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The Collected Works of

ELLEN WOOD

(1814-1887)



Contents

The Novels

DANESBURY HOUSE

EAST LYNNE

A LIFE’S SECRET

MRS. HALLIBURTON’S TROUBLES

THE CHANNINGS

THE FOGGY NIGHT AT OFFORD

THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT

VERNER’S PRIDE

LORD OAKBURN’S DAUGHTERS

OSWALD CRAY

TREVLYN HOLD

WILLIAM ALLAIR

MILDRED ARKELL

IT MAY BE TRUE

ELSTER’S FOLLY

ST. MARTIN’S EVE

ROLAND YORKE

WITHIN THE MAZE

THE STORY OF CHARLES STRANGE

The Shorter Fiction

THE ELCHESTER COLLEGE BOYS

THE GHOST OF THE HOLLOW FIELD

JOHNNY LUDLOW

JOHNNY LUDLOW, SECOND SERIES

JOHNNY LUDLOW. THIRD SERIES

JOHNNY LUDLOW. FOUR SERIES

JOHNNY LUDLOW. FIFTH SERIES

JOHNNY LUDLOW. SIXTH SERIES

The Short Stories

LIST OF SHORT STORIES IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

LIST OF SHORT STORIES IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER

The Non-Fiction

OUR CHILDREN

The Biography

MEMORIALS OF MRS. HENRY WOOD by Charles W. Wood

The Delphi Classics Catalogue



© Delphi Classics 2015

Version 1





The Collected Works of

ELLEN WOOD





By Delphi Classics, 2015





COPYRIGHT


Collected Works of Ellen Wood

First published in the United Kingdom in 2015 by Delphi Classics.

© Delphi Classics, 2015.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form other than that in which it is published.

Delphi Classics

is an imprint of

Delphi Publishing Ltd

Hastings, East Sussex

United Kingdom

Contact: sales@delphiclassics.com

www.delphiclassics.com





Parts Edition Now Available!



Love reading Ellen Wood?

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The Novels





The city of Worcester — where Ellen Wood was born in 1814





DANESBURY HOUSE




Wood’s first novel, Danesbury House was published in 1860 by the Scottish Temperance League and is a didactic morality tale about the dangers of the demon drink. Although this was her first novel, Wood was already an experienced writer, having contributed over a hundred short stories to various periodicals. Her initial attempts to interest publishers and editors in commissioning her to write a full-length novel had met with little enthusiasm. However, a friend alerted Wood to a competition run by the Scottish Temperance League, who were offering £100 (by no means a small sum in 1860) to the person who could write “the best temperance tale illustrative of the injurious effects of intoxicating drinks, the advantages of personal abstinence, and the demoralised operations of the liquor traffic”. The result was Danesbury House which, though written extremely quickly, won the competition and became a bestseller.





Title page of an early American edition





CONTENTS


ADVERTISEMENT.

CHAPTER I.

CHAPTER II.

CHAPTER III.

CHAPTER IV.

CHAPTER V.

CHAPTER VI.

CHAPTER VII.

CHAPTER VIII.

CHAPTER IX.

CHAPTER X.

CHAPTER XI.

CHAPTER XII.

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV.

CHAPTER XV.

CHAPTER XVI.

CHAPTER XVII.

CHAPTER XVIII.

CHAPTER XIX.

CHAPTER XX.

CHAPTER XXL

CHAPTER XXII.

CHAPTER XXIII.

CHAPTER XXIV.

CHAPTER XXV.

CHAPTER XXVI.





Illustration by Sydney Cowell from a later edition of the novel





ADVERTISEMENT.


The Directors of the Scottish Temperance League having offered a prize of £100 sterling for the “best Temperance Tale illustrative of the injurious effects of Intoxicating Drinks, the advantages of Personal Abstinence, and the demoralizing operations of the Liquor Traffic,” the MSS. sent in for the competition were placed in the hands of the Rev. J. Masson, Dundee, the Rev. N. L. Walker, Dysart, and the Rev. A. Hannay, Dundee, who unanimously gave their award in favor of the tale entitled “Danesbury House.” The Directors issue the Tale with the fervent hope and prayer that it may contribute largely to the progress of the Temperance Cause and kindred movements.

League Office, 108 Hope Street,

Glasgow, 28th Feb., 1860.





CHAPTER I.


THE MISTAKE. THE DINNER-TABLE.

It was a winter’s afternoon, cold and bright, and the large nursery window of Danesbury House looked out on an extensive and beautiful prospect. Seated at it, occupied in repairing some fine lace, was a smart young woman of twenty, an upper maid, sensible and sharp-looking, with quick, dark eyes, and a healthy colour.

“There’s the baby, Glisson,” she suddenly exclaimed, as a child’s cry was heard from the adjoining room.

Glisson, the person she addressed, was a woman of middle age, active and slender, the valued nurse in the Danesbury family. She was sitting in a low rocking-chair, right in front of the fire, nodding at intervals. She half opened her eyes and turned them on Jessy, with a somewhat dull or stupid expression.

“Did you speak?” she asked.

“The baby, Glisson. Don’t you hear him?”

Glisson rose, and stepping into the night-nursery, brought forth little William Danesbury, a lovely child of nine months old. His cheeks were flushed to a crimson damask, his pretty mouth was like a rosebud, and his eyes were large and dark and brilliant. She sat down with him on the low chair; he seemed somewhat fractious, as infants will be on awaking from sleep, and Glisson laid him fiat upon her knee and rocked the chair backward and forward.

“The idea of your trying to hush the child off to sleep again!” exclaimed Jessy. “I’m sure he has slept long enough — all the time we were at dinner!”

“Mind your own business,” cried Glisson.

Jessy was one who rather liked to have the last word. “He wants amusing, nurse; he doesn’t want more sleep: and I dare say he is hungry.”

Glisson made no reply. She had closed her eyes, perhaps with a view to finish her own doze, and was gently keeping the chair on the rock. The child, soothed to quiet, lay still. Jessy paused in her work, turned her head sideways, and kept her eyes fixed for the full space of a minute on Mrs. Glisson.

Presently a fit of coughing took the baby. The nurse put him to sit up, and patted his back, but he coughed violently. He had had a bad cough for more than a week past, but it was getting better. Glisson rose and looked on the mantle-piece for his cough mixture. She could not see it.

“What have you done with the baby’s medicine?” she exclaimed to Jessy.

“I have not done any thing with it,” was the reply. “I have not touched it.”

“You must have touched it, or else it would be here,” sharply retorted Mrs. Glisson.

“I tell you I have not,” answered Jessy. “Where did you put it when you had used it last?”

“Where should I put it but in its place on the mantelpiece? I gave him some last night when I undressed him, and I put the bottle back. Somebody has been here, meddling,” continued the nurse in an angry tone; “but I’ll find out who it was. I’ll let the house know that nobody shall come into my nursery with impunity. Perhaps it’s carried into mistress’s room.”

She flung off, not in the best of tempers, the child coughing in her arms.

“Have you found it?” inquired Jessy, when she returned.

“Found it? of course I have,” replied the nurse. “There shall be a stir about this; how dare any body come and carry off my nursery things? It was in Mrs. Danesbury’s closet, put among the spirits of camphor, and the magnesia, and the other bottles. They thought to play me a trick, I suppose, for they have been clearing the direction off: maybe they’ll get one played to them, in a way they won’t like, before the day’s out. It’s that impudent Sarah! She said, at dinner, she’d be up to pranks, now mistress was away.”

Mrs. Glisson poured out a tea-spoonful of the mixture, and gave it to the child. Jessy, meanwhile, was thinking how very improbable it was that any servant, even Sarah, the careless and frolicsome under-housemaid, should presume to meddle with any thing belonging to the nurse and baby. All in a moment — she could not tell how or why — a doubt flashed over her. Could Mrs. Glisson have overlooked the bottle? Letting her work fall, she started up, and with one bound cleared the space between the window and the mantle-piece. Sure enough, there was the missing bottle, pushed out of sight behind a child’s toy.

“Oh, nurse, what have you done?” she uttered. “Here’s the baby’s medicine behind Miss Isabel’s doll-house! What have you given to him?”

The nurse looked confounded, and turned her gaze from the bottle in Jessy’s hand to the bottle in her own. They were precisely similar in shape and size, small round bottles, each about half full, with what, to appearance, might be taken for the same mixture. Jessy snatched the strange bottle from her, uncorked it and smelt it. She turned deadly pale.

“Mrs. Glisson, as true as that you are alive, you have killed the baby! This is laudanum.”

“You are a fool for saying it,” shrieked out Glisson, in her terror. “It can’t be the laudanum bottle!”

Jessy knew that it was; she recognized it as that which was kept in Mrs. Danesbury’s private closet. She laid her two hands upon the woman’s shoulders, and hissed forth strange words, in her grief and excitement. “You are not yourself, and you know it: you are not in a state clearly to distinguish one bottle from another.”

There was not a moment to be lost. She left the woman to her own reflections, to the two bottles, and the child, and tore down the stairs. In the hall she encountered a man-servant, and Jessy laid hold of him, and dragged him toward the front door. The man thought she was wild.

“The baby’s dying, Ralph. Fly for Mr. Pratt; don’t let him lose an instant.”

Ralph, after a prolonged stare of bewilderment, started off down the steps. Jessy followed him, and was running in a different direction, when a thought struck her, and she called again to the man.

“Tell him what it is, Ralph; it may save time. The baby has bad a dose of laudanum given him, in mistake for his cough-mixture.”

To the right, at a distance of nearly a quarter of a mile, rose the large and extensive buildings known by the name of the Danesbury Works. Jessy gained the spot, flew through the outer grounds, the passages, and into the private room of her master. Mr. Danesbury, a tall man of commanding presence, with nobly intelligent features and earnest blue eyes, now some years past thirty, was standing by his fire, engaged with two gentlemen. To see one of his handmaids burst upon them in that unceremonious fashion astonished him considerably: he thought her wild, as Ralph had done.

“Oh, sir,” she panted, “there has been a sad accident at home. Mrs. Glisson has made a mistake, and given the baby the wrong medicine.”

“Wrong medicine?” uttered Mr. Danesbury.

“She missed his cough-mixture, sir, and she found it, as she thought, in my mistress’s closet, and she gave him a tea-spoonful. It was not his mixture, but the laudanum.”

Mr. Danesbury, with a word of apology to the gentlemen, hastened from the room. “You should have sent for Mr. Pratt, Jessy,” he next said.

“I have, sir; I did not lose time; Ralph is gone for him.”

It was a deplorable accident, and it happened at an unusually unfavourable moment, for Mrs. Danesbury was away from home. She had left Eastborough with her two eldest children the previous day, to pay a visit to London.

Eastborough was forthwith up in arms. To see one of the servants from Danesbury House come along, without his hat, at the pace of a steam-engine, dart into Mr. Pratt’s, and to see the two, for happily the surgeon was at home, go steaming back again, caused unheard of consternation. People came out of their houses to wonder, and ask each other what had occurred; and the news soon spread to them from the works; for there Jessy’s errand had been learned by the operatives; little William Danesbury had been poisoned.

