Page images
PDF
EPUB

6 If

had gone

CHAPTER XXIII.

AMANDA.

mother'can deny her child anything that for Frederick, but for herself; for indeed is for his good ? she had asked often it was at the bar of a private court of her enough — and now she herself was in the own that she was standing, striving to position of denying. It struck at the defend herself, which was not easy. She very root of all her past principles of ac- said this humbly by way of explanation tion, of all that she had believed and held to the judge sitting there, who was a hard by throughout her life. What did she judge and received no weak excuses. care for in this world except her children ? “ The boys, pshaw !” said Frederick. What was there in this world that she “ If Dick goes to India, and Jenny into would not give up for her children ? And the Church, they are both provided for. yet she had (it was incredible) arrived at I do not see that you need to trouble youra moment when two of them asked a sac- self about the boys rifice from her for their happiness, which you

into the Church you in the depths of her heart she knew her- would have been well provided for,” said self unwilling to make.

Mrs. Eastwood.“ Jenny may have diffi“You do not make me any answer, culties too mother," said Frederick.

" Oh, I would make short work with * I cannot all at once," she said, feeling Jenny's difficulties !” said Frederick. desperately that to gain time was the best That was totally a different question. He she could do. “You forget, Frederick, went on expounding his views to her that I was totally unprepared.”

about his brothers till Mrs. Eastwood “But you must have foreseen that such found the evening cold, and went in shiva thing would happen some day,” he said. ering a little and far from happy. She

“I ought to have done so, no doubt, had come to one of the enigmas of life but I don't think I had thought of it. Of of which the fin mot was yet to find, and course I hoped you would both marry,” out of which she could not see her way. she said, falteringly. Stray and vague thoughts that the marriage of her children should not have involved as a matter of necessity this attack upon herself floated through her mind — but she was FREDERICK's fever had come to a criso deeply penetrated by the absolute hor- sis. The next day was Saturday, and, ror of her own reluctance to satisfy them, without waiting his mother's answer, hé that she felt unable to suggest any possi- went down to Sterborne in the afternoon. ble blame except to herself.

He could wait no longer. Sterborne is a "I must beg, mother," said Frederick, little town with a large old church. It " that you will not speak of Nelly and would be almost a village but for the myself as if we were exactly in the same Minster, which gives it dignity; and all position. Nelly has her fortune. Any. the people of the place are accustomed further demand on her part is quite ridic- to consider the Minster as their private ulous. 1, on the other hand, shall have property, and to exhibit it to strangers as the credit of the family to keep up. I something in which they themselves have shall actually be the head of the family on had a hand, and for which thanks are due

to them, and not only thanks, but shilOn your death! Is there any human lings and sixpences. Frederick's arrival mind which is not conscious of a startling at the little inn was accordingly set down thrill and wince when these words are without doubt to the attractions of the said ? Mrs. Eastwood nodded her head Minster; and while he ate his luncheon in acquiescence, but felt as if her son had the guides who particularly attached calmly fitted and fired an arrow which themselves to that establishment collectwent tingling into her heart. Of course, ed outside, to be ready for his service as what he said was quite true.

soon as he should appear. “I will consider the whole question “ The Minster, Sir? here you are, Sir!” carefully,” she said, in a tone which said one sharp, small, creature, half man, changed in spite of herself, “and I will half boy, with elf looks and unnaturally ask advice. It is strange to take advice bright eyes. " I'm the reg'lar guide," between my children and myself, but you said another. “Them fellows there don't have often told me, Frederick, I did not know nothing - not a single haltar, or understand business. I must think it all the names of the tombs as are all about over carefully before I can give you any the place.” “I can do you a rubbing of answer. I have the boys to consider too." the brasses, Sir.”

“ Here's photographs, This she said in a very low tone, not Sir, of all the favourite aspects.”

your death

“ here

are, Sir."

Thus he was surrounded and beset.ered door, raised by one white step from He could have knocked them all down, the pavement. The door opened into a with pleasure, as they struggled in his long passage at the end of which was anway; but as that was not practicable, he other door, which stood wide open, threw their ranks into utter rout by say- showing a large garden, green and bright ing plainly, “I don't want to go to the with the afternoon sunshine. Mr. Bitty Minster”-a speech which filled the was not at home, the maid informed him crowd of Sterborne with absolute con- who opened the door ; but if the gentlesternation, and almost produced an insur- man would walk into the drawing-room or rection in the place. That any man the garden she would see whether Miss should profess himself indifferent to the Batty was visible. Frederick, in his restcentre of their town and the world star- lessness and the agitation of his mind, tled them beyond measure. What did preferred the latter and went into the garhe come to Sterborne for, if not to see den in a strange, tremulous state of exthe Minster? While they dispersed citement scarcely knowing what he was from his path, with an assured conviction about. in their minds that he must be an infidel The house had looked pretty and small and revolutionary, Frederick called the from the front, with rows of small twinkimp who had first offered his services. ling windows and a low roof; but at the

“I want to go to Mr. Batty's,” said back the impression was very different. he.

