Page images
PDF
EPUB

care of yourself, my dear, and do all you can to keep your mind tranquil and to get your strength up. You shall hear from me before your departure."

Margery stood in the little ball. Miss Bessy Godolphin was in the garden, in full chase after that rebellious damsel, Meta, who had made a second escape through the opened door, passing angry Margery and the outstretched hand that would have made a prisoner of her, with a gleeful laugh of defiance. Miss Godolphin stopped to address Margery.

“Shall you go to India or not, Margery?”

“I'm just aʼmost tore in two about it, ma'am," was the answer, delivered confidentially. “Without me that child would never reach the tother side alive : she'd be clambering up the sides o' the ship and get drounded ten times over afore they got there. Look at her now! And who'd take care of her over there, among them native beaststhem elephants and them black people ? If I thought she'd ever come to be waited on by a black animal of a woman with a yellow cover to her head and woolly hair, I should be fit to smother her afore she went out. Miss Janet, I'd like much to talk that and some other matters over with you, if you'd got half an hour to spare me afore you start."

“Very well, Margery. Perhaps you can come to Ashlydyat tonight. I am going, you know, by to-morrow's early train. Margery," she more seriously added, “your mistress appears to want the greatest care."

“She have wanted that a long while,” was Margery's composed answer.

“She ought to have everything strengthening in great plenty. Wine and other necessaries requisite for the sick.”

“I suppose she ought," said Margery. “But she won't take 'em, Miss Janet; she says she can't eat and drink. And for the matter of that, we have got nothing of that sort for her to take. There was more good things consumed in the bank in a day than we should see in a month now."

“Where's your master ?” repeated Janet, in an accent not less sharp than the one she had used for the same question to Maria.

“He!" cried wrathful Margery, for the subject was sure to put her uncommonly out, in the strong opinion she was pleased to hold touching her master's short-comings, “ I suppose he's riding about with his choice friend, Madam Pain. Folks talks of their two horses being seen abreast pretty often."

There was no opportunity for further colloquy. Bessy came in, carrying the shrieking, laughing truant; and Margery, with a tart word to the young lady, and a jerk of the little arm by way of reminder, attended the Miss Godolphins down the garden path to throw open the gate for them. In her poor way, in her solitary self, Margery strove to make up for the state they had been accustomed to, when the ladies called from Ashlydyat.

Maria, lying motionless on the sofa, where, on being left alone, she had thrown herself in weariness, heard Margery's gratuitous remark about Mrs. Pain through the unlatched door, and a contraction of pain arose to her brow. In her hand lay the four sovereigns left there by Janet. She looked at them musingly, and then murmured, “I can afford to give her half.” When Margery returned in-doors, she called her in.

“ You are not very busy this afternoon are you, Margery?”

Margery grunted out her answer. Not so over-busy, perhaps; but for the matter of that there was always plenty to do."

"Can you go down as far as the Pollard Cottages ?”' resumed Maria. “I wish very much to see Mrs. Bond, Margery. Ask her to come up bere. It will be a nice walk for you and Meta.”

Margery looked dubious. The wind was in the east, and would blow sharply on her darling : and that Dame Bond, in Margery's opinion, was better in her own house than in theirs. But she made no remonstrance; crusty as she appeared to be in temper, she was a better servant than to attempt to dispute her mistress's will, and she dressed herself and Meta, and started.

But no sooner had they gone than they were back again, and Mrs. Bond with them, for they had discerned that respected lady sailing along, almost immediately after quitting the house. Very steady on her legs was Mrs. Bond to-day : her face had a pinched look, and her thin shawl and wretched old black gown were drawn tight round her to protect her, so far as might be, from the early winter's cold. Margery eyed her critically, and with a sniff which really might have been taken to express a sort of satisfaction, crossed the road, holding Meta by the hand.

“Now, Dame Bond! where be you off to ?”

Dame Bond, of humble mind when not exalted by extraneous adjuncts, dropped a curtsey to Margery and another to Miss Meta. She heered the ladies at t'other end of the town was a putting down the names for the coal charity a’ready, and she was a going to see if she couldn't get hers put down among 'em ; they refused her last year. Goodness know'd as she'd need of it.

“Well, Mrs. George Godolphin wants to speak to you, so you'd better come to her at once," said Margery. “And take care of your behaviour when you be in her presence," she sharply added.

There was not altogether need to give that injunction to-day. Mrs. Bond, on her meekest and civilest behaviour, stood before Maria, who rose up from her sofa, and kindly invited her to a chair. Then she put two sovereigns in her hand.

