SIR SAMUEL went for a long
drive the next morning, and did not take Amabel and Delia with him.
He went to a hotel in a town about twelve miles off, and there met a man
from a “private inquiry office,” — a man whom he had sent for from London.
He wanted to have a certain woman found for him. He
would give a handsome sum to those who could put her in communication with
him; and they might offer any sum that was necessary to induce her to
He began, of course, by giving her a wrong name.
Her name was Hannah Snaith; she was a widow. She was a
nurse when first he met with her, and after that she had lived nearly
twelve years as an upper servant in the family of his nephew, the Rev.
Felix de Berenger. She left clandestinely, and telegraphed to the
family many hours after her departure, to say that they need not expect to
see her again.
“Did she leave her place through any fault?”
He did not think so.
“Had she left anything behind her —books, clothes, letters?”
That he did not know.
“Well, Sir Samuel, if you should hear that a friend of Mrs.
Snaith’s is making inquiries about her in the village and at the rectory,
you will not be uneasy. Anything that I gather up you will learn of
me by letter from a distance, and nobody hereabouts will know that you had
anything to do with my inquiries.”
Sir Samuel then had his luncheon, and drove home again; but
before he reached his gates, a man, travelling by railroad, walked down
the village, and called at the back door of the rectory.
Mrs. Jolliffe opened it, and he asked for Mrs. Snaith’s
Mrs. Jolliffe was sorry she could not give it. Was he a
friend of Mrs. Snaith’s?
“Yes, he was very much her friend. He wanted to tell
her of something to her advantage. In fact, if he was not mistaken,
an advertisement would come out in the Daily Telegraph the next
day, setting forth that if Hannah Snaith, lately in the service of the
Rev. F. de Berenger, would apply to —, and certain friends named in the
advertisement, she would hear of something to her advantage.”
Mrs. Jolliffe was deeply interested “If you’d put it in an
Ipswich paper, now,” she observed, “instead of a London one, ‘twould have
been more likely to meet her eye.”
“You think so?”
“Yes, because she always took an Ipswich paper.”
Here was a valuable clue. Mrs. Jolliffe would by no
means have given it, if she had known that this man wanted to find Mrs.
Snaith, whether she would or not.
The man felt his way. “Ah, true, it would have been
better. An Ipswich paper? Which was it, I wonder? There
are mostly two, one on each side.” He seemed to be questioning more
with himself than with Mrs. Jolliffe. “When there’s a nice little
sum of money lying ready for her, it seems hard she should miss it, just
for the sake of not knowing.”
Mrs. Jolliffe asked him in; and out of a drawer in the
adjoining room forthwith produced several copies of the Suffolk
“She was a widow?”
Mrs. Jolliffe’s manner became cold and rather stiff.
“She was very respectable; I should judge she was a widow. But if
you are an old friend, I should judge you should know.”
“Did she leave anything behind her — clothes, letters, books,
or what not?”
“Yes, everything she had.”
“Could you let me see them?”
“Certainly not, sir, unless Mr. de Berenger knew of it.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t think of putting you to the inconvenience of
“You can keep the old newspapers, sir, if you like. Do
you think the money is coming to her from Australia?”
“Why should it?”
“Well, to be sure, she never said she had friends out there;
but, then, she was a close woman — wonderfully close.”
“Well ,“ — taking out a pencil — “I shall advertise for her
in the Ipswich papers, as you think she came from those parts.”
“I never said a word of the sort, sir.”
“But if her letters chiefly came from there?”
“If you’ll believe me, sir,” said Mrs. Jolliffe, “she never
had a letter from year’s end to year’s end.”
“It’s usual to put in the maiden name as well, in an
advertisement of that sort. Let me see — how did she spell it?“
“I thought you said you was an old friend,” said Mrs.
Jolliffe; “and you seem to know less about her than I do. Well, I
don’t rightly remember how she spelt it.”
The man looked angry. “I shouldn’t have thought you
would have stood in the light of your friend,” he said but he did not like
to ask what the name was.
Now, Mrs. Jolliffe was not very great at her spelling, but,
feeling herself reproved, she found a way out of her difficulty. “I
have no call that I see to go over every letter of it to you,” she
observed; “if I just tell you it was Goodrich, you may write it down
yourself and make the best you can of it.”
Having said this, she immediately felt angry with herself,
remembering afresh that it was odd this “old friend“ should not know more
concerning Mrs. Snaith.
“Then you think you cannot help me any further?” said the
man, blandly, but by no means intending to go.
“I don’t see but what you can find any woman by as much as I
have told,” said Mrs. Jolliffe, “if she wants to be found.”
“And why should she not want to be found?”
“How should I know? I never heard a word breathed to
her disadvantage,” said Mrs. Jolliffe, shortly. “I suppose you’ll
say next that I told you she wanted to hide herself.”
After this nothing prospered with the visitor. He soon
put Mrs. Jolliffe into a good temper again, and induced her to talk of
Mrs. Snaith, but she either could not or would not say any one thing that
was of the least use to him.
He went away, knowing, through Mrs. Jolliffe, no more than
this of Mrs. Snaith: that her maiden name was Goodrich, that she had no
correspondence even with her nearest relatives, and that she took in a
newspaper called the Suffolk Chronicle.
The copies of this paper which had been presented to him, had
all arrived during the time that Mrs. Snaith had been at the seaside.
After anxious scrutiny the man decided that there was nothing in them that
could help him, and he left the neighbourhood for the present.
Sarah de Berenger was to dine with the old baronet that
evening, as well as Amias. She entertained him as they drove over
with remarks on the sums of money that Felix gave away in his parish.
“I suppose he will never leave off while I live.”
“Of course I shall tie it up,” she continued.
“Tie what up, aunt?” said Amias, purposely not understanding
“Why, the property, of course. Felix is no man of
business. Yes! Dear fellow, he must let my house; and I shall
take care to leave all proper’ directions for his guidance in my will.”
“Do, when you make it, aunt! I don’t believe you ever
have made one yet,” said Amias, smiling.
“What!” exclaimed Sarah. “Never? What can you be
“You best know whether what I thought was correct,” answered
Amias. “And it is no business of mine.”
“I cannot imagine what put such an idea in your head.
“Oh, I always think so when people talk often of their
wills,” said Amias. “Why, there are the two girls walking in the
park, when it’s just dinner-time.”
“And why not?” answered Sarah. “There is a dinner-party
to-night, and of course they cannot be present; they are not out.”
So this was the occasion that he had pictured to himself in
such glowing colours. A family party of five. Sir Samuel
drawing out the two girls and delighting in their girlish talk — in
Delia’s little affectionate audacities, and Amabel’s sweet modesty.
He should sit and look on, and then afterwards, when they retired in his
Aunt Sarah’s wake, would come the great opportunity. He should be
left alone with Amabel’s grandfather, and should ask leave “to make
himself agreeable to this fairest creature. And she was not out —
not to sit at the dinner-table. Oh, what should he do? How
ridiculous his request would appear!
Sarah was placed at the head of the table, and a good many
guests were present, all, of whom seemed to Amias to be more or less
He was not to see Amibel, and nothing that Felix had said
produced such an effect on him as this proof of what the world thought
concerning his sweet little schoolgirl. But she would be in the
drawing-room after dinner. Yes, there she was, she and Delia, in
white muslin frocks and blue sashes; she certainly did look rather young,
among the young lady guests.
She and Delia were told to play a duet, and she was decidedly
shy about it.
“Poor Sir Samuel!“ murmured one stately dame to another.
The answer floated back to her so softly, that Amias wondered
it could reach him, though he alone of the guests was standing near.
“Lovely creatures! I think he has made up his mind. He will
introduce them, you’ll see.”
Amias heard this, and understood all that it implied, with an
almost unbearable pang. The deep disadvantage so slightly hinted at,
weighed his spirits down. Did every one take it for granted, then?
He had thought, when he thought about it, that their retired bringing up
had kept them out of all unkindly observation; he was bitterly angry with
their grandfather for the moment. Here they were for the first time,
and two women of rank, belonging to the chief families in the county, were
familiarly hinting at their supposed position, as if everybody knew all
For the first time in his life a kind of faintness and
giddiness oppressed Amias, that made him long for air. He stood
perfectly still for two or three minutes, gathering strength and
steadiness to move; then, just as he observed that his old uncle’s
attention was attracted to him, he turned toward the nearest window and
got out into the flower-garden. He walked quickly through it, amazed
to find that he was denouncing his uncle, and those ladies, and John de
Berenger, and his Aunt Sarah aloud; that his passion was quite beyond his
own control, and yet that he was trembling all over, even to the lips, so
that the angry words, that came thick and fast, were so confused that he
hardly knew them, any more than he did the husky voice for his own.
