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reaight glad I am that t Lord does ken what is in me, and sees not as man sees. An' as He unnerstan's me sae much better na ye, I'd best gang to Him, an' I'm reddy an' willin' when He ca's, for I'm nae wanted here, an' my ain auld man, t' father o' my bairns as are a' in heaven, doesna care gin he sees my place empty. Wae is me, but it's a weary warld.”
“Come, come, auld wifie,” replied Martin, a good deal softened, and his own voice a little shaky, “ye tak’ me wrang, ye do; an' to spak' plain truth, the which owt to be spaken always, I'm afeard that I let my tangue git t' mastery o’ me oft-times. But dinna think I wish ye awa', lassie ; it'll be a sair day when ye are ta'en fra' my side gin ye do gang furst. Lave off greetin', and let's be blithe as birds, for I ken weel ye'll be reaight happy at Dovercourt; an' I'll mind my promise, an' git ye carried to yer ain folk when yer time comes."
And then the pair had a reconciliation, as they usually had after a quarrel, and the burst of tears and passion had evidently done Margery good. It had cleared the air like a thunderstorm, and we knew that now, for a season at least, all would be sunshine, and we might venture upon promiscuous remarks, without running the risk of giving mortal offence and being fatally misunderstood.
It was a lovely September day, and the coach took us through some fair scenes such as I had never dreamed of. For I had been used all my life to a wild country, to rugged, scarred cliffs, and lonely fells, and rushing torrents; and here were only low green hills, smooth, shining brooks or rivers that meandered through rich, park-like meadows, studded with many noble forest trees. The corn was all reaped, while we had left ours not yet ready for the sickle, but enough of crops of one sort or another remained to show how fertile was the soil. As we got deeper and deeper into the true Southamshire country we saw pretty villages nestling under the chalky hills upon our left; cottages in the midst of teeming gardens and fruitful orchards; hedge-rows already glowing with scarlet hips and crimson haws and shining privet berries. Our blackberries, or bramble berries as we called them in the North, were not half ripe when we came away. Only the day before we set out I had rejoiced as over great spoil because in a sunny, sheltered nook I had found for Phæbe a full spray-six or seven goodsized, juicy, jet-black berries, all waiting to be gathered and eaten, and here they hung in tempting clusters on every bush. I could have pulled a handful in a very short time I was certain ; and then we saw hazel nuts, and great walnut trees, and rosy-red apples and golden pippins thick upon the branches. The land had a well-todo aspect, the very reverse of that about Eaglesmere, which might be and really was extremely picturesque, but by no means profitable, and requiring a great deal of cultivation in order to ensure a very small return.
“Didna I tell ye it was a land flowin' wi' milk an' boney?” said Martin, exultingly. "It's a reaight gude land, Margery, my woman. Look at t kye stannin' reddy for ť milkin' pails, and a’ t cotters has their bees, and flocks o' sheep upon t' open ground yonder; an' there's bin plenty of the gowden corn cut down here I'se warrant, an' them barns be filled to overflowin' nae doot. Eh! it's a gradely land, and we'll do weel here, Margery, my lass.”
And Margery replied, “Happens we sall, happens not. It'll be as t gude Lord gie's His blessing; but I canna feel sure as 'twas the Lord as ca’ed us South, and we're ower auld folk for sic gret changes.”
And so the coach went on, and once or twice we saw grand houses, and I wondered if we were coming to Dovercourt. It grew to afternoon, and the sun's slanting rays on the changing woodlands showed all manner of brave hues among the trees. The green and russet of the oak, the deeper green of the firs, the gorgeous dyes of the horse-chestnut, the pale emerald of the lime, and the tawny glories of the beech, mingled gorgeously on the hillside, and in the meadow pastures, and in the lordly parks we passed upon our way; and every now and then we saw a mountain ash, its coral berries all aflame in the rich sunset light, or a virginiancreeper trained over some cottage gable, or in front of some roadside inn, and burning like an oriflamme; or we gazed on autumn flowers still radiant with beauty in well-kept gardens, such gardens as I had fancied existed nowhere but in story-books, till at last we reached the top of a hill, and there below us, at several miles' distance, yet as it seemed almost at our feet, were the broad blue waters of the English Channel.