"It is the first instalment of my debt to you, Mrs. Bond. If I live, I will pay it you all, but it will be by degrees. And perhaps that is the best way that you could receive it. I wish I could have given you some before.”

Mrs. Bond burst into tears. Not the crocodile's tears that she was somewhat in the habit of favouring the world with when not entirely herself, but real genuine tears of gratitude. She had given up all hope of the ten pounds, did not look to receive a penny piece of it; and the joy overcame her. Her conscience pricked her a little also, for she remembered sundry hard words she had at one time liberally regaled her neighbours' ears with, touching Mrs. George Godolphin. In her grateful repentance she could have knelt at Maria's feet: hunger and other ills of poverty had tended to subdue her spirit. Aug.-VOL. CXXVIII. NO. DXII.

2 E

“ May the good Lord bless and repay ye, ma'am '--and send ye a safe journey to the far-off place where I hear ye be a going!”

“Yes, I shall go if I am well enough,” replied Maria. “It is from there that I shall send you home some money from time to time as I can. Have you been well lately?"

“ As well as pretty nigh clamming 'll let me be, ma'am. Things has gone hard with me : many a day I've not bad as much as a mouldy crust. But this 'll set me up again, and, ma'am, I'll never cease to pray for ye."

“Don't spend it in-in-you know, Mrs. Bond,” Maria ventured timidly to advise, in a lowered voice.

Mrs. Bond shook her head and turned up her eyes by way of erpressing a very powerful negative. Probably she did not feel altogether comfortable in the subject, for she hastened to quit it.

“Have ye heard the news about old Jekyl, ma'am ?" “ No. What news ?”.

“ He be dead. He went off at one o'clock this a'ternoon. He fretted continual after his money, folks says, and it wore him down to a skeleton. He couldn't abear to be living upon his sons, and Jonathan, he don't earn enough for himself now, and the old 'un felt it."

Somebody else was feeling it. Fretting continually after his money !-that money which might never have been placed in the bank but for her! Poor Maria pressed her fingers upon ber aching forehead: and Mrs. Bond plunged into another item of news.

“Them Hardings be bankrups.”
“Harding the undertaker ?” cried Maria, quickly.

“ They be, ma'am. The shop were shut up as close as a dungeon when I come by it just now, and a man, what was standing there a staring at it, said as he heered it ’ud go hard with 'em. There ain't nothing but trouble in the world now, ma'am, for some."

No, nothing but trouble for some: Maria felt the truth to her heart of hearts. The remembrance of the interview she had held with Mrs. Harding, and what had been said at it, was very present to her.

Perhaps it was well that a divertisement occurred. Miss Meta, who had been up-stairs with Margery to have her things taken off, came in in her usual flying fashion, went straight up to the visitor, and leaned her pretty arm upon the snuffy black gown.

“ When shall I come and see the parrot ?"

“ The parrot! Lawks bless the child! I haven't got the parrot now, I haven't had him for this many a day. I couldn't let him clam," she continued, turning to Maria. “ I was a clamming myself, ma'am, and I sold him, cage and all, just as he stood."

“ Where is he ?” asked Meta, looking disappointed.

“ Where he went,” lucidly explained Mrs. Bond. “ It were the lady up at the tother end o' the town beyond the parson's what bought him, ma'am. Leastways her daughter did: sister to her what was once to have married Mr. Godolphin. It's a white house."

“Lady Sarah Grame's," said Maria. “Did she buy the parrot ?"

“Miss did ; that cross-looking daughter of her'n. She see him as she was a going by my door one day, ma’am, and she stopped and

looked at him, and asked me what I'd sell him for. Well, on the spur o' the moment I said five shilling; for I'd not a halfpenny in the place to buy him food, and for days and days he had had only what the neighbours brought him—but it warn't half his worth. And miss was all wild to buy him, but her mother wasn't, she didn't want screeching birds in her house, she said, and they had a desperate quarrel in my kitchen afore they went away. Didn't she call her mother names! She's a vixen, that daughter, if ever there were one. But she got her will, for an hour or two after that, a young woman come down for the parrot with the five shillings in her hand. And there's wbere he is.”

“I shall have twenty parrots when I go to India,” struck in Meta.

" What a sight o' food they'll eat !” ejaculated Mrs. Bond. “That there one o' mine eats his fill now. I made bold one day to go up and ask after him, and the two young women in the kitchen took me to the room to see him, the ladies being out, and he had got his tin stuffed full o' seed. He knowed me again, he did, and screeched out to be heerd a mile off. The young women said that what with his screeching and the two ladies quarrelling, the house weren't a bearable sometimes.”

