them with such care, of all 
their pretty trimmings of lace and ribbon 
and embroidery, in order to adorn the little 
frocks and caps which are scarcely ever 
noticed but by the mother herself, than to 
blame them for outrunning their husbands* 
means in order to procure such vanities. 

Various reasons may combine to make 
the parent, who can afford it, take pleasure 
in seeing her daughter well dressed. A 
true mother is naturally proud of a girl's 



78 The Secret of Economy. 

good looks ; and anxious to show them off 
to the best advantage ; or the feeling that 
her child may not long be with her may 
make her desirous to please her to the ut- 
most whilst she remains. Of course, the 
indulgence may arise from lower and more 
mercenary motives, such as have been at- 
tributed for many a long year to the stereo- 
typed * Belgravian mother;' but even in 
such a case it does not follow that the girl 
will never be able contentedly to accom- 
modate herself to a lower range of comfort. 
It is not to be expected that, single-handed, 
she should put away from her the luxuries 
which her parents* income can command ; 
but it remains to be proved whether she 
will not willingly exchange them to become 
the mistress of a house of her own, even 
though it may be smaller than the one to 
which she has been accustomed. Natur- 
ally parents wish to see the children, for 
whom perhaps they have worked and 
slaved, comfortably settled in life ; and it 
is folly for men with barely sufficient money 
to keep themselves to rave against fathers 
who refuse to sanction their daughters* 
starving with them. 

But the idea as to what constitutes star- 
vation has risen with the times. A little 



The Secret of Economy. 79 

while ago, it used to be the clergyman with 
a large family on eighty pounds a-year : a 
twelvemonth back it rose to the celebrated 
* three hundred ; ' and but a few weeks 
since I heard a lady gravely affirm that 
any one who contemplated marriage now- 
a-days with an income of less than two 
thousand, must be either a madman or a 
fool 

Knowing my incompetence for the task, 
I have no intention in this paper of trying 
to decide on how small a sum it is possible 
to maintain a family in this luxurious age. 
I only wish to say a few words upon what 
I consider to be the secret of the economy 
which has need to be exercised in these 
days in the largest household as well as in 
the smallest. 

The order of her household is a true 
woman s battle-field, and the better she 
can manage it, the more comforts she can 
command, and the more regularity she can 
enforce upon a small income and with few 
servants, the greater is the triumph of 
her victory. If means are unlimited the 
triumph is lost ; and the woman who has 
a thousand a-year for her housekeeping, 
and is content to let her husband enjoy no 
more luxury upon it than his friend who 



8o The Secret of Economy. 

spends five hundred, allowing the surplus 
to be wasted for want of a little thought or 
supervision, is not a true woman or a good 
one. For if prodigality is not a sin in 
itself, it arises from the indulgence of a 
combination of sins, amongst which selfish- 
ness holds chief rank. 

Take the care of her household out of 
a woman's hands and what remains for 
her to do ? As a generality she would sit 
in idleness, for these are not the days 
when mothers nurse and look after their 
own children, and, thanks to the sewing- 
machine, the toil of needlework is over, 
even in the poorest families. 

She would probably take up a novel the 
first thing in the morning, thereby unfitting 
herself for any solid work for the remainder 
of the day ; or she would waste her time 
on fancy-work, or unnecessary letter-writ- 
ing, or on anything but what sensible 
people who know they will be called to 
account hereafter for the use they have 
made of the brains God has given them 
would do. 

And, as a rule, I believe few women 
would like to be lightened of their trouble 
in this respect. The sex is uncommonly 
fond of a ' little brief authority/ and even 



The Secret of Economy. 8 1 

those who have every aid at their com- 
mand, generally choose to dabble in their 
housekeeping affairs. And it is just this 
Mabbling' which does harm, which often 
increases the expenses instead of lessening 
them. 

I am not a second Mrs Warren ; I have 
no ambition to try and teach my sex how 
to manage their husbands, houses and 
children on two hundred a-year, by wiping 
out the bread-pan every morning with a 
clean cloth ; and making one stick of wood 
do the duty of two by placing it in the 
oven to dry the night before. 

Mrs Warren's plan of economy is the 
general one ; or rather, she follows the 
general idea of what economy consists of, 
namely, in exercising a constant supervi- 
sion over servants, and straining every nerve 
to make the leg of mutton last a day longer 
than it does with other people. And I for 
my part believe that the women of England 
will never know the secret of true economy 
until they have dropped all such petty 
interference with the kitchen, and learned 
to guard their husbands' interests with 
their heads instead of their eyes. There 
is no doubt that in order to be thrifty it is 
necessary in a great measure to limit one's 

VOL. III. F 



82 The Secret of Economy. 

expenses, and it is a good plan habitually 
to ask oneself before completing a pur- 
chase, ' Can I do without it ? ' 

In nine cases out of ten debts and 
difficulties are incurred unnecessarily, for 
articles which added neither to our respect- 
ability nor our comfort, and which, if 
seriously asked, we should have acknow- 
ledged we could have done just as well 
without. Take the generality of English 
families, cut off all the superfluities in 
which they indulge, all the things which 
are necessary neither to their existence 
nor their position as gentle-people, and, as 
a rule, it will be found that such absorb a 
third at least of their income. 

It is not only men who have interested 
themselves in the questions which have 
lately sprung up respecting the general 
rise in prices, and the increasing difficulties 
which assail the householder. Women are 
constantly comparing notes with each 
other ; wondering * where on earth ' the 
money can go to, and lamenting the ex- 
orbitant weekly bills they are called upon 
to pay. 

Some have tried to meet their increased 
expenses by diminishing their number of 
servants ; others by curtailing the kitchen 



) 



The Secret of Economy. 83 

fare (the worst and most unprofitable species 
of domestic economy) ; a few have gone 
another way to work, and simply tried 
with how many superfluities they could 
dispense; and I think these few have 
succeeded the best. 

It was much the fashion a short time 
back for women to write to the papers 
complaining of the worthlessness of their 
servants, and it was not until more than 
one impertinent letter reflecting on their 
mistresses had been published from the 
pens (or the supposed pens) of servants 
themselves, that the correspondence was 
perceived to be infra dig.^ and dropped. 
We all know that we are very much in the 
power of our servants, both as regards 
comfort and economy; and to regulate 
their actions, we must sway themselves. 

As a class, they are much what they 
have ever been ; their characters varying 
with the authority placed over them. If 
ignorant, they are bigoted ; if educated, 
presumptuous ; they regard their superiors 
as their natural enemies, and not one in 
fifty of them is to be entirely trusted. 
They no longer look upon the house they 
enter as their home ; they think of it more 
as a boarding-house which they can vacate 



84 The Secret of Economy. 

at their convenience, and themselves as 
birds of passage, here to-day and gone 
to-morrow. 

To deal with and to control such minds 
effectually, it needs to show them that ours 
is infinitely the superior. If we let them 
perceive that we have no means of keeping 
watch over them except we do it per- 
sonally, we lower ourselves to their level, 
and fail to gain their respect. 

Make your servants admire you ; make 
them wonder at the clearness of your per- 
ception, the quickness of your calculations, 
and the retentiveness of your memory, and 
inwardly they will acknowledge themselves 
the inferior, and be afraid to disobey. 

You will always hear servants speak 
with admiration of a mistress who has (to 
quote their own phraseology) * eyes in her 
back ; ' the fact being that it requires a 
mind not only educated in the popular 
sense of the word, but sharpened by friction 
with the world, to enable one to perceive 
without seeing; and that is a state to which 
the lumpish minds of the mass never attain, 
and which consequently commands their 
wonder and respect. 

The * excellent housekeeper ' who trots 
round her kitchen every morning as a rule^ 



The Secret of Economy. 85 

opening each dresser-drawer, and uncover- 
ing the soup-tureen and vegetable-dishes, 
to see that no * perquisites ' are concealed 
therein, may occasionally light on a piece 
of unhallowed fat, but she loses a hundred- 
fold what she gains. While she imagines 
she has made a great discovery, her ser- 
vants are laughing in their sleeves at her 
simplicity ; for they have a hundred oppor- 
tunities of concealing to her one of finding, 
and are doubtless as cunning as herself. 
And for such a mistress — for one who is 
for ever prying and trying to find out some- 
thing — the lower classes have the greatest 
contempt ; they will neither obey nor save 
for her ; they will even go the length of 
wasting in order to annoy. 

But, by this, I have not the least notion 
of maintaining that the members of that 
community, of whom I said, but a page 
before, that not one in fifty is to be trusted, 
are to be left to do the housekeeping by 
themselves. 

A lady of my acquaintance, married to 
an extremely obstinate man, was asked 
how she managed to influence him as she 
did. * Because I never let him know I do 
it/ was the reply. ' I always have my own 
way, but I make him think my way is his.' 



g6 The Secret of Economy. 

Something of the same sort of manage- 
ment is necessary with servants. Have 
your own way, but make them imagine 
that your way is theirs. They are truly 
but * children of a larger growth.' 

But, in order to do this, you must prove 
yourself cleverer than they are. 

Let no one grumble at the stir which has 
been made lately regarding the improved 
education of women, nor that public schools 
and colleges are being organised for their 
benefit. If the knowledge thus acquired 
is never needed for the female doctors, 
and lawyers, and members of Parliament, 
which, as fixed institutions, England may 
never see, it will be only too welcome in 
domestic life ; for the usual style of con- 
ducting a woman's education is sadly 
detrimental to her interests in house- 
keeping. 

What is the use of their being able to 
play and sing and imperfectly splutter 
German and I talian, when they are puzzled 
by the simplest bookkeeping ? Hardly a 
woman of modern times thoroughly under- 
stands arithmetic, either mental or other- 
wise; and many have forgotten, or never 
properly acquired, even the commonest 
rules of addition, subtraction, and division. 



The Secret of Economy. 87 

How is it to be expected then that they 
are fit to be trusted with money, or having 
it in their hands to lay it out to the best 
advantage. 

But to return to * head-economy* ' as it 
should be exercised with regard to ser- 
vants. 

We will suppose that a mistress, desirous 
of keeping within her allowance without 
curtailing the real comfort of her husband 
and children, has asked herself that simple 
question, — *Can we do without it?' on 
more than one occasion, and found it 
answer, in so far that, though several 
superfluities, such as dessert after dinner, 
and preserves and cakes for tea have dis- 
appeared, all the solid necessaries remain, 
and the weekly bills are no longer higher 
than they ought to be. How should she 
act in order to keep down her expenditure 
to a settled sum ; to be sure that as much, 
but no more than is needful, is used in the 
kitchen, the dining-room, and the nursery ; 
and yet to prevent her servants resenting 
her interference, or exclaiming at her 
meanness ? 

It is really very easy, far easier than the 
other plan, if women would only believe it 
to be so. It needs no store-room full of 



88 The Secret of Economy. 

hoarded goods, with the key of which the 
servants are more familiar than yourself; 
no stated times for measuring out half- 
pounds of sugar and dispensing tea by 
ounces ; no running down to the low^er 
regions a dozen times a day to give out 
what may have been forgotten; or to 
satisfy oneself whether they really do cut the 
joint at the kitchen supper, or revel in fresh 
butter when they should be eating salt. 

But it does require the knowledge neces- 
sary to keep the housekeeping books pro- 
perly. A thorough acquaintance with the 
prices of articles, and the different quanti- 
ties which a household should consume; 
and above all, to have what is commonly 
called * one's wits about one/ 

If every tradesman with whom you deal 
has a running account with you ; if nothing 
in his book is paid for but what you have 
written down yourself; if your cook has 
orders to receive no meat without a check ; 
has proper scales for weighing the joints 
as they come in, and makes a note of any 
deficiency (the checks being afterwards 
compared with the butcher's book) ; it is 
impossible that the tradespeople can cheat 
you, and if your money is wasted, you 
must waste it yourself. 



The Secret of Economy. 89 

It is an old-fashioned plan to pay one's 
bills at the end of each week ; but it is 
a very good one. Little things which 
should be noticed may slip the memory at 
a longer period. Besides, it is a useful re- 
minder ; it shows how the money is going, 
and if the tradesmen find you are careful, 
it makes them so. 

Following this plan, a quarter of an 
hour every morning sees the housekeeping 
affairs settled for the day, leaving the mis- 
tress at leisure to^ pursue her own avoca- 
tions, and the cook to do her business in 
the kitchen. It is simply a glance at the 
larder, and then to write down all that will 
be required until that time on the morrow ; 
the dinner and breakfast orders on a slate, 
and the other articles in the books appro- 
priated to them. After a little while it will 
be found that the labour is purely mechani- 
cal ; in a quiet family the consumption is 
so regular that the weekly bills will scarcely 
vary, and the mistress's eye will detect the 
least increase, and find out for what it has 
been incurred. 

At the close of each month the debit 
and credit accounts should be balanced, 
and then, if the allowance is at any time 
exceeded, it will generally be proved that 



90 The Secret of Economy. 

it has gone on the superfluities before men- 
tioned, and not on the actual expense of 
maintaining the household. When people 
talk of the difficulties of 'living/ the 
thoughts of their listeners invariably fly 
to the cost of bread and meat, and they 
unite in abusing the tradespeople, who 
send their children to fashionable schools 
on the profits which they extort from us. 
But there are various ways in which men 
and women can save, besides dispensing 
with unnecessary eatables. 

What woman, for instance, in these 
days, buying a dress, does not pay twice 
as much for its being made and trimmed 
ready for her use as she did for the 
original material ? And who that has feet 
and fingers, and a sewing-machine, could 
not sit down and make it in a few hours 
for herself ? 

But she will tell you, most likely, that 
she cannot cut out properly, that she has 
not the slightest taste for trimming, and 
that she was not brought up to dress- 
making like a dressmaker. Ah, my dear 
sisters! are not these the days when we 
should all learn ? Men may go through 
life with the knowledge but of one thing — 
for if they are acquainted with the duties 



The Secret of Economy. 9 1 

^f their profession, they succeed — but 
"women need to know everything, from 
putting on a poultice to playing the piano ; 
and from being able to hold a conversation 
-with the Lprd Chancellor, to clear-starch- 
ing their husbands' neckties. 

I don't say we must do it^ but I main- 
tain that we should know how. 

Men are really needed but in one place, 
and that is, public life ; but we are wanted 
everywhere. In public and in private, 
upstairs and downstairs, in the nursery 
and the drawing-room, — nothing can go 
on properly without us ; and if it does, if 
our husbands and our servants and our 
children don't need us, we cannot be doing 
our duty. 

Above all, we have the training of the 
mistresses of future households, and the 
mothers of a coming generation — the 
bringing up, in fact, of the * girls of the 
next period.' 

If we cannot amend the faults we see in 
ourselves (an assertion which should be 
paradoxical to anyone gifted with the least 
energy), if we think it is too late to sit 
down in our middle age, and learn to rub the 
rust off our brains, and to work our heads 



92 The Secret of Economy. 

with our fingers, we can rear them in a 
different fashion. 

If we are wasteful and extravagant and 
useless — deserving of all the hard things 
which have been said of us lately, let us at 
least take heed that our daughters are not 
the same. 



THE END. 



MOTHER' 




[T yras close upon Easter. The 
long, dark days of Lent, with 
their melancholy ceremonials, 
were nearly over, and, as if in 
recognition of the event, the sun was shin- 
ing brightly in the heavens. The haw- 
thorn bushes had broken into bloom, and 
the wild birds were bursting their little 
throats in gratitude. The boys were al- 
most as wild and joyous as the birds, as 
they rushed about the playground, knock- 
ing each other over in the exuberance of 
their glee, and forgetting to be angry in 
the remembrance that the next day would 
be Holy Thursday, when they should all 
go home to their fathers and mothers to 
spend the Easter holidays. I alone of the 



94 ^Mother' 

merry throng sat apart under the quick-set 
hedge, joining in neither game nor gaiety, 
as I wondered, with the dull, unreason- 
ing perception of childhood, why I had 
been the one selected, out of all that crowd 
of boys, to have no part in their anticipa- 
tion or their joy. Even poor, lame Jemmy, 
who had no remembrance of his father or 
his mother, and who had been, in a way, 
adopted by our schoolmaster, and lived all 
the year round, from January to December, 
in the same dull house and rooms, looked 
more cheerful than I did. He was in- 
capacitated by his infirmity from taking 
part in any of the noisy games that were 
going on around us, yet he smiled pleas- 
antly as he came limping up towards me 
on his crutches, and told me that Mrs 
Murray (who bestowed on him all the 
mother's care he would ever know) had 
promised, if he were good, to give him a 
donkey ride during Easter week, and some 
seeds to plant in his strip of garden. 

' What's the matter with you, Charlie ? ' 
he asked presently ; ' aren't you glad to be 
going home ? ' 

' Oh ! I don't care,' I answered, listlessly. 

* Don't care about seeing your father and 
mother again 1 ' 



' Mother' 95 

* I haven't got a mother/ I rejoined, 
quickly. 

* Is your mother dead, like mine ? Oh, 
I am sorry ! But your father loves you for 
them both, perhaps.' 

' No, he doesn't ! He doesn't care a bit 
about me. He never asks to see me when I 
do go home ; and he frightens me. I wish 
I might stay all the holidays with Mrs 
Murray, like you do.' 

'That is bad,' quoth the lame child. 
' Well, maybe they'll forget to send for you, 
Charlie, and then we'll have fine times to- 
gether, you and I.' 

I had not the same hope, however. I 
knew that if by any oversight my father 
forgot to send the servant for me, that my 
schoolmaster would take the initiative and 
despatch me home himself. 

How I dreaded it. The gloomy, half- 
closed house, the garden paths, green with 
damp and thick with weeds, the servants 
acting entirely upon their own authority, 
and the master querulous, impatient, and 
unjust, either shut up in his own room 
brooding over the past and present, or 
freely distributing oaths, complaints, and 
sometimes even blows, amongst the unfor- 
tunate inmates of his household. As for 



96 ' Mother: 

myself, I seldom came within the range of 
his arm without being terrified away, and 
it had been a great relief to me when I re- 
turned home for the previous Christmas 
holidays to find that he was absent, and the 
term of my penance passed peacefully, if 
nothing else. But now he was at home 
again, so my master informed me, my 
father had never dreamt of writing to me, 
and I looked forward to the coming visit 
with dread. A strange, unnatural state of 
things for a child of eight years old, 
who had never known a mother's love 
nor care, had never even heard her name 
mentioned by any one with whom he was 
connected, 

' What was your mother like ? ' continued 
Jemmy, after a few minutes' pause, during 
which we two unfortunates had been rumi- 
nating upon our lot. ' Had she light- 
coloured hair, like Mrs Murray, or dark, 
like the cook ? ' 

* I don't know,' I answered, sadly. * I 
never saw her, that I remember.' 

* Haven't you got a likeness of her at 
home ?' he demanded with surprise. 'Wait 
till I show you mine.' 

He fumbled about in his waistcoat, and 
produced a much faded daguerreotype of 



'Mother' 97 

an ordinary-looking young woman in old^ 
fashioned habiliments. 

• Isn't she beautiful ? ' he exclaimed, with 
weak enthusiasm as he pressed the minja* 
ture to his lips. 

* Oh, how I wish she hadn't died ! I 
know I should have loved her so much ! ' 

I made no reply. Poor Jemmy's imagi- 
nation did not run so fast as mine. If my 
mother had lived to side with my father, 
where should I have been between them ? 
I turned my face away, and sighed. 