He got over that stage of feeling as he walked vehemently on.
This had been a stunning blow. And yet what was it more than Felix
had hinted at the previous evening? Oh, it was this more, — that
then they had seemed to have the subject all to themselves, as if it was
or might have been sacred from all other observation, and at least more
likely than not to yield comfort on investigation.
And now this painful thing had met with him in a
drawing-room, so gently, so dispassionately uttered, that it seemed to
admit of no denial.
Whether truth or fiction, it was a familiar opinion.
Lady Lucy did not doubt that Lady Anne would understand her allusion.
Lady Anne saw nothing dubious in the situation. As Sir Samuel had
been silent, was it not manifest that there was nothing to say? Not
that she thought so just then; the neighbourhood had settled the matter
So much for letting things drift. He almost put himself
in a passion again as he thought this over, and urged his way along the
straightest drive in the park, walking at the top of his speed as if to
get away from it. And how should he get away? He could not
bear to think she should ever know what was said. He would emigrate
with his darling; he would expatriate himself, that no disadvantage might
ever attach to her or to their children. But what if she should find
it out, and the thought should distress and sully her maiden heart?
How powerless he was! What should he do? He had
walked beyond the confines of the park before he came to himself.
His passionate emotion was over. He wondered at them all, at their
inconceivable inertness and obtuseness. Nothing had been said, as
was evident, and no awkward questions were ever asked; but these
circumstances ought alone to have been enough to show what was felt.
His heart bled. It would be better for him to give up
all hope. Sir Samuel was no fool; he did know, and know the worst.
He got back to the same open window that he had left, just as
the last carriage full of guests drove off in the mild summer moonlight.
Sir Samuel met him, seemed to have been waiting for him.
Servants were in the room, putting out the lights in the
chandeliers. One preceded them into Sir Samuel’s own study, carrying
a lamp. Amias sank into a chair, and the moment they were alone,
“What, in the name of Heaven, is the matter, Amias? You staggered
out of the room!” exclaimed Sir Samuel. “A walk at this time of
night, and such a walk — and now you look — What is it, my dear fellow?”
There was alarm and there was wonder in the voice.
“You are ill; you want some wine.”
“No, I don’t,” said Amias. “Let me alone, uncle.”
There was a knock at the door, and Sarah de Berenger came in.
Both she and Amias were to sleep that night at the hall. Sarah said
she wanted some letter-paper; the note-paper in her bedroom was not large
enough for her purpose. Amias was sitting listlessly, with hands in
his pockets, pale, and his great brown eyes wider open than usual; but the
shaded lamp made these circumstances less evident, or Sarah’s mind was
full of other things, for she scarcely noticed his presence. She
took a few sheets of paper and withdrew to her own room, and then and
there she made her will for the first and only time.
Amias put his hand to his throat; his lips were dry and
“What is the matter?” asked the old man, with sympathetic
“Matter!” repeated Amias. “Matter, uncle! You
have let me love Amabel and never told me.”
Sir Samuel gazed at him.
“How could you be so cruel!” he continued, in a husky voice.
“Not that it makes any difference. I would, I must have loved her
just the same, but you might have given me warning; I should have been
prepared.” He spread out his hands before him, as if to express his
Sir Samuel thought of his own morning interview at the hotel
with confused alarm. Could the man possibly have come back and told
He brought his nephew a glass of water from a carafe which
was standing on the table, and gave it to him with a trembling hand.
“What have you heard?” he muttered.
Amias mastered himself and told it.
Then Sir Samuel put himself into just such a passion as Amias
had done, and reddened to the roots of his white hair. He too
denounced everybody he could think of, but it seemed to Amias mere
bluster; the conviction had so thoroughly forced itself on him during his
walk that his uncle must have investigated everything.
“Only tell me what I have to hear at once,” he said, and was
amazed at himself when he heard a sound of sobbing, which he scarcely knew
to be his own, till he felt the hot tears splashing on his hands.
“I have nothing certain to tell, Amias, my boy,” said the old
uncle, almost piteously.
“What, all your investigations have been fruitless?”
“No, Amias — no; but till this morning (there seemed no
occasion) I never made any.”
“Then it was true what Felix said!” exclaimed Amias, with
scathing scorn. “You sat down in presence of this doubt, and grudged
the money to be spent on giving a name to your own granddaughter.”
He was choked here with both emotion and passion, but astonishment enabled
him to subdue the one and swallow the other, when the old man took out his
handkerchief and wept quietly, sitting opposite to him, and finding for
some moments not a word of answer.
“It’s true, Amias,” he said at last humbly and despondingly.
“I don’t understand how it was, but I did let things drift; only you must
remember I might have solved the doubt the wrong way. I might —”
This seemed to Amias now so more than likely, that it brought
him to reason again.
“Uncle, I beg your pardon,” he sighed out, for it distressed
him to see the old man so utterly subdued. “I had no right to be so
violent. The wrong you have done is not against me, but against
them, and against yourself. How could you know — sweet creature! —
that I loved her?”
“And it will be a great blow to my dear little girl if she
hears this opinion. She is a very modest girl, and very religious.”
“Yes, I know.”
“She will be greatly shocked if she hears that her mother was
a disgrace to her. But I hope for the best. She is almost a
child. There is ample time for the uttermost to be done that can be
done, Amias, before you can come forward; and though you have confided
your love to me, I hold you to nothing, considering the circumstances.”
“I meant to ask you for her,” said Amias; “and hoped to show
you that, though she was somewhat above me, I had reasonable hope of being
able to maintain her in comfort by the time she was old enough to bless me
with her hand. But if she is a poor little waif, that a man may take
and thank no father, but only God, for her, I desire no more of you than
that you take her and her sister quite away from this neighbourhood, and
put them to a good school, so that all knowledge that would be bitterness
to them is kept far away. In the mean time, I shall try to get
something to do abroad, in Canada, or — well, I hardly know where I can be
that ill news may not reach her. She may boast of her family, and
bring out the truth, but I’ll do my best.”
“It’s not the time to say that I should be well pleased, if
all proves right, to give her to you” — began Sir Samuel.
“Yes, it is, uncle,” interrupted Amias. “I feel more
glad of the regard that I know you feel for me, than I ever did before.
I know very well that you are the only human being that can truly
sympathize with me now.”
“And if there’s anything in reason, or not in reason, that I
can settle on her, to make it up to you“— and then he paused, suddenly
remembering the affair of the necklace.
“I don’t want anything,” said Amias, pointedly. “Spend
her fortune in finding me a good mother for her.”
Extraordinary as it may seem, this speech actually raised the
old man’s spirits. Though he knew that some of his descendants must
have his money, having to settle anything, even on his favourite Amabel,
during his lifetime, he could not contemplate without a pang. He
would have done it; but to be told it was not needed was balm.
Amias sat a few minutes, getting the mastery over himself and
recovering his manhood; but the side issue raised about the money had a
strange attraction for the poor old man.
“She has a trifle of her own already,” he said; “and people
are never the worse for beginning on small means.”
“And she has never been accustomed to luxury. Then you
have begun some investigations? What are they?” asked Amias.
Sir Samuel told him. But Amias wanted a mother, not a
nurse. He wanted an unimpeachable marriage register, and proposed
that such a sum should be offered as would have set every parish clerk in
the three kingdoms searching or forging; then he wearily gave it up,
remembering that, if it brought nothing else, it would bring the most
It was very late when the old great-uncle and Amias went,
each his way, to his own apartment. Sir Samuel spent a miserable
night, reviewing his own past conduct, wondering at himself, and not at
all aware that the instinct of avoiding all outlay of money was so strong
in him, that if parallel circumstances should occur, he would do the like
thing again, in spite of this warning. Amias had exhausted himself,
as much by exertion as by expression, and he slept profoundly.
He was just about to go down to break-fast the next morning,
when his aunt’s maid knocked at his door, and said Miss de Berenger begged
that he would go first to a little morning-room that she always had the
use of when she was at the hall.
