Title: The Old Chelsea Bun-House: A Tale of the Last Century
Author: Anne Manning
Release date: April 22, 2016 [eBook #51829]
Credits: Produced by Chris Whitehead and the Online Distributed
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It is a sad Thing when a Lady of Quality, who has been a Toast in her Youth, and has seen the white-gloved Beaux, as Mr. Pope calls them, bowing to her from the Pit, and kissing the scented Tips of their Gloves to her in the Ring; who has flaunted at Vauxhall, and shone in a Side-Box of the Opera-House in Lincoln's Inn Fields; has run down Handel, and run after Bononcini; has had her gay Water-Parties to Jenny's Whim, attended by Violins and Hautboys; and has brought, not only her own Company, but her own Strawberries and Cherries to our Bun-house, as if our own were not good enough; it is mortifying, I say, when such a Lady of Quality falls into the sear and yellow Autumn of Life, and finds herself a disregarded Thing, with no resources but green Tea and Brag. And such is the Case with poor Lady Betty Spadille.
How well I remember her, on the Occasion I have somewhat maliciously alluded to, for it sticks in my Throat, arriving at our Bun-House in her peach-coloured Sacque, Mechlin Head, and red-heeled Shoes, the Foreparts richly embroidered with Silver; loudly talking and laughing, and turning her Head right and left, now to this Beau, now to t'other, who fluttered round her with their clouded Canes and perfumed Wigs; now bursting into what the French People call des grands Eclats de Rire, now flirting her Fan, or rapping it on the Shoulder of one of the Ladies who accompanied her. Having just set my Mark, a Sprig of Rosemary, in the midst of one of good Bishop Atterbury's Sermons, I thought within myself, "Is this a Creature that is formed for Eternity?" Meanwhile, two tall Lacqueys, with immense Shoulder-Knots, bore between them a great Hamper of French Wine; while a little black Page, in pale Blue, laced with Silver, tottered under the Fruit from Rogers's; and certainly it was very fine. I never saw such Strawberries and Cherries before nor since.
I did not think her a Belle of the first Order, setting her Rank and Style aside. Her Shape was fine; her Hand and Foot delicately formed; but she rolled her Eyes too much, and had too high a Colour. I don't believe she painted. Altogether, she seemed in the very Flush of Existence; as if she had never met with a Reverse, nor ever expected one. She seemed to think "Let us Eat and Drink," without adding, "To-morrow we die."
We had set our oval Walnut-wood Table under the umbrageous Shade of two large Elms, and had spread it with one of our best Tablecloths. This was superciliously removed by the two Footmen, who spread a Tablecloth and Napkins they had brought with them. Our China Service and water Caraffes they condescended to use. Meanwhile, the Boatmen brought up a second Hamper, containing Ham, Tongue, Chicken, Sallet, and other Matters: but the Footmen, I should mention, brought the Plate, including not only silver Forks, but a silver Stew-Pan.
The gay Bevy having streamed hither and thither, making their humorous and contemptuous Remarks, which were continually interspersed with, "Oh, my Lord!" and, "Oh, Sir Charles!" at length settled down to their Repast. There were three Ladies and four Gentlemen. Also, there was a tall, slender Girl in Black, whom I concluded my Lady's own Woman, because she stood the whole Time, a little behind Lady Betty, holding her Handkerchief and Scent-Bottle, watching her Eye, and obeying her Commands, almost before spoken; notwithstanding which, my Lady's Lip was often put up, and such words as "Thou'rt strangely slow ... Canst not hear me, Creature?" were muttered by her rosy mouth.
And there was pale Mr. Fenwick, sitting at his open Casement over the Bun-Shop, Book in Hand, hearing, seeing, and silently noting all.
One of the Gentlemen was my Lord Earlstoke, (to whom the Town gave Lady Betty,) a weak-eyed, puny Peer; another, Sir Charles Sefton, all Fashion and Froth; a third, a handsome young Gentleman, whom they called Mr. Arbuthnot: the fourth, who had the Wit and Sprightliness of all the Rest, (for whereas they continually laughed, he continually gave them Something worth laughing at,) was a lank, ungraceful, undersized Personage, of olivander Complexion, with projecting Teeth, quick, black Eyes, and a not unagreeable Physiognomy, though his Figure was mean and almost Distorted. His Name was Caryl, which I learned not at first, they were so given to address him by his baptismal Name of Paul.
Then, for the Ladies, there was Lady Mary, my Lord's Aunt, and the Duenna of the Party; and Lady Grace, a sweet pretty Creature, but empty and self-sufficient.
It might have been thought, that two able-bodied Men and a Foot-page were Servitors enow for a Party of seven; but on the contrary, they kept my younger Sister Prudence, who was then very pretty, continually afoot, tripping to and from the House on one impertinent errand or another, while I attended to the general Customers. At length, coming up to me with a painful Blush on her Cheek, "Patty," says she, "do oblige me by changing Places, will you? I can't abide the ways of these Quality, and give no satisfaction, and only get scoffed at."
"Perhaps I may please them no better, Prue," said I, "however, I'll try." And as I proceeded to take her Place, I heard Mr. Paul (that's to say, Mr. Caryl,) observe to Sir Charles, "Humph! we've lost Rachel and got Leah."
This was not over-civil; but I took no notice.
"Now then," cries Lady Betty, in high Good-Humour, "I'll make you what we have called a Petersham Chicken, ever since Lady Caroline's Frolick. Here are seven of us, and here are seven Chickens, which must, in the first Place, be finely minced; so let each take one." And while every one was laughing and mincing their Chicken, she pulls off ever so many diamond Rings from her white Fingers, and gives them to her Woman to hold.
"Don't trouble yourself, my Lord," says she, carelessly, as he stoops to pick up one she had let fall on the Grass, "Gatty will find it. Here, Child, take them all; and," (aside with a Frown), "be sure you don't lose them. Now, Pompey! the spirit-Lamp; three pats of Butter, and a Flaggon of spring Water. The only variation I make in Lady Caroline's cookery is to stew my Chicken in a silver Stew-Pan, instead of in a China Dish, which might crack over the Lamp. Prithee, Pompey, don't let the Grass grow under your Feet!"
Methought, if her Ladyship had been obliged to cook her own Supper, she would have considered herself demeaned by it very much: however, there is nothing that Quality will not do for a Freak. By and by, she gets tired of stewing her Chicken over the Lamp, and bids the young Person she calls Gatty to carry it in-doors and dress it over the Fire. "And be sure, Child, not to let it burn." As I did not seem wanted, I shewed Mrs. Gatty the way to the Kitchen, and stood by while she stirred the Stew-Pan over the Fire. "I'm ready to drop!" says she, at length. "No wonder," said I, taking the silver Spoon from her, and using it myself, "you have never once sat down since you left the Boat, and 'tis the Dog-Days. Rest awhile, and I'll mind the Chicken." "Thank you heartily," says she, dropping into a Seat, and turning from Red to White, and then Red again. "May I take a draught of this cold Water?" "Aye, and welcome," said I, "so that you're not afraid of drinking it while you're so hot." "Oh, I'm not afraid," says she, drinking plentifully of it, and setting down the Mug with a Sigh of relief. "I'm better now, but there was such a glare upon the River." "Are you her Ladyship's Woman?" said I. With that, she fetches a deep Sigh; and, says she, "I'm no better, now, and a hard Life to me it is. I am the Daughter of a poor Country Curate, who died and left a large Family penniless: but my Mother, who married him for love, had high Connections; so Lady Betty takes me for her Woman, partly, as she says, out of Charity, and partly because she prefers being served by a decayed Person of Condition. I have twenty Pounds by the Year, and indeed 'tis hardly earned." "That I can well believe," said I. "But what can I do?" says she. "My Lady has engaged to give me enough cast-off Apparel, to keep me in Clothing; so that I shall be able to send the twenty Pounds to my Mother." "There'll be some comfort to you in doing that," said I. "The greatest of comforts," says she; "and 'tis that which keeps me up, in spite of hard Work, late Hours, and contumely; for no one has a better and dearer Mother than I have." "Well, the Chicken is done now," said I. "Shall I carry it out for you?" "Oh no, I dare not remain behind," says Gatty; "but do you come along with me, for you will make me feel less lonely." So I went with her according to her wish; and when we came up to the Table, we found Lady Betty talking about her foreign Travels; for, it seemed she had been abroad with my Lord her Father, on some public Mission or Ambassade, to this and the other distant Land, that had formerly been the Seat of War. And, to my Fancy, she discoursed agreeably enough of Belgrade, Peterwaradin, and Prince Eugene, though my Lord did not seem to think so; for, once, he covered his Mouth with his Hand to conceal a Yawn, not so adroitly but that my Lady perceived it; and thereupon she immediately diverted her Conversation to Sir Charles, and never spoke to his Lordship another Word. The Petersham Chicken was too Gross, as 'twas like to be, with that monstrous quantity of Butter: my Lady Betty was annoyed, and said Mrs. Gatty had oiled it over the Fire, darting at her a side-look of Reproach. It was sent away, and the Fruit set upon Table; and the Black Boy, producing a Theorbo, sang foreign Airs while they finished their Repast. A brisk encounter of Wits then ensuing between Mr. Caryl, Mr. Arbuthnot, and Sir Charles, my Lady presently found herself cut out; notwithstanding she made one or two ineffectual efforts to recover the lead; and extremely mortified that she should, even for a few Minutes, be Second, she threw herself back in her Chair, called for Essences, and bade Mrs. Gatty support her to the House; protesting she had the Vapours to that degree, that nothing but Seclusion and Repose could restore her sufficiently to enable her to take Boat. The other two Ladies, constrained to follow her, made wry Faces to one another behind her Back, but accompanied her in-doors, leaving the Gentlemen to saunter about, or sit over their Wine. Having entered our little Parlour and made a prodigious fuss, till we were all in waiting on her, "How horridly vapourish I feel!" cries she; "But what! Is that some real Dragon China on the Mantel-Shelf? How did you come by it, Mrs. Patty?"
I coldly replied, "My Father bought it, Madam."
"And, those Josses and Mandarins," pursues she, "have positively the appearance of being, nay, they are genuine! What lovely Chelsea China! These Shepherdesses fondling Lambs and Kids are nearly equal to mine. Sure, can a Person of your Father's Condition, Mrs. Patty, afford to be a Virtuoso?"
"Had my Husband not been a Virtuoso, Madam," says my Mother, quietly looking up from making an Hippocrates' sleeve for our Jelly, "these Girls had never needed to keep a Bun-House." Which indeed, was true enough, for my Father, who had been apprenticed to the first Jeweller in London, might have commanded a flourishing Business, and accumulated a Fortune, but for his unhappy Taste for Articles of Virtu, which led him into connection with unprincipled Men of Quality, who ran in his Debt, and would have run him through if he had dunned 'em; and that again led to his drowning Trouble in Intemperance. So that, had not a Legacy, opportunely left to my dear Mother for her sole and separate use, enabled her to purchase our present House and Business, for Prudence and me, 'twould have fared ill with her and with us, and with my poor Father too. And hitherto, we had gone on so steadily and respectably, that we had given general Satisfaction, and notwithstanding our unprotected State (for my poor Father was almost worse than no Protection,) had kept good Names, and met with no Let nor Hindrance.
Lady Betty, without vouchsafing more than a Stare at the Speaker of the Words just addressed to her, turns her Head slowly round towards me, and with more Haughtiness than I can describe, "Prithee, Mrs. Patty," says she, "is that good Woman your Mother?"
Now certainly, to be a good Woman is the chief Merit of our Sex; and to have it acknowledged that one whom we dearly love and reverence is such, ought to be taken as a compliment, rather than the other way: but yet I knew full well that Lady Betty had not used this term respectfully and kindly, but quite the reverse; wherefore I replied, "Yes, Madam," very bluntly.
"How are the Men amusing themselves?" says she to Lady Grace, who was looking out of the Window.
"Mr. Caryl seems reading them a copy of Verses which diverts them hugely," said Lady Grace.
"Odious Creature!" cried Lady Betty, forgetting all her Languor, and fanning herself vehemently, "A Man of Letters is the very worst possible Ingredient in a Party of Pleasure; he thinks of Nothing but shewing himself off. I'll never invite another to a Folly. Sure 'tis Time for us now to think of returning."
"Were we not to wait for the Moon?" says Lady Grace.
"If you particularly wish it, we will do so," says Lady Betty, "but I really believe the evening Air on the Water will kill me."
"Oh, then the Moon will be too expensive a luxury," says Lady Grace, "let us return at once by all means."
And the Black Boy was instantly sent to prepare the Gentlemen for the reembarkation.
"Give me my Cardinal, Child," says Lady Betty to Gatty. "Why, what on Earth is the matter with your Hands? They are covered with a Rash. Your Face, too, is as red as this Velvet. Huh! don't come near me! Stay, let me rush into the open Air. You are sickening with some infectious Complaint."
Poor Gatty stood transfixed and aghast; Lady Grace gave a little Shriek, and ran to the door after Lady Betty; while the elder Lady, less absurdly timorous, stood at pause, looking at the poor Girl, who did, indeed, appear very much heated.
"You are really ill, I believe, young Woman," said she stiffly. "What is to be done? You cannot go back with us in the Boat."
And following Lady Betty, she held a Dialogue with her in the open Air.
"She can't come near me; she shan't come near me," cries Lady Betty vehemently; and then the three Ladies talked under their Breath. At length Lady Mary returned.
"Young Woman," says she; "Dear me, Mrs. Patty, you are very incautious, to hold her Hand that Way, with her Head resting on your Neck; there's no knowing what she may communicate."
"I'm not afraid of her communicating any Harm, Madam," said I.
"I have come to ask you," resumes Lady Mary, "whether you know of any decent Lodging, where this young Person may be placed till her Illness declares itself one Way or another. I suppose there must be plenty of People that would readily take her in."
"Indeed, Madam," said my Mother, again taking up the Word, "if the Disorder be, as you seem to suppose, infectious, I do not see how we can ask any of our Neighbours to incur the Hazard of it; but, for myself, I am so little fearful of the Consequences, that I will undertake the Care of Mrs. Gatty, if Lady Betty wishes it, till, as your Ladyship says, her Illness declares itself one Way or another."
"An excellent Plan! extremely well thought of," says Lady Mary. "Of course, Lady Betty will remunerate you handsomely for your Trouble."
"And Risk," put in my Mother.
"And Risk," repeated Lady Mary; "though, I protest, I think there is none; but that the young Woman has merely been overheated, and taken a Chill upon it."
Though Lady Mary spoke not sincerely, yet her expressed Opinion was so much like my Mother's real one, that the Arrangement was speedily concluded. And then, after as much Fuss in departing as they had made in arriving, these heartless Denizens of the Great World quitted us; full of themselves, caring very little for each other, and least of all for the poor Dependent left sick upon our Hands.
"Thank Goodness they're gone!" exclaimed Prudence, as the last Rustle of Silk, and the last empty Laugh was heard.
"And now, where to bestow our young Charge?" said my Mother.
"Oh, how kind you are to me!" said Gatty; Tears rolling down her Cheeks. "Any Place will do."
"I think Prudence must sleep in the little Closet beyond my Chamber," said my Mother, "and then, Patty, you can share your Bed with Mrs. Gatty. You are not afraid, Child, are you?"
"Afraid, Mother? No!"
The Bed and Night-Clothes were soon prepared; and as I helped Mrs. Gatty to undress, I could not help noting, that though her Gown was of the plainest black Stuff, her under Garments were beautifully Fine, and fitted to a Nicety; which corroborated what she had said of her being a young Woman of good Condition. "You must not alarm yourself, Mrs. Gatty," said I; "you will very likely be quite well to-morrow."
"Don't call me Mrs. Gatty," says she. "Call me Gertrude, which is my proper Name, and it will put me in Mind of Home."
"Well, then, Mrs. Gertrude," said I.
"Not Mrs. at all, I entreat of you," said she, "plain, simple Gertrude."
"Simple Gertrude, you may be," said I, "but plain Gertrude, you certainly are not."
She smiled faintly, and said, "Ah, you are very Kind, and mean kindly; but the finest Compliment in the World is of little Value to me, compared with a Word of Kindness: and yours only pleases me so far as Kindness is expressed in it. And now, dear Mrs. Patty, let down the Curtain, and make the Chamber as dark as you can, and I will try to sleep; for my Head aches to Distraction, and there is Nothing you can do for me."
When I went down Stairs, I found my Mother mentioning Gatty's Case to Dr. Elwes, who frequently stepped in to smoak a quiet Pipe under our Elms. He immediately went up Stairs to see her; and was guarded in pronouncing whether she had a Fever, a Chill, a Surfeit, or what; but said Time would disclose, and he would see her again in the Morning. Meanwhile, she was to be kept Cool and Quiet; and he would write a Prescription for a Composing Draught; which accordingly he did.
"And now, with respect to Supper," said I, when he was gone. "Dear me! who has thought, all this Time, of Mr. Fenwick?"
No one had remembered him; so I immediately carried up his Whey and Buns, smote to the Heart at his having been so entirely overlooked. When I went in, he was still sitting at the Casement. He said, "Well, Leah!" with a gentle Smile, which assured me that he had heard and remembered what had passed at Lady Betty's Table.
"Dear Sir," said I, "I am quite sorry you should have been so long forgotten. We have had such a noisy Party this Afternoon."
"Rather tumultuous certainly," said he; "they helped to amuse me, and it was not my Fault that I heard every Word they said."
"How loudly High-Bred People laugh and talk, Sir!" said I.
"I doubt if it be High-Breeding to do so," said he; "Ill-Breeding it seems to me."
"What did you think, Sir, of Mr. Caryl? Mr. Paul, as they called him?"
"Well, I thought he tried to serve the Petersham Chicken with Walpole Sauce."
"He was very smart and ready, Sir, wasn't he?"
"Yes, Mrs. Patty, he had plenty of Repartee."
"What is a Repartee, Sir?"
"A smart Reply. When Mr. Pope, who was deformed, asked a young Officer if he knew what a Note of Interrogation was, the other replied, 'A little crooked Thing that asks Questions.' That was a Repartee."
"A very ill-natured One, though, Sir. When Sir Charles said of the unfortunate Emigrant Lady, 'That Woman deserves a Crown,' and Mr. Paul rejoined, that he had not a Crown to lay at her Feet, but he had Half-a-Crown very much at her Service: was that a Repartee?"
"Yes, it was suggested by the Remark of the First, and could not have been prepared. You have culled a Grain of Wheat, Mrs. Patty, from a Bushel of Chaff."
"You thought Lady Betty a great Beauty, I suppose, Mr. Fenwick?"
"Well, she is what is called a Fine-Woman, I believe. Fine Eyes, and Teeth; good Carriage of the Head."
"Oh Sir! had you seen her toss that Head at my poor Mother! 'Twas as much as I could stand!"
"I am glad, then, that I did not. She has Wit, however, but is too artificial, flighty, and exacting. There's a degree of Coarseness about her. 'Twas so humorous, to hear her trying to recover her Supremacy in that Dialogue among the Men, when she began once and again 'When I was at Peterwaradin,' and no one was listening to her!"
"Except you and me, Sir. Well, I must not keep you from Supper."
"Nor must I keep you standing. How are you going to manage about Mrs. Gatty?"
"She's going to sleep with me, Sir; if I sleep at all, that is."
"You expect a restless Night."
"I doubt if I shall lie down if she continue as she is."
"If you are going to sit up, you will require Something to keep you awake. Shall I find you a Book to read?"
"Do, if you please, Sir; I shall gratefully thank you!"
"Well then, what will you have? You know I have no Novels. Here is a charming Paper of Mr. Addison's, in one of the old Spectators, which I was reading when you came in. 'Cheerfulness preferable to Mirth.' How well it opens! 'I have always preferred Cheerfulness to Mirth. The latter I consider as an Act, the former as a Habit of the Mind.'"
"That will not take long in reading, Sir. Might I have one of Shakspeare's Plays? I liked the Merchant of Venice so much!"
"Certainly you may. Did you like Romeo and Juliet?"
"Not at all, Sir."
"Come, then, here is the Winter's Tale for you. Or stay, here is Cymbeline. You will like much of it, though not all; for you have as nice a Taste in Books, Mrs. Patty, as your Father has in old China. Imogen is one of the purest, loveliest Creations of the Poet. When you get tired of her Companions, turn the Leaf till you come to her, and you won't fall asleep. Her two Brothers, too, in the Cave, are charming. What a fine Lesson is given here, in a mere passing Word of the Physician to the Queen, against Cruelty to dumb Animals! She tells him she experimentalizes with Poisons on Creatures not worth the hanging; and he tells her she hardens her Heart, and proceeding from low degrees to higher, will become careless of inflicting pain and death on superior Natures. Here it is, Mrs. Patty."
I took the Book, curtseyed, and withdrew; thinking that this little Dialogue with the good young Curate after the Noise and Babble of Lady Betty's Party, was like gazing on cool Green, after one's Eyes had been dazzled by garish Sunshine. Since he had lodged with us, to drink fresh Whey and recover his Health, I, being the elder and plainer Sister of the two, had principally waited upon him; though I seldom encroached so much on his Leisure as on this Evening, which I partly ventured on, because I felt I had neglected him during the Afternoon.
Mrs. Gatty passed a restless Night, and rambled a good deal, fancying herself at Home, or what I concluded such; and talking of, and to her Kinsfolk and Intimates by name. What with attending to her and reading my Play-Book, I got not much Rest; but towards Day-Break, she became Quiet; so then I had a good Nap, with my Cloathes loosened, but not off, and awoke refreshed, just in time to go and see the Milk and Bread sent out, which was my daily Duty.
Our's had become a large Concern. At first, we only sold Bread and Buns to those who came to the Shop; then we got on to having two Carts, that went into Town twice a Week; then Whey was wanted, and we had a Cow; but the Cow was not in Milk all the Year round, so then we had two; and then we kept their Calves, Prue and I undertaking to bring them up by Hand; and the pretty Creatures grew so fond of us, that they would run round the Meadow after us if we but held out our Finger to them. In short, our Milk and Whey became in such repute, that we got on from two Cows to six, and at length to Twelve, and had the largest Milk-walk in the neighbourhood. Our man Andrew, who was from Devonshire, looked after the Dairy; and Saunders, who was a Scot, was our Baker; but a Mistress's Eye is worth two Pair of Hands; and one Reason of our Success was undoubtedly that we looked closely after our Business ourselves, no matter how much Money was coming into the Till.
Dr. Elwes used to say, that he never knew better Samples of a genteel Industry than in our Establishment; but doubtless, the good Doctor's Judgment was somewhat biassed by his Partiality for my dear Mother; whom, I am bold to think, if he had known her before she was married, and before he himself had risen from the Ranks, (if one may say so of a Civilian,) he would have gladly made his Wife. What a different Lot for my poor Mother! But then, the whole Story of our Lives would have been altered, and the Divine Purposes quite otherwise manifested; and my poor Father would have gone down the Stream, with ne'er a Hand held out to draw him towards Shore.
Just as I was booking the Loaves put into the Carts, up rides Mr. Arbuthnot on a mighty fine Horse. He was, as good Mr. Matthew Henry says of Prince Adonijah, a pretty, comely young Gentleman; and he lighted down, and gave his Bridle to Peter, and stept up to me, to inquire how fared Mrs. Gatty, saying that he hoped to make himself welcome to Lady Betty by carrying good news, therefore had ridden to Chelsea before Breakfast. I replied she had had a disturbed Night, but was then sleeping; on which, having not much more to say, and seeing me busied, he went his ways.
Just then, my Mother called over the Stair-Head, in rather an agitated Voice, to inquire whether my Father had yet got his Dish of strong green Tea; and knowing that he had come Home somewhat convivial in the Middle of the Night, and was likely to be troubled with Head-Ache, low Spirits, and Ill-Humours this Morning, I hastily went into the back Parlour. But there was dear Prudence already at her Post, fresh as a Primrose, with the Tea brewed, and the Table spread with a tempting variety of Meats, fresh Eggs, and hot Rolls, not one of which had my poor Father the Appetite to taste, but sat with trembling Hands, endeavouring to pour the Cream into his Tea without spilling it. On my coming in, he looks up and says:—
"Have those Rascals brought the Hamper yet?"
"What Hamper, Father?"
"Why, a Hamper and Packing-Case of Chelsea China I bought at the Auction-Rooms yesterday."
"Alas, Father, have you been buying more China?"
"Yes, I have, Miss Patty, more by Token, I bought it as a Compliment to your Mother, and outbade my Lord Fribble; so what have you to say to that now?"
"Dear Father, my Mother will feel the compliment; but, had you let it alone, 'twould have been the greater Kindness."
"That's a Solecism, Patty; but here comes Peter with the Case; and here comes your Mother to see it unpacked."
As 'twas no use to cross him about a Thing that was done, I ran to be my dear Mother's "live Walking-Stick;" and when I had settled her in her Easy-Chair, with all her little Comforts about her, she takes Breath, and says to my Father, "Good Morning, my Dear."
"Good Morning, my Dear," replies he; "this is our Wedding-Day;" and got up, and kissed her.
This was so unlike his usual Mood, that Prudence and I were surprised and touched.
"I dare say now," pursues he, "that you had forgot it?"
"Oh no, Mr. Honeywood,—my Dear, I mean," says my Mother, wiping her eyes, "I remembered it before I got out of Bed—and the last thing overnight, too. I'd no Notion your Memory would be so good, my dear."
"Well," says he, "it seems we each did the other Injustice, this Time—a good Thing if we never do so any more. But I remembered it yesterday, and bought you a little Trifle, in Token of it."
"I am sure I am much obliged to you, my Dear," says my Mother. "Pray what is it?"
"You shall see what you shall see—you shall see what you shall see," repeats he very deliberately, proceeding to take the Silver Paper off sundry little Figures, as Peter disengaged them from the Straw—"The five Senses, my Dear—the greatest Bargain I ever knew."
My poor Mother lifted up her Hands and Eyes. "At your old Tricks again, Mr. Honeywood," said she softly.
"Old Tricks!" repeated he, with the Air of an injured Man; "why, these are the most exquisite little Gems you ever saw! A Nobleman could not make a more delicate Present to his Mistress.—Look at this charming little Creature stroking her Lapdog ... and this high-bred Toast taking a Pinch of Snuff, this Lady of Quality sipping Tokay, and this Opera-belle ready to swoon with Extasy at Bononcini—where are your Eyes, my Dear?"
"Ah, Mr. Honeywood, you know the old Saying, 'Please the Eye and plague the Heart.'"
"Plague my Heart, then!" cries he in rising Dudgeon, "if you are not the most hard to please of any Woman alive. Why, a Peer bade against me!"
"My Dear, I wish the Lot had been knocked down to him. These are suitable Toys for a Personage of that Condition, but not for us. Why, now, I venture to say this Set cost you five and twenty Pounds, at the lowest Figure."
"Five and twenty? You may add Something to that. Why, Mrs. Honeywood, you must be a Dolt, to know their Value no better than that, or else you are saying so to incense me!"
"Indeed, my Dear, I have learnt the World's Value for such Things but too well, by having to pay for them so often. Are these paid for?"
"Confusion, Madam! Do you mean to doubt my Honour?"
"Why really, Mr. Honeywood, you have so little ready Money except what is earned by these poor Girls, that I might be excused for asking. And in Truth I do not feel it so much of a Compliment as I could wish, to have Presents bought to gratify your own Taste, which you know do not suit mine, and after all, be obliged to pay the Bill."
"This is Language I will stand from no Woman."
"Nay, Mr. Honeywood, just look at those Shepherdesses on the Mantel-Shelf, and say if it were not so with them...." ... (Smash went the Shepherdesses.)
"The Senses shall go next," cried he, "if you say another Word! Don't cling to me, Patty! They shall."
"Dear Father, my Mother is not going to say another Word. Pray be calm."
"I protest..." begins my Mother.
"Dear Mother, pray don't—Father! Father! Pray withdraw—as a Favour!"
"What! be turned out of the Room like a chidden Child? Your Father, Mrs. Patty? I'll sit here till Dinner, I vow. Prue, fetch me the Daily Courant, and a clean Pipe."
"It has not come in yet, Father."
"Hang it! everything is out of joint! I shall go to the Trumpet, in Sheer Lane, and you won't hear of me again, any of you, for a good While."
Prue and I tried to stay him, but in vain. My Mother was shedding silent Tears.
"Heaven forgive me," said she, "if I spoke too warmly, or crossly. After his Kiss, and all! it seemed so ungracious to take it amiss. But I know too well, he only used our Wedding-day as a Blind, and if he gets into these old Ways again, he will not merely end his own Days in Jail, but send you there too. So that protest I must, if I hadn't another Breath to draw!"
About Noon, Mr. James, one of Lady Betty's laced Footmen, came to inquire after a Diamond Ring her Ladyship said Gatty must have dropped on the Grass. We looked for it carefully, but could not find it.
"I dare say we shall find that my Lady has it at Home all the While," says Mr. James (which, indeed, proved afterwards to be the Case). "However, if it should not turn up, Woe to poor Mrs. Gatty! She will lie under awful Blame for Heedlessness, if not be counted a Thief. And pray how is Mrs. Gatty this Morning? we Servants are all concerned for her, she is so gentle and pretty-behaved, though she does keep us at a Distance! I wish to know on my own Account, I assure you, as well as to take back the News to my Lady, though she does not care much about her, except as far as her own Convenience goes."
"Mrs. Gatty continues very ill," said I, "and has twice been seen by a Physician, who thinks she will take some Time to recover. You may as well report this to Lady Betty, for the Doctor had not paid his second Visit when Mr. Arbuthnot called."
"Mr. Arbuthnot! Why should he call?" says Mr. James. "Lady Betty would be mad enough to think he took the Trouble of knowing whether Mrs. Gatty were alive or dead."
"He called in order to report her Condition to Lady Betty" said I. "Rely on it," said Mr. James, "he called on his own Account, for Humanity sake, if nothing more. He hasn't been near my Lady to-day, and I had it from his Man that he has gone down to dine in the Country with the old Earl; that's Lady Grace's Father. Sure, he must have named Lady Grace, not Lady Betty."
There was no more to be said, and I never encourage mere Tattle; but I thought that good and pretty as Gertrude was, it could be no Advantage to have a Gentleman like Mr. Arbuthnot concerning himself about her.
We are all mighty fond of high Matches; not considering that what is a high Match on one Side must be a low one on the other; and that there is little real Happiness to be looked for where Estates are widely unequal.
I asked Mr. James whether my Lady were not much put out by the Loss of her Woman's Services.
He replied, "Oh no, she keeps one for Shew and one for Use. Mrs. Gatty, for as hard a Life as she leads, does Nothing in Comparison of Madam Pompon, who is the real Waiting-Maid of the two. But my Lady requires a second, who shall have white Hands, and do Quantities of fine Work, and be at her Beck and bear with her Humours. Why should she not require two Women to sew in her Ante-Chamber, as well as two Men to hang behind her Chariot?"
