Page images
PDF
EPUB

-there-you can look at everything and find out for yourself,” concluded Charlotte. “I am going to show mamma her bedroom."

It opened from the sitting-room: a commodious arrangement, as Charlotte observed, in case of illness. Maria cast her eyes round it, and saw a sufficiently comfortable chamber. It was not their old luxurious chamber at the bank: but luxuries and they must part company now.

“Look here," said Charlotte, dropping her voice to a whisper.

She was pointing with her finger to the chest of drawers. Placed back, the only object on its white covering, was the miniature red trunk which Maria had given into her charge in the summer.

“Oh, thank you! Thank you greatly for taking care of it, Mrs. Pain."

“ It is safe here now. You and the enemy have parted company. Though it were heaped full of diamonds, they'd not come and look after them here. Is it ?

“What? Full of diamonds ?” Maria sbook her head. “Indeed, I told you truth, Mrs. Pain, when I said there was nothing in it of value. It contains but a few letters and papers, and a lock or two of my dead children's hair.”

* In-deed !” exclaimed Charlotte, with a sweetly innocent look. " Then you and I are different, Mrs. George Godolphin. Were the like calamity to happen to my husband-if I had one-I should consider it a praiseworthy virtue to save all I could from the grasp of the spoilers. Come along. We shall have Meta going into all the good things."

Charlotte reigned at the head of the table that night, triumphantly gay. Margery waited with a stiffened neck and pursed-up lips. No. thing more: there were no other signs of rebellion. Margery had had her say out with that one memorable communication, and from thenceforth her lips were closed for ever. Did the woman repent of having spoken ?-did she now think it better to have let doubt be doubt? It is hard to say. She had made no further objection to Mrs. Pain in words; she intended to make none. If that lady filled Miss Meta to bursting to-night with the pine-apple jelly and the boned fowl, and the other things with unpronounceable names, which Margery regarded as rank poison when regaling Miss Meta, she should not interfere. The sin might lie on her master and mistress's head.

It was close upon ten when Charlotte rose to go. She put on her things, and bent over Maria in greeting. " Take care of yourself, Mrs. George," she said, in a kindly tone. "Now that the worst is over, things will soon come round again. And if you should find it convenient to get rid of Meta for a bit, send her up to me. I'll take great care of her.”

Margery stood with the door open. George was taking down his hat.

“I protest and declare you shall not, Mr. George Godolphin !" exclaimed Charlotte, divining his intention of seeing her home. “Do you suppose I am going to take you from your wife, the first evening she is in this strange place ?” “ Do you suppose I am going to let you be run away with in the

dangerous streets of Prior's Ash?” returned George, with laughing gallantry.

“I'll guard against that,” returned Charlotte. “I am old enough to take care of myself.”

“ Why, I should not be away ten minutes."

“Now, you know when I say a thing, I mean it,” said Charlotte, in a peremptory tone. “You are not going with me, Mr. George. I have a reason for wishing to go home by myself. There."

George could only yield. Charlotte had spoken still in her kindness to Maria. In spite of her own attractive presence, Maria's spirits were lower than they might have been: and Charlotte generously left her the society of her husband. As to walking through the streets of Prior's Ash alone, or through any other streets, Charlotte had no foolish fears, but would as soon go through them by night as by day.

As a proof of this, she did not proceed direct homewards, but turned up a road that led to the railway. She had no objection to a stroll that moonlight night, and she had a fancy for seeing what passengers the ten o'clock train brought, which was just in.

It brought none. None that Charlotte could see: and she was preparing to turn back on the dull road, when a solitary figure came looming on her sight in the distance. He was better than nobody, regarding him in Charlotte's social point of view : but he appeared to be advanced in years. She could see so much before he came up.

Charlotte strolled on, gratifying her curiosity by a good stare. A tall, portly man, with a fresh colour and snow-white hair. She was passing by him, when he lifted his face, which had been bent, and turned it towards her. The recognition was mutual, and she darted up to him, and gave his hand a hearty shake. It was Mr. Crosse.

" Good gracious me! We all thought you never meant to come back again!"