Meta's large eyes were wide open in wondering speculation. “Why do they quarrel ?" she asked.

“'Cause it's their natur," returned Mrs. Bond. “The one what had the sweet natur was took, and the two cranky ones was left. Them young women said that miss aʼmost druv t'other, my lady, mad with her temper, and they expected nothing less but there'd be blows some day. A fine disgraceful thing to say o' born ladies, ain't it, ma'am ?"

Maria in her delicacy of feeling would not endorse the remark of Dame Bond. But the state of things at Lady Sarah Grame's was perfectly well known at Prior's Ash. Do you remember an observation made by Mr. Snow to Thomas Godolphin, when he was speaking of Lady Sarah's cruel unkindness to Ethel ?' “She'll be brought to her senses, unless I am mistaken: she has lost her treasure and kept her bane. A year or two more, and that's what Sarah Anne will be."

It was precisely what Sarah Anne Grame had become—her mother's bane. A miserable bane! to herself, to her mother, to all about her. And the "screeching” parrot bad only added a little more noise to an already too noisy house.

Mrs. Bond curtseyed herself out. She met Margery in the passage, and stopped to whisper.

“I say'! how ill she do look !"
“Who looks ill ?" was the ungracious demand.

Mrs. Bond gave her head a nod sideways towards the parlour door. The missis. Her face looks more as if it had got death writ in it, nor voyage going.”

“Perhaps you'll walk on your road, Dame Bond, and keep your opinions till they're asked for," was the tart reply of Margery.

But in point of fact the ominous words had darted into the faithful servant's heart, piercing it as a poisoned arrow. It seemed such a confirmation of her own fears.

SIR WILLIAM WALLACE.

BY SIR NATHANIEL.

The last generation of the Reading Public was, for the most part, content-comfortably and sentimentally content-to take on trust, as a trustworthy piece of portraiture, Miss Porter's patriotic presentment of Wallace Wight. A rather gushing, very Grandisonian personage he turned out, under her manipulation. A grandiloquent exemplar of all the virtues; almost too much of a good thing, and that good thing too good to be true. But people believed in him as an authentic impersonation, and not merely a band-box hero of circulating-library prowess, of Minerva Press proportions. Since then a generation has arisen, of iconoclastic tendencies, in matters at least of hero-worship and historical romance. And a public has been won to read, if not won over to implicitly believe in, the reactionary strictures on Wallace Wight of philoPlantagenet Mr. Clifford, and of sundry his abettors in the periodical press. Mr. Clifford, in his zeal for the Greatest of All the Plantagenets, makes no scruple of bracketing Wallace with Nana Sahib. And he is backed in the main, as regards this seemingly audacious analogy, this apparently paradoxical parallel, by that outspoken and independent authority which Mr. Bright, in his displeasure, was pleased to call the Satur. day Reviler; and Mr. Thackeray, the Superfine Review.

The confederate Scottish Chiefs in general, and Wallace of Ellerslie in particular, as portrayed by popular Miss Porter, {may remind us of what a contemporary French critic says of Marmontel's polite perversion of Belisarius, and of Florian's mincing misrepresentation of Gonzalvo, “ Lisez le Bélisaire de M. de Marmontel, et le Gonzalve de M. de Florian ; l'un, général du moyen-âge; l'autre si redoutable à ses propres troupes, qu'il punissait de mort la plus légère faute de discipline, sont devenus des héros aussi aimables que Richelieu ou Lauzun."*

Said Sir Walter Scott to the Ettrick Shepherd one morning, soon after the first appearance of the “Scottish Chiefs,” “ I am grieved about this work of Miss Porter. I cannot describe to you how much I am disappointed. I wished to think so well of it; and I do think highly of it as a work of genius. But, Lord help her! her Wallace is no more our Wallace than Lord Peter is, or King Henry's messenger to Hotspur. It is not safe meddling with the hero of a country, and, of all others, I cannot bear to see the character of Wallace frittered away to that of a fine gentleman.”+

But the Porter point of view became the popular standpoint whence to measure the inches of Wallace's stalwart stature, and to judge what manner of man he was.

Ye generous spirits that protect the brave,
And watch the seaman o'er the crested wave,
Cast round the fearless soul your glorious spell,

That fired a Hampden and inspired a Tell-
* Etudes sur l'Antiquité, par Philarète Chasles.
† Hogg's Private Life, &c., of Sir W. Scott. (1834.)

« EelmineJätka »