Two Women and two Men to wait upon one! Well! there must needs be different Levels; and maybe the Time will come when Habits of Living shall be simpler. I have read, in one of Mr. Fenwick's Books, of an English King in old Times, that had his Barge rowed by eight other Kings. And of another, that had a Menial whose sole Office was to lie under the Table, and chafe and cherish his Majesty's Feet in cold Weather. King Adoni-bezek had threescore and ten Kings, having their Thumbs and great Toes cut off, that gathered their Meat under his Table. The making one's own Glory lie in the abject or lowly State to which we reduce others, always seems to me to relish of Barbarism, however high Degree may carry it off.
Ah! how sorry a Thing is it, when a Man's Absence from his own Home is felt by all the Household to be a Relief! My poor Father kept his Word, of not coming nigh us, for a good While; and, could we have been assured of his being well, and doing well, there would have been no Alloy to our Comfort under the Deprivation, however we might feel ashamed to acknowledge it.
The unfortunate Habit of buying Things he did not want, had become a Kind of Disease, that I verily think he could no longer controul; but it might have been checked in its first Beginnings in early Life, for it could not have been born with him. How careful should People be to shun the first Temptations to needless and lawless Expenditure! instead of putting themselves in the Way of it, as I am free to say many do, out of mere Wantonness. 'Tis they that keep up our Lace-Shops and Auctions, on whose Spoils unprincipled Dealers grow rich, while honester People cannot get their Bills paid by them, and so are ruined. Lady Betty's Man had scarce left us, when I went to my Father's Wardrobe, to put away some Linen I had been repairing; when, in one of the Drawers, I came upon five Pairs of red Silk Stockings, worth eight or ten Shillings the Pair, that had never been so much as put on! He had bought them, years ago, to wear with his Sad-coloured Coat and Scarlet Waistcoat; but the Fashion for them had already gone by, and one Pair would have sufficed a Man that needed 'em so seldom; whereas, I warrant, he took an Half-Dozen.
To return to the Matter in Hand. When I carried Mr. Fenwick his Chocolate and Rusks, I found him with Writing Implements and Papers all about, hurriedly affixing his fine Carnelion Seal to a somewhat bulky Packet. I said, "Dear Heart, Sir, are you prudent, do you think, in writing so much?"
"If you cut me off from writing, Mrs. Patty," says he, with his pleasant Smile, "pray what do you leave me? I am already forbidden to talk, I am unable to walk, and I cannot always be reading. Oblige me by porting this Packet by a safe Hand; or stay, here is a Shilling for a special Messenger, if you will find one."
I said, "I will, Sir," and happening to cast my Eye absently on the Superscription of the Packet as I withdrew, I saw that it was addressed to Mr. Paul Caryl, Will's Coffee-House, which struck me, as I knew not that he was any Acquaintance of Mr. Fenwick's.
Mrs. Gatty continued exceeding ill all that Day, her Tongue forked and crimson-red, her Eyes wandering, and her Deliration incessantly finding Vent in an incoherent Babble, of which few Words could be made out, so thick and quick was her Voice. When Dr. Elwes saw her next, he shook his Head, and laying his Hand kindly on my Shoulder, "You are in for it now, Mrs. Patty," says he. "I don't believe you will take Infection, but it may be as well to keep yourself to yourself, and not go below, especially to your younger Sister. This poor Thing's Fever will turn in a few Days; and in the mean Time, you must continue to be what you have begun, by being a good Samaritan." I dropped a few Tears to hear him talk thus, but he bade me by no Means to give Way to low Spirits, but take plenty of generous Nourishment; and he would set them on their Guard below, without frightening them. He also said somewhat of an hired Nurse, but I begged him not to think of it, unless indeed I should fall sick myself, and then I would rather have one than endanger Prue.
When he was gone, I kneeled down and prayed; then rose with much Composure and sat down to my Work, which was making a Net to keep the Flies from the Pastry, occasionally laying it aside to render the poor Sufferer what Attention she required.
By and by I heard the Tap of my dear Mother's Walking-Stick, coming up the Stairs; but I would by no Means let her in, only spoke to her through the Door, as cheerfully as I could, and bade her take Care of dear Prue and her dear Self.
The next few Days and Nights were very trying. I obtained a nearer Sight of the dark Valley we must all pass through soon or late than I had ever done before. It seemed to throw an entirely different Hue over the Face of natural and spiritual Things, and to shew the littleness of many Things that are commonly considered great, and the greatness of many that are considered little.
At length the Fever took a Turn, and poor Gatty opened her Eyes with a Look that had Sense and Recognition in it. She said, "Oh me, how weak I am! Are you still here, dear Mrs. Patty? How strange it seems to me to be lying a-bed without hearing my Lady pulling her Bell, and rapping the Floor with her Slipper!"
I bent over her and kissed her wan Lips, which she requited by a thankful Smile, and then dozed off into what I was ready to believe was a restoring Sleep. I was very desirous not to disturb it, so sat perfectly still at my Netting, close to the open Window, through which the warm Summer Air came refreshingly, without waving the white Curtains of the Bed. Mr. Fenwick's Window, which was also open, was immediately below; and through it I could hear Voices, and what they were saying. I should remark that I afterwards learnt from Prue, that, from the Time of my confining myself above Stairs, Mr. Fenwick, upon whom it had been her Portion to wait, had been uncommon restless and fidgetty.
He so seldom received a Visitor, that I was surprised to hear a Man's Voice in his Chamber. Nor did I at first think I had ever heard it before.
Prue had probably announced the Name without its reaching me; for the first Exclamation I heard was from Mr. Fenwick, who appeared to start from the Window-Seat, with, "Sir!—This Condescension confers both Honour and Pleasure!"
"Don't name it," said the other easily, "the Pleasure is mine. I came to see the ingenious Madman to whom I was indebted for the Letter and the Manuscript."
"Madman?" repeated Mr. Fenwick, deprecatingly.
"Yes, Madman," reiterated the other, "for who, in his Senses, would address a Poem to a Patron almost as penniless as himself?"
"Sir, there are other Claims to Reverence," replied Mr. Fenwick, "besides those of Wealth."
"Truly I hope so," replied his Visitor, "but I don't know that they are germane to the present Question. You write a Poem; you want a Mecænas; and instead of addressing a laudatory Dedication to some Peer of Mark and Magnitude, you light upon a poor Brother Witling and Authorling like myself."
"Your Courtesy lessens not the Distance between us," said Mr. Fenwick; "you are a recognised Wit and successful Man of Letters; I only a poor Aspirant."
"Aye, Man, but Wits don't make one another's Fortunes. Shakspeare, Spenser, and Jonson, did not dedicate to one another. Shakspeare had his Southampton; Spenser his Raleigh, Sidney, Hatton, Burleigh, a whole Cloud or Galaxy of Sponsors."
"There's something wrong and humiliating in the System," said Mr. Fenwick.
"Something rotten in the State of Denmark?" said the other. "Truly there is! Shakspeare may have unfeignedly admired Southampton and Spenser Sidney; but the relation between Patron and Client has degenerated into Something unworthy of free, upright Minds. Does my Thought jump with yours?"
"It does, I confess to you. I am poor; most of our Fraternity are. I am cut off from my professional Duties, and have employed a Season of Leisure, and cheated some Hours of Languor, by what, it must be owned, I composed for downright Pleasure rather than for Gain. Yet a Man does not willingly let his cherished Thoughts die."
"Therefore I aspired to see mine in Print; inscribed not to some bloated Peer, more competent to decide on the Merits of a Pipe of Bordeaux than of an Ode by Horace, but to some one whose Genius and turn of Thought I sincerely admired."
"Mr. Fenwick, have you a private Fortune?"
"Oh no, Sir ... only a poor Curacy of fifty Pounds a Year."
"Your Tastes are expensive, let me tell you, for a poor Man. Had you writ your Dedication to my Lord Earlstoke instead of to me, he might have given you twenty Pounds!"
"I would rather have burned my Poem."
"Sir Charles Sefton might have given you thirty."
"But had I said to him what I have said to you, it would have been a Lie."
"Pooh! you are too nice. Why, Man, I have writ Dedications myself. I know the Market-Value of these Things. Moreover, the Booksellers will laugh at you, and probably will refuse to print."
"Well, Sir, no great Harm done; I shall be disappointed, but not heartbroken. Happy for me, I am not writing for Bread."
"Hark ye, Mr. Fenwick—"
And I could not catch the Sense nor Connexion of what followed. Mr. Caryl seemed to lead away quite from the Subject in Hand to College Matters, and asking Mr. Fenwick's Opinion about this and t'other Poet; for such I took 'em to be, because they got upon such Names as Lucretius and Catullus, and others ending in us, the which I had seen tagged to the Mottoes of the Tatler and Spectator. And they seemed to talk over their Merits, and declare their own Opinions of them, which did not agree, because I heard Mr. Caryl laugh at Mr. Fenwick for battling so stoutly with his Patron. Then they got on to Greek Play-Writers, I think, and seemed more of a Mind, and to warm mightily and spout favourite Passages, each inciting and kindling the other, so that 'twas quite pleasant to hear 'em, even without understanding a Word of what they were saying; and I was glad Mr. Fenwick had Company so much to his Mind, that would make the Morning fly away so fast; and only hoped he might not over-exert himself, and suffer for it afterwards. Then I fell to thinking that if such were his Tastes and Capacities, what a wide, wide Barrier there must be between his cultivated Mind and our uncultivated Minds, and how trite and poor must seem to him the very best Remarks that we could offer! And while I was pursuing this Thought, and forgetting to hearken to their Discourse, I was recalled to it all at once by hearing Mr. Caryl say,
"This won't do; I must be off. Good Day, Sir!"
And, in shaking Hands with Mr. Fenwick, I suppose he endeavoured to leave a Purse in his Hand; for I heard Mr. Fenwick quite energetically say:
"Oh no! No indeed! I cannot think of it for a Moment! It must not be so!"
And the other; "Nay, but it must be so! For once, you must flatter my Vanity by letting me fancy myself a Lord Earlstoke."
"That would, on the contrary, be to humble your Vanity. In a Word, Sir, I cannot! you must grant me my Pride, instead of pretending to gratify your Vanity; and my Pride is to be a free Man, and speak the Truth unpaid."
"Well, you are an Eccentricity. I'm afraid you won't find it answer in the long Run. I'll tell you what I'll do; for I must do Something. Cave will flout at the very idea of publishing Poems with such a Dedication as yours; permit me the Use of your Manuscript for a Day or two. I'll read a Passage of it here and there at my Coffee-House, and ditto at Dodsley's, sing its Praises, and make a Mystery of its Author; instead of offering it him for Publication, I'll wait till he makes Advances to me. See if that won't do!"
"Mr. Caryl, you are making me your Slave—I mean, your Debtor, for Life!"
"Why, a Debtor is a sort of Slave to his Creditor, you free Man! See how soon you are chained! However, don't let us reckon our Chickens before they are hatched. The Plan may take, or may fail. Farewell."
And I heard him lightly run down Stairs; and looking softly out of my Window, I could see Mr. Fenwick leaning on his Window-Sill, his Cheek resting on his Hand, in profound and, I doubt not, blissful Reverie. Perhaps a Man more peacefully happy than he was at that Moment did not exist.
Mrs. Gatty's Fever having now turned, 'tis incredible the Gratitude she expressed to me for all my Care of her during the course of it. I may say that during the whole Term, the only Concern Lady Betty shewed whether she were likely to sink or swim, was conveyed in a single Message, and that of the briefest; to know, was she about yet? a likely Thing, when the Girl was at that Moment in a Fever-Lethargy! Gatty took it mighty little to Heart, I must say for her, when she learned how little Recollection of her had been intimated; and she said, with a Smile, she was ready to wish they should forget her altogether, so content was she to remain, and so loth to go back.
And now her Appetite mended apace, and she began to regain Colour and Flesh, and the Chamber was fumigated, and she had a warm Bath, and Dr. Elwes pronounced that she might go below with Safety to herself and others. We resolved to make a little Festival of it, and asked him to sup with us, which he cheerfully consented to; and I had Pleasure in combing out Gatty's long fine Hair, which she was yet unequal to doing herself, and arranging her Dress with some Air of Smartness.
After this, she reclined in the Arm-Chair by the Window, to repose herself a little before she went down Stairs. Meanwhile, I tended a Rose that grew in a Pot that stood in the Window-Sill, and had just finished watering it, when, as Ill-Luck would have it, the Water, filtering too quickly through the Pot, descended copiously on some one who had got his Head out of the Window beneath.
"Hallo! Who's that, giving me a Shower-Bath?" cries Mr. Fenwick; at the first Sound of whose Voice I drew my Head in quickly, and we both fell a laughing.
"Don't let us answer," says Gatty.
"Let us both put our Heads out at the same Moment," said I, "and then he won't know which it was."
It was a pert Thing to do, but we were just then in cheerful Spirits; so we looked out, without looking down, quite unconcernedly.
"I am glad to see you so much better, Mrs. Gatty," said Mr. Fenwick; "poor Mrs. Patty, though, looks all the worse for her shutting up. You remind me of the two Damsels in Don Quixote, looking through the Inn-Casement, and plotting Mischief."
"Oh no, Sir," says Gatty, so softly that I only heard her, and immediately withdrawing and sitting down. I did the same, actuated by that nameless Feeling which often tells Women what is seemly and becoming for them to do, without enabling them to say why.
Mrs. Gatty shyly begged me to go down first, because she said my Mother and Sister would be glad to see me; which indeed they were. Prue had set out our little Parlour in the prettiest Way imaginable.—My Father's Arm-Chair was placed for Gatty at the little Gothic Window wreathed with Jessamine; my Mother's Chair was in its accustomed Place. This Room was hung with a very expensive Chinese Paper, that had cost my Father I am afraid to say how much per Yard, and which was covered with Groups of Chinese Figures illustrating the Manners and Customs of that Empire, depicted with extraordinary Liveliness and Verisimilitude; no two Groups alike. This Paper-hanging had been Prue's and my Picture-Gallery for many a Year; and when we were Children, and my Father had it by him in Pieces, we had needed no other Entertainment on rainy Days; preventing the long Rolls from curling up by setting a Caddy on one End, and a Work-Box on the other. Corresponding with this Paper were sundry Josses and Jars, much fitter for Lady Betty than for us; and the Mantel-Shelf was decorated with Nosegays of fresh Flowers; my Mother having put the Five Senses carefully away, for Fear they should share the Fate of the Shepherdesses. As for the Tea-Table, never was such a Spread! Fancy-Bread, Buns, and Cakes of all Descriptions, cold Fowl, marbled Veal, delicate Slices of pink Ham, and a superb Dish of ripe Grapes. Dear Prue, whom I had not seen for some Days, was blooming with Health and Sprightliness. She had put on a pretty chintz Muslin over her Pea-green silk Petticoat, with a Knot or two of pale pink Ribbon to her Stomacher, and her best Muslin Apron worked with Pansies and Sweet-Peas. A Sweet-Pea she was herself! so brightly, delicately tinted with Colour! so pliant, slim, and debonnaire! When we were little Girls, kind Dr. Elwes had been wont to say we were as like as two Peas,—two Sweet-Peas; but somehow, I fell off afterwards, lost my Bloom and Freshness, grew lanky and angular, while Prue's scarlet Lips and carmine Cheeks, and violet-blue Eyes, grew brighter and deeper every Day; only she stopped growing too soon, and, but for her neat Make, would have been too round.
Well, I went up for Mrs. Gatty, and entering somewhat too softly, surprised her on her Knees. She slightly coloured as she rose, but said Nothing, and putting her Arm within mine, went down Stairs; having doubtlessly vented her Gratitude for late Mercies received, in pious Ejaculation, which made me love her all the better. My Mother's and Sister's Reception of her was most cordial, to which she responded with the utmost Cheerfulness; and we vied with one another in Alacrity in conducting her to her Seat, and bolstering her up in it. "Of course, you know," said I to Prudence, "that Dr. Elwes is going to join us by and by."—"Oh, yes," says she, "and Mr. Fenwick too;" which startled me a little, and made me cast a furtive Glance at myself in a little oval Mirrour in a Shell-work Frame that hung by the Window. The View was not satisfactory; in dressing Gertrude, I had neglected bestowing Pains on myself: besides, my wan Look and heavy Eyes were what no Pains could remedy. I suppressed a little Sigh, and looked at Gatty. Pale as she yet was, even Prue's Beauty faded before hers, into the buxom Bloom of a Milkmaid. Gertrude's Loveliness was independent of red and white, though the delicate Muslin Kerchief over her Neck was not purer than the lily Throat it enclosed. For Convenience sake, I had tied her abundant Hair in a Club behind, low down on the Poll, with a broad black Ribband; her Gown was of the plainest mourning Stuff; yet there she sate, an enthroned Queen for Beauty in its Glory, without being in the least conscious of it. Of course, Angels are beautiful without being vain; I think Gatty was as removed from Vanity as an Angel, and almost as beautiful. There was a Dignity, Repose, and Thought about her, that made you conclude her Mind to be set upon Something high, even without her speaking a Word. As all this struck me, I felt inclined to slip away and smarten myself; but then thought, why should I? I'm trim and neat, though neither pretty nor gay; to aim at matching Gatty would be futile; and as for looking wan, why, she's my Reward; for, in nursing her into Health, I have neglected my own.
So I remained as I was; and presently came down Mr. Fenwick, who, Prudence told me, had been quite another Man since Mr. Caryl's Visit. Close on his Heels followed Dr. Elwes, in his best Wig and Ruffles, with a Flower in his Button-Hole; so our gala Preparations were by no Means in vain. Then our little Feast began: with two such Men at Table, 'twould have been surprising if good Conversation had been wanting, and every one seemed in happy Tune. As for the Doctor, he was quite on the merry Pin, praised the Cream, Butter, and Cakes, partook of Everything, and complimented us handsomely all round. I believe my dear Mother had not had such a tranquilly pleasant Evening for many a Day. I presided at the Tea-Board, which was supplied with fairy-like Cups without Handles, of real China, and the Tea-Caddy was real Chinese too, one of my poor Father's Purchases. Prue tripped off now and then into the Shop; but our Man Peter was on Duty there, as well as Saunders's Daughter, so that we could leave the Business pretty safely in their Charge.
All at once enters Nanny Saunders from the Shop, with a Face as red as Currant-Jelly; and, "Sir,—Mr. Fenwick!" says she, "here's a Gentleman of Quality inquiring for you!" and without more ado, ushers Mr. Paul Caryl in upon us.
For my Part, I felt greatly confused; the rest expressed by their Looks simple Surprise, all except Mr. Fenwick, who, upsetting his Cup (which luckily was empty) in his Hurry to rise, and colouring very red, hastened to meet his Guest.
"Faith, I find you pleasantly engaged, Sir!" were the easy, lively Words first spoken by our Man of Fashion. "Don't let me disturb any one, pray.—May I request to be presented to the Ladies?" And he bowed upon my Mother's Hand as if she had been a Duchess, saluted Prue and me more distantly, and stood at pause for a Moment when he came to Gatty, then bowed low, noticed the Doctor, and then turned to Mr. Fenwick.
"I've good News for you," said he gaily, "so thought I would bring it myself. I know how I should have liked it, had I been in your Place. But suppose we postpone it a little, and enjoy the Goods the Gods provide us. Why should we forget the universal Doom of Man—'Fruges consumere nati'? Ha, Sir?"
I mutely offered him a Dish of Tea, which he immediately accepted; and, as he sipped it, he addressed some trifling Remark to my Mother, who cheerfully replied. Many Persons would have been completely fluttered by the Entry of an unexpected Guest, of a Grade so removed from their own; but my Mother never lost her Self-Possession or Self-Respect; which on this Occasion was so influential on all around her, that we almost immediately regained our Ease, and became as cheerful and chatty as we had been before.
"Upon my Life, this is a very pleasant little Interlude!" cried Mr. Caryl. "What a lucky Fellow I am! Always falling on my Legs! Here, now, have I dropped into the midst of a most agreeable little Tea-Party, and am made welcome to all these good Things as if my Presence were no Intrusion!"
"Don't name Intrusion, Sir," says my Mother.
"But I must name it, Madam! Most abominable Intrusion! Hum,—hum,—I can't help thinking I have seen that Lady's Face before"—with his Eyes full upon Gatty.
"The Day Lady Betty was here, Sir."
"Bless my Soul, yes! I remember all about it now. Most unlucky occurrence! You're quite recovered, Ma'am, I hope?"
And he seemed all at once to reflect, that, whereas he had been here on a previous Occasion with my Lady, he was now taking Tea with the Lady's Maid. Too well-bred to behave superciliously, he nevertheless said not another Syllable to Gatty, but kept eyeing her continually like a fine Picture. For her Part, Gatty looked so little towards him, that I believe she was quite unconscious of the Attention. A Physician is fit Company for Anybody; and Dr. Elwes put some Question about the News of the Day, which soon led to general and fluent Conversation. Mr. Caryl was evidently not aiming to shine, as when at Lady Betty's Table. I cannot recall one witty Thing that he said; but, on the other Hand, there was a racy, genial flow of small Talk, in which all could take their Share, and no one felt distanced or outshone, that was even better than Bon-mot or Repartee. Mr. Fenwick was, I believe, on the Tenter-Hooks, at first, for Mr. Caryl's good News; but soon making out that it was not immediately forthcoming, he gave himself up to the Enjoyment of the passing Moment. Ere Tea was well over, they fell to some amusing Play upon Words, that must be shown upon Paper. Writing Implements were immediately found Room for; and from one ingenious Puzzle to another they went on, now giving us Anagrams to make out, now sending round Quips and Queries that each was to answer in their own Fashion, till Doctor Elwes exclaimed, "Oh, Brag and Loo! how well we can do without you!"
I whispered to him softly, "Shall I fill your Pipe, Sir?"
"No!" returns he, with equal Quietness, "I meant to have had one, but these young Sparks keep me awake without it. They're monstrous good Company, Mrs. Patty."
And so we went on as merry as Crickets, till I began to think of two Things at once; that is to say, of two Dozen—the Anagram before me—and Sausage Rolls, Oyster Patties, stewed Sweetbreads, and so forth for Supper; and to be sensible that I must go and look after them. Just then, I noticed a distressed look cross Prue's Face at some little Attention Mr. Fenwick paid Mrs. Gatty. "Dear me, how foolish of you, Prue," thought I, "to be vexed by Anything like that! Why, he cares very little about you, and Nothing at all for her!" And, stealing from my Seat, I was about to withdraw quietly to the Kitchen, when suddenly the Parlour-Door flies wide open, and on the Threshold stands my poor Father, with a Face as red as his Waistcoat, who after giving an amazed Glance round about him, exclaims:
"Hoity-toity! Who are all these young Fellows, amusing themselves in my Chinese Parlour?"
I thought Mr. Caryl would have gone into Fits with suppressed Laughter. "Sir," said he, advancing and bowing, "I as the chief Intruder, beg to introduce myself by the Name of Mr. Paul Caryl, of the Inner Temple, at your Service; and this is my Friend and your Lodger, Mr. Fenwick, whom I have made a Call upon. The other Gentleman, you will perceive, is your Family Physician."
"You seem all monstrous merry and mightily at Home with one another," says my Father, who evidently had, as was but too common, taken a little too much; "I almost seem like an Interloper in my own House; however, I don't care if I have a cheerful Glass with you to improve our Acquaintance. Hallo! where's my Chair gone? I had like to have sat down upon the Floor."
"Here, Sir," said Gatty, hastily rising.
"Here, Sir? and who are you, Madam? I don't remember ever to have seen your Face before; not an ugly one, neither! Pray, are you Mrs. Paul Caryl?"
"Oh no, Sir!"
"Who then? Mrs. ... Mrs. ... I shall forget my own Name next; hum! Hallo! Why, where are my Senses?"
Mr. Caryl and Mr. Fenwick looked at him in Amazement; while we knew what he missed, well enough.
"Where are they?" reiterated he, raising his Voice very loud, and stamping the Floor. "Woman!" addressing my Mother, "where, I say, are my Five Senses?"
"Dear Mr. Honeywood, they're safe in the China Cupboard," began my Mother, which set Mr. Caryl off in an inextinguishable Fit of Laughter.
"Are these your Manners, Sir?" cries my Father, fiercely turning upon him.
"'Pon my Honour, I'm ashamed of them," says Mr. Caryl, covering his Face in his Cambric Handkerchief.
"Where are my Senses, I say?" recommences my Father; on which Mr. Caryl, unable to stand it any longer, rushes into the Shop, and Mr. Fenwick after him. There we hear them, while my poor Father still continues raging, giving way to fresh Peals of Laughter, which they vainly attempt to smother; and at length Mr. Caryl departs, without returning to wish us good bye; and Dr. Elwes shortly goes also, giving us knowing Looks, and advising Gatty and me to go immediately to Bed. And so ended the Evening.
Next Morning, my Father at his Breakfast questioned us straitly as to what had been going on during his Absence, and seemed scarcely to know whether to take Offence at it or not. The receiving and nursing a Stranger under Mrs. Gatty's Circumstances would have been Something to cavil at; but then she was own Woman to Lady Betty, for whom, though he only knew her in Public, he entertained great Respect; and besides, Mrs. Gatty was a fine Woman, which of itself was a Letter of Recommendation to him. Moreover, she sat by all the While, knitting a White Silk Mitten; so that he could not, for Manners, speak against her in her Hearing; and my Father, when himself, was a well-mannered Man. So he hemmed once or twice, and swallowed any Objections he might have made, had we been by ourselves; and then, to turn the Subject, "Mrs. Gatty," says he, "that Mitten will become your Hand well; but most other Women's Fingers, coming out of it, would look like Radishes. And now, let us clear Decks, and make way for the Carpenters."
"The Carpenters, Father?" repeated Prue and I in a breath.
"Aye, there are a couple of Fellows coming down to put up two little Shelves and Brackets, for some little Matters that the Mantel-Piece is too shallow for. I bespoke the Men overnight, and brought the Toys in with me. Here, Peter, you Knave, bring them in."
Where was the Use of saying Anything?
"Now," says he, laughing as he unpacked them, "here are the comicallest Things you ever saw in your life; and so you'll say, Mrs. Gatty. Look here—a rural Piece in Cherry-Wood Carving, Farm-Yard and Farm-House; a Beggar approaching the Door. I wind it up behind, like a Time-Piece. Now, mark you, the Fun of the Thing! The Beggar advances—out flies a Mastiff from the House, and furiously attacks him! ha, ha, ha!
"Now, look at this other, its Companion; a lone House in the Country; Time, Peep of Day.... A Thief getting in at a First-Floor Window, by Means of a Ladder ... Hodge, coming out of the Barn, with a Pitchfork, assails him from behind,—you shall see how, as soon as I have wound it up. Now then! ho! ho! ho! see how he digs into him."
Gatty burst into such an irrepressible Fit of pretty Laughter, that my Father was her sworn Friend from that Moment; while Prue and I, influenced by mixed Feelings of Vexation and Amusement, laughed with more Constraint.
While my Father was making Hodge assail the Marauder again and again, and each Time bursting into fresh Peals of Merriment, enters to him Peter, with a Paper in his Hand, a Glance at which changed my Father's Note in an Instant.
"Hark ye, Peter!" says he; "why, your Face is a Yard long! What's your Name, Man? your Sirname, I mean."
"Greaves is my Sirname, Sir—Peter Greaves."
"Peter Grievous, it should ha' been! Peter Grievous-had-a-Cat! And your Crest, a Cat proper, with the Motto, 'When I'm pleased, I purr!' But this is no purring Matter, Peter; tell the Fellow who brought this Paper, that I'm not at Home—I sha'n't be, by the Time you get to him."
And, snatching up his Hat, he hastily made off through the Glass-Door into the Garden; and thence, no Doubt, to his Crony, Don Saltero, for whom, indeed, he had such a profound Admiration, that I believe no Title of Honour could have been conferred on himself that he would have liked half as well as that of Don Honeywood-o. When he was gone, Prue and I locked up the new Purchases, and sent away the Carpenters, telling them to await future Orders; and Gatty wrote a Billet to Lady Betty, to acquaint her with her Amendment, and request Directions concerning her Return. Meanwhile, I was carrying up Mr. Fenwick's Chocolate, when Prue, meeting me on the Stairs, said, "Oh, I meant to have saved you that Trouble, dear Patty."
"Oh," I replied, "I am able to return to all my little Duties now; you have too long worked for both."
"I don't think of that," replied she, with a little Disappointment in her Air; "Mr. Fenwick has got used to me now, and I thought you would be better for a little Rest."
"Ah, Prudence, Prudence!" thought I, as I pursued my Way, "this reminds me of the passing Shade on your Brow Yesterday Evening, when he was attending to Mrs. Gatty. Beware of playing, like a Moth, round a Candle, my dear little Sister, for it will lead to no good."
When I went in, Mr. Fenwick looked round briskly from his Writing-Table, with a Smile, exclaiming:
"Why, I have been expecting—oh! is it you, Mrs. Patty? (with a scarcely perceptible Change in his Voice); I have been expecting my Chocolate, I was going to say, this Half-Hour or more; but pray don't think me impatient—I'm sure I ought not to be so hungry, considering how you feasted me last Night. 'Tis a Sign of returning Health, I suppose."
"I fervently hope it may be, Sir," said I. "Most likely it is. I am sure every Thing in the Way of Nourishment this House contains is at your Service."
"Thank you, thank you," said he. "Yes, I really believe I am getting well—have turned the Corner, in Fact; and when I have taken this nice Chocolate, I think I shall go and bask in the Sun under those Elm-Trees yonder."
"Then I will put a Cushion for you, Sir, on the Garden-Seat, and a Foot-stool on the Grass before it; for indeed you must not get chilled!"
"Nay, you will coddle me too much—you have made me too luxurious a Fellow already. You don't suppose I had all these Vagaries in Shoreditch, do you? I want to be there again, though!—I long to return to my poor People; only, I don't know that my Voice is yet strong enough, either for Preaching or Reading. I must make Trial of it, Mrs. Patty; I must begin by small Degrees. I was thinking, that if you happened to be by yourselves this Evening, it might not be unagreeable to you for me to come down and read to you all for a little While—just for Practice."
"By ourselves, Sir?—My Father may or may not be at Home; we are unlikely to have any one else; and I am sure your Plan will be a very delightful one to ourselves."
"Very well; we will wait till the Time comes, then, to see if it be convenient. You are all well this Morning, I hope? Your Mother, and Sister, and Mrs. Gatty?"
"All well, I kindly thank you, Sir.—I hear myself called ... I believe I am wanted in the Shop."
I made use of the first spare Moment, to run and place the Foot-stool and Cushion under the Elms, and then returned to my Post behind the Counter. In the course of the Afternoon, enters Mr. Caryl, who salutes me with easy Urbanity.
"Good Morning, Ma'am," says he; "pray, is Mr. Fenwick within?"
"I believe, Sir, he is sitting under the Elms in our little Pleasure-Ground," said I; "I will show you the Way."
"There's no Need; I know it already," says he. "Pray, don't trouble yourself."
However, I knew what were Manners.
"Ha!" said he, as we passed through the Parlour, which happened to be vacant, "what a pleasant Evening we had in this Room last Night, and how funnily it ended!—Pray, Ma'am, has the Gentleman yet found his five Senses?"
And I saw he was brimful of Mirth, that was ready to explode at the merest Word.