“ The sea! the sea!” I cried, springing to my feet so suddenly as to endanger my equilibrium. If I had been on the other side of Martin, where I had very much wanted to sit, I must have tumbled off the coach, which just then gave a great swerve as it answered to the drag while the horses began the descent rather franticly. Nothing happened, though the coach rocked rather wildly now and then; but we had a splendid team, and our coachman knew very well what he was about—the very way he handled the reins and flourished the whip gave one confidence. Even Margery was not frightened as we dashed down into the village of Dovercourt at express speed, for this was the way she assured us that God intended us to travel. He gave horses to draw coaches and waggons, and it was sheer presumption, or something worse, trying to do without them, and flying along by steam.
Yes, this was really the sea, the wide, glittering, restless blue waves stretched before me, and on either hand, as far as ever I could gaze, till they melted into the dim horizon of pale, azure, and golden sky. Ah! this was something like. How different from the shallow pools, and the wet, sandy plains I had looked on at Carnforth and Hest Bank, and with the sight of that great waste of rolling waters came the thought of my father, and I felt as if I were going to be brought in some way nearer to him, and a thrill of pleasure passed over me as I remembered that I was Captain Vassall's son.
In a few minutes we were in the village street, and the coach stopped at the “Dovercourt Arms," a very respectable, quaintlooking inn, but with a rustic air about it that struck us far from unpleasantly after our London hotel experiences. How strange it seemed to me then, how familiar it afterwards came to be, that long, low, stuccoed house, with its casement windows, its bannerlike virginian-creeper, and its wealth of autumn roses mantling its white walls ; and swinging over the principal entrance was a heavy signboard, on which were emblazoned the arms of the noble house of Dovercourt,—“ a varra queer-lookin', uncanny sort o' picture,” Margery called it, “and varra heathenish.”
Lounging in the doorway was an important-looking person, in what I had learned in London to know for livery; he had on silk stockings and knee-breeches, and bright buckles in his shoes, and he had a gold band round his hat. In one hand he held a pair of delicate-tinted kid gloves, in the other a cigar which he removed from his lips in order to address the coachman, with whom he seemed on terms of intimacy. I, profiting by my brief London experiences and a lesson or two from the vicar, had a strong suspicion of what he really was. Martin was puzzled, and both Margery and Phæbe curtseyed, believing they saw the marquis himself in all his glory.
The stately creature presently lisped out, “Aw say, coachee, ’ave you brought a gentleman and lady answering to the name of Wray? Because if you 'ave you 'ad better introjuice them to me, My lady sent me down to see them safely to the Gate-house."
“I am Martin Wray,” said my grandfather, coming forwards, and trying to speak with a Southern accent, “an' I'm much obligated to ye, Mr., Mr.; I dinna ken yer name, that is, I don't know it, ye ken ; an' to yer noble mistress, the marchioness.”
Martin's endeavour to drop his native dialect and to assume a proper Southern pronunciation was, it must be confessed, rather a failure, and that our new acquaintance should turn down the corners of his mouth to conceal a smile was not at all surprising.
6 Dinna ye
“My name is Mr. Duckett, Mr. Wray,” replied the gentleman, condescendingly, “Mr. Samuel Duckett, at your service, and I'm 'appy, sir, to make your acquaintance, and also that of Mrs. Wray," and, turning graciously to where I stood, holding Phoebe's hand and grasping one of Margery's bundles, “and of Master Wray and Miss Wray, I presume."
