« ElőzőTovább »
not where or who; only they told me of another life far, far away, of which I knew not anything! And so my father went to sea, dear lady?"
“Yes; and he had great trials, as many a friendless lad in such a situation always has. Twice he sailed with cruel, wicked captains, and suffered dreadfully, and once, when he refused to join in a mutiny, the sailors set him ashore on a little desert island, hundreds of miles from the mainland, where he lived for some months on fish, and roots, and such poor food as he could find. By degrees he rose, as such patient worth as his is sure to rise ; but his health had been injured by long exposure and scanty fare, during his Robinson-Crusoe life on the island, and severe illness disabled him more than once, and kept him back from promotion otherwise inevitable; also, a patron of his, a merchant whom he had served, and who had promised to befriend him, died suddenly. But at last he was appointed captain of a small trading-vessel, and had he lived to make another voyage he would have been appointed to a large and beautiful ship, which he had long aspired to command.”
“ And, tell me, please, did he ever see me? was he very fond of my mother?”
“He loved your mother more dearly than words can express. Never were two people happier than they. They were poor enough, but they cared so little about this world's pelf. They had a pretty little cottage near the sea ; it was scantily furnished, yet so pleasant, and the young wife did her best to make her tiny home cheerful and comfortable, and she succeeded. They were so content -so gay! They never fretted because so many things were quite out of their reach; but sometimes they amused themselves, like children, with planning a splendid mansion in beautiful grounds, which was to be built and magnificently furnished when the captain returned from his last voyage—a famous, wealthy man. Alas! his last voyage came soon enough, but he never returned from it, and his wife and child were left almost penniless."
“ But that was after I was born ?"
“ Yes; your father went to sea a few weeks after his marriage. It was a hard parting, but it could not be helped; and he came back only a few days before you were born. He was so proud of you, Hugh; so proud and so fond! Earnestly he prayed God that you might grow up a good man, an honour to your name, and a blessing to all around you! He stayed on shore till your mother was quite well, and then came the last parting. She did not know it was the last, or I think she would have died; but it was almost more than she could bear, that sad, sad, bitter farewell; and when he was gone the solitude was insupportable. But she had you, her little bonnie babe, and you were all her own to nurse and to tend. She bore you in her arms day and night, she carried you out, she watched by you sleeping, she never left you even for an hour, to another's charge. And you grew and prospered, and people stopped to admire you, and called you a beautiful child. Then you began to take notice, and to laugh and crow, and to make all those little noises which we fond mothers call talking; and what a long letter she wrote to your father one day, to tell him that baby's first tooth had come through, and that he was quite well, and growing stronger, and stouter, and lovelier every day! He never read that letter ; it got out to the Mauritius too late, and it came back again unopened. At length the time drew near when she might expect to hear of his return, and she was so happy, poor girl-everybody told her how pretty and blooming she looked, and what a noble little fellow was her baby; and every morning she thought, Before evening I shall know what day to expect the ship; it cannot be long now.' At last came—not a letter, but an old gentleman who knew Captain Vassall very well, and to him the first mate had written, begging him to break the news of his captain's death to the young wife at home. He could not bring himself, he said, to write to her the mournful tidings."
“Oh, my poor, poor mother; I wonder she could live. Why did she not die?
“We cannot always die when we are tired of life, my boy; it is well we cannot, for God knows best, and often He has blessings in store for us of which we know nothing, and there come to us such happy times as we in our blind anguish imagined were gone for ever. But for your mother I often think that it would have been better for her had she died, as she yearned to die, when her great grief overwhelmed her. But you were in her arms—his child, all that was left to her of the husband so beloved ; and for your sake she strove to live, for your sake she bore up, but, oh! with such a sinking, aching heart. Poor, poor child! she was little more than seventeen, Hugh, when she was widowed-left a widow in her eighteenth year."
“How long did she keep me with her ?
“Of that we will not speak; I have told you now all that it concerns you to know. We will speak as often as you like of your father when we are quite alone, only then mind; but of your mother do not let us talk.”
“And Martin and Margery took me when my mother deserted
The Marchioness drew her breath quickly, and a quiver as of pain passed over her sweet face. She put her hand to her side too, and I asked, “ Are you ill, dear lady ? "
“No, my child,” she replied, quietly, “ only a spasm, and it is
gone now. Do not
Do not say that your mother deserted you—and yet she did, God forgive her! But it was for your sake, and you were placed with Martin and Margery because they were to be trusted, and were good, kind-hearted people. But you have never been dependent upon them; you have never cost them one penny, though you owe them, and especially Martin, more than money can repay."
“I had no idea of that. I always thought that all I had came from Martin, yet I often wondered that they spent so much more on me than on themselves. I was allowed so many luxuries that they never thought of on their own account, and once I found out that Martin paid Mr. Gibson for teaching me. I said once to Martin that I was afraid I cost him a good deal, and he answered, • Never fash about that, laddie; you do not cost any more than you ought;' but he never said the money he spent for me was not bis own.”
“He was under strict injunctions not to say so; but now it is quite as well you should know it is your own money, and not Martin's, which is spent for you. Though still you will leave everything to Martin."
“My own money! I never thought I had any. Who gave it to
“Certain funds were placed at your mother's disposal, and she invested them for your benefit, securing them to you. But you were speaking of Mr. Gibson. Do you not wish to continue your studies ?”
