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satisharn, where it was he side of the fire.ich I had born
tormation, but I lived in hourly dread of blurting out something which should reveal the disgraceful fact of my eavesdropping. I felt this most when I was with Mr. Gibson; he had acuter percep. tions than Martin and Margery, and he could not but perceive that something occupied my mind and oppressed my spirits, and I dreaded lest he should suspect the truth. Altogether my secret was a miserable burden to me, and as day after day passed and the same impenetrable silence was observed, I grew fretful and moody, and even irritable with Phæbe, who in her innocent light-heartedness teased me with her chatter about the coming winter, and what we would do as soon as ever the mere was frozen over.
At length release came just as I felt I could bear the sickness of suspense and dread no longer. It was quite the end of August now, and the days were growing rapidly shorter, and my evening rambles were necessarily curtailed. Also the weather changed; a great deal of rain fell, and it turned cold and dreary, as it very often does at this time of the year in the Lake country. I could not go out on the fell to learn my lessons, nor lie dreaming on the short thymy turf of our own allotment, and very much to my own dissatisfaction I had to spend my evenings in the kitchen, or else in the barn, where it was dark as well as chilly. One night, quite late, I sat reading by the side of the fire. I was poring over the last pages of “Peveril of the Peak,” which I had borrowed from Mr. Gibson, and I was in mortal dread lest Margery, who was dozing over her knitting-pins, should suddenly wake up and order me off to bed, as it was considerably past my hour for sitting up. Martin was leaning back in his great leather-cushioned chair, not dozing, but looking fixedly into the bosom of the glowing peats. I was just going to toss on another brand to get up a blaze for my own private purposes, when Martin stopped me—“Shut up thy book, lad; I've somethin' to say to thee."
In a great tremor I shut it up, and prepared for what was to follow. Margery nodded and dozed on, and presently her stocking pins and all fell into the ashes. Martin commenced in a low tone, so as not to disturb granny from her slumbers—“Hugh, beest thee tarra fond o' Eaglesmere ?"
I replied discreetly : “Yes, grand-dad, and it's a right bonnie place; but it's only one of the corners of the earth for all that; and I should like to know what lies down there, South, beyond the Coniston mountains and the Barbon Fells; I shouldn't like to stay in Eaglesmere all my life.”
“Would'st like to gang awa' noo, ower t mountains,—ť gang South-varra South ?-past Lunnon toun ?”
"I should like it of all things," I replied, stoutly; “I would give anything, grand-dad, to see London and the sea.”
“ Weel, thee'st loike to git thee wish, lad! It's a'varra weel for women-folk”—and he nodded at sleeping Margery—“ to be sattled down to ane out-of-t'-way place; they hev their household wark, and their wee bit troubles an' cares aboot t bakin', an' t' clane claithes, and they dinna crave for naught else! But men and men-bairns are different. Twarld's t place for sech, Hugh, my lad, and you an' me we want ither things than jest whatten's shutted-oop in gude auld Eaglesmere ! Sae we're ganging South we are!”
“Is she not going?” I whispered, pointing to Margery.
“Oh, aye, she's ganging! She wad gang where I ganged," returned Martin, cautiously, under his breath. I am afraid poor Margery's cross-grainedness and her “onruly tangue” had somewhat alienated her lord's affections. It seemed to me, at that moment, that he would really have preferred to go South without her.
“Where 'are we going?” I continued, in the same sot.o-voce tone.