Nothing but emetics could have any counteracting effect upon so young a child, and those Mr. Pratt tried; but whether they would save him, could not yet be proved. Mr. Danesbury, the first shock over, began to reflect that it might be better to send for his wife; who, whatever should be the issue, would be the more satisfied to be at home than away. He determined to dispatch Thomas Harding, one of his most esteemed and faithful foremen, who had been in the works many years. “Jessy,” said Mr. Danesbury to the girl, “go back to the factory and tell your uncle to prepare for an immediate journey to London. After he is ready, he must come here to receive my instructions.’’

As Jessy went into the factory to do her master’s bidding, she was assailed on all sides. Was the child dead? Could it be brought round? How did it happen? But she would not answer one inquiry, until she had delivered the message to Mr. Harding, and when she did explain, it was very brief. A mistake of the nurse’s in taking up the wrong bottle, she said, and Mr. Pratt could give no opinion yet, one way or the other.

In those days railroads were not common, and the quickest way of general traveling was by posting. A chaise was ordered from the Ram, and was soon at Danesbury House. Mr. Harding, equipped for the journey, was already there, had taken his orders from his master, and was now standing on the steps outside, talking with Jessy in an under tone. As the chaise rattled up, and turned round, he got inside, and just at that moment Mr. Danesbury came out again.

“Mind, Harding, how you break it to Mrs. Danesbury. Be as cautious as possible. Mr. Pratt does think there may be a little hope, tell her.”

“I’ll do it in the best way that ever I can, sir,” he answered, the tears rising to his eyes with earnestness of feeling.

The chaise drove back at a swift pace, down the hill and through the small town, to the intense delight of the inhabitants, ever rejoicing in excitement, who flocked to their doors and windows to gaze after it as it rolled past, and at Thomas Harding seated bolt upright in it. They would have guessed his errand, had its object not transpired.

Mr. Danesbury had turned into the house again, but Jessy stood and watched the chaise down the hill; through the town she lost sight of it, but speedily saw it again, ascending the opposite hill, for Eastborough, a very small town, deserving little more than the name of village, was situated in a valley. Jessy was the daughter of a farmer who had a large family. She had received a good plain education, was well-mannered and well-conducted, and her friends had not thought it beneath them to accept a place for her as maid at Mrs. Danesbury’s, to wait upon and walk out with the two eldest children: Jessy had, at first, somewhat rebelled at it, not having thought she should be “sent out to service.” Thomas Harding’s wife was her father’s sister.

While that chaise was nearing the end of its forty-mile journey, a merry party had assembled round a well-lighted dinner-table in a handsome house in Bedford Row, the metropolitan locality where so many men of the law congregate. Mr. and Mrs. Serle were its owners, and eat at either end. By the side of the former, who was an eminent solicitor, sat Mrs. Danesbury, an elegant woman, of thirty years, with beautifully refined features and dark eyes, thoughtful and expressive. Opposite to her, in a drab silk gown, sat Miss St. George, who was the sister of Mrs. Serle, and lived there because she had no other home. Next to Mrs. Serle was a young man, Walter St. George; he was in Mr. Serle’ s office, and had been invited to dinner to meet Mrs. Danesbury; and the middle of the table was occupied by four children, two little Series and Arthur and Isabel Danesbury. Mrs. Danesbury was first cousin to Walter St. George, and both of them were more distantly related to Mrs. Serle and her sister. The children’s dining at this late hour was unusual; but they had been out with the ladies sight-seeing, and had lost their own dinner in the middle of the day. Of course they enjoyed amazingly the dining by candle-light.

“But, sir,” suddenly cried Arthur Danesbury, leaning forward that he might see Mr. St. George, “you have not told me about the Tower. Do you often go to it?”

“Well; no, I don’t,” smiled Mr. St. George. “But I will take you.”

Mrs. Danesbury laughed. “Arthur has a book at home, describing the glories and wonders of the towers in days gone by,” she said; “lions, giants, dwarfs, soldiers in armor, and scaffolds. He can not separate those marvels from the present tower by any process of reasoning whatever: so I fear disappointment will be in store for him when he shall visit it.”

Mr. St. George could scarcely take his eyes from the boy, who was still bending forward, so remarkably intelligent did he think his countenance. Fair, with a broad, white, intellectual forehead, his features gave promise of the same high order of beauty that distinguished his Other’s, and he possessed the same large, clear, earnest blue eyes. He was in his eighth year, his sister two years younger. A servant placed a glass of porter by his side, and recalled him to his dinner.

“Oh, water for me, if you please,” said the child.

“Water, sir?”

“Yes,” replied Arthur, “and for my sister also. We always drink water.”

There was no water on the side-board; it was a beverage not frequently called for at Mrs. Serle’s, and one of the servants had to go down stairs for some. Matthew and Charlotte Serle had each their small silver mug of porter.

“Your children are not going to drink water?” exclaimed Mrs. Serle, when she saw the water placed for them. “This can not hurt them, Mrs. Danesbury; it is only porter, not stout.”

“Thank you,” replied Mrs. Danesbury, “they never take any thing but water.”

“You don’t know what’s good for them, I see,” interposed Mr. Serle. But the subject dropped.

To be resumed, however, at dessert. In pouring out the port wine, Mr. Serle filled four glasses three parts full, and passed them to the children.

“Oh! I beg your pardon for not speaking sooner,” interrupted Mrs. Danesbury; “I did not observe. Arthur and Isabel do not take it.”

“Not take wine! and not take beer!” uttered Mr. Serle; “why, do you intend to make little hermits of them? I can assure you, these children, when they are indulged by dining with us, and on Sundays, look for their glasses of wine, filled ‘up to the pretty,’ as eagerly as we look for ours.”

“I never heard of such a thing as punishing children in that way,” cried Miss St. George.

“It is no punishment,” was Mrs. Danesbury’s reply.

“They are not accustomed to it, and therefore do not wish for it.”

“All moonshine!” laughed Mr. Serle. “Drink it up, children.”

“No; I must repeat that I prefer they should not,” returned Mrs. Danesbury.

Her manner and tone, though perfectly courteous and lady-like, were unmistakably decisive, and no more was said. The little Series drank their wine, and when the children had eaten some pears and oranges, they were all dispatched to the nursery to play.

“How can you force those nice children of yours to drink water?” began Mrs. Serle, turning to her guest. “Do you do it upon principle, as people say!”

“I do it because I believe it to be good for them,” was Mrs. Danesbury’s answer.

“But you can not possibly think that the small portion of beer and wine which our children have just taken can have done them any harm?”

“Whether it has done them harm I can not say; but I will say that water would have done them more good, even for their health’s sake.”

“Even for their health’s sake!” repeated Mrs. Serle. “I scarcely follow you. There is nothing else that could be benefited by it.”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Danesbury, “their taste. We should be very cautious what tastes we impart to, or cultivate in a child. A child can not dislike water naturally; it is its natural beverage, as, rely upon it, it was intended to be the natural beverage of man. A child should never be allowed to drink any thing else (except at those seasons, tea and breakfast, when milk is substituted); whether at dinner, or when thirsty, let it have its appointed drink — water. Confine a child’s drink to water, and he will obey the law of nature, and grow up loving the water. I believe that it is of the utmost importance that he should be allowed to do so.”

“I don’t see why.”

“As soon as a child can sit down to table and eat dinner, how many parents give that child beer to drink with it! Take your own children, for example; have you accustomed them to drink water?”

“No,” was Mrs. Serle’s reply; “but then, London water is such wretched stuff. Since the children could sit at table, they have always had a little sup of beer.”

“Just so,” returned Mrs. Danesbury; “you debar your children from tasting water, and in a few years’ time they will have lost their relish for it — if they have not done so already. You impart to them a taste (a forced, acquired taste, mind)! for stronger beverage, and indulge the taste until they learn to love it; naturally, after that, water appears insipid. Once let a child lose his liking for water, through disuse, through accustoming him to drink an artificial beverage, and you will rarely find him regain it in after life. Many grown persons will say, ‘I can not bear water; I could not drink it!’”

“I could not,” interrupted Mr. St. George. “I never did drink it, and I am sure I could not begin now.”

Mrs. Danesbury smiled; for she saw they all could have joined in his words, and it illustrated her theory. “Just so, Walter,” she remarked; “you were not allowed to drink water when your tastes, for good or for ill, were being formed. As our tastes are trained in childhood, so will our after likings be.”

‘‘Then, it is not that you think so ill of beer and wine, as that you wish your children to grow up fond of water,” observed Mr. Serle.

“That is chiefly it: they must grow up fond of one or of the other. My objection to children’s taking beer or wine would be less strong, could I make sure that they would always partake of them in strict moderation: but who can answer for the future? I think,” continued Mrs. Danesbury, smiling upon them pleasantly, but with deprecation, “though you must not take offense at my saying it, that when parents do not oblige their children to drink water as their common beverage, they are guilty of a positive sin.”

“Oh, Mrs. Danesbury!”

“A sin against the child: and perhaps,” she added, in a lower tone, “against God, who has sent him into the world to be trained to morality and goodness.”

There was a pause. It was Mr. Serle who broke it. “Are these your own sentiments chiefly, Mrs. Danesbury, or your husband’s?”

“They are mine. I believe my husband thinks with me, but his hands and head are so full of business that he gives but little heed to what he would call domestic points. He has entire confidence in my management.”

“Well; it is hard upon the children.” “Hard upon the children! how can you take up so mistaken an idea? It is quite the contrary. Had I said to my children at dinner, just now, take which you like best, beer or water, they would have chosen the water. Water, I say, assimilates itself naturally with a child’s palate; beer does not. Give a glass of beer to my children, who have never had any, and they would find it salt, bitter; disagreeable as a dose of medicine.”

“But, Mrs. Danesbury, if you keep your children — let us say the boy — to water, so long as you have control over him, you can not expect that he will confine himself to water when he becomes a man.”

“I don’t know that,” she answered; “I trust to be able to implant in him other wholesome training, besides that of drinking water; I mean, touching his own responsibility of action. But, whether he shall confine himself to water or not, I shall have the comforting consciousness of knowing that I have done my duty by him, in bringing him up to like it. When Matthew and Arthur, your boy and mine, shall stand side by side in after years, the one loving water, the other despising it, the one regardless of stimulants, the other craving for them, what will have made the difference, but the opposite mode in which they were reared? You do what you can to eradicate the natural liking for water implanted in the child, I do all I can to foster it. Believe me, Mr. Serle, we should all do well to bring up our children to drink water.”

“Madam,” interrupted a servant, entering the room and addressing Mrs. Danesbury, “there’s a gentleman below, asking to see you.”

“A gentleman!” repeated Mrs. Danesbury in surprise, who had no friends in London, and thought the man must be mistaken. “For me! Are you sure?”

“He asked for Mrs. Danesbury. He has a plaid shawl round his neck, madam, and a white top coat on. He said he came from Eastborough, and his name was Harding — Thomas Harding.”

The words seemed to electrify Mrs. Danesbury, and she turned pale as death, as she started from her seat. “What can be the matter?” she uttered. “Something must be amiss with my husband or my child!”

She quitted the room, and hurried to the one where Thomas Harding had been shown. He stood in the middle of it, his hat in his hand. Mr. and Mrs. Serle caught a glimpse of a most respectable looking man, with gray hair and an honest countenance.

