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bairn; not the least bit o'shame ; ye niver need be 'shamed for father or mither; ay, remember that, laddie, o'ny say nowt aboot 'em till reaight time comes, as come it maun, when ť gude Lord has warked His will. Just be content, laddie, and larn yer buik and play yer games like ither bairns. T marchioness 'll be wantin' to see you and Phæbe t' morn, na doot.”
“ How long have you known the marchioness?” I asked, willing to change the subject.
“ Iver sin' she were that high," replied Martin, with his hand on the table.
“Is she old, grandfather?"
“ Hoot! auld, indeed! No, she's yang and bonnie, bonnier than any lassie I iver saw in a' my life—bonnier na her mither afore her, and she were reckoned t' greatest beauty in a' Wensleydale. Why, t' marchioness were but a bairn hersel' when her first bairn were born-just a slip of a girl, scarce siventeen; she were'ower yang to marry,' as the auld sang says; but my Ailie were na' aulder. It's t'
way o'tlasses, Hughy; t' li'le birdies canna bide safe at hame in † auld ness; they maun flee awa’ and mate and build nesses o' their ain. Ilka lassie maun ha' her laddie; but Margery and me we bided lang, till we'd gotten ripe an' prudent, and kenned the 'sponsibilities o' life. Dinna wed in haste, Hughy; many a braw laddie weds in hot haste, and after, when it's too late, he's fain to greet, for thinking on what a fule he's med of himsel. A lassie suld be twenty-five afore she's wed, an'a laddie fu' thirty; they do na’ ken their ain moinds afore that. A mistake that ye canna set reaight is aye twofullest mistake.”
I thought it probably might be so; but the matrimonial question was not yet sufficiently interesting to engage my attention, and presently Margery came down, and Rebecca laid the table, greatly to her mistress's astonishment, and to my unfeigned satisfaction. The absence of table decencies at Waterhead had troubled me greatly ever since I had begun to dine occasionally with the vicar, who would as soon have thought of setting down without knife and fork as without damask tablecloth and napkin; and the
napery” was always white as snow, for his wife had been a Musgrave, who brought with her a good “plenishing," and Dame Foster was a conscientious housekeeper, and looked well to her master's properties.
Of course we had got in no provisions, but an excellent cold supper was served, and both Martin and Margery ate game-pie with a relish. I was allowed to sit up and partake with them ; indeed, the strict control which they had hitherto exercised seemed in some sort to have been relaxed ever since that eventful Saturday night, when I had been tempted to eavesdropping on the old stair. head. We soon went to bed—I in the “gate chamber," as it was called, because it was over the archway of the gate; and it was a grand room-spacious, lofty, and, as it seemed to me, splendidly furnished. I lay on a huge oaken four-post bed; I knew afterwards that it was the. Lady Dorothea's own couch, and I thought I was going to lie awake all night, but youth and fatigue quickly triumphed, and ere the church clock chimed the first quarter after ten I was fast asleep and dreaming of my old haunts at Eaglesmere.
CHAPTER VI.-MR. DUCKETT'S CONFIDENCES. The Marchioness did not send for us on the morrow, as Martin had predicted, and I fancied he seemed disturbed and disappointed. Suddenly released from the labours of his vocation, the old man felt out of his element, and especially was he chagrined as Sunday approached, knowing that he was to take no responsible part in the services, and envying the person whom he had fixed upon as most likely to occupy the vacant post of parish clerk at Eaglesmere.
The fact was no one occupied it. Mr. Gibson said nothing to Martin before his departure, and he received in silence all the hints which tended to recommend a successor, for he had fully made up his mind that a clerk in a church was a very unnecessary official, and under certain circumstances an incubus, threatening to become a nuisance; and he quietly resolved when Martin sent in his resignation that his parishioners should henceforth respond and say “Amen” for themselves. But Martin would have been so shocked and so grieved at the idea of so important a personage being pronounced a supernumerary that the vicar kept his counsel, and said not a word about the matter till he returned to Eaglesmere.
It was on Friday that we reached Dovercourt, and all day on Saturday we were busy enough getting the newly constituted household into decent order, and expecting the summons to the Castle, which never came. There was not much to be done in the house itself, for it was beautifully clean and neat, and Rebecca had scrubbed all that could be scrubbed, and polished all that could be polished, and not a particle of dust was anywhere. Nevertheless there was unpacking to be attended to, and Margery had special views of her own as to the arrangement of certain propertiesviews which the damsel Rebecca did not share, all her housewifely habits being framed on principles essentially different from those which regulated her mistress's ideas. It was decidedly a case of “ North and South," and it was easy to foresee that there would be battle-royal presently. I determined to give in my adherence
to Rebecca, and to influence Martin in the same direction; for the new Southern régime was delightful to my tastes, which had never accorded with those of the excellent but decidedly rough-and-ready Margery Wray. Margery rejoiced in confusion, and though really as industrious and hard-working a woman as any in the dales, she strongly objected to what she held to be fastidiousness and superfluous order. She could not bear taking trouble—“takin' tent" was her expression—where it was not needed, and when things were once cleaned and made to shine she expected them to last nice and bright for many days, if not for weeks afterwards. To use china tea-cups and glass tumblers, and to clean knives and forks every day, seemed to her in the last degree finnical and unnecessary, and I could see that Rebecca's well-furnished and conveniently arranged kitchen would soon be a source of serious altercation. At present granny was too much subdued and awed at the grandeur of her new abode and too tired with her long journey to presume to interfere or to make alterations; but as soon as she began to feel herself at home her scruples would disappear, and it would be far otherwise.
