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“The fact is, Maria,” retorted my lady, sharply, “ that you have loved George Godolphin in a ridiculous degree.” ***
"Perhaps I have," was Maria's subdued answer, the colour dyeing her face with various reminiscences. “But surely there was no sin in it, Lady Godolphin: he is my husband."
“And you cling to bim still ?” “ Oh yes."
Lady Godolphin rose. She shrugged her shoulders as she drew her white lace shawl over them, sbe glanced at her coquettish blue bonnet in the pier-glass as she passed it, at her blush-rose cheeks. “You have cbosen your husband, Maria, in preference to me; in preference to the world; and from this moment I wash my hands of you, as I have already done of him.”
It was all the farewell she took : and she went out to her carriage thinking what a blind, obstinate, hardened woman was Maria Godol. phin. She saw not what it had cost that “hardened ” woman to bear up before her ; tbat her heart was nigb unto breaking; that the sorrow laid upon her was greater than she well knew how to battle with.
A BROKEN IDOL. GEORGE GODOLPHIN leaned against a pillar of the terrace opening from the dining-room. They had not left the bank yet as a residence, but this was their last day in it. It was the last day they could stop in it, and why they should have lingered in it so long was food for gossip in Prior's Ash. On the morrow the house would be, as may be said, public property. Men would walk in and ticket all the things, apportioning them their place in the catalogue, their order in the days of sale, and the public would crowd in also, to feast their eyes upon the household gods hitherto sacred to George Godolphin.
How did he feel as he stood there? Was his spirit in heaviness, as was the case under similar misfortune of another man-if the written record he left to us may be trusted—that great and noble poet, illfated in death as in life, whose transcendent genius has since found no parallel.
It was a trying moment, that which found him.
While all his household gods lay shivered round him.
She had stood by him. When he first returned to Prior's Ash, she bad greeted him with her kind smile, with words of welcome. Whatever effect that unpleasant scandal, mentioned by Margery, which it seems bad formed a staple dish for Prior's Ash, may have been taking upon her in secret and silence, she had given no sign of it to George. He never suspected that any such whisper, touching his worthy self, had been breathed to her. Mr. George best knew what grounds there might be for it: whether it bore any foundation, or whether it was but one of those breezy rumours, false as the wind, which have their rise in ill nature, and in that alone: but however it may have been, whether true or false, he could not divine that such poison would be dropped into his wife's ear. If he had thought her greeting to him strange, her manner more utterly subdued than there was need for, her grief of greater violence, he attributed it all to the recent misfortunes : and Maria made no other sign.
The effects had been bought in at Ashlydyat, but these had not: and this was the last day, almost the last hour of his occupancy of them. One would think his eyes would be cast around in lingering looks of regretful farewell—upon the chairs and tables, on the scattered ornaments, down to the rich carpets, up to the valuable and familiar pictures. Not a bit of it. George's eyes were bent on his nails which he was trimming to his satisfaction, and he was carolling in an under tone a strain of a new English opera.
They were to go out that evening. At dusk. At dusk, you may be sure. They were to go forth from their luxurious home, and enter upon obscure lodgings, and go altogether down in the scale of what the world calls society. Not that the lodgings were so obscure, taking them in the abstract; obscure indeed, as compared with their home at the bank, very obscure beside the home they had sometime thought to remove to-Ashlydyat.
George could not be prudent: he could not, had his life depended on it, been saving. When the time approached that they might no longer stay in the bank, and Maria, in writing to him in London, reminded him of that fact, and asked where they were to go and what they were to do, George had returned for answer that there was no hurry, she might leave it all to him. But the next day brought him down; and he went out, off-hand, and engaged some fashionable rooms at three guineas a week. Maria was dismayed when she heard the price. How was it to be paid ? George did not see precisely how, himself, just at present: but, to his sanguine disposition, the paying of ten guineas a week for lodgings would have looked quite easy. Maria had more forethought, and prevailed. The three-guinea a week rooms were given up, and some taken at half the rent. She would have wished a lower rent still; but George laughed at her.