“ South,"my lad, varra South! past Lunnon town, and out by ť sea! Sae ye'll hev just what ye want.” And then he told me all about it. The Marchioness of Dovercourt was an old friend and patroness of his, and one of the Dovercourt Park lodges being vacant she wanted him to occupy it. It was a very comfortable, roomy house, once used as a keeper's lodge, and she wanted somebody in it who could be trusted. The house was furnished, and there was a good kitchen-garden, and a fine flower-garden, and even a little greenhouse; and there were bees, and the trimmest little poultry-yard, and a "paddock where a cow might be kepther ladyship would give the cow-and there were good schools where the children, to wit, Phoebe and I, could be properly educated. And, in short, there were advantages innumerable; and, to crown all, a pension"in the end. “Mair na' we an' Margery could mek o' our ainsels, Hugh," said Martin in conclusion, when he had finished describing.“ the South” as a land which was even as the Land of Promise, and flowed with milk and honey. Eaglesmere flowed with nothing but great stones and slags of rock, and its beck and the mere overflowed after heavy rains or sudden melting of the snow. “ It wad be a sin, a downrecht sin to say nae to sech an offer, and me gettin in years, and canna wi' reason 'spect to till ť land much langer. But I'm nae sae auld as Margery there ! mind that, my bairn, and mind ye, too, a woman's aye aulder than a man o' t same years. An' when ye be growed, and seek to enter into state o' holy matrimony, dinna ye marry a lass that's ane day aulder than yersel'."
I said that I never would, reflecting at the same time that Phæbe was a whole three years younger than I was, for I had already decided to marry Phoebe some day! Finally I was told that we were to start in a fortnight's time, and that the vicar was going with us as far as London. Dovercourt I found out was not Dover; it was not even in the same county ; it was the seat of the Marquis of Dovercourt, and the village was a mere appendage of the castle and the park. It was situated in Southamshire, not on the coast exactly, as Martin had intimated, but about three miles from the shore, and the country round about it was well wooded, and very rich and beautiful. Margery woke up just as our conversation ended, and Martin told her what we had been talking of. She shook her head sadly as she flung fresh peats on the fire, which had almost died out, unperceived by us masculine creatures.
“I dinna b’lieve t' Lord ca's us,” she said, dolefully; “ we'd best rest in our lot to ť' end o' our days; but an' ye wull gang I gang wi' me, for ye're my ain husban', and I'll steck to ye if ye gang to t'ither side o' t' world !”.
“Varra gude, varra gude!” quoth the inexorable Martin ; “ but ye needn't, ye knaw, if ye dinna loike.”
Chapter III.—Going South. In a fortnight's time it was all over, and we had bidden adieu to Eaglesmere and all its inhabitants. I conscientiously declare that I wished everybody good-bye, and I climbed innumerable elevations in order to take a farewell view of certain points of the landscape with which I had been so familiar. We set out on what the Border folks call “a soft morning,”-that is to say, it was warm and wet, a gentle and almost imperceptible rain falling, and a thick mist shrouding from the sight not only the more distant mountains, but our own near fells; even Canter-fell seemed a mere green bank sloping upwards from the lake, for after a rise of a hundred feet or so it was entirely lost in an impenetrable canopy of clouds. A carriage had been sent from Kendal, whither we were going to meet the coach, which in those days ran south a good many miles before it reached the railroad. We were travelling, I was told, at the Marchioness's expense, and we were emphatically enjoined to make ourselves quite comfortable, and not care too much about the cost. The Marchioness of Dovercourt must be a very kind and generous lady, I thought, and especially attached to Martin Wray.
At Kendal we found the coach, in and on which our places were taken. The vicar and Margery and Phæbe went inside, Martin and I mounted to the roof. The rain had ceased, the mists were lifting, here and there patches of blue sky began to show, and
before we had passed the old ruined castle the sun began to shine. I would not on any account have been cooped up within the coach; I was going to see the world, and I wanted to take the very widest survey of it that under the circumstances was possible. Martin was quite of my mind, and we sympathised with each other accordingly.
I had been to Kendal several times, and its streets and houses were almost familiar; but as soon as we were fairly out of the town I found myself in unknown regions. The coach was a heavy one, the horses were far from mettlesome, and our driver was cautious exceedingly ; so we plodded on soberly enough, having plenty of leisure to observe the country through which we passed. We were going through Kent-dale, and the coachman drew up to let us gaze at Levens Hall, then he pointed out the white church of Heversham, and then we came to Milnthorpe, where we changed horses, and where we were joined by a sprightly young man who had been taking his leisure in the neighbourhood and putting up at the principal inn of the place. This young man talked freely and well, and told us of the haunts he had visited. He was enthusiastic about the fine old priory of Cartmel; he had been sketching at Furness; he had rambled about the solitudes of Silverdale, and he had explored the wild woods of Casterton on the rocky banks of the lovely river Lune. Truly the world was a large place, as I began to perceive.