“I felt very angry at hearing myself called Master Wray. Nothing annoyed me so much as being taken for a Wray ; but it amused me mightily to hear Martin and Margery styled Mr. and Mrs. I had never before heard any sort of prefix applied to the name of Wray except that now and then some of the poorer neighbours used to call Margery " Dame.” I think Margery hardly knew herself under her new title. I was just going to disclaim the patronymic with which I had been favoured by Mr. Duckett when Martin, who had been watching me keenly if not anxiously, bade me hush.
“ Whisht, laddie, whisht !” he whispered to me. say nowt noo. Least said sunest mendit, ye ken.”
Of course I submitted, but how any harm could possibly come of my correcting so simple a mistake was more than I could divine. I began to puzzle over it in my usual “queer” fashion, but forgot it again when Mr. Duckett announced that the omnibus was in the inn-yard, and that he was to have the great pleasure of escorting us to the Gate-house. He also informed us that certain properties, which had been forwarded from Eaglesmere per waggon and goods train, had duly arrived, and that we should find all things in order and readiness, and only have to sit down and take possession.
“ And my lady," he added, “ was going down to the Gatehouse herself before dinner to see that all her commands had been obeyed. You served my lady well in her youth, I'm given to understand ?"
“Ay, ay,” said Martin, briefly, and relapsed into silence. The omnibus came out, and into it we all got, our luggage being heaped on the top of the vehicle, which I soon discovered was not at all like the huge pro bono publico machines we had stared at in London. This was a roomy but very comfortable private conveyance, belonging to the marquis, and pretty freely used by the upper servants whenever they required it. It was only called an omnibus, because it resembled in shape, though scarcely in size, the modern constructions with which we are now so familiar, and which are rationally named since they provide accommodation for all who can afford to pay the modest fare, and are literally at the service of the public.
CHAPTER V.—THE GATE HOUSE. The omnibus rattled away fast enough when once it started, and now we were fairly on the last stage of our long, long journey. I have been half over the world since those days, but no journey by land or by water, in city or in desert, has seemed to me so long and so eventful as that first wonderful journey of mine from a border county down into the South. It did not last long, however, this final stage of all; we turned out of the village street, and made a circuit of about half a mile, skirting the park railings; then all suddenly we came to an old lichen-covered grey wall hung with ivy, and tufted with ferns and moss and long wreaths of the elegant Linaria. Then there was a beautiful old gateway of fendal aspect, with a house attached to it, growing out of it, so to speak; and here we stopped, and our wanderings were over. This was the Gate-house, and we were at home. Compared with the humble little tenement at Waterhead this was a mansion. I even doubted for one moment whether we had not been brought by mistake to the Castle itself, so grand and imposing looked the ancient, grey, battlemented house, overshadowed by noble trees, and entirely covered on one side with noisette roses, and creepers of various kinds.
“ This is it, ma'am," said Mr. Duckett, alighting and gallantly offering his services to Margery, who, besides being chronically stiff in the joints, as it is the nature of old people to be, was tottering and feeble from excitement and fatigue, and necessarily cramped, as indeed we all were by being huddled up on the back seat of the coach so long. If Margery had trusted to her poor old spouse, I believe they would both have rolled over together, for Martin, in spite of his greater youthfulness, was nearly as much exhausted as his wife, and I began to think there was not much appreciable difference between seventy-two and seventy-four.
But Mr. Duckett, greatly to Margery's astonishment and to her indignation as well, took the old lady in his arms, and lifted her from the omnibus, clear of the steps, and set her down within the great archway as easily and gently as if she had been a baby.
The dear old woman's face grew red.
“ I tell ye what,” she began, as Mr. Duckett placed Phæbe by her side;
“I dinna ca’ that manners; na'man but my ain gude man as wedded me i' kirk iver put his twa arms aboot me afore ! it's not t’ way we treat women folk i' our counthry.”
“ Hoot, woman!” cried Martin, in disdain ; “ dinna clatter sae; I could na' hev lifted ye a' that gate, though I'm na' sae auld as ye; I'm na' sae yang as ance I was, and I'm varra much obligated to ye, Mr. Duckett. Niver moind my wife ; she maun wag her