He stood there in his careless beauty, his bright face bent downwards, his tall fine form, noble in its calmness. The sun was playing with his hair, bringing out its golden tints, and a smile illumined his face, as he went on with his song. Whatever may have been George Godolphin's short-comings in some points of view, none could reproach him on the score of his personal attractions. All the old terror, the carking care, had gone out of him with the easy bankruptcy—easy in its results to him, compared to what might have been--and gay George, graceless George, was himself again. There may have been something deficient in his moral organisation, for he really appeared to take no shame to himself for what had occurred. He stood there calmly self-possessed ; the perfect gentleman, so far as looks and manners could make him one; looking as fit to bend his knee at the proud court of St. James's, as ever that stately gentleman his father had done, when her Majesty touched him with the flashing sword. blade and bid him rise up Sir George.
Once would iny heart with the wildest emotion,
Throb, dearest Eily, when near me wert thou;
Now I regard thee with deepThe strain was interrupted, and George, as he ceased it, glanced up. Meta, looking, it must be confessed, rather black about the hands and pinafore, as if Margery had not had time to attend to her within the last hour, came running in George shut up his knife and held out his arms.
" Papa, are we to have tea at home, or after we get into the lodgings?”
“ Ask mamma,” responded George.
“Mamma told me to ask you. She doesn't know, she says. She's too busy to talk to me. She's getting the great box on to the stand.”
“She's doing what?" cried George, in a quick accent.
“Getting the great box on to the stand,” repeated Meta. "She's going to pack it. Papa, will the lodgings be better than this? Will there be a big garden ? Margery says there'll be no room for my rocking-horse. Won't there ?”
Something in the child's questions may have grated on the fine ear of George Godolphin, had he stayed to listen to them. However lightly the bankruptcy might be passing over George's mind on his own score, he regretted its results most bitterly for his wife and child. To see them turned from their home, condemned to descend to the inconveniences and obscurity of these poor lodgings, was the worst pill George Godolphin had ever had to swallow. He would bave cut off his right arm to retain them in their position; ay, and also his left: he could have struck himself down to the earth in his rage, for the disgrace he had brought on them.
Hastening up the stairs, he entered his bedroom. It was in a litter; boxes and wearing-apparel lying about. Maria, flushed and breathless, was making great efforts to drag a cumbrous trunk on a stand, or small bench, for the convenience of filling it. No very extensive efforts, either; for she knew that such might harm her at present in her feeble strength.
George raised the trunk to its place with one lift of his manly arms, and then forced his wife, with more gentleness, into a chair.
“How can you be so imprudent, Maria ?” broke from him in a vexed tone, as he stood before her.
“I was not hurting myself,” she answered. “The things must be packed.”
“Of course they must. But not by you. Where's Margery ?" “Margery has a great deal to do. She cannot do it all." “Then where's Sarah ?”' resumed George, crossly and sharply.
“ Sarah's in the kitchen getting our dinner ready. We must have some to-day."
"Show me what the things are, and I will pack them.”
“ Nonsense! As if it would hurt me to put the things into the box! You never interfered with me before, George."
“You never attempted this sort of work before. I won't have it, Maria. Were you in a fit state of health to be knocking about, you might do it; but you shall certainly not, as it is."
It was his self-reproach that was causing his angry tone; very keenly at that moment was it making itself heard. And Maria's spirits were not that day equal to sharpness of speech. It told upon her, and she burst into tears.
How terribly the signs of distress vexed him, no words could tell. He took them as a tacit reproach to himself. And they were so: however unintentional on her part such reproach might be.
“Maria, I won't have this; I can't bear it," he cried, his voice hoarse with emotion. “ If you show this temper, this childish sorrow before me, I shall run away."
He could have cut his tongue out for so speaking—for his stinging words; for their stinging tone. “ Temper! Childish sorrow !" George chafed at himself in his self-condemnation : he chafed-he knew how unjustly—at Maria.
