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"But I always counted you as my sister, Phæbe," I said to her, "and I always shall. Think how long we played together, and how we got into scrapes together. Don't you remember the disgrace we got into the very last time we went to the Fairy-spring Chine together ? That was only a year and a half ago.”
“A year and a half makes a great difference. I was a child then. And I do not like assumed relationships; I do not want a makebelieve brother!” And she tossed her pretty flossy curls and bridled again. I wondered if the Misses Primrose, at whose select seminary Phæbe was being “ finished," taught bridling as an accomplishment, and whether it was included, or charged as an
extra.” I am inclined now to believe that it came naturally, as it often does to little women when they want to assert themselves.
“Very well, Phæbe,” I answered, turning away. “I will not trouble you again.
I will be sure to remember that you are Miss Milner, and no kith or kin of mine. Though if ever you want a brother for the sake of old times, and for the sake of those whom we both love and honour, come to me,
my sister again.”
“An' she'll sune be biding her lane," said Margery, dolefully. "I'll nae bide lang mysel' when my gudeman ha' ganged awa'. Auld folk as hev bin wed sae lang canna be lang pairtet. Na, na ! I'll sune be after ye, Martin, my ain mon!”
I had finished my repast now, and Rebecca, with a steaming can in hand, hustled me off to my own room. “Never you mind her, Master Hugh,” she said, impressively. “She's just a silly boarding-school miss, full of stuck-up nonsense and sham gentility. Don't she mince her words, and walk like a pussy-cat crossing a wet floor? and don't she flounce herself about scornful like? An' she won't do a hand's turn in the house, for all she's come home to a house of affliction ; she's afraid of spoiling her soft white hands. “Niver mind muckying yer bands, lass; they'll wash if they're nae made o' some cheap trashy stuff, like the muslins as are na' warrantit,' says the missis; but Miss Phæbe, she just dips her fingertips into things, and touches everything as if it was poison. She's got a piano now, but she can't play it because of master, and what else to do she does not know. She goes into master's room, rustling her flounces, and says she, 'I hope you are better, grandpapa. Shall I read the
Read the paper to a man that is taken for death! But master only stares vacant, what missus calls 'glowers' at her, and says no word, and all his cry is for you.”
“And I am anxious to go to him; so run away, Rebecca. You can tell me more about Phæbe another time. I want to dress now."
I made a hasty toilet, thinking all the while how strange it
seemed to be once more at the Gate House, and in my own Gate chamber, where I had dreamt so many boyish dreams, both waking and sleeping. There was the grand old four-poster, with its heavy faded hangings, the large oriel window, and Lady Dorothy's Venetian coffer, just as I had left them on that bright summer morning eighteen months before. Just the same they were ; the very curtains lay in their accustomed folds; some fir-cones, relics of Eaglesmere, still remained on the high carved mantelpiece, the same eerie shadows filled the room, which my one poor flickering tallow candle lighted most inadequately, and I could hear the tossing of the bare branches without and the low sough of the night wind in the tur. rets and under the gables of the old house, and in the pine wood close at hand; and I paused a moment to listen to that deep voice afar off, that grand, hushed monotone that always awoke the echoes of my heart, and made me think of my dead father—the distant sound of the waves rising and falling in measured chime on the dark deserted shore.
Heidelberg and Paris seemed like fragments of a dream. the Schloss Wanterfels real? Had I ever really talked to Mrs. Craven of Cravenshaugh? Had I actually listened to that strange story of Professor Rigg's on the summit of Ruprecht's Tower ? Had I been in London that morning ? Had I breakfasted by gas, light in Bedford Square? If Phoebe were changed, I was changed too; I was not the same Hugh Vassall who had spent so many peaceful hours in that chamber. A new life had sprung up within me; that which I had been I could never be again, and I gave a sort of sob as I thought of the old, happy, innocent times that would come again no moreno more. And the wind in the tree. tops, and the low, sad thunder of the sea, seemed to echo, No more-no, never, never more.