"Sir," said I, "allow me to say that you did not know where the Gift of that Speech lay last Night. My Father had presented my Mother with a Group of Porcelain Figures, representing the Five Senses, which she, in her Care for them, had put away."
"Was that all?" cried he, his Countenance immediately changing. "Oh, I see!—aye, aye—How absurd my Blunder was! Upon my Word, Ma'am, I beg your Pardon for having been so unmannerly. Shocking! shameful!"
Here we came upon Mr. Fenwick, who finding himself exposed to a chill Current of Air under the Elms, had got under the Shelter of the House, where my Father had set up a pretty enough rustical Seat, just outside of our Dairy Wire-Lattice. Hence it came to pass that I, being presently engaged in seeing the Afternoon Milk brought in, heard a good deal of what passed between the two Gentlemen, whether I would or no.
"I've secured Dodsley's Ear," says Mr. Caryl, cheerfully, "so that I fancy I have but to speak a Word to secure your Piece a Place in his Collection. Nothing remains to be done but for you to attend to a little Revision in the first Place, before you submit it to his critical Eye. What say you?"
"Say? That I am infinitely obliged."
"'Let my future Life,' &c.—hey? We'll suppose that all spoken. Well, here is your Manuscript; I've just scored through what I think had better be altered and left out. You are not doubtful of my Judgment, I suppose?"
"Surely not—Just allow me to see."—
"Look here,—and here—those had better come out. Here again.... What's 'Phœbus' Mane?'"
"Oh, I see. That's your bad writing; Hand-writing, of course, I mean. Here again, 'thwarting Thunder.'"
"Hum! Well then, it strikes me, that Milton having said so once, you had better not say it again."
"Very well, I will not."
"Then, this about Truth. It's very bad—will never do. I was obliged to skip it in reading to Dodsley."
"Why? Why, because it isn't the Thing!—won't go down, Sir! You carry it out too far, farther than Anybody goes; it's so much Clap-Trap, and spoils what's real."
"But it is not Clap-Trap. It says no more than I mean and feel! No, no; I'll give up verbal Points to your better Taste, but in Matters of Principle, I cannot alter."
"Nay then, the Thing's at an End, for I honestly tell you I won't concern myself with it as it stands. You may surely allow me some little Knowledge of these Things. However, it's no Use talking to an infatuated Man—otherwise, there is another Passage I was going to propose to you to withdraw, which doubtless you will maintain to be the best in the Manuscript."
"Which is that?"
"This, about the Water-Nymphs."
"Well,—I think it pretty, and can't see what there is to object to in it; but, to yield to your better Taste, it shall be withdrawn, if you like."
"My dear Fenwick! you don't say so?"
"I say so, and mean it too."
"Why, this will be a great Sacrifice of yours, especially as it is against your own Judgment,—of one of the most showy Passages, though I won't say one of the best!"
"Never mind! Let it be so."
"Come, this is docile and agreeable of you. The Men at Will's, in Fact, extolled this Passage, and pronounced it to be my own! Taxed me with reading a Poem I had written, as that of another Hand!"
"Nay, now the Water-Nymphs begin to rise in Value in my Eyes."
"In Fact, I had said Something like this, only not so well, in a former Piece; and they thought I had now worked it out, and improved on it. So that you see I don't exactly want our Things to clash; nor to get you accused of Plagiary...."
"Mr. Caryl, not another Word.—The Passage shall be omitted."
"Well, I like this; I like your Feeling. Thank you, thank you. We need never allude to it."
"As for 'Truth,' let it stand. You have yielded a Point to me, I'll yield one to you."
"I'm glad of that, for I really could not have withdrawn that Passage."
"And I'll speak to Dodsley to-morrow, and get you into the Collection; so expect a Proof-Sheet at no very distant Date, and then we shall look on you as one of the Guild."
And shaking Hands with him, Mr. Caryl departed.
This Conversation afforded me afterwards, as I sat netting behind the Counter, Subject for a good deal of Thought. Here was Jealousy peeping out again; a great Poet jealous of a small one; for so, without any competent Knowledge of their respective Merits, I concluded them to be. But if (which I was not sure of) Mr. Caryl were the better Poet, Mr. Fenwick was the better Man. I had seen him absorbed in the Composition of that Poem Day after Day; he had given it the nicest Finish in his Power; there were Thoughts in it which he cherished as part of himself, and would not be false to, nor give up, to please any Patron in the World; but yet a favourite Passage, the Fancy and Expression of which he believed to be good, but which another Man was envious of, he could obliterate with Magnanimity. That seemed a great Word for a little Thing; but was it a little Thing? The Wits at Will's had applauded it; had given it to a popular Writer; then the real Writer deserved to be as popular. He might have been as popular, had he kept it in; he might not become popular if it were taken out. Then again, Expediency. Had it crossed his Mind that it was expedient to keep well with Mr. Caryl, at the Expense of a Passage of Poetry? That did not seem like Mr. Fenwick; I did not believe the Thought had weighed with him.
Then I proceeded, in my Foolishness and Self-Ignorance, to ponder how strange it was that it should be hard to Anybody of Common-Sense and Good-Feeling, to hear:
"Why now," thought I to myself, "I have never found it a hard Matter to do so. These many Years I have known that Everybody considered Prudence pretty Prue, and me plain Patty, and yet I have never experienced the slightest Emotion of Envy or Jealousy on that Account."
Ah! we little know ourselves. "The Heart is deceitful above all Things, and desperately wicked—who can know it?" That's the Scriptural Account of the Matter; and however we may gloss it over, escape from it, or flatly disbelieve in it altogether, it turns out to be the true one at last.
Mrs. Gatty was circumspect not to occupy my Father's Arm-Chair this Evening, whether he came to claim it or no. When the Tea-Things were set, I stept up to Mr. Fenwick to let him know we were ready.
"So soon?" said he, looking up from his Book; "why, do you want me to read to you before Tea?"
"We hope you will oblige us with your Company to Tea, Sir," said I.
"Nay then," said he, in high Good-Humour, "I'll join you directly." And closing his Book with Alacrity, he followed me down Stairs.
We had made no Difference, to call Difference, for him this Evening. He took us as he found us; and chatted away on this and that, as much one of ourselves as if he had not a Word of Latin or Greek in his Head. Once or twice I tried to lead to Something I thought he would have liked better,—Something on which he could have harangued while it would have behoved us to listen; but he darted away from it directly, and would keep down to the Level of his Company, without seeming to mind it.
After Tea, we all took out our Work, and my Mother began to snip a Fly-catcher.
"Oh, now you expect me to read, I suppose," said he; but still delayed, to chat and laugh about this and the other Trifle with Prudence and Gatty, till at last, a sudden Pause occurring, he had no Excuse for idling any longer.
He said he would, with our Leave, read us Shenstone's "Schoolmistress." We had never heard of it, and were quite willing to hear it on his Recommendation. He said it was a Burlesque in the Spenserian Stanza. We knew what a Burlesque was, but not what was a Spenserian Stanza. He said, Illustration was the best Explanation, and began at once. His Voice and Manner of reading were so musical, that I liked the Melody; and could follow him with Ease till he got to "Libs, Notus, and Auster." I suppose he guessed we might be at Fault, so checked himself to tell us they were Names of the Winds. Then he was about to resume, when Prue interrupted him with, "Pray, Sir, what is unkempt?"
"Uncombed, to be sure," put in Gatty.
"Oh, very well, I have been thinking of it ever so long, and could not make out what it was."
"If I come to Anything you wish to know, pray don't scruple to stop me," says Mr. Fenwick; and went on.
By and by, Prue gets treading on Gatty's Foot at—
and Gatty frowns at her. Mr. Fenwick, perceiving some By-Play going on, stops to ask if they have Anything to say. Prudence hangs her Head over her Work, colours a little, and says, "No, Sir."
"I believe," says Mr. Fenwick, glancing over the Leaves, "I had better modernize the old Style a little, that you may follow it better."
We all thanked him, except Prudence, who said she liked it best as it was.
"Why? Did she understand it?"
"Then why did she like it?"
"Because she did." This Answer made Mr. Fenwick laugh; but I must say I thought it very stupid. However, he went on, till within a few Verses of the End; when my Father walked in.
Mr. Fenwick, laying down the Book with that Cheerfulness and Self-Possession which so well became him, took the first Word, and said—
"Good Evening, Mr. Honeywood! Here am I, you see, reading to your good Wife and Daughters, and trying to prepare myself for Duty on a larger Scale."
"Sir, you do us honour," says my Father, quite civilly; "your Company must be an Honour to us at any Time, whenever you please to bestow it on us. Pray go on."
"Oh, we can wait a little While," says Mr. Fenwick. "Pray, is there any News stirring?"
"There's a Whale in the Thames," says my Father.
"Indeed!" cried we all.
"And there's an Eye-lash in my Eye," continues he; "pray, Mrs. Honeywood, come and take it out."
While my Mother was thus engaged, we chatted among ourselves. "What will you have, Father?" said I. "Shall I make you some Tea?"
"No, I'd rather you put on Supper half an Hour, and let me have Something broiled, and some mulled Wine and Toast."
When I returned from giving Orders, I found my Father established in his Arm-Chair, my Mother returned to her Snipping, Prue and Gatty embroidering different Corners of the same Apron, and Mr. Fenwick ready to resume his Reading. The Poem was soon finished, and when we had talked it over a little, he asked us what he should read next. I said I thought he had better not do too much at first, and Supper would soon be ready. He said, "Oh, he was just getting into the Humour of it, and there was Plenty of Time to read some short Piece before Supper." So then my Mother said she thought a Paper of the Tatler would be just long enough; and mentioned a favourite Number that she had not read for a good While—that charming Piece beginning,—"There are several Persons who have many Pleasures and Entertainments in their Possession which they do not enjoy;" and proceeding to give such a touching Picture of domestic Felicity. Mr. Fenwick read it with such Feeling that we were all delighted with it; and it seemed to me that even my Father, who sat quite silent, with his Back to us, was moved by it, for I noticed his breathing very hard,—his only Way of expressing strong Feeling. "Ah!" thought I to myself, "if Mr. Fenwick were to read to us in this nice Way every Evening, and my Father were to grow fond of it and of him, and get into the Way of coming Home early, instead of sipping Spirits and Water with Don Saltero, how happy we should be!"
"And now," says my Mother, "there's a Sequel to that Paper, which I should very much like to hear, save for the Fear of tiring Mr. Fenwick."
"Oh, I'm not at all tired," said he;
"Pray give it me; for I am already quite in love with this good Man and his Wife."
So my Mother looked him out No. 114, which begins, "I was walking about my Chamber this Morning in a very gay Humour, when I saw a Coach stop at my Door, and a Youth of about fifteen alight out of it,"—and goes on to describe the Death of the Wife and Mother of the Family. We were presently all in Tears; Gatty even sobbing; and Mr. Fenwick seemed irresolute once or twice whether to proceed or stop. However, he went on, and when he came to the Husband fainting, my Attention was divided between him and my Father, who at that Crisis gave not a Sigh but a Snore. He was fast asleep. My Mother, ashamed of him, gave him a little Nudge, and said, "My Dear!" on which he turned on his Side, murmured, "Very like a Whale!" and was off again as sound as a Top. None of us could help laughing a little, and after this, there were no more Tears shed. We supped, and separated for the Night.
Gatty and I still slept together; and, as we were undressing, she said, "I fear your Sister thought me affected to-night for crying at that Death-Bed Scene; she gave me such a Look! Indeed I could not help it; I have witnessed one so much like it; and my Spirits are yet tender."
I said, "Pray do not think of it again—Prudence has that sharp Look sometimes, and seems just now under some little Misapprehension; but in the Main, there cannot be a better Creature. She has not seen so much of you as I have, but yet, I am sure she likes you, and admires you too."
"Nobody can do that," says Gatty; "but I don't want to be admired, though I own it is pleasant to me to be liked, and not to be misapprehended."
As she lay down, she said sighing, "Most likely, this is the last Night I shall pass in this dear little Bed."
I said, "Shall you be sorry to leave us?"
"To be sure I shall!" cried she; "you have been Kindness itself to me; even my Illness was solaced, and my Recovery has been very pleasant; but my Life in Servitude is anything but comfortable. I have heard or read a Line somewhere:
"In my Case, the Reading might be—
"It cannot be helped. Good Night!"
"I hope," said I, "we shall never quite lose Sight of one another."
"Oh no! I hope not. You must write to me now and then."
"Perhaps you can come to us when you have a Holiday."
"I never have a Holiday. Lady Betty knows I had no Friends when I came to Town, and does not approve of my making any."
"No Friends! That does sound dreary!"
"It is dreary."
I had now extinguished the Candle. She said no more; but I could hear her from Time to Time give a great Sigh.
"Gertrude," I at length said softly, "are you crying?"
She cleared her Throat a little, but made no Answer.
"Tell me, Dear, what's the Matter."
"I'm only a little low," she replied, huskily.
"How I wish I had given you some reviving Drops, before I put out the Candle! I will light it again."
"Oh no! Drops would do me no good—they would not give me what I want."
"What do you want?"
"To see my Mother once more, and my Brothers, and my Sisters, and every one at Home. I do pine for them all so, you can't think!"
And now she sobbed outright, though quietly. "It seems so long since I came away, and the Prospect before me is so forlorn; no certain Hope of going back; or ever, ever seeing them any more!"
"Gertrude, I shall get up and give you the Drops. They will give you Strength."
"I'm afraid they won't."
"Yes, they will. You have over-tired yourself to-day; you are trying to get about too soon. The Drops will quiet you and set you to sleep, and to-morrow you will be better."
So I gave her the Drops, which she thankfully took; and in Half-an-hour or so I was glad to find she was asleep.
The next Morning, while we were dressing, as she had quite recovered her Composure, I took Advantage of what might be my last Opportunity to question her a little more than I had yet done on her Position at Lady Betty's.
"Well," says she, "'tis not good to complain, I know, but however, I will this once say Somewhat of my Life behind the Scenes, with as few Notes and Comments as I can. My first Grievance is sleeping with that Frenchwoman, a low Person whom it is impossible to like. I wake sooner than she does, and avail myself of it for a little quiet Reading or Needlework on my own Account before she is stirring. But first, I light the Fire in the little Closet beneath my Lady's Chamber, put down the Irons, and warm some Coffee for Pompon's Breakfast and mine, which she takes in an uncomfortable Sort of Way, running in and out half dressed, without ever sitting down, so that my Breakfast is uncomfortable too. Then I have to iron out every individual Thing that Lady Betty took off Overnight, even to her Gloves; and to air her clean Linen. Having then fed her Parrots and cleaned their Cages, (Pompey has the Monkey and Lapdog in Charge,) I sit down to fine Work, and have scarce set a dozen Stitches, when Lady Betty's Bell is pulled as if the Wire would crack, and her High-Heeled Slipper raps the Floor to let me know she is ready for her Chocolate. Pompey brings it up to the Door, and I carry it in, and wait on her while she drinks it. After this, she remains in Bed two Hours, sometimes sleeping, but oftener sitting up propped with Pillows, doing any Fancy-Work she is in the Humour for, getting me to thread her Needle, change her Silks, hold her Scissors, and Sometimes to read a Novel to her. If she is very late, it may chance that one of her female Cronies arrives in her Chair, runs up to tell her some Piece of Gossip, and perhaps rouses her to get up and dress in a Hurry to go to some Auction; in which Case she needs not so much two Waiting Women as twenty. But oftener, she is uninterrupted, and after wasting half the Morning, rises to waste the other half in a lengthened, capricious Toilette; trying on a dozen Things she does not mean to wear, and studying what Colours suit her Complexion. As she does not so much as put on her own Gloves herself, Madame Pompon is on hard Duty all this While, I standing by and handing her the Pins and Everything she wants. If my Lady thinks herself in good Looks, all the better for us; but if she spies out so much as a Freckle, woe unto us! we are sure to suffer for what we can't help. To put her in good Humour, Pompon flatters her to a Degree that is nauseous to me, and sometimes gets a Rebuff for her Pains: then I am set to write half-a-dozen trivial Notes to her Dictation, or perhaps the Invitations to a Rout or a Drum, which Pompey is then summoned to carry out. Then, my Work is called for to be examined; I am chidden if I have not done enough, and receive numerous Orders and Counter-Orders about it. At last, my Lady goes out in her Chair, during which Time I keep close to my Needle, and then Pompon and I dine together. Lady Betty returns, receives Visitors, and I am on Duty as Woman in waiting, to bring her Scent-Bottle, hold her Handkerchief, her Gloves, and hear the News and Gossip of the Day and a thousand Impertinences. At length my Lady dines: then I resume my Needle; then she dresses for the Evening, which is as tedious a Transaction as her Morning Toilette. Her Dressing-Room is the loveliest, most luxurious Apartment you ever saw; at first I thought it Fairy-Land, and did not mind being shut up in it; but oh, how tired I am of it now! Its Silken Draperies, polished Mirrours, Spider-Tables, Ivory Caskets, Alabaster Vases, Silver Footbath, old Porcelain, grotesque Toys and delicate Trinkets give me no more Entertainment than so much Rubbish. Elaborately dressed, she goes forth not to return till two, three, or four o'Clock in the Morning. Madame Pompon goes down Stairs to play Cards, or puts on her Calash and goes out to see her Friends, or if she stays with me, nods over a French Novel, or babbles all kinds of Nonsense while she manufactures some Piece of Finery. Meanwhile, I sew and sew at that eternal Embroidery, or try to keep myself awake with a Book, if I can find one to my Mind, till my Lady returns jaded or excited from the Ridotto, to be undressed and have hot Soup in Bed. Thus, you see, I have no Change, no Exercise; and what is worse, no Food or Medicine for the Mind; and oh, Patty! is this a Life for an accountable Creature?"
"However that may be, Gatty," said I, "'tis certain you and I have not the Power of rectifying Abuses, and must take Things as we find them; but you must console yourself with thinking your Trial will probably not be long, for I'll wager a Pound you'll be married within the Twelvemonth."
"Who to?" says she, opening her Eyes wide.
"Nay, I can't tell that," said I, "but you are not the Sort of Girl to be overlooked."
She smiled sadly and said, "You are only speaking at Random, nor have I any Wish to be married, any further than I should like almost any Condition better than my own. But now, tell me, Patty, is it not a bad State of Things when young Women are so placed as that they are tempted to look to Marriage as an Escape?"
"Certainly it is," said I; "but yet, Gatty, let me tell you, your Condition might be many Degrees worse than it now is. Nay, if you had been born and bred to Servitude, you might even consider you had a tolerable Place; 'tis your gentler Birth and Bringing-up that makes the Collar so hard to wear. Suppose, for Instance, Lady Betty, in addition to her Caprice and Frivolity, had the Sufferings, Infirmities, and confirmed Ill-Humours of old Age? Or suppose she were married to a troublesome Husband? Or, even as she is, that she were a Martyr to some irritating Complaint?"
"Then I would nurse her with Pity and Patience," says Gatty. "However, 'tis no use supposing this and the other—I must take my Lot and make the best of it; only I sometimes envy the Shop-Girls behind the poorest Counter, for methinks they have more Exercise and Variety, and have at least their Sundays to themselves; whereas, 'e'en Sunday shines no Sabbath-Day to me.'"
I had a Word on my Lips as to what the Shop-Women might have to say on the other Side of the Question; but Time pressed, and I was obliged to run down Stairs to see the Milk sent out.
After Breakfast, Mr. James the Footman made his Appearance in Undress Livery, carrying a small Trunk, and requested to see Mrs. Gatty. When she appeared, "Mrs. Gatty," says he—"dear me, how you've fallen away! you must have been ill indeed!... I was about to say, your Billet to my Lady threw us into sad Confusion Yesterday. I carried it to her on a Salver, and she, not knowing who sent it, opened it carelessly, when, seeing your Name, she dropped it like a red-hot Coal, and fell back on her Settee, crying to me to throw the Billet in the Fire. But then called me back to bid me look in it first, and see what you said, she smelling to her Scent-Bottle all the While. When I told her Ladyship the Contents, she said she would by no Means have you back yet, it would be highly dangerous, and perhaps cost many precious Lives; that you had better go down somewhere into the Country, to your Home, in short, till you got thoroughly disinfected; and after that she would let you know her Mind about you. So I have brought your Trunk, and your Half-Year's Wages; and here are five Pounds to clear off your Expenses here and pay for your Journey into the Country."
I never saw a Face light up with Joy as Gatty's did, that Moment! "Oh, this is delightful!" said she, "Thank you kindly, James, for being the Bearer of such good Tidings! I have little Doubt that I shall be quite strong and well after spending a Month at Home, and then I will do as my Lady pleases."
When the Man was gone, she pressed the five Pounds on my Mother, with the humblest Expressions of Gratitude; but my Mother would by no Means take it. At length it was decided to inclose three Pounds in a Packet to Dr. Elwes, not to be sent to him till Gatty was gone; and the other two would pay her Journey, outside the Coach, to her native Place, so that my Lady Betty's Bounty but just cleared Expenses.
Gatty was now in the gayest Spirits, and whereas she had hitherto seemed rather a quiet Girl, she was now talking incessantly. There was Something moving in witnessing the Joy she experienced in looking forward to seeing her Mother, and the Glee with which she spoke of her little Brothers and Sisters, the Dog, the Cat, the most trivial Thing connected with Home. For Instance, "Pussy," she would say, "you are handsomer than our old Tortoiseshell; and yet I would not exchange old Tibby for you." "How glad Towler will be to see me! I fancy him at the Gate, wagging his Tail. He is deaf, and has lost most of his Teeth, but I hope he is not so blind but what he will know me again."
As her Luggage was but light, I made her find Room for a small but very rich Plum-Cake, a present from my Mother to hers, and also some Gingerbread-Nuts for the Children.
In the Afternoon, a Boatman stepped into the Shop with some Boat-Cloaks, saying that Mr. and Mrs. Arbuthnot were coming up from the Water-Side to take Tea in our Gardens. I knew not the young Gentleman was married; and indeed he was not so, but his Companion proved to be his Aunt; the quietest, sweetest-looking old Lady I ever set Eyes on. The Sky having clouded over, we had little Company that Afternoon; I set their Table in our nicest Arbour, and had Pleasure in serving them myself, and providing them with the freshest Shrewsbury Cakes and lightest Buns. They seemed on the pleasantest of Terms together; the young Man's Attention to the old Lady, without fulsomeness, was very agreeable to see; and their Conversation was somewhat above the common Run. Towards the Conclusion of their Repast, a Rain-Shower came on, which alarmed Mrs. Arbuthnot, and made her request Shelter in the House. I instantly shewed them into our Parlour; where Gatty, having finished her Packing, was embroidering an Apron which Prue had commenced for my Mother, but had got tired of before it was half done. Gatty was such a superior Needlewoman that her Work, besides being done so quickly, put Prudence's quite to shame; the Leaves, Flowers, and Sprigs seemed to grow under her nimble Fingers. Old Mrs. Arbuthnot watched her a little While, admiring her Facility; and then raising her Eyes from Gatty's white Hands to her almost as white Face, "You look very delicate, young Woman," says she.
"Oh, Ma'am, I'm a great deal better now; almost well," says Gatty, scarcely looking up.
"Have you been very ill?"
"Yes, Madam, I have had a Fever."
"This is the young Person, Aunt," says Mr. Arbuthnot, "whom I mentioned to you as having been taken ill, the Day of Lady Betty's Folly."
"And are you going to return to Lady Betty?" says Mrs. Arbuthnot.
"No, Madam, I am going Home To-morrow; into the Country."
"The best Place for you, Child. Are you going into Service no more?"
"I wish it were so, Madam," said Gatty, hemming away a Sigh.
"I should think Lady Betty's Place too hard for you; she goes out a good deal."
"The Hours try me, Madam. I have been used always to go to Bed early."
"How early?" put in Mr. Arbuthnot.
"Nine o'clock, Sir."
"And now?—at Lady Betty's?"
"Not till Two or Three in the Morning; sometimes Four."
He shrugged his Shoulders, and drew in his Breath.
"My Dear," remonstrated Mrs. Arbuthnot gently, "I am not sure we have any Right to inquire into the Details of her Ladyship's Household."
He smiled, and looked brimfull of Questions he wanted to ask.
"Perhaps some other Employment might be found less injurious to your Health," resumed the old Lady. "You seem a skilful Embroidress. That Pattern is charming; I should like to have it."
"I shall be very happy to copy it for you, Madam," said Gatty.
"Alas, Child, I could not work it if you would give it to me, unless you gave me your Eyesight too! But I'll tell you what you might do for me. You are going into the Country, you say. Probably you will there have Leisure to work on your own Account."
"Oh yes, Madam!"
"Work me a Set of Aprons, then, as your Time and Strength permit; I will Pay you for your Trouble when they are finished; but here is Something for the Muslin and Silks, which I will get you to supply."
And she put Money into her Hand.
"I think I have some prettier Patterns than this up-Stairs, Madam," cried Gatty; and she flew up-Stairs, without at all regarding the Trouble of unpacking her Box to get the Patterns, which were at the very Bottom, in order to lie flat.
"There is Something very well-spoken and obliging about her," said Mrs. Arbuthnot to me. "Is she of respectable Condition?"
"Her Father, Madam, was a Country Curate, and died, leaving a large young Family unprovided. Her Mother is a distant Relation of Lady Betty's. Gatty became Lady Betty's Maid, because no better Independence offered to her, and she wanted to assist her Mother."
"Tut! tut! This is a sad Story—Surely Something more suitable might be found."
"You spoke of an Embroidery-Shop, Madam—we thought of that too, as Gatty is so clever, and can design as well as execute Patterns; but my Mother thought it would expose such a pretty, unprotected Girl, thoughtless and ignorant of Evil, to many Temptations we had not taken into the Account."
"The Clouds are breaking, now, Aunt," said Mr. Arbuthnot, returning from the Garden-Door, where he had been apparently watching the Weather, but very likely hearing none the less of what was said. "I think we may shortly venture to return."
"Presently, my Dear. The young Person has gone to fetch me some Patterns."
"By-the-by, Ma'am, would not such a young Person as Mrs. Gatty be very useful to you in the Parlour, writing your Notes, threading your Needles, and making Tea for you? Mrs. Rachael is getting past Work now, and is not much of a Companion."
"My Dear, I have thought of it myself, but we will do Nothing hastily. At present we will let Mrs. Gatty go Home to recover her Health and make my Aprons."
Gatty at this Moment reappearing, no more was said, except about the Patterns, which occasioned more Debate than Mr. Arbuthnot could reasonably be expected to listen to as patiently as he did. But perhaps he was thinking of some other Matter all the Time. After this, they went away.
Though there was now not much Daylight left, Gatty knew she should match the Muslin and Silks so much better in Town than in the Country, that she resolved on going out to buy them; and I, to have all of her Company I could, went with her. The Walk was a long one, but our Spirits made us insensible of Fatigue, and the Weather after the Shower was delightful. In the Evening Mr. Fenwick reappeared, though not to Tea, and asked us what he should read. "Oh, something cheerful, please, Sir!" cried Gatty hastily, which made us all laugh; but she said she had no Mind to cry again before she went Home. So he read to us about Sir Roger de Coverly.
At Night Gatty was in such a nervous Fidget, she could scarce keep still. She kept saying, "I hope to Goodness I shall not over-sleep myself! Don't let me over-sleep myself!" I told her there was no Danger, for I always could wake what Time I chose in the Morning, if I resolved on it overnight; and I had already resolved I would wake, and wake her, at Five. I told her I meant to see her off. She said, "Oh, don't!" I said, "Yes, I shall—I want to see the Last of you, so it's no Use speaking. Otherwise you may miss the Coach, and be returned on our Hands like a bad Penny." She laughed, and said, "It is quite insincere of me to pretend to wish you not to go, for I wish to have you with me to the very Last; only it is such a Shame to give you so much Fatigue and Trouble." I said, "People who really care for one another, don't mind Fatigue and Trouble. Would not you do as much for me?" "Yes, to be sure I would," says she.
"Very well, then," said I, "say no more about it, but let us get to Sleep as fast as we can."
It was quite Dark when we got up next Morning, but every one was up, to see Gatty off. We all insisted on her making a hearty Breakfast, and she declared that every Morsel seemed to stick in her Throat; so that it was "most Haste, worst Speed." Prue put her up a large Packet of Sandwiches and Biscuits, saying she would find her Appetite by-and-by; and my Mother pinned her Handkerchief closer at the Throat, bidding her beware of Cold. I thought there would be no End to her Leave-taking.—When she had kissed all round, she began again. "Am not I to come in for my Share, Mrs. Gatty?" says my Father, who was eating an Anchovy. "Oh yes, Sir," says she, laughing, and colouring a little; and kissed him too.
"That's right," says he; "you're one of the right Sort—frank, without being forward—A thorough nice Girl, out and out—I wish the World were full of People like you."
"Thank you for all your Kindness, Sir," says she.
"Pooh," says he, "I've shown you no Kindness; the Women have, I grant ye; all the better for both Parties."
"Come, Gatty," said I, "we shall lose the Coach." So off we set, with Peter carrying the Trunk.
When we reached the Old Angel Inn, a noisy Bell was ringing, enough to deafen one; and a Man blowing a Horn out of the Window. The Coach was already at the Door, and a Porter was shoving a very fat Woman into it, to the apparent Disgust of a Gentleman wrapped in a Roquelaure, who was already withinside. Then the Porter handed the old Woman a Dram-Bottle, and a Puppy-Dog tied up in a red Handkerchief. A thin, tall Gentlewoman in a velvet Hood and green Joseph next followed; and two rough-looking Men got in last. On the Coach-Roof were two Men hallooing and wanting to be off. In the Basket, where Gatty was to go, was an old Woman smoking a Pipe. We took our last Kiss—a hearty one, and our last Look—a cheerful one; she scrambled up into the Basket, which was a very awkward Appurtenance, and the lumbering old Coach drove off, rocking and swaying from Side to Side like a Ship in a Gale of Wind. Going under the Archway, one of the Men on the coved Roof of the Vehicle got a severe Rap on the Head. He hallooed out pretty loudly, but his Voice was drowned by the Horn.
Before I reached Home, a drizzling Rain began to fall, which I was very sorry for on Gatty's Account.
In the Course of the Evening, Dr. Elwes called. He said, "What could that young Baggage mean by sending me her three Pounds? I give them in Charge to you, Mrs. Patty, to remit to her, since I don't know her Address."
I said, "You are very kind, Doctor, but Lady Betty is well able to remunerate you."
He said, "Oh, hang Lady Betty—I don't return the Money to her, but to Mrs. Gatty."
"Perhaps," said I, "Mrs. Gatty's Pride will be hurt."
"And have I no Pride, neither?" says he. "I am not accustomed to take Fees of a Lady's Maid."
So, as I saw it was to be so, I said no more, except by Way of Thanks in Gatty's Name; and resolved to remit her the Money as soon as I received a Letter from her.
The Letter was not long a-coming. I have it before me now.
"Sept. 14, 1749.