Then we came to Lancaster, where we stopped to have a sort of tea-dinner ; but before that I saw Morecambe Bay, and, the tide being out, I came to the conclusion that the sea was a very poor affair indeed, considerably over-rated both in poetry and prose, and not at all equal to the pictures I had seen of it. Certainly the wide stretches of wet sand, the shallow pools of tide-water, and the muddy creeks were not by any means alluring.
Late in the evening we got into Preston, and there we spent the night. Next morning we were to take the train, and proceed on our journey southwards. Preston seemed to me a tremendously large place, and I made our Milnthorpe friend laugh heartily by asking if London were any larger or as large? I held my breath while he assured me that a hundred Prestons wouldn't make one London !
Martin and Phæbe were in excellent spirits. Mr. Gibson was very grave, and poor Margery was continually dissolved in tears. She would not have suffered more, I am persuaded, had she been actually expatriated. To her there was no sensible difference, in point of distance, between Southamshire and New York. Once exiled from Eaglesmere, she cared very little where she went; Dovercourt, New Zealand, or Japan, it was all one now!
Poor Margery! it was very hard upon her, I must confess; and the sight of her tears considerably damped my pleasure.
So many people have written their first impressions of railroads that I will not record mine. Martin was evidently uncomfortable, and I am not sure that the vicar very much liked being whizzed along at such a speed. Phoebe said the hedges and the houses “ came at her;” and I— Well, I will just say that after the first few miles I liked it well enough, and was not unreasonably dismayed when we plunged into tunnels, and when the enginewhistle yelled supernaturally. As for Margery, though she had professed herself resigned to all sorts of dangers and afflictions, the railroad was really more than she could bear with any show of equanimity; and she cried, and groaned, and prayed to the Lord to deliver her out of the mouth of fiery dragons, and she shrieked every time we went under a bridge, and evidently believed herself to be in Hades the first time we found ourselves in a tunnel. That we should ever escape alive out of the paws of that horrible beast, the locomotive, was altogether beyond her hopes, and she regarded Phoebe and myself as innocent victims to a cruel and inevitable fate.
“Hech,” she said, on one occasion, when we were stopping at a station, “ if I iver coom oot o' this alive I'll niver tempt t gude Lord again, I'll niver go braving Providence nae mair ! When we prayed in t kirk ‘for a' that travel by land and by wather,' I niver thocht it wur like this. But t gude Lord niver meant people to gae fleeing thro' t air o'thissens. Why, we're travelling by land an' by wather, an' by air an' by fire-by a' the fower ilimints at ance!”.
“A’ fower ?” said Martin, puzzled. “Why, auld woman, how d'ye mek that out?”.
“Why, man, we're fleein ower land, an' thro' t air, an' by steam, which is med oop o' fire an’ wather. An' it's varra praysumptious to my thinkin' mekin' a new ilimint that the Lord His sel niver thocht it gude to create ; it's jist tellin' Him that He didn't do a’ He might ha' dune. An' then takin' His ain gude fire an' wather to mek it wi'! An' there'll cam'a joodgement on the land, an' we shall be like the nations t' auld prophets flyted aboot; what ye read in the Buk o' Advent Sundays, ye ken, vicar. Awfu' grand they chapters be, and varra foine to listen to, sae long as we're not in the joodgements our ainsels."
At last we came near London. Of course we thought we were in it long before we actually reached it. We four from Waterhead looked at each other in sheer amazement; we had never dreamed of 80 many houses in one locality.
“Oh! what a big place London is,” gasped Phoebe.