It was strange that I had no idea of what 
my mother had been like. I had never 
even formed one, neither had I any relation 
to whose memory I might have appealed 
on the subject. My father lived a solitary, 
aimless life in the old neglected house I 
have alluded to, seldom leaving his own 
apartments, except at meal times, and cer- 
tainly never asking any friend to enter them 
to bear him company. The servants had 
their parents, or lovers, or brothers, to visit 
them by stealth in the kitchen, but the 
master sat by himself, gloomy and pre- 
occupied, and irritable almost to frenzy 
when provoked. No wonder I wished 
that I could have spent the Easter holidays 
with Mrs Murray. But a great surprise 

VOL. III. G 



08 'Mother: 

was in store for me. The boys had hafdty 
concluded the game of football they had 
been carrying on during my colloquy with 
Jemmy, when Mrs Murray came smiling 
down the playground in search of me. 
' * Tve a piece of news for you, Master 
Vere/ she exclaimed. * Some one is wait- 
ing to see you in the parlour.' 
' ' Not papa ! ' I said, quickly. 
. * No ; not your papa/ replied Mrs 
Murray, laying her hand compassion- 
ately on my shoulder, * but a new friend 
— ^a lady whom you will like very much 
indeed.' 

• * A lady / ' I repeated, in utter bewilder- 
ihent, whilst my schoolmates crowded round 
Mrs Murray, with the question, * Is she 
come to take Vere home ? ' 
' * Perhaps ! most probably,' was her 
answer, whilst exclamations of. ' Oh, I say, 
that's a jolly shame. It isn't fair. School 
doesn't break up till to-morrow. We sha'n't 
get off to-day, try as hard as we may,' 
greeted her supposition from every sideb- 
and I, trembling like a culprit, affirmed 
that I would much rather not be intro-- 
duced to the pleasures of home one hour 
earlier than was needful. • 

' Come into the parlour, dear, and se^ 



.•/ 



'Mother' 99 

•the lady/ Mrs Murray replied, 'and we 
will decide what to do afterwards.' 

So my face and hair were hurriedly 
washed and arranged, and I sheepishly 
followed my master's wife to the formal 
little apartment dedicated to the reception 
of visitors, where we found the lady she 
had alluded to. 

Shall I ever forget her face as she rose 
to greet me, and drew me into her arms ! 
Such a fair, sweet, fresh face as it was, but 
with an amount of sorrowful thought pic 
tured in the serious eyes. 

* And so this is Charlie Vere,' she said, 
as she gazed into my features. * I should 
have known you anywhere, my darling* 
from your likeness to your father! And 
now do you guess who I am ? ' 

* No ! ' I answered, shyly ; for Mrs 
Murray had slipped away and left me 
all alone with the stranger. 

* I am your mother, dear ; your new 
mother who means to love you very dearly, 
and I have come to take you home ! ' 

Mother and Home! How sweet the 
dear familiar words sounded in my ears j 
familiar alas ! to everyone but me. The 
hawthorn blossoms in the playground- 
seemed to smell sweeter than they had 



icx) 'Mother' 

done before, as she pronounced them, and 
the birds' chorus rang out harmoniously. 
•Will papa be there?' I asked, nervously. 

* Papa ! of course ! What would home 
be without your father ? ' 

I had found it much pleasanter without 
him than with him hitherto, but some in- 
stinct made me hold my tongue. 

* Don't you love papa, dear ? ' the lady 
went on softly. * Don't you think that he 
loves you ? ' 

*I don't know,' I said, picking my fingers. 

* Poor child ! Perhaps you have thought 
not, but that will all be altered now. But 
you have not yet told me if you will like 
to have me for a mother ! ' 

* I think I shall like you very much ! ' 

* That's right, so we will go home to- 
gether and try to make each other happy. 
You want a mother to look after you, dear 
child, and I want a litde boy to love me. 
We will not part again, Charlie, now I 
have found you, not for the present, at all 
events. You have been too long away 
from home as it is. That is why I came 
to-day. I could not wait till to-morrow, 
even : I was so impatient to see you and 
to take you home.' 

How she dwelt and lingered on the word 



'Mother' loi 

and repeated it, as though it gave her as 
much happiness to listen to as it did me. 

* Will you be there ? ' I asked, presently. 
' Of course, I shall — always ! What 

would be the use of a mother, Charlie, if 
she didn't live in the house close to you, 
always ready to heal your troubles and 
supply your wants to the utmost of her 
power ? ' 

* Oh ! let us go at once ! ' I exclaimed, 
slipping my hand into hers. All dread of 
my father seemed to have deserted me. 
The new mother was a guardian angel, 
under whose protection I felt no fear. She 
was delighted with my readiness. 

' So we will, Charlie ! We need not 
even wait for your box to be packed. Mrs 
Murray can send on everything to-morrow. 
And papa will be anxious until he sees us 
home again ! ' 

My father anxious about me ! That was 
a new thing to be wondered at. I was too 
much of a baby still to perceive that his 
anxiety would be for her — not for me ! I 
had not yet been able to grasp the idea 
that she was his wife. I only regarded 
her as my new mother. 

As we passed out of the house, I asked 
leave to say good-bye to my friend Jemmy. 



C.I 02 \\ Mother' 

* His mother is dead, like mine/ I said, 
in explanation. ' He will be so pleased 
to hear that I have got a new one.' 

* Poor boy ! ' she sighed ; * we will ask 
him to spend the summer holidays with 
you Charlie. A great happiness like ours 
should make us anxious to make others 
happier.' 

And when Jemmy came forward on his 
crutches, and smiled his congratulations 
on the wonderful piece of news I had to 
give him, she stooped down and kissed 
his forehead. Then we passed out of the 
^ playground together, I clinging to her 
hand, and proud already to hear the flatter- 
ing comments passed upon her appearance 
by the other boys, and to remember that 
from that time forward she was to be 
called my mother. 



Lilyfields, as my fathers house was 
designated, was not more than ten or 
twelve miles from the school ; but we had 
to make a little railway journey to reach it, 
and I thoughtl had never travelled so pleas- 
antly before. My new mother laughed so 
often and chatted so continuously to me, 
that I caught the infection of her mirthful 



^Mother- loi 

• 

loqyaGity, and, long before we got home, 
had revealed so much of my past life and 
feelings, that more than once I brought a 
shadow over her . sunny face, and closed 
her smiling lips with a sigh. But as we 
left the train and commenced to walk tot 
wards Lilyfields, my eld fears showed 
symptoms of returning, and my sudden 
silence, with the tightening clasp of my 
hand, did not pass unobserved by my 
companion. v 

* What is the matter, Charlie ? Of whait 
are you afraid } ' 

> * Won't papa be angry with me for 
coming back before the holidays begin?' 
I whispered. 

Her clear laugh rang over the peaceful 
meadows we were traversing. 

* If he is angry with any one, he must 
be so with me, as I fetched you home 
Charlie.' 

* And you are not afraid of him ? ' 

* Afraid ! * The sweet serious eyes 
she turned upon me as she ejaculated the 
word were just about to deprecate so 
monstrous an idea, when they caught sight 
of an approaching figure, and danced with 
a thousand little joys instead. 

* There he is ! ' she exclaimed excitedly. 



104 'Mother^ 

She ran up to him, dragging me with 
her. 

He took her in his arms (there was not 
another living soul within sight of us) 
and embraced her fervently, whilst I stood 
by, open-mouthed with astonishment. 

* My angel,' he murmured, as she lay 
there, with her face pressed close to his ; 
* life has been insupportable without you.* 

' Ah, Harold ! it does me good to hear 
you say so ; and I am so glad to get back 
to you again. See ! here is Charlie wait- 
ing for his father to welcome him heme.' 

She lifted me up in her arms — big boy 
as I was — and held me towards him for a 
kiss. How strange it was to feel my 
father kiss me ; but he did so, though I 
think his eyes never left her face the while. 
Then he took her hand, and held it close 
against his heart, and they walked through 
the silent, balmy-breathed fields together. 
As I entered the house I could hardly 
help exclaiming aloud at the marvellous 
changes that had taken place there. Not 
an article of furniture had been changed, 
not a picture moved from its place, yet 
everything looked bright as the glorious 
spring. The rooms had been thoroughly 
cleaned, and lace curtains, snowy table- 



'Mother! io% 

cloths, and vases of flowers, with here and 
there a bright bit of colour in the shape 
of a rug, or a piece of china, had trans- 
formed the house — not into a paradise — 
but into a home. Even my father was 
changed like his surroundings. He looked 
ten years younger, as with nicely kept 
hair, and a becoming velveteen lounging 
coat, he sunk down into an easy-chair, and 
deprecated, whilst he viewed with delight, 
the alacrity with which my new mother 
insisted upon* removing his boots and fetch- 
ing his slippers. It was such a novelty 
to both of us to be attended to in any way, 
that I was as much surprised as he to find 
that the next thing she did was to take 
me upstairs, and tidy me for tea herself, 
showering kisses and love words upon me 
all the while. Oh ! the happy meal that 
followed. How unlike any we had taken 
in that house before! I, sitting up at 
table, with my plate well provided; my 
father in his arm-chair, looking up with 
loving eyes at each fresh proof of her soli- 
citude for him, and my new mother seated 
at the tea-tray, full of smiles and innocent 
jests, watching us both with the utmost 
affection; but apparently too excited to 
eat much herself. Once my father noticed 



Jto6 ^.Mother: 

her want of appetite and reproached her 
with It. 

* I am too happy to eat, Harold ! ' was 
her reply. 

* Too happy/ he repeated in a low voice, 
* really too happy ! No regrets, my Mary^ 
no fears ! Your future does not terrify 
you. You would not undo the past if it 
were in your power ! ' 

* Not one moment of it, Harold ! If I 
ever think of it, with even a semblance of 
regret, it is that it did not begin ten years 
sooner.' 

* God bless you ! * was all he answered. 
If I had not been such a child I should 

have echoed the words ; for before many 
days were over my head, the whole of my 
joyous young life was an unuttered blessing 
upon her. The darkness of fear and 
despondency — the most unnatural feelings 
a young child can entertain — had all passed 
away. I no longer dreaded my father's 
presence ; on the contrary, it was my 
greatest treat to bear him company as he 
worked in the garden, or whistled over 
his carpentering, or accompanied my 
mother in strolls about the country. 

He never shut himself up in his room 
now, unless she was shut in too ; and 



'\ Mother' 'lojr 

.although his new-born love was for her^ 
and not for me, the glory of it was re- 
flected in his treatment of me. 

So I was very happy, and so was he, 
and so most people would have thought 
my mother to be. But though she never 
appeared before niy father without a bright 
face, she was not always so careful in my 
presence, thinking me, perhaps, too young 
to observe the changes in her countenance ; 
and sometimes when she and I were alone 
together, I marked the same look steal 
over her which I had observed on the 
occasion of our first meeting — an under- 
current of thoughtful sadness — the look of 
one who had suffered, who still suffered, 
from a pain which she kept to herself. 

Once I surprised her in tears — a violent 
storm of tears, which she was powerless 
for some time to control ; and I eagerly 
inquired the reason of them. 

' Mamma, mamma, what is it, mamma ? 
Have you hurt your foot ? Did Prince 
bite you ? Have you got a pain any- 
where ? ' 

My childish mind could not comprehend 
that her tears should flow for any other 
than a physical reason. Did not papa and 
I love her dearly ? and she was afraid of 



fo8 'Mother' 

no one, and she never went to school. 
What possible cause could she have for 
tears ? 

My mother composed herself as soon as 
she was able, and laid her burning face 
against my cheek. 

* Will my little boy love me always ? ' 
she asked — * always — always — whatever 
happens.'*' 

* Always, dear mamma. Papa and I 
would die if we hadn't you. Oh, you don't 
know what it was like before you came 
here ! ' 

* Then mamma will never cigain be so 
silly as to cry/ said my mother, as she 
busied herself over some occupation to 
divert her thoughts. 

But although this was the only time she 
betrayed herself so openly before me, I 
often detected the trace of weeping on her 
face, which she would try to disguise by 
excessive mirth. 

So the years went on, until one bright 
summer's day a little sister was born in our 
house. I hailed the advent of this infant 
with the greatest possible delight. It was 
such a new wonderful experience to have 
a playmate so dependent on me, and yet 
so entirely my own. I positively wor- 



'Mother' 109 

shipped my little sister, although her birth 
was the signal for my being sent back to 
school, but this time only as a weekly 
boarder. 

Hitherto my mother had taught me 
herself, and very sorry I was to give up 
those delightful lessons, which were ren- 
dered so easy by the trouble she took to 
explain them to me ; but her time was too 
much taken up with her baby to allow her 
to devote sufficient to me. Besides, I was 
now eleven years old, growing a great lad, 
and able to take every advantage of the 
education afforded me at Mr Murray's 
school. 

My old friend, lame Jemmy, who had 
spent many a pleasant week at Lilyfields 
meanwhile, was still there to welcome me 
back and make me feel less of a stranger ; 
and my father took away the last sting of 
the new arrangement by buying me a 
sturdy pony on which to ride backwards 
and forwards every week to see my mother 
and him. 

But the greatest pang which T ex* 
perience*d was parting, even for a few days, 
with baby Violet. I cried over her so 
much, indeed, that I made my mother cry 
too, as sh€ asked God to bless the boy 



who had been a true son to her. I was 
very glad to think she loved me so much, 
for I loved her dearly in return ; but as I 
galloped back to Lilyfields every Saturday 
afternoon, my thoughts were all for the 
dimpled baby sister whom I would carry 
about in my arms, or roll with amongst the 
newly-mown grass, rather than with those 
who had proved themselves to be real 
parents to me, — she from the commence- 
ment of her knowledge of me, and he from 
the date of his knowing her. It was my 
mother alone I had to bless for it all. 
But I had grown accustomed to happiness 
by this time, and took it as my due. 

My parents were very proud of their 
little daughter, who grew into a lovely 
child, but she did not seem to afford them 
as much pleasure as pride. Sometimes I 
detected my mother looking at her as we 
romped together, with more pain in the 
expression of her face than anything else. 
Once she caught her suddenly to her 
bosom, and kissed her golden curls with 
passion, exclaiming, — 

* Oh, my heart, if I were to go, what 
would become of you ? — what wotUd 
become of you .^ ' 
.1 was still too young to grasp the full 



'Mother.^ ill 

jfneaning of her words, but I knew my 
mother meant that if she died, no one 
would take such good care of Violet as she 
had done. So I marched up to her con- 
fidently, with the assurance that / would 
take that responsibility upon my owni 
shoulders. 

* Don't be afraid, mamma ! As soon as 
I am a man, I mean to get a house all to 
myself, and the best rooms in it shall be 
for Violet' 

She looked at me with her sweety 
earnest, searching gaze for a moment, and 
then folded me in one embrace with her 
own child. 

* Father's boy ! ' she murmured, caress- 
ingly over me — * father's brave, loving* 
boy ! No, Charlie, I will not be afraid f 
If it be God's will that I should go, I will 
trust Violet to father and to you.' 

* • • • . • • .. 

Meanwhile my father was a very con- 
tented man. He had undergone much the. 
same change as myself, and forgotten, in. 
the sunshine that now surrounded him, all 
the miserable years he had spent in that 
once desolate mansion. 

I do not suppose a happier nor more 
peaceful family existed than we were, No; 



112 ' Mother! 

jars nor bickering ever disturbed the quiet 
of the household ; everything seemed to 
go as smoothly as though it had been 
oiled. We were like the crew of some 
ship, safely moored within a sunny har- 
bour, never giving a thought to what 
tempests might be raging outside the 
bar. 

Every Saturday when I rode home on 
my pony, I found my father either work'ng 
out of doors if it were summer, or indoors 
if it were winter, but always with the same 
satisfied easy smile upon his countenance, 
as though he had no trouble in the world, 
as indeed he had not ; for my mother 
warded off the most trifling annoyance 
from him as though he were a sick child, 
that must not be upset ; whilst she threaded 
her quiet way through the kitchen and 
bedrooms, with little Violet clinging to her 
gown, regulating the household machinery 
by her own supervision, that no acci- 
dent might occur to ruffle her husband's 
temper. 

I believed her in those days — I believe 
her still to be the noblest woman ever 
planned. One thing alone puzzled me 
— or rather, I should say, seemed strange 
to me, for I did not allow it to go the 



'Mather' 113 

length of puzzlement — ^and that was why 
we had so few visitors at Lilyfields. True^ 
my father had made himself so unsociable 
in the old days that strangers might well 
have been shy of intruding themselves 
upon him now ; but my mother was so 
sweet and gentle, I felt it must be their 
loss rather than hers, that so few people 
knew her. When, as a lad of fifteen, I 
mentioned this circumstance to her, she 
put it aside as a matter of course. 

' When I made up my mind, Charlie, to 
try as far as in me lay, to render the 
remainder of your fathers life happy, I 
was perfectly aware that I should have to 
depend for companionship upon him alone. 
We have each other, and we have you and 
Violet. We want no other society but 
yours.' 

Still, I thought the clergyman and his 
wife might sometimes have come to see us, 
as they did the rest of their parishioners, 
and I should have liked an occasional 
game of play with the sons of Squire 
Roberts up at the Hall. But, with the 
exception of the doctor, who sometimes 
came in for a chat with my father, no 
one but ourselves ever took a meal at 
Lilyfields. • 

VOL. III. H 



114 * Mother! 

As I grew still older, and others 
remarked on the circumstance in my hear- 
ing, I came to the conclusion that my 
father must have offended his own friends 
by marrying my mother, whose connections 
might be inferior to his own. This idea 
was confirmed in my mind by observing 
that she occasionally received letters she 
was anxious to conceal, which, knowing 
the frankness of her disposition, and her 
great love for him, appeared very strange 
to me. One day, indeed, my suspicions 
became almost certainties. It so happened 
that my mother had appeared very fidgety 
and unlike herself at the breakfast-table, 
and more than once had spoken to Violet 
and me in a voice hardly to be recognised 
as her own. We felt instinctively that 
something was the matter, and were silent, 
but my father, who was not well, seemed 
irritated by the unusual annoyance. He 
wished to remain quietly at home that 
morning, but my mother found a dozen 
reasons why he should ride to the neigh- 
bouring town and take me with him. He 
combatted her wish for some time, till, 
finding that her arguments were revolving 
themselves into entreaty, his affection con- 
quered his irresolution, and we set off 



'Mother' 115 

together. It was not a genial day for a 
ride, and the trifling commissions my 
mother had given us to execute were not 
of sufficient consequence to turn the duty 
into a pleasure. I was rather pleased than 
otherwise, therefore, when we had left 
Lilyfields some miles behind us, to find 
that my pony had cast a shoe, and to be 
able, according to my father's direction, to 
turn back and walk it gently home again, 
whilst he went forward to do my mother's 
bidding. 

When I reached Lilyfields I left the 
animal in the stables, and, walking up to 
the house, gained the hall before anyone 
was sensible of my approach. What was 
my surprise to hear a loud altercation going 
on within the parlour. My first impulse 
was to open the door ; but as my mother 
turned and saw me standing on the thresh- 
old, she came forward and pushed me back 
into the hall. 

* Go away ! ' she whispered hurriedly ; *go 
upstairs; hide yourself somewhere, and do 
not come down until I call you ! ' 

Her eyes were bright as though with 
fever, and a scarlet spot burned on either 
cheek. I saw she was labouring under 
the influence of some strong excitement, 



ii6 'Mother: 

and I became intensely curious to learn 
the reason. 

* Whom have you in there ? ' I demanded, 
for I had caught sight of another figure in 
the drawing-room. 

*Oh! you wish to know who I am, 
young man, do you ? ' exclaimed a coarse, 
uncertain voice from the other side the half- 
opened door. * Well, Tm not ashamed of 
myself, as some people ought to be, and 
you're quite welcome to a sight of me if 
it'll give you any pleasure.' 

The door was simultaneously pulled 
open, and a woman stood before me. 

How shall I describe her. 