"Dear Mrs. Patty,
"Your last Look said so plainly that you should like to hear a Voice from the Basket, that I have taken the largest Sheet of Paper I can find, to tell you about my Journey Home, and how happy I am. About Half-an-hour after we started, it began to rain pretty fast, which incommoded me more than my Companion, as she covered her Head and Shoulders with a piece of Sacking, from which the Rain ran down upon me. When we changed Horses, the Men inside got out to stretch themselves, and I then observed that the Passenger in the Roquelaure was Squire Heavitree, the Father of a Gentleman Farmer in our Neighbourhood whom we know pretty well, and who was doubtless on his Way to visit his Son and have a little Shooting. He, pitying me in the Rain, stepped up and said, 'Young Woman, if my Roquelaure will be of any Service.... Why, Gatty! is it you? Art going Home, Child? There's Room inside the Coach for thee.... Come down, come down from the Basket, I'll pay the Difference!' And, almost whether I would or no, he made me alight and get into the Coach, where I had to ride bodkin between him and the fat Woman with the Puppy-Dog. At first I was very glad to be sheltered from the Rain, but the Coach was very close, and we had only one Window partly open. The Squire chatted so cordially with me, however, that I had little Time to think of Disagreeables; and when he had told me all he had to tell, he fell to questioning. Most of the Passengers were nodding, which was all the better, as I did not like mentioning Names before Folks. By-and-by, the Squire became quiet, and I guessed he was going to nod too; but, stealing a Look at him, I saw he was only thinking. We were now going slowly over a heavy, sandy Road, and the Coach rocked a good deal, and sometimes stuck. I feared once or twice we should be overturned; but the Squire said, 'No Danger;' and, to divert my Attention, pointed out a Gibbet across the Heath, on which a Highwayman hung in Chains; no very pleasant Object. As I looked somewhat apprehensively towards it, suddenly the open Window was blocked up by a Horseman with a black Crape over his Face, who, crying 'Your Money or your Lives!' fired straight through the Coach, so as to shatter the opposite Glass. The next Moment, another Highwayman appeared at the other Window. There's no describing the Noise, Uproar, and Confusion, the Smoke, Stench of Gunpowder, shrieking of Women, and barking of the Puppy. The next Moment, our stout old Squire, disengaging a Blunderbuss from its Sling over our Heads, presented the Muzzle full at the Highwayman who had not yet fired, and sprang out of the Coach with it; on which, the Man galloped up the Bank, stooping low, so as to keep his Horse's Neck between his Head and the Piece; at the same Time dropping his Pistol, which was secured to his Waist by a leathern Strap. He called to the Postilion who rode our third Horse, 'Drive on!' 'No, stop,' cries the Squire, 'for I see another Coach coming up, which may contain an unarmed Party!' The Highwayman, reiterating, 'Drive on!' galloped across the Heath, followed by his two Companions; for a third had been at our first Horse's Head all the While. The Squire continued levelling his Piece at them as long as they were within Range, then took off his Hat, wiped his Head, and turned about to us with a Look of Satisfaction. The other two Men, who all this While had been as white as Death and as still as Stones, now cried, 'Well done, Squire! we're much indebted to you!' while the outside Passengers gave him three Cheers. He took mighty little Note of them, but stepped up to the Coach that had now come up, which proved to contain the Duke of Newcastle, who, being unarmed, was very glad to continue his Journey in Company with us. Thus were three Desperadoes put to flight by one energetic old Man! In another Hour we reached the Inn where we were to dine, where the Duke parted Company with us. The Squire sat at the Head of the Table, and made me sit next him, and insisted on pledging all the Ladies, to keep up our Courage. Every body talked fast and ate fast too, as we were elated at our Escape and pretty hungry. I should tell you, the fat Woman maintained that her snappish little Puppy had thrown the Robber off his Guard; but the Squire shook his Head upon't. While fresh Horses were putting to, a couple of Horsemen, apparently a Clergyman and his Servant, rode into the Inn-Yard. The Squire, stepping out to them, related what had just occurred, and cautioned them against crossing the Heath unarmed. They thanked him, but told him they were two Police-Officers in Disguise, and well armed in the Hope of Attack. In fact, as we have since learnt, they were beset by the very Men who had assailed us, and giving Chase to the Gang, who dispersed as wide as they could, followed them all across the Country till they succeeded in capturing two; one of whom swam his Horse across a River, but was taken on the other Side. The Squire has since been asked to appear against them, but has declined, saying there is already sufficient Evidence, and he has no Mind to swear away Lives that he spared when his Blood was hot.
"After this, you may suppose we could talk of Nothing but Murders, Robberies and such-like delightful Subjects during the greater Part of our Journey: and each seemed trying to outdo the other, in hope of making the others forget how tamely all had behaved except the Squire. Gradually we dropped our Companions at one Place or another, till none remained but the Squire, myself, and the fat Woman. He now began to be amused at the Joy I could not help betraying at the Sight of every well-known Landmark, and tried to tease me by supposing a Dozen ridiculous Accidents that might have happened at Home, to disappoint me of my Pleasure. At length, we stopped at the Corner of a By-Road in Larkfield Parish, and young Mr. Heavitree comes up. 'Are you there, Father?' says he, scrambling up on the Step to look in. 'All right, my Boy,' says the Squire, grasping his Hand, which he shook heartily, 'and here's Gatty Bowerbank come Home to see her Mother.' Mr. Heavitree gave me such a cheerful Smile! 'How glad they will all be!' said he, 'they do not in the least expect you, and have been wondering why you have let them be so long without a Letter. I was at your Mother's just now.' 'She's quite well, then?' cried I. 'Oh yes,' said he, 'but you don't look very well, I think.' 'Manners, Jack!' says the Squire. 'Well, Father, I meant no Harm; here are Horses, Sir, for you and me, and a light Cart for your Luggage.' 'Put Mrs. Gatty's Baggage into the Cart too, my Boy,' says the Squire, 'and send the Horses round to the Green Hatch, for I've a Mind to walk across the Fields with this young Damsel, and see what Reception she gets, and I suppose you won't Mind coming along with us.' 'Not I, Sir,' said Mr. Heavitree, 'I shall like it very much.' So, when the Luggage was put in the Cart, and the Coachman was settled with, we started off, as sociable as could be, talking about the Highway Robbery; and the Squire took Care to tell his Son that I was the only Woman who did not scream when the Pistol was fired into the Coach. Well, we got to the dear old Garden-Gate; and there, strolling along the pebbled Walk just within it, were Lucy and Pen, their Arms about each other's Necks.—The Squire hemmed; they looked round; and oh! what a Cry of Joy they gave! My Mother, hearing the Noise, came out....
"Dear Mrs. Patty, I am writing as small as ever I can, and must write still smaller, if I mean to get in Half of what I want to say. Imagine what a happy Evening we had! My dear Mother shed many Tears, though, when she heard of your Kindness to me throughout my Illness; and desired me to express her Thankfulness to you all in the strongest Terms I could frame. My Ten Pounds proved very acceptable, as it made up, with her Savings, just the Sum she wants to bind Joe to our Village Doctor. Penelope is learning to make Bone-Lace; and Mrs. Evans is so well content with Lucy, that she is going to take her as second Teacher in her School next Quarter, so that we are all getting on mighty well, one Way and another. Also my Mother has realized a pretty little Sum by the Sale of some of my Father's Latin Books, and there are yet more left. Your delicious Plum-Cake was done ample Justice to, and the Boys declare there never were such Gingerbread-Nuts. Now I have filled my Paper to the very Edge, and yet how much I have left unsaid! Put yourself in my Place, and you will know all I would say to you, and to dear Mrs. Honeywood, and to Prue; not forgetting Mr. Honeywood, to whom give my kind Regards."
"Your ever attached and grateful
My Father, who was smoking his Pipe whilst I read this Letter to him and my Mother, presently said, "I see them all!"
"See who, Father?"
"Everybody in Mrs. Gatty's Letter—The old Woman with her Pipe, the old Gentleman in his Roquelaure, the Robber hung in Chains on the lone Heath, the Highwaymen, the stout old Squire leaping out with his Blunderbuss, my Lord Duke coming up, the Police-Officers riding into the Yard, the young Farmer coming to meet his Father, Gatty flying up to her Mother—that Letter is as full of Pictures as this Chinese Paper."
After ruminating on it a While longer, he began again, with:
"Gatty ought to marry the Squire."
"Oh Father! his Son, if you please!"
"How do you know the Son is a single Man?"
"Nay, how do we know the Squire is a Widower? He's too old."
"Perhaps she won't marry either," said Prue.
"Perhaps not, Mrs. Prue, but let me tell you, neither you nor your Sister could have writ that Letter."
"Well, Father, I suppose a Woman does not get married for writing a Letter. For my Part, I don't see much in it. Anybody, I suppose, could write, if they had Anything to write about."
"No, that don't follow—it's a non sequitur, as the Scholars say."
"I don't set up for a Scholar, not I," said Prue, "I never was so good a Hand at my Pen as Patty; but I worked the best Sampler, for all that."
"Well," says my Father, "say, when you write to her, Patty, that I don't care how often I pay a Shilling for such a Voice from the Basket as that. I wish she'd send us one every Week."
It indeed was Something curious, how my Father's Fancy was hit by this Letter, which he got me to read to him many Evenings following. What was more remarkable, Mr. Fenwick praised it too, though after a more temperate Manner. He called it easy Writing. Now, sure, what is easy, is not so meritorious as what is difficult! And he added it was almost as good as some of the Letters in the Spectator; which, everybody must own, was immoderate. Gatty could historify plain enough what passed before her own Eyes and was heard by her own Ears; but she could not frame a Sentence that required some Exertion of the Mind to follow; which, I take it, is the Perfection of good Writing; at least, I know that's the Way with our best Authors. And no Shame to her for it: Women are not to be blamed for not shining in what is out of their Province; and she spelt perfectly well, and wrote a neat, flowing Hand, which had found Plenty of Practice under Lady Betty; only, to set her up with the Amandas and Dorindas that corresponded with Sir Richard Steele; why, the Thing was clearly preposterous.
Meanwhile, Mr. Fenwick continued to find his Way down to us most Evenings, with his Book in his Hand; and I must say he made the Time pass very pleasantly and swiftly; but though he read quite loud enough for such a small Company, 'twas evident to himself as well as to us, that his Voice would by no means yet fill a Church; besides which, his Breath soon became short, and a red Spot would come on his Cheek; which, whenever my Mother noticed, she always made him shut his Book, and would talk about Anything that chanced, rather than let him over-tire himself. Meanwhile, he heard Nothing, as far as I could glean, of Mr. Caryl: I know he got no Letters, nor received any Visitor; and that, I think, tended to make the red Spot infix itself on his Cheek. I pitied him heartily—"Hope deferred maketh the Heart sick"—but yet it was a Matter I could not presume to express Sympathy with him upon; nor was I qualified to allay any of his Uneasiness. But I kept anxiously looking out for Mr. Caryl's entering the Shop. One Forenoon, Lady Betty's Man, Mr. James, came in; and, says he, "Your Servant, Mrs. Patty—My Lady is going to give a grand Masked Ball to-morrow Evening; and it occurred to me that you and your Sister might like to look on. If so, I can secure you good Places, where you will see without being seen; and you will only have to come early, and ask the Hall Porter for Mr. James."
I thanked him, and said it would be a vast Treat to us; and after a little Talk about Mrs. Gatty, and my offering him some Refreshment, which he readily selected in the Form of Cherry Brandy and Macarons, he went away.
Prudence was mighty pleased to hear of our Engagement, as it would afford her a near View of the gay World, which was what she had long been desiring. After the Shop was closed, we set forth, attended by Peter, who was also to see us safe back; and on reaching the Square, we descried the House directly by the lighted Flambeaux.
Both the private and public Entrance were already in Commotion; but we asked the Hall Porter for Mr. James, who presently appeared, still in Deshabille. "You have taken me at my Word," said he smiling, "Your Coming is of the earliest, and I dare not let you go up-Stairs yet, so you must wait awhile in the Servants' Hall, till the Company begin to arrive."
I was never in a Servants' Hall of that Description before; and I must say that it afforded me Matter and Leisure for several Reflections. Servants, Pastry-Cooks—Men and Boys, and so forth, were bustling in and out, and we were pushed about a good Deal till we got into a quiet Corner behind the Clock. It struck me that the Pleasures of the Quality were purchased at the Price of a good Deal of Immorality in their Dependents. Many a Glass of Wine did I see swallowed on the Sly; many a Tart and Custard whipt off and hastily eaten in Corners. One would have thought, in a great House like this, Fragments of Dainties had been so common that they would have been no Temptations; but doubtless the poor Servants had been so overwrought and debarred of their natural Rest and regular Refreshments, that their Strength required a little keeping up, for they had an arduous Evening before them. The Maids flirted and jested; the Men used intemperate Language; in and out among them all sailed my Lady Housekeeper from Time to Time, as proud as a Dutchess, and in a Head and Primers that a Dutchess had probably worn, before they were a little soiled.
By-and-by the Bustle increases. Mr. James comes in, superbly attired, and smilingly offers us Tarts and Tokay; but, though pressed, we declined. Then he beckoned us to follow him, and piloted us into a brilliant Ante-room where, behind some huge Orange Trees in Wooden Tubs, he found us Seats that commanded a Vistoe of the two Drawing-rooms beyond. Sure, the King's Majesty could scarce dwell in greater State. I think that neither Whitehall, Windsor, nor Hampton Court could ever have made a greater Show. The Ante-Chamber Hangings were blue Velvet and Silver, the Drawing-room that came next beyond was amber Satin and Gold; the Chamber beyond that was hung with Goblin Tapestry. Also there were some large Mirrours, in which one might behold one's self from Head to Foot.
I had very little Notion of what a Masked Ball was really like, but I concluded the Company being attired as Monarchs, Roman Senators, and Potentates of various Descriptions, would be sufficiently possessed with their imaginary Dignities to display Gestures and Deportment of a corresponding Sort, which would doubtless be very majestical. And these again would be relieved by Light-Comedy Parts, which, well supported, would be humorous and diverting.
As, let People assemble as late as they will, some one must still be first, so it was on the present Occasion. A little Man, gaudily attired, entered with a good Deal of Flutter and Importance, who, as soon as he found the Apartments empty, exchanged his Strut for his ordinary Gait, took off his Mask and put it on again several times, perambulated the Saloons, peeped into everything, examined himself again and again before the Mirrours, acted a little in Dumb-Show, sat down before one of them, and finally curled himself up on a Settee and dropped asleep.
I wonder how much the Expectation of Pleasure makes up the real Amount of Pleasure apportioned to us in this Life. The Pleasure itself continually disappoints; the Expectation of it has often Something troubled and impatient; so that either Way there's perpetual Alloy.
Prudence and I were now mighty anxious for the Company. A Group at length entered, consisting of Maids of Honour and Courtiers of Queen Elizabeth's Time, very much furbelowed and bedizened, who believed themselves the first till they espied the little Man on the Settee, when there were some small Jokes made about Cymon and Iphigenia, Milton and the Italian Lady, Sleeping Beauty in the Wood, and so forth. Then the Ladies settled their Ruffs at the Mirrours, and sailed up and down; and one of them walked through Part of a Minuet without Music with a Gentleman she called Sir Christopher Hatton, who pointed his Toes extremely well. Then one of them said, "My Mask makes my Face so hot!" "And red too," said the other; "but what will it be by-and-by?" "I wonder if Harry will come," says one; "I'll lay any Wager I shall find him out."—"I'll lay any Wager you won't," says the other. Thought I, is this the Way Maids of Honour used to talk in the Days of good Queen Bess? Well, perhaps it may be.
Just then the little Man woke up, rubbing his Eyes, and saying drowsily, "John, my hot Water at seven ..." on which the Ladies tittered, and he woke up, looked about, and probably felt foolish. Now the Musicians came, and took their Places, and began to tune up; and Prue whispered to me, "How delightful!" Indeed, the Music was, or seemed to me, first-rate, and I enjoyed it as much as anything; yet at length became inured to it, and scarce more attentive than to a common Street Band; and finally wished the Men would not play so loud, for it prevented my hearing what People were saying. The Ball-Rooms now began to fill fast; and were soon crowded with Jews, Turks, and Saracens, Nuns, Monks, and Friars, Goddesses, Shepherdesses, and Milkmaids, Pulcinelloes, Mountebanks, and Ministers of State. Their Dresses were excessive fine, and I almost trembled to think of the Expense People had put themselves to for the Amusement of one Night; however, that was all for the good of Trade—if so be they paid their Bills.
As for supporting their Characters, there was scarce an Attempt at it; the utmost that the greater Part of 'em did was to say, in little squeaking Voices, "You don't know me!" "I know you!" This seemed to me stupider than Child's-Play; and I was beginning to weary of it, when Prudence jogged me as a very pretty Figure passed, in striped Gauze and pink Satin, sprinkled with Flowers, as the Goddess Flora; and whispered, "Lady Grace Bellair."
Soon after, a smart young Spanish Cavaliero came in, whom she pronounced to be Mr. Arbuthnot; and a Bashaw with three Tails, whom she decided upon as Sir Charles Sefton. Whether any of her Guesses were right, I knew not. By-and-by, Dancing began in the inner Saloon; and, for the first Time, I had a Glimpse of Lady Betty, who was the only Woman without a Mask; and when I saw how great was her Advantage therein over the rest, I wondered how Persons that evidently thought mainly of outward Appearances could make themselves such Frights.
By-and-by a singular Couple, Arm in Arm, left the Ball-Rooms for the Ante-Chamber, dressed like Charles the Second's Courtiers, all but their Heads; for one had the Head of a Fox, and the other of a monstrous Goose. The latter said, "Quack!" whenever he was pushed by the Crowd, which was held an exceeding good Joke, for Folks cried, "Well done, Goose! Quack again!" and, when he did so, went into Peals of Laughter. At Length, with his Friend the Fox, he sat down on a Bench just in Front of our Orange-Trees, exclaiming to his Companion, "Precious hot Work! Even Popularity may be too fatiguing."
"I never had enough of it to know that," says the Fox.
"You! Why, you've been steeped in it to the Lips!—among a certain Coterie at any Rate. You are feigning Modesty, Mr. Fox."
"All I said was, I had never had too much; perhaps, not enough. We belong to an insatiable Race. By-the-by, I proved myself a Goose To-Night in choosing to play Fox, for you are by far the more popular."
"And only by saying Quack."
"Quackery goes a great Way in this World,—I might have known 'twould be so."
"Monstrous fine Masquerade this!" said the Goose.
"Oh, delightful! Have you made out many People?"
"Why, to tell you the Truth, I've been so observed myself, I've had no Time to observe others."
"Sir! name your Hour, Place, and Weapon."
"How quiet and retired is everything in this little Spot! You have Time to observe now."
"Why did you deny yourself to me Yesterday? I know you were at Home."
"The Truth is, I was desperately hypped."
"What made you so?"
"What were you studying? The natural History of the Fox?"
"No, I was learning some Verses by Heart; and I'll spout them to you."
"Now then; don't be tedious."
"Oh, come! that's Pope!"
"Well, and it's my Case too—pretty near. A callow Poetling writes a Piece, dedicates it to me, and expects me to patronize and print it."
"You? Why, I never saw your Name head a Dedication!"
"Well, Sir, you may shortly—if I find no Way of adroitly declining the Honour, as I have done similar Favours before."
"Oh, the Thing's burthensome."
"The ten Pounds may be; but most People consider themselves honoured, and are willing to pay for an expensive Luxury."
"Well, it's no Luxury to me."
"Don't have it, then."
"How avoid it?"
"By simple Neglect. He can't ask for the ten Pounds, if you forget to send them."
"No, but he may abuse me."
"If his Abuse is not clever, Nobody will read it. Come, you are making a Mountain of a Molehill. If he has sent his Poem to you, send it back 'with Thanks,' or forget to return it altogether, or let a Spark fall upon it."
"Then a Spark would fall upon me."
"Nay, if none of those Expedients can fit you, you must help yourself to one. I begin to think you ought to have played Goose, in good Earnest."
They now fell to talking of the Company, and criticizing their Dresses and Deportment, but I was too preoccupied with what they had been saying to attend much to their caustic Remarks; for though they spoke quietly, and their false Heads somewhat disguised their Voices, I could not help entertaining an Impression that the Fox was Mr. Caryl. Was it poor Mr. Fenwick, then, he alluded to so unhandsomely? Oh, the Hollowness of Worldlings! Why, had I not with my own Ears heard him commend Mr. Fenwick's Poem to his Face, and thank him for the Compliment of the Dedication? And yet, here he was waiving it off, as 'twere, and even hinting that Mr. Fenwick wanted to be paid for it! whereas I knew he had refused Money when offered! Oh, the Meanness!... He was jealous, and envious too, I could make out, of a Man that had writ better Verses than his own; and would fain have them supprest. Well, well, this is a wicked World we live in; and that's no News neither.
A false Head and a false Heart, thought I, as the Fox walked off with the Goose. I declare my Hands tingled to pull off that Fox's Head and expose him; but that would have been witless. I got tired of the Vanity-Fair long before Prudence did. At length even she had had enough (and no Wonder, for our Attention had been on the full Stretch for many Hours, without Refreshment or Change of Posture); but the Difficulty was, how to steal away; for the Lobbies and grand Staircase were as thronged as the Ball-Rooms, and we could not in our plebeian Dresses, and unmasked, attempt going among the Company; so there we continued to sit, long after we wanted to come away. At length the Rooms began to thin; and we took Advantage of a chance Dispersion of the Company to make a sudden Flight to the back Stairs. I thought I heard Remarks and Exclamations made, but never looked round; and there, at the Foot of the back Stairs, stood Peter as pale as Death, thinking he had missed us, and never should find us. He had passed the Night, of course, at a Public-House—no good place for him, nor for scores of others that did the same; and was now waiting with our camelot Cloaks and Clogs, which he had stowed safely somewhere where he knew he could find them again. Once equipped, we followed close at his Heels as he elbowed his Way through a Rabble-Rout of Chairmen, Link-Boys, Hackney-Coachmen, Pickpockets, and Lookers-on. It was pouring of Rain, the Pavement shone like Glass, Day was breaking, and I never heard such an uproar in my Life.... "Lady So-and-so's Chariot!" echoed from one hoarse Voice to another all along and round the Corner; and then "Lady So-and-so's Chariot stops the Way!"—till Lady So-and-so stepped in and drove off.
At length we got quit of it all, and picked our Way Home as we best could, and a long Way it seemed! We had too much to do in minding our Dresses, to have Leisure for talking. As we got towards the Five Fields we met plenty of Market-Carts; and now and then we heard the shrilly Cry of some poor little Chimney-Sweep. Once at Home, we were soon in Bed and asleep; and I awoke nearly at my usual Time, chilly and yawnish, but Prue continued sleeping, and I did not wake her.
I was not down quite as soon as usual, after all, and the Milk and Bread were behind Time; and, of Course, Mr. Fenwick did not get his Chocolate as soon as usual. When he heard what had made me late, he looked grave. I said, "Sure, Sir, there was no Harm in looking on?" He said, "Well, I don't know.... It is dangerous to attend not merely Places of pernicious but of doubtful Amusement. Do not your Feelings this Morning tell you that there was Something unsound and unsafe in the Revelry of last Night? And if so in the Case of mere Spectators, how much more in that of actual Participators? and of all those poor People, no voluntary Promoters of it, who only obeyed Orders, and got no Pleasure at all, but what was allied to Dishonesty and Intemperance? I don't want to be overstrict; but am I right or wrong, think you, Mrs. Patty?" And I was obliged to own that I believed he was in the Right on't.
As for Prue, she was fit for Nothing all Day; but she would hear of no Wrong in what had to her been so delightful. So I left her to amuse my quiet Mother with her lively Chat, and attended to the Shop myself.
I was sitting behind the Counter, when a smart-looking, sunburnt young Man of about two-and-twenty, attired as a Sailor, came into the Shop. He said, "Hallo, Patty! how are you?" I said, "Why, Tom! can it be you? I thought you had been in China!"
"I have been there," says he, "true enough; more-by-Token, here's a China Orange for you;" and clapped one into my Hand with such Force that it went near to go through it.
"How are you all?" said he; "I'm glad to see you, and I hope you're glad to see me."
"Oh yes, very glad, Tom; pray walk into the Parlour—we are all at Home."
"How are you, Uncle?" says he, so loud and sudden that he made my Father jump. "And you, Aunt!"—kissing her. "And you!" kissing Prue too.
"'Manners, Jack!'" says my Father, quoting Gatty's Letter.
"My Name's Tom, Uncle, not Jack, though I suppose you meant Jack Tar. Well! so here you all are! I've only just landed—Didn't forget one of you in foreign Lands; I've brought my Aunt a Monkey."
"A nasty Beast!" cries my Father; "we won't have him here, Tom! He'll break all my China."
"Well, Uncle, I thought she might do a little Damage that Way, ('tis the prettiest little Creature you ever saw; her Ears are bored, and her Name's Jessy!) So I brought you, Sir, a Tea-Service, to cover Breakages; the Cups and Saucers fitting into each other; and the Teapot, no bigger than this Orange, fitting in o' Top; the whole Concern packs in a Cylinder no bigger than a Spice-Box."
"Dear Tom," says my Mother, nervously, "we've more Tea-Services already than we should know what to do with, if we did not keep a genteel Kind of Tea-Garden for the Quality."
"But as you do, Ma'am, won't it be acceptable? Or otherwise, won't you want Jessy to break it? She's the prettiest little Dear you can imagine, the Darling of the whole Ship. Well! it seems you're each discontented with the other's Presents;—my Uncle don't like your having the Monkey, and you don't like his having the Crockery. Then I'll tell you what I'll do—chop and change. I'll take your Presents down to my Father and Mother, and you shall have theirs. I've bought you a Pair of Slippers, Prue, but of course they're too big."
And out he pulled a Pair of little Chinese Slippers that might have pinched Cinderella.
"I'm sure you can't wear them, Prue," said I.
"I'm sure I shan't try," said she, jerking her Chin.
"Well, Patty, since I could find you Nothing better, I've brought you a Feather Fan with an Ivory Handle."
"Thank you, Tom!" said I; "it will do nicely to flap the Flies off the Pastry."
"And since you, Aunt, will not have the Monkey, you must be content with some Gunpowder Tea."
"I shall like that a great deal better, Tom, I assure you. The only Sort of Gunpowder I approve."
Here Tom pulled out of his Pocket what looked like a Mahogany Rule, about nine Inches long. "Now, Sir," says he to my Father, "what's that?"
"I can't for the Life of me tell," says my Father, after eyeing it askance and then handling it.
"I knew you couldn't! See," (unfolding it,) "it's a Boot-jack!"
"A queer one, Tom!"
"And what is it now? Why, a Reading-Desk! What is it now? A Cribbage Board!"
"Ha! Tom, that's ingenious."
"Ingenious, Uncle? I believe it is! What is it now? A Ruler. What is it now? A pair of Snuffers."
"Ha, ha, ha!"
"Ah, I knew you'd laugh—what is it now? An eighteen Inch Rule. What is it now? A Pair of Nut-crackers. What is it now? Two Candlesticks. What is it now? A Picquet-Board. What is it now! A Lemon-squeezer. That's for you, Uncle. That's all the Changes. It will go into your Coat Pocket."
"It shall go there, Tom! 'Tis a real Curiosity."
"I knew you'd say so, Sir. I wasn't sure about the Monkey, but I knew you'd like this. Jessy shall go with me Home, but I shan't go there till next Week, because they don't know we've come up the River, so I shall stay a little here first."
"But, Tom, I don't know how we can take you in, for we have a Lodger."
"Oh my Goodness! Nay, don't put the poor Fellow to Inconvenience on my Account, pray."
"Certainly not!" cried Prue, indignantly. "Why, Mr. Fenwick is quite a Gentleman!"
"Oh, is he so?" said Tom, bursting out laughing, "and pray, what am I? 'Sir, you're no Gentleman!'—is that it, Prue?"
"Why, you're Tom, and that's all."
"And that's enough too, isn't it? Oh, I can swing my Hammock anywhere. I wouldn't put Anyone to the smallest Inconvenience. Would sooner catch my Death of Cold, or lose every Shot in my Locker."
"Tom, you're such a thoughtless, good-tempered Fellow, we must pack you in somewhere."
"Oh, no, Uncle! don't think of it. I'll be off to the Three Bells. Only, there are two Belles here I like better."
"But, Tom, I shouldn't like you to get your Pocket picked."
"And I," said my Mother, "should not like you to take your Death of Cold."
"Never caught Cold in my Life, Ma'am, that was only Flummery; a Sailor has Something else to do than keep sneezing and blowing his Nose. And I can leave my Money and Watch here."
"Prudence," said I, "you and I could sleep in the little blue Closet."
"Why shouldn't Tom," said Prudence, "now the other Door is un-nailed? We should have to move all our Things."
"Thank you, Patty," said Tom, "you were always as sweet as Syrup to me. I shall like the blue Closet a precious deal the best, I can assure you, instead of being mast-headed."
So thus it was arranged; and the light-hearted Fellow was soon established among us, spinning long Yarns, as he called them, about John Chinaman.
The next Day, he was absent for some Hours, and when he came back, he said he wanted Prue and me to go with him in the Evening to see a Conjuror. Prudence, for some Whim, would not go; but I accompanied him with Pleasure. The Way Tom went on, however, spoiled my Evening's Entertainment.
The Conjurer was dressed somewhat in the Oriental Style, and I should have taken him for a real Foreigner, only that Tom whispered to me that was all Sham. In Fact, he began by addressing us in very good English, and saying that the Marvels he was about to display were unaccompanied by any Fraud or Deception, and that any Lady or Gentleman who doubted his Word might come and sit at his Elbow. "I accept your Invitation!" cries Tom; and immediately "slued himself round," as he expressed it, round a Pillar between us and the Stage, slipped down it as if he had been a Monkey, and was at the Man's Side in a Moment. The Conjurer looked sufficiently annoyed, but not more so than I felt, for it seemed to me that the Eyes of all the Audience were alternately on Tom and me, as indeed they well might be. Luckily for my Comfort and Respectability, he left me sitting next to a very steady-looking elderly Couple, the nearest of which said, "Never mind, young Lady, we'll take Care of you." I said, "It was so very thoughtless of him to leave me!" and felt quite uncomfortable. "It was very thoughtless," said the good Woman's Husband, smiling, "I should think, Miss, he's in the sea-faring Line." I said, "Yes, Sir," and we then began to attend to what was going on, on the Stage; but I sat on Thorns all the While.
Tom, quite unembarrassed by the Publicity of his Position, kept his Eyes fixed on the Conjurer's Proceedings with an Air of lively Interest. The two or three first Tricks drew from him such Exclamations as "Capital! Excellent!" which appeared somewhat to mollify the Cunning Man; but at length, when Something was done which seemed very surprising, Tom coolly remarked, "Ah! I see how that is managed," in a Voice as clear as a Bell, that was heard all over the House. The Conjurer shook his Head at him and frowned; but went on to Something else. Again Tom was pleased; again he clapped as heartily as any. The next Trick he marked his Approval of by saying, "Very neat, very neat." At Length came the grand Feat of the Evening, which was swallowing a Carving-Knife. Everybody's Attention was riveted, when Tom said in an Expostulatory Voice, "But, my dear good Fellow, how can you say there is no Fraud or Deception?" "Sir, I defy you to prove any," says the Conjurer. "I will prove it directly," says Tom, "for I have often seen the Thing better done in India." "Sir, you are an impertinent Fellow," says the Conjurer; "I must insist upon it that you withdraw. If you will not retire of your own Accord, you shall do so on Compulsion, for it is highly indecorous to interrupt a public Performance in this Manner."