Very, very unjustly. She had not annoyed him with reproaches, with complaints, as some wives would have done; she liad not, to him, shown symptoms of the grief that was wearing out her heart. She had been all considerate to him, bearing up bravely whenever he was at Prior's Ash. Even now, as she dried away the rebellious tears, she would not let him think they were being shed for the lost happiness of the past, but murmured some feeble excuse about a headache.
He saw through the fond deceit; he saw all the generosity; and the red shame mantled in his fair face as he bent down to her, and his voice changed to one of the deepest tenderness.
“If I have lost you this home, Maria, I will get you another," he whispered. “Only give me a little time. Don't grieve before me if you can help it, my darling : it is as though you ran a knife into my very soul. I can bear the loud abuse of the whole world, better than one silent reproach from you.”
And the sweet words came to her as a precious balm. However bitter had been the shock of that one rude awaking, she loved him fondly still. It may be, that she loved him only the more : for the passions of the human heart are wayward and wilful, utterly unamenable to control. • Margery came into the room with her hands and arms full. George may have been glad of the divertisement, and he turned upon her, his voice resuming its anger. “What's the meaning of this, Margery? I come up here and I find your mistress packing and lugging boxes about. Can't you see to these things ?".
Margery was as cross as George that day, and her answer in its sharpness might have rivalled his. Direct reproof Margery had never presumed to offer her master, though she would have liked to do it amazingly, for not a single condemner held a more exaggerated view of Mr. George's past delinquencies than she.
“I can't be in ten places at once. And I can't do the work of ten
people. If you know them that can, sir, you'd better get 'em here in my place."
"Did I not ask you if you should want assistance in the packing, and you told me that you should not ?" retorted George.
“No more I don't want it,” was the answer. “I can do all the packing that is to do here, if I am let alone, and allowed to take my own time and do it in my own way. In all that chaffling and changing of houses when my Lady Godolphin chose to move Ashlydyat's things to the Folly, and when they had to be moved back afterwards in accordance with Sir George's will, who did the best part of the packing and saw to everything, but me? It would be odd if I couldn't put up a few gowns and shirts, but I must be talked to about help!"
Poor Margery was evidently in an explosive temper. Time back George would have put her down with a haughty word of authority or with joking mockery, as the humour might have taken him. He did not to-day. There had been wrong inflicted upon Margery; and it may be that he was feeling it. She had lost the poor savings of years
-the Brays had not allowed them to be great ones; she had lost the money bequeathed to her by Mrs. Godolphin. All had been in the bank, and all had gone. In addition to this, there were personal discomforts. Margery found the work of a common servant thrown upon her in her old age: an under girl, Sarah, was her only help now at the bank, and Margery alone would follow their fallen fortunes to these lodgings.
“Do as you please," was all George said. “But your mistress shall not meddle with it."
“If my mistress chooses to set on and get to work behind my back, I can't stop it. She knows there's no need to do it. If you'll be so good, ma'am," turning to her mistress," as just let things alone and leave 'em to me, you'll find they'll be done. What's a few bits of clothes to pack ?" indignantly repeated Margery. “And there's nothing else that we may take. If I was to put up but a pair of sheets or a tin dish-cover, I should be called a thief, I suppose."
There lay the great grievance of Margery's present mood—that all the things, save the “ few bits of clothes," must be left behind. Margery, for all her crustiness and her out-spoken temper, was a most faithfully-attached servant, and it may be questioned if she did not feel the abandoning of their goods in a keener degree than did even Maria and George. The things were not hers : every article of her own, even to a silver cream-jug, which had been the boasted treasure of her life, she had been allowed to retain ; even to the little work-box of white satin-wood, with its landscape on the lid, the trees of which Miss Meta had been permitted to paint red, and the cottage blue. Not an article of Margery's but she could remove; all was sacred to her: but in her fidelity she did resent bitterly the baving to leave the property of her master and mistress, the not being at liberty to pack up so much as a “tin dish-cover."
Maria, debarred from assisting, wandered in her restlessness through some of the more familiar rooms. It was well that she should pay them a farewell visit. From the bedroom where the packing was going on, to George's dressing-room, thence to her own sitting-roym,