“Tell me the worst at once,” breathed Mrs. Danesbury. “Something is amiss with Mr. Danesbury! He has not been caught in the machinery?’’ she gasped, the dreadful thought occurring to her.

“Dear lady, pray don’t alarm yourself: it’s nothing so bad as that. Mr. Danesbury is quite well, and it was he sent me to you. Little Master William is poorly, and he thought you might like to know it.”

Mrs. Danesbury sunk on a chair, inexpressibly relieved. “Sit down, Mr. Harding,” she said; “what is the matter with him?”

“Well, ma’am, it may sound awkward to you in telling, but Mr. Pratt had little doubt he’d be all right,” replied Thomas Harding, improving upon the hint given him by Mr. Danesbury, “and that was the last thing the master charged me to say to you. Mrs. Glisson lost his cough-mixture, and she found it, as she thought, and gave him some, but it turned out to be a bottle containing some tincture of opium. Mr. Pratt was there directly with his emetics, but the master bade me come up here and tell you, ma’am, thinking you might like to go home.”

Mrs. Danesbury sat quite still for a minute, her hands pressed upon her chest. The news surprised and perplexed her — apart from the shock and grief: but she had no time to spare for superfluous questions. “How did you come?” she inquired.

“I posted up, ma’am, in one of the chaises from the Bam. It is at the door.”

“Order fresh horses to it instantly,” she said, leading the way from the room. Mr. and Mrs. Serle were standing outside, not liking to intrude, and scarcely daring to inquire what had happened. She burst into tears as she gave them the news.

“Going down at once I” uttered Mr. Serle. “But how are you going?”

“Mr. Harding posted up. There is no difficulty.”

She had been walking up the stairs as she replied, too anxious to lose a moment. When her things were on, she went to say farewell to her children, who, it had been hastily decided, should remain for the present The ready tears rose to Arthur’s great blue eyes.

“Why do you leave us here, mamma? it won’t be nice when you are gone. When shall you come back?”

“The beginning of the week, I hope, Arthur. My darling,” she added in his ear, as she held his face to hers, “Mr. and Mrs. Serle may press you to take beer and wine, but you will remember that I wish you not to do so. And tell Isabel what I say. Touch neither.”

Arthur gave his head a very decided shake. His mother’s word was law with him. “I will be sure to remember, mamma.”

She kissed him twenty times; she kissed Isabel, breathing a blessing on them both: she bade firewall to the rest. The two children ran down to shake hands with Thomas Harding, who was in the dining-room with Mr. Serle swallowing some hasty refreshment. The chaise, with its fresh horses, drove to the door, and Mrs. Danesbury entered it, scarcely giving time for the step to be lowered. Thomas Harding prepared to mount to the seat in front — the dicky, as it was called in those days.

“No, no, Mr. Harding,” interposed Mrs. Danesbury, “you must not sit there this cold night. Come inside.”

“Ma’am,” he answered, in his respectful, modest way, hesitating to obey, “I feel that I should be intruding.”

“Not at all. Step in.”

And the chaise whirled from the door, and speedily left London behind it.





CHAPTER II.


THE NIGHT JOURNEY.

Mrs. Danesbury naturally felt impatient for particulars, and pressed Thomas Harding to relate them, as they sped on their way. He was enabled to do so, having had them detailed over to him at length by Jessy. Mrs. Danesbury listened to the end, but she was not satisfied.

“I can not comprehend it,” she remarked. “The tincture of opium has been in the closet in my bedroom undisturbed since the night it was first brought into the house. I had the toothache badly, and sent to the chemist’s for some. Sarah went for it; and, knowing I was in pain, she brought it away without giving time to label it. I placed it in my closet, and how it is possible for Glisson to have gone thither for it and taken it, believing it was the baby’s cough-mixture, which she kept in her own nursery, I can not conceive. It is an understood thing in the house, that nobody interferes with what may be in that closet but myself. I should not be so much surprised had it been one of the other servants; but for Glisson to go to the closet, and to commit such an error, is incomprehensible. It is as though she acted in her sleep.”

Thomas Harding was silent. He was debating a question with himself. Ought he to impart to Mrs. Danesbury a rumor which had come to his ears?

“A faithful, cautious, tried old servant like Glisson!” repeated Mrs. Danesbury. “Does it not strike you as being very extraordinary, Mr. Harding?”

“Ma’am,” he said, with straightforward simplicity, “I am thinking whether I ought not to tell you something which Jessy mentioned to my wife.”

“If it is any thing that can bear upon this case, you certainly must inform me,” replied Mrs. Danesbury.

“It was the Sunday Jessy had leave to drink tea with us,” he resumed. “My wife got asking her whether she should be able to reconcile herself to service, and how she liked her place: and in talking of her various duties, she said that Glisson — that Glisson—”

“Go on,” interposed Mrs. Danesbury, wondering at his hesitation.

Thomas Harding leaned toward Mrs. Danesbury, and continued in a whisper, “That Glisson drank.”

“That she — what?” uttered Mrs. Danesbury.

“Ma’am,’ that Glisson drank. Took sometimes more than was good for her.”

“That Glisson drank!” repeated Mrs. Danesbury, in the very extreme of surprise. “Impossible. What could Jessy have meant by saying so.”

“My wife said it was impossible, and took Jessy to task for traducing Mrs. Glisson. But Jessy persisted that it was so — that she does drink, and is often stupid through it.”

Mrs. Danesbury was silent, utterly confounded.

“Nearly every night she has one big tumbler of hot gin-and-water, sometimes more; besides drinking plenty of ale at supper, too much, in fact; Mrs. Glisson being allowed the strong ale at that meal, while most of the other servants take beer.”

“Mrs. Glisson is older than most of them,” interrupted Mrs. Danesbury. “And when Mr. Danesbury suggested that Glisson might drink ale with her supper, if she preferred it to table-beer, neither he nor I imagined she would take an unseemly quantity. It is incredible!”

“I fear it is true,” returned Thomas Harding. “Jessy is a clear-sighted, keen girl, and is not likely to be deceived. She has seen Glisson with a black bottle to her lips in the daytime, and believed it contained gin. In speaking of this misfortune to-day, she told me Glisson was ‘stupid’ again, and it was in consequence of seeing she was so, that put it into her head the cough-mixture might really be on the mantle-piece, overlooked by Mrs. Glisson. Jessy says she reproached her with it, in the fright of the discovery.”

“But, were it true that Glisson takes gin, how can it have escaped my detection?” urged Mrs. Danesbury. “The smell would betray her.”

“Jessy thinks that it is not very often she takes it in the daytime, and you don’t see her, ma’am, after she has had it at night. But she has got a trick of sucking things. Sometimes it will be a bit of camphor, sometimes a peppermint-drop: Jessy says she always knows what the nurse has been supping, when she sees her put one of these things into her mouth; and of course they take off the smell of any thing else.”

Mrs. Danesbury remembered to have smelled peppermint and camphor when the nurse had been talking; and she also remembered that Glisson had occasionally seemed stupid — bewildered — and she had wondered; but she had never suspected the cause now hinted at. “I wish Jessy had said this to me,” she observed. “I should not have quitted home and left the child in her charge.”

“I wish she had, ma’am, as things have turned out,” responded Thomas Harding. “But very few young women, going fresh into a house, would Venture to bring such a charge against an old and valued servant.”

“Very true. And my perfect confidence in Glisson may have tended to blind me. The puzzle is, where can she get the gin?”

“Oh, ma’am, people who give way to drink are never at a fault to get it.”

Mrs. Danesbury gathered herself into her comer of the chaise, buried in an unpleasant reverie. She was casting blame to herself. Not for having failed to detect Glisson’s fault; no, blame lay not with herself there; but for having suffered the laudanum bottle to be without a label. Several times had she thought of placing a label on it, but the time had gone on, and on, and this was the result. Had there been a label, Glisson was certainly not so far gone but she might have read it. “Have you or Mrs. Harding mentioned this doubt of Glisson to any one?” suddenly asked Mrs. Danesbury.

“Certainly not,” was his reply. “And we cautioned Jessy not to let it escape her lips again.”

“I am glad of that. I scarcely see my way clear, with regard to Glisson. Mr. Danesbury thinks highly of her, and she served his mother faithfully for many years, so that I feel it would not be kind or just to turn her away, as I might a less valued servant I think I must bury this in silence, even to Mr. Danesbury, and keep her on for a while, and be watchful over her, and try and recall her to what she used to be. I am convinced she can not have taken to it long. I must question Jessy: perhaps she will tell me more than she told you.”

They had been traveling at a high rate of speed all the way, and had changed horses several times, though it has not been necessary to mark their progress, step by step. Now they were nearing Eastborough; and soon the lights in the town began to be visible. Had it been day, Mrs. Danesbury would have seen her husband’s factory, rising on the opposite hill. It was, however, nearly midnight, a cold, frosty, starlight night. A steep hill descended to the hollow, and at the top of the hill was the turnpike gate.

The gate was closed. The post-boy stopped his horses and hallooed; and the door opened, and the keeper came out Mrs. Danesbury, who was on that side, leaned forward.

“Do you happen to know, Giles, whether the child is saved?”

She received no answer. The man had gone forward, with a stumble, to open the gate; Mrs. Danesbury supposed he had tripped over a stone. He opened the gate; he did not fling it back, but kept it in his hand, and went stumbling across the road with it. The post-boy urged on his horses; but Giles somehow loosed his hold of the gate, and, though he went on himself, he let the gate swing to again. It struck the nearest horse.

The horse, a nasty-tempered animal at all times, as the post-boy phrased it afterward, began to plunge and kick; that startled his fellow, and, in spite of the efforts of the post-boy, they sprang forward, and dashed madly down the hill. Mrs. Danesbury shrieked, and rose up.

“Ma’am, ma’am, don’t get up, don’t lean out!” implored Thomas Harding; “be still, for the love of life! Lie you down at the bottom of the chaise.”

“This is certain death,” she wailed. “They will inevitably dash against the bridge; and it will be certain death. Oh, my children! My Saviour, I can but commend them to Thee! Do Thou make them Thine, and keep them from the evil!”

Had it been his own wife, or one with whom he could put himself upon an equality, Thomas Harding would have forced her to the bottom of the chaise and held her there. But he did not like to act so to Mrs. Danesbury. She had leaned from the side window as she spoke the last words, probably not knowing that she did so, in her agitation and terror, and certainly not aware that they were already at the foot of the hill. But they had, as it were, flown down it; the chaise, in that same moment, struck against the lower stone abutment of the narrow, awkward bridge (which every body in Eastborough had long said was a disgrace and a danger to the town, but which none had bestirred themselves to have altered), and the chaise was overturned. Mrs. Danesbury’s head fell on the ground, and the chaise settled upon it.

How Thomas Harding extricated himself he never knew.

Beyond being shaken and a little bruised, he was not hurt. The terrified horses had struggled and plunged till they freed themselves, and started off with part of the broken shafts dangling after them. The post-boy was lying without motion.

Thomas Harding saw at a glance the dreadful situation of Mrs. Danesbury. To raise the chaise, or to aid her of himself, he was entirely powerless. At that moment, the church clock struck out twelve, and the door of a public-house, the Pig and Whistle, beyond the bridge, at the entrance of the town, was thrown open, and a stream of warm light and a crowd of topers came forth into the street together.