She may have been beautiful, perhaps, 
in the days long past, but all trace of 
beauty was lost in the red, blotchy, 
inflamed countenance she presented to my 
gaze. Her eyes were bloodshot ; her hair 
dishevelled ; her dress tawdry and untidy, 
and if she had even been a gentlewoman, 
which I doubted, she had parted with 
every sign of her breeding. As she 
pushed her way up behind my mother — r 
looking so sad and sweet and ladylike 
beside her — she inspired me with nothing 
but abhorrence. 
. * Who is this person ? ' I repeated, with 



* Mother' 1 1 7 

art intimation of disgust that apparently 
offended the stranger, for in a shrill voice 
she commenced some explanation which 
my mother was evidently most anxious 
I should not hear. 

* Oh, Charlie ! do you love me ? ' she 
whispered. 

* Mother ! yes ! ' 

* Then go up to your room, now, at 
once, and wait there till I come to you ! 
I will speak to you afterwards — I will tell 
you all — only go now ! ' 

She spoke so earnestly that I could not 
refuse her request, but did as she desired 
me at once, the woman I had seen, 
screaming some unintelligible sentence 
after me as I ascended the stairs. But 
when I found myself alone, the scene I 
had witnessed recurred rather unpleasantly 
to my memory. It was an extraordinary 
circumstance to see a stranger at all within 
our walls ; still more so a woman, and one 
who dared to address my mother in loud 
and reproachful tones. And I was now 
sixteen, able and willing to defend her 
against insult, why, therefore, had she not 
claimed my services to turn this woman 
from the house, instead of sending me 
upstairs, as she might have done little 



ii8 'Mother: 

Violet, until she had settled the matter for 
herself? But then I remembered the 
trouble my mother had taken to get my 
father and me away from Lilyfields that 
morning, and could not believe but that 
she had foreseen this visitation and pre- 
pared against it It was then as I had 
often supposed. She had relations of 
whom she was ashamed, with whom she 
did not wish my father to come in contact 
Poor mother! If this was one of them, I 
pitied her ! I believed the story I had 
created myself so much, that I accepted it 
without further proof, and when my 
mother entered the room, and laying her 
head against my shoulder, sobbed as if 
her heart would break, I soothed her as 
well as I was able, without another in- 
quiry as to the identity of the person with 
whom I had found her. 

* Don't tell your father, Charlie ! ' she 
said, in parting. * Don't mention a word 
to anyone of what you have seen to- 
day. Promise me, darling! I shall not 
be happy till I have your word for it ! ' 

And I gave her my word, and thought 
none the less of her for the secrecy, al- 
though I regretted it need be. 

Not long after this my father articled 



* Mother. ^ 1 19 

me, at my own request, to an architect in 
London, and my visits to the happy home 
at Lilyfields became few and far between. 
But I had the consolation of knowing that 
all went well there, and that I was 
taking my place in the world as a man 
should do. 

I had worked steadily at my profession 
for two years, and was just considering 
whether I had not earned the right to take 
a real good long holiday at Lilyfields 
(where Violet, now a fine girl of seven 
years old, was still my favourite play- 
thing), when I received a letter from 
the doctor of the village — desiring me 
to come home at once as my father 
was ill, beyond hope of recovery. I knew 
what that meant — that he was already 
gone ; and when I arrived at Lilyfields I 
found it to be true ; he had died of an 
attack of the heart after a couple of hours' 
illness. The shock to me was very great 
I had never loved my father as I did my 
mother; the old childish recollections 
had been too strong for that, but the last 
few years he had permitted me to be very 
happy, and I knew that to her his loss 
must be irreparable. Not that she ex- 
hibited any violent demonstration of grief. 



1 20 ' Mother} 

When I first saw her, I was surprised at 
her calmness. She sat beside my father's 
body, day and night, without shedding 
a tear ; and she spoke of his departure as 
quietly as though he had only gone on 
a journey from which she fully expected 
him to return. But though her eyes were 
dry, they never closed in sleep, and every 
morsel of colour seemed to have been 
blanched out of her face and hands. So 
the first day passed, and when the second 
dawned, I, having attained the dignity of 
eighteen years, thought it behoved me 
to speak of my late father's affairs and my 
mother's future. 

' Where is father's will, mother ? ' 

' He never made one, dear ! ' 

* Never made a will ! That was awfully 
careless.' 

'Hush, Charlie!' 

She would not brook the slightest cen- 
sure cast on her dead love. 

* But there must be a will, mother.' 

' Darling, there is none ! It was the 
one thought that disturbed his last mo- 
ments. But I am content to let things 
be settled as they may.' 

* Lilyfields will be yours of course, and 
everything in it,' I answered decidedly. 



* Mather: 1 2 1 

* No one has a better right to them than 
you have. And you and Violet will live 
here to your lives' end, won't you ? ' 

' Don't ask me, dear Charlie, don't 
think of it — not just yet at least ! Let us 
wait until — until — it is all over, and then 
decide what is best to be done ! ' 

Before it was all over ; matters were 
decided for us. 

It was the day before the funeral. I had 
just gone through the mournful ceremony 
of seeing my fathers coffin soldered down, 
and, sad and dispirited, had retired to my 
own room for a little rest, when I heard the 
sound of carriage wheels up on the gravel 
drive. I peered over the window blind 
curiously, for I had never heard of my 
father's relations, and had been unable in 
consequence to communicate with any of 
them. A lumbering hired fly, laden with 
luggage, stopped before the door, and from 
it descended, to my astonishment, the same 
woman with the fiery red face whom I had 
discovered in my mother's company two 
years before. I decided at once that, 
whatever the claims of this stranger might 
be, she could not be suffered to disturb 
the widow in thefirst agony of her crushing 
grief, and, quick, as thought, I ran down 



133 * Mother' 

into the hall and confronted her before 
she had entered the house. 

* I beg your pardon, madam/ I com- 
menced, * but Mrs Vere is unable to 
see anyone at present. There has 
been a great calamity in the family, 
and—' 

' I know all about your calamity,' she 
interrupted me rudely * if it were not for 
that I shouldn't be here.' 

* But you cannot see Mrs Vere ! ' I 
repeated. 

' And pray who is Mrs Vere ? ' said the 
woman. 

•My mother/ I replied proudly, *and 
I will not allow her to be annoyed or 
disturbed.' 

*Ohl indeed, young man. It strikes 
me you take a great deal of authority 
upon yourself ; but as I mean to be mis- 
tress in my own house, the sooner you 
stop that sort of thing the better ! Here ! 
some of you women ! ' she continued, 
addressing the servants who had come 
up from the kitchen to learn the cause of 
the unusual disturbance. 'Just help the 
flyman up with my boxes, will you — and 
look sharp about it.' 

I was thunderstruck at her audacity. 



• Mother' 123 

For a moment I did not know what to 
answer. But when this atrocious woman 
walked past me into the parlour, and 
threw herself into my dead father*s 
chair, I followed her, and felt compelled 
to speak. 

* I do not understand what you mean 
by talking in this way,* I said. ' Mrs 
Vere is the only mistress in this house, 
and—' 

*Well, young man, and suppose / am 
Mrs Vere ! ' 

* I can suppose no such thing. You 
cannot know what you are talking about. 
My mother — ' 

' Your mother ! And pray, what may 
your name be and your age ? ' 

* Charles Vere ; and I was eighteen 
last birthday,' I said, feeling compelled, 
I knew not by what secret agency, to 
reply. 

* Just so ! I thought as much ! Well, I 
am Mrs Vere, and I am your mother ! ' 

' My mother / You must be mad, 
or drunk! How dare you insult the 
dead man in his coffin upstairs. My 
mother ! Why, she died years ago, before 
I can remember.' 

* Did she ? That's the fine tale. Ma- 



;ii24 ' Mother! 

dam, who's been taking my place here 
all this time, has told you, I suppose. But 
ril be even with her yet. Tm your father's 
widow, and all he's left behind him belongs 
jto me, and she'll be out of this house before 
another hour's over her head, or my name's 
not Jane Vere!' 

* You lie ! ' I exclaimed passionately. 
This tipsy, dissipated, coarse-looking crea- 
ture, the woman who bore me, and whom 
I had believed to be lying in her grave for 
sixteen years and more. Was it wonder- 
ful that at the first blush my mind utterly 
refused to credit it ? The angry accusa- 
tion I have recorded had barely left my 
lips, when I looked up and saw my mother 
— the woman who had come as an angel of 
light into my father's darkened home, and 
watched over me with the tenderest affec- 
tion since — standing on the threshold, pale 
and peaceful in her mourning garb, as the 
Spirit of Death itself 

* Mother ! say it is not true,' I cried as 
I turned towards her. 

' Oh, Charlie, my darling boy ! my 
brave, good son 1 Be quiet ! bear it like a 
man ; but it is true ! ' 

* This— this woman was my father's 
wife !' 



'Mother: 125 

' She was ! ' 

* And you, mother ! ' I exclaimed in 
agony. 

* I was only the woman that he loved, 
Charlie/ she answered, with downcast 
eyes. * You must think no higher of me 
than that ! ' 

* I think the very highest of you that I 
can. You were my fathers loving com^ 
panion and friend for years : you saved his 
life and his reason ! You were his true, 
true wife, and my mother. I shall nevei* 
think of you in any lower light.' 

My emotion had found vent in tears 
by that time. It was all so new and 
so horrible to believe, and my mothers 
hand rested fondly on my bowed head. 

Then that other woman, whose exist-" 
ence I can never recall without a shuddery 
seized her hateful opportunity, and levelled 
the most. virulent abuse at my poor martyr 
mother's head. Words, such as I had 
never heard from a female before, rained 
thickly from her lips, until I lost sight 
of my own grief in my indignation at 
the ^shower of inuendoes which were being 
hurled at the person dearest to me of all 
the world, 
, 'Be silent,' I said in a loud authoritative 



126 'Mother: 

voice. * Were you twenty times my mo- 
ther I would not permit you to speak as 
you are speaking now. If it is true that 
you were my father's wife, why were you 
not in your proper place, instead of leaving 
your lawful duties to another ? ' 

* Oh ! madam here can answer that 
question better than myself. She knows 
well enough there was no room left for 
me where she was ' ' 

'Untrue!' murmured my mother, but 
without any anger. * I would have shielded 
your character from your boy's censure, as 
I have done for so long, but justice to the 
dead compels me to speak. You left this 
borne desolate for many miserable years 
before I entered it. You deserted your 
child in his infancy, but your husband had 
so good and forgiving a heart that, when 
you cried to him for pardon, he took you 
back again and condoned your great offence, 
and tlierefore, when you left him a second 
time, the law contained no remedy for his 
wrong. He was compelled to live on — 
alone — dishonoured and comfortless, whilst 
you — you can best tell your son what your 
life has been since.' 

* Anyway I am Mrs Vere,' retorted the 
other, ' and my husband has died intestate^ 



'Mother' 127 

and his property belongs to me, so I'll 
thank you to take your brat, and clear 
out of my house before the sun goes 
down/ 

^ Oh ! mother, this is infamous ! It can 
never be ! ' 

' It must be, Charlie ! It is the law. I 
knew all this when I consented to come 
here as your father's wife. He never de- 
ceived me for a single moment ; and if I 
have any regret that he put off providing 
against this contingency until it was too 
late, it is only for fear lest he should be 
regretting it also. * But, my dear, dear 
love ! ' she added in a lower tone, * I acquit 
you of this as of all things. I know your 
great love for me never failed, and I am 
content ! ' 

* I will not believe it without further 
proof! ' I exclaimed. * I will send Ellen at 
once for the solicitor. I cannot leave you 
alone with this horrid woman ! ' 

' Hush, Charlie! she is your mother.' 

* I will not acknowledge it. You are 
the only mother I have ever had — the 
only mother I ever will have to my 
life's end.' 

Mr Chorberry, the solicitor, came with- 
out delay, but he could give me no com- 



128 'Mother: 

fort. My poor father, by that strange in- 
difference which has been the curse of so 
many, had put off making his will until it 
was too late, by reason of which he had 
left the one to whom he owed most in 
the world, the woman who had sacrificed 
friends and reputation to spend her life in 
a dull country home, administering to his 
pleasures, entirely dependent on her own 
resources for support — whilst the faithless, 
drunken creature he had the misfortune to 
be still chained to, walked in as the lawful 
wife, and claimed her share of the property. 
There was only one drop of balm in his 
decision. I, as my father's son, shared 
what he had left behind him, but my angel 
mother and dear baby-sister were cast upon 
the world to shift for themselves. 

And this was the law. 

Oh, father! did your spirit look down 
from whichever sphere it had been trans- 
lated to, and witness this "^ 

* But, surely,' I said to Chorberry, 
' there can be no necessity for my mother 
leaving Lilyfields before the funeral ? * 

' Of course there is no necessity ; but do 
you think it advisable, under the circum- 
stances, that she should remain } Mrs Vere 
has the legal power to enforce her de^ 



^Mother' 129 

parture, and I am afraid will not be slow to 
use it/ 

My mother evidently was of one mind 
with him, for in an incredibly short space 
of time she had packed her belongings. 
Mrs Vere, standing over her meanwhile 
to see she did not purloin anything from 
the house, and was waiting in the hall with 
little Violet, ready to go to the house of the 
clergyman's wife, who, to her honour, having 
heard how matters stood at Lilyfields, had 
promptly sent my mother an invitation to 
the vicarage for the night. 

* Are you ready, dear mother ? ' I said 
sadly, as I joined her in the hall, and drew 
her arm within my own. 

'Well, Mr Charles, I suppose I shall 
see you back again here before long ? ' 
screamed the shrill voice of Mrs Vere down 
the staircase. 

I started. 

See me back! Was it possible that 
this woman believed I intended to make 
friends with her ? 

* We've been parted long enough, it 
strikes me,' she continued ; * and now your 
father's gone, and left no one behind him but 
yourself, I suppose you'll be looking out 
for my share of the property at my death, 

VOL. III. I 



130 'Mother' 

so we may as well let bye-gones be bye- 
gones — eh ? ' 

* I wish for none of your property, 
madam/ I answered haughtily, * since the 
law gives it to you you are welcome to 
keep it.' 

* Charlie, dear, think what you may be 
resigning/ urged my mother in my ear. 

* I think of nothing hwlyou, mother ! * 

' Hoity, toity ! here's manners,' cried 
the other woman. * You seem to forget. 
Master Charlie, that Fm your mother / * 

Still holding my mother's hand, I turned 
and confronted her. 

. * I forget nothing, madam ! I wish I 
could ; but I remember that here stands the 
woman who laboured where you refused to 
work; who loved, where you had insulted and 
betrayed ; who was faithful where you were 
faithless and undeserving ; and, I say, that 
here stands my dead father's true wife ; and 
here stands, in God's sight, my mother! 
The blessing of man may not have sancti- 
fied her union, but the blessing of heaven 
shall be upon it and upon her — upon the 
creatures she rescued from a living death 
and upon the gracious hand with which she 
did it, until time itself shall be no more. 

So saying, I passed with my mother be- 



'Mother' 131 

yond the gates of Lilyfields, to make a new 
life for her in some quiet spot where she 
might outlive her grief, and to repay, if 
possible, by the protection and support of 
my manhood, the love she had given me 
as a little child 



THE END. 



IN THE HEART OF THE 
ARDENNES. 



■EVER is raging in Brussels, and 
we are advised to quit the town 
as soon as possible. The ques- 
tion is, where to go. I suggest 
Rochefort in the Ardennes, having ascer- 
tained previously that the place is healthy ; 
but my friends laugh at me. ' Rochefort 
in February! We shall all be frozen to 
death.' ' At least,' I argue, ' there is pure 
air to breathe.' ' But you can have no 
idea of the dulness,' is all the reply I 
receive ; ' Rochefort, with its one street 
and its one resident is bad enough in the 



134 -^^ ^^ Heart of the Ardennes. 

summer, but at this season it will be 
unendurable/ Yet I am not to be turned 
from my purpose. I consider it is better 
to be frozen outwardly than burned in- 
wardly ; and that when one is flying from 
a pestilence, there is no time to regret 
the numerous pleasures left behind, or 
the few that loom in the future. And 
so we settle finally that, notwithstanding 
its promised disadvantages, we will thank- 
fully accept the refuge Rochefort can 
afford us ; and having made up our 
minds to go, we start twenty-four hours 
afterwards. 

Being pent-up in a railway carriage 
with half-a-dozen manikins and womani- 
kins, who suck oranges half the time, and 
obtrude their little persons between your 
view and the window the other half, is 
not perhaps the most favourable situation 
from which to contemplate the beauties 
of nature ; for which reason, perhaps, it 
is as well that for the first part of our 
journey nature presents no beauties for 
our contemplation, and thereby our natur- 
ally mild tempers are prevented from 



In the Heart of the A rdennes. 135 

boiling over. But when we have ac- 
complished about fifty miles (Rochefort 
being distant from Brussels seventy miles) 
the country begins to assume a different 
and far more engaging aspect. The flat 
table -land, much of it marshy and un- 
drained, which has scarcely been varied 
hitherto, gives place to swelling hills, half 
rock, half heather, and charming copses 
of fir, some of which are very extensive. 
The scenery becomes altogether more 
wooded and naturally fertile-looking ; and 
houses and farmsteads lose all trace of 
British contiguity, and become proportion- 
ately interesting to curious English eyes. 
The train is an express, and as it dashes 
past the fragile, roughly-built little stations 
with which the road is bordered, it is 
amusing, or rather I should say it would 
be amusing, did it not suggest the idea 
of accidents, to see the signal-flags dis- 
played by peasant-women in every variety 
of attitude and costume. 

Here stands a stolid, solid Belgian girl^ 
of eighteen years of age probably, and 
stout enough for forty, with a waist like 



136 In the Heart of the Ardennes. 

a tar-barrel, and legs to match, who nurses 
her flag as if it were a baby, and gazes 
at the flying train with a countenance 
which could not be more impassive were 
it carved in wood. We have hardly 
finished laughing at her, when the train 
rushes past another station, at which ap- 
pears a withered old crone, her head tied 
up in a coloured handkerchief, and her 
petticoats, cut up to her knees, looking 
cruelly short for such a wintry day, and 
displaying a pair of attenuated legs and 
feet for which the huge wooden sabots 
look miles too large. She waves about 
the signal - flag in a nervous, agitated 
manner, which suggests the idea that she 
is not quite sure whether she has caught 
up the right one or not ; but before we 
have time to be made uncomfortable by 
the fact, we are passing another of these 
Belgic * shanties,' at the door of which 
appears for a moment a middle-aged 
woman, who waves the signal at us in a 
menacing manner, and rushes back imme- 
diately to her children or her cooking. 
Remembering our own signalmen, and 



In the Heart of the Ardennes. 1 37 

the importance attached to their capabilities 
and education for the important office 
assigned them, it ceases to be a matter 
of amusement to see the lives of hundreds 
daily intrusted to the direction of such 
ignorant creatures as these. I suppose 
that * Monsieur/ smoking at his ease by 
the fireside in the little wooden station- 
house, directs the actions of his mother, 
wife, or daughter; but what are the 
authorities about not to insist on his 
performing his duty himself ? 

Notwithstanding all which, however, our 
train reaches Jemelle (the nearest station to 
Rochefort) in safety, and in the midst of a 
wind sufficient, if not to take our heads, to 
take our hats off, we and our belongings 
come to the ground. It takes some minutes 
to get our nine packages together; and 
when we present ourselves at the door of 
the diligence, it is nearly full. I look 
despairingly at the nurse and all the chil- 
dren, and decide that the younger members 
of the family must go by diligence, and the 
elder shall walk with me to Rochefort. But 
the Rochefortians are too polite to permit 



138 In the Heart of the Ardennes. 

such a thing. Two of them insist upon 
getting out and giving up their places to 
the children. I protest against such a pro- 
ceeding, of course, as in duty bound, but 
they will hear of no excuse, and start off 
walking at such a pace that they are out of 
sight before the diligence is set in motion. 
At last the luggage is all packed away on 
the top, and we are all packed away inside* 
in company with two gentlemen, who open 
the conversation pleasantly by asking us 
where we come from, and telling us that 
we must not expect to find Rochefort as 
large as Brussels, which, to say truth, we 
had scarcely anticipated. The talk be- 
comes fragmentary, for the diligence rattles 
and jolts over the stony, hilly road, and the 
bells on the horses' collars jangle in unison ; 
and the baby is so enchanted with the noise, 
that he shouts till no one can be heard but 
himself. But twenty minutes' purgatory 
brings us into a long, steep, narrow street, 
paved with stones, and bordered with grey- 
and-white houses ; and I have hardly time 
to ask, * Is this Rochefort.'*' when the 
diligeoce draws, up before a whitewashed 



In the Heart of the Ardennes. 139 

house with a sign swinging before the door, 
and I am asked if we are for the H6tel Biron, 
No, we are for the H6tel de la Cloche d'Or ; 
and as no one seems to be for the H6tel 
Biron, the diligence continues to climb the 
stony street until it reaches the summit, and 
halts before the H6tel de la Cloche d'Or. 