CHAPTER XXIV.-"FAITHFU' AND SURE.” I went straight to Martin's room when I left my own chamber. The old man lay on his bed, propped up with pillows, and his wife kept watch in an arm-chair at his side. Inexperienced as I was I saw at a glance that the band of death was upon him. He did not seem to notice my entrance, and yet I was sure he was not asleep. His eyes were only half closed, and his bands were loosely joined upon the counterpane; neither did he breathe as one who slumbers.
“Is he sensible?" I whispered to Margery, after I hal looked at him for several minutes.
“Weel, my laddie,” she replied, "I dinna reightly ken. Whiles he brightens oop wonderful, and whiles he sinks awa' intil a stupor belike;
he's that way noo ye see. A'ť mornin' lang he was as
peart as peart, and kep' ca’ing for you—for Hugh, for his ain dear laddie, for the captain's son. But sin' it grew mirk he ha' bin varra quiet; I thocht the glint o'ť candle wad rouse him, but he didna seem to notice it. I'll spake till him, Hugh.' Here's our ain laddie Hugh cam to see us, Martin, my mon. Hevn't ye a word for the bairn who ha' cam ower seas to us? Ye speered for him eneuch yestreen; ye speered till I was that wearifu' I could ha' grat, and noo he's here."
The pale eyelids quivered and the ashy lips moved, but there was no sound; yet I felt certain he recognised my presence. I bent over him and touched his hand, and the cold, passive fingers trembled slightly. Then I kissed his forehead, and he heaved a deep sigh like one awaking from troubled sleep.
"Grandfather," I said, using the old familiar appellative, “I am here; I came directly I knew you were ill. Do you not know
Then he slowly opened his eyes, and I was surprised to see how bright and clear they still were, though the eyelids seemed almost too heavy to upraise.
“Eh ! my laddie,” he said, in low but distinct tones, “I kenned ye wad cam as fast as yan steam-horses could bring ye, my laddie, that was aye gude to me, an' that I teachit when he were a bairnie. Weel, Hugh, my dear, how are ye? Ye've growed taller and grander to luke at i' that freemd country ower seas.
Ye see, laddie, I've gotten my ca’; it's me that maun gang first, forbye I am twa years yanger than my auld woman, but she'll cam quick after me, wunner ye, Margery?'
“ Indeed I will, my mon,” she replied. “I'll not stay lang after ye. Whatten suld I tarry for? When twa leaves ha' growed togither out o' ane stem sae mony years, ye canna pluck out ane and lave t'other, for theer's only ane heart for the twa. Ye wunna be lang i' t' kingdom, Martin, afore I cam t'ye.”
Her promise seemed to comfort Martin, and he told me to sit down by him and have a talk.
“Mebbe it's t' last crack we'il ha', laddie," he said, calmly," for I'm ganging fast. I'm jest waitin' for His ca', blessed be His holy name. He has kept me safe these threescore and eight years, an' I ha' served Him in luve these saxty years and mair. Noo, He says, I maun see His face and dwell wi' Him. Margery, my woman, gang doun a bit and talk t' puir lass Phcebe ; she bides her lane too much, an' leave me to Hugh."
Margery gave him his medicine, and his sup of broth with brandy in it. He had all his life been a singularly temperate man, seldom touching alcoholic drinks, though not a professed abstainer, and now a little stimulant acted as a powerful restorative.
“Hugh, laddie," he began, the minute we were alone, “there's a muckle I want to say till ye, but I doubt I ha'nať time nor ť breath nayther. But I maun say some things afore I dee; I was sair feared ye wad cam too late. Hugh, my bairn, I think I owt to tell ye who ye really are and who's your
mither!” “I know, I know,” I interrupted, eagerly. “Oh! grandfather, I know all about it; the Marchioness of Dovercourt is my own mother, and she was Captain Vassall's wife."
“ She was that, Hugh. And she was the mother that bore ye and nursed ye at her breast. But how could ye ken certainly? Ye might guess, but guessing is na'kenning, an' ye spake as if ye kenned a aboot it.”
“I do. Grandfather, did you ever hear of a man at Rosthwaite named Rigg?”