Various rooms built on to the original “To old Batty's ? " cried the lad, turn-corps du logis stood out into the lawn, ing a somersault on the spot : you

with great how windows, with green turf

at their feet and creeping plants mantling “He's going to old Batty's !” cried about them. One of these, evidently the one of the assistants : and there was a drawing-room, displayed handsome and roar of laughter, which Frederick did not luxurious furniture, of a tasteless but understand, but which made him angry costly kind, through the softly fluttering by instinct.

lace curtains. The garden itself was "Why did they laugh ?” he asked, large and beautifully cared for, showing when he had left that mob behind him, both wealth and understanding. This and was following his guide through the gave a little comfort to Frederick's mind, High Street.

for gardening is an aristocratic taste. He "We all laughs at old Batty," was the pleased himself with thinking that perreply.

haps this was Amanda's doing ; for no “For what reason ? " said Frederick, one could suspect Batty himself of caring sternly: but his conductor only laughed so much for mere beauty. He walked

To tell the truth there was about the beds and bosquets with a sur

The ragamuffins of the place prised sense of pleasure, finding the surhad made a custom of it; they “ always roundings so much more graceful than he laughed," but they could give no reason had hoped - and began to feel that his why. Nevertheless, this very circum- passion was thus justified. Presently she stance chilled Frederick. It was not would appear, and fill those paths with powerful enough to stop him in his en- light. It would be very different from terprise, but it chilled him. His old the aspect under which she appeared in self — his serious self – sprang up at the London hotel. Here she was at home, once, and looked his infatuated and im- surrounded by circumstances which she passioned self in the face, and asked him herself had moulded, which were sweetly how he would like to be the son-in-law adapted to her; and here, for the first of a man at whom the very ragamuffins time, he could see her as she was. A laughed. His foolish self replied that the hope of something better than he had yet die was cast, that he had committed him-known, better than he deserved, stole self, and had no way of escape - which, over Frederick's mind. He had fallen in indeed, was a mere pretence, since he had love with mere beauty — that beauty as yet neither seen the lady of his love which is but skin deep, and which all nor any one belonging to her ; but it an- moralists preach against. Could it be swered his purpose, and stopped the that in so doing he was to find goodness, mouth of the gainsayer.

good taste, and refinement, too? Batty's house was in the outskirts of While he was thus musing, the sound the little town. It was an old-fashioned of voices reached him from one of the house, low and straggling, opening direct open windows. It was a warm afternoon, from the road, with a little brass knock-I almost like summer. A glimmer of fire

once more. no reason.

light made itself visible in at least two of dresses given you, and all sorts of things. the rooms, and in both of these the win- Of course it was for our own sakes. dows were open. Frederick had no in- What was there in you to make us take tention of eavesdropping, but when he any trouble? You are old, you are plain, heard the voice which he remembered and vulgar, and disagreeable. What right so well, he pricked up his ears. I am have you to be kept like a lady Pa's afraid there are few lovers who would not house? You are only good enough to have done so. At first the talking was scrub the floor. Why have you always vague - not clear enough to reach him ; stayed on when nobody wanted you ? I but after a while it became louder in tone. suppose you thought you might marry Pa The first to make itself heard was a when Ma was dead and gone, though it's voice which whimpered and complained - against the law. Of course that was “After twenty years' work for him and what you wanted — to be mistress of the his : twenty years !” it said ; and it wa- house, and get him under your thumb, vered about as if the speaker was walking and rule over me. Try it, Aunty! You up and down the room with agitation. won't find mę so easy to rule over ! Sometimes she would stand still, and ad- Just try! An old, ugly, vulgar, spiteful dress the person to whom she was speak- creature, with no recommendation and ing, varying from complaint to anger. no character Frederick did not know this voice. It was Manda, 'Manda,” cried the other, only when another speaker burst in, in a “Oh, don't be so cruel ! still louder tone, that the situation be- I will be cruel, if you call that cruel. came at all clear to him. The second There's more than that coming. What voice rang at once into his heart. It was is the good of you, but to make a slave melodious enough in its ordinary sound and a drudge of? Why should Pa keep - a round, full voice, not without sweet- you, but for that? Aunty, indeed! He ness; but something altogether new and was a fool ever to let me call you so. unexpected came into it with these sharp- And so he is, a soft-hearted fool, or he er and louder tones.