Here we all unpack ourselves ; and a 
buxom German landlady, with a kind, 
motherly face, comes down the steps to 
greet us. She has received my letter ; the 
beds are all ready for us ; the dinner will 
be on the table in half-an-hour ; we are to 
be pleased to enter, and make ourselves at 
home. We are very pleased ; for we are 
dreadfully tired (not cold, for the weather 
is unnaturally mild), and have not had 
anything substantial to eat all the day. 
We climb up the steps of the hotel, which 
looks just like a farmhouse abutting on the 
main street, and find ourselves in a sanded 
room, containing a long wooden table, with 
benches either side of it, and bearing evi- 
dent reminiscences of smoking and drinking 
— in fact, * not to put too fine a point on it,' 
the public tap^room — but where we are met 



140 In the Heart of the Ardennes. 

by the landlady's two eldest daughters, 
Th^rese and Josephine, who are beaming 
in their welcome. They usher us into a 
second room, where the children scream at 
the sight of a table laid for dinner, and the 
four corners of which bear bowls of whipped 
cream and custard, and rosy Ardennes 
apples, and biscuits just out of the oven. 
The little people want to begin at once, 
and cannot be brought to see the necessity 
of washing their faces and hands first, or 
waiting till the meat and potatoes shall be 
placed upon the table. Would Madame 
like to see the chambres-d-coucher at once ? 
Madame saying yes, Th^r^se catches up 
the youngest child but one, and, preceded 
by Josephine, we enter first a scullery, next 
a bricked passage, thence mount a most 
perilous set of dark narrow stairs, and 
stumble into a long whitewashed corridor, 
which terminates in a glass-door opening 
on to a garden. Here three doors succes- 
sively thrown open introduce us to our 
bedrooms ; and the trunks having been 
brought up the breakneck stairs, we take 
possession at once. The little white-cur- 



In the Heart of the Ardennes. 141 

tained beds are small, but beautifully clean, 
and each one is surmounted by its eider- 
down quilt in a coloured cotton case. Two 
little islands of carpet in a sea of painted 
boards represent the coverings of the floors ; 
and the washing-stands are only deal-tables, 
and there are no chests of drawers ; but we 
inhale the fresh, vigorous breeze which is 
pouring through the windows (open even 
at that season), and think of fever-infected 
Brussels, and are content. But though it 
is all very nice and clean, we cannot pos- 
sibly wash without water, nor dry our 
hands without towels. 

An imbecile shout from the door for any- 
body or anything brings a broad-featured, 
rosy, grinning German girl to our aid, who, 
when she is asked her name, says it is 
Katrine, but we can call her by any name 
we please. The pronunciation of * Katrine ' 
not presenting those difficulties to our 
foreign tongues which the owner of it 
seems to anticipate, we prefer to adhere 
to her baptismal cognomen, instead of 
naming her afresh, and desire Katrine to 
bring us some hot water and towels ; on 



1 42 In the Heart of the A rdennes. 

which she disappears, still on the broad 
grin, and returns with a pail of warm 
water, which she sets down in the middle 
of the room. We manage well enough 
with that, however, but are at our wits' end 
when, on being asked for more of the same 
fluid with which to mix the baby's bottle, 
she presents it to us in a washing-basin. 
But as, a few minutes after, I encounter 
her in the corridor carrying a coffee-pot 
full to E — 's room, I conclude that in 
Rochefort it is the fashion to use vessels 
indiscriminately, and resolve thenceforth 
to take the goods the gods provide, without 
questioning. 

On descending to the dining-room, we find 
that the gods have been very munificent in 
their gifts. After the soup appears roast 
beef; and as we are very hungry, we cause 
it to look foolish, and are just congratulat- 
ing each other on having made an excellent 
dinner, when in trots Th^r^se, pops our 
dirty knives and forks upon the table-cloth, 
whips away our plates, with that which 
contains the remainder of the beef, and 
puts down a dish of mutton-chops in its 



In the House of the Ardennes. 143 

stead. We look at one another in despair ; 
we feel it to be perfectly impossible to 
begin again upon mutton-chops, and I am 
obliged to hint the same to Thdrese in the 
most delicate manner in the world. She 
expostulates ; but to no purpose, and leaves 
the room, mutton-chops in hand. But 
only to give place to her mother, who enters 
with a countenance of dismay to inquire 
what is wrong with the cooking that we 
cannot eat. 

Nothing is wrong; we have eaten re- 
markably well. It is our capabilities of 
stowage which are at fault. Will we not 
have the hare, which is just ready to be 
served up ? 

Sorry as we are to do it, we must decline 
the hare ; and as we affirm that we are 
ready for the pudding, and nothing else, we 
feel we have sunk in Madame's estimation. 

The pudding, a compote of apples and 
preserves, with the whipped cream and 
custard, is delicious; and as soon as we 
have discussed it, we are very thankful to 
stretch ourselves under the eider-down 
quilts, and know the day to be over. We 



144 "^^ ^^ Heart of the Ardennes. 

have done work enough that day to entitle 
us to twelve hours' repose ; yet we are all 
wide-awake with the first beams of the 
morning sun. 

We dress ourselves with the pleasurable 
anticipation of seeing new things, however 
simple, and come down-stairs to a break- 
fast-table, in its way as plentifully spread as 
the dinner-table of the night before. We 
have an abundance of milk, — so fresh from 
the cow that it is covered with froth, and 
the jug which contains it is quite warm, — 
eggs, cold meat, home-made bread in huge 
brown loaves, good butter, and strong clear 
coffee. In fact, we come to the conclusion 
that our landlady knows how to live, and 
we no longer marvel at the rosy cheeks and 
full forms of Thdrese and Josephine, nor 
that Madame herself fills out her dresses in 
such a magnificent manner. 

E — has been for a stroll before break- 
fast, and brings back a report of ruins on 
the high ground ; he has already unpacked 
his sketch-books and sharpened his pencils. 
We, not being walking encyclopaedias, 
seize our Continental Bradshaw, and find 



In the Heart of the Ardennes. 145 

that the ruins are those of a castle in which 
Lafayette was made prisoner by the Aus- 
trians in 1792. 

As soon as breakfast is concluded, we 
rush off to see the ruined castle, which 
stands on an eminence just above the hotel, 
and which our landlady (who walks into our 
sitting-room and takes a chair in the most 
confiding manner possible whenever she 
feels so inclined) informs us, although not 
open to the public, belongs to a lady whose 
house is built on the same ground, and who 
will doubtless allow us to look over it 
We can see the remains of the castle before 
we reach them, and decide that it must 
have been uglier and less interesting when 
whole than now, having been evidently 
designed with a view to strength rather 
than beauty. The little winding acclivit- 
ous path which leads to it, bounded by a 
low wall fringed with ferns and mosses, is 
perhaps the prettiest part of the whole con- 
cern ; but just as we have scaled it, and come 
upon the private dwelling-house, our poetic 
meditations are interrupted by the on- 
slaught of half-a-dozen dogs (one of which 

VOL. III. K 



1 46 In the Heart of the A rdennes. 

is loose, and makes fierce snaps at our un- 
protected legs), which rush out of their 
kennels at chains' length, and bark so 
vociferously, that we feel we have no need 
to make our presence known by knocking 
at the door. A child appears at it ; and 
we inquire politely if we may see the 
ruins, at which she shakes her head, and 
we imagine she doesn't understand our 
Parisian French. 

But in another moment we are unde- 
ceived, for the shrill, vixenish voice of a 
woman (may dogs dance upon her grave !) 
ekclaims sharply from the open door, 
^ Fermez^ fermez; on ne pent pas entrer! 
The child obediently claps it to in our faces, 
and we retrace our steps, with a conviction 
that the lady is like her castle — more strong 
than beautiful. E — is so disgusted that 
he will not even sketch the ruins from the 
opposite side of the road, up which another 
precipitous path leads us to a long walk, 
which in summer must be a perfect bower, 
from the interlacing of the branches of the 
trees with which it is bordered ; and from 
which we have a far better view of the ruins 



In the Heart of the Ardennes. 147 

than the utmost politeness of their owner 
could have afforded us. But no ; judgment 
has gone out against them ; we decide they 
are heavy and unpicturesque, and not worth 
the trouble ; and we walk on in hopes of 
finding something better: and are rewarded. 
At the close of the long over-shadowed 
walk, a quaint little chapel, beside which 
stands a painted wooden crucifix nearly the 
size of life, excites our curiosity, and, walk- 
ing round it, we come upon one of the 
loveliest scenes, even in the month of 
February, that Nature ever produced. 

A green valley, creeping in sinuous folds 
between two ranges of high hills ; one 
rocky and coated with heather, the other 
clothed with wood. Beneath the rocky 
range there winds a road bordered by trees, 
— along which we can see the red diligence 
which brought us from the station taking 
its jangling way, — and beside it runs a 
stream, terminating in a cascade and a 
bridge, and the commencement of the 
lower part of Rochefort. All the fields are 
cut upon the sides of hills, and are diversi- 
fied by clumps of rock covered with ferns, 



J 48 In the Heart of the Ardennes. 

and usually the groundwork of a well, pro* 
tected by a few rough planks, or the 
fountain-head of a mountain-stream which 
trickles down until it joins the river. This 
is the valley of Jemelle, to see which in the 
proper season would alone be worth a 
journey to Rochefort We look and 
admire, and lament the impossibility of 
ever transferring such a scene to canvas as 
it should be done ; and then we turn back 
whence we came, and find we are standing 
at the entrance of an artificial cave, situated 
at the back of the crucifix before alluded 
to, and which forms perhaps as great a 
contrast to the natural loveliness we have 
just looked upon, as could well be. Ap- 
parently it is the tomb of some woman, by 
the framed requests which hang on either 
side that prayers may be offered for the re- 
pose of her soul ; but had her friends turned 
out upon her grave all the maimed and 
motley rubbish to be found in a nursery 
playbox of some years' standing, they could 
scarcely have decorated it in a less seemly 
manner. At the end of the cave is a 
wooden grating, behind which is exhibited 



In the Heart of the Ardennes. 149 

one of those tawdry assemblages of horrors 
which tend more perhaps than all else to 
bring ridicule on the Roman Catholic 
religion, so utterly opposed are they to our 
conceived ideas of what is sacred. Two or 
three rudely-carved and coarsely-painted, 
almost grotesque, wooden groups of the 
dead Christ, the Holy Family, and the 
Crucifixion, form the groundwork of this 
exhibition : the interstices being filled up 
with gold-and-white jars of dirty artificial 
flowers ; framed prints of saints with lace 
borders, reminding one of the worst de- 
scription of valentines ; and composite 
figures, supposed to represent the same 
individuals, and which may have cost fifty 
centimes apiece. The collection is such as 
to make the spectator shudder to see holy 
things so unholily treated ; and it is difficult 
to conceive how, in this century, when art 
has been carried to such a pitch that even 
our commonest jugs and basons have 
assumed forms consistent with it, anyone, 
even the lowest, can be satisfied with such 
designs and colouring as these things 
display. 



iJ50 In the Heart of the Ardennes. 

Returning homeward by the lower part 
of the town, we pass a maison religietise 
dedicated to St Joseph, and in the garden 
see the good little sisters joining their 
pupils, to the number of forty or fifty, in a 
merry game of * Here we go round the 
mulberry-bush,' and apparently taking as 
much pleasure in the exercise as the 
youngest there. The church and church- 
yard stand at this end of Rochefort. There 
is nothing in the building to attract one's 
notice, except that we agree that it is the 
ugliest we have ever seen ; but we walk 
round the little churchyard, the paucity of 
graves in which speaks well for the climate 
of the place. The crosses and railings, 
made of the commonest wood and in the 
most fragile manner, are all rotting as they 
stand or lie (several having assumed the 
recumbent position) ; and we are leaving 
the spot with the conviction that we have 
wasted five minutes, when we come against 
a crucifix fastened by heavy iron clamps 
against the wall of the church. A common 
iron cross, rusty and red from damp and 
age, with a figure nailed on it of the most 



In the Heart of the Ardennes. 151 

perfect bronze, old and hard, and dark and 
bright, and as unchanged by weather and 
exposure as on the day (perhaps hundreds 
of years ago) it was first placed there. 

Toiling up the street again, and examin- 
ing the shops as we go, I say that, much 
as I like Rochefort, I do not advise any 
one to come here in order to purchase their 
wedding trousseau^ or lay in a stock of 
winter clothing. We look in vain for 
something to buy in remembrance of the 
place ; but can see nothing out of the way, 
except it is a yellow teapot, holding at the 
least four quarts, and with a curled spout 
to prevent the tea coming out too fast, 
which must be almost necessary with sucH 
a load of liquid. The teapot is delicious, 
and quite unique ; but scarcely worth, we 
think, the trouble of transportation. We 
have but just decided this matter to our 
satisfaction when we come upon a ' mis- 
cellaneous warehouse,' upon whose front is 
painted * Cartes pour les grottes de Roche^ 
forty and remember that we must see the 
famous grotto, and turn in to ask the price 
of admission. Five francs a-head ; children 



152 In the Heart of the Ardennes. 

half-price. We think the charge is high ; 
but Monsieur C — (to whom the grotto 
belongs) takes us into his house and shows 
us prints of the different views of its 
interior, which fire our imagination to that 
degree, that we decide at once to see it the 
next morning. We look over a book also 
in which visitors to the grotto have written 
down their first impressions; and these 
testimonials excite our curiosity still further. 
A Persian describes himself as having 
been suddenly transported into fairyland ; 
and can liken the vast caverns to nothing 
but the palace of his great master the 
Sultan, and the various forms assumed by 
the stalactites to those of lovely houris 
grouped about him. A French poet, in 
rapturous verse, compares the grotto to 
the enchanted halls of the Arabian Nights, 
and the stalactites to ' frozen tears.' Every 
traveller declares the sight to have been 
more wonderful and beautiful than anything 
he has ever seen before, until we become 
quite sorry to think we must put off seeing 
it until the morning ; and our expectations 
are heightened by the rapid assurance of 



In the Heart of the Ardennes. 1 53 

Monsieur C — (who always keeps his 
hands moving, and never stops to consider 
his commas), that it is ^ tresbeautresbeau- 
trhbeau!^ However, we agree to return 
the next day at eleven o'clock, when he 
promises the guides shall be in readiness 
for us ; and we go home to another excel- 
lent dinner, the pleasure of which is only 
marred by the fact that Thdr^se will make 
us use the same knives and forks for every 
course ; and we haven't the strength of 
mind to resist. 

Yesterday I spoke to madame on the 
necessity of engaging someone during the 
mornings to read French and German with 
the girls, as we shall most likely be here 
for a month ; and it is too long a time for 
them to be idle. Madame did not think I 
should find a demoiselle in Rochefort who 
could instruct them ; but there is a profes- 
seur here who has passed all his college 
examinations, and who, if he has the time, 
will doubtless be very glad of the employ- 
ment. I asked her to send for the pro- 
fesseur that I might speak to him on the 
subject ; and here, just as we have done 



154 -^^ tf^ Heart of the Ardennes. 

dinner, he arrives ; for madame throws 
open the door, and with a certain pride in 
her voice (pride that Rochefort should 
possess such an article), announces * Mon- 
sieur le Pro/esseurJ I glance up, thinking 
of Charlotte Bronte and her professor, and 
hoping this one may not prove as dirty 
and seedy and snuffy, and, to my amaze- 
ment, see standing on the threshold a lad 
of about seventeen or eighteen, dressed in 
green trousers and a blue blouse, and hold- 
ing his cap in his hand. The two girls 
immediately choke, and bury their faces in 
their books, which renders my task of 
catechising rather a difficult one; and I 
glance at E — for aid, but his counten- 
ance is almost level with the table as he 
pretends to draw. So I find there is 
nothing to be done but to beg the profes- 
seur to be seated, — a request which he 
steadily refuses to comply with ; and as he 
stands there, twisting his cap in his hands, 
he looks so like a butcher-boy, that it is a 
mercy I do not ask him what meat he has 
to-day. 

But the poor young man is so horribly 



In the Heart of the Ardennes. 155 

nervous, as he tells me that, though quali- 
fied for a tutor, he has never taught before, 
that I have not the heart to refuse him on 
account of his youth ; besides, is he not the 
sole professeur in Rochefort ? So I give 
him leave to come the next morning, and 
try, at all events, what he can do with the 
girls ; and he looks very happy for the 
permission. And we see him a minute 
afterwards, striding proudly down the street, 
whistling as he goes, and holding his 
head half an inch higher for having 
^ got a situation/ Of course the children 
make merry over him for the rest of the 
evening, and cannot recall the appearance 
of their /r^T^^^^^^r without shrieks of laugh- 
ter ; but he comes the next morning, never- 
theless, to commence his duties, and proves 
to be quite as particular as older teachers, 
and much more competent than some, and 
takes the youngest girl completely aback 
by telling her she shall be punished if she 
is not steady. 

At eleven o'clock the next morning we 
are all ready to view the grottoes, and 
E — and I, with the two eldest children. 



1 56 In the Heart of the Ardennes. 

start off on our expedition. The way to 
their entrance lies through Monsieur C — ^s 
park, which in summer must be a very 
charming resort. He has collected here 
all the wild animals indigenous to the 
Ardennes, and shows them to us as we 
walk to the mouth of the grottoes. Close 
to his house he has a splendid wolf and 
three foxes — the golden, silver, and com- 
mon fox. I should have preferred to keep 
these interesting specimens a little further 
off from my own nose ; but there is no 
accounting for tastes. In the aviary he 
has squirrels, guinea-pigs, doves, pigeons, 
and the most magnificent pair of horned 
owls I have ever seen. These birds, which 
are as fierce as possible, have eyes of jet 
and amber, as big as half-crowns, and when 
in their rage they spring at passers-by, 
they make a noise with their beaks just 
like castanets. 

A little farther up the park we come 
upon the Ardennes deer, which are thicker 
built and less graceful than the English 
fallow-deer, with which they are consort- 
ing ; and a wild boar, with fierce tusks and 



In the Heart of the Ardennes. 157 

a savage grunt, wallowing in a parterre of 
clay, which, nevertheless, knows his master, 
and puts his ugly snout out to be scratched 
between the palisades of his domain. 
Monsieur C — only conducts us as far as 
the entrance of the grotto, and there 
delivers us over to the care of the guides, 
two in number, who each carry a couple 
of petroleum lamps, and have * Grottes de 
Rochefort ' written on their hatbands. 
They ask us if we will have costumes to 
enter the caves with, and we decline, not 
knowing the dirt we shall encounter ; but 
we exchange our own hats for little, grey 
linen ones, trimmed with a cockade and 
bunch of small red feathers in front, made 
after the pattern of those adopted by the 
monkeys on the organs, and in which we 
appear very comical to each other s eyes. 
Everything is ready, and down we go — 
down the first flight of steps, which is steep 
but easy, and which. Monsieur C — shouts 
after us, will be the most difficult descent 
of all (I wonder if he impresses that fable 
on all his visitors) until the ivy and fern- 
covered entrance is passed, and we enter 



158 In the Heart of the Ardennes. 

the very mouth of the cave, which is yet 
light enough to let us see that several 
such flights have still to be descended. 
We have hardly reached the middle of the 
second, and daylight is not yet left behind 
us, when E — calls out that he cannot 
breathe, and must go up into the fresh air 
again. The guides insist that monsieur 
must be mistaken, and no one is ever 
taken ill there. I insist, on the other hand, 
that monsieur's wishes must be complied 
with, and we must reaccompany him to the 
top, which we do. I would rather not go 
back again then, and make the dark pilgrim- 
age alone with the children, but E — begs we 
will, and the girls look disappointed ; so we 
retrace our steps, leaving him in the park. 