"Well, but why did you ask me?" said Tom. "I didn't!" says the Conjurer. "You did," says Tom. "Didn't he?" to the whole House. "Knock him down! Throw him over!" cried several Voices. "Give him into Custody!" "Nay," says Tom, "I don't want to make any Disturbance:—if you wish me to go, I'll go, for I never like to put People to the least Inconvenience, and I'm sure if I'd known you didn't mean to be taken at your Word, I would have stayed where I was!" Saying which, he swung himself up the Pillar again, and was by my Side the next Moment, looking as merry and good-tempered as ever. But I was so penetrated with Shame, that I could not bear to look up, but begged him to let us go Home, to which he acceded, though with much Surprise. The next Morning, I was giving my Father and Mother an Account of my uncomfortable Evening, when Tom, coming in to Breakfast, says, "Who is that pale, lanky Chap I met just now upon the Stairs?"
"Tom!—" said Prudence, very indignantly, "it was Mr. Fenwick!"
"How should I know who he was?" rejoined Tom unconcernedly, "I thought he might be a Thief."
"A Thief, indeed!" muttered Prue, as she buttered her Roll.
"Well, Prue," said he briskly, "I gave Patty a Treat last Night, so now it's your Turn."
"You did give Patty a Treat, indeed, my Lad," says my Father ironically.
"I'm glad she found it so, Uncle," says he, quite cheerfully, "so, To-Night, Prudence, I'll take you to the Play."
"I don't know that I want to go," says Prudence.
"Oh! very well, then I'll take Patty."
"Thank you, Tom," said I, "but I don't quite approve of Theatrical Amusements."
"You don't? Oh my Goodness!—And do you disapprove of them, Prue?"
"No, not I," said Prue, "I think Patty more nice than wise."
"Oh, then, come along like a good Girl, and let's go together."
"But, Tom," says my Father, "I shall put a Spoke in that Wheel, unless you promise you won't forsake her as you did Patty last Night."
"I'll promise you a Dozen Times, Uncle, if you think that will make it more secure."
"No, if you promise once in earnest, that will do."
"I do promise."
"But, Tom," put in my dear Mother, "I share Patty's Objections to the Play-House, and I think two such young Heads as you and Prue are hardly to be trusted there. In short, I would rather she did not go."
Prue pouted a little on this—My Father began to chafe.
"Fiddlesticks, my Dear," says he, "you and I often went to a Play together when we were young, and why shouldn't they?"
"Why, my Dear, as I am no longer young, I see Things in a different Light."
"It may not be a truer Light, though, Mrs. Honeywood, and you can't expect young Folks to see Things differently from what you yourself did when you were young. Tut, tut! let the Girl go, and say no more about it."
"But, Mr. Honeywood...."
"But, Madam!" (very loud and angry,) "haven't I said it should be so, and have I a Right to be minded?"
Here my Mother turned pale and trembled, which I never could bear to see; and I was going to urge Prue and Tom, in a low Voice, to give up their Treat rather than foment a Family Quarrel, when I was called into the Shop, which prevented my knowing how the Matter ended. Presently Tom went through the Shop, out of the House; and the next Time I could look into the Parlour, it was empty.
Prue, however, was singing about the House, so I argued that Peace had been restored somehow; most likely by her giving up the Play. By-and-by she comes in all Smiles, and says, "I'll take up Mr. Fenwick's Chocolate," and, before I could say a Word, took the little Tray out of my Hand and was off with it.
I had forgotten all about this, when, some Time after, happening to go up Stairs for my Knotting-Bag, in passing the open Door of Mr. Fenwick's Sitting-Room, I saw him and Prue standing at the Window, their Backs towards me, in earnest Conversation; he holding her by the Hand, and she apparently in Tears. This gave me the oddest Feeling I ever had in my Life—I went up into my Room, sat down on the first Chair I came to, and could hardly turn my Breath. I could not think what had come over me! Presently I got up and tried to drink some cold Water, but could hardly get it down. It seemed to me as if I could not think; and yet there was a great, dull, dark, unwelcome Thought in my Head all the while!
I leant my Head against the Wall; and having quieted myself a little, rose to go down Stairs. Just then, Prue came in, and looked as if she had hoped to find the Room unoccupied. I said, "You've been crying, Prue!" She said, sharply, "No, I haven't!—and what if I had?"—I said, "Only that I should have been sorry to know that you were in Sorrow." She said, "Tears are shed for Joy, sometimes, as well as Sorrow, are not they?" "Certainly," said I; and turned away. "What could make you think I had been crying, Patty?" says she hurriedly. "Well," I said, "I thought you might be vexed about the Play."—"The Play? oh, that was given up before Tom went out," said she—"Of course it did vex me, and I think it was unkind of my Mother not to let me go." "You know her Motives are always kind," said I. "Well, of course I do," says she, still crossly, "but don't harp any more on such a disagreeable Subject. If you do, I shall run away from you." And away she ran.
Then it was not the Play; then it was not about Anything connected with Tom, that had made her cry! I'd thought as much! "Tears are shed for Joy as well as for Sorrow," sometimes, though not very often. I sat down again, and turned my Face to the Wall, with my Head resting against it, and cried bitterly. Mine were Tears of Sorrow, not of Joy!
I do not much like to look back on that Time:—I was under a Cloud; a very dark one; and saw, heard, and felt Everything under its Shadow. I did not seem to love Prue much, nor to believe she loved me; I took Pleasure in Nothing, and did Nothing well.
I wonder, now, how I could have been so silly. I am very glad People could not see into my Heart, nor guess what was passing in my tossed and fretted Mind. Oh! if our Neighbours sometimes lay to our Charge Things that we know not, how often might they lay to our Charge Things that they know not! They think us on good and pleasant Terms with them, maybe, when we are full of Envy, Jealousy, and Suspicion. They utter the careless Word and laugh the cheerful Laugh, little guessing that their lightest Look, Word and Tone are being weighed in a Balance.
I suppose my troubled Mind tinctured a Letter I wrote, at about this Time, to Gatty; for in her Reply to it, which followed very quickly, she said:
"I think I can see by your Writing that you are not well, nor in good Spirits. How earnestly do I wish, dear Mrs. Patty, you would come down to us here, and try the effect of a little Change. Yours is a very toilsome, anxious Life, though you carry it off so well; always afoot, always thinking of others! But this may be overdone, and I think you have overdone it now; so come down, pray, before you get any worse. You know your Way to the Old Angel, dear Patty! and though the Days are so very short now and the Weather cold, the Roads are in fine Order and you shall have a warm Fireside. My Mother will be more joyed to see you than I can express, and so will my Brothers and Sisters, and I need not say how acceptable your Company will be to me! My Month's Holiday is up, and I have writ to Lady Betty; but she returns no Answer, and perhaps considers me no longer her Servant. I cannot say I shall fret much if it prove so; but the Fact must shortly be ascertained; as in that Case I must seek another Service. How I should like to go to that reverend, comfortable old Mrs. Arbuthnot! Perhaps, when I send her Aprons, I might write a respectful Line, saying I am in want of a Situation. Hers would be a vastly different Service, I fancy, from my Lady Betty's. And yet, do you know, that strange Sister of mine, Pen, is certain she should like to live with my Lady! Dear Mrs. Patty, I must abruptly conclude, as we are preparing to spend the Evening at Roaring House. It is a good Step, and there will be no Moon, but we shall do well with Lantern and Pattens, and are not fear'd at Hob-Goblin.
"I depend on your coming, so name the Day; and wrap up very warm, or else come inside the Coach. Tell the Coachman to set you down at the Mile-Stone, just before he reaches the Green Hatch; and we will be there to meet you. There have been no Highway Robberies these three Weeks, and only one Overturn, so don't be afraid."
"Roaring House," slowly repeated my Father, knocking the Ashes out of his Pipe, when I had read him the greater Part of this Letter. "It must be a very queer Place, I think, that has such a queer Name.... A roaring House!—hang it if I should like to live in it!—A House that roars, or that has been accustomed to roar, very likely in the old Days of the roaring Cavaliers!—A monstrous queer Name indeed!—Aye, aye, many a Hogshead of strong Ale has been swilled in its great, rambling Kitchen by roaring Boys, I warrant ye—A great, rambling, scrambling, shambling House, with Doors and Casements loose on their Hinges, that creak in the Wind, and with loose Tiles on the great gabled Roofs, and Swallows' Nests in the great, windy Chimneys, and creaking Boards in the uneven Floors and rotten old Staircases, and dark Corners, and dark Cup-Boards, and windy Key-Holes and winding Passages. That's my Notion of Roaring House."
"Is that where Gatty lives?" said Prudence heedlessly.
"No, where she was going to drink Tea; with Lantern and Pattens," said my Father—"Didn't you hear Patty read? Ha! Time was, I wouldn't have minded being her Foot-Boy."
"But, Patty," said my dear Mother anxiously, "she does not think you are well, Love. Do you wish to go to Larkfield?"
"Why, certainly, Mother, it would be a great Treat; only I don't see how I could well be spared."
"Oh, we can spare you well enough," cries Prudence; "you won't be missed!"
"Thank you," said I abruptly; and thought I would not go.
"We will manage to spare you very well, my dear Love," said my dear Mother—"We will contrive so that you shall not be missed."
Just the same Thing, only said how differently! I thought I would go. A kind Word spoken in Season, oh! how good is it!
In short, I decided to go, for I felt I wanted a Change; and I was hourly in dread of saying in my present irritable State, something to Prudence which I should afterwards be bitterly sorry for. I saw she wanted me to go; I knew she could, if she would, supply my Place for a little While; and I hoped after a short Absence to return with a new Set of Ideas, and find all Things straight.
So I wrote to Gatty, to name my Day, and began to pack up. When Mr. Fenwick heard I was going, he looked very much surprised; but said Nothing. I was glad of the one and the other. I liked his being surprised, and I liked his making no common-place Speeches. In the mean Time, he had, I knew, addressed a Letter to Mr. Caryl; and I found, rather unexpectedly, he had got an Answer;—in this Way.
I had carried up his Chocolate, and found him with his Elbow on the Mantel-Piece, and his Thumb and Fore-Finger pinching his Chin very hard, while he frowned anxiously over a Billet he was reading.
"This is very strange,—very provoking!" cried he, looking round to me for Sympathy—"I don't know why I should trouble you to hear about it, Mrs. Patty, but I am vexed!"
"I should like to hear about it if you please, Sir," said I quietly.
"Why,—the Matter is this. I sent Something I had been writing,—Something I had taken a good deal of Pains with,—to Mr. Paul Caryl. He seemed a good deal pleased with it, took it up quite warmly, promised to put it in Train for me and give it his Patronage. A long Interval has ensued, without Anything coming of it; at length I venture to write him a gentle Reminder; and he, with a hundred thousand Protestations and Apologies, writes to say that 'how to excuse himself he knows not, but the plain Fact is, a Spark falling on my Manuscript, has utterly consumed it.'"
"I don't believe it!" cried I with sudden Passion, "I don't believe one Word of it!"
"Why, it's hard to believe—" begins Mr. Fenwick with an aggrieved Air.
"It's not to be believed!" interrupted I vehemently; "it's a Falsehood, if ever one was told! A trumped up, vamped up Story!"
"Hush, Mrs. Patty—"
"No, Sir, I can't hush, I know it's as I say: I'm sure of it! Oh, the Meanness!—"
"My dear Patty!—"
"It's abominable, Sir! He, call himself a Gentleman?"
"My dear Patty, you quite astound me by the Vehemence of your Sympathy. I can't tell you how gratefully I feel it. But your undue Warmth makes me see my own in its proper Light—I was feeling this Matter too much. It is mortifying enough, I must own, but I dare say what he tells me is true...."
"Not a Word!"
"And whether true or not, the Loss to me is the same—I shall never see my Manuscript again—"
"If I were the King or the Lord Mayor, you should!—"
"Pooh, pooh! what, when it's burnt?"
"Burnt or unburnt; or he should go to Newgate; that he should!"
"No, no, Patty; Kings and Lord Mayors don't send Poets to Newgate, for being careless of other Poets' Papers. You make me laugh at my own Annoyance, you caricature it so! I have quite cleared up, now—I shall not think of it again; unless with a Smile. But I heartily thank you for your warm Sympathy, dear Patty!"
"Yes, Patty, for your acceptable, your salutary Sympathy."
And he cordially pressed my Hand. I withdrew it, and slipped away; but with a Feeling of Consolation and Complacence to which my lone Heart had of late been a Stranger. I wiped away a Tear, and went to pack my Box.
"In a brotherly sort of Way," thought I; "he regards me kindly. Nothing more."
Oh! what awful Work it is, when Sisters are jealous of one another! The nearer the Heart, the greater the Smart. The closer the Kin, the greater the Sin. My Heart was in that State, that the least Injury, real or supposed, made me ready to cry out; and yet I must look out jealously for new Injuries, as if I had not enough already. As for Prue, she was in a most unpleasant Humour, snappish and reckless, or merry and unfeeling: laughing twice as much as there was Need, at the merest Trifle; or requiring to be spoke to twice before she heard or made Answer. There was no Confidence between us now; and if she had made any Approach to it, I should have started away from it. I was glad when she was going about, Sightseeing, with Tom; for, as she truly said, she was so soon to have all the Work to do, that she might as well take her Pleasure while she could: only it was not spoken kindly. As for Tom, he had been Home and back again: he had taken down his Monkey to his Mother, but had soon got tired, I fancy, of country Quiet, (which, he said, was as dull as a Roari-torio,) so made an Excuse to run up to Town again on some sea-faring Business. However, he had only left Home for a few Days, and meant to return to it as soon as he had squired me to the Old Angel; though I told him I had not the least Need of his Protection, and wanted Nobody but Peter to go with me. He would not have it so; but got up some Hours before Light, brisk as a Lark, to see me off, like a good-tempered Fellow as he was. He talked all Sorts of Rhodomontade by the Way, that amused me in spite of myself; and, just as we got to the Inn-yard, asked me how often I thought he had been in Love.
"Never once," said I.
"Then, there you're quite out," said he, "for I've been in Love four Times." Here a Man ran against him with a Box. "You might have put out my Eye," says Tom to him; "however, as you didn't, it's no Matter." Here we got to the Booking-office, and waited there while the dirty old Coach was being washed.
"Four Times," repeated Tom, returning to his Subject, "and I'll tell you who with."
"Oh no," said I, "pray spare me!"
"You don't guess the Name of the last, then," says he with a roguish Air.
"Patty Honeywood," doubtless, said I.
"You're not so far out, then," says he, bursting out laughing.
"Hush, Tom! People will hear you...."
"Well, and what if they do?"
"Why, I shan't put much Faith in your Passion, if you talk and laugh so openly about it."
"Ah," says he, "perhaps I may feel as much as Fellows that are more affected."
Here we got shoved about a good deal by People coming into the Office. At length, the Horn began to blow and the Bell to clang over our Heads. Tom put me inside the Coach, within which was as yet only an old Lady in a red Cardinal. Then he stood on the Step, and kept talking to me through the Window. "Yes," says he, "the Letters P. H. are indelibly tattooed on me. Why won't you give a Fellow a little Encouragement to live upon while you're away?" Here he screwed up his Face into a very mysterious Expression, as much as to say, "The old Gentlewoman can't understand me," and the next Moment was showing his good white Teeth from Ear to Ear in a broad Smile.
"They've slued up your Box now," says he, "and are getting under weigh. There's a blue Peter to the Fore."
"What's that?" said I.
"Why, the Admiral's Flag clapped to the Foremast, for sailing Orders. What I mean now, is, that your Man Peter, looking Blue with Cold, is standing at the Fore Horse's Head, and staring, as well he may, at the Postilion. Well, you won't carry much Ballast this Time. There are some Barrels of Oysters in the Hold, going down to Country Cousins that have sent up Geese and Turkeys."
"Dear me! I wish I had thought of a Barrel of Oysters," said I.
"Too late now!" said Tom. "But yet, if you wish it, I'll make a Rush for them, and come up with you along the Road. You won't make more than three Knots an Hour. Shall I?"
"Oh no, thank you. It's too late now."
"Better late than never. And apply that to me on the Present Occasion. Come, accept me! Arn't I a very good Boy, for a Sailor? You've never seen me smoke, nor drink, nor fight, nor get my Pockets picked, nor use any uncomfortable Expressions. Oh no, I can't bear to put People to the least Inconvenience. Here I am, going, going, going,—say gone!"
"Gone!" said I; and he was off the next Moment.
"A light-hearted young Sailor," says the old Gentlewoman smiling, "I shouldn't think many young Ladies would say 'No' to the Offer he made you."
The Jumbling of the Coach over the rough Stones precluded the Need of an Answer. For some Time we journeyed in the Dark; when Daylight came, I was able to amuse myself with passing Objects; and though the Cold was severe, I liked Travelling very well. We stopped to dine at Twelve o'Clock; there was a great, raw Leg of boiled Mutton, which the old Lady said was bad Meat badly killed and badly cooked. She said, however, that Travelling was improved since her young Days, when the Coach was three Days going from London to Exeter, and halted to observe the Sabbath on the Road. We safely reached the appointed Spot just before Dark, where Gatty, all Smiles and Cordiality,—and a healthy, honest-looking Boy, her Brother, were awaiting me. My Luggage was so light, we carried it between us, laughing and talking as we trudged along to Gatty's Home; which I found what she called "a good Step."
"Why, Gatty!" said I, as we plodded over the Moor, "I had no Notion you didn't live in Larkfield!"
"But we do," said she, "in Larkfield Parish. We live in the Foreign, though not in the Borough. Didn't I ever tell you that? When my Father died, we gave up our Town-House, which was twenty Pounds by the Year, and took this, which is but fifteen."
It seemed to me a lonesome Situation enough; however, a large, cheerful Family prevents any House from seeming lonely; and soon we were in a snug, well-warmed, well-lighted Room. They were all very glad to see me; Gatty's Sisters were tall, lanky Girls, nothing to compare in Point of Looks with herself; but they seemed very sociable and merry, and their Mother was a quiet, kind-spoken Woman, whom I should never have guessed for a Kinswoman, however remote, of Lady Betty's.
Gatty and I slept together, and talked a good Deal before we slept. She was quite strong and well now, but seemed more reluctant than ever to go back to Lady Betty; and I thought she seemed building on some vague Hope of getting taken by Mrs. Arbuthnot. I could see she liked her Country Home best of all, but felt she had no Right to stay.
Next Day, we took a brisk Walk over the hard frozen Ground. The Trees being leafless, and the Sky threatening Snow, I thought the Country had a dreary Look with it; but the young People were so gay that one could not be dreary in their Presence; and we came Home to our hot roast Mutton with red Noses, blue Fingers, and tip-top Spirits. We were to spend the Evening at Roaring House, which I found was where Mr. Heavitree lived. All the Afternoon the Girls were ironing clean Cuffs, and making cherry-coloured Top-knots.
Though we started at Three o'Clock, it was quite Dusk before we got to the old Farm-House; but the ruddy Light of a great Wood Fire through the Diamond-paned Casements made it look cheerfully enough. We had a hearty Country Reception at the Threshold, from Mr. Heavitree, a mighty smart, good-looking young Man, with quite the Air of a Country Gentleman; and from his Sister, Miss Clary, who was a few Years his elder, and who, I had been told as I came along, was soon to be married. There was no other Company than ourselves, except Miss Clary's Lover, and her Father the Squire, and the Village Doctor's Assistant. We spent the Evening in an old Stone Hall, with great unpainted Girders over our Heads, sundry old Brown-Bills and Bows against the Walls, and a roaring Fire on the low Hearth, which reminded me of the Name of the House. We did not want Candles for a good While; we sat about the Hearth and chatted, and had Tea, and great Slices of Plum-Cake; after that, we danced to warm our Feet, the Squire playing the Fiddle; and then we had Hide-and-Seek and Hunt-the-Slipper, to please the young Bowerbanks, and then each was called on for a Song; and after that, we told Stories of Ghosts, Murders, Robberies, hidden Treasures, and such-like, till we quite scared ourselves and one another. Then the Squire would begin one and another funny Story with, "I'll tell you what I did when I was a Boy;" and he clapped his Hands after every Song, and laughed at every Story. I never saw an old Gentleman take so hugely to young People; and when nobody was minding him, he would stand before the Fire with his Hands in his Pockets, humming "Oh, the Days when I was young!" and hem away a Sigh. We had Forfeits; and when young Mr. Heavitree was bidden, "Bow to the prettiest, kneel to the wittiest, and kiss whom he loved best," he kneeled to me, and kissed Gatty, which put her out and made her very red; and I heard her say in her quiet Way, "That's going too far." We had Turkey and Mince-Pies for Supper, and hot Elder-Wine and Toast afterwards, to fortify us, they said, against the Cold. The Squire wished he were young enough to see us Home, but since he wasn't, Jack would do as well. So Mr. Jack, that's Mr. Heavitree, went out to put on his great Coat, and came back laughing, and said the Ground was covered with Snow! And so indeed it was, but we trudged through it merrily enough. Next Day, however, the Snow fell so fast all Day, that we were kept in Doors, and Gatty worked hard at Mrs. Arbuthnot's last Apron, till she finished it. I wrote Home, it being the first Opportunity; for the Post only went out of Larkfield three Times a Week: and that was once oftener, Mrs. Bowerbank said, than when she was first married.
There was much Conjecture bestowed as to whether the Heavitrees would come in the Evening to return our Visit, according to Promise. Gatty thought they would not; all the others thought they would, and the two youngest Girls spent the best of the Morning in making Cakes. The young People came, without the Squire, and we had a pleasant Evening, but not so lively as the last, partly because the Parlour was so much smaller than the Hall, and partly because Mrs. Bowerbank was not so convivial and humorous as the Squire.
After this, came two or three Days of incessant Snow; and after the Snow, a Frost. All were glad the Snow left off falling, because we were expected at Roaring House, and Mrs. Bowerbank said she could not consent to our going if the Snow continued to fall. So we made our Preparations full early; and meantime, a Servant who had been into Larkfield and had called at the Post-Office, among other Places, (it being the principal Linen-Draper's and Tea-Grocer's of the Town,) brought Gatty a Letter from Lady Betty, which had been lying there a Day and a Half, and the Contents of which threw us all into Flurry and Dismay.
My Lady wrote, in a very few Words, by another Hand, to desire Mrs. Gatty would return to her Duties immediately, for that Madam Pompon had left.
This was a sad Blow to us all: poor Gatty could not help crying; and we all cried to keep her Company. Lady Betty would not have been much flattered, could she have seen the Reception her Letter got. "Oh, poor Gatty! poor Gatty!" resounded on all Sides; but after intermingling Kisses and Tears, she was the first to pluck up Courage, and say we were only making Things worse by grieving, and she would pack up at once, to be ready for the Morning Coach, and then think nothing more about it till the Time came. So her Sisters dispersed, to dress for our Party, and Gatty and I went up-Stairs to do the same, and pack her Box; several Times in the Course of doing which, she burst out crying; and I thought I had never beheld a Girl so loth to quit Home, nor so resolved to do her Duty.
At length we set off; and when we got to Roaring House, there was pretty much the same Thing over again, for Jokes and Laughing were exchanged for Lamentations; and the Gaiety of the Evening was completely clouded. I cannot help thinking, however, that it was Balm to Gertrude's Heart to find herself so unaffectedly sympathised with: the Squire patted her on the Shoulder several Times, and called her "poor Girl," and "dear Gatty;" Miss Clary more than once shed a Tear; and Mr. Heavitree seemed quite mute and confounded.
We prolonged our Visit as late as we could; and when we dared stay no longer, the Squire and Miss Clary insisted on adding many additional Wraps to our own; he producing some prodigious large Silk Pocket-handkerchiefs, which he tied himself over our Heads and under our Chins, like Capouchins, giving each a Kiss as a Finish; and striving moreover to persuade each of us to wear a Pair of his thick Shoes over our own, and stuff up the Difference between them with Rag and brown Paper. While urging Pen to this, his Son came in from the outer Hall, looking deadly pale; and hit his Head violently against an old Tortoiseshell-Cabinet, which he ran against without intending it.
"Measure your Distance better, Jack," says his Father, "or, what with black Eyes and red Eyes, there won't be a Pair of Eyes in the Hall worth looking at. Bless thee, Child!" very kindly to Gatty, as she stept up to bid him Good-bye. "Keep thy good Heart and good Looks, whatever thou dost;" and so, kissed her twice. Gatty dropped a Tear on his Hand; he looked at it quickly, then at her attentively; and giving her Hand a final Shake, pushed her gently away, saying, "There, go; go along; and God's Blessing go with thee."
By this Time we were all equipped. Just as Miss Clary was kissing Gatty at the Door, I noticed the Squire whisper a Word in Mr. Heavitree's Ear, which made the latter colour very much; adding to it, "You'll be a Fool, if you don't do as I say."
Now, we were all setting out from the hospitable Threshold, the Lights streaming from which illumined our Path till we reached the Gate, which Mr. Heavitree held open till we had all passed. Gatty's two younger Sisters, to show their Love and Sorrow, were each monopolizing one of her Arms and hanging upon her as they followed Joe, who was taking the Lead with a Lantern, though there was a pale Moon. Mr. Heavitree, therefore, coming up as soon as he had fastened the Gate, found me just behind the rest, and spontaneously gave me his Arm; but the next Minute, in a hurried Manner and lowered Voice said, "Dear Mrs. Patty, this once be my Friend. I've a Word to say to Gatty, and those Girls will never let me!"
I immediately said, smiling, "Trust to me;" and in another Minute had dropped his Arm and was walking off with Lucy, and in two or three Minutes more had secured Penelope too. As we walked on briskly, Pen said, "Hadn't we better stop for Gatty?" but I said, "No, she's close behind, and Mr. Heavitree wants to have a little Talk with her for the last Time." This quite satisfied the artless Girls, who soon were busy chattering about the Loss of poor Gatty, and their Fears lest she might not have a safe Journey. They pointed out to me the North Star, and Charles's Wain, and many other Stars or Planets whose Names I forget, and told me I might always know a Star from a Planet, because Stars twinkle and Planets do not. Pen even added that Sirius, the Dog-Star, is sixty Times brighter than the Sun, which I'm free to think must have been a prodigious Blunder of hers. Who can believe it? Except indeed, Children, who swallow Incredibilities without any Trouble.
Arrived at the Gate, we were surprised at Gatty's coming up to us alone; yet I am certain I had had a Glimpse of two dark Figures following us the Minute before. Directly we got in-Doors, all was Bustle. Mrs. Bowerbank was sure we must be perishing of Cold, and insisted on our going to Bed directly; and promising to send each of us a Basin of hot Gruel to eat in our Beds: Gruel well qualified with Wine, Nutmeg, and Sugar—Caudle, in Fact!
It was no bad Thing to be thus coddled and comforted like Invalids while we felt quite well; and we were soon undressing as fast as we could. All but Gatty, who came up to me when I was about half undressed, to fetch a few Things she wanted, and to tell me she was going to sleep with her Mother. This was a Surprise and Disappointment to me; I had reckoned on a good Gossip over our Gruel, and on her telling me all about Mr. Heavitree as soon as the Candle was put out. However, it seemed that the Thing had been settled, even before we started, in order that I might not be disturbed by her early Departure the next Morning; and her Box had already been carried down, and she said she wanted to spend her last Night with her Mother, so there was no more to be said. I noticed, however, as she kissed me, that her Eyelids were red with crying, but her Eyes beaming under them very bright. I said, "Good Night, but not good-bye; for I am resolved to see you off in the Morning." She said, "Oh, you must not think of it. All will be Bustle, and there will be no real Pleasure in seeing each other. I have quite got over my Trouble at going, now, and don't care at all about it." So she kissed me cheerfully, and repeated, "Good-Night and good-bye," and ran off. I was still resolved to get up in Time to see the Last of her; but I suppose the Caudle, being so strong, made me sleep heavier and later than usual; for though it was yet Dark when I got up, I found on going down Stairs that Gatty had been gone a full Hour. None of the Family had accompanied her except Joe and the Girl of all Work, who carried her Box; but Pen told me that just as she was watching Gatty out of Sight by the Light of the Lantern, some one joined them.
When Joe returned, he said their Companion had been young Mr. Heavitree, who wanted, he supposed, to be at the Beast-Market betimes, or, sure, he would not have been afoot so early. Joe added that the Snow was tremendous,—up to a Man's Knees in many Parts, and up to his Shoulders under the Banks. We thought he must be exaggerating; but, however, the poor Boy had certainly been Half his Depth in Snow himself, though he averred he had not stumbled. He said it was freezing now, and the Roads so slippery that the Horses stumbled so at every Step that they were obliged to be led—he did not believe they would make more than two Miles an Hour, and wondered when Gatty would reach London. Lucy said, "Hush," and bade him not frighten their Mother, who was just coming in; but Mrs. Bowerbank had heard it all from the Cook-Maid, and looked very grave. It turned out, that Mr. Heavitree had made Gatty go inside, and had accompanied her the first Stage. Joe's Eyes looked very round, and he said, "Oh, I wasn't to tell that; but Women will be blabbing." "Who told you not to tell, Joey?" says Lucy. "If I told you that, Miss Lucy," says he, "I should blab too." So then we sat down to Breakfast, for they were glad of the Excuse to repair their hurried Meal by keeping me Company. After that, we sat to our Needles, and Joey did Sums or pretended to do them, and drew Pictures on his Slate. Mrs. Bowerbank was a ruminative Woman of few Words, the younger Girls were rather afraid of her, and rather shy towards me, and we missed Gatty sadly. As for getting out of Doors, we were close Prisoners, and likely to be for some Days; the Weather was as bad as could be, and threatened to be worse.
I think a dismaller Thing can scarce be cited, than a lone dismal House on a dismal lone Moor, in dismal inclement Weather, without anything passing or like to pass on Horse or Foot, without even a Cart-Track or a Row of black Footprints to the Gate across the Snow. In-Doors, small Rooms, somewhat barely furnished, either bitterly cold, or hot and close to that Degree as almost to stifle one. Nobody coming in nor going out; not so much as a Tradesman's Knock with his Knuckles at the Back-door; no Newspapers, no News, no lively Voices, no Letters to be got from the Post, nor any Possibility of getting a Letter to the Post. Nothing but to depend on one's own Resources within the House; happy for the Housekeeper if no Bread, nor Meat, nor Tea, nor Salt, nor Sugar, nor Candles, nor Coals, nor Stores of any Sort be a-wanting!