“Hilloa! help! hilloa!” shouted Thomas Harding, running toward them; “help here.”

The group, most of whom were employed at the Danesbury Works, halted at the noise, and peered in the direction it came. They had left a room blazing with lights and fire, and could as yet distinguish no object outside. The landlord followed with a candle; perhaps believing it would render objects more distinct.

“Blest, if it ain’t Harding!” exclaimed one. “What’s the matter, sir?” he cried, as his foreman came panting up.

Mr. Harding explained, as well as he was able for his haste and agitation. Some were capable of rendering assistance, some were not; those who were, flew with one accord to the fatal spot — the landlord still carrying the flaring candle, which soon flared out.

“I telled ye I heer’d somm’at like horses a galloping past, with shafts a’ter ‘em,” cried one of the men; “but ye was in such haste to abuse the landlord, for saying it were twelve, that ye could not heed me.”

Between them they raised the chaise, and extricated Mrs. Danesbury. She lay motionless. Harding, shocked and bewildered, and hardly knowing how to act, sped off through the town to Mr. Danesbury’s, while others ran for the surgeon, who was not found at home, but at Danesbury House. The post-boy had gathered himself up, and was sitting with his back against the side of the bridge. They gently raised him, and walked him about a few steps. No limbs were broken. He shook himself, and speech came to him.

“That there Giles ought to swing for this,” were the first words that broke from him.

“What had Giles to do with it?” questioned the chorus of voices.

“He were as drunk as blazes. I saw he were, when he came ducking, head over heels, to open the gate. He were so drunk he couldn’t push it back, nor hold it back, and he let it come swing agen the horses.”

“Did that start ’em off!”

“It just did start ’em off: I never strode such terrified, furious brutes afore. They took, as you may say, one leap from the top of the hill to the bottom, not a bit longer it didn’t seem, and the chaise caught the nasty awk’ard bridge, and we went over.”

‘‘I tell you all what,” cried the landlord; “something’ll be done now. The town has called out long enough about the danger of keeping such a bridge; and some folks have called out about Giles’s drunkenness. It’ll both be remedied now; you’ll see.”

“Who’ll give me a arm up the hill?” cried the post-boy, who was a native of Eastborough, and had driven out with Mr. Harding that afternoon with these very horses. “I doubt if I ain’t too shaky to get up it of myself. I’ll go and have a word with Giles.”

Two of them immediately took the post-boy in tow, and they began to ascend the hill. The rest remained to keep watch over the unfortunate lady.

“Jim,” cried out the landlord, “what about the horses? Where be they flown to?”

“‘Taint much matter where,” was the post-boy’s answer; “they have done mischief enough. They be off to their stables, no doubt, they be, the cantankerous brutes.”

Arrived at the turnpike, they tried the house door. It was locked; but they shook it, and kicked, and shouted till Roger Giles came and opened it; very nearly pitching forward into their arms with the exertion.

“A nice state you be in!” uttered the post-boy, “a sweet gentleman you be, to keep a pike! Do you know the damage you have gone and done?”

“Eh?” enunciated Giles. He was stupidly drunk, and his eye wandered uneasily to the spot where he kept his employers’ cash; some vague idea hammering at his brain, that the three men, now entered, might have designs upon it.

“We won’t go on at him now,” said the post-boy to his friends; “ ‘taint of no good. Look at the sot! But you’ll both please to bear me out to my master as to his state, so that I don’t get the blame.”

“This will be a bad job for you, Giles,” cried one of the men. ‘‘You have took a drop once too much, my boy. Any way it will be bad, but if Mrs. Danesbury shouldn’t be got to again (and she don’t look like it), I should be sorry to stand in your shoes.”

They descended the hill again, and the post-boy sank down as before, with his back resting against the bridge. His exertion had made him feel dizzy. Soon voices and rapid footsteps were heard, for several people were approaching. Foremost of them came Mr. Pratt the surgeon, Thomas Warding, and Mr. Danesbury. Those keeping guard drew respectfully back, and touched their hats, even in the dark night, to Mr. Danesbury. They had brought means for a light with them, which bad been thought of by Thomas Harding, and the surgeon held it to the face of Mrs. Danesbury.

‘‘She haven’t stirred, nor even moaned, sir,” said the landlord of the Pig and Whistle, who, with the others, had collected close up.

“A moment, if you please,” cried out the surgeon, authoritatively. “Stand back, all of you: I can do and see nothing, with you crowding round Mr. Danesbury, will you also allow me a moment here alone? Harding, you stay and hold the torch.”

Poor Mr. Pratt! He saw that Mrs. Danesbury was dead, and had so spoken to gain time for composure, and that Mr. Danesbury might not see, unprepared, that ghastly face, which told too plainly its own tale.

All had stepped back in compliance with his wishes. Mr. Danesbury’s eyes fell on the post-boy. “Are you hurt, Jim?” he asked, kindly.

“A bit shook, sir; I don’t think its no worse. I hope it won’t be no worse with nobody else, sir,” he added, nodding toward where the surgeon was stooping.

“How did it happen? Mr. Harding says the gate touched the horses.”

Come swinging right agen ‘em, sir; Giles were so drunk he couldn’t hold it back.”

“Drunk, was he!” quickly cried Mr. Danesbury.

“He were beastly drunk, sir. I have been up there to him now, some of ’em here helped me, and he can’t speak, nor stand straight”

Mr. Pratt had arisen, and was at Mr. Danesbury’s elbow. He passed his arm within that gentleman’s, and drew him away from the crowd; halting at a certain part of the bridge, and apparently looking out, over the dark and gloomy water.

“What is it?” said Mr. Danesbury; “why do you bring me here? Have you ascertained the nature of the injury?”

“Oh, my dear friend!” cried the surgeon, “I know not how to tell you what I must tell.”

Mr. Danesbury’s heart sank within him: a shadow of appalling woe stole over him. But he did not speak. Perhaps he could not.

“I fear — I fear she is gone,” added Mr. Pratt.

Then Mr. Danesbury clutched the surgeon’s arm with a tight nervous grasp. “The truth” — he breathed— “the truth. Let me know the worst. I can bear it better than this agony of dread.”

“One consolation is, that she did not suffer. She must have died instantaneously. Her neck is broken.”

Mr. Danesbury let fall the surgeon’s arm. He half fell, half rested on the parapet of the bridge, and a low wail of utter anguish went forth on the night air.





CHAPTER III.


THE DESOLATE HOUSE.

The coroner’s inquest was held on the appointed day. Thomas Harding could only depose that the gate touched the horse on his side of the chaise: he had not observed the state of the gate-keeper. But the post-boy, and the men who had subsequently accompanied him to the gate-house, testified that Giles was incapably drunk. The verdict returned was, “Manslaughter against Roger Giles; he having been, at the time of its act, in a state of drunkenness.”

He was committed to prison to await his trial. The little child, William Danesbury, had recovered the effects of the laudanum, the remedies administered by the surgeon having proved successful.

Eastborough, insignificant in itself, owed what importance it did possess to its being the scene of the Danesbury Works, sometimes called the Danesbury Factory, sometimes the Iron Works. It was a concern of considerable magnitude, giving employment, in its various departments, to a large number of hands. Engineers, iron-founders, manufacturers of agricultural and divers implements, combined with other branches of trade, not essential to mention, necessarily rendered the Danesburys of a high standing in the commercial world. Not only for the extent of their operations, did they bear a wide renown, but for the lofty excellence of their character, both in business matters and in private life. Just, honourable, and upright, the name of Danesbury was respected all the country round. The business had once been of small account, but the then proprietor of it, John Danesbury, raised it, by his diligence and intelligence, into importance. As his two sons, John and Philip, severally attained the age of twenty-one, they were taken into partnership with him, the firm then being altered to that of “John Danesbury and Sons.” The elder of those sons, John, was the one introduced to the reader. He was now the sole proprietor, for his father and brother had both died; the latter, Philip, a young man, leaving a widow. But the appellation of the firm had not been changed: it was still known as that of “John Danesbury and Sons:” possibly Mr. Danesbury looked forward to the period when it should be so in actuality. He had married a Miss St. George, a lady every way worthy of him, and whose present dreadful death was a far more agonizing shock to him than the world suspected. Their two eldest children, Arthur and Isabel, lived and flourished, two succeeding ones had died infants, and the last had just escaped following them, as you have seen, through nurse Glisson’s dose of opium.

Thomas Harding was exceedingly attached to Mr. Danesbury, and with cause. He had served his father, he now served him, and enjoyed his full confidence. There were superior clerks, as to position, in the factory, gentlemen overlookers, but they held a secondary place to Thomas Harding in the estimation of Mr. Danesbury. It was the respect due to worth, deserved and paid to an honest, guileless man. Harding was vexed at being the depositary of this secret about Glisson; but he hoped the tragical end of her mistress, caused remotely through her might so tell upon her that there would no longer exist reason to betray her to Mr. Danesbury.

“Glisson took on dreadfully,” said Jessy, one day that she was at the Harding’s’ house, about ten days subsequently to the funeral. “I was so shocked that night, when they brought the dead body into the house, that I hardly knew what I said, and did not spare her. I told her, if she had kept herself in her right senses, and given the baby the proper medicine, our poor mistress would have been alive and safe.”

“What did she say?”

“I can not tell half she said. She was like a mad woman, lying on the floor, crying out for her mistress, moaning, and wishing she had died for her. Master heard her in his room, and came in; but he thought it was all self-reproach for her mistake in having given the wrong medicine; he did not suspect she had any thing worse to reproach her-self with.”

“Was she sober, then?”

“I should just think she was! The poisoning of the child in the afternoon had sobered her, and she had taken nothing subsequently. I do not believe she has yet. I have never noticed it, and she grieves after her mistress night and day.”

“Then it has, perhaps, been such a warning to her that she’ll abandon the habit altogether,” returned Thomas Harding. “Jessy, girl, never suffer a word to escape you of what has been: give her a chance of redeeming herself. It is what Mrs. Danesbury would have done, had she lived: mind you, I know that.”

“She’s safe for me,” replied Jessy. “The children are coming home to-morrow,” she continued. “Some lady is bringing them, and we fancy she is going to remain — as governess, or housekeeper, or something of that. Master came to the nursery this morning and told us that a cousin of our late mistress’s would accompany the children, and the house was to take its orders from her. Glisson is uncommonly put out about it: she says those half-and-half mistresses are always more difficult to please than real ones.”

“Jessy! take care to do your duty, and don’t be so fond of repeating things after Mrs. Glisson,” rebuked her aunt Harding.

Danesbury House was a handsome white mansion, surrounded by fine grounds, with a smooth lawn sloping from the front; its elevated site causing it to command extensive and beautiful views of the neighbouring country.

On the morning that was to witness the return of the children, a lady approached the house, ascended the stone steps to the pillared portico, and entered a spacious hall, on either side of which were the reception chambers. It was Mrs. Philip Danesbury, the widow of Mr. Danesbury’s brother. She enjoyed a handsome income from the business, and resided near; a talkative, pleasant woman, young still, possessed of good sense, and of keen penetration. She was in Yorkshire, her native place, when the recent fatal event happened, and had now been home a day or two. Mr. Danesbury had seen her the previous day, and her present visit was to Glisson and the baby. While she was in the nursery talking, she observed her brother-in-law approaching from the factory, and went down stairs to meet him.