He found his aunt there, and Sir Samuel. “Yes,” said
Sarah, looking very much flustered, and not a little important, “I wanted
you to witness the signature of this document for me, Amias — in short, my
Sarah’s will was such a joke in the family, that, in spite of
their discussion the night before, Sir Samuel and Amias exchanged amused
glances on hearing this.
She tossed back her curls. “Yes, and Peach” — Peach was
her old maid —“Peach shall be the other witness.”
So then, with as many flourishes and as much fuss as could be
got out of the occasion, the document was duly signed and witnessed.
“I deliver this,” said Sarah, with awful emphasis, “as my act
Peach, as nobody else spoke, murmured, “Very well, ma’am.”
Then the document was sealed up in a large envelope by Sir
Samuel, who carried it downstairs. Sarah, Amias, and Peach followed.
The latter seemed to think that she had not done with it yet. Sir
Samuel opened an iron safe, and put in the document. Peach looked
on, and when she saw it lying in state among several other documents, on a
little iron shelf, she appeared satisfied, and, curtsying, withdrew.
Sarah followed, to tell her on no account to mention what had
“This time,” said Sir Samuel, “she can have left nothing to
you, Amias, my boy. I am sorry. How many wills does this make, I
“One,” answered Amias, decidedly. “And I think she has
left her property to Felix; she intimated to me yesterday that she
“Well, so long as she leaves it to one of you, I do not care;
but, last week, she talked of building a fine new spire for D— minster.”
AFTER breakfast that morning the two girls were sent
out for a ride, under charge of an old coachman, and Sarah was fetched
into Sir Samuel’s own peculiar den, which he called his study, that she
might tell him, in the presence of Amias, all she could remember as to her
first finding of Amabel and Delia. To describe her delight when she
found that there was a love-story going on under her very eyes, and to
describe the trouble she gave, both to the old man and the young man,
would be needlessly to try the patience of any other man, or woman either.
She yielded up her testimony with so much besides; she doubled back on
what she had told with so many confusing comments; she took so much for
granted, and she was so positive in all her conclusions, that it was not
till Amias took a large sheet of paper, and, sifting out the bare facts,
wrote them down, that even Sir Samuel knew on what a slender foundation he
had taken for granted that Amabel and Delia were his granddaughters.
But Sarah, though to the last degree romantic and unpractical, had an
accurate memory, and was not untruthful. She was vexed, even to the
point of shedding tears, when Amias, having done questioning her, asked
Sir Samuel if he would stand an examination also; and she could not help
seeing that Amias was yet more anxious to prove that the children were no
relation at all to her, than she had ever been to show the contrary.
Sir Samuel was very direct and straightforward.
Amias read over his own selections from the evidence, and his
“The matter seems to stand thus,” he said. “Aunt Aunt
Sarah saw two little girls at the seaside, forty miles from her home.
Their name was De Berenger. She asked if they were John's children;
their nurse declared that they were not — that they were no relation
whatever to our family. The nurse took them away. Two years
after this Aunt Sarah saw them again, with the same nurse, who told the
same story. Aunt Sarah after this wrote and urged the nurse to bring
them here. The nurse did so; but she told Jolliffe she came in order
to get away from scarlet fever, which was in a village where she had been
living with them. She always said she had the sole charge of them.
Aunt Sarah told Uncle Samuel of them, and he went to see them. The
nurse declared to him also that they were not related to him, and that he
owed them no kindness at all. She professed not to have heard of
such a person as Mr. John de Berenger; but during the same interview she
proposed to get a letter forwarded to him, and did it. Three years
after this she gave over to Felix the money that had been entrusted to her
for their maintenance, and he became their guardian. The nurse
declared that the children were born in wedlock, and that she could easily
prove it if she pleased. —Now, said Amias,” after reading aloud, “have
you, uncle, or have you, aunt, anything to add to this?”
Sir Samuel said “No.” Miss de Berenger added a good
many opinions and sentiments, and also some reproaches to Amias.
“But have you any fact to add?” he persisted.
“Yes, the fact that Felix believes they are John's children.”
“But you made him think so, aunt. And why are these
sweet and lovely creatures to have their status in society taken from
them, and their honest descent called in question, that you may indulge a
romantic fancy, after dragging them here that their little fortunes might
help to educate Dick, and eke out our housekeeping?”
“That is a very cruel way of putting it, Amias,” said Sarah,
wiping her eyes, “as well as depriving my dear uncle of his
“If they are the grandchildren of this house,” said Amias,
“let the grandfather prove it; but, till then, all justice and mercy make
it incumbent on us, not to give them the benefit of the doubt, but of the
positive and repeated assertions of this woman that they are not related
to us at all.”
“How could she get a letter sent to John if she knew nothing
“I have known for years that my cousin John had communication
with people here. He wanted sometimes to hear about his father, and
one or two other people.”
“Who told you that?” asked Sir Samuel, pleased to think that
his much-loved son should have cared to hear of him, and not thinking much
about those “other people.”
“Jolliffe knew it, uncle. I have heard her hint over
and over again, that such and such things would be known to Mr. John very
“And you never told me,” cried Sir Samuel.
“I was a mere child, uncle, and I cannot say I had any
distinct idea that you did not know his address; besides, children seldom
or ever do tell things that they suppose to be matters of secrecy.”
“There was always known to be a mystery about those
children,” Sarah now said. “Yes, you must admit that there was great
secrecy, Amias. They know nothing whatever about their parents, and
the nurse told nothing excepting — yes, she told that she brought them
from London. She told it to the woman whose lodgings I first saw her
“Why should they not have been the children of some petty
London tradesman, then — a baker, a greengrocer?” observed Amias.
“Why should they?” cried Sarah, very indignant at such a
“Let him alone, Sarah,” exclaimed Sir Samuel; “he has as much
right to his suppositions as we had to ours, and they are much kinder.”
Amias turned to the old man. “Well, I thought it might
he so, because the sum left for maintaining them is so small. The
woman, dragged by you, Aunt Sarah, among people of superior class, may
have felt that to have their antecedents known, would he a disadvantage to
the children. This trumpery motive may alone have kept her silent.
The mother might have been a dressmaker, and the father a cobbler, for
anything we know.”
“Precious creatures!“ cried Sarah “and here they come.
They look like a petty tradesman’s daughters, don’t they?” And she
rose and bustled out of the room to receive the girls. To do her
justice, she had a keen and tender affection for them; they were the only
young things that had ever fallen at all under her dominion, and besides,
they were so pretty.
Sir Samuel looked at them. Delia’s dimpled face was
rosy with exercise, Amabel had her usual sweet pensiveness of expression.
It seemed so suitable a look for the circumstances under discussion, if
she had but known them. There was a portrait of John over the
chimney-piece. Sir Samuel turned, and, leaning on the back of his
chair, looked up at it. His deep and enduring affection for this
favourite son had been one main reason for the interest he had taken in
Amabel and Delia. He had pleased himself with the thought that they
resembled John. Amias also looked up; remembered what a bad fellow
John had been, acknowledged a certain likeness in hue and in delicacy of
appearance, but not in beauty, expression, or grace. The portrait
painter had done his best, but only the bereaved and unsatisfied affection
of the father could have imparted anything noble and lovable to the
We all try to be merciful to the delusions that come of love.
Amias felt a pang of pity when he said, “Uncle, I hope you have not
thought me unkind?”
“No, Amias, no. You must think of yourself, and of
them. I promised you they should go to school, and they must.”
“And in the mean time we must make long investigations; then,
if we are so happy as to bring them home as your granddaughters with a
full and proved right to your name, you will not be more deeply thankful
than I shall.”
“The girls may know something about themselves that they
never told us,” observed Sir Samuel. “Who knows what the nurse may
have said to them before she went away; or, indeed, what recollections
they may have of their infancy?”
“Aunt Sarah is not the proper person to question them, and
Felix would make a sad bungle of it; but, of course, it should be done.”
“A very delicate matter to manage. Do you want me to
“If you will.”
But it did not prove half so difficult as might have been
Soon after luncheon, Amias drove his aunt Sarah back to the
rectory. All prudence and propriety now made him feel that to say
anything decisive to Amabel was out of the question. She was to go
to school. He must go to school, too — a much harder one. That
she did not take leave of him without a fluctuating blush, and a good deal
of agitation, he might well be pardoned for perceiving; for her feeling,
whether it was disappointment, or maiden shyness, or presentiment of some
deeper affection, was not successfully concealed.