I confess a Day or two of that Life made me heartily sick of it; and yet it continued for nearly a Week. I thought what a Goose I was to leave Home to come to People I knew so little of, and who knew so little of me. I resolved within myself it should be long indeed ere I set out again, "voggetting about," as the Wiltshire People call it. Change of Scene, indeed! with Nothing to look out at but that lonely Snow-covered Moor! Nobody to speak to but a silent Woman, with a couple of unfledged Daughters, as mute as Mice, poring over their Bobbin-Work, and a Schoolboy that was bidden to hold his Peace! Nothing to do but sew, sew, sew, all Day, and think my own melancholy Thoughts, and wish for a Letter from Home, and wonder when I should be able to get back! No Exercise but to go up to my own Room under Pretence of washing my Hands, and there gaze out vacantly on the Snow, or dip into a musty old Book or two! Why, there was a hundred Times more Variety and Amusement in our Shop, any Day, in the worst of Weathers!
As for Mrs. Bowerbank, she was not near so dull, though a good deal more worried; because, though she brewed and baked at Home, and kept her Store Closet pretty well supplied, there were certain little Things that fell short during our Siege and Beleaguerment, which she had no Means of supplying. Thus, Butter ran short; and we all know there's no Substitute for that! The Salt-box happened to be nearly empty, and Eggs were scarce. Luckily, there was no Lack of Bread, because Flour was plenty, and she always knew how to keep herself supplied with Yeast, by putting away the wooden Spoon, unwashed, with which she had stirred the Yeast at her last Baking. But Butcher's Meat was scarce, which was more felt because we could not have Eggs to our Bacon: however, with one Thing and another we got on pretty well. She called me the most contented of Guests; I told her, truly, I was sorry she should treat me as a Stranger, and was quite willing to fare with the Rest.
Indeed, the Tabling troubled me least. And when I considered how kind they all were to me, a Stranger, and how great must be the Sufferings of the Poor and Needy in such a Season, I felt I was quite wicked to be secretly complaining merely because of the Infestivity. I played at Tit-tat-to with Joe, and posed him with hard Riddles, and he in return put it to me—"If a Herring and a Half cost three Halfpence, how far is it to Tyburn Turnpike?" which I told him had puzzled me before he was born; and then I puzzled him by asking, if a Herring and a Half cost three Halfpence, how many could he buy for Sixpence; which took him a good While to make out. The Girls, seeing me condescend to their younger Brother, began to think me less formidable, and to make some bashful Efforts at my Entertainment; and I then offered to tell their Fortunes, and showed them some simple Hocus-pocussing, which presently set us all laughing; and I found that the surest Way of being entertained is to entertain. Besides, we got a little Exercise by this; for some of the Conjurations led to hiding, and seeking, and turning quickly round, and playing Forfeits. So that we got on pretty well after a Time; only, all the While I was thinking when will the Frost break up, and, shall I be able to get Home?
All this While, we were in Suspense about Gatty's Safety, and unable to get any Letter from her; nor did Mrs. Bowerbank, by a single Word or Hint, enable me to guess whether Gatty had told her of Anything particular that Mr. Heavitree had said to her or not. My only Reason for thinking she had, was her Mother's sometimes falling into a Reverie as she sate by the Fire, with a quiet Smile on her Face, as though she were a thinking of Somewhat mighty pleasant; and again, by her frequently praising Gatty to us all, for her Frankness and steady Pursuit of Duty.
At length, the Snow began to yield a little; and just as Mrs. Bowerbank was beginning to consider whether she might not send Nanny into the Town for Letters and other Things much wanted, a Farm-Labourer from Roaring House came trudging through the Snow, and said he had found a Letter lying at the Post-Office for Mrs. Bowerbank, and had thought she might be glad to have it. The Man got a Cup of warm Beer for his Pains; and Mrs. Bowerbank, seeing the Direction in Gatty's Hand, came into the Parlour to read the Letter by the Fire, and communicate the best Part of it to us.
Gatty said she was much surprised and very thankful to find that Mr. Heavitree was going to see her safe to the End of the first Stage. He had insisted on her going inside, and said he would settle about that with Mrs. Bowerbank afterwards; and the Weather was so dreadful that she had felt herself justified in being persuaded. They were the only inside Passengers, and, with all the Windows up, were not so very cold; but the Windows were so covered with Ice that it was impossible to see through them when Day broke. They knew the Horses were being led, and that they were going very slowly, but did not much mind it, and judged they must have travelled several Miles, when all at once they found the Coach give a great Lurch, and roll over on its Side. They were quite unable to help themselves, and very uncomfortable, and rather frightened: Mr. Heavitree did not like breaking the Window, for fear of the Shivers falling on Gatty, and of the Cold to which they should subsequently be exposed. At length, with very great Difficulty, he contrived to open one of the Windows; and the Guard helped him to scramble out, and lift out Gatty. To their great Surprise and Mortification they saw just opposite to them a Finger-post, with "Three Miles to Larkfield," on it. In Fact, they had only just reached the Heath, where the Road being marked by no Boundaries, was hidden under the Snow, and they had strayed off it and got into a pretty deep Ditch, wherein the Coach was so fast set as to be immoveable. There was a Turnpike about a hundred Yards off, and the Turnpike Man came running out to see if he could give any Assistance; so then all the Men, Passengers and all, set their Shoulders to the Coach to heave it up; but in forcing it up, one of the Fore-Wheels came off. Then the three Horses, which had already broken their Traces, were sent back to Larkfield with the Postilion, Guard, and Ostler that had been leading, and the Passengers had no Help for it but to wait till Post-Chaises were sent. The Turnpike-Man invited them into his Cottage, which they were very thankful to take Shelter in; there was only one outside Passenger, whose Face was purple, almost black, with Cold; and he staggered so that Gatty at first thought he had been drinking, but it was because he was benumbed and dizzy. The Turnpike-Man's Wife received them very kindly: she was ironing, and the Room was very small and steamy, but she made them welcome to stand round her Fire, and said she had put off her Washing as long as she possibly could, because there was only Snow-water for use, now the Pond was frozen. There was a Baby crying in its Cradle all the Time, which its Mother said was because of the Cold; but Gatty thought it might be because the Mother had not Time to attend to it; so she took it up, and cherished it at the Fire, and rubbed its little blue Hands and Feet till she quieted it. Meanwhile, Mr. Heavitree produced some famous hot Gingerbread Nuts, which Mrs. Clary had given him, and the outside Passenger pulled out a Case-bottle of Brandy, and the good Woman gave them hot Water, and supplied Tumblers and Cups, and they had a very seasonable Luncheon. The Turnpike-Man said he had not taken Tolls to the Amount of Tenpence during the last two Days. His Wife, touched by Gatty's fondling the Baby, said with a kind of Remorse, that she wished she could be sure all was well with a young Woman carrying an Infant, who had, with Tears in her Eyes, begged, the Day before, to chafe its poor little Limbs at the Fire for a few Minutes before she crossed the Moor. "There was Something wild and unsettled in her Look," said the good Woman, "that I did not like, and I asked her, 'Why cross the Moor at all?' she said, she must, for her only Chance of Shelter; I asked whence she came, but she would not say. So the only Thing was to make her as comfortable as I could while she remained—there was some good strong Pease Soup on the Fire, and I gave her a Basin of it, with a Slice of Bread. I never saw a poor Soul so grateful; she said it warmed her to the Heart. I also made her take off her wet Stockings, which were fine but very old, and put on an old Pair of thick Woollen ones I had given up wearing; and I buttoned a Pair of old Gaiters over all. So then she suckled the Babe and went her Ways, praying God to bless me; and I watched her straggling across the Moor, and now and then plunging into a Snow-Drift. My Heart ached for her, it did!—and I couldn't help thinking, in the Night, that when the Thaw came, we might find her poor Corpse under the Snow."
It was Noon, Gatty said, when one Post-Chaise made its Appearance; so into this she and Mr. Heavitree and the other Passenger were packed, and her Box tied on behind; and they recommenced their Journey, Mr. Heavitree sitting between the two. Their Pace was mended, and they were congratulating themselves on their Speed, when, by Reason of the roundness of the Road, over went the Chaise. However, they soon righted again, the Chaise being so much lighter than the Coach; and they did not overturn again till just as they got to Newton Buzzard; which was the first Stage, of fourteen Miles, from Larkfield. However, the Day was now so far spent, it being about three o'Clock, at which Hour even the Stage-Coach always pulls up for the Night during Winter, that Mr. Heavitree said it would be Madness to proceed, especially as the following Stage included Splitskull Hill. He had an Aunt in the Town, at whose House he always slept when he attended the Markets; so he went to her while Gatty remained at the Inn, to fish for an Invitation. And the Invitation was not long forthcoming, so he came back almost directly, and told Gatty his Aunt would take no Denial; so they went there and had a very hospitable Reception from the old Lady, who gave them a hot Supper and well-aired Beds. The next Day, the Coach being reported still immoveable and very ruinous, they went on as before in a Chaise, and, the Roads being more beaten, got on much faster and without any more Impediment, till they safely reached London, where kind Mr. Heavitree took leave of Gatty at Lady Betty's Door.
But, now,—oh! what News. Gatty on entering the House, and being fairly shut into it, learned to her Dismay that Lady Betty had not summoned her up in one of her Capricchios, but was laid up with the Small-Pox, which had caused Madam Pompon and several other Servants to desert her, and had occasioned her sending so peremptorily and laconically for Gatty.
Mrs. Bowerbank, when she got to this, laid down the Letter and began to cry. She said she knew Gatty would take the Infection and die, or else be marked for life; what a cruel Thing it was of Lady Betty to send for her, especially as her Ladyship had been so afraid of catching the Fever from Gatty. I thought so too, and quite felt for the poor Mother. She said that she would go and take Gatty away directly, without minding what Lady Betty might think, were it not now too late to save her from Danger; besides, how could she bring her Home to her other Children, who had never had the Disease?
Then she went on to finish the Letter, crying over it all the While; and Gatty proceeded to say, that finding what was required of her, she recommended herself to God, and, having laid aside her travelling Dress and taken some slight Refreshment, she went straight up to my Lady's Chamber, where she found Lady Betty in Bed, in very high Fever, attended only by one of the inferior Servants, quite a low Person, who had had the Disorder, therefore had Nothing to fear. That Lady Betty, being blinded, did not at first recognise her; but, catching the Sound of her Voice, cried peremptorily, "Is that Gatty, at last? Then send Jenny away. You are not to leave the Room again, Gatty, but make them bring Everything to you." Since which, Gatty had remained at her Bed-side, where she was now writing, while my Lady lay in a kind of Stupor, brought on perhaps by her quieting Medicine; since the Irritation was so great, she could not keep her Hands off herself, much less sleep. Indeed, once she had bidden Gatty tie her Hands up, that she might not disfigure herself in her Torment; yet she had soon been unable to keep from fighting at herself again, and when Gatty had gently tried to stay her, had fiercely cried, "Isn't my Face my own, to do with as I like?"
Oh poor Lady Betty! She that was so vain of her Beauty! and carried her Head so high! to be laid thus low, and mastered by inexorable Disease! deserted by her pampered Menials that had flattered her in Health, and beholden for the commonest Attentions, first to a poor Scullion, and now to one whom she had inhumanely neglected in her own Extremity! Was it not a Lesson to poor, purse-proud, puffed-up Humanity? And was not Gatty like an Angel, returning Good for Evil? I lay awake thinking of it at Night, for many an Hour.
That same Evening, at Dusk, as we sat round the Fire, roasting Chestnuts and Raisins, in comes young Mr. Heavitree, buttoned to the Chin; and his Eyes and Cheeks in such a Glow with Exercise that I could not help thinking to myself, "What a nice-looking young Man you are!" He shook Hands very heartily all round, first with Mrs. Bowerbank, next with me; and, addressing me first, "Mrs. Patty," says he, "I come to repair and excuse the Negligence of my stupid Fellow, who forgot he had taken up at the Post-office two Letters for this House, and brought one addressed to you on to Roaring House."
I eagerly received it; and seeing Prue's Hand, hastily broke the Seal. At the same Instant, Mrs. Bowerbank, in a lamentable Voice, says, "Oh, Mr. Heavitree! only think of our Gatty taking the Small-Pox!"
He turned so deadly white, that I saw in a Moment how it was with him, and hastily cried, "Lady Betty, you mean, Ma'am, not Gatty!"
"But Gatty has no doubt taken it by this Time," says her Mother, "since she is constantly with Lady Betty."
Seeing Mr. Heavitree look much agitated, and supposing he might like to be alone with Mrs. Bowerbank, I rose and left the Room, to read my Letter up-Stairs, thinking she might send the Girls away if she wished. On running through Prudence's Letter, I was quite disappointed to find it contain so little, whether of News or Affection. Mr. Fenwick and Tom, she never so much as named; my Mother, she said, was pretty well, my Father the same as usual; there were sundry little Details about our Business, but not a Word I cared to hear; ending with the same comfortless Burthen, "We can get on perfectly well without you." I was so tired of the Country, that I had hoped there would have been some Wish expressed for my Company, which would have been a decent Pretext for my Return; but no! Nothing of the Sort! I remained musing over my Letter with great Mortification till I got quite numbed with Cold, and was roused by hearing the Gate shut. I saw Mr. Heavitree going away; and when I went down, Mrs. Bowerbank was not in the Room, and the Girls and their Brother were still roasting their Chestnuts.
The next Day was much like the preceding, except that a rapid Thaw set in. On the Day following that, a Post was due, and Joe was sent through Mud and Mire to see if there were any Letter from Gatty. There was not; but there was one for me; that made me think I would never wantonly desire a Pretext for a Recal again. It was from Prudence; but oh, in how different a Spirit from the other! She wrote in the utmost Hurry and Distress to tell me that my Father had fallen down Stairs and broken his Leg, and had likewise injured his Head so much, that Dr. Elwes thought there was a Concussion of the Brain. My dear Mother and Prue were incessantly in Attendance on him, and considered him in great Danger; they hoped I would return as soon as I possibly could.
With my Eyes full of Tears, I went to communicate my bad News to Mrs. Bowerbank, who was vastly distressed for me, and would say Nothing to delay my Journey, especially now that the Thaw rendered the Roads much safer. So I packed up at once, and, the next Morning, left them all with many Thanks for their Kindness. Joe, who had become quite my little Cavalier, accompanied me to the Corner, where we met the Coach, carrying for me a Basket of the large Cat's-head Apples that some call "Go-no-farther." I was the only Passenger, and was two Days on the Road instead of one; but performed the Journey in perfect Safety.
It was quite dark when I reached Home. Prudence, hearing my Voice, flew down Stairs and threw her Arms round my Neck all in Tears. I wept too, and never was there a more sisterly Meeting. She told me my dear Father was still very bad; and though my Mother kept up wonderfully, she was exerting herself so much for him that she would probably experience a dangerous Re-action. "But what can I do?" says Prue weeping, "I've hovered about him continually and done my very best; but whenever he's himself, he doesn't like my Nursing, and says, 'There, let me have your Mother till Patty comes back!'" And she cried bitterly.
I said, "Dear Prue, People when they are ill will take unaccountable Fancies; and we have a divided Duty, between the Sick-Room and the Shop. Let us each take that which suits us best; do you attend to the Business, which you understand so well, and I will help my Mother to nurse my Father."
She said, still crying, "I suppose that will be best; but I love him as well as you do, and you must let me take my Turn now and then, or my Heart will break."
I said, "I will, I will;" and all this While I was taking off my Wraps, and making ready to go up Stairs; but Prudence would make me take a Dish of Tea first, which was ready poured out, saying, that when I was once up-Stairs I should be close Prisoner, and my Father could not bear so much as the Click of a Spoon. She added, "Dr. Elwes is not afraid of the Brain now; but my Father is of such an inflammatory Habit that his Fever runs very high, and he is not always himself."
"And Mr. Fenwick?" said I. "Is not he truly concerned about it?"
"Mr. Fenwick?" cries she, "Why, Mr. Fenwick is not here now!"
"Not here now?" I exclaimed.
"Oh no, he returned to his Parish the Day before Father's Accident, thinking himself well enough to do Duty now, and we have not heard of him since."
I was struck dumb. I looked full at Prudence, who spoke and carried herself quite composedly. Seeing me look so hard at her, however, she blushed all over; Cheek, Neck, and Brow, one hot Flush; and started up to busy herself about some Trifle.
I felt a Pang, but it was for her, not myself. Poor Prue found herself deserted! All my old Love for her resumed its Strength; but there was no Time now for Pity or Complaint—I rose up, saying, "Well, I will go up-Stairs now; keep yourself up, dear Prue; there's no knowing how much your Strength may be wanted."
"There is not, indeed," said she, bursting into Tears afresh. I could not stand this—I said, "Come, Prue, come, ..." and put my Arm about her, and she laid her Head on my Shoulder. I was obliged to gulp down my own Tears, but I said gently, "This will never do—we must not give way—Only think how much more poor Father, and dear Mother too, have to bear than we have. You must give over Crying, for indeed I cannot go up till you do."
"You may go now," says she, wiping her Eyes and smiling up at me, "for, strange as it may seem to you, I'm the better for this Cry. Go up now, go softly; and send dear Mother down to me presently, if you can, for she needs Rest and Refreshment."
I said, "I will," and went up. My Father was dozing when I entered—my Mother sitting beside him, with her Hands clasped on her Knee. As soon as she saw me, she mutely held out her Arms without rising; and the next Instant I was folded to her Heart. We spoke a little in Whispers; and for a While I thought not nor desired to persuade her to go. At length I did; and she, after a little Resistance, yielded; for she was very much exhausted. I quietly took her Place, and remained in it a long While, inactive in Body, but with a Mind how busy!
Home, at last! and to a Scene how changed! Everything as still and quiet as on Larkfield Moor! He that had been the Life of many a noisy, convivial Party, laid low—perhaps rapidly drawing nigh an unknown World. My Mother, roused from her incapable State by strong Affection; Prue, loving me again, and in Tears—Mr. Fenwick gone!
What a Dream this World seems sometimes! Besides, my Head was mazed with my Journey, and I was stiff with so much Jolting, and the Closeness and Warmth of the Chamber after the biting Cold of the outer Air made me feel drowsy. But I would not yield to it.
A Coffin flew out of the Fire. I was thankful not to be superstitious. But yet I'd as lief it had been a Purse.
I thought of Gatty's lone Watch; and how much harder her Post was than mine. I was not incurring personal Danger in the Service of an imperious, unfeeling Patient; I was not separated from a Mother and Sister whom I loved; I was watching over some one very dear to me. Thinking of her and of my Father and Mother, I framed my Thoughts to Prayer. Suddenly my Father, without opening his Eyes, murmured, "Delia! Give me your Hand!... Poor Delia, I have been very untoward to thee—"
Silently, I placed my Hand in his. Cordelia was my Mother's Name, but he was accustomed to call her Delia for short; or rather, had been accustomed, in their old Days of Love and Harmony. I took it for a good Sign, his calling her so again; it showed that his Illness and her Tenderness had melted him. I always liked his Abbreviation of her Name, myself, though Prue thought it only fit for a China Shepherdess.
"Who have I got hold of?" says he. "This isn't Delia's Hand!—Ah, I see the Shadow of Patty's Nose against the Bed-curtain. Welcome, Child! come, kiss thy poor old Dad."
Daddy, again, was a Word he never used but lovingly. I stooped over him, and kissed him two or three Times; then set him completely to rights, for his Head had slipped off the Pillow, and he was lying very uncomfortably, without the Power to right himself.
"You're a prime one!" says he. "Thy dear Mother has no Strength to handle me, though the Will's ne'er a-wanting; and I can't bear her to move me for fear of her doing herself a Hurt. As for Prue, she does nought but sit by the Fire and sigh! But thou'rt able and willing both, Patty; so keep about me all you can."
I promised him I would, and he soon became again quiet. Prudence presently stole in; and in dumb Show bade me go down to sup with my Mother. As my Father seemed sleeping, I did so, and had a long Talk with dear Mother; after which, I prevailed with her to sleep with Prue, and let me keep Watch, assuring her I was quite fresh. She consented at length, from sheer Incapacity to hold out any longer; and, after a good Meal, I went up and took my Sister's Place. Shortly, the House became perfectly silent, and the distant Clocks struck Twelve.
I sate by the Fire, musing on many Things and Persons, and a good deal of Mr. Fenwick; and, before I was aware, large Tears were quietly rolling down my Face. I was not pleased with my late Conduct of my own Mind, and resolved on more Self-control and Self-discipline. While framing these seasonable Resolutions, a Strain of low, sweet, solemn Music stole through the Air. The Christmas Waits were playing beneath some distant Window, and at the End of their soft Melody, I could make out by the Rhythm, though not by the Articulation, the poor Musicians crying out:
I dreaded their waking my Father as they drew nearer, but there was no Help for it. I rested my Head against the high Back of the Nursing-chair, in a Kind of dreamy, lazy Luxury, listening to the lovely Sounds; and called to Mind the old Text, "Ye shall have a Song in the Night; as when some holy Solemnity is kept."
Ah, thought I, we are apt to fancy ourselves in the Blackness of Darkness, when any Sorrow or Bereavement comes over us, and yet our good God sends us a Song in the Night!—The poor Shepherds in the Fields of Bethlehem lay watching their Flocks by Night, when all seemed dark and dreary, but suddenly a Light shone upon them, and they heard sweet Music in the Air, even sweeter than that which I hear now.
Then I thought of the Manger, and the holy Child, and the Mother; and the wise Men following the Star. The Folds of the Window-curtains were a little apart, and I could see the Stars glimmering.
All at once, my Father, in a hurried Voice, exclaims, "They're moving now!"
"What, dear Father?" said I softly, looking in on him.
"Cover them up! cover them up!" cries he rapidly; "tie their Legs, or they'll set my Head spinning—Hey, diddle diddle! the Cat plays the Fiddle; and the Shepherdess is gavotting with the Turnspit! Lock 'em up, I say! Dash them in Pieces! Break them!"
"Hush, dear Father, hush—" said I gently; but he was quite unconscious of my Presence, or of anything about him, and grew more and more light-headed. Had I not previously nursed Gatty in her Deliration, I should have been even more terrified than I was: at all Events, it was awful Work; it was more fearful to hear a strong Man raving than the lunatic Ramblings of a gentle Girl. But what Help was there for it? I must e'en do the best I could. He tossed his Arms about wildly; and once or twice made as though he would start up; but the Splint on his Leg prevented that. Then he groaned heavily, gnashed his Teeth, called for Drink, rolled his Eyes, shuddered, and finally subsided into fitful Mutterings. Gradually these yielded to Stupor; I looked in on him from Time to Time, hoping to find him asleep, but there were his half-open, unwinking Eyes, glaring at me, without any Token of Recognition. I do not know that my Strength was ever more sorely tried.
Towards Day-dawn he slumbered. I am ashamed to say, I dropped asleep too; it was not for long, I believe, yet when I woke up, the Fire was nearly out; and Prue, in her Dressing-Jacket, was on her Knees before it, stealthily reviving it. She put her Finger on her Lips, then came to me and kissed me. The snapping of a very small Stick woke my restless Father, who, no longer in his Fever-fit, and excessive low and sinking, cries in a feeble Voice, "Who's there? Prue, I know, by her Sighing! Go, get me some spiced Wine and Toast, for I'm ebbing away as fast as I can."
"He always talks like that, when he comes to," whispers Prue, seeing me look frightened. "We dare not give him Wine, but Tea and Toast he shall have. I will bring it him directly; and then you shall go down and have some too, while I stay with him, for you look completely worn out."
In fact, I felt so just then; and though quite ashamed to be knocked up with one Night's Nursing, yet my two Days' Journey began to tell upon me; and I felt, that to husband my Strength for what probably lay before me, I must take common Precautions. Therefore, when Prue brought up my Father's Breakfast, I went down to mine.
Though the Sun had not yet risen, I found a bright little Fire already kindled in the Parlour, and the little oval Table drawn close to it, and spread for Breakfast, with strong Tea and hot Toast awaiting me on the Hob. I felt very grateful to Prudence for this Kindness; and had scarce seated myself when I heard the soft Tap of my Mother's Ivory-headed Walking-cane as she came down Stairs. I hastened to receive her; she kissed my Forehead, and then looked at me with anxious Affection.
"You are weary, my dear Love," said she, "and no wonder. What kind of a Night?"
"He was feverish, dear Mother."
"And wandering, doubtless—I see it was so. Were you frightened?"
"Not much—you know I had nursed Gatty."
"Ah, poor Gatty!—a very different Patient—"
"Yes, Mother; but his Ramblings gave me no Distress, except as they betokened the height of his Fever—He fancied himself playing Cards:—and seemed to think People were dancing. He spoke very kindly of you."
My Mother wiped her Eyes. "That has been the solitary Alleviation all along," said she. "His old Liking for me has returned."
After we had breakfasted, she accompanied me to his Chamber: "Ah, you're come at last," said my Father, feebly extending his Hand to her, "I was wearying of Prue's Sighs."
"Dear Father, I haven't been sighing," said Prudence, hastily.
"Oh, haven't you though, Mrs. Prue?"—She put her Hand before her Eyes, and silently quitted the Room.
"My Love, how are you?" says my Mother to him.
"I've had fine Company all Night, Mrs. Honeywood. I've been to the queerest Ball!—Ah, you think I'm wandering, but I'm not—my Head is as clear as yours. At twelve o'Clock at Night, a Flourish of Tin Trumpets announced the Commencement of the Entertainment."
My Mother looked at me in Distress.
"An old Joss in the Corner," continues he, "played the Hautboy. A Mandarin kept Time, nodding his Head. Then, down came the Five Senses—you think I've lost mine, but I haven't!—followed by the Shepherds and Shepherdesses, all in Chelsea China, and took their respective Places. A Row of Dresden Cups were the Bystanders, backed by some richly painted Plates against the Wall. Bang! went the Drum. The Ball immediately opened, and I knew not which Dancer most to admire. Such sinking! such rising! such easy Turns and Inflections; such pointing of Toes and presenting of Hands! Meantime, the Music plays faster and faster; the Joss blows himself out of Breath, the Mandarin niddle-noddles, till it makes one's Head spin to look at him. Down falls a Dragon and gets cracked; the others fall and sprawl over him; never mind, he's up again, and they're at it harder than ever. Hands across, down the Middle, turn the Corners and pousette! My Head is too weak to bear it; a small Cream-Ewer invites me into the Card-room. Gratefully I accept it, when one of the Senses assails me, insisting I shall dance the Minuet de la Cour. I put her aside, she returns, I burst from her, she pursues; I hurry into the Card-room, where four respectable Chinese are playing at Loo. They make Room for me, I sit down, we get on very comfortably together; when lo you! in burst the Five Senses again, calling me a Recreant, and I know not what all, plucking at me, nipping, pinching, grinning in my Face; the Music playing furiously all the While—They cry out the Prices at which I bought them; one of them names the wrong Sum. I exclaim, 'That's false!' and give her a Cuff that breaks her all to smash. 'Going, going, going, gone!' cries the Auctioneer in the Corner. Down goes his Hammer: the Ball is ended. Why, Mrs. Honeywood, Ma'am, you're crying!"
Just then, Dr. Elwes very opportunely came in, with his grave, kind Face. The Sound of his Voice seemed to re-collect my Father's scattered Faculties; he did not appear half so bad as he had done before; nevertheless, I could see the good Physician thought unfavourably of him. In short, for several Days he hung between Life and Death; after that, he wandered no more, and slowly amended; requiring incessant and vigilant Nursing.
It was one Day, when Prue and my Mother had insisted on my going down Stairs for a little Change, that, on entering the Parlour, I suddenly came on Mr. Fenwick. "Ah!"—said he, and held out his Hand. Overcome by the Surprise, I turned aside my Head, and burst into Tears. The next Moment, his Arm was round my Waist; and as quickly withdrawn.
"Dear Patty!" said he.
I drew back, and would have left the Room, but he gently detained me, and led me to a Chair next the Fire.
"I was quite unprepared to hear of this domestic Calamity," said he, "and have been greatly moved by it. Your good Mother has been telling me how admirably you have behaved. She wept about it, and said never was such a Daughter."
This set my Tears flowing again—I said there was Nothing out of the Common in a Daughter's tending of a Parent she loved. He did not dwell on it; but went on to talk as only a good, feeling, and faithful Minister, a holy, high-minded, heavenly spirited Servant of God can talk. I know not how long this delightful Conversation lasted; perhaps an Hour; and when he went away, he said he would soon come again. From that Moment, I was a new Creature: quite fresh, quite able to return anew to my Post. My Heart was full of Peace. If the Body sometimes bears down the Mind, the Mind sometimes wondrously sustains the Body.
This was, however, a joyless Christmas to us all. Not one of the Family was able to leave the House to go to Church; and though roast Beef and Plum-pudding were dressed, they were sparingly and sadly partaken of. My loved Mother forgot not, however, to send Portions to sundry poor Widows and Mothers who were habituated to come to us for our stale Pastry, Broken-meat, and Cinders.
When my Father began to recover a little, he became curious to hear me talk about my Visit to Larkfield; and he made me minutely describe Gatty's Family, and the Family at Roaring House. In a very little While he settled it to his own Satisfaction that Gatty would some Day be Mrs. Heavitree. But when he heard of her being recalled to Servitude by Lady Betty, of her perilous, protracted Journey, and of her finding my Lady in the Small-Pox, he became greatly perturbed. "What," says he, "have not one of you had so much Humanity nor even so much Curiosity, (a Quality, one would think, not often lacking in your Sex,) as to ascertain whether this poor Girl sink or swim?"
"Dear Father, we have been so busied about you...."
"Fiddlesticks' Ends! I have never had more than one of you about me at a Time; and has everything else been at a Stand-still? Have your Shop-shutters been put up, have your Customers been kept out, have you intermitted your Baking and your Milking? Pshaw! I'm nauseated with such a false Excuse. If you couldn't go, you might write; if you could not write, you might send; if you could not spare one of the Men, you might have sent a Boy for Two-pence. Let me hear by To-morrow Morning, I insist upon't, whether Mrs. Gatty be alive or dead."
He was quite in a Turmoil about it, and for my Part, I was glad enough to be commissioned to send; and as Peter knew the House, I contrived he should go that same Afternoon, and ask for Mr. James, and inquire how fared Mrs. Gatty and Lady Betty—bidding him be sure he put Lady Betty's Name first, or they would think we knew no Manners.
So he went, and brought back Word, with Mr. James' Services, that my Lady was still very ill, and still kept her Chamber, and so did Mrs. Gatty.
I said, "Did he mean Mrs. Gatty was confined to her own Chamber or to my Lady's? for that makes all the Difference."
Peter says, "Well, Ma'am, I understood him to mean she kept my Lady's Chamber; but I gave you the very Words he said."
So I gave them, just the same, to my Father.
"Blockhead! Dunderhead!" exclaimed he impatiently. "Well, if she's in her Chamber, she's not in the Churchyard at any Rate—And I shall soon be able to spare you, Patty, to go and see how she really is."
That Night Prudence and I slept together, for the first Time since my Return Home. Before that, I had lain in the little Closet close to my Father's Room, to be within Call. We undressed silently enough, and I noticed again the great Depression she had betrayed ever since my Return; but yet I was as quiet as she.
When the Candle was put out, she crept closer to me; and though she was quiet for a While, I had an Impression she was going to say Something. At length, "Patty," says she,—and I could perceive her Voice was unsteady, "did you ever know what a Burthen it was to have Something on your Mind that you longed, yet feared, to tell?"
"Well," said I, "I can form some Notion of the Pain it must give."