“John,” she began, as soon as they were in the sitting-room, dashing at once into some news she had just heard, and “Glisson says there’s a lady coming here, to be in Isabel’s place”.

“Not in Isabel’s place,” interrupted Mr. Danesbury, in a tone of pain. “No one can fill that. Do not say so.”

“Well, you know what I meant, John. Unfortunately no one ever can fill it, in any sense of the word. She was worth more than many of us who are left. Poor, poor Isabel!”

Mr. Danesbury sat silent, his countenance betraying a shade more of its deep sorrow. He was not a demonstrative man, and he buried his grief within him.

“But there is somebody coming to rule the household and manage the children,” proceeded Mrs. Philip Danesbury. “Who is it?”

“Miss St George, Mrs. Serle’s sister. She has offered to remain here a little while.”

“A ‘little while!’ That means an indefinite period I suppose.”

“No time was mentioned. It was Mrs. Serle who wrote and proposed it. I thought it exceedingly kind and considerate of her, and accepted it gratefully.”

“But what ever made you accept it, all in such a hurry?” continued Mrs. Philip, in her hasty way.

“I accepted it for the children’s sake. Who is to overlook them? Glisson can take care of William, but Arthur and Isabel should not be left to the entire companionship of servants.”

“The better plan would have been — John,” she broke off, “I had been turning things over in my mind, before I knew of this Miss St. George scheme. I think Arthur should be placed at school, and I will take charge of Isabel.”

“You are very kind, Maria,” he sadly answered. “But the house, deprived of the two children, would be more desolate than with them. What objection do you see to Miss St. George staying here — for I think I detect that you have an objection?”

“A minute, John: answer me a question or two before I answer yours. What age is this Miss St. George?”

“I do not know. I have a general idea that she is not young. I once saw her at Mr. Serle’s, but retain a very faint recollection of her. I fancy she is older than Mrs. Serle; and that she lives with her because she has no other home.”

“There; that’s quite enough: you have most fully answered me,” impetuously returned Mrs. Philip Danesbury. “Take care of yourself, John.”

“Take care of myself? In what way?”

“It will be a terrible temptation to a woman in her position, the getting herself to be the real mistress of this house. She will play her cards with the hope and view to be your second wife, John: mind she does not play them to win.”

A contraction of displeasure passed across Mr. Danesbury’s ample brow. He could not understand his sister-in-law, and deemed these remarks to be unworthy of her.

“John,” she resumed, “I can not help speaking out all my thoughts, but it is that I am anxious for the children’s welfare and your happiness. You can not understand these things, but I can; and rely upon it, this lady’s motive in proffering a temporary sojourn here arises from a dim hope that she may improve it into a permanent one. I see also another evil — that it will cause rebellion and warfare with the servants. You look surprised, but I tell you you have had no experience in these things, and do not understand them.”

No, Mr. Danesbury did not understand it at all, and he certainly did not believe it. He asked Mrs. Philip to remain to dinner.

“I will,” she replied, “and I shall let Miss St. George know unmistakably that I am Mrs. Philip Danesbury, the nearest kin you and the children have, and quite competent to direct the affairs of Danesbury House, where direction may be necessary, without her assistance.”

Mrs. Philip untied the crape strings of her bonnet as she spoke, and ran up stairs again. She was somewhat given to be dictatorial, but she was a thoroughly sincere, good woman at heart. Glisson opened upon her grievance.

“I hope this new person’s not going to take too much upon herself, ma’am, for it’s what I shan’t be able to put up with. I’d do any thing for a Danesbury, and for my dear late mistress, who was a mistress in a thousand, but an interloper is a different sort of thing. Master said we were to take our orders from her.”

“It’s beginning,” thought Mrs. Philip; but she did not choose to say so, she was fond of keeping servants in their place. “Miss St. George is a relative of poor Mrs. Danesbury, and every respect must be shown her, Glisson,” she said, in an authoritative tone. “Jessy, I hope you hear me also. I dare say you will get on very well with her for the time she is to remain.”

Glisson made no reply. She went out for the baby, who had been laid down for his mid-day sleep, and brought him in. The sleeves of his embroidered white frock were tied up with black silk ribbon, and he wore a broad black sash.

“Poor little motherless darling!” uttered Mrs. Philip, taking the child, and clasping him to her. “I wish papa would give you to me, my little god-son,” she murmured covering his sweet face, so lovely in its rosy flush, with kisses. The tears came into her eyes as she gazed on him — for the having no children had been Mrs. Philip Danesbury’s great trial in life. “Glisson,” she suddenly exclaimed, ‘‘how did that dreadful mistake happen? How came you to be deceived in the medicine?”

‘‘Ma’am,” said the nurse, turning round in a sort of phrensy, “I’ll go down upon my knees and beg you not to ask me! I have been almost mad ever since, thinking of it; and, if I have to talk of it, it will drive me quite so. I wish I had been dead before it had happened!”

She sat down in the rocking-chair, threw her apron over her head, and burst into a storm of wails and sobs. Mrs. Philip walked about with the child, and considerately abstained from further allusion to it. In the midst of this, the travellers were seen approaching. It was a clear, frosty day, and they were walking up from the Ram, where the stage-coach stopped. The two children, in their sombre black attire, were accompanied by two ladies, one of whom was in deep mourning, the other in slighter.

“Why, there’s two of them!” unceremoniously uttered Glisson, who had made her way to the window.

“Miss St. George has put on deep black to be like the family, as she is to stay here,” decided Mrs. Philip; “and the other must be Mrs. Serle.”

She eyed Miss St. George critically as she spoke. Glisson did the same. A thin, shortish, vinegar-looking lady, with cold, light eyes, a sharp nose, and flaxen hair: Miss St. George was one of those whom black attire does not improve.

“It’s a disagreeable face, if I ever saw one,” cried Glisson; “as cross as two sticks. If she knew any body was looking at her, she’d smooth it, I expect.”

“Five-and-thirty, if she’s a day, and a soured woman!” was Mrs. Philip Danesbury’s mental comment. “Won’t she be having a try at John?”

The visitors were shown to the drawing-room, a spacious apartment opening to the lawn. It was fitted up with rich silk damask furniture, mirrors, ornaments, and some exquisite paintings. Mrs. Philip Danesbury entered, and welcomed the two ladies gracefully, as though she were the mistress of the house.

“To whom have we the honour of speaking?” demanded Mrs. Serle.

“Madam, to the sister-in-law of Mr. Danesbury, the aunt of these dear children. I am Mrs. Philip Danesbury. This, I presume, is Miss St. George, who has kindly proffered us a visit.”

“I proffered it for her,” smiled Mrs. Serle, who appeared all complaisance. “The isolated condition of these poor children, left entirely to servants, struck me as being so pitiable, that I suggested to Eliza to come home with them for a short period, should it be agreeable to Mr. Danesbury. I did not know of their possessing so efficient a relative near to them. From the remarks of the children, I fancied Mrs. Philip Danesbury’s residence was in Yorkshire.”

“I have been there for a long visit. We appreciate your kindness, and shall be happy to render Miss St. George’s visit agreeable to her,” was the somewhat frigid answer of Mrs. Philip.

Mr. Danesbury came in. Unusually noble he looked in his deep mourning attire, and with the saddened expression on his fine features. Ere he had well kissed his two children, he was obliged to hurry from the room: their sight brought his loss and theirs too painfully to his memory.

“Harriet!” exclaimed Miss St. George, the moment she was alone with her sister in the chamber to which they had been shown, “I shall go back with you; I shan’t stop here. The idea of being domineered over by that sharp woman! She is mistress, and I should be no better than a temporary visitor; an interloper. I did not come down, and go in mourning for that.”

“You will do no such thing, Eliza. You are come, and you must remain. She is not mistress, she does not live here.”

“But she comes armed with full power to do as she pleases in the house; there’s no doubt of it. She’ll be here forever.”

“Nonsense. Stop, and feel your way. You will supersede her if you try. And if you don’t, you are only where you were before.”

“I hate children,” cried Miss St. George. “And to assume to ‘love’ these will be more difficult than I thought, with her shrewd eyes upon me.”

She sighed as she turned to the glass, and began to arrange the bands of her very light hair. She had no parents, no money, and had been obliged to her sister for a home. She was not always comfortable in it; her temper was bad, Mrs. Serle would not put up with it, and at such times would make her feel that she was an intruder. To get away from it, and take the sway in such a house as Mr. Danesbury’s, had been a glowing prospect, and the damper cast on it by the sight and words of Mrs. Philip was a mortifying disappointment. Whether she, or Mrs. Serle for her, had cast a glance to the possibility that time and luck might transform her into Mrs. Danesbury, can not be told.

“What, an exceedingly fine man Mr. Danesbury is!” exclaimed Mrs. Serle; “I should call him one of nature’s true nobility. The child Arthur will be like him.”

“And what a handsome house,” returned Miss St. George. “Every thing so well appointed and comfortable.”

“Ay, plenty of wealth here, Eliza. If you can succeed in establishing a firm footing you will be fortunate.”

Mrs. Philip Danesbury, meanwhile, was looking about for Arthur, who had disappeared. She found him in the little room where Mrs. Danesbury used to assemble her children for the ten minutes after breakfast in the morning, to read to them their Bible stories and to talk of heaven. It was a duty she never omitted, and the children had learned to love it. Arthur was stretched across the low sofa where his mamma used to sit, crying as if his heart would break. Mrs. Philip Danesbury closed the door, sat down, and drew him to her.

“My darling, don’t sob so; be comforted.”

“Aunt Philip, I shall never see her again! I never thought it could be quite true till I came home now. Oh, mamma! mamma!”

“My child, be comforted; she is better off; she is gone to heaven.”

“But never to come back! never to come back!” he wailed. “Oh, mamma! if you would but come to me for one minute, only one!”

“Arthur, she can not return to you; you know it, my darling; but you will go to her.”

“But it is such a long while!”

‘‘It will come, my child. She is one of God’s angels now, and she will watch over you here, and wait for you.”

His sobs nearly choked him.

“Arthur, do you know why I am sure your mamma is happy, and is gone to the rest promised to the people of God?”

“Because she was good,” he sobbed.

“No, my darling: she was good; better than most people are; but she is gone because she loved Christ, and put her whole trust in Him. She had always taken God for her guide. She taught you to do so, Arthur.”

“Yes,” answered the child; and he gradually grew calmer.

“Aunt Philip,” he presently said, a catching sob seizing his breath occasionally, “how could that Giles let the gate fall against the horses?”

“Because he was a wicked man,” promptly answered Mrs. Philip, whose indignation was sure to break loose when she thought of the accident and its lamentable consequences. “He had got horribly tipsy, my dear, and could not hold it back.”

“Would it have happened if he had not been tipsy?”

“No, of course not: but for Giles’s drinking that night, your mamma would have been alive and well now; and, perhaps, sitting here with us.”

That set Arthur on again. “Why did he drink?” he sobbed. “Why does any body drink?”

“Because they are beasts,” said Mrs. Philip. “And they are nothing else,” she added, as if in apology for her word, “when they drink themselves into that state.”

“I never will,” said Arthur.

“You, my dearest! Oh no, never. Your dear mamma would be grieved in heaven if she were to look down and see you, even once, so far forget yourself.”