I confess that as I go down the second 
time I feel a little nervous, and my limbs 
shake. I don't like this going down, down, 
down into the shades of eternal night, with 
no companions but two little children. 

But at last we stand on level ground 
again. There is no light anywhere except 
from the guides' lamps, the foremost one 
(who is always spokesman) waves his above 



In the Heart of the Ardennes. 159 

his heady and introduces la grande salU. 
I look up and around me, but all is black 
as pitch. I feel that I am standing on 
broken flints and a great deal of mud ; and 
as the guide's lamp throws its faint gleam 
here and there, I see that the cavern we 
stand in is very vast and damp, and un- 
commonly like a huge cellar ; but I can't say 
I see anything more. In another minute 
the guide has turned, and leads us through 
a passage cut in the rock. We are not 
going up or downstairs now, but picking 
our way over slippery stones and between 
places sometimes so narrow and sometimes 
so low, that our shoulders get various 
bumps and bruises, and the guide's warn- 
ing of ' Garde tHe ! ' sounds continuously. 
Every now and then we come upon a 
larger excavation, which is called a salle^ 
and given some name consequent on the 
likeness assumed by the stalactites con- 
tained in it. Thus one is called salle de 
Brahma^ because it contains a large stalac- 
tite, somewhat resembling the idol of tha, 
name. Another salle du sacrificey because 
its principal attraction is a large flat stone 



i6o In the Heart of the Ardennes. 

at the foot of which is another, shaped 
sausage-wise, and entitled tombeau de la 
victime. We pace after the guides through 
these cavernous passages for what appears 
to me miles, my mind meanwhile being 
divided between fear that I should leave 
my boots behind me in the slushy clay, or 
that either of my children should tumble 
down or knock her head. Every cavern 
is like the other, and I look in vain for 
stalactites which shall remind me of * houris 
grouped about the sultan, or * frozen tears/ 
The guides occasionally produce a fine 
effect by burning a little red fire, or letting- 
off* a rocket, or climbing singly up the 
more perilous places, that we may watch 
the gradual ascent of their flickering lamps, 
and judge of the height of the larger salles. 
But I suppose the enthusiastic scribblers 
in the visitors' book would consider me the 
possessor of a very darkened intellect if 
they heard me affirm that I have seen 
better effects on the stage, and climbed 
greater heights with much more conveni- 
ence. Perhaps I have not a sufficiently 
appreciative soul for grottoes ; but the 



In the Heart of the Ardennes. i6i 

greater part of the grotto of Rochefort 
conies up exactly to my idea of a mine, and 
nothing more. 

The 'glittering' stalactites are nowhere. 
The cave is lined with stalactites, but (with 
^he exception of a few white ones) they are 
sill of a uniform pale-brown colour, and 
liave no idea of glittering or being pris- 
matic. The greatest wonder of the grotto 
is its vastness, which may be estimated 
from the fact that we are two hours going 
over it, and then have not traversed the 
-whole on account of fresh works being car- 
ried on in parts. We penetrate to its very 
depths to see the river and the waterfall, 
but the mud is so excessive that we are 
compelled to stop, and let the guide descend 
with his lamp and flash it over the water, 
which is really very pretty, and, strange to 
relate, contains good trout 

Then we plough our way upwards again ; 
up fungus-covered ladders, and wet, slip- 
pery stairs, upon which it is most difficult 
to keep a footing, until we arrive at de- 
cidedly the finest sight there — the salle du 
sabbat. Here the guides send up a spirit- 

VOL. III. L 



1 62 In the Heart of the Ardennes. 

balloon, to show us the height and extent; 
of the vast cavern, and we are rather awe- 
struck, particularly as, in order that we 
may see the full effect, the other guide 
plants us on three chairs and takes away 
both the lamps, leaving us seated in the 
darkness, on the edge of a precipice. The 
blackness is so thick about us that we can 
almost feel it ; and the silence is that of^ 
death. My youngest girl slips her litde 
hand in mine, and whispers, * Mamma, sup- 
posing he weren't to come back again ! ' 
and I can't say the prospect pleases. How-^ 
ever, the balloon reaches the top of the 
cavern, and is hauled back again ; and the 
guide does come back; and, whilst he is 
assisting his fellow to pack it away, I sing 
a verse of * God save the Queen,' for the 
children to hear the echo, which is stu- 
pendous. 

Then we se<e the prettiest thing, per- 
haps, we have seen yet. At the top of the 
salle du sabbat there is a kind of breakage 
in the side, and a large cluster of stalac- 
tites. One guide climbs up to this place 
and holds his lamp behind the group. 



« 

In the Heart of the Ardennes. 163 

whilst the other calls out ' la femme qui 
repose ; ' when lo ! before us there appears 
almost an exact representation of a woman, 
reclining with crossed legs, and a child on 
her bosom. It is so good an imitation, 
that it might be a figure carved in stone 
and placed there, and I think the sight 
gave us more pleasure than anything in the 
grotto. We have come upon several 
groups of stalactites already, to which the 
guides have given names, such as Fange 
de la resurrection, Foreille de Nldphanty and 
le lion Beige ; but though they have, of 
course, borne some resemblance to the 
figures mentioned, the likeness is only ad- 
mitted for want of a better. This likeness, 
however, is excellent, could hardly be more 
like ; and we are proportionately pleased. 
With the salle du sabbat and the balloon 
the exhibition is ended ; and we are thank- 
ful to emerge into the fresh air again, and 
to leave slippery staircases and the smell 
of fungi behind us. 

We feel very heated when we stand on 
the breezy hill again, for the grotto, con- 
trary to our expectation, has proved ex- 



164 In the Heart of the Ardennes. 

ceedingly warm, and the exercise has made 
us feel more so ; and daylight looks so 
strange that we can scarcely persuade our- 
selves we have not been passing the night 
down below. We have picked up several 
little loose bits of stone and stalactite dur- 
ing our progress, and when we reach home, 
we spread them out before us on the table, 
and try to remember where they came 
from. Here is a bit of marble, veined 
black-and-white ; and here is white stone, 
glistening and silvery. Here is the stalac- 
tite, a veritable piece of * frozen tears ' and 
couchant hourts. 

Well, we have been a little disappointed 
with the grottoes of Rochefort, perhaps; 
we have not found the crystallisations quite 
so purple-and-amber as we anticipated, or 
the foundations quite so clean ; but, after 
all, it is what we must expect in this life. 
If the grotto is not so brilliant as we ex- 
pected, it is at least a very wonderful and 
uncommon sight ; and so in this life, if we 
can but forget the purple-and-gold, we 
may extract a great deal of amusement 
from very small things, if we choose to try. 
With which bit of philosophy I conclude. 



A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHTMARE; 

Or, The Amateur Detective. 




AM an author. I am something 
worse than that — I am a Press 
writer. I am worse than that 
still — I am a Press writer with a 
large wife and a small family. And I am 
an Amateur Detective ! I don't mean, of 
course, that I reckon the last item as part 
of my profession, but my friends always 
come to me if they are in any difficulty, 
and set me to do all kinds of queer jobs, 
from restoring and reconciling a truant 
husband to his wife, to making the round 
of the 'Homes for Lost Dogs' in order 
to find Lady Softsawder's pet poodle. 



1 66 A Midsummer^ s Nightmare. 

Even Jones couldn't complete his great 
work, 'The Cyclopsedia of the Brain/ 
without asking my assistance (for a con- 
sideration, of course) with his fifth section, 
* The Origin of Dreams.' Jones is full of 
fire and imagination, but he does not care 
for plodding, and he knew me of old for 
a good steady compiler. I agreed with 
alacrity. ' The Origin of Dreams ' would 
fill those hungry little mouths of mine for 
three months at the very least. But how 
to do it whilst they gaped around me ! — 
how to cover the one table in my solitary 
sitting-room with valuable works of reference 
at the risk of their being touched by greasy 
fingers ! — how to wade through volume 
after volume, placing a mental mark there 
and a material one here, whilst my offspring 
either surreptitiously removed the one or 
irretrievably obliterated remembrance of 
the other, by attracting my attention to 
the manner in which they attempted to 
scalp each other's heads or gouge out each 
other's eyes! I tried it for a week in 
vain. 

My Press work I had been accustomed 



A Midsummet^ s Nightmare. 167 

To do at office, but this, which was to be 
Teased upon the contents of certain ponder- 
ous black-lettered tomes which Jones had 
been collecting for ages past, must be 
carried on at home, and the noisy, weari- 
some day gave me no time for reflection, 
and left me without energy to labour at 
night I was about to resign the task in 
despair — ^to tell Jones to give it to some 
more capable or more fortunate labourer 
in the wide field of speculation — when 
Fate came to my rescue in the person 
of the Hon. Captain Rivers, Lord Sea- 
borne's son. 

' My dad's in an awful way about his 
ward, young Cockleboat,' he remarked to 
me, in his friendly manner, * and he wants 
your assistance, Trueman, if you'll give 
it him.' 

* Why, what's the matter. Captain 
Rivers ? ' 

' Haven't you heard ? Cockleboat's 
Oiade a fool of himself. He fell in love 
with a nursemaid, or a barmaid, or some 
such sort of person — he, with his twenty 
thousand a-year in prospect ; and when 



1 68 A Midsummer^ s Nightmare. 

the governor remonstrated with him — told 
him 'twas nonsense and couldn't be, and 
all that sort of thing, he actually ran 
away ! ' 

' Left Lord Seaborne's house ? ' 

* Of course, and without a word of ex- 
planation. Now, dad doesn't want to make 
the affair public, you know, unless it be- 
comes necessary, so he hasn't said a word 
to the police; but he wants you to find 
out where Cockleboat is — you're so clever 
at that sort of thing — and just bring him 
home again.' 

* An easy task, certainly. And you don't 
even know which way the lad has gone ? ' 

*Well, we think we've traced him to 
Norwich, and dad thought if you wouldn't 
mind going up there for a bit, and keeping 
your eyes open ; of course we should make 
it worth your while, you know, you 
might hear something of the young scamp 
for us.' 

' What on earth can be his motive for 
leaving home } ' 

'Well, perhaps the lady lives up that 
way, or Julian may have got it into his 



A Mtdsummcf^ s Nightmare. 1 69 

head that he'll work to support her. He 
is but twenty last birthday, and will not 
be of age, by his father's will, for the next 
five years — very lucky for him, as it's 
turned out, that he will not be.' 

* True. I think I remember seeing the 
lad at Lady Godiva's last season. Didn't 
he act there in some private theatricals or 
charades ? ' 

* I believe he did. Now, Trueman, 
what's your decision .'^ Will you go to 
Norwich for us or not } ' 

* I will start to-morrow if your father 
wishes it' 

The offer had come most opportunely ; 
even as Captain Rivers was speaking it 
had flashed through my mind that here 
was the very opportunity that I desired 
to carry out my project of writing the 
fifth section of Jones' Cyclopaedia; — a 
remote lodging in one of the back streets 
of the quiet old city of Norwich, whence 
I could carry on my inquiries all day, and 
where I might sit up and write out my 
notes all night. And Lord Seaborne's 
generosity in such cases was too well 



1 7P A Midsummers Nightmare. 

known to permit of any doubt on th6 
subject whether I should not (by accepting 
his proposal) be killing two birds with one 
stone. So I did accept it, with gratitude,, 
and having obtained all the information 
possible respecting the mysterious dis- 
appearance of Master Julian Cockleboat, 
I packed up the black-lettered tomes, and; 
embracing my smiling wife and children, 
who appeared rather pleased than other- 
wise at the prospect of getting rid of me 
for a few weeks, started for Norwich. 

I have a great respect for old county 
towns : there is a dignified sobriety and 
sense of unimpeachable respectability about 
them that impresses me. I like their old- 
world institutions and buildings — their 
butter crosses and market steps ; their 
dingy bye streets with kerbstones for 
pavements ; their portentous churches and 
beadles; their old-fashioned shops and 
goods and shopmen. I like the quiet 
that reigns in their streets, the paucity 
of gas they light them up with, the strange 
conveyances their citizens ply for hire — 
in fact, I like everything with which the 



A Midsummet^s Nightmare. 1 7 r 

"world in general finds fault. So it was 
"With a sense of pleasure I found myself 
ivandering about the streets of Norwich, 
on the look-out for some place in which 
to lay my head. I had rather have been 
there than at the seaside, although it was 
bright July weather, and I knew the waves 
were frothing and creaming over the golden 
sands beneath a canopy of cloudless blue 
sky. I preferred the shaded, cloister-like 
3treets of the county town, with its cool 
flags under my feet, and its unbroken sense 
of calm. 

I did not turn into the principal thorough- 
fares, with their gay shops and gayer 
passengers, but down the less-frequented 
bye-ways, where children playing in the 
road stopped open-mouthed to watch me 
pass, and women's heads appeared above 
the window-blinds, as my footfall sounded 
on the narrow pavement, as though a 
stranger were something to be stared at. 
Many windows held the announcement of 
* Rooms to Let,' but they were too small 
— ^too modern, shall I say — too fresh-looking 
to take my fancy. 



J 72 A Midsummer^ s Nightmare. 

I connected space and gloom with soli- 
tude and reflection, and felt as if I could 
not have sat down before a muslin-draped 
window, filled with scarlet geraniums and 
yellow canadensis, to ponder upon *The 
Origin of Dreams,' to save my life. At 
last I came upon what I wanted. Down a 
narrow street, into which the sun seemed 
never to have penetrated, I found some 
tall, irregular, dingy-looking buildings — 
most of which appeared to be occupied as 
insurance, wine, or law offices, — and in the 
lower window of one there hung a card 
with the inscription, * Apartments for a 

Single Gentleman.' 

It was just the place from which to 

watch and wait — in which to ponder, and 
compare, and compose, — and I ascended 
its broken steps, convinced that the birth- 
place of * The Origin of Dreams ' was 
found. A middle-aged woman, with an 
intelligent, pleasing face answered my 
summons to the door. The weekly rent 
she asked for the occupation of the vacant 
apartments sounded to me absurdly low, 
but perhaps that was due to my experience 



A Midsummer^ s Nightmare. i jTf 

of the exorbitant demands of London land- 
ladies. But when I explained to her the 
reason for which I desired her rooms, 
namely, that I might sit up at night and 
write undisturbed, her countenance visibly 
fell. 

* Tm afraid they won't suit you, then, sir.' 
' Why not } Have you any objection 

to my studying by night } ' 

' Oh, no, sir. You could do as you 
pleased about that ! ' 

* What then ? Will your other lodgers 
disturb me ? ' 

Her face twitched as she answered, ' I 
have no other lodgers, sir.' 

* Do you live in this big house, then, by 
yourself ? ' 

* My husband and I have been in charge 
of it for years, and are permitted to occupy 
the lower floor in consideration of keeping 
the upper rooms (which are only used as 
offices in the day-time) clean and in order. 
But the clerks are all gone by five o'clock, 
so they wouldn't interfere with your night- 
work.' 

'What will, then?' 



1 74 -^ Midsummer^ s Nightmare, 

* I'm afraid there are a good many Wts 
about the place, sir. They will breed in 
these old houses, and keep up a racket at 
night' 

* Oh, I don't mind the rats," I answered, 
cheerfully. " I'll catch as many as I can 
for you, and frighten away the others. If 
that is your only objection, the rooms are 
mine. May I see them } ' 

' Certainly, sir,' she said, as she closed 
the door behind me and led the way into 
two lofty and spacious chambers, con- 
nected by folding-doors, which had once 
formed the dining-saloon of a splendid 
mansion. 

*The owners of the house permit us 
to occupy this floor and the basement, 
and as it's more than we require, we let 
these rooms to lodgers. They're not very 
grandly furnished, sir, but it's all neat and 
clean.' 

She threw open the shutters of the 
further apartment as she spoke, and the 
July sun streamed into the empty room. 
As its rays fell upon the unmade bed, 
my eye followed them and caught sight of 



A Midsummer's Nightmare. 175 

a deep indentation in the mattress. The 
landlady saw it also, and looked amazed. 

* Some one has been taking a siesta 
here without your permission/ I said, 
jestingly ; but she did not seem to take 
my remark as a jest. 

* It must be my good man/ she an- 
swered, hurriedly, as she shook the mat- 
tress ; ^ perhaps he came in here to lie 
down for a bit. This hot weather makes 
the best feel weak, sir.* 

*Very true. And now, if you will 
accept me as a lodger, I will pay you 
my first week's rent, and whilst I go back 
to the railway-station to fetch my valise, 
you must get me ready a chop or a 
steak, or anything that is most handy, 
for my dinner.' 

All appeared to be satisfactory. My 
landlady assented to everything I sug- 
gested, and in another hour I was com- 
fortably ensconced under her roof, had 
eaten my steak, and posted a letter to my 
wife, and felt very much in charity with 
all mankind. So I sat at the open win- 
dow thinking how beautifully still and 




1 76 A Midsummer^ s Nightmare. 

sweet all my surroundings were, and how 
much good work I should get through 
without fear of interruption or distraction. 
The office clerks had long gone home 
the upper rooms were locked for the night » 
only an occasional patter along the wide 
uncarpeted staircase reminded me that I 
was not quite alone. Then I remembered 
the rats, and * The Origin of Dreams ; ' 
and thinking it probable that my honest 
old couple retired to bed early, rang 
the bell to tell my landlady to be sure and 
leave me a good supply of candles. 

'You're not going to sit up and write 
to-night, sir, are you } * she inquired. 
' I am sure your rest would do you more 
good ; you must be real tired.* 

' Not at all, my good Mrs Bizzey ' 
(Did I say her name was Bizzey ? ), * I am 
as fresh as a daisy, and could not close 
my eyes. Besides, as your friends, the 
rats, seem to make so free in the house, I 
should burn a light any way to warn 
them they had better not come too near 
me.' 

' Oh, I trust nothing will disturb you 



A Midsummer^ s Nightmare, 177 

sir/ she said, earnestly, as she withdrew 
to fetch the candles. 

I unpacked my book-box and piled the 
big volumes on a side table. How im- 
posing they looked! But I had no in- 
tention of poring over them that night. 
* The Origin of Dreams ' required thought 
— deep and speculative thought ; and how 
could I be better circumstanced to indulge 
in it than stationed at that open window, 
with a pipe in my mouth, looking up 
at the dark blue sky bespangled with 
stars, and listening (if I may be allowed 
to speak so paradoxically) to the silence — *• 
for there is a silence that can be heard } 

When Mrs Bizzey brought me the 
candles, she asked me if I required 
anything else, as she and Mr Bizzey 
were about to retire to the marital couch, 
which I afterwards ascertained was erected 
in the scullery. I answered in the nega- 
tive, and wished her good-night, hearing 
her afterwards distinctly close the door 
at the head of the kitchen stairs and 
descend step by step to the arms of her 
lord and master. But Mrs Eizzey's in- 

VOL. III. M 



178 A Midsummer's Nightmare. 

trusion had murdered my reverie. I could 
not take up the chain of thought where 
she had severed the links. The night 
air, too, seemed to have grown suddenly 
damp and chilly, and I pulled down the 
window sash with a jerk, and taking out 
my note-book and writing-case drew a 
chair up to the table and commenced to 
think, playing idly with my pen the while. 
Soon the divine afflatus (the symptoms 
of which every successful writer knows 
so well) came down upon me. I ceased to 
think — or rather to be aware that I was 
thinking. My pen ran over the paper 
as though some other hand guided it than 
my own, and I wrote rapidly, filling page 
after page with a stream of ideas that 
seemed to pour out of my brain involun- 
tarily. Time is of no account under such 
circumstances, and I may have been 
scribbling for one hour or for three, for 
aught I knew to the contrary, before 
I was roused to a sense of my position 
by hearing a footfall sound through the 
silent, deserted house. 