They all, as by one consent, went into Sir Samuel’s study,
for there Sarah’s pony-carriage could be seen, and Sarah, with her nodding
feathers, and Amias. Then, when they were out of sight, and there
was nothing to do, Delia asked if they might stay, and Amabel wanted to
mend the pens; Coz had taught her how to do them.
“Ah, and so you saw Coz this morning?”
“Yes, because we wanted to hear whether there was any letter
from Mrs. Snaith.”
“And was there, my little girl?”
“Had she ever led you to expect that she should go and leave
“When she was unwell, just before she went to the sea, she
once or twice said things to Delia. She often said things to Delia.”
“Ah, indeed! I wonder what they were?”
Delia was seated beside Sir Samuel, on a sofa; he had always
petted her a good deal. She was now smoothing the top of his velvet
sleeve with her little dimpled hand; pleased with its softness, she next
laid her cheek against it. Sir Samuel looked down at her childlike,
untroubled face, as she lifted it up. “I don’t love anybody so much
as you,” she said; and she leaned her cheek against his coat again, with a
certain fondness by no means devoid of reverence. “But Mamsey always
said, ‘The baronet is very kind to you, Miss Delia; but he has no call to
be, unless he chooses.’”
The old story!
“Did she, my pet. And what answer did you make to
“I said I should love you as much as I pleased; so did
“And what was it that she said when she was ill?“
“She said she had had a vast deal of trouble in life, and
sometimes she could hardly bear to think of it; we should be surprised if
we could know what she had gone through. But if she ever had to
leave us, we were to be sure she loved us all the same, and she hoped we
never should forget her.”
“And we never shall,” Amabel put in; “but still, we did not
suppose she would really go.”
Sir Samuel was not at all interested either in the nurse’s
misfortunes or her affection. He brought the conversation round
again, and said, in a cheerful voice, but with a pang at his old heart,
“And so she said I had ‘no call’ to love you. Did she never tell you
Delia’s face took on a more tender expression, and Amabel
said, “She told us once — a long time ago — something more. I was a
little girl then, and I was ill. It was in the night, and I cried
and said I wanted a mamma too, like other little girls, that she might pet
me; and then Mamsey cried.”
“Well, tell me what else took place.”
“Delia woke, and got into my bed to comfort me; and Mrs.
Snaith cried a long time, and said she took it unkind that we should fret
after a mother, when she had always been so kind to us. Then she
said that our mother was not such a mamma as I had wished for. And
she told us that our mother was not a lady.”
Sir Samuel started in spite of himself. Surely this was
bad news. He knew not how to ask any further question, but Amabel
“But she said it would be very shocking and very ungrateful
to God if we were ever ashamed of her, of our poor mother (who had never
done any wrong to us or to any one). And she should pray for us that
we never might be.”
“Did she tell you when your mother died?“asked Sir Samuel.
“No; but it must have been when we were almost babies, for
neither of us remember her. Mrs. Snaith said, ‘Your poor mother was
a most unhappy wife; your father was not kind to her.’”
“Is that all?“
“Yes, that is the very whole.”
“Excepting about the picture,” observed Amabel, in
correction; and she looked up at the portrait over the chimney-piece.
“When you were in London we came here once with Mrs. Snaith, and she saw
“Well? Speak, my dear.”
“You should not have told that,” said Delia, her face covered
“I wish particularly to know what Mrs. Snaith said.”
“It was rude, though.”
“She said he was a shabby-looking little man, and had sloping
Sir Samuel was wroth, and reddened. “Well, what next?”
“Delia whispered to her, ‘Mamsey, did you ever see our
”Well, my dear little girl, go on.”
“She said she had seen him, and he had a handsome face — a
beautiful face — and a brown moustache.” When Delia had said this
she burst into tears, and when she had wiped them away, she pressed her
cheek again against Sir Samuel’s sleeves, and said, “But I wish we could
be something to you somehow.”
The brown moustache had plunged Sir Samuel afresh into his
delusion. “John wore one,” he thought, “some years after that
portrait was taken, and when he was a more personable and finer man.”
“Now listen to me, my dear little girls,” he said cheerfully.
“Are you quite certain that Mrs. Snaith never happened to mention to you
what church or what town your mother and father were married in?”
“No, she never did.”
“Did you never ask her any questions, my dears.?”
“Yes, when Aunt Sarah told us.”
“And what did she say?”
“Sometimes she would say, ‘I am not half such a foolish woman
as Miss de Berenger takes me for.’”
“Here the mystery crops up again,” thought Sir Samuel.
“What could that woman’s motive be?”
“And so the main thing Mrs. Snaith told you, was that your
mother was a good woman, but not in the same rank of life as your father.”
He did not intend to misrepresent matters when he said this,
and Delia answered, in all simplicity, “She used sometimes to make use of
strange phrases, and she said―“
“Well, she said?”
“She said a true church parson put on your mother’s ring, and
you have no call to think about your father at all.”
Sir Samuel here lifted Delia’s sweet face and kissed it; then
he kissed Amabel. “Unless I find out something more, and can prove
that these dear children are mine, as they should be, or as they should
not be, I have ‘no call,’ as that woman said, to give them anything.”
This was his thought. All his thoughts about money matters were
serious, and almost solemn. How little he knew when he said this,
that every morning of her life, when “that woman” prayed, she besought of
God that he never might so mistake matters as to leave her children
anything that ought not to come to them.
Her prayer was answered at that moment. Sir Samuel had
received affection, and given it. He had received pleasure, and
given it; so far all was fair. He had taken no trouble, and he was
to give none. The only time he was ever to interfere in their
concerns was to be for good.
And what about those investigations?
At first he paid money to make them, and they always failed.
Where he heard that there were people of his own name, he looked them up;
but as time went on he tried more and more to do this cheaply, and at last
he first forbore them, and then justified it. For Amias was at work
himself. Sir Samuel knew this, and why should the same thing be paid
for twice over?
Amias left his brother the next morning without having said
anything to him on this subject; he seemed to be in such low spirits, that
Felix took for granted there had been some objection made by the old man
to the proposed engagement. There might be another cause, and that
Felix took care not to investigate.
Amias went away, and a few days after the two girls were
brought home by Sir Samuel, who afterwards privately, to the great
astonishment of Felix, said that he and Amias wished them now to spend a
couple of years at school. He produced a cheque for so much more
than Felix could have thought needful, and gave it with so much composure,
that for a few minutes astonishment at the proposal was lost in
astonishment at this unwonted conduct.
“I am not sure that I shall wish them to go,” he said, after
examining the cheque with deep but perfectly unconscious scrutiny.
He had taken the children into his charge through the management of Sarah,
he had gradually got used to them, then become fond of them, and now they
were almost his sole amusement and delight.
He expressed this to Sir Samuel, who in return, and not
without putting himself into a passion over the story of what his two
guests had said, related all that had passed, including what the two girls
themselves had told him.
“Seven hundred pounds is a great deal to spend upon two years
at school,” said Felix, who was a good deal nettled at being thus set at
nought, and expected to do exactly as other people chose — other people
who had taken no trouble about the girls, and incurred no responsibility.
But the matter was soon so set before him, that he saw
himself the wisdom of the step. The thing must be done, and in less
than a month it was done. The most ample inquiries were made, the
most excellent references required; a handsome outfit, with every little
luxury and comfort, was bought for the girls under Sarah’s
superintendence, and Felix, after taking them to the lady who was to have
the charge of them, found himself at home again, “monarch of all he
surveyed,” walking about his solitary garden, called in to his solitary
meals, and wondering what to do with himself.
AMABEL and Delia were extremely happy with their
girl companions; they made very fair progress under the masters provided
for them. Amabel grew more beautiful, and Delia taller and more
graceful, and, as is the way with youth, they both lived a good deal in
the present. They ceased to want Mrs. Snaith, and they did very well
without Coz. Of course the rectory was still home, and Coz was in
their thoughts and what he would think, when they were reproved for any
little acts of idleness or inattention, but Sir Samuel, now they neither
heard of him nor from him, receded into the background of their minds.
So did not Amias or Dick.