“Rigg ?-Rigg ? Let me see. Ay, to be sure-yes, Rigg-a wee, weany, wizzened-faced man, but a gude man too an' a gret scholard. He was born and bred at Rosthwaite, and he cam' back from foreign pairts soon after news reached of your father's death. He tuk gude tent for yer mither, for a' Hughy, as the heaven is aboon us a'. I fear me that black-a-vised Marquis wad ha' deceived her, an' he could. He wad ha' putten her off with a fause marriage, -God forgie me if I wrang him! — but Rigg, he thocht the same, and he tuk tent that t marriage suld be streectly legal accordin' to Act o' Parlymint an' usage o' t' English kirk. He was a gude freend to yer mither, Hugh; he wad ha' been mair na' a freend, but she wadna listen to him; an' ye haseen him, ye tell
I told him how I had heard the story on the Rent Tower at Heidelberg,-a story in which no names were mentioned, and how I had at once comprehended who were the unnamed personages of the Professor's tale.
“ An' ye did na’ say that ye were t babe he spake of, t' babe growed unto a youth?”
“No, I kept my own counsel, and the Marchioness does not know that I ever heard the story. I treat her as a mother, but I have never called myself her son, never claimed her maternal solicitude. She must think I guess the truth ; she has all but said right out that my father was once her husband. It was all very well so long as I was a child, but I know now that a woman does not so worship the memory
of a man who was only her friend. Why, she will talk of him by the hour, and she talks as if there never was his like under heaven."
“He was a rare gude one, I do believe. I only saw him ance, an' I mind me he was a grand man, handsome as a pictur, and folk said as brave as a lion an' as trew as goold. His sailor-men well-nigh
worshipped him; they do say that when he de'ed ane o' his crew de’ed also for pure grief. She couldna’ tell ye he were better na’ he were, an' a' tales be trew."
Then I showed Martin my precious portrait, and though his sight was fast failing he could recognise the likeness. I told him, too, all that I knew of the strange bargain relating to myself, according to Professor Rigg's statement, and asked him if it were correct.
“It's as trew as t'holy Beuk; it's ivery bit trew. I'll tell I can, the way o' it. The Marquis wanted yer mither, an' whativer he might ha' meant i' his heart, he asked her to wed wi' him according to God's holy ordinance. She, puir lassie, said, ' Nae,' neething but nae; she couldna' abide t'thowto'ony second marriage; her heart was i' t' deep, deep sea. All t' men on t'face o' t' earth were naething to her. She was varra puir, for t Captain hadn't left much o' this world's gear. For hersel' she didna care; she wad have gane oot an' warked hersel' to ť bone to get a honest livelihood, or she wad have laid down to dee, and bin reight glad too. But she hed you, her bairn-and, what was mair, his bairn-in her arms, and for you she dreeded t' cauld, cruel grip o' poverty, for it's a waefu' warld to puir folk, an' she weel kenned that, puir Nellie. Weel, t' Marquis wadna' let her be; the mair she flouted him, the mair keen he was on having her. It's the way o'men; their mouths aye water for t apple on top o' tree, an' they care nowt aboot the braw pippin that's reddy to drop intil their hands. he, Helena'-he aye ca'ed her that, niver Nellie—Helena, gin you'll wed me I'll mek yer boy a rich man. He sall be a gentleman and hev a gentleman's estate; sure and ye canna staun i' yer ain bairn's licht.' There was much talk abune it, for the Marquis mnade conditions. I had heard naething, and I felt doited like when I heard a' what was to be.”
“ And what was to be ?”
“Ye were to have a hantle o'siller-inalienably, that was the word, I mind, for I lookit it oot in t dictionary. It meant as it could niver be took fra' ye when ance it were yours. T' lawyers set to wark, and they med ower to ye, a bit bairnie, a fine fortune, fit for ony gentleman's son. But yer mither swore—he wadna be contentit wi' her bare word-that she would niver claim
niver own you, and naebody was iver to know that she wasna’ Miss Helena Grahame when she married t' Marquis. Pairtly he was proud, and couldna thole that his wife suld ha' been a puir sea-captain's widow, and pairtly he was jealous o' the deid man and o' t' luve she bore his memory. How he quite persuaded her I dinna ken, I canna think; mebbe his grand name and bein' a leddy o' title helped win her. I wadna say; she was but a woman, and women aye luve grandeur and braw attire. It was like ť' auld sang, 'An'
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