“And I'd rather not have come back, Mrs. Pain, than come to hear what I am obliged to hear. I went streaming off for weeks from Pau, where I was staying, a confounded, senseless tour into Spain, leaving no orders for letters to be sent to me, and so I heard nothing. What has brought about this awful calamity ?"

“What calamity ?” asked Charlotte-knowing perfectly well all the while.

“What calamity !" repeated Mr. Crosse, who was rapid in speech and hot in temper. “The failure of the bank—the Godolphins' ruin. What else ?"

" Oh, that!” slightingly returned Charlotte. “That's stale news now. Folks are forgetting it. Queen Anne's dead.”

“ What brought it about ?” reiterated Mr. Crosse, neither the words nor their tone pleasing him.

“What does bring such things about ?" rejoined Charlotte. “Want of money, I suppose. Or bad management."

“But there was no want of money; there was no bad management in the Godolphins' house," raved Mr. Crosse, becoming excited. “I wish you'd not play with my feelings, Mrs. Pain.”

“ Who is playing with them ?” cried Charlotte. “If it was not want of money, if it was not bad management, I don't know what else it was."

“I was told in London, as I came through it, that George Godolphin has been playing up old Rosemary with everything, and that Verrall has helped him," continued Mr. Crosse.

“Folks will talk," said bold Charlotte. “I was told-it was the current report in Prior's Ash-that the stoppage had occurred through Mr. Crosse drawing his money out of the concern.”

“What an unfounded assertion !” exclaimed that gentleman, in choler. "Prior's Ash ought to have known better."

“So ought those who tell you rubbish about George Godolphin and Verrall,” coolly affirmed Charlotte.

“Where's Thomas Godolphin ?"

“At Ashlydyat. He's in luck. My Lord Averil has bought it all in as it stands, and Mr. Godolphin remains in it."

“He is ill, I hear ?”

“Pretty near dead, I hear," retorted Charlotte. "My lord is to marry Miss Cecilia.”

“And where's that wicked George?”. “If you call names, I won't answer you another word, Mr. Crosse."

“I suppose you don't like to hear it,” he returned in so pointed a manner that Charlotte might have felt it as a lance-shaft. “Well, where is he ?”

“Just gone into lodgings with his wife and Margery and Meta. I have been taking tea with them. They left the bank to-day.”

Mr. Crosse stood, nodding his head in the moonlight, and communing aloud with himself. “And so—and somit is all a smash together! It is as bad as was said.”

* It couldn't be worse," cried Charlotte. “Prior's Ash won't hold up its head for many a day. It's no longer worth living in. I leave it for good to-morrow.”

“ Poor Sir George! It's a good thing he was in his grave. Lord Averil could have prosecuted George, I hear.”

“ Were I to hear to-morrow that I could be prosecuted for standing here and talking to you to-night, I shouldn't wonder," was the auswer.

“What on earth did he do with the money? What went with it?"

“Report runs that he founded a cluster of almshouses with it," said Charlotte, demurely. “ Ten old women, who are to be found in coals and red cloaks, and half-a-crown a week.”

The words angered him beyond everything. Nothing could have been more serious than his mood; nothing could savour of levity, of mockery, more than hers. “Report runs that he has been giving fabulous prices for horses to make presents of,” angrily retorted Mr. Crosse, in a tone of pointed significance.

“Not a bit of it," returned undaunted Charlotte. “He only gave bills."

“Good night to you, Mrs. Pain," came the next words, haughty and abruptly; and Mr. Crosse turned to continue his way.

Leaving Charlotte standing there. No other passengers came down from the station : there were none to come: and she turned to retrace her steps to the town. She walked slowly and moved her head from side to side, as if she would take in all the familiar features of the landscape by way of a farewell in anticipation of the morrow; which was to close her residence at Prior's Ash for ever.

SUNDOWN.

BY ASTLEY H. BALDWIN.