Now, although I have described my 



A Midsummer s Nightmare. 1 79 

condition to be such as to render me im- 
pervious to outer impressions, I am cer- 
tain of one thing — that no noise, however 
slight, had hitherto broken in upon it. 
It was the complete absence of sound 
that had permitted my spirit to have full 
play irrespective of my body ; and directly 
the silence was outraged, my physical 
life re-asserted its claims, and my senses 
became all alive to ascertain the cause 
of it. In another moment the sound was 
repeated, and I discovered that it was 
over my head — not under my feet. It 
could not, then, proceed from either of 
the old couple, whom I had heard lock 
themselves up together down below. Who 
could it be ? 

My first idea, emanating from my land- 
lady's information that the noise might 
proceed from rats, I had already dis- 
missed with contempt. It was the re- 
verberation of a footstep. There could be 
no doubt about that ; and my next thought 
naturally flew to burglars, who were making 
an attempt on the safes in the offices 
above. What could I do ? I was utterly 



1 8o A Midsummef^ s Nightmare. 

unarmed, and to go in pursuit of midnight 
robbers in so defenceless a condition 
would be simply delivering myself into 
their power. I certainly might have shied 
a couple of Jones' black-lettered books at 
their heads, for they were ponderous 
enough to knock any man down, but I 
might not take a steady aim, and it is 
better not to attempt at all than to 
attempt and fail. 

Meanwhile, the sounds overhead had 
increased in number and become con- 
tinuous, as though some one had com- 
menced to walk up and down the room. 
Surely no midnight thief would dare to 
create so much disturbance as that ! De- 
tection of his crime would be inevitable. 
Or did he trust to the sound sleep of the 
porter and his wife in the kitchen below, 
not knowing that I, existent and wakeful, 
intervened between himself and them ? 
In another minute I believe that I should 
have cast all consequences to the winds, 
and rushed, not in, but up to the rescue, 
forgetting I was a husband and a father, 
and armed with Jones' patent self-acting 



A Midsummef^ s Nightmare. 1 8 1 

leveller, alone have ascended to the upper 
story to investigate the cause of the mid- 
night disturbance I heard. Only — / 
didnt! For before I had had time to 
shoulder my weapons and screw my cour- 
age up to the sticking-point, another sound 
reached my ears that made the patent 
levellers drop on the table again with 
a thump, — the sound, not of a step, but 
a groan — a deep, hollow, unmistakable 
groan, that chilled the marrow in my bones 
to such a degree that it would have been a 
disgrace to any cook to send them up to 
table. 

I knew then that I must have been mis- 
taken in my first theory, and that the 
sounds I overheard, whether they pro- 
ceeded from mortals or not, had no con- 
nection with the nefarious occupation of 
housebreakers. But they had become a 
thousand times more interesting, and I 
listened attentively. 

The groan was followed by some mut- 
tered words that sounded like a curse, 
succeeded by louder tones of reproach or 
anger. Then the footsteps traversed the 



1 8 2 A Midsummer^ s Nightmare. 

floor again, and seemed to be chasing 
someone or something round and round 
the room. At last I heard another groan, 
followed by a heavy fall. 

I started to my feet. Surely Mr and 
Mrs Bizzey must have been roused by such 
an unusual commotion, and would come 
upstairs to learn the reason ! But no ! — 
they did not stir. All was silent as the 
grave below, and above also. The noises 
had suddenly ceased. I appeared to be 
alone in the empty house. It was all so 
strange that I put my hands up to my 
head and asked myself if I were properly 
awake. I was hardly satisfied on this 
point before the sounds recommenced 
overhead, and precisely in the same order 
as before. Again I listened to the pacing 
feet — the groan — the curse — the chase — 
the fall ! Each phase of the ghostly 
tragedy — for such I now felt sure it must 
be — was repeated in rotation, not once, 
but a couple of dozen or more times ; and 
then at last the disturbance ceased as sud- 
denly and as unexpectedly as it had 
commenced 



A Midsummer's Nightmare. 183 

I looked at my watch. It was three 
o'clock, and already the early birds on the 
look-out for the worm had begun to herald 
the dawn with a few faint twitters in the 
trees in the cloister. I threw off my 
clothes impatiently, and lying down in my 
bed, gave myself up, not to sleep, but 
reflection on what was best to be done. I 
had not the slightest doubt left as to the 
cause of the noises I had heard. My 
landlady might ascribe them to rats, but 
were she closely questioned she would 
probably acknowledge the truth — that she 
knew the sounds to proceed from spirits, 
popularly called ghosts ; which accounted 
for all her hesitation and change of coun- 
tenance when speaking to me about the 
apartments, also for the low price she 
asked for her rooms, and her evident wish 
to dissuade me from sitting up at night. 

Naturally the poor woman was afraid 
she should never secure a lodger if the 
truth were known ; but as far as I was 
concerned, she was altogether mistaken — 
I was not afraid of her ghosts. On the 
contrary, as I lay in bed and thought on 



1 84 A Midsummer^ s Nightmare. 

what had just occurred, I congratulated 
myself that, by a third strange coincidence, 
my visit to Norwich promised to turn out 
all that I could desire. 

I must * lay ' these ghosts, of course — 
i.e.y if they interfered with my graver work ; 
but to have the opportunity of doing so 
was the very thing my heart was set upon. 
Is my reader surprised to hear this ? 
Then I must take him further into my 
confidence. 

When I confessed I was an author, 
Press writer, amateur detective, and father 
of six children, I did not add the crowning 
iniquity, and write myself down a believer 
in ghosts and spiritualism. Every man 
acknowledges himself a spirit, and to have 
been created by the power of a spirit. Most 
men believe that spirits have the capability 
of free volition and locomotion, and many 
that they have exercised these powers by 
re-appearing to their fellow spirits in the 
flesh. But to assert publicly that you be- 
lieve in all this because you have proved it 
to be the truth, is to throw yourself open 
to the charge of being a dupe, or a mad- 



A Midsummers Nightmare. 185 

man, or a liar. Therefore I had preferred 
until then to keep my faith a secret My 
children's bread depended in a great 
measure on the reputation I kept up as 
a man of sense, and I had not dared to 
risk it by attempting to put my theories 
into practice. Not that I was entirely 
ignorant of the rules pertaining to the 
science of spiritualism. Under cover of 
the darkness that hides all delinquencies, 
I had attended several circles gathered for 
the sole purpose of investigating the mys- 
teries of other worlds ; but it had always 
been accomplished with the utmost secrecy, 
as my wife was hysterically disposed, and 
the mere mention of a spirit would have 
upset the house for days together. 

I had never, therefore, had the opportu- 
nity of pursuing spiritualism on my own 
account; and until the day broke I lay 
awake, congratulating myself on the good 
luck that had thrown me, cheek by jowl, 
with a party of ready-made ghosts, whom 
a very little encouragement would, I 
trusted, induce to pay me a visit in my 
own apartments. 



J 86 A Midsummers Nightmare. 

All the next day I wandered through 
the streets of Norwich and in the country 
surrounding them, speculating — not on the 
whereabouts of Julian Cockleboat, nor 
* The Origin of Dreams ' — but how I 
should persuade my landlady to help me 
unravel the mysterious occurrence of the 
night before. At last I bethought me 
that ' honesty is the best policy ' after all, 
and decided that I would make a clean 
breast of my suspicions and desires. If 
Mrs Bizzey were a sensible woman, she 
would prove only too ready to aid me in 
ridding her apartments of visitors that 
must injure their reputation ; and, at 
all events, I could but try her. So I 
opened the subject on the very first 
opportunity. The woman was clearing 
away my tea-things the same evening, 
when she remarked that I had not eaten 
well. 

' I am afraid you sit up too much at 
night, sir, to make a good appetite.' 

* Other people seem to sit up in this 
house at night as well as myself, Mrs 
Bizzey,' I replied, significantly. 



A Midsummer^ s Nightmare. 187 

• I don't understand you/ she said, 
colouring, 

* Why, do you mean to say you never 
hear noises ; — that you were not disturbed 
last night, for instance, by the sound of 
groans and voices, and of some one falling 
about in the upper rooms ? * 

• Oh, sir, you don't mean to tell me as 
you've heard them already!' exclaimed 
Mrs Bizzey, clasping her hands and letting 
a teacup fall in her agitation. * If you go 
too, you'll be the third gentleman that has 
left within a fortnight on that account ; 
and if a stop ain't put to it, the house will 
get such a name that nobody will put a 
foot inside the door for love or money.' 

* But I don't mean to go, Mrs Bizzey ; 
on the contrary, I should be very sorry to 
go ; and if you and your husband will con- 
sent to help me, I will do my best to stop 
the noises altogether,' for the idea of form- 
ing a little circle with these worthy people 
had suddenly flashed into my mind. 

• How can me and my good man help 
you, sir ? ' 

* Is Mr Bizzey at home? If so, go 



1 88 A Midsummer's Nightmare. 

downstairs and fetch him up here, and I 
will explain what I mean to you both at 
the same time/ 

She left the room at once, and in a few 
minutes returned with a dapper-looking 
little old fellow, in knee-breeches and a red 
plush waistcoat, who pulled his forelock to 
me on entering. 

' This is Mr Bizzey, sir, and I've been 
telling him all you say as we came up the 
stairs.* 

I leant back in my chair, folded my 
hands, and looked important. 

* I suppose you must have heard the 
science of spiritualism mentioned ? ' I com- 
menced, grandly. 

* The science of what^ sir } ' inquired Mr 
Bizzey, with a puzzled air. 

* Of spiritualism — i.e., the power of con- 
verse or communication with disembodied 
spirits.' 

* Lor' ! you never mean ^^ ghosts l^ sir ? ' 
said the old woman. 

* I do, indeed, Mrs Bizzey. I suppose 
you believe that spirits (or ghosts, as you 
call them) may re-appear after death ? ' 



A Midsummer^ s Nightmare. 1 89 

* Oh, yes/ interposed the husband ; * for 
I mind the night that my poor mother lay 
dying, there was an apparition of a turkey- 
cock that sat upon the palings opposite our 
cottage, and when it fluttered off 'em with 
a screech, just for all the world like a real 
turkey, you know, sir, she turned on her 
side suddenly, and give up the ghost. Tve 
always believed in apparitions since then.* 

' And when my sister Jane lay in of her 
last,' chimed in Mrs Bizzey, * there was a 
little clock stood on the mantel-shelf that 
had always been wound up regular and 
gone regular ever since she was married ; 
and we was moving a lot of things to one 
side, and we moved that clock and found 
it had stopped ; and the nurse, she said to 
me, " Mark my words if that's not a warn- 
ing of death;" and, sure enough, Jane 
died before the morning, which makes me 
so careful of moving a clock since then 
that rd rather go three miles round than 
touch one if a body lay sick in the house.' 

• I see that you both take a most sensible 
view of the business, and are fully alive to 
the importance attached to it, I answered ; 



190 A Midsummer s Nightmare. 

* I hope, therefore, to secure your assist- 
ance to find out what these unusual and 
mysterious noises in your house portend, 
and what the authors require us to do for 
them.* 

Then — whilst the old man scratched his 
head with bewilderment, and the old woman 
looked scared out of her seven senses — I 
explained to them, as well as I was able, 
the nature of a stance, and asked them if 
they would come and sit at the table with 
me that evening and hold one. 

' But, lawk a mussy, sir, you never want 
to speak to them ! 'cried Mrs Bizzey. 

* How else are we to ascertain for what 
reason these spirits disturb your lodgers 
and render your rooms uninhabitable by 
their pranks ? ' 

* I should die of fright before we had 
been at it five minutes/ was her comment ; 
but her husband was pluckier, and took a 
more practical view of the matter. 

* You'll just do as I bid you, missus, and 
hold your chatter. There's no doubt these 
noises are a great nuisance — not to say a 
loss — ^and if this gentleman will be good 



A Midsummef^ s Nightmare. 191 

enough to try and stop them, and can't do 
without us, rU help him for one, and you 
will for another/ 

Mrs Bizzey protested, and wept, and was 
even refractory, but it was all of no avail, 
and before we separated it had been agreed 
we should meet again at ten o'clock, and 
hold a stance. There was some whisper- 
ing between the old couple after that that 
I did not quite understand, but as it ended 
by Mrs Bizzey ejaculating, ' Nonsense ; I 
tell you the house will be quiet enough by 
ten o'clock,' I concluded he was referring 
to some expected visitor, and dismissed 
the subject from my mind. As soon as 
they had disappeared I delivered myself 
up to self-gratulation. I was really going 
to hold a stance, under my own direction 
and the most favourable circumstances, 
with a large haunted house at my com- 
mand, and no one to be any the wiser for 
my dabbling in the necromantic art. I 
took out an old number of the * Spiritualist,' 
and referred to the directions for form- 
ing circles at home. I prepared the 
paper, pencils, and speaking tubes, and 



192 A Midsummer's Nightmare. 

symmetrically arranged the table and 
chairs. 

Nothing was wanted when Mr and Mrs 
Bizzey entered my room at the appointed 
hour — he looking expectant, and she very 
much alarmed. I was prepared for this, 
however, and insisted upon their both 
joining me in a glass of whisky and hot 
water before commencing the sitting, alleg- 
ing as a reason the fact that the presence 
of spirits invariably chills the atmosphere, 
whether in summer or winter. So I mixed 
three bumping tumblers of toddy, strong 
enough to give us the courage we required 
for the occasion ; and after we had (accord- 
ing to the directions) engaged for some 
little time in light and friendly conversa- 
tion, I induced my friends to approach 
the table. 

It was now, I was glad to see by my 
watch, about half-past eleven — just about 
the time when the mysterious sounds had 
commenced the night before ; and having 
lowered the lamp, much to Mrs Bizzey's 
horror, until it was represented by a mere 
glimmer of light, I instructed her husband 



A Midsummer's Nightmare. 193 

^nd herself how to place their hands upon 
ithe table, linked with mine, and the stance 
T)egan. 

I had enjoined perfect silence on my 
companions, and after we had been sitting 
still for about fifteen minutes, during which 
I had watched in vain for some symptoms 
of movement on the part of the table, we 
all heard distinctly the sound of a foot 
creeping cautiously about the upper rooms, 
upon which Mrs Bizzey, too frightened to 
shriek, began to weep, and her husband, 
in order to stop her, pinched her violently 
in the dark. 

' Hush !' I exclaimed, almost as agitated 
as the woman. ' Do not disturb them for 
your life, and whatever you may see, don't 
scream.' 

* La, sir, you never mean to say that 
they'll come downstairs ? ' 

* I cannot say what they may do. I 
think I hear a step descending now. But 
remember, Mrs Bizzey, they will not hurt 
you, and try and be brave for all our 
sakes.' 

We were in a state of high nervous ex- 

VOL. III. N 



1 94 ^ Midsummef^ s Nightmare. 

citement for the next five minutes, during 
which the same noises I had heard the 
night before were repeated overhead, only 
that the curses were louder and delivered 
with more determination, and the falls 
appeared to succeed each other like hail. 

* Oh, sir, what are they a-doing ? ' ex- 
claimed Mrs Bizzey, paralysed with terror. 
* They must be killing each other all 
round.' 

* Hush !' I replied. * Listen, now. Some 
one is pleading for love or for mercy. How 
soft and clear the voice is ! ' 

' It sounds for all the world like my poor 
sister Jane when she was asking her hus- 
band to forgive her for everything she had 
done amiss,' said the old woman. 

* Perhaps it is your sister Jane, or some 
of your relations,' I replied. * She may 
want you to do something for her. Would 
you be afraid if she were suddenly to open 
the door and come into the room ? ' 

' Oh, I don't know, I'm sure, sir ; but I 
hope she mayn't. It makes me curdle all 
over only to think of it.' 

* They're quieter now. Let us ask if 




A Midsummer^ s Nightmare. 195 

here is any one present who wishes to 
peak to us/ I said ; and addressing the 
t:able to that efifect, I commenced to spell 
^Dut the alphabet rather loudly — ' A, B, C,' 
^tc. 

Whether from my nervousness, or the 
united strain we laid upon it, I know not, 
but the table certainly began to rock at 
that juncture, though I could make neither 
head nor tail of its intentions. Treating 
it in the orthodox manner by which Britons 
invariably attempt to communicate with a 
foreigner who does not understand one 
word of the language spoken, I began 
to bawl at the table, and my A, B, C 
must have reverberated through the empty 
house. 

Again the old woman whispered mysteri- 
ously to the old man, but he dismissed her 
question with an impatient answer ; and 
my attention was too much attracted in 
another direction at that moment to give 
much heed of what they were doing. My 
ear had caught the sound of a descending 
footstep, and I felt sure the spirits were at 
last about to visit us in proprice personce. 



196 A Midsummer's Nightmare. 

But dreading the effect it might have on 
Mrs Bizzey's nerves, I purposely held my 
tongue, and applied myself afresh to a 
vigorous repetition of the alphabet, striving 
to cover the approaching footstep by the 
noise of my own voice, although I was 
trembling with excitement and delight at 
the successful issue of my undertaking. 
At last I plainly heard the footstep pause 
outside the door, as though deliberating 
before it opened it. The old man was 
apparently too deaf or ^ too absorbed to 
notice it, and his wife was in a state of 
helpless fright. I alone sufficiently re- 
tained my senses to see the door slowly 
open, and a white-robed figure — a real, 
materialised spirit — stand upon the thresh- 
old. The gesture of delight, which I 
could not repress, roused my companions 
from their reverie ; and as soon as Mrs 
Bizzey turned and saw the figure, she 
recognised it. 

* It's Jane!' she screamed. * It*s my 
own poor sister Jane come back from the 
grave to visit me again, with her red hair 
and blue eyes ; I can see *em as plain as 



A Midsummer^ s Nightmare. 197 

plain. rU die of the shock, I know I 
shall ! ' 

* Nonsense ! ' I exclaimed, sternly, fearful, 
lest by her folly she should scare the newly- 
born spirit back to the spheres. 'If it is 
your sister, speak to her as you used to do. 
Tell her you are glad to see her, and ask 
if she wants anything done.' 

*Oh, Jane!' said the old woman, half 
falling upon her knees, 'don't come a- 
nigher me, for mercy's sake ! I never kept 
nothing of yourn back from the children 
except the old blue dress, which it wouldn't 
have been no use for them to wear, and the 
ring, which I had asked you to give me a 
dozen times in your life, and you had 
always refused. I'd give 'em both back 
now if I could, Jane, but the gownd have 
been on the dust-heap these twenty years 
past, and the ring I sold the minute my 
man was laid up with rheumatis. Forgive 
me, Jane, forgive me ! ' 

' Wky^ what on earth are you making 
such a row about?' replied the spirit. 

I leapt to my feet in a moment. 

' This is some shameful hoax ! ' I ex- 



198 A MtOsummer' s Nightmare. 

claimed. * Who are you, and what do you 
do here ? ' 

' I should think I might put the same 
question to you, since I find you sitting in 
the dark, at dead of night, with my landlord 
and landlady.' 

' Lor', Mr Montmorency, it's never you, 
sir ! ' ejaculated old Bizzey, with a feeble 
giggle. 

The voice seemed familiar to me. Who 
on earth was this Mr Montmorency, who 
had intruded upon our stance at the most 
important juncture ? I turned up the lamp 
and threw its light full upon his features. 
*Good heavens!' I exclaimed, *it's Julian 
Gockleboat' 

The young man was equally astonished 
with myself. 