never would have kept you on for years ** You are free to go away whenever and years. If he had but asked me, you you choose,” Amanda cried. “ I will not should have been packed off ages ago. be troubled like this. You know what all You to put on airs, indeed, and say you the doctors have said, and how wicked it won't do anything you're told to do! Go, is to worry me. No one can know bet- this minute, you wicked woman, and don't ter than you do. You are a wretch ; you worry me. Fancy, me! to sit here and have no kindness, no feeling. Because listen to you as if you were worthy to be you have quarrelled with Papa you want listened to you who are no better than to kill me. " What is the use of bullying the dirt under my feet.” me? You know you can go, as soon as “'Manda, you dare to speak like that ever you please. Go, and be done with to your own flesh and blood !” it. You are always threatening, always “I dare do a great deal more,” cried saying what you will do

Amanda. “I dare to turn you out of “GO!” said the other ; " Oh, 'Manda, doors, bag and baggage; and I will, if you to speak of feeling ! when I have you don't mind. You old Jezebel — you been here twenty years, and taken care old hag, as Pa says — you horrid painted of you from your childhood. But you are witch you wicked woman ! Get out of as cold and as hard as a millstone, my sight, or I'll throw something at you though you are so pretty. Oh, if people – I will! Go away! If you are not only knew how you can talk, and how gone in one moment - you witch heartless you are, and the things you say old hag ! to your mother's own sister — her that Here a smash of something breaking has brought you up and taken care of told that the gentle Amanda had kept her you for twenty years !”

word. There was a suppressed cry, a - Taken care of me, indeed,” cried scuffle, a scream, and then the bell rung Amanda ; “any servant could have taken violently. care of me. You have been a nuisance On, I suppose it's my fault,” cried since ever I can recollect : always re- the other voice, with a whimpering cry. minding one that Mamma was not a lady, “ Bring the bottle out of her room - the and pulling us down as far as you could one at her bedside. Give me the eau-deWhat were you? Nothing but a lady's cologne. Here's she been and fainted. maid. Here you've been tried to be Quick! Quick! 'Manda! I didn't mean made a lady of, and had handsome it, dear! I don't mind ! 'Manda! Lord,

- you

you were red enough just now — don't see her, behold her beauty once morelook so dead white ! ”

give himself that last pleasure ? He Was it Frederick's guardian angel that would never seek her again; she had had made him an auditor of this scene? disgusted, revolted, turned his mind The loud voice declaiming, the string of away from her. But since he was already abusive words, the clash of the missile so near, since he had given his card, thrown, were horrible and strange to him since it would be known at once why he as the language of demons. He was went away, this once, not for love, but thunderstruck. Her language had not for scornful gratification of his contemptalways been pleasant to him, but he was uous admiration, just as he would look at not prepared for anything like this. He a statue or picture, he would see her walked up and down in a state of mind again. which it would be impossible to describe. This was the foolish reasoning with His first impulse was fight. There was which he subdued the wiser instinct that still time for him to get away altogether, prompted him to fly. Why should he to escape from this horrible infatuation, fly? A woman capable of speaking, actto escape from her and her dreadful ing, thinking as this woman had done, father, and everything belonging to her. could no longer have any power over a Should he go?' Then he reflected he man who, whatever might be his moral had given his card, and so far compro- character, had still the tastes and immised himself. Was thi: sufficient to pulses of a gentleman. She had made an detain a man who had just been subjected end of her sway over him, he thought; to the hardest trial in the world, a sudden that dream could never come back again. disgust for the woman whom he thought Nobody but a madman would ask such a he loved ? Frederick stood still, he creature to marry him. To marry him ? paused, his heart was rent in two. He to be taken to his mother's house, and was within reach of her, almost within promoted into the society of gentlefolk? sight of her, and must he go without see- Never! He laughed bitterly at the noing her, unworthy as she might be ? It tion. But, thank Heaven! he had not was not necessary, he said to himself, betrayed himself. Thank Heaven ! that that anything should follow, that he merely to see her would commit him to should carry out the intention with which nothing. No, he ended by convincing he came.

That was impossible — how-bimself the most manly course was to ever lovely and sweet and fair she might'pay his visit as if nothing had happened, be, he would not take a low-bred terma-, to see the syren who was no longer a gant into his bosom. No, no! that was syren to him, but only a beautiful piece over for ever. But how could he go of flesh and blood, whom he might look without seeing her, after he had given at, and admire like a statue. This was, his card and announced himself ? This he repeated to himself, the most manly would be to expose himself to her wrath course. The phrase was pleasant to him. and her father's, in whose power to some, To run away would look as if he had no extent he was. He could hear the voices confidence in his own moral force and through the open window as he wan- power of resisting temptation. But the dered about the garden arguing with fact was that there could be no longer himself. Should he go? Should he'any temptation in the matter.