EVENING approaches: the all-tired Earth
Prepares for rest, and with a low still voice
Praises her great Creator, who hath given
A time for all things: after day the night,
And after toil the blessings of repose,
Apollo lingering leaves his favourite boy,
Bright-haired young Hyacinth, * whose violet eyes
Are dull with sleep, yet with a loving glance
Turns he towards the Sun-God as he smiles
A last farewell to the half-slumbering Earth.
Grandly he falls! The red oaks gleam with gold,
And the white heaving bosom of the sea
Floats in a liquid amber; majesty
Sits on the face of Nature, ere she doff's
The day-robes of her gorgeous sovereignty
For the grey silvered vestments of the night!
The dew-wet apple-blossoms, robed in pink,
Sweet-scent the misty night-baze, the white pear
Closes her fragrant treasures from the kiss
Of the enamoured South-wind, who anon
Steals from her snowy riches some small store,
And scatters perfume on the willing breeze.
Bathed in a flush of purple gleam the hills,
Their red crests showing ʼgainst the brighter sky
Superbly beautiful; the pine-trees bend
To the slow-coming night breeze, and around
Rest the white flocks-0 God, how beauteous-fair
The tranquil calm thou spreadest o'er the Night.

An English sundown! Lives there on this earth
A scene of truer beauty ? Brighter far
May blaze the splendour of an orient sky
In amethyst and opal, but to us,
To us, blessed sons of England-God be thanked !-
Gives he alone from his Almighty hand
These scenes of truest Beauty, truest Peace !

* The metaphor is applied to the sun-rays falling on the blue hyacinth beds. DIONYSIUS THE ELDER.

BY SIR NATHANIEL.

MICHELET pauses in his narrative of the Sicilian Vespers to remark on the fate of Sicily for ages-ever the milch-cow, drained both of milk and blood by a foreign master. In her bosom it is, he reminds us, that all the great quarrels of the world have been decided-Athens and Syracuse, Greece and Carthage, Carthage and Rome, have made her their battlefield ; and there too the servile wars were fought out. All these solemn battles of mankind, he says, “ have been contested within sight of Etna -like the Judgment of God' before the altar.” Then came the Barbarians,— Arabs, Normans, Germans. Each time that Sicily formed a hope and desire, each time she was summoned to suffer: she turned, and then back again to the same side, like Enceladus under the volcano. Such, according to the French historian, are the “ weakness and incurable irreconcilableness” of a people composed of a score of races, and so heavily oppressed by the double fatality of history and climate. In fact, he asserts, that the only hours Sicily ever had of independence and healthy existence were under her tyrants, the Dionysiuses and Gelons of old; by whom alone, too, she was rendered formidable abroad. *

So again Mr. Leigh Hunt opens a chapter of Glances at ancient Sicilian history and biography, with some remarks on the fate of the fair island, which, being one of those small, beautiful, and abundant countries which excite the cupidity of larger ones, has had as many foreign masters as the poor Princess of Babylon, in Boccacio, who, on her way to be married to the King of Colchos, fell into the hands of nine husbands. Leontius gives a pleasantly particularised catalogue raisonné of the leading celebrities of Sicily, in the old, old times, from Phalaris of the bull, and Stesichorus of the lyre, and Damocles of the sword, to Marcellus and Verres. Of course, an item or two in the list are appropriated to the Dionysiuses and their associates. And thus the Elder of the tyrants figures on the gossiping roll of names :

“ Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse (the Elder). He wrote bad verses ; slept in a bed with a trench round it, and a drawbridge; and, for fear of a barber, burnt away his beard with hot walnut-shells. What a razor! Dionysius had abilities enough to become the more hateful for his capricious and detestable qualities. Probably he had a spice of madness in him, which power exasperated. Ariosto has turned him to fine account in his personification of Suspicion.”

Other items, that deal indirectly with his majesty, are the following:

Damon and Pythias, the famous friends. One of them became surety to Dionysius for the other's appearance at the scaffold, and was not disappointed. Dionysius begged to be admitted a third in the partnership!

the most ridiculous thing, perhaps, that even the tyrant ever did.

“ Damocles, the courtly gentleman, who pronounced Dionysius the happiest man on earth. He was treated by his master to a 'proof of the

* See Michelet, Histoire de France, t. iii. 1. v. ch. i.

« EelmineJätka »