The child gazed upward at the blue sky, almost as if he were looking for his mother’s face there. Soon, he gave his head that very decided shake, which in him, child as he was, expressed firm, inward resolve.

“No, Aunt Philip, I will never drink. How long is she going to stay?” he added.

“Who, my dear?”

“Miss St George.”

“I can not tell. Don’t you like her?”

‘‘Not much,” answered Arthur. “She told me she was going to be with us, instead of mamma.”

Mrs. Philip Danesbury wondered what there could be, or not be, in Miss St. George, that nobody seemed to like her. She only hoped her brother-in-law would fall into the general opinion.

When they assembled to sit down to dinner, Arthur was not to be found. He had made his way into the factory to Thomas Harding. The latter shook him by the hand, and said he was glad to see him home again.

“Mr. Harding,” whispered the child, struggling to hide the tears, which would rise to his eyes, “could you not have helped the gate from falling on the horses?”

“Master Arthur, sir, you see this arm,” said Thomas Harding, holding it out, bared to the elbow, for his coat was off and his shirt sleeve rolled up, at his work; “well, I’d have given that freely, ay, and the other to it, to have helped it. I wish I could.”

“Aunt Philip says Giles was tipsy. And that if he had not been so, mamma would have been here now.”

“And that’s true. Master Arthur.”

“Why do they let people get tipsy?”

“Who let them, dear?”

“I don’t know,” said the child, puzzled himself, as he thought over his question. “Why do people get tipsy?”

“I believe they can’t tell, themselves, why. Nobody who is worth any thing does so.”

“You don’t; do you, Mr. Harding?”

“No; I’m thankful to say I have kept from that failing all my life,” he fervently answered.

“And papa does not?”

“No, no, child. I tell you nobody, who is good, does such a disgraceful thing. Only poor creatures who have no self-restraint.”

“Does Giles get tipsy now?”

“No, that he does not! The jailer takes care of that. He is in prison, Master Arthur.”

“For killing mamma?”

“For letting the gate swing to and frighten the horses. He is to be tried at the March Assizes.”

“Is Master Danesbury here?” called out a servant-man, who had come in search of him. “Oh, there you are, sir. Dinner’s waiting.”





CHAPTER IV.


THE GAME PLAYED OUT.

The time went on. March Assizes came and passed, and Roger Giles entered upon the punishment awarded him — two years imprisonment. Miss St. George stopped on at Danesbury House; nobody suggested to her that she should leave it, and she took care not to suggest it to herself. She behaved wonderfully well, and endeavoured to ingratiate herself with all in it, master, servants, and children. Her exertions never flagged. Her chief consideration seemed to be that of rendering herself unobtrusively agreeable to Mr. Danesbury; and, so far as he or any body else saw of her temper, it might be that of an angel. The servants were indulged; the children were petted; it all went on as smooth as oil. Miss St. George was playing her game.

Summer came round, and with it Isabel’s birthday. Some children were invited to dinner, and Mrs. Philip Danesbury was expected to preside: but she did not come, and they sat down without her. Miss St. George occupying the place opposite Mr. Danesbury: when Mrs. Philip was there, she always took it herself. At the period of dessert, Miss St. George filled glasses of wine for the children; including Arthur and Isabel.

“Why have you given wine to me and Isabel?” asked Arthur.

“It is Isabel’s birthday, and you must drink her health,” was Miss St. George’s reply.

“But we never drink wine,” repeated Arthur.

“That’s no reason why you never should. On such an occasion as this, it is necessary. What would Isabel say, if you did not drink good wishes to her?”

“I’ll drink them in water,” said Arthur.

“Oh no, that would never do,” Miss St George remonstrated; “that would not be cordial. May he not have a glass of wine to-day?” she added, appealing to Mr. Danesbury.

“If he likes,” was the reply. Mr. Danesbury had never been so particular as his wife about the children’s beverage being positively restricted to water. Probably he had not thought about it so much and deeply.

“There, Arthur,” said Miss St. George, “your papa gives you leave.”

“No,” answered Arthur, passing the wine back toward Miss St. George. And, filling a wine-glass with water, he wished his sister many happy returns of the day. The children followed his example, but drank their good wishes in wine.

‘‘Now, Isabel,” said Miss St. George, ‘‘thank every one. There’s your wine.”

Isabel raised the wine to her lips, but before she could taste it, Arthur had risen from his seat, opposite to her, and was leaning across the table with a flushed face and kindling eye, speaking vehemently.

“Isabel! You know!”

His startling energy aroused Mr. Danesbury to astonishment. Isabel instantly put down her glass, blushed painfully, and likewise pushed it toward Miss St. George.

“You ought to be ashamed, Isabel,” continued Arthur. “ If I had not spoken, you were going to drink it. You have forgotten mamma.”

Isabel burst into tears. “It was Miss St. George told me,” she sobbed; “I did not want to drink it.”

“You have a very particular prejudice against drinking wine, Arthur,” said Mr. Danesbury, smiling.

“Papa, I promised her that I never would. And Isabel knows all about it, that I never mean to, and she said she never would. Miss St. George knew it.”

“Promised who?” said Mr. Danesbury.

“My dear mamma. It was the last words she said to me before she left, that night; and I promised her, and she is looking down from heaven at me now.”

He laid his head on the table, overcome by the remembrance of his mother, and sobbed aloud. It seemed that Mr. Danesbury was likewise overcome, for he hastily rose, and quitted the room for some minutes.

“Do not attempt to give the children wine again,” he said to Miss St. George when he returned. And Miss St. George bowed her head, but she “would very much have liked, just then, to give Arthur a wholesome whipping instead.

They soon heard why Mrs. Philip Danesbury had not arrived to dinner. She had received news from Yorkshire that her mother was alarmingly ill, and she had been busy making preparations to start thither on the morrow morning. She ran up at night to say good-by. Miss St. George, lamenting outwardly, was in a state of inward rapture, fervently hoping that the visit might last six months.

Six months it did last. For Mrs. Philip Danesbury found her mother, Mrs. Heber, in a precarious state, and thought it necessary to remain. It was summer when she went, it was winter when she came back; and the very first news to greet her on her return was, that Eliza St. George was to be Mr. Danesbury’s second wife.

Mrs. Philip sat down like one paralyzed. “If I did not say it!” she uttered. “I wish he had chosen any body else, for I don’t like the woman, and the children will never like her. What can possess him?”

She wrapped herself up, the next morning, and set off in the snow to see Mr. Danesbury. Not going to the house, but seeking him at the Works. He was in his private room.

“John,” she said, when greetings had passed, and she warmed her hands over the hot blaze of the fire, “you are going to marry again, I hear.”

“I believe so, Maria.”

“What did I tell you? That, if you did not take care, she would play her cards and win. And she has done it!”

“It was well for me to marry again. Not that I cared about it,” he emphatically added, “for I have not yet forgotten Isabel. But the house wanted a mistress, and the children a mother. Miss St. George is amiable, she seems a good manager, and I do believe,” he added, with a comical look, “that her whole heart is wrapt up in me and the children. You should see how fond she has grown of William.”

“Ah!” ejaculated Mrs. Philip Danesbury.

“What does that interjection mean?” laughed Mr. Danesbury.

“Why it means that I do not take in what you say, John. I believe you are as completely done, as ever man was. I do not believe in her amiability, for I think it is all put on; and I do not believe in her love for the children, no, not even for William, for I think that is put on. I can not speak as to what it may be for you.”

“Maria, you were always prejudiced against Miss St. George. You were, before you saw her.”

“Admitted. Because her coming down here, in the way she did, looked to me a suspicious proceeding. Now, I am sure it was one. But when I came to see and know Miss St. George, my prejudice did not lessen. I wish you had chosen any one else, for the children’s sake. At the time I went away, I was beginning to think and hope there was another your choice would fall upon.”

He looked at her inquiringly.

“Miss Roper.”

“Ah, she is a nice girl,” said Mr. Danesbury, with animation. “She would have been rather young for me, Maria.”

“She is six or seven-and-twenty. And I am quite sure she would have made a loving mother to your children. I am astonished at your want of taste, John, in preferring Miss St. George to her.”

“Now, don’t call my taste in question, if you please, Maria,” said he, good-humouredly. “I admire Miss Roper more than I do Miss St. George, and I do not particularly care for either. I can never care for any woman as I cared for Isabel.”

“You will persuade me, next, you are out of your senses,” was the retort of Mrs. Philip. “If you prefer Miss Roper, why do you marry Miss St George?”

“To tell you the truth,” he answered in a low tone, “I was, in a manner, drawn into the marriage. But of course this must never go beyond you.”

“Drawn into it! I do not understand.”

“It seems the neighbourhood got talking about my attention to Miss St. George. Which appears to me to be very strange, for I declare that I never paid her any particular attention? I certainly used to drive them out in the open carriage most evenings, herself and the two children, and she sat in the front seat with me: I could not pat her in the back, you know, a relation of Isabel: and I used to give her my arm to church, and there my attention ended.”

“And who says the neighbourhood made remarks?” interrupted Mrs. Philip Danesbury.

“Listen. One day Mrs. Serle arrived here in a desperate bustle. She sought an interview with me, and said Eliza had written to her that she was miserable; that after what the neighbourhood had been pleased to say, she should never hold up her head again in happiness, and that of course she must leave Danesbury House, and they might as well tear her life from her, as tear her from me and the children.”

“What did you say to all this rhapsody?”

“Gave the neighbourhood a blessing, or something equivalent to it — though no rumours had reached my ears; and told Mrs. Serle that it was a mistake to suppose I had paid any particular attentions: I had paid none whatever. Mrs. Serle assured me things had been said, and asked what I could do in the dilemma; hinting that for a reproach to have been cast on Isabel’s cousin—”

“About forty times removed,” contemptuously interrupted Mrs. Philip Danesbury.

Mr. Danesbury smiled, as he continued. “That for a reproach to have been cast on Isabel’s cousin, would have proved a bitter grief to her had she been in life. Then I began to think that, as I had almost determined to marry again, I might as well take Miss St. George as any body else, and settle the neighbourhood that way. So, without giving myself time for consideration — I acknowledge that — I told Mrs. Serle that the matter had better be ended in that manner.”

“And they snapped at it!”

“They accepted it,” said Mr. Danesbury.

‘‘It, was all a planned trap!” vehemently spoke Mrs. Philip. “Mrs. Serle’s coming down, and saying what she did, was a pleasant trap to draw you in, planned between her and Miss St. George. I wish I was as sure of heaven! She has played out her game.”

Mr. Danesbury stood, his tall form drawn to its full height. He began pushing with his boot some starting bits of coal into the fire, between the bars of the grate.

‘‘John!” said Mrs. Philip.

“Well?”

“Do not carry it out. Let her bring an action for breach of promise. She is just the one to do it.”

“But, indeed, I mean to carry it out. You must not think I repent, Maria. I believe in Miss St. George’s amiability, if you do not, and I think she will make me a suitable wife.”

“Well — if you are satisfied. I only hope you will always find cause to be so,” added Mrs. Philip, earnestly. “Believe me, no one would rejoice more than I to find that I am wrong. When is it to be? I hear Miss St. George is in London.”

“She returned with her sister. It is to take place immediately.”