They did not come home for Christmas, and would have been
greatly surprised if they could have known the long discussions there were
between Sir Samuel, Sarah, and Felix, as to where their mid-summer
holidays should be spent.
Nothing concerning their parentage had been discovered.
Mrs. Snaith could not be found, and there was a great wish that they
should not return till something certain was known about them.
Tom de Berenger came home soon after Christmas, with his wife
and another infant daughter. He had all his father’s kindly,
pleasant manner, and far more than his father’s love of money. He
was almost a miser, and one of his first conversations with Felix was a
How could Felix have allowed such a lavish house to be kept
at the hall? Such servants, such waste; and never, as a clergyman,
have lifted up his voice against it!
Mrs. Tom de Berenger had so completely adopted her husband’s
views, that she never spent a shilling where sixpence could be made to do,
and all her discourse was on prudence, moderation, and economy;
interesting subjects when there is need to exercise them, but rather out
of place where a wise liberality, hospitable fashions, and public-spirited
generosity are more to the point.
Nothing in his long life had taken such effect on him, as the
behaviour and discourse of his son and his daughter-in-law took on Sir
Samuel. He saw himself, caricatured; he was exceedingly ashamed,
both for himself and for them. For Tom could discuss even at table,
with all earnestness, the wasteful way in which windfall apples and pears
were left under the trees, and he did not hesitate to say that “there were
a great many more vegetable marrows grown than could be used in the
Sir Samuel, though a hot-tempered man, had great
self-control, and each of his sons, one after the other, had kept that
virtue in full exercise. He would redden sometimes, when his
daughter-in-law would strike in after Tom, and agree with melancholy
emphasis; but he generally managed either to hold his tongue or to master
his temper, and rally his son with tolerable equanimity. But Tom de
Berenger was one of those provoking people who are almost always serious;
he would try to argue the most minute points of economy with his father,
not perceiving that, whether he was right or wrong, his noticing such
things at all was mortifying and ridiculous. Then, when the old man
was secretly fretted almost past bearing by such discussions before his
servants and his guests, Tom would make him break out at last by some
finishing touch, that left it hard for other auditors to keep their
There was nothing in the nature of expenditure that was not
important and interesting to him — from the fires in the saddle-rooms to
the wasted ends of wax candles.
He was a good deal out of health, and that circumstance
helped his father to be forbearing. He bore a great deal. John
had never led him such a life as Tom did, and Tom was not half so bad as
There were three nice little girls, to be sure — good,
obedient children; and there was the baby, also a girl. Sometimes
Sir Samuel would say something kind to their father about them.
“You’ll have one of the right sort by-and-by, my lad.” “Yes,”
the poor fellow would answer, with a sigh, “a man had need exercise all
due economy who has such a family — four daughters already — and most
likely four sons coming, or four more daughters.”
They had naturally, and by Sir Samuel’s own desire; taken up
their abode at the hall with him, and were all supposed to find their
family reunion a great blessing and comfort, but when Parliament met, Sir
Samuel went to town with a certain alacrity, though Tom was to remain in
the country, London smoke not suiting his delicate chest.
Amias often dined with Sir Samuel in London. His
reticence as to Tom’s peculiarities could not be exceeded. He had
got his only child home again; come what might, he was determined to make
the best of him. Tom had no debts; he was, excepting one little
foible, everything that a father could desire. How much better that
he should be such as he was, than a gambler or a spendthrift! He was
a family man, a model father and husband. “If I only see a grandson,
I shall have all that a man can wish for in this world,” Sir Samuel would
often say to himself. And Amias, knowing all about his troubles when
in the country, cautiously forebore to ask any awkward questions; Felix
having let him know that the heir went round every day to the greenhouses
and forcing-houses, to see that the gardeners did not use too much coal
and coke. He was said to have poked a lump out here and there that
he thought superfluous; and everybody heard this anecdote concerning him,
excepting his father.
After the Easter recess, Sir Samuel came to town again,
looking rather worried. He had gone through a good deal, and was
very glad to find that Tom and his wife meant to go to Clifton for a few
weeks. Tom had a nasty cough; his wife wanted him to try the air
there, and stay with her mother.
This was all that Amias heard about the matter. He knew
his uncle was in town, and meant to go and see him, but he was busy, and
had not accomplished the visits, when one morning, just as he had finished
his breakfast, Felix, who had come up to town for a few days, being with
him, a telegram was brought in from the old uncle’s head servant.
“Will you please, sir, come and see Sir Samuel? We have
lost Mr. de Berenger. He died at midnight.”
“Lost Mr. de Berenger!”
How terrible it seemed, when, not two minutes previously,
they had been making merry over his peculiarities! Felix, so far as
the title was concerned, and the very small portion of the property that
was entailed, was the heir. Neither of them forgot that.
“I had better not see the poor old man,” said Felix.
“But I shall be glad if you will come with me to the house,”
said Amias. “He may prefer to give directions to you.”
“He never will,” said Felix.
When they reached the house, Sarah and some weeping
women-servants met them in the hall. They asked how the calamity had
happened. “He broke a blood-vessel,” she whispered, “and only lived
a few hours. They fetched his father from the House to hear this
Amias felt his heart and courage sink, as he turned the lock
of the library door, and entered it alone.
Sir Samuel was seated on a sofa, with his hands clasping his
knees, and his head down. One small leaf of the shutter behind him
had been folded back, and a narrow beam of sunshine streamed down from the
aperture. Otherwise, nothing had been changed since the previous
night, and a lamp was still burning on the table.
Amias sat down, and had not a word to say. He felt
perfectly powerless to find any consolation for such a calamity as this.
The old uncle appeared to notice his presence, for in two or
three minutes he slowly lifted his head, and looking at him with a puzzled
and half-stupefied air, said, “I thought you would come.” Then he
added, in a low, inward voice, “It was one o’clock when they fetched me
home; but” — spreading his hands about — “it was no use, — I had no son to
send my answer to.”
Amias was distressed for him to the point of shedding two or
three compassionate tears, and they did more for the desolate old man than
any words could have accomplished. At the sight of human emotion and
pity, he seemed to wake up from the stupor that was killing him, and, as
if by imitation of another, to thaw, and be no more a statue, but a man.
He was able to weep for his lost son — his last child: but
the suddenness of the blow had almost prostrated him; his mind was
confused, and his speech was thick.
“Is there anything I can do for you? Are there any
arrangements that you would wish me to make? — or shall Felix make them?”
asked Amias, afterwards.
“Felix may go to Clifton, and do — whatever he pleases.
You must stay with me.”
“You will not see Felix?”
“Certainly not. I have enough to bear without seeing
“He will not like to act without some instructions.”
“Then I leave you two to arrange matters between you.
You know that I shall be satisfied.”
So the two cousins of this poor miser, having leave to do
what they thought fitting for the only son and heir of the now desolate
father, had his body brought home to Sir Samuel’s country house, invited a
number of guests, and had him buried with even more state and pomp than is
usual. Considering that one of them was, in part, his heir, and that
the other had been almost his rival in the old man’s affections, this
seemed to them to be the proper thing to do.
Amias brought the father down to attend the funeral, and
Felix read the service.
“It was a grand burying” said one of the admiring crowd.
“But, dear sakes! how he would have grudged the expense, poor gentleman,
if he had known!”
Sir Samuel went back to his desolate home. His son’s
widow and her four children soon joined him, and the former made him as
miserable by her jealousy of the two nephews as she had done previously by
“She never lets me have a quiet hour,” he said to Felix;
“she’s always hinting that her poor children are nothing to me, compared
with Amias and you.”
“You might at least tell her that she has no cause for
jealousy as far as I am concerned,” replied Felix, in his most
dispassionate manner. “But as to Amias — I think I should be jealous
of Amias, if I were in her place.”
“She ought not to grudge me what little comfort I have left
in this world.”
“Then you should not leave her in any doubt, uncle, but tell
her plainly what splendid provision there is for her and her children.”
“I want Amias to live in my house always when I am in
Then, when Felix was silent, he went on.
“You don’t suppose his temperance notions would annoy me?
Besides, I have told you before, that I mean to retire, if I can get a
good offer for the concern. Why should I keep it up any longer —
that is if I can sell it advantageously?”
Felix being still silent, he said, with irritation, “But you
understand nothing of business, nephew parson.”
“I can fully understand that, at your age, and with your
considerable wealth, it must be best for you to retire.”