"I have that Pain," says she, and fell a crying.
I said, "Come, Prue, tell me what it is. We didn't use to have any Secrets from one another."
"Nor needed to have," says she in her Tears—"All that's altered now."
"Why should it be?" said I. She made no Answer.
"Come, what is it?" I said.
"Don't you remember saying to me, 'How fine we are!' a Day or two back," says Prue, "when you noted a Ruby Ring on my Finger?"
"A Mock Ruby, you mean! It's a Glass Ring, if ever there was one! I told you, if I wore Jewels at all, they should be real."
"Yes, and I said Nothing, and I dare say you thought I was sulky, but I wasn't. People often make great Mistakes in judging others. Well, that Ring was given me by Tom."
"It wouldn't ruin him then," said I laughing. "Unless indeed, poor Fellow, as is like enough, 'twas palmed upon him for a real Stone. Well, Prue, is this what all the Sighing has been about? You needn't break your Heart, I think, at having accepted it of him."
"Don't laugh, or you'll kill me," says Prudence, "it's no laughing Matter, I can tell you. It don't matter whether the Stone be real or false; but, in fact, it's a Wedding ... no, a Guard-Ring."
"A what?" cried I. "Do say it over again!" But she was crying passionately.
"What's this about Wedding and Guard-Rings, Prue? Do you mean to say you are married?"
"Oh Patty! don't speak so unkindly—I can't bear it."
"I don't mean to be unkind,"—and I kissed her. "But you rack me with Suspense. Do speak out! Are you, can you be married to Tom?"
"Whether or no, I'm engaged to him quite as irrevocably, I assure you, Patty."
"You amaze and distress me beyond Measure," said I.
"I knew you would be very angry with me," said she.
"Angry? why should I be angry? There's no Reason why Tom and you should not marry, if you like it, except his Profession, and his being unable to keep a Wife. Two serious Exceptions, I admit."
"So serious, Patty, that I fear my Father and Mother would never overlook them—Oh! how angry my Father would be! I should never hear the Last of it."
"Well, he would be angry, I dare say, but it would not be the first Time; and you generally bear his Rebukes pretty sturdily. If I were in love with Tom, I think I could stand that."
"Do you indeed, dear Patty? Ah, but you don't know the Worst."
"What is the Worst, then?" cried I impatiently—"Say in a Word." But she could not speak it.
"I can't make Head nor Tail of it," said I—"It seems such an unaccountable Business. I thought you cared for Mr. Fenwick."
"Mr. Fenwick? Oh, Patty! how could you be such a Goose?"
"Well, Prue, I chanced to see him one Day holding you by the Hand at his Window, and talking very earnestly."
"Why, he was talking about Tom, and advising me not to go to the Play!"
"Was that it? Dear me!"
"Yes; and—and—You know, Patty, Tom paid me a good Deal of Attention from the First; and somehow I was won by it, there's Something so sincere and genuine about him. And he's very diverting too, and the Soul of Good-humour—in short, I liked him very much; all the better for his liking me, and telling me so whenever we went out together. Well, when he went Home with the Monkey, I missed him sadly; and as you were very short upon me about that Time, I thought you saw how it was and didn't like it; which made me vex a good Deal. When he came back, I was very glad; and when you were gone, he kept staying on, till it was Time to return to his Ship. The last Walk we took together, which was when he was on the very Brink of Sailing, out it all came! he made me a downright Offer, and said you knew all about it, he had spoken to you at the Old Angel, and you were favourable. Well, this encouraged me, and so I as good as said yes, only I told him I knew Father and Mother would be hurt at it, on such a short Courting, and therefore could not tell them of it till he returned from his next Voyage. Tom was quite willing; for what good would it have done him? only he begged and prayed me to keep constant to him, and not be over-persuaded, while he was away, to have any one else; which of course I promised. So we walked along together as merry as Birds, though on the Point of parting for two Years, without much noting Anything going on around us, till we were forced to pause by a Knot of People on the Pavement, seeing a fine Lady get out of a Hackney-Coach. Tom drew me closer to him; and at the same Moment a Man in a black Coat pops his Face under Tom's Hat, and says, 'Will you like to be married, Sir?' Tom bursts out laughing with Surprise, and says, 'Aye, that I should, my Lad!' and the Man taking him by the Shoulders and giving him a Push, we were under a little Gothic Doorway the next Minute. A gay bridal Party coming out, pressed us against the Wall. 'Dear Tom,' whispered I fearfully, 'what Place is this? It's no Church.' 'Not a bit of it,' replies he, smiling, 'but yet here's a Parson marrying People, many of them of Quality too; and though I don't suppose he can tie a very tight Knot, it will serve to keep you engaged to me till I come back; and then we'll have a merry Wedding, with Mr. Fenwick for our Parson.' And oh, Patty, he took me so by Surprise that I was over-persuaded!"
"I never heard tell of such a Thing in my Life!" cried I, breathlessly.
"Ah, I knew you'd say so," said Prudence, lapsing into Tears. "It was so very silly."
"Silly? Wicked! Such a Mockery! You don't call it a real Marriage, I hope!"
"Oh dear, no. But if you were in my Place, you wouldn't consider yourself at Liberty to marry another?"
"I can't fancy myself in your Place, Prudence! I would not have done such a Thing for the World! Certainly, I could not consider myself free! Nor him secure! Fleet Marriages, I know, are binding in Law; but there's no Religion in them. Have you got a Certificate?"
"Oh yes, a License, and a Certificate, and a Crown Stamp that cost a Guinea; and a Ring—"
"That cost Two-pence! All of a Piece with the Rest. I never knew such a Jumble in all my Life! Never!"
"It was great Folly—"
"You know, Prue, what Mr. Fenwick told us Folly is synonymous with in Scripture—Sin. 'The Foolishness of Fools is Folly'—He told us that was the same as 'the Foolishness of Fools is Sin.'"
"Oh, Patty, don't trample upon me, now I'm down. I've vexed enough about it, already. That is, I've vexed about what you, and Mother, and Father, would think of it; for I must say, I'm glad to be secure of Tom against he next comes Home—"
"You might have been secure of him already; if his Love was worth Anything, which I can readily believe it to be. You might have trusted him."
"I might; and he me. It was only the Folly of a Moment."
"Ah, Prue, how often has the Folly of a Moment been the Ruin of a Life! This Man was a Clergyman, I suppose?"
"Oh yes, no doubt of that. He was a Reverend Mr. Sympson, of some College, Cambridge, and late Chaplain of the Earl of Rothes. So he said."
"That's well put in."
"Well, he looked quite respectable, and you know there are many Clergy within the Rules. Don't be too suspicious, Patty."
"Why, haven't I good Reason to be, Prue? Only it's all too late, now—Oh dear me!" And I groaned heavily.
"Yes, it's all too late now," said Prue rapidly, "and I meant no Harm, and we must make the best of it, and I feel a great Load off my Mind, now I've told you—"
"Why, you've only shifted it from your own Mind to mine! I don't feel at all obliged to you!"
"Well, perhaps poor Mother might say the same; so we had better not tell her."
"Oh, Prue, Prue! how one Sin leads to another! The Case is quite different. She has a right to her Child's Confidence."
"Why, you don't tell her Everything, do you?"
"What have I ever concealed?"
"That you care about Mr. Fenwick."
The Blood rushed to my Face, though we were in the Dark. "That's quite another Matter," said I. "You don't know that I care for him."
"Oh Patty! how can you say so?"
"At all Events, he has never shown me any decided Preference that would justify me, as a modest young Woman, in letting his Name escape my Lips. You know, Prudence, how different the Cases are. Certainly, if my dear Mother, who is all Kindness and Truth, were to think fit to speak to me on that or any similar Subject, I might blush, I might shed a Tear, I might feel very uncomfortable, but I should answer her with perfect Sincerity."
"Ah Patty! you are very good—And I am very bad—"
"Nay, I won't hear you say that of yourself. You have certainly been very, very foolish."
"And 'the Foolishness of Fools is Sin.'" Here she again wept.
"Well, Prue, if it be so, still we know what is to be done."
"What? Oh, tell me!"
"'I will arise, and go unto my Father, and will say unto him—'"
"Oh, not to my Father!"
"'To my Mother, and will say unto her, Mother, I have....'"
My own Tears here burst forth. I believe they, and the few Words of the Text I had cited proved the best Eloquence; for in an Instant Prue was clinging to me, choking in Tears, and saying, "I will! I will!"
Overcome by our Emotions, we said no more till we slept, I holding her to my Heart, full of Love and Pity, though perturbed beyond Expression at her Conduct.
My Father requiring so much of our Care, it was seldom that we were all three together; however, the next Day, after he had dined with more Comfort to himself than usual, he folded his Hands together and said, "Thank God for my good Dinner! And now I'll have a Nap, and you may all go down Stairs till I pull the Bell."
Some trifling Affair prevented my immediately joining my Mother and Sister. When I went into the Parlour, I found Prue had just screwed her Courage to the Point of Confession. "Mother," she was saying, "I've done so wrong—" and began to cry.
"What is it, Prue?" said my Mother gently, who was blanching Almonds.
"Say first, Mother, that you'll forgive me—"
"Nay, let me first hear what I have to forgive. I am not such a very unforgiving Person, Child, am I?"
"No indeed, Mother!" kissing her Hand. "But oh! I don't know what you'll say! I'm engaged to Tom!"
"I guessed as much long ago," said my Mother coolly.
"Yes—you were very poor Secret-keepers, Prue; clumsy Adepts in Concealment! I guessed, ever since he went, that that Glass Ring was a Love-token."
Prue blushed very deeply. "Ah," said she, fluttering, and looking with downcast Fondness on the slighted Bauble, "it is a Love-token, indeed, Mother! and even more than that."
"What more?" said my Mother quickly. Prudence was silent.
"You don't mean, Prudence," with some Agitation in her Tone, "that it's a Wedding Ring?"
"What if it were, dear Mother?" (faltering)—"Should you be very angry?"
"I should be angry and hurt—deeply hurt!"
"Ah—" Prue, who was kneeling beside my Mother, turned her Head aside and looked into the Fire.
"Speak, Patty!" said my Mother, much perturbed, "and tell me if you can—since your Sister will not—Has there been a Marriage?"
"A Fleet-Marriage, or Something of that Sort," said I, reluctantly.
"A Fleet-Marriage?" cried my Mother, holding up her Hands, and sinking back in her Chair.
"Mother! Mother! hear me," cries Prue, casting her Arms across my Mother's knees and looking up at her. "We parted at the Church-door,—House-door, I mean; we knew we were only engaged; we did not look on it as a regular Marriage,—only as binding us together a little—it was the Thought of a Moment—Tom proposed it first—"
"I suppose so," said my Mother, with a Tone of infinite Scorn; "but I little thought that a Daughter of mine could be so persuaded. Oh Prue, Prue! I never could have believed it of you! No Wonder you have gone about sighing and hanging your Head—it has been your only Act of Grace."
Prue, humiliated beyond Expression at these Reproaches, was crying silently—"Don't tell my Father," at length said she.
"Certainly I shall not," said my Mother, still chafed. "I should be quite ashamed of mentioning such a disgraceful Transaction to him—worthier of a Wapping Sailor than of his Brother's Son—Mate to a respectable Merchant Vessel. A Thing only done by the Lowest of the Low—"
"And a few of the Highest of the High," put in I.
"Who thereby reduce themselves to an ignominious Level with the Lowest of the Low," persisted my Mother. "It ought to be put down by Act of Parliament! It will shortly, I understand from Dr. Elwes, who was speaking of the Abuse a little While ago, little thinking that a Culprit stood in his Presence. I never could have believed it of Tom! never have supposed that he could so abuse a Mother's Confidence, and sail off, leaving Dissimulation and Discord behind him—he that used to say 'he couldn't bear to put People to the least Inconvenience!'"
At the Recurrence to this old Catch-Word of his, Prue and I could neither of us help bursting out laughing. My Mother, quite against her Will, was obliged to laugh too. At this Moment, the Door opened; and who should come in but Gatty!
I sprang towards her, while Prue, with a brief Word in passing, took the Opportunity to escape.
"Are you not afraid of coming near me?" said Gatty smiling, as I kissed her.
"Oh no! Our Time came long ago; no Danger of Infection here! But, dear Gatty, we have been in such Suspense about you! Have you not been ill?"
"No, I have been mercifully preserved—James told me you had sent to inquire how I was getting on; and as Lady Betty is a good deal softened towards me just now, I had not much Difficulty in prevailing with her to let me come out for a few Hours, and I thought I would put your Fears at rest by coming to you."
Finding she could stay, we made her remove her damp Cloak and Calash, and take an early Dish of Tea with us. We had a long Fireside Chat; and my Mother at length going up to my Father, who had slept long, Gatty became more unreserved with me, and I soon drew from her all that had happened.
It appeared that Mr. Heavitree had proposed to her during their Walk from Roaring House; but she then considered herself engaged for the Time to Lady Betty, so as she could not in Honour nor Justice draw back; and therefore she would not hear of giving up her Journey to Town, though she promised to give Lady Betty Notice that she should leave her Service as soon as her Ladyship was suited. On the following Day, when they journeyed together, Mr. Heavitree renewed his Suit, and obtained from her that she would quit Lady Betty at the very earliest Day she decently could; after which they talked over their Prospect of mutual Happiness with great Satisfaction, till the Coach overturned. When Gatty reached Town and found Lady Betty in the Small-Pox, she was a good deal astounded, not being quite clear whether she were exempt from it or not; however, she thought her Duty lay plainly before her, and embraced it with as good a Grace as she could. Being her Ladyship's sole Attendant, her Post was arduous; however, she filled it so as to secure very thorough Satisfaction, though very little Gratitude; Lady Betty being one of those who think Gold can requite any Amount of Obligation; at least, as far as the Lower Orders are concerned. And what Amount of Gold, then, had my Lady bestowed on the young Creature who, under Providence, had saved her Life at the Risk of her own? An Annuity? A Purse full of Guineas? No such Thing! An old Gold Snuff-Box, presented to her Ladyship's Grandfather by the obscure Members of some forgotten Corporation! A Thing of no earthly Consideration to her Ladyship; though Gatty guessed that if sold by the Ounce, it might fetch her seven or perhaps ten Guineas.
But Lady Betty was in a dreadful Way about her Face—all marked and seamed; and her fine Complexion quite gone! And though, Gatty said, 'twas hoped when the Redness had gone off, that she would not look so bad, yet the Disorder had left an Impress of Ordinariness, of Commoness behind it, as is not unfrequent, that went sadly against the Stomach of my Lady. And when I said I should have thought that a Personage who set such Store by herself, would have been blinded by Self-prepossession, to any falling off, Gatty said 'twas quite the other Way; for her Ladyship was so well acquainted with every good Point about her, that she was Lynx-eyed to the smallest Deficience, and more intolerant of it than any indifferent Party could be. Whereby it befel that she was ready to dash into Pieces every Looking-glass in the House, and would have them covered up, and would only sit in a Chamber artfully darkened, and would not for the Present let any Man get Sight of her, nor even any of her favourite female Friends, though she was quite well enough to receive them, so much dreaded she their spreading disparaging Reports. She meant to go down to some Watering-place where she was unknown, and there lead a hermetical Life directly the Weather was fine enough; having a Notion that the Sea Air would take off the Redness. Meanwhile, she kept Gatty on hard Duty all Day long, playing Picquet and reading Novels; and Gatty said she only wished they were in some Language she did not understand, for she feared so much trashy Reading must impair her Mind in spite of her Repugnance to it. And when my Lady had Nothing better to do, she abused Gatty for not tying her Hands when she was worst at all Hazards, rather than let her tear at her Face like as one would hackle Flax; averring it would have been better to die than to live such a Fright. However, Gatty said she knew that had not been her Ladyship's Mind at the Time, and she did not consider that she should have been borne out in it. She said she had now learnt at last the Value of Lap-dogs and Parrots, for they helped to divert Lady Betty from her mortifying Reflections more than Anything else. And there was this Good gained, that my Lady now always made her begin and end the Day with reading Prayers and a Chapter; and though she did not seem to attend much, yet Nobody knew but some good Word might make itself heard at last.
Having thus relieved her Mind, Gatty was inclined to hear of our own Affairs while we were taking Tea. She was very sorry to hear of my Father's sad Accident; and, learning from Prue that he would be very glad to shake Hands with her if she did not mind going into his sick-Chamber, where he was now promoted to an easy Chair by the Fire, she stepped up to him with me, and enlivened him for Half-an-Hour with her cheerful Talk. Of course he rallied her about Mr. Heavitree,—that was to be expected,—but she took it very bravely, and gave him back Quip for Crank; yet all so modest and innocent-spoken, as the Jest of a Girl like Gatty was certain to be. And somehow, by Way of Lady Betty, she got round, quite naturally, to Something serious, about Life and Death, Judgment and Eternity, that my Father took better of her than he would have done from us, and that left us all with our Minds in a State of serious Composedness.
When Prue and I made up our Books at the Year's End, we found to our great Thankfulness and Satisfaction, that in spite of our having paid many heavy Bills of my Father's, we were on the right Side the Post, and had cleared a good Year's Income. And this I told my Father in so many Words, thinking it would please him as well as ourselves.
"Humph!" said he; "'In spite of having paid many of your Father's heavy Bills.' This carries an ill Sound with it. And the Sense is worse. Many a Father grudges paying his thoughtless Son's bills: well may industrious Daughters grudge paying the Bills of a thoughtless Father—"
"Dear Father! I'm sure we don't grudge—"
"Silence, Mrs. Patty! If I'm falling into a profitable and penitent State of Mind, why should you hinder me? Do you want Nobody to be good but yourself? That's your Pride. I've got my Share of Self-Knowledge and Humiliation, I hope, as well as other People; and when I say I've been thoughtless, Madam, (smiting the Table with his Fist,) I seriously mean it!"
As Mr. Fenwick had just been talking with him, I attributed this virtuous Self-Indignation to his Influence, and only hoped it might last. My Father and he were now mighty Friends: although we were so far from Shoreditch, Mr. Fenwick stepped over to us at least once a Week, saying he could not forget our Attentions to himself during his Illness, and considered us as a kind of Out-Parishioners. On these Occasions he frequently spent an Hour alone with my Father, and then joined us at the Tea-Table, which was profitable to the one Party and pleasant to the other.
At Length, it became practicable to remove my Father down Stairs. But before this was accomplished, he beckoned to my Mother and said, "Delia, I prithee cover up or hide away all the China Figures down Stairs before I come into the Chinese Parlour, or they will bring my Dream to Mind, and set me fancying I see 'em all dancing. Anything but that! I loathe the very Thought of them!—You may sell them if you will—send them to Dick Harper with my Card, and they'll fetch a pretty Figure at the next Auction, especially if you throw in the Five Senses. Idle Baggages! they led me astray, as they've led many a better Man before me. Happy he who can disembarrass himself from their Extravagancies thus easily!"
My Mother did, in Fact, get a pretty little Sum for them; and my Father never bought another Piece of China nor attended another Auction from that Day to this. But this by the Way.
We were sitting very comfortably about the Fire, congratulating ourselves upon being thus re-united,—and my Father was enjoying a Basin of strong Gravy Soup, (for it was a little before Noon,) and wishing my Mother would have a little of it, when all at once down fell a Smelling-Bottle from the Chimney-Piece; a Water-Caraffe on the Table upset; Doors banged, Bells rang without being pulled, the Walls shook, and the Ground sank and rose under us like a Ship at Sea. We shrieked out, and clung to one another; and I, in addition to my Terror, experienced great Nausea, as if I were on Shipboard. My Father immediately exclaimed, "Heyday! there's a Powder-Mill blown up at Hounslow!"
"God pity the poor Creatures in and about it," cries my Mother. The next Moment, in rushes Peter, as white as a Sheet.
"An Earthquake! an Earthquake!" cries he, "Did you feel the Earthquake?"
"Earthquake? you Dolt," says my Father; "'tis a Powder-Mill blown up at Hounslow, I tell ye; and so you'll find before To-morrow."
"Well, Sir," says Peter, "all the Neighbours say as I do, and are scared out of their Wits, expecting another Shock presently, which, for Aught we know, may swallow us up alive."
"Peter, you're an Oaf—a Lubber!" says my Father contemptuously; on which Peter retired; but Prue, who was much frightened, began to cry.
"What's the use of crying, Chit?" says my Father, "is that a Cure for an Earthquake?"
"No, Father, but it's so very awful—"
"Very awful," said my Mother, seriously.
"Very awful indeed," said I.
"Well, of course it would be, if it were an Earthquake," says my Father; "but I say 'twas only a Powder-Mill blowing up somewhere, and so you'll see."
When the Apothecary who had set Father's Leg came in, however, he confirmed the general Opinion that there had been a smart Shock of an Earthquake, and added that it had been accompanied by what we had not noticed, namely, a loud crashing or crackling Noise. Everybody that came into the Shop spoke about it; and there was a general Uncomfortableness and Sense of Insecurity.
In the Dusk of Evening, Dr. Elwes looked in on us; and while he remained, Mr. Fenwick came in. Both spoke of the Earthquake, though my Father would not entirely give into it till it was positively ascertained that no Mill had blown up. Dr. Elwes said that the Shock had been felt on both Sides of the River, as far as Greenwich, and remarked that the natural Phenomena of the last Month had surely been such as to awaken the careless and solemnize the thoughtful Mind.
"For Instance," says he, "the new Year was ushered in by a very remarkable Appearance in the Heavens, of a dusky red Light that seemed to gather into a Focus southward, emitting brilliant Coruscations. I was warm in Bed and asleep at the Time, but I heard it from those who saw it, and it was in the public Prints."
I here put in that I had seen it; being on Watch over my Father at the Time, who was then in his Deliration. I had seen a red Light glowing through the white Window-Curtains, and on going to look out, perceived such a ruddy Glow in the Sky that I had surmised a dreadful, distant Fire somewhere. And again, a few Weeks after, Prue and I were wakened in the Night by such an awful Storm of Thunder, Lightning, Rain, Sleet, and Hail, accompanied by terrific Blasts of Wind, as seemed to go nigh to shake the House to Pieces.
"I slept through it all," said my Father.—"However, Patty does not exaggerate, for the Mischief done by that Tempest at Bristol was immense, and filled the Inhabitants with Consternation."
"I wonder what it all means," said Prudence ruefully.
"Means!" repeated my Father, with Contempt.
"It means that we should watch," said Mr. Fenwick, mildly, "since our Lord will come at an Hour we know not of. Many poor People in Shoreditch came to me in great Alarm, to ask me if I thought the End of the World was coming. I told them I knew no more then they did, for that of that Hour knoweth no Man; no, not the Angels in Heaven, but only the Father; but that what our Saviour had said to his own Disciples, he had said unto all—'Watch!'"
And he went on to speak of the Desirableness and Duty of a continual State of Preparedness for whatever might happen to us from within or without, and the Confidence with which Believers might repose on the Care of their heavenly Father, with such Feeling and Power, that all of us went to Bed that Night in a State of chastened Composure, widely apart from ungodly Indifference or slavish Fear. There was more Solemnity and Affection than usual in our Parting for the Night; since we knew not but we might be swallowed up quick like Dathan and Abiram ere Morning Light, though we humbly hoped, in that Case, to reopen our Eyes in a better World.
This being our State of Mind, it was with Disgust that I learnt on the following Day, that the reckless Men of Fashion and Quality who had supped Overnight at Bedford House, had gone about the Town on their Way Home, betwixt four and five o'Clock in the Morning, knocking at Doors and mischievously frightening timid harmless People, by bawling out, "Past four o'Clock, and a dreadful Earthquake!" "The Fool hath said in his Heart, There is no God!"
During the Remainder of this Month we went on quietly enough, seeing few Persons except in the Way of Business, which, by Reason of the Severity of the Season, was much slacker than in fine Weather. My Father progressed so slowly that we had our private Doubts whether he were not invalided for Life. However, from being one of the most impatient, he had now become the most patient of Men; so that 'twas quite a Pleasure to nurse him. His gay Companions having altogether forsook him in his Illness, he was now grown totally indifferent to them, and if one or other of them dropped in on him, he treated them with so much sardonic Irony that they were unlikely to intrude very soon on him again. He missed 'em very little, having now taken a great Fancy to reading, and to the Company of my Mother, both of which were very safe and inexpensive Luxuries. He had grown singularly fond of Mr. Fenwick and of Dr. Elwes, the latter of whom frequently honoured us by dropping in to play a Rubber—they were Men of two different Worlds, but yet neither of them so unacquainted with the World that was characteristically the other's, as to be wholly unable to make Allowances:—one brought my Father worldly Wisdom and Wit, the other heavenly Wisdom and innocent Pleasantry; one supplied him with humorous Books, the other, with profitable Reading; so that, between 'em both, he fared not badly. He was now getting through the History of Don Quixote de la Mancha, which he read Snatches of with infinite Gusto to my Mother; and was continually quoting the Proverbs of Sancho Panza. Thus we went peacefully on, and were losing all Fear or even Memory of the Earthquake; when, on the very same Day of the very next Month, which is to say, February 1750, we were affrighted out of our Senses by a worse Shock and abundantly more terrifical, between Five and Six o'Clock in the Morning. Oh! how Prue and I shrieked out, and rushed down, half dressed, to my Father and Mother. They were sitting up in Bed, having been woke out of Sleep by a loud, rumbling Noise, accompanied by thick, low Flashes of Lightning. The House was still rocking and the Ground heaving all about us, Bells ringing, Clocks striking, Glass and China jingling, and Furniture shifting from one Place to another. My Father was this Time seriously frightened, and cried, "Come to my Arms, my Children, and let us die together—we heeded not the first Warning. 'Tis as well to meet our Fate here, all together, as anywhere else, since whither could we flee from Danger? even if I were an able-bodied Man, which I am not. Good Lord, deliver us. Because there is none other that can help us, but only thou, O Lord!"
So I remained folded in his Arms, and Prue in my Mother's, while we heard Persons in wild Affright loudly shrieking in the open Air. I have often thought since, that had Death indeed come upon us at that Moment, it would have been attended with much Mitigation of its Bitterness.
By-and-by, the Vibration having ceased, we slowly withdrew from one another's Arms, with deep-drawn Breaths; and set about dressing and resuming the Occupations of the Day in strange Discomfort and Sadness. I have since read, in Books of Travellers, that in Countries where Earthquakes are prevalent, the Natives are in many Instances far more consternated by them than Strangers, who being unaccustomed to them do not in one View concentrate all their disastrous Consequences. This I can well believe; for certainly all London was infinitely more appalled by this second Shock than by the first. How can I convey any Figure of the Impressions of Fear and Superstition? how describe the alarmed Consciences of Sinners, the Perturbation of grave Men, the Distress of tender Mothers, the Cries of affrighted Children at a Danger so novel and Stupendous? To increase the general Panic, while godly Preachers like Bishop Sherlock and Bishop Secker were endeavouring to improve the Judgment to Purposes of Penitence and Piety among the upper Ranks, and good Ministers like Mr. Fenwick were calling on the lower Orders to repent and be saved, a fanatic Itinerant began preaching in the Streets, and boldly prophesying another Shock on the same Day of April, which would swallow up all London. The Impression produced by this Prediction was such as that Churches now filled to overflowing, Public-Houses were deserted, good Books were read, Alms liberally bestowed on the Poor, and the Sick and them that lay in Prison visited. O that such Deeds of Humanity had sprung from some better Principle than selfish Fear! "Ah," says one poor Man lying in Newgate, "I expect that when the next Earthquake occurs, my Chains, like those of St. Paul, will fall off." "Let us eat and drink," cries another tipsily, "for To-morrow we die!"—"I can't help fearing this next Shock that is to happen in April," says a poor Wretch in the Hospital that is sure not to live out the Week. "Ah," says a meek Patient in the next Bed, placidly smiling, "I shall be out of Harm's Way before that comes!"
Others combated their Neighbours' Fears with Reason and Ridicule; others drowned Thought altogether in additional Excess of Riot. I understood from Gatty that many smart Things were said about the Earthquake in the upper Circles; and every fresh Instance of a fine Lady caring for her Soul and going to Prayers elicited Fits of modish Laughter. And yet, who deserved the Judgment of Heaven to fall upon them, if the Rich did not? whose Dissoluteness and Disregard of Decency and Order had now come to that Pass as quite to paravaunt over the Vices and Crimes of the common Orders. God's sacred Name habitually blasphemed, Christ and the Holy Spirit ignored, the Devil disbelieved, Chastity laughed at, Ribaldry approved, Drunkenness considered Good-Breeding, Servants treated as if not of the same Flesh and Blood with themselves, Sabbaths desecrated, Gambling carried to an incredible Extent, the Hanging of poor Wretches at Tyburn counted a Spectacle worthy to recreate Noblemen, public Honour a mere Name, Patriotism the Synonyme for revolutionary Principle, no Truth, nor Honour, nor Justice, in Court nor in public Offices ... who, then, had Reason to dread the just Judgments of God?
At the very Time the Earth was rocking with the first Shock, there were profane Scoffers in Club-houses who would bet, whether it were an Earthquake or the Explosion of a Gunpowder Magazine. At the very Time two-thirds of London were on their Knees, observing a general Fast and Day of Humiliation, the Gambling-houses were filled with Members of Parliament, who found themselves with a Day of Leisure on their Hands. A Man dropped down Dead at the Door of White's Coffee-house: he was carried in; the Club immediately made Bets whether he were dead or not; a Surgeon came in to bleed him; the Wagerers interposed, saying it would affect the Fairness of the Bet!
O Madness of mortal Men! O Hardness, past Belief, of impenitent Sinners!
As the dreaded Day approached, the public Panic increased to that Degree, that even the Sceptics with a Scoff on their Lips thought it would be as well to "keep out of Harm's Way," and "Follow the Fashion." Not that they intended Penitence and Self-recollection, no, no; but since London was to be swallowed up, they would take Lodgings, that Night, in the Country.
In Consequence of this, every one that had a Room or Bed to let, in Chelsea, Hammersmith, Kensington, Kew, Richmond, or anywhere within a moderate Distance of the Metropolis, raised their Prices to an immoderate Height; and in every little Shop or Parlour Window a Card or Paper, ill writ and ill spelt, might be seen pasted or wafered, notifying that "Hear might be had a Bedd or Bedds on the ensewing Nite of the Erthquak." Nay, Women whose Fortunes or Occupations did not admit of their leaving their City Homes, quilted themselves warm "Earthquake Bedgowns," in which to take Flight in the Night, if their Houses should tumble about their Ears.