To see stay? Strangely enough, though he had her, and prove to himself that disgust been told that agitation might be fatal to had altogether destroyed the fierce violent her, he was not anxious about her, though wild love which had 'swallowed up all his he surmised that she had fainted. His better resolution, was the only manly disgust took this form. If she were ill course to take. after her outbreak, she deserved it. On He was standing by one of the flowerthe whole he was almost pleased that she beds, stamping down unconsciously with should be ill. She had humiliated him his boot the border of long-leaved croas well as herself, and he had a vindictive cuses which had gone out of flower, but satisfaction in feeling that she was pun- quite unaware of the damage he was doished for it; but further than this he did ing, when the maid who admitted him not go. No; of course all was over; he came back. She apologized for keeping could never be her suitor, never ask her him so long waiting. Miss 'Manda had to give him the hand with which she had been taken bad sudden one of her bad thrown something which crashed and turns — nothing out of the common broke at her companion's head. Never! but now was better, and would he go upthat was over; but why should not he stairs please?

“Was she well enough to see him ?” self, — did you know, Mr. Eastwood, what Frederick asked, with a momentary thrill a naughty, naughty girl I was ?” of alarm, feeling his heart begin to beat. “I heard — something," said Freder

"Oh, quite well enough. They don't ick, feeling all his armour of moral proof, last long, these bad turns. You will find all his moral courage drop from him. her a bit shaken, sir, and she didn't ought This fair creature, pale with agitation and to be excited or put out, but she's bet- exhaustion, smiling softly from her pilter," said the maid. Better! the scold, low, caressing the hand of her homely the termagant, the beautiful fury; but attendant, - confessing her fault, - this still Frederick's heart beat at the thought a termagant, a scold, a fury! The thing of seeing her again.

was ridiculous. Let him disbelieve his She was lying on a sofa close to the ears, his eyes, all his senses, rather than open window, looking very pale and lan- give up his faith in her. guid, just as she had been on that deli- “I don't know how to look you in the cious evening which he had last spent in face,” said Amanda, putting up her disher company, looking as if nothing but engaged hand to hide herself. “Oh, I gentle words could ever come out of those know I have been so very naughty. Please lovely lips. The woman whom she had forgive me. It makes me so ill always. calied Aunty, and whom she had been I am not let off. I get my punishment, abusing, sat by her holding a white hand, but not more than I deserve which looked as if it had been modelled “Don't speak of punishment !” said in ivory. Was that the hand? One of Frederick. He was ready to pledge his poor aunty's cheeks was red as fire, as if honour that no word which was not good she had been struck on it, and she had and gentle could have come from those evidently been crying. But she was full lips. Miss 'Manda sighed softly and of solicitude for her charge, placing the shook her head. cushions behind her comfortably, and “I have not a good temper. I never whispering and soothing her. Frederick had. Unless it is born with you, you can asked himself if he had been in a dream. never get it by trying, — and then, when Amanda held out her other hand to him I am agitated, it makes me ill. Nobody with gentle languor, and smiled at him an must ever cross me, you know, Mr. Eastangelic smile.

wood, or some day or other I shall die. "Is it really you, Mr. Frederick East- It is dreadful to think you may die any wood ?” she said. “We have been won- day without having a moment's time to dering over your card. I could not think prepare.” She rounded off this doleful what could keep you here. Are you stay- anticipation with a gentle sigh. She lay ing at the Court? But Sir Geoffrey is back upon her pillows with her colour benot at home

ginning to come back, but with a delight“No; I had business in this part of ful gravity on her face. She throw an the country, and thought I would avail inkstand at any one ? it was totally immyself of your father's invitation — that possible, - though, indeed, there was a is for an hour or two. I must return to black mark on the carpet which a maid town to-night,” he answered, proud of his was mopping up, and a stain of ink on own fortitude, but feeling, oh, such a the front of Aunty's dress; but this must melting and dissolving of all his resolu- have been accidental. Frederick looked tions.

at her and forgot his knowledge of the "That is a very short visit; but I hope world, and threw away his independent Papa may be able to persuade you to stay judgment and the evidence of his senses. longer," said Amanda. “You do not It must have been a mistake. He had all mind my receiving you on the sofa ? I but seen it with his own eyes, but he felt have been ill. Oh, you must not be too it could not be true. If it had been true, sorry for me,” she added, laughing, “it would the assailed woman, she with the was my own fault, - entirely my own fault. stain on her dress, be sitting by AmanI allowed myself to get into a passion. I da's side, still holding her hand, and sootham sure you never did such a thing. Mr. ing her ? It must have been an accident. Eastwood, is it not shocking ? I got an- Nothing more easy than to push over an gry at poor Aunty, here. Yes, I deserve inkstand from a table. It was the simto be whipped, I know I do, — and I al- plest accident. He suggested it to himways am punished, though not more than self first, and then he believed it strenuI deserve. They told me you were in the ously. He drew his chair close by the garden. I am so much ashamed of my- sofa, and asked what he could do to LIVING AGE. VOL. III.

116

« PreviousContinue »