He then inquired about Amabel and Delia.
Felix confessed that he could not decide where to take them
for their midsummer holidays, but that he did not mean to be parted from
them during that time.
Sir Samuel replied that Mrs. de Berenger wanted to take her
children to the sea; and as his affliction had been so recent, there would
be no visitors at his house; therefore the whole party, including Amias
and Dick, had better come and stay with him.
If Mrs. de Berenger was to be absent, Felix felt that the
girls would be safe from risk of hearing anything that he wished to shield
them from. She was the only person likely to speak. But he did
not care to leave his own home, though he promised to bring the girls
frequently to see — “to see their kind old friend,” he concluded, after a
In the mean time, the poor mother of these loved and admired
creatures tried hard to bear her life without them. It was strange,
she thought, that she should have so deeply loved her husband when he was
unkind, debased, and unworthy, and yet that she could not love him now,
when he was trying so strenuously to do well, when he loved her, was proud
of her, and wished nothing more than to work for her and make her
comfortable. She tried, with tolerable success, to hide her dislike.
She never said a bitter thing, and would sit for hours patiently sewing,
and never once asking him to leave off singing those hymns that she knew
were intended for her pleasure and edification. She cooked his meals
punctually, she kept his clothing clean and whole, but when he went out on
his temperance errands, she would drop her work on her knees and think,
and the tears would steal down her cheeks unaware. And her
conscience sometimes disturbed her; her sense of duty sometimes appeared
to pull her two different ways. Had she truly been kind to her
darlings? What if, after all, they should discover what she had
done? Oh how far more bitter it would be for them, than it could
have been to have grown up aware of their father’s disgrace. And yet what
happy, peaceful lives she had bought for them, and paid for these with the
best years of her own — with the effacement of her own prospects.
She had lost them for herself, but won them to such a far better lot, that
they could well dispense with her. She had procured for them such
good teaching, that she was forever their inferior. She had robbed
herself of their love, but she would rather rue the loss of it than that
they should want for anything.
Would she do it again if her time came over again? That
was the daily question she asked herself. She always answered it the
same way, and prayed to God that he would not count the mistake — if it
was one — a sin.
It was Uzziah’s reformation that turned all her axioms into
doubt; he never said any bad words now. If she had kept her
daughters in their own rank of life, they might have come back to him, and
learned no evil in their humble home. And he would have been pleased
with them; he must have loved them. Yes, but she felt that this need
not trouble her. He did well enough without them; never had seen
one, nor cared for the other. She need not think of him. The
children were hers, and she humbly prayed every day that she might be
forgiven for the concealment she had practised, in giving up everything
for their sake.
Uzziah was not very observant. He was satisfied when
she would talk, and did not notice how she always drew him away from
personal matters — from his expressions of pleasure at her presence, pride
in her appearance, or love for her person; and was willing to hear him
enlarge on his speeches of all the “temperance gentlemen” who patronized
him, and the good he hoped he was doing.
Sometimes the sudden utterance of a familiar name would make
her turn white to the lips. “He’s a rare one,” Uzziah exclaimed one
night, speaking of Amias; “he does know how to lay about him!“
She trembled on hearing this, but dared say no more than,
“Oh, he do? Well, I’ve heard you say so before.”
“Now, his brother,” continued Uzziah, “I don’t know what to
make of him. I really don’t”
“Why not? Well, he doesn’t seem to know how to hit the
right nail on the head. Mr. Amias is all downright and
straightforward. He’s against the publicans and against the brewers,
and more than all against the distillers. But his brother — what’s
his name, again? Not Stephen, I know, but something like it.
His brother’s notion seems to be to hit out pretty generally all round.
He seems to think were all to blame. My word, he made me feel,
though I am temperance lecturing, as if he said to me, ‘Thou art the
“He can’t well make out that you encourage folks to drink,
nor to sell drink, nor to make drink,” observed Mrs. Dill, who was willing
to hear anything Uzziah might have to say about her children’s guardian.
“Well, my dear, in a manner of speaking, he does. A
good many of the chief sympathizers were aggravated with him for that, as
I could see last night. ‘What’s the good of our denying ourselves
everything for this cause,’ says one of them to me, ‘if we’re to be
treated like this?‘ I took particular notice of what Mr. de Berenger
said, because I thought, so far as there seemed to be anything in the
argument, I would use it. But it was nothing of an argument at all.
He says the world is ruled by opinion, and that so long as folks — a good
many of them — are ashamed of their opinions, then their opinions cannot
spread as they should do. He says it is the spirit of God under whom
the conscience of the world grows, and it is often those who conceit
themselves that they have the most light that are most full of doubt, and
so keep that great conscience back from its expansion. ‘If you
pretend to be candid,’ said he, ‘and if you say that the vast body of men
who get their living by this traffic can never be expected to give it up —
you, too, who believe yourselves to be on God’s side — you are in an awful
case; you are fighting against him. How dare you think,’ says he,
‘that such and such improvements are not to be expected? Who taught
you that they were needed? Their guilt is small, whose covetousness
urges them on to sell this poison, compared with yours, who are ashamed to
believe and confess that the Spirit of God is moving yet on the dark face
of the waters.’”
“Then,” said Mrs. Dill — for he paused here, and she wanted
to continue talking of her late master — “I expect, if we are to prepare
for the time when no more spirits at all, to speak of, are to be drunk,
there must be hobs made to every grate, for keeping the teapots warm.”
“Not so,” replied Uzziah; “for, my dear, if you’ll believe
me, the doctors want to take a good part of our tea from us too.”
“No!” exclaimed Mrs. Dill. “Well, I wonder what next?”
“Well, they say that tea — so much as many of us drink —
makes folks to have shaking hands; they say there’s no nourishment in it
worth naming, and we ought to drink either pure water, or cocoa, or good
“The land that grows barley and hops won’t be enough, then,”
she remarked, “to lay down in grass for the cows that are to yield the
“Not it. I said so to Mr. de Berenger, after the
“I expect you had him there,” observed the wife.
“No. What do you think he made for answer? Why,
that water was one of the most nourishing drinks a man could take, and
very fattening too!“
“My word!” exclaimed Mrs. Dill, quite surprised, and looking
up with a soft colour in her cheeks, which had been brought there by the
pleasant excitement of this talk concerning one who was so near to her
“He did indeed, my dear, and Mr. Amias backed him. But
if it ain’t a liberty to say it, I think for once he was mighty glad to
step down from the platform when our lecture was over; for if ever there
were two pretty young ladies in this world, Mr. de Berenger brought those
two with him, and set them down beside an old lady with long curls, right
in front of the platform. And I think one of those two made the
temperance cause seem to Mr. Amias as if he wished it was further.”
“Oh, my beauties, my dears!” thought the mother. “How
near I was to going with your poor father to that lecture; and to think
now that I should thank God I kept away and did not see you!”
“WHEN God gives,” said Uzziah, “he gives with both
hands. He has given me pardon for my crimes, he has given me back my
wife (ten times better than she was before), and now — this child.”
Uzziah took up the baby as he spoke, and the little fellow
opened his dark eyes and spread out his two-days’-old hands.
The doctor left the small, clean chamber, but not without an
involuntary elevation of the eyebrows, and a scrutinizing glance at this
“My dear,” said Hannah Dill, as the door was quietly shut,
“you have no call to use that word. It worry me more than I can tell
to hear you do it.”
“What’s forever in a man’s mind must come out now and then,”
Her white lips trembled slightly; and, a different husband
altogether from his former self, he immediately apologized. He
promised to use more circumspection. Then, mindful of her late
danger, he began to employ some of the kindly flattery that a new-made
mother loves best to hear, admiring the infant.
“Did anybody ever see such big, dark eyes? — for all the
world like yours, my dear. I hope, please God, he will be like you.
A very pretty boy, to be sure; and what a weight on my arm already!”
“Yes,” said the feeble mother, turning her head on her
pillow, “he is a very fine babe to look to.”
“I shall be as proud as ever was of the little chap,”
continued Uzziah, laying him down beside her with a smile of real
affection; “it’s what I’ve been wanting this long time, though I scarce
knew it — a child of my own. Ever since I had you again I felt I
could not be easy; as if it hurt me to see you in the house all alone.”
“Did you feel to want those that are gone?” asked the mother,
with a certain pang. She was beginning to do more than tolerate her
poor husband, and the notion of his having yearned for the children she
had taken from him gave her keen pain.