I told the Marchioness how weary I was already of doing no lessons; and then she said :-“There is a very good grammar-school at Stoketon, only seven miles distant. Martin and I were thinking it would be good for you to be a weekly boarder there. The head master takes private pupils in his own house, and you could go on Monday mornings and come back to Dovercourt on Friday evenings, spending your Saturdays and Sundays at home always, and of course your holidays, which I know are pretty lengthy; for our rector's son is one of the scholars on the foundation. You will be paid for of course, and with your own money. Shall you like it ?”
I told her that I should like going to school very much, and that I wished for nothing better than to be able to study hard; but that I did not like the idea of seeing her so seldom.
“Every Saturday you will see me," she said, consolingly, as she played with my short, crisp curls; "you shall always come to me, or I will come to you ; that is, when the Marquis is not at Dovercourt, and he comes but seldom, for he does not like the place. But you will not forget, Hugh, that all that has passed is to be entirely between ourselves. You need not even tell Martin what
we have been talking about; and the more you think of me as your mother, the better I shall be pleased. Mother and son may have as many secrets as they please. Simply tell Martin that I told you that I knew your parents well, and speak to him about the Stoketon Grammar School."
Soon afterwards we took a short walk in the gardens ; then we had some tea together, Phæbe taking hers quite happily in the nursery, where she had quickly become quite at home. Then the Marchioness showed me some of her pictures and shells, and other beautiful things of which the rooms were full ; and just before dark Sophie walked back with us to the Gate-house, Phoebe chattering all the
way about the wonderful things in the Castle nursery, and about the doll's feast she and Lady Maude had made. Lady Olive and her governess were away on a visit. Martin asked me no questions, and I was glad to go to bed before my usual time, that I might be alone, and think my own thoughts without interruption.
CHAPTER XI.-MARGERY'S VICTORY. A few days after my visit to the Castle, it was announced to me that I was to go to school on the following Monday. Dr. Richardson had a vacancy in his house, which must be immediately filled up, as he had already received several applications from the parents of possible boarders; he would, however, decide in favour of the young gentleman in whom the Marchioness was interested, if he were transferred to his care without unnecessary delay. The opportunity was too good to be lost; there were not always vacancies in the head master's own house, and it was considered that te reside beneath his roof and under his special supervision were advantages to be secured at almost any price. So it came to pass that rather suddenly I was removed to Stoketon, and once more I commenced a new era of my life.
It seemed years since the memorable night I had listened to the discourse of the assembled conclave in the house-place at Waterhead; years since I had first heard of Dovercourt, and our probable exodus southwards; years since Martin had disclosed the project of our long journey beside the dying peats, while Margery nodded over her knitting needles! All the Eaglesmere life which had once been so intensely real had become shadowy as a dream, that fades and fades into nothingness, while one is vainly striving to recall it.
I found myself the youngest pupil in Dr. Richardson's house, and also one of the least advanced. Martin had signified his expectations that I should " take the shine out of some of them ;" but I was not foolish enough to believe him ; I knew very well
that the Stoketon and Eaglesmere standards could not be brought into comparison, and I had an uneasy notion that, in spite of Mr. Gibson, whose method was a trifle old-fashioned, I was by no
as boys of my age were supposed to be. I told all this to Martin the night before I went to school, and begged him to moderate his expectations, for I had a horrible conviction that I should be placed in the lowest form.
“ Hoot noo, laddie,” replied Martin, confidently; "ye're ower modest, ower modest. No but what modesty's an excellent thing in youth, as well as in woman folk; I do not want to mek ye
think too great things on yersel, Hughy, my bairn, but where's t' laddie o' your years as knows t' Church Catechism stretforrard, and dodging, as ye do, and the Catechism with Proofs as weel ? An' t' Psalms o' David ye can say reight oot, wi'out mistake, and t' story of Joseph and t genealogies. And dinna ye ken a' about t' wanderings o' children o' Israel in t wilderness, an' t names o' a' t' kings of Judah, and Israel, an' Assyria, not to spake o' New Testament history, which I reckon is mair commonly known among t' boys an' girls o' this contumacious and stiff-neckit generation ?
To which I replied—“ I am afraid I shall not be examined in the Church Catechism, nor in Old Testament history; I am afraid, too, such knowledge will be taken as a matter of course, as being what every well-brought-up child ought to know at a very early age. Don't fancy I shall get credit on that score, Martin."
“ Dinna ye put yer wisdom afore mine! I that her' been t’ parish clerk year in year out sae lang, sure-ly ought to know best. I wonder if there be any parish clerk at Stoketon ? "
“ I daresay not,” I answered, carelessly; "they are being dispensed with everywhere. Even Mr. Gibson, you see, refuses to nominate a fresh one. What is a clerk wanted for? The people ought to say the responses ; the minister is the proper person to give out the hymns and notices, and the organ leads the choir.”
Martin shook his head and groaned, then he said, “Noo, laddie, dinna ye gang ower t’ enemy! What's t' clerk for, d'ye ask? For many mair things than responses, an' notices, an' pitchin' o' tunes, which I never could do, not heving a partikarly musical ear! What's t' parson for? ’ll be next question ; an' then 'll follow, What's ť' Church for? T clerk, like t parson, has manifold dooties, which canna be declarit; there's his example in t' parish at large ; his solemn deportment in his sacred office; his counsel as bein' next person to t' clergyman; his warnins to evil-doers; his influence generally, which in a place where he's weel kenned an' weel respectit, as I wur at Eaglesmere, canna be ower-rated Hech, Sirs! but it's an ungodly age! an' furst ane gude institootion an' then anither gangs to t' wall, an' is debolished; an'