And it did so. And Eliza St. George became the second Mrs. Danesbury, to her own unequivocal self-gratulation and delight.



It was on a Tuesday afternoon, and just a week after the wedding. Glisson and Jessy were seated in their old room, the nursery; Glisson, not rocking herself in idleness, but pacing about angrily, in what Jessy called “a temper.” On the carpet sat William, playing with some toys; and Jessy was trimming a cap for herself with white satin ribbon. The work seemed somewhat to puzzle her, for she pinned the ribbon on, and unpinned it, in indecision.

“Nurse, see here,” cried she, holding the cap toward the view of Mrs. Glisson, as the latter approached her in her restless wanderings. “Would this look better, quilled round the crown, or put in bows at the sides? Just tell me what you think: I want it to be smart.”

“It would look best this way,” returned the nurse; and, taking the cap and ribbon from Jessy’s hand, she dashed them to the ground. The reader, however, must not take a wrong view of Mrs. Glisson’s strange action: she was perfectly sober.

“Now, then!” uttered Jessy, “what’s that for?”

“I have no patience with you!” she burst forth. “Decking yourself off for a woman that’s not fit to stand in your poor dead mistress’s shoes; not fit to tie ’em for her, or to buckle on her garters! You are as bad as she is. Let her come and see you with the black bows in your cap, as she will me; it may show her that we sorrow after the old mistress more than we care to welcome the new.”

“Black or white won’t alter it,” rejoined Jessy, intent on her cap again. “It is done, and it can’t be undone; and if the rest of the maids put on white ribbons, there’s no reason why I should not. You are as cranky as you can be to-day.”

“Cranky, ay!” ejaculated Mrs. Glisson, flinging herself on a chair with a groan, “and you’d be cranky too, if you had the feelings of an owl. I wonder you can reconcile yourself to stop in the house after such a change! I wonder the servants down stairs can do it!”

“You are stopping yourself,” said Jessy. “Because I am forced to it. Could I go and leave that baby” — pointing to the unconscious little fellow on the carpet— “to her mercies? When I meet my poor dear mistress face to face in heaven, what would she say to me, if I had abandoned her child to the dislike of a deceitful step-mother? No; if master goes and makes a fool of himself, and brings home twenty wives with two faces, one for him, and t’other for other folks, I must stop on, and put up with it till William’s beyond my care. I told master so.”

“You never did!” uttered Jessy. “When?”

“That don’t matter to you. Get on with your fine wedding-cap.”

There was a pause. Jessy, who was then standing at the window, broke it. “Here comes Mrs. Philip Danesbury. I suppose her cold’s better, then. She has not got the children with her: I wonder how long she intends to keep them?”

“I hope she’ll keep them till they are dragged from her with cords,” fired Glisson. “She would, if she was of my mind. Her home will be better for them than their own now.”

Mrs. Philip Danesbury came into the nursery. “Well, Glisson; well, Jessy,” cried she, as the servants rose. “You have thought me lost, no doubt, but it is nine days since I stepped outside the door. Willie, what has aunt Philip got?”

The child had risen and run to her. Next to Glisson, whom he dearly loved, he was fondest of Mrs. Philip Danesbury

“There,” she said, giving him a pretty little toy in sugar, “Sister Isabel sent that for Willie.”

“When are the children coming home, ma’am?” put in Jessy.

“When their father asks for them; not before,” replied Mrs. Philip, with a sharpness in her accent that seemed akin to that of Glisson. “He, and — and — his wife — will not be here before Friday.”

“Oh, won’t they though!” retorted Glisson, forgetting her respect in her mind’s annoyance. “They are coming to-day, ma’am.”

“To-day!”

“This very blessed Tuesday,” returned Glisson. “Master’s wanted in a hurry for some business at the Works, and some of them wrote to him, and he wrote word back he would be home to-day. They got the letter at the factory this morning, and sent in and told us, by his orders. It’s a black day for me, I know that”

“Jessy,” said Mrs. Philip, not immediately replying to Glisson, “Miss Isabel requires a clean tucker or two; will you put them up.”

Jessy left the room. “You must try and make the best of it, Glisson,” Mrs. Philip continued, when they were alone. “It would never do, you know, for you to leave William.”

“That’s the only thing that’s keeping me; nothing else in the world. If she begins to treat him badly, I’ll step between them, and ask master to uphold me for his late wife’s sake.”

“Hush, Glisson! she will not do that. She appears to be so very fond of him.”

“Just as a certain gentleman is of holy water,” irreverently snapped Glisson. “From the very first hour she set foot in this house, she has been plotting how best to catch master: I saw through her, if nobody else did. He had no more chance against her than a fly has with a spider, but just walked into the web, like a blindfolded simpleton. It’s of no good, ma’am, I must speak! I am fit this day to take and hang myself. Oh, my poor dear mistress!”

Glisson bent her head in her hands, and swung backward and forward in her chair, after the manner of one overwhelmed with grief. In a minute she looked up again.

“Ma’am! Mrs. Philip Danesbury I didn’t you see through her?”

“I did,” was the low answer.

The woman wrung her hands. “Then why, oh why, didn’t you warn master, and set him on his guard? It was not for me to do such a thing, ma’am, but you might.”

“I did warn him,” was the rejoinder on Mrs. Philip’s lips; but she checked herself, and did not speak it.

“It was a funny thing, altogether,” resumed Glisson. “Master did not seem fond of her; he did not seem to care about her at all. Then came that visit of Mrs. Serle. She was closeted with Miss St. George after she got here, and I’ll be whipped if I didn’t say to Jessy that those two were hatching mischief. After that, master was sent for from the factory, and Mrs. Serle was closeted with him. The next day the two sisters went back to London together, and we heard that there was going to be a marriage. They are deep ones, those women, if my eyes are worth any thing.”

“I heard that, about the time of this visit of Mrs. Serle, there was a report in the neighbourhood that Mr. Danesbury’s name had been gratuitously coupled with that of Miss St. George.”

“There never was such a report,” returned Glisson, decisively, “and whoever says it, says wrong. It was just the other way. When Miss St. George came first, folks laughed and joked, and said she had come to pick up Mr. Danesbury. But at the twelvemonth’s end, when she was no nearer doing it, they laughed at her for being baulked, and said Mr. Danesbury was too wise to be caught.”

“Nurse, are you sure of this?”

“I am sure and certain. The servants down stairs have not had much else to do than collect news, and I’ll back them for being awake to what goes on in the neighbourhood, and for what’s said. Whoever told you, ma’am, that scandal was talked of master and Miss St. George, told an untruth, and knows it. It was, I say, just the opposite.”

It wanted not this to confirm Mrs. Philip Danesbury’s suspicions that her brother-in-law had been made the victim of a cunning plan.

“Not another hour would I have stopped, but for the child,” went on Glisson, “and so I told master. It was one day after Miss St. George was gone; the children were out, an master was dining alone. After dinner, the bell rang for the baby, and I took him down, and master put him on his knee. ‘Glisson,’ said he, turning to me, ‘I suppose you have heard that there is going to be a change.’ ‘Yes, master,’ says I, ‘and I’d rather have been swallowed up by an earthquake than have heard it; and I am thinking that I sha’n’t be able to stop; it’ll go against the grain.’ ‘What are you saying?’ he interrupted, ‘you must stop: you have not been in the family so many years, to leave it now.’ ‘There’s only one thing keeps me, sir,’ I said, ‘and that’s this precious child: I must stop to put myself between him and harm, knowing that I sent his poor mother out of the world.’ ‘Stop with him always, Glisson,’ whispered master, as he gave the child back to me, and I saw that his eye were wet.”

At this juncture in came Jessy, all excitement. “Ma’am! ma’am! here they are! Glisson, they are come!”

“Who are come?” demanded Mrs. Philip, considerably startled, as she hastened to the window in the wake of Jessy. “Glisson, there’s my cap never finished!”

“And I hope it never will be, with those ribbons on it,” retorted Glisson.

The carriage drew up, and its inmates alighted, the servants going out to receive them and to unpack the chariot. Mr. Danesbury entered but for a minute or two, and then departed to the factory, and Mrs. Danesbury was heard ascending the stairs. Her new rooms, once those of her predecessor, were on the same floor as the nursery, and it “What on earth am I to do?” uttered Mrs. Philip.

“Step in here, to the night nursery, ma’am,” suggested Jessy in a whisper, as she held the door open. “I do believe she is coming here.”

Mrs. Philip did so. Most particularly unpalatable was it to her to be in the new Mrs. Danesbury’s house at this, the moment of her return, though she did not stay to analyze the reason. Mrs. Philip looked round the room: Glisson’s bed was in it, and little William’s by its side; and there she stood listening.

Mrs. Danesbury had, however, turned into her own rooms, and Mrs. Philip, after waiting a few minutes, was about to emerge from her hiding chamber, when Mrs. Danesbury’s steps were again heard. She entered the day nursery, and Mrs. Philip, at sound of her voice, whisked quietly inside a closet by Glisson’s bed.

“How do you do, nurse?” said Mrs. Danesbury.

Glisson snatched up little William, before she answered. “I’m among the middlings, ma’am.”

“You little love!” uttered Mrs. Danesbury, making a great show of kissing the boy. “How well he looks, nurse!”

The nurse coughed. “It’s to be hoped he isn’t ill ma’am.”

William raised his finger, and pointed to the door of the night nursery; “Aunt Phe-eep dere,” lisped he.

Jessy felt her face flush the colour of a peony, but Glisson had her presence of mind about her.

“You silly little donkey,” quoth she to the child, beginning to toss him in her arms, as if for sport, and turning his face from the door, “it’s not your aunt Philip, its Mrs. Danesbury. He has got a trick of calling all folks aunt Philip,” added Glisson, popping out an untruth in her perplexity.

Mrs. Danesbury laughed, and returned to her own room, deeming she had accomplished her duty to her nursery, in paying it a visit, and glad that it was over.

Glisson looked in at the chamber door. She could not see Mrs. Philip Danesbury. “Why, where — why, she’s never gone into my closet!” breathed Glisson to herself; “but I’m the fool for leaving the key in the door!” And when Mrs. Philip emerged from it, Glisson, albeit not one of the blushing sort, turned as red as Jessy had just done.

“She’s gone, is she not?” whispered Mrs. Philip.

“All safe, and shut up in her own room, ma’am. She won’t come again, I’ll answer for it.”

“Nurse, my petticoats have knocked a bottle down, and it is either broken, or else the cork has come out. It appears to have gin in it.”

“Gin!” repeated nurse Glisson in a tone of remonstrance. “Gin, ma’am?”

“Well, I wondered myself what could bring gin in your closet; but it certainly is gin; there’s no mistaking the smell.”

“Goodness me!” cried the nurse aloud, but as though she were deliberating a question with herself, “I never can have kept that drop of gin in there, since the night, ever so long ago, when I was bent double with the spasms — legs, and body, and chest, all in a cramp together!”

“How ill you must have been!” said Mrs. Philip, with sympathy.

“Oh, awful — dreadful! I remember some of ’em did run for some gin, frightened, maybe, lest I should be dying, and they drenched me with it. It must be the remains of that, forgotten, all this while, in my closet. Oh yes, I can scent it here,” added Glisson, sniffing, “sure enough it’s gin — nasty smelling stuff! I’ll see to it when you are gone, ma’am.”