It might be about a Week before the Event was expected, and while the Churches were daily filled to overflowing, that Gatty came to inquire whether her Lady could have the Sitting-room and Bed-chamber formerly occupied by Mr. Fenwick, for "the Earthquake Night." Though the Apartments were unlet, my Mother did not much relish Lady Betty for her Guest, even for twenty-four Hours, and said she did not know she was minded to let the Rooms at all; she was sure we could not do Things to my Lady's liking. However, Gatty, who was to be Lady Betty's Companion, and had a great Fancy for coming to us on her own Account, said she was instructed to offer us any Price within Reason, and of her own Head offered so handsome a Sum, that my Mother said she should be ashamed of taking it for one Night. There was Nothing in that, Gatty said; Lady Betty never grudged any Money on herself, and could well afford to pay it, and would rather like boasting beforehand and afterwards, how much her Earthquake Lodgings cost her. So, as we well knew all our Neighbours were making the same Market, and we should really be disaccommodated by having her Ladyship and finding a Lodging for Mr. James, we would not be so nice as to hold out, but accepted the Terms in consideration of the Trouble. I should, indeed, have put in a Proviso for Mr. Fenwick, whose Safety was infinitely more important than my Lady's, had I believed there was the least Chance of his consenting to occupy his old Quarters; but I knew already that he would by no Means forsake his poor People in Shoreditch, even on the Supposal of any especial Dangerousness on that Night, which he did not, averring the mysterious Intentions of Providence to be altogether hidden out of Sight, in spite of the Presagings of Impostors and Fanatics.
Gatty joyfully left us therefore, having, she owned, been a little infected by the Fears of those around her, which were especially prevalent in the Servants' Hall, where the poor Maids and Men were to be left in their ordinary Charge; my Lady not entertaining the same Fear of their being swallowed up alive as of herself.
And was it not strange, now, that a Lady who might have commanded the Use of various Country Seats, or have hired an entire House somewhere in the remoter Parts by the Week, for about the same Sum she was to pay for a single Night, should prefer her own selfish Accommodation before that of her whole Household? But, I am sorry to say, hers was not a singular Case.
The Bustle into which we and our Neighbours were put, by the Expectance of our Quality-Lodgers, had Something in it strangely dissonant to the Occasion. Here were Carts arriving at the Door with my Lady's own Feather-Bed and Blankets, my Lady's own Linen and Toilette, my Lady's own Cushions and Foot-stool, even my Lady's own Parrot: and Wine, and Cordials, and Sweetmeats, and Packs of Cards; though the Supper was to be provided by us, "for the good of the House." It seemed that though my Lady intended to be only a Mile or two beyond the Prospect of burying alive, and within Sound and Sight of an engulfed City, she by no Means purposed a reflective Watch and Pause while the Crisis impended, but rather thought to kill Time and drown Fear by Jollity and Entertainment. To this End, she invited certain of her Intimates, including Mr. Paul Caryl, (for she had got tired of keeping the Men at a Distance,) who had likewise secured Lodgings in Chelsea, to spend the Evening with her, and pursue their Diversions far into the Night.
We were not to expect her till the Afternoon previous to the Occasion; but however, shoals of poor, terrified People who had engaged Lodgings in remoter and less expensive Parts, could not be hindered of pouring into the Country for two or three Days beforehand; and as every imaginable Vehicle was pressed into the Service, all the Highroads and leading Thoroughfares of London were absolutely blockaded with Coaches, Chaises, and Chairs, as well as innumerable Foot-Passengers, often inextricably wedged together for ten or fifteen Minutes. One Family, I understood, even took Flight in a Hearse: indeed, Dr. Elwes said it could be likened to Nothing but the consternated Flight that took place at the Beginning of the Great Plague. He added, that the Fields were full of People preparing to Camp out for the Night; just as they were constrained to do after the Fire of London; and finished by observing with an ironical Laugh, "There's a good Time coming for the Doctors; for plenty of Colds will be caught to-night in the wet Fields, to say Nothing of damp Lodgings."
About five o'Clock in the Afternoon, my Lady arrived in her Coach. She was handed out by her Nephew, Mr. Sandys, and her Physician Dr. Plumptree; and Gatty followed with the Lap-Dog. Her Ladyship wore a cherry-colour Sacque and large Straw Hat; but neither the Shadow of the one nor the hue of the other could conceal how her Beauty was ruinated by her sad Complaint. She was no longer even ordinarily comely; all her fine red and white and smooth Skin lost, and her Eyes bleared and spoilt. With much Fuss we got her settled in the upper Parlour; but to say Nothing of her own two Servants, she contrived, the whole of the Time she was under our Roof, to keep Prue and me continually on the Trot. Inquiry soon was made for Mr. Caryl; he had not appeared: my Lady was disappointed; she had expected him to be the Life of the Party. By-and-by, in spite of her Shawls and Cushions, she fancied a Draught from the Window; I was summoned to cure it, and had to cobble an additional Breadth of Dimity to the Curtain as quickly as I could; while my Lady stroked her Lap-Dog at the Fire, and chatted with her two Companions.
"Awfully cold," says the Doctor.
"Screaming cold," says the Nephew. "These inferior Houses always have thin Walls; one might think it was January. To-night, all London's out of Town—Lady Frances Arundel, and Lord and Lady Galway have gone ten Miles into the Country, to play Brag till five in the Morning, and then come back."
"A good many will play Brag," said the Doctor, simpering—"the real Braggarts, I think, are those that stay behind."
"Then you really are afraid, Doctor?" says Lady Betty.
"Well, my Lady, I think it would be a Tempting of Providence to incur any Risk needlessly."
Just then, in came Mr. Caryl. "A thousand Excuses," says he. "I was coming along the Five Fields, when a couple of crazy old Houses tumbled down and blocked up the Way, so I was obliged to come round."
"A lucky Escape for you, Paul," says Mr. Sandys, "it might have been as bad for you as an Earthquake."
"Why, yes," says Mr. Caryl, "though not easily fluttered, it did give me a Qualm, I confess. Besides, it might have been a premonitory Quake that brought the Houses down."
"My Salts, Gatty!" cries Lady Betty.
"Any Casualties?" says the Doctor carelessly.
"To tell you the Truth," says Mr. Caryl, "I was so rejoiced to save my own Bones that I did not stop to inquire whether anyone else had theirs broken." And lightly laughed.
"Feeling!" mutters Mr. Sandys.
"Quack!" responds Mr. Caryl softly.
And then I knew them, that Moment, for the Fox and the Goose!
"Whereabouts in the Five Fields did it happen?" resumes the Doctor.
"Just by that old, empty House, Doctor, wherein two Women were found starved to Death with Cold and Hunger, somewhere about Christmas."
"I'm sure such Things as that ought not to occur," says Lady Betty, dabbing her Forehead with some Essence, "so well as the Poor are provided for."
"Oh yes, especially this Christmas," says Mr. Sandys carelessly—"for, you know, a great many Hogs were seized by the Church-wardens and Overseers of St. George's Parish, that were kept in private Houses and Yards contrary to the Statute made and provided; whereby the Poor, of that Parish at least, if they had not their Christmas Beef, had their Christmas Pork; for it was distributed among them."
"Not gratis, though," said the Doctor.
"No, but very cheap;" said Mr. Sandys. "So I understood."
"I wonder you should understand or hear Anything about it, Harry," says Lady Betty contemptuously.
"Well, Aunt, I happened to hear it named by Mr. Arbuthnot."
"When is Mr. Arbuthnot to marry Lady Grace?" says Mr. Caryl.
"After Lent, I believe," said the Doctor,—"They that marry in Lent will live to repent."
"Why so?" says Lady Betty.
"Nay, Madam, ask your Chaplain. I suppose People should not be feasting when they ought to be fasting."
"Ah, that's it, no Doubt," says Lady Betty—"Let us have Tea now, Gatty; and Plenty of Genoa Macaroons."
The next Time I went up Stairs, which was not till after Dark, they were all playing at Brag.
As I went down, a sudden Blast of Wind from the front Door of the House blew my Candle out, and I groped along into the Shop, muttering, "Who on Earth can be standing in the Draught such a cold Night as this?" At the same Moment I caught a Glimpse of a Couple of dusky Figures standing in the Doorway, and heard, in earnest Under-tones, the Words, "Gatty! is that you?" "Mr. Heavitree! can it be you? What in the World can have brought you here, and at this Time of Night?"—"To be with you, dearest Gatty, in case of your being alarmed, and—and—in case of Anything happening...."
I would not overhear another Word, but went straight into the Parlour and lit my Candle, saying quietly to my Mother, "There's Mr. Heavitree outside, talking to Gatty."
"Have him in!" cries my Father, whose Ears were quicker than I thought, "I want to see what the young Chap is like."—"Hush, Father, he'll overhear you—Maybe he will prefer saying a few Words to Gatty by herself first." "Very likely, very likely," says my Father chuckling—"but I hope he won't go away without coming in, for all that."
I now thought I might go out again with the Candle, and set it in the Shop; but the Current of Air from the Door again nearly blew it out, though I screened it with my Hand. The Stream of Light fell upon Gatty, who turned about and said, "Patty, here's an old Acquaintance,—I'm sure I may ask him in, may not I?" "And welcome," said I. "I am almost too dirty to be seen," says Mr. Heavitree, coming in. "Why, you are all muddy from Head to Foot," cries Gatty, "What can you have been doing?"
Just then, Lady Betty's Bell was pulled pretty sharply, and Gatty was obliged to run off. I could see, by Mr. Heavitree's wincing, that he could not abide the Remembrance of her menial Position, and that it would not be his Fault if she long retained it. I ushered him into the Parlour. My Father, in his easy Chair, stretches out his Hand to him. "Mr. Heavitree," says he heartily, "I'm glad to see you." "You see a very dirty Fellow, Sir," says Mr. Heavitree laughing. "Why, you are dirty, indeed," says my Father, surveying him; "is this the Way you come a-courting? I should say you had been rolling in the Gutter." "Something like it," says Mr. Heavitree; "we Country Folks got feared by this Talk of the Earthquake, so I thought I'd just come up to Town and look after Gatty; but, Sir, what a Place this London is! My Danger along the Road, of being attacked by the Fellow they call the Flying Highwayman, was nothing to what it was when I got into the Streets. I put up my Horse at an Inn, and then set forth, as clean as you'd wish to see me, to Lady Betty's, where I expected to find Gatty; but it was already getting dark, and by Reason of the Panic the Town was almost deserted except by the very worst Sort, who care neither for Heaven nor Earth, and who seemed minded to make the Desertion of Houses an Occasion for pretty general Plunder. Here and there twinkled a miserable little solitary Oil Lamp; here and there a Lantern flitted across, or a Ray of a Tallow Candle streamed from some Window, but with these Exceptions, which only seemed to make Darkness more dismal, there was Nothing to prevent one from breaking one's Shins against Posts and Door-Steps, or walking straight into the Gutters. I was hustled once or twice, and began to think Affairs were not much mended since my Lord Mayor and the Aldermen went up to the King. Suddenly I was pounced on by three disorderly Fellows, who collared me and dragged me into a dark Cellar. One of them held a Lantern to my Face and said, 'Jem, this isn't our Man,' on which I was pushed out pretty near as roughly as I was pulled in. This did not hinder me of taking to my Heels, which occasioned my stumbling into an enormous Heap of wet Mud by the Side of the Foot-Path, with ne'er a Lamp near it, which made me in the Pickle you see. However, I got to Lady Betty's, where I found the Mansion deserted by all save one poor Maid, who sate reading of her Bible by the Light of a Kitchen Candle; all the rest having decamped as soon as my Lady was off, in the Opinion that their Safety was quite as dear to them as hers to her. I asked the poor Creature if she were not afeared to be alone at such a Crisis; but she seemed to be Something of a Predestinarian, and said her Time could come but once, and when the Lord would; she could trust herself in his Hands. I obtained from her that Gatty and my Lady had gone to the Chelsea Bun-House; so then I knew they were with you, Mrs. Patty; and having got a Direction to Chelsea, I soon made out, when I reached it, my Way here. But oh, what a State all the Fields and waste Grounds about you are in! People in Tents, Booths, Carts, Coaches, and Caravans; awaiting the Morning Light. The Field Preachers are busy among them, and are exhorting attentive Multitudes: but will the Impression survive To-morrow?—I think, Sir, my Mud is dry now; and if you will lend me a Clothes-Brush, I'll step out and groom myself a little."
"That's as good-looking a young Man," says my Father, "as ever I saw—quite a Mate for Gatty."
"Hush, Father, he'll hear you," says Prue softly.
"He can't," says Father, lowering his Voice, however.
"How provoking it must be to Gatty," says Prue, "to know he is here, and yet be kept in attendance on my Lady!"
"Tush, Child, she'd rather know he was here than not.... Well, Mr. Heavitree," (when our Visitor returned,) "have you considered where you are to get a Bed to-night?"
"Why, no, Sir, really I have not."
"Then I'll tell you! You may take your Choice of all the Beds in this House except Lady Betty's; for we are all going to sit up!"
"Why, then, Sir, with your Leave, I'll sit up too!"
"Do so, young Gentleman, and welcome. You see, we have quality Lodgers in the House, who keep late Hours; and as they require a good Deal of waiting on, we think it best to sit up—'Tis but for one Night."
"Besides which," put in my Mother, "though we are not ourselves apprehensive of an Earthquake this Night any more than any other, yet having such a fresh Recollection of the Terror we experienced during the last Shock, and knowing that so many Thousands of People are in distressing Apprehension of a similar and more terrible Occurrence, it seems unfeeling to think of sleeping and taking one's natural Rest, instead of watching with others, and sympathising with them."
"I think precisely as you do, Madam," said Mr. Heavitree; "I assure you that though I am not of those who expect the Earthquake, I am disposed for Anything but Levity, and feel this to be an impressive Occasion."
So, this being his acknowledged Feeling, we sate about the Fire and fell into a somewhat graver Strain of Conversation than usual; and I was glad to find that the young Man could talk seriously as well as pleasantly. Though he had not let fall a Word about want of Refreshment, I knew he must have been fasting for some Time, and therefore helped him plentifully to cold Beef with his Tea and Bread and Butter, which he pronounced very acceptable. While he was eating, Gatty returned, all Smiles, and said, "I am glad to see you doing so well, Mr. Heavitree!" but just as he had made Room for her beside him, tinkle went the Bell, and away she was obliged to run again.
"Can't we muffle that Bell?" says he, somewhat impatiently.
"Then my Lady would hammer on the Floor," said I, "and would keep her up-Stairs altogether."
"Yes," says Father, "that would answer as ill as the two Housemaids in Æsop's Fables, that killed the Cock for waking their Mistress."
"Well," says Mr. Heavitree, "it won't be for long, that's one Blessing. Her Time's up on Monday, and I shall stay in Town till then, and take her down with me in the old Coach."
"I hope you won't have so many overturns this Time," said my Mother.
"Why, no," said he smiling, "we can dispense with them now; but I protest that Snow-Journey was the pleasantest I ever had in my Life."
"You are going to possess a Treasure, Sir," said my Father energetically.
"Indeed I think so, Sir! I was not aware you so well knew her Value."
"Always took to her, Mr. Heavitree, from the very first; Didn't I, Girls?"
"Indeed you did, Father."
"And when is it to be?" says my Father significantly.
"Nay, Sir," said Mr. Heavitree with a little Embarrassment, "I've not got Gatty to name the Day yet, but I hope it will be before long; and as my Sister Clarissa is shortly to be married, which will deprive Roaring House of its present Mistress, perhaps we may arrange to have two Weddings on the same Day."
"Was that poor Wayfarer found under the Snow?" said my Mother.
"Oh no, Ma'am, we conclude she accomplished her Journey in Safety."
By-and-by, Gatty joined us again; and we all sate chatting till Twelve o'Clock. Then my Lady's Supper went up, and then we had our own; a pretty substantial one, as watching makes People hungry.
After Supper, we, according to Custom, had Prayers; and I thought it not amiss to select for our Evening Portion the twenty-fourth Chapter of St. Matthew, which speaks of Famines, Pestilences, and Earthquakes. After this, we again drew round the Fire; for Watching makes people chilly: and Mr. Heavitree began to repeat some Reports he had gathered, of the wretched State our Gaols were in, at that Time, overflowing with the Refuse of our Army and Navy, who, for Want of honest Employment, were perishing miserably amidst the Stench and Horrors of noisome Dungeons.
"That they are," says my Father; "and as for Newgate, it is now in so pestilential a State of Infection from the overcrowding together of dirty, starving Felons, that the Effluvium they have brought into Court on their Trials hath cost us the Lives of a Lord Mayor, an Alderman, two Judges, divers Lawyers, the greater Part of the Jury, and I know not how many of the Bystanders. This Spread of the Gaol Fever among the upper Classes will do more to get the Abuse remedied than the Deaths of Hundreds of Criminals in their Cells; but yet I can't for the Life of me help regretting that so many able-bodied Men, whose Labour might be serviceable to the Community, should be idling at the public Expense in Prison."
Mr. Heavitree was silent, and Gatty presently asked him what he was musing about. He said, "Those Rogues who pulled me into the dark Cellar said I was not the right Man. I was wondering if they have found him yet, and what they have done to him."
This led to sundry dismal Stories, of Footpads and Street-Assassins; and of Lord Harborough's being beset by Robbers in Piccadilly in broad Daylight, and one of the Chairmen pulling a Pole out of his Lordship's Chair and knocking down one of the Villains, while the Earl, leaping out, and drawing his Sword, put the Rest to flight. Then we wondered whether Times could get worse, and whether they would ever mend, and whether the next Generation would listen to such Facts as idle Tales, or whether Abuses would increase to that Degree as to bring down a Providential Judgment on the City, like that which overtook Gomorrah, or like that which we were now expecting.
Soon after this, my Father fell fast asleep, and my Mother began to nod. Prudence was knitting with all her Might, and I took up my Mother's Knotting, and on Pretence of getting nearer the Light, edged my Chair further off from Gatty, who continued conversing with Mr. Heavitree in an under Tone, which became lower and lower. I am persuaded neither of them felt in the least sleepy, nor had the smallest Apprehensions of the Earthquake; but Prue yawned awfully from Time to Time, and I was profoundly silent and very serious.
All at once, Lady Betty's Bell rang violently, and Gatty ran up Stairs. The Wax Lights had burned out, and at first it seemed that there were no others, which put my Lady into a sad Taking. The Idea of her being left in the Dark with an Earthquake! Happily, another Pacquet of Wax Candles was found, and, after Ratafia had been served round, they fell to their Card-playing again; but Gatty affirmed that my Lady changed Colour, and laid down her Hand on Mr. Sandys's roguishly shaking the Table.
At Length, all the Clocks struck Five; at which Hour everybody conceived themselves safe, as witlessly as they had previously held themselves to be in Danger. The Card-Party now broke up; Gatty went to undress my Lady, and I went to lock out the Gentlemen, who departed in a Body, looking fagged and haggard enough. Just as Mr. Caryl was going forth, he paused for a Moment and said, "By-the-bye, this is where Mr.—Mr. what's his Name? Mr. Fenwick lodged—Can you tell me where he is at present, Mrs. Patty?"
I coolly answered, "With his poor People in Shoreditch, Sir."
"Shoreditch? Shoreditch? Ha, I'll try to remember that," says he carelessly; and turned on his Heel. I thought to myself, I don't believe you will; your Cue is to forget.
Then I went to get my Father and Mother to Bed, and send off Prue, and lastly, to go to Bed myself. As for Mr. Heavitree, he was content with a couple of Chairs by the Fire. Gatty slept with my Lady, who did not feel brave enough to be alone.
The Watch made us all latish, and arise yawnish. Peter told me the Roads were all astir before Light, with People returning to their Homes; and that the Preachers were trying to enforce on their Penitents that they had had an Answer to Prayer. Lady Betty did not rise till Noon; what with her Vapours, her Whims, and her Breakfast, she did not depart till two o'Clock. We had scarcely a Word of Gatty, but she ran in to us just at last, and kissed us all round, taking Leave of us once for all, and receiving our good Wishes for her future Happiness with many Blushes and Smiles. Mr. Heavitree had already gone off; and as soon as we had tidied my Lady's Rooms, we all subsided into our usual Quiet.
The following Day, about Noon, I was behind the Counter, when I received a great Shock by hearing a Customer say casually, "Dr. Elwes is dead—he went off quite suddenly at six this Morning."
I could hardly go on weighing some Comfits, the Tears crowded so fast into my Eyes at the unexpected Loss of our old Friend. I remained but to have the ill News confirmed and gather the Particulars, and then went up to break them to my Mother, who was sitting with my Father in their own Chamber. She was a good deal affected, and my Father undertook the Office of Consoler with great Kindliness. After a While I went down and asked Prue, who felt less Concern than I did for the Doctor, to take my Place a little While in the Shop. Then I went and sate down in the Parlour, and thought over his various Acts of Kindness to me, and shed some Tears of unaffected Regret. He had never been a decidedly religious Character, but was much liked by his Patients, deservedly loved by the Poor, and to us had been a tried and valued Friend.
While I was in this sorrowful Mood, in comes Mr. Fenwick, so flushed with Exercise and good Spirits as to look quite handsome. Feeling so low as I did just then, I did not reciprocate his Salutation quite so cheerfully as he seemed to expect; and he, on his Part, on finding that my Father and Mother were well, paid less Attention to my Depression than he might have done; and, for the first Time in my Life, I thought him a little selfish.
"I have some good News," said he.
"I am glad to hear it," said I, "for I have some bad News."
"What's that?" said he.
"Our dear Friend Dr. Elwes is dead;" and I put the Corner of my Apron to my Eyes.
"Well,—I am sorry to hear it," resumes he, after a Pause; "he was not, I fear, a very thoughtful Man."
"A very good Man," said I, warming.
"A very kindly, attentive Man in a Sick-room," says he, "and a pleasant Companion, which is all I know about him."
"We knew a good Deal more," said I, "and know that his Loss won't be soon supplied. We shall miss him very much. He was truly benevolent, whatever you may think."
"I don't deny it, I assure you," said he, looking surprised at my Heat, "I only wished there had been a more Christian Basis for his many good Qualities."
"It is not very Christian, I think, to depreciate them, especially at a Time like this."
"My dear Patty, I stand reproved. I did not sufficiently consider, nor, indeed, sufficiently know the Wound your Feelings had just experienced."
This touched me, and I said, "We will speak of it no more, Sir. I am glad to see you looking so well. You told me, I think, you had heard some good News."
"Yes, from Mr. Caryl."
"Quack!" said I hastily; losing my Temper and good Manners in my revived Impression of that Gentleman's Duplicity and Hollowness.
"Patty!" said Mr. Fenwick, in a Tone of mild Surprise.
"I beg your Pardon, Sir," said I, ashamed of myself, "but you know I never can hear that Gentleman's Name with Patience."
"I do know it," said he, smiling very pleasantly, "and should retort on you the Accusation of Uncharitableness, or else endeavour to laugh you out of your singular Prejudice against him, but that I feel Something in it so flattering to myself, that I am disarmed. However, I have that to tell you of him now, which will, I fancy, alter your Opinion."
"Nothing will alter my Opinion of him," persisted I, "no Good will ever come to you from that Quarter."
"Because I know him better than you do." He laughed.
"You may laugh, Sir," said I, "but you'll see in Time that I am right. Have you seen him lately?"
"Not since I was in this House."
"Ah, well, I have seen him more than once—I've seen him and heard him among his own Set, when he didn't know I was by, and he said Things that ... convinced me he was a false Friend to you."
"What were those Things?"
"I'm not clear that I have a Right to repeat them."
"An accused Party has always a Right to have the Charge against him substantiated. You are silent?—Well, Mrs. Patty, since you are so inveterate against this poor Gentleman, I shall only irritate you, I am afraid, by acquainting you with Anything in his Favour, and therefore I'll keep my News to myself—"
"Just tell me one Thing—Has he sent you back your Poem?"
"My Poem! No—you know he accidently burnt that, Months ago."
"You never will believe it," continued he laughing, "nor forgive him for it. Why, I have forgiven him, this long While; and if I have, can't you?"
"Well, Patty, this Interest in the Fate of my unlucky Manuscript is, as I have before told you, very gratifying to me; but still, I should be more gratified if you would do Justice to an innocent Man."
"Why, he was here, the Night before last, Sir! and from the careless Way in which he inquired for you, I could see he did not value you a Straw! I really wonder at you, Mr. Fenwick."
"Nay, I must say I wonder at you, Mrs. Patty; but since we are getting rather too warm upon it, I'll wish you Good-bye for the Present, and converse with you some other Time on what is in my Mind, but which I fear would just now meet with an unfavourable Hearing." Saying which, he took up his Hat, and was going away quite formally, when, turning short about, he looked full into my Face for a Minute, and said with an inexpressible Sweetness of Reproach:
"Why, Patty! I didn't think you could be so cross!"
I have his Face before me this Minute! My Mother was wont to say, "Mr. Fenwick had smiling Eyes," but I protest I found they could cut me to the Heart. I ran up-Stairs as soon as ever he was gone, and had a good Cry by my own Bed-side; and wondered what on Earth could have made me so knaggy and upsettish.
When I went down, Prue was still in the Shop; and seeing me with red Eyes, I dare say she thought I had been crying about Dr. Elwes. I hadn't, however! There were Customers buying Buns, so I left her to attend to them, and returned to the Parlour; and there, who should there be, sitting at the Window and smelling to some Primroses, but Mr. Fenwick! I declare I started as if it had been his Ghost.
"Well," says he smiling, "I've soon come back again.... Why, Patty!—I do believe you've been shedding Tears!"
"What of that, Sir?" said I, ready to begin again.
"Only this," said he, "that I am very glad of it, because it seems as if you were sorry for the little Tiff we had just now—And I'm sorry too, and came back expressly to say so. But perhaps I'm mistaken, and these Tears were not about the Tiff, but about Dr. Elwes ... hey, Patty?"
I shook my Head.
"Well then, all's right," said he, taking my Hand, and drawing me towards the Window. "I'm sure I regret the old Gentleman as much as any one can be expected to do who cared very little about him; but the Fact is, I was selfishly preoccupied with a Piece of good Fortune that had happened to myself, and which, you see, I could not be easy till I had made you a Party to. How is it I care about telling you, Patty? How is it you were the first Person whose Sympathy I wanted to secure? hey?"
"I'm sure I can't tell, Sir."
"Well, I think I can tell—If I can't, I've made a tremendous Blunder, after a great Deal of Self-Examination. What do you think of my having been presented to the Living of St. Margery-under-the-Wall?"
"You don't say so?" exclaimed I, clasping my Hands with delight—"Oh, that is joyful!"
"Four Hundred a Year, clear," said he, "that's a good Income, is not it?"
"It's Wealth!" said I. "And no more than you deserve, Mr. Fenwick!"
"I knew this was how you would feel," said he, kissing my Hand. "What makes you cloud over, Patty?"
"I was only thinking, Sir—"
"What? Come, say it out...."
"That this would remove you from us farther than ever—"
"Oh no! A Quarter of a Mile nearer!"
"I don't mean that Sort of Distance, Sir. But no Matter—I rejoice in it with all my Heart, Mr. Fenwick!"
He looked at me earnestly, was going to say Something, and stopped.
"Don't you think," said he, after a Minute's Silence, "that I might marry on this?"
"And could you, Patty, whom I know so thoroughly and love so heartily, consent to be the Wife of a City Parson?"
—Oh! there could be only one Moment in Life like that!—And yet, have not I had many happy Moments, Hours, and Years since? I can't, to this Day, make out how he ever came to think of me; when there were Prue, and Gatty, and doubtless many young Gentlewomen of his Congregation, to say Nothing of remote Country Cousins, (for he had no near Relations,) to whom I could be but a mere Foil! I could not make it out then, and I can't make it out now; but I am quite content to leave the Mystery unsolved, and decide that Affection settles all Distinctions, and Marriages are made in Heaven. I must say I was very thankful to dear, good Dr. Elwes, when his Will came to be opened, (which had been made some Months before his sudden Death,) to find he had left Prue and me Five Hundred Pounds each, in the handsomest Manner, with more Terms of Praise of our "laudable Conduct in difficult Circumstances," than I need to repeat. I say, I was glad of this Legacy, and of the handsome Way in which it was left, because it seemed to make me a little less unworthy of Mr. Fenwick's Regard; not that it had a Bit of Influence with him, however, his Offer having been made and accepted before the Will was opened: so that Nothing could be more disinterested than his Behaviour from first to last.
And the Presentation to this Living came through the Recommendation of Mr. Caryl!—accompanied by a very flattering Letter, saying it was a Piece of Justice, and that he knew of no Man on whom his Uncle could have better bestowed it. A Piece of Justice, I privately consider it; and a Salve to his own Conscience for pitifully burning the Poem of a Man that writ better than himself. Nothing can destroy that Conviction. But I keep it quite secret; the only Secret I have ever kept or will keep from my Husband, and this only because I would not lower his Patron's Nephew in his Estimation.
Certainly the Gift of a good Living was far more than an Equivalent for the best Poem that ever was writ; but yet, Poets have naturally such an overweening Opinion of the Importance of their Productions to the World, and of their own Mission as Regenerators of Society, that to them it is an exceeding hard Thing to lose the Fame and Influence they believe they deserve; and I question whether those of 'em that take the highest Flights (from practical Affairs and common Sense, that is,) would consider themselves at all compensated for the Loss of a heavy Poem by the Gain of a fat Living.
But my Husband hath since appeared in Print, in a Way that's highly honourable to himself and gratifying to his Connexions, without being beholden to any Patron whatsoever. He has printed a Funeral Sermon on Mrs. Eusebia Crate, a highly estimable Member of his Congregation, which was brought out by Messrs. A. and B. Thompson, at the Sign of the Bible and Star, Fleet Street, handsomely bound in shiny black Leather, with a black Margin to the Title. This Sermon, which was published by Subscription, brought my Husband enough to buy a very handsome Mahogany Bookcase for his Study, and a Pair of Pulpit Sconces, besides its being named in the Gentleman's Magazine. And though Money was not my Husband's Object, yet, as the Work, it is thought, may attain to a second Edition, who knows but hereafter he may be as successful as Dr. Hugh Blair, who for his last Volume of Sermons received Six Hundred Pounds! Though amazing, it must be true, for they say it in Pater Noster Row!
As for dear Prue, her Legacy was as acceptable to her as mine to me, for though Tom conscientiously brings her all his Earnings and is now Captain of a fine Merchantman, Sailors are never over-rich; I think her queer Engagement to him steadied her a good Deal: it put an End to the least Approach to Trifling or Flirting, which she might have indulged in, had they been less seriously bound to one another; and my Mother's Contempt for the Contract and "the Bit of red Glass," went so to poor Prudence's Heart as to engender a Degree of Humility and Submissiveness quite contrary to her previous Character. With all this, she was deeply in Love with Tom, and silently, seriously happy; nor would she, I am convinced, have been released from her Engagement for the World. But it took away all Desire to be otherways placed than where she was, in the Bosom of her own Family, in the quiet, steady Performance of domestic Duties. So that, when I left Home, it was with the comfortable Conviction, which I have never seen the least Reason to alter, that she would supply my Place to my dear Father and Mother, as well as in the Business. Indeed, since my Husband married her to Tom, the necessary Absences of the latter from his Wife have rendered it very agreeable to all Parties that Prue's Home should still be in the Old Chelsea Bun-House. There's an Opposition House set up now, which has a little injured the old Business; but, happily, none of us are so dependent on it as we once were; and their Buns are accounted heavy, so that the ancient, steady-going Customers still resort to
The Old Original Chelsea Bun-House.
London: Printed by Richard Clay.
 No. 95.
Obvious printer errors have been corrected. Otherwise, the author's original spelling, punctuation and hyphenation have been left intact.