“Well, I did; but there are things you know as we agreed
never to speak on.”
“Ay,” answered the wife, “but you may say what you have in
your mind this once.” She thought this addition to her punishment
for having made them happy at her own expense, was a bitterness that she
must not shrink from as rewarded these lost treasures, and she listened
when he said,—
“My dear, you would have been all the mother to them. I
should like to have seen it. And there ain’t a doubt but what they’d
have been great blessings to us, and I should soon have got very fond of
She looked at him with pity, almost with fear.
“Only,” he continued, “they would have known.”
“They must ha’ known,” she answered, sighing.
“Don’t you think, then, Uzziah, ‘tis best as it is?”
“‘Tis best as God willed it,” he answered, seriously.
“Ay; but that’s not what I meant,” she cried, piteously.
“The only time we spoke on these, you said, ‘They’re well off.’”
“We know they are, Hannah.”
She assented with hysterical tears. “Ay, I know my
blessings, my dears are better off than ever they could be with me.
Let me hear you say that you do not wish we had them again.”
“I could not exactly say that, my dear; for since I knew this
little fellow was coming, I have many times dreamed that I was in quod
again, and that I saw that other little one with flaxen hair — a pretty
creature! — trotting about on the floor. Considering what a bad
father I made her, you’ll think that was strange. Little Ammy — why,
she would have been very nigh seventeen year old by this time.”
Seeing that she was unable to restrain her tears, he added, “Don’t fret,
my dear; we have talked about her again for once and for all, for you see
it has been once too often.”
“Ay, it’s more than I can bear. God forgive me!“
replied the mother.
Uzziah, mistaking her meaning, continued. “So now let
them sleep in the bosom of the Son of God; you shall have them again.
And meanwhile get well so fast as you may, for the sake of this new
He presently went out, and Hannah Dill turned her head, and
looked with yearning pity and love at her new-born child. An
inheritance of shame was his. He was to know from the first that his
poor father had been a disgrace to him. But yet in his case there
could be nothing to conceal; he would sit upon the knee of this man, his
poor father, and get used to him — would like to drink out of his cup, and
be carried on his shoulder. He would not shrink then from him.
No; but perhaps he would be not the less dragged down, but the more, for
that. What would a father mean in his mind? Why, somebody who
was good now, but had been wicked. A father was an ex-convict, the
kindest man he knew; the only one, perhaps, who was fond of him.
Must he, then, be told so young? Yes or else it must be concealed
from him till accident or necessity made him aware of it, and then he must
stand the shock as best he could.
“You’re not to play at getting drunk,” said a poor mother to
her little five-year-old boy.
“Father used to drink.”
“Ay; but poor father never drinks now. He never rolls
about, he never strikes Dicky now. Father’s kind, father’s good.”
“And Dicky means to be good,” said the child; “but Dicky must
get drunk first, and have larks too, just as father did.”
Dicky was far too young to be reasoned with, and he had
something more than knowledge already. He had experience; limited
certainly, but disastrous, for it showed him that a man was a creature who
ought to be good in the end, but must be expected to play with evil first;
go down into the mire, in fact, and there remain, until he had
sufficiently disported himself.
Hannah Dill, though her husband had loved her and trusted
her, and found in her his whole delight and comfort since he had got her
back, was by no means at peace; she knew that the burglary he had been
tried for was not the only crime he had on his conscience. She had
got used to fear, on his account; every unexpected knock at her humble
door startled her. He had himself, from time to time, fits of
depression, when something, she knew not what, but guessed to be the
memory of a crime, would seem to fall on him like a blight; and then,
whatever he was doing, he would rise and go to shut himself up in a little
empty attic that they rented, and there she would hear his inarticulate
crying to God, and sometimes his groans and sighs. She would
sometimes steal upstairs after him and listen, but she was too much awed
to call to him. Though he had risen into an atmosphere in which she
could not breathe, it had been from a deep that she had not sounded.
He was above her and beneath her, and she could not freely communicate
with him any more than she could rest.
One evening, however, when the child was about four months
old, an incident, small in itself, added greatly to her feeling of
insecurity. She was nursing him, in the presence of his father, when
a sudden noise seemed to startle the infant, and he turned his dark eyes
with an evident expression of apprehension.
“Bless the babe!” she exclaimed; “how intelligent he do look
now and then!”
“He is the very moral of you,” replied Uzziah, “when he looks
round in that sort of way.”
“Do I have a startled, frightened look, then?” she answered,
and immediately repented her words, for Uzziah became extremely pale; and,
looking down at her babe, she seemed to see in his little face something
like an inherited expression. As she had beheld the reflection of
their father’s yearning wistfulness in the faces of his sisters, she
thought now she could trace the thought of her own heart in the eyes of
She continued to look down on the little head, for she could
not meet her husband’s eyes. She heard him sob, and then he fell on
his knees. “O God, it was a sin — it was a sin!” he muttered.
“O God, forgive me — I took her back!”
“You did not wish to take me back?” she replied, still
without looking at him. “You know we both of us wished we might part
that night when we prayed as we knelt asunder on the common.”
“Ay, but the next morning, and while the storm went on, and
when I knew how miserable you were along of coming back to me, I seemed to
be urged many times to let you go. And it was too hard.”
She answered with quiet moderation. “But you cannot
help but know that now I have this babe at my breast, I cannot wish what I
might have done if God had not sent him. — He will never be a disgrace to
us, Uzziah,” she presently added, in a still kinder tone. “I have
heard you pray nights for him, so deep and so hearty, as people cannot
pray, I am certain, unless God has answered already in heaven. No,
the poor lamb, God bless him! will never be a disgrace to any one.”
“But I shall be a disgrace to him,” cried the father, almost
grovelling on the floor. “I shall enter in; but, oh! it will be
through a bitter death, for I shall die as — as I should do.”
“Who told you so?” she answered, white to the lips; and then
she added more faintly, “And what death do you mean?” But she knew.
He lifted himself slightly till he could lay his arms on the
seat of the wooden chair, then with his face resting upon them, “Who told
me so?” he repeated. “The same voice in my soul that told me of my
pardon. I am always told so. The gospel saves, I thank my God,
but the law must take its course — and it will.”
“Oh! I fare very faint,” cried the poor woman, and a
strange fluttering in her heart and in her throat appeared almost to
suffocate her; but when she fell back in her chair, and he, starting up,
brought her some water, and seemed as if he would take the child from her,
she cried out, though faintly, “No, no; let him be. I shall not drop
“I’m not to touch him?” asked Uzziah.
She struggled with herself, and sat upright, though still
deadly pale. The poor man was sitting opposite to her, looking more
haggard and melancholy than usual.
“Uzziah,” she said, ”I wish to say something to you, as soon
as I fare able to get out my words.”
He waited some minutes, while she wiped away a few heart-sick
tears, and gathered her child again to her breast.
“I wished to say,” she sighed at last, “as I’ve noticed
something in you lately that’s much in your favour.”
Her manner was cold, though perfectly gentle. He made
“I’ve noticed that you’re much more humble lately — more
abased before God, and quiet. I believe God have forgiven you.
But this babe” — then she paused, as if irresolute; and suddenly, with
passionate anguish, went on —“if God does indeed hear your prayers, I,
that am his mother, beg you — I that almost died to give him birth, and
that love him more than any mortal thing — I beg you to pray God to take
him from me, and to leave me desolate — soon. Pray that he may
be taken soon.”
“You must not talk like that,” answered Uzziah, with
“Yes, I will. O Jesus, take him!”
“Listen to me, Hannah. I don’t know how it was I came
to speak so plainly, but, whatever it may cost me, if you will, I’ll now
let you go your ways, and take him with you.”
“No. Whatever happens, I must be nigh, that I may know
it. It would seem to come to pass every day, if I was from you.”
“There have been times, Hannah, when I’ve thought it might be
my duty to confess it.”
“Oh, I don’t mean to you, my poor wife.”
“It could never be your duty,” she answered, almost calmly,
“unless somebody else was suspected — that he had done the deed, and not
“That is what I have come to think.”
“Reach me down my bonnet, Uzziah. I shall suffocate,
unless I get out into the air.”
“You cannot carry the babe, Hannah,” said her husband, when
her bonnet was on, and she was drawing her woollen shawl over her
shoulders and the infant’s head.