' Did Lord Seaborne send you after me ? ' 
he said, guessing the truth at once. ' And 
how did you find out I was lodging here }' 

* Aha, my boy ! ' I replied, unwilling to 
deny the Mdos with which he credited me, 
' that's my secret. Do you suppose I have 
gained the name of the amateur detective 
among my friends for nothing 1 No, no! 



A Midsummer^ s Nightmare^ 199 

L am in Norwich expressly for the purpose 
i^f restoring you to your guardian, and as I 
knew that to show my hand more openly 
%Arould be to scare you off to another hiding 
place, I devised this little plan for making 
you reveal yourself in your true character/ 

* Did Robson tell you, then, that I had 
taken an engagement at the theatre here ? * 

* Never you mind, Mr Cockleboat ; it is 
quite sufficient that I knew it. This is a 
proper sort of house to play hide-and-seek 
in, isn't it ? ' 

I was dispersing the table and chairs 
again with angry jerks as I spoke, fearful 
lest my attempted investigation of the 
occult mysteries should be discovered be- 
fore I had removed its traces. 

'Still I can't understand how you dis- 
covered that Mr Montmorency was myself, 
although naturally my night rehearsals 
must have disturbed you. But you told 
me you had no other lodgers,' continued 
Julian Cockleboat reproachfully, to the 
Bizzeys. 

* And you said the same thing to me,' I 
added, in similar tones. 



200 A Midsummer^ s Nightmare. 

* Well, sir — well, Mr Montmorency, Tm 
very sorry it should have happened so/ 
replied the landlord, turning from one to 
the other, ' but it's all my old woman's 
fault, for I said to her — ' 

* You did nothing of the sort,' interrupted 
his better half ; ' for when I come to you 
and told you as a second gentleman wanted 
rooms here, it was you as said, " Let him 
have the little room upstairs, and no one 
will be ever the wiser if he takes his meals 
out of a day." ' 

' But we never thought — ^begging your 
pardon, Mr Montmorency — as you'd take 
such a liberty with the upper offices as to 
make noises in them as should disturb the 
whole house.* 

' Well, what was I to do ? ' replied the 
young man, appealing to me. * They've 
given me three leading parts to get up at a 
fortnight's notice, and if I don't study them 
at night I have no chance of being ready 
in time.' 

* In fact,' I said, oracularly, * you've been 
cheating each other all round. Mr Bizzey 
has cheated his employers by letting apart 






A Midsummer's Nightmare. 201 

ments to which he has no right ; you have 
cheated the Bizzeys by using one which 
you never hired of them ; and I have — ' 
'cheated myself/ I might have added, but 
I stopped short and looked wise instead. 
■ ' And it was never no ghosts after all ! ' 
said Mrs Bizzey, in accents of disappoint- 
ment, as her husband marched her down- 
stairs. 

• ••••.a. 

There is nothing more to tell. I recon- 
ciled Mr Julian Cockleboat to his guardian 
and his destiny ; and I wrote ^ The Origin 
of Dreams,' the best part, by the way (as 
all the critics affirmed), of ^ The Cyclopaedia 
of the Brain.' I made more money by my 
little trip than six months of ordinary labour 
would have brought me ; and Lord Sea- 
borne speaks of me to this day, amongst 
his acquaintances, as the ' very cleverest 
amateur detective he has ever known.' 

And so I am. 



THE END. 



w 



THE GHOST OF 
CHARLOTTE CRAY. 




!R SIGISMUND BRAGGETT 
was sitting in the little room he 
called his study, wrapped in a 
profound — not to say a mourn- 
ful — reverie. Now, there was nothing in 
the present life nor surroundings of Mr 
Braggett to account for such a demonstra- 
tion. He was a publisher and bookseller ; 
a man well to do, with a thriving business 
in the city, and the prettiest of all pretty 
villas at Streatham. And he was only just 
turned forty ; had not a grey hair in his 
head nor a false tooth in his mouth ; and 



204 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray, 

had been married but three short months 
to one of the fairest and most affectionate 
specimens of English womanhood that 
ever transformed a bachelor's quarters 
into Paradise. 

What more could Mr Sigismund Brag- 
gett possibly want? Nothing! His 
trouble lay in the fact that he had got 
rather more than he wanted. Most of us 
have our little peccadilloes in this world-— 
awkward reminiscences that we would like 
to bury five fathoms deep, and never hear 
mentioned again, but that have an uncom- 
fortable habit of cropping up at the most 
inconvenient moments ; and no mortal is 
more likely to be troubled with them than 
a middle-aged bachelor who has taken to 
matrimony. 

Mr Sigismund Braggett had no idea 
what he was going in for when he led the 
blushing Emily Primrose up to the altar, 
and swore to be hers, and hers only, until 
death should them part. He had no con- 
ception a woman's curiosity could be so 
keen, her tongue so long, and her in- 
ventive faculties so correct. He had spent 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 205 

ivhole days before the fatal moment of 
narriage in burning letters, erasing initials, 
destroying locks of hair, and making offer- 
ngs of affection look as if he had purchased 
them with his own money. But it had 
been of little avail. Mrs Braggett had 
swooped down upon him like a beautiful 
bird of prey, and wheedled, coaxed, or 
dssed him out of half his secrets before he 
cnew what he was about. But he had 
lever told her about Charlotte Cray. And 
low he almost wished that he had done so, 
or Charlotte Cray was the cause of his 
)resent dejected mood. 

Now, there are ladies and ladies in this 
vorld. Some are very shy, and will only 
permit themselves to be wooed by stealth. 
Dthers, again, are the pursuers rather than 
:he pursued, and chase the wounded or the 
Hying even to the very doors of their 
stronghold, or lie in wait for them like an 
octopus, stretching out their tentacles on 
every side in search of victims. 

And to the latter class Miss Charlotte 
Cray decidedly belonged. Not a person 
worth mourning over, you will naturally 



2o6 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray, 

say. But, then. Mr Sigismund Braggett 
had not behaved well to her. She was 
one of the 'peccadilloes,' She was an 
authoress — not an author, mind you, which 
term smacks more of the profession than the 
sex — but an 'authoress/ with lots of the 
'ladylike' about the plots of her stories and 
the metre of her rhymes. They had come 
together in the sweet connection of pub- 
lisher and writer — had met first in a dingy, 
dusty little office at the back of his house 
of business, and laid the foundation of 
their friendship with the average amount 
of chaffering and prevarication that usually 
attend such proceedings. 

Mr Braggett ran a risk in publishing 
Miss Cray's tales or verses, but he found 
her useful in so many other ways that he 
used occasionally to hold forth a sop to 
Cerberus in the shape of publicity for the 
sake of keeping her in his employ. For 
Miss Charlotte Cray — who was as old 
as himself, and had arrived at the period of 
life when women are said to pray ' Any, 
good Lord, any !' — was really a clever 
woman, and could turn her hand to most 





The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 207 

things required of her, or upon which she 
had set her mind ; and she had most de- 
cidedly set her mind upon marrying Mr 
Braggett, and he — to serve his own pur- 
poses — had permitted her to cherish the 
idea, and this was the Nemesis that was 
weighing him down in the study at the 
present moment. He had complimented 
Miss Cray, and given her presents, and 
taken her out a-pleasuring, all because she 
was useful to him, and did odd jobs that 
no one else would undertake, and for less 
than any one else would have accepted ; 
and he had known the while that she was 
in love with him, and that she believed he 
was in love with her. 

He had not thought much of it at the 
time. He had not then made up his mind 
to marry Emily Primrose, and considered 
that what pleased Miss Cray, and harmed 
no one else, was fair play for all sides. 
But he had come to see things differently 
now. He had been married three months, 
and the first two weeks had been very 
bitter ones to him. Miss Cray had written 
him torrents of reproaches during that 



2o8 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

unhappy period, besides calling day after 
day at his office to deliver them in person. 
This and her threats had frightened him 
out of his life. He had lived in hourly 
terror lest the clerks should overhear what 
passed at their interviews, or that his wife 
should be made acquainted with them. 

He had implored Miss Cray, both by 
word of mouth and letter, to cease her 
persecution of him ; but all the reply he 
received was that he was a base and per- 
jured man, and that she should continue to 
call at his office, and write to him through 
the penny post, until he had introduced 
her to his wife. For therein lay the height 
and depth of his offending. He had been 
afraid to bring Emily and Miss Cray to- 
gether, and the latter resented the omission 
as an insult. It was bad enough to find 
that Sigismund Braggett, whose hair she 
wore next her heart, and whose photograph 
stood as in a shrine upon her bedroom 
mantelpiece, had married another woman, 
without giving her even the chance of a 
refusal, but it was worse still to come to 
the conclusion that he did not intend her 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 209 

to have a glimpse into the garden of Eden 
he had created for himself. 

Miss Cray was a lady of vivid imagina- 
tion and strong aspirations. All was not 
lost in her ideas, although Mr Braggett 
had proved false to the hopes he had 
raised. Wives did not live for ever ; and 
the chances and changes of this life were 
so numerous, that stranger things had 
happened than that Mr Braggett might 
think fit to make better use of the second 
opportunity afforded him than he had done 
of the first. But if she were not to con- 
tinue even his friend, it was too hard. But 
the perjured publisher had continued resor 
lute, notwithstanding all Miss Cray's per- 
secution, and now he had neither seen nor 
heard from her for a month ; and, man- 
like, he was beginning to wonder what had 
become of her, and whether she had found 
anybody to console her for his untruth. 
Mr Braggett did not wish to comfort Miss 
Cray himself ; but he did not quite like the 
notion of her being comforted. 

After all — so he soliloquised — he had 
been very cruel to her ; for the poor thing 

VOL. III. o 



2 1 o The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

was devoted to him. How her eyes used 
to sparkle and her cheek to flush when she 
entered his office, and how eagerly she 
-would undertake any work for him, how- 
ever disagreeable to perform ! He knew 
well that she had expected to be Mrs 
Braggett, and it must have been a terrible 
disappointment to her when he married 
Emily Primrose. 

Why had he not asked her out to Violet 
Villa since? What harm could she do as 
a visitor there ? particularly if he cautioned 
her first as to the peculiarity of Mrs Brag- 
gett's disposition, and the quickness with 
which her jealousy was excited. It was 
close upon Christmas-time, the period when 
all old friends meet together and patch 
ujp, if they cannot entirely forget, every- 
thing that has annoyed them in the past, 
Mr Braggett pictured to himself the poor 
old maid sitting solitary in, her small rooms 
at Hammersmith, no longer able to live in 
the expectation of seeing his manly form 
at the wicket-gate, about to enter and 
cheer her solitude. The thought smote 
him as a two-edged sword, and he sat 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 2 1 1 

down at once and penned Miss Charlotte 
s note, in which he inquired after her 
liealth, and hoped that they should soon 
see her at Violet Villa. 

He felt much better after this note was 
written and despatched. He came out of 
the little study and entered the cheerful 
drawing-room, and sat with his pretty wife 
by the light of the fire, telling her of the 
lonely lady to whom he had just proposed 
to introduce her. 

'An old friend of mine, Emily. A 
clever, agreeable woman, though rather 
eccentric. You will be polite to her, I 
know, for my sake.' 

* An old woman, is she.-^' said Mrs 
Braggett, elevating her eyebrows. * And 
what do you call * old,' Siggy, I should 
like to know ? ' 

' Twice as old as yourself, my dear — 
five-and-forty at the very least, and not 
personable-looking, even for that age. Yet 
I think you will find her a pleasant com- 
panion, and I am sure she will be en- 
chanted with you.' 

* Idont know that : clever women don't . 



212 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

like me, as a rule, though I don't know 
why.' 

'They are jealous of your beauty, my 
darling ; but Miss Cray is above such 
meanness, and will value you for your own 
sake/ 

' She'd better not let me catch her 
valuing me for yours ^ responded Mrs 
Braggett, with a flash of the eye that made 
her husband ready to regret the dangerous 
experiment he was about to make of 
bringing together two women who had 
each, in her own way, a claim upon him, 
and each the will to maintain it. 

So he dropped the subject of Miss 
Charlotte Cray, and took to admiring his 
wife's complexion instead, so that the 
evening passed harmoniously, and both 
parties were satisfied. 

For two days Mr Braggett received no 
answer from Miss Cray, which rather 
surprised him. He had quite expected 
that on the reception of his invitation she 
would rush down to his office and into his 
arms, behind the shelter of the ground- 
glass door that enclosed his chair of 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 213 

authority. For Miss Charlotte had been 
used on occasions to indulge in rapturous 
demonstrations of the sort, and the remem- 
brance of Mrs Braggett located in Violet 
Villa would have been no obstacle what- 
ever to her. She believed she had a prior 
claim to Mr Braggett. However, nothing 
of the kind happened, and the perjured 
publisher was becoming strongly imbued 
with the idea that he must go out to Ham- 
mersmith and see if he could not make his 
peace with her in person, particularly as he 
had several odd jobs for Christmas-tide, 
which no one could undertake so well as 
herself, when a letter with a black-edged 
border was put into his hand. He opened 
it mechanically, not knowing the writing ; 
but its contents shocked him beyond 
measure. 

* Honoured Sir, — I am sorry to tell 
you that Miss Cray died at my house a 
week ago, and was buried yesterday. She 
spoke of you several times during her last 
illness, and if you would like to hear any 
further particulars, and will call on me at 



214 "^^^ Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

the old address, I shall be most happy to 
furnish you with them. — Yours respectfully, 

' Mary Thompson.' 

When Mr Braggett read this news, you 
might have knocked him over with a feather. 
It is not always true that a living dog is 
better than a dead lion. Some people gain 
considerably in the estimation of their 
friends by leaving this world, and Miss 
Charlotte Cray was one of them. Her 
persecution had ceased for ever, and her 
amiable weaknesses were alone held in re- 
membrance. Mr Braggett felt a positive 
relief in the knowledge that his dead friend 
and his wife would never now be brought 
in contact with each other; but at the 
same time he blamed himself more than 
was needful, perhaps, for not having seen 
nor communicated with Miss Cray for so 
long before her death. He came down to 
breakfast with a portentously grave face 
that morning, and imparted the sad intelli- 
gence to Mrs Braggett with the air of an 
undertaker. Emily wondered, pitied, and 
sympathised, but the dead lady was no 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray, 2 1 5 

more to her than any other stranger ; and 
she was surprised her husband looked so 
solemn over it all. Mr Braggett, however, 
could not dismiss the subject easily from 
4iis mind. It haunted him during the busi- 
ness hours of the morning, and as soon as 
he could conveniently leave his office, he 
posted away to Hammersmith. The little 
house in which Miss Cray used to live 
looked just the same, both inside and out- 
side : how strange it seemed that she should 
have flown away from it for ever! And 
here was her landlady, Mrs Thompson, 
bobbing and curtseying to him in the same 
old black net cap with artificial flowers in 
it, and the same stuff gown she had worn 
since he first saw her, with her apron in 
her hand, it is true, ready to go to her 
eyes as soon as a reasonable opportunity 
occurred, but otherwise the same Mrs 
Thompson as before. And yet she would 
never wait upon her again. 

' It was all so sudden, sir,' she said, in 
answer to Mr Braggett's inquiries, ' that 
there was no time to send for nobody.' 

* But Miss Cray had my address.' 



\ 



2 1 6 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

* Ah ! perhaps so ; but she was off her 
head, poor dear, and couldn't think of 
nothing. But she remembered you, sir, to 
the last ; for the very morning she died, 
she sprung up in bed and called out, * Sig- 
ismund ! Sigismund ! ' as loud as ever she 
could, and she never spoke to anybody 
afterwards, not one word/ 

* She left no message for me ? ' 

* None, sir. I asked her the day before 
she went if I was to say nothing to you for 
her (knowing you was such friends), and 
all her answer was, " I wrote to him. He's 
got my letter." So I thought, perhaps, 
you had heard, sir.' 

' Not for some time past. It seems 
terribly sudden to me, not having 
heard even of her illness. Where is 
she buried } ' 

' Close by in the churchyard, sir. My 
little girl will go with you and show you 
the place, if you'd like to see it.' 

Mr Braggett accepted her offer and left. 

When he was standing by a heap of 
clods they called a grave, and had dismissed 
the child, he drew out Miss Cray's last 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 2 1 7 

letter, which he carried iir his pocket, and 
read it over. 

' You tell me that I am not to call at 
your office again, except on business' (so 
it ran), * nor to send letters to your private 
address, lest it should come to the know- 
ledge of your wife, and create unpleasant- 
ness between you ; but I shall call, and I 
^^ta;// write, until I have seen Mrs Braggett, 
and, if you don't take care, I will introduce 
myself to her and tell her the reason you 
have been afraid to do so.' 

This letter had made Mr Braggett ter- 
ribly angry at the time of reception. He 
had puffed and fumed, and cursed Miss 
Charlotte by all his gods for daring to 
threaten him. But he read it with different 
feelings now Miss Charlotte was down 
there, six feet beneath the ground he stood 
on, and he could feel only compassion for 
her frenzy, and resentment against himself 
for having excited it. As he travelled 
home from Hammersmith to Streatham, he 
was a very dejected publisher indeed. 

He did not tell Mrs Braggett the reason 
of his melancholy, but it affected him to 



2 1 8 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

that d^[ree that he could not go to office 
on the following day, but stayed at home 
instead, to be petted and waited upon by 
his pretty wife, which treatment resulted 
in a complete cure. The next morning, 
therefore, he started for London as briskly 
as ever, and arrived at office before his 
usual time. A clerk, deputed to receive 
all messages for his master, followed him 
behind the ground-glass doors, with a packet 
of letters. 

* Mr Van Ower was here yesterday, sir. 
He will let you have the copy before the 
end of the week, and Messrs Hanleys' 
foreman called on particular business, and 
will look in to-day at eleven. And Mr 
Ellis came to ask if there was any answer 
to his letter yet; and Miss Cray called, 
sir ; and that's alL' 

* Who did you say ? ' cried BraggetL 

' Miss Cray, sir. She waited for you 
above an hour, but I told her I thought 
you couldn't mean to come into town at 
all, so she went' 

*Do you know what you're talking about, 
Hewetson ? You said Miss Cray / ' 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 219 

'And I meant it, sir — Miss Charlotte 
Oray. Burns spoke to her as well as 1/ 

' Good heavens ! ' exclaimed Mr Brag- 
gett, turning as white as a sheet. * Go at 
once and send Burns to me/ Burns came. 

' Burns, who was the lady that called to 
see me yesterday ? ' 

' Miss Cray, sir. She had a very thick 
veil on, and she looked so pale that I asked 
her if she had been ill, and she said " Yes." 
She sat in the office for over an hour, 
hoping you'd come in, but as you didn't, 
she went away again.' 

' Did she lift her veil ? ' 

* Not whilst I spoke to her, sin' 

' How do you know it was Miss Cray, 
then ? ' 

The clerk stared. * Well, sir, we all 
know her pretty well by this time.' 

* Did you ask her name ? ' 

' No, sir ; there was no need to do it' 

* You're mistaken, that's all, both you 
and Hewetson. It couldn't have been 
Miss Cray ! I know for certain that she 
is — is — is — not in London at present. It 
must have been a stranger.' 



220 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

* It was not, indeed, sir, begging your 
pardon. I could tell Miss Cray anywhere, 
by her figure and her voice, without seeing 
her face. But I did see her face, and re- 
marked how awfully pale she was — just 
like death, sir ! ' 

'There! there! that will do I It's of 
no consequence, and you can go back to 
your work.* 

But any one who had seen Mr Braggett, 
when left alone in his office, would not 
have said he thought the matter of no 
consequence. The perspiration broke out 
upon his forehead, although it was Decem- 
ber, and he rocked himself backward and 
forward in his chair with agitation. 