The garden was beautiful and in perfect order; the small lawn was of the finest turf and well trimmed, the borders were gay with autumn flowers, and, as there had not yet been any frost to speak of, the bedders-chiefly scarlet geraniums, golden calceolarias, and deep blue lobelias—were still in all their glory. There were also plenty of late roses, a few choice dahlias, and china-asters, and everywhere the fragrance of mignonette. We were astonished, having never seen anything like it before, for in those days “ bedding-plants" had not begun to be the rage. Only the rich and great knew anything about them, and middle-class people and all the humbler folk of course, were quite contented with the common flowers of the season—hardy perennials, or the stereotyped annuals, which were sown every spring to flower in due course, and die down sooner or later in the autumn. There was a nice little kitchen garden, too, well stocked with winter vegetables and fruit trees, at sight of which Phoebe and I exulted, thinking of what awaited us when another summer came. There was a grape vine at one end of the house and an old, profusely bearing jargonelle round the corner; there was another tree we could not name, though Martin thought it was “a sort o'plum,' but Rebecca said it was an apricot, and generally bore well. The strawberry bed looked healthy; there were bees under a south wall, and, grandest of all, there was a small, well-stocked greenhouse, which actually sent Margery into raptures, so that she ceased to bewail the loss of her sickly geraniums, and her persistently phlegmatic arums and cacti, which had been presented with all due solemnities to a neighbour who was reported to have “great luck with plants and herbs." Her floral treasures reconciled her more than anything else to the changes which had befallen her.
In the evening Mr. Duckett came, and we heard all the news. Late on the night before, the marquis had brought home some friends; he had returned quite unexpectedly from Scotland, and the marchioness, of course, had been particularly engaged. All had been bustle and confusion at the Castle during the day, and Mr. Duckett himself had been unusually busy, but the marquis would be off again in a few days; he did not like Dovercourthe never had liked it; he preferred his shooting-box in the Highlands, or his lodge in Snowdonia, or his place in Gloucestershire, or his house in town, or Paris, or Homburg, or Norway, or his yacht, or anywhere in fact, to his stately ancestral Castle of Dovercourt.
Now, my lady loved Dovercourt, and never left it if she could avoid it, and always came back again as soon as ever she could. She very seldom accompanied the marquis in his rambles, but stayed at home with her children, and occupied herself with her flowers; for she was passionately devoted to horticulture, and to her schools, which were famous all over the country.
The marquis let her do exactly as she liked, Mr. Duckett told us, and she never interfered with any of his pursuits, and always entertained his guests cordially, though her own tastes led her rather to shun than to court society. Yes, they got on very well together for people of rank, Mr. Duckett further said, in reply to some remark of Margery's; but they had not much in common; and he thought they agreed all the better because they were frequently separated, and met only at long and very uncertain intervals.
“ Had not the marquis been much at Dovercourt lately?” Martin inquired.
Mr. Duckett reflected.
“ Well, when I come to think of it, Mr. Wray, this is the first time he has been here this year. He was away in France all the winter-sometimes in Paris, sometimes in the provinces. In the spring he came to London, and my lady did go up to town for two or three weeks in the height of the season, but she came back not very well. The fatigues of society don't suit her ; she is not to call strong-my lady-indeed I may say few ladies of quality ever are. My lord stayed on in town, and then went off with a party to Scotland; he was going somewhere else in October, but he was not expected at Dovercourt till Christmas, and the chances were ten to one, we all thought, that he would not come then. However, news came yesterday afternoon that he was on the road, with half a dozen of his friends; an express arrived while I was here gossiping with you. When I went back I found the servants flying about, and Mrs. Miller, the housekeeper, quite flustered; and Mam'sell Sophie said my lady was put out-not that she didn't want to see my lord, of course, but she's not fond of surprises, and she does not like visitors coming promiscuous at an hour's notice. I went myself to tell her you were all safe here, and she received me very graciously, and hoped Mr. and Mrs. Wray were not excessively fatigued, and that the children were quite well. She looked pale, did my lady, as if she had been disturbed in her mind, but she was kind and condescending as she always is. It was very thoughtful of her now, asking about you children,” continued Mr. Duckett, turning suddenly to the corner where Phæbe and I sat together. “There's many a grand lady wouldn't concern herself about the children or grandchildren of their old servants; they'd know nothing about them, or if they had ever known them they would no more think of them or remember them than they would think of or remember all the kittens that the cat has had. But my lady is one in a thousand, as I daresay you know well enough, Mr. Wray, having served her years agone, before she was married, I reckon; my lady was a Miss Grahame, I'm told ?”
“Yes, a Miss Grahame. Phoebe, my bairnie, isn't it time ye went to bed ?”
“Miss Phæbe and her brother are not at all alike," remarked Mr. Duckett, looking from me,I had an olive skin, dark eyes, and curly, black hair—to the blue-eyed, golden-headed little maiden, fair as any lily. “I suppose one favours the father, and the other the mother.”
“Hugh and Phoebe are not brother and sister,” replied Martin, quietly, puffing at his pipe. “This is Hugh Travis, and this is Phæbe Milner.”
“Oh, indeed, neither of them Wrays—both of them daughters' children ? It's a pity when a respectable old name isn't carried on. Now, I'm the last of the Ducketts at present, but I hope when I die I shall leave more of my name behind me, for the Ducketts are a good sort, such as you don't meet with any day. Poor children! Both orphans, Mr. Wray?”
Martin puffed vigorously but silently for a minute; then he replied, Ailie, li'le Phæbe's mother, died five years agone, and she were the last o' our bairns ; yes, a' our bairns are in the Kingdom noo. Please t' gude Lord we'll gang to 'em, for they canna come to us na mair."
“And the fathers—both dead ?” inquired the persistent Mr. Duckett.