“Yes, I can.”
“It’s ten o’clock at night.”
“I know it is.”
“Hannah, if you mean to go for good, you’ll give me a kiss
first — won’t you, Hannah?”
She turned and looked at him as she stood in the doorway.
Her intentions came like a flash, and changed so roughly that they seemed
to tear her heart to pieces — as a stormy sea tears the trembling strand
her intention had come, and it was gone — for how could she kiss him?
She stood with her white face intent on his white face, and
she stared into his eyes. “I am coming back,” she said, huskily.
“Only let me go out, if only for a moment.”
“I shall not follow you, Hannah. And you may be sure
that I believe you are coming back.”
“Because, if I thought the other thing, it would be I that
should go out. Would I leave my wife and babe to flee away at this
time o’ night? Hannah, sit you down in the rocking-chair, and I’ll
go, and never come near you but once a week, just to bring you what money
I’ve earned. I’ll go now. Only say you forgive me, and let me
have a kiss of you and the child.”
“Forgive you for what?”
“For taking you back.”
“I thought at the time it were right I should come back, and
I cannot think now —“ Then she looked at him again — at his face,
and at his hands — and knew she could not give the desired kiss; so she
repeated, “And I mean to come back.”
He opened the door. The night was still dark, but quite
clear. She longed for light, and wanted to see movement. The
little tenement she and her husband rented, was a lean-to against some
warehouses belonging to a great Manchester manufacturer; the alley, of
which it formed one whole side, being faced by another warehouse, was
perfectly silent and deserted at that time of night.
She went out down the alley, and soon found herself in a
well-lighted street, full of shops, and, as she walked, was suddenly
startled out of her deep reverie, by finding herself near a great
concert-room in which a temperance lecture had lately been held, and which
she had attended. There had been a concert in it that night, which
was just over; the people were streaming out, and calling for their
carriages. She shrank back again, and passed from among some women,
who were admiring the ladies’ dresses, and commenting on their appearance.
There was some mistake, as there so often is. Some of the people
were waiting by one door, while their carriages were at another. The
shutters of a shop close to her were put up, and she leaned against them
for support, while the noise made by the footmen and cabmen served in some
sort to distract her from her importunate sense of misery and suffering
and fear. Then, striking full on her ears, and rousing her at once
to keen attention, came a name that she knew.
“Sir Samuel de Berenger’s carriage stops the way.” And
there it was. She knew the footman, she knew the coachman, and she
turned her faded eyes to mark who would enter. But no, the intended
occupants did not appear, and when it had stood for ten short moments
allotted to it, the police made it pass on and give way to another.
“It’s a chance missed,” she murmured faintly. “I’d
rather have seen even Sir Samuel, than nobody that belonged to them at
all;” and as she turned, and there were more carriages, and there was more
shouting — “Come on, come on!” cried a voice close at her elbow; “I see
the carriage. Keep it in view, and I’ll bring out the girls, or we
may wait here till midnight.”
Dick de Berenger! — and the person to whom he had spoken was
Amias. She stood as if fascinated, till some one brushed her elbow —
a lady, who wore the hood of her opera-cloak over her head. She was
dressed in white, and before the poor woman could take her dazzled eyes
off her, and notice that Felix had her on his arm, another lady passed on
the other side, and a little laugh assured her that it was her Delia.
“Hold your shawl well over you,” cried Dick; “you’ll not
The mother followed, irresistibly drawn on.
“Oh no,” answered Delia. “As if I ever caught cold!”
“Amabel touched my babe’s head,” murmured the mother, “and my
shoulder.” She looked down. Yes, there was proof of it: two or
three petals from an overblown rose in Amabel’s bouquet had fallen on her
shawl, and were resting on the head of the child.
The mother felt a strange sense of warmth and joy, as she
pressed on. She could still see the carriage, and the two white
figures were being quickly conducted after it. She did not dare to
come very near, but she saw them both enter, and heard them speak while
gathering up the fallen leaves from her shawl, as if they had been drifts
Dick and Amias followed them in, and the carriage proceeded.
“He often talks of a particular providence,” she murmured, as
she lost sight of it, and mused on the little scene. They had rather
enjoyed their pursuit of the carriage. They had white shoes on their
pretty feet. Delia was holding up her gown with a little, ungloved
hand. Their mother soothed her anguish with thinking how lovely and
blooming they had appeared, and how easy and careless. Three
gentlemen to take care of them!
“It’s a particular providence,” she murmured. “The Lord
thought upon my trouble, and has sent me a sweet drop of comfort this
She turned. A man was standing so close behind her that
they could not but look one another in the face, and a glance of keen
surprise darted into his. It was Mr. de Berenger.
For an instant his astonishment daunted her, but her homely
dignity came to her aid. “I hope I see you well, sir,” she said
quietly. Then, glancing down at her babe, “Many things have taken
place since I left your service.” She manifestly meant to call his
attention to her child.
“It is Mrs. Snaith, I see,” he answered. “We meet very
“Yes, sir. I once told you something of how I was
circumstanced. My poor husband —“
“I remember,” exclaimed Felix suddenly, losing his air of
“Yes, sir, it was all at once my duty to join him — nearly a
year ago, sir, you know.” Then, when he was silent, she added, “I
did not come here with any thought of seeing the young ladies.”
Tears dazzled her eyes and dropped on her cheeks; she knew
not what more to say, and he said nothing. She was about to move
away, when he stopped her, putting out his hand.
“I need not ask whether you have suffered,” he said; “your
countenance shows it too plainly. My poor friend!”
“I have, sir,” she answered.
“Is the man good to you?”
“Oh yes, sir. It is not that.”
“And you seem to have a fine, healthy child,” he remarked, as
if he would find somewhat on which to say a few comforting words.
She looked down on the little fellow, who, now awake, was
lying on her arm, staring at the gas-lamp with clear, contented eyes.
”Ay, sir,” she answered; ”but I pray the Lord to take him from me.
Bless him!” she continued, looking at him with all a mother's love.
“His mother would pray him into heaven this night if she could, and not
grudge the breaking of her own heart, to save him what he will find out if
lie lives long enough.”
She began to move on, and Felix walked beside her, apparently
too much shocked to answer; but when she turned from the great
thoroughfare, he stopped her again.
“Listen to me, Mrs. Snaith,” he said. “You have often
thought of the time when you lived with me, of course?”
“Yes, sir; it's all the joy I have, to think on it.”
“Do you believe that I would do anything for you that I
“Yes. I don't know another such gentleman.”
“Well, then, tell me. Is there anything?”
“Yes, sir, there is,” she murmured, after a pause; “but it's
not what you might expect.”
“I don't understand you.”
“It's almost strange, considering all things, that I have
never met you nor Mr. Amias when I have been along with my poor, wretched
husband. You might do me — oh, the greatest favour and kindness a
poor creature could ask — if ever you should —”
“If ever I should see you with him?” asked Felix, stopped by
his surprise, as she was by her earnestness.
“Why, what is it, Mrs. Snaith?” he exclaimed, gazing at her
in more astonishment than ever.
“To make as if you knew nothing about me, and had never seen
me in your life before.”
“Are you so much afraid of him?”
She made no answer.
“Give me a moment to think.”
She walked before him, silent.
He repeated her words aloud to himself.
“‘To make as though I knew
nothing about her, and had never seen her in my life before’”
Then, after another pause, “Well, Mrs. Snaith, you can only be asking me
this as a protection to yourself. I promise you.”
“Thank you, sir. And Mr. Amias — I should be very
deeply obliged to you if you would tell all this to him.”
“How should we ever see you with the man?” exclaimed Felix.
“But if you do, sir?”
“Yes — well, I will do it. Mr. Amias shall know.
But is there nothing else, that seems more reasonable, that I can help you
“No, sir, thank you kindly. I do not want for money.
Sir, will you let me wish you good night ? I am later than I meant
“But, my friend,” said Felix, “you left us in a hurry, and my
uncle, Sir Samuel, would now gladly give you a handsome sum for
information as to the parentage of the two girls.”
“Sir, I always say alike. They have no claim on him
whatever. I trust you'll let me go.”
“No, sir, none.”
Felix put out his hand. “God bless you, my poor friend,
and comfort you!” he said. Then he turned back the same way they had
come, that she might see he had no thought of finding out whither she was