“Good-by,” whispered Mrs. Philip to the child: and then Glisson told what mischief he had nearly caused.

“You very treacherous little marplot!” laughed Mrs. Philip, as she gave him a shower of silent kisses. “Good-by, nurse; good-by, Jessy.” And, with a light foot, she tripped along the corridor and down the stairs, and escaped, unseen by its new mistress, from Danesbury House.





CHAPTER V.


EVILS.

Certain changes, in course of time, took place at Danesbury House. Few persons could be less alike than the late Miss St. George and the present Mrs. Danesbury: they were as two separate and distinct women, especially in the matter of temper, and Mr. Danesbury could not fail to observe that they were. The servants experienced it to their cost, and Isabel also, to hers.

Isabel and her new mamma did not certainly get on well together, and yet Isabel was a sweet-tempered child, remarkably lady-like and graceful. Glisson spoke out openly, and in the hearing of her master: “It was Mrs. Danesbury’s fractiousness.” Mr. Danesbury knew that his wife was in delicate health, and he believed that must be the reason of her being so cross and irritable; but so far as Isabel was concerned, he speedily set about a remedy. A gentlewoman of superior mind and manners was taken into the house as her governess, and he gave the little girl into her companionship and charge. “It will be less trouble for you,” was the excuse he offered to his wife. Mrs. Danesbury seemed inclined to rebel: she did not want a governess in the house, she said; Isabel might be sent to a first-class school: but Mr. Danesbury was perfectly firm upon the point, and his wife saw that he was, and submitted. Arthur was away at school, having been placed out in the spring: strictly speaking, it could not, however, be called a school: a clergyman received half a dozen select pupils, and Arthur made one. Mr. Danesbury was one of those wise-judging fathers, who deem no money wasted that is spent upon education.

With the coming winter, a boy was born to the second Mrs. Danesbury. It was named Robert, and Glisson was constituted its nurse, the care of little Master William being turned over to Jessy. But before this could be effected, Glisson and her mistress nearly came to a battle royal. In the first place, Glisson, though ready and willing enough to take to an infant of Mr. Danesbury, had an insuperable objection to be charged with any child of Mrs. Danesbury; and, secondly, she vowed and protested that she would not give up William. But Glisson, like her betters, found her-self obliged to yield to circumstances. She was at liberty to remain in the house and attend to William, if she pleased, but not as head nurse, for whoever took charge of the infant must fill that post. Of course, for Glisson to remain in the Danesbury nursery, and not be its head, was out of the question; therefore, with much outward crustiness and inward heart-burning, she did at length consent to make the change. All this unpleasantness — and in Glisson’s opinion it had been nothing but unpleasantness for the past year — did not tend to improve Glisson’s patience, nor yet her self-restraint.

One evening when spring was drawing on, and the infant was three or four months old, Mr. Danesbury being absent on a journey, Mrs. Danesbury retired to her room early, not feeling well. She heard the baby cry an unusual length of time, so, throwing on a shawl, for she was partially undressed, she proceeded to the night nursery. There sat Glisson, fast asleep. Mrs. Danesbury took up her struggling, crying child, and turned to the nurse.

“Glisson!”

Glisson took no notice.

“Glisson! what is the matter with you? How dare you sleep like this, when the child’s screaming? He might have been choked.”

She shook the woman roughly by the arm, and Glisson opened her eyes. Alas! she had been taking something which rendered it difficult to’ awake readily from her state of stupidity. Mrs. Danesbury stood confounded: and in the same moment she became conscious of a strong smell of gin, and saw an empty glass and spoon on the floor.

Glisson rose up from her seat, staggered, and sank down in it again. Mrs. Danesbury rang the bell violently, and Jessy came running up.

“Jessy,” cried her mistress, “do you see this woman? She has been drinking. She is drunk.”

Jessy made some incoherent reply. She was aware that Glisson, though horror-struck and repentant at the time of her late mistress’s death, had afterward recommenced her habit of drinking gin. But Jessy did not consider that it was her place to betray her, especially as Glisson, so far as Jessy saw, never took sufficient to render her incapable of her duties. Mrs. Danesbury, giving the infant into Jessy’s hands, proceeded to rummage the room, and found the gin bottle. Her passion rose with the sight.

“What am I to do with you, you wicked, drunken woman?”

“No more drunk than you, ma’am,” hiccuped Glisson — who was just well enough to be abusive. “Who says I’m drunk?”

“Jessy,” cried Mrs. Danesbury, “did you see her drinking it?”

“I saw her drink her ale at supper,” replied Jessy.

“I say, did you see her drink this?” sharply repeated Mrs. Danesbury, touching the glass with her foot.

“No, ma’am. I’ve not been up stairs.”

‘‘If you had seen her, and suffered her to drink herself into this state without informing me, I would have turned you away in disgrace along with her,” said Mrs. Danesbury. “This must have been a nightly habit.”

“I do not come into this room at night,” was Jessy’s reply. “ I have nothing to do here.”

“You shameless creature!” continued Mrs. Danesbury, turning to Glisson. “Is not your good strong supper ale enough for you, but you must drink gin upon it? Shameful!”

“Highty tighty!” broke out Glisson, “gin upon ale! Don’t other folks do the same? You have your strong ale, ma’am, at supper, and you can take your spirits after it: sometimes it’s gin, and sometimes it’s brandy, but you don’t go to bed without one of ‘em. It’s shameful, is it, for a poor hard-working servant? What is it for you, ma’am? Where’s the difference? I suppose you can stand it best: more used to it, may be.”

Mrs. Danesbury was struck dumb with rage; and the more especially that she could not contradict the chief facts. For she did drink strong ale at supper, and she did, in general, take a glass of spirits and water afterward. It was the custom to drink spirits at night at Mr. Serle’s, and she had recommenced it after she became Mrs. Danesbury. The comparison was not pleasant, and she began a passionate abuse of Glisson — which might have been more temperate, but for what she had herself taken.

An unseemly quarrel ensued. Glisson was sullen and insolent, Mrs. Danesbury violent. She at length struck Glisson, in her passion, and ordered her to quit the house, then and there.

Glisson refused to go. She was as obstinate as her mistress, and it ended by her remaining; Jessy taking charge of the infant for the night.

Glisson was in her sober senses the next morning, penitent and low-spirited. Mrs. Danesbury, cold, sulky, and unforgiving, stood over her while she packed her boxes, and then ordered one of the men-servants to show her out of the house. This accomplished, she went into the day nursery, where sat Jessy, with William and the infant.

“I have been thinking that I would prefer you to a stranger” said Mrs. Danesbury to Jessy. “Will you take Glisson’s place, and I will engage another for Master William?”

Jessy could only decline. The request gave her courage to say what she had been going to say for two or three weeks past — that she was soon about to leave.

“Have you any fault to find with the house?” imperiously demanded Mrs. Danesbury.

“Oh no, ma’am. But — I suppose I must tell you,” stammered Jessy, “I am thinking of getting married.”

“To whom, pray?”

“To Richard Gould, one of Mr. Danesbury’s men. But I will stay a month or two, or even three, ma’am, if you wish, while you suit yourself.”

Mrs. Danesbury, in her exasperation, thought every thing was going against her, and she turned away without vouchsafing an answer.

Three or four mornings afterward, Mr. Danesbury returned. His wife immediately gave him an account of Glisson’s misconduct; truth to say, an exaggerated one. For, now that she had had time to cool down, she doubted whether her husband would approve of so summary a mode of dealing with an old and respected servant. Mr. Danesbury was proceeding to the factory afterward, when he met Jessy and little William. The child held out his arms, and Mr. Danesbury took him up.

“Jessy,” he exclaimed, “what a strange thing this is about Glisson! How came she to get into such a state!”

“It was very unfortunate, sir.”

“Did she actually strike her mistress?”

“Oh no, sir,” hastily answered Jessy, “she did not do that. It was my mistress—”

“Your mistress — what?” said he, for Jessy had stopped short.

“Speak out,” continued Mr. Danesbury, in his kind but commanding way, for Jessy still hesitated. “I wish to know the particulars of this affair.”

“It was my mistress struck her, sir.”

“Did she not strike your mistress?”

“No indeed, sir, she did not so far forget herself as that. She was abusive, and said things which she would not have said had she been sober.”

“Was it a nightly habit with her?”

“I am sure, sir, I hardly know what to say,” was Jessy’s rejoinder. “I’m afraid she took a little occasionally, but I should think she was never like’s she was that night.”

“Where is she gone?”

“No one seems to know where. She has not been seen since.”

Mr. Danesbury put William down again, and was walking off, but turned again.

“Jessy, I hear you are going to leave, too.”

Jessy looked foolish. “Yes, sir.”

“We shall be sorry to lose you, for you have done your duty, but if folks will get married, why they will. Which of the men is it? Mrs. Danesbury forgot the name.”

“It’s Richard Gould, sir,” answered Jenny, with downcast eyes and a crimson face.

“Richard Gould,” slowly repeated Mr. Danesbury, as if pondering over the man’s merits and demerits. “Well, Jessy, he is a clever workman, and may rise to a good post in the establishment. That is, if he pleases — if he will keep steady.”

Scarcely had Mr. Danesbury moved away, when a good-looking young man in a workman’s dress approached Jessy from an opposite direction. It was Richard Gould.

“Jessy, wasn’t that the master?” he asked, before he had well reached her.

“Yes.”

“I must be off into the factory, then. When the master’s eyes are about, there’s no skulking for any body.”

“You ought to be as diligent when he is absent as when he is present, Richard.”

“Oughts don’t count always, my little moralizer. I’m diligent enough.”

“Richard, I saw Mr. Harding yesterday. What do you think he said!”

“Any thing about me?”

“That you were getting to go out with the men to the public-houses after work. And if he saw that you continued to do it, he should write to my father to stop our wedding.”

“I don’t go to the public-houses,” returned Richard Gould.

“He said you were there on Saturday night.”

“Saturday night? Well; I believe I did go in for an hour with Foster. It did not harm me.”

“And on Thursday night also,” she continued.

“What an audacious — Stop,” cried Richard, pulling his speech suddenly up, “don’t let me tell a story. Thursday night? — that was the night I was hunting for Jackson. I had to get instructions from him about the morning’s work, and found him at the Pig and Whistle. I sat the long spell of half an hour with him at the Pig, and drank one glass of ale, which he stood treat for. Much harm that did me, didn’t it?”

“It is not the harm it does now that matters, but the getting into the habit. Uncle Harding says, if men once get into a habit of going to public-houses of a night, they are sure never to get out of it, and they don’t know where it will end; and if no bad ending comes, it runs away with money that might be spent better.”

“That’s all true,” answered the young man, “and Mr. Harding need not fear that I am going to get into it. I shall speak to him about this. Good-by, Jessy.”

Do what they would, they could not hear of Glisson. Mr. Danesbury made inquiry, but was unable to trace her, and a strong, fear, a dread which he would not mention to any one, was beginning to dawn over him — whether, in her grief and despair at the exposure which had taken place, and at being turned from her many years’ home, she might not have committed suicide. In three or four weeks, however, tidings came from Glisson herself. She was in London, and now sent to draw out of Mr. Danesbury’s hands a sum of