At last he rose hurriedly, upset his throne, 
and dashed through the outer premises in 
the face of twenty people waiting to speak 
to him. As soon as he could find his voice, 
he hailed a hansom, and drove to Hammer- 
smith. Good Mrs Thompson opening the 
door to him, thought he looked as if he had 
just come out of a fever. 

* Lor' bless me, sir ! whatever's the 
matter t ' 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 221 

* Mrs Thompson, have you told me the 
"^ruth about Miss Cray ? Is she really 
^ead?' 

'Really dead, sir! Why, I closed her 
eyes, and put her in the coffin with my own 
liands! If she ain't dead, I don't know 
who is ! But if you doubt my word, you'd 
better ask the doctor that gave the certi- 
ficate for hen' 

' What is the doctor's name ? ' 

* Dodson ; he lives opposite.' 

* You must forgive my strange questions, 
Mrs Thompson, but I have had a terrible 
dream about my poor friend, and I think 
I should like to talk to the doctor about 
her.' 

* Oh, very good, sir,' cried the landlady, 
much offended. * I'm not afraid of what 
the doctor will tell you. She had excellent 
nursing and everything as she could de* 
sire, and there's nothing on my conscience 
on that score, so I'll wish you good morn- 
ing.' And with that Mrs Thompson 
slammed the door in Mr Braggett's face. 

He found Dr Dodson at home. 

* If I understand you rightly,' said the 



22 2 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

practitioner, looking rather steadfastly in 
the scared face of his visitor, * you wish, 
as a friend of the late Miss Cray's, to see 
a copy of the certificate of her death ? 
Very good, sir ; here it is. She died, as 
you will perceive, on the twenty-fifth of 
November, of peritonitis. She had, I can 
assure you, every attention and care, but 
nothing could have saved her.' 

* You are quite sure, then, she is dead } ' 
demanded Mr Braggett, in a vague manner. 

The doctor looked at him as if he were 
not quite sure if he were sane. 

' If seeing a patient die, and her corpse 
coffined and buried, is being sure she is 
dead, / am in no doubt whatever about 
Miss Cray.' 

' It is very strange — most strange and 
unaccountable,' murmured poor Mr Brag- 
gett, in reply, as he shuffled out of the 
doctor's passage, and took his way back 
to the office. 

Here, however, after an interval of rest 
and a strong brandy and soda, he managed 
to pull himself together, and to come to 
the conclusion that the. doctor and Mrs 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 223 

Thompson could not be mistaken, and 
that, consequently, the clerks must. He 
^id not mention the subject again to them, 
liowever ; and as the days went on, and 
nothing more was heard of the mysterious 
stranger's visit, Mr Braggett put it alto- 
gether out of his mind. 

At the end of a fortnight, however, 
when he was thinking of something totally 
different, young Hewetson remarked to 
him, carelessly, — 

* Miss Cray was here again yesterday, 
sir. She walked in just as your cab had 
left the door.* 

All the horror of his first suspicions re- 
turned with double force upon the unhappy 
man's mind. 

* Don't talk nonsense ! ' he gasped, 
angrily, as soon as he could speak. * Don't 
attempt to play any of your tricks on me, 
young man, or it will be the worse for you, 
I can tell you.' 

* Tricks, sir ! ' stammered the clerk. • I 
don't know what you are alluding to. I 
am only telling you the truth. You have 
always desired me to be most particular 



224 ^^ Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

in letting you know the names of the 
people who call in your absence, and I 
thought I was only doing my duty in 
making a point of ascertaining them — ' 

* Yes, yes ! Hewetson, of course,' re- 
plied Mr Braggett, passing his handker- 
chief over his brow, * and you are quite 
right in following my directions as closely 
as possible ; only — in this case you are 
completely mistaken, and it is the second 
time you have committed the error/ 

' Mistaken ! ' 

* Yes ! — as mistaken as it is possible for 
a man to be! Miss Cray ^t7«/^ not have 
called at this office yesterday.' 

' But she did, sir.' 

* Am I labouring under some horrible 
nightmare ? ' exclaimed the publisher, * or 
are we playing at cross purposes ? Can 
you mean the Miss Cray I mean ?' 

* I am speaking of Miss Charlotte Cray, 
sir, the author of " Sweet Gwendoline," — 
the lady who has undertaken so much of 
our compilation the last two years, and 
who has a long nose, and wears her hair 
in curls. I never knew there was another 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 225 

Miss Cray ; but if there are two, that is 
the one I mean.' 

' Still I cannot believe it, Hewetson, for 
the Miss Cray who has been associated 
with our firm died on the twenty-fifth of 
last month/ 

* Died, sir ! Is Miss Cray dead ? Oh, 
it can't be ! It's some humbugging trick 
that's been played upon you, for I'd swear 
she was in this room yesterday afternoon, 
as full of life as she's ever been since I 
knew her. She didn't talk much, it's true, 
for she seemed in a hurry to be off again, 
but she had got on the same dress and 
bonnet she was in here last, and she made 
herself as much at home in the office as 
she ever did. Besides,' continued Hewet- 
son, as though suddenly remembering 
something, * she left a note for you, sir.' 

* A note ! Why did you not say so 
before ? ' 

* It slipped my memory when you began 
to doubt my word in that way, sir. But 
you'll find it in the bronze vase. She told 
me to tell you she had placed it there.' 

Mr Braggett made a dash at the vase, 

VOL. III. p 



226 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

and found the three-cornered note as he 
had been told. Yes ! it was Charlotte's 
handwriting, or the facsimile of it, there 
was no doubt of that ; and his hands shook 
so he could hardly open the paper. It 
contained these words : 

* You tell me that I am not to call at 
your office again, except on business, nor 
to send letters to your private address, lest 
it should come to the knowledge of your 
wife, and create unpleasantness between 
you ; but I shall call, and I shall write until 
I have seen Mrs Braggett, and if you don't 
take care I will introduce myself to her, 
and tell her the reason you have been 
afraid to do so.' 

Precisely the same words, in the same 
writing of the letter he still carried in his 
breast-pocket, and which no mortal eyes 
but his and hers had ever seen. As the 
unhappy man sat gazing at the opened 
note, his whole body shook as if he were 
attacked by ague. 

'It is Miss Cray's handwriting, isn't it, 
sir .? ' 

* It looks like it, Hewetson, but it can- 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 227 

not be. I tell you it is an impossibility ! 
Miss Cray died last month, and I have 
seen not only her grave, but the doctor 
and nurse who attended her in her last 
illness. It is folly, then, to suppose either 
that she called here or wrote that letter.' 

' Then who could it have beetty sir ? ' said 
Hewetson, attacked with a sudden terror 
in his turn. 

* That is impossible for me to say ; but 
should the lady call again, you had better 
ask her boldly for her name and address.' 

* Vd rather you*d depute the office to 
anybody but me, sir,' replied the clerk, as 
he hastily backed out of the room. 

Mr Braggett, dying with suspense and 
conjecture, went through his business as 
best he could, and hurried home to Violet 
Villa. 

There he found that his wife had been 
spending the day with a friend, and only 
entered the house a few minutes before 
himself. 

* Siggy, dear ! ' she commenced, as soon 
as he joined her in the drawing-room after 
dinner ; ' I really think we should have the 



2^8 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

fastenings and bolts of this house looked 
to. Such a funny thing happened whilst; 
I was out this afternoon. Ellen has just 
been telling me about it/ 

* What sort of a thing, dear ? ' 

'Well, I left home as early as twelve, 
you know, and told the servants I shouldn't 
be back until dinner-time ; so they were 
all enjoying themselves in the kitchen, I 
suppose, when cook told Ellen she heard 
a footstep in the drawing-room. Ellen 
thought at first it must be cook's fancy, 
because she was sure the front door was 
fastened ; but when they listened, they all 
heard the noise together, so she ran up- 
stairs, and what on earth do you think 
she saw ? ' 

* How can I guess, my dear ? * 

* Why, a lady, seated in this very room, 
as if she was waiting for somebody. She 
was oldish, Ellen says, and had a very 
white face, with long curls hanging down 
each side of it ; and she wore a blue 
bonnet with white feathers, and a long 
black cloak, and — ^ 

* Emily, Emily ! Stop ! You don't 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 229 

know what you're talking about. That 
girl is a fool : you must send her away. 
That is, how could the lady have got in 
if the door was closed ? Good heavens! 
you'll all drive me mad between you with 
your folly ! ' exclaimed Mr Braggett, as he 
threw himself back in his chair, with an 
exclamation that sounded very like a groan. 

Pretty Mrs Braggett was offended. What 
had she said or done that her husband 
should doubt her word ? She tossed her 
head in indignation, and remained silent 
If Mr Braggett wanted any further informal 
tion, he would have to apologise. 

* Forgive me, darling,' he said, after a 
long pause. * I don't think Tm very well 
this evening, but your story seemed to 
upset me.' 

' I don't see why it should upset you,' 
returned Mrs Braggett. * If strangers are 
allowed to come prowling about the house 
in this way, we shall be robbed some day, 
and then you'll say I should have told 
you of it.' 

' Wouldn't she — this person — give her 
name ? ' 



230 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

* Oh ! rd rather say no more about it. 
You had better ask Ellen.' 

' No, Emily ! Td rather hear it from you/ 
*Well, don't interrupt me again, then. 
When Ellen saw the woman seated here, 
she 'asked her her name and business at 
once, but she gave no answer, and only 
sat and stared at her. And so Ellen, 
feeling very uncomfortable, had just turned 
round to call up cook, when the woman got 
up, and dashed past her like a flash of 
lightning, and they saw nothing more of 
her ! ' 

* Which way did she leave the house ? ' 

' Nobody knows any more than how 
she came in. The servants declare the 
hall-door was neither opened nor shut — 
but, of course, it must have been. She 
was a tall gaunt woman, Ellen says, about 
fifty, and she s sure her hair was dyed. 
She must have come to steal something, 
and that's why I say we ought to have 
the house made more secure. Why, 

S^SSy ' S^&Sy ' what's the matter ? Here, 
Ellen ! Jane ! come, quick, some of you ! 
Your master's fainted ! ' 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 231 

And, sure enough, the repeated shocks 
and horrors of the day had had such an 
effect upon poor Mr Braggett, that for a 
moment he did lose all consciousness of 
what surrounded him. He was thankful 
to take advantage of the Christmas holidays, 
to run over to Paris with his wife, and try 
to forget, in the many marvels of that city, 
the awful fear that fastened upon him at 
the mention of anything connected with 
home. He might be enjoying himself 
to the top of his bent ; but directly the 
remembrance of Charlotte Cray crossed his 
mind, all sense of enjoyment vanished, and 
he trembled at the mere thought of return- 
ing to his business, as a child does when 
sent to bed in the dark. 

He tried to hide the state of his feelings 
from Mrs Braggett, but she was too sharp 
for him. The simple, blushing Emily 
Primrose had developed, under the influ- 
ence of the matrimonial forcing-frame, into 
a good watch-dog, and nothing escaped her 
notice. 

Left to her own conjecture, she attri- 
buted his frequent moods of dejection to 



232 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

the existence of some other woman, and 
became jealous accordingly. If Siggy did 
not love her, why had he married her ? 
She felt certain there was some other 
horrid creature who had engaged his affec- 
tions and would not leave him alone, even 
now that he was her own lawful property. 
And to find out who the * horrid creature ' 
was became Mrs Emily's constant idea« 
When she had found out, she meant to 
give her a piece of her mind, never fear ! 
Meanwhile Mr Braggett's evident distaste 
to returning to business only served to 
increase his wife's suspicions. A clear 
conscience, she argued, would know no 
fear. So they were not a happy couple, 
as they set their faces once more towards 
England. Mr Braggett's dread of re- 
entering his office amounted almost to 
terror, and Mrs Braggett, putting this and 
that together, resolved that she would 
fathom the mystery, if it lay in feminine 
finesse to do so. She did not whisper a 
word of her intentions to dear Siggy, you 
may be sure of that ! She worked after 
the manner of her amiable sex, like a cat 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 233 

in the dark, or a worm boring through the 
earth, and appearing on the surface when 
least expected. 

So poor Mr Braggett brought her home 
again, heavy at heart indeed, but quite 
ignorant that any designs were being made 
against him. I think he would have given 
a thousand pounds to be spared the duty 
of attending office the day after his arrival. 
But it was necessary, and he went, like a 
publisher and a Briton. But Mrs Emily 
had noted his trepidation and his fears, and 
laid her plans accordingly. She had never 
been asked to enter those mysterious 
precincts, the house of business. Mr 
Braggett had not thought it necessary 
that her blooming loveliness should be 
made acquainted with its dingy, dusty 
accessories, but she meant to see them 
for herself to-day. So she waited till he 
had left Violet Villa ten minutes, and then 
she dressed and followed him by the next 
train to London. 

Mr Sigismund Braggett meanwhile had 
gone on his way, as people go to a dentist, 
determined to do what was right, but with 



234 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

an indefinite sort of idea that he might 
never come out of it alive. He dreaded to 
hear what might have happened in his 
absence, and he delayed his arrival at the 
office for half-an-hour, by walking there 
instead of taking a cab as usual, in order 
to put off the evil moment. As he entered 
the place, however, he saw at a glance that 
his efforts were vain, and that something 
had occurred. The customary formality 
and precision of the office were upset, and 
the clerks, instead of bending over their 
ledgers, or attending to the demands of 
business, were all huddled together at one 
end whispering and gesticulating to each 
other. But as soon as the publisher 
appeared, a dead silence fell upon the 
group, and they only stared at him with 
an air of horrid mystery. 

' What is the matter now ? ' he de- 
manded, angrily, for like most men when 
in a fright which they are ashamed to 
exhibit, Mr Sigismund Braggett tried to 
cover his want of courage by bounce. 

The young man called Hewetson ad- 
vanced towards him, with a face the 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 235 

colour of ashes, and pointed towards 
the ground-glass doors dumbly. 

' What do you mean ? Can't you speak ? 
What's come to the lot of you, that you 
are neglecting my business in this fashion 
to make fools of yourselves ? ' 

* If you please, sir, she's in there.' 

Mr Bragget started back as if he'd 
been shot. But still he tried to have it 
out 

'She! Who's j>5^?' 

* Miss Cray, sir.' 

* Haven't I told you already that's a lie.' 

* Will you judge for yourself, Mr Brag- 
gett ? ' said a grey-haired man, stepping 
forward. * I was on the stairs myself just 
now when Miss Cray passed me, and 
I have no doubt whatever but that you 
will find her in your private room, how- 
ever much the reports that have lately 
reached you may seem against the proba- 
bility of such a thing.' 

Mr Braggett's teeth chattered in his 
head as he advanced to the ground-glass 
doors, through the panes of one of which 
there was a little peephole to ascertain if 



236 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

the room were occupied or not. He 
stooped and looked in. At the table, with 
her back towards hini, was seated the well- 
known figure of Charlotte Cray. He 
recognised at once the long black mantle 
in which she was wont to drape her gaunt 
figure — the blue bonnet, with its dejected- 
looking, uncurled feather — the lank curls 
which rested on her shoulders— and the 
black -leather bag, with a steel clasp, which 
she always carried in her hand. It was 
the embodiment of Charlotte Cray, he had 
no doubt of that ; but how could he recon- 
cile the fact of her being there with the 
damp clods he had seen piled upon her 
grave, with the certificate of death, and 
the doctor's and landlady's assertion that 
they had watched her last moments ? 

At last he prepared, with desperate 
energy, to turn the handle of the door. 
At that moment the attention of the more 
frivolous of the clerks was directed from 
his actions by the entrance of an uncom- 
monly pretty woman at the other end of 
the outer office. Such a lovely creature 
as this seldom brightened the gloom of 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray, 237 

their dusty abiding-place. Lilies, roses, 
and carnations vied with each other in her 
complexion, whilst the sunniest of locks, 
and the brightest of blue eyes, lent her 
face a girlish charm not easily described* 
What could this fashionably-attired Venus 
want in their house of business ? 

* Is Mr Braggett here ? I am Mrs 
Braggett. Please show me in to him im- 
mediately.' 

They glanced at the grouncj-glass doors 
of the inner office. They had already closed 
behind the manly form of their employer. 

' This way, madam,' one said, deferen- 
tially, as he escorted her to the presence 
of Mr Braggett. 

Meanwhile, Sigismund had opened the 
portals of the Temple of Mystery, and 
with trembling knees entered it. The 
figure in the chair did not stir at his 
approach. He stood at the door irresolute. 
What should he do or say ? 

* Charlotte,' he whispered. 
Still she did not move. 

At that moment his wife entered. 

'Oh, Sigismund!' cried Mrs Emily, 



238 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

reproachfully, ' I knew you were keeping 
something from me, and now Tve caught 
you in the very act. Who is this lady, 
and what is her name ? I shall refuse to 
leave the room until I know it' 

At the sound of her rival's voice, the 
woman in the chair rose quickly to her 
feet and confronted them. Yes ! there 
was Charlotte Cray, precisely similar to 
what she had appeared in life, only with 
an uncertainty and vagueness about the 
lines of the familiar features that made 
them ghastly. 

She stood there, looking Mrs Emily 
full in the face, but only for a moment, 
for, even as she gazed, the lineaments 
grew less and less distinct, with the shape 
of the figure that supported them, until, 
with a crash, the apparition seemed to fall 
in and disappear, and the place that had 
known her was filled with empty air. 

' Where is she gone ? ' exclaimed Mrs 
Braggett, in a tone of utter amazement. 

* Where is who gone ? ' repeated Mr 
Braggett, hardly able to articulate from 
fear. 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 239 

' The lady in the chair ! ' 

* There was no one there except in your 
own imagination. It was my great-coat 
that you mistook for a figure/ returned her 
husband hastily, as he threw the article in 
question over the back of the arm-chair. 

' But how could that have been "i ' said 
his pretty wife, rubbing her eyes. * How 
could I think a coat had eyes, and hair, 
and features ? I am sure I saw a woman 
seated there, and that she rose and stared 
at me. Siggy! tell me it was true. It 
seems so incomprehensible that I should 
have been mistaken.* 

* You must question your own sense. 
You see that the room is empty now, 
except for ourselves, and you know that 
no one has left it. If you like to search 
under the table, you can.' 

* Ah ! now, Siggy, you are laughing at 
me, because you know that would be folly. 
But there was certainly some one here — 
only, where can she have disappeared to ? ' 

* Suppose we discuss the matter at a 
more convenient season/ replied Mr Brag- 
gett, as he drew his wife's arm through his 



240 The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 

arm. * Hewetson ! you will be able to tell 
Mr Hume that he was mistaken. Say, 
also, that I shall not be back in the office 
to-day. I am not so strong as I thought 
I was, and feel quite unequal to business. 
Tell him to come out to Streatham this 
evening with my letters, and I will talk 
with him there.' 

What passed at that interview was never 
disclosed ; but pretty Mrs Braggett was 
much rejoiced, a short time afterwards, by 
her husband telling her that he had re- 
solved to resign his active share of the 
business, and devote the rest of his life to 
her and Violet Villa. He would have no 
more occasion, therefore, to visit the office, 
and be exposed to the temptation of spend- 
ing four or five hours out of every twelve 
away from her side* For, though Mrs 
Emily had arrived at the conclusion that 
the momentary glimpse she caught of a 
lady in Siggy's office must have been a 
delusion, she was not quite satisfied by his 
assertions that she would never have found 
a more tangible cause for her jealousy. 

But Sigismund Braggett knew more 



The Ghost of Charlotte Cray. 241 

than he chose to tell Mrs Emily. He 
knew that what she had witnessed was 
no delusion, but a reality ; and that Char- 
lotte Cray had carried out her dying 
determination, to call at his office and his 
private residence, until she had seen his 
wife ! 



END OF VOL. III. 



COLSTON AND SON, PRINTERS, EDINKURGIl. 



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